One of the lucky ones

Sent in by Keith P.

I grew up in fundamentalist Christian circles in the 1970s and 1980s. Raised in Lynchburg, Virginia, my parents had been friends with the Rev. Jerry Falwell early in his career, when he was still just an ambitious local minister, but they eventually left the Independent Baptist denomination Falwell was associated with and converted to Orthodox Presbyterianism (Calvinism). As a kid, I attended the Calvinist church with my family every week, while attending private Christian schools run by the Baptists. Early on, I noticed the doctrinal discrepancies between the two on such matters as free will vs. predestination, eschatology and other things. Obviously, both points of view couldn't be right, yet both groups claimed to possess the absolute truth on everything. At least some of them were wrong some of the time. I began to wonder what else they might be wrong about.

I first began have serious doubts about Christianity during my final two years at the Christian high school, my freshman and sophomore years, after which I would happily transfer to the much more relaxed and intellectually open environment of the local public high school. I began to notice the mediocre personalities fundamentalism attracted. If these are God's people, I thought, why does God pick such dullards to be his messengers?

During my time at the Christian school, I was exposed to missionaries and traveling evangelists from a number of prominent fundamentalist institutions, such as Bob Jones University. I began to regard the hysterical, cult-like demeanor of these people as distasteful and offensive. They seemed obsessed with hating homosexuals, liberals, secular humanists, communists, Catholics, pornographers, rock musicians, drug users and other outgroups. I decided I wanted nothing to do with this particular brand of Christianity.

After transfering to public school, I continued to attend the Calvinist church. The pastor was an adherent of R. J. Rushdooney's Christian Reconstructionism. While the atmosphere of this church was far more toned down and somber than that of the fundamentalists, the belligerent, hostile, threatening rhetoric was the same. The final straw was when the pastor delivered a sermon gleefully celebrating the death of Libyan civilians, including children, during the 1986 American air assualt on that nation. He clearly reveled in the death and destruction of these infidels. I was nineteen years old at the time, and I decided I would never attend church again and, at age forty, I never have.

I began to develop a burning hatred for the right-wing Christians, whom I had come to refer to with the derogatory term of "Jesus Freaks". I also began to explore my own religious views more thoroughly and extensively. The first small step away from fundamentalism and theocratic Calvinism was to read some of the writings of mainstream clergymen like Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and Dr. Robert Schuller. But these mainline Protestants seemed long on inspirational hype and short on intellectual substance.

I then began to study Church history and read of the abominations and tyrannies perpetrated by the Christian religion throughout history. I studied other religious perspectives like Buddhism, Hinduism and the then-nascent "New Age" religions. I failed to be impressed with any of these. Finally, I came across the works of leading freethinkers like Bertrand Russell, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, H.L. Mencken, Thomas Paine and Ludwig von Feurbach along with leading contemporary critics of Christianity like Daniel Barker, George H. Smith, Edmund D. Dohen and Edward Babinski. When I would compare the works of these thinkers with those of the Christian apologists like Josh McDowell, C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Cornelius Van Til and William Craig Lane, I came to see the arguments of the apologists as so shallow, weak, contradictory and muddled that I became an atheist.

Ulimately, there is no argument for Christianity other than appeals to pure faith. Any thinking person should consider such appeals to be repulsive groupthink and anti-intellectualism. When confronting Christians with such matters as the inconsistencies and absurdities in the biblical texts or in particular Christian doctrines, I have found the unfailing response to be one of blind appeals to authority and ad hominem attacks.

I have no desire to convert Christians to my own skeptical position. I am content to allow others to proceed with their God-delusions. After all, it's their loss. How much can one appreciate life when one must constantly be preoccupied with whether or not one is truly saved, whether one's friends and loved ones will be saved, whether this or that thought or action will violate any of the labyrinth of rules Christians set for themselves? How happy can one be, going through life with an all-seeing Big Brother looking over one's shoulder, ready to punish this or that infraction? What's so great about the Christian promise of "eternal life" anyway, given that the biblical depiction of heaven resembles nothing quite so much as an eternal church service?

My attitude towards my former fellow Christians today ranges from contempt for their ignorance and arrogance to pity for the misery they have inflicted on themselves. When I observe the large numbers of people who spend their entire lives absorbed in such nonsense, my appreciation for the fact that I found my way out of that mess by the time I was in my early twenties becomes overwhelming. I was one of the lucky ones.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good post,as harmless as one delusional person is,When grouped together it is no longer harmless,child indoctrination should be against the law,AL in G.A

Spirula said...

misery they have inflicted on themselves.

Were it only themselves that they have inflicted misery upon. They harm a great many children with their "morality" and hatred.

I was raised OPC also (non Dominionist though), as a PK no less. I don't know how my gay brother made it, but he did, and remarkably unscarred.

Ryan Scott said...

I'd love to let xians believe what they want but unfortunately they have the right to vote.

Anonymous said...

to Ryan:

"... unfortunately they have the right to vote" .

Why do you think a Christian's vote is unfortunate?

BB

Steven Bently said...

Great post Ryan, Christianity is nothing more than an accepted form to spew hatred and selfrighteous bigotry.

Anonymous said...

"When I observe the large numbers of people who spend their entire lives absorbed in such nonsense, my appreciation for the fact that I found my way out of that mess by the time I was in my early twenties becomes overwhelming. I was one of the lucky ones."
I was not so lucky. I had to wait till I was 38 years old to come to my senses.

Lorena said...

Ryan,

Enjoyed your post. I particularly liked this line, If these are God's people, I thought, why does God pick such dullards to be his messengers?

I reached the same conclusion at the end of my Christianity.

Lynn said...

Hi Keith!! Yay!!! I was wondering if there were other ex-OPC folks out there. I was raised OPC, and a more dour, depressed, legalistic, conscienceless, life-hating bunch of people I've never met. I departed as quickly as I could (I'm 18 and outta here!!) but it took many more years to extricate the lies and horror that is Calvinism from my psyche. Calvinism is nothing less than spiritual rape.

Anonymous said...

Re:

to Ryan:

"... unfortunately they have the right to vote" .

Why do you think a Christian's vote is unfortunate?

BB


They voted Bush in; 'nuff said.

Anonymous said...

It was interesting to see that someone else came to lose Christianity and then moved on to atheism by much the same route as myself. I was raised Presbyterian also, but, luckily for me, it was a very mild form, somewhat like Methodists. We were Calvinists virtually in name only. It was my exposure to the Baptist/Evangelical world as a teen which also made me say, "If they all claim to be right, maybe none of them are, and what else are they wrong about?"

Thanks for a thoughtful post.

Sarge said...

I had occasion to run across Jerry "foul well" when I was much younger. He and a boar hog where I worked had a remarkable resemblense to each other. They had the same you-better-watch-your-ass expression and their eyes had the same calculating meaness. What can I get away with? Where's my chance to do damage?

Have you ever noticed, though, how all these different denominations love their organisational structures? I often think that people worship more the rules and strictures, the committees, the infighting for position. The lording over others in 'the system'.

I know I said it once before, but I was home on leave during the '70s and my father (southern baptist) and a nieghbor (catholic) were talking. The nieghbor's daughter had gone and fallen in with the "Jesus People" as they were known, and both men were very upset about it. They agreed that it wasn't REAL religeon. Religeon was rules, guilt (maybe not a lot), little girls in patent leather shoes and dresses, boys in clothes they were growing out of, droning hymns, candles, rituals. I have often wondered what would happen if it WAS true, if a real Jesus came walking in to the Vatican, the Synod, the convention. I have a feeling that such an (alleged) entity would be looked down on for not knowing proper protocol, for not really knowing what was what, resented because he was questioning the "boots on the ground'?

The joke goes that the world's religeous leaders flee to the Vatican to figure out what to do, and a Swiss Guardsman say "He's in the building coming this way!" The pope (when I heard it it was still an Italian office) profers the best advice: "Look-a busy"!

And why do the twice born think that anyone would want to spend an eternity with THEM??!!

When I was run down last summer, laying in the street, it was very interesting to watch as the cars went whizzing around me, some almost hitting me, one actually hitting me again causing futher injury. Almost all of them had some religeous symbol or religeous bumper sticker on them. Guess they didn't read the "Good Samaritan" parable. The woman who originally ran me down, rendered no aid, had to be prevented from driving off over me and probably killing me, the first words she said to the cops were, "I'm a christian woman..."

JayBird's Joint said...

"Almost all of them had some religeous symbol or religeous bumper sticker on them. Guess they didn't read the "Good Samaritan" parable."

What about the cars that didn't have a religious bumper sticker on them....are you angry at them? Since Christians are so hateful why look to one for help? She must have hit you because she was a Christian.....

AlanH said...

JayBird's Joint wrote:

Since Christians are so hateful why look to one for help?

Exactly. Christians don't behave any better than anyone else, so why do they keep claiming they do? By their fruits ye shall know them.

Sarge said...

Jaybird, I just find it odd that those who publicly advertise their faith and belief, who often proclaim the moral and philosophical superiority of their religeous belief, would be as callous as they were. I was, in fact, helped from under the car by some passers by. Two were motorcyclists, and the others were four tenagers who are "goths". One of the motorcyclists is, in fact, a member of a Christian motorcycle club. The other was an atheist like me. The christian didn't do it because of his beliefs, he did it because he was a good man, with or without his religeon. I was run down initially because the woman who initially hit mewas on a cell phone. Am I anti cell phone? No. One of the kids who helped me had a picture phone and recorded the second time I was hit. That along with the traffic camera at the place I was hit helped get one of the local Babbitts in dutch for hit and run.

Point is, none of these people, Christan included, invoked or heeded anything but humanity, concern. The goth kids (atheists) went with one of the cops who informed my wife what had happened, and drove her to the hospitals, and home. Stayed with her. Wouldn't let her drive. The woman who hit me STAYED on her phone, finally said that she couldn't wait around, and tried to leave. One of the cyclists said that she'd probably kill me if she tried, but she told him her business was pressing...words to that effect. He got the keys out of her jeep. She had a pro life bumper sticker on her vehicle.

See, Jaybird, to six people out of tens of others I was a real human who needed help, THEIR help, and they gave it. Many who proclaimed superior "values" considered me to be no more than a ground hog or deer, road kill to be who was obstructing them. No few actually rolled down a window when they passed and shouted insults at me.

Guess Sunday School ain't what it was...or was it ever?

freedy said...

Why are Fundies such dullards with mediocre personalities?

They revel in their mediocrity
through scripture like these. "He uses the simple to confound the wise",..
He's chosen the "base" things of this world and," "blessed are the poor in spirit",....etc..

It's sort of an anti-intellectual
protest theme through-out the bible
that convinces blind followers that their "MEEKNESS" is an attribute,worthy of great *reward.

**They're going to take over the freakin world man!

Anonymous said...

Christianity is nothing more than an accepted form to spew hatred and selfrighteous bigotry.


I am a Christian, and I am sorry that so many people of my faith do use it as a platform for hate. It makes me feel sick to think of it, and as one representative of a faith I cannot imagine living without, I can only ask forgiveness. I am sorry for the things that have happened in the past, and I am sorry for the evil that is done today in the name of Christianity. I wish I could change it, but I can't.

freedy said...

I'll accept your apology,but just what kind of Christian are you?

Universalist,Unitarian or some watered down liberal Christian?

Why do you stay hooked into a religion of hate and intolerance, the fear of hell?

paul said...

Keith you represent many Christians who look at the present Church and get disillusioned with it.

You should have looked at the beautiful person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who never uttered a word of hate but commanded His followers to love even their enemies.

1. transfer to the much more relaxed and intellectually open environment of the local public high school....you are wrong here.

Several independent surveys have shown that public schools are saturated with drugs, teen pregnancy and metal detectors than Christian schools.

2.I began to notice the mediocre personalities fundamentalism attracted..........As Abe Lincoln told once that God made more common people in this world.

Most of them love God except a few intellectuals like you.

3. freethinkers like Bertrand Russell, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, H.L. Mencken, Thomas Paine and Ludwig von Feurbach.......please read Paul Johnson's book 'Intellectuals' to learn how pervert their lives were and to what exent they were free thinkers.

3.How happy can one be, going through life with an all-seeing Big Brother looking over one's shoulder, ready to punish this or that infraction? .......unfortunately this is the negative image of God the world is getting.

The present church is responsible for this.

Please take a moment to read John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life".

God of the Bible offered His begotten Son for the salvation of people like you and me.

freedy said...

The beautiful person of Jesus?

Jesus said he would seperate the sheep from the goats,and throw the goats into the lake of fire with wailing and knashing of teeth!

Beautiful person,... he sounds like a monster too me.

Do you not believe the bible or what?

Keith Preston said...

Thanks to all who replied to my "untestimony".

Paul said:

"Keith you represent many Christians who look at the present Church and get disillusioned with it."

The "present church" is merely a sympton of the fundamentally anti-human cultic teachings of the Christian religion as outlined in the Bible.

"You should have looked at the beautiful person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who never uttered a word of hate but commanded His followers to love even their enemies."

The do-gooder rhetoric attributed to Christ by the Gospels is simply a bait and switch tactic. All totalitarian cults, old and new, will frequently used "lovey-dovey" talk to lure in susceptible converts. Ask any ex-Moonie.

"1. transfer to the much more relaxed and intellectually open environment of the local public high school....you are wrong here."

No, it was true of my public high school. I'll grant you that it's not true of all of them, given today's pervasive "political correctness" and hysteria over crime and drugs.

"Several independent surveys have shown that public schools are saturated with drugs, teen pregnancy and metal detectors than Christian schools."

I'm not so sure that drugs, teen pregnancy and metal detectors are more undesirable than the insane cultism that characterizes many of the Christian schools, including the one I attended. Indeed, these things may even be less undesirable.

"Most of them love God except a few intellectuals like you."

Too bad for them. It's their loss. For most of these kinds of people God is simply the adult version of an imaginary friend. I'm fine with letting them remain content with their delusions.

"please read Paul Johnson's book 'Intellectuals' to learn how pervert their lives were and to what exent they were free thinkers."

This is the ad hominem I typically encounter from Christian apologists. What matters is the force of the arguments of the critics of Christianity, not the success of their personal lives. "Perverts" as defined by whom? Christians? And what of all the "perverts" among the ranks of the believers?

I've read Johnson's book. It's simply a hatchet job on those who don't share his Catholic orthodoxy and sympathies for Western imperialism. Quite unimpressive, really.

"3.How happy can one be, going through life with an all-seeing Big Brother looking over one's shoulder, ready to punish this or that infraction? .......unfortunately this is the negative image of God the world is getting.

The present church is responsible for this."

No, this is the logical implication of the biblical teaching. The church is simply being faithful to the Bible and to the teachings of the religion. It is the religion itself that is the source of the problem.

"Please take a moment to read John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life".

That was one of the first biblical verses I ever memorized. I've since moved on to better things.

"God of the Bible offered His begotten Son for the salvation of people like you and me."

The "vicarious atonement" doctrine of Christianity is simply a monotheistic (or Trinitarian) version of the sacrificial practices of the ancient religions. In particular, Christian teaching on the sacrifice of a man-god to appease the wrath of God the Father is derived from ancient Judaic practices of human and animal sacrifice, the sacrificial rites of the pagan cultures of the ancient Near East, and the savior-god concepts found in the Isis/Osiris worship of the Egyptians.

We should be as revolted by Christian sacrificial teaching as we are by that of the Aztecs.

Keith Preston said...

"Jesus said he would seperate the sheep from the goats,and throw the goats into the lake of fire with wailing and knashing of teeth!

Beautiful person,... he sounds like a monster too me."

When I was in the sixth grade, I had a bizarre dream where my Christian school class met Christ in person and he was transformed from the robed figure in popular portraits into a monster-like character.

Of course, I didn't understand the meaning of all that then, but I now realize that my pre-pubescent mind was starting to at least subconsciously understand that the surface teachings of Christianity (all the "love thy neighbor" hype) are a mask for more vicious and anti-human teachings that are submerged under a certain rosy gloss, and are not revealed until the believer is more fully emeshed in the cult's maze of mind-twisting psychological manipulation.

Reading Dr. Edmund Cohen's "The Mind of the Bible-Believer" when I was twenty-one or twenty-two really helped me to sort all of that out. I found much of Cohen's analysis to be consistent with my own observations and experiences during my time "in the fold", and had put together many of the same insights myself, but Cohen was able to help me systematize it all in a much more complete way.

freedy said...

Amen Keith!Christianity and the bible are as bloody and violent as the Aztec and Mayans put together.

I fully deconverted after seeing the "Passion of the Christ".

That movie made me sick!

Jim Arvo said...

Sarge, that is a really disturbing story. It's shocking to me how many people will stand around when someone is in need. I've seen this several times myself, and it's not a pretty picture of humanity. About ten years ago my wife and I were driving along when we spotted a small crowd standing around a bizarre accident scene. A young woman was pinned between two cars, one having been pushed into another by a collision. Nobody came within ten yards of the woman, who was terrified and in pain. It was absolutely perplexing. I'm not going to try to paint myself as any kind of hero, but I started shouting at the people to get them moving. As a group we easily separated the cars and comforted the woman (and kept her from moving) until an ambulance arrived. I can only imagine what it was like for you to experience this type of thing as the person in need. Thank goodness some people finally arrived whose empathy moved them to action.

I have a friend who calls himself an evangelistic atheist. His (tongue-in-cheek) motto is, "If you see someone in need, you should probably help them, because god won't." It's funny, but it's also true.

muttmutt1978 said...

Paul, with all due respect, you cant come in here expecting people to give you positive feedback, christianity is what it is and centuries of bloodshed and war cannot be dismissed at the wave of a hand. It will fall someday, and a lot of people that were broken from the religion and RELATIONSHIP that is christianity, will be at peace once and for all, but until that day comes, I advise you to take your religion and shove it up your ass, because weve been down that road before. PS Not a true christian, Its not a religion its a relationship, or any other cop out excuses dont work anymore, we grow tired and immune to the constant rhetoric of those trying to shove us back in the sheep pen. We are wolves, and we eat your kind, so I suggest you run and never return.

Jim Arvo said...

Paul: "You should have looked at the beautiful person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who never uttered a word of hate but commanded His followers to love even their enemies."

Matthew 8:16 (NIV): "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."

Luke 19:27 (NIV), Jesus ends his parable of the ten Minas (gold coins) with "But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me."

Matthew 21:19 (NIV): "Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, 'May you never bear fruit again!' Immediately the tree withered."

Matthew 13:41-42 (NIV): "The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Mark 7:10: "For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.'"

Matthew 10:34 (NIV): "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

freeman said...

Dear naive Paul,

I attended private christian schools from K - 12th grade.

Let me tell you- tons of alcohol, drugs and sex!

And all of this over 25 years ago. I can just imagine what is going on in private schools today. The little bastards are far from being angels! They are probably just more discrete than their public school counterparts.

For god so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son!

Really?! Which god and which son?, for there are many out there with the same line of bullshit!

Paul, repeat after me. MYTHOLOGY

Anonymous said...

I was raised in the Catholic Church and I went through the motions as a child. In college, I studied science/engineering, and rejected Christianity & religion. Now, as 28 yr. old, my life was nearly destroyed by alcoholism and other addictions. I was led back to a belief in a Higher Power in recovery.

What do I believe now? I not only believe in God, but Christianity makes sense to me. Why do I believe in God? Look around you...where did you come from? Your parents...where did they come from? The cell...where did the cell come from? The universe...where did the universe, with its laws come from? There is only one logical answer: a supreme and intelligent being.

By the way, don't identify Christianity with Christians - identify it with Jesus. So the atrocities committed by Christian in the past and now is not a true reflection of Christianity.

Read "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis for a reason-based explanation as to why Christianity makes sense. After reading that book, I've seen my religion with a new light.

Also, why does Christianity make sense and not other religions? Only Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, whereas other religions were led by humans. So Jesus was either a mad-man, the real Son of God...or a demon (paraphrasing Lewis). You have to decide who he was.

boomSLANG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
boomSLANG said...

Anony-non: I was raised in the Catholic Church and I went through the motions as a child. In college, I studied science/engineering, and rejected Christianity & religion. Now, as 28 yr. old, my life was nearly destroyed by alcoholism and other addictions. I was led back to a belief in a Higher Power in recovery.

People of all faiths, and even people of no faith at all, recover from addictions. The conclusion, based on your premise, is relevant to nothing.

Anony-non: What do I believe now? I not only believe in God, but Christianity makes sense to me. Why do I believe in God? Look around you.

The classic "lookist" argument for "God":

1) Those butterflies are beautiful.
2) Beautiful things are Godly.
3) Therefore, God exists.

Anony-non: ...where did you come from? Your parents...where did they come from? The cell...where did the cell come from? The universe...where did the universe, with its laws come from? There is only one logical answer: a supreme and intelligent being.

That leaves one logical question: Where did God come from? If amazingly complex things MUST come from something, then certainly, the creator of the universe must be "amazingly complex", thus, God MUST come from something.

Anony-non: By the way, don't identify Christianity with Christians - identify it with Jesus. So the atrocities committed by Christian in the past and now is not a true reflection of Christianity.

Nice weasle-wording. Look, your Jesus = Christ. Your Christ = God. Your God says to kill unbelievers. Pure and simple. The bible is either your God's word, or it isn't. You can't have it both ways, despite trying.

Anony-non: Read "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis for a reason-based explanation as to why Christianity makes sense. After reading that book, I've seen my religion with a new light.

The "word" of a "God" should be able to stand on it's own merit. Surely, the creator of the entire universe wouldn't need help in making his desires and intentions "make sense". Nonetheless, there are several books refuting Lewis' book.

Anony-non: Also, why does Christianity make sense and not other religions?

How pompously presumptuous of a statement is that? You don't think Islam "makes sense" to a Muslim?

Anony-non: Only Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, whereas other religions were led by humans. So Jesus was either a mad-man, the real Son of God...or a demon (paraphrasing Lewis). You have to decide who he was.

Man-made. There's no evidence for gods or demons.

Good day.

Jeff said...

Paul wrote: John 3:16

John who? Was John Doe, Jesus? Was John Doe a God?

John who? Johnny B. Goode?

Sarge said...

Jim Arvo, It was really fascinating, actually. In the aftermath, not one of the people with whom my wife goes to church asked how SHE was doing, the girl who took the pictures gave the phone to the cops without even being asked, and two of the kids (a brother and sister) who helped came home with my blood all over them, and their parents wouldn't, in fact couldn't believe that they ("rotten kids") would do anything right. Not until my wife came to see them and thank them. She said they were actually angry. On the one hand their kids were "no good" and couldn't possible have done something altruistic, they feared that the blood stains were signs of some unspeakable crime, on the other, they "shouldn't have gotten involved". Now, is that a mixed message or what? One of the cops gave me a breathalizer on the scene, and made sure I got a copy of the traffic tape and report. I have not, nor have I any intention of sueing anyone. The police, however, and the VA are both doing their legal thing. Yet both of the people who hit me have taken ME to court. They got nowhere, but it was annoying.

I see a lot of kids from the religeous schools as well as the public schools come through our cadet program. I've learned you really have to watch the the home/christian academy schooled ones. They are usually very angry, belligerent. They do very well in the beginning, taking orders, and they are afraid, really. But what they don't fear they hold in angry contempt. They advance and get authority, and you really have to tell them about the difference between authority and leadership. Often they will leave, or be pulled because they are restrained in the way they are taught to handle people and they can't stand to have females in any authority. This isn't something that happens with every one of the, some turn out very well but it's usually in spite of their background rather than because of it.

Jim Arvo said...

BoomSLANG, I love the "lookist" argument for god! Is that terminology you invented? It's very appropriate, and I'm going to steal it!

Sarge, you've got some really interesting insights. Military academies are about the furthest things from my personal experience, so I'm very interested by what you have to say. Hope you keep posting.

About the kids who helped you... I can only hope that they have learned that they are capable of doing what's right, despite the treatment they received from their parents. I endured something similar as a kid. For some reason (which is a mystery to me to this day), there was a rough period in my adolescence in which I was not trusted by my parents, despite the fact that I was studious, had NEVER been in trouble, detested drugs & alcohol, and never even took a puff of a cigarette. In retrospect, that incongruity made me refine and internalize my own values even more. I realized that what I did was not necessarily going to be appreciated externally, so looking for praise was not sufficient reason to be good. The fortunate result in my case was deeper resolve, but I can see where some might have gone the other way. With any luck, those kids will appreciate what they have done, and realize that THAT is their reward. If so, then they will have grown through this experience.

Jim Arvo said...

To Anonymous @ 2/12/2007 7:10 PM EST,

Your argument for Christianity is, essentially, that it "makes sense" to you. By that it seems you mean that it gives you ready explanations for things that would otherwise be mysterious. In abstract terms, if assumption X "explains" Y, and we observe Y, then X "makes sense". For example, the existence of god "explains" the existence of life and beautiful vistas and morality and love etc., which are things we can clearly observe. Therefore, the existence of god seems obvious (or at least very likely) to you. Is that a fair summary of your position?

Do you understand some of the reasons that we do not agree with your conclusion? I'll list several (there are actually many), and see if you can at least admit that they are not completely unreasonable. First, there are many many assumptions, X, that can explain the same observable phenomena, and they cannot all be true. Picking one arbitrarily (as I claim you have done) is actually a fallacy known as affirming the consequent. For example, one could pick any number of gods and similarly affirm their existence. Of course, one could also explain the same phenomena by asserting the existence of vastly superior aliens, or an idiot savant creator, or (somewhat equivalently) a set of natural laws that lead to the same phenomena. So, "explaining" something is not the only criterion for thinking that X is true.

Another difficulty with your explanation is that there are innumerable observations that don't seem to fit so well with your purported creator. For example, the existence of the Ebola virus and the slow and agonizing death it causes, even among young children. Then, of course, there are natural disasters, massive starvation, and bloody wars fought over interpretations of this presumed deities intentions. And, of course, there are countless unanswered prayers. Now, the standard response to this is some variant of "god works in mysterious ways", meaning that it's a unknown why god would act in ways that seem so counter to what we would expect even from a compassionate human. But to simply discard these observations (e.g. on the basis that we ought not judge god), is another type of fallacy; one known as special pleading. That is, if we are trying to reach a logical conclusion, we cannot simply keep the data we like and toss out the rest based on the conclusion we wish to reach.

And yet there is a more overarching difficulty with your proposed god explanation. It does not really "explain" anything (which is why I've been putting that word in quotes). Virtually any phenomenon that you observe could be blithely "explained" as "god's will". Why did thousands of humans perish in hurricanes and tsunamis? It was god's will. Why does all life on Earth bear hundreds of biochemical, genomic, and physiological indications of having evolved from "lower" forms? God had his reasons. Why did god decide to wait to long to reveal his commandments, or to sacrifice himself, or employ such unreliable means to spread "his word"? He had his reasons. Why did god command and/or condone so many ghastly slaughters of humans, young and old, male and female? It was his will. This would all be fine if we had some independent means of determining god's existence and showing that these things conform to his will; but in a line of reasoning that is intended to demonstrate her existence, it is nothing more than question begging; that is, the fallacy of assuming what you wish to show in order to show it.

Finally, your god hypothesis fails to make any reasonable predictions. That is, if we suppose that there is a god, what can we predict about the world that would be different from what would pertain if there were no god. This "prediction" need not be something in the future, but something we can look for in the here and now, or even dredge up from the past. In other words, is there some "test" or "experiment" that we could perform that would allow us to distinguish between two possible worlds, one with a god and one without. Many believers assert that there is an abundance of such predictions, and others assert that there are none, as "one cannot test god". To the former, I say that I have yet to see an example that is compelling. To the latter I say your hypothesis is therefore useless, and indistinguishable from myth.

Does any of this make sense to you?

Keith Preston said...

Sarge says:

"I've learned you really have to watch the the home/christian academy schooled ones. They are usually very angry, belligerent. They do very well in the beginning, taking orders, and they are afraid, really. But what they don't fear they hold in angry contempt. They advance and get authority, and you really have to tell them about the difference between authority and leadership. Often they will leave, or be pulled because they are restrained in the way they are taught to handle people and they can't stand to have females in any authority."

These are among the classic symptons of child abuse. I've seen it over and over again in kids physically or sexually abused as children. I consider the authoritarian brainwashing children receive at the hands of these fundamentalist cults to be a form of de facto child abuse (though, unlike others here have suggested, I would strongly oppose legal interference in the issue, for practical and political reasons).

I demonstrated some of these same symptons myself at one point. I'm older now, I've moved past all that, but Sarge's comments are very insightful, particularly the one about kids from fundamentalist backgrounds who can't handle the idea of women in authority. Some of those sects teach such a thing is an abomination, so naturally such kids will not see any need to show females in leadership positions any respect. I've seen the same thing among immigrant communities originating from cultures where women are devalued.

One thing I would say about my own upbringing, however, is that my parents were for the most part conscientous people and, except for the cultic religion, I had a very good family and home life growing up. I consider the religion to have been a powerful negative in an otherwise generally positive home environment. And I don't really fault my parents for all of that. They simply didn't know what they were doing. Both of them had been raised in these sects as well, particularly my father. So they got all of that honestly. Today, I feel bad for the fact that they are now 70+ and still wrapped up in that mess.

Also, less than stellar parents come in all religious, or non-religious, affiliations, as Sarge's comments about the cretinous parents of the noble kids who came to his rescue indicate.

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Sarge said...

Jim Arvo, our program is not a military school, my wife and I are members of civil air patrol. We have a cadet ptogram which is quite good. CAP teaches aero space subjects, handles emergency services, and teaches leadership. The cadet program is a Junior ROTC program, and worth worth rank if you join the military. There are flight activities, scholarships, and we had one young woman parlay it into an undergraduate degree.
My wife was involved in the Katrina relief operation, and both of us and our son (he was a cadet) went on many searches for lost people and aircraft. As retired army NCO I am involved in leadership training, and as I am a Ham radio operator, (wife, too) also communications.

A lot of schools around here have a public service requirement, and our program is included. So we get a lot of these kids who come in from these small case religeous academies, home school environment set ups, and your flake alert really starts buzzing when you see the parents. My father-in-law, smartest man I ever knew, used to say that if you had kids around half-assed adults you'd wind up with quarter-assed kids. Some of the youngsters I meet I almost envy, for they will never know the pain of a hemmeroid (SP)You probably won't have one if you've only got 1/64 of an ass.

We go the route that you will not sit, lay down, eat, drink, or sleep until the people under you have done these things. Iused to train horses and ride semi pro, it's the same there. You care for those under you before yourself.
The kids actually see this, see it works, but they see me for two hours a week, they're with...others... the rest of the time, who no mattter what they say on Sunday feel that the weak should suffer for it, and deserve no help. They are there to obey.

It's something to see, been gone several days with some young people, they see a parent pull up to get them, and the face lights up. Parent is shouting at the kid before they've even gotten out of the car. The face falls. But, the parent luuuuuv's the kid. is looking out for him/her.

I wish I had a dime for every kid who got pulled because the program was "man centered" not "god centered". And we have more future adults with a "cash register heart and fairy tale mentality", to qoute Parke Godwin

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Anonymous said...

Keith you were indeed one of the lucky ones. I have practically wasted my whol life on Christianity, first as an apologist, and now in debunking it. I wonder what I could have accomplished had I not been brainwashed into it. Kudos to you.

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