How I became a Christian Atheist

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Post by Skip » Tue Jun 30, 2009 2:30 pm

Twenty-plus years ago I 'walked away' from the church and became what I called a "Zen Christian Agnostic" - Zen philosophy, Christian ethics, Agnostic theology.

All the well-meaning people who let me know that they were praying for me, and those giving me verses to "hold close to my heart" (and I'm quoting an aunt, not a prior post here not that I recall seeing that phrase) and suggesting books to read really didn't do me much good, and some of them actually made it worse as they represented the very things that supposedly drove me away.

Keep thinking, Onyx.

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Post by Onyx » Tue Jun 30, 2009 5:35 pm

FoxHound wrote:With regard to Christianity, I am still in the 'I believe; help my unbelief' stage. Do you remember being in such a position? Struggling to put away your unbelief only to find that it grows with the struggling?
Thanks for your posts on this thread FoxHound. I appreciate that you see what I'm talking about. And of course I respect that you respond differently to these issues than I do. To answer your question - Yes, I do remember being in that position.

Just last night on the news a man studying religion was being interviewed. As a secularist, he had expected that intellectuals would be increasingly moving away from religion. However, he was surprised by findings that they are not all doing that. There is a divide between the physical scientists such as those in the Richard Dawkins camp as hard-line atheists... and the social scientists who are increasingly seeing that religious people do better in mental health, physical health, life-expectancy, wealth and happiness. So they are forced to ask the question, why does religion work so well? Christianity is far and away the best and healthiest because (in his secular analysis) it has the flexibility to respond to modernity in a way that Islam does not.

Like any sensible person, I want all those good things for myself and my family. (Oh the foolishness of wanting God's blessings and yet not wanting God!)

And yet the price of admission into this mutually beneficial club called Christianity is that one must believe certain doctrines. I don't choose not to believe (although some may philosophically argue that I do choose - which baffles me because I don't know how I could control that choice...) I just find that I don't and can't believe it.

Too much head and not enough heart? Perhaps.
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Post by Roadmaster » Tue Jun 30, 2009 6:33 pm

Thanks for your reply to my universe questions.

If I may ask you another question that is more in line with this thread, do you believe in a spirit world?

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Post by Onyx » Tue Jun 30, 2009 7:03 pm

Roadmaster wrote:Thanks for your reply to my universe questions.

If I may ask you another question that is more in line with this thread, do you believe in a spirit world?
Not in the classical Christian sense. Religion has in the past explained almost anything that people did not understand as being influence or controlled by the spirit realm. Christians used to explain many things (such as mental illness, unbridled jealousy or strife) as demonic possession. Many still invoke such explanations for bad weather during a church picnic, the popularity of a sordid pop singer, natural disasters, and much more. This is certainly consistent with some fundamentalist views such as I have known. Yet as science and medicine has advanced, we have come to understand these things in terms of geology, chemistry and sociology, etc... We (as a technological culture) are still in grade-school with respect to complex human fields. But I think that we can see the the retreat of the spiritual explanation as we see the advance of the scientific.

This is not to say that the spiritual terminology is not a helpful metaphor in dealing with these problems and improving quality of life.
KJV wrote:For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
The claim that God has given us the spirit of love makes a whole lot more sense than any scientific explanation of love. Perhaps it always will - despite any amount of scientific investigation of love! But do I believe that actual spirits of fear are floating around looking for who they might possess...? No. If a person is racked by fear and they come to Christianity and receive the deliverance of a spirit of power, love, and sound mind... do I rejoice...? Certainly.

So I think that science as a mode of understanding the universe and our own lives and world is an incomplete model. I'm not just saying that science hasn't finished yet, I'm saying that it is probably incapable of ever satisfactorily describing certain phenomena. So in some situations, the spiritual model of human understanding may provide the best human vocabulary for navigating life.

I realise that this perspective is likely to leave some Bible believers cold. For those who believe that the Bible is simply true, my thoughts must seem like silly navel-gazing. But... since you ask the question, that's what makes most sense to me.
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Post by CaptainBlack » Tue Jun 30, 2009 7:58 pm

Onyx wrote:Yes Captain, these are serious points you make. I don't take them lightly, and I sure don't think I know how to answer them all. As I said in my original post, I'm aware that for every change of heart a man has had, someone else has changed in the opposite direction.

Since you're mercilessly adding to my reading assignments, did you see the book I suggested to anyone who wanted to update my reading list?
Onyx wrote:For all those who suggested a book, I'd like to offer a counter suggestion. Have you read The Reason Driven Life by Robert Price?
http://www.amazon.com/Reason-Driven-Lif ... 1591024765

You may have caught that the title is a parody of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren (which has sold a copy or two in the USA - I understand). The Reason book itself is a challenge to the brand of Christianity promoted by that earlier Purpose book.

Now I'm not saying that I agree with Robert Price on everything. I don't. But he sure challenged me to think. And also, I'm just handing out a reading assignment in the hope it'll make people think twice before adding another book to my to-read stack! (Just kidding - I love the book suggestions.)
Fair enough - on suggested reading. Right now we are in an extremely tight spot financially. My wife had an ER visit, we had major car repairs, and I need to swing living expenses in Baltimore (job related) until I can relocate my family. If I can find the book in our local library, I might just give it a read. Of course, I could curtail my pipe tobacco purchases in exchange for the book .... nah. Remind me again in a few months when we're on solid ground again.

If you haven't realized already, I DO like to be challenged in my thinking. Some of my fondest memories in college were of times debating my friends in matters of faith.

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Post by CaptainBlack » Tue Jun 30, 2009 8:27 pm

Onyx wrote:Wow. You're not letting me off the hook here.
CaptainBlack wrote:Do you believe that Jesus claimed to be God?
No, actually I don't think he claimed that. He did claim to be one with the Father, even as he prayed that the disciples would be one with him. He claimed to be the only way to the Father. The fact that Jesus deity can be debated by theologians demonstrates that the case can be made either way. However, I don't think that Jesus himself actually made that claim. Whether Paul or John made that claim is another question.
CaptainBlack wrote:If you find that point to be a fabrication, how do you know that Jesus actually delivered the Sermon On The Mount?
I don't know that he delivered it. Certainly someone said or at the very least, wrote it, because I've got the text of it right here! I guess it's possible that it is a compilation of his teachings, or teachings attributed to him. Christian theologians have suggested that it is a compilation. Either way, I think that the value is in the content.
CaptainBlack wrote:If you believe He claimed deity was He a liar, a lunatic, or Lord?
Yeah, I did answer that one.
Onyx wrote:
CaptainBlack wrote: I believe you mentioned that you are an admirer of Jesus. Not only did He claim that there is a God, He claimed He WAS God. This leaves you with a tough question to face - one you may have already heard:

Was Jesus a liar, lunatic, or Lord?
Yes, this is a good point that I believe CS Lewis among others has made.

I guess that since I don't believe in God, I don't believe He authored the scriptures, and therefore I don't expect that they are 100% reliable. (Although in practice I came to those thoughts in reverse order.) I find it reasonable to expect that the writers of the gospels embellished their stories, copied from each other, and generally idealised as they saw fit. Unlike a devout believer, I don't have any strong reason to think that every statement attributed to Jesus was actually said by him. Furthermore, if Jesus said things I disagree with, that does not stop me from respecting and learning from other things. So in response to your multi-choice question, I say that only those who accept the authority of the gospels must limit themselves to those choices.
Regarding Christ's claim to Deity, would it help if I referenced Scripture or would you discount the references as embellishments? Please note I ask this question with sincereity in order to know best how to reply to your assertion.

I appreciate your assertoin that you don't know whether Jesus actually delivered the Sermon On The Mount. It shows a consistancy in your view. I can't tell you how puzzled I am by people who say they admire Jesus based on Scripture they agree with. Yet they challenge the authenticity of passages they don't like. Such reasoning would call into question the authority of the passages they like as well!.

My apologies for missing your post in answer to my question.

I could launch into a defense of the reliability of Scriptures but that would probably do little good until we come to agreement on the existance of God. I mentioned the authors in my previous post not only to convey the power of testimonies of ones who set out to disprove God and Christianity and changed their minds. These books present compelling cases for the existance of God (Antony Flew's book) and the God of the Bible (Josh McDowell).

Not to bombard with a whole lot of stuff to check out - Ravi Zacharias is a brilliant man who makes the case for Christianity from a philosophical point of view. He has a number of awesome podcast on his website which have challenged believers and non-believers alike. One radio program I've listened to is "Let My People Think." I like that title. While we are called upon to have faith in God, He doesn't expect us to check our brains at the door.

Also, check out this video on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lR-w2-4FJ4Y Although his assertion that the earth is placed in the center of the universe can be debated, the rest of the song is pretty incredible.

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Post by Onyx » Tue Jun 30, 2009 9:08 pm

CaptainBlack wrote:Regarding Christ's claim to Deity, would it help if I referenced Scripture or would you discount the references as embellishments? Please note I ask this question with sincereity in order to know best how to reply to your assertion.
I'd be interested. Can't say how I'd respond. But it's not the same as you showing verses to someone who says he believes the Bible yet rejects Christ's divinity... since I'm not confident that any Divinity exists at all and I don't accept that the Bible is 100% reliable.

But I did say that in my opinion Jesus never claimed divinity. So if he did according to some reference, I'd like to see the quote. My understanding is that the OT lead the Jewish people to expect a Messiah who would be a man from among them, like unto Moses, the son of David, the seed of Abraham. It was only after Jesus' arrival that people began to suggest Christ's divinity. But I wouldn't be in the least surprised to learn that there were Jewish sects of all shades of opinion on this.

I do want to make the point that I'm not dismissing some scriptures as "embellishments" simply because I don't agree with them. They may be genuine quotes of Jesus, accurately translated, and rightfully recorded, and yet I don't promise to believe it. I think you get where I'm coming from there... Neither do I mean to belittle someone's words simply because I don't believe them. I don't have any delusions of ever measuring up to a fraction of what Jesus has meant to human history. It's just that I think the argument for divinity and a spirit realm generally was more convincing in his day before a substantial understanding of germ theory, brain function and a few other fields that I can access at my local library.
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Post by CaptainBlack » Wed Jul 01, 2009 9:14 pm

Onyx wrote:
CaptainBlack wrote:Regarding Christ's claim to Deity, would it help if I referenced Scripture or would you discount the references as embellishments? Please note I ask this question with sincereity in order to know best how to reply to your assertion.
I'd be interested. Can't say how I'd respond. But it's not the same as you showing verses to someone who says he believes the Bible yet rejects Christ's divinity... since I'm not confident that any Divinity exists at all and I don't accept that the Bible is 100% reliable.

But I did say that in my opinion Jesus never claimed divinity. So if he did according to some reference, I'd like to see the quote. My understanding is that the OT lead the Jewish people to expect a Messiah who would be a man from among them, like unto Moses, the son of David, the seed of Abraham. It was only after Jesus' arrival that people began to suggest Christ's divinity. But I wouldn't be in the least surprised to learn that there were Jewish sects of all shades of opinion on this.

I do want to make the point that I'm not dismissing some scriptures as "embellishments" simply because I don't agree with them. They may be genuine quotes of Jesus, accurately translated, and rightfully recorded, and yet I don't promise to believe it. I think you get where I'm coming from there... Neither do I mean to belittle someone's words simply because I don't believe them. I don't have any delusions of ever measuring up to a fraction of what Jesus has meant to human history. It's just that I think the argument for divinity and a spirit realm generally was more convincing in his day before a substantial understanding of germ theory, brain function and a few other fields that I can access at my local library.
Thanks for taking me up on the offer to provide passages where Christ claims His divinity. Off the top of my head I could only think of several but I found a web site which listed tons of passages where Christ claimed divinity.

Check out http://www.scripturecatholic.com/jesus_ ... #jesus-III

I understand how you can have difficulty accepting some Scripture if you don't believe in the existance of God.

I can see how what we know about germs and brain function can be used to explain various events in the Bible but they do not negate His existance either. Rather the sheer complexity of our ecosystem and the systems within our bodies point to an intelligent design. To suggest that our universe, our planet, and our lives came from natural processes would ultimately rock the foundations of science! Think about it - everything begins with a big bang. Fine but we are led to believe that from nothingness, there was a catalyst for that big bang. It seems unlikely. Life on our planet come from lifeless elements? The last I heard, life from lifelessness is not possible. And even if it were possible, it would seem improbable that the very first life form would have the ability to survive, reproduce, and launch an evolutionary process resulting in some incredibly complex life forms.

I am reminded of the existance of God when things go WRONG in the human body. Following three miscarriages my wife suffered, I studied pregnancy and was amazed that anyone could possibly be born given the complex chemical interactions that must take place for a pregnancy to occur and subsequently, a baby to be born!

I've seen the most unlikely people come to Christ. The Bible tells us about Paul - a zealot who murdered those who spread the Gospel only to change and risk his life for doing the same. And indeed countless people have been martyred for doing the same. In China where persecution of Christians runs rampant, the church has GROWN.

It sounds like you are a man of faith - faith in some unknown scientiffic process which can explain the remarkable events that somehow came together to form this universe, this planet and its people. If this is the case, your faith is much larger than mine.

For me, it takes a lot more faith to believe that there ISN'T a God than to believe that an intelligent designer is behind all of this.

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Post by sweetandsour » Wed Jul 01, 2009 9:46 pm

Skip wrote:Twenty-plus years ago I 'walked away' from the church and became what I called a "Zen Christian Agnostic" - Zen philosophy, Christian ethics, Agnostic theology.

All the well-meaning people who let me know that they were praying for me, and those giving me verses to "hold close to my heart" (and I'm quoting an aunt, not a prior post here not that I recall seeing that phrase) and suggesting books to read really didn't do me much good, and some of them actually made it worse as they represented the very things that supposedly drove me away.
So, where do you stand now?

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Post by bwithers55 » Thu Jul 23, 2009 8:09 pm

Onyx wrote:Thanks again for all the notes, and for the reading assignments here or by private message! Yes, I love reading, and I may well get to several of the recommended titles - not a promise, but I do love to read!

For all those who suggested a book, I'd like to offer a counter suggestion. Have you read The Reason Driven Life by Robert Price?
http://www.amazon.com/Reason-Driven-Lif ... 1591024765

You may have caught that the title is a parody of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren (which has sold a copy or two in the USA - I understand). The Reason book itself is a challenge to the brand of Christianity promoted by that earlier Purpose book.

Now I'm not saying that I agree with Robert Price on everything. I don't. But he sure challenged me to think. And also, I'm just handing out a reading assignment in the hope it'll make people think twice before adding another book to my to-read stack! (Just kidding - I love the book suggestions.)
Hey, Onyx! I'm sorry to be such a late comer to this thread, but I had to respond when I saw the reference to Robert M. Price. Much of what he writes is way beyond me, but I like the way he shoots from the hip. Very funny guy! But I think he's writing for fellow christian atheists, not believers. I think he's convincing to the already unconverted; just as most christian apologetics are convincing to the already converted.

Perhaps, I should have sent this as a personal message. :wink:

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Post by huddsbaggie » Sat Aug 08, 2009 7:13 am

Lads, I thought I was Christian at school (C of E) until I actually read the bible and some theology and tried to work out what it's about.

Wow, was I in for surprise!

It's horrible! God, who is Jesus and his own father, commits to a horrible blood sacrifice to apparently appease himself for the cruel treatment He meted out to EVERY descendent of the first humans for a little act of defiance. Or something. Because I defy anybody to say what a lot of it actually means. The fact that each sect within Christianity has its own take on it evidences that.

Anyway, we start from a bonkers, cruel injustice and end in what I can only infer to be sado-masochistic perversion! And we teach this to kids!

Moreover, after the Roman Empire took it up and enforced the Word with the sword, and subsequently the priests and inquisitors burned and tortured and murdered heretics and doubters and innocents by the tens of thousand, I think applying for membership of this Club is a suspect action.

There may or may not be a Supreme Being. I'm inclined to doubt it. But I can't see how any sane person can read the Bible and then want to be, or call him or herself, a Christian.

My mates who call themselves Christians are actually jolly decent coves, but they see Christianity as a moral sort of code only. I accuse them all of being deists a la Tom Paine and deep down I think they think it too. It's only coming from a "Christian" liberal (and, in the Black Country) Anglican non-conformist culture that gives them any sort of codified religious hook.

Anyway, it's nice to talk to you folk and if you ever end up in Dudley, I'll buy you a pint and stuff your briars.

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Post by LushMojo » Sat Aug 08, 2009 7:49 am

Onyx, I appreciate your statements and candor. I've struggled with much of what you've talked about. My only prayer is that Jesus be your keeper.

That's all I have.

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Post by twentyoneeight » Sat Aug 08, 2009 8:10 am

huddsbaggie wrote:Lads, I thought I was Christian at school (C of E) until I actually read the bible and some theology and tried to work out what it's about.

Wow, was I in for surprise!

It's horrible! God, who is Jesus and his own father, commits to a horrible blood sacrifice to apparently appease himself for the cruel treatment He meted out to EVERY descendent of the first humans for a little act of defiance. Or something. Because I defy anybody to say what a lot of it actually means. The fact that each sect within Christianity has its own take on it evidences that.

Anyway, we start from a bonkers, cruel injustice and end in what I can only infer to be sado-masochistic perversion! And we teach this to kids!

Moreover, after the Roman Empire took it up and enforced the Word with the sword, and subsequently the priests and inquisitors burned and tortured and murdered heretics and doubters and innocents by the tens of thousand, I think applying for membership of this Club is a suspect action.

There may or may not be a Supreme Being. I'm inclined to doubt it. But I can't see how any sane person can read the Bible and then want to be, or call him or herself, a Christian.

My mates who call themselves Christians are actually jolly decent coves, but they see Christianity as a moral sort of code only. I accuse them all of being deists a la Tom Paine and deep down I think they think it too. It's only coming from a "Christian" liberal (and, in the Black Country) Anglican non-conformist culture that gives them any sort of codified religious hook.

Anyway, it's nice to talk to you folk and if you ever end up in Dudley, I'll buy you a pint and stuff your briars.
Buy this book, read it, interact with it, and then comment on it. It addresses almost every one of your concerns (and some you may not even be aware that you had).
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Post by twentyoneeight » Sat Aug 08, 2009 8:13 am

twentyoneeight wrote:
huddsbaggie wrote:Lads, I thought I was Christian at school (C of E) until I actually read the bible and some theology and tried to work out what it's about.

Wow, was I in for surprise!

It's horrible! God, who is Jesus and his own father, commits to a horrible blood sacrifice to apparently appease himself for the cruel treatment He meted out to EVERY descendent of the first humans for a little act of defiance. Or something. Because I defy anybody to say what a lot of it actually means. The fact that each sect within Christianity has its own take on it evidences that.

Anyway, we start from a bonkers, cruel injustice and end in what I can only infer to be sado-masochistic perversion! And we teach this to kids!

Moreover, after the Roman Empire took it up and enforced the Word with the sword, and subsequently the priests and inquisitors burned and tortured and murdered heretics and doubters and innocents by the tens of thousand, I think applying for membership of this Club is a suspect action.

There may or may not be a Supreme Being. I'm inclined to doubt it. But I can't see how any sane person can read the Bible and then want to be, or call him or herself, a Christian.

My mates who call themselves Christians are actually jolly decent coves, but they see Christianity as a moral sort of code only. I accuse them all of being deists a la Tom Paine and deep down I think they think it too. It's only coming from a "Christian" liberal (and, in the Black Country) Anglican non-conformist culture that gives them any sort of codified religious hook.

Anyway, it's nice to talk to you folk and if you ever end up in Dudley, I'll buy you a pint and stuff your briars.
Buy this book, read it, interact with it, and then comment on it. It addresses almost every one of your concerns (and some you may not even be aware that you had).
You may also wish to check out this book too.
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Post by Onyx » Mon Aug 10, 2009 11:29 pm

twentyoneeight wrote:You may also wish to check out this book too.
Thanks. I just saw someone had dug out this thread, and noticed your recommendation.

Since posting this thread, I've read What's So Great About Christianity by Dinesh D'Souza. It really is a superb book (which I've now lent to a friend). So I'm very interested to read Timothy Keller's book also.
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Post by Cliff » Tue Aug 11, 2009 1:29 am

I consider myself a Zen Christian. I belong to church and also practice Zen meditation as a spiritual path.
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Post by SinisterHand » Tue Aug 11, 2009 4:02 am

Onyx, I didn't have time to read this entire thread, considering how late I came upon it. Can I still call you 'brother'? I suppose not because brother is a title that I reserve for those in the faith. But I love you and call you friend.

I was raised Pentecostal and continued believing in Charasmatic/Pentecostalism for many years. But no longer. I now realize that it is emotionalism and power of suggestion. I have seen so many (whether this be part of the reason you left Christianity, I do not know) base their faith around tongues, prophetic word, and ecstatic emotional experiences. Then, once they realize that it was fake, they assume that all of Christianity is fake.

I would also say, don't accept Christ as a great teacher if you don't accept Him as Messiah. Ever heard the saying "He was either Lord, liar, or lunatic"? Either He was who He said He was (Lord), He knew He was not and still said He was (liar), or He was not who He said He was but thought he was (lunatic). In any case He could not have been just a great teacher.

But in any case I love and will be praying for you.
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Post by Pipeden » Tue Aug 11, 2009 6:19 am

I just came upon this this morning and I see alot has already been posted and suggested but here is my 2 cents anyway.
I had alot of problems coming to terms with what I was told was proper interpretation but later realized were only theories. I went to C.S. Lewis's mentor (Lewis's words not mine), George MacDonald and read his books Unspoken Sermons I, II, and III. He lived in the 1800's so some of the english can be a little tough, but he both saved my faith and changed it.
If you do get a chance to read some of his work let me know what you think.
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Post by Onyx » Tue Aug 11, 2009 7:49 am

SinisterHand wrote:Ever heard the saying "He was either Lord, liar, or lunatic"?
Yeah, I answered that question twice on this thread already. It's on about page 4, I think.
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Post by Onyx » Tue Aug 11, 2009 7:53 am

Pipeden wrote:I just came upon this this morning and I see alot has already been posted and suggested but here is my 2 cents anyway.
I had alot of problems coming to terms with what I was told was proper interpretation but later realized were only theories. I went to C.S. Lewis's mentor (Lewis's words not mine), George MacDonald and read his books Unspoken Sermons I, II, and III. He lived in the 1800's so some of the english can be a little tough, but he both saved my faith and changed it.
If you do get a chance to read some of his work let me know what you think.
Thanks for the pointer. I see the sermons here:
http://www.amazon.com/Unspoken-Sermons- ... 1426433778

I'll look to get hold of them.

EDIT:
And I see the text of the work is freely available here:
http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/9057
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