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.

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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.

Oh Science, Why do you Change so much?

One of the barriers I had when it came to evaluating the claims of science with those of creationism was the issue of the changeability of scientific claims.

Creationism offered a reliable, solid and unchanging account of how the world began and is now. God made it the way it is and our inability to understand or explain certain things was a failing of science and proof of God’s created world.

For me, reading about new discoveries and how they would change the way scientists thought about some things was evidence that scientists couldn’t make up their minds and that science was a lost cause with little ability to properly explain. Couldn’t they just read the bible and see how constant everything is and how it was all created as it should be and as it is now?

Science changing in response to new knowledge or understanding was seen as a bad thing thing.

It took a very long time for me to appreciate that a change in understanding does not automatically mean that everything beforehand was wrong. A change in understanding or a new discovery does not invalidate what has gone before, it typically clarifies. A complete overturning of previous ideas is not especially common, and it gets rarer as more is known and understood.

Learning is not linear

For reasons I can’t fully explain, my expectation of scientific knowledge was that new discoveries should confirm what we already know (a created world) and that as scientific knowledge expands, so does the validation of that. The concept of science uncovering the unexpected and leading to tangential discoveries was alien and only served to illustrate to me that science was deceivable.

Failure is always an option

I was wrong of course, but realising that took an awfully long time and was a very gradual process. Scientists of course love to be proved wrong on a theory because being wrong is still a positive scientific result and means that the premise that was used for that test can be scratched off and something new tried. This is the point of the scientific method, test something, multiple times and if your expectation is wrong then you know more work is required to get the right answer. This is not a failure of science, quite the opposite in fact. It’s a validation that science does not care what you think, it merely acts according to the rules of the universe. The object of scientific testing is to find out those rules.

This is how we know that the planets orbit the sun and how to get spacecraft to the moon. It is how we know about fluid dynamics and a whole host of other things. The process of scientific testing could also be referred to as trial and error; test stuff and respond to the results, make a prediction and see if the test confirms or contradicts.

It’s the only way to learn and to assume that we already know the right answer without that imperial proof is arrogant.

Creationists are still making the same mistakes.

I read a small number of creationist blogs and every now and then I see a post that falls into the same traps as detailed above. I recognise the thinking there and I understand why they are thinking the way they do. I was there once and I get it.

I also understand why they are wrong.

I have on occasion made a comment to try and point them in the correct direction. The reply is usually predictable, because I have been there before as well, I know the standard responses.

I have tried to use this knowledge and my experience of having been there to add a considered and accurate correcting response. I know a single comments will never change the creationist mind, but hopefully my comment will help to sow the seeds of truth and eventually it will be counted as a contributing factor.

Sometimes my attempt at helpfulness has been responded too as if I was being argumentative, that’s a shame because that has never been my position. I know how that feels and it never works out well, (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/when-friends-are-unkind/).

More on Contraception

I wasn’t anticipating doing another post on contraception, especially since over here in blighty it really isn’t the hot political topic that it is over the pond in the USA.

However, following one of my earlier posts I had the following comment (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/god-takes-the-good-people-early/#comment-530) which, given the effort put into it, deserves a considered response. Other comments are more than welcome as I will never call myself an expert on the subject. I recommend that all readers read the comment linked to above because I shall not be repeating it in its entirety below and I shall not be responding to every point raised, if I did, this post would become a whole lot larger than is ideal or sensible.

With that said, on with my response….

With regard to the claims made in the opening paragraph, I don’t know enough about the American political system and how much influence religious doctrine has over it to adequately comment. I am dubious about the claims made and suspect they are more conspiracy than fact.

Contraception doesn’t just block biological functions and the potential of life, it actually distorts human relationship. It is not that the Church is against something, but rather it is FOR something. The Church is for Love and healthy relationship.

Right off the block we’re onto something which I fundamentally disagree with. Claims that the use of contraception distorts human relationship need to be backed up with evidence. I’d like to see a study done on this. I suspect none currently exists, which means that those making the claim really should get one done.

Furthermore, I would actively argue the opposite; contraceptive enables greater human relationship. Granted I don’t have access to studies proving my argument, and like my statement above, a study to prove it would be helpful. What I do have is the personal experience of a loving and stable relationship and freedom that contraceptive brings to that. As someone who is also ‘for love and healthy relationship’ I can honestly say that the use of contraceptive has not only been ‘not negative’ it had a positive impact by removing more than one unnecessary stress.

But human sex was also designed for a relationship where it is safe and open to fully and freely give of oneself, unconditionally and irretrievably; to fully and freely receive love from another, unconditionally and irretrievably; and whatever becomes of that love it is to be cherished and protected, even if children are not the result. At all times, however, life is still welcome. That’s what we call marriage.

I’ve intentionally skipped the bit about sex being the invention and creation of God and a gift to mankind. I understand the idea and the concept since I subscribed to that view for many years myself. The evolution of sex is interesting and complex, while it is relevant to the discussion it is also a huge subject in itself and to delve too much into it here would distract from the subject in hand. One does need to acknowledge that viewing sex as a gift from God or as an evolved pleasure does change the way in which it is perceived and that starting position is relevant and important.

The sentence that I object to above is the one that states that life is still welcome. This is an unhelpful generalisation which may not be appropriate for all couples, even Christian ones. When a child is welcome, then wonderful, but to proclaim it is just as welcome should it happen when undesired or inappropriate is quite frankly uncaring. Having been the subject of Christian mirth because I dared to be a married Christian and yet choose to remain childless for many years, I can testify that to compel and criticise Christians for choosing to actively avoid parenthood is to put them in a place where they feel unloved and unappreciated. The hypocrisy in that is especially hurtful; make them feel unloved for daring to engage in a loving act.

Remove the sentence about life being welcome and I wholeheartedly agree with the paragraph. Contraceptive use does not change the facts of that. The couple in question make love because they want to share in that experience. If anything removing the risk of pregnancy gives a greater freedom to enjoy each other’s love more intimately.

Surely even the most hardened contraceptive nay-sayer will agree that a family which successfully plans its children will be a happier and more loving unit than one which had effectively played Russian Roulette and had the children arrive randomly and with no control over when they would stop. Contraception is a very useful and practical method of managing that.

The idea of contraception is to escape the biological consequences of sex.

Yes, there could be any number of good reasons for needing to do that. It is a myth that that degrades the love that the two parties involved feel for and demonstrate towards each other.

Basically contraception is at least a lie to biology. It is also a “no” to God’s design, God’s purpose and flourishing love. “I want to make love to you, but let’s trick our bodies to not do what they were designed to do” Obviously contraception is meant to correct God’s flaw of fertility, so it is a spiritual attack as well.

This is a strawman argument. There is absolutely no suggestion of fertility being a flaw to be corrected, it’s about controlling the circumstances in which a child is born for the benefit of that child and the family unit it’ll be born into, something that God would no doubt approve of. If you want to get onto the subject of correcting God’s flaws and the evil therein why is contraception singled out when there is a whole medical profession launching these ‘spiritual attacks’ on all sorts of other body parts. Yes, I am being flippant in that last sentence, but the point is valid, there is no good reason why contraception is wheeled out as an evil when all sorts of other medical and scientific marvels are making a very real impact on the biological workings of, and therefore the lives of, others and their ability to engage in and share loving relations.

In another sense it is a lie about the nature of love. “We don’t need to fully give or fully accept ourselves to make love. Put this shield on, ok?” Despite the claims of making one feel more free, the exact opposite is really true.

I am struggling with the logic expressed here. The leap from preventing an undesired pregnancy to a betrayal of the nature of love bothers me. It’s obvious that there are those that have made the connection, however I would strongly argue that it is a connection that is based on a false premise. The act of love between a couple and their mutual appreciation of it is not at all dependent on whether or not there is contraception being used. It is absolutely dependent on the state of mind of each individual and how honest and emotionally open they are towards each other. To turn it around, an obvious conclusion to draw from the quote above is that those who are incapable of becoming a parent are therefore also incapable of appreciating a loving relationship in the way that a fertile couple abstaining from contraception would be.

Contraception says “I don’t want all of you. It is a “no” to fully giving to or accepting the complete other person. “I love you for the pleasure of sex, but not everything about you, at least not right now.”

No it doesn’t. It says that producing a child now is not appropriate. It is absolutely acceptable for a loving couple to say that at this moment in time a child is not appropriate but that they want to have a fully loving relationship. The act of using contraception is an extension of that love.

Contraception makes sex dead on arrival.  …[snip]…  contraception is the death of some part of another’s personal being. It cannot say, “I love you just for who you are,” because it clearly denies the total person’s by denying their fertility. But it goes deeper. No longer do partners have to be as sensitive or even as caring with each other. …[snip]…  treating each other as objects of pleasure and not as human persons.

What bothers me the most about the above is that it credits contraception with inciting actions or thoughts which it is clearly not capable of. Contraception is a benign object, incapable of thought. If there is any objectification in a relationship it’s due to factors and attitudes directly to do with the offending party. Putting the blame for that on contraception removes the need for the guilty party to face up to that wrong attitude; instead they are given a wonderful scapegoat. It is people that misuse other people, not objects. What’s more, I actually find it slightly offensive that my attitude towards my wife and the value of the love we share is judged by whether or not we use contraception by people who have never spent any time observing our relationship or even know anything about us.

Since the dawn of contraception, which of the following are true:

[list of stuff]

Repeat after me; “correlation is not the same as causation”.

Now repeat it again ten times!

There are many reasons why any of the items listed could be on the increase. I am sure there are very good scientific studies for many, if not all, of them. If anyone wishes to make a claim linking contraceptive use to any of them they had better have a jolly good study backing them up otherwise their claim is worthless.

To look up each of the items listed and the associated claim would take considerable time and at least a single blog post for each one. This I don’t have the time to do right now, but it is certainly an idea for future ponderance.

But you see, Christ promised us that regardless of her many faulted people, the Church He founded would not falsify Truth. And so, whether you believe or not, you might better understand and admire why the Church holds to this teaching.

Thank you for taking the time to put up your post, we come to the subject from pretty much opposite sides and I think common ground will be small. I must confess that I still do not understand why the Catholic Church chooses to continue with this teaching. I accept I may never understand because my basic starting point is contraception is a good thing. There is also the not so small issue that I no longer accept the existence of God. These two combined probably hinder me greatly in that comprehension. Worse than that, I consider the Catholic Church to be wrong on this issue and I struggle to see how that could ever change.

Science Podcasts helped my understanding

Along my way to questioning the literal interpretation of the Old Testament stories, I got into listening to science podcasts.

The timing was quite fortunate really. Not long after the USA holiday which sparked my questioning (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/the-first-nagging-doubts/) I changed job and found myself working from home for prolonged periods. The result of this was I installed iTunes on my PC and started investigating podcasts. Some of the podcasts I found very difficult to listen to because in amongst the science there were many disparaging remarks about belief and faith. I found it extremely difficult to listen to those comments, but I continued because I found the science interesting and it was that that fed my mind.

I did also try out some creationist podcasts to try and balance my intake and challenge what I was hearing. To be perfectly honest, I found them deeply wanting. The scientific content of the creationist podcasts was weak and invariably the presenters would try and use biased logic to argue against evolutionary science. The result was that I very quickly abandoned the creationist podcasts and continue to consume as much science as I could.

By now it was clear to me that I was no longer a literal creationist.

 

The biggest side effect in embracing an old earth and the truth of evolution was the Old Testament sections that now came under the spotlight.

Old Earth, means no Genesis Flood (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/noah%E2%80%99s-ark-gilgamesh-or-just-a-story/) for starters. I also came to realise that other well-known Biblical stories were not quite as I had believed (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/poor-poor-joseph-what-you-gonna-do/).

The latter realisation had me questioning the Bible much more. Its one thing to accept the Bible as the word of God while also holding that Evolution is true; however, I seemed to be going further and was questioning the accuracy of key Old Testament accounts.

Following the scientific podcasts and learning about what was reliable and what was not was making me think more critically and sceptically about when I had previously believed.

What in the Old Testament Could I Trust?

 

This became a problem for me and was a question I asked myself a lot. The bottom line was; if I can’t trust the Old Testament, then the New Testament, which hinges on the Old Testament being reliable, can also not be relied upon to be the inspired Word of God either.

Greater scientific understanding had definitely left me with a problem…

Atheist Morality

This was a subject I was intending to get round to eventually, but recent blog postings have prompted me comment on it now. I am fairly sure I’ll return to this subject again in the future, it is a big subject after all.

The basic issue that is prompting me to comment is the reaction of Christians to the assertion that morality does not come from God and is in actual fact an evolutionary characteristic. As someone who accepts evolution I don’t have an issue with that premise. I find it very interesting, in a stimulating way, it takes the idea of physical traits honed over generations through evolution and applies it to characteristics. What we do and how we act, is now viewed, in evolutionary terms, as a benefit or not and selected accordingly.

Intellectually I have no issue with this at all. I believe it is at least highly plausible and will be paying attention to the results of further research on the subject.

The Failure of God Driven Morality

The idea that our morality comes only from God and that only a believer can be deemed to be a moral person is flawed. There are atheists that are upstanding and moral people as well as there are Christians who have murdered.

As a Christian, I held firmly to this belief. I never questioned the existence of good atheists; I accepted they existed but I am not sure what I did about the conflict between morality coming from God and there being atheists who were good. So I can’t answer that obvious question.

What I am sure of is that the mere suggestion that morality is evolutionary would have caused me upset and it seems that there are a good many Christians who feel the same.

The most recent article on the subject is this one in USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2011-07-31-atheism-morality-evolution-religion_n.htm (for reasons I can not explain, I am unable to reach that URL directly and so in case I am not alone, here is the google cache link for the article in question: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2011-07-31-atheism-morality-evolution-religion_n.htm)

I found the link from the Evolution is true blog which has published a couple of the comments that were received from Christians on the subject (http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/the-public-responds/).

There is a very sad irony that Christians upset by the assertion that they do not have a monopoly on morality are behaving in a way that is arguably not moralistic.

The Futile Atheist Existence

As it happens, another blog (http://formerconservative.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/red-cardigan-would-be-a-complete-sociopath-if-god-didnt-tell-her-not-to/) pointed me to a Christian blog discussing the same subject. The Christian known as Red Cardigan has a peculiar view on atheistic morals, going so far as to suggest that atheists take their morals from a specific philosophical viewpoint. Its news to me that atheism is a specific philosophy; its not clear that if she means all atheists or just some, I suspect she originally meant all and then refined to some.

Whichever she meant is not important, it’s the extension of the logic that Christians get their morality from God therefore atheists must get theirs from something too, so philosophy seems like a reasonable conclusion. I can see how that logic would be attractive and I can see how a firm Christian who has utterly bought the idea that morals come God would make that leap.

The brutal fact is, it is wrong.

The trouble with this utterly wrong viewpoint, is that it leads to further wrong ideas. These can be seen in the following three posts (http://redcardigan.blogspot.com/2011/07/atheist-hissy-fits.html, http://redcardigan.blogspot.com/2011/07/prison-atheist-fable.html, http://redcardigan.blogspot.com/2011/08/pollyanna-atheism-shakespeare-and.html) on the subject where the Christian idea of what an atheist is and believes is put forward and there is no effort at all to actually learn when corrected. Its this bit that’s so sad; even more sad is that I was once like that too. Trapped in my own ideas of what was and not listening when I was told what actually is.

Acceptance of evolution in the world

Acceptance of evolution in the world.

I have just stumbled across the above blog post, which has a graph showing several countries in the world and the ratios of the population that accepts or denies evolution.

The graph mainly lists European countries, though the United States is there, and depressingly low down.

What I would like to see as a comparison is the acceptance in Asian, African and South American countries too. I guess for the moment that information is not available and I also imagine that a fair few of those countries will be extend the bottom of the graph to show lower and lower acceptance of evolution.

What I’d also like to see is how those numbers have changed in the last decade or two. Have the numbers gone more or less in favour of Evolution? I’d also like to see that same comparison in the next few decades to see how the numbers change.

 

 

The First Nagging Doubts

Colorado River in the Grand Canyon from Desert...

Image via Wikipedia

The first doubts that led me to really question my acceptance of creationism came with a visit to the Grand Canyon. My wife and I enjoyed a wonderful two week holiday to the Eastern USA before our daughter was born.

We started and ended in Las Vegas, urgh, we didn’t like the place at all; so fake and artificial and materialistic.

From Vegas, we did a big loop that encompassed the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, London Bridge, Sedona,San Francisco, some geyser or other, some Redwoods, Yosemite andDeath Valley. We loved it, utterly loved it.

I started the holiday as a creationist and ended the holiday seriously wondering if I’d been duped all those years.

I just couldn’t stop the questions.

When it comes to all things science, my attention is easily kept, even if understanding has trouble keeping up. I like to see how things work and like to question why. As a result, I am very much a nature man, this is very likely connected to my upbringing in Zambia, where nature was always all around.

What this would mean is that every time I visited somewhere I’d look for evidence of the past, too see how and why formations would happen and then imagine the process happening in front of me. That’s part of how I appreciate nature.

Up until this point, my favourite place in the world had always been Victoria Falls on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border. I’ve visited it numerous times as a child and an adult. The noise of the water is immense and the power that is visible is jaw dropingly huge. Then I saw the Grand Canyon and I was blown away by the scale and the peace (when you can get away from your fellow tourists). Suddenly my favourite place in the world had a challenger that was a serious contender. I’d seen Niagara Falls a few years previously and that didn’t even come close, so to be so utterly taken with the ruggedness and barrenness of the Grand Canyon was unexpected.

We saw sunset and the following sunrise over the canyon and several hours either side.

Looking out over the canyon I examined the rock structures and the layers. I looked for the erosion marks on isolated outcrops. I kept looking at the features I saw and trying to fit them with my creationist beliefs and struggled. The jagged edges didn’t fit with a catastrophic flood carving it out in a short time. Something gentler was required.

I looked at the mighty Colorado River, which looked like a small stream from the vantage point we were at. I tried to imagine it as a surface river gradually carving its way down through the rock. It seems an incredible feat and would surely take so long that it would be almost impossible to imagine that period of time. If this river has carved such a huge valley, canyon even, how come others rivers haven’t? Why is it so unique? Yet as I continued to look, I could see sections that I could easily imagine where previous paths of the river.

Could it be that my firmly held beliefs could be upset by simple observation and imagination?

Well yes, as it turns out.

During the rest of the holiday I would ponder these unsettling and yet invigorating questions and look at other features in a new light. Like the petrified forests north of San Francisco, Half Dome Rock and the glacier valley in Yosemite, rock features on the drive into and out ofDeath Valley.

So the start of the end of my creationism had begun, it started as a slow process of self realisation helped along by curiosity about nature.

An adventure in miracles and blogger integrity.

Last week I read the following blog post, http://creationbydesign.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/marian-apparitions-akita-and-the-disaster-in-japan/, which led me down a path I had not expected. It wasn’t the blog posting itself that caused the distraction, but the first comment on the post. The comment contains the following sentences.

I would ask the people of Japan to look at the history of Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped and what happened. The one building that was saved was a church where the rosary and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was practised daily. The fire separated as it rushed towards the church and those priests were the only survivors for miles around.

This triggered alarm bells in my mind. I am no stranger to miraculous stories and have encountered many over the years, but this was one I had not heard. I am usually very suspicious of stories like this and need more than someone else’s word before I will believe.

The miracle that never was

Being curious I did some internet searching and discovered enough for me to doubt the story. Specifically, no evidence for a church having been spared blast of the bomb. Some churches did remain standing, but none was undamaged. In fact there were quite a few buildings that still stood, in a very damaged state, after the bomb, though the majority were flattened.

I replied with my accuracy concerns and a brief explanation as to why.

The blog owner came back with a reply that included more details on the Hiroshima miracle story and some other stuff that I don’t accurately remember. The further details are widely repeated around the internet, interestingly, mostly on catholic websites and forums, and are pasted below.

At 2:45 a.m.  on August 6, 1945, a B-29 bomber took off from the island of Tinian to drop the first atomic bomb on Japan.  At 8:15 a.m. the bomb exploded eight city blocks from the  Jesuit Church of Our Lady’s Assumption in Hiroshima.  Half a million people were annihilated.  However, the church and eight Jesuit fathers stationed there survived (four of the priests were Fathers Hugo Lassalle, Kleinsorge, Cieslik and Schiffer.  According to the experts they “ought to be dead,” being within a one-mile radius of the explosion.

With this extra information I went about doing more research, because now I felt like I’d been challenged.

There were some key facts that I was able to determine quite quickly.

  • The population of Hiroshima at the time was less than half a million and about 25% of them died as a result of the bomb
  • One of the priests suffered severe radiation sickness and was unwell for the rest of his life, despite this he still managed to survive for 30 years after the bomb.
  • There may have been only four priests, not eight.
  • The church and the attached residence were both significantly damaged in the blast, though they did not collapse.
  • The priests concerned were not the only survivors at that proximity to the blast.

Dramatic stories like this live and die on their specifics, so they had better be correct. In this case they are not and its ill advised to accept them unquestioningly.

I wrote a long reply to the blog (which will be repeated at the end of this post) detailing what I had found and why I questioned the accuracy of the story.

The response from the blog author is best described as a rant than a reasoned reply. At least one of my points was misrepresented and I was called a god hating atheist for daring to doubt a miracle.

Before I could compose a response, the blog owners reply was deleted, along with my long post and his previous reply to that. My original posting was edited down to significantly and a new reply was up which is an acknowledgement that the story is questionable.

Blogger Integrity

Which brings me to the issue of blogger integrity. I consider it very bad form to edit down replies to your blog without making it clear what you have done and why. In this case its clear to me that its to save the blogger in question from looking a tad foolish. My answer to that is, take care not to paint yourself as a fool in the first place. Far better to leave your mistakes visible for all to see and post a retraction. That shows true integrity.

Editing down and deleting posts while a discussion is still in progress is poor, very poor, and to me that loses the person concerned many credibility points.

———-

My refutation post that got deleted follows…

Some facts that I have been able to gather about Hiroshima.

 

The 1945 population of Hiroshima as less than half a million. The link in my earlier post puts the number at 255,000. This BBC page puts the number at 350,000 http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/august/6/newsid_3602000/3602189.stm as does this page http://history1900s.about.com/od/worldwarii/a/hiroshima.htm.

Several other sources put the number between 300,000 and 400,000. All of this brings significant doubt on the accuracy of this statement from your reply to me.

“Half a million people were annihilated.”

When you look for numbers perished, both in the blast and subsequently due to illness, the number ranges between 70,000 and 140,000. Most people survived. The claim of half a million people being annihilated is now no longer questionable, but demonstrably wrong.

The paragraph that you quote that contains the half a million claim is repeated in many places across the internet with very little supporting documentation. One such location is this one: http://www.hovensd.com/pdfs/Bulletins/Bulletin%20-%2011-21-10.pdf which lists four priest names Fathers Hugo Lassalle,  Kleinsorge, Cieslik and Schiffer. These four names come up many times, but the names of all 8 survivors never.

The second paragraph that you quote appears to come from this source http://www.blessedmotherschildren.com/9/category/hiroshima/1.html. It says four resident priests not the eight that is widely reported elsewhere. What is also interesting is that the protection of the rosary is ascribed solely to a single priest, Fr. Schiffer, rather than everyone. Also, the amazement of the doctors at his well-being is ascribed to the immediate days following and not to years later, as reported on other websites that repeat the story. So here we have two specifics that are repeated across the internet that do not match the testimony of one of those involved.

This page http://www.directessays.com/viewpaper/13833.html, specifically says that Father Kleinsorge suffered from illness in the days after the bomb, so yes he survived, like the majority did, but it didn’t escape unscathed, he suffered radiation effects too, like the majority of those who survived. He would suffer the effects of that radiation for the rest of his life, http://pketko.com/Hiroshima/survivors.htm#Father Wilhelm.

 

This page, http://facultyfp.salisbury.edu/tfrobinson/An%20Account%20of%20Hiroshima.htm, by a Father John A. Siemes, says that the house was damaged, with all doors and windows blown out and some structural damage.  This contradicts your claim of no damage.

You’d have thought that if there truly was a house that escaped damage completely, that there would have been photographic evidence of it wouldn’t you? After all there is photographic evidence of the vast range of damage, both from the ground and the air. How did a house that supposedly escaped damage, when everything around it was allegedly destroyed, also escape being photographed? I suggest its far more likely that the house was indeed damaged but that the structure didn’t fully collapse and that it wasn’t unique in that. There is photographic evidence of buildings that did not fully collapse, but all buildings also lack their doors, windows and many their roofs too. A building that survived undamaged would stick out in all that destruction, especially one so close to the blast, and would most certainly have been photographed and further documented, yet that evidence does not exist, why is that?

You state that’s its not highly possible that anyone could survive close to the blast. This page, http://www.atomicarchive.com/Maps/HiroshimaMap.shtml, shows a small map of Hiroshima and lists some numbers of people killed and injured. What is very interesting is the numbers listed for the one kilometre zone.

Population: 31,200, killed: 26,700 (86%), Injured: 3,000 (10%)

This page repeats those numbers, http://www.hiroshima-remembered.com/maps/HiroshimaMap.html.

Assuming those numbers are accurate, that’s over 1000 people survived uninjured from the one kilometre zone.

My scientism on such a story, is that in order for me to believe such an incredible thing could happen, there should be further evidence outside of the initial claim. That evidence either does not exist or differs from the accounts given above. For me this is enough to call into serious question the existence of the claimed miracle.

Lastly, I urge you to read the following page with a genuinely open mind, it is written by someone who has put more effort than I have into checking the facts of this story http://www.lazyboysreststop.com/mary25.htm.

 

 

Godless girls voice challenge

Thanks to The Secret Atheist (http://thesecretatheist.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/im-not-dead-i-dont-want-to-go-on-the-cart/) I found myself reading the Godless Girls voice challenge (http://www.godlessgirl.com/2011/04/challenge-what-does-your-voice-sound-like/) and decided to have a bit of fun and take part as well.

I am somewhat disappointed that I am not the first (or even 2nd) pom to have a crack but I’m sure that won’t detract from the amusement factor. Its certainly interesting and amusing listening to the different ways we say things.

If you’re at all curious as to how I sound, well my effort is here: http://vocaroo.com/?media=vG8HcFGoIozTRn8RX