Thursday, September 20, 2007

My Deconversion Story – In Which we Learn that Casey Sometimes Strikes Out

Our church joined inter-church sports. Leagues, with uniforms and rosters and brackets and eventual championship tournaments at the end of the season. I don’t know how familiar you are with inter-church sports, but imagine a typical city league. Only with prayer right before the bloodbath began.

We had rivalries as fierce as can be imagined. (And yes, Sunday Morning announcements or the church bulletin would likely include a mention of scores of certain games.) We had fights. Suspensions. Vicious games in which umpires and referees were forced to tell spectators to leave.

All in the spirit of good “Christian fun.” We couldn’t help it if the other team needed to be “informed” once in a while. We were simply admonishing and “encouraging” our fellow Christians to be better people. They needed to learn to lose. Teach ‘em some humility.

Our church concentrated on softball. We had a Class “A” Men’s team, a Class “B” Men’s team, and a Women’s Team. On more than one occasion our “A” Team played the “B” Team for the championship. Our Women’s Team was considered the one to beat during the season (although they could never quite seem to win the Championship.)

In my early Twenties, for some inexplicable reason since I totally stink at softball, I tried out for the Men’s Team. It was immediately evident that I would not be making the “A” Team. By the end of the first practice, it was equally evident I would be spending most (if not all) of my time warming the bench for the “B” Team. Perhaps if my church had enough players for a “C,” “D” and “E” team, I would have a shot at some at-bats! However, they needed a coach for the Women’s Team. Realizing it would be better to be involved than sit like a lump, I volunteered. (Once again proving the adage—“Those who can’t; teach.”)

They didn’t really need a coach. They knew (and played) their positions better than I. They switched around my proposed batting order as they saw fit. All I did was shout and pretend to look like I was in charge of something. Occasionally they took my directions to boost my ego. And we started beating the other teams. Bad. Our league had a skunk rule of ending the game after the 5th inning if you were leading the other team by 15 points. We tried to get to skunk as quickly as possible, and then run up the score.

We yelled at the other teams. Screamed at the horrible calls of the umpires. Chattered, mocked, laughed, cat-called, and had a wonderful time. For us. Because this is what Church Softball was like. It was the way it had always been played. It was the way the other teams played us.

After a typical performance by our crew, mostly me--including the attitude, ridicule, complaints and generally poor display of humanity while trouncing the enemy…er…”opponent,”--some players from the other team approached me.

Players: Can we ask you something?
Me: Sure. [Hey, it was after the game. Now we all put back on our “We-are-in-this-together.” After destroying them, they were no longer “the enemy.”]

Players: Are you a Christian?

If they had struck me in the stomach with a bat at full swing, I could not have received a greater surprise. As I type this, almost 20 years later, I can still picture their faces, the location on their softball diamond, next to the bench, even the direction I was facing. I was stunned.

Me: Of…course….why do you ask? [But I didn’t really have to ask. I knew exactly what they were talking about.]

Players: Because of how you acted out there—we can’t help but wonder. Are you a Christian?

I mumbled some innocuous statement and wandered to my car in complete shock. I got into my car, put my head in my hands, and started to cry. No one was around. No one needed to give me chapter and verse as to what they meant, or what I had been doing incorrectly, or what needed to be done. The point was poignantly and precisely made.

Who cares about some silly score, or a dusty trophy in a forgotten case at the back of the church? Was my God smiling at my win-loss record? Was this what Christianity had come down to? Beating other Baptists to “glorify God?”

At the next practice, we literally had a “Come-to-Jesus” meeting. I apologized for my rotten attitude, and said, “No More. Regardless of wins or losses or whatever, we are going to start loving one another.” And we did. We began to encourage the other team. “Great Hit!” “Good Throw.” If it was close, we agreed to be “Out.” We played everybody where they wanted to play—not just the good players. We no longer had Benchwarmers.

We hugged the other team before, during and after the game. If they were short players, we loaned ‘em a few. We even turned a few games into “scrimmages” where we mixed up the teams, and didn’t bother to keep score! At first everyone met our new-found attitude with a great deal of trepidation. “What tricks are they up to now? Are they mocking us?” But over time, we changed from the team that everyone hated to the team that everyone loved. (If this was a movie, I would tell you that because of our wonderfully new perspective on life, God rewarded us with a championship. Alas, we still lost that year after year.)

I vowed to never, NEVER act in such a way that another person would feel it necessary to ask me, “Are you a Christian?”

Growing up Baptist, one thing you were constantly and pervasively aware of was sin. Smoking was a sin. Smoking was a gateway drug to drinking alcohol. Alcohol inhibited your prohibitions, which led to sex.

PDA (Public display of Affection) was not allowed. Although not technically a sin, it led to dancing, which most certainly, absolutely was a sin. ‘Cause dancing led directly to sex.

Because one only danced to Rock-n-Roll…drums were a sin. I remember going to countless conferences about all the sayings that were imprinting on our brain by virtue of playing records backward revealing the words “The Devil Has Your Soul.” (Or “Shelia has a big mole”--we never could quite tell.) I must embarrassingly admit that these meetings made such a lasting impression on me that even today; every time I hear “Hotel California” the first thought that immediately passes through my mind is that the Church of Satan started in ’69. No joke.

Running in the sanctuary was a sin. Calling an adult by their first name was a sin. Girls wearing a skirt that was shorter than 3 inches below the knee was a sin. Two-piece bathing suits were a sin.

And we tried to see how close we could come to sinning, without quite crossing the line. We measured those skirts. 3 inches—you’re o.k. 2.99 inches—ring the bell, we have a sinner! We listened to “Christian” Rock-n-Roll and clapped our hands. But no devil music and no dancing! We held hands under the table, ‘cause that is not technically “Public” Display of Affection.

We learned this from our adults. It was O.K. to be angry, just until sunset. (Eph. 4:26.) You need to give to the church (Mark 12:42) but not too much! (1 Peter 4:10; 1 Timothy 5:8) We concentrated our study to make sure we knew exactly what “sin” was, so we would not, inadvertently, fall into it. We could come close, but as long as we did not cross that important line, we were fine.

Some of our most cherished questions and study were on the “gray” areas of what sin was and what was not. (Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 6:12-15 & 10:23-33)

After that fateful question, “Are you a Christian?” I realized I blew it. I didn’t get the “sin” thing at all, and for foreseeable future of my life, I was not going to get it correctly. Regardless of who can swim with whom wearing what, I was blowing the most basic, simplest element of Christianity. Love one another. (John 13:34). Love your enemy. (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:35)

Taking just Luke 6:35, we could drop the entire rest of the Bible, and I would STILL sin. Lend without expecting anything in return? Love your enemy to the point you would die for them? (Let alone help them across the street, care for their sick child, read to them when they can no longer see…)

From that day on, I concentrated on one sin—failing to love other people. Sure, I was convicted of others. I got drunk. I gossiped. I was contentious, proud, angry, spiteful. And I repented, and attempted to grow with God’s help. But the one thing I kept on the fore-front of my mind was that I was going to blow loving one another, and what I could do to prevent it.

As for my faith, I was always puzzled about the statement, “Let go and Let God.” I could never figure out how people actually did that. I used to laughingly, (but accurately) state that after I had tried everything possible, I gave it to God to find a solution. Unless I thought of another resolution, in which case I would inquire, “God, can I have that back for a second? I want to try just one more thing and then you can have it!”

There were times that God seemed to miraculously provide, when I thought there was no hope. A timely phone call from a friend. A fortuitous trip that netted unexpected results. But to be blunt, much of the time I figured God wanted us to work on our own life. Sure, He was helping in some indeterminable way—perhaps providing a boost of patience when I needed it, or a word of encouragement. An appropriate seminar, book or verse at the right moment, due to God’s working quietly “behind the scene.” Yet in the end we had the responsibility of making the right choice.

Some things I did get that God must have intervened. I was uncertain how I could handle my mother’s death, yet God seemed to sustain me. My inability to find substantial income for a period of time, yet God apparently provided. The discovery of a woman who matched EXACTLY what I need (and didn’t even know I needed!). Surely God must have been intimately involved in that.

However, I had bank accounts. I worried. I fretted. I failed in letting God “do his thing” and tried to manage on my own. I failed to love other people like I should have. Despite my vow, I am certain that someone must have seen some act I had done and thought, “Is he a Christian?”

One of the most common things to hear as a deconvert is “You were not a true Christian.” As to the technical requirements of confessing Jesus and believing He was raised from the dead (Rom. 10:9) I would argue vociferously with a person who makes that claim. Whether they believe me or not; I was absolutely as true a Christian as one could find.

As to the actual living out a Christian life? Even as a Christian, as much as it would pain me, and bring back a vivid image of a softball diamond on a sunny evening, I would sigh and have to agree; I was not a true Christian. I worried. Matt. 6:25-28. I owned cars, houses, stocks and bank accounts. Luke 12:16-31. I complained. Philippians 2:14. I did not tame my tongue. James 3:4-6. I was proud. James 4:6. And most reprehensibly, the one thing I worked on, the one thing I concentrated on, I still failed by not loving others. I even failed at loving my own wife—the one person it should have been easiest to love! Ephesians 5:25.

So what does this have to do with deconversion? Because we are a fact-laden society, we often focus on names, dates and specific events. We can tend to recount our own history with date of birth, name of our first-grade teacher, and so on. Yet, as we all know, that is not the entire picture. We are not the sum of events.

As a Christian, I was concentrating on…well…being a Christian. I wasn’t studying and re-studying theological minutia. I was not joining archeological digs in the Sinai Peninsula to bolster the story of Exodus. I was not pouring over manuscripts in the basements of university Libraries—I was working on one small, minor point. Until I learned how to love others, I figured the rest could probably wait.

Many deconversion stories understandably focus on what philosophical doctrine, or Biblical difficulty caused the person to re-think. Mine will too. Eventually. *grin* Or others indicate some emotional event that brought a new perspective on the realities of their belief.

But for a moment, I want to pause and say that for me, I was not looking for some out. I was not looking for some deep philosophical support for my Christianity and went looking in the wrong bars. My deconversion story has to include a Christianity that was more than just a set of facts, figures and theologically “correct” dogma. The vast majority of Christianity, to me, was doing one thing right.

So, if you are reading this anxiously looking for what I did not get “correct” about Christianity—look no further. Regrettably, both then and now, I would have to concede I did not get “Love one another” correct.

Chapter 4


  1. hugging a sin? *smile*

  2. Regrettably, both then and now, I would have to concede I did not get “Love one another” correct.

    Who does? Join the crowd.

    Thanks for Part III of your story, in which you recount (in gory detail) the legalistic fundamentalism that is almost as foreign to me and remote from my own experience (thank heavens) as atheism. Too bad you couldn't get involved in a Christian tradition that actually had some common sense and encouraged thinking and reflection, the arts, culture, social involvement, etc.

  3. Definitely, definitely, my favorite so far from this series. I should prolly go grab some Good N' Plenty or Jordan Almonds (my preference over popcorn ;) ).

    One of the most common things to hear as a deconvert is “You were not a true Christian.”

    This was the first thing I was told, by the pastor of the church I had been attending/active in for less than a year. The actual words were, "you never had a personal relationship with Jesus", but the meaning is equivalent.

    Of course, not a single person who actually knew me ever ventured such an opinion. Though I did get other interesting things, such as from my Dad, "it's never an intellectual decision; something caused a radical change in heart", or my Mom, "is it possible your love for other things has choked out your love for God?" (that one's a comment on my blog).

    Naturally, many Christians are of the opinion that No True Christian, who had had a deep and personal relationship with Christ, could ever deny Him.

  4. **I vowed to never, NEVER act in such a way that another person would feel it necessary to ask me, “Are you a Christian?”**

    I think this reaction from you is key -- there are those out there who, upon being questioned if they were a Christian, would become incredibly indignent and say that the "unbeliever" has no right to question them. The whole mote in the eye verses the beam and so forth. But your self-analysis shows a tremendous amount of grace, in that you were able to see what they were asking. In fact, you anticipated why they asked.

    **Regrettably, both then and now, I would have to concede I did not get “Love one another” correct.**

    I read this in a very telling fashion as well -- given all the sins you listed that a Baptist would focus on, it all seemed to focus on the small things that were almost easily fixed. If drinking is a sin, you simply don't drink (much harder if an alcoholic, yes). If dancing is a sin, don't dance. THose are easy to control. Loving another, even the most horrible person ever? That is much, much harder, and not all that easy to control, given how instinctive emotional reactions are. And what I read from this comment as well is that anyone who would say you weren't a Christian would be focusing on the beliefs you lost, or the behavior you now wanted to "freely indulge" in, such as drinking or dancing. You seem to see the bigger picture in this type of Christianity.

    But when most do list off the sins they commit ... how often is "I failed to love someone" on that list?

  5. That’s actually kinda funny, Dave Armstrong.

    As I wandered over to your blog to see how the comments are coming, I stumbled on your entry of justifying calling someone an “ass” because Shakespeare used the term, and according to the Bible, it is a term for a donkey. (Among other reasons.)

    It reminded me of those instances in which we got so, so close to sinning, but not…quite…crossing the line. I was directly thinking of your dancing on the line of “I was calling you a donkey not a butt” rationalization when I wrote this entry. The similarities between that explanation and what I had observed were the inspiration for including my history with “legalistic fundamentalism.”

    I am glad you avoided the legalistic tradition. But distressingly, I must note that the same legalists that I grew up with would have gladly approved of your using the word “ass” and yet, for all the technical, apparent reasons, not quite reaching “the sin.” While you may not have the tradition, you both sound the same to me.

    Out of perpetual curiosity—Is it “loving your enemy” to call some one a “donkey” but not “loving your enemy” if you call them a “butt”?

  6. It's much easier to make the distinction in British English, where AIUI, generally the term ass refers to a donkey (which is why it's in the KJV bible), and arse refers to someone's hind portions. :)

  7. Hi DagoodS,

    I'm afraid you still labor under a legalistic conception of what love is and what it entails, from a Christian perspective.

    Simply using sharp language to describe someone who is acting stupidly is not automatically a lack of love. That is far too simplistic. There is such a thing as a biblical rebuke. Jesus called the Pharisees "vipers" and "whitewashed sepulchres; full of dead men's bones." Paul only semi-joked that an opponent should castrate himself. Elijah mocked the false prophets and false gods on Mt. Carmel.

    I called an anti-Catholic a "pompous ass" because he was definitely acting in that fashion. It's too long of a story to delve into and no one cares anyway, but if you knew the sort of things he had been doing, I believe you wold agree the description was fully justified.

    Now remember, the anti-Catholic Protestant does not regard me as a Christian at all. Ironically, then, I can relate to you guys being hurt by folks saying you never were a Christian. That's bad enough (and I don't say that about you and don't have to, acc. to my theology) but imagine someone denying you are a Christian when you definitely are one (and in my case, one who has devoted himself to defending Christianity as my profession: at considerable cost).

    This guy whom I called an ass had a person with whom he does his blog write the following against me:


    Thos: [ecumenical Protestant]

    Am I right in taking your comment as a conclusion that Dave Armstrong is not a Child of the Lamb?

    Rhology: (Alan Maricle: anti-Catholic Protestant)

    Correct. He doesn't believe in a saving Gospel. Why is he any different than a Muslim... ooops, bad example. Why is he any different than a Moonie or a Hindu?


    So I can totally relate to being lied about in this fashion. Your Christian critics lie about your past. My present is being lied about by fellow Christians.

    I was directly thinking of your dancing on the line of “I was calling you a donkey not a butt” rationalization

    Why do you feel compelled to regard it as a rationalization? It's a perfectly acceptable use of the word, according to current dictionaries. Is it my fault that some folks don't understand that "ass" can mean donkey as well as rear end? That's not my fault. I'm a writer, and I may use a few terms that some people are unfamiliar with. But it is no rationalization at all. It is a straight explanation right out of the dictionary, with the backup of Shakespeare and John Calvin and Charles Dickens.

    Out of perpetual curiosity—Is it “loving your enemy” to call some one a “donkey” but not “loving your enemy” if you call them a “butt”?

    Again, a rebuke does not mean one doesn't "love their enemy". I deny that this person is my enemy at all, as a fellow brother in Christ, but he regards ME as an "enemy" and in darkness and an apostate and traitor and going to hell, etc. That is the pomposity and behavior that is absolutely accurately described as acting like an ass.

    I deny that it is a lack of love. Granted, someone who speaks in similar fashion may indeed harbor bitterness and a lack of love i their heart, but I do not, and the word "ass" does not prove that I do. If it is a lack of love, then Jesus also lacked love, and you know that this is not possible in Christian theology. When Jesus overturned the moneychangers it was in love; a dramatic attempt to get them to reform their ways. It wasn't from a lack of love.

    Perhaps you'll still see this as a rationalization. I can't stop that. Perhaps it is inevitable, given your background and the abuses you suffered in the name of Christianity. All I can do is explain it as I see it from my Christian point of view.

    As for the donkey vs. butt question, I refrain from using the latter usage precisely because it does offend people and is considered vulgar still by many, and I try my best not to do so, within reason.

    The meaning of "donkey" has a far more respectable pedigree, which is precisely why I cited Shakespeare and Dickens and the biblical usage. Lots of words have two meanings. Does that mean we can't use some of the meanings because some folks don't know that? No.

    It's much easier to make the distinction in British English, where AIUI, generally the term ass refers to a donkey (which is why it's in the KJV bible), and arse refers to someone's hind portions. :)

    Great point. I am highly influenced by English writers, I think; my favorite writers being Lewis, Chesterton, and Newman, so perhaps that would explain my choice of words, knowing a bit more about the background, and also explain why some (fundamentalist) American hearers automatically assume that it must be in the other sense.

    There are plenty of Christian sites that use far more salty language than I do, believe me. I deny that I use any salty language at all in my writings, because I deny that ass (meaning donkey) is that. It is not. It's a pointed remark (absolutely), but not vulgar or profane, etc.

  8. To show the affinity of "ass" as "donkey" one can think of the term "asinine" that comes from the same root.

    So, e.g., I've often been known to use "asinine" when I am disgusted with something (my mother uses the word quite a bit, too):

    "That was absolutely asinine what he did."

    This is scarcely different from my recent utterance:

    "He is a pompous ass."

    An ass acts in an asinine fashion (just like we say "it is a human fault" when someone messes up because we presuppose that all people have flaws and tendencies to sin).

    Anyone who knows my writing (and there is a ton of it) and my style, knows how I was using the word. You can search my 1700 papers online and you'll never find me saying the more common expression of ass (with another word added), let alone any more "serious swear words". I don't write that way. I don't talk that way at all (out of respect towards those who are offended). Therefore, it is no "rationalization" -- as you say -- for me to explain as I did. I was simply showing the sheer silliness of the groundless charge that I was being vulgar.

    For heaven's sake, if Shakespeare's usage (and the Bible's, too) doesn't make some term respectable and permissible, what does?

  9. Zoe, hugs back. But you already knew that…

    Micah Cowan,

    There is no guarantee that it will get any better. It may be that this is the best there is. I hope not, but now you have me nervous! *grin*

    Do you become immune to “No True Christian”? Like you, I have never heard this in real life (and I hang out with Calvinists!) but on-line—all the time. I know of no way to peal back my skull and demonstrate that, at one time, my Christian switch was turned to “on.”

    If it is any consolation (and it won’t be) from my step-mother I got, “You have spit on your mother’s grave.” Not the best moment of my life.


    I was lucky. I have to wonder how many other times people either directly, or indirectly questioned whether I was a Christian. This probably was not the first time. It just happened to be the time that it hit home. Hard. So it had little to do with keen insight or grace on my part. A good (lucky) moment. I am glad it happened, because I have been the better person for it.

    Part of my fear with this narcissistic indulgence is that I cringe, thinking I am trying to portray myself as some sort of saint, or superhero. I am not. I can only sincerely hope that my interaction with others, previous to this, would confirm my concern about loving others.

  10. Using Pharisees as a justification for calling another person names? Those legalistic fundamentalists are nodding and slapping themselves on the back with approval of this tactic.

    Come on! This is hardly even original. (Although I ask a good question in that blog. “Just because you have a right to do it, do you have to do it?”)

    Dave Armstrong, I am telegraphing that I believe you will be disappointed in our discussion. I have considered, off and on, writing my deconversion story. Your offer to critique it was obviously just the spur I needed to do so. Thank you.

    But Part of my job entails predicting outcomes. The smart money is predicting that you will find that I had the wrong sort of Christianity. That is not terrible interesting to me. Whether I was, in your estimation, 99% correct or 99% incorrect, it is my past. Absent a time machine, there is nothing I can do about it.

    If that is the conclusion, as I strongly suspect it will be, I can only shrug. (Remember, I think ALL Christianity is theologically incorrect, so telling me [again] my former belief was wrong is not exactly a news flash.)

    I can only move forward; not backward. So where do I go from here? I would think the best route would be to inspect what you claim is the most “correct” Christianity; presumably yours.

    And as I look at yours, I am not convinced. Calling someone an “ass” is not prone to generate peace. It is not edifying. Rom. 14:19. It is not loving another. It is not loving your enemy. It is not helpful for building up others. Eph. 4:29.

    But I guess none of that means much to you. You think you are justified to do so, and will hold your ground in that regard, no matter what. (Again, the legalistic fundamentalists nod their heads in approval.)

    I see this eventually ending with you telling me that my Christianity is wrong. I shrug. You then inform me your Christianity is correct. I look at it, and likewise shrug. If that is “correct” Christianity, I was unconvinced by it when I believed in a god. I am sure to be even less convinced now that I do not.

  11. Hi DagoodS,

    Very well, then. I'll stop critiquing now and stop reading further installments. It's obviously too sensitive to you and I'd like to discuss other things, so I will desist.

    Your other argument is rather simple to reply to. I already have. You haven't dealt with my reasoning. You simply restated your opinion, but it is no better now than it was the first time. If Jesus can describe someone as a "viper" when they richly deserve it, then I can call someone a donkey when they richly deserve it. Sin can be rebuked. That is quite biblical.

    If I sinned in doing so, then so did Jesus. If Jesus didn't, then there are times one can do this and I didn't sin, either, since I have more than abundant reason to call this person an ass.

    Not only can it be rebuked, but we are commanded again and again to avoid divisive people who engage in worthless conversation:

    For men will be lovers of self, . . . proud, arrogant, abusive, . . . implacable, slanderers, . . . swollen with conceit . . . Avoid such people . . .

    (2 Timothy 3:2-5)

    . . . nor to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies which promote speculations rather than the divine training that is in faith . . . vain discussion . . .

    (1 Timothy 1:4,6)

    . . . avoid disputing about words which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.

    (2 Timothy 2:14)

    But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels over the law, for they are unprofitable and futile. As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned.

    (Titus 3:9-11)

    Mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to
    the doctrine ye have learned; and avoid them.

    (Romans 16:17)

    Have nothing to do with stupid, senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.

    (2 Timothy 2:23)

    If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching which accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit, he knows nothing; he has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among men who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

    (1 Timothy 6:3-5)

    There are tons of passages with biblical rebukes. According to your mentality, you wold have to say that all of them are sinful and improper and unethical. For example:

    Philippians 3:17-19: Brethren, join in imitating me, and mark those who so live as you have an example in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

    Dave Armstrong, I am telegraphing that I believe you will be disappointed in our discussion.

    And that is why it is doomed and I have already gotten out of it. Your choice.

  12. There is no guarantee that it will get any better. It may be that this is the best there is. I hope not, but now you have me nervous!

    Meh, that was all pretty much initial reaction to my announcement. Though I doubt the sentiments have changed, at least it's not repeated every time I see them.

    Do you become immune to “No True Christian”?

    If you mean, emotionally immune, well, I was never that deeply affected by it; I know what God meant to me at the time, and nobody can tell me about it with more authority than myself.

    If you mean, as I suspect, can one ever reach a point where that argument can no longer be applied to them, I suspect the answer is "no". People can always apply rhetoric, and the No True Christian logic is a rather tightly-looped bit of circular reasoning... No True X can do Y; we know this because if you were able to do Y, you were not a True X.

    Like you, I have never heard this in real life (and I hang out with Calvinists!) but on-line—all the time.

    I suspect that you, like me, also encounter impossible-to-reason-with folks online all the time, in other topics as well. The Wired is a strange place... one learns to deal with them (or else, become just as annoying). :)

    If it is any consolation (and it won’t be) from my step-mother I got, “You have spit on your mother’s grave.” Not the best moment of my life.

    Nice. :)

    I don't consider the things my parents said to have been particularly hurtful, just the sort of self-justification that one can hardly help when trapped in that mindset.

  13. If it is any consolation (and it won’t be) from my step-mother I got, “You have spit on your mother’s grave.” Not the best moment of my life.

    From my mother-in-law, I got "you are living in sin with my daughter because your marraige vows were made to a God you never believed in, and your marraige is illegitimate"

    That one got me really angry. That is the only time I ever got upset with her. But that was painful.

  14. I’m sorry, Dave Armstrong. I did not realize that you desired a response as to your reasoning. If you are interested, I deal with this issue here and here.

    Using the same reasoning, we could claim that genocide is both justifiable and loving. ‘Cause Jesus (who always loves) did it.

    (And then you indicate that the circumstances of Ancient Near East were “different.” And I ask for your objective standard as to when does “different” justify genocide, not to mention archeological proof as to the differences between the Midianites and the Hebrews. Then you reply that Jesus was under the new covenant, not the old, and I reply what parts of the old covenant were not loving. You reply that God is also Just, and not simply loving, and I reply that you hamstrung your own argument because Jesus was also Just, and we are not, so using Jesus as an example, rather than following Jesus’ words, is bad methodology.

    Do you honestly want to bother going through that whole dance one more time in the millions of times the same has been discussed in internet debates?)

    You listed a number of verses, stating they indicate we should avoid divisive people. How is calling someone an “ass” avoiding them?

    I could equally point out that you are to not speak evil, but peaceably. Titus. 3:2 Worse, in humility, you are consider others better than you are. Phil. 2:3. Are you saying that a pompous ass is better than you?

    In my opinion, we are seeing two different methodologies as to the application of Christianity. I looked at the other person and think, “If Jesus considers that person worthy to die for, and I am to consider them worth more than my own life—how should I treat a person with that much value?” Others look at the other person and think, “What can I call them, and technically justify it as not a sin?”

    I look at what is the most I can do for the other, the opposing methodology is what is the least the person has to do for the other.

    As a Christian, I recognized that Jesus used harsh terms for other religious leaders, like White-washed tombs. I also recognized that Jesus probably knew more than I did about what to say or not and still love. All I knew is that he commanded me to love even my enemy. I found that I could do so, and NOT call them an ass, rather than try to justify it in light of the verses I have cited.

    Just because you have a right to do it, does that mean you must do it?

    Dave Armstrong, I am not surprised you are leaving off. When I first started this, I did not know exactly how it would pan out. As it does, I think it is not exactly what you were looking for. You apparently wanted a broad outline of my Christian doctrine and theology, with a follow-up as to the arguments that deconverted me.

    Which is a well and good way to present a deconversion. But not my form…

    Perhaps when I (finally) get to that particular point, I will fire off a (boring) blog entry as to my particular doctrine at the moment before my deconversion, and then you can feel free to join back in.

  15. The trouble is that you don't determine how a person of a different persuasion ought to respond to you when they disagree. That's my problem and burden; not yours. I have an "intellectual right" -- so to speak -- to critique however I see fit.

    If you don't like the reasoning, then refute it, instead of bitching about it, receiving "attaboy" backslaps from your buddies (i.e., the usual Internet superficial silliness) and chipping at the assumed edges and center before I have even begun.

    But you don't want that spirit of open discussion. You want all these restrictions and rabbit trails and allowing others to read my mind to determine that I am supposedly utterly closed and dogmatic (while atheists are, of course, open-minded because they rejected Christianity) -- double standard big-time --, and to claim that you understand Christianity and biblical interpretation (having forsaken Christianity) better than I do, and to get legalistic about a single word (clearly because of the baggage of your fundamentalist past that I never went through). You anticipate what I am going to say, caricature it, predict the future, misrepresent my reasoning processes.

    The well is so poisoned by now that I can't say anything. Are you that desperate to avoid an open, honest discussion?

    This is the point. If it is THAT threatening to you to have your reasoning scrutinized, then I am not interested anymore. I don't want to cause you personal misery and agony (surely you get enough of that from all these clowns saying you never were a Christian), and I'm not all that impressed with folks who have so little confidence in their positions that they have to throw up all this obfuscation in order to hijack serious discussion before it even begins.

    I really didn't expect to see this from you; it's a huge disappointment, but hey, as you know, from my perspective, I never did think atheism had a chance in a rational discussion up against theism and Christianity, so all the obscurantism and speculation about my views (real and alleged) and myself comes as no surprise in the broad sense of the intellectual deficiency and incoherence and implausibility of atheism.

  16. Feel better now Dave? Good grief man, have you any heart?

  17. **You anticipate what I am going to say, caricature it, predict the future, misrepresent my reasoning processes. **

    He may have misrepresented you, but I wouldn't say he's presented a caricature of it. Many responses I've seen to his line of reasoning match how he presented the typical response.

    As it is, I have seen Christians say that since Jesus had sharp words for certain people, it's okay to have sharp words. And I've seen other Christians say that line of reasoning puts people equal with Jesus, and that we don't have the right to judge in that fashion, because we are not Jesus.

  18. "Cause dancing led directly to sex."

    I thought we weren't supposed to have sex because it lead to dancing.

    Great writing DagoodS, as usual.

  19. Not so great writing from me since "lead" should be "led".

  20. Why am I getting that creepy feeling that DagoodS is playing the role of Galileo and Dave the Grand Inquisitor? In this case the Inquisitor seems a bit more astute (than the dark-ages original) but is as demanding, if not more, of complete explanation/confession. Both represent their arguments formidably and even though neither may ultimately be able to achieve many conversions, they are articulate, intellectually stimulating and thought-provoking. Don't throw in the towel.