I told my Dad I am an Atheist

That was interesting and not entirely how I expected it to go either.

First some background.

As a Christian, I was always unembarrassed by my Christianity and in my family I was among the most committed. Of my siblings, if there was one who was not going to die a Christian, it was me. As it is I was the last to leave the faith, however, if you asked them, no one in the family would have predicted I would turn away from my childhood faith.

My father, on the other hand, is what I would have described as a nominal Christian with a very liberal faith. As a child we would always have meal time prayers and he played the piano in church for many years, however, I don’t recall him ever expounding the gospel or leading studies. As a young adult I actively involved in various parts of the church organisation including study groups and youth groups. These are areas I never recall my father being involved in, and certainly not with the enthusiasm that I displayed.

I remember one discussion we had many years ago where he described me as a zealot. I’d say that was a pretty accurate description of my Christianity.

I hadn’t told my father about my move from faith mainly because the subject hadn’t come up, and to be honest, I’ve not been sure of his level of faith. He’s effectively not lived a Christian life for several years. I imagined that he’d done what one of my brothers has done, which was to quietly quit living a Christian life, while not making a formal rejection of faith.

It turns out I was wrong and he still holds onto the basic concepts of a Christian god. I don’t know how strong they are, but they are clearly stronger than I realised. Our relationship has been a bit shaky for most of the past thirty years, though in the last five years, since my Mum’s death, it is the best it has been in all that time. However, there are still subjects that we are cautious about and it seems that this is now one of them.

He’s spoken about my atheism with my youngest brother, with whom I have a very close relationship, and through that I know that at some point he wants to bring me back round again. Not at all what I wanted or expected to hear. I know from past experience that this would be a conversation that runs a very high risk of us falling out again. Thankfully we’re both at a stage where neither of us really wants to risk that and so sensitive conversations are now avoided, whereas in the past we would both have gone in guns blazing and stubbornly blamed the other for the resulting fallout. He didn’t see his young granddaughter for three years the last time that happened; the cost isn’t worth it.

The wider context is that there is more to the conversation that we had. He suggested I might wish to seek advice from the church minister. I explained that he was also a close friend and I wasn’t sure I wanted to cross the friend boundary, so dad suggested another minister. I was very surprised that his port of call for advice was a man of the cloth, so I killed the idea by saying I wasn’t interested in doing that because I was an atheist. The conversation was already emotionally charged and for one of very few times in my life I managed to utterly stump him. To be honest I think I sent him reeling. It was the last thing he expected me to say and when he spoke to my brother a short time later he expressed how shocked he was.

This was six weeks ago and we’ve still not returned to the subject. I think he’s scared of raising the subject with me. To be fair, my brother did warn him that he already knew and that it had been a long journey for me and turning me back wasn’t going to happen. It is nice to know that he has paid attention to direct advice from one of his sons.

On my part, I’m surprised by how strong his commitment still is, we’ve not conversed about Christianity for so mnay years I just assumed he’d be cool about my deconversion, as he appears to be about my brother’s. Why should my faith be more special?

For the first time since Mum died and we tentatively reconnected and started building a new father-son relationship, I am finding myself a little concerned. It would be a great shame this causes a rift between us, there have been too many of those in the past. On the other hand I have hope because we both clearly have different agendas and motivations now and the neither wishes to repeat the past.

 

And So The Pendulum Swings

When I first realised that my questioning of my Christianity meant that I was on the road towards atheism I made myself a promise. I promised myself that I would always be sympathetic towards Christianity.

Having slid slowly out of Christianity, I knew that there was much to admire about many Christians that I knew. I also knew that there was much that the churches behind organised religion do in their locality. I wasn’t leaving Christianity because I hated anything or anyone; I was leaving because the basis of the belief system isn’t true. People who I know are good people don’t suddenly become bad and meaningless just because I no longer believe what they believe.

I knew some atheists who were vocally anti religion and their comments would bug me because I viewed the comments as either ignorant or hateful and certainly without compassion. I wanted no part of that mentality so I promised myself that I would never become that sort of atheist and that I would always have that sympathetic attitude towards Christianity. It seemed like a sensible thing to do.

Unfortunately I now find myself in a place where I consider that promise naive and I can’t keep it anymore.

I Don’t Hate Religion

Let me be clear on that, I don’t have the hateful and mocking attitude towards religion that I so often see on various places on the internet. I find that deeply unhelpful.

However, I do find myself being less tolerant that I expected to be. It started with little things, like hearing or seeing comments about praying for situations but not seeing any evidence of actual practical effort to achieve the desired result. Or seeing that there are different ways to interpret bible passages with no clear guidance on what is being determined. If the message of Christianity is correct, then why are there so many arguments about what various passages mean? Surely if there is one God, it would be more obvious what was being said to his created beings in the bible. Such widespread ambiguity must surely be strong evidence for falsity.

I was starting to find myself agreeing with sentiment that I would have once discarded as atheistic nastiness. The fact is these were legitimate questions that I had never seriously considered.

There is a difference between honest criticism and religion bashing for sport. I am all for the former but want no part of the latter.

More than that, I do find myself wanting less and less Christian influence in my life. I’ve rejected the theology; I’ve rejected the lifestyle and now I found myself wanting to purge the influence of Christianity from other parts of my life. This is more serious because it has a direct impact on those close to me and has led to some difficult conversations and analysis of what stage my life is at.

Sitting back and analysing my atheist journey over the past, there has been a clear move further and further away from tolerating Christianity. I’ve moved further away from that point than I expected I would and it has been a bit of a surprise.

For the moment I am assuming that this is just a part of my deconversion experience and that at some point I’ll soften my attitude and the pendulum will swing a little back again. Until that happens, assuming it does, I’m going to have a fun ride while I wait to achieve a balanced viewpoint.

 

Conversing with atheists and former christians

To follow up on a previous guest post I have had (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/how-does-the-online-ex-christian-community-affect-those-who-have-questions-of-faith-or-doubt/) I asked unkleE of http://www.is-there-a-god.info/blog/ to answer a similar question from a Christian perspective and to touch on what its like to converse with ex-Christians. UnkleE has impressed me on other blogs with his calm and considered responses to questions where others have become defensive and aggressive.

The below is his post for me on the subject of conversing with atheists and former Christians.


 

Human beings are tribal

Most people seem to like to be part of a group and to take sides against other groups. Football fans cheer, argue and sometimes even fight on behalf of their teams.

It seems that atheists and Christians are often tribal too. Each group has its own heroes and gurus, its own predictable arguments, and, too often, a penchant for scorning those they disagree with.

 

Justifying nastiness

Both sides can find ways to justify nasty behaviour towards their opponents. Some Christians argue that atheists are dishonest and rebellious, and need to be forcibly reminded of their perilous position. Some atheists, finding their arguments bouncing off, conclude that Christians are delusional, and since rational argument isn’t working, ridicule just might.

It rarely works of course, but who needs truth to justify tribal behaviour?

 

The web is a different ballgame to real life

Often we use pseudonyms. It is easy to feel anonymous or separated from others, and easy to press the ‘Post Comment’ button too quickly.

When I first ventured onto the web about 7 years back, I found myself in an argumentative and polarising environment. At first I argued back, but I now feel there is a better way.

 

The world doesn’t need any more aggro

I don’t think many of us think the world needs more aggro. Yet somehow, we can convince ourselves that our little nasty comment is OK.

But as a Christian, I believe humans are made by God to have worth, gifts, feelings and logical minds. We are made for relationship and we need some affirmation. People should be treated with sensitivity and respect, something the New Testament emphasises.

So I try very hard now, without always succeeding, to respect each person, and only make comments that add to the discussion, not attack them. I try to ignore barbs that come my way and not respond in kind, even if it means I miss an opportunity to ram a point home.

 

Responses

I find many atheists I talk with appreciate this. But unfortunately many atheists on the web still seem to follow the inhumane model of ridicule a lot of the time. To my chagrin, a fair number of christians are just the same.

Consequently, I avoid some forums and blogs, and I avoid or ignore some who comment. It’s just not worth the aggro. Fortunately, there are plenty of atheists and agnostics who are happy to play by rules of common courtesy, and I gravitate towards them.

 

Talking with ex-Christians

Talking with ex-Christians is a special challenge. I naturally feel sad that they have given up what I believe is the truth. But often they have been hurt by the church, sometimes leading to their change of mind, sometimes as they went through the process of leaving. I think they need special sensitivity and patience from Christians – fierce argument is likely to be specially harmful here.

It is easy to feel they have betrayed the team, and to wonder whether they were ever personally convinced or their ‘faith’ was just cultural. But I cannot know what has happened in their lives, so I should respect what they tell me.

Perhaps the hardest thing is when I feel they have rejected a form of Christianity I would reject too. I want to explain this to them, but sometimes they are not ready for anything except friendship, the wounds are still tender. Sometimes I think they are better off out of there – as long as they come around eventually to a more thoughtful form!

Ex-Christians often assume they have made a permanent and final change in their worldview, but statistics show that people who change once are quite likely to change again. So patience and courtesy are needed.

 

Ways forward

We all need to learn not to take offence easily, to have limited expectations of changing people’s minds and not to take it personally when others don’t agree with our arguments. We should enjoy getting to know and understand people who are different to us, and be willing to be in conversations for the long haul.

At the very least, we may help remove some misunderstandings, and who knows, we may even be part of a process of someone changing their mind. I still hope and pray for the people I talk with, for I do indeed want what is best for them.

Questioning Evolution!

Apparently tomorrow is Charles Darwin’s birthday and there are people who choose to celebrate it as Darwin Day. Personally that doesn’t excite me. That’s not because I have anything against Darwin, quite the opposite, his contribution to science is extraordinary and his dedication over many years to meticulous and sometimes boring experiments brought significant understanding and knowledge.

I just don’t get the need elevate a single man in this way. He will forever be a science legend, there is no need to name a day for him. Its arguable that he would shun such elevation himself. His work is testament to his status and stands on its own as a timeless statue. What gets to me is that this stinks of idolatry, the worshiping of a person. I would rather see an Evolution Day or a Scientific Endeavour Day, put the focus on what it was that he achieved and how it was achieved, not the man himself because that distracts from the result of his lifelong work. It’s the geek equivalent of a pinup, it grates on me and my default response is to reject it.

Stick to the Subject!

Rant over, now the subject of this post is taken from a creationist item I’ve just read (http://biblescienceguy.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/question-evolution-day/). Its stinks of the sort of nonsense I used to believe so I figured it would be fun to put up a response to it.

Firstly, yes we should question evolution. Everything we hold dear should be questioned honestly and with integrity (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/there-is-nothing-to-fear-in-doubt/).

The problem here is that the poster isn’t questioning evolution, he’s denying evolution, there is a very critical difference. I denied evolution for over 20 years, it wasn’t until I questioned evolution critically and honestly that I realised what a fool I had been.

On the post are 15 questions for Evolutionists, they’re not new questions; they’ve done the rounds and been rebutted and rebutted back. As someone who has been on both sides of the line I figured I’d look at them with my own perspective and comment on each one.

1.      How did life originate just by chemistry without a Designer?

That’s not known yet and is still being worked on. As a creationist I would have loved this argument. Now I am wiser I am interested in the work being done and am hopeful that I’ll live to see a breakthrough, sadly I doubt it.

This is a classic case of creationists being critical from a distance. They point at something that’s not got an answer and then claim that scientists don’t know therefore God! This level of poor judgement is embarrassing. If creationists want to see God being invoked for this then rather than mocking from a distance they should come up with a form of experimentation that can show a result.

2.      How did the DNA code originate?

I don’t know enough about the details here to really answer and I imagine few creationists do either. What I will address here is the assertion that DNA is exactly like code. Aparently untangling what DNA does leaves those who know with the impression that it looks just like computer code and there has never been anything else that looks like code that hasn’t come from an intelligent source. Well I know computer code and I do it for a living and have done it for fun too. If DNA looks like and acts like computer code and there has never been an occurrence of code like stuff from something that’s not intelligent then surely the conclusion must be that DNA came from humans, after all its them who created computer code and nothing else has ever created computer code.

Why should this imply God?

Also, if God is so great and intelligent, why did he create DNA in a way that looks like computer code? I am sure someone so clever could come up with a better way, I find it somewhere disappointing that the best way an intelligent creator can come up with to build life is to do it in a way that looks like the product of one of his creations. There’s something crazy silly about that.

3.      How could copying errors (mutations) create 3 billion letters of DNA instructions to change a microbe into a microbiologist?

Duplication, deletion and insertion. Things that work do better. I agree it’s a mind boggling concept. Just because I don’t understand it, doesn’t make it wrong.

4.      Why is natural selection taught as ‘evolution’ as if it explains the origin of the diversity of life?

It’s not and it doesn’t. Natural selection and evolution describe the mutation of one form to another. The origin is something entirely different.

5.      How did new biochemical pathways, which involve multiple enzymes working together in sequence, originate?

This touches on the irreducible complexity argument. It’s an assumption that all the required components mutated at the same time. This needs to be demonstrated as true if it’s to be used as an argument. Mutations could have happened over time, some might have been useful elsewhere while others did nothing, a later mutation could have joined them up into another function.

6.      Living things look like they were designed, so how do evolutionists know that they were not designed?

They do? The laryngeal nerve doesn’t look designed (http://old.richarddawkins.net/videos/646660-the-laryngeal-nerve-of-the-giraffe-is-proof-of-natural-selection)  to name just one example.

7.      How did multi-cellular life originate?

Good question, I am sure the answer is being worked on by scientists who also want to know the answer. I guess it’s likely that cells clumped together and found being in a group benefitted the whole.

This is another case of Creationists jumping onto something that is not yet known and assuming that means God. How about rolling up sleeves and working on it. Remote criticism is boring.

8.      How did sex originate?

For fun?

Genetic variation is critical to a healthy population and sex seem to be the most direct and efficient way of getting the reproductive bits together. Relying on wind or insects to move the bits about, like plants do, is very wasteful.

No doubt creationists want the technical details of the how rather than a rational explanation as to why it may have happened. This is a familiar tactic to me as I used to employ it too. The technical details and the first animals to employ it may never be identified, but so what, why does the exact details matter? The creationists will always say ‘yeah but … ‘ to every answer given regardless of what the scientists come up with. This is not about being critical or asking honest questions, its about objecting to science because of a belief in god.

9.      Why are the (expected) countless millions of transitional fossils missing?

Fossils are hard to form, the vast majority of animals that die do not fossilise. Often animals are preserved to fossilise as the result of a tragedy, say a mudslide or a volcano (or yes, even a flood). Normal death in the open is not guaranteed to create a fossil due to scavengers and rot. The expectation is that there will not be all the fossils required.

The challenge is that every animal is a member of a species. We only see different species because of the present diversity. Looking back, how does one tell a transitional fossil from a species? All you would see is different species. That said, there are steps that are found which show animals with different configurations of the same bones. The conclusion of change over time is a valid conclusion from that evidence, this exactly what Darwin did when he examined the evidence. He also wasn’t the only one.

10. How do ‘living fossils’ remain unchanged over supposed hundreds of millions of years?

Animals find a niche and so there is no need to change. Understanding evolution means knowing that a species will change according to its environment, they don’t just change to the sake of it. This is another question from ignorance which attempts to create a problem where one does not exist.

11. How did blind chemistry create mind/intelligence, meaning, altruism and morality?

Living in a group requires rules to govern and benefit the group. Study groups of animals and you’ll see the same there.

12. Why is evolutionary ‘just-so’ story-telling tolerated as ‘science’?

This bugs me too. Scientists will create a story around a proposal to anthropomorphise the subject. I hate that too. It annoys me intensely. I think it is to try and make the science to bite-size for the common man.

That’s said, it is not a valid criticism of the science behind the conclusions. It’s a complaint about presentation.

13. Where are the scientific breakthroughs due to evolution?

Huh?

I don’t get what is being asked here.

14. Why is evolution, a theory about history, taught as if it is the same as operational science?

Huh?

Evolution is a scientific theory about how species develop. Claiming its history seems to be intentionally misleading in the question. I don’t get what is meant by operational science. Evolution is tested through investigation and discovery. Can’t get much more operational than that.

Gravity is a theory too you know.

15. Why is a fundamentally religious idea, a dogmatic belief system that fails to explain the evidence, taught in science classes?

This is a bullshit question. Its (not intelligently) designed to push the motion that evolution is on a par with religion in that it’s a belief system with no evidence. This ignores the fact that evolution came out of a whole butt load of scientific and investigative work and years of compiling the results to come up with ideas that explained the observed facts. Those facts have been subjected to many years of scrutiny since and continue to. If there was a way to scientifically prove evolution false, someone would have done this by now. Instead we have agreement across multiple disciplines of science.

Its all gone to Shit

** warning, this post contains expletives **

I’ve blogged recently about some of the issues facing our current church. First there was (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/dark-clouds-looming/) and then there was (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/a-wonderful-positive-conclusion/).

Well, now there has been a breakaway group that has left the church and started holding Sunday afternoon meetings in another location; without the blessing of the parent church. Worse than that, the protagonists write secretly to people that they would hope to get support from and invited them to attend.

Quite frankly, I am incensed and thoroughly pissed off over it. It has caused hurt and upset in my household and also for my friend, the pastor.

One of the defecting couples is consists of a very immature wife and very easily led husband, the husband being the subject of the later part of this post (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/on-women-in-the-church/). It doesn’t help that the ring leader of this group is the staunch creationist responsible for this (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/creationism-on-my-doorstep/).

 

Righteous Anger

You know when you’re so angry that you can’t think about anything else and you really want to say something hurtful to the source of that anger? Well that was me most of last Sunday.

My chance came when the wife mentioned above put a Facebook comment about how good God was. My wife practically begged me not to do anything, saying she didn’t want or need me fighting her battles. For me it’s more than just that, there is an horrible injustice going on here and bitter people with an agenda are actively causing pain through selfish motives. It’s wrong and why can’t I call out bullshit when I see it?

So I fought my urges to unleash both barrels and simply asked if she was aware that people were hurting and where did she see god’s goodness in that? Quickly she came back with an apology for causing offense, said she was aware and was sad and simply wanted to point out that god was good.

Sad!

She’s fucking sad!!!!

Does the stupid thing and her cohorts know that’s it’s the direct result of their actions that have created this? Being sad doesn’t cut it. God didn’t create this situation and God isn’t fixing it. People did this, bitter, selfish, insipid people. People who profess faith and the love of god did this. Being sad is not fucking good enough.

So I fought back what I wanted to say and twenty minutes later came back to find her comment deleted. I hope she felt suitably chastised, though I suspect not guilty enough to do anything positive.

I’m still angry, but I feel a little better. I will also be more cautious about posting on this subject from now on as its an on-going situation. Update may have to wait until its over and the dust has settled.

How does the (online) ex-Christian community affect those who have questions of faith or doubt?

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.

Book Review – Creation or Evolution: Do We Have To Choose?

Cover of "Creation or Evolution: Do We Ha...

Cover via Amazon

More than a year ago I was lent this book by the pastor and I have eventually finished it (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Creation-Evolution-Do-Have-Choose/dp/1854247468). The book is held up by some as a refreshing view on the relationship between Christianity and Evolution.

I found the book mixed and ultimately disappointing, but there are some good bits in it.

On first handling the book it is clear that the intent is going to be to show how acceptance of evolution does not have to be at the expense of religious belief, specifically Christianity. This aspect interested me, given my journey, so I started the book specifically looking for how it would answer that specific challenge.

Evolution

Most of the book is devoted to explanations of various bits of evolution. By necessity they have to contain a certain amount of technical language. However, I found on the whole that the passages on evolution are lay friendly and do a good job of explaining why evolution is not only a valid theory, but an accurate description of observed fact as best we know it.

The book explains well how evolution is a naturalised process and our knowledge of it has no pre-requisite of any god. The processes we understand are fully explained and there are no missing bits that require the invocation of the supernatural.

Creationism and ID

Creationism and ID are also dealt with effectively, albeit with far fewer pages. They are accurately shown to be scientifically deficient and their need to have a god directly be involved to ‘push the process along’ is shown to be a limiting factor for which there is nothing to show.

One good point that is made in the book is the argument for beauty. Many creationists will look at the world we see now and argue that the beauty there can only have been put there directly by god. I once made precisely those arguments. The book counters by saying that the processes that made us and all we see around us are no less beautiful and they too came from god. When a creationist views the world and sees beauty and says it must come from god, they are by implication saying that the long processes that made the beauty they see can not be beautiful because they don’t believe god did it that way.

This is a dangerous way of thinking because it creates a closed mind and stops that believer from fully appreciating the glory of their god’s creation.

The book explains well why creationism and ID are not valid.

Tying Evolution and Christianity

So the big question I wanted to book to answer was, given the above, how does the author, who professes his faith at several points throughout the book, demonstrate that belief in god is consistent with evolution and, more specifically, show that there is a logical reason to hold that view. Sadly, the answer just doesn’t come.

No matter how much I wanted to see an argument for god, it just didn’t happen.

Conclusion

The book successfully argues for the science of evolution and against the god of creationism. As a result it has confirmed my position as an atheist and done nothing at all to tempt me back to faith. I suspect the author would be disappointed, but he should not be surprised.

A Wonderful Positive Conclusion

Not long ago I posted about some less than pleasant goings on among some members of the church (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/dark-clouds-looming/).

Well the mentioned church meeting has happened and it turns out it went very well. There were a couple of individuals who clearly still had issues and they are personal. That said, the efforts that the pastor had gone to to encourage conciliation and to stem gossip and anonymous disparaging had clearly paid off. It’s a shame that none of this was known before the meeting started.

One of the main turnaround points of the meeting was when a key protagonist admitted that he had been convicted of his wrong attitude and expressed a desire to move forward in a positive way.

Suffice to say, my wife came back from that meeting with none of the dread she had when she went to it.

If was refreshing to hear that a spiralling negative situation can be corrected. Its not perfect and it is a lot better, which is a great thing.

Something else that happened was a conversation my wife had with another church member. This particular member hasn’t got on with my wife since we started attending over a year ago. This member came up to my wife to address that and apologise. It was made clear that the problem wasn’t my wife but that this particular individual has an issue with what happens at the front of the church. She likes the preacher to be the person who leads the whole service, namely announces the hymns and says the prayers.

The new casual style that has become the norm since my wife got involved is difficult for this person. I think its good for this sort of thing to be admitted, it helps people like my wife to understand those she is leading in worship. These people need gently leading into new forms of worship. It’s a shame that what people are used to can become such a norm and so comfortable that it represents an importance that matches the key aspects of the religion they follow.

So, the church appears to have survived what could have been a devastating split. Its not plain sailing yet, but it does represent a major positive step and has shown to many people that difficulties can be overcome and change, while difficult, can be achieved.

Dark Clouds Looming

Since this post (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/theres-a-problem-in-front-of-the-pulpit/) there have been some troubling developments at our local church.

Being slightly out of the loop with my non-attendance, I don’t have a really clear picture of what’s going on. What appears to be happening though is that the older generation folks mentioned in the linked post above are gathering troops to possibly stage a rebellion. Sad.

The Pastor concerned, has made efforts at reconciliation, but there are some who simply will not take the proffered Olive Branch. He has even felt the need to preach about having an attitude of love and reconciliation from the pulpit.

On a personal level I find this whole situation strange because it wasn’t all that long ago I would have joined a similar group of dissatisfied church members in revolting against the pastor (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/there%E2%80%99s-a-problem-behind-the-pulpit/).

The difference of course is that the current problem features a pastor who has the needs of the church at his heart and is being as gracious as he can in a difficult situation. The previous situation featured a pastor who was driving his agenda in a way many saw as arrogant and didn’t really seem to care if people left the church as a result.

Differences aside, there is a bigger issue here which bothers me.

This all feels terribly unchristian. The more I think about what’s happening, the more I think “Where is the love and where do those who are unhappy think god is in this situation?”.

I can’t see how any of this can result in anything good and as a person who now no longer accepts god I find it all rather distasteful and really has put me off this church. Sad.

Whatever happens with this group of renegades, one thing is certain life for the church members will different. I only hope that those who remain afterwards have something left to build with.

Creationist Nonsense: Science assumes no God

Still on the subject of Ken Ham’s creationism (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/conspiracy-against-creationism-and-ken-hams-intollerance/) and his Facebook response; one of Ken’s followers made a comment that I wish to address. Hopefully this will be the last of my posts on this particular episode, for now at least.

On Ken’s Facebook (yes, I did stalk Ken’s Facebook profile to see what was being said about my blog posting) page a commenter made the following remark.

 

So, wait… he claims that scientists don’t begin with the assumption that there is no God, then goes on to say that, because we can only observe the natural world, then that must be all there is… How is that not an assumption?

 

Every part of me wants to shout “Read the freaking context and get with the understanding numbskull!”.

However, this is one of those misunderstandings that is widespread among the Christian community. The negative side of this is that it undermines the scientific process and makes it harder for science to be viewed as credible. The really sad part of this is that its often people in the congregation hearing this nonsense who don’t get science commentary from anyone other than the person in the pulpit. At its worst, this is damaging to the wider populace.

The section of my post that the commenter clearly didn’t get is this paragraph.

<blockquote>This is a basic understanding failure. The fact that its made by a leading Creationist apologetic is damning and pathetic. He really should know better. Scientists who claim there is no god do so because of the evidence they see. Its this evidence that has lead them to the conclusion of evolution and its this evidence that falsifies the Biblical accounts of Adam and Eve and The Flood. Its not then unreasonable to conclude there is no god. Science looks at natural processes because that is all that we can see and gather evidence from. That evidence is explained by those natural processes only and therefore its an easy conclusion to make that no god was involved. There is no predetermining the non-existence of any god and then building a theory which excludes it, as Ken Ham would have people believe. </blockquote>

The commenter clearly didn’t get that those scientists who don’t believe in god (or people like me who believe there is no god) do so because there is no evidence. The commentator clings to the misapprehension that is conclusion is an assumption.

I understand the misunderstanding because I was there once and I’ve heard this same misunderstanding preached at conferences.

The very important point here is that seeing the natural world and concluding no god is far more than an assumption. For starters there is the very valid null hypothesis, which leads from nothing being assumed. If you can’t see it or measure, assume its not there.

Yes I know, I used the assume word and creationists everywhere are pointing and shouting “See he even admitted he assumes no god, right after denying that was the case. Atheists are so inconsistent.”.

That would miss the point of course.

Without the evidence evolution is not assumed either. Both the creationist god and evolution start at the same point of validity when there is no evidence on the table.

Its not until the evidence comes out that the scales begin to adjust. This is the point at which conclusions are made and tests are created for the expressed purpose of disproving the conclusion. Its at this very critical point that creationists again fall over. They argue that god is supernatural and so not bound by our man made laws of science and so he can’t be tested. Not to mention the passage somewhere that expressly forbids testing the lord. I’m not sure if it applies to the scientific process, but then a heathen like me probably won’t care.

Anyway, with all the claims that Creationists will have for the existence of god, you’d think that somewhere there would be some evidence that at least merits a second look. Creationists will make a whole song and dance about the issue of testing evolution in the lab and how timescales simply don’t allow it. Yet where are the tests for god in the lab?

Multiple fields of science have independently confirm various aspect of evolution and the age of the earth. Yet nothing can come up with a test to show even a hint of god.

Its not an assumption to say there is no god, it’s a valid scientific conclusion after many years of study have shown no evidence for supernatural activities. If everything that we currently know shows a natural explanation time and time again, at what point is it acceptable to say “There is no evidence of any god and until that changes I shall not believe in one.”?

The commenter I quoted will likely still claim this is an assumption, they would be wrong.