I value open-mindedness over most other things. When I was going through my deconversion and having frequent religious discussions with my family, I often felt that they weren’t being open-minded. I know that it’s hard (perhaps impossible) to judge how open-minded someone else is being, so I hesitate to even pass that kind of judgment. At the same time, it’s not like they were answering the problems I brought up with actual solutions — it mostly centered on how arrogant I was to question “God’s word.” On top of that, they never read any of the books or articles that I asked them to — I don’t think they even read all of the stuff I personally wrote to them.
It was the seeming lack of open-mindedness that shocked me most, in many ways. During my time as a Christian, I tried to be as open-minded as possible. I was part of a strict denomination that thought most other Christians were wrong, so I often had discussions with my Christian friends to try to help them see “the truth.” In those discussions, I often admitted that I could be wrong:
Either I’m wrong, or you’re wrong, or we’re both wrong. We can’t both be right…
I firmly believed (based on Matthew 7) that as long as I was searching for the truth, I would find it. Also, if what I believed about Christianity was true, then more study would only bear that out. In other words, I had nothing to fear by discussing and examining Christianity with those who disagreed with me. If they could show me where I was wrong, then that was good! It would mean that I had believed the wrong thing, but learning that would give me the opportunity to correct it and be more pleasing to God.
Now that I have come out of Christianity, I still feel just as strongly about the merits of open-mindedness. Recently, someone suggested that I read In His Image, by William Jennings Bryan (which I’m now doing), but when he gave me the suggestion, he then backpedaled and said I might not like the book because it supports Christianity. I was disappointed by that statement. I told him that I don’t read things based on whether or not I will agree with them — I take religion very seriously, because all religion is an effort to explain reality. If this book by WJB can provide some arguments I haven’t considered before, or answer some of my questions about Christianity, then I want to know that!
But now for the admission. Now for the part that I haven’t been able to say to my family yet: I don’t see any way that I’ll ever believe Christianity again. On the surface, that may seem like it runs counter toward my goal of being open-minded, but it really doesn’t. The fact is, I’ve just seen too much. “I once was blind, but now I see.” The fact is, the Bible can’t fix its problems because it’s a closed document. No more material is going in or out of it. Nor is God going to speak to me directly or perform some miracle to overcome my skepticism. We’re stuck with what we’ve got.
We’re left with a god that’s supposedly omnipotent, omniscient, and loves us all, yet we still have evil in the world. He remains hidden from us, but supposedly wants a relationship with us. He supposedly left us a message, but no one can agree on what it says, and its books look pretty much like all the other things that were being written at the time. As this post said:
Let’s face it – I may still be open to the idea of being convinced on the matter, but this is a genie that’s not going to go back into the bottle easily. I can’t unlearn what I’ve found; I can’t simply deny the truth that I’ve been able to discover without the fear of uprooting my faith. To ask me to believe again would be to take on the herculean task of not only providing sufficient evidence but also dealing with all of the logical and evidential problems or to ask me to knowingly deceive myself – and I’m not sure I’m willing to do that for anyone.
I am still an open-minded person. But I also know enough about Christianity now to know what it is and what it isn’t. I didn’t lose my faith by forgetting things, but by learning things. And if I had known years ago what I know now, I never would have been a Christian in the first place.
445 thoughts on “Never Going Back”
I like this post a lot, Nate. I know you and I differ on a lot of things, but I appreciate your raw honesty and the way you write that honesty. I often wish there were more Christians who wrote brutally honestly about the questions they have. That’s one of the reasons I really like Michael Spencer’s stuff (InternetMonk.com – Michael has passed away, and I’m not as into the stuff since then, but I frequently go back to his articles). I think, as Christians, we need to honestly face the troubles that people have with our worldview, and admit when we have those same troubles. I share your sentiments often, but the draw I have toward the beauty that is Jesus’ representation of God will keep me forever on the path opposite you. Glad we can communicate, though 🙂
Atheists always, and I mean ALWAYS, blame God for the evil that men do. And because the atheist has blamed God for the evil that men do and declared Him guilty, God must therefore not exist.
Such irrational thinking by atheists is exactly what they complain about in Christians.
And then there is the other thing atheists ALWAYS do and that is lay out a set of personal standards that God must adhere to, or else he doesn’t exist.
That fallacy is the atheist creating God in his own image and than declaring his nonexistence because the atheist image of God doesn’t measure up to the atheist’s personal standards.
Logically, that is a pyrotechnic display of circular reasoning.
Consequently, you are an atheist because you gave up your ability to reason.
Nate, I’m right there with you since we have similar religious backgrounds and have reached basically the same conclusion as it pertains to Christianity. I have stopped short of being an atheist as I still believe in some sort of creator who started the big bang and evolution rolling.
I can’t imagine what it would take to get me to go back to christianity for the same reasons you described. The genie is indeed out of the bottle. I have read and learned too much. My reasoning is no longer blinded by years of dogma and guilt.
We’re not alone.
Thank you silenceofmind, this honestly got me to laugh out loud. 🙂
Look, I understand your irritation — you don’t like what I said about Christianity. But believe me, the illogical nature of the Christian god is not something I’ve imagined. Just read the Bible, and the inconsistencies are pretty evident.
But if you feel differently, please feel free to tell me why. As I said in my post, I’m an open-minded guy, and I’d like to hear any cogent arguments you have.
KC, thanks for the kind comment!
Josh, I especially appreciate yours. I still hope for a day when you and I see eye to eye on these things, but even if that day never comes — you’re a pretty awesome guy. I’m glad you keep coming around. 🙂
@silenceofmind I think you need to do some reading about atheists before you start lobbing handgranades. They nor Deists like me have given up any reasoning powers. Quite the opposite. I think Nate said he likes to continue to do research in his quest for the truth. You might want to follow his lead.
I couldn’t agree more. One thing, however, that isn’t discussed at all, is the close mindedness fo some atheists. I think that it needs to be recognized that it can happen both ways.
Here’s to free thinking.
Absolutely, Lux. Thanks for pointing that out. 🙂
I have had an incredible amount of discussions with atheists. It’s as if they all came out of the same cookie cutter.
They think the same way, use the same fallacies and above all they fail to see that they are just as mindlessly irrational as the people they complain about.
I claimed that atheists had given up the ability to reason. And then I supported my claim by showing how the author of this post does exactly that.
And you simply claim that atheists and deists like you have not given up any powers of reason.
You give no evidence. No reasoning. You give nothing to support your claim.
Evidently, you share another intellectual malady that afflicts your atheist brethren: You claim it. Therefore it must be true.
Unless you can show some sort of reasoning or evidence to back up your claim, all you are doing is expressing a baseless opinion.
Now how about you address the content of my comments instead of expressing your personal distaste for the truth.
I hate to break it to you Nate, but there is nothing funny in my comment.
It is pure reasoning that shows how irrational you are.
You can’t argue rationally so you have to humiliate the person who has just shown how phony are your beliefs.
Sorry, silenceofmind. Didn’t mean to offend. You made some claims in your original comment, but I didn’t see you actually make any evidence-based points. Could you restate them, so we can discuss them?
If it helps, I can tell you that my primary reasons for leaving Christianity had to do with the problems in the Bible — I used to believe in inerrancy. Don’t know where you stand on that, so it may not be worth discussing. Just giving you some background.
Oh, and you did make a point about the problem of evil in your original comment, so let me ask you a question:
If a father has two children, and one is beating the other with a stick, should he intervene, or allow it to happen?
I was reading a review today about “Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine.” One of the reviewers quotes her 101 year-old mother as saying: “Life is difficult, that’s why people created god.” I will never go back either. The further you get from the middle of the forest, the clearer your view becomes. Then the question becomes “how did I believe the myth so long?” Polly
Please explain how someone committing an evil act affects the existence of anything.
If I commit and evil act do you, or anyone else cease to exist?
Of course not. Such a proposition is stupid.
Likewise, the proposition that God does not exist because men commit evil, is stupid.
I’m using such strong language because adult, educated human beings should not need to have something so simple and obvious explained to them.
Chances are I won’t be interacting with you much, because you don’t seem the type to have a calm, respectful and productive conversation. That said though maybe you’ll offer a nice balance to the Ark for this blog. 😉
I would like to correct something that seems blatantly wrong. You said this:
But atheists don’t believe in God so they cannot be blaming God. You just interpret what they say as blaming God, and then insert that into your statement above, and then voila you have created an irrational statement! Nice work.
@Silence of mind
“Atheists always, and I mean ALWAYS, blame God for the evil that men do”
Unsupported assertion. No evidence. What is asserted without evidence is dismissible without evidence. Such irrational and unsupported claims are exactly what you are asserting atheists do.
“And then there is the other thing atheists ALWAYS do and that is lay out a set of personal standards that God must adhere to, or else he doesn’t exist.”
We would expect that a God would exhibit a higher level of morality than what mere men exhibit. When we see the CLAIMED God decree that all men have a sin nature dooming them to Hell because of what the original 2 did, when we see the CLAIMED God killing all manner of creatures in a CLAIMED horrendous flood because He was angry with one of his creatures, when we see a CLAIMED God casting those lacking correct belief into a CLAIMED Hell for eternity in balance against how short man’s life here is, we cannot believe in a God having such a brutal and low morality. My personal standards are against unnecessary suffering. What is the flaw in that standard?
Reasoning involves assessing the evidence and coming to what seems the most likely conclusion. If you are so dogmatic that we atheists have given up reason, why do you come here trying to use reason to persuade us? That doesn’t seem to reasonable to me.
Dialogue (assuming you care about honest dialogue) could be enhanced if, when visiting a blog, you showed a bit of respect for the blogger, instead of disdain. Just sayin’.
I agree, such a proposition is stupid. But that’s not what the problem of evil states. The problem of evil takes the Christian claim that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and loves everyone as its starting point. It then asks the question, if God is all of these things, why does evil exist in the world?
For if God loves everyone, then he does not wish evil to come upon them. And if he’s all-knowing, he knows when evil is about to occur, and being all-powerful, he can stop it. The fact that evil occurs (and not just in the form of person-on-person violence — we also have “acts of God”), makes one wonder whether such a God could really exist.
In the question, I asked you, I imagine you would think the father should step in and stop the child from beating the other. If he did not put a stop to it, he would be at least partially culpable in the beating, even though he was not the one administering it. So it is with God in the case of something like the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre.
God created man with free will. If God intervened to stop evil, we would no longer be human because we would no longer be free.
And you would be complaining about God being a domineering, oppressive tyrant.
Human beings are responsible for themselves and their conduct, not God.
God gave the human race the Bible which is the greatest compendium of ethics, human nature and social justice in human history.
If we follow the Bible we stand a chance of attenuating our inclination toward evil. So reality is exactly the opposite of what you think it is:
It is the existence of God that has kept man from destroying himself.
God’s existence provides an objective, true standard of excellence for ethics, human development, personal behavior and justice without which man becomes a murdering, self-destructive, demented fiend.
This is simply not true, as evidenced by all the moral, law-abiding folk that aren’t Christians. There are plenty of studies that have backed that up.
In the example I gave of one kid beating another, the child administering the beating still had free will, even if the father intervened. Even our legal system acknowledges that with things like attempted murder. In Genesis, God stops Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, but he did not remove Abraham’s free will. And again, this still doesn’t address natural disasters and accidents.
I also have trouble accepting the Bible as the greatest compendium of ethics, human nature, and social justice, since the Old Testament is filled with atrocities like God-sanctioned genocide and God-sanctioned slavery. As Thomas Paine once said, attributing such things to God is the highest form of blasphemy.
What special knowledge about God would your average 100 year old woman have?
Consequently, citing her as some sort of authoritative source is ridiculous.
And what forest are you trying to get far from?
I’m sorry but a personal hallucination that repeals Western Civilization is just as devoid of any special knowledge of God as the opinion of your average 100 year old woman.
How can you folks hold so dearly to thoughts and beliefs that are so obviously and so completely devoid of reason?
What’s going on out there? Whatever it is, it’s scary!
Why do you find the Bible to be an authoritative source?
Most of the law abiding atheists out there were born and raised in a Christian culture. Christian culture is where you and all your atheist brethren get your ethics from.
That’s common sense, common knowledge and obvious under the light of reason. No studies are needed to understand common knowledge and the obvious.
Since atheism is devoid of any ethical teachings that attenuate man’s inclination toward evil, the atheist gets his morality from the society where he lives.
That’s why the greatest mass murders in human history were committed by atheist regimes that made it a point to reject the Christian ethics of Western culture.
Further, Natural Law is a subset of Divine Law, so teaches Saint Thomas Aquinas. You can see how Aquinas reasons that out in his, Summa Theologica.
Natural Law contains normative ethics for all of mankind that can be understood through reason, not Revelation or personal opinion.
Consequently, ancient Greek pagans like Plato and Aristotle could reason out the existence of God and reason their way to a solid set of normative ethics.
If ethics can be reasoned out and don’t require revelation, then we can be moral and ethical without God. While many atheists live in countries with Christian cultures, not all do (Scandinavian countries, Japan, etc).
But really, that’s all irrelevant to God’s existence. Even if morality sprang from a belief in God, that does not mean God is real. And it’s possible that a god does exist (maybe more than one) — my main argument is against the Christian god.
So, what makes you think the Bible is an authoritative source?
Great post Nate. And I am with you on this one. I am open minded, really open minded but I don’t see how I could end up christian again
What I find interesting is that Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time and energy trying to convince people to believe in god.
His main focus was teaching people to treat each other gently and courteously, showing love even to those who you may consider your enemy.
I have witnessed the atheists on this blog showing much respect and consideration for people who talk to them with disdain, while silenceofmind, your attitude shows so much arrogance and hatefulness that it seems to me with all your belief in god, you seem to simply ignore patience, long suffering, kindness, meekness, selflessness or humility at all.
Thanks for proving the atheist agenda.