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About DKretch

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    Minneapolis, MN
  • Interests
    Developmental and molecular biology, critical thinking, lifelong learning, humanism, intuition, creativity
  • More About Me
    Jack of all trades, master of none. If I have to grow up, I want to be a renaissance man.

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  • Still have any Gods? If so, who or what?
  1. Welcome to ExC, idreamed! So much of what you have said is similar to my own experience, and that of course is true for many here on the site. More specifically, when I lost every shred of Xian belief, I was angry at being duped by religion but yet missed something about it. I couldn't put my finger on what it was, though. I had always had a fascination with complex systems and a love of nature, and the Hubble pictures are truly awesome, but there was something that tugged about the world of xian mythology. To use the stained glass window example, even if I had gone back to the same place and looked at the sunbeams, it wouldn't be the same at all. It would be a different moment entirely. I would be viewing it through different eyes. The "magic" was gone. Actually just the other day I was remembering how much I enjoyed Pilgrim's Progress, Frank E. Peretti novels, and much of the fiction by C.S. Lewis. I still enjoy watching the new Chronicles of Narnia movies (it makes for a good choice when spending time with still-Xian family members), although I get a twinge of sadness when there's a particularly overt reference to xian themes by one of the characters. But if I don't focus on those points, I can still be 'transported' and affected by the story. Other themes that are unavoidable in any good tale begin to emerge, whether intentional or not. Something about being human. Something about being a part of nature. This is true with any art. It's not just a bunch of colored dots flashing on a white screen. It's an interplay between the artist and the audience, and what is taken away can be transformative, depending on the set of experiences that the viewer has and a myriad of other factors. I guess my point so far is that you shouldn't feel like you have to view mythology as completely useless, just because you realized it isn't literally true. We can still learn from any story, whether "true" or "false." May I suggest you have a look at some of the threads over in the spirituality section of this site? It might help you on your search for what is still missing. A good one to start with is http://www.ex-christian.net/topic/53579-meditation-for-the-love-of-it-for-life/ A lot of what's described in that thread was a great help for me to begin to move past the rage against religion and all forms of "woo" (a detestable term to me, now), and begin to see the common ground from which we can actually reconcile our previous faith-oriented thinking with skeptical & scientific reasoning. I always knew that was there but I couldn't see how it was useful or applicable, without a little helpful advice and exploration. Just keep at it. I'm sure you'll dream of light again. And now you will appreciate it even more because you have seen the bleakness of the void.
  2. Thanks, Akheia. I hope the faeries leave you some agates or whatever gem would most brighten your day As soon as I posted that update, the thought crossed my mind that I was taking on too much and making mountains out of molehills by trying to influence them on so many subjects. But I do think it's a good strategy as long as it moves the process along, and they're unlikely to understand even a lengthy written explanation without some time to digest it all. Might as well start laying some foundation now.
  3. So.. I think an update is in order to get this topic back on track. Last week I went over to my parents on a weeknight to do some laundry, save some spare change, and get a discussion going since they had seemed so chatty last time I was over there, as I mentioned in a previous post. The bad news first: I chickened out again to some extent. I didn't broach the core subject of my deconversion. My dad got going on some of his usual rants that are so obviously from a sheltered Christian worldview, and I resorted to mostly just passively listening and finding bits and pieces of the perspective that I agree with in order to keep the conversation going. I realized this is a bad habit left over from my teenage years and is a key part of why it's been so difficult for me to talk to them about this. The good news, and luckily there are several pieces: During one of my dad's above-mentioned rants; this one [paraphrasing] about how there are all these "vote NO" signs around town [MN is soon to vote on a restrictive marriage amendment], and how obviously God created man and woman so it's just silly for people to claim that they were born gay/lesbian, and the testimonies he's heard of people who were able to pray the gay away at the evening meeting he's been attending lately...etc., I realized two things. One, I don't have to revert to my teenage conflict-avoidance and can ask him probing questions to make him pause and reflect on some of the reasons why others take a different view. Two, I have a lot of ground to cover if I intend to help them understand my deconversion on some level instead of just 'ripping the band-aid off,' if you will. We differ significantly in views on many topics now, including evolution, abortion, witchcraft, etc. which are all interrelated to my story and if they don't understand the basics about many of these it makes communication much more difficult. Regarding this particular rant of his, I interjected, "What about hermaphrodites? Where do they fit in?" ..... I caught him with his mouth open and it stayed there for second. Turns out he didn't remember what the term meant, but he could tell by my tone that it pretty much shot his argument to shit. So I explained it and could see the wheels turning in his head, and then he changed the subject. So I felt like that conversation, and others during that evening, were a step in the right direction. Especially since nothing about them was confrontational. Later I emailed him an article describing how the male/female dichotomy is a rigid traditional view that ignores the spectrum of physical characteristics that does in fact exist at low frequency in the population. I haven't heard back yet, and I doubt he read it, but that's ok. The fact that I sent it is a conversation starter in itself. Which brings me to the rest of the good news: I'll be seeing one or both of my parents on a weekly basis from now on, since I'm going to be helping them out in exchange for some assistance with my grad school finances [Loving this spare time thing!]. This will provide me with the perfect opportunity to continue to dig into the subjects that we have disparate views on, and eventually, when the time is right, to break out my full written story. This is starting to get fun actually. None of my other siblings have felt the need to try to broaden our parents' horizons, apparently preferring to let sleeping dogs lie whenever their views start to come across a bit crazy, so it's amusing that I, the one who avoided conflict at all costs, am taking this on. Bookworm-turned-soldier-turned-scientist-turned-diplomat ha ha... I never would have guessed this was the direction my life would take. Thanks again for reading, everyone. More updates and a heavily revised draft of my story are sure to follow.
  4. Hey back and thanks! Yes, you recall correctly, it was one of those Sunday coffee events at Dunn Bros. I don't work downtown, East Bank actually, but I would certainly look forward to a chance to pick your brain again. I still have a ways to go with the Wilber books, but I got the gist from what I've read so far and by scanning ahead a bit. Looks like it will a lot of fun to get all the details. I got a bit sidetracked in my leisure reading (a newly-reinstated concept in my life!) by The Belief Instinct by Jesse Bering, and Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality by Henry Cloud. The latter was recommended to me by my brother (the one whose child I'm a godparent for) after another great conversation I had with him and his wife. Ironically, the book's central idea is an expanded, nuanced definition of the word "integrity" and that we can't fully develop our character until we integrate the full complement of ourselves into our daily lives-- obviously not too distant from what I'd been digesting of Wilber's. He had an interesting point of view, and only rarely got into typical Christian cluelessness about other concepts of transcendence, but I won't go into much more detail on that tonight. I did actually notice one of your recent threads on meditation, and had a chance to look through it. I have had a difficult time developing or keeping in the habit but the resources and advice looked like a lot of help. I'll check them out in more detail and contribute over there soon.
  5. Thanks so much for your comments and words of encouragement, everyone! I was expecting a typical Ex-C warm welcome and was not disappointed in the least. Now I need to fix my notification settings.... thought it was a bit strange that I hadn't heard anything for a day or two, and then I was out enjoying the motorcycle-friendly weather. My brief stop at my parents' house tonight made me aware of just how chatty they are feeling and how much they miss me. In other words, they're primed for a good long discussion. When it happens I'll be sure to post an update!
  6. This is my first post as a new member. Thanks to all who posted in the Encouraging New Members topic-- it definitely served its intended purpose and got me past the "lurker" stage. I've been in that stage for a while due in part to my hectic schedule (which thankfully has eased up to some extent), and partly because I was attempting to finish my deconversion letter and struggling to finish it to my satisfaction. I would write a couple pages, come back to it later, and decide it wasn't capturing the right tone, etc. Kudos to those who reminded us newbies that we can just post on topics relating to our current stretch of ex-christian road, and not wait until we reach some milestone or another. That motivated me to simply write an extimony for this site, which will help inspire the drafting of the main story, since I have no hang-ups about any emotional reaction you the reader may have in this setting. I'll try to give the *short* version for now. I was raised by tongue-speaking, prayer warrior parents who had themselves been raised Lutheran, getting "Spirit-filled" in college. They put me and my siblings through as much Christian school as they could afford and was offered by the school; for me it was all the way through 8th grade. Then I nearly dropped out my sophomore year from the 50x larger public high school I attended, partly because I was convinced the End Times were upon us. I wanted to head up to Alaska or somewhere remote and live off the land. Thankfully my parents were clear-thinking enough to convince me that was unwise, with the help of counseling from a more moderate Christian therapist. On some level I think I recognized that their belief in the End Times doctrine didn't go very deep, even though they talked about it like it was right around the corner and were stocking up on stuff for Y2K. There are numerous other examples of doctrinal mandates I was taught that I took very personally, but I won't go into all of them here. Initial seeds of doubt about the Christian religion developed when I looked around me, saw rampant hypocrisy, and realized that most people aren't so idealistic and don't follow the babblings put forth by their church quite so literally. However, I was told unbelief was a struggle we all have and we should pray until it goes away. I see this now as intellectual suicide. My Christian indoctrination began to crumble when I served overseas in the military for 4 years, and completely fell apart when I returned to the Midwest. I fell into a circle of family and friends that had either New Age-y spins on Christianity or straight-up pagan belief systems, and pondered some of those ideas as I began studying applied science in college. Training in critical thinking skills, secular ethical systems, and the overwhelming evidence for evolution broke open the floodgates of my doubts about Christianity. I made a decision to use the brain given to me (by God possibly) and search for intellectual answers until I was satisfied. No longer was I just going to accept that my pastor, my teacher, C.S. Lewis, or McDowell had delved into the evidence and found rational justification for the claims of Christianity. I became very interested in skeptical methods of inquiry, judging the strength of evidence needed to support a particular claim, picking out logical fallacies, and taking into account all sorts of bias. I read a wide swath of both print and online material and weighed the arguments and supporting evidence from both the atheist and Christian apologetics camps. I pretty much kept my doubts to myself, except when I was around those whom I knew were not religious at all. As I continued to dig into the basis for my own beliefs, I finally reached the conclusion that Christian claims such as the resurrection, virgin birth, and global flood were nothing more than myth and legend. I realized that others may still cling to some type of more moderate Christianity, and that faith and evolution can be reconciled in various ways (one of my undergraduate biology professor/research mentors, an outspoken believer, had done this), but my already-eroding faith did little to keep any worldview territory sacred from scrutiny. Eventually all the "nodes" of my Christian belief network were eliminated (a beautiful concept I've borrowed from the Evid3nc3 YouTube videos). I remember the moment I realized that the word "atheist" described me, instead of just saying I disagreed with "organized" religion. I was reading Dan Barker's Losing Faith in Faith, and my scientific training kicked in. I realized that I can't keep suspending judgment on the evidence for God. Scientists must continually make tentative conclusions based on the available evidence, which are open to reexamination if new convincing evidence comes forth that contradicts the working model. My tentative conclusion was and still is that the most parsimonious explanation for belief in a god or gods is that it is merely human psychological projection. It is a socially and culturally reinforced set of symbols, which offer comforting (although insufficient and superficial) explanations for life's difficult questions. Perhaps there is some kind of higher power driving the formation of the universe, tinkering with probabilities during evolution, etc. It's probably impossible to know. But we do know about our human tendency to find hidden purpose or pattern in completely random events, such as "streaks" in a series of coin tosses. Thus, without any compelling evidence of a god or gods, especially of one that has human-like qualities and intervenes in human affairs, I must fall back on the position that they exist only within our minds. In that sense, they do exist though, and this is something that I've struggled with. Deities, demons, angels, fairies, etc. are symbols for concepts that may not be demonstrable empirically but provide a conceptual framework that helps make sense out of the chaos. They can serve a purpose until we can come to grips with the full bleakness of our own mortality, our insignificance in the universe, and find meaning in other ways. Also, myth symbolizes that which is only revealed upon deep contemplation, and so is not completely useless for everyone. Some aren't willing to dig into the abstract in such a way. But, I think that any seeker of the truth will eventually have to discard dogma, and any true skeptic must be willing to consider new evidence that challenges their assumptions. I commend the hard-line atheists and firebrands such as Dawkins and Hitchens for shocking the theocratic status quo and bringing atheists/freethinkers more into the mainstream. However, I've known all along that that's not my style, and I wasn't willing to tell my family that what they have based their beliefs on is ignorance, and a house of cards that can only be propped up with intellectual dishonesty. I didn’t want to be so in-your-face about it, but I didn't see how to go about it differently. So I just left it alone, looked at the floor when they prayed before a holiday meal, tolerated going to church for Father's Day one year, and changed the subject when my parents asked me how my walk with the Lord was coming. Luckily I did have atheist or more moderately religious friends for a support network, since I was finishing my undergrad in the biological science field and I still hung out with some of my old pagan friends. However, my loss of Christian faith was one of the factors in the failure of a long term relationship around that time. As I transitioned to graduate school, I lived with my parents for the summer and became more acutely aware of our differences. I began to feel like a phony and emotionally cut off from the family that I had always been very close with. Once I got settled into a new place, I was able to find time periodically to attend events held by local groups of fellow freethinkers, which was a great source of encouragement and helped me move past the typical feelings of isolation. Still, I hesitated to bring up my deconversion with my family. My hand was forced about a year ago when my brother and sister-in-law asked me to be a godparent for their third child. After a long talk face-to-face, they knew where I stood and were still ok with my godless "godparent" status. They were respectful and understanding about it, and could see that I was struggling to come up with a way to help them see my point of view without coming across as condescending. Condescending is fine if you're doing a debate or writing a sensational book, but not when it comes to people you love and relationships you care about. They agreed that a written deconversion story would help them understand how I lost my faith, and that I should use it to have a similar face-to-face conversation with other close family members (my parents especially) and not make them just find out about it via email or facebook. A year went by while I stayed busy with classes and research. Then I met a moderator for this site at a local event for former fundamentalist Christians. [Thanks so much, it was great to meet you Antlerman!] He seemed to understand my predicament perfectly and offered some great advice to help me get past the block of talking about this with my family. First, he told me to check out this site for help and ideas to move things forward. Then we talked about the benefits of mindfulness meditation, which I was just beginning to develop an interest in, and how fundamentalism can swing from the religious side to the "scientism" or flat-earth thinking. I had been contemplating this in my continuing training as a molecular biologist, since I was aware of numerous instances even just within my own field where it was thought by some that all the components of a system were worked out and explained everything, only to find there was another complete level of regulation happening that explains the data. He recommended that I read two books by Ken Wilber, Eye To Eye and A Sociable God, before continuing to fret about how I was going to approach the rest of my family about this. Some more time went by as I completed my grueling preliminary examinations, but now that I've had a chance to glean much insight out of those two books, I'm a bit more accepting of the esoteric. It's exciting actually. I'm more able to relate to people such as my pagan friends and my brother who asked me to be a godparent, and find common ground instead of immediately feeling like I need to yell "Bullshit!" when they start talking about how Jesus helped them get a new job, or the faeries left them an agate in the driveway. I even talked about my deconversion to my other siblings recently, which actually didn't surprise them all that much, except when I used the term "atheist." There's still so much stigma about that word, but I was happy to explain why it doesn't equate to nihilism. So now I've just got my godmother (who is a bit overbearing and a Lutheran minister now) and my parents to tell, as far as close family members go. Then the rest of the family will probably get updated online. It's going to be so awesome not having to pretend anymore! I'm really looking forward to getting some meaningful dialogue going that will hopefully temper some of the craziness of fundamentalism. Well, so much for this being a short version of my extimony. Thanks for reading, and thanks to all the volunteers and members that help make this site possible. I can see it will continue to be a great resource for dealing with the upheaval of my (and many others') worldview. For the record, I've been "tithing" to the site monthly and will continue until further notice.
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