Saturday, October 06, 2007

My Deconversion Story – In which We Move through the Looking Glass

My siblings do a ski trip every year. No children; only adults and February of 2004 we did the same. After a day of skiing, we were lounging in the hot tub, and I wondered what their thoughts were:

Me: You know, I have been reading on an atheist site recently, and they raise some interesting points.
Brother: I watched a debate between a Christian and an atheist once. The atheist made a fool of himself; I thought he looked completely stupid.

Got it. End of discussion. I casually mentioned it in 2 or 3 other private conversations, and in the same way, was immediately made aware the conversation would go no further. My family was not interested in this type of information.

I mentioned it to my pastor at one of our lunches. “They say some pretty wild things. Don’t get too caught up in that stuff. Hey, we are looking for a sponsor for the College Age group. Are you interested?” Again, a preference to not talk about such things. As I mentioned previously, I fired off an e-mail to my former High School teacher. With the same results.

I was doing this on my own. Although to be fair to these individuals, I didn’t push the conversation either. If I genuinely thought I was in trouble, I would have, perhaps, been more forceful to talk about these questions. Although probably not—I presumed this was a time of doubt which would pass upon further research. I was praying: God would provide the right direction.

So I lurked. And read. And researched. I read what other Christians would post in response in iidb, and could see, immediately why the response would not be convincing to a skeptic. The skeptics’ responses were ineffectual against the Christian claims. I read the articles and recognized the bias in the responses. I saw what I would expect to see in any lawsuit—two sides with extremely different takes on the same evidence.

What I didn’t like was the fact the skeptics’ arguments were more persuasive. As an attorney, evaluating the two cases, I would be confronting my Christian clients with the strong suggestion of settling their case—a neutral trier-of-fact would more likely find for the skeptic.

Finally, I stepped in and started posting. Unlike my original intention, I was not posting blistering arguments, tearing their pitiful claims to shreds with brilliant, unexpected evidence. No, I was posting my position in an attempt to communicate. I was starting to understand why it would not be convincing.

As I was reflecting on my own Christianity, cracks were starting to form. Tiny, hairline, nearly invisible cracks. Cracks so small, I didn’t even know they were there…building…until later. Each topic presented new problems:

Description of Creation I read various positions on Old Earth Creationism, Young Earth Creationism, Theistic Evolution, and Natural Evolution. (Not to mention the two creation accounts under Documentary Hypothesis.) Is Genesis 1 literal or allegorical? Was God creating ex nihilo (out of nothing) or does the Hebrew indicate something already was there?

Whatever the position, one thing was universally agreed—the accounts were not written contemporaneously with the events. They were written billions or thousands of years after the Earth formed. The only possible way to obtain this information would be through God. And I couldn’t help wondering—if the Earth was billions of years old, why not include a long “age” to account for it? God could take that argument away from the skeptic. If Genesis 1 is an allegory, why wouldn’t God put the sun before the earth, and plants after the sun? (Not to mention birds after reptiles.)

Look, assume God is informing Moses in 1500 BCE. God can say anything he wants—who is Moses to argue with God as to how creation was formed? While Christians claimed Genesis was written for a certain people at a certain time, why couldn’t God see in the future that someday, in 2004 CE, skeptics would question the viability of Genesis? What would prevent God from laying it out correctly to remove those questions?

Why would God place stars 13 Billion light years away, and then write a book indicating the universe was formed 6000 years ago? Yes, Yes, I read the claims of light speed differentials, and creating the light path at the time of creation—giving it the “appearance” of age. Those looked, tasted, felt and smelt of excuses for God. The solution was simple—don’t create the problem in the first place.

What I didn’t see were arguments for why it was necessary for God to paint an inaccurate picture. Other than the traditional—who are you to question God?

I kept thinking the answer to who I was: “I am the one looking for you, God. Can’t I ask a question in my search?”

God kills children The God of the Tanakh killed children in the flood. In Sodom and Gomorrah. In the Joshua Genocides. In Saul’s genocide. And then, in the New Testament, does a complete 180, and loves children. Growing up, in our mind, we always differentiated those two Gods. YHWH, the Father, was the God of the Tanakh. A punishing, aloof, harsh God. Jesus, the Son, was the God of the New Testament. A firm, but gentle, loving, caring God.

However, in the face of skeptics, I could no longer justify that distinction. One thing in a court case—no opposing lawyer will ever let you “have your cake and eat it too.” I can’t claim a letter is both entirely genuine (when it helps me) and entirely a forgery (when it does not.) Likewise, I couldn’t claim Jesus was not the “God” of the Tanakh, but the “God” of the New Testament. If there is one God, Jesus was God of both.

Jesus killed kids. Why? Even as humans, we recognize children can be rehabilitated. Oh, I can understand why God would declare some adult so rotten, so immoral the only viable alternative was to end their existence. But a 2-day-old child? Is God so ineffectual he could not reform a baby? And again, I read the Christian defenses of how they were like gangrene and doctors may be forced to cut off a limb which is partly healthy, to rid the person of the disease. I thought, “This is the best you can come up with? God has the same limitations as a human doctor? God can’t cure gangrene?”

As I reviewed these defenses, it became apparent the Christian defenses were not designed to convince the skeptic. They were designed to counter the skeptic in order to preserve those who already believed the same as the Christian. They were preaching to the choir.

On occasion we represent clients who do not care about winning or losing. They do not care about the money, or about the conviction. I had one criminal defendant who was clearly guilty. The prosecutor offered a plea agreement, I recommended we take it, but he refused. He wanted a trial. He wanted the police officer cross-examined.

I gave him a trial. I shouted, I screamed, I cross-examined the police officer. I demonstrated the complete incompetence of the officer, the department, and the entire judicial system. My client was thrilled to bits. He absolutely loved every single minute of it. “Boy, you sure tore him apart. That was GREAT!” The jury took less than a half-hour to find him guilty.

My client didn’t care; he got what he wanted. It made no sense to me. Didn’t he understand after all the yelling, and finger-pointing, the jury still believed the police officer? That if we won the battle (which was questionable) we certainly lost the war? Wasn’t the conviction worse than the satisfaction of the show? Nope. It didn’t matter.

I got that same feeling in the defense to these questions. The apologist (lawyer) was screaming and shouting and gesturing for the client (Christian) and the client is immensely impressed. The client is fully persuaded they are winning.

To me, the key was not whether the client (Christian) is pleased with the theatrics—the key is whether the jury is. Would a neutral party, after all the hoopla, be equally convinced?

Would the Christian be convinced by the same arguments of another religion that justified killing of children? Then why would they accept it in their own?

Numbers 31 What a terrible chapter. God orders the Midianites to be wiped out. The soldiers do NOT kill the baby boys, and are chastised for it. Moses orders the death of all the males, and all the non-virgin females. God wants the Hebrews to keep the virgin females, the gold, the silver, the bronze, the iron, the tin, the lead, the cattle, the sheep and the donkeys as “booty” for their victory. God will receive His portion of the plunder.

In Star Trek V the crew of the Enterprise meet up with an extremely powerful creature on a distant planet. This creature informs them it is God; which is quite convincing when coupled with the display of power. God discovers the crew arrived by space ship, and indicates it would have need of this ship. This causes Capt. Kirk to pause and inquire, “What does God need with a starship?”

I kept thinking of this line when reading Numbers 31. What does God need with Virgin Females and Gold? Why does the Hebrew God desire the same thing a human does? What is more plausible—that God “needs” Virgin Females and Gold, or the humans took what humans want, and placed the blame upon a God?

Worse, all those apologetics attempting to rationalize genocide, due to the pervasive immorality of the society fail in this situation. God could not rehabilitate a 2-day-old baby boy, or 18-year-old widow, but can rehabilitate virgin females. Would Christianity accept such a claim from any other religion?

God’s Justice As discussions circled around actions of God, often I would see the defense proposed: “God is Just.” Yet upon inspecting the simple three-word phrase, the word “Just” is unlike any Justice humans conceptualize. It appears to be an excuse to absolve God of the responsibility of doing something the defender of God doesn’t like. “Hey, we may not like it, but God is just, so what can one do?”

The first problem is “Just” means to follow a law, and no one can explain what law it is God is required to follow. Is it something other than God’s nature? Is it something God can change? Secondly, God is also “merciful” which means God does not always have to follow this law! What is so spectacular about a creature that does and does not have to follow an unknown law? Every time I saw “God is Just” it raised the question—why couldn’t he be merciful in this situation?

Of course the worst display of this is in the Situation of David’s baby. God has a standing order to kill Hittites. (Deut. 20:17). David does so. (2 Sam. 12:9). Because David followed God’s Law, God’s justice demanded David be punished. (2 Sam. 12:10). God then grants mercy, and decides to NOT punish David for following God’s Law. (2 Sam. 12:13). However, God’s Justice then determines it is appropriate to kill David’s newborn child. (2 Sam. 12:14) And take seven days to do it. (2 Sam. 12:18)

If God is “Just” can the Christian apologist please explain what law God was following in absolving David? And what law God was following in punishing David’s baby? You can’t! There may be some hope the reason God does what He does is because of some sort of system of Justice, but this defense is seen for exactly what it is—a hope. To claim God may (or may not) be bound to some law which may (or may not) exist is not persuasive.

A Christian telling another Christian, “God is Just” may elicit a knowing furrow on the brow, with a wise nodding of the head, “Ah, yes indeed” but to a skeptic who wants to unpack more, these three words ring hollow because they have no definition. No force. No information.

God’s Love A fascinating study, in which God requires us to “Love our Enemies” (Luke 6:35) but is not required to love His enemies. (Luke 20:43) A God that forgives the Jews for killing him (Luke 23:34) but will later torture them forever for not believing in him. What was the point of “Father, forgive them...”? Forgive them for what? What is one sin amongst many, when the person was doomed to hell anyway?

As I was looking at these (and more I will cover later) areas of study, I started to sweat. How is it over and over I conceding the skeptical position has the stronger position, when placed in front of a neutral party? Why would I rather be representing the non-believer as a lawyer?

I began to lose sleep. During the day I would study and read. But at night, the demons would come. I would wake at 2 in the morning, unable to sleep, my head full of questions. It was there I would start to cry out to God. Where were the answers I was looking for? Why was my brain constantly falling on the side my heart didn’t want?

I understood my concept of the Christian God was probably wrong. Human limitation and error would necessarily result in my being wrong on some point or another. But now I was starting to wonder where I was right. As a Christian, I figured somewhere in the 90-95% of what we knew about God was “correct.” (Obviously there was a great deal unknown about God not factored in the equation.) That we would arrive in heaven and learn that we were wrong on this minor point, or that minor interpretation, all totaling up to round of laughter to our simplicity and then billions of years of bliss.

Now I was dropping my percentage. At 2 in the morning, I felt like I was 75%, maybe 60% accurate. Then 50%. Then less than 30%. I was realizing I was more wrong than right about God.

It was here I prayed. I could read, study and compare during the day, but at night I prayed. I begged God for direction. The right site, article, book. He knew better than I what I was looking for.

I had spent the last 15 or so years of my life concentrating on one thing—loving others. I know if you asked me for help, I would gladly give it. Need help roofing? I’ll be over with my hammer. Need help plumbing? Don’t know what I am doing, but I can fetch-and-carry with the best of ‘em. If God, who has 100 times the amount of love I could muster, knew I needed help—surely he would come? Surely he would point it out?

So…for all the study of the day, at night it was God and I. And one of us was begging to hear from the other.

To be Continued…

Chapter 11


  1. DagoodS, I have to assume you eventually turned to the William Lane Craig's, and the Norm Geisler's, etc, right?

  2. Jon Curry,

    Yes I read William Lane Craig. I found his arguments to be “preaching to the choir” and full of assumptions only geared toward persuading the already persuaded.

    Norman Geisler was the one who claims God could genocide the Canaanites because of the gangrene analogy. So yeah, I read him, too.

  3. **I was doing this on my own. Although to be fair to these individuals, I didn’t push the conversation either.**

    How big of a role do you think their avoidance (that may not be the best way to phrase it, but I'm not sure how else to describe not confronting the question) played in this? In thinking about "secular" decisions, I know that if there are two people presenting viewpoints, and one keeps not answering my questions, or changing the subject, I tend to think the other side might have a lot of validity, just because the opponent can't directly refute or answer anything. After all, if Christiaity was something that wasn't just something they did, but something they were, they'd have surefire answers that would rip the other side to shreds, or at least be as valid as the other side. It might've even played a bigger role with you than others, because you're a lawyer?

    **The first problem is “Just” means to follow a law, and no one can explain what law it is God is required to follow. **

    Kind of random question, that only partially relates to your post: Saying God is just is often used in correlation to saying that the law given was perfect, no one could perfectly follow it, and so God, being just, must punish. However -- as you hint at, what is the law? My understanding is that Judaism ended up with something like 613 commandments, some of which involve food preparation and such. So do we deserve hell for not following a food preparation law?

    And these laws only applied to those who were specifically Jewish. Gentiles had the Noahide laws. So can we even say that the 613 commandments applied to Gentiles? (I could be wrong about what I'm saying here, as my understanding is still currently in the vague area. But this is what I've picked up so far).

    It's just ... when it's said that God gave the law in order to demonstrate how everyone needed a Savior because they couldnt' follow the law ... what 'law' is being referred to?

  4. DagoodS --

    I think I posted my comment before my thoughts caught up to me, because you're along the same lines in terms of what is the law. Like with David, and what law God follows in absolving him, and then what law is followed with punishing David's baby. In re-reading my comment, I sound like I didn't even read that section. Which I did. It just didn't sink in, or something. :)

  5. Interesting thoughts. Why kill when one can rehabilitate? I guess God does have His divine prerogative. Suppose we would need more evidence (if not complete omniscience) to convict Him of malice, however.

    Initiating rehab might dismiss the accountability that allows free will to exist. Becoming robots for the sake of avoiding justice doesn't sound like a good alternative.

    If we're perhaps holding the humanist assumption that all men are inherently good, killing them - babies, kids or adults - would only hasten/ratify their salvation/glorification. No doubt that's a good thing. If they're not good, no injustice is really being done.

    Pondering mysteries does get tiring, if not frustrating/irritating, if done for too long. Like Pascal, I think I'll choose to rest in the idea that God is good and just (as He says He is) and knows what He's doing (as He assures He does - am sure you've read Job). All other paths stink of despair to me. You can try them if you'd like. I'll cling to Jesus.

  6. Greg Hiser says:
    Initiating rehab might dismiss the accountability that allows free will to exist. Becoming robots for the sake of avoiding justice doesn't sound like a good alternative.

    Who says it will turn any one into a robot? I've always wondered why God only shows grace to sinners while they alive and shuts the door upon death. Why is it too late to turn to Jesus after death? It is the one time we have *some* evidence that there is indeed an afterlife, but by then it is too late?

    Sorry, but if that is true, it sounds like a dirty trick to me.

  7. heather,

    I had no problem finding people willing to discuss this topic at great length on-line. Yet, because I mention it, and still feel the tinge of pain, obviously the real-life avoidance bothered me.

    I think this is for two reasons:

    1) Because prior to this, we talked about everything. Intimate shared details. And I was surprised this would be off-limits. Isn’t the very nature of God the greatest search we could engage? How can the foundation be a forbidden topic, after we had debated up and down about the floors, the walls, the ceiling, roof and landscaping?

    2) The immediacy of the response. No careful contemplation. No review of what I even had to say. With the very rare exception, as soon as I started the conversation, the door was slammed. It was over.

    Did it help toward my deconverting? It sure didn’t slow it down! What I saw were people avoiding a monster—hoping it would go away. This does not smack of people holding the truth.

  8. Greg Hiser,

    Welcome, and thank you for the comment. The sticky point remains with those virgin females. Did their rehabilitation result in the loss of free will? Why does God not care about virgin females losing their free will and becoming “robots” but is very concerned two-day old baby boys having their free will inhibited by being raised in a different culture?

    If we need omniscience prior to making the determination of malice on God’s part, then equally you would need omniscience prior to making the determination there was not malice on God’s part. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

    Realistically, we make determinations as to motives all the time, based upon limited information. Upon gaining new knowledge, we can modify our determination. I see a person speeding down a highway at 8 a.m., I presume they are hurrying to work. If I see them turn into an Emergency Room at a Hospital, that new information would change my view as to what the possible motives are.

    If God would like to explain retaining virgins and gold, but killing baby boys as somehow acceptable, I think he could figure out a way!

    Which brings me to the last point. You say you are resting in what God says. However, to be technically accurate, you are resting in what humans claim God says. I suspect there are statements humans have claimed God has said, which you disagree are divine. That these are statements humans have inaccurately attributed to a God.

    By what method do you determine a human has accurately articulated what God has said, as compared to a human making a false claim as to what God has said?

    For many of us, a human justifying the keeping of virgin females and gold, claiming that was what God “said” seems to fall in the latter category. It has nothing to do with God having malice; it is human rationalization.

  9. HelsSailing says:
    Who says it will turn anyone into a robot?

    It might not. Free will is complex enough to defy human logic like mine. Just seems like rehab in this case is forcing someone to be good.

    I've always wondered why God only shows grace to sinners while they (are) alive and shuts the door upon death.

    “Sinner” in this instance is probably better termed “unbeliever”. I am a sinner, but as a believer (in Jesus as my savior) my destiny is quite different. It is interesting, though, that God shows us grace at all in our current state. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

    Why is it too late to turn to Jesus after death?

    Good question. Hate to answer it with ‘God says so’ (Hebrews 9:27), but I honestly don’t know for sure. Perhaps related to the “why doesn’t He rehab” question. Experiencing God in person would seem quite compelling. But Jesus says even in the face of Truth the hearts of unbelievers will remain hardened (Luke 16:19-31).

    It is the one time we have *some* evidence that there is indeed an afterlife, but by then it is too late?

    I disagree with you there.

    “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11

    “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” - Romans 1:20

    Just noticed your new comment, dagoods. Give me some time to read and reflect and I'll comment again later.

  10. Dagoods says,

    The sticky point remains with those virgin females. Did their rehabilitation result in the loss of free will?

    I think the idea of “cutting out the cancer”/maintaining moral purity and the integrity of the ancestral line is actually pretty good. That would explain the boys/men getting killed over girls. The passage explains why the non-virgins were wiped out. That leaves, as you said, the sticky virgins. I’m curious why God didn’t order total annihilation. Apparently, just enough death ensued to satisfy His purposes. Don’t see any indications the virgins were rehab’d, however. They remained pagan servants. Yet another good question, though - why would God permit slavery? Being that Jews were forbidden by law to treat slaves as other ancient cultures did, I’d think the practice, as opposed to leaving them amongst the desolation or killing them, could perhaps be considered merciful.

    Again, though, using such occurrences to claim the Judeo-Christian God is evil requires a good many presumptions. Namely, that the Midianites must have been good/innocent or God’s actions could not be called just. God alone decides the moral standard by which good and evil exist. Indeed anything short of perfection merits judgement, biblically speaking. As I mentioned to HeisSailing, it’s a wonder why God sheds grace on any of us. As He says, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” (Ex 33:19, Rom 9:15 )

    If we need omniscience prior to making the determination of malice on God’s part, then equally you would need omniscience prior to making the determination there was not malice on God’s part.

    For certainty’s sake, that is true. A Christian’s determination of God’s character is an assumption, like yours, based on faith and judgement of the (arguably preponderant) available evidence.

    However, to be technically accurate, you are resting in what humans claim God says.

    No argument there. Part of my hope does rest on human claims. Believing the Bible’s claims to be inerrant and God-inspired (2 tim 3:16) is a faith-based judgement. I happen to believe the accounts of the New Testament writers because they encountered Jesus directly (many were with Him for years) and backed up their talk with walk (miracles, changed lives, and the willingness to die for what they believed to be the truth – which wouldn’t have happened if Jesus were not who He claimed to be). I have other, perhaps less empirical, reasons for believing as I do.

    By what method do you determine a human has accurately articulated what God has said, as compared to a human making a false claim as to what God has said?

    As mentioned above, by their unique positional authority. Here is a great pdf link (why reinvent the wheel?) -

  11. The link got cut off. I'll cut it in half.

  12. Greg Hiser,

    If the Virgin Females were not rehabilitated, but remained pagan servants, why couldn’t the non-virgin females have as well? Why not the baby boys as well?

    Greg Hiser Again, though, using such occurrences to claim the Judeo-Christian God is evil requires a good many presumptions.

    Unless, of course, we claim there is no God, and this is human justification of action by attributing to a God. Quite common, of course. Read the Moabite Stone for a contemporary demonstration of exactly that.

    To be clear, Greg Hiser, archeology indicates that none of this happened. There were roughly 50,000 inhabitants in ALL of Canaan at this time. (Let alone 32,000 of them happening to be virgin females.) This is myth. Legend.

    As an atheist, I am not claiming the Judeo-Christian God is anything. As a deconvert, I saw these as significant problems which I would never accept in another religion. It was only my own bias allowing me to accept it in my own. Regardless of whether I was claiming it moral or immoral.

    More …and the willingness to die for what they believed to be the truth…

    He He He. They will tell you around these parts a favorite topic of mine. They will tell you my first question will be, “Do you have a source for how the Disciples died and why?” If you want to see my treatment of the topic, just click here.

    As for the pamphlet, I read through it. Same sub-par Christian apologetics. Part of the very reason I deconverted was due to pamphlets like this. They do not tell both sides of the story, the argumentation is poor, and it is only designed to convince the already convinced. Most skeptics even half-associated with the concepts contained therein would consider this shoddy work.

    Let’s look at its 10 claims:

    1. Bible’s self claims

    2 Tim. 3:16. “All scripture (that) is theopneustos…” Two problems. Theopneustos is a combination of two Greek Words, “God” and “Wind.” We have no other instances of this word occurring in Greek literature. (There is one possible reference, but it is obscure.) It is a made-up word, used by this author, and nowhere else. To claim what it does or does not mean is pure speculation. The other problem is the grammar of the verse allows this to be a limitation to ONLY the scripture which is theopneustos, meaning there is other scripture which is not. (Oh, and if the Septuagint included the Apocrypha, would those books be included as well?)

    Further, the Book of Mormon, Qur’an and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, self-proclaim to be Divine. What is unique about the Bible doing so? Of course, the pamphlet fails to point this out.

    2. Christ’s claims about the Bible

    First one would have to demonstrate Jesus said these things. Proving the Bible through its own words is not exactly overwhelming in the persuasion department. Secondly, Jesus decimates Mosaic Law—if it was Divine, why is it now so much rubbish? (And yes, I am familiar with Covenant theology.) The pamphlet only deals with areas in which Jesus supports Scripture. Not in areas where Jesus modifies and even does away with Scripture.

    A one-sided, self-authenticating argument makes me wonder why, if Christians hold truth, they do not provide the opposing view? Are they afraid it is more convincing?

    3. Writers’ claims for the Bible

    The pamphlet fails to note Esther is never mentioned by the New Testament authors, yet the Book of Enoch is quoted by Jude. Fails to note the earliest Christian writings referred to the Tanakh as “scripture” but Jesus’ words as “sayings.” And, again, this is self-authentication.

    (And it holds to Peter as the author of the Peterine Epistles—another controversy simply ignored.)

    4. Textual Unity

    …Except for the Birth of Jesus, the sayings of Jesus, the death of Jesus and the Resurrection accounts of Jesus…yeah, it got close.

    The Bible is full of contradictions. It was not written over 1600 years. The only hope it was written on the African Continent is to put the Sinai peninsula in Africa (it is debated whether the peninsula is Africa or Asia) and we don’t know all the authors, let alone their number. This section of the pamphlet is clearly written only to Christians, not skeptics.

    5. Textual Preservation

    The Dead Sea Scrolls actual give support for the integrity of the Septuagint as well as the Masoric Texts (something the Pamphlet clearly has no concept of). I particularly liked the line about our copies being “virtually identical to those written by Matthew, Paul and the other New Testament writers” after the same pamphlet admits we do not have the originals.

    Textual criticism gets us as close to the original copy as possible. But if an error was introduced in the first copy, and then all copies made from the first copy, we are really only getting as close to the first divergent copy. The question is how close to the diverging point. We have no idea if that is what is in the original.

    The pamphlet conveniently fails to mention how much text we have before 200 C.E. I always love how it is glossed over that P52 has “a fragment of John 18” How much? How many words are on P52? It is no larger than a postage stamp.

    6. Historical Accuracy

    Global Flood. Ten Plagues. Exodus. Joshua’s genocide. United Kingdom. David’s Census. Solomon’s Palace. Book of Daniel. Acts.

    ‘Nuff said. (To show how tired this pamphlet is, it even dredges up the claim about skeptics questioning the existence of the Hittites. It doesn’t demonstrate the two groups known as Hittites. And no one has ever been able to find this alleged skeptic who questioned the Hittites of the Tanakh. The first claim we can trace to this was a Christian apologist who claimed “some skeptic” (the unknown skeptic) questioned the Hittites, but we cannot find that skeptical reference.)

    I am not trying to be rude to you personally, Greg Hiser, but seriously—if Christians want to address people who are going through a deconversion they have to do better than this. WE know the Christian’s arguments, the counter-arguments, and the problems better than they do.

    7. Accuracy in Science

    Global Flood. Light before Sun. Stop the sun in the sky. Birds before reptiles. Flowering plants before the sun! Cud-chewing rabbits.

    8. Accuracy in Prophecy

    Was Tyre forgotten for seventy years? (Isa. 23:15) Was Egypt desolate for 40 years? (Eze. 29:11) Then look at the list of prophecies for Jesus.

    “Born of a Virgin” - the Pamphlet fails to address this well-known controversy.
    “Born in Bethlehem” - Was he visiting (Luke) or living there (Matthew0?
    “Called Immanuel” – Right Jesus was called…was called…
    “Ministry in Galilee” – have to admit. New one on me. Will look into this one.
    “Triumphal Entry” – riding two animals at once.
    “Betrayed by a friend” – Mark’s use of the Tanakh.
    “Falsely accused” – We are not sure what he is accused of, since calling oneself the Messiah is not blasphemy.
    “Silent before accusers” – ‘cept when he talked to Pilate.

    Look, the problem here is the writers are writing after the fact. They are deliberately and consciously aware of the prophecies, and attempting to have Jesus fulfill them. What prevents them from making up a story or two to conform to this belief? Nothing!

    9. Social Impact

    Yes, but both good and bad. It has caused people to love one another, but it has also caused women to be treated as second-class citizens. Slavery and polygamy have been supported by use of the Bible, as well as Emancipation and Marriage. People have killed with the Bible as their guide, and people have given great benefits by following the Bible.

    The Pamphlet seems to want to highlight the good and forget the Bad. Huh.

    10. Impact on Individuals.

    All books can have impacts on people. Shakespeare’s poetry can have meaningful impact. A Hallmark card can bring a tear.

    The fact I deconverted—does that make the Bible untrue? Then how does the fact people have converted to the Bible make it true? Sauce. Goose. Gander.

    The problem with these is they are all done after-the-fact. I will be addressing this in my next blog entry.

    If this is what you use, how do you claim the Qur’an (as one example) is not divine, when it, too, can be demonstrated to be unique and self-authenticating?

  13. Greg,

    I may be misreading, but you seem to be approaching this as though we all know the truth, most of us are simply denying it. That's not how we're approaching it at all.

    **“For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” **

    I've asked this question in a few other blogs, but if this statement were true, wouldn't it be logical to say that scientists who deal with how the universe functions would be the most absolute believers of God? Because that's not how it works.

    **God alone decides the moral standard by which good and evil exist. Indeed anything short of perfection merits judgement, biblically speaking. **

    Why? Isn't it unjust to hold imperfect beings to perfect standards? I don't even think you can argue that we were once perfect -- had humans once been perfect, Adam/Eve wouldn't have sinned.

    As it is, it sounds like you're going with the idea that God is good/just/so forth because God says so? I don't see any other method for your determination, if you say that God alone determines good/bad. And what DagoodS asked earlier was what method do you use to determine if God is good? After all, we wouldn't say that anyone here was good/bad based on their say-so. Nor would we say they were good/bad based on being a Creator or all-powerful. I mean, even if we take the Midianites, and don't focus on the adults that were killed -- what about the Midianite infants? Slaughtering infants is seen as horrific in Christianity, no matter who the infants are. I would say they pull that belief from the Bible, and from what God wills. Yet this same God condones the slaughter of infants, and it's also good? Doesn't this make the very meaning of good arbitrary?

    **I happen to believe the accounts of the New Testament writers because they encountered Jesus directly (many were with Him for years) **
    But isn't this using the NT to prove the very claims the NT makes? Or are you using a different criteria?

    Heather (I've changed my user name)

  14. What do ya know! I had looked up Isaiah 9:1-2 before. When I was able to look in my study Bible with my notes, I saw my cross-reference to Matt. 4:15. Curiously, vs. 1 must be read literally, but the rest of the prophecy in vs. 2-6 is either spiritual or in the future.

    I’m uncertain as to the translation here. An interesting study is to hit blueletterbible, and go through the various translations of Isa. 9:1. More research would be required to lock in (if possible) what this verse is saying.

  15. Wow, you guys write a lot. Would take me all week to do the slightest justice to all those questions/concerns. Know I'd just be eliciting more questions/argument in the attempt.

    There's a difference between informing the unenlightened and debating the obstinate. Can tell there is no lack of research on your parts and that we are quite entrenched in our views.

    Sorry to be the party pooper, but I think there is more profitable use of our time. If, in the end, I am just delusional (as you apparently suggest) - life's still a win-win for me. But does your faith (or lack thereof) provide a hope/joy worth such vigorous defense? Is the gleeful confidence truly just a facade to cover fear? Shame? Pride? Lustful indulgence? If unabashed hedonism is the only pro to de-converting, best not waste any time, for there is precious little of it.

    You may have the last word, if you deem any are necessary.

  16. Greg Hiser: Lustful indulgence?

    One of the horrid parts of deconverting is all this unabashed, wanton, hedonistic sex and lustful indulgence I am supposed to be involved in, and I am missing it. I am missing it!

    Sorry we overwhelmed you Greg Hiser. But it sounds as if it was better for you to find out what you are up against. I agree. We are too much for you to spend the time on.

    Good luck in all you do…

  17. Greg Hiser: …Lustful indulgence…

    DagoodS: One of the horrid parts of deconverting is all this unabashed, wanton, hedonistic sex and lustful indulgence I am supposed to be involved in, and I am missing it. I am missing it!

    *big grin* :)

    Yeah. According to the common Christian perspective on atheism, I should apparently feel completely free to just go nuts at the nearest bar or club, cheating on (or probably, divorcing) my wife for no reason other than to have sex with whomever I wish, whenever I wish… never mind how inadvisable sex with a large number of partners is from a health standpoint.

    Why haven't I done this? Geez, I dunno… maybe because I don't need God in order to give a damn about my wife's feelings, or to love my wife enough to respect our marriage?

    Greg: But does your faith (or lack thereof) provide a hope/joy worth such vigorous defense?

    To quote George Bernard Shaw: “The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.”

    I don't think anyone would be particularly motivated to defend our standpoint if no one were particularly motivated to question it… are you mad that when you ask questions, we respond with answers?

    Greg: 1 Cor 1:18-31

    “He despises the choicest gift of God to man, the Gift of Reason; and having endeavoured to force upon himself the belief of a system against which reason revolts, he ungratefully calls it human reason, as if man could give reason to himself.” Thomas Paine.

  18. My apologies. My words were barbed speculation and certainly of no help in, if not detrimental to, encouraging self-examination. I was foolish to have chosen them.

  19. I was wondering how long it would take for Pascal's Wager to show up. It's an interesting variation (Joy & Fulfillment to people's lives versus believe-or-the-bearded-guy-will-smote-ya), I'll grant you that.

    The standard Pascal's Wager is an weak argument for all sorts of reasons (such as the sincerity of belief), and this one is stronger but still IMO unconvincing (and I'm a Christian).

    To claim that one's point of view is superior because of how happy it makes people ignores what is a fundamental principle of the Christian religion: Truth. Scientology gives many people hope/joy, but to a majority of people (for now) it's not true.

    And let's be fair. Christianity, for all the hope/joy it has brought its adherents, has brought an awful lot of pain, humiliation, torture and death across the centuries as well. It's a religion, and as such gives crooked folks a great way to manipulate great masses of well-meaning people.

    I myself have a big problem with the murderous genocide ordered by God in the Tanakh. It's sprinkled with all kinds of little cruelties by God. One that got me into trouble in Bible class was pointing out poor old Uzzah (2 Sam 6.6-7) who was driving the cart bringing the Ark of the Covenant back home to Israel. The ox stumbles, and the Ark starts wobbling. Uzzah is worried the most sacred object in all of the world is going to fall on the ground and crack into pieces. Not very reverent. He reaches out to steady the Ark and prevent its desecration, and God smites him on the spot. I always had the impression that had Uzzah let the thing fall and break, God would have smoted his ass anyway.

    I can provide two (admittedly wobbly) answers. The first is very "Inside Theology" and has to do with Karl Barth and neo-orthodoxy. As I mentioned earlier, it essentially holds that the Bible does not point to itself, but rather to Jesus Christ. The entire "story arc" of the Bible comes down to Dr. Jack Rogers' famous 9-second summary of the Bible: "God made a good world. We messed it and ourselves up. God sent his son to put the world and us right again." The Bible, all of it, has to be first looked at in the context of the life, teaching, and death of Jesus. Dr. Rogers explains it much better, of course. Using this rationalization, I personally think that the genocide stories are likely written post factum by the guilty parties in order to justify the mass mayhem to future generations ("we can commit genocide but you can't 'cuz God told us to"). But that's probably heretical. Hey ho.

    The second (admittedly weakest) answer is that of a former pastor of mine. She said "when I finally meet my maker, I'm gonna have a long list of questions for Him." God's got some 'splainin to do.

  20. Greg Hiser,

    Thank you for your last comment. A true rarity in blogdom; your stock went up. You are correct, we are well-researched. And comments about “sin” or “pride” or some other reason for deconverting, when we ARE so well-researched, roll off us like the proverbial water off a duck’s back.