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Customer Discussions > Religion forum

I Lost (faith) and Found (reality)


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In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012, 8:58:52 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 11, 2012, 9:09:59 PM PDT
B. Josephson says:
Macheath your comments remind me of two science fiction books that explore what it might be like if something like God made sure that there was no suffering in the world.

The first is the children's book A Wrinkle in Time.http://www.amazon.com/Wrinkle-Time-Anniversary-Commemorative-Edition/dp/0374386161/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1339473992&sr=1-1&keywords=a+wrinkle+in+time

It describes a planet where there are no atrocities since a single mind controls the actions of all people on the planet. That is one solution to no suffering, but one which the author reject. The heroine of he story is a misfit girl who is looked down on by others because she does not conform.

The other is the Worthing Saga by Orson Scott Card (definitley not a children's book).
The Worthing Saga

A lot of the book centers on a utopian society which Abner Doon destroys because he thinks the society is not really the utopia it claims to be, since it is based on an idea that the most gifted can live forever (something which is not really true at all).

It also describes how the main hero of the story, Jason Worthing, can read minds, and his descendants can not only read minds but alter minds. So if someeone dies, they alter your mind so that you remember they died, but you remember it as something that happened a long time ago and which no longer causes you pain.

If your wife comits adultery, and you find out, you don't remember finding out, and neither does she remember being caught at it. Memories of anything bad are changed, so that nobody feels real pain or suffering. While in a sense bad things still happen, any pain from them is eliminated.

Then Jason Worthing comes back and says, "What have you done?" to his god-like descendants.

He also is disatisfied with the new utopia, saying that while suffering is gone, he does not see people doing the noble things thay used to do when there was such suffering.

This leads to some thoughts of my own. One of the things that moves me most are those who did not go along with the crowd when evil was in power.

So, I have recommended this movie to show noble things that happened during World War II, a movie I first say on PBS entitled Weapons of the Spirit.

Here is only a brief exceprt of it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdlJql-TY6c

Here is a description of the town which it talks about:

With the leadership of local minister André Trocmé and pastor Edouard Theis, beginning in 1942, the citizens of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon risked their lives to hide Jews who were being rounded up by the Nazis and the collaborationist Vichy regime for shipment to the death camps. They were hidden in private homes, on farms in the area, as well as in public institutions. Whenever the Nazi patrols came searching, they were hidden in the countryside. After the war, one of the villagers recalled: "As soon as the soldiers left, we would go into the forest and sing a song. When they heard that song, the Jews knew it was safe to come home."

In addition to providing shelter, the citizens of the town obtained forged identification and ration cards for Jews to use and then helped them cross the border to the safety of neutral Switzerland. Some of the residents were arrested by the Gestapo such as Rev. Trocmé's cousin, Daniel Trocmé, who was sent to Maidanek concentration camp where he was murdered.

It is estimated that the people of the area of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon saved between 3,000-5,000 Jews from certain death. In 1981 the entire town was awarded an honorary degree by Haverford College in Pennsylvania in recognition of its humanitarian efforts. In 1982, documentary filmmaker Pierre Sauvage-himself born and sheltered in Le Chambon-returned there to film Weapons of the Spirit, which was released in 1989. In 1990, for their humanitarianism and bravery under extreme danger, the entire town was recognized as "Righteous Among the Nations". A small garden and plaque on the grounds of the Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust in Israel was dedicated to the people of Chambon-sur-Lignon. In 2004 French President Jacques Chirac officially recognized the heroism of the town, and in January 2007 they were honored along with the other French Righteous Among the Nations in a ceremony at the Panthéon in Paris.[1]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Chambon-sur-Lignon

Best Wishes,
Shaamba Kaambwaat

Posted on Jun 11, 2012, 9:01:31 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 11, 2012, 9:05:32 PM PDT
Astrocat says:
Answering the OP. I would have said never really been a "believer" in the sense of an emotional attachment to any religion, but that's not strictly true. I was raised Methodist, then converted to Catholicism. It was an intellectual conversion, not an emotional one, but I do have to admit I just accepted everything, so I guess I did "believe", and certainly without proof of any kind. It just seemed "right" to me. Now, here it comes. I've "remembered" in one sense or another, many past lifetimes as a Catholic, so I think for me it was the line of least resistance.

I stayed in the church throughout my marriage, having seven children (good Catholic married to passionate Protestant, that sort of thing). Then I decided to get a divorce and immediately lost all interest in the Catholic religion. In fact, I couldn't even say the word "Jesus" without practically choking on it.

So I lived a very happy, unreligious life for several years, pursuing a passionate interest in astrology, became a professional astrologer, while working at other jobs, of course, and raising the seven daughters. Over time I "discovered" Eastern philosophies, reincarnation, karma and so on, and a whole "new" set of teaching and a new kind of meditation practice, and that's what I've been pursuing for the past forty-odd years.

This is not a religious practice, per se - in the sense that for me everything is "God" or Spirit, or Life or what have you, so there's no worship, no sin, only growing understanding and insight into humanity and the universe. I don't try to convince others of my understandings, but have attracted a group of people who study the same teachings.

I consider faith to be confidence based on experience, unlike belief, which, to me, is baseless and blind. So I have faith in Humanity, but I practice no dogmatic belief system. I'll leave that for others, if they so choose.

And thanks, Rachel. Very interesting thread.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012, 9:16:40 PM PDT
brunumb,

None of that really concerns me. I was responding to a post by Macheath and Rachel responded to my response.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012, 10:14:22 PM PDT
S. Kessler says:
That is the only conclusion I can possibly come to, Rachel. Exactly.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012, 10:16:57 PM PDT
S. Kessler says:
Sorry, Macheath, but your appeal to God performing miracles is a red herring. We were talking about the free will argument, not lambasting God for not performing miracles. Very different arguments.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012, 10:23:10 PM PDT
S. Kessler says:
Maybe God could have taken the opportunity to show up on earth again and announce to the Germans that if they didn't stop what they were doing, he would smite them? After all, he presumably had done this before if you believe what the bible says. Why did he stop intervening and go silent for so many thousands of years? Oh, I know. Because none of that ever happened and your God is a product of your imagination.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012, 11:55:10 PM PDT
B. Josephson says:
SK, seems God does not give too many warnings like this, even in the Bible.

He did send Jonah to Ninevah with the message to repent or else they will be overthrown (I guess by some other group of people), but then Jonah got ticked off when they repented.

[Personal note, I always considered Jonah a bit of a character, not exactly a role model].

Best Wishes,
Shaamba Kaambwaat

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 12:08:18 AM PDT
Budgie says:
"So because God doesn't perform constant direct interventions into the course of events in human history, he doesn't exist? About how many miracles per day would you expect God to perform to stop any bad things from happening in the world?"

This sounds like you are putting a limit on what your god can do. He is supposed to be omnipotent, so he could just say "Let no more bad things happen to people." and be home in plenty of time for dinner with his wife Asherah and a little godly nooky afterwards.

The Problem of Evil was one of the bigger nails in the god-belief coffin for me.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 6:31:59 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Oct 20, 2013, 3:02:28 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 8:23:27 AM PDT
J. Harding says:
SCL,

Here's my take on your general comments regarding the requirement for emotion in determining good and evil: Emotions are necessary, but only on the basic level needed for individuals require emotions to form preferences. Beyond that, I think a functional system for deciding right and wrong or good and evil can be constructed without further emotion required.

I don't think the criticism that basic emotional preferences are required is a strong one because preferences are required to make sense of any moral system and emotions are really the only way to have preferences.

To address something you said earlier, one of the important functional differences between rape and left-handedness is that rape necessarily involves another person while left-handedness only affects others in trivial ways. Rape requires the imposition of the rapist's will on the victim and so violates the victim's autonomy, reducing the victim to less than a full human being. Someone who doesn't mind being raped can't truly be raped because they are consenting.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 8:27:33 AM PDT
J. Harding says:
I don't think the question of how often god should intervene is very revealing. The answer is pretty clearly that god should intervene more than never, yet never is how often god does intervene.

I'm not sure if you're a Bible believer, but is it not written:

"Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:29-31).

Isn't the Bible saying that god intervenes constantly for birds and even more so for every human?

Posted on Jun 12, 2012, 9:30:11 AM PDT
WolfPup says:
Darn, I'd love to add my story, but I don't know that I can explain it very well anymore.

I was raised a Christian, but not an ultra-right-wing Christian, though I fell into that some in my late teens. I couldn't twist my brain to accept things I knew conflicted with reality, so like millions of Christians I twisted Christianity to fit with reality instead...not taking Genesis as literal for example. In fact I'd even convince myself that Genesis was evidence it was all true, since it had the "let there be light", which I could equate to the Big Bang, etc.

I'm not sure how long I'd been having doubts for-probably for years, but I was terrified to face my faith, see if it made any sense, so I tried to just put it out of my mind.

At various points I attempted to read the entire bible, and with the last attempt, I was left shocked by how horrible it was, both in terms of content and writing. So I continued on, too scared to really face this.

At some point, I started listening to a skeptic podcast. I liked it a lot, except for the parts where they (occasionally) lumped in religion/Christianity with the other woo they were talking about. I thought "that's different", and wished I could convince them that Christianity was real, even though these other things weren't.

I'm not sure the exact sequence, but at some point that podcast led to another, and another, and I was listening to the Freedom from Religion Foundation's podcast (Freethought Radio, I think it's called). That was a HUGE help for me, as these were nice sounding people...I have to admit, I think I thought atheists were bad people, or really "out there" or something, both the content of what they were saying on the podcast, and just the fact that they seemed NICE really helped.

At some point after that...I think early 2009, I finally decided to buy The God Delusion. I felt guilty/bad about buying it, but decided that my faith ought to be able to stand up to anything he might have to say.

While it wasn't the only thing that did it, I do think that book was the tipping point for me. It was after that that for the very first time I allowed myself to use the word "atheist" to apply to myself...just in my head at first, just to see what it felt like, to see if...I didn't know what. It was terrifying, even just to use it in my head.

I should say too, my whole life I had a "relationship" with God, and of course was praying desperately towards the end.

At any rate, after that book, I read Letter to a Christian Nation, and several more. I found the super awesome Atheist Community of Austin podcasts, and I found the forums here.

I'd LOVE to have known how I would have acted on the atheist forums here in 2005 even. I honestly don't know.

All told though I spent THIRTY TWO years freeing myself from religion. Since then...well, it does make me have one less thing to worry about, but it does frustrate me what an iron grip religion has on you...it frustrates me that I don't seem to be able to get through to others, and it makes me mad that I had to spend literally decades struggling with this because I was indoctrinated into it in the first place. I was always someone who wanted to do "the right thing", and I think that made it harder for me too-I perceived Christianity as "the right thing", and was terrified of questioning it and the like, and didn't really conceive of the idea that gods might not be real.

Also, I took all this VERY seriously-it seems like I took it more seriously than the average Christian...not that you can know for sure, but... I was disturbed by things in the bible that I didn't think I could live up to, like the command to give up everything, and the claim that Jesus would be back two thousand years ago, and that any Christian should have super powers. It's difficult to reconcile what you see in real life, with all those claims, and with the knowledge that I was too scared to give up everything, and indeed the VAST majority of Christians are as well.

Oh, yet another thing that really challenged my faith was the extreme right-wing. While I fell in to Catholicism among other things in my late teens, even then I hadn't experienced anything like the way the ultra-right-wing Christians tried to legislate all their beliefs on everyone else starting after 2000.

I kept having to think/say "I'm a Christian, but I'm not like THEM". Or "they're not real Christians" and the like. While that by itself wouldn't have convinced me there wasn't evidence for gods, it did provide a challenge that probably helped me take a step towards examining the evidence later on.

There's probably more to be said about all that, but that's my story, more or less.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 9:35:33 AM PDT
WolfPup says:
Yeah, I think death is easier for me now that I'm no longer a Christian...which is ironic considering Christians shouldn't even be scared of death.

The PROCESS is of course scary-particularly when most of the U.S. physician assisted suicide is illegal. And I don't WANT to be dead. I like myself, and my family, and puppies, and movies and games and books and the like lots and lots. Intellectually I know it won't matter once I'm dead though, but still, no desire to get there early! Still can't believe what a short life span humans have...

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 9:38:36 AM PDT
WolfPup says:
The bible makes an explicit claim that any Christian should be able to do extremely obvious violations of reality on a regular basis.

*A* god might not interact with our universe enough that it matters, but the Christian god is supposed to.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 9:40:33 AM PDT
WolfPup says:
Don't you get sick and tired of the number of theists that post here, that pretend to be interested in discussion/debate/argument, but it turns out they aren't at all? Jen, whatever her name is now, Johns, Bain...the list is near endless.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 10:51:03 AM PDT
Thank you for sharing, WolfPup. If I am reading this correctly, you didn't have any single provoking factor, just a close reading of the Bible. Is that accurate?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 10:52:38 AM PDT
Jen's actions are telling me that she is interested in some sort of payback to atheists for some perceived or imagined slight. There's no reasoning with her. Or any of them, for that matter. Even offering an olive branch doesn't work, so why try?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 3:56:44 PM PDT
We also need to include the effects of our entire evolutionary history, especially our history as social animals, *and* our *cultural* evolution as a species with culture.

The concepts of "Good" and "Evil" have deep roots that go all the way down to our very biology, and the architecture of our nervous systems.

No, there is no absolute, universal "good" or "evil", but, as primates with a common evolutionary and (more or less) cultural history, we have plenty of elements that we can more or less agree on as to what is "good' and what is "evil."

I don't know if SCL is being deliberately obtuse, seeking some extreme degree of philosophical purity, or simply lacks the cognitive tools necessary to understand what we are saying.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 3:58:20 PM PDT
"It concerns me that this God intervenes to help people overcome their fears and sorrows or find their car keys, but is unconcerned about the fates of millions of Jews and other victims of the free will of an aberrant few. It is not unreasonable to conclude that the situations are consistent with events occurring in the complete absence of any such being."

There's also the utter dearth of amputated limbs being regenerated.

If the behavior of "God" is indistinguishable from a world in which no such being existed, then why believe the being exists?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 3:59:38 PM PDT
One can also take a Utilitarian approach, and ask: "If we define this as good, and that as evil, what sort of society will we end up with as a result?"

Posted on Jun 12, 2012, 4:03:26 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 12, 2012, 4:15:15 PM PDT
Dr H says:
So, at R3's request, here's a repost of my "testimony" from the atheist forum, minus a few typos. Hallelujah, friends and neighbors, and keep those donations rolling in. :-)

******
Seems like if we're going to be "testifying," there ought to be some gospel music playing, or at least some snakes being tossed around or something. :)

Well, here, brothers and sisters, is my testimony:

As recently as 5-6 years ago I would have said the story of my atheist awakening was pretty typical. It may still be, but I have reassessed it recently, and I'm still examining it from the new perspective, so I'm less certain at this point how common my experience is.

Anyway, dad was Roman Catholic, mom was Russian Orthodox, but had to agree to raise the kids in the RCC in order to marry my dad. So, although the progeny were sent through the public school system, we were duly indoctrinated in the archanae and rituals of the Catholic church in Friday afternoon "religious instruction" sessions at the Catholic school. (These were a mixed blessing -- we Catholic kids got to leave school a half hour early on Fridays and goof around on the streets on our way to the Catholic school. OTOH, we sat in Religious instruction class for an hour after all our friends in the public school had gone home.)

We then got to practice these rituals Sundays and holidays at church. (When I was very young, dad was also the choir director and organist; eventually he wised up and moved into public school teaching...) I was also exposed to RO churches and rituals whenever we visited mom's relatives.

We were taught a lot of things that didn't strike me as much different in nature from the Aesops' fables, Greek myths, and various kid's stories with talking animals, etc. that we got in the public school. We were also taught a lot of stuff that even as early as 7 or 8 years old didn't make sense to me. Unlike public school, asking probing questions during religious instruction was -not- encouraged by the nuns, many of which were first generation immigrants from eastern Europe and didn't speak English all that well, anyway.

Some of the stuff they taught us was downright weird, and when I brought some of it home to my parents /they/ thought it was weird, too. Interestingly, when this happened with public school issues, it usually resulted in parental inquiries to the school, and sometimes parent/teacher conferences. When it happened with religious instruction, no such inquiries or conferences occured. My parents' attitudes seemed to be that we weren't really /supposed/ to understand the finer points of theology and biblology, but simply learn our lessons so that we could spit them back at rote to the nuns, as we were led through the various milestone "sacrements" like confession, communion, confirmation, etc.

In those days Catholics weren't encouraged to read the Bible (as far as I can tell, they still aren't, mostly). It wasn't forbidden, just not encouraged. Few Catholic families of my acquaintance even owned a complete Bible. What we had were "catechisms" for the kids, and "missals" for the adults. These contained various Biblical exerpts and other information (ritual responses, prayers, etc.) that were officially tied to each particular Mass of the year. If you had questions beyond that you were expected to talk to your priest, who would answer them for you -- maybe.

I had an early interest in science and math which was, fortunately, encouraged. As I grew older, and learned more and more about how the physical world worked, I found myself wondering more and more why so much emphasis was being placed on my learning the particular set of unlikely stories being presented by the nuns and priests. And I found the "answers" I was getting from those functionaries to be less and less compelling. God didn't really seem to be -necessary-, and no one had a good explanation as to why He was.

Unbelief, however, was not an option. At the time, I didn't really even know that such a state existed. It was never talked about in any meaningful way. The word "atheist" was rarely heard, and when it was it was in the same sort of hushed and mildly disgusted tone as someone might say "child molester". Beyond the bare definition that an "atheist" was someone who didn't believe in God, I had no idea what such a creature might be like. It was inconceivable that someone didn't believe in God, even if they didn't bother to go to church regularly. Everyone was expected to believe, or so all of the adults around me kept telling me. For most of my childhood my conception of "atheist" was of some sort of vaguely evil antisocial pervert who, kind of like a "communist" was out to undermine all that was good and wholesome about America, and replace it with totalitarian slavery, at best. And they probably lurked in the bushes around school yards hoping to entice unwary kids into their ranks.

Then I hit my teens. At 13 I was suddenly allowed certain freedoms that I hadn't previously had, among which, I was now allowed to visit the library without adult supervision. Well, at that age any excuse to get away from the parents for a bit was a good one, even if it meant going to the library, so I did, and I started exploring, and I discovered -- shockingly -- that the library had whole stacks full of books about religion. I guess I had thought up to that point that only priests had books like this. And I found a shelf full of Bibles, and I checked one out and read it from cover to cover. That was the beginning of the end for any pretense to religion that I still had.

If I had thought some of the stuff they taught in religious instruction was strange, reading the verses in context made me realize how much of the -really- bizarre had been filtered out. The more I read, the less I could understand how any adult could take this stuff seriously, much less base an entire life-plan on it. It all seemed even more fantastic than the most outrageous adventures of the ancient Greek heros, or the stuff I was reading in comic books. Needless to say, this aroused some cognitive dissonance, so I did what every good Catholic boy was taught to do in such cases -- I went to the priest with my Bible, and a whole list of questions.

The priest readily agreed to grant me an audience, but he didn't answer any of my questions. Instead, he took one look at the Bible I brought -- a KJV -- and went off on a lecture about how this was not the -real- Bible, and that if I were going to study the Bible I needed to get a -proper- Bible, duly approved by the Church. He showed me what to look for, so I went back to the library and got an official Catholic Bible. Read it from cover to cover. Found a few extra short books in the middle, and a few passages (mostly in the OT) in which the language had been slightly modernized (brought from the 17th century up to the early 19th century, at least). Otherwise, same stuff.

Needless to say, this not only failed to answer my original questions, it raised a whole raft of new ones. Why the whole big deal about which particular church one went to? Why, especially, the big deal about whether one was a Catholic or a Protestant? They all used the same book, essentially -- 95% identical, as far as I could tell, and the differences seemed inconsequential. Yet I was being taught in history class that people had been killing each other in religiously motivated wars for 500 years over just those differences.

I didn't go back to the priest right away. Instead, I started going to 'other' churches. First the other Catholic churches down the street. Then, one momentous day, to a Protestant church with a friend. This was a very Big Deal. One of the "interesting" things the nuns taught us in religious instruction was that we were NEVER to set foot inside a non-Catholic church; these were not "real" churches, and if we ever did such a thing God would strike us DEAD on the spot. (OTOH, we were -supposed- to try to entice our non-Catholic friends to come with us to the "true" (Catholic) church. This was seen as a gesture of concern for their spiritual welfare.) I was still young enough to think there might be something to that warning, but my intellectual curiosity and, I suppose, teenage contrariness were such that I HAD to find out for myself.

I went with a friend to, IIRC, an Episcopal church. Blessed myself before entering (just in case), and stepped over the threshold, waiting for the lightning bolt from heaven. Nothing happened. It looked a lot like some Catholic churches I had been in. The service was a lot like some Catholic services I had seen in smaller churches. The people were friends and families from the neighborhood, and none of them had horns or tails. No babies were sacrificed or eaten. Even the music was similar. I was both greatly relieved, and vaguely disappointed.

Well.

So I started experimenting with other churches. I went to Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Baptist services. I watched the older brother of a friend get married in an Assembly of God hall. I went to a synagogue with a couple of Jewish friends (loved the little hats). The more I saw, the more I was struck not by the differences, but by the similarities. Yet all of the adults in authority over and around me kept insisting that it was the differences which were vitally important; wars were still being fought over them in places like Northern Ireland.

Finally I was forced to conclude that either the adults around me had NO IDEA WHATSOEVER about what God wanted them to do or how He wanted them to live, or else... there was no God there to tell them anything, and they were all fooling themselves. I reached this conclusion before I turned 15. At that time (in a young male's life, anyway) it's pretty easy to believe that most, if not all of the adults around you are overbearing fools anyway, so I inclined towards the latter explanation. ;)

Still, although I realized that I didn't believe in God any longer, I didn't really think of myself as an "atheist." That term still had unsavory connotations, and tying myself to it could only cause trouble. So from that point I became a 'closet unbeliever.' I still went through all the expected motions around church on Sundays and holidays, but it wasn't the same for me. The mystical elements were gone, and the only remaining mystery was whether most of the adults around me really believed in the mysticism themselves, or were just putting on the act they thought society expected of them.

Externally, life didn't change much. My unbelief was a private thing that I didn't really talk about with anyone. Partly, I think, because it was still being codified, but also partly because I didn't think there was anyone I -could- talk to who wouldn't be thoroughly shocked at my position, and turn me in to whoever one turned atheists in to for rehabilitation. A few of my high school friends got caught up in various "born again" Christian movements, and I did have some long and intense discussions with them. Caused enough doubt to save a few of them from evangelical clutches, too, which I don't regret. But never by promoting atheism; always by pointing out the inconsistencies, contradictions, and absurdities of religion.

Studied a lot of science and math, got a bunch of scholarships, and went off to college to study science and engineering. It was in college that I discovered a field called philosophy," and it opened a whole new world for me. It was also in college I discovered that were actually quite a few people who had no trouble at all calling themselves "atheists," although they didn't make a big deal out of it, and that they were as normal, functional, and diverse group of citizens as any other demographic. At the age of 19 I discovered -- not a community, exactly -- but at least a number of kindred souls to whom "atheist" wasn't a dirty word. So that's the point from which I date my public "coming out" as an atheist (although I didn't tell my parents in so many words for another decade.)

From that point, and for most of my adult life, my atheism was no big deal. It was a part of who I was, but I didn't go out of my way to talk about it. The difference was, if somebody asked about it, I was no longer shy about discussing it in detail. Outside of a few philosophy seminars the topic just didn't come up that often. Though I did fend off a few
well-meaning but (to me) overzealous "atheist evangelists" who tried to recruit me into various humanist organizations to spread the good word. This always struck me as vaguely silly -- like the Piraro comic with the two atheists going door-to-door handing out blank pamphlets.

Then, as trite as it may sound, I think the events of 9/11/01 were another turning point for me. Here was an event that underscored just how dangerous and damaging religion could still be, and in assessing that event I began reflecting on the various ways in which religion -- mostly Christianity in the US -- had been subtly and not so subtly encroaching on secular society for a long time. The battles to get creationism taught as science. The attempt to institutionalize discrimination for various social groups. The insistence on government recognition of the US as a "Christian nation". Artistic censorship. Bombed clinics and murdered doctors. The notion that God wanted the US to invade Iraq. So, I went out and started participating again in on- and off-line discussions about religion, atheism, and a certain amount of social advocacy. I now realize that these are critical issues in determining how our society, and perhaps how our species is going to go in the near and distant future. I don't consider myself a radical atheist like Hitchens or Dawkins, but I do consider myself a strong atheist, an atheist advocate, and an areligionist.

One result of this newfound actvism has been a closer and deeper look at what I had always regarded as my own "transition" to atheism. Previously I believed that, while I had doubts as a child, I was essentially a believer, and that reading the Bible and failing to find convincing explanations for what I found there had tipped me over into unbelief.

I no longer believe that to be true. What I now believe is that I was born an atheist. That I never really did believe, even as a child. But as a child I first of all had to go through the motions of what was expected of me by the adults upon whom I relied, and second, had at the time no clear concept of any viable alternative. What I now think happened in my early teens was not a "conversion" to atheism, but a realization and slow aquisition of understanding of the unbelief which had been a part of my makeup from the beginning.

This raises some (to me) interesting questions. I now find myself wondering whether it is really possible to actually change from belief to unbelief, or vice versa, by intellectual effort alone. I -feel- like there must be some people for whom this is true, but it no longer seems like such a simple, or cut-and-dried process as I once imagined it to be. What I do know at this point is that I can't "make myself believe" something; I either do, or I don't. Should circumstances warrant, I could certainly /behave as if/ I believed something, and that might even fool most people. But it wouldn't be the same thing as real belief -for me-.

Which is, I suppose, kind of an anticlimactic conclusion for a religious (or an areligious) testimony: I was never "saved", because I was never "lost".

Maybe just a little confused for a while. :)

******

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 5:45:54 PM PDT
jpl says:
I Lost (faith) and Found (reality)

jpl: Your post moved me more than any post I've ever come across on Amazon. You couldn't have been there to help your friend. You were very sick. It's natural for you to feel guilty, but don't.

Your friend was lucky to have you as a friend. You were obviously ahead of your years. You have compassion, a rare trait in America today. Without your compassion, your friend may not have found the strength to press charges against the pedophile in question.

Please don't feel that you could have helped your friend. You couldn't have known what what was going to happen.

You're beautiful. Everybody should be so lucky as to have a friend like you.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 6:07:32 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 12, 2012, 6:09:50 PM PDT
Dr H, excellent story. Thanks.

edit to add:
In the catholic school I went to, we were told that if we played with children who were not catholics we would go to hell. We also were told to convert them if possible.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 6:17:52 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 12, 2012, 6:19:55 PM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012, 6:20:33 PM PDT
Macheath incorrectly argued: **Btw, maybe I'm missing something but your whole line of reasoning seems like one big ad hominem; "I've known some reprehensible Christians, therefore there is no God". It's entirely "emotion based" in it's argument. It's like meeting some reprehensible mathematicians and then concluding that the field of mathematics is bogus. And you atheists are the ones who claim to be guided by "reason"?**

Oh, so you want your cake and eat it too? You're exactly wrong about that. After all, Christians are the same ones insisting that humans cannot have any moral fiber or foundation other than god, that all morals come from god, and that becoming a Christian is the path to being, among other things, a more moral human being.

Yet the truth of the matter is quite the opposite. We (believers and unbelievers alike) know many people of faith who have done reprehensible things, things just as bad as things done by unbelievers. Worse, we know of people who have done those things armed with their faith - who used their position as a believer and as a leader, to gain access to people who they have then wronged, either sexually, or economically, or emotionally, etc.

Furthermore statistics consistently show that believers behave no more morally than unbelievers, in some cases, a little bit *less* morally than atheists (though within the margin of error.) You would have us believe that this god you serve is the source of all moral fiber, and you would have us believe that faith in this god would lead us to leading more moral and upright lives. Then when we point out that such an assertion is unadulterated BS, and draw conclusions from what we observe in the lives of believers, you wan to pretend that it's suddenly off-limits and has no bearing on the truth of the matter?

What fallacious nonsense.
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