General Discussion

The Wrap Up – Part 1

So much to say, and hundreds of ways to say it.  I must have tackled this post a dozen times, only to leave it unfinished to go and sleep on it, so to speak.

What I’ve decided to do is to make a wrap-up post in two parts, concerning my exchange with the folks at Roll to Disbelieve (which started here and, by way of here, here, here and here, left off here).  Throughout the course of the discussion, several people weighed in, many of whom brought up some really good points that I’m anxious to discuss further.  Alas, though, my free time to write is sporadic at best these days, and facing an army of opposition single-handedly only compounds and exacerbates this predicament.  I hope those who engaged do not begrudge me the delay — after I finish these two posts, my goal is to have responded directly to those comments that I found the most relevant and engaging.  Thank you for your patience!

To preface this wrap-up, my nutshell assessment of how the discussion went down is something like this:  In essence, the entire discussion comes down to evidence — whether or not the Christian claims have the evidential legs to be taken seriously as a feasible (or even likely) model to explain the reality of our world.  This comprised perhaps 3% of the discussion.  The other 97% or so was a kitchen sink of statements and accusations concerning topics such as my discussion tactics, my motivation in becoming a Christian, my motivation in sharing my faith, my sub-par mental faculties, my flawed character, my failure to apply the teachings of Jesus in my own life, my vile hatred of those who oppose Christianity and the various ways I have threatened and insulted them, my inability to understand the points being presented to me, my failure at presenting good arguments in favor of my worldview, my poor logic skills, my inability to think for myself, my penchant for parroting other peoples’ opinions without understanding or questioning them, and my general depravity as a human being.

Pretty par for the course, I’d say, when it comes to typical discussions of this nature. (more…)

Ahoy Mateys! A Response to the Captain and Her Crew

Boy, I’ve sure stuck a stick in the hornet’s nest now, haven’t I? 🙂

My thanks to all who engaged in this discussion so far, both on my blog and on Captain Cassidy’s.  The situation in a nutshell:  The Captain wrote an article about Christian rebirth, I wrote a response, she and some of her readers responded in kind… and then I left to go visit my in-laws for the weekend, so I couldn’t respond with the promptness that I would have liked.  In a way, though, it was nice to have a break — allowed me to slow-cook some of the important issues that were brought up.

I will respond, in brief, to some of these specific topics in this response, but this will mostly be a meta-discussion so that everyone know where I’m coming from. (more…)

Why I’m Here, and How I Do It

Throughout my recent leave of absence from blogging to pursue theatrical interests, I continued to read the dozens of comments that continued to trickle in (thanks for those!).  This practice led, somewhat unexpectedly, to a greater sense of clarity of my purpose of starting this blog in the first place.

You see, I tend to be detail-oriented when it comes to answering objections and counter-points, and this can sometimes make me myopic concerning the bigger picture — now, having been able to take in the body of such objections and counter-points as a whole rather than immediately taking the time to comb through each response one-by-one, it’s shown me some things that I’m not sure I would have been able to see otherwise, some patterns in the types of points people tend to make that reveal somewhat more clearly the essence of the disagreement that lies between myself and others of our race whose conclusions about the divine are contrary.  There are, in fact, three such patterns I would like to address in this post — my apologies for its length, but I felt this was important 🙂 (more…)

My Favorite Atheist and Christian Thinkers

I love watching debates, especially on the topics of God and Christianity.  Thankfully, in our Internet age there are hours upon hours of such footage for someone like me to watch.

In summary of my experience so far:  I’ve seen a lot of bad debates.  Let me clarify what I mean:  I consider a debate to be bad when any of the following occur:

  1. One or both parties fail to treat the other in a personable manner and with respect
  2. One or both parties make blanket statements without backing them up
  3. One or both parties fail to offer any definitive arguments for their position (rather resorting to “talking points”)
  4. One or both parties fail to answer the other’s points directly
  5. It is apparent that one or both parties are not “on their game”

Thus, by these criteria, a debate in my opinion can be good, even if the atheist presents a better argument.  In fact, I’m not so much concerned with who wins a debate, as much as I am the manner in which it is engaged.  If both sides bring their A-game, engage directly and respectfully with each other, bring up good points and adequately answer their opponents’… hey, that’s a good time for me!  I’m that way with sports too — I don’t enjoy watching games where one side absolutely obliterates the other, even if it’s my team who’s doing the pummeling.  I’d much rather watch a good match (even one where my team loses) then see my team wipe the floor with the other.  I’m curious if you all feel similarly or not in this respect.

So, first things first:  I’m in the market for some new debates.  If anyone has any recommendations, shoot them my way!

I’m also always looking for new faces in the world of theological debate, especially on the atheist side of the table.  I’m very interested to hear from my readers (atheists especially) who your favorite thinkers are in favor of the atheist position.

As for me, in watching many debates and applying the criteria above, I have established somewhat of a scoring system in my mind for the various prominent thinkers who tend to fill one side of the debate table or the other, and have a mental list of my favorite and least-favorite debaters.  A few prominent names on my list, starting with my favorites and working my way down: (more…)

Let’s Leave Motives Out of It

When discussing ideas, I think it best to keep motives out of it.

Often, I am told that my experiences of God (and therefore my belief in Him) are nothing but the results of an elaborate physiological ruse, where I am held victim to the workings of my own brain (boy, aren’t we all?) — or, even worse, my belief in God is just the manifestation of my own wishful thinking.  Freud made this view popular, saying that religious beliefs are “illusions, fulfillments of the oldest, strongest, and most urgent wishes of mankind….  Thus the benevolent rule of the divine Providence allays our fears of the dangers of life.”  And Freud was a smart guy, so we can just take his word for it, right?  No need to look at evidence or reasoning or anything — or even lay me on a sofa and come up with any direct support for your diagnosis, O great mind-reading wizard on the other end of the computer screen.  It must be true, because (as you say) it can’t be that God actually exists — there has to be a “simpler” explanation (because the explanation that God actually exists is way more far-fetched than my brain’s ability to create, sustain, and continually reinforce a series of ordered and consistent delusions that in every way resemble the qualities of an actual relationship — not to mention do things like granting insight into unknowable yet pertinent information and future events and healing emotional wounds — all in a manner that holds up to corroboration with others who claim similar relationships).

Sorry, I guess I’m feeling a little snarky today, aren’t I?  C’mon, Seth, let’s reign it in… a little. (more…)

Unexamined Misgivings

I have been so blessed lately with lots of comments from new people — people who seem to be a perfect fit for a community like this.  Thank you all for engaging!

In one brief discussion I had recently with Charles, he discussed his deconversion process and mentioned this:

If you had asked me at age 24 why I believed, I would have been able to give a list of reasons similar to what you gave in a previous post, but in fact I was not all that confident in those reasons. I was holding to them in spite of misgivings, by faith, because I trusted my experience with God and felt that trumped everything else.

We later agreed that the presence of misgivings in one’s philosophy is not necessarily indication that the philosophy is fatally flawed — in fact, I’ve yet to come across any metaphysical philosophy that does not involve the acceptance of a few mysteries, unanswered questions, or even seeming contradictions.  There’s no such thing as an airtight philosophy of everything — not yet, anyway.  We simply don’t have all the information.

In any case, Charles further clarified what he meant:

It’s natural to have misgivings, but what I used to have were *unexamined* misgivings. Now I’m ok with examining any of my beliefs.

I agree with Charles that having misgivings and failing to examine them can be a bad thing.  I admit I can be slow sometimes to really dig into the nitty-gritty of my own questions concerning my faith — though I have been convinced enough in the bigger picture of my worldview that I’m not incredibly concerned or anxious about the questions I do have.  Someday I would like to go to seminary, and when I do I will certainly have some questions lined up and ready to fire at my professors.

Nevertheless, what Charles’ question did for me is make me curious to hear from my readers, especially those with deconversion stories of their own:  Looking back, what were some of the key points that you would consider to have been “unexamined misgivings” that led to you giving up your faith in God?  Thanks ahead of time for weighing in!  I look forward to reading your responses!

Looking Back at Six Months

On a whim today, I looked back to see when my first post on this blog was (I figured it must be close to my six-month blogiversary) and, lo and behold, it has in fact been about six months — give or take a week or so.

My first order of business, in recognition of this milestone, is to thank you, my readers and followers, for your thoughtful and provocative engagement — you are truly what makes this enterprise fruitful, in my mind.  I mean, I already know what I have to say — I started this mostly to see my viewpoints be challenged by others who see the world differently, and that has certainly been the case.  Bravo to you all, and thanks again — keep up the good work!

I’ve also reread the purpose statement I wrote for this blog, which I composed before writing anything else.  Beyond the general mission to test the caliber of my ideas on the battlefield of philosophical opposition, the more specific raison d’être for this blog was the tragic lack I saw in the online world of places where naturally polarizing topics like theology can be discussed with civility, respect, and honor — where the focus is not to “win” the debate, but rather where everyone recognizes that the true “win” comes from a gracious exchange of ideas.  I didn’t want to form a debate club (there are enough of those out there, for sure), nor did I want to create a propaganda machine (God knows there’s more than enough of those), but rather a community that is characterized by ideals that put mutual understanding above intellectual prowess.  Too many people out there are way more interested in making their voices heard than they are in truly, truly understanding how others see things, and that’s the travesty I humbly hoped to counter, in my own small way, when forming this community. (more…)