Faith to Reason

My Deconversion Story – A living document for people’s references revised as my writing style changes, I get asked questions, or remember things.

I lived a faithful and active life for the first 18 years of my life. I was mostly a good kid who did what parents/authority figures asked of me and stayed the course even when I wasn’t watched; straight as an arrow as a couple High School mates called me. Youth group was a constant to the point that everyone could count on tallying me on to a function before it was even planned. I attended Bible studies through High School and even went to a few successions of college Bible studies. I was in the kids choir during my early years and played bass for adult services and youth functions later on.

I followed the straight and narrow path virtually unhindered until senior year of HS when my peers appeared to be maturing spiritually while I wasn’t. They started to hold their hands up during service, feel moved to pray or cry out to God in dreamy voices on a whim, and share profound spiritual revelations pretty much every get together. I had seen this sorts of thing around churches before but never really contemplated the phenomenon; God had never substantiated to me in such a perceivable way. I was baffled and genuinely concerned there was something wrong with me.  I failed somehow, there was some bridge of faith or spirit I failed to notice and cross. Then an experience I had with one of these “spiritual” peers provided some perspective. Incidentally he ended up cutting me off at a two separate stop signs on two separate occasions both times giving me a nasty look shaking his head angrily. This person which I had supposed to have a deeper insight gets emotionally tangled up over two person traffic issues. Until then it never occurred to me that people in my church would fake profound spiritual interactions before others let alone themselves.  Once the concept sunk in I noticed slip-ups as some of them role-played their way through Church or interactions with fellow Christians. It was distressing that I couldn’t tell the role-players from the truthful.  I didn’t know who to trust enough that I could approach them on the subject.  The authority is the Bible, not man; it was time to re-gauge my own personal bearing with God and Christianity.  I was relieved to go away to college so I had an excuse to stay away and think.

Fall of 2001 I went to college ~80 miles away from home. I prayed, read the Bible, I went for walks and ignored it to come back again to see if anything new came along. At the start I welcomed the seclusion.  I don’t really remember that Christmas but by Spring Break I felt like the loneliest guy in the world. My prayers and reading didn’t yield anything but further despair.  While at a family function I had broke down crying unable to express what was really going on aside from, “I feel so alone.”  Back in college that time of wallowing in self-pity finally hit bottom when I got around to asking myself, “Why don’t I die?” I didn’t actually ponder suicide… it was a hypothetical question that shifted the tide.  Looking at what I still had without The Bible, prayer, and mental seclusion I realized it was still the empathy for everything and everyone I always held dear: integrity and love.  Willfully dying is to leave for others my mess, physically and emotionally.  The idea of being rejected was hard to bare but the idea of lying to myself and others was completely unacceptable.

By summer 2002 I laid out a basic secular foundation for ethics and jumped on the opportunity to rejoin and acclimate to society. Even though I was an apathetic theist I always kept my eye out for a way back into Christianity.  While working I went to some Bible studies and church services trying to get back into it.  That off and on hope died when my daughter’s birth was pending and people were talking about baptisms and religious things.  I realized that being passive was as good as having no say one way or another so I resolved to pursue an answer and take a side.

While browsing the internet at a phone support job I came across a video by a Christian named VenomFangX (Shawn) on Youtube. He was talking about Biblical truth, converting from Judaism, etc. His arguments were very compelling… I had never heard anything like them and it was like they were directed at an audience that had my state of mind. For that brief ~10 minute period I thought there was a chance I could find a rational way back into Christianity. The feeling was quickly jaded when I watched a response from RabidApe; he absolutely decimated everything VFX’s said while making some of his own that were pretty well backed up inviting people to come at him with whatever argument and encouraging people to investigate for themselves. This was the first experience I had with a confident, and vocal non-Christian who wasn’t being a troll. So I started investigating the videos rooting for VFX and a couple other Christian channels hoping they had something that could take the heat or scrutiny.  Physical evidence and reasoned logic trump the faith in the supernatural, that’s where I stand today.

How Christian Was I?

It’s pretty common hear a “No true Christian” logical fallacy and deny the existence of apostates like myself or others.  Regardless of whether anyone believes I have ever been a ‘true Christian’ I grew up among believers believing in Christ with zeal just like most who still occupy a church pew every Sunday.  The above is my story about when, where, why, and how my path diverged.  The rest of this post is an eloquent method of dividing Christianity into individual pillars of faith which work together to support an overall belief.  While one pillar/node or even a few are approached and even damaged by doubt or uncertainty the overall belief remains strong.  I give credit for this concept to Evid3nc3’s “Why I’m no longer a Christian” playlist of videos. Starting with an overview of the mega-belief (God/Jesus) I’ll go through the nodes in order of personal influence.

Mega-Belief ~ The God Concept – I can’t think of a time in my life when the concept of God wasn’t there. It’s why I lived life so straight and narrow.  I was knowingly participating in a cosmic Truman Show.  God’s camera was always on and watching my actions, thoughts, emotions, as well as those of everyone else. It didn’t just effect my moral choices, I would put on little displays doing things even if no one was looking because He was my unseen friend and father person who I loved being with and He loved me. Because of this I think it’s impossible for anyone to claim I was ever just a Sunday Christian. Even after I has set asside The Bible I would still give God a courtesy nod of approval and appreciation for a good day, a beautiful flower, or some other experience touched me. To me God was a concept perceived in my very being as well as and all existence.

1. Other Christians – They’re my primary reason for enjoying my time in church. God was always with me, but fellowship was an interactive interaction.  It’s why I attended as many youth functions I could and was fairly known as the guy who’s always there. I freely volunteered my time and skills up until I stopped attending church. Worship, Bible studies, sales or fund raising events, choirs, neighborly efforts, fixing computers, etc, always meant a vibrant time with new experiences and people. When you’re Christian talking Christianity with other Christians people are almost always pleasant, lively company, and all-around good people. It’s no surprise that peers proved to be the thread which unmade my tapestry of faith.

2. The Bible – The Good Book has always been a presence in my life. Jesus’ birth every Christmas and death every Easter through adult and youth services plus choirs, caroling and plays over 18 years. Canned stories from the gospel and Old Testament which every Christian child learns and adolescent explores. Canned Bible-based thought exercises and discussion topics examined verse by verse in young adult Bible studies and college groups. Through it all the base theme remained to above all keep God in your heart, his good news of Jesus in your mind, and let them be your guide as you interact with people and the world. Followed up by God/Jesus being the ultimate in love, justice, understanding, planning, creating, the alpha and omega.  These unsubstantial concepts are why I couldn’t discover my own grounding when I needed it during my time in college.

3. Prayer – By the time I was in elementary school, the earliest I can recall my Christianhood, I understood that God wasn’t a magic cloud genie waiting to grant my childish whims. God already knew my thoughts and my needs before the inspiration for them came along.  Why would I be so presumptuous and selfish as request my needs?  So early on prayer was confined to thanking God for this or that and acknowledging His control over whatever wishes I had for someone to get better or to pass a test so in good conscious I could be at peace that whatever effort I put out was worth it and meant to be. Again… this was such a habit that I still did this well after leaving Christianity.

4. Personal Relationship – Though I talked to and thought of God on a near constant basis, from my present perspective this “node” isn’t very high because I can’t think of a single time that I got any major affirmation from the practice.  While this is an obvious red flag to me today I also know that as a Christian I’d think my present self as dim witted. God was in every little corner of my perception. Like atoms, it’s childishly simple to explain and justify God even though you’d be hard pressed to convincingly perform a demonstration in your living room

5. Morality – This is something I didn’t really think about as a Christian because I did was what felt right. I felt guilty when I did sinful things whether my parents saw them or not. I felt good, or didn’t feel at all, when I did things that weren’t bad. I knew the golden rule and the ten commandments well enough but I didn’t really need them to talk about morality because their meaning seemed socially natural.

6. Creation -Another something I didn’t dwell upon. Whether by creation or evolution the point was that God created the world and myself. I obviously leaned toward the creation story being correct since any authority I knew said creation or they didn’t talk about it at all. Only once in public school I remember getting confronted about my Christianity by a peer in third grade who wanted to be an anthropologist.  He was a kid so I didn’t take him seriously.

7. Logical Arguments – I’m actually not too sure what node this is meant to be. It’s probably something to do with apologetics which I never really got into. I was pretty much a pacifist who went with the flow if it was right and got out quietly if it was wrong. Religious confrontation only became an interest of mine recently.

Another Thought Exercise

This is a list of questions I ran across online and I thought I’d use it to get back into blogging.

1: How do you deal with death? How do you comfort yourself knowing you’re going to just rot in the ground? Personally I think I would probably kill myself if I didn’t have religion.
Like anyone, I feel sorrow when I’m not going to be able to see someone again and empathetic to anyone who goes through something similar. Also I don’t see a still, brain-dead body as being the person so whether my body rots or get cut up and set out for vultures (Tibetan Sky Burial) makes little difference to me. When it comes to comfort I know that a the person who’s body dies is still conceptually alive inside me because I am sorry they’re gone… they interacted with me in some memorable way which, in turn, may affect others. In that sense, anyone who gets remembered is never really gone.

2: Do you believe that there are such things as sins? Do you believe in karma?
I believe that you perceive and find opportunity based on your focus. If your focus is on judgment or dichotomy you’re going to see the world in black and white; good or bad, fortunate or not, happy and sad, etc. I think that’s how the idea of sins and karma came to be defined by consciousness… they exist as perception.

3: Do you believe that evolution is incompatible with religion?
That’s not for me to say as I’m not a religious person. I can say regardless of whatever ideological incompatibilities some practitioners might have with common decent it’s evidence makes it as apparent as the atom. No evidence has come to light and suggested otherwise.

4: Do people in your everyday life treat you differently since you’re an atheist? If so, how does it affect your view on theists?
There are certainly people who treat me different in the sense of bringing up, or not bringing up, certain things when I’m around. That may also have to do with my being open and honest to anyone even suggesting a passing interest in world-outlook. I don’t really feel any repression or difference in action or emotion though.

My general outlook towards theists is similar to my outlook toward a playing child or people from other cultures or nationalities… they think different from me and that’s ok as long as it doesn’t affect the world outside the designated realm of influence.  People have a right to maintain and interact with their personal beliefs but as soon as they start asserting their beliefs upon others they’re opening themselves for discourse… may the more reasonable person win.

5 Questions to Atheists

These are five questions proposed to atheists by a theist Youtuber, I don’t know if I will answer him directly; but these are my answers:

1. When you die, if you find yourself in a place of judgment in front of God what would you say?
I would probably think of my family and others I loved who’s fate wasn’t yet sealed and if I thought there was some chance to help save them my fate them I would act upon that. For myself I would own the life I lived knowing that I applied the information available to me as best I could and accept the situation. Whatever it’s outcome.

In case you didn’t catch it, I see no reason why or how this event would actually happen.

2. What sort of evidence would convince you of the existence of God?
Evidence that would go beyond the realm of faith. You know… something tangible, testable, and verifiable through observation of multiple persons.

If there is a god, and that deity wants me to believe, have faith, or what have-you they would know how to get me on their side far better than you or I.

3. Do you think that the new atheist movement is ultimately a good thing or bad thing for freethinkers and skeptics?
“The New Atheist Movement” is an interesting way to put it… whatever you want to call it I haven’t noticed anything directly linked to it that could lead to any real trouble. On the other hand encouraging people to call bullshit when they see it can be a very good thing…

4. What sorts of decisions are affected by your atheism?
None consciously. Not really. But through morality and society the ‘what’ you’re asking is actually a nexus for practically everything. I realized this after I keep trying to get away from this subject of god and spirituality only to find myself wrapped up in it again… the topic is everywhere in this culture.

5. What is more important: gaining true beliefs about the world or not gaining false beliefs about the world?
Finding out that something is a false belief is gaining experience. Figuring out that something people believe is truth also gains new experiences. What matters is gaining experience/knowledge… the two distinctions are synonymous to me My answer to the question is both.

Taco Bell pastor

**This story has been modified for cohesiveness. I don’t remember everything to exact detail…

I was reading a Social-Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul in my car during lunch when I was interrupted by a man getting out of his SUV… a big, blue, Ford I think… possibly Chev. “Getting ready for a theology test?”
“Something like that,” I said barely looking up at the late-middle aged man wearing sunglasses.
“What school do you go to?” he persisted while getting something out of his truck.
I looked up at him again… he had a mustache that was a little longer and more scruffy around a bump on the side of his mouth. I think I was gauging whether I’d rather read or let the guy in a little and let him choose to end the conversation. “I don’t go to school, I’m just reading for fun.”
“You’re studying the Bible? For fun?” I think he was genuinely impressed.
“Yeah… well I’m an atheist reading…”
“You’re an atheist?”
“Yeah…”
“Really an atheist?”
“Yeah… agnostic atheist technically. I don’t know there isn’t a god, I just believe there isn’t.”
“So you’re agnostic…” The guy goes off on being a pastor and the odds of prophesies coming true… I had no knowledge of the prophesies let alone the statistics he was spouting off on, no surprise that I can’t tell you exactly what was said. Whenever I thought of something to say or ask he kept on going… and the moment and relevance was gone along with my attention on whatever I was thinking.
I managed to ask what one of the prophesies were.
“Jericho,” He said simply. “The archeology confirms the wall fell flat, just like it says in the Bible. I saw pictures.”
“Ok I’ll look it up,” I said. I did look it up on wiki… not really a scholarly resource, but it’s good for an over-view to see if I wanted to delve in further.
‘The simple fact is that there is no mention of the Hebrews or Israelites in any text from Canaan, Egypt, or elsewhere in the Near East before 1207 B.C. And yet there should be if the Exodus took place in 1450 B.C. and the Israelite conquest of Canaan took place in 1410 of 1400 B.C., because there are plenty of Canaanite and Egyptian texts what could have mentioned them if they were present.’ – Eric H. Cline on Page 116 of From Eden to Exile: Unraveling Mysteries of the Bible, National Geographic Society.
The guy (Eric Cline) has scholarly credentials as long as my arm… depending on the font size anyway. I’m going to stop caring and take his word for it until someone shows me otherwise. http://home.gwu.edu/~ehcline/
The pastor also told me about archeologists finding chariot wheels in the Red Sea at Gulf of Aquaba… look that up too… Ron Wyatt doesn’t seem to well received to this field and none of his findings can be confirmed. And there was only one wheel reported. You judge for yourself though:
http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/c/chariot-wheels.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Wyatt

At some point the pastor stated that he studied physics and described that statistics are they know how many atomic particles to shoot into a core for nuclear core for making a nuclear bomb go off, that’s what he was interested in. And what are the odds that he would park next to me at that specific time of day… “We both arrived here for lunch… why does it have to mean something?” I said, or something to that effect. He talked about how God works through everything and so on. I kept bringing up that I’ve come here for lunch a couple times… funny thing is that since then I’ve seen his SUV on three occasions and him on one of those.

From statistics he went to describing why shaking a bag of watch parts wouldn’t make a watch, thus life can’t come from nothing. And he I told him it’s not the same thing… but couldn’t think of the words to articulate. I was kicking myself because I knew what he was saying was complete BS… he’s just switching up the argument Way of the Master uses all the time. He even went on to describe the complexity of the eye, and no transitional fossils, and DNA being code… old arguments long gone over. Ask me if you want my take on them.

Funny how he just has to plea ignorance and hope that I’m not carrying around fossil records… which I should print off and keep in my car from now on. When I tried talking about Chromosome 2 I choked and tried calling it mitochondria… wtf? And I didn’t bring up ERV’s… which in my mind is the cardinal argument for common ancestry. I’m just a little annoyed because I just watched this video earlier in the day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1fGkFuHIu0 – Oh well, failure to remember will just make the topics stick better.

Looking back, he was a nice guy who seemed sincere. He prayed with me/for me right there and then… which was a little awkward, but I rolled with it. We touched a little on other stuff like words, cosmology, faith, and how god works through things. He enjoyed my saying that the only people who claim to be full (gnostic) atheist are actually just bitter theists. I think he got that I was an honest guy who was really seeking truth, and he honestly believed I would find my way back to Christianity. I basically told him if there’s a God, it’s basically up to him… it was a good lunch break. Good times.