Feedback discussions - Henry Quon

Record 2
Name: Henry Quon
Website:
Referred by: Just Surfed On In
From:
Time: 1999-08-22 17:42:27
Comments: Dear Steve, Thank you for your insights on why you had to leave christianity. I read your comments and on more than one occassion, I nodded in agreement. For the record, I am a christian and probably like most others, I have also found myself questioning the faith on more than one occasion. I should mention that I did not start out early in life being a christian. I accepted Christ as my saviour in my late 20's, after graduating from the University of British Columbia as an anthropology major! It may no doubt seem surprising to you how an anthropology major can come to accept Christ, or even believe in God, for that matter. Steve, I do sometimes find it hard to reconncile what I see going on in this world, the evil, the unfair circumstances in life, the injustices, the suffering which befalls both "saints" and "sinners" alike, etc. However, I do find comfort in reading God's word and it gives me assurance in two ways: (1)No matter what happens to me in this world, God will ultimately ensure that those who do trust in him will be vindicated in their faith and (2)Mortal man does not have all the answers to life and should not be expected to. If man had all the answers to life, there would be no need for faith and consequently little need to believe in God. Your point about the eternal damnation of sinners in hellfire is a point very well taken. I absolutely concur with you in this respect- If God were to condemn the "unjust" for all eternity in hellfire, he would make the SS guards at Auschwitz, Treblinka, Buchenwald and the Slobodan Miloslevics of this world seem like Mother Theresa in comparison. Thankfully, God IS NOT like this and I will tell you why. This is also where traditional christianity, both catholic and protestant, have gone on the wrong tangent. In the early new testament christian church, there was no such teaching of eternal hellfire. Yes, Jesus did mention hellfire but what he meant was far different from what has been taught, and is still being taught, in christain churches- particularly the ultra fundamentalist ones. Jesus and the new testament church taught that those who are unrepentant (ie. unwilling to lead just and righteous lives)will be annihilated in "gehenna" fire. The wicked will be burned up- not roasting endlessly for all eternity. Once burned up, they will have no more consciousness and it will be as if they had never existed. This is how a merciful God deals with those who are truly wicked and evil. This whole idea of Hellfire got started because of the false belief that crept in to the christian church around the 3rd century AD, with the Council of Nicea, that man was inherently immortal. No where does it teach in the bible that man has any immortality apart from God. Only God can impart immortality to man. As an intelligent, rational person, permit me to ask you this question- If all people supposedly receive their "reward" when they die, either heaven or hell, then why is there a need for a resurrection of the dead? Plainly, the bible speaks of the resurrection to eternal life when those who are dead in Christ will be resurrected at his glorious second coming (Rev.20:4). However, the bible speaks of a second resurrection (Rev.20:5) one thousand years later when those who have stubbornly refused to accept the light of the gospel will be resurrected to judgment. The point is Steve, the traditionally accepted concept of Hellfire is basically WRONG and it does a tremendous disservice to GOD's character. It is small wonder that intelligent and thoughtful individuals like yourself would have little recourse other than to turn your back on God. Steve, I felt I have gone on long enough. I do hope that you might reconsider your feelings towards God based on what I have said. God is truly a loving God, even though we may not always understand why he does things the way he does. I know that one day, hopefully soon, his son Jesus Christ is returning to this world to reclaim this world for those who are truly still faithful to him, even in these trying and perplexing times. Yours faithfully in HIM, Henry Quon

----- Original Message -----
From: Steve Locks <Steve Locks>
To: <Henry Quon>
Sent: 23 August 1999 23:49
Subject: Your comments in my guestbook

Hi Henry,

Thanks for your considered comments in my guestbook on my "leaving
Christianity" website.

Feedback is always appreciated, whether appreciative or
critical. In the spirit of hoping for an interesting and profitable
exchange for both of us I'll make some comments on what you wrote to me.

If we get an interesting exchange then I would like to publish it on my
website (that should keep both of us civil!)

<< I accepted Christ as my saviour in my late 20's, after graduating from
the University of British Columbia as an anthropology major! It may no
doubt seem surprising to you how an anthropology major can come to accept
Christ, or even believe in God, for that matter. >>

Not at all. There are intelligent and highly educated people in all
religions and in what both of us would consider to be cults. As you
probably know, the Moonies recruit largely on college campuses, and the
Japanese Aum Shinrikyo cult contained many PhD's. When I was a
Christian I knew physicists (I am a physicist myself), psychologists,
historians, doctors, dentists etc. in my church. The thing I find lacking
in the education of Christians though is familiarity with material
critical of their religion. I would be more surprised if you could give
me a decent list of the material you have read that is critical of
Christianity and explained convincingly what you thought wrong with it.
I would be very impressed indeed if you used to be a member of a
freethought organisation, wrote material critical of Christianity and
later became a Christian. Are you impressed with the fact that so
many ministers, missionaries and apologists leave Christianity?

<< Steve, I do sometimes find it hard to reconncile what I see going on in
this world, the evil, the unfair circumstances in life, the injustices,
the suffering which befalls both "saints" and "sinners" alike, etc. >>

I have not consciously argued for atheism on my site but I am critical of
Christianity which I think can be demonstrated to be false as is discussed
by so many ex-professional churchmen whose deconversion stories can
be found via my site. I am not arguing it myself particularly anyway, as
it is already well covered on the Internet. Rather I am mostly just
presenting case histories with a little of what I personally found.

I have mostly geared my site to be a resource for those in a similar
situation to me rather than primarily presenting the information of what
is wrong with Christianity (although that information is available in some
of the links). As such maybe the emotional part of my story has made
more of an impact on you than the intellectual part?
I only outline what I read and you will need to follow the links/books to
get a flavour of it. So I think your remarks, although obviously well
intended, might be misplaced, but I hope I'll make it clear what I mean in
a while. Sure enough the "problem of evil" has been a perennial problem
(and still is) within Christianity, and although a question I pondered it
was not the main reason I left Christianity. Basically I left because in
the course of my reading and thinking it became overwhelmingly apparent
that Christianity is a man made cultural thing and not of God. I have
provided enough notes and links in my website to follow up on the kind of
material that convinced me of this. My comments about hell etc. where
"the last straw" and I am sure I would have deconverted even without
thinking about the problem of evil and the doctrine of hell. It is more
something I have thought about after leaving than what was usually on my
mind when I was a Christian. When I was a Christian I was very liberal and
didn't actually (consciously) believe in the existence of hell as it
didn't make sense within my picture of a loving God. In fact it disturbed
me very much to find that some people at my church did believe in hell
"how could they!" I thought. However the fact that God seemed to allow
the doctrine to be so popular within the church did bother me very much,
as did the fact that if Jesus & St. Paul etc. really didn't believe in
literal hell then the fact that they didn't make it abundantly transparent
that they meant something else is just utterly culpable irresponsibility
to me, so abhorrent is the merest sniff of that doctrine and so dreadful
the consequences of Christians believing it down the ages.

<< However, I do find comfort in reading God's word and it gives me
assurance in two ways: (1)No matter what happens to me in this world,
God will ultimately ensure that those who do trust in him will be
vindicated in their faith >>

I have a big problem with this in that it strikes me as a very unhealthy
relationship with ones god. If you read further in my site you will see I
have included comments about the similarity of this with an abused wife's
love for her husband and the Stockholm syndrome starting at
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/seek.html#example

In fact you should probably read the whole of
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/seek.html as there are other
relevant comments on this "trust God no matter what" subject.

As for comfort in reading God's word, how do you feel about this
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/babble.html
Another excellent resource is here
http://www.eclipse.co.uk/thoughts/absolutemorals.htm#aview

<< and (2)Mortal man does not have all the answers to life and
should not be expected to. If man had all the answers to life, there would
be no need for faith and consequently little need to believe in God. >>

I am quite happy with mystery, it is a chance for adventure and discovery.
As a Christian and as an ex-Christian I have never been of the opinion
that I would ever know everything. I take it that you see problems with
Islam? If you had all the answers to these problems then there would be no
need for faith in the prophet Mohammed and consequently little need to
believe in Allah (and so on for every other religion and belief).

<< Your point about the eternal damnation of sinners in hellfire is a
point very well taken. I absolutely concur with you in this respect- If
God were to condemn the "unjust" for all eternity in hellfire, he would
make the SS guards at Auschwitz, Treblinka, Buchenwald and the
Slobodan Miloslevics of this world seem like Mother Theresa in
comparison. >>

You might be interested in these articles about "saintly" Mother Teresa
http://www.abarnett.demon.co.uk/atheism/links.html#TERESA
Indeed, I agree - if God let anyone (even Hitler) go to hell than I would
think him a true devil. Torture is not justified for anything, let alone
never-ending torture.

<< Thankfully, God IS NOT like this and I will tell you why. This is also
where traditional christianity, both catholic and protestant, have gone
on the wrong tangent. In the early new testament christian church, there
was no such teaching of eternal hellfire. >>

My researches have also led me to this conclusion and I know other
atheists who also think Jesus didn't mean hellfire as commonly believed.
As I said above, I still hold the originators of Christianity as culpable
(and God if he existed) for not wiping the last trace of hellfire belief
off the planet. Whether Jesus really meant medieval hellfire or
something else is not an issue with me. I have not made this clear in
my story and will set about rewriting or providing a note to that section
soon! You may have noticed the sentence "The fact that Jesus, as
depicted in the gospels, believed in hell is to me such a serious
religious problem that it was one of the things that finally broke up
my Christianity." The "as depicted in the gospels" bit is the clue to
the fact that I didn't think that modern or medieval Christianity was
invented by Jesus (most of Christianity seems to have been invented
by St. Paul). You may also notice that my stomach churned at the
thought that all was not well in the moral character of Christ. Nobody
of divine knowledge should speak of hell without being very careful
considering how people might take this!

<< Yes, Jesus did mention hellfire but what he
meant was far different from what has been taught, and is still being
taught, in christain churches- particularly the ultra fundamentalist ones.
>>

Even when a Christian I thought the fundies were dangerous and probably
crazy! Of course they will tell you that you are not a "real" Christian
and neither was I.

<< Jesus and the new testament church taught that those who are
unrepentant (ie. unwilling to lead just and righteous lives)will be
annihilated in "gehenna" fire. The wicked will be burned up- not
roasting endlessly for all eternity. Once burned up, they will have
no more consciousness and it will be as if they had never existed. >>

Doesn't strike me as particularly nice either. I think given the resources
of divinity and eternity that re-education and rehabilitation of the
"unrepentant" (not to mention a readjustment of seratonin levels and
the dodgy genes that influence behaviour) would be better behaviour.

Meanwhile the bible is very poor at being good at explaining what hell
"really" is: Revelation 20:10,  "And the devil that deceived them was cast
into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet
had been thrown. They shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever."

<< This is how a merciful God deals
with those who are truly wicked and evil. >>

Rather that is what you are told by your version of Christianity. Also it
seems that Christians have too easy a time of disposing of the "truly
evil and wicked."

<< As an intelligent, rational person, permit me to ask you this question-
If all people supposedly receive their "reward" when they die, either
heaven or hell, then why is there a need for a resurrection of the dead?
>>

It's a bit of an odd question, as I don't believe in any of it.

<< Plainly, the bible speaks of the resurrection to eternal life when
those who are dead in Christ will be resurrected at his glorious second
coming (Rev.20:4). However, the bible speaks of a second resurrection
(Rev.20:5) one thousand years later when those who have stubbornly
refused to accept the light of the gospel will be resurrected to judgment.
>>

Who is "stubbornly refusing to accept the light of gospel?" If you read
http://www.eclipse.co.uk/thoughts/slocks.htm you will see that from my
researches the most common reason for people to leave Christianity is
through research into it leading them to the painful conclusion that it is
false. I have also recently put up the following page
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/conversion_asymmetry.html which
is relevant here as is http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/seek.html
Don't miss this shocker too
http://www.infidels.org/secular_web/feature/1999/edelen03.html

There is something else for you to consider. From my experience of those
deconverts I've talked to on the net, they have all been surprised at a
much richer life once they have left Christianity, apart from the problems
that being an infidel amongst believers subsequently brings. Most of us
had a rich Christian experience that we believed to be a good, loving
thing at the time. It comes as pretty much a shock to most of us to make
the kind of discoveries that make Christianity untenable for us any
longer. Nevertheless, almost all ex-Christians describe the enriching
experience that leaving Christianity brings. There are some quotes at
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/quotes.html  as well as more
material throughout my site and via the links. How can we be missing
something if we find it better after leaving Christianity?

I only know of one person who had a very bad inner-personal time after
deconversion [1]. He was training to be a professional apologist and (in his
own words)

<Begin Quote>
I had a rather abrupt intellectual crisis my last year of college. I was
planning to be a professional apologist and was taking three courses my
fall quarter relating to biblical studies. I thought the best way to
defeat the Jesus Seminar and the source critics of the Pentateuch was to
know their arguments as well as they did. Ironically, I was won over to
the historical-critical method. Given my background in comparative
religions and my training as an apologist who liked to ask difficult
questions, my view of the Bible and the religious communities that
produced it quickly changed. More and more, I saw the Bible as a mere
cultural production, a far cry from being the very breathed-out word of
God To say the least, it was the most traumatic experience of my life.
The worldview that I had spent a decade meticulously constructing was
shattered forever. I felt as if I was going insane. [....] I'm still very
much haunted by the ghost of my indoctrination and I don't think that
it's leaving anytime soon. I have so much to deal with and have just
barely gotten the confidence to go back out into the public and start
looking for a job. I daily fear helplessly falling into a state of
insanity. It's amazing how a deconversion experience can so affect the
self-confidence of a once "all-knowing" apologist.
<End Quote> (The Jesus seminar is here
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/theism/christianity/seminar.html )

So it can be traumatic, but he was rather the exception
from those deconverts I've talked to. Most found it liberating, whereas
Matt (I talked to him on a mailing list and by private email) went on to
complain about how profoundly he doubted his own intellectual
abilities for having been so seriously duped for so long. It is this that
really depressed him and sent him searching for various councillors,
sympathetic correspondents etc. Indeed it makes a very moot
point that anyone does find deconversion painful given the assumption
that Christianity is about "love." I think if love was primal then
deconversion should be a lot less painful because if Christianity
is false then it is patent that we were having loving feelings without
any god helping us, and so there should be no trouble caused by
deconversion - it should be a liberation to be attuned to the real world,
increasing our chances of doing real good if we react to the world as
it is rather than a false model. This liberation is the norm in the vast
majority of cases I have collected and in all cases on long term follow
up. However, I think some Christians are more in love with
Christianity than love and because of this they are very alarmed at the
idea that Christianity might be false. Really nobody should be afraid of
research. An example of an unafraid Christian, demonstrating the ease
of deconversion in those who primarily value love is the following:

<Begin Quote - from the ex-Christian archives>
On the other hand, my friend's grandmother had been a Christian for over
65 years, and we converted her IN ONE EVENING.  A record to be sure,
but it was so easy because she valued her own judgement over the
comforts of the Christian religion.  With her, it all started when Troy
(my friend, her grandson) mentioned something about God ordering
the death of babies. She said "there ain't no such thing like that in the
bible."  We showed her, and she was shocked.  To her, morality is
more important than faith, and after 65 years of Christianity, she
said "Why I had no idea, I can't believe I have been worshipping this
sh*t all my life." [....] The quote was 1 Samuel 15:2-3
<End Quote>

Even within the Christian tradition there is the example of St. Theresa
of Lisieux who pretty much became an atheist as she was dying and claimed
a far purer love when "hope of heaven" etc. was gone. Some Christian
mystics described this as "God finally being born in her." Away the
trappings of dogma! St. Thomas Aquinas also described his Summa
Theologica "as straw" after a religious experience. So if somebody's
Christianity is really about love then that Christian should welcome free
enquiry. If it is about ego and holding onto dogmas and certain social
circles then they will get upset. There you go - falsifiable theories!

<< The point is Steve, the traditionally accepted concept of Hellfire is
basically WRONG and it does a tremendous disservice to GOD's
character. It is small wonder that intelligent and thoughtful individuals
like yourself would have little recourse other than to turn your back on
God. >>

If you read my story again you will see that what really shook me up
was discovery of the similarity of Christian experiences within other
religions and non-religious thought, the spiritual superiority (to me) of
a non-religious worldview and my discoveries when reading about the
history and psychology of Christianity. If Christianity did not have a
hell-belief in any of its history or branches then I would still believe
Christianity to be false.

<< Steve, I felt I have
gone on long enough. I do hope that you might reconsider your feelings
towards God based on what I have said. >>

I hope this is of interest. If you wish to dialogue then I am willing, and
if not then I won't take offence.

<< God is truly a loving God, even
though we may not always understand why he does things the way he does. >>

"My husband is truly loving even though I don't know why he hits me or
allows me to get hurt."

<< I know that one day, hopefully soon, his son Jesus Christ is returning
to this world to reclaim this world for those who are truly still faithful
to him, even in these trying and perplexing times. >>

How do you know this? In your reply remember that people from other
religions also claim to "know" things that disagree with Christian claims.

<< Yours faithfully in HIM, >>

It is odd to sign correspondence like this to somebody who you know
doesn't believe in Christianity. Nevertheless, I hope we can have a
productive correspondence and I will be interested in your opinion of the
URLs I gave and my responses.

Steve
  1. I had forgotten some others who had a difficult time during and just after deconversion, e.g. here, here and here. However all have reported a better life once the initial shock and feeling of disorientation has died down. e.g. here. (Back)


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