Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Can You Handle the Truth?

117 Comments

I’ve been inspired to write this from a couple of places, really.  The Big Blog of Knowledge had this post on Radical Honesty. How much value do you place on the truth?  Is honesty important to you?  Do you lie to keep yourself from hearing your wife nag about how much time you spend golfing?  Do you lie to your husband about how much money you spent on that purse?  Do you lie to your children?

If you went to the doctor for tests and the results weren’t favorable would you want to know?  If you went to an attorney and asked for advice would you tell him all the details to get the best options?  Or would you withhold information in the hopes anything seedy wouldn’t come out and you’d get them to do a great job for you without all the details?  Would you want your attorney to give you an honest assessment of your situation or blow smoke up your skirt?

I’m a firm believer in the concept that if you ask me a question you’d better be prepared for the answer.  I don’t mean brutally; I mean do you really want the truth?  Before getting into debates with unbelievers Christians(or apologists from any other faith, for that matter) should be prepared for the stark reality that many of us have considered real evidence to come to our conclusions.  We didn’t get mad at God.  We didn’t decide we wanted to live a life of sin and debauchery.  We honestly assessed the evidence and found it wanting.  Not only did we find evidence for a God wanting, we found evidence to the contrary.

Over at Thoughts from a Sandwich there’s a wealth of knowledge.  DagoodS really knows his stuff.  Every so often a Christian happens along his path hoping to reconvert him.  With the false belief(because some apologist lied to this apologist somewhere along the way) that the reasons people are atheist or have deconverted have nothing whatsoever to do with evidence these well-meaning, sometimes naive, Christians show up and try to set the record straight.  Most of the time they walk away still convinced that de-converts exist in spite of evidence for Christianity rather than accepting the reality that what they believe is…well…just not true.

Recently he had an interesting and ongoing exchange with a fellow blogger who is an Orthodox Lutheran Christian.  This fellow sought out Bruce Gerenscer to ask questions and , in his own words, truthfully try to understand atheism.  He’d believed that he could possibly say something that might turn these one-time Christians into once-again Christians.

I’m really not trying to single him out, but as a consequence of the exchange he had, and the materials they had him research this man nearly lost his faith.  Nearly.  And to be honest I have to admire his honesty in his conclusions.  He has retained his faith, but it’s not the same faith he had before.  Now he is concerned that this same information will cause more people to lose their faith.  This was his exhortation to DagoodS after their lengthy exchange:

“I’m a doctor. When I first started out as a doctor I believed it was my duty to always tell my patient the truth. I have learned after 20 years of practice that the truth is not what every patient wants to hear. Some patients want to know that they only have three months left to live. Some don’t want to know. These people just want to live every day as if nothing is wrong. They don’t want the “truth” hanging over their head.

So now instead of always telling my patients the truth, I ask them instead, “How much do you want to know?”

I would humbly suggest that you do the same with Christians who come to you for advice on the “evidence” that proves Christianity as false. Some of us don’t want to know “the truth”. We are happy with what we perceive to be truth, even if it may be false by the “evidence”.

He readily admits he doesn’t want to know the truth.  He wants to keep the fairy tale alive.  It would be too detrimental to his family life, his personal life, and his psyche to let go of his faith.  And so, because he wants to believe he does.  I don’t think I’ve ever met another Christian who has been this honest with others nor themselves.  It’s noteworthy that the commenters on this post don’t think he will be able to hold onto his faith in this manner.  After all, we couldn’t do it.  You can’t unsee what’s been seen.  You can’t unknow what you know.  It is for those reasons that we weren’t able to hold onto our faith, either.  How can you have facts laid out before, acknowledge those facts as facts, and ignore them?  How do you unring that bell?

So when it comes to honesty, how much do you really want to know?  Can you handle the truth?

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117 thoughts on “Can You Handle the Truth?

  1. I had a Christian be that honest. He said, after much back and forth, he knew it was all false, he recognised the lie but choose to still believe because it gave him comfort. His honesty left me speechless. There was simply nothing left to say after that.

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    • No, there really is nothing left to say to that. This fellow’s admonition to DagoodS to have compassion on others and not destroy their faith was what really left me speechless.

      It was almost as if he was saying, “I know they’re asking, but don’t really tell them. Let them keep believing the lie because the truth is too hard.”

      The fact is, the truth does hurt sometimes. Deconverts know that all too well.

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      • What’s the saying: I’m going to hurt you with the truth, not comfort you with a lie.

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      • I view it as a break up with a lover. Hurts like hell for a month to a year, depending, and you still get twinges later as you go on with your life. But, you eventually realize you’re better off.

        The thing about this Lutheran’s advice though, is any believer won’t take the “go easy on me” option, because he or she thinks they’ve got it in hand. It’s not exactly analogous to being a doctor and saying, “Ya got the cancer, would you like to know how you’re going to die?” If you’ve got cancer, you’ve pretty much got cancer, but if you’re delusional, you think that it’s everyone else that’s insane.

        Ignore the confluence of both being delusional and having cancer.

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        • Yes, that is it exactly. Any disclaimer would fall on deaf ears because they think their faith is unshakable. Until it isn’t.

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          • Atheists aren’t so terribly different, I think. Francis Collins was super impressed by a lovely day and waterfalls or some shit.

            Ok, he set a pretty low bar for a revelatory experience.

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          • Haha! I can remember being in awe of a sunset or the changing colors on the leaves in fall or the waves crashing on the shore. I remember thinking how awesome it was that God spoke and these things came into being; how he painted each leaf on the trees. I am also not a physician or geneticist or scientist of any kind.

            Now I’m still in awe of those things; maybe even moreso – just from a different perspective. While I found the concept of fine-tuning wondrous, I find the concept of the randomness of evolution and millions of years of this in the making even more wondrous. What’s more amazing – magic, and boom there it was, or slowly and steadily carving out life and the world around us under less than ideal conditions in a natural and unassisted way? It is the latter for me.

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          • I have a fairly extensive education in biology and science, but nothing compared to Collins. It just makes it all the more boggling that, one day, he just got dumbstruck by a waterfall.

            If anything, his inability to adequately explain himself is the best reason to believe him. Of all people, he ought to be able to.

            It’s still no reason to believe him, it’s just the best.

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  2. Ruth, this was a fantastic post. Very thought provoking. I do think you’re assessment about him is most likely correct. You can’t undo what you know. Even if he chooses not to be conscious of it, it’s there in his sub. The placebo effect is counseled out. There is no real living in limbo.

    Everybody’s different, as you and the doctor pointed out. But I’m the type of person that no matter how nasty tasting a medicinal/health drink might be — I’ll hold my nose, if I have to, and chug it down.

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    • I lived a good portion of my life in denial. I lied to myself. But once I was out of denial I could no longer lie to myself. Now, pretty much no matter the scenario I want all the cards out on the table. Then I can decide the best course of action.

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      • I agree. Not knowing and getting fully vested — then learning the truth is far more painful. It’s not much different than being in love with a full devotion to your partner, only to find out he was messing around on you all along.

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  3. Correction:

    your assessment

    cancelled out

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  4. I’m actually working on something I will probably post tomorrow, but the essential message is that for most Americans, beliefs (or faith) trump facts (or science) every time. It’s kind of sad.

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  5. Another great post. I can understand that for some Christians, even faced with evidence they finally accept, not believing is not an option. Especially once they’re past 50 or 60 years old. I mean, imagine investing the greater part of your life, all your decisions on a load of superstitious nonsense. Nevermind losing all your friends and your social network, everything that structures your life. It’s just not worth it for a lot of people. Anyway, fascinating to hear someone say it, and with the interesting parallel of people not wanting to know the truth about their physical condition. I’m sure the two often go hand in hand – complete denial of reality.

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    • For me, though, once I accepted certain things it was just not even an option to continue believing. That takes an awful lot of cognitive dissonance. What is that quote Arch keeps repeating?

      “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” Mark Twain

      I see what you’re saying, too. For about a minute I did think, ‘Can I get this all back in the box it came out of?’ I wanted to try to get all the pieces back in for the very reasons you mentioned. I had 20+ years invested in it, I had family and friends I knew I’d part ways with. Fortunately not so much family(other than out-laws), but friends I’ve lost many.

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  6. Hi Ruth,

    Great movie and great scene, loved it the first time I saw it and still love it! Obviously a quotable.

    And I liked everything you had to say here and I also think that you are right about Gary. Perhaps he will end up choosing at some point to be (or rather realizing that he already is) a closet atheist to save his familial relationships – I’ve heard of people who figure out how to manage that, although I’m not sure I ever would be able to manage something like that, at least not without serious internal strife.

    I can understand Gary over on thoughts from a sandwich. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss – I mean there are certainly times where I don’t watch the news because I’d rather have a more blissful day. But when it comes to ultimate questions I personally want to know what the answers are and then figure out how to deal with it. I can understand that not everyone is like me in that way though.

    When I read Gary’s comments over there I was reminded very quickly of the Christians who exhorted me to search for truth and follow the evidence wherever it leads. I don’t judge or look down on Gary because like I said there are times when ignorance really can be bliss and if it helps him and he’s not hurting others have at it, but I really wish Christians would not get so high and mighty when they think that skeptics like myself are not following the evidence, especially when I think I am giving the best effort I know how to do just that.

    And frankly if people like Gary are going to have blogs talking smack about atheists or skeptical beliefs then I’m not gonna stand idly by and take it and refrain from speaking my mind just because, as he says, we should leave them to live in their bliss. Live in your bliss fine, but don’t talk smack and think we’ll just leave it be.

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    • Well said Howie. Except for my daughter, no one in my family from both sides, and that includes extended family, are unbelievers. What I take issue with is the fact that believers are hell bent on legislating laws based on a 2000 plus year old culture and book that is nothing more than a historical fiction. Now, the bible is being taught in public schools in some states. We should be very concerned.

      Surveys show that a whopping 75 percent are of the opinion that teaching about the Bible in public schools “could help reinforce moral principles”. In general, studies showed that 77 percent of those surveyed believe the morals and values of the nation are on a decline, and that a decline in Biblical literacy was one of the main causes. http://www.christianpost.com/news/most-americans-want-the-bible-in-public-schools-103216/

      The irony all this is that their ‘very morals’ are the cause of the problems that we are seeing in the U.S. All one has to do is look at the most religious states in the country. They are the poorest, less educated, highest teen pregnancy, high obesity rate, highest heath problems, highest violence, and on and on.

      So, I think that when parts of someones frontal lobes finally come online, they have a responsibility to not encourage the madness for the sake of our species and the planet.

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      • Agreed, Victoria. That was pretty much what DagoodS told him. Atheists/agnostics, for the most part, don’t really give a rip if someone wants to believe in a god or gods. What we care about is when those beliefs start taking hold and rooting in legislation and laws. It’s like kudzu. You think you’re planting a harmless little seed and before you know it it’s invaded the entire planet.

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    • I will say in his behalf, he did have a blog that did just that. I don’t know what direction his blog will take but he repeatedly said he would no longer be trying to convince people to believe in Christianity based on evidence nor would he be holding hell over their heads.

      People’s worlds do get shattered. It’s a very difficult transition and sometimes it takes a really long time to admit to yourself you can’t believe anymore. He’s just kind of had his whole belief system at least shaken up. His beliefs about evidence, his beliefs about his own faith, and his beliefs about unbelievers. It came as a total shock to him the amount of evidence each man considered before giving up their faith.

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  7. I think what Gary was ultimately asking DagoodS to do is put a *Disclaimer* on his blog. Full disclosure. A warning like: Please be advised that reading here could cause you to lose your faith. This for the benefit of the poor person who happens to stop in for a Sandwich and will find more than they bargained for . . . as did Gary.

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    • I’ll agree with that. Though I don’t think a disclaimer like that would be very effective. How many times does somebody read such a disclaimer and think, ‘Yeah, right. Not my faith. You can’t say anything I haven’t already heard.’ Then keep on reading. I’m sorry he was hurt and afraid. Been there, done that. As I said over there, people shouldn’t ask questions they’re not prepared to hear the answer to.

      How can they know whether or not they’re prepared? I don’t think they can know that any more than the person answering the questions can know that they aren’t prepared.

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  8. (I’m not sure if my comment posted the first time, but if it did, please delete this one.)

    Very interesting comments.

    I have learned a lot from my discussions with atheists. The most striking, is that the amount of evidence to believe in the Resurrection really boils down to the testimony of just one man: Saul of Tarsus. You either believe him literally when he says “have I not seen” or you think he was dreaming or hallucinating…or lying. Other than that, I think that Christians should stop trying to convince non-believers with “evidence”.

    I also agree that Christians should stop imposing Christian morality on secular society. No where in our Holy Book does it tell Christians to establish a Theocracy.

    So the question will be: can a fundamentalist Christian deconvert from fundamentalism but hold onto orthodox/traditional Christianity itself? It seems that Dagood, Bruce Gerencser, and Bart Ehrman were not able to do that. “Evidence” convinced them otherwise.

    We will just have to wait and see what happens to me.

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    • Your first comment didn’t post. It didn’t even go into my spam. Weird.

      “So the question will be: can a fundamentalist Christian deconvert from fundamentalism but hold onto orthodox/traditional Christianity itself?”

      I think it’s possible. Many have done it before, so it’s certainly possible. I think it’s just difficult for those of us who have de-converted to understand that. Like I said over there, though, I really don’t think we care that you want to continue believing. That you can puzzles us. But that’s neither here nor there as long as you aren’t using it to form our laws and trying to tell us how to live, which I think you’ve already conceded isn’t your aim. What will you be teaching your children, if you have any? Will you give them all the evidence and let them decide for themselves?

      At any rate it sounds as though your faith has changed. I doubt it will ever be the same. That’s not a criticism, just a matter of fact. Is it good or bad? Not for me to say.

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      • I will teach my six and four year old the orthodox Christian Faith and that the supernatural exists. I will teach them that Jesus Christ is God and the way to eternal life.

        I will also teach them to respect the beliefs of others and to share their faith by their actions of love, kindness, and generosity, not by beating people over the head with the Bible. I will teach my children not to judge the “sins” of others. I will teach them to be kind and compassionate to all people regardless of Faith (or lack thereof), denomination, race, creed, sexual orientation, disability, or physical beauty.

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    • “No where in our Holy Book does it tell Christians to establish a Theocracy.”

      Gary, this comment I appreciate. But what about the great commission? Do you believe it is an obligation to go out and make fishers of men — to take the gospel into all the world baptizing in the name of the father, son an holy ghost? I’ve also read from distinguished scholars that it was an embellishment — was not in earlier copies, as there are no original manuscripts to date, that I’m aware of.

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      • I do believe that we should baptize and teach all nations, but not by dragging them by the hair into the water or beating them over the head with hellfire and damnation. We should be like Jesus: kind and soft spoken…except with the self-righteous, judgmental, religious hypocrites.

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        • I appreciate your honesty, Gary. Do you teach your children that if they don’t submit to Jesus that they are condemned (eternal death) and that others are condemned too? And what about Jesus in Revelations 19, when he comes back and treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. He’s hardly gentle, as the birds gorge themselves on flesh of dead unbelievers.

          “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the father.” The father god of the Bible is not exactly a nice guy. I wonder if you even see this. Neurological studies show that the activity specific to attachments, such as with your children, your partner-spouse-lover associated with romantic love, and even your god activates in the brain’s reward system that coincide with areas rich in oxytocin and vasopressin receptors as well as dopamine.

          Oxytocin and vasopressin deactivated a common set of regions associated with negative emotions and social judgment — the assessment of others intentions. The studies concluded that these types of attachments used for critical social assessment and negative emotions, bonds people to their partners, children and their god through the involvement of the reward circuitry. Neuropharmacological studies show that dopaminergic activation as the leading neurochemical feature associated with religious activity.

          So are you aware that your belief is based on neurochemical reward and a curtailing of death anxiety? That without all these feel-good chemicals and a promise for eternal life, you wouldn’t believe? And because you are apparently in love with your bridegroom, Jesus, and have a maternal attachment to your father god, that parts of your neural circuitry have deactivated, making you unable to see the very dark side of the god you believe in, or the ability to process the abundant amount of information from reputable scholars and archaeologist regarding the credibility of the Bible?

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    • “The most striking, is that the amount of evidence to believe in the Resurrection really boils down to the testimony of just one man: Saul of Tarsus. You either believe him literally when he says “have I not seen” or you think he was dreaming or hallucinating…or lying. ”

      Gary, we already know that Paul is willing to lie if it promotes his version of Christianity. He said so himself. Romans 3:7 , “”But,” someone might still argue, “how can God condemn me as a sinner if my dishonesty highlights his truthfulness and brings him more glory?”

      I know you don’t want anyone to suggest books of evidence to you and I won’t. I would suggest you read an article from a Christian Website about the words of Paul.

      http://www.jesuswordsonly.com/recommendedreading/427-did-paul-ever-deliberately-lie.html

      If you feel you don’t want to read it, they conclude this, “Hence, Jesus gave us the measure by which to determine whether Paul is a true or false prophet — as Paul proclaimed he spoke the ‘Lord’s’ words on several occasions — by examining such fruit. If the fruit of Paul is a deliberate false testimony in court after his conversion event outside Damascus in Acts 9, I very much believe this is the kind of fruit Jesus would say justifies dismissing Paul’s words as inspired from our minds and Bibles.”

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      • I’m sure you could find someone who believes that Mother Theresa was in it for the fame and glory.

        Bart Ehrman believes that Paul was a truthful, trustworthy source of information on Jesus of Nazareth.

        I’m with Bart on this one.

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        • Even if Erhman is right and Paul was honest, why did he only quote Jesus 3 times thoughout all of his writings ? Even though he probably didn’t know Jesus while he was alive, he surely heard many stories and reports from those who did and yet he is very quiet about the words of the Man from Nazareth.

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      • I’ve often wondered if Rom. 3:7 was the back drop for the lies told in our past church experiences. Biker Dude (my husband) and I asked our then senior pastor about his lying, which he admitted to not just to us but also to the then chairman of the board (deacons). He said that is was okay if done so for the sake of Christ . . . in other words, if people come to the Lord whether by truth or a lie, so be it. At least they came.

        That’s only one example. If Paul did it so can I.

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  9. Ruth, not sure if you saw this — from the White House. Gary mentioning theocracy reminded me of this.

    “The Congress, by Public Law 100-307, as amended, has called on the President to issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a “National Day of Prayer.”

    NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 1, 2014, as a National Day of Prayer. I invite the citizens of our Nation to give thanks, in accordance with their own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings, and I join all people of faith in asking for God’s continued guidance, mercy, and protection as we seek a more just world.

    IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

    BARACK OBAMA”

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/05/01/presidential-proclamation-national-day-prayer-2014

    Why is this even necessary? Welcome to America.

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    • You might be interested to know, that many orthodox Lutheran oppose prayer in public school and in government. Why? We believe that Christians should only pray to the Christian God, whose name is “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit”.

      For us, praying to a generic “God” is a form of idolatry. Therefore, I and many other orthodox Lutherans would not support re-introducing prayer into public schools and I would not join President Obama (who I happen to like) in a national prayer day to “God”. I would happily join him privately in prayer to the Christian God, as named above, however.

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      • Besides that, you are commanded to pray in secret — in private, not like the ‘hypocrites’ in public places, i.e., church, schools, etc.

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        • Victoria , your quote of Matthew 6:5 is correct unless you let your fingers do the walking to 1 Timothy 2:8 , “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”

          This is just one of many . No wonder Christians and Non get confused .

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          • Precisely. As I’m sure you are aware that distinguished scholars, including Ehrman, state that Paul wrote 7 of the 13 letters. 1 Timothy was not among the 7. But even if you read the Gospels horizontally, there are many contradictions — varying tales that, IMO, one would have to have specific neural circuitry deactivated to not see it; that is if they even study the Bible.

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    • I didn’t see it, though I’m not surprised. I think it’s partly tradition and partly trying to appease the far right. No matter what the man does, though, he’ll never convince them he’s not a Muslim. I heard a man in my office just yesterday going on about how we have a President who is a foreigner and a Muslim. :rolls:

      Why do we need a National Day of Prayer? *shrug* Any group or individual can pray pretty much anywhere they want at any time they want. This ridiculous War on Christianity bit is getting old.

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  10. “He readily admits he doesn’t want to know the truth. He wants to keep the fairy tale alive.”

    Great post Ruth !

    I am reminded of a quote about Christianity I have probably used on your site before from one of my favorite authors, Alvin Boyd Kuhn, “As ignorance was its mother and the source-spring of its world power, it is bound to cherish ignorance as its Patron Saint and monitor forever, for the breath of knowledge would wither it away.”

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    • Ruth, before my above comment and quote becomes misconstrued, I in no way meant that anyone on your blog or any Christian in general is ignorant. Ignorance in this sense is naivete or not caring or wanting to know.

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      • I know that some people get all riled up about the word ignorant, but I usually mean it in a sense of a lack of knowledge about something. Whether that be an intentional lack of knowledge or an incidental lack of knowledge is irrelevant.

        Ignorance is curable if a person so chooses. In the words of Ron White, though, “You can’t fix stupid.” 😀

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    • Hmm.. I don’t remember that quote here before but it’s possible.

      I can understand the desire to keep the fairy tale alive. Wouldn’t it be nice if Santa were real? When asked directly by my step-daughter whether Santa was real or not I simply said that I believed in the spirit of Santa; that even if there isn’t a man in a red suit the spirit of giving and not expecting anything in return was very real; that we should all be so generous.

      I don’t know if you read over at Thoughts From a Sandwich or not, but this is relatively fresh for Gary. I don’t think any of us deconverted very quickly – not that I’m saying I believe he will deconvert. Who can know? But all this is pretty fresh with him.

      It takes a while, and maybe he’ll never see what we see – the contradictions. For every “it just takes faith – all you have to do is want to believe” scripture, there’s another that says it costs, and it’s a steep cost, and it isn’t easy, and you have to do something to get it. Maybe he’ll see that or maybe he’ll always find a way to rationalize around those. He’s already acknowledged the Bible is manmade.

      I’m not sure what method he’s using to determine which parts are made up, which parts are hyperbole/allegory, and which parts are literally true. Maybe he can enlighten us. He seems to be leaning toward an Eastern Orthodox, supernatural trump card. No need for evidence. None of us can see that because we’re using Western “evidence” based reasoning.

      The only problem is the very book that’s telling him that is also very flawed and also gives a totally different message from that on another page.

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      • Yes, thanks to you making me aware of it, I have visited Thoughts from a Sandwich.

        I’ve also visited Gary’s site. He has lots of “Christian” supporters cheering him on .

        I understand much of what he’s going through. I’ve been there and so have you.

        Not sure if you have read much of Bishop John Shelby Spong’s writings, but I think Spong takes people like Gary to the “Next Step”

        He takes Jesus’ Christianity and strips is down to what you told your daughter about believing in the Spirit of what it stands for.

        The book I am referring to is: Eternal Life:
        Beyond Religion
        Beyond Theism
        Beyond Heaven and Hell

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        • I well remember my journey out as I spent a great deal of time blogging through my heretical changes. This in a former blog. Having a cheering section can be rewarding and well give the appearance of security and safety.

          As I let go of fundamentalism, the fundamentalists fired back but a host of other heretical Christians provided a much needed life-jacket at the time.

          Then as I gradually let go of the heresy of other forms of Christianity my fellow heretics tried to help me hold on and I found heretics can be quite dogmatic themselves.

          Then when I simply with all integrity could no longer refer to myself as a Christian I watched them all go away. It was all very traumatic. Not the leaving of the faith, but the treatment of those who once were my cheerleaders.

          The sounds of silence. (Thankyou Simone & Garfunkel.)

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          • . . . and Simon too. 🐻

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          • Zoe, I was in the middle of writing my post, when you posted, so I’m just now reading this. We were on the same wave length. You brought up a word that I shared with my best friend just last night when discussing leaving the faith. Integrity.

            Bingo!

            And yes, it was all traumatic, which is why I think it is wise for anyone to be prepared for the costs —seeing the facade of your fellow Christians and losing your social network once they see you as an outsider. It is incredibly disheartening to say the least. Christianity didn’t make me a more prosocial person. It made me a snob.

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          • “Christianity didn’t make me a more prosocial person. It made me a snob.”

            Amen to that! And, yes, it’s definitely about integrity. I’m not good at pretending. I don’t do fake.

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      • Ruth, I read your comment last night and awoke with it on my mind. One of the things I appreciate about you is your compassion. If it wasn’t for the fact that Christians are hell bent on changing legislation (globally) so that people will abide by biblical laws, or that children are being taught to associate global genocide (the flood) or eternal damnation with a ‘loving’ father, or the fact that women are still having to advocate and fight for the right to be considered fully human, I’d say, let the fairy tale placebo effect do its thing if that helps people get through hard times.

        But they can’t keep it to themselves. No — they feel obligated to take this message into all the world, misleading people in the name of the father, the son, and the holy ghost. And whether these Christians, moderate, conservative or otherwise, are aware of it or not — that’s what they are promoting — deception.

        The more people believe, the greater the placebo effect. What it boils down to is their own personal need which feeds the hierarchy’s greed. Like John Z recently wrote in his post — they are selling a cure for a disease that doesn’t exist. But here’s what I was thinking this morning upon awakening:

        You brought up the spirit of Santa Clause. Believe it or not, I still have that song “Spirit in the Sky” you shared yesterday going on in my head, LOL. I think it’s OK to use Jesus as a symbol of doing good unto others, NOT as divine, but as human, so long as people don’t give their power away. They are the ones doing good — not some spirit in the sky. In a non-religious world, people would realize their incredible prosocial potential. Why not teach children about mirror neurons (empathic) that they and other mammals have, and that their prosocial behavior comes from within them — not some daddy in the sky who plans to whip out everyone who didn’t bow down to worship ‘him’.

        I apologize for the length of this comment, but I want to highlight another thought. We all have paid the price of deconversion. It’s not for the faint at heart — those who were truly vested — not just cultural Christians. I’ve lost a lot — my social network, my marriage, and jobs. But I’ve never looked back and regretted leaving the faith. And as you are well aware, there is a freedom, an appreciation and awe of life that a believer rarely has. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

        In closing, I wish Gary all the best on his journey, and want him to know that there are many of us who will gladly be there for him during this time should he reach out. I went through my deconversion completely alone, and it was grueling.

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        • Thank you for your comment, Victoria. Such kind words.

          I agree with everything you wrote here. There is such a fine line between fighting the “machine” that is Christianity and having compassion for the individuals who make up that machine. The ones with faces. The ones who go through tornadoes, and hurricanes, and cancer like the rest of us. The ones who are doing the best they can to do the best they can.

          My deconversion happened to go rather quickly. I did try to make a stop where Gary is and it didn’t hold. Whether his does or not only he can know and only time will tell. You’re right; deconversion isn’t for the faint of heart. Not only does your whole belief structure crumble, but oftentimes so does your social structure. While I wouldn’t change it for anything; I do realize while going through it that it’s traumatic.

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          • Have you read Gary’s Post and Comments today ? He feels sorry for us and thinks we are very sad we have left the faith . Where on earth did he get these ideas ???? I think he is preaching to his choir. I didn’t read in your blog or DagoodS blog any mention from any of us that we were sad we deconverted or we feel like we are drowning in quicksand.

            Very interesting !

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          • KC — sounds to me like he’s projecting. I’ve rarely met a genuinely happy Christian. I did Christian counseling both in church and while I was involved in Christian radio. Those totally committed were totally miserable. And as they say — misery loves company.

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          • I actually thought we were being pretty kind to him. I didn’t see any condemnation, only information. He can either use it or not, it’s totally up to him.

            I do think his faith is threatened and so he is seeking some reassurance from his peeps.

            *Shrug* He feels sorry for me and, well, I feel sorry for him.

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          • Well, as we both have acknowledged, deconversion is not for the faint of heart. It takes backbone and courage to face reality head on.

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          • Perhaps he took our challenging his beliefs personally. Or maybe we went a bit too far and hit a nerve(or a lot of nerves). He did go looking for it, though. It’s not as if we all went over to his blog and called him out.

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          • Is that one commenter over there seriously comparing us to Satan? Or am I reading that wrong?

            Nevermind..I see another commenter said we’re doing the work of Satan, the non-existent.

            It would have hurt my feelings if I believed there was such a thing as The Holy Spirit. Sh/H/it can’t leave where it never was since it doesn’t exist. Sheesh!

            Meh…Reason is the enemy of the supernatural Lord Absent. What is there to say to that?

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          • “Where on earth did he get these ideas ????”

            Since he can’t let go of hell and believes in an afterlife it is reasonable for him to conclude that we are, indeed, a sad bunch. As a believer I was always sad for the ones who wouldn’t just believe because I thought their fate would be a horrible one.

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          • Death anxiety at its finest.

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          • It appears Gary can easily change his tune depending on which camp he is breaking bread with. I just found his post to be totally inaccurate as I was able to read and be a small part of posts by DagoodS and Ruth. I think I only commented on Ruth’s but read comments on DagoodS’ thanks to Ruth’s link. I actually commented on Gary’s but received no response.

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          • Anyway, Gary says he won’t be visiting Atheists Blogs anymore. So long and good luck , Gary ! I am being sincere , too .

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          • Precisely. He won’t be visiting because he is afraid of the path it will lead him on.

            I, too, wish him the best of luck. I didn’t see anywhere that any one of us were “gleefully trying to deconvert him”. He sought it out. All anyone did was refute his “evidence” with “evidence” of our own. People need to put on their big-boy pants and deal with it.

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          • He has said this before.

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          • I didn’t find the tone of his original post to be so inaccurate, but in the comment section it definitely devolves. I would say almost disingenuous…either with us or them. Then again, I also see a man who is truly at war within himself.

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          • Ruth, I think you nailed it. He is at war with himself.

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          • Gary reminds me a lot of another Christian blogger, Brandon. Some people just need that lifeline.

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          • And Josh on Nate’s Blog. Nice guys wrestling with Truth

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          • The fear of hell is, indeed, a horrible thing.

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          • Yes — also fearing they can’t be prosocial without a belief in god. Reminds me of a quote. I’ll post it next.

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          • “If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.” ~Albert Einstein

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          • Is your comment in moderation over there, Ken?

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          • I didn’t have it set up that way. Sometimes wordpress changes settings. I hate moderation !

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          • Hmmm…maybe since he’s on blogger? I hate moderation, too. I guess it’s up to the blog host, though. I’m not sure if he’ll post any dissenting opinions.

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  11. Ruth, Moderation was only in play if 2 or more links were used in the comment. I raised that higher . I do not like moderation and will only use it because of Spam or some pesky person consistently being a Moron. 🙂

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    • Okay, but I thought you commented on Gary’s blog. Your settings wouldn’t have anything to do with that, would they?

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      • No.. He evidently decided not to respond. Not that it matters, but I commented on his blog using an old google blog account I had because it didn’t seem to provide a way for my wordpress account.

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        • Have you checked it recently? Were you anonymous? If not, someone else went over and commented and he did respond to them. But it’s only what he left here as his “farewell address”.

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  12. As I said on Dagood’s blog, I think the time has come for me to say “goodbye”.

    My conversations over the last few months with my new atheist friends has been a eye-opening, life-changing experience. I no longer believe that the Bible is inerrant. For a Fundamentalist, that is a HUGE shift in thinking. So can I hold on to orthodox Christianity? I think I can. My faith is in a supernatural Being for which there is no hard evidence for…or against. I don’t know why I believe, but I do.

    I wish all of you the best. I apologize if I inferred on my blog that ALL of you are sad about your deconversion. I think that some of you are. I think that Dagood is, but obviously not all of you.

    I have plenty of non-Christian friends: Jews, Muslims, agnostics. I would have no problem with having atheist friends…as long as we agree not to discuss religion and faith. Why?

    I have met some really nice people from other countries, living here in the US, who really dislike my country. I love my country. I recognize it has its faults, but I still love it. As much as I may enjoy discussing international issues with that person, I don’t want to hear all the negativity about the United States. But I can stay friends with these people as long as we agree not to discuss US foreign policy. See my point? If you hang out with people who bash the US enough, eventually it is going to affect your view of the US.

    I want to stay an orthodox Christian. So I don’t want to talk about atheism anymore, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have atheist friends, discuss other issues, and have a good cold beer with them. 🙂

    Take care! It’s been good talking to you all!

    Gary

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    • Gary, as I said earlier, I wish you the best on your journey. Your faith should remain private. Between you and the god of your choice. But as you said — you believe you and your fellow Christians should baptize and teach all nations. But that’s none of your business, and it causes problems. Studies show that atheists are the least trusted — equal to a rapist. It seems that Christians don’t believe a person can be moral – prosocial unless a god is watching them 24/7. That’s a travesty.

      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/in-atheists-we-distrust/

      We are the lest likely to be welcomed in your circle, called messengers of Satan, and in several states in America, including mine, one can’t run for public office unless they are a believer. Those are the most religious states. But Christians turn a blind eye and allow this Othering to go on at the cost of human rights..

      So I hope you can find some empathy and understanding from our perspective. And don’t judge us to be unhappy when we stand up for our human rights and that of others who think differently than you. Peer-reviewed neurological studies show that conservative Christians have increased gray matter volume in their right amygdala (fear, disgust, aggression and anxiety). Other studies show that Christians who claim to be born again have atrophied hippocampus due to stress related to their beliefs (fear, disgust, anxiety). Keep that in mind the next time you feel the urge to go out and baptize and teach all nations.

      Take care.
      Victoria

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      • Thank you Victoria. I wish I was one of those born-again Christians who could be studied. Reading about neuroscience several years ago and still today (just finishing up We Are Our Brains, A Neurobiography of the Brain, from the Womb to Alzheimer’s by D.F. Swaab) is what helped/helps me understand why I was the way I was and I began to then have a sense of compassion for myself that I didn’t have before. Still to this day it is quite automatic, the fear, the anxiety, the stress.

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        • “I began to then have a sense of compassion for myself that I didn’t have before.”

          Zoe — Yes! Well said. It is incredibly hard work to prune disadvantageous neural pathways and networks that were created by fundamentalism. Although I was indoctrinated with religion (Catholic) since I was a small child, I was only involved in Protestant fundamentalism for about 15 years, after the suicide of my husband. Interestingly enough, his death was caused by fundamentalism, by poor counsel from a fundamentalist preacher and elders. But I, too, fell into the trap of fear. After his death, they flocked around me like vultures.

          I didn’t know anything about the brain and environment at that time. I can’t imagine being raised and living in such an environment for the better part of your lives. I have the utmost respect for people like you, Charity, Ruth and others who did have to live like that for so long and against all odds, managed to break through. You all are my heroes.

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          • Seeing ourselves as heroes isn’t easy. I probably speak for all of us in that . . . but I understand where you are coming from. Thanks.

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          • Zoe — it’s one thing to break the spell that was over you — but when you have the courage to share (as you did) on an open forum — to all the world, you may have no idea how your posts help others who were/are in the ‘valley of decision’.

            I learn this first hand. I started getting emails from lurkers thanking me for the information I was posting. I was totally shocked at the content of some of the emails I received and it made me realize that I can’t keep silent.

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          • Well if you won’t accept hero status, will you settle for being others’ lifeline?

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        • I just posted a TedTalk that, if you haven’t seen it, is well worth watching/listening to.

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      • The irony of the distrust of atheists is that we are atheists because we valued the truth and wanted to keep our integrity in tact.

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    • Thanks for visiting, Gary. I really do wish you well wherever your journey takes you. If you ever do want to come back you are more than welcome.

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  13. Ruth, this comment thingy ends up reading almost one word per line as people keep nesting their comments. Aaaaaach!

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    • Okay. I switched it up so people could reply to one another, so I maxed the nesting out. Maybe I should back it down to maybe 5 or six replies? Can you tell when it starts narrowing them too much to make them comprehensible?

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      • I never used it but from what I can figure out here I wouldn’t use more than 3. Do people prefer nesting?

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        • Some do, some don’t. Victoria asked me about it because she likes to reply directly to people with the reply button. It defaults to 3 and I changed it to max out at 10.

          Are you looking at the comments in reader?

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  14. I’ve never read at Gary’s blog so I don’t know what’s going on but by the sounds of it, it’s nothing new. Wonder if Gary thinks we are Satan’s minions? Being friends with Satan’s minions? Hmm?

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    • Hmm…not sure about Gary, but some of his readers sure do!

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    • He certainly did nothing to refute his commenter’s assertions about us being the tool of Satan.

      They did encourage him in his ignorance. They were exhorting him to stop reading atheist material because they’re afraid where it will lead him. If their faith can’t stand up to scrutiny how strong is it?

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  15. Well some of his readers would admonish him for sure. Dangerous slippery slope. He did leave a comment way back on DagoodS & Bruce’s blog that his some Lutherans were reading to burn him at the stake over his change on inerrancy.

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  16. I don’t think we have heard the last of Gary and I don’t think he will stay away from the Blogs he’s been visiting. IMHO

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    • For what it’s worth, I don’t think so either. At the very least he’ll be lurking.

      That’s the thing about the doubt that’s created. It’s hard to shut it out. I know I couldn’t just shut it out and pretend it wasn’t there.

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  17. About the nesting — some templates, like yours, does that — gets really, really narrow. Other templates are discussion friendly and don’t do that. The problem with not allowing for nesting is that the person you reply to will not get a direct notification when you’ve replied to their comment.

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  18. Gag – late to the conversation again. I only check these blog sites once a week or so … I will have to be more persistent in my web browsing!

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