Another Person Walks Away From Christianity!

Not long ago I received the following email from Ed Owens, who lives in Missouri and attends a Church of Christ there with his wife, who still believes. Here’s what he said:
I'm a 50 year old man from Missouri who preached for almost 30 years for the Church of Christ. Several months ago I read Joe Holman’s article at minister turns atheist and began my study of why he would do such a thing. I am now convinced by my own studies of the absurdity of the book called the Bible. My family on both sides are all members of the church and are now giving me pure hell about it. I'm seeing a psychologist at the request of all the family. They seem to think she will reconvert me, I guess. That's their knee-jerk response; I must be coo coo or something like that.
In another email he added:

I was raised in a Church of Christ family and was baptized at the age of 19 by my sibling brother who is an Evangelist for the Church of Christ. We are the one cup one loaf no Sunday School group. My wife also has the same roots in the Church and still does. My brother and I married sisters. He got the younger and I got the older. He is eight years older than me. My wife is seven years and a few months older than I am. She was married before to the same guy twice while away from the church. When she returned and confessed her unfaithfulness to the church and asked God's forgiveness she was reinstated as a member in good standing.

I began preaching in 1978 at the tender age of 20 and gave it all fervor and conviction that I could muster. My Dad was a preacher for the CofC and an Elder for many years so you could say I was following in his steps as was two of my siblings besides me.

I came across Joe Holman's article on the internet entitled “minister turns atheist” and I couldn't help but wonder what would posses someone who was once a minister to turn to atheism. To make a long story short I studied his arguments and many other atheist arguments and found the Scriptures severely lacking in credibility and accuracy. I've been in touch with Joe and have corresponded quite often in the past few months.

I left the church and had it announced last Wednesday evening of my intentions. It came as quite a shock to some but not to all. My poor wife came unhinged when she began to discover my intentions. She has settled down somewhat in the past week. I told her I would attend with her on Sundays if she wanted and of course she does. How long that will last I have no idea. It is very difficult to set through a service and listen to a message that is full of error and conjecture and not be tempted to jump up and declare, "It is a bunch of hooey!" You know what hooey is, don't you? I thought so. DUNG! MANURE! KA-KA!

When the de-conversion started I was devastated!!! I felt like I had been lied to all my life. I was raised to believe the scriptures were without error and had no contradictions whatsoever. When I took the blinders off and began to see the multitude of errors and contradictions I became angry and tried to point them out to my Evangelist brother, who by the way had been my mentor all my life, and how he might see the truth of all this. You can imagine the result. He began to tell me how deluded I was and not to read that junk, as he called it, it would just confuse me and warp my mind. I tried time after time to illustrate the errors to him but he would not hear of it. He and I no longer speak to each other. He's refused to answer my email because he can't control the situation by his overpowering personality and make me shut up!

I've tried subtly to show others the errors and to no avail. I've even been told to quit trying to proselyte members. Any advice you can give me I sure would appreciate it!!! My wife belittles me at every turn claiming that I'm headed for Hell if I don't change and repent. My brother likewise gives me fits. He is an Evangelist for the church and at one time my dearest and closest friend, past tense!
I told him that until he put his foot down they wouldn’t leave him alone, so he composed the following letter and read it after last Wednesday's services:
It has come to my attention that some folks believe I have lost my mind. I believe the term was mentally ill. Let me assure you each and everyone that is not the case.

I stand before you this evening to set the record straight. I AM NOT MENTALLY ILL.

I am quite sane, I assure you. If this does not persuade you then you may call my analyst, who I have been seeing at the request of family and friends, and will verify what I have just said. I have given written legal permission to divulge my mental state.

People sincerely disagree on a host of issues, from who should be the next President, to which diet is best for losing weight. No one ever thinks to say that people who disagree about such issues is mentally ill. So why should that be the case here? Many of us have decided to walk away from the Christian faith, including former Church of Christ preachers Farrell Till, Joe Holman and John W. Loftus. I no longer believe for the same reasons you don't accept Islam or Mormonism, and no one considers those who don't believe them to be mentally ill for doing so.

Now, that having been said, I wish to make some things crystal clear so that not a single person misunderstands why I am up here.

1. I am no longer a member of the church.

2. I do NOT need reconverting PLEASE RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO TRY!

3. I will not debate, verbally converse, or argue with ANYONE on the issues surrounding my decision to leave the church.

4. If you feel so disposed to chastise me, I reserve the right to respond in kind. When you do, realize that you are only reinforcing my decision by not showing that you care for me as a person.

5. I still love each and every one of you irregardless of your feelings toward me. I really do.

6. I may attend services from time to time out of respect, but I will be attending less and less, since it would be no different for you if you were asked to attend a Jewish service, which you don't believe. I admire your convictions even if I do not share in them.

7. I have been accused of trying to de-convert members with emails. I submit material for consideration by email and when I am told to stop, I DO!

In conclusion, I understand your concern for my spiritual well being. You have voiced it and I have heard. Now, please stop. I am assuming full responsibility for my own actions from this point forward.

You will not appreciate my decision I am sure, but you are going to have to learn to accept it because I am confident upon the ground I stand.
Then the shit hit the fan. Here’s what he wrote me last night afterwards:

I read the letter to the congregation after services had concluded and it was instant fireworks! My brother had to put in his two cents worth.

He claimed the analyst was my own decision, which was a lie, and then shouted that I was dis-fellowshipped. I thought that was really strange since I had just announced my own leaving of the faith. I asked if I was banned from the church assemblies and he said no, there was no need for me to attend ‘cause I would just be a hypocrite by doing so. I should have called him on the carpet right in front of everyone about not following scriptural process of dis-fellowship, but I didn't, I just walked out.

I know I did the right thing but now my wife has no intention of attending that congregation any longer. She says she will attend where my daughter goes.

Thanks again for your support.
Why in the hell do Christians have to make it so hard on us when we no longer believe? I’m proud of Ed. He did what was necessary and right. He's one of our unsung heroes. And I’m also proud of his wife for loving Ed enough to leave that church over it.

He's reading this. Any encouragement or helpful advice would be appreciated.

66 comments:

JUSTIN said...

Mr. Owens, I too was brought up in the CoC's in/from Texas. I left them, too (although I haven't left my faith). For what it's worth, I'm sorry, sorry you were treated that way.

Jason said...

Why in the hell do Christians have to make it so hard on us when we no longer believe?

If you're going to ask that question, might as well ask: Why do atheists have to make it so hard on Christians who want to continue to believe?

Evan said...

Jason,

We ... set up a website? That makes it hard on you?

Stargazer said...

Mr. Owens, it took a lot of courage to do what you did. I hope you are able to find some good support in your area.

Jason said...

Evan,

So the criticizing Christianity starts and ends with this website?

Evan said...

Jason,

People are yelling at Mr. Owens and telling him he needs to see a psychiatrist. The members of his church are "giving him hell."

He has been told by his family that he will burn in eternity in hell.

Please -- what do atheists do that is in any way analogous to what is going on with Mr. Owens?

K. Szklenski said...

I once urinated on a person for trying to re-baptise me. OK, that's a lie.

But in all seriousness, Mr. Owens, you did a brave and difficult thing. I don't think I could have gone up in front of everyone like that! I probably could have, I guess, but I wouldn't have gone without a fight. :)

Your wife, despite saying you'd go to hell, must be a really good person. Some people in that situation wouldn't be brave enough to stand by your side like that, especially given that she still believes!

K. Szklenski said...

My wife suggests this, Mr. Owens: Have your wife read the bible the same way you did. Look at the little things that just don't add up. Make her think about the inconsistencies.

I would add: Explain how faith is not a method for understanding anything. At all. Faith is merely an agreement to be ignorant and be happy about it. OK, that last part may be a little offensive, but the fact is, you cannot learn anything new because of faith. That makes reason and science and atheism the more logical choice. And frankly, way more fun!

cranker said...

Mr. Owens,

Your thoughts and actions speak volumes as to your courage! Thinking outside the herd is tough but it soon becomes quite an interesting hobby. Your true friends will remain with you and a lot of others will quietly admire you. It is good to be your own hero.

Jason said...

Evan,

Er, atheists mock the Christian God, do they not? I would say this is "analogous".

Evan said...

Jason,

You say, "Er, atheists mock the Christian God, do they not? I would say this is "analogous"."

Christians mock Allah. Is this wrong? Christians say that Allah is an idol and that Jesus is God. This is offensive to the core to Jews and Muslims. Christians say that Thor doesn't exist, which is blasphemy to followers of Asatru. Are they wrong to do so?

Christians believe that concepts such as karma and rebirth, central to Hinduism and some strains of Buddhism are demonic ideas. Are they wrong to do this?

Scott said...

Mr. Owens,

I commend you on your public announcement. While I imagine it was wasn't easy, I'm sure it resonated with at least one person who shared your doubt.

When I came out to my parents and close family as an atheist, they were shocked and voiced a concern for what they viewed as spiritual suicide. At first, I was taken back by their reaction, but then realized they were acting out of love and a what they perceived as a real threat for my eternal well-being.

I found the most effective approach is to show everyone you are the same father, husband and friend you've always been. You simply no longer believe in God. Those people who can get past the stigma will recognize and accept you for the person you are, not your religious beliefs.

Jason said...

Evan,

Stay on topic. Atheists mock the Christian God. As per your original question, this is "analogous" to what is going on with Mr. Owens.

Thranil said...

Jason,

No it is not analogous. Vocal Atheists do tend to mock everyone's God (sorry, Christians are simply not unique in this). However, unless a follower of a God shows themselves to be a complete tit, the Atheists that I know generally refrain from being nasty towards the PEOPLE. In Mr. Owen's case, he is under personal attack by a group of people who were supposed to be there for him. They are doing this simply because he no longer believes in the same thing they did. I fail to see how being shunned, insulted, and harassed by close friends and family members is in any way similar to making fun of a fictional character!

Jason said...

Thranil,

Atheists know how deeply Christians revere and love God and thus, God becomes an easy target. Say a bad thing about the Christian God and you get a reaction. Atheists mock God because they know they'll get a reaction.

Your statement "I fail to see how being shunned, insulted, and harassed by close friends and family members is in any way similar to making fun of a fictional character!" is a perfect case in point. This is just as offensive to me as being condemned to hell by family members is for Mr. Owens. You're only saying it because you don't believe the same things I do. From this perspective, you're no different then the people insulting Mr Owens.

Tim said...

What I think is saddest about this story is that the predictable but hurtful reaction from his church is simply reinforcing the impression that he is faced with a dilemma: believe everything exactly the way it is nailed down in the CoC, or believe nothing.

It's a false dilemma. But many fundamentalists hold onto all of their beliefs -- the idiosyncratic ones as well as the historically central ones -- with emotional fervor not anchored in public reasons. In such cases, it is very difficult to keep the baby while draining out the bathwater. Panic and screaming from the people who used to be supportive will not help, to say the least.

I hope Ed can use his newfound freedom to read something better in defense of the central claims of Christianity than he was ever exposed to in his church.

Atheist Okie said...

Mr. Owens,

I applaud your courage and passion for truth. Only a fool or a wise man would be so bold, but never a mediocre person. I can only hope that you will have the strength and intestinal fortitude to persevere though the tough road ahead.

Stay strong, keep pursuing truth, and know that you are not alone. There are at least 14 million of us in this country.

Lamar said...

Jason,

I think it is quite a different thing to be told by close persons that you are going to be in pain for all eternity if you do not believe in the Christian God then to hear that there are people who do not think that something you believe in exists. At least atheists can't threaten people who aren't atheists with anything, let alone eternal damnation.

Atheists are simply making an intellectual point: we don't think that what you say is true.

Christians are being bullies: you will go to hell. You are crazy. Get out of my life now. Etc...

Jim Holman said...

Owens is both very brave and very stupid. He went through a spiritual crisis. Good for him. I've been there, done that, and got the tshirt.

But then Owens proceeds to rub his personal spiritual crisis in the faces of the members of his church and his family.

Then he is shocked, shocked to see how these people respond. But like dude, you've been with these people most of your life, and you don't know how they are going to respond? This is a surprise to you? Really?

Owens takes no personal responsibility for his former beliefs. No, those beliefs were not his fault. Instead he was "lied to." Of course, that is BS, because the people who reared him in the doctrine of the church were sincere believers themselves, and probably good people to boot.

I was a fundamentalist Christian for a number of years. What I eventually came to acknowledge is that my beliefs were no one else's fault. I could blame no one. No one held a gun to my head. No one forced me to believe. In other words, all of us former fundamentalists have to take responsibility for our own beliefs, blaming no one but ourselves. Otherwise we're like alcoholics, blaming everyone else for our problems.

Owens says "I am assuming full responsibility for my own actions from this point forward," but note that he doesn't take responsibility for his beliefs and actions in the past. Nope, that was caused by other people.

I get the feeling that Owens doesn't take responsibility for his own beliefs. Instead he wanted to inflict some "payback" on his former co-religionists for what they had "done" to him. So he in effect denounces them in public, and with the result that he surely should have been able to anticipate.

We are told that "any encouragement or helpful advice would be appreciated." Ok, so here's something from someone who has been there before. Your spiritual crisis is your problem. The reason you became a fundamentalist is your fault. If you want to look at the problem, take a look in the mirror. I did.

So lighten up on everyone else. You don't have to "convert" them to your new way of thinking. You don't have to "point out their errors." They won't accept you for who you are, but you need to accept them for who they are. Again, been, there, done that.

John W. Loftus said...

Tim said...I hope Ed can use his newfound freedom to read something better in defense of the central claims of Christianity than he was ever exposed to in his church.

Like what?

John W. Loftus said...

Jim Homan said...Owens is both very brave and very stupid.

Who is the stupid one here, you idiot? They were the ones who would not accept him for what he believed and who he is, you ignoramous. They were the ones who pushed him into a corner, you buffoon.

Spontaneous Order said...

Mr. Owens, welcome to the dark side. I am curious how you would proceed to explain cosmology/abiogenesis/evolution to a creationist. I know quite a bit about these sciences and frankly have a hard time hitting the right points for someone whose knowledge is thin and quite opposite.

Thanks,

barry

Joe E. Holman said...

Yes, Ed is a hero. He did what he had to do, even though it cost him his family. A few of us have been there and we understand.

As we collectively continue to raise awareness of our plight as infidels, this will become easier for future defectors. But we've still got a long way to go!

Way to go, Ed! You're a bright and shining light in a world of paranoid, superstitious darkness.

(JH)

Joe E. Holman said...

Jim Holman said...

"But like dude, you've been with these people most of your life, and you don't know how they are going to respond? This is a surprise to you? Really?"

My reply...

It's not quite like that, answer man!

No one can gauge perfectly the actions of another. Even having been with them, religious believers can be unpredictable--like caged but trained tigers, they can snap any minute and ambush someone with the motivation of an African firewalker.

Religion creates this sort of hate and fervor in them. You obviously know very little about the mechanics of de-conversion. Lay off him!

Jim Holman said...

john loftus writes: Who is the stupid one here, you idiot? They were the ones who would not accept him for what he believed and who he is, you ignoramous. They were the ones who pushed him into a corner, you buffoon.

I can see I've touched a nerve. Permit me to respond in a different manner.

Owens was with these people, for most of a half-century. Surely, in that half-century he knew of others who had left the fold. Surely he was aware of what happened when they did. Perhaps he even had the same response as his former co-religionists now have.

So this is a guy who either knew or should have known how these people would react. There should not have been any surprises here.

His former Christian friends don't accept him for what he believes. So how does he respond? In the same way. He doesn't accept them for what they believe: When I took the blinders off and began to see the multitude of errors and contradictions I became angry and tried to point them out to my Evangelist brother, who by the way had been my mentor all my life, and how he might see the truth of all this.

At this point I would ask Mr. Owens "well, how's that working out for you?" Not so well, apparently.

joe holman writes: No one can gauge perfectly the actions of another. Even having been with them, religious believers can be unpredictable--like caged but trained tigers, they can snap any minute and ambush someone with the motivation of an African firewalker.

First, great last name, one of the best.

So how did Mr. Owens think these people would react? The dog returns to its own vomit. He forsakes Christ. He joins himself again to Satan. He is a backslider. And so on. You know all the terms -- and so did he.

joe holman: Religion creates this sort of hate and fervor in them. You obviously know very little about the mechanics of de-conversion. Lay off him!

I was a fundamentalist Christian for ten years and during the process of "deconversion" as you call it I became extremely depressed. I lost all of my former friends, my life fell apart, and I got a divorce. So perhaps I do know something about deconversion.

I know something about the psychology of deconversion, about the temptation to "prove" that one is "right," to one's old friends, whether or not they want to hear it, essentially becoming a non-believing version of a fundamentalist. I know what it feels like when old friends aren't friends any more, in part because of their mindset, and in part because of my own words and actions, my own need to evangelize them with my new version of the truth.

As strange as this may sound, what has happened is that Mr. Owens is no longer a Christian, but psychologically he's still a fundamentalist. He has to convince people that he's right. He needs to be around likeminded people who share his new beliefs. He has a need to have discussions with Christians and sends out emails until they ask him to stop. (I like his phrases I tried time after time to illustrate the errors to him but he would not hear of it, and I submit material for consideration by email and when I am told to stop, I DO!) He feels a need to tell his former religionists that he loves them. He feels somewhat persecuted for his new beliefs.

You can take the boy out of fundamentalism, but it's hard to take fundamentalism out of the boy. To that end, Mr. Owen needs to do a lot of soul-searching. He needs to look in the mirror and ask the fellow looking back what it is about himself that attracted him to fundamentalism in the first place. He needs to ask why he chose fundamentalism. He needs to ask why he stayed in it for decades. He needs to ask why it is important to him to convince others of the truth of his new beliefs (of course, until they ask him to stop).

Coming out of Christian fundamentalism, it's relatively easy to stop being a Christian and relatively hard to stop being a fundamentalist. I've been there.

Jamie Steele said...

We have had over 30 conversions at our church this year.

Just thought I would let you know.
30 more atheist, agnostics,unbelievers ...etc. convert to Christianity.

Many of these have had no prior church background, neither did their parents, just like me.

No one in my family went to church or ever talked about it.
I was converted at age 20. I walked away from atheism then and haven't looked back.

As for Mr. Owens, I wish him well and no ill will at all. I really wish people in his life would not treat him bad. He is a grown man and can make his own decisions which he and he alone is responsible for. He seems like a really nice man.

In the Bible, Jesus never chased people who left him- John 6:66 is a good example. He often asked his disciples if they wanted to leave.
The Bible says "those who endure to the end will be saved."

So good luck MR. Owens and God bless.
For every Mr. Owens there are 100's or 1000's who convert to Christianity worldwide everyday.

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks for the thoughtful response Jim Holman. I get irritated when someone calls a human being who is trying to do the best that he can stupid, especially when I just said he was a hero. I suppose you'd call me stupid too, for blogging and arguing that I am right that Christianity is a delusion. I just don't see any possible way that such a moniker describes Ed or me.

And you are clearly wrong that he does not accept them for who they are. Yes, he thinks they're beliefs are wrong, as do I. But all he wanted was for them to leave him alone. He was backed into the corner. If you cannot see this then it is YOU who are stupid. One part of this is that he has friends in other churches who had heard the rumors. The rumors made it to Kansas. The rumors were that he was mentally ill, and they were coming from his friends and family in that church. Do you really think that he should not care about such accusations and lay down and do nothing?

Even if our responses are not always the same to certain circumstances, why do you presume to know enough about them that you can judge him for what he did? How do you know that you wouldn't react the same way given those circumstances, even if you know what it's like to deconvert. You don't. So have done with your own judgmentalism. I don't want it. I left that behind when I left Christianity behind.

John W. Loftus said...

Jamie said...We have had over 30 conversions at our church this year.

Yes, success breeds success, and that's all that should be said about it.

This doesn't have anything to do with who's right, otherwise you'd have to say that Islam is right since it is the fastest growing religion in the world.

Jason said...

Lamar said: I think it is quite a different thing to be told by close persons that you are going to be in pain for all eternity if you do not believe in the Christian God then to hear that there are people who do not think that something you believe in exists.

It goes a little beyond having someone tell you that what you believe in doesn't exist. Let's call a spade a spade: Atheists enjoy mocking the Christian God because of the reaction it brings.

At least atheists can't threaten people who aren't atheists with anything, let alone eternal damnation.

A Christian threatening an atheist with eternal damnation is like a 40-year old threatening his 80-year old father that Santa won't come this year. Atheists don't believe in hell, 80-year old men don't believe in Santa. What's the "threat"?

Atheists are simply making an intellectual point: we don't think that what you say is true.

And Christians are making a Biblical point for what they think is true. What's the difference?

Christians are being bullies: you will go to hell. You are crazy. Get out of my life now. Etc...

I have a violin around here somewhere... :)

lee said...

As I have perused this site and read the responses of christians toward a former minister who has struggled with perhaps the most important question of this life. "does God exist," I am convinced that Mr. Owen and I made the right choice. The christian love almost drips from the computer screen. The ethical and moral superiority of the Christian faith is right there plain for all the world to see. It is reminiscent of the love expressed by people of faith all over the world, which is why as many as a million people have been killed in the name of religion in the later part of the 20th century. Congratulations, Mr. Owens, a man of principle and ethics, who is not pretending to be something that he is not, so he can continue to recieve a paycheck. You sir have my respect.

bob said...

Easy people....EASY.

This whole situation is proof of the intense emotions that surround our religious beliefs. One might recommend the "pull the band-aid off fast" approach to deconversion. Others might say to just move out slowly and quietly. I don't think there is, or can be, a right way to let people know you are giving up your religion. Many of us truly care about how people see us. We want to be liked. Sometimes, because we are dealing with human emotions, honesty is going to be painful. I chose a different route than Mr. Owens, but my situation was very different. I was not a minister and was no longer in church, and hadn't been in a church for years. The only people who I informed of my deconversion was my wife, then months later, I talked to my kids about it. It was pretty much a non event for everyone around me, except for me. I was thrilled :)
All we can do is do what we think is right for us, and for those around us. Mr. Owens approach may not have been the best approach for all involved, but it was not wrong. Some people are going to react emotionally no matter what you do, and some of us want to try to minimize the fall-out from our decision, and some of us may not know there will be much fall-out, and of course, some of us really may not care that much if there is fall-out.

Jason said: "Let's call a spade a spade: Atheists enjoy mocking the Christian God because of the reaction it brings".

You paint with a very broad brush Jason. I have been an atheist for 8 years. My girlfriend is a Christian. I would derive absolutely no pleasure from mocking her God. I speak honestly to her, as I am doing to you. I do not believe in any Gods. But if I was satisfied with the evidence that the Christian God was in fact, real and alive and in control, and if the Christian God was just as described in the bible, I would then admit that he is real, but I would not worship him. I find the God of the Christian bible, the entire bible, to be unworthy of my adoration. I find His moral standards to be below mine. That is not mocking. That is simply honest. If you feel I am trying to get a specific reaction out of you, you are mistaken.

Steven Bently said...

Jamie Steele wrote; "Just thought I would let you know.
30 more atheist, agnostics,unbelievers ...etc. convert to Christianity.


You know what Jamie? Most people whom spontaniously convert to christianity, don't have blinking clue to what Atheism is, most people think well I've never belonged to a church, woe is me I'm an infidel atheist.

My brother in-law was an atheist and I ask him, why was he an atheist? And he said well I've never read the bible, and I said how come? and he said well I just never considered reading the bible.

His first wife was an atheist also and she died, so he married my sister whom is a belligerant overbearing fundamentalist and I'm sure she told him if he did not convert to christianity that she would leave him. Now he walks around spewing the christian rhetoric and I'm sure still having never quite known what the word atheism really means.

Atheism is not a belief in things unseen, where christianity is a belief in things unseen.

Atheism is the default position all humans were born with,(no beliefs in gods).

Christianity is a concept invented by men to control and manipulate how and what people are supposed to think, therefore it is a mind cult of delusion, PERIOD.

If there really was a god, he/she/it would have made it natural for us to know about this god, not by hiding in a book writen by delusional men.

Jason said...

Bob,

I appreciate your candor. The 'broad brush' I'm using was taken, for sake of comparison, from the comment I originally responded to: Why in the hell do Christians have to make it so hard on us when we no longer believe?

I don't believe every atheist enjoys mocking the Christian God any more then I believe every Christian makes it hard for atheists to leave. I'm simply making a point here that what we consider to be "hard on us" is subjective. An unbeliever being condemned to eternal punishment is no different then an unbeliever mocking our God.

John W. Loftus said...

Jason, what does my comment have anything to do with your God? It doesn't mock your God.

bart willruth said...

There are several dynamics in play with the shunning of Mr. Owens.

People of faith are second-handers; that is, by observing the strong faith claims of others around them, they gain strength in their own ability to believe and in fighting their underlying doubts. When one among them defects, especially one who was a leader in the proclamation of their faith, it causes some internal panic. If his doubts could undermine his faith and he was our leader, might I also fall away?

Another dynamic is the social need to conform and to press others to do likewise. Mr. Owens' refusal to reconform is seen as an affront.

Ultimately, when his family and friends shun him, degrade him, and pass judgment upon him, they have the self-righteous perception that they are the voice of God on earth consigning him to hell; a heady and superior feeling no doubt.

Jason said...

John, I never said it did.

Tim said...

John,

I suggested that there are better defenses of the central claims of Christianity than Mr. Owens was exposed to in his church. You ask "like what?"

Glad you asked. There are many good things to suggest. Perhaps he could start with Greg Boyd's Letters from a Skeptic, or N. T. Wright's Resurrection of the Son of God. There is also a lot of great older literature, such as Andrews Norton's Evidences of the Genuineness of the Gospels.

Of course, these authors are all in their own ways at odds with standard CoC style fundamentalism. Boyd is an Open Theist, Wright is a preterist, and Norton was a Unitarian. Still, despite their doctrinal deviance, each of them makes an interesting and thought-provoking defense of the central historical claims of Christianity.

Now that Mr. Owens has shaken free of the rather rigid views of his particular denomination, he is in an excellent position to explore the arguments that non-fundamentalists have given and continue to give for the truth of Christianity.

DonCordiner said...

I was intrigued by the reference to 'The God who Wasn't There'. I've looked it up and found an overview on wikipedia. From my background in early Christian History I'm really quite worried about it. The idea of pagan progenitors of Jesus' story have been abandoned long ago. The Mithra link especially so given the work in Mithra studies in the 1970's. I'd hope he realizes that Persian Mithraism and Roman Mithraism are unrelated.
As for Paul teaching a spiritual resurrection I just can't believe a serious exegete holding that anyway, although I know some do. I suppose he is meaning 1 Cor 15. Its a debate I've followed for fives years now and some pretty convincing (consensus building stuff) articles on the physical connotations of Paul's use of 'soma' has been done- N.T. Wright especially so.
The video's arguments set off an immediate red flag for me. Does anyone know of an online format where the arguments are available?

DonCordiner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Douglas said...

Hi Ed - you're going through a very common, and difficult, phase as you move away from everything you've been taught to believe. The best advice I can give is to continue reading and find books, videos, personal stories from people who have gone through the same thing - that will help validate the pain and anger (and it really is anger) that you're feeling. Hey - you were lied to all your life about 'god'. You made an incredible effort to 'believe' but it takes courage to think for yourself. I can tell in your writing that you love your family and former church family - but it's probably healthier for you to just let them go, forget about 'taking a stand' or 'defending' yourself from them. They will come to you for information or adivce when they are ready for it, and not a moment before. You cannot 'save' them, as they cannot 'save' you.
Your wife may never come around, so prepare to love her despite that. This is a tough thing - de-rograming yourself is heartbreaking. For me it shook me when I realized I had nothing to 'pray' to during a difficult time - that there was no 'magic' that would ensure that all would be fine. That really, really shook me. But I survived and have a true sense that I'll handle whatever comes my way.

Just keep reading and thinking. No need to continue the preacher role at this time, or ever. Take care of yourself first. Know that you're not alone in your thoughts.

DonCordiner said...

Perhaps the problem is a wrong image of God. We tend to portray God as a warm western daddy type figure, our best friend type person like some loyal dog. Scripture does portray him as a loving Father but Father was a far more aloof and technical term than we have made it today. (e.g. see Joachim Jeremias' famous article 'does Abba mean daddy?'.
Having a wrong perception of God will of course lead a person to conclude there is something wrong when our incorrect assumptions aren't fulfilled.
Just a thought.

Evan said...

I'd hope he realizes that Persian Mithraism and Roman Mithraism are unrelated.

What evidence do you have for the existence of a "Persian" Mithraism. Roman Mithraism is the only religion I know of that there is archaeological evidence for.

Beyond that, are Christianity and Judaism related? If so, what differentiates this relationship from that of Mithraism and Zoroastrianism or its Manichean variant?

John W. Loftus said...

Ed responds:

Hi everyone, this is Mr.Owens. I've read all the comments and opinions concerning my de-conversion so far.

I'd just like to say that each and every person who is truthful to their own conscience must admit when those you once dearly loved turn on you like a pack of wolves it can be a shock of unmeasurable proportion! My therapist has helped me to discover many issues that are unresolved in my life and I am forever grateful to her. One of those issues is acceptance. I think several have hit either on or around this point on a number of comments. I am not psychologically blind by any means. I realized the percentage of acceptance is low. I've been in sales. This does not, however, cause the salesman to cease trying on the basis of negative odds!

Trying to force people to accept things never has been my style. Anyone who will listen to what you have to say is a variable you must learn to control to your advantage and that is my constant goal. To help others see truth for truths sake. People, mankind, deserves to know fact from fiction. I'd also like to stress that all those who feel like infringing upon others rights will have to understand that IS a two way street. If you are unable to deal with it productively it is a very good idea to reevaluate motive and means. I do this every day!

Thanks, and good day to all.

goprairie said...

Jason says: "Atheists enjoy mocking the Christian God because of the reaction it brings."
I beg to differ. For some it is more of a self-depracating thing - we make fun of it as a way of dealing with the fact that we were once so silly as to beleive it. Among my friends, the only ones with whom I engage in this sort of thing is fellow atheists. Among Christian friends or friends with other religions, I would never mock their God. I am respectful of them and their God and their practices. You are wrong to be so certain of motives.

DonCordiner said...

Well Persian Mithraism, Evan is not a contentious issue. Nor is its seperation from Roman Mithraism.
The significance of this is to show appeals to Iranian/Persian Mithra texts centuries before Christianity no longer can be claimed to influence Christianity for their is no continuity into the 1st Century C.E. world.
I suggest, well, any scholarly book on either Persian or Roman Mithra studies. The 'First International Congress of Mithra Studies' in the 1970's I believe is online and is primarily devoted to the seperate of R. and P. Mithraism. Roger Beck has offered the most recent book: 'The Religion of Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire" Oxford University Press 2007. Who also labours this point.
I take it then that 'The God who Wasn't There' does make this mistake?

Yes Christianity and Judaism would be considered the same religion until around 300 C.E.

Brother D said...

Jesus reserved his harshest criticism for religious people, this story illustrates why. Jesus never asked a man to belive in "the church of christ." He asked men to believe in Him. As long as men continue to put their faith in other men and manmade organizations instead of the Creator, stories like this will continue to fill up the pages of your blog..

bart willruth said...

Don Cordiner says, "Christianity and Judaism would be considered the same religion until about 300 CE."

On what basis would you suggest that?

Moab said...

Heya, just stumbled on this blog - what a powerful story. Thanks for sharing and best of luck to Ed and the others who have decided to look at things critically.

It's a rough road, I could only imagine, especially when your entire familial identity is tied up within a religion. I am amazed at his strength.

journeyman said...

It is hard to counter brainwashing. Young ones are infected every year by religion. It's very difficult to teach people who don't want to be taught because what they think they know the answer to all of life's mysteries. I was once a believer of a God, but I kept a open mind.

here is a tip:
Never assume you are right. Other people could be right. Give them a chance. Use logic. Detect and beware of fallacies in arguments. If argued correctly you will obtain better understanding and even some knowledge. But of course you will never know for sure.

I am open to arguments of God's behalf. I have yet to hear one that does not have some problems.

I am willing to accept that I could wrong, I am of course only human. Socrates once said that the key to knowledge is first understanding that you are a Hypocrite.

Open your mind.
Teach people how to think.
Always question.

Ed, you have tremendous courage it is hard for me to believe that a man that was full of faith like you could start thinking clearly. I bet you kept an open mind. that is key.

DonCordiner said...

On what basis would you suggest that?
Bart,

Well I guess because that is the scholarly consensus that up until the mid 300's Jews and Christians were all one. Jerome's antisemitism is seen as the watershed and a response to Christians worshiping in the synagogues.

I don't really think that this important to what we are talking about though. Mr Owens probably didn't read Charlotte Fonrobert's "Jewish Christians, Judaizers, and Christian Anti-Judaism' and think 'oh must be decovert'.Rather apparently some claims about Mithra contributed.

If you do want to ask some more about what I mean by Jewish/Christian being the same then feel free to contact me on the e-mail listed in my profile.

Lamar said...

Jason,

The fact is, whether you are an atheist or a Christian, if you call someone insane for what they believe (to the degree that you actually force them to go to a psychiatrist), then you are doing something far different from simply saying that you don't agree with what they believe. If atheists resort to this sort of ad hominem (and they commonly do) then it is with respect to their own foolishness that they do this. But if the religious do this, then it is only with respect to their own religious beliefs. After all, "only the fool says that there is no God." We've all heard that one.

Yes, threatening hell isn't scary for atheists because, as you pointed out, we don't believe in hell. However, it is kind of ridiculous. Again, lets call a spade a spade. How can a good person believe in hell anyways? And why go around threatening hell to those who don't believe?

If you're right, why not calmly explain why you are rather than (I'm talking about Owen's situation here) evict the non-believer and spread rumors about him? No one seems to care so much about disagreements in physics.

You also have to understand that atheists have far more room to play the feelings card than Christians. There are simply WAY more Christians than atheists, and we in the U.S. look down on them. It is much easier to wimp out and go with the crown then go it your own.

Scott said...

And Christians are making a Biblical point for what they think is true. What's the difference?

I was going to use an analogy of yelling "FIRE!" in a crowded theater, but we have proof that fire exists and that have plenty of historical and scientific evidence that people are harmed when exposed to it.

Instead, Christians claim there is an immaterial threat to an immaterial part of our being. Neither of which can be confirmed or tested in any way because God won't allow it. However, they claim you can avoid this threat by doing a wide range of things that they all can't quite agree on and are often immaterial in nature. An example of this is being baptized. Some Christians think it's necessary to be saved, some do not.

Atheists are essentially saying this threat is a superstition, just like the thousands of other suppressions that people have believed for years. Many where taken as truth but have been falsified because they make claims that can be clearly falsified.

Example? During the time of a plague, Pope Gregory I the Great made a decree for people to say "God bless you" when somebody sneezed; this was said to prevent the spread of the disease. At least we had evidence that the disease existed.

Kevin Colquitt said...

I hope for all the best to you Mr. Owens but I know that it won't be easy for you. Rejecting the dominant ethos is an insult to those who still base their lives upon it.

Jamie Steele said:

"We have had over 30 conversions at our church this year.

Just thought I would let you know.
30 more atheist, agnostics,unbelievers ...etc. convert to Christianity.

Many of these have had no prior church background, neither did their parents, just like me.

No one in my family went to church or ever talked about it.
I was converted at age 20. I walked away from atheism then and haven't looked back."

Jamie, did you do detailed surveys of these 30 converts previous beliefs? You say that they were all atheists/agnostics/unbelievers.

"Many of them had no prior church background" means little or nothing since this is a country that is overwhelmingly permiated with Christian influences. There are Christian church programs on secular television/radio every Sunday morning plus thousands of Christian radio stations and several wholly Christian television networks/channels. Our currency has a religious endorsement, children in schools are legislated to recite a pledge of allegiance that was legislatively edited to include the words "under God" (words which the original author did not want). It just doesn't equate that not going to church means that a person is an atheist.

Even your own personal experience seems suspect to me. The fact that no one in your family ever went to church or talked to you about religion could not qualify you as an atheist. If in fact you ever professed that you were an atheist, then it was undoubtedly the weakest kind.

As may have been said before, professions of former atheism among "born again Christians" is de rigueur, socially obligatory. After all, what better way to excuse all of one's formerly abyssmal behavior than to blame it on atheism...but alas, the abyssmal behavior continues inside the church...stealing church funds, pastor abuse of the congregation, adultery, lying etc.

John W. Loftus said...

In a previous era Ed and the rest of us would be subjected to the advice of Aquinas, who was used to justify the Inquisition later on:

Whether heretics ought to be tolerated?

Objection 1: It seems that heretics ought to be tolerated. For the Apostle says (2 Tim. 2:24,25): "The servant of the Lord must not wrangle . . . with modesty admonishing them that resist the truth, if peradventure God may give them repentance to know the truth, and they may recover themselves from the snares of the devil." Now if heretics are not tolerated but put to death, they lose the opportunity of repentance. Therefore it seems contrary to the Apostle's command.

Objection 2: Further, whatever is necessary in the Church should be tolerated. Now heresies are necessary in the Church, since the Apostle says (1 Cor. 11:19): "There must be . . . heresies, that they . . . who are reproved, may be manifest among you." Therefore it seems that heretics should be tolerated.

Objection 3: Further, the Master commanded his servants (Mat. 13:30) to suffer the cockle "to grow until the harvest," i.e. the end of the world, as a gloss explains it. Now holy men explain that the cockle denotes heretics. Therefore heretics should be tolerated.

On the contrary, The Apostle says (Titus 3:10,11): "A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid: knowing that he, that is such an one, is subverted."
I answer that, With regard to heretics two points must be observed: one, on their own side; the other, on the side of the Church. On their own side there is the sin, whereby they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death. For it is a much graver matter to corrupt the faith which quickens the soul, than to forge money, which supports temporal life. Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death.

On the part of the Church, however, there is mercy which looks to the conversion of the wanderer, wherefore she condemns not at once, but "after the first and second admonition," as the Apostle directs: after that, if he is yet stubborn, the Church no longer hoping for his conversion, looks to the salvation of others, by excommunicating him and separating him from the Church, and furthermore delivers him to the secular tribunal to be exterminated thereby from the world by death. For Jerome commenting on Gal. 5:9, "A little leaven," says: "Cut off the decayed flesh, expel the mangy sheep from the fold, lest the whole house, the whole paste, the whole body, the whole flock, burn, perish, rot, die. Arius was but one spark in Alexandria, but as that spark was not at once put out, the whole earth was laid waste by its flame."

Reply to Objection 1: This very modesty demands that the heretic should be admonished a first and second time: and if he be unwilling to retract, he must be reckoned as already "subverted," as we may gather from the words of the Apostle quoted above.

Reply to Objection 2: The profit that ensues from heresy is beside the intention of heretics, for it consists in the constancy of the faithful being put to the test, and "makes us shake off our sluggishness, and search the Scriptures more carefully," as Augustine states (De Gen. cont. Manich. i, 1). What they really intend is the corruption of the faith, which is to inflict very great harm indeed. Consequently we should consider what they directly intend, and expel them, rather than what is beside their intention, and so, tolerate them.

Reply to Objection 3: According to Decret. (xxiv, qu. iii, can. Notandum), "to be excommunicated is not to be uprooted." A man is excommunicated, as the Apostle says (1 Cor. 5:5) that his "spirit may be saved in the day of Our Lord." Yet if heretics be altogether uprooted by death, this is not contrary to Our Lord's command, which is to be understood as referring to the case when the cockle cannot be plucked up without plucking up the wheat, as we explained above (Q[10], A[8], ad 1), when treating of unbelievers in general.

Joe said...

My favorite part of the Christian vs Atheism Debate is that one day we will all know the 100% truth.

The question is, what side of the answer do you want to be on?

End of Existence or Eternal Life in Paradise?

Seems to me the later is the more desirable option....

Hmmmm..... food for thought.

Alexis said...

Joe:

Typical Pascal's wager. Boring.

What if Islam is right? Then there would end of existence for the atheist and the christian.

Your false dichotomy makes no sense at all.

That is why i like the atheist wager better:

You should live your life and try to make the world a better place for your being in it, whether or not you believe in God. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will be remembered fondly by those you left behind. If there is a benevolent God, he may judge you on your merits coupled with your commitments, and not just on whether or not you believed in him.

Joe said...

Alexis,

I see that in your answer you lead one to believe that Christians do not make the world a better place. You don't seem to leave room for your "formula for life" to be applied to the life of a Christian as well. "Live life, try to make the world better, die into the hands of a benevolent God"

Sadly I fear that the Christian faith is tainted beyond repair by so many publicly corrupt and false Christians.

A quick review of the most basic Christian tenants doesn't reveal much for anyone to get upset about:

1. God created the earth and man
2. Man chose not to follow their creators guidelines
3. God Himself made a way to bridge the divide.
4. Man can choose to accept or reject that provided way.
5. For those that believe, God asks (2) primary things:
a) Love God with all your heart and soul.
b) Love your neighbor as yourself.

Would you agree with me on the following question?

What gets atheists worked up about the Christian faith?

1. Gods words and requests of man

or

2. Man's interpretation of that word and therefore man's actions who claim to be Christian.

It appears to me the later. ie George Bush, Pat Buchanan, Right Wing politicians, etc.

Evan said...

A quick review of the most basic Christian tenants doesn't reveal much for anyone to get upset about:

First, it's TENETS. Tenants live in an apartment. Tenets are the strongly held beliefs of members of a given group.

1. God created the earth and man

Important if true. Not a shred of evidence for this. Misleading in the extreme if false and causes people to overestimate the durability of our species and underestimate their own fallibility.

2. Man chose not to follow their creators guidelines

False and tars people who have done nothing wrong with the broad brush of Augustinian personal guilt over being in a gang as a child.

3. God Himself made a way to bridge the divide.

By letting himself die for less then 48 hours? No evidence at all for this, again leads people to overestimate the durability of our species (God thinks we're that cool).

4. Man can choose to accept or reject that provided way.

Can I ask you to choose to believe in leprechauns or unicorns? Can you, if you want, believe that the moon is made of green cheese? Is your volitional control over your beliefs that total?

5. For those that believe, God asks (2) primary things:
a) Love God with all your heart and soul.


Absolutely impossible and silly request. Are you really supposed to be thinking of God all the time with all your soul? Even when you're driving? Even when you're asleep? Ridiculous and again fails to put the emphasis where it belongs, our species lives on small blue dot in the universe and we can die.

b) Love your neighbor as yourself.

Not a bad ideal. Only slightly less realistic than a) above.

What gets atheists worked up about the Christian faith?

1. Gods words and requests of man

or

2. Man's interpretation of that word and therefore man's actions who claim to be Christian.


What gets Christians worked up about the Muslim faith?

1. Allah's words and requests of man

or

2. Christians lack of understanding of the Holy Koran and therefore lack of knowledge of what it means to truly be Muslim?

Scott said...

End of Existence or Eternal Life in Paradise?

Seems to me the later is the more desirable option....


Just because something is more desirable doesn't mean it's the most plausible or correct answer.

And if we simply cease to exist, then we won't have anything to worry about because, well, we won't exist.

While I think our fear of death is natural, I also think it's part of our survival instinct. But when this fear can no longer help us avoid death, it's a needless liability that causes unnecessary suffering. This is similar to how amputees experience phantom limb syndrome. Their body continues to experience pain which serves no purpose.

If evolution is 'blind', these are the sorts of behavior we'd expect from evolved life forms.

Scott said...

A quick review of the most basic Christian tenants doesn't reveal much for anyone to get upset about:

1. God created the earth and man

This defines an immaterial, undetectable, purposely confusing and heart harding being as the supreme authority on man. If we can't even be sure that God exists, then how can be be sure what we attribute to God's will or plan is correct? You've opened a huge opportunity for man to hijack God for his own purpose.

2. Man chose not to follow their creators guidelines

Please see above. And if God created everything from nothing then where did sin come from?

3. God Himself made a way to bridge the divide.

God sacrificed himself to appease his own damnation. To do this he switched from animal sacrifice to human sacrifice.

4. Man can choose to accept or reject that provided way.

But before he can choose, man must decide if there really is a divide that needs to be bridged.

5. For those that believe, God asks (2) primary things:
a) Love God with all your heart and soul.


I can't love something that does not appear to exist. Nor does this sound like the kind of thing a perfect being would want or request.

b) Love your neighbor as yourself.

I'd rephrase this as "act as if you love your neighbor as yourself."

Because, as human beings, we won't always love our neighbor and shouldn't beat ourselves up when we don't. But our actions should appear as if we do.

goprairie said...

"The question is, what side of the answer do you want to be on?

End of Existence or Eternal Life in Paradise?

Seems to me the later is the more desirable option...."

What a ridiculous premise! That by deciding, and believing in one, that makes it so! I can choose to believe in ol' Santa himself and ask him for a shiny new Jeep Wrangler hardtop with 4 doors and big tires and the biggest engine, and I can BELIEVE really hard with my eyes closed and my hands folded real tight . . . . and nothing will happen. The holiday based on myth will come and go and . . .

What a silly waste of time and energy and thought . . .

Harry McCall said...

"The question is, what side of the answer do you want to be on?

End of Existence or Eternal Life in Paradise?"

According to both Catholic and Protestant theology, all souls have eternal life: Some suffer forever (Lake of Fire) while others (saved) walk on streets of gold in a New Jerusalem (kind of defeats the divine demand to “Love not the world, neither the thing that are in the world. For if any man love the world, the love of the father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15).

Christian theology (post New Testament) claims heretics will suffer forever with atheist. The question of just who is a heretic is highly subjective as to which sect is doing the labeling. Thus, according to the late Bob Jones, Jr. (Chancellor of Bob Jones University), “Bill Graham has more damage to Christianity than any man who has ever lived.” The last time Rev. Graham held a crusade in Greenville, S.C., the school made it official that any student who attended any of the evangelical services would be expelled.

I had a fellow Christian co-worker (Ken) who was a fundamental Baptist tell me that when another liberal Christian co-worker died, he would “Bust Hell wide open!” I asked him that if that would indeed be the case, then all lost souls would escape. He gapped his stomach and ran out the door. Latter someone told me Ken had ulcer.

In hind sight, Christianity fights itself as much as it fights the devil.

Jacki said...

There is a support forum for people who have left the COC. Come visit us at http://www.setbb.com/exchurchofchris/index.php?mforum=exchurchofchris

You will find very similar stories, get great advice, and make lots of new friends.

Andrew said...

Ed, you spit in everyones face, so I have no words of comfort for you. You are going to go to hell unless you repent.

You made it clear you thought they were fools, and they felt hurt.

What did you expect?

You are an insensitive hypocrite.

Nothing worse than a traitor.

homer said...

Congratulations man,
It is a releive to walk away from religion. it is wast of time really. anybody with a grain of intellegence would see that.
Homer

John Evo said...

To Eddie Owens -

Glad to see people giving you support. You hang in there with your new life in the reason-based community.