A Response to Answering The Skeptics

My last post (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/answering-the-sceptics/) received a very long reply, so rather than accept a single huge comment, I decided to replicate the whole thing here and respond. At close to 3000 words, the reply is considerably longer than the post it addresses, a tad unreasonable and I suspect the sort of essay I should expect from the poster. (Note to poster, try to keep your comments shorter and to a minimal number of topics in future, it makes maintaining a conversation a whole lot easier.

The reply I received is repeated verbatim below, with outdented commentary from yours truly.

“Presuppositions are fatal. One should never presuppose anything before an argument because that makes the whole point of the argument moot.”

Presuppositions are necessary. You are falsely identifying the fallacy of begging the question with an axiom or an apparent or necessary truth. You must presuppose several things to even make your claim intelligible. One thing you are presupposing is that the fallacy of begging the question is fallacious. And even before that you assume logic…and some sort of concept of truth. But worst of all you have also claimed in multiple places that you do presuppose atheism because you falsely believe that atheism requires no evidence and illogically you presuppose the epistemology of evidentialism & scientism, both of which are demonstrably false yet they are necessary for your worldview to function.

Missed the point that presupposing the conclusion before making the argument makes the whole point of the argument pointless. The writer thinks he can tell me what I believe too, experience tells me that christians who take that attitude tend to be insufferably rude and prone to not listening. Instead of asserting what I believe based on questionable theology, I recommend actually finding out.

“You’ve already decided the result so why bother at all. Unless by argument AiG means those things where spouses shout at each other and throw things. What has happened here is that the non believer has been framed to be just as bad as the believer because ‘they believe we’re wrong’. The correct way to this to have no presupposition and to weigh each option on the evidence available and then test the claims that are produced. AiG can’t do this though because as christians they have to assume and assert their god and in their attempt to balance the scales they project onto those who are sceptical of their claims the opposite presuppositions. That’s deceitful and dishonest.”

Much of this is simply arguing against yourself since you presuppose at least as much as AiG. I’m not a fan of AiG since their misuse of the doctrine of innerancy has led to much confusion amongst both evangelicals (creationists in general) and Darwinists (and anti creationists in general). But as you’ve shown AiG is essentially right unless you’re saying you don’t assume that the universe must have arose from purely naturalistic mechanisms? You can say that your “testable” models are successful and provide evidence for their truth but Darwinism is totally dependent on the presupposition of naturalism/materialism/physicalism.

Christians don’t have to “assume and assert” their God…I’m not sure what that even means. Loads of Christians aren’t YECs. And claiming that the scales are imbalanced is just more presumption on your part. Your sort of atheist is essentially the left wing equivalent of a YEC…which means that the scales are relatively balanced between you. People like Dick Dawkins are essentially left wing versions of Kent Hovind (except Dawkins & co will probably never go to jail…). Its pretty obvious that you’re actually being more deceitful and dishonest because they at least are willing to grant their presuppositions.

Doesn’t know what sort of atheist I am. In the desire to regurgitate AiGs’s ‘atheists presuppose’ trope what I was saying has been missed, again. Is this going to be a theme? I hope not.

“when a Christian is debating with a skeptic, the skeptic will want the Christian to give up their presuppositions and approach the debate “neutrally.” For example, the skeptic may ask the Christian to “prove” that there is a Creator without using the Bible.

That is a very fair thing to do, you want to assert that something exists, demonstrate it. Opening a book and saying ‘it says so here’ isn’t good enough. You need to show your workings and then demonstrate why the conclusion is valid. Don’t do it and you won’t be taken seriously.”

I’ll admit there are problematic things about this sort of approach. But Atheists constantly try to exclude the evidence of history. The apostolic witness contains excellent evidence of God’s activity in the world. But yes if God exists we should be able to provide arguments for his existence and that’s why there are many apologists & philosophers that do exactly that. But to be fair if you have come to the conclusion that the scriptures & apostolic witness are true then you are perfectly justified to use them as evidence for God’s existence. That’s not illogical, it actually follows perfectly. What is illogical is reading a statement in scripture that says scripture is authoritative and that claiming that is why scripture is true. There are Christians that do that…and AiG may be doing that here, I don’t know.

There are claims that apostolic accounts are accurate witness statements of a god. I am sure many believe it, however it can’t be known for certain and certainly can’t be demonstrated. Many historical records contain accounts of events which are rightly doubted. The gospels and other bible books are no better.

“But Christians cannot give up their presuppositions because this results in adopting the skeptic’s presuppositions

If you can’t give up your presuppositions, then you are not being honest with yourself. Claiming that the opposite view has their own does not get you out of that.”

You presuppose the scriptures & apostolic witness don’t give good evidence for the basic facts about Jesus’ life…you can’t argue for that…it’s clearly a presumption… based mostly on your presumption of the impossibility of miracles. In other words “claiming that the opposite view has their own (presuppositions) does not get you out of anything.”

I believe what can be demonstrated. What can’t be demonstrated doesn’t get believed until that changes. Presupposing it’s impossible is as bad as claiming it’s happened but being unable to show it. I take the middle ground, if it’s not been shown, there is no reason to accept it. It will be believed to be impossible when it’s impossibility is demonstrated. Until either happens, neither is presupposed. Want to promote one over the other? Show it.

“There is no such thing as achieving “neutrality” in an argument. Jesus makes this clear when He says, “He who is not with Me is against Me”

I think by “neutrality”, AiG means something akin to the Null Hypothesis (http://psc.dss.ucdavis.edu/faculty_sites//sommerb/sommerdemo/stat_inf/null.htm) in experiments. In an argument context this will mean to take no position and weigh each argument. If the Christian can’t, won’t, or is incapable of doing that, then they have already decided their answer and the argument is pointless. If the only correct conclusion to an argument is to conclude your starting position then you are not being honest with yourself or to your sceptic. This why a Christian should be challenged to prove their god claims using something other than the circular activity of opening the self referencing bible.”

No I don’t think they mean the null hypothesis. They mean that all questions have a right answer and a wrong answer, and since they believe God exists that “neutrality” over whether he exists is not virtuous or desirous. To be fair if God exists the “objective” position will always be Theism. Neutrality is only virtuous in a situation where a null hypothesis is helpful. But because of the implications of Theism & atheism neutrality on either isn’t going to benefit us.

Cool, so until god is shown to either exist or not exist, the correct position to take is the one I hold. No belief either way.

The correct conclusion is the correct conclusion to an argument. Everything you’ve argued for presumes loads of things and you keep arguing for the same position…so I guess you aren’t be honest.

Do at least try to accurately represent what I’m saying. I think this is deliberate.

And as I’ve already demonstrated referencing the Bible isn’t a viciously circular argument (it’s really not circular at all) unless you are making an argument that it is truthful because it is truthful.

“Don’t Accept Atheist Presuppositions

But christian presuppositions are all fine and dandy! Really? The correct sub heading should be don’t accept ANY presuppositions.”

Incorrect. You should assume a lot of things…and you clearly do assume loads of things.

More telling me what position I take, are we all bored yet?

“The skeptic knows that God exists because God has made it plain to everyone through the general revelation of creation.

If that was true they wouldn’t be sceptical.”

That’s a very poor argument because self deception is extremely common and well understood. I think it’s quite clear that many atheists are willfully atheists because their arguments & reasons are of such low quality that it’s hard to believe they think these are good reasons…the same can probably be said for many Christians. The claim that everyone knows God exists but that some suppress that knowledge makes a lot of sense. Humans suppress beliefs all the time.

If that’s what is really thought I think then I don’t see much change of a rational or engaging conversation. Take some time to understand what it is that atheists are saying.

“If there was any doubting as to just how dishonestly AiG wants the christian to argue, there it is, decide you’re right and then tell them you’re right because they are already wrong because they have presupposed the wrong presupposition. Awesome!

Never Assume

Errr!

Most atheists assume several things to be true.

Okay ….

they assume the existence of morality, logic, and the consistency of the laws of nature

Odd choice of assumptions to list and it depends how existence is defined. I’m pretty sure this is wrong about morality and logic, while the laws are nature are demonstrated facts so assume is a redundant option.”

It’s not odd, thats basically the same argument I made earlier.

What definition of reality are you working with?

You really don’t assume logic or morality? That’s pretty hard to believe since almost everything you write presupposes both.

Point missed, again.

“Most skeptics believe in the existence of morality

Blatant assertion with no reference to source. Also still missing key definitions to determine context and meanings.”

Well…it’s true. I mean I guess we could find a poll about whether or not skeptics/atheists are all moral relativists. I haven’t met anyone who was willing to say that the holocaust wasn’t evil…Sam Harris claims to believe in morality even though he really doesn’t. If you really don’t believe there is such a thing as right and wrong then I think you’re right that this argument doesn’t work against you but that doesn’t give good evidence for your beliefs, it makes them seem prima facie absurd.

And again.

“they will often argue against the biblical God by claiming that God is an immoral monster for acts of judgment like the global Flood

True, they do, and for good reason.”

That’s a complete contradiction of what you just said. You can’t argue that something is immoral for “good reason” if you don’t believe in right or wrong.

And again.

“But what standard do they have to claim that God is immoral

Any standard that says it’s wrong to eliminate those whom you don’t like. People who take that view normally get their moral values from themselves, or they conform to the value as a socially accepted norm. I think that the bible also holds that not killing those you don’t like is a good value. How come god gets a pass on that? Isn’t it supposed to be his perfect rules of conduct or something?”

This moral reasoning is arbitrary.

Christians, always giving god a free pass.

The flood is a recreation event within the broader context of the Torah narrative. The people being eliminated have demonstrate their lack of repentance so it has nothing to do with God not liking them. This is childish straw manning and represents your consistent anti intellectual bias. God disciplines those he loves within the narrative of the scriptures. The writer of Genesis clearly views the timing of the flood as merciful because Methuselah lives longer than the other long lived patriarchs and his name means something like “my death brings judgement.” In other words God gives humanity loads of time to repent. Before you lose your mind remember I’m presenting the text as it should be understood in contrast to your straw man and inaccurate understanding. God isn’t being flippant with his judgement, the writer of the Torah always portrays God as being slow to judge. But additionally the univocal teaching of the scriptures and the New Testament is not that taking a human life is always wrong. Killing someone you “don’t like” could be moral. Capital punishment is moral from the perspective of this tradition and humans tend not to like the sort of people that usually suffer capital punishment. Of course not liking someone isn’t relevant to a just cause for taking life. In any case murder is wrongful joking and the Torah and Jesus are clear that wrongful killing is of course wrong. God’s righteous judgement upon wicked people would of course not be wrong.

“If life just evolved naturalistically from matter and energy, then where do immaterial laws of morality come from? And who establishes these laws? Government? Society? The individual?

One wonders if these are genuine and serious questions or if they are being used as rhetoric to shore up the aforementioned christian presuppositions. Giving AiG the benefit of the doubt, the answers are: natural selection, ourselves and societal norms, all three.”

I wonder if you’re being serious here because this makes your worldview evil. This means you deny human rights because you deny natural rights since rights are socially constructed by humans and governments. They just legal fiction. In other words you believe that nothing is wrong…or right. So the Nazis weren’t evil. Slavery wasn’t evil…nothing is evil. And nothing is right or good. If all their is is matter in motion then there simply is no meaning or value to life.

The meaning our lives have is the meaning that we assign to ourselves. It comes from what motivates us, which in turn is driven by what we like, which comes from the chemicals in our brains. It’s a very well understood process, there is no need for any god at any stage.

“If this is the case, and murdering and stealing are right for me, then why shouldn’t I murder and steal from you?

So not serious question then. Is the only thing keeping them from doing bad stuff the belief that god said you can’t? How come so many people who don’t accept the christian god do not do this? Could it possibly be that natural selection has already dealt a dealth blow to the DNA encoding that brings about those characteristics? I wager that a society that finds those actions acceptable is one that would not last very long.”

Right you don’t believe in good and evil. More murder, rape, etc occurred in the 20th century then the previous centuries combined. We clearly haven’t evolved past these things and societies that make peace with evils like infanticide are doing quite well. Doing evil does lead to disaster and the western obsession with infanticide has hurt us badly but natural selection doesn’t select based on any criteria so natural selection cannot be the basis of determining right and wrong. You may as well roll a die. But the bigger problem is that you don’t think evil things are evil you think they are impractical. That is quite evil.

The critical difference between absolute numbers and per capita numbers is not very well understood is it!

“They can’t tell me it’s wrong! It’s just wrong for you.

And wrong for pretty much everybody else, thanks to our evolutionary heritage.”

That makes no sense. You don’t think it’s actually wrong. Explain it’s wrongness. Because you don’t like it? How does evolutionary history connect to morality? It’s a purely physical process. Right and wrong don’t ever come into it. Is it wrong when gorillas rape other gorillas? Is it wrong when wolves eat humans? Give me an example of something that is wrong, universally wrong and why it is wrong base purely on scientism. Unless you think humans are more than matter in motion then we aren’t capable of free will and rightness/wrongness isn’t even relevant to our “actions” since we couldn’t be responsible anyway. This point of view is totally absurd. These are the metaphysics of evil.

I’m skipping some of the remarks you made. Mostly irrelevant.

I’m beginning to wonder if my esteemed responder understands much about evolution and natural selection and how they affect human behaiviour.

“And yet, despite morality being immaterial and not absolute, we manage.”

The claim is that since morality isn’t material it can’t be a part of a materialist worldview…so do you think morality is immaterial as you stated above? And it’s relative? That means there’s no morality.

If it’s relative then it doesn’t exist, what an odd argument.

Yes, we managed to kill a million infants a year for the last 30 years in America alone. Atheist regimes managed to cause the deaths of over a hundred million humans in the 20th century. Your argument isn’t coherent to begin with but empirically it’s completely false anyway.

“Because individual survival depends on the group and if the individual acts against the needs of the group, they don’t survive very well.”

That’s not a reason to not murder, steal etc. That’s just a “theory” of survival. Why survive? Just because? Your worldview is dark and meaningless. Nothing is actually wrong for you.

I was right, doesn’t understand evolution.

It’s also just false. Dictators survive fine. Loads of people have done horrible things and survived just fine. The social contract theory of ethics was exploded over 2,000 years ago by Plato’s myth: the ring of Gyges. And we see that same story inverted constantly through our contemporary myths about superheroes. We consider it morally virtuous to act against our best interests (sometimes to clearly emotionally unhealthy places) and even give up personal survival for the sake of others. You can’t make sense of altruism. Social contract theory is a description not an impetus of morality. It means there is no morality.

And didn’t get my point either, sadly, it was a theme.

“in a random, naturalistic universe, why should immaterial laws of logic exist?

Another faux question I fear.

In a naturalistic universe there is no explanation for laws of logic

As I suspected. The laws of logic are man made by the way (https://www.britannica.com/topic/laws-of-thought)”

This is idiotic. You think that human minds (something you claimed not to believe in elsewhere) came up with the laws that make rationality possibility? Like the law of identity? Or the law of non contradiction? You really don’t know enough about these issues to discuss them. Citing a britannica article as evidence for your faulty claim is an embarrassingly weak argument. Especially since that article doesn’t even agree with you. Laws of logic are necessary truths. Humans didn’t make them, we abide by them.

I’m still being patient with you because I hope you will see some of the numerous errors you’re making and hopefully change.

‘Patient with me’, how about presumptuous and patronising instead.

“you have to assume that the laws of nature won’t change tomorrow.

That’ll explain why I have trouble walking straight when I stay a bit late after work. Those damnable laws of nature always changing when I need them most.”

They don’t change that’s the point. Terrible argument. Why is nature uniform?

“They are immaterial and constant throughout the universe.

That’ll be because they are dependent on the properties of the matter that makes up the universe. Take away the matter and you lose the lawful nature.”

That makes no sense. The immaterial laws depend on matter? That’s absurd. Taking away the matter just takes away the matter. It does nothing to an immaterial law.

Physics class required.

Ignoring more irrelevance.

“I’ll write my own new version, ‘answer with folly and be treated like a fool’.”

That’s exactly why I tell you when you don’t know enough and you certainly do not know enough to intelligently discuss these things. It’s hard to take you seriously. But I’m still being patient.

And relax.

I’ll repeat my suggestion from the top of this missive, if you want to comment here and have a productive conversation, keep your comments concise and to a minimal number of points and do reign in the assumptions of stupidity.

Answers to Questions for Theists

Over at his blog (http://maasaiboys.wordpress.com/) makagutu has posted some questions for theists(http://maasaiboys.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/questions-for-theists/).

 

I thought it would be an interesting exercise to consider the questions as I might have in my Christian days. So, over lunch yesterday I discussed the questions with my wife (who is still a Christian) and below is a summary of how we assessed the questions.

Some of the questions are long, so you’ll need to go over there to see the questions, I’ll write just the answers we discussed.

 

  1. It’s not specifically about the eating of the fruit. It’s the disobedience and rebellion that the act signified. The warning had already been given so the response should not be a surprise. The sacrifice element is a very long theological answer.
  2. It’s not about God not being clear, it’s about man injecting his own bias and interpretation over the years. The result is less than perfection.
    • As an atheist, I find this answer wholly unsatisfying, yet I don’t see how a theist can offer much improvement on the answer.
  3. No one can know the answer to this one and any answer would be a pure guess on what God actually did. Also, no valid conclusions could come from whatever guess a theists decided to give. The only honest answer is “I don’t know”.
    • As an atheist I don’t consider this a good question because there is no answer and therefore there is no comeback. It might lead to some interesting postulating but there is no serious dialog that this question can promote.
  4. This one actually made me laugh. It basically hits the free will argument, which is at the very centre of Christian theology. God didn’t do it out of predestined confusion; he did it to give us a chance.
  5. Short answer: “No one can know the mind of God.” The answer to 4 extends into this one, but it also touches on a very real challenge, why did God do it the way he did?
    • As an atheist, I think this question shows exactly how tortuous the route to salvation is and how uncritically Christians accept it.
  6. How very true. The bible also records that Jesus had his own credibility issues at the time. Just because someone appears to be out of touch, different, or even irrelevant, does that mean they are automatically wrong?
  7. I’m not and never was so cannot possibly answer. I would suggest that the heavenly language is unlikely to be any language of earth, we’d somehow just ‘know’ how to communicate with each other.
  8. The unique selling point of Christianity is salvation through grace. It is this that makes it the one true path to god.
    • As an atheist I do not find this at all convincing. The only answer to “they can’t all be right” is that none of them are right. Each will have its own unique selling point and the USP answer isn’t particularly good.
  9. My wife conceded that this was a very challenging question and possibly the one which demonstrated the biggest flaws in religion as a whole. We couldn’t come up with a satisfactory answer.
  10. This is another question that seeks to predict the mind of God and frame it so he is self-contradictory. No one can answer what God’s motives were so the question is impossible to answer and therefore no conclusions can come from it. Better questions are needed.
  11. This is clearly a reference to the bible saying the God hardened pharaoh’s heart so that he would not set the Israelites free. The English phrasing is a problem and the preferred reading is that god allowed it to happen rather than actively made it to happen. Either way, it’s a difficult passage with no easy answer. We didn’t try to invent one.
  12. Similar answer to 11.

 

So there you have it, some good questions, some not so good questions; some good answers, some not so good answers. The exercise was an interesting 30 minutes for my wife and I, but ultimately it didn’t change the basic position of either of us.

 

Telling Others I am an Atheist

Over the past 3 years I have told several people that I am a former Christian, now an atheist. Interestingly, but probably not surprisingly, I’ve found that telling strangers is much easier than telling those I already know. I’m talking about face to face conversations here.

In my former job, I spent a good deal of time on the train to and from London; a journey of over three hours. So it is inevitable that I’ll occasionally end up in conversation with my neighbour and sometimes that conversation will go on for most of the journey. As a result, there are times when the subject turns to science or religion. In these circumstances I found myself being very open about my religious status. In almost every case the person I’ve been talking to has been a fellow atheist or agnostic. On revealing that I’m a former Christian, very few of these fellow travellers took the subject further and showed any interest in why I changed my stance. Those that did found my ‘science convinced me’ explanation sufficient and acceptable.

Basically, those who already hold a view that the god concept is either questionable or false have accepted my change of religious state with a ‘Cool, good for you’ and moved on. Sometimes that can be a little deflating; this is a subject that dominates my life after all. I lived a Christian life for many years and the step away was difficult and challenging and the ripples do continue. Changing your stance on religion is not comparable to changing your preference of car. This has been a good experience for me because it has forced me to step outside of what dominates my life and engage with others on what is meaningful to them. Something I didn’t do often enough when I was a Christian.

On the flip side, telling Christians is, predictably, a whole other experience. Those that know me are understandably sad, this is because they know me and care for me. Their response is out of love for a friend and I fully get that, but it is still not an affirming response.

Last week I told a total stranger, who is a Christian, and the result almost comical. I say almost because her reaction was instinctive, she wasn’t faking it. Thinking about it after the event I wonder how my Cristian self would have responded in the same situation. My timing also sucked a bit too. I was on my way home after a week of work and happened to sit next to her, with a work colleague, she overheard us talking about my upbringing in Africa and how I was from missionary stock. This encouraged her, because she happened to be on her way home from a Christian event called David’s Tent. Not something I am familiar with, but from what she said it seems to include extended sessions of worship that last over 24 hours. Not something I’ve done myself and strikes me as a tad excessive. Anyway, this girl, is on her way home, tired and full of the effects of having spent a week with fellow Christians; something I most certainly can identify with, I’ve been there many times, as a leader on a summer camp and as one of thousands at a popular Christian festival. Probably not the best time to get faced with a former Christian.

When I told her I had turned my back on faith she actually winced and leaned away from me. It was as though I had caused her genuine and severe mental anguish, maybe I did. The trigger seemed to be the phrase “I just don’t believe anymore”. It was as though her brain was trying to shout back, “that’s not possible”. I changed the subject onto her job and she relaxed again. It turns out she takes the same train route to and from work so maybe I’ll bump into her again, who knows.

Breaking it all down into its simplest states, Christian responses to my atheism are understandably sad while non-religious responses are either indifferent or congratulatory. Which brings me to a very serious point; this balance of reactions only encourages me to seek out my atheist brethren and form friendship bonds with them. If Christians want to win atheists back, they need to develop a better response.

 

Its all Change Around Here

Life in the limey residence is going to be different from now on.

Firstly, it’s because I now have a job. It is a big relief, but it is not quite what I was hoping for. I find myself being slightly more junior and at a lower salary than I wanted. This was always going to be a risk when my wife and I made the decision to relocate three years ago. Being this far from London has an effect on the types of job available and the corresponding salaries. Still, there are some prospects and the role will give me some valuable experience so I will be focusing on that rather than the negatives. The true is, we can afford to live and there are many who are worse off.

What it also means is that I am now out of the house by 7am each morning and arrive back home again at a similar time. Gone are the days when I can work from home, I am now a regular commuter, something I have not done for several years. That will take some adjustment, I enjoyed being home when limey daughter got home from school. I also enjoyed doing the school run on occasions. Those too are now in the past and we’ll have to adjust. I think I will miss that the most.

 

There is other news from the Church.

A vote recently took place to change the rules of the Church. The proposal was that women should be allowed to preach. Until now, the rules stated they could not, I don’t know the exact wording or what the exact change is. This is a vote that has been expected and anticipated since the split of last year when a bunch left the church to set up on their own. The leaving group basically consisted of the more fundamental attitudes. That’s a bit of a simplification, but the effect is that those left are a more liberal bunch and that means a vote like this can actually be considered and discussed.

Unsurprisingly, the vote was overwhelmingly in favour and the rules have been changed. In anticipation of this change my wife was primed with date and a passage and is to become the first woman to preach in the church. She has put many hours into her preparation and with about three weeks to go has it completed.

Over the years she has preached a number of times, sometimes in our church at the time and sometimes as a guest preacher. Since our move, she has preached as a guest in a local church a few times and has another engagement in just a couple of weeks. In all that time I have not seen her put the effort into a sermon that she has for the one she has just completed.

I am sure she’ll have other sermons to preach now and I fully expect that there will be several a year. The pastor continues to be a good and supportive friend and I know that he will encourage my wife in her ministry.

There was a time when I enjoyed hearing her preach, I liked how she explained certain passages and she makes an effort to use clear and concise language. I never enjoyed a sermon that went into intellectual theology to such a level that it required mental gymnastics. My wife avoids this and I think that is why she is so often appreciated when she preaches.

However, I haven’t heard her preach for more than four years and when I asked if she wanted me to attend this landmark event, she deemed it not important that I attend. I would have gone had she wanted it, but I think for her it is better that I don’t sit there disbelieving most of what she has to say. It’s not a specific problem in our life, but there are still areas where we need to work things through. Hmmm, that sounds worse than it actually is, please read that last sentence as an over statement and certainly don’t assume there are marital issues as a result, there aren’t. It’s simply some areas haven’t been discussed into minute detail because we haven’t had the need to do so.

So, life is different and we’ll adjust to the newness of it and however we adjust we’ll make sure it’s for the better. One thing it does mean is that I’m spending a lot less time sat at my computer in my office reading blog and failing to write stuff. Whether that’s a good thing or not is a whole other issue.

The Validity of Debating Creationists

I’m very intrigued about tonight’s debate between Ham and Nye. The news and publicity that I am seeing about it is has been almost non-stop for the last couple of weeks. Though the mainstream media here in limeyland doesn’t appear to have picked up on it. I’m keen to see if it is reported at all tomorrow. I expect to see something in the morning news and later in the papers, I guess I’ll find out tomorrow. I’ll not be watching it live though, since it’ll be midnight here when it starts and goodness knows what time when it’s over. I expect I’ll check YouTube for videos tomorrow to see how it went. No doubt my feedly stream will be full of comment in the morning as well.

One of the hottest questions on the subject of the debate seems to be the validity of the debate rather than what the content is likely to be. The opinions here are almost as polarised as the subject itself.

I fully get the objections that vocal naysayers are raising. Debating Creationists does give undue validity to their opinions and making it this public, especially so. The Ham publicity machine has clearly been working very hard. The important point is, scientific truth is not decided by debate; it is dictated through evidence. Debating the validity of Creationism gives a platform to ideas which should have died out a long time ago and the debate format simply gives them life through the method of slippery rhetoric. Clever words do not truth make, regardless of how much the speaker believes it.

However, this does also give an opportunity for those creationists who are prepared to pay attention to the science to actually hear a science description from someone who is not trying to peddle religion off the back of it. When I look back at the science I read about in my creationist days, I can see how it was always shaped in a way that led to god. Creationists talking about science invariably frame the discussion to guide a god agenda and this is dishonest. When I read creationist comment on science now, I can see that clearly and it alarms me. Creationists who have relied on the likes of Ham and AiG to feed them these twisted versions of science now have a chance to hear it more clearly, if only they will have ears to hear.

I hope that Nye will rise to the challenge and give many creationists something serious and honest to think about and investigate. I hope he has good advisors and has had enough time to prepare because getting through to a creationist is not the same as explaining science to the secular layperson. If a scientific argument is seen as threatening to a Creationist, then it’ll be rejected. The science needs to be phrased in a way that invites (temps?) them to look deeper.

This event always springs to mind when thinking about discussions such as this: https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/when-friends-are-unkind/

 

Guest Posts

M. Rodriguez of the The BitterSweet End  (http://bittersweetend.wordpress.com) blog asked me to write a couple of guest posts for his blog. This I was very happy to do for him and in return I suggested a subject for him to write about for me.

My first guest post has already been posted and is available here: http://bittersweetend.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/being-in-a-mixed-marriage-christian-atheist-the-issues-that-come-up-and-overcoming-the-issues-of-dogma/

If anyone wishes to either write a guest post and invite me to write than I am happy to oblige. Specifically, I would be interested in anyone who would wish to write a post on a subject that is related to the Christian to Atheist journey but from a perspective that I have not already presented here in this blog.

Posts may be anonymous if desired.

Does anyone know a Christian spouse married to a former Christian?

One perspective I would be interested in hearing about and inviting to guest post here, would be that of a Christian whose spouse has deconverted. If you are in that position or know someone who is, then please do get in tough I would welcome your perspective and reading your guest post.

Suddenly I realised that Atheism was the Only Choice

The side effect of my increased understanding of the scientific method and the impossibility of a literal creation was that more and more of what I had accepted in The Bible was rejected as false.

I can’t remember exactly when it was but over a short period of time I realised that rejection of formerly held Biblical truths could only result on one thing, total rejection of The Bible. I did consider for a while if I could hold my acceptance of Evolution along with the belief in a personal God. The problem that caused me was that it didn’t fix the fact that key events in the Old Testament didn’t happen and if certain key events in the Old Testament didn’t happen, then the New Testament was equally in doubt and therefore Christianity as a whole had little to defend it.

It didn’t take much for me to realise that the end result of the road I was on was the abandonment of my Christian faith. I could not embrace my new scientific understanding and my enthusiasm for more and keep a Christian faith. It simply wasn’t going to happen for me, there were too many questions that resulted in The Bible being wrong or questionable.

So rather than spend years battling with my faith, I decided to shortcut the torment and make a conscious decision that Christianity was bunk and go from there.

While it was an easy logical conclusion to make, there were many things that I needed to consider. How do I tell those I love? Especially my Wife! How will this affect my morals? What do I do about going to Church? How will this affect my views on death? This last one was key as at this time my mother was very ill with Pancreatic Cancer (more on this in another post that will come).

Those first weeks Post Atheism were a bit weird.

It was a few years ago now so I don’t recall those weeks especially clearly, but there are a few things that still stand out for me.

The first one is that I questioned my morals and their source. I hadn’t realised it until then, but my mind-set wad been very heavily engrained with the idea that morals and goodness come from the Holy Spirit and I was good because I was a Christian. Abandoning that must then surely mean the abandonment of my morals. I found myself asking questions about what was now acceptable, could I lie more readily? Steal from work? Cheat on my wife? You know, the sort of things those horrid godless people do all the time!

Well, it turns out that I was still just as unhappy with the idea of any of those things as I was before. So there would be no sin binge, as it were.

Tell No One

At this time I resolved that my state of faith would be a secret until I could work out what to do with the news. My biggest fear was how my wife would react, I knew that if it had been the other way round I’d have likely been devastated and I didn’t want to do that to her. This meant that I also would not tall anyone else because I didn’t feel it would be right to tell anyone else when she didn’t know.

Later I would seriously consider confiding in a close friend first and there were a couple of occasions when that very nearly happened. It just never seemed to be the right place or the right time.

What I did start to do was expand my reading of blogs. I looked for and found several blogs of people who had also come out of Christianity. This gave me a form of release as I could read now read (and participate if required) about similar experiences and not feel alone and unable to express my concerns and frustrations.

You Have my Permission to be Controversial

“You have my permission to be controversial, and to ask the hard questions.”

Those were the words my wife said to me over the weekend. Before I get to that though; first a bit of background leading up to the conversation and context.

After a lovely pre-Easter holiday and a long weekend break for the Royal Wedding we spent a few days at my in-laws.

Over breakfast on our last day, before we headed back home, my mother-in-law mentioned a good childhood friend of my wife’s. A friend with whom she’s had sporadic contact since the breakup of her marriage. My in-laws are close to her parents, so we get much second-hand news from them. Anyway, it’s a long and messy story which has no place in this blog apart from the mention that this friend now proclaims “there is no God”. This is apparently due to the new man in said woman’s life.

The emotion with which my mother-in-law expressed this latest development made it clear that not only was she saddened by this news, but she was shocked to the point of considering it an immensely hurtful thing to say. While I can certainly appreciate why my mother-in-law feels that way, it didn’t fill me with any confidence as I edge myself closer to the point at which I make my confession.

What it did do though, was give me a chance to open up a conversation with my wife and Atheism and reduced faith. So I decided that I’d make use of that later in the day.

Later in the day turned out to be on the drive home. An hour and a half, when we could talk without interruption; thanks to a recently purchased in car DVD system for the daughter on the back seat.

I mentioned to my wife that I was a little taken by the strength of her mother’s response over news of her friend’s atheism. My wife acknowledged it was strong, then changed the focus to that of her friend and pointed out that given what she has been through, its hardly a surprise that she struggles with accepting there is a God, let alone manages to maintain a relationship with Him.

My wife made a good point, though personally I don’t accept the ‘bad things happened to me therefore there is no God’ argument. I find it a bit self absorbed and illogical. If you’re going to declare the absence of God, do it based on (lack of) evidence and logical conclusions, not because of some sob story. No matter how bad life may seem to you, there will always be someone in a worse situation who manages to praise God and be cheerful about it. So I have little sympathy for boohoo stories which try to justify non belief in God.

Of course my reply to my wife was more considered, plus she knows where I stand on this point anyway so there really was no need to extended explanation.

The conversation moved on a bit and at some point the news came on the radio to announce the death of Osama Bin Laden, so we meandered around that a while before eventually coming back on track.

We discussed our faith and my wife surprised me by saying she’d noticed my withdrawal from Christianity since my mothers death three years ago, she also noted that while my mother’s death wasn’t the cause that was about the time it started. (The story of my mother’s illness and death will come in time; my chronological narrative hasn’t reached that point yet.)

My wife is right of course and I was a little taken aback by her accurate insight, though the shame is mine for even thinking that my wife does not know me that well by now.

So I acknowledged my wife was right and admitted that my Christianity has suffered to the point that I was concerned that recovery to what it once was would be impossible. She accepted this as though she knew it already; maybe she did and was being gracious towards me. Maybe she knew I wasn’t being entirely truthful, if she did, she didn’t follow it up.

I knew I wasn’t being entirely truthful. In the past few months when I have been pondering over how to come clean I’ve decided the best way is to treat it as a journey and give my wife the chance to get used to the idea rather than spring it on her. Maybe I’m underestimating her again. Maybe she knows far better than I realise and is continuing to be gracious and loving. Either way I don’t want to rock the boat any more than I need to, my wife is precious to me and I’d rather live a lie than risk losing her.

Anyway, the conversation moved on some more and we talked about how we’d both been unhappy in our current church for at least a couple of years and it had likely moved to the point where recovery from that was impossible under the current leadership. The problem is that we have many good friends here. We’ve discussed moving church a few times and each time decided that was not what we wanted.

The future will change

However, that’s not where it ends. We recently decided to relocate and are in the process of finalising the sale of our house; we’ve yet to start packing and sorting out our accumulated junk. The move won’t happen until August, so we have some time yet.

The move is unrelated to our church situation, but it does mean that there will be a new church for us to attend. My wife made it clear that she would like us to be able to attend together and be a family at church again.

This is where we get to the above mentioned statement. In the context of being at church again my wife acknowledge the negative impact our recent church experience had had on us and asserted that she wanted the move to be a time to change that. I agree with her, though I didn’t voice that I was not so comfortable being a church goer again. This is something I will need to deal with in time.

Perhaps sensing this and knowing that silence on the subject has been part of our current problems finished with encouragement for me. She stated that she wants me to be more involved intellectually and vocally, to ask the difficult questions, the questions that my scientific mind brings up and to be controversial in it.

We’ll see how it goes, I’m not really one for speaking out and being controversial, but maybe a new found bravery will come.

Until then, there is packing to do….

Introduction

I guess this blog should really be called Confessions of a Former YEC, as I no longer identify myself as such. However, given that in this blog I shall be giving details of my journey into Fundamental YECism and on to atheism the title probably suits that context.

To clarify, YEC stands for Young Earth Creationist. That is, someone who believes that the 1st chapter of Genesis is a literal and accurate account of how the earth (and the universe) came into being about 6,000-10,000 years ago.

The journey into being a card carrying YEC is one of indoctrination, misguided teaching and a misunderstanding of science in a desire to prove prognosis. Its not all bad, it’s a path that is very definitely paved to good intentions and there is much from those formative years that I treasure still. Just because the science was wrong and the religion false, does not make the values invalid nor does it make the teaching incompetent.

The journey to atheism is the realisation of what science actually shows and the slow dismantling of all that was once held dear. This latter journey is still in progress and there is still much to learn and appreciate. Not everything that comes out of the mouth of an atheist is pleasant, I’ve witnessed more than my fair share of nasty atheistic rhetoric and it not at all becoming, if anything it slowed my journey down.

So that’s the introduction done. I have not yet mapped out any posts I want to make yet, but I have ideas I am forming so something will take shape over the next few weeks.

If anyone stops by here and deems it important enough to hang around or even has a specific question they’d like to raise on any aspect of the journey then I will do my best to be as honest as I possibly can. Maybe I’ll even make a post of the answer. Given the current climate of advancing scepticism and New Atheism (oh how I hate that term) I’d appreciate what comment people may have.