What is the effect of a church leader with an Atheist Spouse?

 

If any reader has an practical experience on this subject, or even if you have an opinion on this, I would very much welcome your comments.

Since the great coming out a couple of years ago (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/the-coming-out-begins/) my wife has continued her involvement with the local church and we’ve had many conversations on the matter. Things have changed slightly from the initial desires discussed. I don’t attend church any more, though I do attend some of the more social aspects and we continue to be good friends with the Pastor and his family and one other family in the church. These are friendships that are important to us both. I am, however, the sole atheist and there is no one outside the church whom we socialise with.

My wife has gradually increased her involvement in the church and regularly leads worship (along with the other couple mentioned above). She has even supported another local Baptist church by preaching there a couple of times. She is liked by that congregation and has been invited back to preach again. I’m not at all surprised by that. My wife preaches and leads sensitively and makes her points concisely and clearly. She is humble in her presentation and when I was a believer I enjoyed hearing her preach.

Since the big breakup of last year (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/its-all-gone-to-shit/) church life has become much calmer and happier. Those who left are doing their own thing and the church that remains has attracted new people and by all accounts and a much better place to be. So much so that I understand there is a very good chance that the women in leadership rule (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/on-women-in-the-church/) will be put to a vote and removed. This is a bit speculative on my part and I am very likely jumping the gun, but I am also very confident that this is the current state of the church membership.

This will have a significant effect on my wife because she would be given the chance to preach on occasion and she’ll be doing so with the explicit support of the Pastor and other in the leadership.

 

But what about the Atheist Spouse?

This does have an effect on me too and I swing constantly in my attitude on the subject (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/and-so-the-pendulum-swings/). Should I challenge my wife on things that I consider untrue about Christianity? I do the same with friends and family when faux medical benefits such and acupuncture or homeopathy, why should religion be treated differently?

Or do I leave her to it and treat it like a hobby, much like my photography? Except I can’t do that because they are not comparable as hobbies; plus it also involves my daughter and she is important to me and I should have a say. So I continue to struggle on the subject.

 

Interesting chats

Over the past year or more my wife and I have had multiple conversations on Christianity, mostly they have been amicable with only a very few ending badly. It is a constant learning and challenging experience for us both. If only all people of our respective views could have this many conversations with someone of the opposite position.

 

But what about the subject of this post?

This isn’t specific about my situation. It is more of a general thought process, however I think it does need considering for my wife and what she does.

In my Christian days I would have considered a church leader who has an atheist spouse as compromised. Compromised because their home life clearly isn’t always focused on the church and a spouse of a church leader is expected to be there is presence, a visible support and someone to go to when the leader themselves is not available. As a couple they are expected to be a united team. If the spouse is an atheist then they are clearly in opposition to the leader and so the leader is not fully effective as a Christian and they could even compromise their message so as to accommodate the position of their spouse.

I am fairly sure that there are many Christians about the world who would feel similar now. Some people in our church (yes I still refer to it as our church even if it really isn’t my church) know of my atheism, even if it is not publically announced. It is one thing for my wife to preach at another local church, which knows nothing of our situation. Having her preach at the church where we are known so much better raises a new set of questions which we’ve not fully addressed.

There is no doubt that when the time comes for her to preach there, it will be with the full support of the pastor and others in the leadership, but as recent events have shown, that is not a guarantee of the full support of the wider church family.

Is it deconversion or just another conversion?

Since the great admission to my wife, almost two years ago, that I had rejected my Christianity and considered myself an atheist, we’ve had a number of discussions on the subject of faith and our opposing attitudes to it. On the whole these have been positive discussions, in the sense that we’ve mostly been able to have them without unhelpful emotional extras. This is how I had always hoped we’d be able to converse about faith, it’s a source of sadness that I spent several years alone in my journey afraid that we’d discuss my loss of faith in a negative or hurtful way, only for that fear to turn out to be unfounded.

It has not always been a smooth ride, we have had difficult discussions and there have been moments when one or other of us has got angry or upset. Those times have been the minority though and it is to my shame that I must admit I did not give her enough credit, having known her for all those years, I should have been able to predict her reaction better.

We’ve discussed many aspects of faith, getting braver with the depth of subject as time has moved on. We’ve probably discussed faith in greater detail in the past eighteen months than we had in the previous ten years of marriage, maybe even our whole marriage, though I’m less certain to place a bet on the latter. We’ve challenged each other and answered deep questions. We clearly disagree on the value of faith but we’ve been able to display to each other that it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker and that disagreeing with dignity is possible.

One of the lighter discussions we’ve had is over the semantics of how to describe my loss of faith. I refer to it as a deconversion, and all across the internet, where people of former faith hang out, the same word comes up. It makes sense to use conversion with the ‘de’ prefix because it signifies a step away from and in the opposite direction to the original conversion.

My wife does not like the deconversion word and prefers to describe it as another conversion, because it is a second conversion from one form of faith position or worldview to another. I have a bit of a problem with her logic, which is that I associate conversion directly with religion. I had a conversion to religion and now I have deconverted away from it. Her definition is not as narrow as mine, she takes the broader definition that conversion does not have to mean a religious conversion, it could mean a significant change in world view. In this case, my world view was one of a religious bent and now I have converted to an atheistic world view. Using that logic deconverted doesn’t make any sense and my experience is in fact, just another conversion. That makes sense semantically, to change world view is to convert from one to another, you don’t deconvert or unconvert, it’s a nonsense word to use.

Further complication arises when I see Microsoft Word underlining deconversion with a squiggly red line, clearly my computer thinks that no such words exists. If the word does not exist in Her Majesty’s beautiful language, then clearly it is not a word I can use to describe my position. So what is the best word to use? Does it matter?

Like many former Christians on the internet, I embrace deconverted as a description of my current faith state. The word has a great benefit because it immediately gets across the fact that the person to whom the word is being applied has not just moved away from religion but moved towards atheism. No further explanation is required. Try to get across the same meaning using ‘conversion’ instead and suddenly a whole sentence of supporting explanation is required. ‘Deconversion’ gets the meaning across far more efficiently; that it may not be a real word is irrelevant. However, I do accept that there is a negative connotation associated with the ‘de’ prefix and I do not consider my atheism as being negative at all.

Does that mean I should call myself an atheist convert?

I need to think about that one. I don’t like that description because saying convert tends to imply a position of faith and I absolutely reject any notion that that is where I am. I want it to be clear that I do not subscribe to a faith position. For now I’ll settle for no I would not call myself an atheist convert, maybe this is just a side effect of my rejection of faith and I’ll soften in my attitude to this word we’ll see. It is an interesting thought and I am sure we’ll return to it again at some point in the future, after all it does help to unpackage the thought processes of the past few years.

I’m now wondering what other semantic discussion are possible within this situation.

Answers on a postcard ….

 

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.

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.

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.

I’m no longer interested in Church at all

A few months ago I made a decision that I was not interested in attending church any longer and that included being involved in activities there.

Its not all long ago that I was happy to attend and happy to help out. I’m not entirely sure what sparked the change in attitude. I suspect it was no individual thing that drove this decision; rather it was a gradual adjustment of perspective.

The final straw came when my wife volunteered us both to help out in the weekly youth club. I didn’t particularly respond positively and the result was the accusation of me putting on a face like I’d been told to do something I didn’t want to do. The back story here is that some members have become unhappy with the church and withdrawn. This included some who had been involved in the youth club. Being in dire need of assistance, my wife did the honourable thing and offered help from a couple with past experience of youth club.

I went along for a couple of weeks and did my best, but frankly my heart wasn’t in it and it showed. Its hard to pretend to be an enthusiastic youth leader when you really aren’t engaging with the bigger picture. I had fun in the games but found the story time and biblical elements even more uncomfortable than when I sit in church.

The result was I had to admit that I was being turned off church and was at a point where I really didn’t want to be there at all. My wife has been very gracious in this and I suggested that I stop altogether because the last thing she wanted was a husband who resented church because it was forced to be there for the sake of appearances.

I didn’t see this coming

The honest truth here is that this has taken me by surprise. I never expected to be in a place where I was stopped church altogether and would seriously wonder if I was heading along a path towards being ‘anti church’. I’m not there now, but I do wonder if one day I will become disillusioned with people of faith to the point that I become anti organised religion to the point of some of the vocal atheists I know.

I’m not there yet, so let’s not get too carried away just yet.

I think there are two main reasons for my change in stance. One is that I am not at all comfortable being in a church service environment any more. Everything is so familiar, and yet so strangely alien. I know most of the hymns and song off by heart, I have heard most sermons and children’s talks. However, its not a world view I identify with anymore and the arguments I hear all get disassembled in my mind. I simply can’t engage on either a spiritual or intellectual level.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to articulate how and why I made this transformation of attitude. For the moment I can’t, I only know its happened. Maybe it was inevitable and I was just being naive or denialist in thinking I could continue to be supportive of church; probably both.

 

Conspiracy Against Creationism and Ken Ham’s Intollerance

The BBC have been running a series called Conspiracy Files. The basic premise is that half dozen people who subscribe to a conspiracy idea are taken on a bus trip across America to visit various experts who can counter the conspiracy claim. At the end of the programme each person gets a piece to camera to see if they have changed their views.

Its not an especially great programme to be honest, you can tell that there is an element of manufactured conflict in that the people picked to the bus trip often have conflicting views themselves.

I watch it because I have in interest in conspiracies, not because I believe them, quite the opposite. Its because I don’t believe them, but I am interested in the arguments that conspiracists use so that I can better understand the argument and how to counter it. Classic conspiracies like 9/11 and UFOs have been covered.

Creationism as a Conspiracy

I very intrigued when I saw there was to be a programme on Creationism. Not just because I wanted to see what the people believed and who would be rolled out against them, but because I wanted to see what came up as compared with my previously held version of Christianity and Creationism. I was also puzzled by the inclusion of Creationism in the series; I don’t especially object to its inclusion but I’m not actually convinced that Creationism is a conspiracy theory in the way that 9/11 and the existence of crashed alien craft are.

A conspiracy theory requires agents actively working against the idea in an effort to hide the truth. I don’t think this is really the case. I certainly never believed that people were trying to hide the truth of a literal Creation from the wider public. I believed that evolutionary theory was a misreading of the evidence. Surely if scientists knew of a literal creation they’d become Christians and there would be no need to hide the fact of creation from the rest of the world.

The idea of the government and scientists actively trying to teach evolution and hide the truth of a literal creation just doesn’t make sense to me. I also don’t think I’ve ever read of anyone claiming this to be the case.

On to the Trip

Conspiracy or not, the programme rolled out a handful of folks from Ol’ Blighty. One hardened Christian Creationist, one hardened Muslim Creationist and some other people who, as far as I could tell, were a bit more ‘woolly’ in their faith, one I suspected was more spiritual than religious. Their creationist credentials did seem more suspect, though if they had filled the bus with identical Christian Creationists its wouldn’t have been a very interesting programme because the same arguments would have rotated round everyone so I can see why diversity was desired.

Predictably, the Christian Creationist sounded very much like I must have in my early argumentative years. It was interesting see those arguments come out in the way that I would likely have put them. Hearing them made me laugh. They sounded weak, and when countered with the detail of the science from the relevant expert in the field, the creationist arguments really had no foundation. It was clear as day.

Towards the end of the programme, one of the girls did appear to show a softening towards evolution and I did have hope that she would continue that journey.

The biggest giggle came from the ending comments from the two hardened creationists. The Christian claiming that his beliefs were shown to have held up and that the Muslim was shown to be false. The Muslim claimed the reverse. It was a classic case of preconceived bias leading one to interpret an experience to their own advantage, ignoring what actually occurred. Despite it providing me entertainment, I did genuinely feel sadness for them both as they were clearly unable to see beyond their beliefs.

Ken Ham’s Intollerance

I see that Ken Ham has made a comment on the programme (http://blogs.answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2012/10/22/more-intolerance/).  He headlines it as intolerance against creationism, which is frankly baloney. There was no intolerance shown, simply evidence and argument. If evolutionists are intolerant because they attempt to explain to Creationists why they are wrong, then Ken Ham’s comments are equally intolerant for declaring evolutionists wrong.

That aside, Ken Ham makes a basic Creationist error, one that I have seen made many times.

 

His determination to deal only with “natural forces” eliminates God automatically. In other words, he started with the assumption that God and His Word have nothing to do with explaining reality. He started with a bias against anything to do with the God of the Bible. He did not start by looking objectively at the evidence.

 

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.

Scientists reach their conclusions from the evidence and if the evidence does not fit a hypothesis, then its abandoned and a new one is formed. The evidence always dictates the conclusion, not the other way round. It is the Creationist who starts from the end result and looks for the evidence that matches the result or comes up with a hypothesis for fitting the evidence into the end result. Ken Ham wrongly asserts that because his idea of science is all arse over tits, so must the scientists’.

 

The Christian (Theist) Challenge

 

To follow on from the atheist challenge (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/10-questions-for-atheists/), thebiblereader (http://bittersweetend.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/the-atheist-challenge/) has created 10 questions for Christians.

The 10 questions can be found here: http://bittersweetend.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/the-christian-theist-challenge/ and rather than repe4at the questions I’ll let you pop over there to read them and I’ll provide the answers below that I think my former Christian self would have replied. This will be an interesting challenge for me as it will provide me with an opportunity to attempt to think as I once did about God and salvation and examine those thoughts through my new eyes.

 

1)      Religion is a man made concept and as such there will be elements of religiosity that do conflict with God and the Bible. Those conflicts would be entirely the fault of the people involved and not at all to do with God. God and His word, however, do not conflict.

2)      A lot depends on the context of this, I can recall certain situations where immediate danger to my family could have resulted in this sort of interpretation out of a desire for retribution. However, in the cold light of day in my western life in glorious England, I really can’t see how that might happen. Even with absolute certainty that it was an instruction from God I can’t see myself going ahead with it.

3)      God always was and since he created the laws of physics when he created the universe, there is no violation as he is outside of those laws.

4)      Yes, of course its inerrant. Perceived errancy is down to misunderstanding the context of the situation.

5)      Its not right or justifiable by today’s standards. Life in those times were different and the rules of war and engagement. God wasn’t ordering killing for killings sake. Nasty killings were going to happen anyway, wars of that nature in those times would have been very brutal. God’s instruction on dispatching the enemy did not make the end result any worse than it would have been anyway. This was a kill or be killed scenario and utter oblivion of the enemy reduces the chance of a repeat performance later on.

6)      God did not make a mistake. He intentionally gave us the option of following him or not. The choice had to be ours to make. Having a creation of adorable puppies that mindlessly stick to his heals and wishing to please at every one of his whims is not what he intended to create. Through a free will choice, comes imperfection as a consequence of those choices, when they are made truly and freely. Would a creation of those puppy-like followers be perfect? I would say not.

7)      Yes he will hear. God might help that person get find the way again, or he might know that they will manage it anyway and so not intervene. The Christian might never know which.

8)      I never considered that this could even be an option. I can’t imagine what I would do.

9)      Being a creationist. The proof would have been that creation was wrong and evolution right after all because the unpacking of that would mean so much of the bible simply can’t be true and that kills the foundation of the gospels dead. (As it turns out, this is precisely what happened)

10)   I had always been happy to admit to indoctrination. I was happy with that because I was secure in my faith. Other Gods were not compatible and so they could not be believed in. Other religions were violent, cultish or a bit New Age and fluffy. None of which were attractive.

Sailing in a Sea of Negativity

There are times when I feel that there are elements of the atheist and sceptic community who are only happy when they are knocking someone else down, or more specifically, mocking and laughing at someone else’s irrational beliefs because they consider them stupid and idiotic. Its not just the atheists and sceptics of course, there is this type of person everywhere, however lately I’ve begun to wonder if there are those who take their position of being non-religious to such an extreme that their sole purpose seems to be to tell everyone about how bad and awful religion is.

It came to a head for me when I listened to several episodes of an atheist podcast and in the guise of proclaiming how wonderful it was to have a purpose without religion it majored on the delusion of the believer. Proclaiming the wonders of having a life of purpose without religion is not the same as telling the (un)converted how misguided the religious are. I actually got very annoyed with hearing the same anti-religious rhetoric rather than good quality reasoned argument.

I’m not going to name and shame here, it would distract from my point and the list of offenders would be too long to be practical. Some generally decent blogs and podcasts have also fallen for the same ‘lets bitch about religious because its trendy’ bandwagon; plus I should also get it out there now, yes I’m guilty of those same accusations in this blog as well. I hope that I’m fair and balanced in my posts, but I do have to acknowledge that in telling my story there are some things I have said (and maybe will say) that are not especially nice about religion. There is also much good religion has done in my life and I hope I am balanced and fair, giving credit and blame where each is deserved.

Choosing sources

In my reading on science and religion there have been a variety of podcasts and blogs I have perused. Some I still subscribe to and some I have chosen to leave alone or avoid. Finding some which appear to exist for the sole purpose of telling the world how bad and wicked religion is disappoints me; not because I think religion needs me to defend it, but because I consider an overtly negative and derisive tone unhealthy. How can you spend so much time focussing on the negatives of something you disagree with and not be affected by it? I can’t think of a better way to foster extremism than to focus so much energy of the negative aspects of a specific subject!

Even in the blogs and podcasts that I have chosen to stay subscribed to, for reasons of my own scientific education and learning, I find posts and episodes which are so negative I end up moving on and waiting for the next instalment.

Language should be appropriate

I’m not saying that religion is blame free; far from it. More specifically, there are some religious people who have done some horrid things and there are some people who have done some horrid things in the name of religion. Those acts and the perpetrators deserve scorn that’s appropriate to their actions.

What I find much more bothersome is the attitude which is basically the religious are stupid and that fact alone makes them deserving of ridicule and scorn. As someone who was brought up to have respect for others, regardless of creed, I find this conflicting attitude contemptible and hard to stomach. I’m not for a second implying its all one way, its not, and that’s not my point anyway. What I am finding is that there are so many un-called for digs in the direction of religion or the religious that normally mild mannered me is getting sick of it.

Get excited about life not about others lives

There is so much pleasure in being curious about science and living life to its fullest and enjoying the best of what nature and man has to offer. When I read a science blog or listen to a sceptic podcast I want to learn about science and understand the specifics of why certain ideas are false. Inappropriate attacks on others just because of what they believe bugs me silly and I really don’t want any part of it. One specific laughable example is the person who gets all hot and bothered about those who they consider are guilty of pushing religion onto others and then go and do exactly the same with their own anti-religious beliefs!

No, I don’t like the negativity that floats about the fringes of religion and I don’t buy the argument that its all religions fault. As the adage goes, it takes two to tango and those who spout their overtly anti-religious rhetoric are guilty of spreading negativity and I do get concerned about where that could lead.