My Deconversion

Through childhood and adolescence I had absorbed the intense Seventh-day Adventist religion of my family. I went to church schools from the beginning, only had friends from my church, and was forced to attend services with the fervor and frequency that only someone with a devout mother can understand fully.



I studied the Bible with interest but always found it a little boring (especially the Pauline epistles). If I had to read it, I would always go back to the books of Judges, Joshua, and the writings of the kingly epoch. I loved the stories of Jael and Siserah, of Joshua stopping the sun, of Saul and David. I loved to read about David collecting foreskins from the Philistines (and show it to my friends, giggling about how it was in the Bible). I was a believer in biblical inerrancy and a young-earth creationist just like all those around me. I was the best in my age group at Bible trivia (we called them Bible sword drills) to the point that our Sabbath School teachers would keep me from playing because it wasn't fair to the other kids.

In high school some of my friends were growing disillusioned with our church and I listened to their arguments but didn't find them compelling until I got to college. I wanted to go to medical school eventually, but I initially declared a major in Religion while taking all the science prerequisites needed for my premed aspirations. The second quarter of my freshman year, I took a class in Jesus and the Gospels. This was the first exposure I had had to higher literary criticism of the Bible and my exposure to the textual theories about the Gospels astonished me, and made me realize the all-too-human nature of the text. This also led me to investigate other German theories regarding the Bible including Graf/Wellhausen, which confirmed my concerns.


My study of religion abolished my faith in biblical inerrancy and I changed my major to biology.


I began to see strong evidence for evolution, even though all my professors were young earth creationists. In my junior year I started doing research into theories of taxonomy and their relationship to the creation/evolution debate. It was at this same time I took a course in cell and molecular biology.


It was fascinating to study up close the nuts and bolts that made cells function the way that they do, and to notice that not only was there no evidence of design, there was positive evidence against design. The endosymbiotic theory of Margulis had not yet been fully accepted, but it seemed to me to be the most compelling evidence against young-earth creationism that anyone could imagine.


The facts are this. Briefly, life is divided into several domains, bacteria, archaeans and eukaryotes. All the eukaryotes have a nucleus that separates their genes from the cell substance (cytoplasm). Animal and plant cells are all eukaryotes. Any eukaryote that can live in oxygen uses energy by oxidizing carbohydrates, such as sugars and starches.


All animal and plant cells that use oxygen burn it in a controlled fashion with an organelle called a mitochondrion. The mitochondrion has its own membrane. The mitochondrion has its own genome. The mitochondrion splits into two and divides by fission like a bacterium does. All plant cells that do photosynthesis do this photosynthesis using chloroplasts. Chloroplasts also have their own membranes and genomes and also split into two and divide by fission like bacteria do. The most curious part for me was this: there are cells that are eukaryotes but they do not have mitochondria or chloroplasts and they use energy by fermenting sugars and starches.


Fermentation happens in the cytoplasm of all eukaryotic cells but the burning of oxygen happens only in the mitochondrion. It became obvious to me that all multicellular life arose from a lucky symbiosis. When it became necessary to burn oxygen, eukaryotic cells were simply cobbled together out of two other cell types, one that fermented and one that oxidized. It seemed absolutely clear to me when I discovered this fact that life itself, down to its cellular level, was the product of accidents and was in fact an elaborate contraption. It was marvelous indeed in its function, but any appearance of design seemed to completely evaporate. After the scales lifted from my eyes it became clear what a confidence game young-earth creationism was. Life's function was entirely explainable by natural (as opposed to supernatural or vitalist) processes.


So I had lost my young-earth creationism and my belief in biblical inerrancy, but I still had the same family: a father and brother who were pastors, and a devout mother. My sister had abandoned religion very early in her life and I was worried that if I did so as well, it would hurt the structure of my family.


For many years I tried to pretend I was a “liberal” Christian, who believed in morality inspired by a remote, semi-deist God, but the more I studied works of theology and philosophy the more I realized there was no fact universally agreed upon, no doctrine beyond dispute, and no practice that didn't bring opprobrium from someone within Christianity and approval from someone else within Christianity. In short, “liberal” Christianity was a pseudonym for “humanism that won't scare your parents”.


Shortly after finishing my residency I was assigned to live in Turkey while I served time in the military. This experience clinched my conviction that religion was wholly man made. There I encountered the same false certainty, the same fervor for dogma, the same disputation over the meaning of holy texts, and the same lack of agreement that I found in Christianity, even the same platitudinous and empty bumper sticker sloganeering and the only thing different was that the religion was now that of Islam. Every argument that Christians make to convince you of the truth of their religion has a mirror image in Islam.


While living there, I was frequently asked what I believed. Since I was unable to defend Christianity, the existence of God, or any evidence of design in the universe, I decided to answer affirmatively, “I am an atheist.”

50 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

Great to have you on board. DC is getting better and better with people like you and Bart.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Evan,
welcome home.

goprairie said...

would you tell more about the social aspects. did your sister not go to the same school? why were the pressures different such that she felt open to questions and you did not at that point? what does your family know now and how did they react? i think we underestimate the social aspect. some who are ready to not beleive still pretend because so many family and friends would reject them. so you have to kind of build up a network of friends outside who will support you before you 'come out'. but isn't it a releif not to be doing the constant mental adjusting and juggling to try to get the real world to match the biblical teachings? I found that relief from all that freed me up to think more about real things like science and I actually found i understood things I was reading better once the background noise of making it fit a god was gone. thanks for sharing your story.

bart willruth said...

Hi Evan,

There are many roads to non-god. We walked some of the same ones. Welcome to the realm of reason.

Bart Willruth

Jamie Steele said...

Evan,
When did your conversion take place?
You mention religion a lot but when did your spiritual conversion take place. I am not talking about being made to go to church or reading the Bible. When were you converted?
Do you have that testimony?

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast." Ephesians 2:8-9

Evan said...

John - Thanks.

Lee -- Good to be here.

Goprairie -- My sister attended the same schools, had the same friends. She just never believed it. To this day all my family and all my friends besides my sister are still very religious and they are all wonderful people who treated and continue to treat me very well.

This is the reason it was such a long process, I never wanted to cause people who had not harmed me to feel sad.

Jamie Steele -- I don't know what sort of background you have. People who grow up in a deeply religious family are expected to announce their belief in God and Jesus on a daily basis at morning worship. They are asked to pray constantly and they constantly study the Bible as part of their weekly routine.

In that context there were multiple times where I affirmed my faith up to and including when I was baptized at age 12. To ask when my conversion took place is to assume there was ever a time when I didn't believe as a child, which simply is impossible.

It's like asking when I decided I was an English speaker.

Evan said...

Bart,

I find your comment interesting and I think again it suggests an argument.

In science a hypothesis is considered more robust when multiple lines of evidence can lead someone to accept its predictions.

For example, the biogeography of the world suggests that South America and Australia were once linked. The geology suggests that many layers of rock that are now very far apart were once collocated. These lines of evidence were once not clearly understood until Wegener posited his theory of continental drift.

When his theory was shown to be correct by the evidence of sea-floor spreading, all these other facts made the theory that much more certain and now there are no serious scientists who doubt that sea-floor spreading and continental drift explain not just the past of the earth but also its present and its future.

The power of the idea is that it explains all the evidence.

Therefore, the fact that multiple lines of evidence can lead people to the same hypothesis, and that using that hypothesis helps them to correctly explain many pieces of disparate data is positive evidence for the truth of such an idea.

Jamie Steele said...

Evan,
The idea that one is coverted at birth is no where in the Bible.

No one is "always a Christian".
I was converted at the age of 20.

I never went to church until my conversion.

My children have gone to church all their lives and i have never forced them into a relationship with Christ but they have all been converted based on their statement of faith and baptism (not at birth i might add).

It is hard to decovert if no conversion ever took place.
If that is the case.

Saul was converted to Paul.
In Acts. 3,000 were saved one day and in another chapter 5,000 were added to the church so to speak.
The Bible always deals with salvation on a conversion basis.

Another example is the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:
25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose. 27The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!"

29The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

31They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household." 32Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.

Spirula said...

Evan,

Your deconversion story is very similar to mine. I was a YEC in college (biology major) when I started to question the YEC professors responses to the theory of Evolution, and the lines of evidence for it. I recognized a profound lack of intellectual integrity and flat-out fabrication that went with their "science".

Anyway, it's nice to hear a similar story.

Have you thought of posting it on the Ex-Christian site? I think it would be appreciated there as well.

King Aardvark said...

Evan, you've got a bit of funny wording from a biology standpoint there: "When it became necessary to burn oxygen, eukaryotic cells were simply cobbled together out of two other cell types..."

It's more like the eukaryotic cells were cobbled together and then turned out to be highly successful in the emerging oxygen-rich world.

Evan said...

I never went to church until my conversion.

My children have gone to church all their lives and i have never forced them into a relationship with Christ but they have all been converted based on their statement of faith and baptism (not at birth i might add).


And when did your children go through a period of not attending church and disavowing all faith?

If your children did this, would it have been cool with you?

I am not asking this to be sarcastic as I recognize that all families are different. If you are raising your kids to make the decision for themselves, only taking them to church when they ask to go, educating them about science, the history of religion, literary critical theory and the nature and origin of the biblical text and they choose on their own to convert than I can certainly applaud you.

This was not the case in my family however. We were read to from devotional books, did studies from church-prepared manuals that assumed facts counter to available evidence, and were never offered the ability to disagree without facing significant social and personal costs.

If I went back to ask myself at age 12 if I genuinely believed and was genuinely converted I would have been able to convince anyone that I was truly a believer after my baptism and I'm sure you are discounting this as a conversion event because there was no period prior to that where I didn't believe.

But you ought to be careful about that.

Watch the movie "Jesus Camp". Do the children there have genuine conversions by your definition? If you believe the answer is yes, then I was most definitely converted. If you believe the answer is no, you are potentially arguing that a majority of Christians and possibly even your own children aren't truly converted.

Evan said...

King Aardvaark,

Yes, I agree that your phrase is more accurate.

I worded it clumsily.

Evan said...

Spirula,

Not familiar with the Ex-christian site, do you have a web address?

My personal opinion about the bulk of my profs in undergrad was that they had to profess YEC to keep their jobs, and yet they were smart enough to realize its bankruptcy as a mode of inquiry, so they did work at the margins and tried not to speak much about YEC (there was one obvious exception).

I remember one prof explicitly stating that if he didn't believe in the Bible there would be no doubt in his mind that evolutionary theory was right. That seemed to seal it for me.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

I have not yet seen any evidence of a former religious person speaking of their faith as building a cabin from all the logs removed from their eyes......nor how their capacity to love was increased through their faith. Somehow, equating faith with academic/religous achievements/success is not the same thing as internally relinquishing the motivation to pursue worldly accomplishments to increase one's capacity for expressing grace.

You studied biology and came away concluding no evidence for or against design. When I studied anatomy and physiology,I found myself amazed that our bodies are designed to thrive - not just survive - the often antagonistic circumstances beset them. It seemed amazing to me that there aren't more who fall outside the standard for normal capacity - what I called normal began to seem miraculous to me. Of course you are entitled to your own conclusions.

The best to you in your pursuits.

Spirula said...

Evan,

The Ex-Christian site is here.

It really isn't an "issue" site, but more of a place for those who have deconverted to go to share, console, amuse, advise or vent.

goprairie said...

jamie seems to be trying to negate your deconversion by saying you were not converted to begin with. but what is that other than a techinicality. the fact is you do not beleive in the mumbo jumbo now. i personally do not think you have to have a 'conversion'. you are told certain things from the beginning and if you always beleive each of them, you just are a beleiver of everything from the start. is there a point where you have been told enough and beleive it that you attain some critical mass or can it be a gradual thing? i always beleive in trees from the start and still do. there was never a magic moment where the pictures in books and the trees i saw becamse suddenly real to me. the invible god and be as beleived in and real from the start too. until you realize the tree is actually there to touch and the rest is not.

Evan said...

MMM:

You say "You studied biology and came away concluding no evidence for or against design. When I studied anatomy and physiology,I found myself amazed that our bodies are designed to thrive - not just survive - the often antagonistic circumstances beset them.

You misunderstand me. I conclude there is positive evidence against design.

Studying anatomy and physiology did nothing to dissuade me from this. Look at the path of the phrenic nerve, or the recurrent laryngeal nerve, or the innervation of the ear. It's a pastiche, cobbled together out of our vertebrate past.

In addition, when you talk about the "antagonistic circumstances that beset them" you are often talking about functions that become maladaptive due to problems with the body itself.

Our arteries plug up and clot, causing devastating strokes and heart attacks, our spines get arthritis, they lose integrity and allow disks to put pressure on nerves, causing excrutiating pain, our hearts are susceptible to bizarre, rare events like commotio cordis. Our sinuses have drain points that are inadequate for having an upright head but would work fine if we went through life nose down.

In addition, there are vast numbers of infectious diseases we are susceptible. We can get ill from breathing, eating, drinking, touching someone else's skin, kissing someone, sharing nachos with someone, having sex with someone, or just breathing the same air as someone, yet we are a social species, dying early deaths without contact from others.

In what way do these facts suggest anything other than the lack of design.

If there is a designer, she's a moron -- or we are a rough draft.

Spirula said...

Evan,

Our bodies have one other problematic area right from the get-go. Becoming bipedal has resulted in more difficult birthing, trading off pelvic tilt and girth to accomodate an upright posture and locomotion.

(Not to mention how much Chiropractors thrive because of this poor vertebral-pelvic "design".)

Jamie Steele said...

Evan,

I want to talk to you about faith and conversion.

The Bible states we must repent and have faith in order to be converted.
John the Baptist said ""The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" Mark 1:15

Today many will faith is to believe in something we can't see, a blind leap in the dark. So less knowledge is more faith, in other words, it takes a greater leap.
For example a Mormon will say: Just have faith with no basis. Their faith is circular and subjective. No real justification for the "step of faith". So it really becomes a blind leap.

The Bible is not talking about this type of faith.

Faith in conversion deals with 3 parts.

1. Notitia- "knowledge" (Hebrews 11:6) Faith must have content. We can't have faith in faith. Faith without content is without substance.

2. Assensus- "assent"- to agree with (Hebrews 11:1, Isaiah 40-48, Exodus 4: 1-9, any of the resurrection apperances.)
With this step of faith comes various degrees of assent and confidence, and also different levels of doubt.
Within every belief there is a certain degree of doubt. Nothing wrong with that.
A man in the Bible cried out to Jesus "I believe help my unbelief."
Thomas in the Bible was at this step. He was sincere in his doubts.
He had to have more and more "assensus" to go to step 3.
Most mormons and many professing Christians are here-they just believe and don't know why or what they believe. And many at this step are not converted and walk away from the faith.
Paul talked about on numerous occasions men who had "wandered from the truth or has suffered a shipwrecked faith."

3. Fiducia- "trust" a choice to make a decision to trust in...
Not a blind leap in the dark.
When Jesus showed up and Thomas saw Him he said "My Lord and My God." Assensus went to Faducia.

I have "fiducia" in God and Jesus.
I trust Jesus rose from the dead. I trust God with my soul.

I don't fully "fiducia" evolution.
Richard Dawkins said, "Billions of years ago a cell appeared and made all we have now."
Wow- where did the cell come from.
You have to have "blind faith" in the cell.
Which is circular and subjective like a Mormons faith in their religion.

14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. James 2:14-18

bart willruth said...

Jamie Steele,

You and I agree on something. It is reasonable to demand the evidence of the senses before buying into something. Leaving aside the reality of the story, the character of Thomas refused to believe until he could see and touch. That's reasonable. When that level of revelation is there for each of us, then I'll believe too. Until then, it isn't just to give that kind of evidence to just a few and to demand that all exercise belief in the absence of sensory perception. No one can be a proxy for another when it comes to witnessing the unbelievable. But of course that is the very purpose of the Thomas story, to allow him to be the proxy for those who hear the story but don't buy it.

If I told you that I had personally seen and touched the tooth fairy, would you believe it? How about if to believe would be the most important decision you could ever make? Might you not demand the opportunity I had before giving assent?

Bart Willruth

Jamie Steele said...

If I told you that I had personally seen and touched the tooth fairy, would you believe it?

if the Tooth fairy had a Bible that was very convincing and also rose from the dead and the tooth fairy's holy spirit drew me to him, I would give it a thought.
But not just on your testimony.
By the way, I am not trying to convert you Bart. Only God thru the Holy Spirit can do that.

Deut. 29:29 "“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law."

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Evan wrote: "If there is a designer, she is a moron or we are a rough draft" - you wouldn't by any chance suffer from gender bias would you? or moron bias for that matter? (BTW, I happen to love morons of all genders and rough drafts as well).

Your wrote: "In what way do these facts suggest anything other than the lack of design." You're entitled to draw your conclusion, but why wouldn't our lives and the values we embrace here not be a progression of an eternal creative design? Why must design be defined solely by the finite or by what can be controlled by, say for instance, myself, or you for example?

Then you wrote, "yet we are a social species, dying early deaths without contact from others." I've heard some of this before about our need for one another which (as with all generalities) can potentially stigmatize a legitimate spiritual course of an erimitic lifestyle. Life is diverse and not all people thrive in social situations.

Just a final aside about scientific discoveries and the conclusions people can embrace: I once heard a SBC pastor speak about evolution admitting that microevolution can be documented but it is macroevolution which is controversial. He laid out the odds as astronomical for macroevolutionary processes to be factual. Now the point of his lecture was to dissuade the possibility of macroevolution as factual but with the odds he quoted, I saw it as potentially one more of God's miracles.

To me it doesn't matter if a person embraces evolutionary studies or not - it's the motive/inspiration for engaging and cooperating with others that can either mature a territorial nature or set people free from it.

Take care, Evan!

Tim said...

Evan,

You write:

Every argument that Christians make to convince you of the truth of their religion has a mirror image in Islam.

Since Pentecost, Christians have been appealing to eyewitness testimony of the risen Christ as the principal ground of Christian belief. I'd be curious to know what you think the mirror image of this is in Islam.

bart willruth said...

Tim,

You ask about the exact parallels between Islam and Christianity.

I'll let Evan clarify this for you in his own way, but you need to think abstractly, not in exact concrete equivalents.

Ultimately, the parallel between Islam and Christianity is the necessity to exercise faith in a man or men in their claims to have experienced the supernatural. Both require faith universally from every human. Neither offer any evidence aside from accepting the testimony of someone living long ago, far, far away.

Bart Willruth

Tim said...

Bart,

I was looking for something more concrete, which seemed to be what Evan was implying.

A Skeptic said...

MMM:

When I studied anatomy and physiology,I found myself amazed that our bodies are designed to thrive - not just survive - the often antagonistic circumstances beset them.

The fact that you think this is a point against evolution shows how truly little you really understand about evolution.

richdurrant said...

Hi Evan,
Thank you for sharing your story. I look forward to reading more from you.


Why is it that anything that God does has to be in the realm of supernatural? It seems that when we can understand a natural process of something, that excludes God from the equation. I would challenge anyone to find the method that God used for creation in the bible. I recall reading that God created everything but I don't recall reading anywhere that explained how that was done.

Jamie,
you make the mistake many people do, you tell others about how their beliefs are unfounded, and non-believers about how they never really believed. I'm guessing that it's from things you've been told by others but you should be careful because you are wrong most of the time. Here's a good example:
Most mormons and many professing Christians are here-they just believe and don't know why or what they believe.
Just picking on the Mormons, there are around 12 million since most is more than half, would you say that you know at least 7 million Mormons so that you could make this assertion? That doesn't even count the professing christians. It's like saying that someone who is now athiest never really believed. In reading Evans story I would have to conclude that he "really " believed and I see no reason to think otherwise.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

A Skeptic wrote,"The fact that you think this is a point against evolution shows how truly little you really understand about evolution."

Please reread my stance on evolution - is this a habit of yours for deducing "fact"?

May God bless :-)

liniasmax said...

Hi Evan,

I enjoyed your story. I've also enjoyed reading the ensuing discussion. I deconverted last April. Here's my two cents on all the lively discussion going on.

Penny number one: Seems that there is nothing new under the Sun (not Son - sorry, Larry Norman fans). It's like the same things over and over, but consistent, strong, amazing! I commend both sides for the sheer strength of their respective resolves. That said - I obviously feel that the "debunking" side is winning, or I would not count myself as one of the apostates.

penny number two: Doggonit, I'm edible. I'm made in God's image according to my old faith, so is God edible? If not, I have more in common with my cat than the God whose image I reflect. I'm freaking edible!!!! I know this can be explained as just another brick in the wall, I mean, another result of the "Fall," but what can't? It's foolproof!!! Only if you buy into it...

Look, I'm just a Foreign Language guy, so I can't shed light on what I may have learned in this or that molecular genetics class or whatever, but I know I'm supposed to be special, but seems I'm just as edible as the next sentient being, and made of the same stuff, with corresponding organs and genes and glands, etc. Dadgummitt, the family guinea pig Nibbles and I both have to take Ester C because we have the same gene that won't turn on!

You can spin it, argue it and hope all you want, but if you're not willing to take the shot in the dark, leap of faith, and believe that God made you special, which boils down to ancient texts dishonestly apologized for in the present, then you see common descent as how it happened...Now how did it get started? Well, we could have deism, atheism (naturalism), agnosticism, whatever...because we don't know.

Then we have the remnants of fear of the sun and thunder, i.e theism, which takes a leap of faith based on the fear of dying - check your reason at the door. Martin Luther said as much, and then Ben Franklin said as much (coming from completely different angles).

I'm sorry - but I'm edible, and I stump my toe, and the more time goes by without sticking my head back in the box, the more I see clearly, but right now, the fact that my cat, my wife, my girls, myself, and even my kindred spirit goprairie are all edible just seems well, so enlightening, but then again I'm a simple man - but I can quote Foucault out of context in order to publish in refereed journals.

Please don't use the fear thing either - like first I'm eaten by something else that's edible and then I go to Hell... that is psychotic.

Here's one more thing, since my two cents has obviously earned interest: Do you love anybody that demands love and worship? What do you think of them? Besides the fact that they're edible...

Liniasmax

Patrick said...

mmm-

you wrote "...why wouldn't our lives and the values we embrace here not be a progression of an eternal creative design?..."

Of course you're right. God could have made the world to appear exactly as if he didn't exist. Alternately, god doesn't exist.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

I prefer spiritual enlightenment over that which I can take hold and manipulate towards my own standards - not as much of a temptation anymore but still I'm not conceited to say I couldn't be tempted..

And BTW, your stance of nonbelief is a fully acknowledged way of life, both in reality and in scripture.

Thanks!

goprairie said...

MMM: "your stance of nonbelief is a fully acknowledged way of life, both in reality and in scripture."
so - the bible predicts there will be atheists, and there are atheists like us, so therefore we prove the bible is true and that god exists. that really answers it all for me. thanks for pointing that out.

Patrick said...

mmm-

I believe I understand your preference very well. I don't know that it has any bearing on reality, though.

I might prefer to believe that I will be a professional soccer player (obviously for Newcastle--I'd feed Viduka and Owen some wicked crosses). However, the truth is my other talents notwithstanding I'm slow as all hell.

I am unable to believe that I'm talented enough to play in the Premier League, just as I'm unable to believe in god. Not because of my preferences, but because the chances of either being true are vanishingly small.

Enlightenment to me implies truth. I guess when all is said and done, I'd rather know the cold hard truth than live my life in the fog of a pleasant fiction.

Your mileage may vary.

Also I don't understand what you mean by "fully acknowledged way of life"

My best,

Patrick

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

GP wrote: "therefore we prove the bible is true" Interesting observation but one I'm going to chalk up to projection since the motive is one that I'm not personally acquainted with. BTW, you're quite welcome! :-)

Patrick wrote "I might prefer to believe that I will be a professional soccer player (obviously for Newcastle--I'd feed Viduka and Owen some wicked crosses). However, the truth is my other talents notwithstanding I'm slow as all hell." Patrick, I sincerely doubt that you are any less loveable because you are not a professional soccer player or slow as hell. In many ways, slow as hell can be a gift in the right venue...

Moving right along -
As far as what I mean about fully acknowledged way of life, perhaps by my editing it to say an acknowledged lifestyle might be more understandable? Let me know...

Bye!

Evan said...

Tim,

Since Pentecost, Christians have been appealing to eyewitness testimony of the risen Christ as the principal ground of Christian belief. I'd be curious to know what you think the mirror image of this is in Islam.

First, what eyewitnesses to the resurrection are there? My reading of the gospels shows no eyewitnesses to the resurrection. There is a discovery of an empty tomb, but no record of anyone seeing Jesus dead checking his breathing and pulse for 10 minutes, then watching his corpse reanimate, his wounds heal and seeing him stand up and talk again.

Beyond that -- the gospels were written by anonymous authors all of whom could not have been present at the resurrection. Therefore I think your premise is flawed.

What Islam and Christianity share in their apologetics is the uncritical acceptance of an extremely dubious and historically unlikely narrative.

For Christianity this is the dead and then reanimated divine Jesus. For Islam it is the narrative of the creation of the Koran, as dictated by the angel Gabriel to Muhammad and its status as the final, perfect testament of the transcendent God.

Muslims don't accept the reanimated divine Jesus, Christians don't accept the perfect Koran as dicated by Gabriel to Muhammad.

Mirror images to me. If you don't see them as such, I'm sorry.

Jamie Steele said...

Evan,
Once again you are wrong about the Bible.

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
1 Corinthians 15

24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas,[d] because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
John 20

Evan said...

Jamie, you say "Richard Dawkins said, "Billions of years ago a cell appeared and made all we have now."
Wow- where did the cell come from.
You have to have "blind faith" in the cell. :


First, you have Professor Dawkins in quotes there. Please tell me what that citation is from. I'm curious, since that sounds pretty apocryphal to me.

Secondly -- the cell came from chemicals. There are many candidate locations but the currently most favored one is deep sea hydrothermal vents where there is excess energy. The vents power the creation of the building blocks of life, monomeric organic molecules (nucleic acids, amino acids, simple carbohydrates, aldehydes, ketones etc).

In some location near the vents or some location in the vents, conditions catalyze the monomers to form polymers, which are longer chains of the monomers (polypeptides for amino acids, RNA for nucleic acids).

While we do not have a step by step account of exactly what happened we have some ideas that seem likely given our current level of knowledge. In addition we have a clear enough idea of the likely progression of events:

1. Monomer formation
2. Polymer formation
3. Polymer formation with metabolic activity
4. Formation of replicating RNA with some enzyme activity
5. RNA replication within protected spaces.
6. RNA copied to DNA and also translated into protein within protected space
7. Generation of a bilipid layer that protects RNA, DNA and protein and allows it to move and interact with the environment.

Not one of those steps is unfathomable. Now it is not certain this is the exact path that abiogenesis took, but there are good scientists doing good research into this today, and this pathway is a very logical one to them. Not one of those steps seems miraculous given current understanding of chemistry and biology.

In addition, there is no reason to suspect that we will not create an artificial life form from an artificial genome within the next 10 years. We are already able to engineer bacteria and viruses to do things we want them to, so life can be manipulated fully utilizing only chemistry -- no divine ingredients necessary.

Not a single thing I have described above takes a modicum of faith. If you understand the chemistry, the organic chemistry, the biochemistry and the molecular biology, there is no stretch to the imagination required. So why do you think this requires me to believe something equivalent to what you believe? What equates my understanding of science to your belief in the Bible?

Evan said...

Liniasmax,

I love the phrase "I'm edible."

It reminds me of an old egg commercial :)

Patrick said...

mmm-

I agree that I am no less loveable for not being a professional soccer player. In fact, a case could be made that I would be insufferably arrogant if I were.

side note: euphemism is my favorite form of communication, so thanks for that.

I am interested though, in what you think about the ability to believe vs. one's preference of possible beliefs.

Is it possible to believe something you find highly improbable because you want to believe it? If so is that actual "belief"? If I tell myself I believe something often enough that I no longer remember when I said "I don't believe", does that qualify as belief? Is that what god wants from me? Do I go to heaven for telling people I believe, or for pretending I believe?

Let's pretend that I want to believe in god. How do I go about doing that? I've spent an inordinate amount of time watching debates between apologeticists and atheists. I've only reaffirmed my disbelief.

If you say I need to open up my heart to Jesus, or The Holy Spirit I'll have to scratch you off the list of possible managers of my Premier League career.

I guess my point is that, to me, the evidence is so far stacked against Christianity or any other major religion that I am unable to believe. I don't think I have any particular bone to pick with Christians. Most of the ones I've met have been nicer, more kind, and more decent than the rest of humanity in my experience. I don't feel any particular need to rebel against the norm. Why hasn't god seen fit to provide me with the evidence necessary for me to believe?

That in itself is, to me, argument against gods existence.

Are you suggesting that you believe because you prefer to believe? How could that be possible? I think all the contributers here have shown that they would have preferred to believe, but no longer could.

Does god condemn us for the very curiosity he gave us?

So many questions--so little bandwidth.

I'd be interested in hearing your answer to any or all of these questions.

My best

Patrick

Jamie Steele said...

Evan,

While we do not have a step by step account of exactly what happened we have some ideas that seem likely given our current level of knowledge.

Sounds like you don't have any proof or evidence of this at all just speculation and theory.
Must take a lot of "Faith" to "believe" in the magic cell that made us all.

You said Not one of those steps seems miraculous given current understanding of chemistry and biology.

That is your opinion but many atheist whom are scientist would disagree in a New York minute with this statement of yours.

By the way the magic cell can be found on a video called "Breaking the science barrier".
After he says "there is still a lot we don't know about the origins of the universe.."
-at least he is honest about that -hope you are.
Then he states that the world is "about" 4 and half billions years old... more speculation...
Then he states "Within the 1st billion years or so.. the first living cell appeared..." how does he know...
He doesn't say.... why he doesn't know..
It is magic.. Like the tooth fairy, I guess.
You atheist have a lot of faith!

Tim said...

Evan,

You ask:

First, what eyewitnesses to the resurrection are there? My reading of the gospels shows no eyewitnesses to the resurrection.

You misread me. I did not speak of eyewitnesses to the resurrection: I spoke of eyewitnesses to the risen Christ.


... the gospels were written by anonymous authors all of whom could not have been present at the resurrection.

Here again you are reading things into what I wrote that are not there. I did not say that the authors of the gospels were all eyewitnesses, but rather that since Pentecost, Christians have been appealing to eyewitness testimony of the risen Christ as the principal ground of Christian belief.

My question for you has to do not with your evaluation of the strength of that argument -- obviously you are of the opinion that it is weak -- but rather with your assertion in the original post that "[e]very argument that Christians make to convince you of the truth of their religion has a mirror image in Islam."

Your response tries to make a parallel between two miraculous events as required beliefs in the respective religions. Your original claim, however, was not about mirror-image beliefs but about mirror-immage arguments. I confess that I do not think there is much in the way of parallel between the argument from the resurrection and the argument from the writing of the Koran. But what you say here does not speak to a parallel in the arguments at all.

If that is what you originally had in mind, then it seems to me that you should not have made the claim about mirror image arguments. If it is an attempt to force a parallel after the fact, then it seems to me that you would be better off withdrawing the claim.

Evan said...

Jamie,

You're on a jury. The accused murderer was seen leaving the scene of a crime where his fingerprints were found on a bloody weapon that contained both his own DNA and the DNA of the victim.

We do not know with complete certainty every step that took place between when the accused entered the building and when he left.

Is this evidence of a miracle?

Does it require faith to believe the accused is guilty?

No. On balance the evidence shows quite clearly that the accused is highly likely to be guilty. The only way he will avoid conviction is with a powerful alibi or a powerful alternative theory of the case that explains ALL the evidence.

If you believe the jury convicting him is acting out of faith, then I have no argument with you.

I believe the jury is acting on the basis of evidence and making reasonable although not 100% certain deductions on the basis of that evidence, rather than using faith.

It is the same kinds of evidence we use to determine the likely sequence of events that resulted in abiogenesis.

In addition, the reason the person on your video knows that within the first billion years of earth's history the first cell appeared is because we have fossil cells from rocks which date to that age that show the same structures as modern bacterial cells.

Again, this is based on factual, verifiable evidence that you can look up and learn yourself.

You asked me if I had read the Bible. I have.

Have you studied science?

Evan said...

Tim, you say Your response tries to make a parallel between two miraculous events as required beliefs in the respective religions. Your original claim, however, was not about mirror-image beliefs but about mirror-immage arguments.

Imagine 2 religions, one that says that all human beings contain an inner spaceman that was traumatized in a prehistoric volcano, and one that says that God buried gold plates and someone translated them.

You don't believe either one.

A member of the first religion uses an argument that assumes that the source of the story he tells you is by itself authoritative.

A member of the second religion uses an argument that assumes that the source of the story he tells you is by itself authoritative.

Are they mirror images of each other?

Jamie Steele said...

Evan,
Did you Deconvert over a magic cell?

Your reasoning is circular and speculative and filled with presumptions.

Case closed.

I will hold your cell to the same evidence as you do the Bible.
Which by the way is dated a lot of years earlier.

Billions of years.... Funny?

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Thanks for the conversation, Patrick - I'll just say that I would be honored to assume the role of soccer management member - I might even be able to do a half decent job for you. And just as an aside and an ever so gentle nudge, knowing onesself as being loveable does not have to equate into arrogance - on the contrary, it can provide a firm and secure foundation that saves people from perishing and frees up mental emotional space for creative pursuits..

"Is it possible to believe something you find highly improbable because you want to believe it?" To me what you wrote right there is a truthful and more valuable-than-gold mustard seed - it is a heartfelt desire - that is more meaningful than any academic accomplishment. Then you wrote, "I tell myself I believe something often enough that I no longer remember when I said "I don't believe", does that qualify as belief? Is that what god wants from me?"

Patrick, I couldn't indoctrinate myself into faith - I couldn't squeeze a square peg in a round hole.
I did get delivered from idolotry and pride (and that is definitely like going into a dentist's office with more cavities than teeth) just so I could finally trust that when I drew close to God that He wasn't going to be abusive to me.

" Do I go to heaven for telling people I believe, or for pretending I believe?" Well,would it be heavenly to carry the burden of pretense and fear of reproach for the purpose of image maintenance? I think that is just like hell and I can say that I lived that way for nearly my entire life - not fun or faithful.

Patrick wrote: "Let's pretend that I want to believe in god. How do I go about doing that? I've spent an inordinate amount of time watching debates between apologeticists and atheists. I've only reaffirmed my disbelief." Well said, Patrick - even the softest of hearts can come away infected with a bit of cynicism and forget that God loves even those who reject Him and hold Him in contempt. Just curious, but what makes you think that nonbelief is the ultimate and concluding paradigm for the rest of your life?? Just wondering since I travelled through several years of nonbelief mysself.

As far as giving a pat answer about how to lure a god out of his hiding place (although that image is more consistant with idolotry), I know Him to be a free spirit and a courageous lover of people. I was amazed that He wasn't offended by me and it took me a long time to truly believe that He loved me first and to be delivered from the fear of condemnation and rejection - I could write a long time about this but I know my own attention span begins to drift after about the first paragraph, so will go for now - the best to you!

Patrick said...

mmm-

This is among my first posts at this or any site, and I find that I'm enjoying it immensely. So, thanks for that.

I wrote "Is it possible to believe something you find highly improbable because you want to believe it?"

And then you wrote "To me what you wrote right there is a truthful and more valuable-than-gold mustard seed - it is a heartfelt desire - that is more meaningful than any academic accomplishment."

Perhaps I'm wrong, but it seems like you read into my statement that I do indeed want to believe, but have my doubts. The truth is closer to-I used to believe, but found reason not to. Also I now have no desire to. I hope you'll forgive the expression, but I have had an almost spiritual conversion to atheism. It's extremely powerful to me that I am beholden to noone, and no thing. Being a decent human being for no other reason than I chose to, with noone or thing looking over my shoulder is incredibly powerful. Admittedly with my worldview there is no particular reason to be a decent human being, but that's all the more reason to enjoy it, and pat myself on the back, in my opinion.

I hope I don't offend you when I say that you haven't answered any of my questions, just offered platitudes.

You said that you trusted in god not to be abusive of you. I hate to use the analogy, but Santa was never abusive to me either. No coal ever. Not once.

I said "Let's pretend that I want to believe in god. How do I go about doing that? I've spent an inordinate amount of time watching debates between apologeticists and atheists. I've only reaffirmed my disbelief."

Again it seems as though you didn't answer my question. Why is it "cynicism" to not believe instead of "honest inquiry".

I think that Atheism is the ultimate paradigm because of all the reasons contributers here outline better than I could. Mostly because I couldn't sqaure a loving god with a god who sends more than 2/3 of humanity to hell for not believing in Jesus.

In the last paragraph of your most recent post you referred to luring god out of his hiding place. Why is he hiding? Furthermore you seemed to indicate that you had a personal converstion with him. Is it possible that you had a conversation with yourself and attributed it to god?

Basically I don't see how the desire to believe in god, or all the good things you may attribute to that belief constitute reality. And I feel that I'd rather believe in reality even if (although it's not the case) I wanted to believe in fantasy.

My best,

Patrick

Evan said...

Patrick, I think the truth of what you are saying stands for itself, but I am interested in a side idea that you seem to suggest but I'm not sure it's exactly what you are getting at.

To phrase it simply: I don't believe in leprechauns. I don't think I ever could believe in leprechauns, even if I wanted to. The only way I could believe in leprechauns would be if I met one in such a way that left me with only one possible explanation: that leprechauns actually exist bodily and there was no possible way it could have been a hoax. I would accept any other plausible explanation before I accepted the existence of leprechauns.

In other words, just seeing a movie of a leprechaun would be useless, seeing a book written about leprechauns would be laughable regardless of the certainty of the writers, because the premise is absurd.

It's impossible for me to believe in leprechauns on the basis of any testimony or any document because I have seen too many people who deluded themselves, and I have seen too much photographic and documentary fraud and forgery.

In essence, when I have a belief about something it is really involuntary processes in my brain that decide I will believe it. I have no conscious ability to choose to believe something that my brain has chosen to find fault with. I cannot coerce it.

What I can coerce is my ability to act as if something is true while I know that it is not.

It seems to me this is what you are suggesting, and if it is I think it's a fruitful area for further exploration.

Patrick said...

Evan--

That is a good part of what I'm asking. It's just that you put it more eloquently and more clearly than I. I might also say that I am unable to believe that the sun revolves around the earth, no matter how much I might wish it were true without some impressive evidence contrary to that which I already accept.

I'm certain that John or some other contributer has already addressed this, but I don't remember reading a Christian give any credible response. I could be wrong, but am interested in hearing a different viewpoint than mine/yours.

My best,

Patrick

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Patrick wrote: "I hope you'll forgive the expression, but I have had an almost spiritual conversion to atheism. It's extremely powerful to me that I am beholden to noone, and no thing." Sounds a little more like fear of intimacy to me, but I know you'll let me know I'm wrong eh?

Then you wrote, "Being a decent human being for no other reason than I chose to, with noone or thing looking over my shoulder is incredibly powerful. Admittedly with my worldview there is no particular reason to be a decent human being, but that's all the more reason to enjoy it, and pat myself on the back, in my opinion." Patrick, you honestly are inciting a protective instinct within me here - think swinging meat, my friend, swinging meat. Being good for goodness sake - been there, done that.

"I hope I don't offend you when I say that you haven't answered any of my questions, just offered platitudes."

From your writing, it seems your expectation is for me to take offense at what you have said - but I have few things remaining that stir offense - on the contrary, rejection by other people only brings me closer to gratitude for Y'shua.

Overall, I find it noteworthy that by your standard for being a good person that allowances are made for you to relegate another's personal insight and firsthand experience to that of platitude. If that is your idea of being good, then by all means, pat yourself on the back - it isn't uncommon for people's definition of "good" to become coopted into including behaviors that aren't particularly edifying. At any rate, while you're patting away, I'll just be over here rejoicing that God is God and other people are not.

On a final note, I do disagree with you that I did not answer your questions - I did respond to your inquiries, but don't you feel it would be more forthright to just say that you flat out reject them?

At any rate, I'm no influence here, so I'll be moving along.

Ciao!

James said...

"It became obvious to me that all multicellular life arose from a lucky symbiosis. When it became necessary to burn oxygen, eukaryotic cells were simply cobbled together out of two other cell types, one that fermented and one that oxidized."
Apologies for not studying biology before posting this comment. However I don't think it is reasonable to call something lucky based on the fact that you understand how it works. The fact is that it works, pointing to the fact that it was designed to work. Studying networking I discovered that the internet it held together by the symbiosis of TCP/IP and electrical pulses coming through my phone line. Yet I don't consider myself lucky that I am able to comment on your blog through this amazing technology.