Fantastic story of deconversion

Here's a link to a wonderfully articulate, clear, and fascinating story of deconversion put together by a gentleman with the user name evid3nc3 on YouTube. The deconverted was born into a Pentecostal tradition, baptized in the Holy Spirit and 'saved' on several occasions. He led a vibrant life dedicated to serving Jesus and doing His will. In a series of extremely well done videos, evid3nc3 puts forth something of a cumulative case in which he discusses the various 'nodes' that formed his overall belief structure and then narrates us through why each eventually failed to be convincing. The deconversion itself takes place through a surprising series of events while evid3nc3 was in college.

Link

Contributed by Hendy

30 comments:

mindyourmind said...

What an inspiring story. Well put together, very sincere and he is clearly very much in control of this difficult process.

This is a good example of how the deconversion process can, and should, be a positive, exiting journey of discovery and growth.

Russ said...

Hendy,
I'm glad you happened onto this series. Anyone can benefit from seeing this.

Thanks for sharing it.

Wesley said...

A calm and noble analysis of one de-conversion experience. The last one (Definitions of atheism) helped clarify in my own mind what is meant by atheism, agnosticism, non-theism, and the like.

Very interesting to see the response of thinking Christians to his story on the Youtube site. I don't see so much of the typical "you never were a real christian" nonsense that is usual with de-conversion stories.

Papalinton said...

Hi Hendy

Truly one of the best series of videos I have seen. Wonderfully inspiring. And thanks for posting the link here on DC.

Cheers

PPS Russ, thanks for the permission to use your word.

Cheers

goprairie said...
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goprairie said...

It disapointed me that in the end, instead of giving up on the idea of God totally, he felt the need to redefine it in order to cling to it.
And that he also attempted to redefine what 'know' and 'god' mean to deny anyome the atatus of 'strong atheist'.
Christians try to claim he was not one of them by playing with definitions. They look for some detail in his old beliefs or practices to claim he does not meet the definiton of Christian. Or they redefine a Christian as someone who cannot be deconverted. He was indeed a Christian by the accepted meaning of the word, and he will not allow them to redefine it to discredit him.
Yet, in the end he says we cannot prove there is no God so we cannot know so we cannot be a strong atheist.
Well, by the accepted meaning of 'know' and the accepted meaning of 'God', I KNOW there is no god. I AM a strong atheist.
I know there is no Santa. I do not have to look in every home and not find him to prove he does not exist to KNOW that. Santa is impossible. Santa is an elderly man who knows how kids are behaving and brings presents to the good ones on Xmas eve via a sleigh pulled by reindeer. There are enough things counter to reality there to KNOW it is made up. You might redefine "Santa" to be the desire of parents to motivate good behavior in December and reward that with a gift, and claim that yes, I do then believe in Santa, but come on, we just don't allow redefiniton of words that way. I KNOW indeed that Santa does not exist. Cannot exist.
I KNOW GOD does not exist. By the commonly agreed on meanings of "know" and "God".
I would have been far more impressed if he had had the maturity of thought to just plain give up on the concept of God totally, instead of redefining God into some 'everything in the univers' in order to cling to a shred of belief. That is not God, not an all knowing, all present, all powerful being. It is a vague redefiniton that is nonsense.
Some retreat God into the far reaches of what we don't know about physics and call it a life spark that started everything. Known as "God of the gaps", it allows smart scientists to cling to a shred of 'belief' while actually rejecting everything else about what we all know "God" really means. Such a god is irrelevant to us. It cannot be communicated with and it has no power anymore, if it once existed to 'spark'. This redefining is a useless mind game. Have the nerve to call it all bullshit and the courage to claim the title 'strong atheist'.

Hendy said...

@goprairie:

Good points, though I'm not sure I wholeheartedly agree. Though I'm far, far, far from working all of this out for myself, it would seem that even with the incredible advances science has made and predictions validated... it remains humbly open to new evidence, modified theories, and new concepts that more accurately describe the world.

The scientific method does not seem to do what you would suggest.

Do you see any analogy to your stance and, say, after Newtonian physics were developed stating that 'This is the best theory ever and everything else is and will be bullsh*t!'?

Instead, I concur that one may fully live life with a disposition that disbelieves all claims of an intervening god, yet accepts that to definitely prove it would be out of the realm of available options.

In this light, we proceed as best we can given the current evidence but never refuse to accept that better evidence may come along or that better theories may explain the evidence better in the future.

All in all, it's probably just some nuanced point that doesn't need so many words but I just wanted to add some thoughts.

@Others: glad you liked the video and I'm glad I found it too. I found it extremely helpful. I want to find out who that professor was/is!

goprairie said...

What wrong claim am I making about the scientific method?

The quesation is whether you can disprove something (no) and whether disproof is needed to clearly state that you do not believe it (no).

I think you can state disbelief even if you cannot prove nonexistance. If the parts of the alleged whole are inconsistent with each other, or if the thing is inconsistent with other known things, you can say it does not exist.

You cannot say that no gold deposits exist in the hills around Phoenix. You could never explore every inch. You can say that there is no water that turns to gold when you pray over it, because THAT is inconsistent with physics.

That is NOT the same as saying the current theory on anything is the end all be all. In every branch of science, new things are being discovered all the time. Human eveolution theory is being revised and modified as new fossils are found and as lingusitics are studied and as DNA of living people is studied and comapared to living primates.

The process is a continuum of modification and adjustment and generaly the new builds on the old, rather than comepletely replacing it.

And there is consistency. Geology is consisistent with evolutionery theory is consistent with chemistry is consistent with physics.

It is safe to say that based on what we know of gravity, for example, that we will never find a place on earth where water truly flows upward. If someone told you there was, you could safely "know" that was impossible.

All-knowing all-present all-powerful all-loving are self-inconsistent concepts and so it is safe to say no such being exists.
There is no consistent evidence.

Gravity is consistent everywhere with the theory and predictable.
People who claim to get messages from God get messages inconsistent with each other. A message receiving liberal lutheran might get a message to volunteer at the AIDS center and campaign for gay rights while a conservative born-again bible-literalist gets messages to declare gayness sinful. Those are not messages from God, obviously.
And if a shack in Alaska with a closet of red suits was found, it would not take away the FACT that allows one to KNOW Santa does not exist because one KNOWS the flying reindeer and the timing are inconsistent with physics.
We don't have to have existential conversations constantly about whether sound exists even if no one hears because we know how physics works. God is inconsistent with physics. Parts of the god definition are inconsistent with other parts.
I know there is no God and I know I know that, just as 3vid3nc3 knows he was a Christian and that he had an email conversation with a professor. Even if we are found to be living in come matrix and all of what we "know" an illusion, our 'creators' will turn out to be something very different from God as currently defined. Even if there was some unnamed undescribed starting force before the big bang, it will not be consistent with the defintion of God. What the world calls God, including all variants of it, are made up myth because there is no actual god meeting the generally agreed on definition or the millions of personally modified definitions.

Now explain to me why it is so very hard for so many to totally let go of the god idea: Why is there so much watering down and modifying and redefining? Why can't we just let it GO! We let flat earth go. We let chariots in the sky carryimg the sun and moon go. It's time for us to let God go.

Hendy said...

@goprairie:

I hear you. The first half of your response seems to support what I said, though:

"The quesation is whether you can disprove something (no) and whether disproof is needed to clearly state that you do not believe it (no)."

I see no difference there. Again, as I said, it's probably just a nuanced variance and can be shown by perhaps clarifying what the difference is between:

- not believing in it and
- KNOWING that it does not exist?

If there is no difference, then I suspect we are saying the same thing. Again, I think this is a very slight difference, but I do see a difference between:

- I know of no evidence or arguments that support the existence of an omni-max god and
- I absolutely know that no such being exists

Does that make sense?

I don't think it's a question of 'clinging' to the idea of god it's just a matter of what we can confidently assert based on the evidence we have.

goprairie said...

If a thing is POSSIBLE, then one must remain agnostic, because someone may find it somewhere eventually. A frog with 'clear' skin. I do not now know of such a thing, but from what I know of skin physiology, thin translucent skin on a frog may be possible.
If a thing is IMPOSSIBLE, then one can confidently say that it does not exist and will never be found.
A frog with feathered wings. Frog physiology would not permit such a thing. I know confidently such a thing will never be found.
Because I find that the aspects of god are in conflict with each other, I find the god concept to be of the latter type: Impossible and therefore, my 'knowledge' that god does not exist is possible.

Russ said...

goprairie,

I admit to being a bit disappointed too as he veered toward pantheism. Still he has confessed to having abandoned the notion of a personal god who tells lies about nature, tells people to fly planes into buildings, inspires inquisitions and the like.

I commend the young man. He is more intellectually mature and honest than the likes of William Lane Craig, for instance, who willfully rejects the observed state of the natural world, and, whose real comfort lies in a religious outlook which provides impermeable defenses from any expertise not endorsing his biases. Craig refuses to alter what he says to his audiences even though the world's best have exposed their flaws. I see this young fellow as markedly different from that, laudably different from that.

I've talked to others resolving their loss of religious faith who have used the redefining "god" approach so as to keep up a linguistic commonality with the language used by their still-religious family and friends. Say the word god and no one knows what you mean anyway. Amongst Yahwehist Christians, there exists so many formal and ad hoc definitions of God that the term is little more than a smokescreen. God talk is an delusionally imagined shared comfort: oooh, we're all saying the same word. Yet, from one mouth God means Yahweh; from another God means Jupiter or Vishnu or Jumboogoo.

You said,

Yet, in the end he says we cannot prove there is no God so we cannot know so we cannot be a strong atheist.

The definitional problem rears its head here, doesn't it: what is God? The God version that provides the focus of DebunkingChristianity has a specific definition. Concerning that God, I agree with Victor Stenger when he says that at some point the absence of evidence is evidence of absence. If some god was doing what religionists claim their gods do, we would see it. That we do not see it, demonstrates that that god isn't there.

If, for instance, a god is defined by a literal reading of the Bible then any variance of the Bible from what we know to be true disproves that defined god. What's more, if the Bible is the standard, apologetics are not allowed. So, a Bible-defined god is known not to exist.

Questions for you and Hendy. If I create a mythology all ornamented up with gods and the like, am I permitted to say it is provably not true from the start? If I put my statement that my wholly fabricated mythology is provably not true in writing, then later someone adopts it as a religion, does that negate the fact that it was once provably not true? Is my written statement made invalid because someone wants what I wrote to be true? Do we have the intellectual right to state that a religion based around science fiction is provably not true? Does the fact that someone decides to treat fantasy, known to have been created as fantasy, as real, mean that it then must be considered as possible, and thus undisprovable without knowing everything? What is the epistemological process whereby that which I purposely created as fantasy/science fiction has risen to the level of possible? Are we bound to the notion that anything a human mind conjures up must be accepted as possible? If not, where are we allowed to draw the line?

Hendy said...
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Hendy said...

@goprairie:

[[weird... my first post got cut in half... here goes again]]

Absolutely. Keep in mind that I've been doubting for about 7mos but have not made it to the point of a full declaration of atheism or agnosticism.

If I understand you correctly, then, you are a proponent of deductive arguments against god, correct?

Somewhat like those discussed in the first two minutes of THIS?

If so, then I agree that you are sound in declaring that the logically impossible cannot possibly exist. I'm not uber-familiar with deductive arguments against god; at one point I ran across an entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy which discussed them and it wasn't clear whether they were absolutely effective. Theists, for example, have redefined omniscience to include only that which is logically possible.

Other examples like a 'changeless mind' or a 'changeless creator' or an 'omniscient intervener/creator' definitely strike me as problematic but I haven't really delved in.

Lacking effective deductive arguments, many proceed to inductive which, by definition, can always been proven false in light of counter-evidence. This was my point about being fully able to proceed in disbelief but not necessarily declared non-existence. If sustained by induction, then it's at least conceivable to be proven wrong if, say, the world actually did end on May 21, 2011.

Thanks for the continued discussion.

Russ said...

(Sorry for the strange split comment, but blogger has been giving me an error message each time I try to comment, so I'm not sure when or if they are going through.)

What I was saying ...

If I create a god right now and tell you so, my Jumboogoo from above for example, are you obliged to treat it as belonging among the following pair of Hendy's nuances?


- I know of no evidence or arguments that support the existence of an omni-max god and
- I absolutely know that no such being exists


Or are you allowed, knowing it not to be true, to say as much? Is it an intellectually legitimate stance to claim agnosticism? Are all notions to be taken as legitimate possibilities, since one could always imagine a god, working in its notoriously fabled "mysterious" ways, to have caused someone to have written out accurate accounts of world which the writer only imagined were fictions? And, how far must one go to create an umbrella large enough that any and all ideas can be said to be possible?

To me gods are explanatory fantasy/fiction narratives that have been falsely held up as possible only through the force of those who benefit -- like the intellectually dishonest William Lane Craig. I don't see them as validly possible.

It's not a fallacy for me to say that something is not true when I have made it up. It's not a fallacy for me to say it's not true when I've made it up, even though others claim it to be true. It's not a fallacy for me to say that someone else's fiction is not true even if they claim it to be true themselves. It's not a fallacy for me to say that someone else's fiction is not true, even when they truly believe it to be true through ignorance, whether their own or another's.

When we research religions we see that the narratives in their holy books are migratory word-of-mouth tales, like my imagined fiction above, which were at some point scribbled down, then, as in the case of the Bible, eventually some vested parties sat about deciding: this one is true, this one is not. They made it up; it's fiction. Treated by some as somehow special, but fiction nonetheless. In the same way that I say that the fiction I write is not true, no matter how someone else treats it, I also say that the fictional works compiled in the Bible are not true. The convergence of many sciences shows that to be the case. I am under no obligation, not even some hanging-by-a-thread philosophical argument, to accept it as possible. Centuries of fine philosophy lending credence to Adam and Eve, geocentrism, perfectly circular planetary orbits and demon theory of disease all went right in the dumpster on the basis of empirical results. Gods deserve no less fitting an end.

Hendy said...

@Russ:

Great points and I definitely don't have all the answers. I have held all along that this is probably a ridiculously minute nuanced point... but only failed to see the basis for the [what I took to be a] very strong reaction against evid3nc3's position.

I am quite new to thinking about all of this, but still see a difference between saying that one knows all possible things and no god exists vs. knowing of no convincing evidence at the present moment to support such a being.

I may not be a reliable discusser of these things as I'm still wrestling with the basic evidence myself and am not certain on my conclusion. I'm a bit obsessive and scrupulous and thus definitely have some self-doubts still present... ("Am I just missing something?", "Am I just hard of heart?", "Could this be true?", "Could there be reasons for evil and explanations for biblical inconsistencies/issues?"... stuff like that).

I will say that I find it increasingly unlikely that I will find answers that satisfy me about all of my objections and doubts about the truth of Christianity. Anyway, I may just play spectator as you and goprairie discuss this :)

goprairie said...

It's 92 in the shade and I am waiting for the wind to go down so I can paddle my boat on the lake and I am waaaaaayyyyyyy to lazy to digest all that.
Let me just say it goes to relevance.
The POINT in having a religion as opposed to, say, a social club based on a shared hobby is to interact with the god of that religion.
From observation, two of the most important practices to religious people are to have a creator to be thankful to in those moments of awe at a beautiful view or when a kid does something adorable that meks you smile, and to ask for assistance from, such as praying for a friend going into surgery or for safety while traveling.
A god who made it all and set it in motion is not going to fix things for you and likely cares little for the thanks.
That sort of god is IRRELEVANT.
Most of the sorts of watered down gods that people invent in when they agree that the literal stuff cannot ever make sense turn out to be irrelevant.
Or people might say there is that opposite negative force that keeps god from fixing things, and if that is so, then how is that god going to claim you in the afterlife if he doesn't have the power against that force to fix things for you now. Again, that powerless-now god is irrelevant because it will likely be powerless later.
Let's take the afterlife stuff. Any version of it that people have in their head probably simnply can't be. If I get to see my dead grandma, what if what my dead grandma wants out of heaven is to be left alone to play pinnocle all of eternity? What if I want to be reunited with my hubby and my little dog Fluffy and my hubby wants a life free of that damn varmint? If god can't even communitcate with us enough to give us a clear version of what heaven is, can he guarantee us a place there based on what religion we profess at our moment of death? It's all just so convoluted as to be . . . irrelevant.
On the other hand, it messes with us every day. Ridiculous travesties are done to women and gays because of it. What does all the believing in such illogical convoluted stuff do to our ability to engage in truly scientific thought? Isn't it causing us to have handicapped thinking, really? We are taught to be 'tolerant' but at what cost? We can't do certain things on Sundays, depending on where we live, we have god in our pledge and on our money and we are asked to swear and ask god for help in telling the truth in court. Our whole annual economy is skewed because no one has the conviction to stop celebrating Christmas with gifts, a ritual likely based on a totally made up story. We have Christmas parties at work and school and are essentially forced by social pressure to participate. Even renamed 'holiday' or 'winter' parties, we know what they are: Christmas.
It has to be pushed back until it is a private thing that people are free to do in their homes and their clubhouses, but it needs to get out of our faces in public and in government and at work and in government services such as policing and educating and health services. There needs to be enough of a visible vocal critical mass of NONRELIGIOUS people that we stop talking about freedom to practice whatever religion we want to genuine freedom, legally and socially, to NOT practice ANY religion at all. Freedom of religion needs to be converted to freedom FROM religion, so that religion is a private personal thing. We are a long way from there.

goprairie said...

Russ
Some points:
Regarding the adoption of a 'god of the gaps' type definition to 'fit in': I see this religion this as sort of a civil rights type thing. Having a religion is assumed to be the default and being religious in some way is assumed to be good. But in that the claims of religion are self-conflicting and therefore impossible, should be allow society to get away with that? Shouldn't we stand up to it and 'come out' as atheists to that our true numbers can be seen and those 'on the fence' can have the courage to give up the silliness? Maybe the subtle and not so subtle discrimination against the non-religious is not as serious as racism or sexism, or maybe it IS! WHAT IF such sloppy thinking really DOES mess up our ability to understand science or invent things that work well? WHAT IF being religious actually makes us LESS MORAL? I understand wanthing to fit in, but at some point, fitting in is the irresponsible thing to do, like letting the racist joke or the sexist statement go in order to not make waves was wrong.
Gay rights is a big deal to me, and religion is the main reason gays do not have equal rights. Is that not reason enough to ask people who are atheists to just admit it?
On the question of treating made up things as possibly true, I am not sure where you are going with that. I find society has far too much tolerance for bullshit. We talk of the end of the rainbow as tho it were a real physical place, and does that mess up a kid's understanding of the physics of light? We publish horoscopes in newspapers and magazines at tho there were some SHRED of possible credence to them. Doesn't that assumption that the alignment of planets at one's birth could have anything to do with what is going to happen to one today just totally a mindfuck? Even within religion, there is sloppiness. MOST denominations agree that Adam and Eve were not literal, but the idea that Eve was made of Adams rib and that she corrupted innocent Adam are threads that run in our brains and let us treat women as lesser humans, still making 85 cents to the dollar that men make. Every mention of Adam or Eve should be soundly mocked until that myth is edited out of our thinking. And no, not everything that can be thought up is possible. It is possible to think of water flowing up and a hand pushing through a wall, but reality does exist. There have been no actual miracles. THere have been no actual exceptions to the laws of physics. Just because the mind can think it up does not mean it is ever possible.
At least not in terms of working definitions. A frog with wings could evolve if a 6 limbed subspecies became stable for long enough to evolve one set into wings. But not in the foreseable future. The 4 limbedness of frogs is fixed. For now. For all practical purposes. You canm get into philosophical discussions of whether we could just be sombody's computer simulation, but if we are, there are still rules of what is possible. And possibility anmd reality are all that are relevant to us.

goprairie said...

Hendy - If some religious sect says the world will end on May X, and something catastrophic does happen on that date, that does not in any way prove that their religion is correct. THere could be any of thousands of reasons the catastrophe happend, and in fact, more likley reasons than their god. This happens today. Did you follow the Lakeland, Florida nonsense? Tens of thousands flocked to Lakeland to hear some hoodoo preach. At each meeting, some claimed to be healed, cured. People in wheelchairs would stand momentarily, and claim healing, yet that did not prove their god existed or intervened. Indeed, they usually had to be helped back into their chairs and wheeled of stage and never stood again. Because many wheelchair bound can actually occasionally if they try really hard, stand for a short while. But they don't because the effort is not worth it and it cannot be sustained long enough to be useful. But they BELIEVED they were cured. There were more looney examples - a woman claiming her physical deformity was healed yet it was obviously visibly still there. Things happened there, yes, people were put into certain psychological states with the repetitive singing and swaying and their minds played tricks on them. It did not prove 'god' but it proved how certain things can be done to the human brain to make people beleive certian things. So if a nuclear bomb went off or there was a hurricane, it would be a coincidence. But they would claim it proved their god existed. If nothing happens on May X, the claim an error in calculation and make up another date in the future. People pray for sick friends and their friends get better. That does not prove god listened or did anything. The healing has a thousand possible other more logical reational causes: The body's own defenses and healing, the work of doctors or medicine, a change in diet, and so on. People believe prayer works but that does not mean it really does, and if you pray to win the lottery, and you do, that is not proof god exists. People have faulty concepts of cause and effect and of causality and of statistics and it allows all sorts of wacky 'proofs' that lead to all sorts of sacky beleifs.

Russ said...

goprairie, Hendy,

Please forgive me if my split comment was too much stream of consciousness and not enough more to the point.

To the point of the post topic, which also relates to some of your comments to each other earlier, I this young man does have a fantastic story of deconversion. His narrative is well written, organized, produced and engineered, making it engaging as well as nicely constructed. It's obvious that a lot of work went into putting it together and that he was highly motivated to do it. Again, Hendy, it's fortunate for us that you found it and shared it with us. If it had been typical youtube fare it would not have goaded you into singling it out here at DebunkingChristianity.

There were only a few notes I made while watching the series where I think he could have made better choices, or, if not better, then, ones that subjective little ol' me might have preferred. But, it was his gig, not mine, and it's clear to me that his choices were intentional. The things I might have preferred to be different did not detract from his fantastic story.

One niggle I had concerned his inclusion of pantheism which the two of you interacted on earlier. While I think I might have a sense for why he put it in, it really felt as though it did not belong on that trajectory. It seemed to me he was following a course, as goprairie has pointed out, which pantheism could not have been on. I was wrong, then, wasn't I?

Another slight misgiving I had involved his discussion of "silver bullets," single ideas which defeat the notion of gods. He says there can be no single idea which disproves the existence of gods. I disagree.

As I mentioned above, when we're told that a god says only truths, when we catch it saying something untrue, the truth-telling god is gone. The apologists will bring out the fog machines to obscure it; they will rearrange their mirrors to avert our attention; and, they will try to distract us completely from the falsehood by running off to Philosophy Swamp. What they cannot do, however, is rescue that version of a god. They cannot simply restate a lie or dress it up, and have it transform into a truth.

Christians use use silver bullets all the time to knock off gods: "it's not Christianity" is the silver bullet that kills the Hindu gods. Bang! they're dead. The silver bullet of "it's not the right Christianity" annihilates the version of a Christain god embraced by a different Christian sect. "My god would not send people to hell" is the silver bullet that destroys the god that does. So, the religious themselves use silver bullets all the time.

There are a few others, but they're similarly trivial.

Russ said...

goprairie, I'm in Lansing, MI. I'm getting your 92 in the shade today.

You said,

On the question of treating made up things as possibly true, I am not sure where you are going with that.

My point is that there exists no reason at all to include gods among the things we consider possible. Man's stories about gods are simply fairy tales run amok. Ask a given Christian if Thor is fact or fiction. They will agree with you and concur with other Christians that Thor is fiction. They will follow your lead in assigning "fiction" to all gods but their own preferred version of a god, even to the extent of gunning down other Christian gods with some denomination- or congregation-specific silver bullet.

Believers of all stripes fully agree with you and I and Hendy that other people's gods are fictions. Moreover, we can track the historical development of gods, see how they've come and gone, see that they have no powers of any kind, and see how they quitely and inconsequentially receed into the background when we banish them to mythology texts. The complete bodies of Christianity's holy books grew out of the rich and ancient mythologies nurtured and traded within a few days sail or a few weeks walk of what is Israel today. There is nothing original in them and the source texts are labeled fiction - myth, legend, fable, fairy story, tall tale.

So, I ask the question: why do we consider gods among what we think is possible? Are they really possible? Every god man has ever let die, went peacefully. They were said to be powerful, but could do nothing in their own defense. Without exception, every god today took root in mythology and is observed to be sustained only by religion-specific superstitious behaviors.

Today's thousand plus actively worshiped gods all behave exactly as superstition would predict. People do a bunch of work -- good, not so good or despicable, and by the dictates that sustain their superstitions, they say their god did it, or that what they did could not possibly have been done without their god.

Gods are imagined people with a variety of imagined powers. So, again, I ask: why do we include gods among what we think is possible?

Russ said...

Hendy said,

I will say that I find it increasingly unlikely that I will find answers that satisfy me about all of my objections and doubts about the truth of Christianity.

As I regularly point out, Hendy, if Christianity was true, as claimed, we'd see it now, and we would see that it afforded something special to its followers in the past. Neither is the case.

I think it's comical to think that while Americans sway along to cherished hymns telling them how much Jesus loves them and provides for them, tens of millions of them are poor, hungry and have no access to health care without worsening their financial woes. In Scandinavia where Jesus isn't so important, but actually taking care each other is, the standard of living is higher, people are healthier and happier with their lives. I know you're aware of these things, Hendy, but to many a Christian, addicted in some sense to the tradition, they really believe -- they've been trained to believe -- that being Christian makes the world as good as it can get, regardless of how evidence shows that isn't the case.

More than forty years ago, I stopped thinking Christianity was true. Too much of it ran counter to the facts I could discover in reference works. There were far too many things that were flat-out wrong for what it taught to be the work of a god. Social studies classes showed me that people were making clay pottery and using irrigation long before Christians say the world existed. Things didn't jibe, and it was Christianity that deviated from the story that history and science had to tell. Christianity was wrong.

Later, due entirely to the irresistible attractiveness of a young woman, I tried it on again, only to find that those Christianities competing with the literalist views I had already rejected, simply shifted their absurdities away from the obvious. I suspect there were times when certain biological experiences could have had me praising Jesus - say Hallelujah! or Allahu Akbar or sing with a frumious bandersnatch, for that matter. But, alas, as much as I wanted her I was sure I would choke on the religious quaff I'd regularly have to swallow. Couldn't do it.

Over the years I've researched the miracle claims made by the religious, only to find them to be fashioned from the same habits and mindsets that serve as life support for the superstitions. Tradition, revelation and authority transform ignorance, misunderstanding, medical misdiagnosis and wanton obsequiousness into something precious, even divine. Many times I've found myself having to cover my laughter when faced with the ingrained stupidity used in justifying a miracle claim.

Hendy, when you said, "I find it increasingly unlikely that I will find answers," my first thought was I hope you don't waste too much time trying. Sure, it's nice to look into the latest greatest "proof" for the existence of some god, and search out every subtle flaw, but there is a lot more to life than the faint hope that someone will finally do what thousands of years and millions of thinkers have never done: give us a reason to think that gods are possible.

Hendy said...

@goprairie:

I think we're probably discussing a very minute point. I'm not sure that I'll have my mind changed at this point at least. I'm fully supportive of the statement, 'I do not have any reason or evidence to supposed that X exists' but still have [possibly unjustified] hesitation in making the move to 'I know that X does note exist.'

As I already pointed out, exceptions to this would be members of the logically impossible category like square circles and such...

I cited the May thing mostly as a comedic bit, but did want to point out that I would not believe were a natural disaster to strike. I'm talking about if at 12AM on whatever date that was people all over the world started literally disappearing like some rapture scene from the Left Behind series... that would absolutely give me reason to rethink my position.

Hendy said...

@Russ:

Thanks for your comments. I would say that I'm in a definite conundrum of sorts... I disbelieve entirely with my intellect but fear walking away without fully giving it my best shot.

Too keep this brief and simple, simply take OT violence. I cannot see any answer coming about that I will accept to convince me of the following:
- justified reasons exist for what is documented
- it wasn't really god doing those things (that contradicts the Bible being inspired for one... at least I think, and secondly would shed doubt on other acts attributed to god... why not another god doing miracles, for example)
- times were different (god's morality cannot, by definition, change)
- and so on... I'm sure you're familiar

If even this one point is valid... Christianity fails. Plain and simple. Thus, I tend to agree with you that there are silver bullets. I do think, however, that other 'network notes' (like peer support) can prevent one from realizing that they've been pumped full of objective-fact-filled silver bullets...

Anyway, I'm sort of stuck as I still wrestle with whether I should find anything satisfactory in apologetics about OT violence, for example. There are apologetics presented... but they just don't satisfy me. Is that my fault? If it is, it feels like my options are to be intellectually honest or to simply accept the cardboard cutout answer and go off into the dark while whistling to myself.

Then again, there's the ever constant mindf*(# I encounter when others tell me I simply can't understand and won't understand... quite a trip it's been!

I would absolutely love to carry on a discussion via email (just to avoid cluttering up DC) where perhaps I can fire off thoughts to you for opinions. It seems that you have quite the time of experience under your belt so perhaps you can serve as a sounding board for various thoughts?

Let me know... jw [dot] hendy [at] gmail [dot] com.

Russ said...

Hendy,

None of us understands the context of anyone else's life, and I surely do not grasp in the slightest of ways the context of yours. Please don't think that in what I've said in my comments here that I'm advocating for you to walk away or otherwise disrupt your life. For most people the contexts of their lives actively work to suppress paradoxes and difficulties. People's religious contexts deliberately exclude many types of personal and intellectual exploration with their one size fits all boilerplate.

I think it's an interesting aside that while none of us can know the full context of anyone else's life, religions make the claim that do.

You said,
I would say that I'm in a definite conundrum of sorts... I disbelieve entirely with my intellect but fear walking away without fully giving it my best shot.


Like you Evid3nc3, wanted to give it his best shot. For him giving "it" his "best shot" meant he was certain to bring the professor back to the fold. Given that you confess to being "obsessive" and "scrupulous" I wonder when you say you "fear walking away without fully giving it my best shot" what is your it and what is your best shot. Considering these might make good posts.

If your it encompasses all religion as opposed to only all the Christianities your approach will be different. If your it is restricted to the Christianities, it would interest some to know why. In your comment you mentioned the OT and Christian apologetics so I seems you might be restricting yourself to one or more of the Christianities.

Working through "best shot" depends on what your it actually consists of, how encompassing you allow it to be, as well as the extent to which you can fully abandon yourself to it as many have through the ages, without resolution, I might add. It's easy to run at such a huge undertaking full speed ahead and fail to recognize that the point of diminishing return came before the divorce, before the estranged children and before all your friends stopped calling.

You said,

I do think, however, that other 'network notes' (like peer support) can prevent one from realizing that they've been pumped full of objective-fact-filled silver bullets...

To obscure one's vision from the plain facts before them is the highest objective of religion. Ideologies in general, but religions in particular, want to dictate to you what your senses are telling you, to define "truth" to you, and induce to reject objective measures of the world you live in. Religion can't survive in the real world, so they throw it away, jettisoning in one fell swoop anything conflicting with them, including other religions.

About apologetics: how many conflicting versions would you need to consider to have given it your best shot? Five? Ten? All of the thousands that have ever been written about a particular religious idea? Once you've perused them all how will you isolate the true one; will you follow the time-honored tradition of rejecting them all and making up your own version; or, will you simply reject them all?

Russ said...

Hendy,
You said,

There are apologetics presented... but they just don't satisfy me. Is that my fault?

No, it's not your fault. Gods are imaginary. Different imaginations scrounge up different gods, put different words in their mouths, and assign different meanings to those words. To me this is one more silver bullet. The only reason the One True God of Christianity speaks radically different things to different Christians is that the words ascribed to the One True God are created by different imaginations taking their inspiration and motivation from differing life contexts. Hendy, this One True God actually gives the different Christians contradictory means to salvation.

Science shows that the god concept serves only as a backdrop of power and authority onto which believers scrawl out the way they want the world to be. Science shows that when religious believers change their minds, their god does too. In a comment to me Randal Rauser told me outright that he has changed his mind on eternal torment, his god no longer is conceived that way, and that now when he addresses audiences, his new god and improved god is the one he espouses. It is all make believe.

Remember, no one studies gods, gods never reveal themselves. What is studied is previous scholarship about concepts of gods.

You said,

If it is, it feels like my options are to be intellectually honest or to simply accept the cardboard cutout answer and go off into the dark while whistling to myself.

Nothing wrong with whistling, even in the dark. As I see it, intellectual honesty tells me that everyone makes their own cardboard cutout. If I were a believer, I would be no different. The problem, the real conundrum, lies in the concept itself and its inherent dependence on the variability, creativity, fertility and malleability of the garden of the gods, the human mind. Social strictures can force large fractions of populations to adopt a particular name for a god, but meaning of a word involves a person's life context. Social strictures, however tightly imposed, can not constrain the needs, wants, and desires of the individual nor their willingness to impress their own ideas on others under the guise of a god. Socially people regularly ignore others, but in the social context of religion, gods are not to be ignored.

You said,

Then again, there's the ever constant mindf*(# I encounter when others tell me I simply can't understand and won't understand... quite a trip it's been!

Isn't it convenient -- as well as advantageous for religion -- that they can pigeonhole you along with everyone else. But, what they say is trivially true in the sense that no one lives a life long enough to read the myriad apologetics that conflict and contradict one another.

Sorry I further cluttered up DebunkingChristianity. I guess I thought that the deconversion story of Evid3nc3 created a context appropriate for such discussion. I know we live in a sound-byte world and that few want anything more than that. Ironically, while religions rail against such things, nowhere is a sound-byte culture more heavily promoted than in the chapter and verse platitudinal one-liners of religion.

All the best,

Russ

Hendy said...

@Russ:

Hopefully John doesn't mind. I certainly don't mind the 'clutter.' It's wonderful to have a place of discussion. I was talking to my wife about the rather isolated-ness this has led me to feel and said that sometimes I don't feel that I can really get out what I think about anywhere other than on blogs!

That halfways sounds sad, but the issue is not that I couldn't state it elsewhere, it's just that a) no one in my circles would just listen and dialog supportively and b) I don't particularly expect a believer to spend time with me entertaining the credibility of my various doubts!

As I was thinking about this further, an idea popped up to describe the phenomenon. I said that with the exception of about 4-6 people (some are iffy), no one seems to be 'Pro-Hendy'. Everyone seems to be 'pro-aspect-of-Hendy' or 'pro-certain-variant-of-possible-Hendys' or something similar.

Does that make sense?

Other than my parents and brother (3 of the 4-6) no one has really just encouraged me to seek truth wherever it leads and that's what I sought out to do. I stumbled on Eliezer Yudkowsky's page after finding and exploring the LessWrong Wiki and just love his statements.

My two favorites have been:

- "That which can be destroyed by truth should be" -- P.C. Hodgell

- "What is true is already so.
Owning up to it doesn't make it worse.
Not being open about it doesn't make it go away.
And because it's true, it is what is there to be interacted with.
Anything untrue isn't there to be lived.
People can stand what is true,
for they are already enduring it."

-- Litany of Gendlin

In any case, I find these very inspiring and wonderful, and believe my desire to learn and get all the facts on the table was in order to believe in the truest thing I could find.

I had faith in god when I began, for:
- if god is the source of truth, how can I not arrive back at him?
- why would god desire to stop me from seeking truth?

I state this as it has been difficult to pinpoint what I have done wrong in my questioning (obviously you and I would say, "Nothing"), yet it has very much felt like none around me support the effort. They say I should have 'stayed within the bubble rather than stepped outside of it' and that I should have 'had faith seeking understanding.' I don't get it as those things most true in life seem to converge on an answer regardless of from which side one approaches.

What makes this difficult, then, is to sense something in me hunting for answers but to not be loved by those who form my network of close relationships. Again, only my parents and brother (non-believers...) have said with their words and actions: "Hendy, seek and keep seeking. I support your efforts and you will be a better man because of it." Instead, I perceive a half-hearted bit of support. People want me to find answers but only if they are from particular sources and only if it reunites me with Christianity.

More on your particular questions in the post to follow...

Hendy said...

@Russ:

Onto your specific questions...

Christianity in particular or all religions?

I'm interested in both, but you definitely pick up correctly that Christianity, specifically Catholicism, is my primary focus. You have a good point. Why play favorites or decide that if Christianity fails, all religions fail?

I don't know that I have answer to that. To be fair, I should look into others, though my intuitions are that my objections are probably more toward the improbability of any revealed religion that makes truth claims about the world. Therefore, were any of them to be true, I would expect to see at least some evidence of, say, miracles, positive benefits for believers vs. nonbelievers, historically accurate accounts, etc.

If a religion makes no real truth claims like deism, or seems to represent more of a philosophy like Buddhism... it would either 1) be inconsequential to life or 2) deserve consideration from a life-approach standpoint but not from a does-this-god-really-do-stuff standpoint.

What is considered a 'best shot'?

Great question and I really don't know. I've signed up for the Ultimate Truth-Seeker Challenge (Easy Version) and wonder if that should suffice. I also set a deadline of Christmas, which will mark 1 year since my doubt began. I considered 1 year a reasonable time for me to decide.

Lest believers state that I can't 'put a timeline on god', I would simply pointed out that it's the same method I used when discerning my vocation to marry my wife. Having no reasons not to move forward I simply set a deadline and decided that if god didn't stop me I was moving forward.

This is like that and it's somewhat of a counteracting measure for my scrupulosity. These 7mos have been agonizing and I just need to be done with the 'decision' part. I want to continue learning my whole life and if something should make me change my mind later... fine. But I need enough to move down one of the forks intentionally and deliberately.

I do not think it's unreasonable to have established a deadline and stated as much to my Christian men's group. The group leader asked, 'So, if nothing changes between now and then, what does that mean? Are you staying or walking away?' I responded, 'If nothing were to change between now and then, it would be a decision to walk away.'

I'm hoping to finish those books by them, or at least most of them...

Thanks for the continued discussion and thoughts. If you want to carry on via email, it's at the end of the posts you were responding to.

Anonymous said...

Not sure how many of you are aware of this, but Evid3nc3's video series is a work in progress. His "veering into pantheism" just happens to be the latest video, but it isn't the last. It usually takes him a month (or more) to finish one, so it's slow going.

Evid3nc3 is NOT a pantheist, he's an atheist. The latest video is not his current thinking.

Some of you probably know this, but I thought I should spell it out for those who don't.

Russ said...

Hendy,
I will contact you at
jw [dot] hendy [at] gmail [dot] com

That you're taking the Ultimate Truth-Seeker Challenge (Easy Version) tells me something significant about where you stand in relation to the god concept. Above I noted,

Remember, no one studies gods, gods never reveal themselves. What is studied is previous scholarship about concepts of gods.

As I see it by taking the rather grandiosly-named Ultimate Truth-Seeker Challenge (Easy Version) you are making the simple admission that there is no god working to convince you that the oh so many wonderful claims made for it are true. So, you turn to other's work, not on gods themselves, but to the ways others have conceived, read that "imagined," them to be -- how they operate and what they think those gods are telling us to do. Isn't that telling us in some substantial way that you already know that the book that some god it said to have written only speaks to you through professional mediums, and thus is not speaking to you at all. That god speaks only to professionals, but not to the great mass of humanity for whom we are also told the book was to have been written.

I hope we can volley this about a while longer. As I said I will e-mail you.

Russ

Hendy said...

@Russ:

Thanks for the thoughts. I would love to continue via email. What, then, do you see as the 'camps' one may fall in?

1) perceiving that god has revealed himself personally and using knowledge to boost that perception

2) simply studying to manifest belief when belief is not possible through study?

Just curious about what you think is the 'alternative' to where a person might be if they were not taking T-S Challenge.

I have tried to pray during this time as well but am in a difficult place. The intellectual disbelief is so high that it's difficult to 'cultivate' any belief in praying... thus my prayers are essentially, 'Jesus how can I know you?', 'Jesus, give me something I can't deny' and so on.

If you are pointing out the difference between scholarship and having a personal relationship and using the lack of evidence for the latter as grounds to dismiss god's activity... then I would agree. It is difficult to conceive of a god who would give evidence of his revelation no more convincing than that of 'rival' gods and let people be so hopelessly hoodwinked by false deities.

It would make me (and does as this 'quest' is miserable at times) angry as a believer in a way to know that my evidence was literally no more convincing than a religion founded on golden plates in 1850. If the vast numbers of religions are not overwhelming evidence toward the general susceptibility of the human race for immense falsehood... I don't know what is. I believe it should give current believers pause to contemplate that fact.