Deconversion questions

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Lanakila
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Deconversion questions

Post by Lanakila » Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:49 pm

Was there anything else you went through that made you deconvert? That is, if you don't mind me asking?
I went through a deconversion process where I began questioning everything I'd been led and led myself to believe by studying the Bible. I didn't want to stop believing, or want to live in sin,or anything like that. I wasn't mad at the church, or church people or anything like that either.

I was debating atheists trying to get them to realize the truth of Christianity and at the same time realizing it wasn't true. I thought there was plenty of evidence, but I was wrong. The Dan Barker Easter Challenge was one of the places I started, but I wanted to prove it wrong. I had read enough Rene D' Cartes to know that I wanted to stop believing things just because, that I needed evidence for anything I would believe, let alone base my life upon. So I realized that even D'Cartes assumed God in the beginning, and that was dishonest. So I challenged every believe and actually looked at all the evidence.

Now, this took years because doubt is considered sin by Christians, and every challenge was therefore sinning, and hard for me to do. Every time I started going down the road, I'd go back to church and re-enforce the beliefs I'd been taught and repent of my doubts. Eventually though, I realized that the evidence just didn't back up Christianity, and that the Bible not only contradicted itself in smallish areas that didn't amount to much, but the resurrection story was a mess of contradictions and myth. At the end I prayed that God would show me the errors of what I had been studying.

He didn't because quite frankly he either doesn't exist or is a deist type god that doesn't care or isn't involved in any parts of our lives.

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Goodchild
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Post by Goodchild » Mon Aug 15, 2011 8:48 pm

[quote=""Lanakila""]I was debating atheists trying to get them to realize the truth of Christianity and at the same time realizing it wasn't true. I thought there was plenty of evidence, but I was wrong.[/quote]

That is so true of how it happened for me as well. I was leaving protestantism behind to return to the Catholic church and had become active at Christian Forums. Eventually I discovered the section where all the non-christians hung out and started interacting with them. Honestly, it was the first time in my life I'd ever been exposed to even the possibility that christianity might be nothing but bunkum and I was amazed that people could even think that.

Eventually, though, the evidence against christianity (and theism in general) just kept mounting and mounting and I had to be honest with myself that there was precious little to none in support of theism.

It was a discussion of hell that was finally the breaking point for me, when I just threw up my hands at a fellow christians explanation and said to myself "This is an absolute load of garbage, and I've been believing it for over 35 years!". Though it was long in the coming, my deconversion once it arrived hit me like a sack of hammers.

I've never looked back and I don't think I could possibly go back, nor do I want to.

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Post by MattShizzle » Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:02 pm

I actually stopped believing in Christianity in my teens - was never a chuchgoer - my parents are kinda "cafeteria Christians." I realized early on a lot of what was in the Bible was wrong (factually and morally) and just didn't make sense - even when I was like 4 I was like "why would god care about that?" By 16 I considered myself agnostic. Sep 2004 was when I was first on the internet (other than a few times at the end of college in 1996 for class things and to look at grad schools) - I had turned 30 Jan 2004. Soon after getting on I found some atheist sites - ffrf.org and one that went under in 2006. By the end of 2004 I considered myself an Atheist.

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Jobar
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Post by Jobar » Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:44 pm

I wrote this at Internet Infidels, on Aug. 12, 2001.
At age 15, thirty years ago, I threatened my parents that if they continued to force me to go to their Southern Baptist church every Sunday, I would stand up and declare before the whole congregation that I thought they were all deluded. As I was working on my father's dairy farm practically 24/7 they couldn't throw me out, so I was allowed to stay home (and usually sleep.)

I think that, like turtonm, I was saved from a life of superstition by science fiction. (I have read Harrison's Deathworld Trilogy, and Clarke's "The Star", and practically everything by Harlan Ellison. And very many more.) Reading the Bible (the only thing which was allowed other than listening to boring sermons) was also a big boost toward unbelief.

As I grow older I grow ever more satisfied with the answers of philosophy, and more disgusted/amused/angry at those who accept theology unquestioned. My family no longer argues with me, and I have stopped challenging their superstitions at every opportunity- unless they start trying to preach. That's mighty seldom now.
http://www.freeratio.org/showthread.php ... ost656707- the 'Atheists' Testimony Thread'. Many here can be found in the 731 posts to that thread.

The only thing I would change- I started reading the Bible from cover to cover just before I turned 15. Not long after I finished was when I started calling myself an atheist. Like so many, if I had to name a single book which most influenced my unbelief, it's the Bible, hands down.

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Post by neilstone40 » Mon Aug 15, 2011 10:01 pm

[quote=""Jobar""]Like so many, if I had to name a single book which most influenced my unbelief, it's the Bible, hands down.[/quote]

Same for me. I was forced to read the bible from an early age as it was expected that we would all evangelise and testify. The difference was that, compared to the other kids, I actually read it and tried to comprehend it rather than just skimming through it.

I've read the bible cover to cover a few times (quite a few times as an atheist too). It didn't make much sense and the God I saw illustrated there didn't sound like the kind of God I wanted.

I was an atheist by 14 although was forced to continue attending worship. I eventually made a very public scene at a major religious event (long story) and at that point my parents realised forcing me to attend wasn't going to be the easiest option.

I also read The God Delusion shortly after it came out. I had been an atheist for a long time by that point but it helped me put some things in perspective by reinforcing what I already thought. It also made me more confident in identifying myself as an atheist and was probably what encouraged me to seek out secular forums to reassure myself that I wasn't alone.
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Barefoot Bree
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Post by Barefoot Bree » Mon Aug 15, 2011 11:02 pm

My story is slightly different from many other folks', in that, although the daughter of a minister, I realized at one point during my teens that I never really had believed in any of it. As I put it once, my "belief" had never reached beyond the level of "let's pretend". Seriously.

I've also said that if God exists, he's never bothered to apprise me of that fact. No "feeling the presence of God" or anything like it. No communiques from the Great Beyond. No heavenly signs or answered prayers. Nothing but silence. Ever.

There were a few things that particularly stood in the way of my belief. One was the whole blood atonement thing that Jesus' "sacrifice" was supposed to be based on. It just never made any sense. I never could get how somebody's sacrifice 2000 years ago could have any bearing on me now - a preemptive forgiveness of whatever I might do, as long as I said the magic words?

Another was the personalized godhood - although I didn't know that term for several decades. I could never understand why an all-powerful being who transcends time and matter would possibly be interested in individual people - and much more important, I couldn't understand why such a being would require, nay demand, devotion and worship from those human ants to the point of promising eternal punishment if not given. If Almighty God exists, that's almighty petty of him, don't you think?

But the one I was most cognizant of at the time was the sheer number of vastly, hugely, wildly different religions, each and every one of which claimed to be "the Truth". I could never understand how a God, if he cared that we believed "correctly", could let such a thing happen without giving unambiguous clues not only to his existence, but to which of those myriad stories and/or methods of worship was correct. The hidden God you had to seek on your own - but you were eternal damned, again, if you got it wrong - just doesn't make sense. And it didn't make any more sense without the damnation. They're so wildly different that even "same God, different faces" falls apart upon examination. They can't ALL be true, or even all have a kernel of truth - especially if, as so often claimed by so many of them - that God cares that you get it right. And if they can't all be true, and there are no unambiguous, unmistakable universal messages from God as to which ones are true, then the most sensible explanation is that NONE of them are.

With all of that to fight against, any fledgling, childish belief I might have entertained would have been helpless. "Belief", to me, is something that wells up naturally from deep within; it's a cognitive recognition of the truth of a proposition, as well as the emotional attachment to it. It is NOT, to me, a decision to be made, or mere lip service to said proposition, as those who promote Pascal's Wager seem to maintain. I cannot simply decide to believe in anything. I must be convinced of it - and the bigger the proposition, the more convincing that's going to take. So, like I said at the top, as a child I played "let's pretend" with going to church and singing the stupid songs (and, one memorable afternoon when I was about 7, assembling all my stuffed animals outside for a Bible class, which didn't last past the first nonsensical chapter of Genesis) - but the actual BELIEF was never there to back it up. (It was quite a shock when I realized many years later that there are grown adults who take Genesis - and the rest of it - seriously, let alone literally.) (Oddly, I don't recall after 4+ decades ever actually, seriously, heartfeltedly praying. I may have done, but I don't remember it.) And unfortunately, the indoctrination/brainwashing that such a childhood of regular practice usually induces in the young just didn't "take" with me, especially after wrestling with the above concepts and problems.

Big thoughts for a 13- to 15-year old. I put religion behind me and never looked back. (Though I confess to a lifelong fascination with the question of why others believe, but I do not, for which I'm still chasing answers to this day - which explains my initial presence on forums like this. Came for answers, stayed for the BBQ and camaraderie.)
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Post by sohy » Mon Aug 15, 2011 11:38 pm

My parents became conservative evangelical Christians when I was about five. I accepted all that I had been told as a child until I went to college. Ironically, I it was at a very evangelical Xian college that I began to question my faith. Being around believers 24/7 quickly helped rip the veil from my eyes. I went from conservative Bible thumping Xian to very liberal agnostic Xian in a matter of weeks.

I began to study the world's great religions as I thought I might not have been exposed to the true one. I flirted with the Baha'i faith when I was in my twenties. I loved the people and the idealistic Utopian philosophy, but in the end the supernatural elements were as silly as any I had ever known.

In my late 20s, it suddenly hit me that the reason I couldn't find a god was because there weren't any, except for the gods that live in the imaginations of men. That was almost forty years ago. I've lived a very lovely life. I also consider myself a Humanist, at least a cherry picking humanist. Many atheists embrace an ethical secular philosophy. It gives one a little structure and an opportunity to meet others with a common worldview. I think that is one of the positive benefits of religion, it gives one a community and social network. Too bad most of the beliefs are so nutty. :D

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Post by Roo St. Gallus » Tue Aug 16, 2011 1:40 am

It never made much sense to me.

It bored me as a child. It held promise as socialization when I was a teen, but that wore off and I drifted away. I've read broadly in a number of variant traditions, and none of it makes much sense to me. The older I get, the less sense it all makes.
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Post by cnorman18 » Tue Aug 16, 2011 3:59 am

I don't know if anyone would be interested in my answer to this question, since I "deconverted" from Christianity, but did not become an atheist. Since this discussion seems to be about atheism, I will now, with respect, butt out.
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stealthsparx
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Post by stealthsparx » Tue Aug 16, 2011 7:00 am

Since all of you have sincerely revealed your testimony without emitting anything, I have to be forthright with each and every one of you from the start. This is the first time I have ever witnessed former believers open up their hearts to me to tell their story. As some of you know, this is my first time for me engaging in a discussion board. So it was very heartfelt for me to read all of your stories. I wouldn't be truthful if I didn't say I got a little emotional when reading your stories..What captivated me most was that I could sense something very powerful in your words..It was like a realness that is most of the times masked in people today, but that had the power of penetrating through my mind to make me willingly submit my respect..So my respects to you all..

Not sure if any one of you would be interested in my story since I am a christian..So maybe I'll just briefly relay a few thoughts so you can understand how I became converted to being a christian. For me it started with a deep and curious hunger for fulfillment during my teenage years..I had everything I needed to maintain a decent life for myself..Friends, good big family, dates, fun, a little money (for my standards) but still I felt dissatisfied within myself. I read tremendously, but hated school..Everything from Freud to Plato to New age books and so many others just so I could explore the possibility of meaning for my life..

Then at one life changing moment while speaking with a friend about religion who ironically was an atheist, this overwhelming feeling of what might resemble a epiphany dawned on me..It was a feeling of confirmation at that moment that the existential value I was seeking, the freedom from want or emotion, the peace of inner solidarity, and everything else I will ever need in this life can only be found once I just go, believe, and seek to learn about who this great spirit is that we call God. I had the privilege to attend a wonderful godly inspired church which constantly revealed the gift of the spirit during worship and the sense of serenity and exhilaration that I felt after each service kept me going for a long time until my mind expanded more than my pastor's mind, and so fell in disagreement with some of his views of the bible..

I don't attend church today, but in God I trust everyday...My mind will never be restricted from dogma or doctrine cause the God of the bible is greater than both..I believe that all things, in truth or in nature have their being in GOD..In other words, even though religion is a poor apologetic for God, one can also discern the handiwork of God through the scrutiny of nature when reached to its fullest course. As Ralph Emerson wrote, "By divine necessity every fact in nature is constrained to offer its testimony"...

With that said, I would like to say thank you for sharing your stories with me. :)

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Post by Wizofoz » Tue Aug 16, 2011 7:56 am

I'm different from a lot of vocal Atheists in that I have no heart rending deconversion story. My parents were not church goers, though my Father held theistic beliefs, but Religious belief was just kind of a background thing.

As a young child, I prayed and believed. Australian schools in those days had Scripture classes, and I guess it was just a usual, naive belief that if it was being taught in school, it must be true.

One day, the scripture teacher brought in a guest speaker who impressed us by playing the violin, delivered a sermon, then asked us to close our eyes and feel Jesus filling our hearts.

Stealth, I felt probably exactly what you describe as you epiphany-an ecstatic moment of joy.

But it was only a couple of years later, when I was about twelve, that I actually THOUGHT about what I had been taught and what I had felt.

The overwhelming flaw in the whole thing was simply the totally contradictory nature of various supernatural beliefs, and I quickly (I mean within minutes) simply worked out it was nothing but superstition.

I have had that feeling of extasy many times since, clearly not of supernatural origin (for example, all four times my Reserve Parachute opened after my Main had failed!).

Stealth, let me ask you this-Which came first. Your Epiphanic, ecstatic, emotional acceptance of the love of God, or your research based conclusion that Christianity, as opposed to all other Religious belief systems, was Historically and Scientifically justified?

Can you see how, if that is the order in which you experienced it, your attempts to reasearch the efficacy of belief would be hugely biased, and you would tend to accept arguments and evidence in support of that believ that you would never have accepted as the basis for establishing the truth of OTHER aspects of reality?

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Post by DMB » Tue Aug 16, 2011 8:08 am

[quote=""Barefoot Bree""]My story is slightly different from many other folks', in that, although the daughter of a minister, I realized at one point during my teens that I never really had believed in any of it. As I put it once, my "belief" had never reached beyond the level of "let's pretend". Seriously.

I've also said that if God exists, he's never bothered to apprise me of that fact. No "feeling the presence of God" or anything like it. No communiques from the Great Beyond. No heavenly signs or answered prayers. Nothing but silence. Ever.

There were a few things that particularly stood in the way of my belief. One was the whole blood atonement thing that Jesus' "sacrifice" was supposed to be based on. It just never made any sense. I never could get how somebody's sacrifice 2000 years ago could have any bearing on me now - a preemptive forgiveness of whatever I might do, as long as I said the magic words?

Another was the personalized godhood - although I didn't know that term for several decades. I could never understand why an all-powerful being who transcends time and matter would possibly be interested in individual people - and much more important, I couldn't understand why such a being would require, nay demand, devotion and worship from those human ants to the point of promising eternal punishment if not given. If Almighty God exists, that's almighty petty of him, don't you think?

But the one I was most cognizant of at the time was the sheer number of vastly, hugely, wildly different religions, each and every one of which claimed to be "the Truth". I could never understand how a God, if he cared that we believed "correctly", could let such a thing happen without giving unambiguous clues not only to his existence, but to which of those myriad stories and/or methods of worship was correct. The hidden God you had to seek on your own - but you were eternal damned, again, if you got it wrong - just doesn't make sense. And it didn't make any more sense without the damnation. They're so wildly different that even "same God, different faces" falls apart upon examination. They can't ALL be true, or even all have a kernel of truth - especially if, as so often claimed by so many of them - that God cares that you get it right. And if they can't all be true, and there are no unambiguous, unmistakable universal messages from God as to which ones are true, then the most sensible explanation is that NONE of them are.

With all of that to fight against, any fledgling, childish belief I might have entertained would have been helpless. "Belief", to me, is something that wells up naturally from deep within; it's a cognitive recognition of the truth of a proposition, as well as the emotional attachment to it. It is NOT, to me, a decision to be made, or mere lip service to said proposition, as those who promote Pascal's Wager seem to maintain. I cannot simply decide to believe in anything. I must be convinced of it - and the bigger the proposition, the more convincing that's going to take. So, like I said at the top, as a child I played "let's pretend" with going to church and singing the stupid songs (and, one memorable afternoon when I was about 7, assembling all my stuffed animals outside for a Bible class, which didn't last past the first nonsensical chapter of Genesis) - but the actual BELIEF was never there to back it up. (It was quite a shock when I realized many years later that there are grown adults who take Genesis - and the rest of it - seriously, let alone literally.) (Oddly, I don't recall after 4+ decades ever actually, seriously, heartfeltedly praying. I may have done, but I don't remember it.) And unfortunately, the indoctrination/brainwashing that such a childhood of regular practice usually induces in the young just didn't "take" with me, especially after wrestling with the above concepts and problems.

Big thoughts for a 13- to 15-year old. I put religion behind me and never looked back. (Though I confess to a lifelong fascination with the question of why others believe, but I do not, for which I'm still chasing answers to this day - which explains my initial presence on forums like this. Came for answers, stayed for the BBQ and camaraderie.)[/quote]

Superb post. Bree!

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Post by sohy » Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:11 pm

Stealth, you might enjoy reading Michael Shermer's book, How We Believe.

I'm reading it for the second time since I enjoyed it so much the first time and have forgotten most of it. :) This thread make me think of it because Shermer points out that both believers and non believers will often give almost the exact same reasons for their beliefs or lack of beliefs. For example, believers will look at the world and see god's touch in everything while non believers will look at the world and believe that the majesty of the physical world could never have been created by a god. I'm probably not explaining it well, but I find it very interesting when what we believe is different but our beliefs often come from similar emotional experiences. When I arrived at my atheism, I too felt an epiphany of sorts.

I'm not an anti religion atheist as I realize that for some people, religion gives comfort, structure and purpose. As long as one's religious beliefs do not harm others and do not fill one with inner conflict, I see no harm in it.

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Post by Barefoot Bree » Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:52 pm

Thanks, DMB!

Stealthsparx, your post reminded me of the part of my story I forgot, that which came in the years following.

I toyed as a teen with a few things - never beyond reading about them, though - including various aspects of the paranormal, reincarnation, ghosts, Indian mysticism (that's both kinds of "Indian" there: Buddhist India and Native American shamanism - anybody here read Carlos Castaneda?), etc. And after a few years, I came to this realization:

I don't have a mystical bone in my body.

I can confidently say, at 51 years old now, that I am incapable of believing in anything supernatural, mystical, or even spiritual. Any time I read stories about - oh, take ESP for example, I wanted to believe that it was possible, but any actual claims of it I was automatically skeptical and dismissive of. I'm afraid I'm reductionist in the extreme - I read stories like yours and think: you had a powerful emotional reaction to a combination of inputs, and kept getting that feeling, and the subsequent belief, reinforced. No god involved or even necessary.

That's what the word "spiritual" means to me: the emotional reaction/rush to certain concepts. And I don't trust emotions, particularly as a measure of truth. People seem to automatically assume that the stronger the emotion, the truer it or the underlying proposition is. Me, I'm almost the opposite: truth is cold and unemotional; if emotions are the only evidence or argument for something, then it's almost by definition false.

I'm rambling, shut me up.
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Post by BioBeing » Tue Aug 16, 2011 1:25 pm

My parents were not very religious - my Mum went to Church at Easter and my Dad was (I now know) atheist. Religion wasn't talked about at home. But, being English, we did have Christian services in school everyday. I got in trouble one year when I must have been about 9 or 10 for tearing the cover off my hymn book. I wasn't trying to be bad - I was just so fucking bored by the whole thing. It never made sense to me.

When I was maybe 12 I wanted to try and understand what it was all about. I got a bible, did some reading. Then declared myself atheist. But religion - specifically, why people believe in a story I consider to be no different to Santa Claus - has always fascinated me.

Moving to the US was an eye opener for me. People ask "What is your name and what church do you go to" in almost the same breath. George W. Bush got elected. I married a liberal Christian with a very fundy family. 9/11 happened. I've seen how religion can truly ruin everything. And yet people keep believing. Why?
"Theologians, Christian apologists, and New Age gurus have, for decades now, claimed scientific support for their beliefs. These claims are provably wrong, and scientists who work in the applicable fields know they are wrong. However, their unwillingness to engage in the very real war that exists between science and religion is handing victory to religion by default.” Victor Stenger

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Post by Sumerian » Tue Aug 16, 2011 1:33 pm

Unlike many, I cannot really point out any specific moment that caused me to deconvert.
Partially this is just due tome having a poor memory, I can't be sure I didn't make up memories later on as I read more about the Bible and religion in general.

Some of the things that bothered me, was the idea of the "Book of Life." It didn't make much sense at all for me, you were either going to heaven or not, but were still bound by the laws of the Bible.
Stories like Job never ceased to bother me, far from representing God as a benevolent being it put him in the light as a being who cared little for his creations. He seems to feel that replacing Lot's children with new children after they are killed was fine, that he wouldn't even notice the difference.

The verse stating he would not let a woman to teach or hold authority... when I live in the States and the class I had for Bible Studies, as well as many of the teachers I had in school were women.

That and I tried to reconcile my love fore science and Dinosaurs with what was laid out in the Bible and.. well... couldn't.

The moral teachings I was supposed to get from the Bible left me wanting, and I sought out other faiths and other moral systems.

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Post by stealthsparx » Wed Aug 17, 2011 1:38 am

[quote=""Wizofoz""]I'm different from a lot of vocal Atheists in that I have no heart rending deconversion story. My parents were not church goers, though my Father held theistic beliefs, but Religious belief was just kind of a background thing.

As a young child, I prayed and believed. Australian schools in those days had Scripture classes, and I guess it was just a usual, naive belief that if it was being taught in school, it must be true.

One day, the scripture teacher brought in a guest speaker who impressed us by playing the violin, delivered a sermon, then asked us to close our eyes and feel Jesus filling our hearts.

Stealth, I felt probably exactly what you describe as you epiphany-an ecstatic moment of joy.

But it was only a couple of years later, when I was about twelve, that I actually THOUGHT about what I had been taught and what I had felt.

The overwhelming flaw in the whole thing was simply the totally contradictory nature of various supernatural beliefs, and I quickly (I mean within minutes) simply worked out it was nothing but superstition.

I have had that feeling of extasy many times since, clearly not of supernatural origin (for example, all four times my Reserve Parachute opened after my Main had failed!).

Stealth, let me ask you this-Which came first. Your Epiphanic, ecstatic, emotional acceptance of the love of God, or your research based conclusion that Christianity, as opposed to all other Religious belief systems, was Historically and Scientifically justified?

Can you see how, if that is the order in which you experienced it, your attempts to reasearch the efficacy of belief would be hugely biased, and you would tend to accept arguments and evidence in support of that believ that you would never have accepted as the basis for establishing the truth of OTHER aspects of reality?[/quote]

The emotional revealtion did come first but all of the works I was reading from plato, seneca, aristole, works from confucious, persian poets, I cant remember them all..ithere were so long ago and so many, had already made me believe that something greater than our immediate sensous experience existed...The revelation sealed the deal for me.. I was in my mid twenties when this experience happened so I had already developed a decent level of criticism..

but I also think the same bias which u mention can be said about former believers who turm skeptics at an early age without truly having developed the proper critical mental equipment to direct them in a rationally objective as opposed to an emotionally subjective search about their faith...

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Post by Barefoot Bree » Wed Aug 17, 2011 2:55 am

[quote=""stealthsparx""]The emotional revealtion did come first but all of the works I was reading from plato, seneca, aristole, works from confucious, persian poets, I cant remember them all..ithere were so long ago and so many, had already made me believe that something greater than our immediate sensous experience existed...The revelation sealed the deal for me.. I was in my mid twenties when this experience happened so I had already developed a decent level of criticism..

but I also think the same bias which u mention can be said about former believers who turm skeptics at an early age without truly having developed the proper critical mental equipment to direct them in a rationally objective as opposed to an emotionally subjective search about their faith...[/quote]
Now you see, there you really lose the plot.

It's the skeptical, critical, rational, objective that turns the majority of us who deconvert into atheists, and it's the ones who hold onto their emotional ties, and privilege the emotional arguments above the rational ones, who remain believers.

I've read dozens, nay, hundreds of testimonies from believers, and snippets of many hundreds more. Every single time, when you manage to nail them down on why deep down they really, truly believe, the real, basic reasons are emotional, not rational. It's always the "feeling of God's presence and love" rather than the theological or epistomological or whatever other -ological arguments that do it.

There's a reason why so many church leaders of all stripes have agreed with Paul that "reason is the enemy of faith".
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Post by stealthsparx » Wed Aug 17, 2011 3:31 am

[quote=""sohy""]Stealth, you might enjoy reading Michael Shermer's book, How We Believe.

I'm reading it for the second time since I enjoyed it so much the first time and have forgotten most of it. :) This thread make me think of it because Shermer points out that both believers and non believers will often give almost the exact same reasons for their beliefs or lack of beliefs. For example, believers will look at the world and see god's touch in everything while non believers will look at the world and believe that the majesty of the physical world could never have been created by a god. I'm probably not explaining it well, but I find it very interesting when what we believe is different but our beliefs often come from similar emotional experiences. When I arrived at my atheism, I too felt an epiphany of sorts.

I'm not an anti religion atheist as I realize that for some people, religion gives comfort, structure and purpose. As long as one's religious beliefs do not harm others and do not fill one with inner conflict, I see no harm in it.[/quote]

thanks..thats also a great perspective to have.

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Post by stealthsparx » Wed Aug 17, 2011 3:46 am

[quote=""Barefoot Bree""]
stealthsparx;249463 wrote:The emotional revealtion did come first but all of the works I was reading from plato, seneca, aristole, works from confucious, persian poets, I cant remember them all..ithere were so long ago and so many, had already made me believe that something greater than our immediate sensous experience existed...The revelation sealed the deal for me.. I was in my mid twenties when this experience happened so I had already developed a decent level of criticism..

but I also think the same bias which u mention can be said about former believers who turm skeptics at an early age without truly having developed the proper critical mental equipment to direct them in a rationally objective as opposed to an emotionally subjective search about their faith...
Now you see, there you really lose the plot.

It's the skeptical, critical, rational, objective that turns the majority of us who deconvert into atheists, and it's the ones who hold onto their emotional ties, and privilege the emotional arguments above the rational ones, who remain believers.

I've read dozens, nay, hundreds of testimonies from believers, and snippets of many hundreds more. Every single time, when you manage to nail them down on why deep down they really, truly believe, the real, basic reasons are emotional, not rational. It's always the "feeling of God's presence and love" rather than the theological or epistomological or whatever other -ological arguments that do it.

There's a reason why so many church leaders of all stripes have agreed with Paul that "reason is the enemy of faith".[/QUOTE]

well im sure if we both can agree that even if we were to add up all the evidence for both sides of the issue, they will probably be enough objective evidence from both sides to make one arrive at any conclusion they see fit..in other words, regardless how you slice it, our objective appeals can only go so far..in the final analysis, its our intuitive desires which are rooted in our emotions that finalize our decision..complete rationality is nonexistent..at the end of the day, we have an attraction to something, whether idea or person or otherwise because it corresponds with a chemical or intuitive response thats innate in us

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Post by stealthsparx » Wed Aug 17, 2011 3:53 am

[quote=""stealthsparx""]
Barefoot Bree;249480 wrote:
stealthsparx;249463 wrote:The emotional revealtion did come first but all of the works I was reading from plato, seneca, aristole, works from confucious, persian poets, I cant remember them all..ithere were so long ago and so many, had already made me believe that something greater than our immediate sensous experience existed...The revelation sealed the deal for me.. I was in my mid twenties when this experience happened so I had already developed a decent level of criticism..

but I also think the same bias which u mention can be said about former believers who turm skeptics at an early age without truly having developed the proper critical mental equipment to direct them in a rationally objective as opposed to an emotionally subjective search about their faith...
Now you see, there you really lose the plot.

It's the skeptical, critical, rational, objective that turns the majority of us who deconvert into atheists, and it's the ones who hold onto their emotional ties, and privilege the emotional arguments above the rational ones, who remain believers.

I've read dozens, nay, hundreds of testimonies from believers, and snippets of many hundreds more. Every single time, when you manage to nail them down on why deep down they really, truly believe, the real, basic reasons are emotional, not rational. It's always the "feeling of God's presence and love" rather than the theological or epistomological or whatever other -ological arguments that do it.

There's a reason why so many church leaders of all stripes have agreed with Paul that "reason is the enemy of faith".
well im sure we both can agree that even if we were to add up all the evidence for both sides of the issue, they will probably be enough objective evidence from both sides to make one arrive at any conclusion they see fit..in other words, regardless how you slice it, our objective appeals can only go so far..in the final analysis, its our intuitive desires which are rooted in our emotions that finalize our decision..complete rationality is nonexistent..at the end of the day, we have an attraction to something, whether idea or person or otherwise because it corresponds with a chemical or intuitive response thats innate in us[/QUOTE]

I dont know if your last point can be possible since Paul himself using reason to explain the great plan of salvation to all the churches under his care in the new testament..so to with aquinas, tertullian, augustine, and many others..the list is endless

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Post by Barefoot Bree » Wed Aug 17, 2011 4:58 am

[quote=""stealthsparx""]well im sure we both can agree that even if we were to add up all the evidence for both sides of the issue, they will probably be enough objective evidence from both sides to make one arrive at any conclusion they see fit..in other words, regardless how you slice it, our objective appeals can only go so far..in the final analysis, its our intuitive desires which are rooted in our emotions that finalize our decision..complete rationality is nonexistent..at the end of the day, we have an attraction to something, whether idea or person or otherwise because it corresponds with a chemical or intuitive response thats innate in us[/quote]
You may be sure, but you are incorrect. I do NOT agree that there is any evidence at all for the existence of God, and neither would the vast majority of atheists. That's the whole point.

And your rambling about desires rooted in emotions only proves that you didn't really pay attention when reading our testimony in this very thread. Certainly not mine.
I dont know if your last point can be possible since Paul himself using reason to explain the great plan of salvation to all the churches under his care in the new testament..so to with aquinas, tertullian, augustine, and many others..the list is endless
I may have the source of that quote wrong; I can't seem to find it now. Somebody? Who said that "reason is the enemy of faith"?

But at any rate, we'd be here all week to argue whether Paul was using "reason" in anything approaching what we'd call it today.
There's no such thing as "political correctness". The phrase you're looking for is "Common Decency".
"Said" it? Sink me! She almost SANG it!

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Post by Rome » Wed Aug 17, 2011 5:57 am

This thread is awesome.

My deconversion was a slow fade from something that was never extreme. My parents are not very religious. Even today I am surprised at how skeptical and rational they really are. However, when I was little, they mentioned something about God, Jesus, Adam and Eve, the Flood, and Moses, as though they were checking it all off a list. I believed it all at first but never really paid it a whole lot of thought. We've also never been a churchgoing family. Sunday has basically been a second Saturday in my family's house. I did experiment at age eight and started going to my then-best friend's church for some months, but I stopped when, one day, they gave us gum, and I accidentally got the gum on my mother's van, which pissed her off, so I decided never to go back because they gave me the gum. This was a dumb reason, but I may have inadvertently saved myself from brainwashing as a result.

It was roughly at this same age that I began to accept scientific views of the universe over religious ones. It all started when we were given something like book free time in my second grade class. Everyone rushed to their favorite story book. I suppose I was too slow to get one of the fun books, so I stumbled across some little non-fiction books that actually taught things. The one book I kept coming back to was a little astronomy book filled with illustrations of the stars, galaxies, planets, and (most importantly) The Big Bang! These elementary-friendly pictures helped me learn that our universe actually exploded from a single point billions of years ago and that if God did create the world, he did it through this natural process and that the planet and humans are ultimately made of stardust, so the first step was realizing that the world didn't just pop up in six simple days. No teacher or parent taught me this. I just read and learned it at eight. The nature of stars and the cosmos interested me for the rest of my early childhood, and I decided that I wanted to be an astronomer when I grew up.

I owe my parents big for this because when I would ask them questions about galaxies and nebulae, they didn't try and resort to some "God does it" answer. They just said they didn't know. They never tried to instill religious discipline, despite my apparent, secular way of looking at the world. They did make sure I had good moral standings, however. The concepts of love and fairness were things they did instill in me with only the veil of Christianity, and as I entered middle school and began to ponder issues such as same sex marriage and abortion, I used the principles of love and fairness as a way to reason out how that these things aren't necessarily bad. I had no fear of doubting the morality of certain parts of the Bible.

As I entered my teen years, my skepticism grew. I quickly and easily called out fundamentalist practices as immoral when they interfered with personal liberty. I accepted evolution and denounced the Flood without pain. I also began to admit to myself that I didn't know God was real; I simply believed it. Interestingly, too, my love of astronomy fell to my intrigue in politics and government. Throughout high school, my beliefs became increasingly deistic. One by one, I stopped believing that Christ performed miracles, that he rose from the dead, that was conceived immaculately and that he was even God's son at all. The last thing I believed was that some sort of supernatural, benevolent being would judge us, not according to how we worshiped it, but according to how we treated others, existed. Then I just kept asking myself every day why I believed this, feeling less and less certain each time, until I stopped believing this last spring. That's how I became an atheist. It was an eleven-year process, but now I'm who I am. :cool:

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Post by David B » Wed Aug 17, 2011 10:53 am

I think I differ from most of the others in that I deconverted from Christianity to atheism at an early age, converted from an atheist position to a non-Christian position (which was not theist as the word seems generally understood by people in the middle eastern tradition, but became increasingly woo filled with the passing of time) and back again.

I think I'll cover this in 3 posts, the first of which will be the shortest and easiest to write, about my brief time as a Christian, and its end.

I was brought up in a household, after my grandfather died, with younger sisters, a Christian grandmother, and pretty much agnostic parents (though my father briefly toyed with Catholicism, being much taken with G K Chesterton in his 20s).

I was sent to a Baptist Sunday School, the pastor of the chapel (which was next door) being a genuinely kind and nice man, and an utterly convinced Christian, as far as I can tell.

When I was about 10, I started attending the morning services (alone - my grandmother was not very mobile), and became briefly worried about my parents spiritual welfare, as they did not attend.

This was short lived, and my atheist epiphany came when I heard a song, and realised for the first time that not everyone believed the bible. Then asked myself why I believed it, saw that some of it was pretty far fetched, and saw no good reason to continue believing.

The change was pretty much instantaneous, and painless.

The song?

(Not loaded: 9sZaxEC1Vho)
(View video on YouTube)

Lunch calls, and I shall consider how to best address part 2, which will follow within days, if not today.

David

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Post by David B » Thu Aug 18, 2011 8:04 am

Part 2a - retreat into religion, spirituality, woo, call it what you will.

A long story cut short, because I will present the bare bones, and flesh things out in response to any questions.

I think most adolescents go through a period of questioning the meaning of life, purpose, ethics and stuff, though it seems to affect some more than others.

I was no exception, and it seemed to me at the time that my atheism led inexorably towards nihilism, and I didn't like this at all.

In passing, I suspect that many thoughtful religious people hang onto their religions out of similar convictions, that without religion nothing matters, morality has no basis etc. They are wrong, of course, as was I, but I couldn't see past it at the time.

Anyway, I decided that life being meaningless anyway, I might as well spend it looking for the possibility that I was wrong about religion, checking things out to see if there were something I'd missed.

Not all the time, of course - I had friends, watched films, and read widely in all sorts of genres - but I did spend a lot of time pondering the mysteries of life, and among my reading were people like Watts and Kerouac, who gave me a first introduction to views of eastern religions, too. Hesse, too, and I even gave some sort of speculative credence to Castaneda and his ilk. I sought out books on Eastern religions, like Suzuki, and Christmas Humphries, and, a bit later if memory serves, The Tao of Physics, Huxley (Island and Doors of Perception) Ram Dass, Leary, The Tibetan Book of Dead. And Stranger in a Strange Land, which other people have mentioned, and the tosh of Richard Bach. Much else. I remember being somewhat disappointed when I found little non Christian in James's 'Varieties of Religious Experience'.

Often ideas tumbling around my mind late at night, trying meditation exercises picked up from books, trying to catch myself thinking ,trying to stop thinking, introspecting, seeking, rather Persig like (though I read ZATAOMM later) seeking for quality, for value.

To the point that at some point something happened, late at night, and I had my epiphany.

Hard to recapture to write about - it was years before a similar experience of similar intensity, so hard to recapture in the following weeks and months, but the memory of it stayed with me. A feeling of great oneness with everything, deep peace, deep love and compassion for people who had not shared this experience.

How to explain it? Dunno really, but my working hypothesis is that it was something to do with working my mind to such a pitch that it shut off, rather like people endlessly pondering Zen Koans, like the sound of one hand clapping, as an aid to such a shutdown and experience.

What to call it? Transcendental Experience? When I read of stealthsparx and GiA's accounts I suspect that it was something similar to theirs, but, my reading at the time being what it was, I interpreted it within a Buddhist context, rather than a Christian one. It was quite powerful. I babbled about it for weeks, and remember it yet. One of my teachers told me I was being manic, and in retrospect he was right.

Enough for now - part 2b to follow, perhaps tomorrow.

David

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