Thursday, September 27, 2007

My Deconversion Story – In Which we Learn Every Good Boy Does Fine

My Father has a very good singing voice. My mother could hold her own in a choir. My other brothers and sister play instruments (multiple each) and also sing very well. These abilities are considered benefits in the Church Service. Needless to say, Dad was in the choir, sang special music, and if need be, led singing. The rest of my family also took part, either in choirs, or solos, or groups, or instruments. They got the big parts in the Christmas and Easter Cantatas.

Me? I was a shepherd, with the desperate hope that all the other shepherd’s voices singing “While Shepherds Watched their flocks by Night” would drown out the horrible screeching sound that was exuding from my mouth.

My friend, Steven, lived next door to me. (In the country, that means there were only three cornfields between our houses. Seriously.) His mother was the Music Director for our church. His family was equally musically talented. For three long years my mother faithfully sent me for piano lessons with Steven’s poor Mother. Imagine being able to play Bach so beautifully that tears would come to your eyes, and be forced to teach a person with absolutely, positively NO musical talent whatsoever, “The Hopping Bunny.” Those weren’t tears—those were sobs!

After torturing this saint of a woman, who held her suffering with Job-like patience, we decided that it was no use. My parents had used up every single musical gene in creating my brothers and sister. By the time it came to me—they were completely tapped out. I was forever relegated to Shepherdom for the Christmas Cantata and Rioter for the Easter.

What I lack for in musical ability, I made up in intelligence. I was that kid you hated. You know—the one that blew the bell curve? Remember the student that was really smart, but didn’t have the ability to take tests, so they did not do so well on the SAT, or on the final? That wasn’t me. I loved tests. I took tests very well.

Worse, I didn’t care about grades, so I barely applied myself. I found by only half-hearted exertion, I could maintain a 3.5 average. Why bother breaking a sweat? (I told you I am the kid you hated.) I rarely studied, never had homework, and breezed my way through school. (Law school set me back, admittedly. No breezing there!)

Between my kindergarten and First grade, my family, along with dozens of other Christian families in the community, started a Christian school. The last public school I ever attended was that kindergarten year. I went to a Baptist school through ninth grade. Then a non-denominational school through High School Graduation. To a Baptist College for my freshman year. Back to Non-denominational Christian college until I got my degree. And finally a Catholic Law School.

What this means, is that for 12 years of Elementary through High School, instead of having just six classes of the standard Math, Science, English, History sort, we had an additional seventh class of Bible teaching. We had Bible history. Old Testament Survey. New Testament Survey. Prophets, Minor. Prophets, Major. Prophecy. Doctrine and Theology. Church History. Poetry.

It was here that we learned the nuts and bolts of the Bible. At church, we may learn how to apply the claim of Jesus living in the Temple of our heart. At school we learned the dimensions of the Temple, when it was built, what it looked like, when it was destroyed, when the Second Temple was built, what it looked like, and when it was destroyed.

We learned how many good kings there were in divided Israel. We memorized the names of the kings of Judah. We created charts, made models of Arks, traced timelines, and had quizzes on Jacob’s wives.

These were Christian students, (who believed the Bible was true) sent to a school by Christian parents (who believe the Bible was true) and taught by Christian teachers. In point of fact, a teacher that dared question or raise an issue as to the truthfulness of the Bible would have been fired. I do not recall much presentation of alternative views in any viable sense. Oh, we knew they were there. But when referred to (if referred to at all), it would have been in a mocking tone, as if such a belief should be relegated to a flat earth belief, or claims of aliens blocked by tinfoil helmets.

My 11th and 12th Grade Bible teacher was my favorite teacher in my entire school experience. He was the one that introduced me to apologetics. For the first time, we were informed of alternate views, and what those view’s arguments were (even had to memorize them!). Yes, in retrospect, it was from a very decidedly Christian slant, and not completely forthright—but that was to be expected, really. Here we had to read “Evidence that Demands a Verdict.” (Hey—Strobel was unheard of, at this point. “Intelligent Design” was a thing of the future. We were still battling OEC’s and Evolutionists back then.)

We learned the historical arguments for a resurrection. (Very McDowellian.) We learned the arguments for God. (Uncaused Cause was my favorite. Again, this was before Craig and Kalaam’s Cosmological.) We debated the Problem of Evil. (The resolution of “Evil is the absence of Good.”)

It is slightly amusing as I write, to think back to these arguments we learned in 1983 and 1984, which are still prevalent today. I remember the argument that there is no such thing as an atheist, because to say, “There is no god” would mean we have to know everything, which would make us a god. Therefore, one has to admit (not being a god) not knowing everything, so therefore, they cannot know there is no god. They must, therefore, be an agnostic.

Don’t we still see that?

I met with this teacher on numerous occasions after school, because we got along so well. We debated off-campus more dangerous topics, such as the legality of drinking or dancing, or the fact that he was not a Pre-Tribulation, Pre-Millenniumist. (Both strictly forbidden at school, of course.) We talked about Age of Accountability, or Divorce, or Pre-marital sex. We were able to discuss and debate much more freely than time (and administration) allowed.

When returning from college at breaks, I would look him up, and we would catch up on each other’s lives. I did it so long; we reached a point where we were having a beer together. And we would still laugh and joke and debate.

He eventually moved away, and we lost contact.

At some point in my deconversion process, I realized that I was in trouble regarding the apparent weakness in Christian arguments. I needed some guidance, and my normal points of reference would not do. I needed to go “off the grid” and find out how bad it was. Without hesitation, it was this man that my mind turned to.

I looked him up, and found an e-mail address at his new location. After an initial exchange of “Is that you?” “Oh, my—is that YOU?” and “You won’t believe who I married…” I explained my situation—that I was debating infidels and some of their arguments appeared sound. Sound enough, that I was having trouble continuing with the tired, unconvincing defenses. I may not have explained the depth of my own concern.

I do not specifically recall what all I mentioned, but it must have been something about the resurrection of Christ, because he responded back with a cryptic note about non-Christian writings confirming Christ, such as Thallus.

Thallus? He relied upon Thallus? (If you don’t know--Eusebuis quotes from a scrap of Julius Africanus about a fellow named Thallus claiming the darkness was an eclipse. We have no writing of Thallus, and only supposition as to what time period he was writing.)

I fired back an e-mail, laying out the problems with Thallus, and the issues with the Christian apologetical claims attempting to shoe-horn this into an independent verification of Jesus’ crucifixion. In my mind, I was picking up where we had last left off. More debate. This was what I was looking for—a fresh perspective from the non-theistic world in which I was immersed.

He replied with a one sentence e-mail. “I will not debate this with you.” I was devastated. Here was a fellow that we could discuss anything, even forbidden topics. Someone that understood my intellectual craving. Oh, I could reach out and grab any number of people that would pray for me, or tell me to “seek Jesus” or give me some trite platitude as to how to maintain belief in Christianity—but this was a person who could give me actual intelligent Christian conversation. (Thanks, Dr. Mohler for the by-line.)

And he decided to not. I never heard from him again. (This was to become standard operating procedure in the next few months to come. With other discussions with other ex-pastors, ex-friends and ex-associates.)

Following High School, I attended a Baptist College. It was required to have a “Bible” minor, so once again, I picked up Bible courses. Having done so for so long, there was nothing unique about it. After my first year, I was not given the option to return (a story in itself) and I completed my college courses at a non-denominational Christian College. While Bible was not a required minor, I enjoyed it so much, I took the classes anyway. The same familiar regimen—Old Testament Survey, New Testament survey, Hermeneutics, Homiletics, History of Israel, Church History, Gospels, Pauline writings, etc. In fact, as it turned out, I took so many classes; I ended up with a Bible Minor (and then some) without even trying for it!

I flirted with the idea of attending Seminary.

What is curious is that with all that study, I don’t recall ever discussing the Synoptic Problem. I recall very little discussion of Textual Criticism, and even then it was brushed aside as a “resolved” problem. As if, long ago, there were these issues, but with the advent of modern times, very little, if any, discrepancies remain. I certainly did not study Documentary Hypothesis.

I never had a single science course that gave evolution even the remotest possibility of credibility. Not even a hint.

I completed my education at a Catholic Law School. This is not saying very much, since it was Catholic in name only. No Bible classes or Mass was required. Probably one of the funniest moments of my Law School career was in Family Law in which the professor asked (to generate discussion) who was anti-abortion. In a class of 50 people, only one person raised their hand—me! I looked around and said, “This is a Catholic School!?” What made it humorous was that only 4 or 5 students even understood the connection.

In retrospect, my only regret, with all that Biblical background, was my failure to take Greek. Languages are not my strong suit, and do not come easily for me. (In order to cram in my language requirements, I took Spanish 201, French 101 and German 101 all in the same semester. My professors took pity on me.)

If there is any point in this history of my schooling, it is that I enjoyed the study of Christianity, the Bible and its God. What is disturbing is how much I did Bible study, but how little I studied the Bible. In all these courses, we either presumed the Bible was true, or only discussed proofs that supported the Bible was true. It was decidedly one-sided.

Chapter 7


  1. Again, I can relate. I went to a "non-denominational" Christian school which was essentially Baptist (certainly evangelical) by the time I got there. We were only required to take one Bible class (though the more zealous would take as many as possible as electives). I left it til my senior year. The very first day was Genesis 1, and the teacher started by asking "does anyone here believe in evolution instead of the creation story?" Nothing stirred. I got a mischievous grin and slowly raised my hand, to the horror of the other students. The teacher, a conservative Methodist, was I think relieved that it wouldn't be a boring year.

    Two girls in the class, one a devout AG Pentecostal, and the other a hardcore Southern Baptist, were horrified as I would ask heretical questions (usually just reading the commentary in my New Oxford Annotated Bible). I'd insist on the proper (or as close as I could get) Hebrew pronunciation, driving them crazy talking about "neh-buch-AD-nets-ahr" instead of "neh-buh-kuh-NEZZ-er". Looking back, it was a bit mean, but the Baptist girl would start muttering to herself and the AG girl would run to her mother, the school secretary, for assurance that I was wrong.
    Music was also integral for me. Before the evangelical school, I went to a Montessori elementary school, where music is taught at an early age (it's a great way to teach kids about fractions and other mathy stuff). I still play the clarinet, used to play handbells at church, and can still play "Alouette" on the piano. My mom used to play guitar and ukelele (it was the 60s), and her mother was the choir director at her church. My dad sang in a college choir that was selected to tour Europe performing Handel's "Messiah", and his mother still owns dozens of different musical instruments. My sister is the odd one out. She could manage handbells, but that was about it musically. As I said earlier, I find comfort in the rituals of the church, and this is no more true than in music. The Presbyterian Book of Order puts it nicely: "song is a response which engages the whole self in prayer. Song unites the faithful in common prayer wherever they gather for worship.... Instrumental music may be a form of prayer since words are not essential for prayer." Music can communicate on so many more levels than mere speech, and I like that the church recognizes this.

    On a funny note, I have a comedy album by British musician Rainer Hersch. He notes that the "Every Good Boy Does Fine" (lines on the treble clef represent the notes E, G, B, D, F) is taught in England as "Every Good Boy Deserves Football". He offered these alternatives:

    Every Good Benedictine Deserves Flagellation

    Eat Ground Beef, Die Foaming

    Expelled Gynecologist Blames Diaphragm Fiasco

  2. Yeah, I love the reference to lines-on-treble-cleff-staff too. :)

    How did you all learn the bass clef? For me, it was Good Boys Do Fine Always. When I began teaching piano, I worried that the two mnemonics were confusingly similar, so I changed it to Gentle Bob Dates Friendly Amanda.

    I, too, come from a very musical family. I can't think of a single sibling that doesn't have some degree of comfort with it, and there are several with phenomenal talent. Unlike you, though, I did get an appropriate portion of the relevant genes (if such things are truly genetic) and majored in Music at university. Never finished though: dropped out 21 units away from graduation. Could never go back and just wrap the degree up, what with the 3-to-4-hour-a-day practice sessions required to prepare for a Senior Recital.

    ...Unless I maybe changed it to a BA instead of BM: I think it has only one recital requirement, in which case I've filled it already. :)

  3. I learned "All Cows Eat Grass", using the spaces on the bass clef.

    Because "my" instrument is the clarinet, I am much more comfortable with the treble clef and to this day have to squint and mumble "allcowseatgrass" to identify the note correctly. Which is a shame because I sing bass, so I sing by ear (which regularly protests what comes out of my mouth).

  4. Rest assured, you're not the kid I hated: because then I'd have to hate myself. In my MBA program, there was one class where I only showed up 30% of the time, and of that time, I left at break 80% of the time. I got the second highest grade in the class, a 3.5. And this was a graduate program.

    **As if, long ago, there were these issues, but with the advent of modern times, very little, if any, discrepancies remain.**

    This is what drives me nuts, in terms of biblical study, or the sciences. I don't care if someone disagrees with scholars, in either field. But at least make sure you're disagreeing with that the scholars actually say, and not what a creationist/fundamentalist tells you about what they say.

  5. DagoodS,
    I can see how a crack or two could cause the tumble of such a carefully-constructed Christianity. Ubiquity is a powerful communicative tool, but the result has a shelf-life that we often fail to take into consideration. My experience has been very different from yours. Although my parents were very active in our small non-denominational church, they had many non-Christian friends. I never attended a Christian school. I graduated from a secular university. I have always been the "other"; I've always needed reasons for believing as I have. I never would have attempted any sort of apologetic in biology classes - I'd have been laughed out the door. Evolution was not something that any of my classmates even felt needed to be debated - it was accepted fact (even though our non-Christian teacher freely admitted that there were serious problems with it).
    I never discussed Christianity with anyone except close friends or people who asked specific questions. My parents rarely offered arguments or apologetics - they expected my sisters and me to go to God with our questions and find our answers in the Bible. They encouraged us to be very careful about sharing our Christianity unless that Christianity became something that others wanted and asked about. They taught us as children, but as young teenagers, we were encouraged to read for ourselves and draw our own conclusions.
    Certainly, as an adult, I have identified numerous of my earlier views that were based on faulty information or insufficient information, and changed them - but they were my own views, not fully articulated arguments formulated by others and only selected by me from the apologetics buffet.
    As an adult, I have had to ask if God exists, and if so, what his nature is. That shook me to the core. But the answers, while they didn't pop out immediately, were in the same place they've always been for me - the Bible.
    I can't judge your situation based on a few blog posts, but I can't help but wonder - is it possible that your disillusionment with God is less about God and more about Christians? If the meat's always been cut up for you, and even your best teacher no longer has answers for you, I can see how that might make you think that there are no answers - but is it necessarily true?
    I don't mean to belittle your questioning, but it sounds like your experience with God has been carefully engineered and managed. You've obviously outgrown the managers - but...
    Don't know how to say this without sounding like I've diagnosed your case on the strength of a short reading. I can only ask. I can't see inside your head, and we've definitely had very different experiences. Sorry for how it sounds.

  6. Heather,

    I am not exactly bowled over with surprise that you are similar in nature. *grin*

    Actually, your comment in an ancient blog entry was one of the reasons I was contemplating my own deconversion story, before Dave Armstrong gave me the motivation to write it out. You mentioned how many intelligent people remained Christians. Caused me to wonder why I didn’t.

    To compare and contrast you and me; you are bright, process information well, display a good handle on the controversies involved and have a healthy dash of skepticism. I am bright (I think), process information well, (I think), have a handle on the controversies involved and have a healthy dash of skepticism.

    I often read your comments; finding myself nodding my head in agreement. I notice you occasionally mention your agreement with what I write. Yet with all those similarities, I fall on the atheistic side of the fence, and you fall on the theistic side. I wonder why? What is the different switch within that causes two people, processing the same information, often with the same questions and answers—yet one lands on theist and one lands on atheist?

    I am not trying to put us on competing psychiatric couches—these were more in the form of rhetorical contemplation than hard, “Give me an answer!” questions.

  7. jennypo,

    Do not apologize. In reading your comment, I think you very accurately assessed my Christianity. It most certainly was “carefully constructed.” (In fact so much so, I may blatantly steal that term from you in describing it.)

    And likewise, a crack or two (eventually) did cause the whole thing to tumble. An analogy would be building a building with a certain design floor after floor after floor. Upon discovery of flaw in the design on the first floor, the same flaw in design was discovered in the second, third, fourth, and so on. Because they all had the same design.

    Part of the problem, though, was after discovering this design flaw, when I went out to look at other buildings (other Christian beliefs; other theistic beliefs) I continued to see the same design flaw! It was not just in my building—but in all of them.

    If a theistic belief was put on trial in front of a neutral jury, after being cross-examined by all the other theistic beliefs and non-theistic beliefs; it would be seen for what it is—a human creation. If a fish could create a God; it would look like a fish.

    I also liked your statement, “your experience with God has been carefully engineered and managed.” Very true. I was told as a young child, “This is what God is like. This is what your experience should look like.” And then that very same description of God-experience was hammered in to me by my parents, and friends, and pastors and teachers, and family in school, and church and home and in the community, over and over and over and over.

    Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do. That is who I was; that is what I experienced. I envy your secular school teaching in evolution. I feel like such a numbskull (is that term still used?) within the debate. Want to argue textual criticism? I’m willing to join in. What to discuss fossil evidence? Best pick the next person. Best pick about anyone else. I have read some material, but there is no catching up years and years of schooling I did not receive.

    Which leaves us the question—what experience of God should I have? If God I was informed I should have been experiencing is not correct—what is closer to being correct? After having been informed of a God, and learning it was wrong, many deconverts (myself included) go “looking” for a God. Perhaps this is just as wrong? At one time all of us have been told we need to “wait on God.” Rather than rush to him; have him come to us.

    A common theme you will then see in deconverts is the statement, “If God wants to communicate to me; he knows where to find me.” This is not given as a blasé, “I am going to live my life as I please, and when God doesn’t like it, he can bonk me on the head.” Actually, we have searched so long and so hard for God, without finding him, that we are worn out. We don’t know where else to look. We don’t know what else to do. We don’t know what else to say.

    We wait. I have done everything I can humanly conceive as possible to experience God. Now it would take something non-humanly possible—which would have to be God’s department. It may be there is some argument out there I have not considered. It may be I have a bias which is inhibiting my ability to be open-minded on a subject. So I continue to discuss. In the end, though, God revealing Himself may be what it would take. Don’t know; it’s never happened.

    One problem with deconversion stories is that they are always told from this side. After the belief. Because of this perspective, I look back and think of people as…well…people. Not God-infused people. Not divine. Nothing but humans as far as the eye can see. Which means, when discussing the tale, we tend to focus on people. A little silly for an atheist to say, “In third grade, God didn’t talk to me.” There is no god to talk to me; hence we don’t make the statement. Instead we talk about our third-grad teacher.

    Was I disillusioned with Christians? Sure. This is no surprise—they are humans and we humans have a propensity to disappoint. What to me, was the let down were the people I could discuss anything, anything Christian with except one thing—that some portion of it might not be true. That must not, could not, and shall not ever be discussed.

    Eventually that disappointment led to concern. If Christians hold truth…er…TRUTH, an absolute reality one available through a God, what is the fear of discussing it? Why run away from it? Why not embrace the debate—knowing that you hold TRUTH? (I am not referring to on-line discussions, but what I faced with long-time friends.) Why do all the pastors, deacons, friends, family members, past leaders, and associates run away from me?

    jennypo—literally 100% of the people that knew me as a Christian will not discuss this with me. 100%. Not a single pastor. Not a single friend. None. Isn’t that astounding? Why are they so afraid?

    As you correctly note, I have outgrown my managers. Even if they are not willing to discuss theism, I think it is pretty obvious I am more than happy to discuss with about anyone on-line. While they may not be able to provide the answers—I have other resources. You.

    What are the correct answers, jennypo? Or, if you do not know, what do you propose I do to find these answers? I can’t change my past—good, bad or otherwise. But I have some control over my future. Where do you propose I go from here?

    1. > One problem with deconversion stories is that they are always told from this side. After the belief.

      You may like my blog. I'm on a journey. I don't know the destination.


  8. DagoodS,
    I feel your tiredness in this search, and knowing a little of that tiredness, I hate to come gliding by, tossing out more of the advice that has probably contributed, more than anything else, to that tiredness. So take it for what it's worth to you.

    I have answers, answers about God that completely satisfy me. But I don't have your answers. If I did, I'd do anything possible to give them to you. But I believe that you can get yours where I got mine.

    The knowledge of God can't be taught in a Sunday School class; it can't be wrapped up in a neat PR package and delivered from a podium; it can't even be presented, with its evidence, to a jury. God is encountered one-to-one, individually. You've searched for an argument for God to the point of mental and spiritual exhaustion. Please don't think I'm as arrogant as I sound when I say that this is not the same as searching for God himself. You will think, "I can't turn off my questions. I can't ignore my intelligence. I can't let go of thinking in my search for God." And you will be right. You can't. But that doesn't mean that you can find God through those things alone.

    I have to run, as I am late for an appointment, so more when I get back. Thanks for understanding me.

  9. "I do not recall much presentation of alternative views in any viable sense."

    I think this attitude was what made it hardest for me to deconvert from fundamental Christianity. I kept thinking, I must be missing something. 'They' are so confident, matter of fact about being right. After 35 years and a boatload of research I had to conclude the emperor has no clothes. Not so much that I found others to be blind, rather, I had to finally trust my own eyes. I cannot fathom a God who would require otherwise.

  10. DagoodS,

    **I am not exactly bowled over with surprise that you are similar in nature.**

    I didn't think you would be. :)

    **I fall on the atheistic side of the fence, and you fall on the theistic side. I wonder why?**

    I realize you were just thinking out loud with this, but I'm going to take a stab at an answer anyway. I think it has to do with our upbringings -- you were raised in a fundamentalist setting, and as you agreed with Jenny, "carefully constructed." I wasn't. I was raised in a Christian home, but from a very young age, my mother has always said that she doesn't understand how people could take the God in the Tanakh literally, because of some of the actions performed. She's never understood how someone could look at a newborn baby and think the baby is going to hell unless baptized. Both of my parents have always encouraged questions, have always said to look at both sides -- in fact, no one likes telling my mom about difficulties because she sees both sides. There was never any certainity in the manner in which you encountered it. There were absolutes truths, but that didn't mean we got those truths, or had the best handle on those truths. Other people had access to those truths, as well.

    So if something didn't add up in the Bible for me, my concept of God shatter, and it didn't rock my faith. If the resurrection did literally happen, or if it was just used as a metaphor, it didn't change anything for me. It didn't change the encounters I had (and I can't say that the encounters are absolute proof, because they are subjective. But to me, I have experienced things that I don't have any other explanation for other than "God.")

    We tended to see that everyone was on the same path, but one person was taking the back road with some detours, and another person was flying 90 mph down a highway.

    For me, I always used the Bible to supplement my own experiences, while aware that they wrote for a different culture, with different expecations. I had a structure and encounters in place, and found similiar stuff in the Bible, as opposed to basing the entire structure on the Bible. Rather, the Bible was part of the structure, if that makes sense.

  11. ***Why not embrace the debate—knowing that you hold TRUTH? (DagoodS)

    Yeah, I know what you're saying here. Many of us do run away, maybe because our Christianity is a construct we've had too little hand in; maybe because our understanding of it is too fragile; maybe because you're not asking the questions we've been taught to expect. But some of us run away from debate because in relation to God, it's pointless; because after all, God is not to be known through the study of apologetics; because there is no argument that is going to convince someone into knowing God; because we don't want the feebleness of our ability to debate to reflect on a God who is anything but feeble.

    ***I envy your secular school teaching in evolution. (DagoodS)

    It may disappoint you that the schools I attended didn't seem too concerned about teaching us about evolution. Oh, there was a chapter on it every few years or so, but we mostly skimmed through them. None of my teachers thought the scientific evidence for it was overwhelming, but it was the best theory they had, so they taught it for lack of anything better. Nobody even gave the Bible a second thought, so no defenses needed to be mounted. (I understand that "intelligent design" has kicked things up a notch, but I finished high school in the early '90s, and at that time, at least in my schools, God wasn't really a part of the picture.) In fact, my personal experience has led me to believe that it's the Christian community that has given evolution such credibility, by polarizing the arguments and thereby uniting all those who don't believe in God under a single alternative.

    ***I was told as a young child, “This is what God is like. This is what your experience should look like.” (DagoodS)

    Would it be possible for you, without embracing a belief in God, even without giving up your belief that there is no God, to ask God (IF he's there AND listening) to tell you who he is, even if he's not the God you thought he was or the God other people think he is or the God he should be or the God we all desperately need him to be?

    If you are ever to know him, your answers will have to come from him. I don't think you need to quit being an atheist until God gives you reason to, but it needn't keep you from asking him, if he exists, to reveal himself.

    Don't know if I'm making any sense at all.

  12. Jennypo,

    I have been told dozens of different ways, in hundreds of different fashions what I did wrong—looking for a God. Too many questions, too few questions, the wrong questions, too little faith, the wrong kind of faith, faith in the wrong thing. Too much head knowledge, too proud, dictating to God, too demanding.

    You name it—I’ve been told it was wrong. What I am looking for is what is right to do to look for God. Seems to me that the only thing a theist will ever commit to, is “You will do it right once you believe in God.” Not very helpful.

    jennypo: Would it be possible for you, without embracing a belief in God, even without giving up your belief that there is no God, to ask God (IF he's there AND listening) to tell you who he is, even if he's not the God you thought he was or the God other people think he is or the God he should be or the God we all desperately need him to be?

    Sure. But I did that as a theist and She or He did not respond. Why, now that I don’t believe in a God, would God be more likely to respond?

    Don’t I have to believe God exists before I ask it for anything? See, not only are atheists not angry at God, ‘cause he doesn’t exist, but equally we can’t ask him for anything, ‘cause he doesn’t exist.

    I can frame the words, I can make some request in the form of “If anyone is out there listening…” but I cannot believe there would be a response. It is the perpetual Catch-22—in order for me to genuinely be able to ask God to show he exists, I have to already believe he exists. In which case, there is no reason to ask, is there?

  13. ***It is the perpetual Catch-22—in order for me to genuinely be able to ask God to show he exists, I have to already believe he exists. (DagoodS)

    I'm not asking you to believe in God. We can choose to trust something that we lack full knowledge of, but we can't choose to believe that something exists. Pretending otherwise is the worst kind of foolishness.

    If you are 100% sure there is no God, then there is certainly no point in asking him to reveal himself to you. But if there remains for you any possibility that God exists, then why not ask?

    I know you asked before when you believed in God - and to our way of figuring faith, believing ought to count for more. But the God you asked before was a very narrow version. A confirmation from any God would have appeared to be a confirmation of your perception of him. Is it possible that God IS answering you, but first by destroying your perspective of him; by making it perfectly clear that the God you so sincerely believed in does NOT exist?

    Seems to me that you are now in a place to hear from a God who doesn't match the descriptions you had before. Seems to me you're in a better place now to receive an answer than ever before. Aren't you a lot closer to being the "neutral party" you think is so necessary?

    I haven't shared much your experience, so I'm sorry if I don't understand you entirely. One thing I have shared is the search for a God who didn't answer. I felt like I was living inside a can - my prayers went clanging against the sides and I was alone, alone, alone. My Bible became a book of wooden words that spoke to me no more than the encyclopedia did.

    That experience did a number of things for me. The first thing it did was humble me to the very ground. No longer was I Miss Spiritual, so proud of my fine morals and faithful service. I saw pretty quick who I was and how much reality there was in my view of what I had to offer God. It also blew apart my little ideas of who God was, and what role he was going to play in my life. But it has given me an understanding, however limited, of people who ask the kinds of questions I did; who remain unconvinced of the level of reality in Christian culture; who long for something warm and living and solid and real to hold onto - something that doesn't ask them to deny what they know and who they are.

    I can't give you or even people like me answers, but I can (at least a little) understand. I can lean over the fence and cheer you on.

    If you ever do meet God, DagoodS, you're going to be able to communicate him in a way few people can - precisely because of this long walk in the dark. His silence is not necessarily a stony sulking because we haven't searched in the "right" way. Sometimes it's a patient waiting for all of our excess "God stuff" to get shaken off.

    Settling for cheap answers is always wrong, no matter what those answers are. Whatever you find the Truth to be, don't rest until you are sure that you've found it.