Another introduction

John W. Loftus has kindly allowed me to post on this blog.

My introduction and deconversion story.

No, I won’t start off with the “I was born in a log cabin I built with my own hands and a Bible,” although the factual history of how I deconverted is similar to what has been stated by others before. It is easier to explain what went on in my head.

I am a trial lawyer. This means I argue. I argue my position to judges (who have heard it all) to jurors (who have heard enough) to clients (who only want to hear the positive) and to other lawyers (who only hear themselves.) We have a saying, there are three sides to every story—my side, your side and the truth. Rarely do those three even meet, let alone shake hands.

I first hear the story from my client. Being human, they tend to focus on the positive and down-play the negative. I never quite get the “whole truth” in those meetings. I get their side of the story.

I had a client* who was charged with drunk driving. I asked, repeatedly, if he had ever been charged or convicted of a drinking and driving related offense. He assured me every time he had not. Based upon this statement, I assured him he would not see the inside of a jail. (Rarely do on a first time offense.)

At the sentencing, the Judge asked if he had ever been convicted before.

Client: No.
Judge: What about in California?
Client: What about California?
Judge: Weren’t you convicted of three drunk drivings there?
Client: Oh. That California.
Judge: 93 days in jail.
Client (to me): YOU said I wouldn’t go to Jail!
Me: YOU said you hadn’t been convicted before! Pack a toothbrush.

Time and time and time again, I find things out later, because the client didn’t think it was “important” at the time. Really, it was because the client thought it would hurt their case, and why share something that may never come up?

So I know, right from the start, that I am hearing a biased version of the facts. I also know that someday I will be facing an opponent that will not share our rosy one-sided report, and will be introducing facts and arguments that counter our position. Therefore I start questioning early on:

Client: I paid her with a check.
Me: Will she agree that you paid her?
Client: No, she will say I didn’t.
Me: Do you have a copy of the check, bank statement, records of it?
Client: Naw. I don’t keep that stuff.
Me: Can you get a copy from the Bank?
Client: I don’t remember what bank it was.
Me: How long did you bank there?
Client: Maybe six years.
Me: Where was the bank?
Client: At the corner of First and Brown. But it is not there anymore.
Me: Can you remember anything about this Bank so we can locate it?
Client: Not a thing.*

Do you see how it may be a problem showing that this payment was made, when every single fact (other than my client’s testimony) points against it? And it is hardly believable he would fail to remember any of these items about a bank where he transacted business for six years.

Since anyone can walk through our door, eventually we get to argue cases from both positions, pro and con. After doing so for a period of time, one starts to get the knack of what “sells” to a jury, and what does not. What arguments work, and what ones will not. When defendants are charged with a crime, many, many of their mothers will come forward with an alibi. The juries listen, feel badly for the mother, but disregard the testimony. They know it is the maternal instinct protecting the child. I already know this argument won’t work.

To succeed in this business, we have to become adapt at framing arguments based upon the facts as they exist, and assessing what works, and what does not. Jurors are not stupid; you can’t sell it just because you say it.

Through happenstance, I stumbled upon the Internet Infidels forum. I was fascinated right from the start. Here was a group of atheists and agnostics that knew quite a bit about Christianity and some of them knew far more about the Bible than I did! How could that be? There must be something incorrect in their circuits, because with what I knew, Christianity was a fore-gone conclusion. There must be a missing part, a chink that has been overlooked.

In lawsuits, the first thing we do is share information. No sense wasting my time considering the argument of non-payment, if they have copies of bills and checks. We gather the facts (as best we can) and see where the arguments start to shake out. Often, by plugging such things as payments into a spreadsheet, trends can appear that offer insight as to what happened.

Or, if the prosecutor provides me with a handwritten confession by my client, that certainly has a large bearing on what arguments I can make!

So I lurked. And lurked and lurked. Occasionally I would offer a question, but more to gather more information, rather than debate. After seeing book suggestions, I would go read them. If I was told “there is an argument…” I would look to see if there really was. I would go to Christian sites to see if anyone was providing defenses to the claims presented, and what those defenses were. Then I would read the Christian books.

An alarming development. I began to realize that the arguments presented by the Christians were extremely weak. In fact, so weak, that if they are my client, I would recommend they not use them. No jury would buy it! I had no idea Christianity could be this wrong.

It is one thing to present a position to people that already believe it. “Preaching to the choir” comes to mind. It is another to present a position as simply being a possibility, assuming the other side is predisposed to disagree with you. However, I have neither luxury. I am in a position were I must assess the claim, knowing there will be someone equally as adamant my argument is incorrect, and attempt to convince a neutral third party of the viability of my position over my opponent’s. That is not easy to do.

The American Judicial system is a humorous creature. We throw two (semi-) intelligent combatants on polar opposite sides of an issue, make them both spew their best arguments for their position, while at the same time tearing down the arguments for the contrary position, and hope that the truth emerges from this dogfight. I realized that for all of my life, all of the arguments against Christianity had been presented to me by Christians.

The arguments I saw now would never be convincing to a third party. For example, one of the first debates I actually entered was on inerrancy. What I saw, is that in a trial, if the skeptic stated, “This was written by two humans, who, as humans do, contradict” that argument would far and away prevail over a claim that two (or three or four) humans were writing from completely different angles, and one wrote about God, but forgot to mention Satan, and the other wrote about Satan, but forgot to mention God, and the third forgot to mention both of them!

Ever hear the claim, “Any policeman will tell you that if two witnesses completely corroborate on every detail, they will assume collusion.”? True enough. What they don’t say is that we also realize that contradictions demonstrate unreliability. We don’t say, “This witness claims it happened at 2 p.m., and this witness claims it happened at 3 p.m., so it must have happened.” No, we start to analyze why the witnesses claim two different times. One, or both could be wrong. About the time AND if it happened.

It is in the details. Too many times I can count; I have caught witnesses being untruthful by the details. The times don’t add up. The directions are the wrong way. The cars are on the wrong side of the street. The buildings would block their view.

Witness: I was late because I ate at the restaurant on the way home from work.
Me: Doesn’t that restaurant close at 5 p.m.?
Witness: Well….er…..yeah. But I left work early, and stayed longer at the restaurant.
Me: Didn’t you fax Exhibit A out at 4:45 p.m.?
Witness: Oh.
Me: You can’t get from your work to the restaurant in 15 minutes, can you?
Witness: Maybe they stayed open late?

The details catch people out every time. As I reviewed the various arguments for inerrancy, canonization, archeology, history, textual criticism, higher criticism, and reading, reading, reading, it became evident in argument after argument that the Christian position would be unconvincing to a real jury.

If the Christian argued a point, all the skeptic would have to say is, “These are humans attempting to say this is what God does/says/is. Not a God. Humans.” A neutral jury would agree that it most probable a human effort.

I came to the realization that in a full frontal assault of logic and rationale, Christianity would lose. So I reverted to blind faith. (You may be asking yourself, “If this was causing you so much consternation, why keep going back? Why not ‘trust in God’ and let go?” Because the questions were already in my mind. To ignore them was to grant them superiority over the Christian world view. If God provided the Truth to Christians, it should withstand questions, not avoid them.)

For a time, I looked for another God (since there still had to be one), but it was too late. I had established a methodology by which I could use (convince a jury) to eliminate every possible God that was proffered.

I don’t want to give the impression this was a cold, hard, logical decision. There is a great deal of emotion involved in giving up a faith of 37 years. It was traumatic, devastating, humiliating, depressing, and then exhilarating, fulfilling and peaceful.

(A parenthetical note. I wrote this prior to reading exbeliever’s last blog. A number of his points resonated with me.

I, too, am currently anonymous. While my family is painfully aware of my deconversion, it is a colossal embarrassment to them. They would prefer to never see their name attached, in any way, to a site debunking Christianity. Out of consideration for them, I do not.

But more importantly, my wife remains a fundamentalist Christian, and this is considered by both her, and the community she thrives in, as a failure on her part. There have been people that actively encourage her to divorce me, if I so much as hint of the possibility that Hell does not exist to our children. Many, many deconversion stories end in divorce between the deconvert and the continuing Christian. I do not want my story to end that way.

Therefore, in the weighing of whether to preserve my marriage, or having the best argument my opponent can compile is that I am anonymous, my marriage will prevail hands down. Every time. If you feel my arguments are lessened by not knowing whether my name is “Tom,” “Dick,” or “Harry” you may be amazed at how well I sleep at night with that thought. Next to my wife.)

*Not the actual facts, but a conglomeration of clients, due to privilege.