So What Are You?

I’ve been on a vacation for a little while. Not only have I not been writing for some time, but I’ve been on a vacation away from work as well. I won’t lie, I’ve lost a bit of my desire for writing lately. With life piling stress and struggle on top of me, writing hasn’t exactly been on the top of my list of things to do. However, as writing has always been a release for me, I thought maybe it was time to share again.

Before I left work to take my vacation, I had an interesting conversation with a coworker. As an electric power equipment operator, I go through several batteries a week that need to be changed out and charged. The person whose job it is to operate the machine that takes out the industrial-sized batteries of all of the power equipment in my warehouse has been training a new associate recently. This new associate is a practicing Muslim and he and the other man have been discussing religion. As this man (the trainer) likes to talk (or rather likes to hear himself talk) he shared some of the details of his conversation with me…Hooray.

First, let me say that I know very little about Islam. Let me also say that I don’t care to learn about it either. Not even a little bit. Religion in general has no appeal to me. God, if real, would transcend religion (any religion) and would reach out to all people if that was the plan for us. So far, that hasn’t happened and that is why I have no interest in learning any more about religion than I already know. Anyway, this person (let’s call him Gary) says to me, “So Aladdin was telling me about his beliefs. He was saying that his religion is peaceful (if done the right way) and that when you die, you wait in a room for judgement. So, not too different from any other religion, really.”

Now, Aladdin’s name is really pronounced “Allah-Deen”, and yet Gary pronounced it as if this guy was about to rub a lamp to let a genie out, but that’s besides the point. Gary then asked me, “what’s that place where people go when they die that’s kind of in-between? It’s where they wait to be judged.”

“Purgatory?” I asked.

“Yes, that’s it. Man, I couldn’t remember the name of it. So Islam has a place just like that too. Funny, huh? It’s all the same stuff in religion. God is God no matter what you want to call him.”

I then said, “Well, purgatory is a Catholic belief. I was never a Catholic so I don’t really know all of the details about it.”

Puzzled, he looked at me and asked, “You were never a Catholic? Really? So what are you?”

“I’m not really anything anymore,” I responded.

He gave me a “whatever” look and that was that. I could see that Gary was no longer really interested in continuing the conversation any further. I’m not sure if I offended him, angered him or just caught him off guard. He seemed genuinely surprised that I wasn’t “something” rather than nothing. And that kind of makes me laugh. Everyone is expected to be something. I suppose it helps us to fit in with other people that are “something.” So many people don’t really want to dig deeper and actually analyze their beliefs to find out if their reasons for believing are sound. They simply want to believe something and then they expect others to have a belief in something as well. Sorry, but I don’t accept that any longer.

Belief in something without good reason is an irrational position to take. Believing in a god that has not once been proven to exist is an irrational position to take. Faith is not a good thing. Faith is a barrier between a person and the truth. As Matt Dillahunty likes to say, “I want to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible.” He also says, “You shouldn’t believe in something until there is sufficient evidence to do so.” There is no sufficient evidence of God. Any god. And if there is no sufficient evidence of a god, discussing religion is rather pointless. First you need to prove a god exists. Then, and only then, does discussing dogma become even remotely interesting or important.

When someone asks me, “so what are you?” I really do have to laugh. I am so far from who I used to be it’s funny. At one point in my life, I would have been just as surprised as Gary was that someone has a lack of belief. Now, the fact that people still have faith is what is surprising to me. I wish that more people had the courage to stop what they are doing and thoroughly examine their beliefs to find out if they are being rational or not. I think most are too afraid of what they’ll find. And so they remain trapped in a life of “I feel better believing so I’ll continue to believe regardless of whether supporting evidence exists or not.”

So what am I? I am just a man. An insignificant man in the grand scheme of things, but an important one in the reality of the world that I share with my family. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that life is worth living without religion and without belief in the supernatural. There is no sufficient evidence that I have seen to convince me otherwise. I am just amazed at how so many people look at me as the outcast now that I no longer believe in the things that they believe in. My skepticism is quite justified. The faith I once had was not. The fact that that now bothers or confuses people boggles my mind…and gives me a chuckle.

90 thoughts on “So What Are You?

  1. ”So what are you?”
    I’ve never actually been asked this question in the obvious context of religious belief.
    However …. you can bet your bottom dollar that should the issue ever be raised I will most certainly inform the individual asking the question that I am atheist AND anti-theist and let the chips fall.
    ‘Cos, y’know, I’m such a humanitarian type of bloke who only wants to save people from the make-believe wrath of Jesus.

    Everything of the best, Senor Ben. May you and yours stay happy and healthy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This type of thing rarely comes up in conversation. Not in my life anyway. I am at a point where I now share my non-belief instead of being uncomfortable with it. I had another person bring up religion to me not too long ago. I mentioned something about how religions were equally wrong and disturbing. He asked, “what are you, a militant atheist or something?”

      My repsonse?

      “No, not militant.” 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think he was just implying that I was being outspoken, and incorrectly used the word “militant” as if I was going around preaching atheism the way religions preach at others and picket at funerals. I don’t force my beliefs into situations or conversations that don’t call for it. I mainly go about life as if religion isn’t part of it. When it comes up, I explain myself as best I can.

        Outspoken truth-spreading is not the same as waging war, though many “people of faith” are so offended, they feel as though they’ve been personally attacked. I never attack a person. People are easily misled and easily manipulated. They are usually just victims of misinformation and indoctrination. I don’t attack them, because I WAS them and I know that no good comes from personal attacks.

        The beliefs that mislead and manipulate, however? Those are fair game.

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  2. I don’t think people care whether or not they are being rational. So asking them to stop to consider that would be … at best … counterproductive.

    People blather on about how religion is “good” but if it really were, don’t you think it would be bringing the family of man together, rather than tearing us apart. And I do not just refer to Christianity and Islam, I am referring to the tens of thousands of sects of Christianity, each insisting the others are wrong in some way.

    Religion is divisive because human beings are divisive … no better “proof” that religions are man-made (gods, too).

    Would that there was a religion professing to bring people together, let alone actually doing it. The only ones even close are claiming that they want to bring all people under their banner … as a form of conquest.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yeah, if religion was good, then the amount of violence committed in its name should be going down or going away completely. Religion should be bringing us all together but instead it is one of the most divisive topics to discuss and one of the most destructive institutions on the planet.

      Religions that say God endorses their beliefs have never once been able to provide any evidence backing up that claim. “Ours is the one true religion!” Really? When a person has to defend god against another person without any evidence backing up their beliefs because lack of evidence caused the other to not believe in the first place, there is a problem. A god that hides and requires man to preach, defend and change the story along the way is not a powerful god. And this, as you said of the divisiveness of religion, is further proof that religions and gods are man-made.

      I know that asking the religious of this world to spend some time in introspection is a big ask and one that few would even consider. I accept that I am in the minority of religious doubters who took the time to investigate and accept the results of that investigation, even though it took me completely off of the path I was on. It is something I encourage everyone to do, even if few accept the challenge.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. All religions have an agenda, even if their adherents can’t see it. Religious leaders teach their followers in such a way that they believe they are doing God’s work, even though they are merely working to increase numbers and impose the personal beliefs of man.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Recently I had an exchange with a devout Mormon whose first reaction to learning that I wasn’t religious was to send me Mormon literature. I told him, “I don’t argue religion anymore because I don’t believe in heaven.” This is now my response to religious BS. All religions are fraudulent, but the suckers can’t see the scam of it. This Mormon friend was a fairly successful builder, so I wonder how many thousands of dollars he has willfully given to the Mormon church. The “agenda” is and always has been money and power. GROG

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Hello, Ben. “There is sufficient evidence to suggest that life is worth living without religion…” I just saw a faithful nut-case put your thought differently. His words: ” Life can be meaningful enough to justify the suffering.” This is great news for the masochists. GROG

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Suffering, especially intentional, deliberate suffering at the hands of another is never justified. If it does occur, you automatically forfeit the right to label the being inflicting the suffering as “loving.” And, if you have no evidence that this being actually exists, you also forfeit the right to say it does.

      The bad things that happen in this world should have us all working together to correct. Accepting human suffering as just part of the plan of a “higher being” is another way of saying that you can’t be bothered to lend a hand. Hitting our knees and throwing our hands up, saying it’s because of a just god who is justly punishing us does not help anyone. It allows the problems to pile up and just get worse.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi, Ben how are you? Nan has directed me to your site although we have talked before.

    I feel like this presents as a complex issue because evidence that seems reasonable and sufficient to one person is not to another. Who is able to decide or determine if the evidence is sufficient or reasonable for someone else?? If I were an atheist, the most I could say was that I personally was not persuaded by evidence toward the existence of God, or I would say that I had no valid experience of God,

    Also, I would not automatically assume that every person of faith had not examined their beliefs, thought through their convictions, or simply were all blindly indoctrinated. I mean when push comes to shove, we can only speak for ourselves and our own experience, IMO anyway.

    Everyone is different. As an aside, I personally feel that all religions to some degree connect to the divine. It would be irrational to say that all are equally true, but to me, it is also arrogant and presumptuous to suppose that any finite human can have all the answers or that we can’t benefit and learn from others with different perspectives.

    Ben, I think if you are being respectful and sensitive, and religious people become angry because you are just being you and being honest, to me, the chances are pretty high they are actually insecure in their faith. and feeling threatened. Just sayin. 🙂

    Why would anyone become upset or askance simply because someone disagrees with them??

    Well, my response, is kind of all over the place, but just wanted to share some thoughts before I go.

    Every blessing to you in the New Year, Ben…I’ve always liked and appreciated your writing.

    Pax.
    Becky.

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    1. Hello Becky,

      I am doing well, thanks. I hope you are also. I do recall several of our conversations we had in the past and they’ve always been cordial…even if we don’t agree on all things.

      The issue of evidence (or lack thereof) is, to me, a very simple one to resolve. This question comes up all the time by theists. “What evidence would convince you?” I’m not really sure what exactly would flip that switch from non-belief back to belief in my life. A god would know though. A god should anyway, and if that god does know and is keeping it from me, then that’s a problem. The “evidence” that someone has, whether it be something tangible and easily provable or something that is completely personal (beliefs, feelings or just some personal experience) should be able to be shared with (and observed by) others if it is to be considered reasonable evidence. If one cannot present something that another person can see or experience for themselves, then it isn’t very persuasive and isn’t the type of evidence that convinces someone who is at all skeptical. It is, by definition, hearsay. Hearsay isn’t always untrue either. I’m not saying that. Hearsay can be 100% true and accurate and just not observed by others, or it can be completely made up. The problem is that the unconvinced person has no way of telling which one it is without experiencing it for themselves. Someone could be telling me the truth 100% of the time and I would not be able to know that for sure if I was not with them 100% of the time to experience what they did. I’d have to trust. Trust is a good thing to have, but it can be betrayed and broken. Feelings and beliefs are deeply personal and what one feels may convince them beyond the shadow of a doubt. But they are still personal and internal. That is not sufficient to convince the unbeliever.

      If you do consider personal conviction to be good evidence that is sufficient for belief in a god, then you should be able to show that to others beyond just words if it is to be considered evidence. Why is it so convincing to you? Why not to me? If this “evidence” can be demonstrated so that not only does the one claiming it is true know that it is true, but also the one they are sharing it with knows it is as well, then it would absolutely count as a form of evidence and would warrant further investigation. If it cannot be demonstrated and the only thing you have going for you is “well, it’s true to me and I believe it”, then it gets tossed out rather quickly. Evidence for one should be evidence for all. If you say that your evidence is different and may not convince someone else, then it isn’t evidence after all. It’s merely faith. Faith is never going to be considered evidence of a god by someone who does not share that same belief. Non-believers are looking for facts and not just what other people believe.

      “I would not automatically assume that every person of faith had not examined their beliefs, thought through their convictions, or simply were all blindly indoctrinated.”

      I agree with this statement…partially. I never said that all religious people are guilty of not examining their beliefs. I said that I wish more people did. It’s obvious, simply by talking with any group of people with religious beliefs, that not all have done so. That’s why I said I am in the minority of those who have. I’m not the only one that has done it. Many of us even right here on WordPress have examined our beliefs very thoroughly. You may have done so as well and that’s a good thing. If you still remain convinced of what your believe, I would just ask why and how could what you believe personally be used to re-convince me of what I no longer believe?

      The part I don’t fully agree with from your statement that I quoted above is the blind faith part. It is my own personal opinion that those who maintain a position of “there is a god” would have had to have reached that conclusion by blind faith. There is no god that is visible, touchable, able to be interacted with, or involved in our lives in any detectable way. People say that we interact with God through prayer. We don’t. Prayer isn’t interaction. It is always one-sided. No god answers our prayers in a way that we can detect. There’s no way we can be sure that a god was involved. Prayer is a 50/50 proposition that is equivalent to luck, where about half of what you ask for you get and half you don’t. And even then, whether you believe in a god or not, all of the work is done by us humans. We non-believers do all of our own work here on earth and take the credit for our efforts. Believers do the same work, but tend to say “God is working through me” or something of that nature. Without any proof of God’s existence, it takes blind faith to conclude that he was involved in any way.

      Blind faith is no different from faith in my view. Blind faith and faith are the same thing. They both require belief without having evidence of that which we believe in. Faith is believing without seeing. Faith is believing without the evidence that non-believers are looking for. I was one of the faithful once. I was one of the faithful for a very long time. I was convinced by my own personal experiences and my own feelings that God was real and that he loved me. No one could convince me otherwise until I actually put aside all that I was taught and investigated things for myself. Reading the Bible without an agenda raises many red flags to say the least. Contradictions and errors within scripture that were explained away by the religious leaders that were teaching me at one time were now unable to be reconciled. They were blatant and inexcusable errors.

      When I stopped accepting that God was real, simply because I was told to, and instead asked God to prove it to me himself, I lost my faith. The god who promised to answer when I called was nowhere to be found. None of the promises of the Bible held up to testing. None of my feelings about God that I was convinced were types of evidence proving his existence remain with me any longer. You see, I was taught at a very young age to believe by my parents. I trusted them and so I believed. I kept it going for a very long time, not really questioning things until I was much older. Going to church made me question things all of the time. When I saw the selective teachings and the manipulation of scripture by the leaders, I asked them questions. When I asked questions, I was shot down immediately. I was directed to other church leaders for further instruction or given specific Bible verses to consider. That was no help. Finding answers without being told by someone else how to find them made them much easier to find.

      I will always be open to being proven wrong. I’ve said that many times and I stand by it. If a god exists, I’d like to know that and I’d like to see evidence of it. I would see no reason to bow down and worship any god, however. Up to this point in my life, I have not yet seen any evidence whatsoever of a loving, involved and sovereign god. I’ve read about one. I’ve heard about one. I’ve been taught all about one. I have never seen, heard, felt or experienced one. Strange for such an intimate and caring deity. If a god exists, it is certainly nothing like the one that billions of people hit their knees for. The god of the Bible is not reflected by anything in the world we live in. That god only exists between the front and back covers of an ancient book. And even if that version of god was in fact real, he’s been hiding from his creation all this time when he said he’d be there for us. And if we’re being honest, that version of God is a monster of the highest order. Because of how many horrible things this god is said to be responsible for, I won’t list the reasons why he’s a monster in this comment. It’s exceedingly long as it is.

      There are a lot of reasons why non-believers don’t believe. I think that if more believers take these concerns to heart and investigate why they are there, a more productive conversation could be had by all. If more believers (in general, not necessarily you) asked themselves why non-believers don’t accept the “evidence” they present to them instead of just dismissing their concerns as “they just don’t want to see the truth” or “they just want to keep living in sin” or “they’re just afraid of, or angry with, God” then maybe we wouldn’t always need to be discussing this topic.

      I’ll end with this: If actual, incontrovertible evidence of God existed, defenders of the faith would be out of a job. Apologetics would no longer be necessary. Unbelievers are not fighting anyone or anything. We’re merely unconvinced. We might fight against religious beliefs and actions that are harmful. We may fight against misinformation or misconceptions about ourselves. But that’s about it. Our hearts aren’t hardened. Our minds are not already made up. We are not stubborn or defiant. We are simply unconvinced. Most of us are owners of open minds, willing to accept that a god exists if one is shown to. An all-powerful god of the universe should know enough to correct that…and yet here we are.

      Thanks for your comment. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Umm, I can agree with what you’re sharing in part. In my experience, there are a plethora of reasons why folks in Christian culture no longer “believe.” All are somewhat different.

        Here’s what I think is the perfect recipe for Christian “deconversion.”

        The person is reared as a child in some type of conservative church. They are indoctrinated from a very young age and are encouraged never to question or think for themselves. If they do, they are ostracized/judged in some way. Maybe they are threatened with Hell. People in the church attempt to shut their inquires down. Often faith in Jesus Christ is tied to some doctrine that is impossible in the long-term to intelligently defend such as the absolute inerrancy of the Scripture. Sometimes there is a crisis that also precipitates unbelief such as a tragic death or illness, unanswered prayer. The person becomes depressed. There is a withdrawal of Christian community.

        Other times, it is a longer gradual process. Sometimes people mature intellectually and emotionally, but their faith and spiritual understanding just remain stuck.

        They read material written by very intelligent and thoughtful skeptics who present all religion as evil, sort of like the bane of human existence. They become part of what they’re feeling is this great movement toward enlightenment and the betterment of the human condition, democratic, secular humanism.

        Participation in this helps give their lives meaning and purpose. It becomes part of their identity. They might become like evangelists to share this with others to free them from what they’ve experienced as the “shackles” of superstition and fear-based legalism.

        Ben, in general, I think they are awesome and wonderful people, IMO, unknowingly doing God’s work. I enjoy talking with them and hearing their perspective and insights. These conversations have caused me to reflect and to dig deeper into my own beliefs and convictions. Always a good thing.

        The greatest enemy of authentic Christian faith IMO is not atheism, but apathy.

        Anything that frees people from indoctrination and causes them to search and question for themselves is good. The church always benefits from a good pruning. It is a painful process, but worth it in the end. This may sound like a cliche, but I really believe it , “God’s timing in our lives is not always our timing.”

        When my youngest son shared with me a few years ago that he had become agnostic, and was searching out other religions and philosophies for himself, I rejoiced.

        I sensed God’s work in his life and knew that he was taking it all seriously, not willing to just go through the motions.

        Sure enough, in a few years, he returned to a more mature and vibrant Christian faith, albeit different from my own. It did not happen overnight.

        I think that anyone who is sincerely seeking truth and to know God will in the end find Him and participate in His kingdom. But, it can be a long process. And, everyone’s spiritual journey is different. There can be many twists and turns along the way.

        Peace and joy fill your life, Ben. 🙂

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      2. Becky, I’m glad you visited Ben’s blog and read his latest post. I’m aware that you don’t agree with much of what he’s written, but it’s pretty difficult to prove him “wrong.”

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      3. Apparently WordPress decided I was finished with my comment … !!

        Anyway, I also wanted to point out this part of your response, Becky: I think that anyone who is sincerely seeking truth. This, to me, is the Key to the whole religious belief thing. Unfortunately, the hang-up occurs when one attempts to define “truth.” 🙂

        A pleasant weekend to all.

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      4. “…the perfect recipe for Christian “deconversion.”

        The recipe for deconversion is simple and easy to follow. A believer, no matter their upbringing or level of indoctrination, finally admits that there is insufficient evidence to support their beliefs. Once that person realizes this, investigates what they believed and why they believed it, and finally comes to terms with the fact that they were believing without good reason, belief stops and the deconversion process begins. That’s it.

        The key to all of this is acceptance. One must be willing to accept that they were wrong and accept that the only path to truth is the one built on facts and actual evidence. Faith is not, nor has it ever been, a pathway to truth. It might lead to good feelings, hope, etc…but it isn’t how truth is discovered. Once truth is found, faith is no longer needed. One might get lucky and find that what they believed in without good reason is, in fact, true. But believing without knowing isn’t what got them to the truth.

        The appropriate course of action when it comes to belief is to reserve judgement until such time as the evidence is known and understood. If we cannot know something (like the existence of a god for example) then we should be saying, “we don’t know” until such time that the evidence is clear one way or the other. Those who say that God is real are not being honest, as we do not have a mechanism right now that allows us to have access to that information. We have only the world we live in and the universe around it to draw clues from. Anyone who “knows” that God is real should have no trouble whatsoever revealing him to others. But we don’t all “know” God, do we?

        Separating beliefs from known facts is rather easy to do. If you believe something, but cannot demonstrate it to others, in what way is it (by definition) factual? The definition of a fact, according to the Oxford Dictionary is :

        “a thing that is indisputably the case.”

        Evidence is:

        “the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.”

        Facts and evidence are in stark contrast with faith and “personal truths.” As for the search for truth, let me respond to your comment here…

        “I think that anyone who is sincerely seeking truth and to know God will in the end find Him and participate in His kingdom.”

        I agree that the search for truth is important and we should all seek it sincerely. What is truth, though? Let’s check the Oxford Dictionary again:

        “that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.”

        Remember, facts are indisputable. The existence of God is not. It is disputed all the time because of the lack of a “body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.”

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      5. If you do consider personal conviction to be good evidence that is sufficient for belief in a god, then you should be able to show that to others beyond just words if it is to be considered evidence. Why is it so convincing to you?

        Every single time I have asked a similar question of Christians I have been fobbed off with a hand-wave reply and we know why this is – because there is no evidence to demonstrate the veracity of the foundational tenets of Christian belief.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. It’s a very easy concept. If you have evidence, then you have no need for faith. If you have faith, then you don’t actually have any evidence.

        So where’s the evidence? Anyone who says they have been convinced must surely be able to share that with anyone seeking to understand their reasoning for belief. Also, it should be simple and easy for anyone to understand if it is so obvious to the believer. So, is there any evidence for God or even for the supporting characters in the story? I certainly don’t know of any, but I’d like to see some.

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      7. In truth, anyone who says they were convinced by evidence is in fact, lying – primarily to themselves, but also to others.
        A while back, I had a semi-lengthy tête-à-tête with Pastor David Robertson and his little band of Christian sycophants (although, in truth Robertson isn’t really important!) and they continually asked :What evidence would convince you?
        I replied I had no idea, but if they would reveal the evidence that convinced them maybe we could examine it and perhaps it would be a start to convince me?
        I was then subject to the typical type of abuse that only a Christian – and especially those of the evangelical ilk – can throw out.

        Ironically, on a recent post of Robertson’s he posted a video that featured Church of England minister Melvin Tinkler who revealed that in 2006 a survey was conducted among the Anglican clergy in the UK and around 80% did not believe that God the father created the world, 47%
        did not believe in the virgin birth, and around 27% did not believe Jesus was crucified for ”our sins”.

        I’ll venture that, if truth be known, this is a similar state of affairs for much of Christianity.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. I was convinced for a very long time that Christianity was true. How convinced though? Not as much as I wanted. I prayed constantly for God to remove my doubt. Doubt was there from the very beginning. I did my best to ignore it, but eventually the reasons for doubting outweighed the reasons for belief.

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    2. @ Becky

      I think that anyone who is sincerely seeking truth and to know God will in the end find Him and participate in His kingdom.

      In that case, will you please share with us the evidence that demonstrated to you the veracity of your god.

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  5. Ben, it just feels more complex than this to me. What about all the folks who began as atheists/agnostics but then became persuaded by what they felt was good evidence toward the existence of a creator? I’m thinking of really intelligent, well educated, and thoughtful skeptics such as Alister McGrath or CS Lewis. Dr. Francis Collins is another name that comes to mind. But, really these folks come from all walks of life. Generally, they are most persuaded by arguments related to the complexity of creation and the incredibly narrow physical parameters of our universe which bend toward life.

    On the other hand, our knowledge in this life is finite and limited as well. No evidence one way or the other is going to be absolutely incontrovertible. Even as a Christian, I can think of alternate explanations. In a sense, the Christian faith is also a choice. So, perhaps that is where faith comes in. Still, for me, it is much more than some existential leap into the dark.

    Ben, I also think like we are probably hard-wired toward God. I feel like some form of belief in someone or something greater than ourselves is partly genetic. That’s why, IMO, convinced atheists are in the minority in general around the globe. I read some statistics awhile back that even folks who on the one hand claim to be atheists also claimed that they felt there was probably someone or something greater than themselves “out there.” You see for many people, it is also strongly intuitive. As a Christian to put this in a poetic/metaphorical kind of way…”God has put eternity in our hearts.”

    But, while my faith is based on evidence and intuition, is it sight..? No, of course, not. Might I be wrong about any of this? Of course…”Now we see through a glass darkly..”

    I think part of growing as human beings spiritually is by questioning and even struggling with some of these deep life issues. God doesn’t give it all to us on a spoon. For me, the goal is for us to be mature co-laborers together with Christ.

    Anyway, Ben, I think we are not going to resolve this together anytime soon. And, I know we’ve talked before. Give you the last word, friend.

    Pax.

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    1. Becky, you wrote: I feel like some form of belief in someone or something greater than ourselves is partly genetic.

      No, not genetic. In early humans, belief in something greater than themselves was not based on any type of inborn “religious” feelings. It was based on a need to explain things in nature. It wasn’t until much, much later in human development that any kind of “gods” came into play. Of course in the modern world, this thinking is commonplace simply because it seems to provide an answer for something that has no evidence.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I don’t need the last word. I am more than willing to continue the conversation. But, if you are finished, that’s okay too. There will just be many, many questions left unanswered.

      I don’t care a whole lot about the fact that otherwise intelligent and educated people were convinced of something they didn’t previously believe in. If they were here in front of me, I’d ask them the same questions that I ask of you or other believers. What evidence do you have beyond just feelings. Take emotion out of it and logically present your case for God. I doubt they’d fare much better in convincing me because no such evidence exists as far as anyone knows. It certainly has not yet been presented.

      I would ask those who believe who care about others and want them to believe as well, why is there not more of an effort being given to convince the unconvinced? The Bible is not evidence, it is hearsay. Ancient hearsay, no less. The Koran is as well. Pick your religion and give me evidence that goes beyond faith.

      This part is not directed at you, but at religious people in general. Instead of (and mind you, I was guilty of this myself a time or two) praying for God to open the eyes of the unbeliever and to open their hearts, the believer asks God to actually do SOMETHING himself. “Hey God, actually open your mouth for all to hear. Show yourself or your works and make sure you leave no doubt as to who was responsible. Stop relying on people to try to prove your existence. We obviously cannot do so. It’d be much easier for you to do it. It’s kind of your responsibility anyway, if we’re being honest. And maybe, just maybe God, deliver on some of your promises in your ‘word’ so that we don’t look foolish when we use scripture to prove your existence. Everyone can see that none of the stuff in there is happening today. It’s getting hard to keep using that as evidence when not one word of it can be proven. Thanks and Amen.”

      I’m not trying to be rude or condescending. I’m merely being honest. I thought like you once, for a very long time. I felt we were “hard-wired for God” too. But I now realize that humans are very used to finding ways to explain the world around us. As Nan mentioned in her comment, there is a need for us “to explain things in nature.” This is why at one point in human history, people believed that lightning came from Zeus or that a god carried the sun across the sky or that it actually set. We know now that it doesn’t set, but rather this illusion is caused by the Earth’s revolution. Ancient people did not know about orbit. We do. Our need to have answers sometimes gets us in trouble. Can’t figure something out? A god did it. Had a weird feeling inside that you were sure was supernatural? That’s the Holy Spirit. Just because we satisfied our need to have answers, doesn’t mean we reached the correct conclusions. Gap-fillers are sometimes right, but are often quite wrong.

      “…my faith is based on evidence and intuition”

      Intuition? Sure. I get that. Gut feelings do shape our belief systems. Evidence? You still have not shown any of that yet. I’d love to see some.

      Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. well educated, and thoughtful skeptics such as Alister McGrath or CS Lewis. Dr. Francis Collins

    Collins, like so many people in Western society, grew up in a Christian orientated /influenced environment, irrespective of his claims that he had little or no belief.
    He finally admitted to being a Christian while working with terminally ill patients and his reason – death anxiety. There is a video online where he explains.

    But please, Becky, before you walk away from yet another discussion leaving umpteen open -ended questions on the table, just for once can you be completely open and truthful as tell me what was the specific evidence that convinced you of the veracity of the foundational tenets of Christianity

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    1. Even if Francis Collins or any one of the others mentioned were never believers in the beginning but came to faith later on, that still wouldn’t prove anything. Even the most intelligent among us are still human and humans are prone to making errors in judgement. Just because these people believed something does not mean that they had sound and just reasoning to do so.

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    2. Ark, have you had an opportunity to read a book written by Dr. Collins a few years ago called, The Language of God? In that, he shares evidence supportive of a creator. I certainly found it very compelling. I think it’s about more than death anxiety. I find it almost impossible to think that there is not a creator. To feel otherwise, I would have to somehow intentionally condition myself into unbelief. But, we have had pretty extensive conversations over at Gary’s blog. I’m not sure what more I could add at this point. I feel like everyone has to be persuaded in their own mind, Ark.

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      1. Never read the book but have read a review. Again, not evidence but speculation based on Christian presupposition. Remember, Collins is not simply a deist, bit anb evangelical Christian.

        But, we have had pretty extensive conversations over at Gary’s blog. I’m not sure what more I could add at this point.

        Becky, I have no interest in statements such as this_ I find it almost impossible to think that there is not a creator. because they are not backed up with evidence . Why, oh why do you struggle so to comprehend this very simple concept?

        If I ask you to jump out of third storey window to test the theory of gravity you would likely think me insane because as we live on earth under normal conditions we both know what will happen – you would quickly become a very messy chalk outline on the pavement below. Evidence.

        Please, once more, Becky, describe the specific evidence which convinced you of the veracity of the foundational tenets of your religion.
        This is all I am asking for and, at this point is the only thing I am interested in.
        Are you able to do this one simple thing for me?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ark, I have made this New Year’s resolution to spend considerably less time on the internet as well as to lose weight and to get fit. I am already failing at both. Off to a terrible start. LOL
        Too many holiday goodies. Maybe I just need to store my computer. 🙂

        Anyway, I will share with you my personal faith in a nutshell. It is only like a summary. I mean we could have pages of discussion and debate back and forth together. Probably, we would not agree on the definition of “evidence.” I mean we certainly can’t put God in a test tube and employ the scientific method. 🙂

        For me, ever since I was very young the complexity of the universe, the creation itself drew me to God. In the beginning, it was more intuitive. But, as I grew older and deeply considered the complexity of life, why there is something rather than nothing. the Big Bang theory, the apparent fine-tuning of the physical constants of the universe toward life, etc. I became even more persuaded on an intellectual level.

        It seemed very reasonable to me that if there was a creator, He would reveal Himself in some way to His creation. There would be signposts so to speak. As you know, even after studying other religions and philosophies at the university, I became even more drawn to the Christian faith. Most scholars agree that the existence of Jesus of Nazareth is not mythical. Now, not all, Ark, but most. It is agreed that Jesus lived, was crucified, and buried.
        Again, most Biblical scholars accept the testimony of the earliest Christians that the tomb was found empty.

        Since my mind does not think solely in naturalistic ways, the church’s testimony of the resurrection seems most reasonable to me. I think it best explains the genesis and spread of the early Christian church in the face of much adversity.

        It seems to me that there would have to be this perfect storm for all this to have come about based on the convergence of stuff like mass hallucination, grief-induced dreams, or just delusional thinking.. I guess I could say more about this. Many books have been written, but I’m trying to keep this from turning into a treatise.

        I’ve also had experiences of God in my life which I understand cannot be proven to anyone else. But, these also impacted me in powerful ways.

        Ultimately, I think it is a matter of choice to follow Jesus Christ.

        But, what about you Ark? What causes you to feel so very strongly, not to just be an atheist, but to be an anti-theist and even to want to persuade others?

        I have known many people who are non-theists, but generally, they are pretty apathetic about it and have more a “live and let live “kind of philosophy. They may even see some really good things that have come out of the church and our Judeo-Christian heritage in general.

        Anyway, appreciate the discussion with you Ark, but between all these blogs and various discussions over the years, I’m wondering what more we can really say together or what I can constructively continue to add to the mix.

        Totally mean it Ark, when I say that I wish you and everyone here every good thing.

        So give you the last word. 🙂 Pax.

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      3. Sorry to (again) insert my remarks into the conversation, but I can’t help myself when I read comments such as this: … ever since I was very young the complexity of the universe, the creation itself drew me to God. Since you were “very young” ….

        The logical question then arises … where did this knowledge of “God” come from? Of course the factual answer is from parents and/or your cultural surroundings. Contrary to the study you cited by Fowler, without outside influence, belief in “God” would be non-existent.

        See? This is the point Ark is making. You belief is based on nothing but feelings/teachings/outside influences. You have NO EVIDENCE to prove such a being actually exists.

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  7. @ Becky

    Anyway, appreciate the discussion with you Ark, but between all these blogs and various discussions over the years, I’m wondering what more we can really say together or what I can constructively continue to add to the mix.

    For someone who has been in dialogue with me for some time on and off, you really do not ”read” people very well, I’m sorry to say.
    And you have a unpleasant habit of regularly using your ”last word” quip, which has become a rather tired and worn phrase that some might be inclined to consider as condescending.
    As Ben stated up thread. I have no need or desire to have the last word. That type of hand wave brush off is not my bag.

    Furthermore, for someone who continually states and restates that they don’t know what more they can offer regarding your ”faith” you seem to enjoy frequenting similar blogs and uttering the same pithy comments over and over.
    It strongly suggests that you do not actually think before you put fingers to keyboard, but rather dump a continual word salad of what is ostensibly apologetic blather showing absolutely no respect for the fact that almost everyone you comment to was once a full-on, bible believing Christian.

    The answer to this is simple, and I have asked so many times that either you are so indoctrinated you simply cannot grasp the meaning of what OI am ask9ng or otherwise you are simply a disingenuous bloody idiot.

    So, once more …. please provide the evidence that convinced you of the veracity of the foundational tenets of the Christian religion.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nan, I took a walk and tried to give this conversation deeper thought.

      Maybe the problem we’re having together revolves around the definition of “evidence, ” or what constitutes “good evidence.” To me, the fine-tuning observation presents a powerful argument, to give one example. I would consider this a piece of evidence that strongly implys the probability of a creator. Do I think this evidence is absolutely fool proof??? No, I don’t, but I don’t see either how it can be totally dismissed out of hand.

      Here’s a link to an article that I shared before.

      https://time.com/77676/why-science-does-not-disprove-god/

      Nan, here is the straight-up truth. I can understand how and why non-theists are not all completely persuaded.

      But, what flat out amazes me is how all of them seem to feel there is no evidence at all, toward a creator and that the theist’s views are all on the same level as belief in Santa.

      I just don’t get it. Maybe I am obtuse, Ark, but at least I’m being truthful.

      I’m givin up the ghost. OOPs, another pithy comment…:) I can’t resist teasing you. 🙂

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      1. Yes, the article does profoundly illustrate the “if” question, along with demonstrating the power of believing that “something” caused it all. But I contend that “something” is purely a result of ancestral teachings.

        It’s been demonstrated again and again that humans want a “reason” to explain things. However, in my mind, it’s much more challenging to ponder and imagine rather than attaching a “label” of explanation.

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      2. I actually think that the Santa analogy is a good one for God. There is a reason the two are compared so frequently.

        They are both capable of doing magic. They can see everyone at all times. There is a reward for good behavior and punishment for bad. Also, and most importantly, to believe in either you need “faith like a child.”

        Children’s minds are unbelievably malleable and can be convinced of just about anything. Kids believe those around them that they trust. That’s why parents can easily get their children to believe in Santa…or a god for that matter. This easy manipulation is also why churches target children for conversion. Churches know that they earlier they indoctrinate someone, the easier it is to get them into the pews and keep them there. The longer you have these unprovable ideas pushed into your head by people you trust, the harder it is to undo the damage from it.

        It took me until I was nearly 40 to realize what had happened and it is still difficult to let go of everything completely. I don’t believe. That part is long gone. But dealing with the aftermath and letting go of the routines takes a bit longer. And this is why I speak out against it. It’s harmful and wrong to teach as fact what one has to believe by faith alone.

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    2. Ark, it is not easy to communicate across the internet. You have to admit that. It’s hard to find graceful ways of ending a dialogue. I mean, I just don’t want to go away, not respond to someone… I certainly don’t want to disrespect anyone. But, the thing is, I feel like I’ve shared all kinds of evidence why I’m drawn toward faith in the creator. I’ve shared an article which I think is really excellent. But, somehow we are not connecting.

      Ark, perhaps this would help. I have some time today. Are you able to share with me the type of evidence that you feel would be convincing to you. What do you feel it would take to draw you toward faith, Ark? Are you even truly open to this? For me, the whole creation really bears witness to the glory of God.

      I think some folks might be looking for a miraculous visitation, a sign written across the sky, but, have you considered this deeply? How would we even know that this was God or simply the result of our own delusion or perhaps a global hoax?

      Even answers to prayer happening in a certain way could be coincidental. Could it not? God certainly doesn’t compel people to “believe” or to come into the Kingdom.

      So let me ask this, Ark. You don’t have to respond to me verbally. But, search it out within yourself. If there was a God, would you really want to know Him? Or, would you prefer to go your own way, no matter what? If so, there is no type of evidence or experience that will ever be found convincing. There are always a plethora of reasons that can be found to keep Him at bay.

      On the other hand, it’s my conviction that anyone sincerely seeking for truth and to know God will find Him and every good thing. But, as I’ve shared, God’s timing is not our timing, Ark..Spiritual journies can lead to deeper and more mature faith. Although not always easy, I’m also finding joy in the trip.

      So, are you able to share what type of evidence that would speak to you?

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      1. There really is no need for you to continually respond with such lengthy, tangential replies, Becky. Such responses serve only to make you feel better about your faith, but do absolutely nothing to further the dialogue. However,
        I will gladly respond to every point you raise; in fact I will be eager to do once you have answered the question I initially asked. Namely:
        What was the specific evidence that convinced you of the veracity of the foundational tenets of Christianity.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There are many things, Ark. They work in concert. But, none, are completely conclusive as I’ve shared. I feel like there is an element of choice involved. Alternate explanations can always be found. Here are a few more of my thoughts.

        I’m impacted by the high Christology of the early Christians conveyed through the Pauline epistles. How did it happen? These were devout Jewish men who affirmed “God is one.” Yet, they worshipped Jesus Christ. In the natural, it would have been considered utter blasphemy, unthinkable.

        Something deep and valid happened in their experience or they all went crazy or became somehow delusional through grief as I guess, Gary would partly argue. 🙂 Even with this whole concept of a dying and resurrected Messiah, I don’t think it’s what the Jewish nation ever generally expected. ( I mean most did not actually accept the church’s witness of the resurrection.)

        Some believed in a general resurrection at the last day. I don’t feel this teaching was simply arbitrarily borrowed from paganism either based on the dying and rising gods used to explain the cycle of the seasons. I actually tried to study this in some depth awhile back.

        But, I’m coming into all this already having a conviction of a creator, and so am open to something beyond naturalism. The article I’ve shared previously explains part of the reason why.

        Atheism feels way too simplistic for me. I could write a book.

        I know this is not what you are looking for Ark. For you, it probably does not even constitute “evidence.” For me, in concert with other things, it is persuasive.

        I think you have already studied many of the apologists. I have benefitted from studying stuff by Alister McGrath and N.T. Wright. No one has the last word.

        Also, I’m very sorry for some of the experiences you have had on the internet, Ark. In all fairness, you can come across as pretty abrasive at times yourself. It doesn’t help to call folks fools or delusional, either.

        But, still, that’s no excuse for Christian people to be unkind or ban you from the discussion. Please don’t judge all Christian believers or the Christian faith based on some negative interactions you’ve had with a few folks online.

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      3. @ Becky
        Another comment that deviates away from my question.
        Let’s try once again.

        What was the specific evidence that convinced you of the veracity of the foundational tenets of Christianity.
        I’ll tell you what, this time I’ll help you out a little to try to make it simpler, and ask you to supply only one example Do you think you can possibly do this?
        here we go ….

        1. I was (fill in your approximate age at the time, 9,10, 25 or whatever age) and the first piece of evidence that convinced me of the veracity of the foundational tenets of Christianity was:
        (this is where you offer the specifics)

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Ark, for me, my Christian conversion was more a process. It did not come together all at once at a specific age. But, I think when I first began to realize the complexity of the universe, and was in awe of the beauty of creation, then I also began to move toward God. I’m leaving the internet now Ark, but have appreciated our discussion.

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      5. So, in truth, there was no evidence, rather it was all a matter of cultural and emotional influence.
        Can you explain to me why you struggle to be completely honest and simply acknowledge this fact?
        Furthermore – and it is extremely important that you understand this point – I have no issues whatsoever with what you, personally believe, only with what you do with this belief.

        Once you recognise this fact and acknowledge it – and it would be greatly appreciated if you did acknowledge it in writing – perhaps you will begin to grasp why non-believers flatly reject all claims that are underpinned by supernaturalism, and the fact that claimants have never produced a single scrap of evidence to support such claims.

        This also is important. In reality, there are no ”types of evidence”, or ”What sort of evidence would you consider?” there is only evidence. Evidence that firmly establishes as fact any claim that is made.

        And thisis the reason why people such as Ben, and millions of others, deconvert. No evidence.

        Becky, you seem to try very hard to be ‘seen’ as a reasonable person, therefore I sincerely hope that this time you will, once and for all, understand that your Christian beliefs are based upon unsubstantiated supernatural claims and why people such as me do not hold such beliefs and if you wish to ”share”, as you have stated, then please acknowledge that, in the main, those you interact with Ben, me, Gary, Nan and others have, in the main, all been where you currently are and have no desire to return to that former state.

        Regards
        Ark.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Ben, I think mere indoctrination into anything at any age is bad. I agree, but I also think there are Christian parents who teach and share their faith, sure. But, they also encourage their kids to explore and come to their own conclusions. They don’t teach that questioning or addressing honest doubt is wrong. On the other hand there are homes where kids can be indoctrinated into an anti-theist kind of philosophy. They can be made to feel like fools if they come to think there is a God. IMO, both approaches are abusive. We need to love our kids unconditionally whether they come to agree with our views or not.

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    1. Ben, it occurs to me that I need to clarify my comment. I don’t feel that it is abusive for non-theists to share their honest concerns about religion or reasons for non-belief with their kids. That’s right and just normal. But, my concern would be if the non-believing parent would also block any honest inquiry toward faith and imply that if their child actually thought there was a God or open to the miraculous they were simply delusional or a fool, something like that. A young person can feel shamed and just shut down. Relationships can be destroyed. I don’t think it is always intentional, but it’s almost like a form of gaslighting. And, I think it is abusive. But, Ben religious parents can do the same thing. No one is exempt. Of course, I’m preaching to the choir. I sense that you are very kind, Ben, and a great Dad.

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      1. I encourage all of my children to find their own path. I also make sure they know how important it is to make educated decisions. Educated decisions exclude faith. Faith is all opinion and not fact-based. And that’s a fact.

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    2. Encouraging children to educate themselves and investigate is the best way to prepare them for life. Yes, they should decide for themselves what they believe. However, they need to be presented facts, not just opinions or feelings. I’ll use myself as an example. When I was a Christian, I tried to “educate” my oldest son. I explained the world to him through the lens of the Bible. I homeschooled him with Christian materials. I taught him all about how God loved him as well as the rest of his creation. I explained how the world would try to dismiss God, but the evidence of him was all around us. I told him about my feelings and experiences. At the same time I was encouraging him to come God on his own, I was clearly pushing him in that direction. I did not have ecidebxeof God or a created world. Teachers (including parents) teach kids what they themselves believe. So there is a danger when replacing actual facts with our own interpretations.

      Faith comes with a whole lot of emotion. Emotion skews things and affects how we educate our kids. Christianity goes against science in so many ways. If anyone is okay with that, they need some evidence to back it up. Without it, teaching should not be something they attempt to do.

      Indoctrination is quite often unintentional. I didn’t do it to my son on purpose. I thought I was doing right. I have since had to apologize to him for ill-equipping him for the world when was just a young boy.

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    3. I think you’re wrong about this, Becky. Perhaps the more liberal-minded Christians allow their kids to “explore” (although I suspect they set limits) — but I can say with confidence that indoctrination among hardcore believers begins at the very earliest possible moment. Even if it’s the simple act of praying before meals … or “thanking Jesus/God” for things.

      I also disagree that “anti-theists” push non-belief. In most cases, the topic just isn’t discussed. Period. From what I’ve been told is that if/when the child asks questions, the non-believing parents simply answer them from a non-religious POV.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. As I think about it more deeply Nan. I wonder if it also has to do with temperament and personality as well. People who are more controlling and authoritarian are going to reflect that in their parenting whether they are theists or non theists. But, what do you think?

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      2. I don’t think temperament or personality enters in — except that some believers may be a bit more “forceful” about it, resulting in child abuse.

        Although the bible is FULL of instructions –many/most of which are frequently ignored– this particular one (“Train up a child …”) seems to be an easy one. Probably because it gives parents an opportunity to ensure their little darlings stay within “the faith.”

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  9. I’m seeing science as a tool to help us understand how physical things work in the natural world. I think religion addresses more the kind of issues that focus on meaning, purpose or morality. For me, they don’t need to be in conflict. I definitely think it’s an issue if folks feel like they need to deny the findings of science in order to trust God. I’m thinking of the teaching that the earth is only a few thousand years old despite scientific evidence to the contrary. I would agree with that this is a problem.

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    1. I don’t see any need for a religion in order find meaning, have purpose or understand morality. Each one of us, individually, should be in charge of finding purpose in our lives. Purpose, in Christianity, is given to us by a jealous dictator who punishes eternally those who reject that purpose he set forth. That’s what his “word” says. Rejecting Jesus results in Hell. Following him and his purpose gives eternal life. That’s the gist of it anyway. Imagine a leader on earth doing that. A president or king or whatever, telling us what our purpose in life is and we better follow it or else. That’s not love. That’s ruling by fear.

      I am more than capable of finding purpose in this life. I give my own life meaning and it’s so much deeper than what was taught to me in religion. My morality is 1000 times better now that I’m out. I look at all people equally, instead of thinking or telling them that they are sinners as I offer up my prayers for them. All of the sin I was taught to despise in people is gone. In fact, it was never real to begin with. Just another method of control.

      I’m sorry if this comes off sounding rude. I don’t intend for that to happen. I see a lot of myself in current believers and that pains me. I know so much more now than I did back then and I see people making the same mistakes I made while dismissing the logic and facts that I was quick to scoff at myself.

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      1. Ben, don’t worry. I think you are being honest, not rude, IMO. For me, my faith is in a way like an amplifier. It’s not that my life would have no meaning or purpose if I was not a Christian believer. Of course, not. But, for me knowing God in Christ has just intensified and deepened my sense of purpose and meaning. My life has been even further deepened and enriched.

        And, I feel this all extends even past this life, as well. I don’t see God as a dictator who is controlling me like a puppet. I feel like my own will and choices are all part of this as well.

        I personally don’t believe that God nixes any of us based simply on wrong opinions because we don’t believe in a certain way. It is much deeper than this and involves attitudes of the heart and mind.

        For me, the whole concept of Hell just entails separation from God and all that implies. I think it is entirely self-chosen. It seems to me an aspect of God’s love that He doesn’t force people into His kingdom.

        But, on the other hand, I mean what about people in other lands who have never even heard the gospel. Would a loving God reject them? I think there are people following Christ in many ways who don’t even know Him by that name. In a sense, Ben, perhaps you are even following Him if you feel more compassion for people than before and are more open and less judgemental.

        Here is part of my view of the atonement of Christ. I think God fully entered into human life and suffering so that we could be fully healed, made perfect like Him in love, so we could know Him and be co-laborers together in His kingdom which begins in the here and now, BTW. It’s not just like pie in the sky after you die. This is part of ancient Christian teaching.

        I think prayer is so much more than simply getting stuff from God. It’s a way to connect with Him and to experience His presence. Meditation helps us to be centered, to become more graceful and loving as we meditate on God.

        I accept that you feel like you don’t need any of this and are better off without any faith at all.

        But, I do want to share, Ben, that the way Christian people in the main stream of the church reason and approach faith in Jesus Christ can be quite different than the way folks think coming from more fundamentalist backgrounds.

        It doesn’t mean rejecting reason or science, or giving up who we are as humans.

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      2. “I think prayer is so much more than simply getting stuff from God. It’s a way to connect with Him and to experience His presence. Meditation helps us to be centered, to become more graceful and loving as we meditate on God.”

        There are a few things to discuss with regards to this statement.

        One, prayer is absolutely about getting something in return. I know that sounds a bit selfish and possibly contrary to church teachings, but let’s look at what the Bible actually says about it. In John 14:13-14, Jesus says this:

        “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

        In Matthew 21:21-22, Jesus says:

        “Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

        These verses have been interpreted many different ways, but the fact remains that what is actually written in the Bible is that whatever you ask for in Jesus’ name will be given to you. I don’t know anyone who actually believes that you will get absolutely anything you ask for. But the implication of Jesus’ words is that the faithful will be rewarded with answered prayers. So, when I didn’t pray for money, fame, or temporary physical treasures, but rather for stronger faith, where was my answer? When I asked to know God better and to not be doubtful, where was my answer? When I cried my eyes out, telling God I didn’t want to lose my identity in him, where was he and why was the silence so deafening? You see, nothing comes from prayer. Not just in my life, but anyone’s. If a simple prayer such as “God, guide me to you. Make me a better follower and representative for you on earth” can be ignored, they all are. God, if he is real, let me go. He let all of us deconverts go. Despite our pleas to have him pull us back in, we had to walk away. He was nowhere to be found.

        Connecting with him and experiencing his presence? Again, that simply does not happen. Let’s say a boy named Robert grew up without a dad. This boy never knew his dad because his father walked out on his mother before he was born. Does anyone consider that child to be the son of a loving and nurturing dad? Should Robert praise his dad? What if he found old letters left for him saying he’d always be there for him? If these letters said, “Hey Robbie, if you need anything just call. I’ll always listen and will provide anything you need. You only have to ask and it will be done. I love you son,” does that prove Robert’s dad was there for him? When Robert picked up the phone to call his father, there was nothing but a dial tone each and every time. No one was on the other end…ever. Does that show that his dad was there for him? He said he would always be there. Was that true? Since these letters contained promises to Robert, and he really wanted to have a loving dad in his life, he believed them. Even though his dad missed every birthday, every school achievement, every baseball game Robert played in and every good night hug and kiss, Robert still imagined that his dad loved him. He never met him. All that was promised to him was not given, but yet he still believed his dad was there at every moment watching him. Is Robert a rational person for believing this? Of course not. Anyone observing Robert’s life would see that he was a sad and delusional boy. Though he wanted his father in his life, he was simply not there. Not now. Not ever. That’s Christianity.

        ” Meditation helps us to be centered”

        This is true for many people regardless of their beliefs. Meditating can be relaxing and can help relieve stress. You don’t need a god to meditate or to “take your mind to another place” in order to feel better. The fact that some people get this from prayer means very little. Atheists who meditate can receive the same benefits simply by relaxing their minds and changing their breathing. It has everything to do with the mind and nothing to do with religion.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Ark, I would not agree with you that most people deconvert solely because they see no evidence of God. I think for many it can be deeper and more complicated than that. Every person is different. Although, I can’t speak for Ben or the folks who share here. People frame, define and can interpret evidence differently. To use an analogy, have you watched something like the Forensic Files? Detectives examining the same forensic evidence may differ in their conclusions. To use another example, I’ve had a young nephew who sadly passed away unexpectedly. The coroners are not totally agreed on all the causes leading to his death even as they look at the same evidence. I don’t feel that evidence is the same as truth or even fact. But, examining evidence, even things like ancient testimony which I think is one form of evidence can help us come to a reasoned conclusion. Ark, if you have time, perhaps you might like to read The Language of God by Collins. Then if you like or are open to this , perhaps we could discuss it when I come back online. If not, I understand.

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    1. I have never read Collins’ book but I have read a review some time back (if memory serves?) and watched at least one video.
      As an evangelical Christian, Collins’ worldview is underpinned by his faith, which will include his ultimate view regarding science.
      You are aware, I take it, that Collins was raised in a culture that was/is largely Christian influenced and tentatively converted while working with terminally ill patients – one of whom asked him what he believed? It was this encounter, so he claims, coupled with being very unsettled about what happened once he was dead that caused him to turn to Christianity for answers.
      There is also a somewhat … colourful … tale he regales about when he out walking or hiking and came across a frozen waterfall. He alluded to its frozen state akin to the Trinity (I presume there were three frozen sheets of water or something. *Sigh*) and immediately fell to his knees, admitted to being a sinner and asked Jesus for forgiveness. Or something along these lines.
      By the way, if you have an example of a single individual who has deconverted because of any other reason other than lack of evidence then I would be fascinated to read their testimony. A link will help as well.
      I am not doubting the sincerity of your belief in this instance regarding deconversion, but evidence of this more ”deeper and complicated” reason might help convince me. I’m sure you can appreciate this, yes 🙂
      Thanks
      Ark.

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      1. I wouldn’t say I deconverted for lack of evidence but then again … maybe. The initial stirrings came as I looked around at the “dedicated and holy” individuals within the church who were far more focused on criticizing the young girls who came to church wearing *gasp* makeup and short skirts (Yes, it was one of those denominations) than they were in “loving” them into the Faith as instructed by the “Good Book.” That was the start.

        Then a young evangelist came and convincingly preached a message that contradicted what the church taught … and the ball started rolling.

        Everyone’s story is different but the end result is we finally recognize that contrary to what is screamed from the pulpit, coaxed by the faithful, taught in the church school, and quoted from the “Good Book” … there just isn’t anything “there” anymore.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My deconversion was due to a complete and total lack of any fulfilled promises. Pray and you’ll get answers. Nope. Whatever you ask for in my name will be given to you. Nope. When you hurt, I will be there to comfort you. Nope. All of these promises with no action. I was constantly being told that wondrous things happen to God’s children. I was told that God reveals himself to all who seek him. I was told a lot of good sounding things with nothing actually being revealed to me. Lip service only works for so long before people notice that none of what is being offered is being delivered.

        Unfulfilled promises, unanswered prayers and no interaction with a god of any kind are all just examples of lack of evidence. I was promised the world for the price of admission. I eventually had to leave when I realized it was all an illusion and ended up asking for a refund. All of the “testable” promises such as prayer and comfort in this lifetime failed to deliver. If nothing in this life can be proven to be real, how are the ones after this life supposed to be taken seriously? Reunions with loved ones, meeting God and rejoicing in Heaven forever? I’m supposed to believe that? I prayed for God to keep me believing and nothing happened. I prayed to not lose my faith, but it is most certainly gone. I fought to maintain belief and here I am now warning others to steer clear of this charade.

        Lack of evidence indeed.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Yet they continue to cling to a feeling (they describe it as “faith”) that there really is “something” there — generally based on teachings and directed interpretation of the stories in a VERY old book. To actually recognize the fallacy behind it all is a very scary step because it means admitting they were *gasp* bamboozled from the very beginning.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. “I don’t feel that evidence is the same as truth or even fact.”

      I think this is a problem that many, if not the majority, of Christians have; not understanding the meanings of words. Although there are different types of evidence such as circumstantial, anecdotal or even testimonial to name a few, the evidence we are asking for is easy to understand and would convince the vast majority of honest people. The evidence we are asking for is the type that we can all easily experience and observe due to there being supporting facts. It is the type that is demonstrable because it’s true. All of the other types may convince an individual, but are completely insufficient to convey that in a convincing way to people who are skeptical. The evidence that we are looking for should be easy to provide, as the god that Christians believe in is said to be obvious and “all around us” if we just look. Good evidence is literally all about truth and facts. It is not about feelings, intuition or “someone said something at some point and I believe them.” To say that evidence means something that doesn’t include facts or truth is not being honest. Changing the meanings of words to suit one’s needs is the root of many issues that end up turning into frustrating debates.

      The definition of the word “evidence” from the Oxford Dictionary is this:

      “The available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.”

      This is what unbelievers are asking for when it comes to proving or disproving the existence of God. That’s it. What are the facts? What can we “know” and not just “feel?” The meaning of this word “evidence” literally requires truth and facts in order for it to be considered valid and persuasive. Anecdotal evidence is irrelevant when trying to show that a god exists. Someone else’s word, without supporting facts and truth, is just their word. Anyone can say anything at any time about anything. That doesn’t make it true.

      You can say that you don’t feel evidence is “the same as truth or even fact” but that doesn’t mean that you are correct. Your view of evidence would need to be tested and examined by others and agreed upon. Otherwise, it is merely opinion. Opinions are insufficient and irrelevant when discussing God. Evidence of God to you may not need to be truth or fact to convince you that he is real, but that form of “evidence” will never convince anyone who doesn’t share your views. Proof is important. The simplest way to prove a god exists, isn’t someone else’s words or writings, it’s a physical interaction or something tangible we can observe. The Bible claims that we can have a personal relationship with God. How does that happen when nothing happens when we pray? How can we have a relationship with someone who doesn’t show up in our lives…ever? How can we know that a being exists when we cannot see, hear, taste, smell or touch him? You know, use the only senses we have? Detecting the undetectable with abilities we do not possess is an impossibility not worth the undertaking. Thinking that it makes more sense for a god to exist than to not exist is, again, opinion and not fact.

      “Ancient testimony”? That is called hearsay and hearsay is not strong evidence. This is why courts do not allow hearsay to be admitted as evidence in trials. Ancient hearsay is equally as invalid as current hearsay. It is someone’s words from a long time ago. First of all, there is no way to verify that those words were ever said. Secondly, even if we could verify somehow that a certain person said certain things, we cannot verify that what they said actually occurred without actual evidence which includes (once again) facts and truth. And thirdly, anything regarding the supernatural such as miracles or divine intervention of any kind cannot be verified by any means. There is no way that we in this world can detect or test the supernatural. We have no reason to believe the supernatural exists due to lack of evidence. We cannot, today in the year 2021, test for supernatural things. We lack that capability. That means that ancient claims of the supernatural are also impossible to verify. Ancient God claims hold no water and sway no one that doesn’t already lean towards belief.

      You can believe or disbelieve many things, but that doesn’t change their true definition and meaning. Changing meanings and moving goalposts may strengthen one’s faith but it makes a fruitful discussion impossible to have.

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  11. To actually recognize the fallacy behind it all is a very scary step because it means admitting they were *gasp* bamboozled from the very beginning.

    False promises abound!
    The real ‘bitch’ of the matter is you can’t get a bloody refund on all those shekels you dropped in the collection plate. Bloody do-gooders.
    To paraphrase Life of Brian:
    ”That’s just what Jesus said!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t really come from a pentecostal background.

      I actually currently attend a Lutheran church. To me, since the church is in a way like this hospital for sinners, I just expect folks to screw up royally at times. We are all coming from different places in our backgrounds and walks with the Lord.

      There are people who struggle with mental health issues and may be saddled with all kinds of quirks and problems. However, if I felt the church was really unbalanced and unhealthy, I would definitely be looking elsewhere. You’re right Nan, it should be about loving one another and not about judging the length of someone’s skirt or hair.

      IMO, it is perfectly normal for Christian people to doubt at times and even to experience a “dark night of the soul.” To me, it would seem unusual, and abnormal if this never happened. We are human after all. I think Christian people who claim they never doubt or have never experienced this are likely lying or maybe not in touch with themselves fully.

      I certainly wouldn’t interpret this to mean that God has left their life. Often, this actually all can lead to a deeper, stronger, and more sensitive faith in the long term. For me, spiritual formation is a lifelong process. There is no hurry.

      Maybe my expectations are too low.

      For me, I don’t expect that my prayers are always going to be answered in specific, let alone extraordinary or miraculous ways. For me, prayer is more a way to connect and experience the presence of God, of opening myself to His love all the more.

      It is enough for me to know that through everything God is with me, and ultimately can work even through tragedy for good. Paul prayed for a “thorn in his flesh” to be removed, but He came to see that God’s grace and love were sufficient for Him even through the stress. His prayer was not answered in the way he wanted or thought at the time.

      So, I don’t have a conviction because I claim something or pray in a certain way, this has to come to pass, and if not God must not be real in my life or even exist at all.

      I think God is present whether I always feel a certain way or not.

      Lutherans are pretty boring. 🙂

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      1. For me, I don’t expect that my prayers are always going to be answered in specific, let alone extraordinary or miraculous ways.

        So if not always we can presume that they are answered sometimes. Fair enough. I’m prepared to accept this for now. If they are not too personal, will you please offer up a short list of the prayers that have to date been answered.

        It is enough for me to know that through everything God is with me,

        How do you know this? based on what specific evidence?

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    2. Hey, Ark, if the shekels are being used to support things like the local food bank, homeless shelter, refugees and immigrants, tutoring programs for inner-city kids, etc. it’s going for a worthy cause. If it’s going to support a corrupt pastor or is used wastefully, that’s a huge problem.

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  12. I can do that, Ark. My son was diagnosed with cancer several years back that had a very high fatality rate. We didn’t know if he could be cured. I held him in prayer, and he completely recovered and is still cancer-free a decade later. My stepson was diagnosed with a brain infection and was not expected to recover. It was thought that if he did recover, he would suffer permanent brain damage. Our family and the church held him in prayer. He did recover and has completely normal functioning. Last year I contracted Legionnaires Disease and spent three days in intensive care. There was great concern and worry that I would not make a complete recovery given the severity of the infection and my age. Many people never do and have long term effects.

    But, in a matter of days, I walked out of that hospital and was completely back to normal in a few weeks. The pastor had visited me for prayer and anointed me with oil.

    I could mention other examples. Here is the thing, though, Ark, I’ve prayed for other people and they didn’t recover. And, really, think about this deeply, if all prayers for healing were answered, there could be no death.

    Also, I can never know with certainty how much of this was due to God’s intervention or perhaps the miracles of modern medicine, or in my case a very strong immunity. In a way, it’s all connected.

    What I can tell you, Ark is that knowing that God was with me and experiencing a sense of His love and peace through all this was priceless.

    When I knew my son had cancer, Ewing’s Sarcoma, I cried my eyes out, but also thanked God for the gift of his life and our time together. He was only 24 at the time. I also felt deep joy in the hope of the resurrection, that this life is not the end of things.

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    1. My nephew was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia when he was born. He wasn’t due to pull through so I flew to the UK. Watching those kids go through chemo was an experience.
      He made a full recovery.
      However, God never made an appearance – I presume he was rather busy at the time, maybe he was away making ”collections” in Sudan during the famine? – so my nephew had to rely on the not quite divine professional medical expertise of the hospital staff, including his atheist mother, my sister , who was a nurse.
      Sadly, I found out that a couple of the babies in the ward did not make it. I cannot say if their parents prayed or not?

      One of my brothers died of brain damage after a car accident. I was present when the life support machines were switched off. Not very pleasant that I can tell you. My mother prayed until she metaphorically cried tears of blood. God never showed up then, either.

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      1. What pain? That’s life. One get’s over it and moves on.

        That you continue to harp on to Ben, knowing full well what he went through just shows how little respect you have for the man.

        You continually ply your simpering brand of apologetics with wishy washy hand wave comments, apparently with the ultimate objective to get people such as Ben to reconsider their position, and maybe even break down and call out to Jesus.
        After all your god likes broken people does he not? Look at you!

        I am beginning to reassess my view of the type of individual you are and it is starting to become clear that, irrespective of your indoctrination – or maybe because of it – you really are not a nice person at all.

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  13. And, really, think about this deeply, if all prayers for healing were answered, there could be no death.

    What a rather disgusting and callous thing to even think let alone put into words.
    For the indoctrinated believer, as well as the non-believer, It points to an arbitrary and equally callous deity.
    We all die eventually. Of old age if we are fortunate, and if we’re really fortunate, in our sleep and without any trouble along the way.
    What you believe is quite horrific.

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    1. I’m not seeing it in that way, Ark. Death is part of life in this world. It’s part of how things are now in the cycle of life. For me, because God doesn’t miraculously heal everyone doesn’t mean He is uncaring or callous, IMO. Sometimes we don’t always know or understand why things happen in certain ways.

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      1. Sometimes we don’t always know or understand why things happen in certain ways.

        That’s true. And as such, no god is involved.

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      2. Ark. Death is part of life in this world.

        There is only this world for the gods’ sake!
        You truly are an unwell person.

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    2. To me, it points to the reality of a fallen world, Ark, and through that to a hope for a world that someday God will totally restore. Ark, I think if you and I were sitting across from each other at a coffee shop or pub these conversations might go very differently. So far in our talks together you’ve managed to label me as everything from idiot, fool, delusional, to now unwell,etc. The motive, behind this certainly cannot be the furtherance of reasoned discussion. Can it? 😊

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      1. Wait, I forgot, simpering. Ark, tell me what’s actually going on. Maybe we can work this through together. If not, there’s nothing I can do.

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      2. There is no reasoned discussion because you are delusional. This I accept as a matter of fact.

        If, however you are prepared to accept fact based on evidence then maybe you will one day embrace reality in full.

        Until that day …

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  14. Ben, I know that I’m not going to be the one to convince you of this. But, I don’t think God left you go. The Scripture states that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

    Because you are not able to “believe” right now or sense God’s presence in your life doesn’t mean that He’s not with you. IMO, God’s love for us is not contingent on whether we are always able to intellectually know and sense His presence.

    You have shared that since walking away from your previously held beliefs you are a much better person, more caring, and less judgemental. To me, this is evidence that God is with you and even working in ways for your good through your deconversion.

    Sometimes we have to walk through something and can’t make sense of it at the time until we come out the other side.

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    1. So in your opinion, God let me walk away? Not only that, he is allowing me to speak out against his monstrous nature and warning people against following him in order to make me a better person? What is the reasoning behind that line of thinking? And why would he still refuse to let me know he’s there? I now live my life the way lifelong atheists live their lives, not even remotely interested in a religious life. Seems counterproductive to me. Kind of hard to bring more people into the kingdom when I argue that there is no evidence that there even is a kindgom. Who is going to bow down to God because of my words or actions?

      In response to your comments about prayer, healing and death, I have some concerns. Are you suggesting God picks and chooses who lives and dies? Based on what? How fervent their prayers are? How sincere? What is the criteria for prayers getting answered? And if God is going to do whatever he wants regardless of our prayers, what is the point of praying other than to give ourselves a sense of comfort?

      I prayed for my dad to survive his last of many heart attacks, but he died nonetheless at the age of 56. I was 21 at the time. My daughter was born prematurely back in 2004 and died as well. Was her death God’s choice? Was she one of the unlucky ones who had to die for God to keep the balance of life and death right where he wanted it? I had many Christians tell me that God must have needed her more. Really? My daughter who had not even fully formed in the womb was needed by God, even though he knew it would destroy us? That was nearly 17 years ago and it hurts just as much now, but at least God got what he wanted, right?

      God’s not using me. There is no evidence of a god and even less evidence that my life is being guided by one. Your personal beliefs may cause you to feel that way but some of us just aren’t buying it. Goodness comes from us. It always has. No god is required to be decent people. If there is a god, he certainly is not the one of the Bible. The world we live in shows that quite clearly as it is in stark contrast to the words written in that book.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ben, I think there’s nothing in life worse than the death of a child. Someone who has not experienced this can’t begin to understand the pain. I’m so sorry. I think people say things that are insensitive because they feel they have to say something and don’t know what to say. I don’t believe it is meant to be a deliberate unkindness. Many times I think it is just better to be there and be present with someone in their grief and say nothing. I don’t think God took the life of your baby, but He did not miraculously intervene either. We live in a fallen world, and death is part of that. I feel like through everything God loves us. He is with us. When I shared that God was present and working in your life I was thinking more in terms of how you’ve shared an increased compassion and openness toward people. You were reconciled with your sister who is transgender. You are less judgemental. To me these are good things that reflect the love of God in Christ. We do have differing views about prayer and how we take ahold of and interpret the words of Jesus. I certainly have experienced prayers that were not answered in the way I thought too, Ben, but much later in my life I was able to still see the constant love and presence of God even through that. And, part of it really does have to do with church background, I think. Lutherans/Episcopalians just don’t have the same view and expectation as I’ve noticed among my pentecostal brothers and sisters. I actually went to school with someone who said he was quitting unless God starting showing up. At the time I couldn’t understand what he was even talking about. If you feel that you have no need for faith or for God, I accept that, Ben. We can’t pull people to where we’re at, either way.

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      2. Ohhhh Becky … you are really honing your sermonizing talents. Next thing you know, you’ll be behind the pulpit and wearing clergy vestments.

        This–“We live in a fallen world”–is Christianese at its finest.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Nan, you know when I share things like “God working in my life,” I’m not meaning this to say that gee, I’m just sitting back here and doing nothing. Leave it to God.

      I mean in general how many humanitarian organizations have been organized by the Christian church? I know they are making a tremendous difference for good in my community.

      Or, you know, when Christians talk about brokenness or fallenness, it’s doesn’t mean we think folks, ourselves included, are these “worthless pieces of shit, ” humanly incapable of doing any good thing.

      It is a reflection as well as an observation that humanity in general has not reached our fullest potential. We are not, yet, reflecting the perfect love of Christ, so to speak. There is still evil and brokenness in the world despite our best intentions and efforts, and a need for healing. The evidence is all over the place. To be honest with you, I would agree with the reality of this even if I were an atheist.

      To bring an illustration down to life, I think that President Trump is most definitely a “sinner” 🙂 but still loved by God. Genuine reflection, healthy repentance, and amendment of life is not a bad thing, IMO.

      Even the call to worship and prayer is more for our benefit rather than for God’s. I don’t envision my time in church as motivated by this fear of a dictator in Heaven, saying, “You just better worship me or else.” The ax is going to fall.

      For me, it’s all a natural response to the love and grace of God in my life.

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    2. LOL, not me. The Lord would have to show up in a “burning bush.” My work has always been more with Child Welfare, counseling/mental health. Alot of stuff in the human service field mostly with secular organizations. Right now I have a heart to work more with refugees and immigrants. But, I’m not certain what specific direction to go right now. There is a strong need, though. And, you’re right, I probably am doing too much sermonizing here. Until next time. Keep staying well and safe , Nan.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Oh, Ark, truly “until that day” which for me reflects an entirely appropriate ancient Christian confession. How ironic. I understand.

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    1. Truly, you are a very ill woman. I don’t believe in evil, but there is a side of your nature that has a cruel streak which borders on the sociopathic.

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      1. Now I am an evil sociopath??? I’m never forgetting these conversations with ya, Ark. That’s for sure.

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      2. I don’t believe in evil so I do not consider you to be an evil sociopath.
        Did you struggle to read my comment or as with your religious inclinations you just make stuff up to suit you?

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