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A Total Lack Of Faith


ghostchild
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I'd like to rant a bit... I think I'm in the right forum :)

 

Since leaving christianity I've discovered that I am almost totally incapable of belief. By this, I mean that I cannot have faith in any sort of unsubstantiated idea. I was bashed over the head with the concept of faith in god, faith in the bible, faith in good works, faith in the church, since I was a tiny child, and when it comes right down to it, no matter how hard I wanted to have that faith, I never, never did. The closest I ever came was believing that christianity was provable, and logical, and made sense. I believed at one time that it was possible to logically reason out the existence of god and it seemed to follow that the church I was in, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, was the only way in which one could find that absolute truth.

 

When I discovered the cold rationality behind evolution, after teaching myself some of the basics of genetics (left out of my homeschooling textbooks for.. some reason) and realised that it all made so much bloody sense, I discovered that there was no need for god, no fundamental hole in human understanding that only the existence of a God explained, and thus I was left with the option of having complete faith in the words taught to me by my priests and parents, or else abandoning it all, I really had no choice left.

 

To simply take someone's word on something like the existence of god and moral law was totally unthinkable to me, and becomes more so every day. every single aspect of christianity is based upon what some other human has told us, and there is absolutely no way to show otherwise. Even if the bible was logical, even if the version of christianity I was raised in had been cuddly and friendly, I know I would have had no choice but to walk away.

 

The christians who come to this forum all seem bent on persuading us using other peoples' words that we *must* believe, that we have no choice, and never ever seem to stop to notice that in order to be a christian you must have a willingness to put trust in the words of a series of people who, when questioned, point to heaven and proclaim, without proof, that their words are god-inspired. No scientific method has ever been integrated into religion, no peer review, no system of organised criticism or analysis. It's all either taken at face value or trashed as complete heresy, no middle ground. To believe it at all, you must trust with your whole heart that those people who you've never even met were *right* and you must never question it, or your faith comes apart like the paper balloon it is.

 

Ultimately, I'm incapable of trusting that. I'll give some weight to the scientific method, but even there I can at least see the methodology used to come to conclusions and attempt to understand it myself. I'll give credit to logic, to rationality, but I'll never give faith to anything. I need to *know* the answer is correct, or at least know it is incomplete or non-existent. I can sit with uncertainty if I have to. I cannot claim certainty where no true knowledge can possibly exist.

 

Everyone who has ever tried to change my mind about god has missed this, even if I explain it to them. They don't seem able to comprehend my stance. I'm not a skeptic, I don't automatically reject things that seem supernatural or spiritual, I simply cannot have faith in them. I don't understand what is so complicated about that, and yet no christian seems to understand.

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Ultimately, I'm incapable of trusting that. I'll give some weight to the scientific method, but even there I can at least see the methodology used to come to conclusions and attempt to understand it myself. I'll give credit to logic, to rationality, but I'll never give faith to anything. I need to *know* the answer is correct, or at least know it is incomplete or non-existent. I can sit with uncertainty if I have to. I cannot claim certainty where no true knowledge can possibly exist.

 

Everyone who has ever tried to change my mind about god has missed this, even if I explain it to them. They don't seem able to comprehend my stance. I'm not a skeptic, I don't automatically reject things that seem supernatural or spiritual, I simply cannot have faith in them. I don't understand what is so complicated about that, and yet no christian seems to understand.

 

I'm not sure what you're saying here. Are you saying you don't trust the scientific method? Do you know what it is or how it works? I'm not sure how anyone can know anything if not via the scientific method. In its simplest form, the way I understand it, it's simply cause and effect. I do A and B happens. Then I do B and A happens. I test principles and if it works both ways, as I just described, then I consider it to be a true principle about life.

 

For example, Romans 1:28-32 tells us what horrible people atheists are (people who don't like to retain God in their understanding). Thus, Christians believe atheists are by definition the worst scum of the earth imaginable. But when I learn to know atheists I find, to my bewilderment, that they are just as ethical and moral and self-denying as any Christian. Self-denial was the biggie with me. That really made an impression on me. I was standing outside the office of my professor when he was taking a telephone call in which he was asked to do a radio talk show about his specialty. He said he had committed himself to educating the world on the topic but it was rather awkward doing it so late at night because his wife went to bed early.

 

I couldn't believe it. He was serious enough about life to make such a commitment. He was even willing to deny himself sleep for this commitment. Unbelievable! What the Bible said did not correspond with real life. In my opinion, that is applying the scientific method to Rom. 1 to see if it holds true. Obviously, you will need to see if this makes sense to your experience of the world. You can't just accept it as fact because I say so. I'm totally like that myself. I've always been like this.

 

No scientific method has ever been integrated into religion, no peer review, no system of organised criticism or analysis.

 

I made the mistake of thinking perhaps a real live scientist of the 21st century would have applied the scientific method to his religion. Surely he would have done so because that is how I approached this whole god question from the first time I heard about the stuff as a child. Admittedly, I was not as young as some people are; I was probably at least five years old if not more. By the time I was fourteen I very desperately wanted to know for sure "how we know" that God exists. I was getting to be the age of accountability as understood in my church and I took it really seriously.

 

In order to be saved, I had to be a sinner, and I never did the horrible things on purpose that sinner supposedly did. I never claimed perfection, but the one time I was able to wring a definition of "sinner" out of someone, I was told it was someone who did things they knew were wrong. I didn't do that. Maybe I should, just so I could be saved, but that just didn't sit right with me. Besides, what if I died before I had a chance to repent? Also, how could I honestly repent of something I had done on purpose? On top of all that, how could Jesus' dead body (which was material) help our souls (which are spiritual) get to heaven (which is also spiritual)?

 

I was told that I would understand when I got older. Okay, I trusted the church's and my mother's word on this. Surely they knew more than I did. The burning questions did not go away. I read the Bible and I probed it deeply. Sometimes I wondered if perhaps The Answer was hidden somewhere in the prophets or laws that I couldn't make myself read but that made no sense. I had read the NT from cover to cover so many times and our beliefs supposedly were based on the NT, I had sat in so many years worth of sermons. I knew everything there was to know about our beliefs. IT WASN'T THERE! Finally I hit forty. Suddenly I realized that I was "older." What now? Eventually, I decided to go back to school. This meant openly disobeying my church for the first time in my life because education beyond Grade 8 was not okay. And I had no intention of repenting--ever. (I should mention that going back to school had nothing to do with my theological questions, but since I was in school anyway, I used my education--just as I did all life experiences--to further analyze the God question.)

 

I went through with it. No regrets. Relationships with my family are as good as non-existent. Well, I wish this were the case. They love me ever so much--as a sinner. It's so abusive that I do what I can to have no contact. I have returned gifts and letters. I have also had unwelcome family members in my home. However, they have very little formal education. As I said, I made the mistake of thinking a scientist might apply the scientific method to determine the existence of God.

 

He seemed like a really brilliant person. I just happened to find a number of videos online with this person's lectures. The first one was against Intelligent Design and I was really impressed. In the following ones, I felt betrayed. Not only did he confess being religious, he practically invited students to ask questions about how to integrate religion with science. He was prepared for the question with a TV show he had done on the topic that was now online. Then when I read some of his stuff posted online about his beliefs, it's the same as any Christian--just statements that we're supposed to accept as true without any supporting evidence.

 

I went back and double-checked. It's so common I didn't notice at first so I went back and double-checked and sure enough, he was just like all the rest--he makes all these statements about God, etc. without supporting evidence. He thinks he "knows" this stuff just like all Christians "know" it. And he thinks it's on a higher level of knowing than science. This is a guy who knows all about peer review, etc. Very many Christians don't. But he does. And, in his opinion, it does not apply to religion. So much for education.

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I'm not sure what you're saying here. Are you saying you don't trust the scientific method?

 

I actually understand and use the scientific method, as you describe. I agree, I honestly think it's the only way to really know anything for sure, or even *start* to know things. What I meant was that I don't even trust conclusions made by scientists etc. unless I can understand how they drew those conclusions. If I can't understand what is being talked about or how they drew their conclusion, then I can't really draw any firm ideas on whether I accept it or not. Simply trusting isn't an option for me.

 

 

For example, Romans 1:28-32 tells us what horrible people atheists are (people who don't like to retain God in their understanding). Thus, Christians believe atheists are by definition the worst scum of the earth imaginable. But when I learn to know atheists I find, to my bewilderment, that they are just as ethical and moral and self-denying as any Christian. Self-denial was the biggie with me. That really made an impression on me. I was standing outside the office of my professor when he was taking a telephone call in which he was asked to do a radio talk show about his specialty. He said he had committed himself to educating the world on the topic but it was rather awkward doing it so late at night because his wife went to bed early.

 

I couldn't believe it. He was serious enough about life to make such a commitment. He was even willing to deny himself sleep for this commitment. Unbelievable! What the Bible said did not correspond with real life. In my opinion, that is applying the scientific method to Rom. 1 to see if it holds true. Obviously, you will need to see if this makes sense to your experience of the world. You can't just accept it as fact because I say so. I'm totally like that myself. I've always been like this.

 

So many things I was told growing up fell down the second I actually compared them to real life. My childhood was sheltered in the extreme and so until I started university I had no way to compare the church's teachings on homosexuality or goths or pagans or atheists to real information. I was overwhelmed and shocked when I discovered just how wrong the things I'd been taught by my priest and my parents really were. I tried to explain it to my Dad, by telling him about the truly interesting, intelligent, friendly people I'd met, and he told me that it was all a front just to get me to leave the church, which didn't fit at all with what I'd really seen. Then the bible really fell apart when I started really studying ancient history, and learned that the earth can't possibly be eight thousand years old.

 

I only stayed in the church after that because of the training and fear of hell that was so deeply ingrained, but my faith was truly gone. I didn't believe, but i was terrified I was wrong and they were right and I'd go to hell.

 

 

 

I made the mistake of thinking perhaps a real live scientist of the 21st century would have applied the scientific method to his religion. Surely he would have done so because that is how I approached this whole god question from the first time I heard about the stuff as a child. Admittedly, I was not as young as some people are; I was probably at least five years old if not more. By the time I was fourteen I very desperately wanted to know for sure "how we know" that God exists. I was getting to be the age of accountability as understood in my church and I took it really seriously.

 

In order to be saved, I had to be a sinner, and I never did the horrible things on purpose that sinner supposedly did. I never claimed perfection, but the one time I was able to wring a definition of "sinner" out of someone, I was told it was someone who did things they knew were wrong. I didn't do that. Maybe I should, just so I could be saved, but that just didn't sit right with me. Besides, what if I died before I had a chance to repent? Also, how could I honestly repent of something I had done on purpose? On top of all that, how could Jesus' dead body (which was material) help our souls (which are spiritual) get to heaven (which is also spiritual)?

 

I was told that I would understand when I got older. Okay, I trusted the church's and my mother's word on this. Surely they knew more than I did. The burning questions did not go away. I read the Bible and I probed it deeply. Sometimes I wondered if perhaps The Answer was hidden somewhere in the prophets or laws that I couldn't make myself read but that made no sense. I had read the NT from cover to cover so many times and our beliefs supposedly were based on the NT, I had sat in so many years worth of sermons. I knew everything there was to know about our beliefs. IT WASN'T THERE! Finally I hit forty. Suddenly I realized that I was "older." What now? Eventually, I decided to go back to school. This meant openly disobeying my church for the first time in my life because education beyond Grade 8 was not okay. And I had no intention of repenting--ever. (I should mention that going back to school had nothing to do with my theological questions, but since I was in school anyway, I used my education--just as I did all life experiences--to further analyze the God question.)

 

I went through with it. No regrets. Relationships with my family are as good as non-existent. Well, I wish this were the case. They love me ever so much--as a sinner. It's so abusive that I do what I can to have no contact. I have returned gifts and letters. I have also had unwelcome family members in my home. However, they have very little formal education. As I said, I made the mistake of thinking a scientist might apply the scientific method to determine the existence of God.

 

He seemed like a really brilliant person. I just happened to find a number of videos online with this person's lectures. The first one was against Intelligent Design and I was really impressed. In the following ones, I felt betrayed. Not only did he confess being religious, he practically invited students to ask questions about how to integrate religion with science. He was prepared for the question with a TV show he had done on the topic that was now online. Then when I read some of his stuff posted online about his beliefs, it's the same as any Christian--just statements that we're supposed to accept as true without any supporting evidence.

 

I went back and double-checked. It's so common I didn't notice at first so I went back and double-checked and sure enough, he was just like all the rest--he makes all these statements about God, etc. without supporting evidence. He thinks he "knows" this stuff just like all Christians "know" it. And he thinks it's on a higher level of knowing than science. This is a guy who knows all about peer review, etc. Very many Christians don't. But he does. And, in his opinion, it does not apply to religion. So much for education.

 

This fits in exactly with what I've seen since leaving christianity and actually paying attention. Even if they are highly educated and brilliantly intelligent, like my father, they simply cannot apply that to their faith. It won't stand up to it, so they don't dare try.

 

Since being on this website I've read a lot of material posted by christians from many, many denominations and it seems to me that they all do this. they all claim absolute knowledge as if they've been handed perfect proof of their beliefs. It's very rare to even see it acknowledged as belief, they just state facts and expect everyone to buy it wholesale. Those scientists who do research, question, and review christian material are total outcasts from most christianity even if their own faith remains intact. Genuine bible scholars- by which I mean those people who try to verify or refute bits of the bible or other christian mythology- is usually slandered in the worst way.

 

In some ways I feel so stupid, now, for just taking my Dad's word that it all made sense. I hadn't read the Holy Fathers like he had, but only dabbled, and I guess I was a bit scared to truly test it... Maybe I always knew it was bullshit and just never tried to know more because of that. Nonetheless, I honestly thought that the whole point of the so-called holy fathers, the men whose writing makes up the basis for Eastern Orthodox Theology, was that they had gone through it all with a fine toothed comb and worked out the genuine truth.

 

The ways I discovered the lie were somewhat backward. I didn't start by reading the actual books. They're almost hypnotic, incredibly hard to follow, and make little sense at the best of times. Instead, I just tried to apply what I was told to the world around me and watched that teaching make no sense in real life. Eventually I came to understand the thing that no christian dares consider - The question of the all-knowing, all-loving god who sends people to hell, just for disbelieving- and I knew that none of it had ever truly been questioned or criticized by the Orthodox elite. It couldn't have, or this obvious fallacy would have been spotted and talked about!

 

It all came to a head a month later. I suddenly found myself in deep strife for teaching some of the church kids to play Dungeons and Dragons, and everyone demanded I repent my wicked ways. I didn't see any sort of a problem with the game other than the sheer nerd-factor and told them so. They insisted it was evil, because there was the option of playing an evil alignment and because of the magic in the game (apparently dungeons and dragons magic is exactly like wicca. go figure, lol.) I refused to back down, and was asked if i dared doubt the wisdom of the holy fathers... I said, yeah, I think that in this they are pretty wrong, or would be if they'd been alive to see the invention of the game. And they said.. well the priest says it's bad, so it's bad. Period.

 

At that moment I truly realised that the whole religion was built up on total blind acceptance. Dungeons and Dragons is whatever you make of it, and could have been a great fun game for the family (yes, it's a geeky family) but instead, it's of the devil, just based on one man's interpretation of another man's judgement.

 

I just couldn't buy it. Not for anything that silly, and not for anything else. I need to really know to claim knowledge. Understanding based on observation, applying concepts to the real world. If I don't understand it, then I don't know it. I will never assume that someone else is right ever again. I have *no* ability to just believe.

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I went back and double-checked. It's so common I didn't notice at first so I went back and double-checked and sure enough, he was just like all the rest--he makes all these statements about God, etc. without supporting evidence. He thinks he "knows" this stuff just like all Christians "know" it. And he thinks it's on a higher level of knowing than science. This is a guy who knows all about peer review, etc. Very many Christians don't. But he does. And, in his opinion, it does not apply to religion. So much for education.
This reminds me of a Catholic friend of mine. She's not a scientist or anything like that but she's much more intelligent about science than your typical xtian is. She's studied a lot about evolution and physics and is one of the rare Christians that actually enjoys studying these subjects. She'll accept the book of Genesis as a metaphor but at the same time she'll believe the rest of the bible is the perfect divinely inspired word of God and she also believes in telekinesis and psychic visions, basing her evidence solely on proven frauds and subjective personal experiences. I don't understand how she can apply the scientific method to some things and not apply it to others. When I debate with her about the contradictions in the bible, she just doesn't see them even though to me there as clear as rain. And when I ask her for evidence of the existence of God, she just tells me that's what faith is for. This is another thing I don't get that Christians have no problems applying the scientific method to other people's religions and supernatural claims but for some reason, they turn off their skeptical thinking when it comes to their own.
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I'm not sure what you're saying here. Are you saying you don't trust the scientific method?

 

I actually understand and use the scientific method, as you describe. I agree, I honestly think it's the only way to really know anything for sure, or even *start* to know things. What I meant was that I don't even trust conclusions made by scientists etc. unless I can understand how they drew those conclusions. If I can't understand what is being talked about or how they drew their conclusion, then I can't really draw any firm ideas on whether I accept it or not. Simply trusting isn't an option for me.

 

 

Okay I get you now. :)

 

Maybe you're a scientist at heart. I don't have the technical brains needed for this so I am forced to trust the process if the logic holds together and is consistent. But you can check up on the scientists--I think. The way they're supposed to operate, I think, is to write up reports on their experiments and write out every detail of how they did it and how they arrived at their conclusions. They have to publish this and make everything available to the public. I think there's even rules about making field notes available upon request but I'm not sure about that.

 

And when I ask her for evidence of the existence of God, she just tells me that's what faith is for. This is another thing I don't get that Christians have no problems applying the scientific method to other people's religions and supernatural claims but for some reason, they turn off their skeptical thinking when it comes to their own.

 

That's why I had hoped for better from Christians who are scientists. Because if the scientists don't do better, then what can we expect of people with less education. He's Catholic, by the way. In one of the videos, when asked whether he believed in this or that about evolution or ID (I forget which), he practically made fun of the person for saying "believe" since it's not a belief when talking about science, and it's not a choice, either. Yet in another place regarding his religion he clearly talks about choosing his beliefs. So here's what I asked him via email:

 

When you apply the scientific method to God’s existence, how can you choose whether or not to believe in God any more than you can choose whether or not to believe in evolution or ID?

 

He talks about growing up in the fifties so he must be about sixty by now--he's no kid anymore.

 

He excused himself from responding to my question but gave me several links. In one of the links I found this:

 

the atheist places God within the realm of science to investigate and test.

 

Ken Miller in Hitchens vs Miller, second exchange.

 

Obviously, this guy has not done any research on the topic whatsoever. He has not read any testimonies on exChristian at all. Or possibly he discounts and disregards everything he is told, reads, or hears from and about atheists. If thinking critically about god's existence comes from atheists only, then I was an atheist from the moment I first heard about god.

 

He thinks he's better than the ID people. Well, his science is better so far as it goes, but his religion isn't. Like the ID people he sticks God in there as the progenitor of life. Seems he can't live without a god of the gaps. But he won't see this.

 

 

 

Sorry, for derailing your thread. But you're right, ghostchild, we've got to do our own thinking. Can't trust anyone just because of their title and position.

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But you can check up on the scientists--I think. The way they're supposed to operate, I think, is to write up reports on their experiments and write out every detail of how they did it and how they arrived at their conclusions. They have to publish this and make everything available to the public. I think there's even rules about making field notes available upon request but I'm not sure about that.

 

Sure can. Some technical knowledge in the subject you're looking into helps (i.e. start with the freshman and sophomore textbooks and work your way up into the journals), or at the very least a good subject dictionary :P. Each journal has its own specifications as to what they want in their articles, but the overall contents are consistent. Usually there's an introduction that gives the background information relevant to the hypothesis and such, materials and methods which must be painstakingly described in order to allow for replication (if someone can't replicate your experiment and get similar or the same results, there may be a problem with your research), then results (which must be accurately reported if you're going to be taken seriously) and often statistical analysis, discussion for where the author interprets the results according to his/her assumptions (which are stated and usually discussed), background info and already known principles, and a conclusion for a summary and the author's thoughts on where the research should go next. There are no rules that I'm aware of about providing notes, but it looks bad if you refuse and unless they're particularly jealous or secretive for some reason (including their company won't let them) scientists are trained to be open with their notes and stuff, and to take them down in such a way that mistakes are preserved along with the correct notes.

 

There are never requirements to publish anything as a scientist in general, though, of course, employers often measure performance by how often one publishes. Making things available to the public isn't a direct process either, most journals require membership since it costs money to publish them. The people who are going to be most interested in the results published in a particular journal are going to be the most likely to subscribe directly. In general though they're going to be available at university libraries which are open to anyone who wants to come in in most cases, and you're free to browse what's on the shelves, make copies, and generally make use of the online databases of articles as well. Once you get into upper level biology classes you start noticing that the news reports on studies that are old enough to be -in your textbooks- (and news reporters are NOT scientists in any way shape or form, do NOT trust them) and, if you haven't already, you quit relying on them for any sort of science news :P (or the day they tell you a python is venomous and then show video of the guy handling it like the non-venomous snake it is).

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