friends vs. doctrine

July 22, 2009 at 5:32 pm 35 comments

CL_bwI have read a lot of stories of people facing a terrible backlash from friends or family when leaving Christianity, or even just a particular church or ministry. Many feel, or actually are ostracized by those around them. I have been blessed that has not been my experience in the church at all. While in some ways I believe the doctrine of the church does not provide an adequate framework for dealing with issues of doubt and asking certain kinds of questions, I have never had cause to doubt the sincerity of friends of mine as they have sought to help me.

Last week we had dinner with a family who are among our closest friends from church. Despite the changes in beliefs that I have experienced, we enjoyed and benefited from our time together. As we were driving home I remarked to my wife that, “Friends are more important than doctrine.” Not that doctrines may never be relevant in friendships, but often doctrines are unneccesarily divisive. That should be a no-brainer for me, but it is something I am learning more lately.

I was freshly reminded of this lesson when I received the email below a couple of days later from the same friend:

To: J.
From: C.
Subject: did you catch me?

J., I hope you’re not quitting [blogging] on my account. C. found your blog (you might say randomly) last week as she was looking for back yard bible club info. I sat down tonight and read most of it, except for your June posts. If you are uncomfortable with me looking at it I will stop. If you feel or think you cannot be blunt or honest because one of your conservative christian friends may read it and be offended I can stop reading. You have not offended me. I am sad of course. I understand your need to express what you are thinking and feeling and blog world seems like a good place to do that.

In the beginning of all this (beginning for me) it was a bit shocking. I don’t know if I know many people that have so clearly deconverted. Of course I wouldn’t want you to be someone you are not or believe something for the sake of those around you. It’s o.k. to be you J. I’ll still love you. I’m still going to pray for you and C. If I ask you corny or seemingly shallow questions about when was the last time you were at church it’s not so I can notch it on the wall and pray that somehow you make it to another service. We obviously differ at many levels and on many points but we can still interact right? I’m looking forward to Wednesday when we can talk about what we can talk about. Does that make sense? Again, if you want me to get off your blog, I will. I’ll understand. I might even still buy you bkfst. C.

I told him, “yes,” he could continue to read, as long as he is willing to comment from time to time, call me on the carpet if needed. It’s worth the trade off for me, sacrificing the relative freedom of writing in anonymity to be able to live a less anonymous life. And how could I say no to an offer like that anyway? ;^) I have a lot to be thankful for; I can’t imagine a more understanding or gracious message.


Entry filed under: church, friendships.

hello folks vacation

35 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mike aka MonolithTMA  |  July 22, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    What a wonderful response! My friends have been great too! I’m happy for you!

  • 2. Brian  |  July 22, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    I haven’t told my church friends what I believe now (or what I don’t believe anymore). I’ve got some tips from this blog. I want to be honest and I still want to be seen as a friend. I have been a “doubter” almost all my live, but only untill two years ago I came to the conclusion that I am an athiest.

    I am kind of worried about my friends reaction.

  • 3. The Jesting Fool  |  July 23, 2009 at 12:33 am

    Personally, I am happy for friends and family who are at least somewhat sympathetic to my unbelief. After a long, drawn-out silence on my part, more and more people (my parents, for instance) are just now starting to get the whole story.

    I’ve had some crazier reactions, but for the most part the friends and family that know about my lack of faith are very reasonable with me. And for that I am thankful.

    ATTR, I’m glad you have sincere friends who want to be a part of your life even in your departure from the faith. And Brian, I really hope you can find friends who are willing to listen to you and will react in a mature way.

  • 4. Sabio Lantz  |  July 23, 2009 at 7:02 am

    What is that a picture of?

  • 5. wowy  |  July 23, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    I’m having really good, genuinely loving and interesting&stimulating reactions from friends and family, too, with respect to my state of doubt.

    However, on blogs and in one case in person, I’ve heard some horrible stories, too.

    I wonder, if the good reactions outweigh the bad reactions but possibly the latter get talked about more (because they hurt so badly or because they reflect so strangely on faith itself).

    P.S.: I also think that faith is a very “existential” issue for both believers and ex-believers. And it’s not easy for any of us to stay “cool” and to separate friendship from doctrine. We’re not heroes who can easily stay sober regarding such a vital concern of ours as faith. Separating doctrine and friendship is a difficult task. Nevertheless, doing so remains a wonderful and beautiful and valuable goal…

  • 6. Quixie  |  July 24, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Martin Buber put his faith in a god of relationships. ‘Alles Leben ist Begegnung’ (‘all life is encounter’), he said.
    Between doctrine and relationship, I think the latter is infinitely more valuable, as it is the essence and spark of ‘revelation’. From relationship flows ethical action. Laws, rules and doctrines are doomed to inadequacy, as they are but feeble attempts to capture what we learn in our daily encounters.

    Some Christians (and Jews and Moslems, etc) get this.
    Some don’t.
    I call these the ‘word worshipers‘, and I’d rather go fishing or do something other than talk to them about religion. Funny, but it is often the ‘religionist’ who doesn’t see the poem for the words sometimes.


  • 7. christian  |  July 24, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Brian, I’ve learned some interesting things from ATTR as well. As a christian it has been very eye opening to see at least in part what it is like “relationally” to step away from Christianity. I have a friend who deconverted and for awhile I simply made no attempt to pursue him. I didn’t want to make things worse. By rejecting Christianity you reject to some degree a part of your friends that is very important to them. It hurts. Some will not tolerate it and consider you a “lost” cause. It’s really their loss. Many just don’t know how to respond. In the 25 years I’ve been a Christian I never had a “how to relate to an exchristian” class. To many of us you become a project. I’m sure you’ll get the occasional mid week sermon in the electronics section at wal mart. Of course if you’re buying electronics at wal mart you may need some preaching.:) Maybe you could write down how you feel, what your thinking etc, and give it to your friends and let them chew on it. This lets you write everything without being interrupted by defense arguments and it allows time for your friends to mull it over and respond in a thoughtful way (not so emotional). christian

  • 8. Temaskian  |  July 25, 2009 at 12:05 am

    It’s always good to have friends, Christian or otherwise. So congrats on finding someone who’s hopefully able to accept you as you are. And maybe you aren’t that different. We’re all just humans, after all, when all’s said and done.

    Just hope that you can post as freely as you have in the past. If it were me, I doubt I would be able to. Hey, but that’s just me.

    I too, have some Christian friends whom I hope I may be able to connect with in future. Maybe I can even convert them to my point of view, or else we can just bury the differences and have a swell time anyway.

  • 9. Sabio Lantz  |  July 25, 2009 at 7:31 am

    4 years ago my son took me aside so he 3 year-old sister could not hear and said, “Dad, Santa isn’t real, is he?” He knew my daughter still got a lot out of Santa. Likewise, being an ex-vegetarian, I have heard the confessions of ex-vegetarians who weigh their words depending on the audience.

    It is hard to leave the fold and keep friends. ATTR is fortunate to know people like christian who just also happen to be Christian. Being human comes before being religious (or non-religious) — some religious folks understand this and so do some non-believers.

    ATTR – I am still curious about the rock climber.

  • 10. Sabio Lantz  |  July 25, 2009 at 7:56 am

    Another thought. Let me be overly simple and categorize Christian friends of apostates into 3 large categories. I am curious if “C” agrees with these categories and to which he views himself belonging and if he sees members of his church belonging to others. I wonder if he will confess his view of the plight of ATTR’s soul.

    (1) Whole Package Believers
    Christians who truly (wholeheartedly) believe non-believing friends will be tortured in Hell (or at least suffer in in separation from God) for all of eternity. A “real” friend would then persist in trying to reconvert his friend in one of three ways (or some combination):
    (1a) Some will do it by appearing understanding and waiting for that chance to witness as the Spirit leads them.
    (1b) Some may even (never outright admitting to themselves) hope for disaster to hit his apostates friend so they can again point them to the truth when they are vulnerable and needing God.
    (1c) Some may be in your face about it whenever they can — this is their way of showing they love you.

    (2) Cafeteria Believers
    True friends may start to realize (or always did feel) that they never did really believe that all non-believers are going to hell or suffer for eternity. The cognitive dissonance of having a good friend leave the faith makes them hope that it is all in God’s hand and their friend is truly OK and he is in no threat of hell. Many of these Christians never did buy the whole package of Christianity. Their deconverting friends help them to see that.

    (3) Apathetics
    They really don’t think about it. They just avoid the uncomfortable situation of being around the apostate.

    Friends who always hope you change can not be real, close friends? This is why, after deconverting, though some believers may be patient and thoughtful but eventually they fade away. For either one of you (or both of you) become exhausted, or the common activities and conversations are gone for too long.

  • 11. The Woeful Budgie  |  July 26, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    “Friends are more important than doctrine.” … That should be a no-brainer for me, but it is something I am learning more lately.

    Indeed. A few years back, when I was beginning what I now know to be my deconversion process, I ran across Real Live Preacher’s take on the story of the anointing at Bethany. It’s worth reading if you get a chance, but the main thrust of it was that “Jesus would never sacrifice even one small person on the high altar of principle.” Made me realize I’d had it backwards, and that I’d hurt a lot of people while feeling pretty fucking righteous about it.

    It’s good that your friend—well, most of your friends, from the sound of it—seem to already have that lesson down. It speaks well of them, and I’m glad for you.

  • 12. C  |  July 26, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Thanks for the question Sabio, I’d be happy to offer my opinion. I’m a bit of a blabber so I’ll try to keep it concise. Do I Believe ATTR is going to hell? By his own confession, according to the Bible, if he were to die today, yes. IS he going to hell? I don’t know. I don’t know his heart, nor do I understand all the mysteries of God.
    I hope not to be apathetic, at least with ATTR. I confess to a degree of apathy towards most of the world since I have a family and job and books to read (or at least stack on my night stand); I’m busy.
    His deconversion has not changed my idea or understanding of the Bible’s parameters of salvation.
    Here I am in your number 1 whole package believer. So now how do I relate? Do I come across as sympathetic and understanding only waiting and praying under my breath for an opportunity to lunge in and witness? That’s funny. I’m sure it does happen this way. Do I hope for disaster? Hmmmm…. temporary disaster or eternal disaster? Is there a guarantee the disaster would bring him back to the Lord? Do I pray for disaster, of course not. I am praying for him though.
    Do I, or will I try to convince him the Bible is true? Definitely. Wouldn’t you? Don’t you try to convince your Christian friends that the Bible isn’t true? Don’t we all try to convince each other in little ways or big about what we believe in (i.e. environmentalism, vegetarianism, politics etc)? It is how we show we really care about them. My “secret plan” is to love him. How does that look? Listening and talking through the issues without getting defensive, dogmatic, preachy or afraid. Be there when they need help. Help move furniture, babysit the kids (and indoctrinate them ;)), share a meal etc. Why? Because I am trying to convert him? No, because he is my friend.
    I didn’t write the Bible, I don’t like everything it says but I can’t deny it. I wish it said “Everyone born of a mother and father, or from a donor, or cloned or anything else will be brought to heaven no matter what they believed or how they lived.” I don’t think it says that. Please remember also that this is not my judgment. I am not pointing the finger at him saying “He deserves hell”. If the Bible is true and he has not lived up to it’s standards then he could condemn himself with no help from me. It’s his choice, though I am going to try and influence that choice.
    Is it possible to have a meaningful friendship and be in such completely different camps? Of course. If not then how could Christopher Hitchens and William Lane Craig go out for coffee after a debate over whether God exists? How could Phillip Johnson and William Provine be friends when their theories of creation and evolution are diametrically opposed to one another? These men call themselves friends so why can’t ATTR and I? C

  • 13. Sabio Lantz  |  July 26, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    @ C. Thank you for the honest answers
    For being a #1 (and a combo of a, b, and c), you sound like an alright guy ! (smile) May I make a few responses:

    1. Books
    If all those books on your shelf are Christian books, why not you and ATTR share an atheist-book reading club, where bimonthly you together read something non-Christian (heck even a good Buddhist book would count too). Invite one other non-believer too. Keep the numbers even though. (smile)

    2. Convincing out of Love
    You said,

    Don’t we all try to convince each other in little ways or big about what we believe in (i.e. environmentalism, vegetarianism, politics etc)? It is how we show we really care about them.

    No, I don’t bug no non-believer friends, and I have lots of them. I leave alone my vegetarian friends (I am an ex-vegeatrian) and my liberal friends (I am an ex-liberal) and my save-Mother-Earth friends. I let them have their beliefs — I eat their delicious vegetarian meals and cook veggie for them when they come over. At big parties with all liberals, I am respectfully quiet when I know it will cause trouble. Changing my friends beliefs is is NOT how I show I care. I show I care by talking about everything BUT, that. Once we established that we held different opinions, and that they did not care to talk about my opinion, we have lots more to talk about and lots more to do. But then I don’t believe they will burn for eternity for their beliefs. Well, sometimes I may wish it ! (smile)

    3. Bible as a Whole
    You said,

    If the Bible is true and he has not lived up to it’s standards then he could condemn himself with no help from me.

    Your bible is made of many different manuscripts which a favored orthodoxy over centuries decided to call sacred. The authors of these texts (and several texts had several authors) did not coordinate their messages and there was no spook (or spirit) manipulating (guiding) their “pens”. Instead in all those manuscripts ranging over centuries there are very different views. Some Tanakh (OT) stuff has no life after death, some stuff points to salvation by good deeds, some by good heart and some by right ideas (Paul). This is one of the main reasons (all these various ideas) that we have so many Christian sects and Jewish sects who value the same anthology. So we could easily find stuff in there that says ATTR is just fine. The bible does not say what your pastor thinks it says lots of different things. I know you don’t believe that but I just had to say it.

    4. Universalism vs. Pluralism
    You said,

    I wish it said “Everyone born of a mother and father, or from a donor, or cloned or anything else will be brought to heaven no matter what they believed or how they lived.”

    That is the universalist’s position. There are pluralists who believe in the afterlife but believe that their god welcomes all to live with him for eternity with a right heart (which only god can see) and right action (as a sign of the right heart). There are many Christians that are pluralists. If you convert from your fundamentalism, you could be find yourself still sincerely loving ATTR without waiting to convert him or his kids, and without a need to love because you are commanded to, but because it is good.

    5. Persistent Influence
    You said,

    It’s his choice, though I am going to try and influence that choice.

    Good luck to both of you while that plays itself out over the years. I hope, as I wrote, your friendship does not fade for the usual reason in these situations: exhaustion or lack of real sharing.

    Again, thanks for your honesty — you sound like a great chap, minus the fundie stuff !

    — Sabio

  • 14. Quixie  |  July 27, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    friend C

    Having been alive during the twentieth and twenty-first century in the “west”, I think I have a pretty good understanding of what YOU mean by the word ‘hell’.

    Something like: A place of unprecedented anguish and continuous inescapable suffering where the wicked justly go after they die, as a kind of payment for their sins and/or disbelief.

    You take no responsibility for condemning anyone to such a fate (I don’t blame you; who consciously would?) and your take on it is basically: ‘ Hey, I didn’t write the Bible, I just follow what it says!, which is all good, but. doing this, you intimate that there is a clear “biblical” viewpoint on hell-and-how-one-goes-there. (pardon my German :)

    I, however, don’t think the concept “biblical.”

    In all, I count fifty-four places in the King James version where the word “hell” shows up.

    The first thirty-one occurrences are in the Hebrew scriptures and are translated from the Hebrew word “Sheol.”
    Without going into too much detail, the concept of Sheol, though it is related in a sense, is not synonymous with our picture of hell. Sheol was not a place of punishment per çe— the wicked and the just are both contained in that kind of underworld scheme. Far from fire and the eternal personal anguish of our concept of hell, the images conjured by sheol are more like cold and dark and quiet dust returning to dust.

    You know. Death. :)

    Then the author of the gospel we know as Mark’s comes along and says (ch 9: 43–47 —three instances of “hell” in a row in KJV—twenty left) that Jesus said: Hey, listen up, people! Y’all better stop all of this thinking that’s making you wretched. All of those besetting sins, those base tendencies and compulsions, be it lust (eye), or greed and avarice (hand and foot). . . .all that thinking and behavior that turns us into adulterers and thieves . . . cut that stuff out. If you don’t, you’ll wind up in Gehenna (KJV uses same word, “hell”).

    OK. So what;s Gehenna?

    Gehenna started out as an actual place, it was a place so defiled in history that it was eventually turned into a huge garbage dump. A place of shame. To wind up in Gehenna was a metaphor about shame in burial. It’s a metaphor for utter ruin and desolation.
    The arabic formof Gehenna went on to mean a hell-like concept later in the Quran, but is this connection there in the NT? Exegesis is allowed, midrash. But nothing is as explicit as a “biblical” viewpoint.

    Matthew loved the concept and started loading the term with eternities and condemnations, In a couple of places, he slips (the author) and uses the Hellenistic term “Hades” in place of “Gehenna.” Hades is roughly analogous to Sheol, but Matthew’s Gehenna is a new concept.

    By the time the author of Luke writes his gospel, the terms are used interchangeably. Hades—Gehenna.

    After this, there is a preference for the term “Hades” in the NT. (One notable exception is that of 2ndPet, where the term Tartarus is translated as “hell”, but this is just an extension of the Hades concept. )

    There IS NO SUCH THING as a “biblical” hell, unless by this you mean the implications to you in your mind of a bunch of desultory contradictory ancient fragments and traditions that you have to harmonize so that they look like they make any sense at all.
    The understanding of “hell” that we have is a far cry from what the Christian scriptures implicitly or explicitly state about history or salvation

    I have no reason to believe that the Christian Scriptures are any kind of mandate, and so I simply don’t. But even if I allowed them to be a mandate, the concept of hell is obviously a later extrapolation-cum-tradition which we now harbor as a cultural meme.

    While you are right in not taking responsibility for the relegation of souls into this imagined state, I would also suggest that you free your self from the notion that the scriptures you place so much faith on say anything more than what you have been conditioned to think they do regarding these matters.

    thanks for reading . . .


  • 15. c is for christian  |  July 27, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    You can call me christian, most people do. Sabio, thanks for your response. I like your book idea. Yeah, most books on my shelf are of the Christian variety. I have this nagging compulsion to read material that reinforces my world view. Open up a little, get crazy, meet an atheist author and see what he/she has to say. I’m o.k. with that. You’re right it would be a good place to dialogue with ATTR.
    I still see convincing out of love differently. I was thinking about that today as I was giving my wife the reasons chocolate chip ice cream is the best. If I knew ATTR only a little, I too would probably keep my mouth shut and try to make the most of our relationship. But we’re more than just acquaintances so I feel at liberty to discuss our differences and attempt in a kind way to challenge his thinking. Every time I see him? Probably not. It would get old I think. If ATTR tells me he doesn’t want to talk about it, maybe afraid I would persuade him ;) then I’ll stop talking about it, at least deliberately. It’s hard not to talk about something or someone you love. I can just hear the oh brother I want to puke. :) Go ahead, you guys throw up and then come on back.
    I just read O’ O_ O^ O* O” post. How do you get that little line on top, I’m no computer guru. Quixie, this is great! Here I am, a Christian for most of my life and rarely challenged on topics so basic to my faith. I don’t have an answer to all that you said, not that you were looking for one. I won’t tell you with my fingers in my ears “la la la la la la la, I can’t hear you, I just believe.” Growing up in a Christian home and going to church one’s whole life can put one in cruise control. You hear the same things over and over and take them for granted. Q flipped and Sabio, you have challenged my brain, and for that I am grateful. I will look into these things so that I can have an educated belief not just a “programmed” one.
    So thanks, Christian

  • 16. Lorena  |  July 28, 2009 at 1:20 am

    OK, I’m just going to be me and say what I’m thinking.

    First, you say they don’t know you’re doubting, so what’s the merit of their friendship if they still think you’re on board?

    Second, they do know you’re having doubts. Your wife told their wives “in confidence,” and the women told their husbands. That’s how it works. So, in my view, they’re just buttering you up.

    Third, I think the merit is all yours, for being such a nice guy as to be able to hang out with people whose views you don’t necessarily agree with.

    Forth, if you can stand them–as it appears you do–then stick around. Many Christians are great people, fun to hang out with. There is no need to disown folks we like over a slight disagreement of faith. Leave it to fundamentalists to do that.

  • 17. Sabio Lantz  |  July 28, 2009 at 5:22 am


    Good luck with all that ! I’ll be curious to hear what books you both choose.

    I have met many devote Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists who were raised in their traditions, intellectuals and incredibly kind (all going to hell in your world, of course). But they too would read mostly in their faith. They had no reason to change because their faith served them, their families and friends very well. But then, in all three of those faiths, they could interact with me without trying to change me, because they did not believe I was going to burn for eternity.

    In your religion it is not only the chocolate chips you like, it is also the avoidance of a very angry, torturous god.

    This weekend I spent 2 hours in a coffee-shop with intention to read but ran into two acquaintances. We talked solid. They were Christian and they knew I wasn’t. Yet we talked about their Churches, we even talked theology with my asking innocent probing questions to hear their thoughts without challenging — one was episcopal (now Anglican) and the other Catholic (converted from Evangelical because he loves Church history). During all the conversations, they never once asked what I believe or what I thought. But I did not expect them to, they never do. Since they assume I am wrong, they have nothing to learn from me. And though they knew I was a former fervent Christian, they kept chatting as if I still needed to hear the gospel and hear their witness. These guys will never stay more than acquaintances. Nice as they are, I can only handle such chats once every month or so.

    It sounds like ATTR is fortunate to have you has a friend, but even more so the other way. It is unusual to have a friend who can see outside his cultural trappings and yet still embrace those who don’t. You will learn much from him. If you are open, it will change your Christianity without the need of giving it up. If you can listen. Remember, he has already listened for decades. He knows about the chocolate chips.

  • 18. atimetorend  |  July 28, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Thanks all for the comments about relating. Quixie, thanks for the exposition on the biblical concept of hell. While there are a lot of things scholarship has to say about what an “orthodox” reading of the bible means, those revolving around hell are especially important as they define evangelicalism and the exclusivity of the religion to a large degree.

    As far as ways to honestly read the bible without giving up faith, I have put an older post back up, “God’s Word…” (I had made it private for a while), as it involves how we read the bible, and how Christians can incorporate modern scholarly study of the bible into their faith without giving it up.

    Lorena, pretty much any friend I talk to in any depth knows to some degree what I believe and don’t believe, but I’m sure I said something to that effect at some point. I don’t feel like I have been “buttered up” for conversations I’ve had, well a couple, but not the rest. Thanks for your comments, I appreciated your latest post about enjoying your time with Christian family. It is best when we can get along like that.

    Christian, I don’t have any atheist authors in mind, but maybe a couple more radical Christian ones if you’re interested. ;^)

  • 19. JD Curtis  |  July 30, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    I believe the doctrine of the church does not provide an adequate framework for dealing with issues of doubt and asking certain kinds of questions

    More specifically, not many ministers, priests or pastors are well trained in apologetics. Far too often they are in a position in which they are, quite literally, preaching to the choir and seldom if ever are they asked a probing question concerning the reasons for their faith. If you or anybody is looking for real answers to life’s tough questions, I recommend William Lane Craig’s site, . It’s no use asking alot of congregants or ministers who arent schooled in these sorts of things because they accept the premise of the existence of God through upbringing or without questioning it and really arent prepared to answer.

  • 20. atimetorend  |  July 30, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    JD, thanks for the comment and the link. You make a good point about what people are trained to do, and I believe it is unfair to ask those without training to do something they are not prepared for. And it is unreasonable to expect people to hold PhD’s or MDiv’s before they are justified in having faith.

    I’ll be honest, I find most of the apologetics I have read to be of little use. I think apologists like William Lane Craig, while certainly having thought through the apologetics to a greater depth than I’ll ever have the education to track with, are using them in support of positions they already hold for other reasons. For example, my understanding of WLC’s position is that he feels he believes because of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit in his life. His arguments like the cosmological argument well-reasoned logical possibilities, but people do not come to believe because of those reasons.

    At the end of the day, I think really good Christian apologetics provide logical possibilities if one wants to find intellectual support for their faith. However, I don’t think the apologetics I have read (including William Lane Craig) provide explainations/arguments that are persuasive as being *likely*. In other words, they generally provide very complicated and unlikely logical possibilities where logical and highly probable natural explainations exist which do not depend on the bible being true. I don’t want to reduce our beliefs to exclusively a scientific process of weighing possibilities, but when presenting evidence, as is the job of apologists (at least non-presuppositional apologists), that is essentially the process they are promoting.

  • 21. atimetorend  |  July 30, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    late comment…

    “I ran across Real Live Preacher’s take on the story of the anointing at Bethany. It’s worth reading if you get a chance, but the main thrust of it was that “Jesus would never sacrifice even one small person on the high altar of principle.” Made me realize I’d had it backwards…”

    Read the story (love real live preacher). That is a great point he makes and a lovely spin on that story of Jesus. And a reminder for me not to throw the baby out with fundamentalist bathwater. It is beautiful when a story can be a story, and does not have to be a proof that something is historically true.

  • 22. Sabio  |  July 30, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    I found Real Live Preacher but where is the story of which thou speakest?

  • 23. atimetorend  |  July 30, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Sabio, as per Woeful Budgie (comment #11):

  • 24. JD Curtis  |  July 30, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    they generally provide very complicated and unlikely logical possibilities where logical and highly probable natural explainations exist which do not depend on the bible being true.

    I think that sometimes, such answers given by WLC and a few others tend to reach a certain segment of highly educated skeptics and leaves the typical intellectual wannabe stammering about “sky gods” in the dust and doesnt really help them understand all that well.

    2 other sources that have come across recently that are a little more basic are Greg Bahnsen (there is a good series on you-tube about defending the Christian faith) and Dinesh D’Souza’s book What’s So Great About Christianity? which was EXCELLENTLY written for the scholar and layman alike.

  • 25. atimetorend  |  July 30, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    I’ll be honest, I don’t care too much for apologetics, theist or secular.

    “Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons.” Michael Shermer

    Anybody can find apologists to support what they want to believe, Christian/secular, Republican/Democrat, liberal/conservative, vegetarian/omnivore, Allis-Chalmers/Massey Ferguson (yes, I grew up in tractor country). Anyone can find counter-apologists to refute the apologists they don’t care for.

    A problem with Christian apologists *tends* to be that they are committed to their position before attempting their arguments. Of course that is not just Christian apologists. Bahnsen would be an extreme example of that though, where that is his stated line of reasoning, to work from an unchangable presupposition.

    There is a great article on William Lane Craig here:
    …in which the author makes the point that:

    “All these complicated philosophical arguments are just post hoc justification: Christians found their conclusion first, and then looked for justification, content to find whatever seemed to support their cherished personal beliefs. (This process is a nearly unavoidable fact of human psychology called confirmation bias, not exclusive to theists.)”

    Again, as the author points out, this method of defending claims is not exclusive to theists, everyone does it. As for the others you noted, I have learned things from them, I have also learned things from seeing their claims refuted by others. My approach to any apologetic is to learn from what they say, but to be extremely wary of being swayed by their arguments emotionally.

  • 26. Sabio Lantz  |  July 30, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    @ attr
    Indeed, indeed.
    Rationalizations skills soar with years of education. The ability to really question things which are held tightly then actually seem to go down. Theist, Atheist, Buddhist, Secularist — we are all the same.

  • 27. Sabio Lantz  |  July 30, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    @ attr & twb

    I just read the “Real Live Preacher” (RLP) sermon.
    Thing is, using Jesus in stories touches the heart strings of people raised Christian or those committed. But when you think about how the stories are constructed, they have a different feel.

    RLP has the speaker say of Jesus that “…he would never sacrifice even one small person on the high altar of principle”.
    Yet Jesus is suppose to be one with the father Yawheh who demanded the sacrifice of first born children and the slaughter of pregnant women.

    Remember, this is the Jesus that tells people to leave their families.

    Sweet stories about Jesus may be touching, but using Jesus to do your bidding (cute or horrible) are a dime a dozen in churches. Sure, they stir your heart strings but only because you were raised with this stuff. Kids in India are stirred by stories of Krishna that you’d find laughable, kids in Japan are inspired by stories of the Buddha’s reincarnations that you’d find ridiculous.

    Bart Ehrman has described well how Christians read the four gospels like they are one story, blur them together in their head and then just remember their favorite parts. But then, that is what we do with our own lives too, isn’t it.

    OK, I get the soft mushy stuff, but this is not a novel — people believe this stuff and use it to condemn others to hell. We need to take the sacredness out of this stuff so it can’t be used like that.

  • 28. JD Curtis  |  July 30, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    The ability to really question things which are held tightly then actually seem to go down. Theist, Atheist, Buddhist, Secularist — we are all the same.

    I once read that your typical atheist arrives at their viewpoint in their late teens, early 20’s and then spends the rest of their lives trying to defend that position. All I know is that a great number of other positions I adhered to back then are different now.

  • 29. The Woeful Budgie  |  July 30, 2009 at 11:42 pm


    Oh, no, I totally get that there’s some truly horrific stuff in the Bible there among the nice Hallmark card moments…even in the teachings of Jesus. That’s part of why I ended up leaving Christianity (to oversimplify things drastically). But I had been raised Christian, and back when I first read this, I was committed. I doubt I would have taken the core lesson to heart—namely, that people are more important than principles—had it not been all tarted up with Jesus-speak. I know that sounds stupid, but I’d been pretty heavily programmed to distrust messages that came from outside the church. But I knew this Gospel story already, and hearing this particular take on it caused me to rethink some of the horrible things I had been believing and using to condemn others to hell. It wasn’t an overnight thing, but it was one more step along the way to rethinking my religion altogether and finding it wanting.

    Baby steps, yo. ;)

  • 30. atimetorend  |  July 31, 2009 at 9:48 am

    @ Sabio: Agree with your sentiments to the degree that presenting a softer side can be used as justification for promoting the harsher messages. “Just believe this softer side, and you will later buy into the whole message.” Disagree because the process of reshaping our stories as times change can be a good thing IMO.

    @ JD: “I once read that your typical atheist arrives at their viewpoint in their late teens, early 20’s and then spends the rest of their lives trying to defend that position. All I know is that a great number of other positions I adhered to back then are different now.”
    Agree. I think the same could be said of theists, and of course there are vast numbers of people who change their beliefs that do not fit in the majority scenarios.

  • 31. Sabio Lantz  |  July 31, 2009 at 10:34 am

    @ attr : yeah, probably stated it too strong, it is just that I did not find the story moving given all the other things I know Jesus is made to say (or prob. actually said) in the NT.

    Concerning your comment to JD: I think that dualism (spirit-thoughts) is a natural human cognitive illusion. Thus when someone takes a non-theist stance, they defend it their whole life if they are surrounded by those who still buy in. For part of us will always intuit spirits. They are like optical illusions — even if you are told it is an illusion, you still can’t help but see it.
    Ah the curse of having a human mind.

  • 32. atimetorend  |  July 31, 2009 at 10:47 am

    “I did not find the story moving given all the other things I know Jesus is made to say (or prob. actually said) in the NT.”

    That is generally my initial reaction as well, and I can easily state my feelings too strongly then. By not “throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” I mean that I am trying not to do that in order to appreciate and glean from what is good.

  • 33. tysdaddy  |  August 1, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    This is quite a post, and the comments are equally poignant.

    When I “deconverted” from the church, I did so at a distance from many of my Category #1 Christian friends; we had moved and kept in touch sporadically. My wife, still a believer, confided in a spouse of a friend concerning my doubts, and a firestorm of correspondence was unleashed. “Friends” I hadn’t heard from in a long time were suddenly very concerned about my apostasy, and told me so in very clear terms. “Turn or burn” was the consistent message. I have on my HD over 100 pages worth of emails in which I poured out my heard, mostly upon deaf ears. I would have loved to have a friend like yours around during those days . . .

  • 34. A Free Man  |  August 13, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    Thanks for your visit to my site and your comments. You’ve got a really intriguing blog here. I left Christianity almost 20 years ago now, but I’ve sort of come full circle in that I’m looking for something spiritual and have thought that it may come from the right church. I don’t know. At any rate, I’ll be back to read more.

  • 35. Anoat Ozzel  |  August 15, 2009 at 7:26 am

    Good Morning ATTR,

    It’s interesting, for me, how different all of our ‘conversion’ stories are. A testament to the varied, yet similar paths of humans. My atheist conversion was slow and only recently complete. Like Sabio, I feel that my Atheism is more likened to droplets of oil floating on water. This occurred over a 30+ years of trying to squeeze into other pre-formed molds, like Christianity, Taoism and Buddhism. But, I do not doubt my foundations are deeply rooted in Judeo-Christian morals, ethics and neo-Greek law.

    Most of the people who know me or grew up with me are not surprised when I explain to them I’m an Atheist. It’s almost like my current beliefs re-affirmed what they new along, sorta like how you can tell if someone is on fire with the Holy Spirit-there can be an unmistakable twinkle in their eye! (smiling) I hope that people assume I’m Atheist because I come across clearly, coherently with an open mind, not because any particular fervor or dogmatic rhetoric.


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