All my replies are in black. The main other poster is in red. Various other contributers are in green.
All who seek, will find.
A falsifiable statement. Here's its falsification.
Many ex-xtians once deeply investigated xtianity out of a love for the faith only to be shocked after much research to find xtianity no longer believable - this is despite all the prayers, bible reading, church, fellowship etc etc that xtians exhort us to. Jesus Christ has been invited as many a personal saviour by multitudes of ex-xtians. Xtianity was once the centre of the universe for some of us. Lived it, thought it, felt it, preached it, discussed it, prayed privately and publicly, taken religious groups and have been thanked for encouraging other Christians and helping them in their walk with Christ. Felt moved by religious experience and lost in numinous feeling of connection with God. Taken holy communion, partaken of agape's and retreats. Written many notebooks of xtian thoughts. I think it's fair to say we have sought. And what did we xtians who became ex-xtians eventually find? (See URL's below).
Our Father doesn't want us to question him. He just wants us to obey!
Why don't you obey Allah/Krishna/etc/etc without questioning them? Other religions make this same claim.
Another thing that Jesus told us was not to "oppose Satan" We must resist his (the evil one's) temptations, but dying to our wills precludes any intersession by ourselves in our affairs. We must allow God's will to be manifested in our lives.
What sort of nightmares do little children have who are told that Satan and his devils are after their souls. Is this healthy?
God will provide all to us.
Really? All the torture, slaughter, famine, disease etc etc How much would God have to ignore to make you think he wasn't fulfilling this promise?
The kingdom of God is here, and now for those who believe. The instructions are in the 4 Gospels. To one who is seeking, and repentant, the truth will be interpreted for them.
Then why do so many xtians disagree with each other? Why do so many xtians who search for a deeper faith end up leaving xtianity?
Read Jesus' words carefully.
"Ye fools are blind" (Jesus speaking) Mat 23:17
"But God said to him, `You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' " (Jesus speaking)Luke 12:20
"Whosoever shall say thou fool shall be in danger of hellfire" (Jesus again!) Mat 5:22
Turn the other cheek is literal.
So Jesus threatening people with eternal torture because they called someone a fool was literally turning his cheek? (Also - Psalms 14:1 and again at 53:1 - you have to think me a fool because I have said in my heart that there is no God - oops, both of us in hell now!)
"Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father." [Matt. x, 33.] "Whosoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness." [Mark iii, 29.]
Turning the cheek?
"Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee ... tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican." ['Matt. xviii, 15-17.]
Turning the cheek? Forgiving those who trespass against us?
We are either in the world, or in the kingdom. Jesus gives us explicit instructions for avoiding judgment for our sins. His death provides the salvation, and establishes the kingdom of heaven.
How? What explicit instructions? Why does Jesus teach salvation by works in the synoptic gospels, but John portrays him teaching salvation by faith? Which is it and why? Surely xtians wouldn't have disagreed over the centuries over something explicit? Is it really so explicit then?
No longer is the father unapproachable.
Why did he need to kill himself/his son before he could turn His cheek? Why are we blamed for being "imperfect"? Is it really our fault that we are human?
Rather than physically selling everything we have and giving it all away, we must make no claims on it.
Isn't this tampering with scripture? Doesn't sound like what's in the NT. "Sell everything you have" = "don't actually physically sell everything we have." If your interpretation is fair game then how about "resurrection" = "not actual physical resurrection just an emotional feeling in some people."
We must pray for those who persecute us.
No persecution here, just disagreement. Does it feel like persecution? Is threatening people with hell persecution?
I implore you, before you make one more post, read one more e-mail message, to be repenant, (I suspect you are), ask Your Father in heaven to send Jesus to interperet the Gospels for you as he did for his disciples. Read the Gospels. Pay attention to the words of Jesus. Read the message of John the Baptizer.
Done exactly as you suggest and I ended up an atheist. I'm far from the only one! See
Read the words literally.
Okay. As well as the NT quotes already given (and remember if you take them literally then you must think me a fool for disbelieving and therefore be in danger of hellfire yourself) just for starters......
LE 26:22 "I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children."
DT 20:13-14 "When the Lord delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the males .... As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves."
DT 28:53 "You will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the Lord your God has given you."
JS 11:6 The Lord orders horses to be hamstrung. (Exceedingly cruel.)
JG 21:10-12 "... Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword and; also the women and little ones.... every male and every woman that has lain with a male you shall utterly destroy."
1SA 15:3, 7-8 "This is what the Lord says: Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass .... And Saul ... utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword."
Hosea 13:16 "The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their women with child ripped open."
"And I saw an angel standing in the sun: and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great god: That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bound, both great and small. Rev 19:17,18
etc etc etc...
When we dare to ask of xtian dogma "is this really nice?" (or even true) and are not ruled by fear of what God will do to us or not give us if we examine the evidence and our feelings, then a great deal of finer feelings can open up. This was the experience of so many of us who left xtianity, and it comes as a real revelation after having been a xtian that so much more is possible. Have you heard of the Stockholm syndrome and thought how that relates to xtianity?
The logical fallacy here involves confusing experience with principle. In the parable of the sower and other passages of Scripture it is made clear that some people have what they feel is genuine spiritual experience but, in fact, the experience is spurious. I suppose this is as a previous poster wrote - i.e. that xtians will always claim that someone who leaves the faith could not have been a "real" xtian. I thought my description of my xtian life would have gone someway to cast doubt on that. But nevertheless the point still stands that it was claimed that "all those who seek will find" whereas what so many of us found when we sought so genuinely was that xtianity was untenable for us any longer. A big shock for a xtian, I can assure you. I would have thought that I might be more successful in pointing out that when people are genuinely inviting Christ into their lives and walking the xtian walk, they sometimes really do eventually find it not "of God" - much to their surprise. We sought, so why didn't we find it as we were told we would? "All those who seek will find" - but that didn't happen.
The emphasis in most Christian households that I know is that Jesus protects his little children. Nobody I knows tells little children that "Satan and his devils are after their souls." Although it has not happened to me I know some such people. Also it is not a risk I would even want to take with small children (or anybody). Anyway the fear is still implicitly there. If Jesus is saving us from something then what if it doesn't work! We might not crack it up enough to be "true" xtians. As you have pointed out to me - my experience was "spurious" apparently. I know of people who have spent much of their xtian lives in fear that they weren't truly "saved" because different xtians were telling them they had to do different things. The way to destruction is broad etc. This invites the fear of what happens to us then? What is Jesus saving us from! You only need to be told that Jesus is protecting you to have nightmares about what those things are. "Many are called but few are chosen" (cue nightmares).
From my understanding of the biblical perspective on this issue, no one will "rejoice" in the fate of the wicked. Christians trust God to be perfect in knowledge and justice, so that the fate of each and every individual is precisely the right fate. God owns each and every person, and if he decides to send one to an eternity of torment, and another to an eternity of glory, then who can argue? Indeed, from the perspective of eternity no one will argue, for all will be able to make the connections, logically and perspectivally, which enables them to see that God is right. I didn't have time to reply to this before, but now that I have, I feel I must as this strikes me as the deeply disturbing part of xtianity.
When Mother Julian of Norwich had her "Revelations of Divine Love" (ISBN 0-340-38170-1), she asked during her 13th revelation why the origin of sin had not been prevented (she remarks that she senselessly and stupidly fretted and upset herself over it!) In her "revelation" Jesus says "sin is necessary, but all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well". This sort of non-answer is quite like the "we shall see that it is right that people get tortured for ever when we have God's perspective" answer above. i.e. it is dishonest and claims you understand something horrific that you really don't understand. Even Julian of Norwich had Jesus say it 3 times to her, as if it wouldn't be convincing just once from a deity - I suspect she felt dissatisfied with this answer herself. Indeed she asks a similar question shortly after and receives the same answer another 3 times. No real explanation for his creatures in mental anguish from the xtian God.
I don't claim responsibility for what follows, as although I was involved in the thread in which these posts appeared, these particular posts below come from other posters to the ex-xtian list. I think it goes someway to demonstrate that the above common rationalisation of Xtianity's bizarre punishment scheme stems from the same sort of psychology as an abused spouse, child or person under extreme threat.
1) An Example of God's love:
Can you just imagine this conversation occurring in any other relationship?
Husband: Do you love me?
Wife: Of course I do!
Husband: If I beat the kids, would you still love me?
Wife: Of course I would!
Husband: If I kicked the crap out of you and tied you up and threw you in the closet for a week without any food or water, would you still love me?
Wife: Umm. . . sure. . . I guess.
Husband: Then you really love me?
Husband: Then why are you such a terrible wife to me?
Wife: I'm sorry. I just can't seem to get everything done. . .
Husband: You should be grateful to me! I do everything for you, and all I ask in return is that you keep the house clean, take care of the kids, and try and make me happy.
Wife: I know I should do better.
Husband: I'm your husband, and yet you spend every chance you can get with those silly girlfriends of yours! Don't I deserve more from you.
Wife (in tears): Of course you do! I'm so sorry!
[husband embraces wife]
Husband: Just remember. Nobody loves you more than me.
2) The Stockholm Syndrome
My particular moral problem with Christianity is that it is essentially a case of Stockholm Syndrome.
The name comes from a bank robbery in Sweden in 1973. Four people were held hostage for six days, and became attached to their captors. The same thing is a factor for prisoners of war, and abused wives.
In order for the Stockholm Syndrome to take effect the following conditions are necessary: One person threatens to kill another and is perceived to be capable of doing so. The victim cannot escape, and her life depends on her captor. The victim is isolated from support, or in the case of hostages, the knowledge that other people are trying to help them. The captor shows kindness as well as violence increasing with the victim's sense of being totally dependent on the captor. [reference.]
In my opinion, Christianity is the world's largest case of Stockholm Syndrome. All the pieces are there.
The parallels become especially sick and twisted when we consider the analogy of the Church as God's bride. If that's the case, God has all the earmarks of an abusive husband, and it's no wonder that the cries of his followers sound so much like the cries of a battered wife.
- Christians tell people that God will kill them, or rather, send them to hell, which is even worse. If the person believes in God, then he is certainly perceived as capable of doing this. After all, he's God.
- They are also told that they cannot escape God's judgement, and that everything in life depends on God. The success of this tactic is illustrated by the number of Christians who claim that without God, life has no meaning and is not worth living.
- There is no one to support them except for God. The only other being who might have the power to do so, the Devil, is presented as being powerless, and even worse than God.
- At the same time, Christians are quick to point out how good God really is. He only threatens us because we deserve it.
A couple of comments:
- In religion, I think one thing we would all agree on is that there is a large amount of subjectivity (popularly understood, as opposed to the philosophical subject/object distinction). The total religious experience includes the total person, and often emotions and social context play a large role in one's experience.
What the Christian theist wants to say,
Well just hang on a minute... maybe what your particular type of Christian theist wants to say, especially when we have already agreed that there is a large amount of subjectivity brought to religion. There are those, who (with Thomas Aquinas after a religious experience following his massive "Summa Theologica") would say that all reason is "as straw" compared to religious experience and melts away in the face of it.
based on an understanding of the biblical literature, is that this subjective experience is not sufficient. One needs more. Exactly. As explained so well by Marghanita Laski in "Everyday Ecstasy " ISBN 0-500-01234-2 (unfortunately, now out of print). An argument for freethought, reason and examining evidence. Subjective experience isn't enough on its own.
To use biblical evidence, "By their works you shall know them" Then Xtianity, given it's history, is a rotten tree. Jesus prayed that his followers would be "as one". Lots of religious wars and xtians excommunicating each other followed.
and "The one who endures to the end shall be saved." Inconsistent then, as I pointed out that "all who seek will find" was also promised.
One whose works belie his confession, or who turns his back on his Lord is giving strong evidence that his faith is spurious. *groan* It is annoying to be told by a stranger that my years of xtian experience was spurious. There are alternative hypotheses. One is that Xtianity is false and I have found this out. I also wonder why all those xtians I interacted with over my (spurious?) xtian years thought I was a xtian?
As you have pointed out "By their works you shall know them" and as Jesus said "judge a tree by it's fruit." Why then could all the hundreds of xtians I must have known been utterly unable to tell that I was having a spurious experience? Why instead did they tell me that they felt encouraged by my prayers, leading of study groups, discussions during retreats etc etc ?
But it is possible that one who does all the right things outwardly still has the wrong motives and attitudes. Aren't we called to be as little children? Why is it so difficult to know what the "right" attitude is?
Such limitations on "assurance" are written into the biblical literature, I think, to encourage the Christian to regular self-examination, and to keep him from growing complacent in his Christian life. I was always seeking to grow.
In other words, one's salvation may never be in question in the ultimate sense, but one's assurance of that salvation is based on evidence, evidence which to the true believer is confirmed by the witness of the Holy Spirit. If assailed by doubts, the right response by the believer is to face those doubts squarely and re-examine his life to see if in fact his faith is genuine. But if xtianity is false then he/she might also find that out!
As I understand the Biblical literature, the essence of becoming a Christian is not "inviting Jesus in" but "Calling upon the name of the Lord." This means not simply an intellectual acknowledgment, or making some addition to one's life to improve it (as false a gospel as has ever been preached), but a total change in life orientation. In philosophical terms, it is an epistemological change resulting in a radically changed world view. I've tried that as a xtian for years.
If all I knew was modern, reductionistic fundamental/evangelical Christianity, I too would be tempted by skepticism. Maybe, maybe not. There are many who die good old-fashioned fundies. I was on the ex-tian (i.e. ex-Christian) list for 6 months and have also read half the archives. I can assure you that people from all kinds of xtianity from hard-core fundies to highly liberal xtians leave xtianity through honestly coming to the conclusion that it is untenable. I have stories from fundamentalist missionaries through to liberal theologians who have come to similar conclusions as myself. (Follow the links from my pages).
<<What sort of nightmares do little children have who are told that Satan and his devils are after their souls. Is this healthy?>>
Well, as someone once said, there's everything out there from soup to nuts, and mostly nuts. However, pragmatically speaking, we live in a dangerous world. Do you have children? If not, use your imagination. Would you tell your children not to cross the street, to avoid getting hit by a car? Would you tell them not to open the door to a stranger? How about warning them not to go into certain neighborhoods? Does the fact that they know the police are protecting them result in nightmares? I think you see my point. Not a good point. None of those are supernatural. There are reasonable precautions that can be taken against them. However what do you say to the little child who says "but uncle Steve tried for years to be a "true" xtian only to be told that his experience was "spurious." How was Jesus protecting him?!"
For the Christian, the existence of demons is simply a factor to consider, along with other dangers in the world. However, if you read the NT literature, both the Gospels and the epistles, the demonic forces are pictured as defeated by the completed work of Christ, and as having no substantive power over the believer. Unfortunately, several popular strains of Christianity seem to have missed this emphasis. I would have said all xtians claim Christ is/will be the winner. However there is a lot of hellfire still about. You yourself said <<God owns each and every person, and if he decides to send one to an eternity of torment, and another to an eternity of glory, then who can argue?>> Looks like the devil has won those souls!
Is the fault with the source which we are interpreting, or with the interpreters? If the videotape really captures the person being beaten, why is a jury willing to acquit? If God had clearly written John 3:16 into the stars, skeptics would simply claim that believers have connected the dots incorrectly. If we are not convinced by evidence then how did we become sceptical to start with? I am not aware of any xtian who wants xtianity to be untrue. It was a shock for everyone I've heard of. Also there was a thread on the ex-tian list where John 3:16 in the stars was considered very good evidence. So ask God to write it there.
<<I think my argument might be a variation of the argument from unbelief, although I have not seen it used in quite the form I used it.>>
Well, obviously you are arguing from a position of unbelief. But you are using your experience as evidence, No, I really was thinking of the argument from nonbelief i.e. http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/theodore_drange/aeanb.html which is very technical but also discussed here http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/fernandes-martin/martin1.html
But you are using your experience as evidence, I'm afraid this is where you have really misunderstood my point. Although I claim I had Christian experience - which you are free to dispute - it is not the experience of being a "true" xtian that is the issue here. Rather it is the fact that I have been a seeker. If my seeking was not working then that is an argument in my favour. Remember Jesus is reported as saying "all who seek will find." "Seek" is a simple verb. Consider this:-
The question of whether ex-xtians had genuine or spurious experience and theology is quite beside the point. The point is rather whether I and other ex-xtians were ever "truly" seeking rather than going to church to pick up girls or whatever it is that we "must" have been doing. If we were not vouchsafed the correct experience, or had the correct interpretation this does not mean we weren't seeking. Why is it that ex-xtians used to go to church, retreats, study groups, missions, monasteries, nunneries, theological collages, get ordained etc etc if they weren't "truly" seeking. I know of - and in most cases know personally - ex-xtians who fall into all these groups. If anyone doesn't believe me then I can send them deconversion stories, URL's and book references. To claim that we weren't "truly" seeking in the face of this evidence is to twist the facts of the world to fit a theory. Surely nobody can be so credulous as to believe this isn't seeking! A xtian can claim that our experiences were "spurious" or our theologies "incorrect" but it is plain false to say that we were not seeking. What otherwise was the point for us in doing all this xtian stuff if we weren't seeking?
But we didn't find as it says we would in the gospels. Instead we came to the startling conclusion that we had been wrong to believe in xtianity. Therefore "all who seek will find" is false. This raises serious problems for the legitimacy of xtianity.
The atonement is at the heart of xtianity. Xtians claim that God came down to Earth to live, suffer and die in order to reconcile man to God. If God is actively taking steps like this to bring us "at one" with him and promises that those who seek will find then why is it that seeking so often doesn't result in xtian belief? Why would God go to the trouble of crucifixion only to allow genuine seekers to find xtianity unbelievable, or give "spurious" experiences and "incorrect" interpretation to those who spend so many years trying to be xtians?
As it is, your arguments have the weight of personal testimony, against which might be placed the experience of the many who have converted to Christianity. Skeptics become Christians and Christians become skeptics with disturbing regularity. Perhaps the argument from experience is not the best to determine the truth of the matter? This is irrelevant as my argument is not from experience but from action (seeking). The references to my experience were meant to add evidence that my (and others') seeking was genuine and to illustrate that I was serious about xtianity. I'm afraid you do misunderstand my point if you think the quality of the experience is the lynch pin of this argument, or even the point at all. The fact is that we wanted to be xtians and Jesus promised that those who seek will find. The parable of the sower does not include my situation which is one who through no fault or intention of their own discovered that their religious beliefs were unbelievable for them any longer.
At one time, anybody who has investigated any position questions whether or not it is true. I certainly did, and I came to the conclusion that Christianity is true. Fair enough, I can respect that.
I now no longer ask this question because, for me, the question has been answered. I also receive plenty of challenges from individuals such as yourself which encourage me to look at the answers I have found from new and different angles. I am certainly willing to look at your answer and consider it for the sake of argument. That's fine, and believe me I do respect you for it, as much as I may disagree with a lot of what you post. I think if nothing else is gained from being on this list it is healthy to engage in debate with those of very different world views and see that we can stay civil human beings. Too often religious discussions degenerate into abuse (See my scribblings at http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/posts.html#caution). It does however alarm me that some xtians are unwilling to entertain the possibility that they may be wrong.
<<If there is to be any force in your arguments you will have to do better than tell people that they were not having the experiences they had. I and so many other ex-xtians are at a loss to know what this mysterious seeking is that you are referring to if we truly have not been doing it. Also as I pointed out "fruits" and "works" are more than someone's religious opinions on their deathbed. Why then could no Christian tell I and others were not seeking when we were Christians? Why did they tell us the opposite?>>
I am not telling anybody that they did not have the experiences that they had. I am saying that one needs to look at the total context in order to interpret that experience, and that the biblical documents give one particular intepretation which makes sense out of spiritual experience. It's really very simple: If you seek Christ, find him, and live like it, the evidence is strong that you have really found. If you seek Christ, seem to follow him for a while, but then deny him, then your experience is equally valid, but it is strong evidence that you have not found. Gosh! You've fallen into my lap! "If you seek Christ ... but then deny him,...it is strong evidence that you have not found." I win! "Seek and you shall find" = false!
Also remember the possibility that one finds xtianity untenable because it is not true. I did not "deny Christ" because IMO there was nothing supernatural to deny. Rather I discovered what was really going on "it is all human and natural, not divine and supernatural" as I said at the time. Rather you are denying the richness of human experience by misascribing it to a god IMHO, whereas I have gained great spiritual, emotional and intellectual riches since I stopped being a xtian and finally understood what all that religion stuff was about.. http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/why.html#upset and http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/posts.html#support Even though you don't believe this to be the case, surely you can see it is possible for someone to honestly come to this conclusion? Also your reply doesn't answer my point that nobody could tell I was not a "true seeker" or "true xtian" from my fruits as Jesus supposedly said they could. Hence either I was a true seeker or another Jesus prediction is false.
A related post...
We had a thread on sceptics becoming Christians on the ex-tian (i.e. ex-Christian) list a while ago when someone objected to a claim that no "true" atheist becomes xtian. We then all racked our brains to think of anyone known or known of who had been through what we had been through and had returned to xtianity, or indeed anyone who had used our arguments and converted to xtianity - i.e. a mirror example of ourselves who had used the gamut of xtian arguments and eventually concluded we were wrong.
With all our backgrounds in xtian apologetics we could only come up with one case that we couldn't quite be sure of (a friend of someone who "tried all kinds of ideas" and was currently engaged in a Buddhistic version of xtianity).
There may be examples out there ("nowt as queer as folk") but certainly we couldn't come up with the voluminous hordes corresponding to all the ex-Missionaries, ex-Clergy, ex-apologists, ex-fundies, ex-Baptists, ex-evangelicals, ex-liberals, ex-Catholics, ex-Episcopalians, ex-Anglicans, etc. etc. on the list, not to mention all the documentation to back this up. And to think theists accuse us of not examining the evidence for their beliefs - Pfff! Methinks the shoe is on the other foot (and that the whole thing is v. complex!)
I spent a while going out with a girl whose father was the principal of a liberal English theological college. The first time I met him I was taken to a service where they were saying goodbye to the vice-principal who was leaving the college to get a job "in the world." The story about her I was given at first was that she "had enough of religion" and was just off to do something different for a change. Later I got to know her quite well and soon found out that after years of theology and a PhD on the Christology of some obscure church father, she had come to the conclusion that xtianity was a big mistake. Not only did I learn that but also that many people at that college came to the same conclusions in the course of their studies. Not that this was the aim of the college (it wasn't that liberal! - the majority, including the principal, did believe in God). It was just that there was enough of a reflective atmosphere about the place that some ended up questioning the whole thing.
I also heard that those who did "lose faith" took it in many different ways (according to the principal). I was told that some found it liberating whereas others were pretty devastated by the discovery. After all, apart from the obvious shock of having one's whole world rewritten, many were in their 40's or 50's and had devoted a large part of their personal and professional lives to religion and were (apparently) bewildered as to how to start again.
The only person from this college whose experience I have heard this from first hand was the vice-principal, and although she was in her forties she definitely didn't come over as bewildered to me. If anything she was somewhat angry at religion for making such a good job of hoodwinking her for so long. In fact, if I was still in touch with her or knew where she lived I would think she would be a great addition to this list as she was very intelligent and reflective, with a wealth of experience.
I'm also aware of xtians who became atheists after reading material on the Internet, so often they do get a surprise when they walk into the floodgates of freethought - but not always (I'm not that crass!)
Anyway, is there any evidence of hundreds of contributors leaving Internet infidels etc. every month because they have "found the Lord"? If it would help I'll get in touch with the Freedom from Religion Foundation and ask them what percentage of their members leave their organisation for Christ each year. I had to leave the ex-tian list because it was so busy - too many newbies all the time!
When theists claim "but we were once atheists/skeptics" I would like to ask if they are comparing like with like. Is there the quality and quantity comparable to the missionaries, clergy and theologians that leave xtianity also coming from the non-theist camp to xtianity? [editorial note: See William J. Murray's page ]. Where are the professional atheist philosophers, members of FFRF and the like who convert to xtianity?
*snip* (Barry discussed religious conversion and deconversion)
That was an astute posting which I largely agree with and is in line with my experience and reading
The only comments I want to make (thanking you for your grist) are, firstly, that this all looks like a human phenomena and not "of God" does it not? But if so much depends on one's paradigm or "weltanschauung" then maybe someone else could just say "no it looks like a divine phenomenon." So, instead maybe we need to focus on solid facts and happenings in the world to make progress in discussion.
It is for this reason of staying focused that I still take issue with your sentence:
3. In a sense, I think that those who say "He was never a true atheist" or "true Christian" in the first place may have a point. Peoples' experiences really do happen! I don't think accusing people of not being "true" anythings is helpful or honest. Instead I think we need to recognise that people can truly hold honest and reasoned beliefs that they then find have to change (both into and out of religion). However, when we look at the documentation of who converts to what we see the following. People convert to all sorts of religions, and the prime ages for conversion to religion are adolescence and middle age - both "crisis" times. However converts out of religion are more widely spread. I still challenge Christians to look at the bald fact that many Missionaries, Clergy, apologists, theologians etc. leave xtianity. (I can send stories and references if requested). Surely this is a *BIG* challenge! These people are the best versed in Christianity and yet they decide it is false despite so much personal and professional investment in their religion and social pressures to stay in it. How can this happen if the evidence *for* Christianity is so good? Also why can we find so few examples of well versed non-theists converting to theism?
When I was on the ex-xtian list the most frequently aired topic was whether to admit ones non-Christianity to ones religious family and friends. People were de-converting *despite* their culture! Also, virtually all the ex-Christians who discussed why they left said it was due to reflecting on the arguments and evidence for and against Christianity, not because of a bad experience. There were a few bad experiences (just a handful - some very scary!) but even they said it was evidence and argument that convinced them.
I agree with you that the psychology of conversion is a large, complex (and fascinating) subject. And yes, it does involve the whole person - intellect, emotions and everything. However, for the purposes of the subject of this list it must be faced that well versed and heavily invested Christians leave Christianity whereas the similar conversion of well-versed atheists is very rare (are there *any* examples?) The fact that conversion is so unbalanced like this and that so many Christians who "should have known better" leave xtianity requires serious reflection on the part of Christians to think through why this is the case.
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