Agnosticism, Atheism, Bible Study, Christianity, Culture, Faith, God, Religion



So here’s what’s been going on lately. Most of you who read this blog already know that when my wife and I left Christianity, it wrecked most of our family relationships. My wife’s parents and siblings, as well as my own, felt that they could no longer interact with us socially after our deconversion. We were no longer invited to any family functions, and our communication with them all but disappeared. We would speak if it was about religious issues, or if there were logistic issues that needed to be worked out in letting them see our kids, etc.

Over the years, things have gotten a little better, especially with my wife’s parents. Things are by no means back to normal, but at least our infrequent interactions have become more civil and more comfortable. A few weeks ago, I even had a phone conversation with my father that lasted about half an hour and had no references to religion whatsoever. It was nice.

Nevertheless, the awkwardness is still there, just under the surface. And we’re still blacklisted from all the family functions.

Throughout this time, I’ve occasionally reached out to my side of the family with phone calls, letters, facebook messages, etc, in an effort to discuss the issues that divide us. I don’t get much response. I’ve always been puzzled by that, since I know they think I’m completely wrong. If their position is right, why aren’t they willing to discuss it?

In the last five years, I’ve also been sent books and articles and even been asked to speak to certain individuals, and I’ve complied with every request. Why not? How could more information hurt? But when I’ve suggested certain books to them, or written letters, they aren’t read. When I finally realized that my problems with Christianity weren’t going to be resolved, I wrote a 57-page paper to my family and close friends, explaining why I could no longer call myself a Christian. As far as I know, none of them ever read the whole thing. And sure, 57 pages is quite a commitment. But they say this is the most important subject in their lives…

This past week, the topic has started to come back around. A local church kicked off a new series on Monday entitled “Can We Believe the Bible?” It’s being led by an evangelist/professor/apologist that was kind enough to take time to correspond with me for several weeks in the summer of 2010. I’ve never met him in person, but a mutual friend connected us, since he was someone who was knowledgeable about the kinds of questions I was asking. Obviously, we didn’t wind up on the same page.

can we trust the bible?

My wife’s parents invited us to attend the series, but it happens to be at a time that I’m coaching my oldest daughter’s soccer team. So unless we get rained out at some point, there’s no way we can attend. However, we did tell them that if practice is ever cancelled, we’ll go. I also contacted the church and asked if the sermons (if that’s the right word?) will be recorded, and they said that they should be.

Monday night, the weather was fine, so we weren’t able to attend. And so far, the recording isn’t available on their website. However, they do have a recording of Sunday night’s service available, which is entitled “Question & Answer Night.” I just finished listening to it, and that’s where the bulk of my frustration comes from.

It’s essentially a prep for the series that kicked off Monday night. They’re discussing why such a study is important, as well as the kinds of things they plan to cover. What’s so frustrating to me is that I don’t understand the mindset of evangelists like this. I mean, they’ve studied enough to know what the major objections to fundamentalist Christianity are, yet they continue on as if there’s no problem. And when they do talk about atheists and skeptics, they misrepresent our position. I can’t tell if they honestly believe the version they’re peddling, or if they’re purposefully creating straw men.

A couple of times, they mentioned that one of the main reasons people reject the Bible comes down to a preconception that miracles are impossible. “And if you start from that position, then you’ll naturally reject the Bible.” But that’s a load of crap. Most atheists were once theists, so their starting position was one that believed in miracles.

They also mentioned that so many of these secular articles and documentaries “only show one side.” I thought my head was going to explode.

And they referred to the common complaints against the Bible as “the same tired old arguments that have been answered long ago.” It’s just so infuriating. If the congregants had any knowledge of the details of these “tired old arguments,” I doubt they’d unanimously find the “answers” satisfactory. But the danger with a series like this is that it almost works like a vaccination. The members of the congregation are sitting in a safe environment, listening to trusted “experts,” and they’re injected with a watered down strain of an argument. And it’s that watered down version that’s eradicated by the preacher’s message. So whenever the individual encounters the real thing, they think it’s already been dealt with, and the main point of the argument is completely lost on them.

For example, most Christians would be bothered to find out that the texts of the Bible are not as reliable as were always led to believe. Even a beloved story like the woman caught in adultery, where Jesus writes on the ground, we’ve discovered that it was not originally part of the gospel of John. It’s a later addition from some unknown author. To a Christian who’s never heard that before, it’s unthinkable! But if they’ve gone through classes where they’ve been told that skeptics exaggerate the textual issues in the Bible, and that the few changes or uncertainties deal with only very minor things, and that none of the changes affect any doctrinal points about the gospel, then it’s suddenly easier for them to swallow “minor” issues like the insertion of an entire story into the gospel narrative.


I’m going to either attend these sessions, or I’ll watch/listen to them once they’re available online. I may need to keep some blood pressure medication handy, though.

1,060 thoughts on “Frustration”

  1. But you have to ask – and I’m sorry to say this, Nate, but you’re far to intelligent not to have already thought of it – how deeply could they have loved, if they can turn it off that quickly?


  2. science makes it implausible but does not completely rule it out.” – With all due respect, Neil – I realize we’re playing on the same team here, but I know of nothing in science that would keep a dead brain from decaying in three days. Ask any paramedic – after only six minutes without oxygen, irreparable brain damage sets in.


  3. I gradually morphed into atheism while still in High School, which only strengthened as time went by, and my parents and I had some heated discussions, but at NO point in time was I ever shunned, banned, or in any way discriminated against because of my beliefs, and I realize that I owe my parents a great deal for that, now that I’ve seen that it isn’t always that way in other families.


  4. arch, I dont think they’ve turned their love off. I am sure that they view this as “tough love” like punishing a child or giving a child a painful shot that they need for their own good.

    it’s not that they quit loving.

    albeit, if they were really intelligent and really honest with themselves, they’d see how utterly nonsensical the bible is and begin to operate under reason and not under the dogma of a collection of ancient superstitious men.


  5. This from the Secular Student Alliance:

    Last week, CNN aired a documentary on atheism in the United States. We were so excited to see one of our student leaders, David Gormley, featured! Unfortunately, David’s own parents called him a “dead person” because of his atheism—on national television!

    David is a student at the University of North Georgia, where he is the President of his school’s secular student group.


  6. No, Nutsy – I posted that in reference to your statement as an example as to how quickly discussions can turn vehement! Paranoid much?


  7. Nah…my name isn’t Jane! lol

    But thank you for the explanation because I really didn’t get the relevance. Just call me blonder than I paid to be. O_o


  8. But you’re the only one that Tiribulus says is intelligent enough to hold meaningful discussions with him – that’s something I would find FAR more insulting than being called a mere slut, as it would imply the two of you have something in common – I’d take slut anyday!


  9. I don’t view nate’s family so harshly – I pity them. I imagine that they don’t like what they feel must be done and probably don’t even understand why god wants them to banish their son, brother, friend, and so on….

    arch, I dont think they’ve turned their love off. I am sure that they view this as “tough love” like punishing a child or giving a child a painful shot that they need for their own good.

    I agree with you, William, that some people probably do feel this way. I, for one, can’t imagine banishing my child for…well…anything. So the heartache it must cause family members to do what they think they must to serve their God is surely not lightly or easily undertaken. Add to that the admonition in scriptures to shun fellow believers, even family members, who you believe are in the faith but sinning. Add to that being told that is the loving thing to do. It completely flips on it’s head what love really is. Believers and unbelievers are operating on two totally different definitions of the word.


  10. Don’t tell me your jealous, Arch! 😉

    I think we all know why Tiribulus wants to hold discussions with me and it ain’t my smarts. Please. I know when I’m being patronized.


  11. All I can say, is that even though my parents didn’t agree with most of my beliefs, they were always there for me, and I’ll never forget that.


  12. I don’t know, because he implied that you two were holding discussions somewhere else, or by email.


  13. I don’t know, because he implied that you two were holding discussions somewhere else, or by email.

    He might be holding discussions elsewhere or by email but not with me. The only discussions we’ve had are over on Violet’s blog.


  14. All I can say, is that even though my parents didn’t agree with most of my beliefs, they were always there for me, and I’ll never forget that.

    As it should be. I just think Christianity, especially in it’s fundamentalist forms, have had it hammered into them that the loving thing to do is “church discipline”. That’s the protestant version of excommunication. If you isolate the sinner he’ll/she’ll see the error of their ways and come running back like the prodigal child. Is it messed up? Sure. But it doesn’t mean they’ve turned their love off, even if they don’t know how to love fully.


  15. Possibly I read it wrong, there’s only so much of T that I can take at a time, and it was near the bottom of his comment:

    Ruth has thus far on this site been the only person I’ve found capable, or at least willing to have a sustained grown up CONVERSATION about what matters most.

    Every single thing that has or can come up on this page has been dealt with by me already ten times each with Ruth. It’s astonishing that after a couple hundred comments and a few dozen hours spent with her here that she remains the one and only person who has grasped the import or even actually the definition of epistemology.

    Look at those links I put at the top of my page I linked to above and you’ll even see her defend me a few times against the cackling cacophony of uncritically thinking cluelessness around here. Watch the videos she posted and read the conversation that follows about especially Cantor and Boltzmann. That’s what a grown up conversation looks like. You will of course also see, despite my relentless confidence in and encouragement of his ability to be more, Arch doing his first rate drunken frat boy routine as well.

    I’ll get back to her. I owe her that. Ruth is a most substantive, stimulating and capable interlocutor.


  16. Possibly I read it wrong, there’s only so much of T that I can take at a time, and it was near the bottom of his comment:

    Yeah, maybe you read more into it than was actually there, though there were a couple of times I thought he was sort of inviting a private conversation. I don’t know. There’s just something…offish…about him. I find it hard to be trusting of anybody that blows that much smoke using the King James English.


  17. I think that shunning is also to prevent the unbeliever’s ideas from spreading.

    Well, there is that. But mostly when I’ve seen it applied and actually called church discipline it’s been to exact some “tough love”. Anytime I’ve seen shunning for the purpose of preventing the spread of opposing ideas it’s been more of circling the wagons to head off the Indians. There’s no love lost on those savages.


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