I would like to thank M. Rodriguez of the The BitterSweet End (http://bittersweetend.wordpress.com) for the following post. I suggested the title to him in response to his invite for me to write him a couple of guest posts because I was interested in another persons experience on this subject.
How does the (online) ex-Christian community affect those who have questions of faith or doubt?
For Many atheist or ex-Christians who really were not involved in evangelism during their Christianity they may not fully realize how much their interaction with a believer or doubting Christian impacts a person or affects the psyche of a person.
Now for the doubting or skeptical Christian there are a lot of skeptic websites debunking Christianity; but a good portion of those websites are really designed for other atheist to mock Christians. Personally during my de-conversion I did not visit a lot of atheist websites for that very reason (and also a lot of them had a lot of profanity). Fortunately I did find several Christian friendly atheist blogs that were about intellectually challenging the dogma of religion, and not mocking it. Now for me the majority of my experiences have been good. I have found a number of really good atheist blogs that I visit occasionally that are focused on being against the delusion of God and NOT the Christian person. And I have a very supportive group that visits my blog on a regular also. And they were very supportive when it came time for me to tell my wife about my de-conversion, with words like good luck, best wishes, our hearts and thoughts are with you. Just real encouraging.
However not all my interactions have been positive. During my deconversion process, I put up a post called the Atheist Challenge, which was 10 questions I thought would be very difficult for an atheist to answer. And being a doubting wavering Christian, (but still a Christian) they were phrased in a way as coming from that perspective. In saying that the Christian perspective, that they were loaded questions which assumed God. And for me at that time, I did not fully comprehend that they were assumed loaded questions, because to me God was assumed true, so to put it any other way would be illogical.
Because of this questionnaire, I did receive some very sarcastic, uncooperative comments from atheist. Calling my questions stupid and really not trying to answer, but provide a sort of reverse Ad Hominem argument with ridicule.
Fortunately there were other atheist and ex-believers who knew the background of why I asked the questions. So they quickly came to my defense, against those who criticized me and the intelligence of the question. Not that I was trying to prove atheist wrong, but these were genuine questions I really had and personally experienced. And questions, that I knew I would get if and when I deconverted. (And I did get a version of every single one after I did de-convert).
In that post questionnaire many of the so called difficult questions were not so difficult. And because of the massive response I received, I can confidently say, that the atheist questionnaire/challenge did have a direct effect into me finally coming into the realization that the Christian Faith and Belief is fallacious. So I have to say thank you to all those who took those questions seriously, and really did try to answer the questions of a former doubting Christian. I appreciate the online community of atheist and ex-believers who took my questions seriously; because it was a turning point in my de-conversion, because those last 10 questions really closed the door on my doubt. However this could have been a different story…..I could have dropped my inquiry into my religion right then and there, because of the negative perception & reaction of a few atheists. And just returned to my Christian belief, because I did not want to be like all those other angry atheists. And that thought really did cross my mind….But like I said, those Ex-believers and Atheist who were familiar with my story and my blog gave me the hope and confidence I needed to come to the terms of truth.
There is a saying that gets passed around in the Christian evangelical community… you might be the only God people see… Meaning that your actions and treatment of others might be the only interaction that a person might have with that belief system. And that they may reject your God, not because of rational argument, but on how good or bad their interaction with you goes. It further implies that the impression you give is a direct reflection of your belief.
Never more true is this statement as it applies to atheist & atheism. What I mean by that, is that a Christian may say some harsh and mean things on an online forum or blog (Go to Hell, Burn in Hell, God hates you) but for every unkind Christian on a blog, there are 2-3 more who are willing to say I Love You or Jesus loves you. Atheist-Atheism-Unbelieviers don’t have that luxury. If an atheist puts up a mocking and ridiculing comment on believers, that really might be the one and only interaction which that believer might have with an atheist-unbeliever. And that negative perception of an atheist will carry with that believer, and spread because there are not very many other atheists to help correct that one mis-action of the angry atheist.
Now some may think, that this point is really some type of irrelevant emotion appeal, and that atheism is the intellectually honest position, so that they don’t have to be nice or loving or show compassion, because the believer should be able to recognize and rationalize intelligent argument and be able to come to the right conclusion regardless if I am mean or nice. Well that misperception becomes irrelevant in the grand scheme of human interaction. Just ask yourself… Would you rather be Intellectually Right/Correct OR Loved & treated with kindness and respect? And if you act in a way that is unloving and mean, why would a person want to be a part of that group?
And this answer right here is why so many people flock to religion, especially the liberal versions of it. We can be as intellectually correct as much as we want, but if we don’t genuinely care about the wellbeing of a person it means nothing.