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.

 

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.

God takes the Good People Early

This week I found myself in conversation (over the internet) with a Christian and we got onto the subject of death. I was then told that some people believe that God takes his people early and leaves the evil to live longer to give them more of a chance to repent.

I was stunned. It was a proper jaw hit the floor WTF! moment.

I didn’t ask if the person concerned believed that or if they knew anyone who did or even where the information came from. Quite frankly it wasn’t a subject I wanted to discuss, so I let the conversation move on.

The comment did get me thinking though. Why would anyone think that? And more importantly, is there actually a theological precedent or biblical passage that supports this idea? I certainly can’t think of any reason why this could be deemed a reasonable theological position to hold. I concede that I’m not exactly the world’s leading bible commentator, however with my years as a Christian and the number of sermons and Christian talks I’ve heard, you’d think that I’d have heard it if this was a reasonable position to hold.

Given this is the first time I can consciously say I’ve met this particular line of thinking, I think I can safely say that it’s something that is in the minority. However, what makes it concerning is that either there are some people who do believe and teach this, or there are some people who choose to believe this, despite not being taught it.

Of course there is the simple fact that looking at the evidence of deaths of history proves this particular line of thought to be utterly wrong.

It is not a comforting theology

The conclusion I have come to is that people who believe this only do so because it must be comforting to them. It taps into the ‘in a better place’ mentality, that being that those Christians who have died are enjoying fellowship in heaven and ultimately that’s where all good Christians want to be and death in this life is a relief, a good thing even, something to be rejoiced in even. This is denialist theology, it’s what happens when people invent things to try and ease the pain of a deeply unfair happening.

On a personal level, the only good thing about my mother’s death in her early 60s is that she is no longer suffering with cancer. If God was a merciful god and took the good people early then he should have taken this servant of His in that first year and not left her to suffer an appalling cancer for three years before finally going unconscious and dying a week later.

There is nothing good about her sons missing her terribly and there is nothing good about her never getting to see her granddaughter grow up. The suggestion that the loving God she worshiped all her life took her that way and at that time because he loved her and she was good is utterly wrong. The more I think about this, the more I get upset and angry about it. Time to go to my happy place….

A Word on the Left Behind Books

I have mixed feelings on the Left Behind series of books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. There was a time when I certainly would have accepted much of what they proposed in the theology of the books, but I always read them as enjoyable novels.

When discovered the books while browsing a Christian bookstore. I picked up the first one, liked the back cover synopsis and made a decision buy the first 3. I started reading them and was hooked from the first pages. I found the stories original, enjoyable and engaging.

At that time of my life I have not given End Times much thought for many years and while I was very dubious about the literal turn of events, it didn’t bother me enough to affect my enjoyment of the books. One can read and enjoy a fantasy without it affecting real life after all.

Within weeks of me purchasing and starting to read the books, I was on the phone to a friend and he excitedly told me that he’d found the most enjoyable books he’d read in a long time and started extolling the virtues of their story telling and narrative. Before he even got to the point of telling me the name of the books or the subject matter, I interrupted him and told him he was talking about the Left Behind books. His dumbstruck silence at the other end was hilarious, yet is very illustrative of the impact my first encounter with these books had on me.

I gobbled up the books, eagerly welcoming each new one as it came out. I even bought the first three movie DVDs that came out.

Then the boredom set in, as the series progressed and got to book 10 or so my enthusiasm had waned, I continued to read the series because I wanted to know what happened, but the enjoyment and the pleasure had gone out of reading them. By the time I got to the last book, the reading of it was a mere formality, just to say I’d done it, there was very little of the original pleasure of the reading left and I found the ending all rather twee and ‘Hollywood’ in its perfect ending.

If I discovered the books now, I’m not so sure I’d read them. I certainly doubt I’ll ever read any of them again.

That’s not because I’ve changed my mind on my original opinion. I am sure if I read the first book again I’d enjoy it to the same degree, I think the series certainly lost its momentum and should have been several books shorter. Its almost as though huge profit was visualised when the popularity of the books was realised and so the latter half of the series stretched the story out. I have no idea on the truth of that but it certainly felt that way.  Now I discover that beyond the original 12 books that I read, there are now three prequels and another one added to the end, cynicism confirmed me thinks.

So yes I did enjoy reading the initial books, I enjoyed them very much. Yet looking back at them with the eyes of an Atheist I found myself being very cynical and sad. Cynical that its cashing in on a dubious theology that has caused hurt to many (see my previous post: https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/05/23/its-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it/) and sad that the books have probably helped to reinforce that dubious theology into many and thereby (possibly) causing yet more hurt to those who now needlessly fear a Rapture that will never come.