How I Told My Family I Was an Atheist

by Luke Muehlhauser on December 9, 2009 in General Atheism

writing a letter

My parents, especially my dad (a pastor), were intimately involved in my deconversion from Christianity. I wanted desperately to keep my faith, so I sought their help in propping up my faith after it had received some blows from reason and evidence. (I also read lots of philosophical apologetics that was way beyond anything they had studied.)

For months it seemed that every time I looked at them I could see the pain in their eyes; the pain of losing their son to skepticism and freethought. I kept trying to believe, but I just couldn’t. They loved me and supported me the whole way through, even though they did everything they could to bring me back in the fold.

Eventually, after I felt more secure in my freethought and had recovered my happiness, I felt I should tell the rest of my family what was going on. So I wrote them an email with three documents attached. The email read:

Dear _____,

I’ve written three short documents that may help you understand some big changes in my recent life. I understand the Christian worldview; I grew up with it. Please take a few moments to read these so you can understand my new worldview.

I love you so much.

Thank you.

Suggested reading order: Dear Friend -> Freethought FAQ -> Freethought essays

The Dear Friend letter is below (footnotes included). Keep in mind I don’t have quite the same opinions now as I did then, for example concerning my footnote on Dawkins and McGrath.

Dear friend,

I love you. I want to tell you about a big change in my life that has made me very happy but may upset you.

I’d like to share the story of my conversion from dogmatism to freethought. My aim is to tell my story and, like Socrates the gadfly, challenge you to assess your own views. I hope to maintain open contact with thinking and loving persons.

Why Reject Christianity?

Surely, my reasons for rejecting religion would be obvious if I was Babylonian woman and Yahweh commanded that my infant children be “dashed upon the rocks” and I be “ravished” by the Israelites[i], or if I was a victim of the crusades, or if I was condemned to death by AIDS because the pope opposed safe sex education.

But I mostly benefited from Christianity. As a child, I swam in Christian love and encouragement. After one depressed year, I found joy again only by falling in love with God. Most Christians I knew weren’t greedy televangelists or masquerading members of a godless Christian culture. I saw a vision of peaceful, loving, humble, Christ-like service, and nothing excited me more.

And then I rejected Christianity; not because it wasn’t good for me, not because the Christians I knew were bad people, not because it failed to give me purpose and hope, not because I just wanted to do my own thing, but because I came to realize I had no reason to think it was true.

Growing Up in a Strange World

As a child, I believed the Bible literally. Life began 4,000 years ago[ii] with two humans, magical trees, and a talking snake[iii]. Noah squeezed all earth’s species in a boat[iv] and God covered the mountains with 40 days of rain[v]. Etc.

In high school, my literalist education taught me God had teleported light from distant stars to trick us into thinking they were old enough that their light could’ve reached us by now. He also made rocks look millions of years old, made civilizations look older than 4,000 years, and used evolution to change species so that we couldn’t believe based on reason. He desired faith.

In college, I read real science books[vi] and adjusted my theology accordingly. More and more of the Bible was clearly metaphorical like Jesus’ parables. I noticed that the Bible was largely contradictory[vii]. I let it go as a beautiful story of a perfect God communicating through a frail humanity. I realized how man-made the Christian rituals were[viii], and how ugly and ignorant the church had been throughout history. I ditched it all for a more personal and authentic faith. I saw the intolerance, ignorance, greed, and hypocrisy of most Christians. So I found people who embraced reason and science but wanted to bring God’s love nonjudgmentally to suffering people[ix]. I learned that Yahweh arrived relatively late in human history, but believed that God, in his mysterious way, had decided not to reveal himself to humanity until a special time, and even then not fully until 2,000 years ago.

But the more I learned, the more I realized that I did not have good reasons to think Christianity was true.

The Virtue of Doubt

The battle cry of freethought is this: don’t believe just because special people (parents, Paul of Tarsus, Aristotle, or Carl Sagan) told you so! Study philosophy, science, history, theology, etc., and draw your own conclusions. Study opposing viewpoints from their own perspectives. Question everything. Never settle into dogmatic belief; be open to changing your mind based on new data. The virtue of freethought is doubt, not faith.

If faith is valid, anything goes. Muslims are right about Allah by faith, polytheists are right about Zeus by faith, people who claim to have been healed by Elvis are right by faith, etc. Faith by itself refuses to distinguish between true and false ideas, and doesn’t care about knowledge or reason. Faith is a deliberate disconnect from the real world.[x]

I rejected Christianity because there is no good evidence for the existence of Yahweh, and lots of good evidence against it[xi]. I disbelieve in Santa and unicorns for the same reason.

Though my journey into freethought led me to reject the existence of Yahweh[xii] (for now), there are religious freethinkers and there are dogmatic atheists.[xiii] (Most people, however, are simply unthinking when it comes to their worldview, and have never read serious works by atheists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc. at all[xiv]).

Freethought for a Better World

Whatever my intellectual basis for rejecting religion, Christians may wonder how I can find meaning, beauty, happiness and goodness in life without God.

As for meaning, I don’t have the cosmic, eternal purpose that Christianity offers – but if it is only the gift of wishful thinking, I don’t want it. In fact, without God, I am wholly responsible for my own life, and I must make the most of my blink of an existence.

As for beauty, I’ll quote Douglas Adams: “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”[xv]

As for happiness, I can truly say I have never been happier: I am free from religious prejudice, double-mindedness, and closed-mindedness![xvi]

As for goodness, I find much more of it in freethought than in Christianity. If you think that rejecting alternate worldviews outright without investigating them on their own terms is better than freethinking open-mindedness, I can’t persuade you. If you think condemning millions to eternal suffering for never having heard of Jesus is tolerant, I can’t persuade you. If you think it’s honest to claim answered prayers as evidence for God but not claim far more unanswered prayers as evidence against God, I can’t persuade you. If you think punishing somebody for other people’s mistakes is justice, I can’t persuade you. If you think Yahweh is all-loving despite slaughtering millions of innocents and commanding murder and rape, I can’t persuade you.

Freethought is a beautiful thing. It searches honestly and openly for truth at all times. It questions everything. It is open to better morality than primitive religions from prejudiced and ignorant ages can offer. It embraces beauty and happiness. It is empowering and life-giving and demands more personal responsibility for one’s life than Christianity. Just like Christianity, it can be abused, but it does not dictate closed-mindedness and intolerance like Christianity does.

If Yahweh exists, surely he is not threatened by questions from you or me. Live free.

Love,

Luke Muehlhauser


[i] Isaiah 13 and many similar instances.

[ii] About 1,000 years after Sumerians invented glue.

[iii] No less bizarre than other ancient origin myths: http://www.livescience.com/history/top10_intelligent_designs-1.html

[iv] There are over a million living land species today, and even more were alive a few thousand years ago. We are asked to believe that two of each species fit on Noah’s boat.

[v] In order to cover the mountains from sea level 4,000 years ago, it would’ve had to rain something more like 40 years.

[vi] Creation scientists (including Intelligent Design proponents) are fakers. They do not produce science. They do not make falsifiable hypotheses and test them against experiment and observation. Creationists merely point out gaps in our scientific knowledge and say, “See! We don’t know how that could happen! Therefore God exists.” And when scientists discover the natural causes for crop death, lightening, biodiversity, planetary orbits, and cellular flagellar motors, creationists nevertheless maintain that everything else we don’t understand yet is proof of God. This is the “argument from ignorance,” a common logical fallacy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance

[vii] Theologians have spent millennia coming up with creative and complicated reasons why the Bible disagrees on the day of Jesus’ death, Jesus’ genealogy, the way to heaven, the words of Jesus, the morality of God, the composition of Israel, and a hundred other issues. Their reasons are mostly unconvincing. I could come up with a creative defense of other wildly contradictory texts (and many people have), but the best explanation of the data is that, yes, the Bible is the work of dozens of authors from different millennia, cultures, and worldviews, and often the product of unreliable oral tradition (think of what happens to your message if you play the “telephone game” for a thousand years). A decent list of Bible contradictions is here: http://ffrf.org/books/lfif/?t=contra

[viii] Most of them made up long after Jesus’ lifetime. Modern Christians would find the practice and beliefs of Christianity’s founders and the Apostolic Fathers primitive, absurd, and amoral. And Jesus, Paul, and even medieval Christian figureheads would find the beliefs and practices of modern Christians thoroughly offensive. This is clear to any student of history.

[ix] And to these people I bow humbly. They will do more human good through their beliefs than I ever will.

[x] The “faith” of freethinkers (that a rock will fall if I drop it) is not faith, but rational prediction based on logic and evidence. Don’t confuse the two.

[xi] If you’d like to know more, just ask. You are probably aware of some of the immense evidence against the Christian worldview, but you probably don’t understand why Biblical arguments, historical Jesus arguments, personal testimonies, and rational apologists’ arguments are so, so poor.

[xii] If you’d like to hear some of my specific reasons, feel free to ask.

[xiii] For example, noted freethinker and atheist philosopher Antony Flew took up belief in a deist god, and atheist-cum-Christian Alister McGrath’s The Dawkins Delusion is far superior to Dawkins’ non-freethinking, angry diatribe The God Delusion. Dawkins is a dogmatist for scientism like the worst Christian fundamentalists are for Yahweh. McGrath’s lectures and books, however, never once provide any good reason to believe in Yahweh.

[xiv] If you want an accessible introduction to the major issues at debate, Wikipedia is not a bad place to start:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existence_of_god

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faith_and_rationality

[xv] from Adams’ Last Chance To See

[xvi] No longer will I assume that people of other worldviews are bad or stupid or angry or unloving. No longer will I condemn people categorically based on religion or sexual orientation. No longer will I be more open-minded listening to a drug-addicted, high school dropout who “met Jesus” than to a Ph.D.-carrying historian and Bible scholar who is an agnostic. No longer will I approach everything as “How does this affirm Yahweh’s goodness and power?” but “What does this tell me?” No longer will I find excuses for persons who murder, rape, and eternally condemn others. No longer will I use Christian miracles as evidence of Yahweh while using pagan miracles as evidence for discarding such mystical writings. Etc.

Looking back, that’s not quite how I would have written the letter. It’s pretty harsh. Today, I’m a more sympathetic atheist, and less arrogant in my conclusions.

The other two documents attached to that email were these: Freethought FAQ and Freethought Essays.

And that’s how I told my family I was an atheist.

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Haukur December 9, 2009 at 7:00 am

That’s quite a letter, Luke! My version was: “Mom, I think I will not undergo Confirmation next year.”

I didn’t know you thought so highly of McGrath. I’d love to hear more details on that.

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John D December 9, 2009 at 7:11 am

I surprised that you call Dawkin’s a dogmatist for scientism. At least in my understanding, scientism is identical to that which is espoused by Gregory Dawes in Theism and Explanation.

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lukeprog December 9, 2009 at 7:47 am

I don’t feel quite the same way about McGrath and Dawkins anymore. This was written more than a year ago.

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Charles December 9, 2009 at 8:32 am

Great letter, Luke. I wasn’t nearly as secure in my unbelief when I told my parents!

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Bill Maher December 9, 2009 at 8:37 am

That is a good bit better than when I dot drunk and told everyone I know and my parents were like “We already know, you make Jesus jokes constantly.”

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Briang December 9, 2009 at 10:07 am

Luke,
You said:
“I wanted desperately to keep my faith”

You’ve said something to this effect in your other writings. From my own experience, I don’t think it’s healthy or helpful to “try” to believe something. I don’t think a person can make themselves believe. This seems to be true of anything not just religion. In my experience, trying to force myself to believe something makes it harder to believe in. It’s like I know I’m being fake.

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Jeff H December 9, 2009 at 10:26 am

Nice letter. I think if I had gotten this letter, I’d be a little offended at the tone of it lol. But oh well, sometimes the truth hurts :P What kind of response did you get from it?

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SteveK December 9, 2009 at 11:23 am

Hi Luke,

If Yahweh exists, surely he is not threatened by questions from you or me. Live free.

I admire your desire to stay true to your desires and beliefs. God wouldn’t have it any other way, Luke. I just don’t admire the desires themselves.

As you said, if God exists, surely he is not threatened by our questions. Equally true, despite your many questions, if God exists, surely he will do as he says. He says that he will let you stay true to your desires and live them out, freely, apart from him for all eternity. We are told that that situation won’t be pretty so I encourage you to remain humble and keep asking questions.

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Jason Finney December 9, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Hello, I’m generally a lurker but I could not help but reply. I think some balance in perspective is needed.

In an earlier post you sharply rebuked a reader’s assertion that _arrogant pride_ was the impetus for your rejection of God. You might want to rethink that. In your letter you compare yourself to Socrates and declare every recipient (your own parents included–which is astounding) ignorant and illiterate–even having the audacity to try to get them to abandon their own twenty century old faith in lieu of your “free thought” 60′s acid trip college experiment.

Your deconversion manifesto is in my humble estimation so pridefully arrogant it borders on narcissism. I don’t say that to drive a nail of rebuke into your spiritual coffin, nor do I say it as a matter of opinion; I say it as a matter of fact–indeed a fact any psychologist worth their salt would support if you were to give one your letter for analysis.

But a psychologist isn’t needed to observe your illusory perspective. One needn’t look further than the delusional way you speak in dismissive absolutes. You speak about cosmology and metaphysics as though you were explaining a simple addition problem. That is not scholarly, that is acute imbecility. Speaking in those terms about subjects so vast would be like calling a mainframe computer a “little gadget.”

Then there is your “why reject Christianity?” response. Aside from the misnomer, your blaming of the pope for the proliferation of AIDS in Africa is as ignorant as it is blatantly angry and emotional. It’s obvious you are a Christopher Hitchens disciple. For those of us who _do_ read and have taken the same college courses you have taken, we know a parrot when we hear one.

Have you ever considered agnosticism? It would seem like a _much_ better fit for you since you clearly don’t really know where you stand or what the heck you are talking about.

Time to step away from the youtube debates and go experience life for a decade or two and figure out what it’s really all about. You have fallen prey to the devil’s oldest trick in the book: believing “free thought” leads to more freedom, whereby every sane man who ever walked the earth, even the ignorant and illiterate ones, know it only leads to oppression, eugenics, genocide and ultimately ruin.

Respectfully yours,

Jason

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brgulker December 9, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Luke,

Takes a lot of courage in my book to post something so personal. I’ll never become an atheist, although your journey to deconversion mirrors many of my life experiences.

I love the way you closed your letter:

If Yahweh exists, surely he is not threatened by questions from you or me. Live free.

Christians should believe this, I think, in order to be faithful to our own heritage. Very well-said.

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Jason Finney December 9, 2009 at 1:49 pm

No brgulker, sorry you are categorically WRONG.

Christians should not believe that GOD is cool with “free living” and “free thought.” He is not. He is unchanging. His truth is not democratic, nor is it up for liberal exploration. It is immutable and unchanging. It is what it is what it is and it’s not going to change.

To question God’s word for the aim of spiritual growth is one thing, but that is not what Liuke is prescribing. He’s imploring his own mother and father to get educated and leave their faith under the pretext of “asking questions.”

Jason

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lukeprog December 9, 2009 at 2:04 pm

Jeff H,

Almost no response whatsoever. Nobody ever mentions it.

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brgulker December 9, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Jason,

Here’s what I quoted from Luke:

If Yahweh exists, surely he is not threatened by questions from you or me. Live free.

There are two parts to that quotation.

The first part: If God exists (I believe God does exist), then God would not be threatened by human doubts or questions. I think even orthodox Christian doctrine affirms that.

The second part: Live free. Certainly Luke means something other than what I would mean here, but didn’t Jesus himself say that you would know truth and that that truth would be a liberating force?

I didn’t endorse Luke’s entire letter, nor did I agree with the conclusions he reached. I simply mentioned that I really enjoyed his closing and that I think there is a good bit of truth there that Christians can and should affirm.

As to all this:

Christians should not believe that GOD is cool with “free living” and “free thought.” He is not. He is unchanging. His truth is not democratic, nor is it up for liberal exploration. It is immutable and unchanging. It is what it is what it is and it’s not going to change.

you’re reading all that into my comment. I didn’t comment on any of that at all.

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Michael Thackray December 9, 2009 at 2:31 pm

jason finney has a very “Mark” sounding quality to him…
Mainly in the fact that he chooses to believe what he wants about Luke, instead of what Luke’s iterated (quite honestly) over and over again.

Advice Jason: If you really want to offer some insight, your going to have to listen to him.

Thanks Luke for sharing that. Encouraged me greatly.

lukeprog: Almost no response whatsoever. Nobody ever mentions it.

I found this reaffirming. My disenchantment from Christianity lies in the fact that when it comes to the Truth, no one cares. I am openly doubtful about my faith of origin, and when that reached a crux, no one asked why. They were just upset I was rocking the boat. If Jesus really is the Truth, Christians aren’t really looking for him. I think the response to my apostasty (and yours) shows strong support for that.

Bill Maher: That is a good bit better than when I dot drunk and told everyone I know and my parents were like “We already know, you make Jesus jokes constantly.”  (Quote)

I found this hilarious.
it’s so tempting to use sarcasm around my family :p
i dont though.

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Jeff H December 9, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Jason Finney: Christians should not believe that GOD is cool with “free living” and “free thought.” He is not. He is unchanging. His truth is not democratic, nor is it up for liberal exploration. It is immutable and unchanging. It is what it is what it is and it’s not going to change.

I think you’re confusing freethinking with post-modern relativism. Freethought is a reaction against dogma, and focuses on human reason and logic. Post-modernism (in at least one of its many forms) is more of this “liberal exploration” that you’re talking about…the rejection of absolute truth. The two are not the same. Perhaps there are freethinkers who use the term to mean something else, but “freethought” in itself is just that…free thought. Surely God doesn’t condemn thinking, does he?

lukeprog: Jeff H,Almost no response whatsoever. Nobody ever mentions it.  

I figured as much. It’s kind of a tough thing to handle, especially when it’s a family member that, you know, you’re going to have to see at family get-togethers and such. I had to think myself about what to tell my family, friends, etc., but I ended up deciding that for the most part, it was better just not to make a big deal about it. I told my parents and a few of my friends (and now the word has gotten out to many), but I figured if I didn’t make a big deal about it, others would be less likely to as well. Anyway, glad to hear that your parents were supportive. That was the biggest worry for me, but it’s turned out alright so far :)

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Jason Finney December 9, 2009 at 3:27 pm

I don’t know what you are on about “Michael Thackray”. I am not Mark. I am from Wales, and currently a student in Amsterdam. My name is Jason Finney.

I also don’t understand a word you said about what this Luke has “iterated.” The only thing I am certain was iterated, reiterated, and post-iterated in this letter was fever pitch elitism.

Let us be perfectly clear here lest we degrade the group’s collective intelligence any further. Any man who likens himself to Socrates in a Declaration of Free Thought Independence addressed to his mum and dad should not be left to his own devices in a civilized society; he should be medivac’d to Mt. Airy Sanitarium as quickly as possible.

Now I have work to do and unfortunately must deactivate the follow-up comment via email feature. Catch you on the next round, yes?

Jason

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Jason Finney December 9, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Jeff: I think you’re confusing freethinking with post-modern relativism. Freethought is a reaction against dogma, and focuses on human reason and logic. Post-modernism (in at least one of its many forms) is more of this “liberal exploration” that you’re talking about…the rejection of absolute truth. The two are not the same. Perhaps there are freethinkers who use the term to mean something else, but “freethought” in itself is just that…free thought. Surely God doesn’t condemn thinking, does he?

This “freethought” you espouse is not rigidly opposed to dogma as you imply. It is also diametrically opposed to tradition, religion, conventional wisdom, culture, and–most ominously–authority.

It’s no coincidence that anarchists like Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh, not to mention lunatics like Jim Jones, fancy themselves as “freethinkers.”

But to be fair, on the college dorm room desk of a geeked out science student the freethinker’s manifesto is innocuous at best; but in the backpack of a man like Eric Rudolph, pressed between a few homemade pipe bombs, it is pure homicidal. The annals of history are replete with freethinkers. Hitler comes to mind.

Of course God does not “condemn thinking.” What a condescending question. What God condemns is heresy masquerading as “logic.” What he condemns is blasphemy posing as “reason.” What he condemns is ANY form of so-called “thinking” that in its essence is opposed to his Word (aka DOGMA)

Stop playing games with words. You either believe in God or you don’t. In time you will find there is nothing “free” about your “freethought.” In time you will find every piper eventually must be paid.

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Beelzebub December 9, 2009 at 4:14 pm

Yes, Jason, please be off to the pub with you. Cheers and tallyho! And if your IP isn’t from Texas, congrats on figuring out how to proxy!

Tut tut.

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Walter December 9, 2009 at 4:18 pm

Jason Finney: No brgulker, sorry you are categorically WRONG.
Christians should not believe that GOD is cool with “free living” and “free thought.” He is not. He is unchanging. His truth is not democratic, nor is it up for liberal exploration. It is immutable and unchanging. It is what it is what it is and it’s not going to change.

Jason  

What a bunch of dogmatic tripe. Even if there is a transcendent deity that created this world, what makes you an authority on this being? How do you know that this deity does not appreciate “free thought”?

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Michael Thackray December 9, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Hi Jason,

I apologize if you are not Mark. You can never be certain in this place.

I think Luke’s comparison with Socrates only went so far as the challenge that was issued. I don’t think he used the comparison to elevate himself, and liken his status to that of Socrates. I could be wrong, but I did not get that impression from reading the post.

As for ‘eltism,’ I can sort of see how the confidence and deliberate nature of the letters could convey such a feel, but I can empathize with Luke, given I have had similar experiences. Most Christian’s I know would (or have) jumped at the opportunity to discredit the apostates. Being assertive about our disbelief is actually one of the few weapons we have for destroying the pigeon-hole that we are repeatedly crammed into by the likes of yourself:

“Your deconversion manifesto is in my humble estimation so pridefully arrogant it borders on narcissism.”

And in my case, I refuse to simply let my family and friends do that to me. I hope you can see what a useless and unhelpful practice that is.

Your thoughts are welcome,

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Haukur December 9, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Jason Finney: But to be fair, on the college dorm room desk of a geeked out science student the freethinker’s manifesto is innocuous at best; but in the backpack of a man like Eric Rudolph, pressed between a few homemade pipe bombs, it is pure homicidal. The annals of history are replete with freethinkers. Hitler comes to mind.

Eric Rudolph? The Christian anti-abortion, anti-gay terrorist? And Hitler too? Looks like we have another graduate of the Humpty Dumpty school of semantics.

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J Wahler December 9, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Luke, ever think you’ll have a metaphysical conversation with either of your parents again? Or do you most often avoid that like the plague (my case)? I’m rather dumbfounded by stories like that of Dan Barker, converting his parents, or for that matter even having a healthy dialogue after his de-conversion.

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lukeprog December 9, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Beelzebub,

What are you talking about? Jason Finney doesn’t sound like Mark/Summa to me…

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Beelzebub December 9, 2009 at 5:11 pm

We shall see, we shall see.

Fool me once, shame on — shame on him. Fool me, er, uh — I won’t be fooled again.

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rhys December 9, 2009 at 5:28 pm

“I’ll never become an atheist, although your journey to deconversion mirrors many of my life experiences.”

This isn’t a very good attitude to take dude. All though I am almost certain that Yahweh, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, genies, leprechauns, centaurs, wizards and witches don’t exist, I know what kind of evidence it would take for me to change my mind. You should always be open to the possibility of being wrong about things, that is how you become more wise.

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Jeff H December 9, 2009 at 9:04 pm

Jason Finney: This “freethought” you espouse is not rigidly opposed to dogma as you imply. It is also diametrically opposed to tradition, religion, conventional wisdom, culture, and–most ominously–authority.

I find nothing negative about that at all.

The annals of history are replete with freethinkers. Hitler comes to mind.

LOL. Yes, Hitler, with all his book-burning and rigid authoritarianism, is a shining example of a “freethinker”. You sure showed me…

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Jeff H December 9, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Beelzebub,

Yeah, I don’t think this guy sounds like Mark/Summa. Regardless of his similar viewpoints perhaps, at least Jason a) has a point, and b) can actually vocalize that point. Summa just had a lot of ad hominems and CAPITAL LETTERS to spew out.

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Kip December 9, 2009 at 9:20 pm

lukeprog: Beelzebub,What are you talking about? Jason Finney doesn’t sound like Mark/Summa to me…  

You’re joking, right?

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Kip December 9, 2009 at 9:52 pm

Jeff H: Summa just had a lot of ad hominems and CAPITAL LETTERS to spew out.

You mean like this:

Jason Finney: No brgulker, sorry you are categorically WRONG.

Sorry, I don’t buy some lurker happens along to fit the same persona as Summa: psycho-analyzes Luke, advises agnosticism over atheism, in part due to Luke’s limited life experience, not “knocking” Luke, just “stating facts”, using redundant synonyms, etc.

$10 says it’s the same “bloke” from Texas.

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lukeprog December 9, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Kip,

Actually, his latest post on my ‘Craig and Intrinsic Value’ article sounds exactly like Summa. Damn it. I don’t know.

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Kiwi Dave December 10, 2009 at 3:26 am

Shorter Jason to Luke

“…your “free thought” 60’s acid trip college experiment… … pridefully arrogant… … your illusory perspective… … delusional way you speak… … acute imbecility… … ignorant… …a parrot… … you clearly don’t really know where you stand or what the heck you are talking about… … go experience life for a decade or two… …Respectfully Yours”

Am I the only one who thinks that was a very funny comment?

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brgulker December 10, 2009 at 6:29 am

rhys: “I’ll never become an atheist, although your journey to deconversion mirrors many of my life experiences.”

This isn’t a very good attitude to take dude.All though I am almost certain that Yahweh, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, genies, leprechauns, centaurs, wizards and witches don’t exist, I know what kind of evidence it would take for me to change my mind.You should always be open to the possibility of being wrong about things, that is how you become more wise.  

Let me put that statement in context, because as it stands, it doesn’t sound good. Thanks for pointing that out.

I studied Psychology, Religion, and Philosophy in college, then went on to pursue a Master’s degree in Theology, Philosophy, and History. Not to toot my own horn at all, honestly, but I’ve done a lot of reading and thinking on the issue. My doubting began with Russel’s “Why I am not a Christian” in college and has continued in some ways, shapes, and forms to this day.

I’m not the definitive expert, but I’ve done my homework.

I am and will remain open to new ideas and evidence. But it’s my personal opinion, based on years of academic work and personal searching, that there probably aren’t any arguments for or against the existence of any god or the Christian God that I haven’t heard in some form. I did and continue to devote serious, critical thought to those arguments (literally) on a daily basis.

I made a choice to believe, and I can say with a good deal of certainty that my choice won’t change. I’m not going to continue to believe out of stubbornness or pride, though, and I’m not going to run under a rock and hide. That’s why intentionally read blogs like this on a daily basis — to force myself into contact with ideas that are radically different from my own.

Hope that makes sense — thanks for the needed correction to my statement!

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lukeprog December 10, 2009 at 9:09 am

Kiwi Dave,

Yeah, the “Respectfully Yours” is a rather shocking coda.

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Jake de Backer December 10, 2009 at 11:58 am

Luke

Why don’t you check the IP for this dude? That swiftly concluded our last suspicion.

J.

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Amii December 10, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Jason –

Luke should be institutionalized because he compares himself to Socrates, but you’re sound in comparing him to Hitler (meme)? The comments were equally vague and turnabout is fair play.

Also, it appears you would have us believe that God is not opposed to thinking and reason just so long as one dumps it all and comes back to faith in the end? That strikes me as the act of one that is threatened.

On one small account, I’ll give you some credence, and that is that free thought is not so free. But my conclusions have nothing to do with a vengeful entity that doesn’t feel loved or worhsiped enough to give me the green light to heaven. The more I learn about the workings of the brain, the less I believe in free thought. But I still feel it’s the best we have to work with at this time, and certainly a good deal better than faith, Luke’s description of which I found to be the best I’ve come across in years.

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Jeff H December 10, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Kip:
Sorry, I don’t buy some lurker happens along to fit the same persona as Summa:psycho-analyzes Luke, advises agnosticism over atheism, in part due to Luke’s limited life experience, not “knocking” Luke, just “stating facts”, using redundant synonyms, etc.$10 says it’s the same “bloke” from Texas.  

Lol alright alright, maybe I’m just not as paranoid and suspicious as you are. I was giving him the benefit of the doubt :P At any rate, I don’t mind the insulting tone as long as he has something of substance to say…

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lukeprog December 10, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Jake,

Which guy? Jason is using Anonymouse; I asked him on another thread to not use anonymizing services on my blog.

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lukeprog December 10, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Who wants to bet that tomorrow a new poster from a proxy IP starts psycho-analyzing me and opening his posts with “Aloha, friends!”

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Defaithed December 10, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Great story, Luke. I was so lucky in that my whole family fell out of our fundie Creationist wacko “faith” (Jehovah’s Witnesses) at the same time, so I didn’t even have to go through that minefield of coming out as a non-believer. I always appreciate reminders that many people, like you, are in social situations that make the departure much harder.

I hope a lot of believers or undecided persons will see your letter. Anyone who’s become tired of religion’s callousness toward life (see Pope); its inconsistent, ever-changing and immoral God; and its arrogance, oppression, and elitism should find lots of hope in your introduction to the alternative, free thought.

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lukeprog December 10, 2009 at 10:55 pm

Defaithed,

Damn, your website name is better than mine.

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Defaithed December 11, 2009 at 12:42 am

I’m waiting for someone to use “Sh*tfaithed” as a site name. (I’ll pass, myself.)

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Tony December 11, 2009 at 1:49 am

Luke,
Let me start by saying, that is a very impressive letter. For the record I am not the caliber linguist that some of you are.
Mr. Finney my hat is off to you, I couldn’t possible spend as much time with a dictionary and Thesaurus as you clearly did, and I must agree with a few other people on here that that was an impressive rant for a casual passer by. My story all though not as well thought out, is similar in (my grandmothers words) my fall from grace. I am a simple person who came to a logical conclusion of facts stacked against me. Being raised Catholic, and walking away from god was in fact a dangerous step, according to Catholicism.

Hitler a freethinker, that is funny since he was actually a very religious man. I think a better Hitler comparison would be the Crusades, now they had it right, slaughter all that don’t follow, going so far as to send out women and children to fight.

Free thinking is only expression of ones open mindedness and willingness to break from the pack. (my opinion)

In closing I salute you Luke for the bravery to stand up and speak your mind and be willing to take what comes after.

Humble thinker

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James Pate December 11, 2009 at 5:59 am

I like the letter overall, but I don’t care so much for Luke’s statement that his parents should become free-thinkers. Some people like to question everything and remain open-minded; others prefer to settle somewhere, be comfortable with the parts of their religion that they consider mysterious, and keep plugging through life. As long as the latter use their religion to become better people and realize that not everybody sees things the way they do, I don’t think what they’re doing is a problem.

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lukeprog December 11, 2009 at 12:50 pm

Thanks, Tony!

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Siamese December 12, 2009 at 10:50 pm

I read your story and wanted to give my thoughts on some points in your blog. I am very much a layperson in the area of theological study, so the responses I give are from an average middle aged mother of two. I profess Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, but recognize and respect the freewill God gives to each individual. So the thoughts I will share have no agenda behind them, they are just my random abstract thoughts.
“Whatever my intellectual basis for rejecting religion, Christians may wonder how I can find meaning, beauty, happiness and goodness in life without God.”
Through the freewill that God provides each individual one can choose to reject a personal relationship with Jesus; although, God is ever present through creation. Since God’s creation surround all living human beings, it is impossible for one to escape God’s glory while they are living.
“In fact, without God, I am wholly responsible for my own life, and I must make the most of my blink of an existence.”
Even though God has dominion over all creation in the heavens and on earth, each individual is still “wholly responsible” for each decision they make over their “blink” existence in their current fallen physical body. After death the decisions one made during their “blink” existence upon earth, will determine what how they spend eternity.
In order to go any further on this subject matter, it is crucial that a few things are clarified in regards to ones eternal existence. First, as finite beings, living in flesh and blood bodies, it is impossible to clearly understand the spiritual realm that is referred to as eternal life. Jesus provided many references to both heaven and hell to help our finite minds grasp the basic concept of life after death. He did use figurative terms like crowns and flames to help humanity understand ones eternal existence in either place. Therefore as heaven and hell are discussed one must remember human minds are limited to fully grasp eternal issues; in fact the tendency is to abstract on finite earthly concepts to understand eternity.
Heaven is not a cloud covered haven where angels sing and harps are played; the Bible does involve various figurative descriptions in this realm, but it is to help human minds grasp the basic concept of heaven. Heaven does last for eternity and those who chose a personal relationship with Jesus while on earth will be united with God. This unity does not imply the experience of pleasurable earthly activities; rather, it is an experience of selfless love and adoration for the God of all creation. It is impossible to grasp this concept while living in an earthly body with a finite mind, since even the most humble Christian still possess a fallen nature which craves selfish desires.
Hell is not an eternally burning lake of fire; the Bible does reference fire when speaking of hell, yet these descriptions are provided to help human minds grasp the utter desolation of a Godless eternity. Hell will involve punishment, although this punishment is brought about through ones decision to completely reject the origin of their creation. It will involve a deep eternal anguish as one longs for the God they have separated themselves from. When one says God “sends” someone to hell the unspoken premise within this statement is that a cruel dictator like God who manipulated human beings by offer a freewill choice that was unfair will vindictively toss various unrelenting sinners into the pit of hell.
This premise warrants discussion, as it is incorrect on many levels. First God may direct individuals to their eternal accommodations; however, these reservations were booked by them through the choice they made. God desires a personal relationship with each human, in order for this relationship to occur he provided each human freedom of choice. If he had not given human beings the freedom to reject Him, all humans would go to heaven and be united with him, but their choice to be with him would have been a programmed fact. To better grasp this concept consider a character in the computer game Simms World, can the characters in this game share a “personal” relationship or are they video characters whose actions are dictated by the commands that are programmed into the computer?
God showed His love through allowing humans to have freewill. Love is not only doing “feel good” activities, love involves justice. A parent, who loves their child, will respect the child’s choices in adulthood, because the child has the freedom of choice to make these decisions. The parent make not like or agree with the child’s choices, yet it would be unjust for the parent to override the child’s freedom of choice. If a parent unjustly forced the child to respond in a manner that met the parent’s approval, this act would be an act of conditional love as well as disrespectful. God provided humans freedom of choice which allows them to reject Him. Since God is loving and just he respects the decisions one makes and will eternally separate himself from this individual on judgment day. It would be unjust and disrespectful for God to undermine this decision, by forcing the individual to reside with him.
Human beings want complete freedom of choice and God has unconditionally provided this; although, humans also want freedom from consequences which is unjust and not realistic in any realm. If two people have sex without using some form of birth control the woman could get pregnant. Most informed adults recognize that sex produces babies and unprotected sex is pleasurable, but it has potential consequences. For the married couple who desires a child, these consequences are joyful; in contrast the unmarried couple who only want to experience a momentary thrill the same consequence feels oppressive. The eternal consequences for those Christians who are united with Jesus will be joyful, versus the painful consequences of those who chose to reject God. In both cases the circumstances experienced resulted from their freedom of choice decision. Therefore when God “send” one to hell, he is justly respecting their freedom of choice.
“As for happiness, I can truly say I have never been happier: I am free from religious prejudice, double-mindedness, and closed-mindedness!”
This statement saddened me; you are not free from religious prejudice, and close-mindedness. This statement assigns your judgment toward others; the very action you felt oppressed you now oppresses others in the same fashion. Jesus did not dislike people, he disliked sin. In fact Jesus treated some of societies forgotten with genuine respect. By the above quote I am assuming you may have been hurt by some form of condemnation, I am truly sorry for this. The thing is Christians are redeemed (forgiven) sinners; meaning as long as they are living in their earthly bodies the potential to fail is an ever present danger. Reality is Jesus is the only one who will never fail you. There are some Christians who claim “Christianity” because in their mind it is the right this to do, but they live just as anyone else in the world; in these instances only God knows where their heart is so it is best to fervently pray for them. It is very late, so I won’t be able to touch on everything I had hoped to, as I have to get to bed. You will be in my thoughts.

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Defaithed December 16, 2009 at 8:57 am


@Siamese: That’s quite a post there. It brings up an awful lot of questions… which really boil down to a single question or two. As follows:

“Through the freewill that God provides each individual one can choose to reject a personal relationship with Jesus.”

Some Christians, such as Calvinist Protestants, believe in a Predestination that largely removes that free will, and makes the embracing of Jesus the choice of God, not of the individual. Which one of you is wrong (or are you both)? How do you know?

“Even though God has dominion over all creation in the heavens and on earth, each individual is still “wholly responsible” for each decision they make over their “blink” existence in their current fallen physical body.”

Some schools of Hinduism hand much of that decision-making to fate or destiny, not individual responsibility. Which one of you is wrong (or are you both)? How do you know?

“After death the decisions one made during their “blink” existence upon earth, will determine what how they spend eternity.”

Some schools of Buddhism reject the idea of a single “blink” existence on Earth, pointing to a long cycle of multiple deaths and rebirths instead. Which one of you is wrong (or are you both)? How do you know?

“First, as finite beings, living in flesh and blood bodies, it is impossible to clearly understand the spiritual realm that is referred to as eternal life.”

Many believers not only claim great understanding of that realm, they map it out in great detail. For example, Jewish Kabbalah mystics describe no less than seven Heavens, each with unique features and governed by specifically-named angels. Which one of you is wrong (or are you both)? How do you know?


“Heaven is not a cloud covered haven where angels sing and harps are played; the Bible does involve various figurative descriptions in this realm, but it is to help human minds grasp the basic concept of heaven.”

Some Christians have claimed that heaven is a cloud-filled realm of angels and harps. Which one of you is wrong (or are you both)? How do you know?

“Heaven does last for eternity and those who chose a personal relationship with Jesus while on earth will be united with God.”

Muslims claim that belief in Allah, and not a personal relationship with Jesus, is the prerequisite for entering heaven. Which one of you is wrong (or are you both)? How do you know?

“Hell is not an eternally burning lake of fire; the Bible does reference fire when speaking of hell, yet these descriptions are provided to help human minds grasp the utter desolation of a Godless eternity. ”

Many Christian sects claim that hell is indeed a literal lake of fire. Which one of you is wrong (or are you both)? How do you know?

And so on. I thank reason that I’m not one of those trying to defend religious claims. After all, every religious claim is simultaneously a *rejection* of many, many more religious claims. Every religious claim is a claim that some *other* believer is wrong. All of us using our minds can only watch and ask:

Which of you is wrong (or are you all)? How do you know?

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