CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

If there's one charge that keeps getting leveled by atheists against Christians (and religious believers in general), it is that they are so darn stubborn. They cling tenaciously to their quaint superstitions, apparently in the teeth of evidence. They seem impervious to the 'devastating' rational challenges to their belief systems. What's more, in their delusion they do not realize that the best proof of the falsity of their own belief system is the existence of other belief systems with adherents equally as intelligent and equally devoted.

The implicit criticism here is that a truly open-minded, critically thinking person should hold to something like Clifford's principle in deciding what to believe: one's beliefs should be strictly proportioned to the evidence for them. If there seem to be equally plausible arguments for and against a certain position, the only rational choice is agnosticism concerning that position. From this point of view it is not only cognitively misguided to hold to one's convictions in spite of serious challenges to it, but morally wrong as well, as Clifford illustrates with the example of a ship-builder who does not know how soundly his ship has been built, but lets people ride on it anyway. If the ship sinks, the blame lies entirely with the ship-builder for basing his decision on inadequate evidence. Applied to religion, this view implies that religious belief is unjustified in the face of evidence against it in the form of counter-arguments, less than convincing empirical or conceptual evidence and the existence of other belief systems with adherents equally as committed and intelligent.

Is this really what we should conclude, though, from religious disagreement? In his book Faith and Criticism, Basil Mitchell argues that, on the contrary, Clifford's principle is actually very bad advice when it comes to making cognitive choices about belief systems. There are two problems with it: first, since human cognition is egocentric (i.e. we can't jump outside our heads to take a 'view from nowhere') we cannot take a totally objective view of the evidence for and against a position. When it comes to applying Clifford's principle, the best one can do is proportion one's beliefs to one's perception of the significance of the available evidence. And here is where the first problem comes in: it will often be the case that one's perception of the evidence does not reflect its true weight. It could be that difficulties with one's belief system which seem at first glance to be fatal, are actually only apparent, or vice versa.

The second problem is a direct consequence of the first: if one concludes that certain difficulties are fatal to one's belief system when in reality they are only apparent, the belief system will be abandoned before its full implications and explanatory power can be laid out. People will propose deep and insightful ideas, only to have them shot down at the first sign of apparent counter-evidence. We see this many times even in the natural sciences, where it would seem Clifford's principle would be most applicable. In physics, chemistry, biology and everywhere else, the only way science progresses is as a result of scientists passionately clinging to their pet theories, trying to answer all possible objections, before eventually giving up when the difficulties really do become fatal, and a rival paradigm of greater explanatory scope (which also provides an account of why the other paradigms were unsuccessful) is widely accepted. Or, alternatively, the scientist sticking to his guns is vindicated by the course of events. This is what happened with Charles Darwin. In the Origin of Species he candidly admits that "A crowd of difficulties will have occurred to the reader. Some of them are so grave that to this day I can never reflect on them without being staggered; but, to the best of my judgment, the greater number are only apparent; and those that are real are not, I think, fatal to my theory." (quoted in Faith and Criticism, p.18) Think of that: Charles Darwin was staggered by the objections raised against his theory, but he obstinately clung to it, convinced that most of the difficulties were merely apparent. He would have been called a religious fundamentalist by some of the posters on DC and other supposed 'champions of reason'!

Obviously, if matters are this complicated in the natural sciences, the most empirical and precise of all disciplines with the most impartial mechanisms for weeding out error, how much more so is this case in the social sciences and humanities, where the discussion is much more qualitative, the criteria for success or failure much less clear and so much more being at stake for individual human beings. For example, think of the rivalry between Keynesians and classical or Austrian economists about the best kind of economic policy for increasing productivity and standards of living. Both are paradigms with eminent scholars, ingenious arguments and access to the same kinds of evidence. Who should one trust in this case? You can hear scholars in both camps calling those in the other 'hacks', 'ignoramuses' and other choice epithets, each denouncing the other for not properly interpreting evidence and allowing theory to influence facts instead of vice versa. But it is only through this kind of vigorous back-and-forth that positions can be refined, evaluated, and then either discarded or embraced. But in the mean-time, it takes obstinate people with courage to stick with the perspective to its ultimate limits.

Paradoxically, then, as John Stuart Mill suggested, "truth is better served by having a variety of systems of belief in vigorous competition with one another than by allowing the expression only of what is currently held to be the truth. This policy favors the optimal development of the rival systems by encouraging creativity and ensuring the exposure of each of them to the most determined criticism." (Faith and Criticism, p.29) So the existence of rival religious traditions, far from providing a reason for agnosticism, is actually a reason to commit oneself all the more passionately to one's own tradition, working out its implications and fearlessly testing it against the most formidable challenges from other traditions.

Of course there is a difference between the obstinacy proper to vigorous rational debate and the dogmatism that keeps the mind trapped in defunct ideologies. But this is a very fine line to draw, so in light of the above considerations it is better in general to err in being conservative with one's beliefs, especially if they come from a long tradition of brilliant thinkers who contributed much to Western civilization and faced many of the same challenges that are still brought up against that tradition. It is my judgment that people like Anthony at Debunking Christianity gave up far too soon, before they could become acquainted with the full richness of the Christian tradition and its resources for making sense of human experience.

24 comments:


What's more, in their delusion they do not realize that the best proof of the falsity of their own belief system is the existence of other belief systems with adherents equally as intelligent and equally devoted.


That's a weak and unnecessary argument.

The absence of rational grounds for belief in christianity is all the reason that's needed for nonbelief in it.

The only thing I, for one, would say about other religions in regard to the rationality of belief in Christianity is that Christianity seems no more rationally warranted than the rest---that it rests on as poor a footing, rationally, as all the others.

But that's very different from arguing that religious diversity is evidence of the falsity of religion.


The second problem is a direct consequence of the first: if one concludes that certain difficulties are fatal to one's belief system when in reality they are only apparent, the belief system will be abandoned before its full implications and explanatory power can be laid out.


No one is suggesting that one abandon a belief system at the first sign of problems with it.

On the contrary, most of us atheists who deconverted from theism only changed our minds after years of thinking, study, prayer and investigation into the best arguments for and against.

The implication of your essay is that deconverts from theism (and christianity) jumped ship at the first sign of intellectual difficulties in their belief system.

The reality is usually very different. Those first signs of intellectual difficulties are, in the majority of cases, just the first step in a process of investigation that extends over years.


It is my judgment that people like Anthony at Debunking Christianity gave up far too soon, before they could become acquainted with the full richness of the Christian tradition and its resources for making sense of human experience.


I'm sure you'd prefer to believe that. But I suggest this reflects exactly the personal bias that you mention in the third paragraph of your essay. Especially in light of the fact that Antony says that he spent about 20 years of his adulthood as an active christian.

Just how long does a person have to be christian before it will no longer be said by you that they "gave up far too soon, before they could become acquainted with the full richness of the Christian tradition...."?

Do they have to be in a nursing home? If 20 years won't do the job, what will?


But this is a very fine line to draw, so in light of the above considerations it is better in general to err in being conservative with one's beliefs....


How many christian missionaries espouse this principle to Muslims or Hindus they're trying to convert?

"No. No. Don't become christian yet. You haven't yet fully explored you're own Muslim tradition. Think and pray on the matter for a couple more years before deciding to deconvert from your religion to mine."

Somehow I doubt that sort of scenario gets played out very frequently in Christian missionary work.

What's more, in their delusion they do not realize that the best proof of the falsity of their own belief system is the existence of other belief systems with adherents equally as intelligent and equally devoted.


That's a weak and unnecessary argument.

The absence of rational grounds for belief in christianity is all the reason that's needed for nonbelief in it.


But there is no such absence. All there is is the failure of atheist to read enough theology to see that.

The only thing I, for one, would say about other religions in regard to the rationality of belief in Christianity is that Christianity seems no more rationally warranted than the rest---that it rests on as poor a footing, rationally, as all the others.


same reality behind all religions, God is working in all cultures. So the nature and state of other traditions is totally irrelevant. Religious traditions are merely vehicles for building a vocabulary in which the experinces one has of God can be meaningfully loaded into cultural constructs.

But that's very different from arguing that religious diversity is evidence of the falsity of religion.


(JD)"The second problem is a direct consequence of the first: if one concludes that certain difficulties are fatal to one's belief system when in reality they are only apparent, the belief system will be abandoned before its full implications and explanatory power can be laid out."


No one is suggesting that one abandon a belief system at the first sign of problems with it.


You are not. I can show you hundreds of atheists who do.

On the contrary, most of us atheists who deconverted from theism only changed our minds after years of thinking, study, prayer and investigation into the best arguments for and against.


Yea everything but reading a book by Tillich. It never ceases to amaze me, they claim they try everything but the one thing they never try is to expand their understanding of their own tradition.

Joe, don't bother with Mr. Ellis. He is a close-minded zealot. He is so slavishly devoted to his beliefs that he cannot even acknowledge that Theists aren't irrational. He's like the Steeler fan who watched this past year's Superbowl and thinks that his team shut out the Cardinals. His viewpoint is divorced from the reality that's happening on the field.


Yea everything but reading a book by Tillich. It never ceases to amaze me, they claim they try everything but the one thing they never try is to expand their understanding of their own tradition.


Actually I read lots of Tillich and went through a phase of liberal religious belief not that different from yours. In the end though I concluded the more pared down theology of liberals and nonspecific mysticism was just as unwarranted as the more detailed and specific beliefs of conservative believers.

Don't assume that because we ended up disagreeing with your more liberal position that we didn't consider it as well.

BK: your insights into my poor character are always appreciated.

:)

Joe, don't bother with Mr. Ellis. He is a close-minded zealot. He is so slavishly devoted to his beliefs that he cannot even acknowledge that Theists aren't irrational. He's like the Steeler fan who watched this past year's Superbowl and thinks that his team shut out the Cardinals. His viewpoint is divorced from the reality that's happening on the field.


BK I don't like you talking about him that way. He was on my old boards under the name "stargazer." At that time I have a real frinctional encounter. But with the boards, and the new approach I've taken to just talking, we are having a wondeful discussion my on my boards. He's none of the things you say he is.

I can see why it seems so becasue this comment section is not conducive to real discussion. But once you get this guy in a real discussion and just trade ideas with not threat of "I'm going to beat you" then he's really a nice guy and a good thinker and someone who is good to talk to.

Actually I read lots of Tillich and went through a phase of liberal religious belief not that different from yours. In the end though I concluded the more pared down theology of liberals and nonspecific mysticism was just as unwarranted as the more detailed and specific beliefs of conservative believers.


I do dobut that you read all three volumes his systemic theology. Just reading a couple of books is no replacement for a seminary eduation.

btw that's one thing I really lambaste the the church as a whole for that they have turned Sunday school into the pablum that it is. They could be educating people like a seminary but they don't want to.

Noting about Tillich's view is "pared down." It's a very complex and its' old. It's based upon currents going back as far as Eastern Orthodox.

Hi David Ellis,
Let me address some of your comments.

The only thing I, for one, would say about other religions in regard to the rationality of belief in Christianity is that Christianity seems no more rationally warranted than the rest---that it rests on as poor a footing, rationally, as all the others. But that's very different from arguing that religious diversity is evidence of the falsity of religion.

I agree that the mere existence of religious diversity is not a very good defeater of religious conviction. But this is an argument that gets passed around quite a bit, including by John Loftus and David Eller (who say that religion is its own worst enemy), so I wanted to address it. The issue is indeed whether the rational warrant for or against a particular belief system is strong or not. But then we run into the issues I raised in my two arguments for obstinacy in belief, which you seem to grant.

On the contrary, most of us atheists who deconverted from theism only changed our minds after years of thinking, study, prayer and investigation into the best arguments for and against. The implication of your essay is that deconverts from theism (and christianity) jumped ship at the first sign of intellectual difficulties in their belief system. The reality is usually very different. Those first signs of intellectual difficulties are, in the majority of cases, just the first step in a process of investigation that extends over years.

From your comments I gather you recognize that this will depend largely on one's perspective. Let me turn around one of your other insinuations on its head: I'm sure you'd prefer to believe that most deconverts actually did take the time and effort to come to terms with the best evidence and arguments for and against Christianity. But I can't agree to that, based on the evidence I see on DC pretty much every day. Take Anthony, for example: it seems he lost his faith after reading just four books that undermined his confidence in inerrancy and young-earth creationism. From that, he inferred that his beliefs had no substance. That to me qualifies as jumping ship at the first sign of trouble.

But I'll grant that it's hard to be objective about this. The only thing to do is resolve to be as intellectually honest as one can. It's largely a personal issue. I can only present my judgment, hoping that it reflects as much study and rigor as possible.

How many christian missionaries espouse this principle to Muslims or Hindus they're trying to convert?

"No. No. Don't become christian yet. You haven't yet fully explored you're own Muslim tradition. Think and pray on the matter for a couple more years before deciding to deconvert from your religion to mine."

Somehow I doubt that sort of scenario gets played out very frequently in Christian missionary work.


You misunderstand the point about the vigorous competition that ensures democratic scrutiny of belief systems: it is precisely when people vigorously promote their own belief systems that other people have the chance to scrutinize it properly. The missionaries are entitled to use any rational means of persuasion, short of course of deception or coercion, to get people to come over to their point of view. The responsibility to do one's intellectual homework falls with those one is trying to convince.

Just to be clear, the argument I gave in this post did not try to advance the plausibility of Christian theism. It merely tries to deflect a common atheist criticism of obstinacy in belief with a more realistic model of how the search for truth actually progresses.


I do dobut that you read all three volumes his systemic theology. Just reading a couple of books is no replacement for a seminary eduation.


No, I haven't read all 3 books of his systematic theology. Does someone have to have read all the same books as you to reasonably disagree with you.

I don't expect people to have read all the most influential atheist and agnostic authors to be able to discuss the arguments I present.


Noting about Tillich's view is "pared down." It's a very complex and its' old. It's based upon currents going back as far as Eastern Orthodox.


I call it pared down in the dense that liberals have far fewer dogmas or articles of faith that they consider essential to the religious life. Far fewer than conservative members of most religions.


Take Anthony, for example: it seems he lost his faith after reading just four books that undermined his confidence in inerrancy and young-earth creationism.


How many books do you recommend a muslim or buddhist read before converting to christianity?

How much study do you recommend?

What is sufficient?

Do you apply your principle of the virtue of obstinancy of belief consistently or is it only for christians?

If a christian invites an agnostic friend to a revival and the agnostic tearfully answers the altar call and converts to your religion do you consider him to have practiced the vice of being too quick to change his views or do you rejoice?

One of things we can look for to see if we're being biased in our judgement is to ask ourselves whether we're willing to apply our ideas consistently.

I don't think you or almost any christian would pass that test in regard to the idea of the obstinancy of belief.

You criticize Antony for jumping ship before he could "become acquainted with the full richness of the Christian tradition and its resources for making sense of human experience" despite his having been a christian for 20 years and having studied apologetic for most of that time.

You criticize him for finding the arguments in four books persuasive but would, I've little doubt, celebrate if someone of another belief system converted to christianity over the course of a single revival meeting or church service.

Can you honestly tell me I'm wrong?

No, I haven't read all 3 books of his systematic theology. Does someone have to have read all the same books as you to reasonably disagree with you.

I don't expect people to have read all the most influential atheist and agnostic authors to be able to discuss the arguments I present.

you are profoundly missing the point. In the discussion my board this arose becuase you were saying that you have read Tillich so you know all about God as the Ground of being and your expertise is such that you can dismiss mystical theology with no problem. but since you have not read the major works in which Tillich displays his ideas then you do not have any such expertise. Those are the works where he really develops the ground of being thing. you haven't read them so you really can't claim to have really penetrated it.

How many books do you recommend a muslim or buddhist read before converting to christianity?

5

How much study do you recommend?

3 hours a day, monday, wed, Friday, for a year.

;-)

What is sufficient?

enough to really get the drift

Do you apply your principle of the virtue of obstinancy of belief consistently or is it only for christians?

you can't read it all.I'm convinced about my own tradition why do I need to be convinced about others? But then I'm not concerned with seeing them as competitors.

If a christian invites an agnostic friend to a revival and the agnostic tearfully answers the altar call and converts to your religion do you consider him to have practiced the vice of being too quick to change his views or do you rejoice?

all of that is about the individual. My criticism is that most atheists don't really try to understand religious faith. Those who claim to have been christians are the worst because they think sitting a pew qualifies them to understand Christianity.

One of things we can look for to see if we're being biased in our judgement is to ask ourselves whether we're willing to apply our ideas consistently.

I don't think you or almost any christian would pass that test in regard to the idea of the obstinancy of belief.


I bet I do


You criticize Antony for jumping ship before he could "become acquainted with the full richness of the Christian tradition and its resources for making sense of human experience" despite his having been a christian for 20 years and having studied apologetic for most of that time.

apologetic is just superficial. Most of it is not about the depths of theology it's usually surface answers to surface criticisms.

Doesn't matter how many years you sit in a pew. If you never go deeper than the social club aspects you haven't gotten it.

I've never known anyone who had real mystical experince and real relationship with God who gave that up, at least for "intellectual reasons." Maybe for things God let someone's wife die, but not for just ideas.

All this business about "I just realized that there wasn't anyone there listening to my prayers and I was all alone in the room that showed the that there's no God--I suspect such a person never knew God to begin with. No one who has the experince of the real Baptism of the Holy spirit is going to give up or come to "realize" it's not real. that's just bunk.


You criticize him for finding the arguments in four books persuasive but would, I've little doubt, celebrate if someone of another belief system converted to christianity over the course of a single revival meeting or church service.


revivle is not a book. book learning is suface. that's not it. you can find God in one moment, in one minute in one hour and you its real because it's in your heart. But all the book learning in the world wont give you that.

but in terms of book learning no way four books ar going to show you the profound nature of any religious tradition.

You are comparing apples and sheep and you are assuming that momentary conversion has to be silly becasue it's emotional and that's a false assumption.


Can you honestly tell me I'm wrong?

just did

I so tire of this. Imagine, here we have a Protestant Christian claiming in one example to be on the side of Darwin and placing skeptics in opposition to him. Revisionism. I guess it's worked for Christians in the past. Why give up trying now?

Then this mumbo jumbo: It is my judgment that people like Anthony at Debunking Christianity gave up far too soon, before they could become acquainted with the full richness of the Christian tradition and its resources for making sense of human experience.

Listen up. Have you read anything written by Michael Polanyi? Anything? We cannot say all that we know because we always know more than we can say. No one can provide a complete accounting for why they changed their minds here. okay? So don't think Anthony did in that small post.

Anthony has given me nearly $3,500 in books and I can tell you he is probably as well read as you are judging from the kinds of books, scientific, theological, Biblical and philosophical that he's read.

One thing more, to paraphrase you: It is my judgment that people like you here at CADRE Comments committed to believe far too soon, before you could become acquainted with the full knowledge of arguments against the Christian tradition since it does not adequately make sense of human experience.

Tell us all this, JD, since I'm interested. How many books did YOU read about Christianity BEFORE you chose to believe? Did you read any books that were opposed to it when making this choice? Did you read any at all?

Since faith acts like a set of blinders you too easily and quickly in ignorance embraced these blinders without fully investigating your faith. This is a much greater error than anything Anthony may have done. I dare say that if you could go back in time knowing what you know now the arguments that led you to believe would be thought of by you as simplistic and unworthy of consideration.

And BK, I agree with Joe about David Ellis against you. It would seem to me that you're emotionally tied to what you believe such that anyone who merely argues against what you believe must be obnoxious.

One thing I think is unfortunate is that John and Dave seen be interpreting J.D.'s comments to mean that there is some magic amount of learning that must be done (and that takes the form of a number of books) before one can make a proper decision. I don't think that's hat he's saying.

I think he's just saying just reading some books is not going to cut it. It' a fault of our educational system that we seem to think "Im bright, I can just read the books and decide for mself and I don't need some prof to tell me what to think about it." But you can't replace an education. you can't get an education just by reading some books.

You can do a lot. My brother dropped out of high school becasue he wanted to read great literature. that sounds paradoxical but he felt limited by the educational system. He wanted to be a writer so he dropped out to be one.

he read tons of books, he was one of the brightest people I knew in highschool and college. He could easily converse with my collage debate freinds. Yet when it came to dsicussion of areas such as my major he really didn't know anything.

You can't replace the knowledgeable that a real education in graduate school gives, and that goes for seminary too. you can't say that someone really understands the depth of theology without going to seminary.

I don't think J.D. is equating knowledge of theology with conversion. I think he's just saying you can't dismiss Christianity after reading some books. That's no guarantee that you know "all about it."

Hinman, none of us are going to have read all the same books.

You are welcome to believe, if that's what you want, that I remain unconvinced by your arguments only because I'm not sufficiently acquainted with the subtleties of the works of theologians X, Y and Z.

As are believers in the subtleties of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy about both of us

And the believers in Marxism about you, me and the Tibetans.

And on and on it goes.


you (know) its real because it's in your heart.



Since when is the human heart a magical truth barometer.

It would be nice if things were that easy.

We wouldn't need to waste our time studying critical thinking or logic or epistemology or learning about the sorts of cognitive errors and glitches human thinking is prone to.

No, just skip all that stuff---the heart knows what the heart knows.

Well, it doesn't. And not a single one of your 350 vaunted studies supports such a hypothesis.

John,

I think you should take a breather before this myth of having 'figured out' Christianity completely takes over your thinking. You KNOW that many clergymen in Darwin's day enthusiastically supported him from the beginning, and you also KNOW that many of the criticisms leveled at Darwin's theory of natural selection in its early days were scientific and could not be answered until the sciences, especially Mendelian genetics, caught up with Darwin's vision. I wasn't engaging in revisionism. The facts are well known, except maybe to you with your atheological 'faith blinders'.

I have read Polanyi, thank you very much and I endorse his model of tacit reasoning and 'knowing more than we can tell'. I can only go by what others choose to reveal. And this is what Anthony says about himself:

"About two years ago I was studying a number of related topics: the historicity of the Old Testament, the creation account in Genesis, and the age of the cosmos. It was during these studies that the evidence for an ancient earth became so strong that I could no longer deny it. Of course this led to a number of questions related to Genesis, the flood, Adam and Eve, and creation and evolution. Having been taught young earth creationism all of my life this was quite shocking to me. This led to my restudying the historicity of the Old Testament, especially the early chapters of Genesis, and this in turn opened the whole question of biological origins. These studies and four books in particular are what led to my rejection of the Christian faith."

It doesn't get much clearer than that: his studies of the historicity of the early chapters of Genesis and the evidence for an old earth led him to reject the Christian faith. That means that he never took the time to think through the forms of Christian belief which have no problem with an old earth or the idea that the first chapters of Genesis are mythic. That, to my mind, is jumping ship without seriously considering the alternatives.

I have no problem with someone admitting that their deconversion happened for personal and psychological reasons which they cannot fully articulate. What I do have a problem with is people claiming to have deconverted only after following the evidence as far as they could, and then showing ignorance or misunderstanding of concepts and arguments they should have fully come to terms with before they deconverted. I'm simply holding people to their own standards.

And where in my post did you see me say anything about coming to believe in the first place? My post is about obstinacy in belief, and its epistemic merits. Now it is pretty clear that obstinacy in belief requires that belief to exist in the first place. It says nothing about what you have to do in order to be rational in forming a particular belief. I'll address the issue of coming to belief in a different post.

As for what atheist books I read while I was contemplating giving up my Christian faith, I read the stuff on Internet Infidels by Richard Carrier, Keith Parsons, Keith Augustine and Jeffrey Jay Lowder. I read Taner Edis's "Ghost in the Universe" which I still think is one of the most sophisticated atheist critiques of Christian theism available. I read Earl Doherty on the Jesus myth theory, William Rowe on the problem of evil, Victor Stenger on the lack of evidence for God in science and Pascal Boyer on the naturalness of religious ideas.

I could go on, but the point of my post is not who has read (and properly understood) more books or who has been studying for more years. It is that obstinacy in belief can be rational in light of the avenues to truth it opens up. OK? Now, do you have any substantial criticism of my reasons for advocating obstinacy in belief?


Now, do you have any substantial criticism of my reasons for advocating obstinacy in belief?


You haven't responded to my question concerning how consistently you advocate it. The most relevent passage below:

You criticize him for finding the arguments in four books persuasive but would, I've little doubt, celebrate if someone of another belief system converted to christianity over the course of a single revival meeting or church service.

Can you honestly tell me I'm wrong?

JD said...I can only go by what others choose to reveal.

But if you've read Polanyi you know that's never the whole story so why the disingenuousness?

JD said...As for what atheist books I read while I was contemplating giving up my Christian faith...

I did not ask you about the books you might've read when you were contemplating giving up your faith. I asked you which ones you read when considering choosing to believe in the FIRST PLACE.

And it appears to me you just might be scared to read one particular book. Correct me if I'm wrong.

In any case, after my presentation at the EPS I'm going to post my paper. Let's see if you can adequately respond to it. That's just ONE chapter one many (edited down of course for time).

Cheers.

"It is my judgment that people like Anthony at Debunking Christianity gave up far too soon, before they could become acquainted with the full richness of the Christian tradition and its resources for making sense of human experience."

When I let go of my faith it was with a feeling that I was now allowing myself to become acquainted with the full richness of being human; without being restricted by faith.

And who are you to judge the quality of another's efforts to know God? Or, more importantly, to know themselves?

When I let go of my faith it was with a feeling that I was now allowing myself to become acquainted with the full richness of being human; without being restricted by faith.

that would depend on your background. No one says (or maybe they do but they shouldn't) that there are not narrow chruches where people are stiffaled. I think we all know that happens.

But it's just a matter of experince. I grew up in a very providential some would say cult-like and some would say "fundie" background in the Church of Christ the way it was in the 60s. This was the so called "main line" in the south (Dallas).

when I became an atheist I felt freed and that I had discovered knew horizons. when I discovered God for real there was no comparison. I had that free new horizon feeling and it was about 120x better than what I discovered as an atheist.

there is no comparison.

"
that would depend on your background. No one says (or maybe they do but they shouldn't) that there are not narrow chruches where people are stiffaled. I think we all know that happens."


Actually, the church I grew up in was pretty liberal and encouraged open mindedness. I was never a "fundy" myself, and it wasn't a case of feeling intellectually stifled. But faith, for me, was limiting; I felt restrained, not by the church or the people in it, but the effort of trying to maintain a faith I just no longer had.

But faith, for me, was limiting; I felt restrained, not by the church or the people in it, but the effort of trying to maintain a faith I just no longer had.


faith has to grow out of an inner life. It has to be personal relationship with God. You have to get it. It has to be that Holy spirit stuff. If it's just abstract ideas or words on paper it wont go very far.


It has to be personal relationship with God.


Of what does a personal relationship with someone who is invisible, insubstantial, and does not speak back when you speak to him consist?

Does a personal relationship with such a God (assuming its real) look one iota different from a personal relationship with an imaginary God who one is firmly convinced is real?

"faith has to grow out of an inner life. It has to be personal relationship with God. You have to get it. It has to be that Holy spirit stuff. If it's just abstract ideas or words on paper it wont go very far."

Well, as you like to point out to me, I'm apparently not very good at that "abstract ideas on paper" stuff, so it was never that with me...;-)

I just found it hard to maintain a personal relationship in which I was apparently the only person involved. No one can explain to me why that "Holy Spirit Stuff" never happened for me, why God was a silent partner, why I just didn't "get it." It's not like I didn't want, it's not that I was insincere.

But one can only chase shadows for so long; faith was ultimately an empty pursuit; it left me hollow, disillusioned, full of self doubt and self loathing (it must have been my fault if God didn't want to talk to me, right?), confusion and cognitive dissonance.

Why on Earth should I be "obstinate" in pursuit of something that had such a negative impact on my life?

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