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    • I first discovered ex-christian.net about six months or so ago when I was still heavily involved in the faith. I used to look over the articles and see what people had to say regarding the reasons they left the faith. Truth be told, I understood a lot of their positions, but at the same time I had the usual platitudes and ad hoc answers flowing through my mind as well. It was not until recently did I start to really question if what I believed had any empirical evidence to back it up. That all began when I was attempting to win over an atheist who would find himself in my office every now and then. Our discussions were never nasty polemics, but discussions based around what the evidence showed to be true....and that is the sticking point that always got me. I could never provide empirical evidence, all I had were some philosophical answers to why the Christian worldview could be true. Answers from the likes of William L. Craig, J.P. Holding, Glenn Miller....I am sure most are familiar with these fellows. But when I would muse over the answers the atheist gave me, I realized he did in fact seem to have the science to back up his worldview. When I started to be objective, it occurred to me my answers were not based on anything which could be verified, but mere unproven hypothesis.   A little about my story:   The doctrine of hell is the only reason I got into Christianity back in 2003. The idea of hell has terrified me from day one (I grew up with Christianity in the background and most of my family were either very serious or at least gave a nod to the Christian worldview) and I realize, even now that my faith was always based on fear....I am inclined to see that is a bit of a shame. It is not based on evidence, nor love, nor do I even buy into some of the teachings (surely a woman who gets beat every day by her husband has a legit reason to leave him and marry another; eternal hell just seems over the top). I have just stuck around, fully engaged, out of fear.....I am not even sure what to make of that other than how sad it is. Do you know what really started to unravel it all...? The idea that God seems so readily eager to punish someone forever and he asks us to love our neighbor as ourselves. How could he ask such a thing? Better I hate my neighbor and never consider him opposed to truly feeling empathy, especially when it comes to their eternal fate. And when I truly started expressing mercy and compassion, and other attributes such as the aforementioned for their own sake, I realized how valuable these concepts were. I just cannot buy into the idea that God is expecting us to be more loving, more forgiving, or more compassionate than he is willing to be himself, that seems hypocritical. At the end of the day it just becomes "might makes right." If that is the case, then loving your neighbor like yourself is not good in of itself, it is just something you should do not to go to hell.   I am at a bit of a crossroads here. After reading some material from other sites such as infidels.org, I realize how little evidence really exists for my beliefs. No wonder I have lost every argument with naturalist.....the evidence and facts back up their position. My rational mind tells me to follow the evidence, but there is still that hesitation because I do not know for sure that Christianity is false and I may end up making a bad wager. That being said, the other reason I started to question all this is because there are just too many ideas about what the Bible teaches to pin any one thing down. If the Bible is true and truly divine, how in the world are there approximately 30,000 denominations who cannot agree on anything the Bible teaches. Sure, there are some hucksters who are in it for ulterior motives, but I have met my fair share of people who seem very sincere in discovering the truth (regarding the Bible) who come to very different conclusions on what the Bible teaches.....salvation, living, etc. What am I to make of that? How can I know I have the true inner witness and I am not deceived myself. It seems to be a riddle unsolvable.   No doubt others here have been through my experience and that is why I am here. Who better to speak to my woes then those who were in it. I am still struggling now. I have read other testimonies where people stated de-converting was a process, not a decision. I really do not know where this is going to lead me, but I will say I feel stuck. I am not sure if I have the right tools to evaluate the evidence correctly, so how could I possible know how to determine if Christianity was true. On top of that, most apologist will say the definition of biblical faith is based on evidence or proven trust, well that being the case, how could I possibly sift through all of the religions of the world, and the naturalistic worldview and determine which one had the best evidence (that would probably take at least three lifetimes). I do not get the impression God is willing to show up and have an hour of Q&A even though I offered to take care of the catering. Even if I did find the premise of Christianity to be feasibly true, I have no idea what denomination would be correct because everyone is all over the map, even with the fundamentals of the faith (salvation, baptism...etc.).   On the flip side, I am not sure I am ready to embrace naturalism either. But if I am being honest, I only say that because of the underlying fear. I am afraid to make the wrong decision, but more than that, coming to terms that this may in fact be all there is give me some kind of phobia I do not know the name for. I am not afraid of dying because this is all there is, it is feeling that I want to know how it all plays out. If naturalism is true, I want to know how far humanity goes before we get wiped out....I do not know why that is a thing with me, but it is. At least if I accepted naturalism and Christianity turned out to be true, we do get to be immortal even if it is in Gehenna, at least I know what happens (how strange is that).   I appreciate any sound advice or counsel anyone has for me. I know I am not the only one who has or had these thoughts. If you find yourself able to empathize with my current position, I am interested to hear what ultimately led you elsewhere? Or did you uncover some new information that kept you in Christianity.   There is another question I have as well, and that it is, how do you account for Christianity getting off the ground? What I mean by that is why would all these people make up a story about the resurrection and seeing Jesus, especially Paul? I get the idea something happened to get this all started, I just am not sure of what; and right now, I am unable to walk away because of this. I could say this for all religions, it baffles me how all of these weird stories and sacred writings came to be. It is possible I am unable to conceptualize it because I am such a person of candor and I want to deal with reality. I am not one to make up stories, nor am I a story teller, and perhaps that is what keeps me interested in religion - I find it hard to believe somebody would just make it up out of thin air. Any insight on this?   I found this excerpt on infidels.org. It is by Robert Ingersoll and I have to admit, it describes my religious experience so far:   In view of these facts, what, after all, is religion? It is fear. Fear builds the altar and offers the sacrifice. Fear erects the cathedral and bows the head of man in worship. Fear bends the knees and utters the prayer. Fear pretends to love. Religion teaches the slave-virtues -- obedience, humility, self-denial, forgiveness, non-resistance. Lips, religious and fearful, tremblingly repeat this passage: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him." This is the abyss of degradation. Religion does not teach self-reliance, independence, manliness, courage, self-defence. Religion makes God a master and man his serf. The master cannot be great enough to make slavery sweet. Through it all, I kept being told a relationship with Christ would uplift me, but truth be told, all it did was make me feel guilty and depressed.    
    • Edit-  unfortunately there has been an update for the debate - now taking place per below unless otherwise advised. Sadly this means I will miss the live debate because it will be 11am here and I'll be working.  
    • Sin is letting people tell you that their imaginary friend thinks you're bad.
    •   Yep...and they can't admit it is just too much fun....
    • And the rest are liars. I'm sure they feel bad about being sinners but that doesn't mean they're goanna stop.  
    •   Yes and no....   Dad gave me a very nice lawn mower, but only because he bought a new self propelled one.  He has given me things he really doesn't use and didn't want to sell.  Dad and mom have also got their wills together and set the assets into a trust.  They have done the basics you might expect.  Dad almost died years before.  He had issues with his heart for a long time now.  We are scheduled to go visit them around Thanks Giving.  I suspected that if he pulled this through, he would probably do OK for awhile.  
    • I never heard in church that the Jews don't have a belief in Hell or damnation. That would be a problem for many believers, particularly when Jesus preaches about it and the Jews don't respond (in the NT) with a resounding "What are you talking about, some Greek or Roman religion?"  The church also preaches that the gospels are eyewitness accounts, and therefore evidence. But they each read like stories and relate conversations between people that they could not have overheard, thus showing that they are not eyewitness accounts. They default to the claim that Jesus must have told them.   The church uses the claim of eyewitness testimony to support the idea that the miracles reported actually happened. But then they have to resort to miracles explaining the "eyewitness" accounts of things they could not have heard, thus making a circular argument. So much simpler to explain it as entirely made up.