Friday, January 28, 2011

Damascus Road

I was asked:
Let’s suppose you were to have a dramatic experience as you were getting into your car. Blinded by light from heaven, you hear an earth shaking voice that says, “B-E-L-I-E-V-E!” You turn to your neighbor’s house and they run out the door exclaiming, WHAT WAS THAT? Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that this really did happen to you. Would you believe? I mean, would you believe that God is real? Would you believe that God really can communicate? Would you believe that supernatural miracles are really possible and that you actually experienced this first hand? Or would you dismiss it as dishonest or at least not to be trusted?
This comes up occasionally—what would the atheist do if Jesus appeared to them? A common response, “I would have a full mental examination!” or “I would check myself into a hospital!”…but would you?

I’ve had the rare opportunity to work with mentally challenged people. It is not as if one part of the brain acts rationally, and the other side is acting irrationally. And the rational part keeps telling the irrational part, “Be quiet! I know I am not actually hearing voices” and the two are bickering children in the back seat.

The mental difficulty interweaves within the rationale. It becomes part of the person’s entire experience. It is part and parcel of who they are. They really, truly believe the government is utilizing dentists to monitor people by filings. They can drive, order movies, work—but part of the wiring tells them it is equally rationale to believe this fantasy. It is as real as our belief the police will come if you call “911.”

If I had a vision of Jesus, it is very possible I wouldn’t get a mental examination because I wouldn’t see the need to do so. Just like the schizophrenic who hears voices—they will not get one either, because the voices (to them) are real. It is not as if my rational brain could “trump” my irrational brain.

More importantly, though, what about the same question to Christians? What if God appeared and told you to kill a dog? Or kill your own children? If the person holds to the Tanakh God, he has ordered children killed before. Numbers 31:17; 1 Samuel 15:3. Indeed if the same Christian insists in absolute objective morality, it would be perfectly moral for God to ask again. Nothing whatsoever preventing it.

This is demonstrated as a useless question. If we are in control of our mental facilities, we (both the Christian and the non-theist) will dismiss such apparitions. We both would dismiss (or greatly question at the least) a vision of God outside our perceived notion. What if the Christian saw Shiva? Or YHWH? Again—the Christian expects the appearance to conform to their notion of what God is—they most likely would dismiss it.

So I ask the same question back, “Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, God really did appear to you and told you to kill your children. Would you believe that is what God wants you to do? Would you believe God adequately communicated his desires? Would you believe you experienced this first hand? Or would you dismiss it as dishonest or at least not to be trusted?

“What if God told you to kill your neighbor’s children?”

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hittites, skeptics, and hearsay

I apologize for this; I don’t generally like to create a post out of comment discussions, as it becomes disjointed. However, as you will see, this will simply be easier to read by putting in posting form. We continue our search for a skeptic who stated, “Hittites never existed.”

For Lurkers, the newest name proposed by Dave Armstrong in our Parade of Characters is E.A.T.W. Budge - prolific writer who wrote extensively on Egyptian history from 1885 – 1930.

We don’t have a specific writing from Sir Budge denying the existence of the Hittites; what we have are the writings of Melvin Grove Kyle (a contributor to The Fundamentals (1909) if that means anything to you!) where Kyle reports, “In 1904 one of the foremost archaeologists of Europe said to me: ‘I do not believe there ever were such people as the Hittites…’”

No name, situation or context is given for this anonymous quote. Dave Armstrong argues (persuasively, in my opinion) Melvin Kyle is implicating Sir Budge with this quote, without directly attributing it to Sir Budge. The documentation provided by Dave Armstrong supports this position:

1) In 1912 (three years after The Fundamentals), Melvin Kyle wrote The Deciding Voice of the Monuments in Biblical Criticism. At pg 105, he states:

Some had even gone so far as to say, though not often for publication, that “no such people as the Hittites ever existed.” Budge, in his History of Egypt, says: “The Kheta, who are, no doubt, the people referred to by the Assyrians under the name of Khatti, have been identified with the Hittites of Holy Scripture, but on insufficient grounds,” and again, “In passing it must be stated that the commonly accepted identification of the Kheta with the Hittites of the Bible is as yet unproved, since it rests only upon the similarity between the Hebrew name Heth, and the Egyptian name Kheta.”

The citation of Sir Budge immediately following the statement about Hittites not existing implicates Sir Budge either directly stated it, or supports it in his writing.

However…we encounter our first problem. Melvin Kyle is quote-mining. Sir Budge wrote a multi-volume set of History of Egypt in 1902. The second quoted sentence comes from Volume Six, page 34 [corrected link] where Sir Budge states
In passing it must be stated that the commonly accepted identification of the Kheta with the Hittites of the Bible is as yet unproved, since it rests only on a similarity of the Hebrew name Heth and the Egyptian name Kheta; on the other hand it may readily be conceded that the people who built the fortress temples of Baghaz-Köi and Eyuk belonged to the same race, if they were not actually the same people, as the Kheta depicted on the Egyptian monuments.

Whoops! Did you catch that? Melvin Kyle only quotes Sir Budge up to “Egyptian name Kheta” and then stops. I don’t know about you, but if I continued a sentence with “on the other hand” I would appreciate being quoted entirely! Sir Budge specifically states it is “readily conceded” the people who built the fortress (the Hittites), belonged to the same race as the Kheta, “if not actually the same people.” (his words.)

Sir Budge is NOT stating, “The Hittites never existed.” He is indicating is that the connection between the Kheta and the Hittites has yet to be proven at the time of his writing. Now look at the first quoted sentence by Kyle Melvin which comes from Sir Budge’s History of Egypt Vol. 4, pg 136 (1902)
The Kheta, who are no doubt the people referred to by the Assyrians under the name of Khatti, have been identified with the Hittites of Holy Scripture, but on insufficient grounds, and similarly the Khabiri have been identified with the Hebrews.

Again, Sir Budge questions whether Kheta is correctly identified with the Hittites. Not whether the Hittites existed at all.

1n 1906, archeology confirmed Kheta was referring to the Hittites.

Sir Budge wrote a book The Dwellers by the Nile which was originally published in 1885, but updated. I cannot confirm publication date of the copy linked, but in it, Sir Budge states at pg 53:

[F]or it was from this race the Khita nation, so celebrated for having waged war successfully against Ramses II, and recently identified with the Biblical Hittites, sprang.

(It appears in his later works Sir Budge refers to “Kheta” as “Khita.”) Reasonably, this was updated some time after 1906—after the discovery linking the two. If we review The Mummy: A Handbook of Egyptian Funerary Archeology published 1893, but updated 1925, Sir Budge repeatedly refers to the “Hittites” as historical without qualification.

At best what we have is a scholar who questioned the sufficiency of proofs whether “Kheta” was referring to the Hittites. Notice he carefully qualifies his statement. He doesn’t say, “Kheta does not refer to the Hittites” nor does he say, “The Hittites didn’t exist, so Kheta can’t be the biblical Hittites.” He says the case is “unproven.”

Further (contra Melvin Kyle’s quote-mining) Sir Budge states whether Kheta refers to the Hittites or not—If Kheta is not actually the same as the Hittites, they must be the same race. How could one claim Sir Budge was stating “the Hittites did not exist”? How could the Kheta be the same people, or at least the same race, as a myth?

Upon gaining new information, Sir Budge readily accepts Kheta and Hittites are the same.

Now to the second document.

2) Melvin Kyle’s entry on Archeology in the International Bible Encyclopedia (1915?) states,

Then grave doubts in the past have been raised concerning the Hittites Occasionally it has been boldly said that "no such people ever existed" (compare Newman, Hebrew Monarchy, 184-85; Budge, Hist of Egypt, IV, 136)

Uh-oh. Do you see those two cites? That first name may be familiar to you—Francis William Newman. He was a previous contestant in our Parade of names and we already blew out of the water the allegation Newman said, “Hittites don’t exist.” Indeed, he demonstrated he did think Hittites existed. And the second citation we have just demonstrated doesn’t hold water, either.

Realizing these entries are not enough, Dave Armstrong claims Sir Budge made an oral statement to Melvin Kyle, who did not attribute it to Sir Budge out of friendship. Curiously, the only support given is that they were in the same occupation (really? Everyone in the same occupation are friends?), and that Melvin Kyle didn’t attribute the quote to Sir Budge.

The second support is question-begging: We know they are friends, because Kyle didn’t attribute the quote to Sir Budge. Kyle didn’t attribute the quote to Sir Budge because they are friends.

I submit it more likely Melvin Kyle did not attribute this quote to Sir Budge, because Melvin didn’t want to be called out on it! Safer and anonymous to say, “I heard it from a leading archeologist” than to actually call out a name!

How many times have we had conversations like that? How many assertions have you heard, started with, “They say….” Or “Scientists claim…” And when we look for the proof (like we are doing here) all of a sudden “they” and “scientists” and “skeptics” become difficult to find!

This is the reason we do not allow hearsay (a witness stating, “She told me…”) in a courtroom. It is unreliable. We don’t know the context, the credibility, the bias or anything at all about the person making the hearsay statement.

Take this simple situation. Bob is testifying:

Bob: Tim told me the truck was red.

But Tim isn’t there; we cannot cross-examine him. What if Tim was color-blind? Or it turns out Tim wasn’t in a position to even see the truck? Or Tim has some bias? This is the reason we indicate attorneys must be allowed to cross-examine the ACTUAL witness. Not what someone else claims the person said.

We have the same problem here. What was the context where Sir Budge talked (if he did at all) to Melvin Kyle? How many of us have heard someone quote what we said, and think, “Wait a minute. I wasn’t saying that AT ALL!” or “Wait, that was taken totally out of context.”

Melvin Kyle already demonstrated he has no problem quote-mining. What if Sir Budge said, “The Hittites as literally described in the Bible? In my opinion, no such people existed”? Many other scholars questioned the literal accounts without questioning the Hittites existence. (The same way if I was talking about Exodus and someone mentioned the Egyptians willingly giving the exiting Hebrews gold, silver and clothing to the point the Egyptians were plundered. Exodus 12:35-36. I could respond, “No such people existed!” I am NOT saying Egyptians didn’t exist—I am saying those particular Egyptians are a myth.)

Melvin Kyle could easily take a sentence out of context or modify it, or mold it to his own wishes.

Or maybe he didn’t. Maybe Sir Budge said to him privately, “All this Hittite nonsense is bunk. No Hittites ever existed.” That is the problem with hearsay—we don’t know! This is why we must rely upon our sources, and avoid inferring something not there.

Finally, it appears anachronistic for Sir Budge to write about the similarities between the Hittites and the Khetas—if not the fact they were actually the same people!—and then privately proclaim the exact opposite. A hearsay statement conveniently fitting what a quote-mining apologist wants to hear, who carefully avoids attributing it to Sir Budge.

The actual quotes do not align with what Sir Budge claims—the fact Melvin Kyle cut out a most important portion should cause heavy concern regarding his reliability. Not to mention citing Newman, who we have already seen, contended Hittites existed. If Kyle is willing to misrepresent Newman and is willing to misrepresent Sir Budge, why should we consider him reliable for claiming an anonymous statement, implicating the opposite of what Sir Budge wrote?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Games People Play

Our family was always one that played games together. My parents, my siblings, my in-laws & my friends.

As children we eventually reached an age to play Monopoly. Our attention span couldn’t last, even on long Michigan Winter days. One spent the first hour traveling ‘round and ‘round collecting properties, the next hour trying to trade to a Monopoly and the third hour watching either the Mortgage Dept. or the slumlord slowly crush you.

We watched our older siblings take up Risk and eagerly waited for the age we could finally play to achieve Total World Domination! Too much power was granted for turning in cards, so we placed a limit and enjoyed hours of attacking with die. Once introduced to Axis & Allies, Risk was forgotten. Instead of just ground troops, we could conquer the world with submarines, Bombers and tanks. In college, we began to play Dungeons & Dragons which is such a time-suck, all other games were relegated to being played only rarely.

Along the way, we played other games like Stratego, Life, Battleship, (“You Sunk my Battleship!”) and Masterpiece. I gained appreciation for art in that game.

My maternal grandmother loved Dominoes and Rack-O!

We played Darts, Ping-Pong (primarily Polish), and even shuffleboard--inlaid when dad re-tiled the basement floor.

As Baptists, we were strictly forbidden playing with regular cards. However, Rook was completely acceptable, as it was not of the Devil. (Had four suits, but they were colors, not shapes, and numbers, no king. And no Joker [Satan]. Well…it DID have one (1) odd card, but that was a Bird, so baby Jesus smiled.) [Ah…the counter-culture that is Christianity!] Unfortunately, Rook really was best played with four people, and we always seemed to have too many. Luckily Uno came along, and we lost interest in Rook. Eventually we were introduced to Up-and-Down-the-River and this has been THE game of choice for my paternal family ever since. It has been played at almost every family function for over 30 years.

As we matured, we realized regular playing cards will (probably) not doom us to hell, enabling us to branch out to Hearts, Hand and Foot, Tripoley, and of course the mid-western stand-by--Euchre.

My mother-in-law taught me Cribbage.

As my children have grown, I delight in teaching them games such as these, and picking up new ones such as Five Crowns and Loot. Recently, my daughter’s boyfriend introduced us to Settlers of Catan and we have become hopelessly addicted. Part of the game involves trading with other players. (Like Pit, only without the raucous.)

The first time I played, I picked up this “art of the deal” very quickly. None of this “trade you a wheat card for a sheep card” for me! I was making elaborate side-deals, and contingent clauses and weaseling as much I could get for as little to give. My daughter told me she was playing with her boyfriend’s family when the following exchange occurred after boyfriend’s father made an artful deal.

Daughter: Wow—your dad is starting to deal like my dad.
Boyfriend: NO body trades like your father.

He he he.

We have even developed family legends within our game playing. When you play Tripoley at our house, one particular chair wins. Always. Doesn’t matter who sits in it. Playing Up-and-Down-the-River, if you get the Yellow 6, (a normally innocuous card), it will doom you. My sister always wins at Up-and-Down. Her husband is always last place.

20 or 25 years ago, my brother, my sister and their spouses played a game of Dutch Blitz. We have never heard precisely what happened in that game (just bits and pieces) all we know are two things:

1) They became so angry at my brother they wouldn’t speak to him for hours; and
2) They vowed to never play the game again.

Every time that story comes up, my brother smiles a secret little smile. He enjoyed the game, and did quite well at it, apparently. (I’ve heard part of the reason is that smile.)

For all their technological wonder, and advancing involvement with others, video games do not draw me like a good card game.

What games do (did) you play?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Conversations with a Christian

Recently Cory Tucholski of Josiah Concept Ministries endeavored to write a blog series, responding to questions on my blog entry Questions Christians Hope No One will Ask. Cory Tucholski (from what I have seen so far) is one of those extremely rare individuals who can converse with courtesy, admit the skeptic was right (even when he thought I wouldn’t be) and have an amicable discussion while disagreeing.

The best part? These conversations are just starting. Not some blog entry where 112 comments have already been posted. You can join right in! So here are the links (I will update as necessary.)

Question One on Methodology, focusing on Canonicity and Inspiration
Question Two – Source to support one’s claim
Question Three – Why do Churches have locks?
Question Four – How does one find God, focusing on Prayer
Question Five – When did Exodus occur?
Question Six – if God lied, how would you know?
Question Seven – Why did God save Virgins and Gold during genocides?
Question Ten – How does one determine God’s characteristics without verification, focusing on Justice and Mercy.
Question Nine – God being Just and Merciful

(Note, he understandably skipped two questions to do research.)

Feel free to join in, or lurk along to watch the discussion.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Thought for the Day

It never entered my thought process that my 200 word witness would be successful against the educated skeptic. I wrote it for the average man or woman one might encounter at an airport or a soccer game. [emphasis added]
From Dr. Clay Jones – Asst. Professor of Christian Apologetics for BIOLA University

Just let that sink in.

H/T Vinny

Thursday, January 13, 2011

With Enemies like this; who needs Friends?

Apparently Dave Armstrong desires to be some sort of pseudo Arch-Enemy to me by going through my old blog entries, and posting attack responses against me. Which might be intriguing if he was actually interested in a discussion, or presented a coherent argument. Alas, after removing the condescending sneers, attempted insults and entire civilizations of strawpeople made out of my claims; the little left is so insubstantial a butterfly’s fart would rip through it.

Most times, I figure it is obvious, why bother responding? Perhaps, though, it would be instructive as to how apologists work…

I wrote a a blog entry stating:
As I deconverted, I would read the non-believer’s position. Then I would read the believer’s position. Time and time again, I found the believer’s position to be based on non-truth.

I heard the statement how skeptics once claimed Hittites didn’t exist, but it turns out they did. Not true—no skeptic said this.

Not exactly “Headline of the Day” material! Christians claim skeptics once said Hittites didn’t exist. Hittites DID exist. Therefore, (the thinking seems to go) we need not trust skeptics because they were wrong once—they will be wrong again.

But…as it turns out…we can never find these supposed skeptics who claimed the Hittites didn’t exist. Where are these alleged skeptics? What are their names; where can we find the quotes? My source for this information is Peter Kirby’s article that likewise demonstrates we cannot find this supposed “skeptic” who stated, “The Hittites didn’t exist.”

Now you may think this a fairly innocuous statement; but not Dave Armstrong! This…THIS…is proof positive I am a liar. Indeed, he notes since I used the unqualified term, “no skeptic” all he has to do is produce one (1) “prominent skeptic (professor, etc.)” [his words] who denied the Hittites’ existence and he has proven my contention incorrect. He has proven me…a liar!

And so…after spending “many hours trying to track some down” [his words], Mr. Armstrong wrote a monster 4,000 word blog entry (that’s 8 pages single-spaced) where all he has to do is produce one (1) prominent skeptic who denied the Hittites’ existence.

Go read it, if you like. I’d only ask one thing after you do so—what is the name of that one (1) prominent skeptic who specifically claimed, “Hittites didn’t exist”? See, after removing all the fluff and bibliographies and muddling about, Dave Armstrong fails to do the one thing he needs to do—produce the skeptic!

Oh, he gives examples of specific people claiming “someone” said Hittites didn’t exist—but those people don’t provide names for those skeptics, either.

Let’s see if I have this straight-- I am stating, “People claim skeptics once said, ‘Hittites didn’t exist’ but do not provide the names of these alleged skeptics.” Dave Armstrong then gives examples of people claiming “Skeptics once said, ‘Hittites don’t exist,’” but do not provide the names of the alleged skeptics.

Yeah…um…probably not the best way to argue against a claim…by solely giving repeated examples of exactly what the claim is saying!

Of course, in the end, Dave Armstrong decides he will believe the Christians who assert “some [unnamed] skeptic once said, ‘Hittites didn’t exist,’” which (to Dave Armstrong) means the Hittite-not-existing skeptic did exist, which means he has produced a prominent skeptic (albeit we don’t know who it is), which makes me a liar.

Thus the reason discussion is no longer fruitful with him.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Die for a Lie – Licona Style

Mike Licona’s recent work, Resurrection of Jesus covers a great deal of ground—you may notice the reviews on it tend to be multiple blog entries.

He starts off regarding philosophy of history, and notes people’s bias effect their review. While he does recognize his own, I do think he gets caught up in the argument for the supernatural resurrection of Jesus, and fails to adequately remove his bias. After reviewing the sources, and various claims, he eventually reduces the historical bedrock to three (3) minimal facts:

1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
2. Shortly after Jesus’ death, the disciples had experiences that led them to believe and proclaim Jesus had been resurrected and had appeared to them.
3. Within a few years of Jesus’ death, Paul converted after experiencing what he interpreted as a postresurrection appearance of Jesus to him.

(pg 463)

In partial support of the second point, he discussed the apostles’ fate. Vinny asked me to list the sources Dr. Licona uses, so here we go. I will only perform minimal interaction—you probably already know my response. *grin* But first a relevant quote:

“When one is arguing for the truth of Christianity and the truth of the resurrection of Jesus, falling back to the martyrdom argument is a sign of argument-weakness.” Dr. Jim West.

Dr. Licona initially and heavily relies upon on 1 Clement 5:2-7; I will include his translation in its entirety:

Because of envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars have been persecuted and contended unto death. Let us set the good apostles before our eyes. Peter, who because of unrighteous envy, not once or twice but endured many afflictions and having borne witness went to the due glorious place. Because of envy and rivalries, steadfast Paul pointed to the prize. Seven times chained, exiled, stoned, having become a preacher both in the East and in the West, he received honor fitting of his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world., unto the boundary on which the sun sets; having testified in the presence of the leaders. Thus he was freed from the world and went to the holy place. He became a great example of steadfastness.

Licona follows with the very qualified statement, “Clement reports that Peter and Paul suffered multiple attacks and most likely refers to their martyrdoms, although the latter is not without question.” Pg 367. “Most likely” and “not without question” does not instill confidence.

He notes “unto death” does not necessarily mean death (see Mark 14:34; Matt. 26:38). He provides argument that similar wording in Polycarp points to martyrdom, but with qualifications.

Licona then turns to Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philipians, 9.2 which says:

I exhort you all, therefore, to yield obedience to the word of righteousness, and to exercise all patience, such as ye have seen [set] before your eyes, not only in the case of the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles. [This do] in the assurance that all these have not run in vain, but in faith and righteousness, and that they are [now] in their due place in the presence of the Lord, with whom also they suffered. For they loved not this present world, but Him who died for us, and for our sakes was raised again by God from the dead.

And in footnote 327 (pg 369) for additional sources, he cites Ignatius Letter to the Smyrnaeans 3.2, 4 (I couldn’t find anything new there), Tertullian, and further stated Peter is reported as having been crucified upside by Origen, in a work lost, but quoted by Eusebius.

I can’t help but note the failure to point out Acts of Peter here!

Licona goes on to use Dionysius, as quoted by Eusebius. The final statement of footnote 327 is worth quoting:

Hippolytus was a disciple of Irenaeus and a leader in the church of the late second and early third centuries. The fates of the apostles are reported in a work attributed to him. However the actual dating and authorship of the text is doubtful. The fates given for Peter and Paul are consistent with what others wrote. The accounts regarding the remaining apostles are interesting and may contain historical kernels, but they are anecdotal and cannot be accorded too much weight.

As to James, the brother of Jesus, Licona utilizes Eusebius’ quotes of Hegesippus and Clement of Alexandria. (here) (pg 455)

He then points out Josephus. Licona states we cannot presume Clement and Hegesippus embellished the accounts because Josephus may have down-played it. Licona does not explain why Josephus would have down-played it, and failed to address the numerous reason Christian authors would have to embellish it!

Licona hurt his credibility, however, when he states, “James’ martyrdom is multiply attested by at least two independent sources: Josephus and one or more Christian sources. We do not know anything about the origin of the tradition(s) from which Hegesippus and Clement drew.” (emphasis added) (pg 458)

Yes we do. It’s called “Second Apocalypse of James.”

Dr. Licona noted initially (and correctly) in his book how worldviews bias our review of history. Yet it was instances like this (and numerous others) where his own bias was far too evident and unaddressed that ultimately left me disappointed in the book.

Why are Hegesippus and Clement “independent” of Josephus? What is he relying upon to claim that? Why are their accounts not considered embellished (especially in light of the mid-step embellishment of 2nd Apocalypse), and Josephus considered trimmed down for “economy or unstated reasons.” (his words)

Perhaps the most interesting conclusion we have is that the best we have, according to him, is Peter and Paul and even then only on the very thin evidence of 1 Clement. Evidence even Licona qualifies as being questioned.

As I pointed out to Clay Jones, The author does not give any details surrounding Peter or Paul’s death. We don’t know when, we don’t know where, we don’t know by whom (Roman? Jewish? Other?), and of course the most important—we don’t know why.

The author is deliberately giving examples of steadfastness, and listing the travesties occurring to these individuals. He states that Peter suffered “many labors”—but skips the bit about Peter being crucified? He gives specifics about Paul—seven (not six. Not eight) times in bonds, exiled and stoned—but skips the bit about Paul being beheaded for his belief!?

The author talks about Abel being slain for “jealous and envy.” The author says Joseph was persecuted “unto death” (although not dying). If the author is willing to say some were killed because of “jealous and envy” but others were only persecuted “unto death” (but not killed) for jealously and envy, and our subjects Peter and Paul fall in the “unto death” category, it would seem in line with the author’s intentions they were NOT martyred.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Wrestling with Christianity

It is hard to be wrong.

A mixed up conglomerate of pride, fear, discomfort and uncertainty. The idea that what you’ve thought for so long was true…was not. Some ideas being wrong can be pretty painless—perhaps you only had the idea for a short period; perhaps you were not that committed to it in the first place.

Other ideas can be so gut-wrenching it takes years to disentangle oneself. For some deconverts, we invested our entirety for decades—enveloping every relationship, every moment, every effort, every essence we could pour into a idea regarding the divinity of Jesus and/or the inspiration of certain writing. The creeds and dogmas carefully studied and either discarded or embraced.

The people we choose to associate with, (and not), to date, marry and even divorce. The way we raised our children; the way we talked. Who we talked to; what we talked about.

And then one day we learn it is wrong. It wasn’t what we thought it was. Changing not just what we believe, but like an ever-growing avalanche, the snowball begins to play havoc with our studies, wreck our socialization, destroy our connections, and even decimate our marriages.

It effects everything—Every. Single. Thing.

That is hard.

You don’t want it to; you want the relationships to continue. You want some of it to remain true. You want…something…to show for all the energy invested. Who wants to say, “I spent the last 38 years learning the wrong thing”?

I link to Like a Child--a person struggling with having been wrong. Just like me. She made this comment on another blog:
I received an email from someone a few days ago that broke my heart, b/c she is facing the same battle i dealt with months ago...panic sttacks, loneliness, trying to figure out what church to switch to in the fundamentalist bible belt south. She should not feel so alone. There should be somewhere she can go locally, to find a welcoming christian community
I find the progression fascinating. Only a few months ago, Like a Child was the one with panic attacks. And I was empathetically feeling terrible I cannot do anything about it. And a few years ago, I was the one with panic attacks and another deconvert wished they could do something about it. And so on. We progress.

Yet as we do, we find it so hard to release Christianity.

Both Like a Child and DoOrDoNot call themselves ”Agnostic Christians” --yet each wonders how long they will retain the “Christian” part of that label before lapsing to only “Agnostic.” (Again, a route equally traveled by myself.)

We can’t believe we were that wrong. Or at least I couldn’t—there must have been something there! How could we have believed it so deeply—so thoroughly—and it be wrong?

It’s like some puzzle where a person has to remove a ring from an object made of steel and wood. We wrestled with it and strove with it and did everything we possibly could to remove that ring and become firmly convinced (along with everyone we knew) the ring couldn’t possibly be removed. And then one day, someone comes along and removes the ring. At first we think it a trick—they cut the ring, or they bent the object or they did something against the rules, and it really still can’t be removed. Yet more and more we see people removing the ring. And we start to try some things we never tried before, and all of a sudden the ring is in a different position than it ever has been before.

And all of a sudden we see how it is possible….just maybe…that the ring could feasible be removed. We reach a point (or at least I did) where we wonder whether we would remove the ring, even if we saw how. Because it would tear our world apart.

I would be wrong.

Yet the not-knowing was worse; what if the ring could be removed? Could I live with that knowledge without trying to apply it?

All our friends are rejecting our new found position. They want nothing to do with discussing it--they want nothing to do with us. They are comfortable with what they believe. They are very UNcomfortable continuing to relate to us.

In retrospect, I did everything I could to hold on to Christianity. Even if I lost the belief in the inerrancy of Scripture, perhaps I could hold on to inspiration. Losing inspiration, I could still hold on to Jesus. Losing Jesus, I could hold on to God. Losing God, I could hold on to Christian friends. Losing Christian friends, I could hold on to Christian Family.

I tried holding on to beliefs, when I should have realized I was wrong. I tried going to church, when I should have walked away. I constantly wrestled because I didn’t want to be THAT wrong!

I had a great holiday season. I spent time with family who didn’t care whether I was an atheist, or Buddhist or…whatever. It didn’t matter. And we still laughed and ate, and stayed out too late.

I spent time with friends who don’t know (and don’t care) about my atheistic belief. They may be Christians; they may not. We enjoy each other for who we are—not for believing the right things or holding to the right dogmas.

And I can look back at 38 years of being wrong and be thankful it made me who I am today. I don’t have to wrestle with Christianity. I was a Christian; I am not now. *shrug* There is nothing to wrestle with.

Like a variety of choices, knowing what I know now, I would obviously do it different. Isn’t that true of all humanity? It now firmly resides as one of those choices.

There are always twinges, of course. I continue to study Christian claims which requires just enough empathy to occasionally give me a moment of hesitation. One doesn’t remove almost four decades of living overnight!

Yet I find more comfort than fear in those tugs. It means I don’t have a lock on ALL TRUTH. It means I can walk away not knowing and not wrestle either.