2/29/2008                                                                                       View Comments

So, what do you worship?

By Chucky Jesus

I'm both an ex-Christian and an atheist. I almost don't think of myself as ex-anything any more, because my deconversion was so long ago; I'm 53 now and I gave up on Christianity by the time I was 18. Since then there's been one thing about Christianity in the back of my mind -- this notion of "worship." I suppose if I thought about it at all, it was in reaction to a question which is often posed to freethinkers by theists, "So, what do you worship?"

My reaction has been, well we don't worship anybody, silly -- and why do you feel the need to worship someone? Are you all syncophants? Then again, perhaps many freethinkers do worship, in a sense. I think I've decided that I worship life -- all aspects of life, which, in a way includes the entire universe, as it's all tied together. After all, the stuff we're made from and the most distant galaxies were all part of the same "cosmic" egg "before" the big-bang. This matter and energy which makes up us and our cousins the plants and insects and our earth all obey the same natural laws as do these far away galaxies and everything between.

I'm reminded of a poem by Walt Whitman, "On the Beach At Night, Alone." This was used to great effect in the second movement of the first symphony by the English composer Ralph (pronounced Raeph) Vaughan-Williams. My sister, an actress, also read it at my wedding.
On the beach at night alone,
As the old mother sways her to and fro singing her husky song,
As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef
of the universes and of the future.

A vast similitude interlocks all,
All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets,
All distances of place however wide,
All distances of time, all inanimate forms,
All souls, all living bodies though they be ever so different, or in
different worlds,
All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the fishes, the brutes,
All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages,
All identities that have existed or may exist on this globe, or any globe,
All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future,
This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann'd,
And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose them.

It also occurs to me that we could just as easily replace the word "worship" with "celebrate." I celebrate beautiful sunrises, the taste of chocolate, a tone-poem by Liszt, a movie by Mike Judge which makes me laugh, the canopy of stars at night, a beautiful woman, learning each day about new discoveries of science, and on and on. All of this is life and I love it, I celebrate it...I worship it.

So, the next time a Christian asks what you worship, give that person your list.

2/28/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Teflon Deity

By Doc Mike

In the wake of the tornadoes that recently ravaged the Southern US, I am once again amazed by the ability of Christians to justify and excuse their god for the evil in the world and praise him for the things that turn out positive. What's worse, they sometimes claim that their "omnipotent" god is not even responsible for the bad things!

"Thirteen were killed in Arkansas, seven in Kentucky, and five were killed in Alabama where some 500 homes were also destroyed. Tennessee was the hardest hit, with 34 killed and 230 citizens still unaccounted for in the poor, farming areas of Macon County near the Kentucky border."

Today's comic was inspired by a report on , in the aftermath of the tornadoes. A woman being interviewed had survived (not in very good shape, mind you) her mobile home being destroyed around her. When the interviewer asked why she thinks she survived, she said, "God must have a plan for me." The very next question was about her husband who was killed in the storm. She replied, "Jesus took him home."

And that reminded me of a conversation I had with a christian friend right after hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans a few years ago. I asked, "How can your god kill and injure so many innocent people?" Her reply was, "You can't blame God for the weather."

Unbelievable!

Genesis 7:4 For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.

Deuteronomy 11:17 And [then] the LORD'S wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and [lest] ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.

Deuteronomy 28:24 The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.

1 Samuel 12:18 So Samuel called unto the LORD; and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.

Nahum 1:3 The LORD [is] slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit [the wicked]: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds [are] the dust of his feet.

Technorati Tags: humor Atheist Bible Christianity Comics disaster

2/27/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Anatomy of a Christian Hate Letter - Part Four

This post is part of a dialogue, In Two Minds: The Anatomy of a Christian Hate Letter, between former minister Brian Worley and psychologist Valerie Tarico . In the series, Brian Worley, an ordained Baptist, describes some of his encounters with Christian friends and family since he deconverted and Valerie Tarico responds. In Letter 3 Brian talked about what attracted him to the Christian faith and he puzzles over why Christianity provokes such intense and even violent reactions toward apostates and outsiders.

Dear Brian,

The things that attracted you to the Christian faith are the same that attract many people. Recently I attended a meeting called “Vintage Jesus” held on the University of Washington campus. There were two to three hundred local students who had come to hear a charismatic mega-church minister tell them who Jesus was. I watched with fascination as Pastor Mark Driscoll wove his story, subtly distorting, blurring ideas together, overstating agreement among Christians, and skirting biblical contradictions. But he beautifully played the factors you mention: earnestness, a single “truth” story, moral rigor, camaraderie, and a rock band that upheld their promise to “melt our faces off.”

When one is deeply immersed in fundamentalist Christianity, it feels beautiful. It feels like the real deal. It rocks! It feels like being part of a loving community with a higher calling—because, in fact, it is—even if that higher calling is based on utter fabrication.

To understand the intensity that gets triggered when outsiders question religious beliefs, it helps to understand how and why those beliefs get stuck in our brains. For the moment, let’s borrow from Richard Dawkins and think of Christianity as a “meme complex”, meaning a set of viral ideas that get transmitted from person to person.

Thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of religious ideas have evolved in human minds. Some of them never make it outside a single mind. Most of them simply die out within a generation or two. But some capture the imagination. They get passed on from person to person and generation to generation, even for thousands of years.

These successful idea-organisms, things like Epicureanism, Hinduism, Tao, Marxism, or Christianity, basically get humans to serve them—to spend their life energy passing on the compelling “truth” that has been discovered. “Compel” is the operative word here. The impulse to pass on this truth needs to feel urgent, important. The more like a compulsion it is, the more energy a person or group of people will devote to the ideology.

To be powerful in this way, the meme complex has to fit the structure of the human mind—how we process information. We have structures almost like templates in our minds; and information needs to fit these structures to get encoded and retained. (Pascal Boyer’s book, Religion Explained, does a beautiful job of outlining this.)

But the meme complex also has to tap deep emotions. Think about all of the forwarded email that comes across your desk. What do people pass on? Things that move them. Things that make them laugh or get teary. Things that make them get angry or scared or give them chills. Christianity would be dead in the water if it didn’t trigger powerful emotions.

How does it do this? Answering this question would take a book, I’m afraid. But the general gist is that it taps emotions that are wired into us for a variety of adaptive purposes:
· The social emotions of warmth and closeness, belonging, and love,
· Our inclination to seek and defer to social hierarchy.
· The moral emotions: empathy, shame, and guilt.
· Our sense of the numinous—the intuitive perception of things beyond the reach of our senses or rational cortex.
· Our capacity for pleasure, for joy, delight, peace.
· Our self-preservation instincts: fear, tribalism and wariness of outsiders, anxiety about death.

As I rattle through even this brief list, I find myself admiring the thoroughness with which the Christian belief system weaves itself into the depths of the human psyche. One of the benefits of understanding this is that it gives us empathy for people who are still bound to the beliefs that once bound us—your brother, my brother, and the 45% of Americans who call themselves born-again. It also gives us some empathy for ourselves, we who ask ourselves how could I have been so blind? ! How could I have spent 10 years or 20 or 30? and who feel guilty about all the others that we brought into the web who are still caught there.
I hope this helps.


Warmly,
Valerie


Want to review another letter in this series? Just click the link below.

Introduction Letter Letter 1 Letter 2 Letter 3 Letter 5 Letter 6

For Those Who are Pained by My Changes

By Valerie Tarico

Recently a fellow traveler asked me how he could explain to his children the changes that he is going through. I realized, as I wrote out some thoughts for him, that I had never shared these same thoughts with my own family members who have grieved and feared for my soul. If they could understand the following, perhaps they might worry less:

One of the most central themes of Judaism and then Christianity is an ongoing hunger, a quest to understand God more deeply and completely. For over 3000 years, our spiritual ancestors have been working hard to figure out answers to life’s most important questions: What is good? What is real (often framed as what is God)? And how can we live in moral community with each other?

Each generation of our ancestors received a package of handed down answers to these questions. This package contained the very best answers their ancestors had to these questions. But those answers were always imperfect. They had bits of timeless wisdom and insights, but they also had bits of culture and superstition that had somehow gotten God’s name on them. In order to grow, our ancestors took these received traditions and asked: What here is mere human construction, what is superstition, and what are my very best judgments about the divine realities that lie beyond the human piece?

The first Hebrew scholars, the writers of the Torah or Pentateuch did this. They sifted through the earlier religions of the Akkadians and Sumerians. They kept parts (some of which are in the Bible to this day), and other parts they discarded as mere culture, superstition or even idolatry.

In the New Testament, the same thing happened. In the gospels, Jesus said that the Law had become an idol in itself. What is an idol? An idol is a something man-made, something that seeks to represent or articulate god-ness and thus to provide a glimpse of that Ultimate Reality. But then, the object itself gets given the attributes of divinity: perfection and completeness, and it becomes the object of absolute devotion.

Instead of simply accepting the old package of answers, the writers of the gospels offered a new understanding of God and goodness. They didn’t throw away everything; in fact they kept quite a bit from the earlier Hebrew religion and from the religions that surrounded them. But they took responsibility to sort through it. They gathered the pieces that that seemed truly wise and sacred to them, and they told a new story about our relationship to God and to each other.

During the Protestant Reformation this process happened again in a very big way. Even thought Martin Luther and John Calvin had some horrible bigoted and violent ideas, in their own context, they genuinely were trying to cleanse Christianity of what they saw as accumulated superstitions, things like worshiping saints and relics, paying indulgences, the absolute authority of the Pope, and the church putting God’s name on the political structure that kept kings and nobles at the top with other people serving them. They scraped away these superstitions, until they got back to a set of religious agreements that had been made a long time before, in the 4th Century when the church decided what writings would go in the Bible and what the creeds would be. Then they stopped there, thinking they had found the most true understanding of God.

But Christianity just kept on growing. During the 18th and 19th Centuries, scientific learning mushroomed with discoveries in fields as diverse as linguistics, anthropology, psychiatry, physics, and biology. By the beginning of the 20th century, with all this new information about ourselves and the world around us, many Christian theologians said, “We need to rethink our understanding of the Bible, Jesus, and the Christian faith.” A new phase of Reformation was born. This generation decided that they should examine every bit of Christianity for signs of human fingerprints. They went way back and opened up even the agreements that had been made by those Church councils of the 4th century. the ones who decided what would be in the Bible. They even began looking at other religions with new eyes and seeing bits of wisdom there.

When this happened, some people fought back in defense of the fundamental doctrines that had dominated Christianity for almost 1500 years, the doctrines that are laid out in the creeds: one god in three persons, original sin and universal sin, the virgin birth, the unique divinity of Jesus, cleansing of sin through blood sacrifice, salvation through right belief, a literal resurrection, a literal heaven and hell. A series of pamphlets entitled "The Fundamentals" said that these beliefs were absolute and off limits to questions. From the title of these pamphlets we get the word "fundamentalism." The fundamentalists said, “If you don’t believe these things, then you can’t call yourself a Christian and besides you are going to hell.” They said that their kind of Christianity was the most true because it was the closest to the religion of our ancestors.

I used to think that, too. But now I realize I was mistaken. By trying to keep the same beliefs as our ancestors, fundamentalism forced me to betray the very heart of Christianity: the quest to better know and serve a God who is Love and Truth. To keep the traditional beliefs of our ancestors we have to abandon their tradition of spiritual inquiry, of “wrestling with God.” We can accept their answers or we can accept their quest, but we cannot accept both

Now I affirm that the best way to honor the Christian tradition, to honor the writers of the Pentateuch, and the writers of the gospels and the reformers—and ultimately to honor the Ground of Love and Truth-- is to do as they have done. We need to take the set of teachings they handed down to us, their very best effort to answer life’s most important questions. Then, just like them, we need to continue examining those answers in light of what we know about ourselves and the world around us. For each of us this is a sacred responsibility and a sacred gift, the gift and responsibility of spiritual growth.

It might seem like I have abandoned the path I was on, to love and serve God. But I haven’t. I am still on that very same path, only my understanding of God has grown deeper and wider. That is why the songs and preaching and churches that used to fit for me don’t fit any more. And, in fact, even the word “God” seems terribly humanoid and limiting as a term for the astounding Reality that spiritual and scientific inquiry allow us to glimpse.

I am sorry that my changes have been hurtful and confusing. For a long time, I have known that the answers I had were not quite right. But I didn’t really know how to explain this whole process or how to articulate a better set of answers, so mostly what I talked about was the flaws in the old way of thinking. Now that I have a little better understanding of the journey, I wanted to express that understanding to you who have been upset or worried for me.

Valerie Tarico is the author of "The Dark Side: How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love and Truth."

2/24/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Screaming farting preacher and the Mrs.



Evolution, Culture and Truth



Daniel C. Dennett, philosophy professor and co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, offers a unique perspective on the role of philosophy in the cognitive and behavioral sciences.

Dennett is known for his research on the mind and consciousness, relating philosophy to the scientific study of the brain, evolution and artificial intelligence.

Click here for books by Dennett.

This video is approximately one hour in length.

Jesus loves you

2/22/2008                                                                                       View Comments

2/21/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Creationists launch “peer reviewed” journal

By Massimo Pigliucci, Ph.D.

I’m not making this up, I swear. “Answers in Genesis,” the same nonsensical outlet that has given us Ken Ham’s “Creation Museum,” recently launched a “peer reviewed” “technical” journal, called, of course, “Answers Research Journal.” The idea, we learn from the “About” section of the journal’s web page, is to provide an outlet for “interdisciplinary scientific and other relevant research from the perspective of the recent Creation and the global Flood within a biblical framework.” See, apparently “there has been a pressing need for such a journal,” because “people want to know they can trust what is published on the Internet,” and they “can give you absolute assurance that the papers we will be publishing in Answers Research Journal are of the highest scientific and theological standard.” Of course, a high theological standard is a bit of an oxymoron, but let’s not quibble on the details.

The editor of this prestigious new arrival on the scientific scene is Andrew A. Snelling, who is so unknown and apparently insecure enough that he puts “B.Sc. (Hons)” after his name, before “Ph.D.” (in geology, from the University of Sidney). The esteemed (by some) Dr. Snelling has published an astounding 24 technical papers in 30 years of research, an average that would not get him tenure at the local community college. Accordingly, in 1998 Snelling had to content himself with joining the “faculty” of the Institute for Creation Research in California. Nevertheless, in the same year he won a whopping three (!!) prizes at the Fourth International Conference on Creationism for three technical papers he submitted (my hunch is that they were only three papers submitted, but I could be wrong, there may have been four). We are not told who else is on the editorial board of ARJ, perhaps the distinguished scientists who agreed to oversee the peer review process were afraid of losing tenure at their institutions. Damn secularist fascists in charge of American universities!

I simply couldn’t wait to start reading about all these new exciting scientific discoveries informed by a Christian perspective, and I wasn’t disappointed. The current volume of ARJ features the proceedings of the Microbe Forum, where we learn that “for many years the roles of microbes as part of God’s wonderful design have been neglected. Perhaps it is because many people associate microbes as the cause of death, disease, and suffering.” I think these many people have a point: what the hell was god thinking? Well, abstracts presented at the Forum begin to tell us, as titles include such gems as a “Creationist Model of Bacterial Mutations,” “Creation Microbiology and the Origin of Disease,” the highly technical-sounding “Viral/Bacterial Attenuation and Its Link to Innate Oncolytic Potential: Implications of the Perfect Original Creation in the Beginning,” and my favorite: “Pathogenicity Tools and Mycotoxins: In the Beginning or after the Fall?”

But the rest of the current issue of ARJ is not to be neglected either. For instance, in “Microbes and the Days of Creation,” by Alan Gillen (unknown academic affiliation), we learn that “ongoing research, based on the creation paradigm, appears to provide some answers to puzzling questions” such as “where do microbes fit into the creation account? ... Were they created along with the rest of the plants and animals in the first week of creation, or were they created later, after the Fall?” In a show of pure scientific balance, the author admits that “the answers to these questions are not explicit in Scripture, so the answers cannot be dogmatic.” Gillen ends up postulating that “microbes were created as ‘biological systems’ with plants, animals, and humans on multiple days [of creation week]” because as we well know “God made His creation fully mature, and complex forms fully formed.” Amen.

No need to go any further with this nonsense, as good as it is for a chuckle or two. The real question is: why? Why do creationists feel compelled to have a “science” museum, a peer reviewed journal, or, in the case of the Discovery Institute Intelligent Design think tank, a recently established (but very secretive) research laboratory? Could it be science envy? Indeed, even more broadly, why do creationists feel compelled to argue their case at all? Isn’t faith enough? When I was living in the south of the US it often happened that someone would engage me in an impromptu debate, where they were sure that I would see the light of (their) overwhelming reason and convert on the spot. When, instead, I managed to put them on the defensive, they would play with evident pride the faith trump card: “I believe in spite of evidence.” OK, fair enough (if more than a bit moronic), but then why did you just try to argue with me? Arguing, teaching, and doing research means that one accepts the rule of rational, evidence-based discourse. And yet creationists want to have it both ways, and promptly retreat behind the all-encompassing shield of faith when things get rough.

I suspect that creationists, deep down, have internalized the much-despised secular ethos that one has to have reasons for one’s positions, and they feel that they really don’t have rationality on their side. They seek respectability through fake museums and peer review journals because they know that the Middle Ages are over, and just shouting one’s faith in god isn’t gonna cut it anymore (modern society disqualifying stoning and burning at stakes doesn’t help either). Indeed, the very progression that we have seen during the 20th century, from the Scopes to the Dover trials, from young earth creationism pretending to keep evolution teaching out of public schools entirely to so-called “intelligent design” (which accepts a lot of science, including natural selection) begging for a bit of classroom time, is a path of constant retreat, away from silly biblical literalism, inching ever closer to modern science. The most advanced of the creationist ilk, the ID supporters, have intellectually advanced all the way into the early 19th century (after Paley, before Darwin), while young earth creationists are still trying to come to terms with the Enlightenment. Perhaps if we wait another century or two they’ll enter early 20th century science and make peace with Darwin. Now, that would be a miracle to behold.

More articles by Massimo Pigiucci can be read at Rationally Speaking, a blog devoted to rational discourse on science, philosophy, social and political issues. Massimo also maintains a science site and a philosophy site, and has written several books.

The Science Conflict: Should a 21st Century Scientist Believe in God?



A recent debate held at the University of Waterloo, sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ and the Atheists, Agnostics and Free Thinkers Society of Waterloo.

2/20/2008                                                                                       View Comments

2/19/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Saving My Hymen for Jesus



Two girls sing about the benefits of saving it for the Lord! Written by Katie Goodman & Soren Kisel. Staring Katie Goodman & Sallie Sills. Edited by Aaron Brown. Directed by Ryan Stumpe.

The theory of evolution...

...in only five minutes.

2/13/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Watch Out for those Terrible Atheists

by Lee Salisbury

A recent study conducted by the University of Minnesota shows that atheists are more distrusted and despised than any other minority and that an atheist is the last person for whom Americans would vote in a presidential election. “Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians” all ranked higher than atheists in public acceptability. Furthermore, Americans are “least willing to allow their children to marry” atheists.

State laws instill and perpetuate this attitude. Article IX, Sec. 2, of the Tennessee constitution states: “No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments shall hold any office in the civil department of this state.” Arkansas, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas have similar laws.

George H. W. Bush while campaigning for President in 1987 exhibited this same attitude, “I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”

Apparently all theists good and all atheists bad. If this is the case, atheist and agnostic businesspersons like Microsoft’s Bill Gates, investment guru Warren Buffet, Apple’s Steve Jobs and CNN founder Ted Turner should all be exiled for their unbelief. Don’t forget to include the 93% of National Academy of Science members who lack belief in a personal deity. What about atheist Pat Tillman, Arizona Cardinal football star, who left a $3,600,000 salary to enlist in the U.S. Army and subsequently got killed in Afghanistan? The oft-repeated theist claim, “there are no atheists in foxholes” insults a true American hero.

Is there a rationale for this prejudice against atheists or is this just plain theist bigotry? Why are atheists more “despised and distrusted” than any other minority? Why do theists promote this malicious slander? Has it ever occurred to theists to judge themselves by the same standards they judge others? Didn’t Jesus say something about taking the log out of your own eye before you take the splinter out of another’s eye?

How about the theist record? Theist Roman emperor Constantine had 3,000 Christians plus a wife and son murdered. Roman Catholic theists instigated the murderous Crusades and the Inquisitions. Theist Charlemagne had 4,500 Saxons beheaded all in one morning. Protestant theists arbitrarily tortured and burned at the stake tens of thousands of women because of the Bible’s admonition against witches. Luther, Calvin and Zwingli advocated death for heretics. Christian theists have persecuted Jews for the past eighteen centuries–most notably by the Roman Catholic theist Adolph Hitler who murdered 6,000,000 Jews.

Naively, many Americans assume theists never act immorally nor lie for fear of their God’s anger. Yet a recent study by The Center for Public Integrity finds that President George Bush and his top administration officials (all theists) issued 935 false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attack. The study concludes these false statements “were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.” That’s 935 good reasons to question god-fearing theist morality.

The January/February 2008 Psychology Today magazine contains an article, “An Atheist in the Pulpit, what happens when religious leaders lose their faith.” The author interviewed Lutheran, Pentecostal, Catholic and Episcopalian clergymen and recorded theism’s cognitive dissonance in their own words. “We tend to ignore how much cognitive effort is required to maintain extreme religious beliefs, which have no supporting evidence whatsoever.” “The disjunction between what clergymen say publicly and what they believe privately is so common that serious cognitive dissonance comes with the territory.” “We spend our lives impersonating who we think others want us to be and end up living as impostors. So when someone comes to me and tells me they are losing their faith, I congratulate them. You’re starting to embrace your own thinking self – the essential, immutable, immortal self – as opposed to the accidental criminal you have been made to think you are.” Integrity and cognitive health are theism’s real sacrifice.

So why this centuries-old acrimony against atheists? Granted some atheists have committed atrocities too. Communists Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse-tung are two heinous examples. Does such justify the entirely one-sided bigotry and prejudice commonly accepted among Americans? America, the land of intellectual freedom, has granted hard-core theists free reign to preach their bigotry against Jews, Blacks, women and homosexuals. However, the deep-seated prejudice against atheists merits special attention because atheism challenges theism’s very existence.

A question seldom asked is what does the prejudice against atheists tell us about those who hold that prejudice? Are theists fearful that their god may not really be omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent? Does the cognitive dissonance experienced when trying to explain their god’s indifference to events like 9/11, Katrina, and the 2004 Christmas Tsunami trouble their psyche? Maybe their religious fire insurance has been shaken. When theists must struggle with the ineptitude of their god, who better to lash out at than atheists?

Has religious tolerance for prejudice and bigotry toward atheists so intimidated Americans that they do not even recognize it? Evidently yes, especially when one might be branded one of those terrible atheists. Nevertheless, an intellectually free America, as intended by our founders, remerges as more and more atheist/agnostic freethinkers come out of the closet and stand against theism’s last bigoted prejudicial stronghold of intolerance. As one astute college student said to me, “a man without religion is like a fish without a bicycle”— who needs it?



Lee Salisbury is a former evangelical preacher, founder of the Critical Thinking Club of Minnesota, and writes for Axis of Logic and Dissident Voice. Read other articles by Lee.

Baby Bible Bashers

Showing on UK Channel 4, Thursday 14 February 2008, 9pm



Samuel Boutwell is a seven-year-old preacher. He takes his vocation to save sinners from rotting in eternal hell extremely seriously.

Most Saturdays he stands in front of his local abortion clinic in Jackson, Mississippi and, bible in hand, bellows:
'Don't kill your child! Repent! God loves the little children!'
View picture gallery >>

Baby Bible Bashers follows the extraordinary stories of three of the Lord's 'chosen children', and their relationships with God, their families and their congregations.



In addition to Samuel, we meet nine-year-old Florida firebrand Terry Durham, who likes nothing more than to don his oversize blue suit and alligator shoes, and whip the crowd into a frenzy. Terry holds the honour of having been the world's youngest ordained minister at just six.



Brazilian sensation Ana Carolina Dias began preaching at just three years of age and regularly commands TV audiences of millions. Her mission: to save the hardened gang members and drug dealers of Rio's shantytowns.

This film by BAFTA award-winning director Amelia Hann, follows these pint-size preachers as they go about their missionary work spreading the word to 'drunkards, adulterers and thieves' and uncovers the unsettling and often disturbing truth behind child evangelism.

2/12/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Anatomy of a Christian Hate Letter - Part Three

This post is part of a dialogue, In Two Minds: The Anatomy of a Christian Hate Letter, between former minister Brian Worley and psychologist Valerie Tarico . In the series, Brian Worley, an ordained Baptist, describes some of his encounters with Christian friends and family since he deconverted and Valerie Tarico responds.

Dear Valerie,

I have never forgotten that I was once a true believer (Fundamentalists type) for 23 years. I suppose that it was the expressed passion of the Fundamentalist preacher types that initially attracted me into the faith. What I found appealing was: 1) the urgency of the message 2) the earnest defense of the faith 3) denunciation of sin 4) music 5) the assembling together 6) the unquestioned “truth” of Christianity 7) the camaraderie of standing for something. All of these helped to bring me into the fold.

Thinking back, I cannot recall anyone questioning the legitimacy of Christianity prior to my graduation from Bible college. I knew many that didn’t like it, but nobody that was speaking out intellectually against Christianity. Looking back, Christians were always taught to defend their faith, yet no serious challengers ever presented themselves (at least to myself until I was the age of 33).

Most of my post-university years were spent living in California. Californian religious culture was so different than in the Carolina’s, where I was raised. People questioned things in California. I have an article from the San Joaquin Record dated May 24, 1996 in which I picketed the appearance of the National Council of Churches president, Melvin Talbert.

That was then, and that was how strongly I believed in Christianity. I look back and laugh now when I read what I had said to that reporter. When I reflect upon this and other threatening episodes during my years of faith, my mind is drawn to the story of David and the giant Goliath. I felt the urge to stand up to the giant.

Most Christians that I know or have known are usually decent people, until you question their belief system. Valerie, I understand why my brother and family would be defensive. Adding to his burden is my background. He feels that he can’t stand up to me, his exminister brother who changed his faith viewpoint. But what I don’t understand is how a belief in belief system, (Christianity) can:

1) Divide blood relations like a brother or family
2) Cause bloodshed in the battle to promote its supremacy?
In times like these, when Christianity undergoes greater scrutiny and challenges for its survival, the number of polite seasoned responses to challenges seem to dwindle. Here is an excerpt from a Christian’s letter that understands, and responds with a true Christian spirit.

With Christ, his love is not conditional which is why I don't understand why believers cannot love or accept you. All of us must choose faith or not. When Jesus was here on earth, he was accused of being a "friend of the sinners" for he loved people. What I don't understand is how can Christians not do what Jesus would do.

I don't wear my faith on my sleeves, but the only faith I am interested in is what Jesus would do, not what any church or people who call themselves Christians would do.

Valerie, can you speak about the depth and intensity of Christian responses that have been expressed in this letter or elsewhere?

Sincerely,

Brian

Want to review another letter in this series? Click here for Part I. Click here for Part II

Once a Baby-Killer...

For some reason, think their is against and baby-killing. I don't get it! There are lots of examples to the contrary in the . I mean, who has killed more babies than the ? Have you read these passages?

Hosea 13:16 Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.

Exodus 12:29 "And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt..."

2 Samuel 12:14 Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.

Isaiah 13:16 Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.

Isaiah 13:18 Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eyes shall not spare children.

Isaiah 14:21 Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities.

Numbers 31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

I ask you... How can Christians carry that book around and swear by it's contents, but have absolutely no fucking idea what it says? Amazing!!!

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2/09/2008                                                                                       View Comments

"Creation Science 101"

Roy Zimmerman



What's funny about war, poverty, ignorance, bigotry, neo-conservatism, homophobia, greed, lust and fear? Ask Roy Zimmerman. He's been writing satirical songs for twenty years.

The Los Angeles Times says, "Zimmerman displays a lacerating wit and keen awareness of society's foibles that bring to mind a latter-day Tom Lehrer."

"Creation Science 101" is on my album "Faulty Intelligence" available on my website and on iTunes. -- Roy Zimmerman

2/06/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Hell: The Devil's Domain

Video segments I–X



Hell: The Devil's Domain

From the dark Hades of Greek Mythology to the fire-and-brimstone visions of fundamentalist thunderers, Hell has long held a particular grip over the human imagination. HELL: THE DEVIL'S DOMAIN travels the world to peer into the darkest depths of this eternal fascination.

The journey begins with the story of a near-death experience in which a man thinks he went to Hell after being declared clinically dead and before resuscitation. Trace the evolving conceptions of hell and the devil from Stone-Age French cave paintings to Hollywood blockbusters. Speak with survivors of the recovered memory craze and parishioners at a fundamentalist Texas church. Review literary landmarks like Dante's Inferno and Milton's Paradise Lost. And see how the world's great faiths various conceptions of the afterlife encompass these universal fears.

Approximately 90 minutes in length.

On the off chance Huckabee wins...

I've been thinking about what would happen if Mike won the and really did change the to "God's Laws". One thing for sure, the rock business would get a big boost!

According to the , prescribes for all kinds of offenses. Here are a few examples: (I actually copied this list from one of my favorite resources called, Dwindling In Unbelief. I hope Steve doesn't mind.)

1.For touching Mount Sinai Exodus 19:13
2.For taking "accursed things" Joshua 7:1-26
3.For cursing or blaspheming Leviticus 24:16
4.For adultery (including urban rape victims who fail to scream loud enough) Deuteronomy 22:23-24
5.For animals (like an ox that gores a human) Exodus 21:28
6.For a woman who is not a virgin on her wedding night Deuteronomy 22:13-21
7.For worshipping other gods Deuteronomy 17:2-5
8.For preaching the wrong religion Deuteronomy 13:5-10
9.For disobeying parents Deuteronomy 21:18-21
10.For witches and wizards Leviticus 20:27
11.For giving your children to Molech Leviticus 20:2
12.For breaking the Sabbath Numbers 15:32-56
13.For cursing the king 1 Kings 21:10



The reward for being an atheist

By Bob Patterson

Debating fundamentalists is difficult because the battle involves differing weapons.The atheists uses logic while the fundies use emotion. There is almost no quick way to convince someone their long held emotions are incorrect. One way or another, the result is usually sticking their fingers in their ears and singing, "La La la la -- I don't want to hear you," or some other similar way to tell you to get lost. Testing emotions will usually invoke anger, as well. At least online debating has some advantage in that you don't have to withstand a shouting contest.

If you could convince a fundie to become an atheist or even an agnostic, it would involve the following difficult changes:

1.You'd have to admit your parents lied to you, or at least, mislead you.

2.You'd have to admit you were wrong!

3.You'd have to become a minority.

4.You know that being an atheist isn't usually good in the workplace.

5. Your family and some friends may reject you.

6. You'd have to give up your imaginary ticket to your imaginary heaven.

The reward for being an atheist is the satisfaction of being correct, not worrying about going to hell, keeping the 10% of your money you used to give to the church (You did contribute 10% right?), and the knowledge no one is watching you. It's my personal opinion that atheists have a moral obligation to expose the fraud of religion, as well. Another reward is knowing other atheists and comparing experiences, which is why I always forward Dave VanAllen's ExChristian.net. in my daily rant.It makes available a lot of interesting and comparative experiences.

Just to show I'm not closed minded or dogmatically opinionated I will immediately accept the religion of the first god who restores missing limbs for amputees and sight for the blind. This should not be a major challenge for any real deity.

2/04/2008                                                                                       View Comments

2/03/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Religion? No thanks. I'll just continue in my atheism

By Bob Patterson

1: I don't believe in a god because I have yet to see, hear, or feel one. Neither have I seen any credible evidence that anyone else has.

2: I don't believe in your god because there are thousands of gods... What makes your god (out of 10,000 gods) the 'real' one? Ever notice that believers follow the religion of their parents?

3: What is the evidence for your god? If you tell me the bible, I'll have to assume you never read it. Much of the bible is the rantings of maniacal lunatics. Is that the best your god can do?

4: If, in fact, your god is the factual real McCoy, 100% of the world would know it.

5: Why does your god get all the credit for everything perceived as good, but never any blame for what isn't?

6: If your god is so great and so powerful, why is there still disease, suffering and birth defects?

7. Only 1/3 of the world's population are in 'Christian nations' which, of course, are only partially Christian?

8: If God is in fact the father of Jesus, what possible benefit did having him murdered provide? Was this for God's benefit? Let me see if I understand this: God, the judge and jury as well as the father of the defendant decides that killing his own son to satisfy the judge (himself) will somehow make the following generations liberated from a condition they never created in the first place? Do Christians ever bother to read this? Doesn't this strike you as the most idiotic logic you ever heard?

9: God seems obsessed with homosexuality. I have to agree, I don't understand it, either, but SO WHAT? So two like sex individuals like each other. I could care less, It doesn't bother me, so why doesn't God have any tolerance? This makes ME clearly more tolerant than your so called 'loving god' I see that God called Jerry Falwell home. Good riddance, Who needs all that hatred? He was a boring ass anyway.

10: Christianity is perpetuated by instilling into young children the dogma of belief'. Not surprisingly, all religions do the same thing. Instead of such indoctrination, one should present all religions as well and skepticism to your children, and then allow them to make an adult decision at such a time as they are mature. I was fortunate, my parents, being of differing religious backgrounds, did this FOR me, and I selected two different ones (Pentecostal at first, and then Methodist) then at age 17, I rejected all religion as superstitious mythology. That was 56 years ago. I tremble to think what I might be, today, had both my parents been fundamentalists! Parental respect may overpower reason and logic. I believe that parental respect frequently transposes into the need for a loving and caring 'Daddy for adults' (God) and the greatest of all myths is perpetuated ad infinitum....

Conclusion: The Christian (biblical) god is an intolerant, maniacal, murdering thug and only selectively tolerant or loving. I would encourage all devout believers to read your bible objectively and then read about the worlds humanitarian atheists (No, not Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot or Mao Se Tung), I mean Thomas Jefferson, Einstein, Thomas Edison and a thousand scientists who all reject your god. I further conclude that morality has nothing to do with religion, Al Capone attended mass regularly... So did most of the mafia. What about the $3.3 BILLION dollars the Catholic church has paid out for pedophilia claims? How moral is pedophilia? How moral is Christianity?

Why do so many humans need a god? Are we predisposed with some gene that makes us want a god? Is religion more cultural than genetic? Would humanity be better off without religion, or is it some sort of a necessity that fills a need? Some cultures are very non religious, yet the US is a very religious nation. The world's population cannot agree on which god or religion to agree upon. Until new data is available, I'll just continue my atheism.

Thanks.

Anatomy of a Christian Hate Letter - Part Two

This post is part of a dialog, In Two Minds: The Anatomy of a Christian Hate Letter, between former minister Brian Worley and psychologist Valerie Tarico . In the series, Brian Worley, an ordained Baptist, describes some of his encounters with Christian friends and family since he deconverted. In Letter One, he asked Dr. Tarico to comment on an exchange with his brother and in Letter Two, Valerie Tarico responds.

Dear Brian,

Your experience, I’m afraid, is familiar to many former Evangelical believers.

Even though I have researched some of the worst of Christian history, the Evangelical child in me continues to marvel at things that are said in defense of the God of Love and Truth. After all, I believed in the fruit of the Spirit. I believed in Jesus who told us to turn the other cheek. So, I was shocked when I first read profanity and threats of personal violence against the stewards of exChristian.net, losingmyreligion.com, and even the Ontario Center For Religious Tolerance (religioustolerance.org)!

Somehow, even though 20 years had passed since I could last call myself born-again, a part of me still believed that Christians were better than ordinary people. It was only when I caught myself and stepped into my adult psychologist mind that I remembered: we all are ordinary people—Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and non-theists alike.

Being ordinary means that we all have a tendency to become aggressive when we feel threatened, and that is what I believe is going on here. In your brother’s email, he interprets your prior letter as a threat—you are trying to provoke a “hate fest.” He then moves against you with sarcasm, distancing, and a posture of psychological and spiritual superiority.

Why is your deconversion and that of so many others threatening? Why does even the concept of religious tolerance threaten fundamentalist Christians? Why would anonymous followers of Jesus, incredibly, make death threats against former Christians who speak out?

The primary reason is that traditional Christianity is brittle. You and I both spent years of our lives seeking to understand the will of God. But sometimes even when people are working very hard to keep the edifice of belief in place, it crumbles. That is because it doesn’t correspond very well to what we know about ourselves and the world around us. At the time Christian doctrines were emerging, they were basically consistent with the prevailing world view – one that included hereditary dynasties, animal and human sacrifices, magic, and supernatural beings like winged messengers and desert djinns (demons) who meddled in human affairs. They were also consistent with humanity’s level of moral development. But now we know better, and that makes faith more fragile. Once little cracks allow light to fall on the contradictions, we see that they are legion. So the whole thing depends on not letting those first little cracks start.

The structure of traditional Christianity has evolved to protect itself against these threats. For one thing, it makes exclusive truth claims. It doesn’t take the risk of assuming that other spiritual traditions offer complementary insights. Fundamentalists teach that “tolerance” is a code word for being indifferent to right and wrong. It is a slippery slope, a tool of Satan. Another protective strategy is that Christianity seeks to isolate believers from nonbelievers. “be not unequally yoked.” Even settings like public schools are described as havens of secular indoctrination.

Another protective mechanism is that it sneers at the accumulation of knowledge and wisdom. “Thinking themselves wise they become fools.” Christians are taught to mistrust and ignore their own rational capacity when it leads them into disagreement with Christian dogmas. Fundamentalist Christianity is based on belief in belief, which means that doubt, our best guardian of truth seeking, must be relabeled as a sin or vice. In addition, because of how our brains are wired, Christianity taps some of our deepest most yearned-for emotions: love, peace, forgiveness, absolution, spiritual healing and transcendent joy. Humans can and do experience these feelings in many contexts, but Christian practices trigger them, and then Christian beliefs offer an interpretive framework that says “You get it here, and you won’t get it anywhere else.” Finally, all of this is given existential proportions, meaning that people are taught (and then feel desperately) that this is all a matter of highest urgency—protecting these beliefs literally feels like a matter of life and death.

Your brother is merely responding as any of us do when our very existence feels threatened. The fight/flight response gets triggered. He experienced a sabre-toothed tiger outside the cave, and he responded in the way that has helped to guarantee the survival of our species: he bared his (verbal) fangs and used his adrenalin rush to roll a rock across the opening. The problem lies not in your brother. Or rather, I might say, it is in him but not of him. He is caught by a belief system that activates his healthy defensive structure for its own preservation. Having left the faith, you and I both know that we lost neither our joy nor our moral core. We are as capable of love and generosity as before. He would be fine on the outside – still himself with many of the very same strengths and weakness that bless and curse him now. But your brother, in the throes of belief cannot know this.

Valerie

Want to review another letter in this series? Click here for Part I.

Anatomy of a Christian Hate Letter - Letter One

This post is part of a dialog, In Two Minds: The Anatomy of a Christian Hate Letter, between former minister Brian Worley and psychologist Valerie Tarico . In the series, Brian Worley, an ordained Baptist, describes some of his encounters with Christian friends and family since he deconverted. In Letter 1, he asks Dr. Tarico to comment on an exchange with his brother.

Dear Dr. Tarico,

The last time I was with my Christian father, he cussed me out because of my beliefs. I looked him in the eye and said, “I got what I needed to know from you today.” (I had traveled a long way just to visit.) Then, I just turned and walked away. Below, I have posted a letter from my brother. Our relationship has never been the same since I left the faith.

Brian,

I feel very privileged that you chose to send me your propaganda I know that you hope to win converts to your dark world but what I choose to do is add you to my blocked senders list. I believe that most of your old friends and family have come to the same conclusion about you as I have that you need help. I don’t want to get into this hate fest with you like you want, so please make a choice to forget that I exist. One day we will all know what the truth is about life, if you’re right then it wont matter, if I’m right it will. I am happy with my life and I believe that most Christian’s are. For you to tear down what your old friends and family believe is unbelievable and I am sure that it must bring you a lot of joy.

I pray for your soul and especially you new family

Sincerely,

Since this family member has suggested that I need help, I have decided to ask for a professional’s opinion on the matter.

I have grown accustomed to this type of behavior from my family. But that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. I wish that it were only my family that feels this way, but unfortunately old friends and acquaintances share similar views. These are what I would classify as uncomfortable but yet civil. They just usually ignore me. I wrote the following letter after receiving my brother’s reply. I did this to clarify my intentions on why I had written to them. All of them are Christians.

Dear Friends,

My reasons for emailing you about my website and the posting I had to www.exchristian.net is partly due to your silence that I perceive to be prejudice because I had left Christianity. I am in no way trying to pick a fight with you. Obviously, I am writing several people at once with this email and everyone I am certain has their own ideas about things. You can believe what you want to believe and that is fine with me until you cross the line. To me that line is William James axiom, "Does your belief make you a better person?". The bible commands it's followers to: 1) examine yourself to make certain that you are in the faith 2) To be able to give a reason for the hope that lies within you 3) To love people.

Two of you (I won't embarrass them) wrote me a nasty letter in their Christian love[sarcasm] (they should read my post , Christian Do You Really Have It?). It is the year 2007, not the Stone Age. There is no need to view me as an enemy or to be hateful and/or rude and ignore me when I write to you. One of the reasons I started the site was due to this very type of negative "Christian" behavior. I was true and sincere when I was a Christian, not one of you could honestly deny this. My discoveries (about the Christian myth...my thoughts) are not new to the world; they have been around for quite some time. I didn't read someone’s book and make a change. I changed because of what I personally found when reading the bible for myself. I didn't want to live a lie and ask others to follow something that I could no longer subscribe to. What I did was something honorable, if you don't approve of what I did then in your eyes should I be a phony and live a lie? You need to answer this. We all should realize that I have had a much different path than you have had in life. I set aside many years in a university and many afterwards trying to master my life's passion, which was the Christian message. I always studied hard and did so with confidence because I thought the truth was always on my side as a Christian. I never expected to find what I found and to leave the faith.

I myself wouldn't challenge, say a scientist when I don't have a scientist's background. I can understand you not challenging me because most of you have little bible training. Like I said, I am not trying to pick a fight, embarrass, or convert you to my way of thinking. You are getting this email from me due to either silence or being ugly about things. We were either family, friends or acquaintances in the past and I hope that we could have continued. I can be friends with people who see things different than I, several of you it seems cannot do this. I am writing to try to clear a few things up that could be misperceived about my intentions. I can tell you from personal experience that prejudice is a very ugly expression. Abandoning faith and being an agnostic brings out prejudice from Christians. Prejudice is judging a matter before you hear the other side. It can be both passive or aggressive in nature. Silence is passive but it is still prejudice based. Maybe it is because you don't know what to say to me?

One of you challenged me in the past, not with their own opinion or facts but with someone else’s. I considered this case to be very weak because it was and I said so to them. What should have been an open dialogue turned into a manipulative effort to control how another person thinks. Since I didn't agree with that person's (their friends plagiarism of someone else’s thoughts) that they had written to me about. Can I not be allowed to think for myself by those who hold a different position than I without some controlling type of "punishment" for doing so?

I'm trying to clear up a few things here. The world would be a better place if there weren’t prejudice and hatred around. I can understand being uncomfortable and not knowing either how or what to say. I understand silence speaks, but what it says about you as a person isn't admirable. If a person cannot be civil then maybe you should just say, "We should just avoid the religion subject". I can accept your verdict, that is if you express it. I can and do walk away from hopeless cases when necessary. But before I do so, I want to make sure that I have accurately gathered enough facts to do so properly.

Looking forward to your reply,
Sincerely Brian


The response to this last letter was what I expected it to be. A few still ignored me, a few stepped forward and affirmed our relationship and no more mean responses were sent back as a reply. Now, keep in mind that I am writing and sharing personal experiences as a way to reach out into a world that is divided. If you think that this is a plea for pity or sympathy then you are mistaken.

I have enough experiences from my site to realize that Christians will write to me to explain or justify what they think that I am blind to. Instead of trying to persuade me of something, I would rather you take this as material to use in a discussion group on how to relate to those outside of your churches walls.

Finally, Valerie will you review this letter and give a professional's viewpoint?

Sincerely,

Brian Worley

Want to review another letter in this series? Click here for Part II

God the psycho

Pat Condell remarks on the curse of monotheism.

Why I Became an Atheist

Former evangelical minister John W. Loftus would like to announce that his latest book — "Why I Became an Atheist" — will soon be released by Prometheus Books.

For about two decades John W. Loftus was a devout evangelical Christian, an ordained minister of the Church of Christ, and an ardent apologist for Christianity. With three degrees--in philosophy, theology, and philosophy of religion--he was adept at using rational argumentation to defend the faith. But over the years, as he ministered to various congregations and taught at Christian colleges, doubts about the credibility of key Christian tenets began to creep into his thinking. By the late 1990s he experienced a full-blown crisis of faith, brought on by emotional upheavals in his personal life as well as the gathering weight of the doubts he had long entertained.

In this honest appraisal of his journey from believer to atheist, Loftus carefully explains the experiences and the reasoning process that led him to reject religious belief. The bulk of the book is his "cumulative case" against Christianity. Here he lays out the philosophical, scientific, and historical reasons that can be raised against Christian belief. From the implications of religious diversity, the authority of faith vs. reason, and the problem of evil, to the contradictions between the Bible and the scientific worldview, the conflicts between traditional dogma and historical evidence, and much more, Loftus covers a great deal of intellectual terrain. For every issue he succinctly summarizes the various points of view and provides references for further reading. In conclusion, he describes the implications of life without belief in God, some liberating, some sobering.

This frank critique of Christian belief from a former insider will interest freethinkers as well as anyone with doubts about the claims of religion.

John W. Loftus (Angola, IN) earned M.A. and M.Div. degrees in theology and philosophy from Lincoln Christian Seminary under the guidance of Dr. James D. Strauss. He then attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he studied under Dr. William Lane Craig and received a Th.M. degree in philosophy of religion. Before leaving the church, he had ministries in Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana, and taught at several Christian colleges.

"Why I Became an Atheist" is an extensive revision of Loftus' previous works entitled "From Minister to Honest Doubter" and "Why I Rejected Christianity."

Recommendations of this book:

Both Daniel C. Dennett and Christopher Hitchens recommend it.

David Mills, author of the bestselling Atheist Universe: "From everything I've heard and read about this forthcoming book, it's going to be one of the top atheist books ever published. John Loftus has such a unique background and wit in his writings that I'm literally counting the days until it reaches my home via Amazon. Thank you, John, for your meticulous efforts to educate the rest of us about the many failures of theology."

Dr. James F. Sennett, Christian philosopher and author of Modality, Probability, and Rationality: A Critical Examination of Alvin Plantinga's Philosophy, and This Much I Know: A Post-Modern Apologetic (unpublished book): "For years I have been saying that Christian apologetics is answering questions no one is asking. Scholarly unbelief is far more sophisticated, far more defensible than any of us would like to believe. John W. Loftus is a scholar and a former Christian who was overwhelmed by that sophistication and damaged irreparably by the inadequate apologetics he had at his disposal. His story is a wake up call to the church: it's time for us to start living in, and speaking to, the real world."

Dr. Norman L. Geisler, Christian apologist and author of The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics: "First [John's book] is an honest and open account of how a Christian became an atheist. Seldom are unbelievers so candid and open. Second, every Christian--let alone Christian apologist--can learn some valuable lessons from it on how to treat wayward believers. Third, it is a thoughtful and intellectually challenging work, presenting arguments that every honest theist and Christian should face. Indeed, some of his criticisms are valid.

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Edward Tabash, Attorney at Law, Chair, First Amendment Task Force, Council for Secular Humanism: "Among the general books refuting the claims of Christianity, John has produced one of the best presentations I have read. I recommend his book to all those who seek to study a comprehensive argument against Christian claims."

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Dan Barker, author of Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist: "As a former fundamentalist minister who has followed a similar path from apostle to apostate, I empathize completely with the deep struggle Loftus had to make in order to shed his former cherished beliefs. I respect his scholarship, but more than that, I admire his courage. There are many treasures in this book, as well as provocative and controversial arguments, all presented with a crystal-clear and brutal honesty that is rare in religious scholarship. Loftus is a true freethinker, willing to follow the facts wherever they happen to lead."

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Valerie Tarico, author of The Dark Side: How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love and Truth: "What is unusual about Loftus is his breadth and depth of research in defense of the Christian faith before finally rejecting his faith. Loftus applies himself in this book with the same intellectual rigor he had applied to defending the faith, and effectively dissects those very same arguments. I found myself marveling at the impressively contorted reasoning used by apologists through the ages in defense their received traditions. Arguments on behalf of the "self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit" and the incarnation are extraordinary in this regard. These arguments are testimony to the power of the human mind when we are determined to make the evidence fit a preconceived story line---or when we are determined to hold an appealing belief despite being backed into an evidentiary corner. They are worth reading from the standpoint of cognitive psychology alone. It is thoroughly referenced, and quotes extensively from scholars on many sides. His encyclopedic knowledge speaks for itself."

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David Van Allen, webmaster of www.exchristian.net: "This book is an absolute 'must have' for anyone who has left the Christian faith or is having serious intellectual doubts about the Christian religion. While the book starts out explaining some of his experiential reasons for leaving Christianity, the volume goes far beyond a mere personal testimony and dives deeply into the elemental contradictions of Christianity. The plethora of scholarly works referenced in this publication places it amongst the better resources for the honest student. To do the volume justice one must be willing to follow the research that has been carefully documented by Loftus. For those without the time or interest to explore the mountain of references, this book will, none-the-less, provide a significant store for future study when time or necessity dictates. Loftus deals evenly with the issues, carefully explaining the strengths and weaknesses of each argument. Loftus' coverage of the problems inherent in the claims of Christianity is comprehensive. Much of what he wrote sounds like an echo of many of my own introspections except expressed through the well oiled mind of an academia. Loftus does not come away from Christianity with the deep bitterness that affects many in de-conversion, but rather retains admiration for the good influence Christianity had on his own youth. If you are an honest seeker, or an honest doubter; if you truly believe, or truly doubt; I highly recommend you add this book to your collection. "

-------------------

Richard Carrier, author of Sense and Goodness Without God, said this about The Outsider Test for Faith chapter: "that's an excellent chapter. The logic of it is insurmountable, in my opinion, even by a so-called reformed or 'holy spirit' epistemologist."

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Matthew J. Green: "It's not everyday that I get to befriend a fellow apostate and freethinker who left the Christian faith but also one who has a sharp theological mind such as John W. Loftus. A divinity school graduate with three master's degrees, a former student of William Lane Craig, and an academic star in his school days, Loftus has a formidable resume. That's why I was eager to purchase and read Loftus' book Why I Rejected Christianity. This book is one of the best introductory texts on the philosophical problems with Christianity."

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Christopher Hallquist, president of Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and blog owner of http://uncrediblehallq.blogspot.com: "Where I'm not familiar with the material, I have found Loftus' book quite helpful. I also have no trouble saying the section on the problem of evil was top-notch. Loftus' extensive use and citation of existing material makes this an excellent guide to the literature for anyone who wants to do further reading."

"There are also a few real gems originality thrown in there. The best section, though, is at the beginning, in a section called The Outsider Test: "Test your beliefs as if you were an outsider to the faith you are evaluating." Here, Loftus solidifies an idea that has floated around in much skeptical rhetoric for some time. He opens up the possibility of consistently applying an idea that has so far only been applied haphazardly. When this is done, the effect is utterly devastating to religious belief. The Outsider Test should earn Loftus a permanent place in the history of critiques of religion."

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Joe E. Holman, founder of www.ministerturnsatheist.org, and author of Project Bible Truth: What Your Church Doesn't Want You To Know (Forthcoming):

"With excellent scholarship and thorough detail, Loftus powerfully and systematically dismantles the Christian religion, refuting long held arguments of apologists, laying to waste sacred and traditional beliefs of the faith."

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Chris Knight-Griffin:

"If you have questions about your faith, read this book. Those nagging questions are addressed and exposed. Every skeptic should have this concise reference book on the desk, dog-eared, tagged, and highlighted. I've read Sam Harris' book, The End of Faith, and Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion. I've read numerous books on the subject but John's book was what I was looking for. The other books hit the target but John's book hits the bulls-eye. I doubt anyone with faith could walk away from this book with that faith intact."

"This book is a reference tool with sources documented well beyond most books in this field. Literally hundreds of sources are quoted throughout and it is amazing that someone could sift through that much material into a succinct, scholarly and easy to read work. Awesome book!!!! It is honestly everything I've been looking for so far in my 'quest' for knowledge. Thank you!"

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Greg Meeuwsen: "I have read numerous publications on this topic, but I don't believe I've ever seen as many great reasons to reject religion in one place. John's arguments are numerous and rock-solid. The book reads without even a hint of condescending tone towards his former faith. It is obvious that the man is simply sincere, and he resorts to no personal attacks on any level. This is more than can be said of most current atheist authors. The level of research and brutal logic applied to the Bible is absolutely stunning, as is the sheer number of examples given. There is "no stone unturned", as Loftus takes on nearly every apologist angle ever conceived. This book will give more insight into scholarly unbelief than you ever thought possible."

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Paul Harrison: "If you read Christian apologetics, you owe it to yourself to have this anthology of the best arguments against Christian apologetics in your library."

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Andrew Atkinson: "I have read hundreds of Christian Apologetics books. I have read all of Lewis, all of Schaeffer, all of Peter Kreeft, all of Dr. Geislers including his encyclopedia A-Z twice and his systematic Theology twice, I have read Plantinga, McDowell, Craig, Ravi, Moreland, Swinburne, N.T right, Paul Copan Etc. I was until recently enrolled at Dr. Geislers school to study apologetics and philosophy. This year I decided in order to be fair and honest to read all the top skeptical books on religion. Your book was one of the first I read. Your book was the first skeptic book I read that made me seriously realize that I could be dead wrong! I think you have written by far the best overall refutation of Christianity in print. This is the best book to give to a believer. Your book has changed my life, and for that I cannot thank you enough.

I think your book is superior for multiple reasons:

1. Its scope and coverage is more exhaustive on issues crucial to Christianity then other books.

2. you anticipate objections from Christian philosophers and Theologians that most skeptics do not, due to there lack of familiarity with the other side.

3. The books packs so much in such a little space, it has amazing brevity and at the same time brilliantly dismantles many core Christian beliefs and deals with many central issues that are left out of other works.

4.Your familiarity with Christian Theology and philosophy makes you much better at drawing fine and important distinctions that other skeptics miss, due to their lack of expertise in the other side.

5. The personal Deconversion narrative woven through out the book gives it an informal and personal touch that makes it more fascinating to read then other skeptic books. Plus you are the only skeptical Author that I know of that was a highly competent Christian Apologist and Philosophers, this of course is another unique feature.

6. Your non-abrasive style sets your book apart from many other skeptic books. You wrote the book in such a way, as not to polarize the believer. The average believer would much more likely to read this book then other similar books due to your respectful manner."

A few observations from an ex-Christian atheist

By Colin

I have been floating around on this site for only a few months now, even though my own de-conversion happened more than 15 years ago. My wife is still a Christian (if a very lukewarm one) and I happened to read one of her magazines that a superheated fundamentalist Christian friend gave her. In this magazine, there was an article about this very site. The article did not mention the site by name, (probably because they did not wish to encourage foolish young sheep to leave the fold), but how intelligent do you need to be to Google “Ex-Christian”?

I noted that the author of that article never posted anything on this site – a wise decision, in my opinion.

This is not my testimonial, which I have submitted previously, but I do wish to tell everyone who visits this site, that everything you read here about de-conversion is true:

It is not a process that takes place in a few days or even weeks – it takes years, more probably decades. It is usually the result of doing an in-depth study of the Bible, and then, when one finds that the God in the Bible is neither a good nor a kindly god, one tries to twist the words of the Bible to match one’s own conception of what a good and kindly God should be. This does not work. Once one realises this, there is a lot of anger – anger for wasting decades pandering to a being that one would not let near one’s children, and for trying to love a being that one would not want for a neighbour.

Anger at all the years wasted when the answers were there for the taking – if you were but willing to use the brain that the Christians will tell you that same God gave you. After my de-conversion, I went through a phase where I went looking for arguments with Christians – the more devoted the better – because I knew that Christians can only take their arguments from the Bible. I, on the other hand, could take my arguments from science, philosophy, history and logic – fields which grow and expand every day, while the supposedly inerrant word of God does not change, even though its adherents do.

I find it passing strange that Christians who post on this site have not realised this simple truth – they are immediately at a disadvantage, simply because all the truth they are supposed to know stems from one book which they are only allowed to reason from, not to reason about. Atheists and agnostics have no such limitation.

The good news is that the anger goes away – eventually. I have come to realise that my mind is my own now, and has always been my own: Christianity would not have taken so much of my life if I did not allow it. I therefore have to take some responsibility for all those wasted years. Not full responsibility, of course: Christianity is a very well designed con, and one can appreciate how well designed it is when it becomes obvious that most of the victims of this con will happily burn you at the stake for saying it is a con.

I now do not look for arguments with Christians – I know that I can win any argument with any Christian as long as that Christian is willing to engage in a logical discussion. Arguing and debating with them have become boring, perhaps because their arguments never change. I have noticed that my discussions with Christians end up in one of two ways: the first way is that the Christian will agree that he believes because he believes – that there is nothing logical or rational about his beliefs. The second way is the way of Marc/Passerby: the Christian realises that the words which convinced him does not convince anyone willing to think about it, and becomes totally irrational – much like a child, this Christian will repeat the same argument (if one can call threats of eternal damnation an argument) over and over again in a progressively louder voice. Even these, I can face without anger – rather with a little sympathy. In that sense, I am ready to be nice.

I should also mention that if you display any kind of anger towards a Christian, or even just raise your voice, he or she will immediately assume that you are not angry at their stupidity, but that you are angry with God. I am not sure why this is. In my own Christian days, if someone got angry with me for not seeing their (atheist) point, or maybe just angry at me for trying to preach to them when it was not welcome (yes, I was an evangelical Christian) I also used to assume this. Perhaps it was because of my reasoning that if a ‘logical’ argument did not carry the day, an illogical one would.

In my readings of the forums on Ex-Christian.net, I have seen a lot of tips for non-believers to assist them in de-converting the faithful. In my opinion, you have about as much chance to de-convert a fundamentalist Christian as you do to persuade Osama bin Laden to embrace Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour, and to start speaking in tongues. Fanatics are all the same – whether they be Christian or Islamic. There is no argument or point of logic that will persuade them. The best one can hope for is to say something that will become clear at a later stage. De-conversion is not something that can be done from the outside, it has to come from within. All of us who have de-converted did so because we were brave enough to question widely accepted beliefs, and also to be diligent enough to research the origins and logic of those beliefs – no-one did it for us. I think that the belief that others can be converted or de-converted should remain a uniquely Christian and Islamic conceit.

To Christians who visit this site: if you take the time to read all the arguments here, you will find that the non-Christian posters seldom quote the Bible out of context, and frequently use the Bible to prove their own (non-theist) points. You need to ask yourself this: if God was everything the Bible said he was, would he allow that to be done to his unchanging and inerrant Word? Of course not! By now, I would have expected him to send a couple of bears to the Webmaster’s house (as he has done) or to destroy the city he lives in by divine fire (which he has also been known to do on occasion). Or perhaps even flood the whole world – this God does not worry too much about collateral damage when he throws a temper tantrum.

In addition, Christians are fond of regarding God as their father, and they are also fond of drawing parallels between human fatherhood and divine fatherhood. As the proud father of a nine-month-old baby, I wish that my child will eventually grow up, and surpass me in every way possible, in terms of intelligence, wisdom, longevity, happiness, prosperity, success and achievement. Would God the Father not wish the same for his children? And if not, what kind of a father is he?

I have also read a lot of posts by Christians that atheists can have no hope. This is certainly not true: I believe that the human race can achieve life everlasting – perhaps medical science will advance to the point where medical immortality can be achieved, if not physical immortality. I believe that the human race can defeat poverty and famine – perhaps someday we shall discover how to travel faster than light, and settle other planets. I believe that we can create heaven for ourselves here in this reality, for everyone. I realise that this will not happen in my lifetime, or even this or the next century, but it is a goal that is worth striving for.

Am I a dreamer? Yes, of course. But I am enough of a realist to know that no god is going to do it for us – we will have to do it all ourselves. The human race has come a long way since the days of the state of nature, when life was brutal, nasty and short. And we have come all this way without divine assistance, and often in spite of our religious beliefs. We can go further still, especially if we stop wasting time asking a god or gods to do for us what we can and will do for ourselves.

That is the hope of an atheist.