Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Letting Go of Religious Derangement

It seems that every theist-turned-atheist, at one point or another, shares his or her deconversion story. Now, it is my turn. At present, I am a 20-something atheist, formerly a Roman Catholic. I became an atheist somewhere around my junior year of college, and that view has been reinforced strongly during the following years. Primarily, I came to atheism through science, which I consider a viable route to irreligiousness, although some might disagree. That bit of introduction out of the way, I shall paint a more complete picture.

I was born into a 100% Roman Catholic family, although, admittedly, not a particularly religious one. Nevertheless, I was baptized, had first communion and was confirmed. I was subjected to religious inculcation classes regularly throughout my childhood. I attended church services every Sunday when I was very young, but that ended somewhere around 3rd or 4th grade. I vividly remember how much I hated going to church when I was a child; this was not because I objected to the message, of course, but rather because I found it deadly dull. The same went for religious education, which I am sure I tried to weasel my way out of on numerous occasions.

As a young adult, beginning to form political and social views, I always leaned liberal. Throughout high school, I consistently had pro-choice, pro-gay values. I recognized the Pope was the earthly leader of my religion, but nevertheless ignored his “position suggestions” when he talked about issues of the day. I prayed only a handful of times during those four years, so infrequently, in fact, that I cannot particularly recall anything for which I might have prayed. I did not attend church, even on holidays. Nevertheless, I considered myself a Catholic. I accepted the divinity of Jesus, the existence of God, and the existence of Heaven and Hell. But these were issues with which I never dealt; I never tried to reconcile my beliefs with the way in which I lived my life, or my political views.

I attended a four-year university on Long Island, New York. Though my classes leaned primarily toward English, journalism, writing and literature, I also found time to explore new subjects. In one semester, I took classes in both biology and anthropology. Luckily for me, both courses covered Darwin’s Theory of Evolution exhaustively. While the biology course spoke about the processes by which evolution works, the anthropology course took me up-close-and-personal with the long chain [admittedly a chain with many twists, turns and dead ends] of ancestors that separates modern Homo sapiens sapiens from the common ancestor we share with modern chimps. I absorbed vast quantities of information about Australopithecus afarensis, Homo habilis, Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis, to name just a few. Seeing my “family tree” laid out before me dramatically changed the way I saw the world.

My worldview was beginning to change, but it needed some more prodding. I read a book, "The Blank Slate," by Dr. Steven Pinker, that opened my eyes wider than they had ever been. The book reinforced basic evolutionary concepts, and contrasted them to the narrative presented in the Bible. But, I found its most valuable passages to be those dedicated to debunking “The Ghost in the Machine,” or the soul. He went into much more technical detail about the processes by which the brain works than I have room for here, but I will share the anecdote that did the most to convince me there is no ghostly soul animating my flesh.

Here is a concise version of the Phineas Gage story:


Phineas Gage is probably the most famous patient to have survived severe damage to the brain. He is also the first patient from whom we learned something about the relation between personality and the function of the front parts of the brain.

As the first newspaper account of the accident, that appearing in the Free Soil Union (Ludlow, Vermont) the day after the accident, and here reproduced as it appeared in the Boston Post, reported, Phineas Gage was the foreman of a railway construction gang working for the contractors preparing the bed for the Rutland and Burlington Rail Road near Cavendish, Vermont. On 13th. September 1848, an accidental explosion of a charge he had set blew his tamping iron through his head.

The tamping iron was 3 feet 7 inches long and weighed 13 1/2 pounds. It was 1 1/4 inches in diameter at one end (not circumference as in the newspaper report) and tapered over a distance of about 1-foot to a diameter of 1/4 inch at the other. The tamping iron went in point first under his left cheek bone and completely out through the top of his head, landing about 25 to 30 yards behind him. Phineas was knocked over but may not have lost consciousness even though most of the front part of the left side of his brain was destroyed. Dr. John Martyn Harlow, the young physician of Cavendish, treated him with such success that he returned home to Lebanon, New Hampshire 10 weeks later.

Some months after the accident, probably in about the middle of 1849, Phineas felt strong enough to resume work. But because his personality had changed so much, the contractors who had employed him would not give him his place again. Before the accident he had been their most capable and efficient foreman, one with a well-balanced mind, and who was looked on as a shrewd smart business man. He was now fitful, irreverent, and grossly profane, showing little deference for his fellows. He was also impatient and obstinate, yet capricious and vacillating, unable to settle on any of the plans he devised for future action. His friends said he was "No longer Gage."

As far as we know Phineas never worked at the level of a foreman again. According to Dr. Harlow, Phineas appeared at Barnum's Museum in New York, worked in the livery stable of the Dartmouth Inn (Hanover, NH), and drove coaches and cared for horses in Chile. In about 1859, after his health began to fail he went to San Francisco to live with his mother. After he regained his health he worked on a farm south of San Francisco. In February 1860, he began to have epileptic seizures and, as we know from the Funeral Director's and cemetery interment records, he died on 21st. May 1860 (not in 1861 as Harlow reported).

Source: Here


OK, let us take a momentary break here for a recap, which will provide a glimpse into my mind at that moment in time. Via my biology and anthropology classes, I was totally convinced of evolution’s veracity. Indeed, I discovered that, among relevant scientists, evolution is as widely accepted a theory as the theory that Earth spins on its axis while revolving around the sun. To quantify things more precisely, a poll indicated that, again, among relevant scientists, only 0.15% were creationists. That is probably proportionally similar to the number of historians who are Holocaust-deniers. Evolution’s truth means the Bible’s account of special creation is false. Immediately, the Bible’s alleged infallibility was disproved to me.

Referring back to the Gage story, I found it to be extremely convincing evidence that the “soul” doesn’t exist. Anybody familiar with amnesia already knows that the brain is where our memories are stored. And now, anybody familiar with the story of Phineas Gage also knows that the brain is where our personality is stored. If the brain holds all the answers to memory and personality, what possible function could a soul have? Moreover, if evolution is true, as it is, from what did the soul evolve? If it did not evolve, then does all life have souls? What about bacteria? What about tumors?

The Pinker text also raised another question I never had considered previously: How, precisely, would an immaterial soul interact with a material body? Is there any precedent for the immaterial interacting with the material? Hell, is there any evidence that “the immaterial” even exists? Basically, the notion of a soul is an assumption for which there is no positive evidence. Moreover, the notion itself is extremely suspect because it’s based upon a hypothetical interaction between material entities and immaterial entities, which themselves have no supporting evidence. Now, deep seeds of doubt were sewed in my mind about the soul, another key tenet of Christianity.

As these doubts began to take root, I began decompartmentalizing my knowledge. I took my “religious knowledge,” which had already proven suspect, and began to compare it to my science knowledge in a very broad way. I looked at my “knowledge” of Jesus’ resurrection after 62 hours as a corpse [assuming a Thursday crucifixion]. Upon basic study of human decomposition patterns (especially with respect to brain death), I quickly realized such was wholly impossible. I compared the Noah’s Ark story to basic logic, and soon realized it, too, was beyond the realm of possibility.

I briefly considered the “It was a miracle” explanation, and found it to be bankrupt. For, the notion of a “miracle” also is suspect, as I have yet to see a truly credible claim for one. There are many, many hoaxes and frauds, but no convincing, documented miracles. Dr. Carl Sagan has said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. As I looked at extraordinary claims such as Jesus’ resurrection, I saw that Christianity was in fact supporting extraordinary claims with yet more extraordinary claims (i.e., supporting the resurrection with the fatuous claim of “miracles”). I became increasingly convinced that natural laws are absolute. If something is, according to the laws of nature, impossible—it is flat out impossible. The laws of nature do not cease to be in order to wave through the occasional miracle.

Speaking a moment ago about extraordinary claims, my inquisitive mind now arrived at the most extraordinary assertion of them all: God. Looking at things from my newfound rational, scientific perspective, I asked myself if I had ever seen any positive evidence for the Christian God. I quickly realized I had not. I then asked myself if I had ever seen any positive evidence for any God. I, again, realized very quickly I had not. I then considered the logical plausibility of the God with whom I had grown up. I considered God’s defining characteristics: omniscience, omnipotence, omnibenevolence. Then I thought about Ted Bundy. If God were omniscient, he knew Ted Bundy would become a serial killer. If God were omnipotent, he could create Ted Bundy any way he wanted. If God were omnibenevolent, he would create Ted Bundy as a decent human, since no omnibenevolent entity would damn his own creation to Hell. For, such would be analogous to a toymaker knowingly making a faulty toy and then blaming the toy for being faulty.

All these swirling thoughts were pushing me awfully close to atheism. But still, the word had a negative connotation in my mind. I wondered, weren’t most intelligent people believers? Surely, intelligent folks must have some very good reasons to accept a claim as extraordinary as God. As I studied the reasons for belief, I came across one quite a few times: the beauty of nature. The following is a quote from "Atheist Universe," by David Mills:


During John Glenn’s second trip into space—aboard the Space Shuttle—he looked down at the Earth and said that the beauty he witnessed proved God’s existence. ‘There must truly be a Creator,’ said Glenn, as he gazed out the window at the blue, cloud-covered planet below.

...

But I also recall vividly that, at the very moment Glenn uttered his oft-repeated words about a Creator, the Shuttle was flying over Central America, where Hurricane Mitch had just destroyed the infrastructures of five entire nations. Thousands of people had just been killed and hundreds of thousands left homeless. Government officials calculated that it would take 30 years to rebuild.


I thought about natural disasters, famine, disease, genocide, prejudice, hatred, violence and crime. I wondered if this world, occasionally beautiful and occasionally infested with evil, really could be considered evidence for the Christian God. I asked myself if these results truly could be credited to an entity that is all-knowing, all-powerful and all-good. I answered, “No.” I wondered if any other deity, from Zeus on down, was any more likely. Once again, lacking a shred of positive evidence for any, I answered, “No.” I came to conclude that accepting any evidence-lacking religion over any other evidence-lacking religion was an exercise in silliness. On the contrary, instead of accepting one and rejecting all others, I decided to reject them all.

And I found myself in good company. Just as one example, a survey of National Academy of Science scientists revealed that only 7% believe in a personal God. While 20.8% are agnostic, a full 72.2% are outright atheists. It should be noted that NAS is the most prestigious scientific organization in the United States.

Subsequent classes in philosophy and science hardened my stance, transforming me into the strong atheist I am today.

Before wrapping this discussion up, I just want to touch on how becoming an atheist has changed my life, and my future. I have discarded most of the material remnants of my Christianity. The crucifix that used to hang above my bed and the communion/confirmation trinkets that used to adorn my desk have been thrown away. I kept a cross necklace I received as a gift, but certainly it never will hang upon my neck again. My family knows of my deconversion and, while I would not say they are giddy over it, they abide peaceably.

I deplore religion as a pernicious influence on my species, and so have decided that I only could have a successful long-term relationship with a fellow atheist. A large part of that has to do with my views on marriage and child rearing. I absolutely refuse to be married in a church setting. For, doing so would be a betrayal of my philosophical objection to fictional-character worship. I refuse to raise my hypothetical children as Christians, and so will refuse to have them baptized, attend CCD, or have communion or confirmation. Certainly, I will allow them to become Christian if they so choose, but I never would be willing to start them on that road to nowhere.

So, that is my deconversion story. Perhaps, if I am fortunate, this story will sew the seeds of doubt into a mind or two.

Readers, please ask yourselves: Based upon what hard, scientific evidence do I accept God?

Then ask yourselves: Is my belief rational?

Do not be afraid of the answer.

30 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good story and well worth sharing. I'm also a strong atheist and have been enriched tremendously having the blinders off.

Steve Pinker is a great writer! He has a way of explaining that is very compelling. I recommend two other books of his: The Language Instinct and How The Mind Works. Both are classics. He is my hero as a clear thinker and excellent writer.

I also recommend Michael Shermer, Jared Diamond, and Daniel Dennett to really build out a more complete "rational" worldview.

Since your conversion, have you had that feeling of helplessness when you describe what you have written here and most people are simply immune to the endless problems that go with believing in God, Souls, and Afterlife? It seems so clear and undeniable but myths are very hard to kill.

I know you will be an atheist for life. Welcome!

--Eric

5:02 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

God gave Ted Bundy freewill like everyone else. Bundy became a serial killer through his own choices. God could have made us all robots automatically programmed to do only good things, but he instead gave us freewill so if we choose to follow God, it's truly because we want to have a relationship with Him.

6:06 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" God gave Ted Bundy freewill like everyone else. Bundy became a serial killer through his own choices. God could have made us all robots automatically programmed to do only good things, but he instead gave us freewill so if we choose to follow God, it's truly because we want to have a relationship with Him. "


But God, allegedly, is OMNISCIENT. That means, upon creating Ted Bundy, God ALREADY KNEW exactly what Bundy would do. How could the choices really have been Ted's when God already knew exactly what would happen before Ted even was wearing diapers?

7:40 PM EDT  
Blogger Woozie said...

Yeah, what 3rd anonymous said. I know some theists say there's a good for every bad, but it's more than kinda hard to believe an omniscent god would allow things like serial killers, 9/11 and the holocaust to go down.

3:51 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with everything you said and your story resembles my own deconversion quite a bit. I remember that it was a story of a woman who suffered amnesia and completely lost her old "self" that also lead me to begin questioning the notion of souls.

The only thing that I might caution against is your position of strong atheism. Now, I know it can be defined several ways. Some say weak atheism is a lack of a belief in a god. I have that. Some say strong atheism is a belief that god does not exist. I have that as well. Still others say strong atheism is the assertion that no gods exist--and that is where the position becomes untenable. Since I can't know everything, I cannot make the categorical statment that no god/gods exist. All I can say is that there is no evidence of gods, lots of evidence of people believing in false things, and so conclude that god probably does not exist. I just don't claim certainty. Of course, I don't claim to be certain the moon isn't made of green cheese. Certainty is for the omnicient. I'm more than comfortable going with what seems probable, sensible, reasonable, or likely. "Faith" is nothing but the lack of those things.

8:03 PM EDT  
Blogger Praxis said...

I'm a follower of Jesus (yes theist) and read your post. It was cool to hear your story and it sounds like you're really happy where you are at. Keep not believing.

7:41 PM EDT  
Blogger Allie D. said...

Hello there! I thought you were gone forever! Good to see you back!

1:17 PM EDT  
Blogger Lui said...

"God gave Ted Bundy freewill like everyone else. Bundy became a serial killer through his own choices. God could have made us all robots automatically programmed to do only good things, but he instead gave us freewill so if we choose to follow God, it's truly because we want to have a relationship with Him."

What seems most absurd to me is the notion that a supreme being - perfect in every way, invulnerable - would need to create anything. Supposedly this being is compassionate and all-good, yet it devised something so ghoulish and cruel as Hell, where someone could be tortured for all eternity. That's completely disproportionate to any wrongdoing. Not just Israel-bombing-Lebanese infrastructure disproportionate, but unimaginably, INFINTELY disproportionate. "You've been tortured, sodomised with a hot rod, and been skinned alive for 469,000,000,000 years now. Had enough?! Well you haven't seen ANYTHING yet!" If God gave us the "gift of free will", why should it care what we do with it? Why should it care whether we choose to worship it or not? Did God just give us free will specifically to filter the "good ones" from the "bad ones" who would make it into a place called heaven, while everyone else goes to Hell? This is pure scare mongering. How ego-centric can a deity as to actually get upset when a bunch of hairless primates don't believe in it? I don't mean to abuse anyone, but this God sounds more like a sociopath than something to emulate. And I'm utterly unconvinced by the rationale of bringing up Ted Bundy. I don't know if he believed in God while he carried out his disgusting crimes, but I'm an atheist and feel sickened when I hear about rape and murder. Not because I think that God would hate it, but because these things are deemed immoral. They make me, as a human being, recoil with disgust. I can't stand to think that another person suffered in such a manner because I myself wouldn't want to go through that; much less should I ever inflict it on anyone. I want to do the right thing because it's the right thing to do, not because I want to be rewarded in heaven. Atheists are often castigated by simpletons as immoral, filthy, or worse. But the view that humans are incapable of moral good sense without belief in a deity is a sad view of human potential. Whatever good I do will be for the human race and this planet's many other inhabitants, not to please a cosmic tyrant.
IF there is a God, then I think it's not the God as depicted in the Bible or the Koran, or any other established religion. The real God would be indifferent, not all-loving. And if this being can't be bothered to prevent such awful acts as those done by Ted Bundy (which God necessarily KNEW were going to happen, just as it necessarily knew the trajectory of every photon through space-time of every star in the universe) don't hold your breath for an afterlife. God doesn't torture us for fun, it allows us to be tortured because it doesn't care. It might as well not exist.
On a final note, I don't think that it's legitimate to assign God a gender. In case anyone's failed to notice, it's men who have carried out the vast majority of atrocities throughout the ages. I'll be damned if a man's going to rule the cosmos. Apart from that, in the case of humans, we are structurally female as embryos. Female is the "default" state. The penis is actually a giant clitoris. Nice, huh?

8:29 PM EDT  
Blogger Woozie said...

Well at least my clitoris is bigger than yours!

9:54 AM EDT  
Blogger Lui said...

You shouldn't try to be witty at my expense. You'll quickly discover it'll only be to your own embarrassment.

2:11 AM EDT  
Blogger Woozie said...

Well god damn, excuse me for trying to crack a joke...

1:06 PM EDT  
Blogger Lui said...

:)

7:07 AM EDT  
Blogger GhostRose said...

I dunno whn I stopped being Christian. I don't think I ever was to be honest. I always found churches quite oppresive when I was a kid. I became a Pagan when I was 14 but I don't really practise much anymore, I don't really feel the need to believe in anything.

1:22 PM EDT  
Blogger GhostRose said...

Praxis!! Rock on gorgeous! It's so refreshing to hear a Christian who isn't trying to convert everybody they clap eyes on. Keep being nice. (Sorry for posting twice but I only just read the other commets).

1:25 PM EDT  
Blogger KA said...

Heya, FTM, how are you?
(this the atheist formerly known as RA).
I did a 3 part story on my own de-conversion narrative.
You should drop by when you have time.

1:40 AM EDT  
Blogger KA said...

Tag, you're it.

4:58 PM EDT  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

This is an interesting exercise. I might create a "tell your deconversion story meme." :)

SSShhh, don't tell anyone, or they will do it first!.. ;)

6:39 AM EDT  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

I would consider an atheist to be someone who doesn't believe in the existence of god.

A strong atheist, or one who has a stronger position might state that god/gods do not exist.

It can be logically shown that some gods according to internal inconsistencies, cannot logically exist.

But I am one who would not claim that all the gods do not definitely exist, as I would need to be omniscient to be able to claim this. I just don't believe that they exist.

9:52 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, this is Bryan and Justin. We are both juniors at Dallas Christian College and we are taking an introduction to Philosophy course. We are participating in an assignment that requires us to get on a blog and talk to an atheist. We were told to ask you two questions: How do you find meaning in life? And, Have you developed a belief system? If you feel comfortable answering those questions, please reply.

12:40 AM EDT  
Blogger TheJollyNihilist said...

Hi, this is Bryan and Justin. We are both juniors at Dallas Christian College and we are taking an introduction to Philosophy course. We are participating in an assignment that requires us to get on a blog and talk to an atheist. We were told to ask you two questions: How do you find meaning in life?

I find meaning in my life by squeezing as much joy, happiness, fun and learning from each day as possible. I understand this life to be my only one, and I intend to wring as much happiness from it as I can. I am inspired by learning about the natural world, and making the people around me happy. I see no grand, over-reaching meaning to my existence, but that is not depressing. I look forward to a dinner out, or a good movie, or hanging out with a friend. I need no ethereal purpose or individually written destiny. Earthly pleasures are enough for me, and I seek as many as I can get.

And, Have you developed a belief system? If you feel comfortable answering those questions, please reply.

I follow an individualist belief system, although I don't believe it's factually correct any more than any other untestable belief system. I believe in letting people do absolutely whatever they want, just so long as their actions do not impede anybody else in doing what they, in turn, wish. Basically, it's a live-and-let-live stance that recognizes the arbitrary nature of moral strictures. You do whatever you want; I'll do whatever I want; and we won't get in each other's way.

1:46 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, we (Bryan, Justin, and Dan) would like to thank you for your courtesy in answering our questions. I appreciate your kindness and honesty. In the future you might hear from all three of us seperately but we were wondering if you wouldn't mind answering some more questions from us?

I'll just go ahead and throw in the question. We don't understand the balance of your answer, "You do whatever you want; I'll do whatever I want; and we won't get in each other's way." Our question is who determines what we can and can't do, like you said, "just so long as their actions do not impede anybody else in doing what they, in turn, wish." For instance, if someone wants to break into your house, that is what they want to do. Your "want" is to stop them from breaking into your house. However, you will be impeding on their want. So, like I said earlier, who determines which want is higher, and not by what is lawfully right, but simply by desire or desperation. People will always get in each other's way. Not everyone will have the same wants so sooner or later there will be a point where people's "wants" will interfere with each other. There will never be a balance. What do you think about this?

Note: Please understand that our goal is NOT to convert you. We simply want a better understanding of what you believe and how you came to that belief.

Thanks again for your time.

-Justin, Bryan, and Dan

11:57 PM EST  
Blogger TheJollyNihilist said...

We don't understand the balance of your answer, "You do whatever you want; I'll do whatever I want; and we won't get in each other's way." Our question is who determines what we can and can't do, like you said, "just so long as their actions do not impede anybody else in doing what they, in turn, wish." For instance, if someone wants to break into your house, that is what they want to do. Your "want" is to stop them from breaking into your house. However, you will be impeding on their want. So, like I said earlier, who determines which want is higher, and not by what is lawfully right, but simply by desire or desperation. People will always get in each other's way. Not everyone will have the same wants so sooner or later there will be a point where people's "wants" will interfere with each other. There will never be a balance. What do you think about this?

When you talk about the collision of wants among different people in a larger society, you enter the realm of talking about morality. Morality basically is the study of behavior in social interactions with respect to right and wrong. I am a moral relativist. I believe each and every moral code is equally created, just like a film critic's "top 10" list. There are no moral truths, only moral opinions. So, when I lay out my moral framework for balancing people's wants, I should make very clear that this moral framework is entirely my opinion. Again, I recognize the existence of no moral facts.

The single most important tenet of my moral philosophy is the right to be left alone. Therefore, the burglar's want to invade my home is not an acceptable want, because it violates the key plank of leaving me alone. Acceptable wants are those that relate to oneself. For example:

I want to vote for the Republican candidate.

I want to eat pizza.

I want to smoke dope.

I want to visit a prostitute.

I want to see a movie.

In my view, no action that essentially only impacts oneself could ever be immoral. I define immorality, at its core, as interfering with anybody other than yourself.

If you murder me, you've interfered with me.

If you rob me, you've interfered with me.

If you push me down the stairs, you've interfered with me.

I would argue those things are immoral (even if they represent your wants) because they violate the key principle of leaving other people alone.

But again, morality is just a matter of opinion. Morality cannot be measured, tested, quantified or gauged with scientific instrumentation. Since science is the only reliable method by which to gain accurate information, no accurate information can be gained about morality. As such, we are left with our opinions only.

I would call my moral philosophy Non-Interventionist Individualism: Do whatever you want, so long as you don't interfere with anybody.

1:25 AM EST  
Blogger Yenald Looshi said...

How do you find meaning in life?

Meaning in life can be found in what we choose to make of it. And I choose to make much of it. I'm not deluded by the belief that there is an afterlife that I can achieve if I only appease the right deity so I live my life with the assumption that this is the only one I have. Therefore, I make the most of every single day -and I don't mean the "eat, drink and be merry" cliche but, rather, the seek knowledge betterment for me and my family; enjoying the moments I have to spend with my wife and daughter; marveling at the way she uses her imagination; and so on.

I'm also reminded of something Carl Sagan once remarked about the love he had for his wife, Anne Druyan. Carl said something to the effect that he found complete awe and wonder in the fact that within the vastness of the universe, he found the one person that he could love as much as Anne.

Have you developed a belief system?

Atheists believe in all sorts of things: poetry, art, science, love, family, discovery, imagination, etc.

Most of our beliefs about the universe, however, are informed by scientific naturalism. Most atheists I know are naturalists *first* and atheists second. This is because we accept the world as we find it without looking beyond it. We accept that there is much to learn and plenty of mystery, but we don't seek to find supernatural explanations for the things we haven't yet answered or understood. Our belief system maintains that we can develop a critical and objective understanding of how nature works and why.

12:23 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, i am really happy that during my regular internet surfing, i happened to stumble upon your story. it was a really great one, i must add. i am a catholic in the eyes of my parents and family, but i must admit that i feel that i am drifting further and further away from it by the day. I have had the same thoughts as you for a while, but i was too scared to speak to anyone in my family about it, because they are devout catholics, and they are not at all liberal or free thinkers. so this story has really solidified my ahteistic beliefs, but that poses another problem... how do i apporach the issue of deconversion?? if you have any adivice, that would be great

11:51 AM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Thanks for the comments!

Deconversion is a major step to take in one's life, and should not be treated lightly. After all, we are talking about rejecting a supernatural "reality" with which one has lived all one's life. That said, since religion is false, deconversion surely is a positive and constructive step to take.

I would urge you to be firm with your family, who probably will react negatively to your deconversion. Nevertheless, personally, I would be open and honest with them, rather than pretend you still are deluded.

Chances are, when you inform them of the news, they will try to shame you into staying a Christian or attempt to talk you out of it. The best way to counteract such an attack strategy is to have strong, sound arguments readily accessible in your mind. I urge you to review this website and others like it, to fortify your position with sound, convincing arguments.

If you are so inclined, perform a bit of friendly interrogation on the family. Ask for evidence of an immaterial, immortal soul. Ask why the Bible is so mundane, with every sentence able to have been written by a primitive, uneducated, unlettered First Century commoner. Ask why they hang their hat on one religion, while there are about 10,000 distinct religions currently extant. Ask them to reconcile omniscience with omnipotence, a topic which I raised in my last composition.

Always remember this: The burden of proof is 100% on the religionist. To be an "atheist" is to lack a belief in god or gods. As such, atheism, in itself, makes no positive assertions about anything. Where there are no positive assertions, there is no burden of proof. Theists, on the other hand, clearly make a positive assertion and, thus, must support it with evidence, reason and argumentation. Where theism fails to be convincing, atheism wins by default. In a literal sense, the failure of theism is the victory of atheism.

As I mentioned earlier, I hope this website is useful to you as you deconvert. I have tried to keep my writings dispassionate and unemotional, in order to ensure my mind is clear and rational. I review my articles on a regular basis, making tweaks and modifications as I deem them necessary. As such, as it relates to the 25 pieces currently existing on my homepage, I have complete confidence in their soundness and efficacy in gravely harming theism.

I wish you good luck, and thanks again for visiting my slice of the Internet.

—Jolly

3:45 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you are insecure in your belief and that is why you wrote this narative that does not make any sence. I mean do you really beieve that is no God?

3:25 PM EDT  
Anonymous Wandering Grammarian said...

It makes immense sence.

10:11 PM EDT  
Blogger "ONE MEAN TROLL" said...

I am interested in publishing "Atheist Musings for the Fundamentalist Christian "Soul" in AMERICAN HERETIC MAGAZINE, of which I am the editor in chief.

Please contact me at jacobkreist@gmail.com if you are interested.

Thanks!

2:52 AM EDT  
Blogger Prairie7 said...

A story that leads to a "logical" conclusion is not always logical. The whole challenge with faith is that it defies logic in many ways. You can discuss Phineas Gage and his traumatic brain injury that lead you to believe that we are only what is inside our brains and what is stored within our memory.

I have traveled back in forth in my faith through my years. I have never been able to be an athiest because I found it close-minded to believe that something doesn't exist. Believing that something doesn't exist (particularly something that is not tangible) is difficult to fathom. Science is storied with many different beliefs and ignorance has prevented science from advancing.

Phineas Gage sustained a severe brain injury. Regrettably he did not receive any cognitive therapy (and I have my doubts that he received much in the way of counseling) to aid in reconnecting his brain. I should point out that the brain is not a fixed, hard-wired organ as is often thought, but it is capable of change and continues to grow and create new connections---but without assistance healing will be limited (as in Gage's case).

I work with people who have brain injury, so I have seen many changes including changes that most people thought were impossible. Cynics typically have the worst rehab. It is possible that Gage was not a genuine person prior to his injury, but chose to wear a figurative mask. After his brain injury his true personality came out. Ted Bundy seemed like a nice guy but there was something clearly wrong with him. Which side of him was real?

Going past Gage, my other objection is in your view of creation. If you think about it, it does sound silly to think that the universe was created by a Big Bang---we really don't know what caused the bang. What is truly amazing is that the Bible was preaching the Big Bang Theory before it was a theory. As far as creation---I have taken the view that God created the world in more than seven days. Why? If you were trying to tell someone in a relatively primative culture that you created the world over the span of millions of years how would you explain that when the language probably didn't exist to define that type of time frame?

As you can probably guess, I have come full circle and would now say that I have faith and believe in God. I wouldn't expect you to do the same, however people thought the world was flat because you could see the end of it. Columbus had faith that it wasn't.

1:41 AM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

I have never been able to be an athiest because I found it close-minded to believe that something doesn't exist. Believing that something doesn't exist (particularly something that is not tangible) is difficult to fathom.

I am not so sure about this. Yes, I lack belief in Yahweh. However, I am curious as to your stance not on Yahweh but on Nergal, Anubis, Dagon, Vaticanus, Consus and Llaw Gyffes. Those are competing gods. Are you uncomfortable assessing their likelihood of existence?


If you think about it, it does sound silly to think that the universe was created by a Big Bang---we really don't know what caused the bang.

We do not have a complete picture of the origin of our universe. However, positing a god character--whether Yahweh or the Ethereal Cosmic Catfish--is little more than a god-of-the-gaps indulgence. Just because we do not have all the answers does not mean one must, by default, resort to gods.


What is truly amazing is that the Bible was preaching the Big Bang Theory before it was a theory.

What is the biblical passage that references the fact that the universe--of which our planet is a tiny speck--is currently in a state of explosion and that, based upon its accelerating expansion, it can be concluded that, at some point, there was a cosmic singularity of some nature? I have read no such passage.


As far as creation---I have taken the view that God created the world in more than seven days. Why? If you were trying to tell someone in a relatively primative culture that you created the world over the span of millions of years how would you explain that when the language probably didn't exist to define that type of time frame?

I dunno. Maybe an omniscient and omnipotent being could figure something out.

In any case, even your millions-of-years view still suffers from the extreme solipsism inherent in the idea that the creator of the universe cares about our meager species, or any representative thereof.

12:53 AM EDT  

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