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Lerk last won the day on January 11

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About Lerk

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  • Birthday 08/18/1959

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    Houston, Texas
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    I am a computer programmer, married over 35 years, with two grown children. My wife's father was a minister, and our younger son is a minister. My older son, fortunately, discovered the truth awhile back. The real truth, not the "capital 'T' Truth".

    Still attending church weekly. I was actually outed once, but seeing how badly that was going to go I jumped back into the closet. That has turned out to be pretty comfortable because people don't expect anything from me now, religiously speaking.

    I've explained to my wife how I came to understand that it was all mythology, but she really doesn't want to believe it, and I still say a prayer with her at dinner! But we're starting to skip that more often.

    In some ways, Christianity has kept my life and my family stable, and I appreciate the regular moral training about being a responsible citizen and family member, and about caring for others. I don't know that, without the "you have to be there every week" attitude, I would ever have accepted that training and my life may not be as good as it is. Then again, my life could easily have been better, and churches certainly don't have a monopoly on morality. (In fact, sometimes they're just downright immoral.)

    On the other hand, I wish I had all of those Sundays back to spend with my family doing things that would have kept us closer. I can't really blame religion for a lack of recreation in my life, as many 3-time-a-week Christians do, in fact, spend more time in recreation with their families than I did. My problem may just be the fact that I was just too "responsible", and I don't know whether religion did that, or if I was just born that way. (I know I have always tried to do what was expected of me, even as a child, so it may just be my neurological makeup.)

    Regardless, I wish I had the Sundays back, and that all of that money given to the church could have been used for enjoying life with my family.

    Regarding how I came to realize that Jehovah is a myth like all other gods, it was in church, and I was 52 years old, when the preacher read a couple of verses of Genesis 3. Having turned there I read the entire chapter and realized, for the first time, that there was no Satan in the chapter. It was an ordinary snake! I knew I didn't believe it as written, and that neither did anyone else present. We had, all of our lives, believed that Satan had used the serpent, yet the Bible said nothing of the kind. There's not a single person in that church, not a single person I know, who believes Genesis chapter 3, yet nearly everyone says it is true.

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  • Still have any Gods? If so, who or what?

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  1. "6. You never studied hard enough to understand the truth of Biblical teachings" They say the best way to make atheists is to get Christians to read their Bibles. Of course, many Christians do study their Bibles. I certainly did -- but I studied it in order to fine-tune what I already believed. I studied it with certain beliefs imposed upon that study, the first being that it was 100% consistent from beginning to end. If you start with that requirement, then you have to explain away all of the ways the authors' beliefs evolved from beginning to end. You have to just dismiss certain things by saying "this is a difficult passage" then moving on in order to live with the cognitive dissonance. But if you just read it (rather than doing some sort of directed study) you'll run across those same passages you thought were difficult and realize that in their context they're quite clear, and they say things that Christians don't believe.
  2. It sounds to me like what you're saying but trying to seem like you're not saying is that without the right kind of "experience" it's likely that we aren't "ex-" Christians, but were never really Christians in the first place. There's no way to say that in a way that isn't disrespectful. It's said that the best way to make atheists is to get Christians to read their Bibles. A whole lot of us here had that experience. We believed. We had believed our entire lives. We had things happen in our lives that we were convinced couldn't have happened without the god being behind it. And we had studied our Bibles our entire lives, but it was always with the goal of trying to understand a god that we just assumed was there. Why that assumption? Because our whole lives it was never questioned. But then, perhaps sitting in church listening to a sermon or participating in Bible class, something jumped out at us that made us realize that what we'd believed since we were old enough to believe anything at all was, actually, impossible. Your second-to-last question is important: "... what made you want to leave." While some people had bad experiences that made them start thinking maybe it wasn't real, for most it wasn't that they developed a desire to leave. Instead, we just realized we'd been believing in mythology. We'd believed in "one god" and somehow thought the book we were reading consistently painted a picture of this one god, when, in fact, the Bible reflects changing beliefs about gods over the time-span it covers. It starts out with the "Most High" god and his sons creating the universe, then transitions to a point where one of his sons, named Jehovah, becomes the god of Israel, and is much more powerful than his brothers (read the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32), and eventually the authors (and the people of the time) came to believe that Jehovah and the Most High was one and the same. There's even Psalm 82 where either the Most High or Jehovah (it doesn't say which) takes the other gods' divinity away from them! That's not what anyone believes, but it's what the Bible says. It's not impossible that there are such things as gods, but it's clear that the god/gods in the Bible are the product of people's speculation about what a god would be like, if there were any such things. And that time when my job situation turned out well when I was sure it was going to be bad, and I attributed it to this god? Turns out that some really good people were behind that. That period of months and months, maybe over a year in my life when I was really depressed and never went to a doctor because I was convinced that it was my situation, but I finally got over it? A god didn't fix that, either. Otherwise it would have happened suddenly and sooner instead of gradually over a long period. Job says "the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." If there's any reason to disbelieve in this particular god, that's it -- either this god is impulsive and uncaring, or it just simply doesn't exist. The latter seems more reasonable. Nobody simply wanted to leave. We just realized that what we believed was wrong. For many, it felt like a great loss. For others, life suddenly made sense and we never felt any loss at all.
  3. I didn't even know that was there! Thanks for pointing it out.
  4. Yes! I never felt any sense of loss! There's a lot of stress involved due to family and societal expectations, but realizing it wasn't real was such a relief! I never felt like I had lost anything at all!
  5. I've read a little bit about stoicism, enough to know that it isn't what we think of (which would be "just don't get excited about anything, either positive or negative"). I need to read more about philosophy, though. Thanks for your input.
  6. But believers take those and say "therefore, everything else Paul said is commanded by the god." *sigh* It also makes me think Paul was a lot like people today who think their god is talking to him. He had thoughts and just assumed they weren't coming from his own brain?
  7. Thanks, TABA. I logged in and was wondering what all of the notifications were!
  8. I am reading a blog post on Patheos by an Evangelical author, Philip Yancey, called "A Time to Doubt" here. The post doesn't allow comments, which is not unexpected given the subject and some of the things he says. The comments section could easily get out of hand and really would serve no purpose, but I want to comment on the article on my own blog, so here goes: One paragraph says "Often seems silent." I would have worded it this way, also, when I was a Christian. Jehovah often seems silent. But eventually I realized that those times he seems silent are the times I'm expecting an answer. All of the times I'm expecting an answer. The times you don't notice Jehovah's silence are the times you're not expecting anything. In other words, the reality is that there's never actually a word from Jehovah. When I was a believer I didn't actually go through many periods of doubt that Mr. Yancey is describing here, because I didn't actually need anything. And when I first deconverted, it had nothing to do with Jehovah's silence, but shortly afterward I realized the truth -- that (as Annie Laurie Gaylor says) nothing fails like prayer. As a Christian, convincing myself that "God's will is always done" was pretty easy, and so when any struggles didn't actually get resolved (simply delayed for later) I accepted the caveat that it wasn't the god's will, and that it would make me stronger, or more patient, or some such. Only afterward did I realize the obvious -- that nothing magical or supernatural ever actually happens. Life is just life. Yancey writes about the Jews who had escaped from Egypt: Of course, the author of the books of Exodus and Numbers are writing many years later of the legends passed down to them, not about current events. For the most part, historians doubt that the descendants of Jacob were even in Egypt. But even if they were, go back and read the accounts in the Bible! The Bible says these people doubted even though they'd seen obvious signs of Jehovah helping them. I can't help but think that this is the author's perspective, passed down to him through many generations, and specifically related to him by a believing elderly relative. The more likely conclusion is that the people who doubted never actually saw any evidence. If anything like the events recorded as the Exodus actually happened, the people caught up in it very likely saw nothing that made them think this god of theirs was real. Further in the article, Yancey says Again -- proof within the Bible itself that the evidence isn't actually there, and wasn't there during the time the events were supposedly happening. And there's the real evidence against there being any such being as Jehovah. The people alive at the time weren't convinced. The writers who came along later claim that the evidence should have been enough to convince anyone alive, yet they admit that those living at the time didn't actually find it to be convincing! It's only by asserting, after the fact when no actual witnesses to the time are alive, that all of the miracles happened, that people can be convinced. The people who were alive at the time saw only life as usual with nothing supernatural going on. Yancey makes the typical objection that we were all taught to make as Christians: It's nothing but a "get out of jail free" card for Jehovah. The truth is that the Bible makes specific promises about what this god will do. When those things don't happen, Christianity has evolved the mechanism of accusing the accuser -- of saying "you have no right to 'test' God". That came along early, too -- before Christianity even -- in the book of Job, where the god basically tells Job he's just a stupid human and has no right to question the god. A paragraph further on, in his outline of an article, is entitled Now here, Yancey is correct! The famous statement in Hebrews about faith ("faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen") makes it clear, if you pay attention to what the author is actually saying, that faith is a substitute for substance and evidence. As a Christian, I'm not sure I ever had faith. I was most certainly a believer -- a true Christian! But I thought there was evidence for my beliefs. Faith is what happens when you just assume something to be true without evidence. It's belief for no reason other than that someone told you so or you read it. Yancey then makes a blatantly false assertion: No. "Unbelief" is honesty. "Doubt" is the path to unbelief and honesty, but that path is often not traveled due to the fear instilled by the religion itself. The meme of Christianity has evolved to continue to exist by overtly stating that doubt is caused by external, evil forces -- by a powerful being (somehow not credited as being an evil god) who has the power to literally plant thoughts in people's heads. "Reason" is of the Devil, Christianity asserts. The moment you start to wonder whether the god is real, your Christian indoctrination makes you think that doubt has been implanted in your head by the evil god Satan. But that's not what's happening. The god Satan isn't real. The gods Jehovah and Jesus aren't real. You're doubting because you can plainly see that the claims of the Bible about Jehovah and Jesus are simply untrue. Yancey then talks about Mother Teresa: She knew! She knew it wasn't real! She knew Jehovah wasn't there, doing anything at all on the Earth. Yancey goes on: She conducted her life in order to help people, "despite her doubts". I would say, "despite her eventual coming to terms with the fact that her faith was baseless". In the end, she was good without god, as we all are, really. People are generally good -- no gods required.
  9. " those evangelicals who are enraged at Christianity Today for calling out Trump’s abuses of power aren’t enraged because they think Trump’s good outweighs his bad. They’re enraged because they think he is all good. " If I believed in spirits and demons and gods and such, I'd think that the evangelicals had literally sold their souls to Satan. The god wouldn't give them the judges they wanted, so Satan came along and said "I'll give you more judges than you ever thought possible! You just have to let me pick the president! Oh, and you have to be completely loyal to whomever I pick. Oh, and you go to Hell when you die. But you'll get your judges!" It's almost enough to make me a believer! (Okay, not really, but I've been really tempted to post something like this on facebook where nobody actually knows that I'm an atheist.)
  10. Interesting, but it seems to me that any such document would have a stamp of some sort. Checks get cancelled. Legal documents get notarized or stamped in some other way. Ever since 2000, I've written out the full year anyway, so I guess I'll just keep doing it! The hardest thing for me to wrap my head around this year is that the Y2K hysteria was TWENTY YEARS AGO!
  11. I'll be 60 next week, Weezer. I'm an old guy at work, but pretty young on bulletin boards of this sort! Younger people are on tumblr. I'm in okay health. I have a tachycardia condition that is fixable, but I don't like the fix (they go in and kill some nerve endings), so they gave me a beta-blocker to help control it. It's something that happens only a few times per year, anyway. But my sister died of MS almost 2 years ago, and my brother found out that he has a tumor on his liver and another on his lung. Surgery number 1 is next week. Our mother is still hanging in there. She's 91, and has been on hospice about 7 or 8 months, but the condition that sent her to the hospital a couple of times in the spring (which is why she chose hospice -- no more hospitals) has been under control since then. I find myself wondering if she's going to outlive a second child. Anyway, the mortality is right in front of us. I"m actually more afraid that I'm going to live 25 years beyond my wife and siblings. Truth is, I'm done. A year ago I wanted to see my grandchildren grow up, but somewhere in the last few months I've quit caring how long I live. But, like you, I realize that I'm not at all worried about it. I cannot imagine life after death -- that we merely cease to exist seems rather obvious to me. The "mind" is an emergent property that requires a physical brain. A few years ago I had my gallbladder removed. As I lay there waiting for them to start the anesthesia I realized that I wasn't the least bit worried. I thought I was supposed to be, but I just wasn't! Maybe that's a sign that I don't have much of an imagination.
  12. When I was a Christian I bought into the idea that the Old Testament pointed to the New Testament, as Paul said, "the law was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ." So I believed that the Jews had been the god's chosen people, but that the promises of "forever" came with a caveat -- as long as they were obedient. So, when they disobeyed, the god sent them off into captivity. When they repented, the god let them go home. When they rejected the messiah, the god rejected them as a nation and within 100 years there was no more Israel. I believed that people of Jewish descent could go to Heaven just like anybody else in the world -- they just had to become Christians! I believed that Evangelicals were fighting against the god when they facilitated the return of Jewish people to Palestine in the mid- and late-20th century. I thought they were trying to help the god out just like Abraham had when he fathered Ishmael. I did not believe that Jesus was going to establish an earthly kingdom. Anyway, overall I guess I was ambivalent about Jewish people. They were just like anybody else. It still confuses me that many Evangelicals are still trying to help Russian Jews immigrate to Israel and want the US to support Israel, and other Evangelicals are very anti-Semitic.
  13. That's my definition of "religion": Speculation about what a god might be like, if there were such things as gods.
  14. Remember the story where Paul started a fight between the Pharisees and Sadducees? It's in Acts 23. He used the fact that the Sadducees didn't believe in a resurrection to get them into an argument and get himself out of a jam. There are a number of passages in the Gospels and in Acts that make it clear that the Sadducees didn't believe in any sort of afterlife. It's presented as strange, and just plain wrong, but why? Because by the time of the NT most Jews did believe in such things. So why not the Sadducees? The answer is simple: It was unscriptural! Christians today look at the NT and impose it on the OT, but in the 1st century there was no NT! The Sadducees read their Bible, which is, in general, what we call the Old Testament, and there was nothing in there about Hell, and nothing about people going to Heaven or anywhere else when they died. Heaven was where the god lived, and that's it. This makes it obvious that the Jews had picked up the idea of life-after-death sometime "between the testaments." It's proof that Judaism evolved, and Christians just started with 1st century Judaism and mixed in other things. My point is this: Among the things that make it clear that the Bible isn't some perfectly consistent book, but rather, and assemblage of beliefs about a god/gods, is this total lack of any belief in life after death in the Old Testament. It's all speculation, and none of it is real. Jehovah isn't real. Jesus, if there ever was such a person, wasn't a god. There's no Holy Spirit that can be "blasphemed." And there's no such thing as Hell that people should be afraid of it. If I understand correctly, the original thinking of the Jews was that their oppressors would go to Hell. Christianity turned it into a place a person would wind up, not if they were bad, but if they merely didn't believe the right things. That belief is a big part of Christianity's success as a meme, so it's no surprise that you would have the fear -- but don't! It's bogus. You only have to take one step back to see that there's no such place, in exactly the same way there are no such things as ghosts, spirits, angels, demons, gods, or any other sorts of minds without bodies. The speculation about a place of eternal torment is a very powerful mental device, but that's all it is -- a scare tactic that evolved organically and helped a religion to survive. Hope this helps.
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