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  1. 3 points
    My new life verse: Ezekiel 23:20 "There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses." So who says there's not great material in the Bible?!! Best answer I found in a Christian (yes, Christian) questions forum: "Because man cares about genital size, and man created God in his image." Glad that got cleared up!
  2. 3 points
    The following is adapted from my blog website. By now I've transcended opposing religion and go against ideologies as a whole. Imagine if you will two very different college students, we shall call them Mary and Jake. They're starting their first semester and find the dorms lacking opting instead for small apartments near the school. All utilities are included with their rents except for cable and internet. With that said, they decide to head down to the Comspaz office (the local cable and internet provider). Jake is a big sports fan. He played on the high school football team and is an overall athletic person. He also enjoys having friends over to watch the game. Comspaz offers a premium package that includes ESPN, ESPN2, etc. However there’s content that Jake knows he’ll never see such as a cooking channel, a reality TV channel, etc. The package is expensive for a college student but it’s the only way he’ll be able to watch what he wants. He inquires “why cant I just get the sports channels I need?” The salesperson apologizes and tells him “unfortunately, that’s the only package that offers that content.” Jake begrudgingly signs the one year contract and a tech is dispatched to get his service up and running. Mary shows up an hour later. She doesn’t watch television as her parents never had a set at the house so her only need is fast, reliable internet. The Comspaz employee tells her that she’ll get internet at a lower price by bundling it with the premium package that Jake has. Her apartment doesn’t even have a TV but she also begrudgingly signs the one year agreement. When she gets her fist bill, she’s upset that she has a “sports broadcasting fee” and other taxes. She grills the Comspaz employee by asking “why do I have to pay for something I have no interest in?” Nobody likes these types of combined products/services. I’ve worked in sales positions in different industries and everyone (save the impulsive shopper) just wants to buy exactly what they need/want and nothing more. When it comes to the beliefs that form the foundation of our lives however, we gladly accept any bundle. Jake is a Christian from a small town and the Baptist church he attends now offers what he’s looking for. He has a place of community with like minded individuals. He has an outlet to help poor children in the city and also joins a ministry where he helps the homeless attain employment. Unlike his church back home, this one is well funded, organized, and actually accomplishes what it sets out to do. Of course, anyone familiar with religion knows it isn’t all love and compassion. Jake sits through sermons condemning the LGBT community for example and the pastor also breaks into “fire and brimstone” warnings for the unbeliever. He’s also forced to listen to anti-science diatribe on a regular basis. Sometimes, the message is about theological issues that have no relevance to daily life whatsoever but this is the “bundle” he must accept if he is wants to be a part of the congregation. Jake might be a loving person but these ideas slowly poison his mind. He begins to see the LGBT community on campus with a sense of disgust. He looks at students of other faith with suspicion and/or targets of conversion. He becomes weary of scientific discoveries if they so much as slightly contradict scripture. I’ve publicly acknowledge that sometimes religion has the potential to create changes for the better (to an extent), even as an atheist. However, this type of toxicity will be always be there in one form or another. Mary’s story is different but also veering off course. She’s in an atheist, pro social justice, pro feminist group on campus. The group has programs that encourage young girls to take interest in science. They also help with a woman’s shelter and empower victims of abuse to confront their abusers while bringing awareness these types of issues on a local, national, and international level. The organization branches off into other areas such as environmentalism. Their activism has managed to get the city to reconsider selling the nearby nature preserve to the school for development among other things. Furthermore, they also address income inequality and childhood poverty (what initially drew Mary in the first place). From the outside, everything looks positive (much like the work of Jake’s church). However, even here a “bundle” also exists and the group has become more and more radical in recent years. Many of the leaders believe that men are the problem in society, that we actively oppress women, that we’re all potential rapists. The organization has also taken inequality too far and have adopted outright communists ideas. They also see everyone who subscribes to religion as the enemy since it’s typically been used to justify oppression. These ideas also poison Mary’s mind and she starts seeing every man with suspicion. She walks past the campus ministry booth by the student union area and looks with utter disgust. He looks back at her with equal disgust as he sees her as a wayward heathen. The saddest part about this interaction is that if you removed all the ideological crap, both would get along well with each other and work towards similar goals. I cannot ignore the countless individuals who’ve been hurt deeply by religion. I cannot ignore my own experiences in this area. I won’t turn a blind eye to the abusers in this world either or the injustices many face. I can understand the reasons why people gravitate towards such extremes. Like part one, the scenario presented here is worst case. Everyone will fall somewhere along the spectrum between neutral and Jake’s/Mary’s mentality. Bundled ideologies can often introduce people to new concepts. Jake initially learned about helping others through Christianity and Mary through activism. The problem is, there are also vile, poisonous details tossed in there. It’s like ingesting 99.9% food and 0.1% rat poison, you still die. The same applies to what we are taught, it doesn’t take much to kill your mind. No sane, respectful man wants to see a woman abused or oppressed. Many of us have or will put ourselves in physical danger to protect them from psychopathic males. Most feminists don’t hate men and will often reach out to us as allies. In fact, this a positive trend that I’ve been noticing. Extremists get all the attention these days but more and more people are rejecting the bundle. I’m seeing Christians who outright reject the condemnations LGBT, atheists, or other traditionally reviled groups. I know believers who take very progressive stances. I’m seeing some liberals acknowledge that capitalism has problems but it’s better than the alternative. Conservative atheists also exist, they just focus on the role of government and don’t give a damn about your personal life. People are starting to wake up to the fact that just because you accept idea A, doesn’t mean you have to go with B, C, and D. I can only hope this trend continues. The solution is readily available information and freedom of choice. Will this concept dawn on Jake and Mary? We shall see…
  3. 2 points
    Merry Christmas! At this time of year many people will read, or will have read in their presence, the following verses: Matthew 1:23 Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us). Isaiah 7:14: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Matthew 1:23 is of course a quote from Isaiah 7:14. Have you ever read all of Isaiah 7 and 8? The context is fascinating! Ahaz, king of Judah, has heard that Syria and Israel are planning to join forces and attack Judah. Ahaz isn't a good king, but Jehovah isn't ready for Judah to be destroyed, so the prophet Isaiah goes to him with a message. Isaiah tells Ahaz to ask for a sign, but Ahaz doesn't think it's a good idea to ask God for signs. Isaiah says "He's going to give you one, anyway!" Then comes the famous prophecy. Isaiah goes on to say (verse 16) " before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted." So a child will be born and before he's old enough to know right from wrong, Syria and Israel will not even exist as kingdoms any more! But the story continues in chapter 8. There, in verses 3 and 4, we see " 3 And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the Lord said to me, 'Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz; 4 for before the boy knows how to cry ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.'" Are you familiar with this? There, right in the next chapter, the prophecy is fulfilled! But wait! Was Isaiah's wife a virgin? Are there two virgin births in the Bible? Here's where it gets tricky. I've discussed before how most of our Old Testament translations use the Masoretic Hebrew text as their source. The English Standard Version deviates from this in the case of Deuteronomy 32 because the Qumron text (aka "the Dead Sea Scrolls"), which are older, show the Septuagint (Greek language text used in the first century, which Jesus would have read from) to be correct. Well, Isaiah 7:14 is a place where every English version uses the Septuagint. The reason? That's what Matthew quoted. The actual Hebrew word in Isaiah 7:14 is almah, which means "young woman" (and possibly one that has never had a child). So Isaiah's wife wasn't a virgin, she was simply a young woman! But wait again! Why, then, does Matthew say "virgin"? If you read the Wikipedia link in the last paragraph, you'll see that the Septuagint used the word parthenos, which means "virgin." But that Greek word changed meaning over time, as words do. It was probably a perfectly good word translation when the Septuagint originated, but over time the meaning changed from "young woman who has never had a child" to "virgin." So there was never a prophecy that a virgin would be with child, but by the first century the Jews read this with the new meaning of the word and thought it must be about the messiah, since no virgin had ever borne a child. Somehow they ignored the context -- all of Isaiah 7 and 8 -- which shows the prophecy to have already been fulfilled. It couldn't have been fulfilled in their view, because they knew that Isaiah "went in" to his wife. "Ah!" you say, "but what about chapter 9?" "6For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upond his shoulder, and his name shall be callede Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. " This indeed seems to be speaking of a messiah who will lead Judah to become a power and to create peace forever. But keep reading: "8The Lord has sent a word against Jacob, and it will fall on Israel; 9and all the people will know, Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, who say in pride and in arrogance of heart: 10“The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.” 11But the Lord raises the adversaries of Rezin against him, and stirs up his enemies. 12The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still." It's still referring to the fall of Israel, only a few years from the time the sign is given. Judah was to have a messiah who would bring peace. Israel and Syria would fall, Judah would rise, and no-one would ever defeat them. Well, Israel and Syria did, indeed, disappear, but Judah never became independent, and the child born to the prophet never turned out to be a messiah. Judah became subject to Greece, then to Rome, and later (ironically, after the one Christians believe to be the messiah came) they ceased to exist, as well. Matthew 1:23 is the most foundational verse of the Gospel, the reason Christians in the first century (and today!) believed that Jesus was the messiah. (Actually, that's backwards. The story that Jesus was born of a virgin likely came about because people already believed that he was the messiah: Because they expected the messiah to be born of a virgin, a story arose about Mary and the Holy Spirit.) Yet the idea is predicated upon a word whose meaning had changed over the centuries. There is no Old Testament prophecy that the messiah would be born of a virgin... the whole foundation of Christianity is based on a mistaken belief by first century Jews. It's no wonder that today's Jews don't accept Jesus as the messiah... he doesn't fit what they find in their scriptures. Do you still believe this story is about Jesus? If so, why?
  4. 2 points
    In Genesis 1:26 we read "Then God said, 'let us make man in our image, after our likeness.'" Christian theology says that "us" refers to the Trinity -- the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The author of Colossians says (in 1:16) " For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him," implying that Jesus was there at the beginning. John 1:1-3 implies the same thing (while embracing the doctrine of the Logos, a topic for another time). While there are theologians who dispute the doctrine of the Trinity and claim that the New Testament doesn't support it, the fact that the New Testament claims that there is a Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit seems indisputable. The idea that they are three yet somehow one is, admittedly, confusing, and the Nicene Creed says (for all practical purposes) it's implied, so just accept it without trying to understand! But it's easy for a Christian to see the "three" here and impose that upon Genesis. As I've discussed before, the writers of the first books of the Bible were henotheistic. They believed that there were multiple gods, but that they were to worship only their god, Yahweh aka the LORD. Deuteronomy 32:8-9 makes it clear that the Most High god gave the nation of Israel to the LORD as an inheritance. The other gods got other nations as their own inheritance. Christians impose the beliefs of New Testament times (and beliefs of today that may not even be consistent with the New Testament) upon the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible under the false belief that it must be 100% consistent. It isn't. The Hebrew Bible is it's own book and has been co-opted by Christians. This is unsurprising, since the New Testament church comprised, at first, Jews, and came out of Judaism. But the idea of "God" had evolved throughout the ages that the Old Testament spans, and the idea that there is only one god coalesced somewhere in the middle, by the time of the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. At that point, Baal had become a false god, rather than simply the god of another nation. In Genesis 1, "us" means "the Most High God and the sons of God." When you read the Bible, you need to read it to see what it actually says, rather than trying to force your beliefs on the whole thing. Christians claim that their beliefs come from the Bible, but the opposite is actually true: Christians start with their beliefs, then try to make the Bible fit. And it's not even the New Testament that they're starting with -- it's 21st Century beliefs. If you want to try to be Biblical in your beliefs, you're going to have to start at the beginning and read the book, noticing when the notions you have -- the things you've been taught your entire life and those you've come to believe over the years -- don't align with the text you're reading. If you won't do that, can you actually say that you're studying to show yourself approved, or that you're searching the scriptures to see what is true?
  5. 2 points
    But we're the ONE TRUE CHURCHTM! We have to save them from Hell! I still go to a Church of Christ for reasons that I've explained before. They would consider me a "struggling christian," I suppose, because I was outed as an atheist and managed to convince them that I was going to try to believe again. In the year and a half since that happened, nobody has questioned me. I kind of hate it but it keeps family relationships smooth. Anyway, being that I'm still a member, I'm still on the email list. Monday, the following email (names redacted) was sent to the congregation: This was out of the blue. We weren't there Sunday night, so I have to assume that an announcement was made. This couple are not members of our congregation! James 5:20 is the verse that says if you turn a sinner from the error of their ways you'll save them from death and cover a multitude of your own sins (and I thought God didn't keep score!). So, two hours later: As I said, this couple are not members of our congregation; yet this elder, in his concern for their "souls" (they've joined the Catholic church! We have to get them back to the Lord's church!) published their email addresses, phone numbers, and home address to the entire congregation (everyone on the email list, anyway). You can see the polite reaction of the man, saying essentially that they don't want to be bothered, they just want to figure this out, and that their searching for the truth is long overdue. I doubt they would sue, but if contact from people they've never met becomes a big enough hassle, they might be seriously tempted. I don't know how this happened, but I would speculate that the woman mentioned as having received the text must have been really worried about her friends from another congregation, and brought her concerns to her own church, asking for prayers, and the elder(s) decided it would be good to be proactive. (After all, nothing fails like prayer.) I'm just guessing, here. It could easily have been someone else asking for prayers, and this woman just happened to follow up. People in the NI-Churches of Christ know a lot of people in other local congregations. (I'm surprised I don't know this couple; I would bet that my sons and their wives do, though.) I don't know if I'll ask anyone how this came about or maybe just leave that up to my wife. I try to be as uninvolved as possible. But I'd like to send this couple a card congratulating them on their decision to pursue their doubts and try to figure out the truth!
  6. 1 point
    The flood survived by Noah's family and the animals they took onto the ark, was said to have wiped out all human and animal life on the Earth, to be started over by the inhabitants of that ark. Ironically, part of God's anger and reasoning for causing the flood were the Nephalim. In Genesis 6 we see that the race of Nephalim came along when the sons of god (El, not Yahweh) married the daughters of man and they bore children to them. It refers to them there as the "mighty men of old." In verse 5 God decides that this just isn't working out like he planned, so he starts preparing for Noah to build the ark so that he can try again. So everybody's wiped out and mankind starts over with Noah and his family, right? But wait! Centuries later (430 years, to be exact), after Israel has escaped Egypt and they're supposed to be getting ready to go into the land of promise, Moses sends 12 young men to have a look (Numbers 13). You are no doubt familiar with Joshua and Caleb, who end up leading Israel in the wilderness for 40 years while everyone else dies off. But who do the spies find in the land of Canaan that scare them so much? The Bible tells us that it's the Nephalim (verse 33). God went to all the trouble to flood the earth and wipe the people out, and the main ones he wanted to get rid of, these half-human half-god creatures, it turns out that their descendants are still around all these years later! By this time, God Most High is gone and Jehovah his son is god of Israel, so he's stuck dealing with them. It'll be another 1500 years or so before Jesus, the son of Jehovah and the grandson of God Most High, comes on the scene. By that time, not only do the Nephalim seem to be gone, we see in Psalm 82 that Jehovah's brothers have lost their deity and have probably died. The Bible is so much more interesting when you read what it actually says, instead of what they tell you in church. The Old Testament is a lot more interesting when you don't try to impose the New Testament on it. Seriously, this is almost as interesting as Norse mythology! Marvel needs to adapt these stories!
  7. 1 point
    I just read, and really want to recommend, a post by David Madison on John Loftus' "Debunking Christianity" called The Christian Dark Ages -- Then and Now. Among the interesting insights here is the fact that during the 500 year period between the fall of the Roman empire and the end of the Dark Ages, a great deal of the knowledge accumulated by the Greeks and the Romans was literally erased and written over, and had to be re-learned hundreds of years later. The result of their following the advice to take no care for worldly things, because their Father in Heaven would take care of them (advice from Matthew 6 in the Sermon on the Mount), is that the world population plummeted: Millions of people starved to death. Villages disappeared and large cities became mere villages. The knowledge needed to sustain the population had simply been forgotten. The "now" part of "then and now" is that belief in Satan and demon possession is on the rise. After more than 300 years of the age of Enlightenment, and 700 years of non-dark-ages preceding that, Americans especially are retreating into mythological beliefs in record numbers. Let's hope that the people who live in the real world continue to improve society's conditions despite the rejection of reason by so many.
  8. 1 point
    I posted in the forums about how my older son discovered the truth about the Bible after he decided he really needed to study more. He had managed to come out of the closet and, he thought, not destroy his relationships. Well, it turned out to be more complicated than that, and it got really complicated for me, as well. My son and his wife had a baby. They live in another town, and his in-laws live there, as well. So we went to see meet new granddaughter. They weren't at church that Sunday, and in fact left the hospital for home about the time of the evening service. My wife and I went to church. We noticed my son's father-in-law looking what we thought was his usual odd self. We didn't really want to talk to him because even though our son was accepted as a "visitor" and "former member" by the church, his father-in-law is one of the "church discipline" types who thinks you can't have anything at all to do with any Christian who is "living in sin," and that being a Christian who has rejected God is "living in sin." (In other words, there's no such thing as an "ex-Christian." If you leave, you're an "erring Christian.") So when it was over we answered a few questions about the baby for the people who were asking and congratulating us, and then we made our way to the car. We planned to pick up dinner and take it to our son's house. But father-in-law went out a side door and intersected our path! As he approached, making a bee-line for me, my wife congratulated him on the new granddaughter, which interrupted his train of thought. He turned to her and shook her and and said "you -- congratulations!" Then he turned to me, refusing my hand, and said "and you... I KNOW YOUR SECRET." I replied "ohhhh kay?" and we proceeded to the car. Boy, was my wife mad. I was shocked. How in hell did he know I was an atheist? It was a tough night, but I didn't really know that anything would come of it. Our son already had a chilly relationship with him. The following Wednesday night I went to Bible class, and as usually, afterwards took our older granddaughter outside to play. But a little while later one of the elders came out and found me, and asked if they could speak with me. I took my granddaughter to our other son and told him the elders wanted to see me, then I went to the room they were meeting in. Only two of the three were there. One of them said to me, quite sheepishly, really, that they had been told I had a blog called "The Closet Atheist." Well, of course, that was true, but in my shock I was able to act shocked enough to deny it and, I thought, seem believable. I asked what it was, and he started to explain to me what a blog was. When I said, no, I understood that, he told me how there were pages and pages of posts dating back several years. After attempting to deny it, they said that they weren't inclined to believe it, but that they felt they had to ask. I wandered out in a daze and went home. My wife hadn't gone that night and I didn't say anything to her. She was unaware of the blog. So, I need to back up a bit. When my son first indicated that he was doubting, he also implied that his wife was kind-of on board with him. That was wishful thinking. In an effort to be supportive (and, frankly, because I was so happy for him) I told him about the blog, and even said he could tell his wife about it. I wanted her to know that even if they didn't agree, that didn't mean he wasn't the person she married, and it didn't mean their marriage was over. The baby's birth was four month's away at this point, and it really seemed important that she not suffer any undue stress. In reality, the realization that there are no such things as gods shouldn't cause anything but joy in one's life, but when you have fundamentalist family, it isn't simple at all. I wanted to help. But his wife really still believed, and she's not one to keep secrets, so when conversing and seeking advice from her parents, she mentioned my blog. Later in the week the elders emailed me wanting to meet again. I had to tell her now, and she yelled at me about how naive I had been. She's never been more right. I trust people. My daughter-in-law loves me. She wasn't trying to sabotage me or betray me, yet that's exactly what she did. My honesty plus hers combined to start an avalanche. I didn't know whether to be relieved or scared to death. My younger son and his family were moving... that Wednesday was to be the last one at this church, and they were headed on a vacation/journey to a new home on the West Coast. They left before I could talk to him. Right here -- this is it. The ONLY reason I cared whether anyone knew I was an atheist is because I was afraid it would affect my relationship with this younger son, and that he wouldn't want his daughter to be around me much. That's it. That's the only real negative that could happen in my life. And if that happened, my wife would never forgive me. Literally, not metaphorically, never forgive me. The blog was somewhat cryptic, in the sense that if someone had stumbled across it they wouldn't have suspected it was mine. Yet there was enough information in there that if someone said it was mine, and someone else read it, I wouldn't be able to deny it, so before my meeting with the elders I decided I'd better come clean. I admitted it was mine, and I said that I would go before the congregation and ask for forgiveness. I took the blog down before sending the email. I also said that I would begin a Bible study via email with a preacher who was well educated, but a member of a "mainline" church rather than one of the non-institutional groups. (My thinking was that this would keep the rumor mill quiet. I didn't have to tell that preacher what was behind it, and he wouldn't have any discussions with "our" preachers.) The next Wednesday night I showed up early (along with my wife, who went into the auditorium to both suffer embarrassment and to be comforted by the other ladies who were there early. I went into the office to meet with the three elders, and the preacher was there, too. He didn't know much about what was going on except for what the elders had told him in a few minutes, and he had not seen the blog (which was gone by this time). He was aware of my older son's deconversion and had actually had a number of discussions with him about it. Again, I made my promise to study, and I indicated that I wished to continue to be a member of the church. I was to go forward to offer public confession after the "invitation" was offered ("invitation" is Church-of-Christ speak for "altar call") and "acknowledge my sin." One of the elders remarked that most people in my situation would just say "I'm outta here!" and he wondered why I didn't respond that way. My honest reply was that there was simply no advantage to it, and that it would cause too many problems within my own family. They accepted this reasoning. So then there was the confession: This was tough. I told about the blog, and explained that I needed to confess because that was public and required public "repentance." I apologized to my wife and thanked her for putting up with me. Then one of the elders got up and made a few comments. I interrupted to ask that nobody call my younger son, who was on his way to his new home, because I hadn't talked to him yet and he didn't know what was going on. Then they prayed for me. Afterward, people offered all sorts of words of encouragement. Several people wanted to talk way too much, and in the next couple of week some brought me reading material. I called my son the next day and left a message. He eventually called me back. He was upset, but he said he wasn't surprised. I talked to him about how Moses apparently believed that there was more than one god, and he said he knew that already! (So why is he still a believer.) I didn't tell him everything, but at the end he asked me to please say that I still believed that Jesus was the son of God, so I lied and said "yes." Since then, he hasn't said a word about it and I really think he doesn't want to know any more. And since that time, I quit leading singing. One of the elders did ask several months later if I was going to start leading singing again, and I indicated that I was pretty happy to be retired from that. I may get that uncomfortable question again, but I can easily dismiss it if my wife isn't around. (When she's around it's harder to just dismiss, because it embarrasses her and she doesn't go to bat for me -- she takes the side of the person who's bugging me. I end up having to try to justify my decision. It's a pain, especially because she knows I'm an atheist!) Occasionally, one of the other elders asks me how I'm doing, meaning "spiritually," and I say "pretty well." That's all there is to that conversation. And that's it at this point! I show up most Sunday mornings by myself and use the time to read, and I go other times when my wife makes it, but not usually by myself. Nobody really expects much of me any more, and that's quite a relief. I hope that some day my younger son won't be able to avoid the truth, and we can just be done with it. My older son surprised me when he figured it out, so it could happen. I may decide to write a book someday. I wrote this post because I had never written this stuff down. It's kind of hurried, so there may be typos and awkward wording, but if I wait any longer I'll forget things.
  9. 1 point
    I don't know what it's like to not think about Christianity. Having been told the Bible was non-fiction from the time I was old enough to understand, and then in my 50's realizing that it's really just a book of myths, legends, and embellished history, it has thus-far been impossible for me to let go of this near obsession. Christianity affected nearly everything in my life, and realizing that it isn't true does not lessen the impact of it on my life in any significant way. Living in a place where nearly everyone believes it doesn't help. What must it have been like for the Romans and Greeks who first realized that their gods weren't real? I suspect that I can identify with them to some extent, except that they may have been in danger of being arrested. 500 years ago a person who told the truth about the Bible might have been arrested, too, but fortunately that isn't so today (at least not in the U.S.A.) What I really hope happens soon is that I forget about all of this, that I do not spend so many of my waking moments obsessing about Christianity. It's a mentally exhausting preoccupation. I hope that writing about it here provides the catharsis for me to put it in the past. Now that I'm on the outside (mentally at least, though being in the closet I still go to church), it occurs to me that there are some words and phrases I used as a Christian that make no sense any more, and ways of expressing thoughts that now seem bizarre. These terms and phrases were designed to keep people in, and from the outside they're meaningless. Here are a few of them, with an explanation as to why they're so strange to me now. 1. Lost their faith As a Christian, I don't think I even understood what this meant. When someone quit going to church, we said they had lost their faith whether they publicly declared that they didn't believe the Bible or not. If they quit going to the Church of Christ and started going to the Methodist church, we still said they had lost their faith. I don't think I ever thought about what faith really meant in this context, if it was a thing that could be lost or found. Mark Twain is wrote the following: Now that I'm no longer a believer, I realize those who quit Christianity don't do so because they've lost anything. OK, maybe Twain was wrong, because a person who believes the Bible to be the word of Jehovah doesn't know it isn't. The sad thing here is that we're warned so much about losing our faith that we go to great lengths to protect it. When we start to question, we do not launch an investigation to determine the truth. Instead we buy books and talk to people who are supposed to understand the Bible better with the goal of convincing ourselves that it's all true. Faith requires ignoring the cognitive dissonance. When you realize the truth the phrase "losing your faith" no longer makes any sense, because all you've really done is realize how foolish (or simply fooled) you were before. To borrow another Biblical term, faith isn't a thing to be grasped. That isn't to say that faith isn't real. My wife has faith in me and I in her, faith that we are both as committed to one another as we claim to be. This faith comes from experience, having developed trust in the other person. That faith can be destroyed by the other person, but we can't simply lose it. To make that more clear, I would not suddenly wake up one day and wonder whether my wife would cheat on me. I would not even, over time, begin to wonder whether she would cheat, eventually losing my faith in her. This could only happen if she were to do something to destroy that faith. Faith in Jehovah can't be "lost", either, and Jehovah can't destroy it, because it was based on fiction in the first place. Once we no longer have faith in the god of the Bible we can't say we've lost anything, only that we've learned the truth. 2. Fell away I picture an open airship of some sort that a person can accidentally fall off of. Maybe I should picture a cruise ship, as drunk passengers do occasionally fall off of them. They fall away and get left behind, and it's a tragedy. I get it. I've been on the end of having someone I cared about "fall away". From the inside it literally feels like a death in the family! But from the outside you realize that no such thing has happened. From the outside, being mourned for realizing there are no gods makes about as much sense as going into a deep emotional pit because your child realized that Santa Claus isn't real. To the person who supposedly "fell away", what really happened is that their eyes were opened to the truth. It's a time of rejoicing, because I'm no longer deceived. And it's a time of rejoicing because I'm no longer afraid that my relatives who "died without knowing the Lord" are in torment awaiting Hell! I haven't fallen: The scary ride just finally stopped and I got off. 3. Believe in As a Christian I thought (like everyone around me) that you could choose to believe in things, and that you could reject a god that you knew was real. If a person who had been a Christian "fell away" it was probably because they didn't want to live according to Jehovah's rules. There must have been something they wanted to do that was sinful, so they just said "I don't believe in Jehovah" as a way of deceiving themselves. Now I understand that the term "believe in" doesn't even apply to things that are real. A child believes in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. If Santa Claus was real, they wouldn't have to believe in him! A person doesn't believe in their house or their job or their spouse, because they know their house and job are real and their spouse is a part of their life. There are even things you can't see that do not require the phrase "believe in," such as bacteria. But a person who says that Jehovah is real must say they believe in him. 1 + 1 = 2. I don't have to believe in that, I simply understand it. Though I had to be taught what the symbols meant, the concept is intuitively obvious. Not so with Jehovah. Jehovah must be taught. Jehovah must be imagined. The most important thing here is that you cannot choose whether you believe in Jehovah or not. You believe in Jehovah only because you've chosen to ignore evidence to the contrary (or perhaps never paid enough attention to notice it), and generally you seek out reasons to believe. Once you become aware that there's no such thing you don't choose to not believe, you simply cannot force yourself to believe something that isn't true! 4. Atheism is a religion 5. Evolution is a religion Atheism is by definition not a religion. Atheism is the understanding that there are no gods. Atheism does not require one to pursue it. Although I'm a bit consumed with it now, atheism does not need me or anyone else to follow it. And there's not any such thing as an "evolutionist"! Evolution is simply a field of study. Nobody worships Charles Darwin, and people who study evolution are quite aware of where he was right and where he was wrong. He did a really good job at getting the field started, but science is about learning, about understanding, and it requires knowing that there's always more to learn. Science, and in particular the field of evolution, can be pursued, but nobody thinks of it as a god. By the way, there are plenty of Christians (who you, if you are a fundamentalist, might refer to as "so-called Christians") who accept evolution. Michael Behe, the fellow behind the "irreducible complexity" theory that "Intelligent Design" people love to use, believes in common descent. Young Earth Creationists quote Behe, but only so far as irreducible complexity is concerned, because he believes that evolution was guided by Jehovah. 6. Money or fame or fancy cars or television or celebrities are gods It's good not to get too wrapped up in stuff. A person can get obsessed with things and lose sight of what is most important in life, namely, relationships with other people. To say those things are gods can only come from a religious perspective. That saying implies that the person pursuing those things is substituting them for Jehovah. They aren't, because there are no gods. The problem with saying these unimportant things are our gods is that, from the Christian perspective, even things that are truly important are seen as usurping Jehovah in our lives, therefore becoming our gods. If we spend time with our families, whether it's Wednesday night Little League games or vacation in a place where we may not go to an "established church" on Sunday, our family has become "our god" and we have sinned. Family is not a god, but family is important. The same is true of caring for other people. Some really good teaching on this is attributed to Jesus. The person who pursues material goods in this life to the exclusion of relationships may be selfish or simply clueless when it comes to establishing priorities, but those things aren't a substitute for "Jehovah", they're a substitute for the better things in life. 7. "This life" I actually typed "the person who pursues material goods in this life" above, then I realized what I had done. There's no reason to specify this life, because there is no other life. This is all we have, so we'd better try to make it as pleasant as we can for ourselves, for people around us, and for the generations to come. To do good is not to try to get a reward in a future existence whether that's a better position in a reincarnated life or a place in Heaven, it's to go through life spreading happiness. 8. Without the objective standard that the Bible gives us, nobody can say what is good and what is evil. This. Is. HUGE. There are more people in the world who do not claim to be Christians than there are who claim to be. There are people who practice Buddhism and Hinduism who are very kind and good people, and they don't look to the Bible to find out what is good and what isn't. The saying among Humanists is "be good for goodness sake", which sounds like a Christmas song. But the Christian says we cannot know what "good" is. The Old Testament actually condones evil in some cases. The case of Israel being told to kill every man woman and child among the Amalekites is literally genocide. If a nation at war were to do that today, we would try the generals, corporals, and even some privates for war crimes. Why? Because even if they were just following orders, they're supposed to know better. It is immoral to kill non-combatants, downright evil to kill children except in self defense, and we know this. But if we were to depend on the Bible for our moral code, we would allow such horrible things. But that point is not necessary to reach the conclusion. Even if there was nothing evil in the Bible attributed to Jehovah, he wouldn't be necessary for us to know the difference between good and evil. There's a very good question that has been asked, but is hard to word coherently. I'll try here: Is a thing good because Jehovah says it's good, or does Jehovah inform us of what is good because it is inherently good and he wants us to know? If it's good because Jehovah says so, then it's arbitrary: Capital punishment for adultery is somehow "good". But if Jehovah tells us what is good because it is inherently good, then his existence is not necessary for there to be such a thing as goodness. The truth is that we know what is good and what is bad. Yes, there are sociopaths who seem to have no concept of right and wrong, but most people know that if you do something hurtful to another person, that's wrong. And you don't have to have religion to know this. Evolution actually explains this quite well: Those members of the species who cooperated fared better than those who were selfish. Some people insist that "survival of the fittest" means "might makes right" but the overly selfish animal or person is not particularly fit. The Bible even says "if two lie together they can stay warm." Evolution agrees. If what you do harms another, it's bad. If harm cannot be avoided, for instance if you have to choose who to favor, then do as little harm as possible. But causing deliberate harm to another is evil. Speaking to the reverse, we really should be trying to help, not just avoiding harm. We should be doing good. And billions of people around the world know the difference even without the Bible.
  10. 1 point
    This poor kid's parents told him he just wanted to sin. The Church Lady thinks it's because the pastor offended someone or there wasn't enough parking. This guy claims that people "tell him" they're just too spiritual, darn it, or they'd rather do yoga at home. (Note to the preacher: this is the Christian version of friendzoning.) And this blog cites a chain letter that blames ungratefulness--that people who leave church are just too used to God's "blessings" and get all complacent about them being showered down on them all the damn time. No, really. Read it; it's a hoot. I read a number of pages and studies about "why people leave Christianity" and the one thing that really springs out at me is that all these "reasons" are made up by Christians with, it seems, very little honest input from the actual deconverts. I'm not surprised, of course. If someone leaves the fold, Christians bash their brains out trying to figure out what was wrong with that person that he left. There's this insatiable need to figure out a reason, push the whole issue into a file folder marked "resolved," close it, and put it away and not ever have to think about it ever again. I used to do it too, and I really think the reason why was I was terrified of finding out there might have been a damned good reason that person left. The problem might not be the person leaving, but with the message itself. And that's what turned out to be the case when it came to be my time to walk away from it all. We all have different stories, but Christians don't tend to want to hear those stories. They may say they do, but really they just want to hear it so they can discount it or try to explain it away. No matter how many hours or weeks or years you put into researching your decision, they are the magic Christian who will explain it all away and it'll all make sense and you'll leap back into that church pew and give thanks for having such wonderful Christian friends. They don't listen; it's a lot easier to just make stuff up, and when you do that, you don't have to worry about engaging with the real reasons people leave. And when you make stuff up, what you're really doing is comforting yourself: you're assuring yourself that YOU'D never leave. YOU'D never deconvert. YOU'D know better. YOU'RE the true Christian. The apostate is clearly deluded, stupid, vain, arrogant, or just wasn't a "real Christian" (like you are), or didn't know the Bible (like you do), or was in the wrong denomination (ie, not yours). When you're tilting at windmills, you don't really engage with the message you hear. Stop listening to that craziness and really listen to what we're saying here. This is why we're not coming back, and this is why we left. I do not speak for all deconverts, but these are the common threads I see in deconversion stories: 1. To our shock and pain, we discovered that the Bible isn't true at all. Not even a little. There's no evidence that prayer works, no proof that miracles ever happen, and every time history examines a Biblical question, the Bible turns out to be almost completely mythical. Not a one of its dogmatic claims holds up to even cursory argument. Very liberal Christians may not care, but for ex-Christians from a conservative evangelical background, discovering that there couldn't possibly have been a worldwide flood or a person fitting the background given for Jesus is devastating. Not for nothing do atheists claim that the easiest way to make a Christian deconvert is to make that Christian read his or her own Bible; some of the most prominent ex-Christians ever were people who went to seminary to learn more about their beloved Bibles only to emerge with their faith destroyed by simple reality (like Charles Templeton, one of the founders of Campus Crusade for Christ!). Most Christians have no clue in the world what's in there: God condoning--even ordering--rape, slavery, murder, trickery, witchcraft, incest, genocide, abortion, war, abuse, infanticide, and more. Most ex-Christians, however, are very familiar with these myths and commandments. We're not idiots. We studied the Bible and found it full of contradictions and monstrous, inhuman crimes against mankind. We read the apologetics books and found them struggling to doublespeak themselves into a god against all evidence to the contrary. We attended revivals to try to recover our faith and heard ignorant speakers misstate science or parrot claims we knew weren't true. We prayed, and nothing we prayed for happened even though the Bible says it always will. We begged for a sign, and got none even though God did tons of signs just like what we'd requested in the OT and in Jesus' day. We wept and we fasted and we drilled down on acting right and talking right and doing right, and nothing changed even though change is promised if we do those things. There's no amount of arguing that'll change the simple fact that the Bible is a book of myths, and nothing it really happened, and nothing it promises really comes true through any means other than human effort or coincidence. 2. Christians aren't better people with Jesus, and non-Christians aren't worse people for not having Jesus. For a religion that stresses "spiritual fruits," Christians have next to none; states and countries that are known for having a lot of Christians in them do worse by every conceivable measure than those who are more secular. The news is filled with "god-fearing Christians" tearing each others' faces off, abusing their kids to death, or getting caught in this or that sex scandal. We realized that there can't be a god inhabiting us and informing our every move, because if there were we'd sure expect to find Christians to be at least as good as non-Christians. But arguably they are, by and large, worse. Every ex-Christian has horror stories about abuses at the hands of Christians (more on this further down). We heard the platitudes about Christians not being perfect, just forgiven, and we heard about how church is a "hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints." And that was obviously horseshit to everybody but the pious Christians trying to explain away their total lack of fruits. Whatever you gotta tell yourself, sparky. But we know the truth: there is no god inhabiting Christians and making them wonderful people, and there is no devil influencing the lost making them worse. When we do run across Christians who are genuinely good people, we are forced to conclude that it's not an invisible sky friend making them so, but the sheer fact that they are good people regardless of what religion they follow. Once the threat of becoming a murderous, raping arsonist upon deconversion is removed, a lot of the scariness and Otherness of deconversion is gone. 3. We learned logical fallacies and cognitive biases, and we learned how Christianity uses all of them. We also learned that this faith that we thought was loving and caring is in actuality controlling and callous, even resorting to threats and cruelties to keep its members' butts in seats. If your religion is true, it shouldn't need to threaten a person's reputation, his/her connection to family and friends, his/her livelihood, his/her home, even his/her job to maintain compliance. These maneuvers did a lot to show us how false the religion must be if it stoops to such low levels of shoddy reasoning and cruel behavior. Christianity is a supremely manipulative religion. As any blogger can tell you, anybody who speaks against Christianity is lucky if all s/he gets are a barrage of death threats and insults from those who follow the supposed God of peace, love, and mercy. The threats are designed to chill us and silence us, to scare us into at least acting compliant even if we struggle with the certainty that it's all fake. If we're quiet, it doesn't matter. If we speak up, we become the enemy, and Christians know what to do with those who are different. They've had two thousand years to practice. For all the "it's not you, it's me" breakup statements Christians may hear, it really boils down to a few: we realized the Bible wasn't true. We realized that Christians don't act like they're inhabited by a god--most don't even act like they really believe in most of the myth at all. We realized that Christianity's arguments were shoddy and that its treatment of dissenters was nothing short of inhumane, making its validity highly suspect. The awful truth is that almost every one of us would have gladly welcomed an argument that actually made sense, or believed in evidence once it was provided. We would have gladly accepted the truth had Christians had any to present. I'm probably spitting into the wind here when I tell Christians that we know the Bible very well; we understand it perfectly well; we have looked at the "evidence" and found it seriously lacking. But Christians don't want to hear that. They have to cover that up somehow. It's terrifying to imagine that we might know the Bible better than they do--that might mean the fault isn't ours for leaving. So they cloak these simple truths in belittling us, or claiming we're stupid or misinformed or rebellious or "too spiritual" (seriously, WTFH). Of course they do. The truth is dangerous. It's scary. It's messy. And breaking free of living a lie, with all the threats and cruelties Christians have in store for the unwary deconvert, is so very, very difficult. Yet more and more of us are doing just that. And we will continue to do so. Ignore our real reasons for leaving at your peril, churches; the more you ignore and misstate our reasons, the more you demonstrate how totally out of touch you are.



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