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    •   By the way @Jon that's a logical fallacy *wink wink*
    • Ok, thanks again BAA, and I don't mean to keep interrupting your intellectual discussion with questions and observations that appear trivial in comparison. It is an interesting discussion, and I am researching all of it and attempting to follow it at my own level. (Josh, I see your point about looking for an alternative - it makes more sense from that perspective).   I wanted to clear up your statements, BAA, mainly because my own understanding of forgiveness and love pertains to animals and plants as well as all matter in much the same way as it pertains to our relationship with humanity. But I'm pretty sure now that you already take that as a given, even though you don't mention it here.   I want to clear something else up here, too. I can grasp the concepts that you're talking about, but only to a certain extent, and I certainly can't offer an alternative way of looking at it at this level (sorry Josh). I'm reserving judgement either way because: firstly, I don't think I'm intellectually qualified to weigh in; and secondly, those who sound more qualified can't reach an agreement, and likely never will. But that doesn't mean I am ignoring the debate going on around me, and I don't think I should just shut up and let the big people talk. The purpose of these discussions is to be able to apply it to our own reasoning, to how we think and act in our lives, and also to adjust our own preconceived belief and assumptions. So I'm trying to fill in the gaps from my own intellectual position. For what it's worth I did study Calculus and Trig in high school, even though I barely managed to pass and never used it since, but looking back I think the experience taught me more about my cognitive ability (and lack thereof) than it did about mathematics. I could actually understand the concepts and even do the examples, but in a test situation I struggled to apply the concepts correctly and couldn't see where my errors were until they were pointed out. I'm beyond caring how smart you think I am - I mention this because I recognise that my level of cognitive ability allows me to be aware of and even know how these abstract concepts work, but unfortunately I need some help to explain how it applies to what this brain of mine can actually control (i.e. my thoughts and actions), and at a slightly less intellectual level. So when your real-life application assumes my brain's ability to broaden the concept and then apply it to everything else, you actually fail to provide a complete workable theory for the majority of the population, and create a gap in our understanding. And don't think others aren't reading this and trying to learn from it just because they haven't contributed to the discussion. Personally I'm not afraid to sound like an idiot in order to clarify the concept for others who might be struggling to grasp or apply it. I'm letting the waves of condescension roll over me, and just trying to keep my head above the water... My husband is a specialist mathematics teacher at high school, and he has pointed out that the majority of the population do not, and likely never will, have sufficient cognitive ability to grasp and independently apply concepts that are this abstract, no matter how much effort they put in. So when we think we get it, but then in application demonstrate that we clearly don't get it, try not to get too frustrated. The onus is actually on you guys to explain the broadness of the concept at a range of intellectual levels, rather than expect the rest of us to just get smarter. Otherwise you unintentionally either lead us down the wrong path (eg. to assume that we only have to live for ourselves) or you leave us behind, clinging to the misguided beliefs and assumptions that we already know how to apply to our thoughts and actions. For what it's worth, I think this is the biggest problem with the bible, but that's another discussion.   So try not to dismiss my ramblings as a statement of the obvious, and consider them as an attempt at a less intellectual method of applying of the same concept. Just kindly let me know if I'm on the right track or not. And I'll try not to sound like an apologist when I play the devil's advocate...   I think the Golden Rule (without applying the concepts of determinism or free will) can be effective at some levels, but it only applies if we find value in the relationship between ourselves and the person who hurt us. If it matters to you to receive love and forgiveness from that person, then you would be more willing to love and forgive them according to the Golden Rule. If, on the other hand, that person is a stranger, an outsider, or a faceless name on the Internet, for instance, then the potential love and forgiveness they offer seems to hold less value, and therefore the Golden Rule has less impact on our willingness to forgive. Also, forgiveness and love may be more difficult to feel like we can freely choose than the Golden Rule suggests, depending on the extent of the injury felt. There would be other factors involved, but let's just look at these two, otherwise I'll be here all day.   So the Golden Rule appears to lose its effectiveness relative to the value of the relationship, as well as to the seriousness of the injury - unless you can apply the concept of determinism. Because in addition to employing the Golden Rule, we need to recognise that the actions of others are less a product of intended harm than of a combination of circumstances, life experiences and resulting beliefs and assumptions.   I'm going to share a subjective experience here, relating to forgiveness and love. About three years ago I plunged into a personal crisis that was endangering my 18 year marriage. The crisis had actually been there the whole time, but an unrelated crisis in my husband's family brought it to the fore. While it might have been easier to give up on the marriage, to admit that I didn't think I loved him enough, or to embark on an affair (trust me, I was exploring the options), I chose instead to explore the possibility that this personal crisis was arising from possible misguided beliefs and assumptions I had about sexuality. Because in the midst of a childhood filled with catholic ignorance and readily associating sexuality with shame, I had also been subjected to a handful of incidents that I would describe as mild sexual abuse by my brother over four years beginning in early adolescence. I never told anyone (except my husband much later) and I thought I had emerged unscathed, but there was a hidden impact resonating through all my relationships, that had a lot to do with misguided judgement. I am not, by nature, a confrontational person, so the process by which I came through this crisis was mostly internal and involved plenty of journaling and learning about sexuality from a broader perspective. The potential to negatively impact my entire family (including my children) was very real, so for that reason I didn't think it was fair to bring it all out in the open and let punishment (legal or otherwise) do its work. But I certainly don't think the Golden Rule would have inspired me to forgive anyone (including myself) at the time. My process towards forgiveness involved developing awareness, knowledge and understanding - without judgement - of the circumstances and life experiences that contributed firstly to my own beliefs and assumptions in relation to my marriage, to sexual relationships in general and to what happened to me, then those that contributed to my brother's beliefs and assumptions, and resulting thoughts and actions at the time, and finally those that contributed to my parents', even all the way back into their own childhood experiences. The more I discovered and understood about the cause and effect relationships involved, the more it helped me, not to absolve anyone of responsibility, but to see that their individual agency (and mine) in what transpired was much smaller than it first appeared, and that none of us deserved the full extent of the blame I had been attributing. It was an informed compassion for their circumstances (and mine) that allowed me to forgive. I have since written letters of acknowledgement and forgiveness to both my father and brother that I have not mailed (my father has since passed away), and my relationship with my husband has never been stronger or healthier.   But this means that we also need to apply the concept of free will (as in our ability to choose thoughts and actions based on intellectual reasoning rather than led purely by emotion), regardless of how futile it might appear at the universal (or multi-universal) level. Because we will not stop or prevent cycles of abuse, injury and violence, or the resulting shame and silent oppression, by simply choosing forgiveness and love enforced by the Golden Rule, but by also choosing to develop awareness, seek knowledge and strive for understanding - that is, by combining compassion and reasoning free of judgement, boundaries and limitations.   Am I close?
    • Willful denial, indeed.   I would honestly give ANYTHING to get the last year obliviated (Potter fans will get it) from my mind if it were possible.   I never WANTED to abandon an entire worldview and nearly 20 years of commitment to a belief that my life and my choices mattered on a cosmic level in a 'war' against the 'powers and principalities'.   I never WANTED to be totally alone, with no friends - not one person has reached out since I left church and started on the path to total rejection of my former convictions.   I never WANTED to loathe the times when I have to accompany my wife to events where her Christard friends (she is still a convinced TrueBeliever™) will be - I don't even like having to pick her up or drop her off someplace for fear that I will get spotted and have to make small talk, which I hate anyway. With my luck, I'd get stopped by someone who just then realized they hadn't seen me in nearly a year - and they'd ask why.   I never WANTED to let go of the safety-blanket of pseudo-mystical 'prayer' and 'answers to prayer' - I wanted to believe that my thoughts about myself and my circumstances had some sort of power to reach the attention of an invisible Man in the sky someplace.   I'd love to wake up tomorrow morning totally deluded again and as if nothing had been different for the last year.   I'd love to have a tearful, trembling-hands 'testimony' to my wife and her friends about how 'the lord' had reached my stony heart at last and brought me back to the fold in love and mercy.   I'd love to break into song and go rushing back into the social cocoon of narrow, ignorant, biased certainty.   But it's not true - any of it, so I won't, because I can't.
    •   This tells me you're probably in the US, as it certainly doesn't apply in most Western countries apart from the US. Few Americans seem to realise how weird their country is in its obsession with religion. I believe the latest figures are that 85% of Australians don't go to any church, so the religious families are a small minority here. It certainly makes it easier for us to leave.       I don't really understand how religion or faith in non-existent gods are necessary to counteract the mess the world is in -- in fact it seems to me that religion is behind a lot of the mess. You can get your moral code from anywhere, and if you're going to try to get it from the Bible you're going to have to be extremely picky. As for the fear of hell, I'm not sure if this is a fundamentalist/pentecostal thing or what, but I went to three different denominations (Lutheran, Anglican, and Uniting Church) and I can't remember hell even being mentioned. It certainly wasn't drummed into us that it was something we should be afraid of or worry about.     Where does it say this, exactly? (And if it does say exactly that, how do you know that the writer, writing almost 2000 years ago, knew what the hell he was talking about? Remember they thought the Earth was flat and hell was a fiery place beneath the flat Earth.)     Again, where exactly does it say that etc.? The fundamentalists who condemn homosexuality on the basis of Leviticus 20:13 are hypocrites because they ignore the second part: 'If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads." (NIV) Also, since you're not a man, you would seem to be in the clear.     Great idea! And good to hear.     If you want to be a good atheist and know the truth, read the bible from cover to cover. When I first became a Christian the first thing the minister did was to warn me against it! I soon realised why as I kept reading it. It's full of inconsistencies and some really weird and sick stuff that never ever gets preached about in any church. Look at Judges 19 for example, where the mob demand access to a male guest so they can rape him. The master of the house refuses and gives the mob his daughter and concubine to pack rape instead. The latter is raped and beaten to death, and the master chops the body into 12 bits and sends a piece to each tribe of Israel to show how faithful he was to God and to demonstrate he'd done the right thing in protecting his guest.  There's a similar passage in Genesis 19. So, according the bible pack rape and murder is fine, as long as the victims are women. But a loving relationship between two men is an abomination and they should be executed.      There's actually no reason why you can't keep the teachings of Jesus (the good ones at least), along with the morality teachings of other great preachers whose ideas resonate with you. You don't have to stop loving your neighbour  just because you've stopped believing in an invisible god in the sky. In fact your morality can be on a 'higher plane' than the morality of someone who is moral just because they're afraid of a hell.     I hope you find some like-minded people you can meet face-to-face, but I'm finding this site is a really good place to be.
    • Wow! We've never seen that one before! I'm impressed. What else have you got?   And btw, I'm just leaving this link right here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum
    •   So then the thoughts, feelings and reactions we've all had to one another in this discussion were all pre determined, right?    It's not as if possibility and I could have reacted to one another any differently, I'm assuming. And at the same time we were meant to meet and converse. I see a situation here where one could take the unfolding of reality as, "meant to be." It seems as if we're talking about fate, in a certain way. We were never free to think or act any differently.   I can look back at, "all the girls I've loved before...", with the notion of each of us meant to meet when we did, in the ways that we met, and that we were meant to love each other for either a duration or indefinitely. And in some cases, we were meant to meet young in life and then again at mid age. I've had that happen before. Love still present after years of isolation. All meant to be. But the flip side is that even something like the horrors of my ex-wife making a complete whore of herself up at the hospital, is just as meant to be as anything else. I can take a very peaceful or Zen-like position on life and existence. I can be at peace in the face of adversity, drama, etc., through a focus on philosophy of science and it's implications.   And while this is speculative thought, it seems extremely probable that we do exist in an infinite and eternal realm by way of very logical deduction, and by extension that all of the implications do apply.      This coincides with philosophical insights I was having on a private board for world pantheism members. Existence exists, because absolute non-existence of anything is impossible. This was to try and answer the question of why does anything exist to begin with? Because the absolute non-existence of anything at all, is impossible. I may be wrong, but this seems to serve as a philosophy of science against the infinite replication paradox.      Notice the philosophical argument I just mentioned lurking behind my question. The only reason anything exists right now in the CS, is because of the fact that it's happening now and therefore can not be any other way. Absolute non existence of anything is impossible per the replication paradox because it's all that ever was, is, or shall ever be. Always there, always replicating. There can not be a situation where nothing exists, or that none of this has ever happened or never will happen again. The infinite replication sharpens up the philosophy of existence.    In edition, the futility of doubting eternal existence along with the necessary implications of eternal existence, seem like a powerful way of pushing the limits of certainty. The science along side of the pantheistic philosophy of existence seems pretty good. Let me know if you think that it isn't. I'm curious to know how or why someone could establish that it wouldn't be. And whether or not we can establish a robust definition of free will, I don't know.   The freedom to do any different than what is already pre-determined?                 
    • I thought that this topic is going to be buried alive, but I see some new responses...so I'm glad.   Definitely I agree with You  daisyfields. I envy them that God for them is still alive and real and they seem to have no doubt about it.      Nice Ellinas that You wrote something to me.   I'm still uncertain, because of different stories that I heared from believers, their testimonies of new-borns on You Tube AND this whole transformation from within that people experience after inviting Jesus to their lives. Sometimes I'm not convinced that in every Christian case it's a fake, but actually they truly were touched by God. I don't know if in every case it's just a brain's trick. That's what You are saying is completely true and in the same time there is this thought that maybe God's ways are not ours and he does some things even if we don't get it. All forms of suffereing seem to be unfair with or without God to be honest.   I definitely go insane, cause when I'm in church I desire to be free and believe in science and evolution, but when I live my life and try to remove at least for some time church from my consciousness I remind myself different Christian testimonies or some people's cases (I wrote their names in the beginning of this topic).   I noticed that, individuals who experience answered prayers and transformation in their life after inviting Jesus to their lives they start to ignore science and secular thought (they claim that they don't need it, cause God revelated himself to them) and scientists who analyze evolution, facts and proofs they seem to reject every single spiritual or mystical experience that anyone can have... claiming that in every case it's just a brain's work.   It's hard to not go crazy thinking about all of that. Everyone has different minds, life's situation, struggles, family support or lack of support, alive family members or dead...everything what we experienced seems to influence the way we think about God and how our brain adopt imagination about him. For some people it would be better to not to lose faith at all, cause it was literally only one thing that kept their lives together...last possible hope.   Recently, I admitted to myself that yeah, God was always there for me as a little motherless daughter in Catholic Church or now in Evangelical (I see no way out for now), but I always had actually worldly desires although I was always God-believing pale, shy blondie with sad eyes. I mean dancing, listening to 80's music and other genres, being famous at least for doing one good thing for the world of the film, screenwriting, psychology, psychiatry.   For years and still I choose jumping till midnight or longer to my favourite music and replaying same songs over and over again while watching video clips (I even got small letter from my neighbour to stop jumping and be quiet after 9 pm) than praying to God even though I had some precious conversations with him for hours, as I remember.    SO YEAH, THAT'S WHAT BOTHERS ME :/   Today on sermon one elderly man said that world DID NOT came to existence from the big bag and sun, planets, stars DID NOT ordered themselves alone...someone had to do is and it's God. Although I am in church, in the closet and I miss Christianity I wanted to attack this man, screaming or shooting myself.   Nowadays, I've got reactions typical for rational, critically thinking person, but still can't be OUT and fully satisfied about life, that is completely paranoid for me, cause it's full of beloved ones' death, laziness, shopaholism, debts, obsessions, maladaptive daydreaming, neverending curiosity, depersonalization (or rather panic and anxiety as my psychologist said), loneliness and...crazy dreaming. I focus on many things, but can't be truly productive at least in ONE.
    •   True, it was a poor choice of word.   We are expanding on BAA's initial question... kind of how the Christian God expands every time you show that a previous version is unlikely