Email thread with pastor
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18-11-2015, 02:35 PM
Email thread with pastor
So, I spent the first two decades of my adult life as a born-again Christian, raising my children in the faith and fully committed to bringing others into the fold. To condense a very long story, I began researching the bible and its credibility about five years ago, and now recognize it for what it is. My wife knows I no longer share her faith, but I committed to her I would continue to attend church with her. I'm there faithfully every Sunday morning. Two years ago, I told the pastor I didn't believe in a god, and certainly wouldn't use the bible as a guide for life. He emailed me a couple of weeks ago asking if we could begin a dialogue about my journey and faith. In all honesty, I think the guy may be doubting his own, but I"m not sure. I've known him since I was 18 and he was 13, and he's certainly a good guy -- quite sincere and genuine.

Anyway, I eagerly took him up on the opportunity to discuss what I've discovered and get insight from him on why he believes what he believes. I'm new to this forum, but I'll share our exchanges here. My hope is that I can gain insight from the community to enrich my responses.

Here's my first reply to his request for a dialogue (incidentally, I've changed all the names out of respect for him):

I would certainly love that. I consider you a good friend, and I really appreciate that you’ve never treated me any differently, even knowing that my beliefs don’t correspond with yours and the rest of the congregation. I have a great deal of respect for you because of that, and also because of how genuine you are.

I’ll just lay everything out there for you: I’m an atheist. I would use the term agnostic, but I think atheist better describes someone who is not actively believing in a god. That would be me. As you know, I spent many years of my life as a devout Christian, but I am now truly disappointed in myself for ever believing something that I hadn’t appropriately researched. I think most Christians fall into that category. They attend a church meeting with people who seem to have found contentment, get caught up in the emotion of the whole thing and jump in without considering why they should base their entire lives on something that is basically hearsay. Most Christians could not tell you who wrote the books of the Bible, nor who decided those particular books should be part of what that particular branch of religion considers to be the modern-day Bible. Yet, they try to live their entire lives according to what they perceive to be its teachings. In the process, they grasp tightly to scriptures that stroke their emotions and make them feel good while completely ignoring those that conflict with their ideas of what Christianity is.

If you asked the average Christian if God would ever order the killing of an infant or child, they’d say no way. You and I both know that’s all over the Old Testament. Would God ever instruct a man to force his wife to drink poison to abort the baby if he even suspected — based on nothing more than his own insecurities — that she might have gotten pregnant because of infidelity? Most Christians would say he never would, but he did, according to the Bible.

Slavery, in my view, is worse than murder. At least when you murder someone, their suffering ends. The Bible not only condones slavery, it counsels slave owners on how brutally they may beat their slaves. If you kill him, you’re in trouble, but if he only has to remain in bed a few days from your beating, hey, no problem. The Bible also tells its adherents they may own children as slaves. How detestable is that?

Christians who cling to a literal interpretation of the Bible have no standing to preach morality to others. The Bible is loaded with what any sane person would identify as immorality, much of it directed by its Chief Protagonist.

Through my course of study into my faith, I forced myself to look at Christianity from a different perspective. I tried to remove emotion and separate myself from what I had been told by others all my life. If I had never heard about any Supreme Being, what would it take for someone to convince me that one existed?

“Look, Jim, I know you can’t experience God with any of your senses. You can’t see, smell, hear, taste or feel him, but he’s there, and he loves you.”

“OK, how can I know he’s there?”

“Well, you just have to let go. He lives in my heart, and he’s changed my life.”

“OK, how do you know your emotions aren’t playing tricks on you?”

“I just know.”

That wouldn’t be a solid enough argument for me for any aspect of my life, much less something I’m supposed to base my whole life around.

In doing more research into actual facts, I discovered that archeology and scientific theory (not scientific hypothesis; there’s a huge difference) refute the teachings of most Christian sects, which are ostensibly based on the Bible. As a Christian, I was always taught and believed that there was an anti-Church sentiment among scientists. They wanted to discredit religion, and they went about their daily lives doing everything they could to bash it. What I discovered is that’s a bogus belief. The Church simply hates science because most of what it uncovers is in direct conflict with the Bible.

To say the earth is 10,000 years old is so ridiculous that scientists can’t help but marvel at the willful ignorance of the Church. Yet, that’s precisely what most Christians have been taught and believe. To say that God created a fully formed man and woman and placed them in a garden completely ignores the irrefutable DNA links between modern man and chimpanzees. Christians will acknowledge that a lemon shark is related to a bull shark because their DNA is so similar. Yet they can’t say the same about man and chimps, even though our DNA links are much closer.

Christians ignore vestigial limbs and clear DNA markers that indicate the emergence or withdrawal of features as they became necessary or expendable. Whales used to have legs. It’s impossible for an honest person who has examined the data to deny. They evolved over millions of years.

The same DNA markers are identifiable in us. We know what our features were like at points in time, and we know in which order they were turned on or off. As I'm sure you’re aware, the human genome was entirely mapped by, among others, Francis Collins, who is an evolutionary creationist, which, of course, presents some problems of its own for those who adhere to a literal interpretation of the Bible.

I really hope there’s a god, and that life goes on after our bodies start feeding the trees, but I’ve seen no evidence that’s the case. If it is, I’m fully confident what I believe or don’t believe will have zero bearing on whether I get to meet it one day. I’d be unable to control what I believe if I wanted to.

I’ll close, but I look forward to continuing this dialogue with you.
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18-11-2015, 03:08 PM
RE: Email thread with pastor
Here was his reply:

I really appreciate your honesty about where you are. I find that questions come to my mind, not so much to offer counterpoints, but to get further understanding about conclusions you've arrived at. I hope that will frame the tone of our dialogue.

One point that we can start is where we I get very frustrated with Christians who take a 'the bible says it, so I believe it, and if you don't, you must have a problem'. I think that science and the bible say the same thing about the same creator. I'm not fearful of even being proven wrong about evolution in the end. I also agree that many Christians have an anti-science bias based in fear and an unhealthy understanding of defending the name of God. I think a difference (if I understand where your coming from) as I approach science is that I'm not looking for science and the bible to be mutually exclusive but intertwined in revealing life.

A question that comes to mind is how then to define purpose for life as well as motivation for relationships. You are one of the most dedicated husbands and fathers I know...what's your motivation for that commitment?

I enjoy this already.
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18-11-2015, 03:23 PM
RE: Email thread with pastor
(18-11-2015 03:08 PM)NolaToad Wrote:  Here was his reply:

A question that comes to mind is how then to define purpose for life as well as motivation for relationships. You are one of the most dedicated husbands and fathers I know...what's your motivation for that commitment?

I enjoy this already.

This is one of those questions that drive me crazy! Does one actually need to believe in a deity to be compassionate? Does he believe that Buddhists, who don't believe in god are incapable of caring for their families?


But as if to knock me down, reality came around
And without so much as a mere touch, cut me into little pieces

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18-11-2015, 03:27 PM
RE: Email thread with pastor
Welcome to TTA.
I'd be surprised if he wasn't trying to get you to come back to the church. It's what he does.
Just in case he might be questioning his own faith, you can point him here.
It's a site for former and current religious professionals, and it's anonymous.

I've just recently grown rudimentary legs and made the move from water to land.
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18-11-2015, 03:32 PM
RE: Email thread with pastor
My reply to his reply:

My motivation is my vows, both spoken and unspoken. I made a commitment to my wife 26 years ago to forsake all others and remain faithful to her. I’ve done that, and will until I die. It’s not just a clinical choice, however. I love her, and hate when I do even seemingly innocuous things that hurt her.

My commitment to my children originates from much the same place. As an aside, I have deep regrets about raising my daughters to adhere to Christian doctrine without surveying it all with a skeptical eye. Like his father, Jimmy questions everything, but Madi and Gabbi are both the types to do what they’re supposed to do, and what they were supposed to do all their lives was be Christian girls and, now, Christian women. They both play that role well, but it’s not because they’ve examined the evidence and walked where it pointed. It’s because they were indoctrinated. I don’t mean to sound offensive — I truly don’t — but that troubles me.

At the base of your question is seeking an understanding of from where my morality originates. Looking at it as logically as my feeble mind can, morality is passed down through society like genes. Things that benefit society become codified as good; things that harm it are bad. I see no overarching moral code that rules the universe. Is water good or bad? It’s good when you’ve cut the grass and are thirsty. It’s bad when it floods your home.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask your question of you: From where does your morality originate?
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18-11-2015, 03:37 PM
RE: Email thread with pastor
And his reply:

You're correct, morality eventually becomes the foundational question, but in my mind there is a bit of a difference to be made between morality and motivation. I'll seek to explain. As a boy (before and after my conversion) I recall thinking intensely about life after death. I would daydream about what it would be like to die and then cease to exist. I then put all my known experiences in the realm of cessation and questioning (as a teen does) the essential nature of relationships and drive to do anything well. This may have come from my intense hatred for school because I had to work really hard at it; or it may have come from seeing my parents separate after 15 years of marriage and wondering why even get married in the first place. That one led to my questioning my own existence. I hated that my parents got divorced. I hated that my childhood was robbed from me. I blamed God for it. He wasn't powerful to keep my parents together after I had prayed and prayed for them to stay together. My bitterness was hugely influential in my questions. (I now enjoy questions and don't fear doubt.)

What was the purpose of life? What was my purpose? Why be good at sports (which is where I got my sense of self)? Why get lost in another Brady Bunch rerun? With every question there was the proverbial nag...there has to be something more than this. To give you depth of my chaos, I even planned out my own suicide. I was afraid of dying, though. I wanted God to be real, but I also wanted him to be loving. I felt robbed of his love by his lack of power in not keeping my parents together. I needed a motivation that was outside of me to guide me because I couldn't manufacture it or find it in me. I've found motivation for my life in being part of something infinitely bigger than my measly, mundane days. Even with my unanswered questions about my childhood, being part of God's intentional plan of redemption has had a grounding effect on my mind and soul.

This bridges to morality. If motivation and morality are up to me, I fail miserably...I've proven it. Back in 2003 when I was removed from my area of responsibility at (a previous church) due to personal sin, I questioned God's power again. I hurt Jenny the most, and I was angry at God for not protecting my family from me. I entered a depression I had not known as a boy. I contemplated suicide again...even being able to defend that I would go to heaven. I could not keep my vow to love my wife. I failed as a leader to my family. I didn't/don't have the resolve to live morally upright for them and toward them. My sense of morality is both inside me and outside me. I too believe that moral code is passed on in my genes (being created as God's image bearer), but I also believe that immorality was passed on in my genes (as a sinner and rebel to everything morally upright). I have come face to face with the war inside of me and can only conclude that my greatest need is not resolve but rescue. This is why the message of salvation through Jesus warms my soul. It calms the war at the depth of my being. I can live trusting in Jesus' rescue from my immorality with the promise to be eventually freed from it forever (in heaven).

The rescue that I've experienced from myself and continue to experience (in my opinion) is untouched by science...and my questions. Do I have questions about God's actions in the OT passages you've mentioned?...absolutely. But those questions don't bring me to a place of rejecting God as a moral or immoral being. I know I've not asked enough questions or have enough knowledge to support his non-existence. Honestly, I'd rather a God that I can ask questions of. Does my trust in God's rescue from my moral inability make me intellectually and scientifically weaker? Maybe. Is my trust in God's provision in Jesus to rescue me an opiate inoculating me to the deeper issues of existence? Perhaps...but I don't think so.

Here's my next question: what is atheism's response to my moral inability?
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18-11-2015, 03:44 PM
RE: Email thread with pastor
My reply:

I guess my response to your response is that desiring something to be so doesn’t make it so. I acknowledge that the finality of this life is something very difficult for me to wrap my mind around, much the same way I couldn’t conceive of God’s infinite existence when I was a Christian. How could something have always existed, and how could something never end? It boggled my mind, but I accepted it. Now, it’s impossible for me to conceive of a life without me in it, because I’ve always existed in my life. I know that things happened before I existed, and I know that life will go on for others after I’m gone, but admittedly, it feels weird that I won’t be around. I’m no less scared of the Jim-less future, though, than I was during the Jim-less past. There’s one person who won’t know I no longer exist, and that person is me. What’s there to fear?

That, of course, doesn’t address your question of motivation. Why do I get up every morning, turn on my computer and write until I’m cross-eyed to make money to survive so I can do it all again tomorrow? I find motivation in many facets of my existence. Foundationally, I suppose, is that I enjoy life. I like being alive, experiencing new things, challenging myself to acquire new skills, satisfying my curiosity while watching life unfold and hopefully having an impact on my corner of it. I also love my family and want to aid them so that they too enjoy life. One day, that opportunity will cease, and they will be left to figure things out without any help or guidance I might have provided. That inspires me to make the most of each day.

If you had asked me to describe an atheist while I was a Christian, I would have used terms like miserable, angry, bitter, hopeless, etc., but I can tell you, I feel none of those emotions. I’m very happy and content. Nothing happened that made me “turn from God.” I didn’t fall into some deep sin that separated me from him. I didn’t reject him so I could be the “lord of my life.” Through a process of studying and pondering, I simply grew to no longer believe. The evidence, in my view, is overwhelming, and it all points one way. My conscience is clearer than tap water.

Although I enjoyed your response, I’m not sure you answered the original question: What is the basis of your morality? I don’t know what your moral failing was 12 years ago, although I could throw out guesses, but what about that action or its aftermath told you it was immoral? Did you read some scripture in the Bible that opposed it? Did the Holy Spirit convince your heart that it was wrong? Did someone you trusted in your life tell you it was wrong? Was it a combination?

If you got your guidance from the Bible, I’m almost certain you could find an opposing scripture that supported the action another scripture told you was wrong. Let’s say it was unfaithfulness to your wife of any degree. Two of God’s favorite biblical characters, David and Solomon, both had multiple wives and sex slaves without God condemning that action to them once (God blasted David for the Bathsheba dalliance because she was married, not because he was). God told David that he should have been content with the wives (plural) of Saul, whom he had given to David. God was so pleased with the oversexed Solomon that he offered to give him absolutely anything he asked for.

Those examples — and scores of others — indicate the god of the bible isn’t all that concerned with extra-curricular sexual activity, at least not among married males. God also ordered or condoned murder, abortion, slavery, deception and a host of other actions that modern-day Christians call sin.

Just because it’s in the Old Testament doesn’t make it less relevant. Isn’t God the same yesterday, today and forever. Sure, Jesus came to fulfill the law, but doesn’t the Old Testament reveal God’s character?

So maybe it wasn’t the bible but rather the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart that revealed what you had done was wrong. But doesn’t that depend on your perception? Won’t people hear the still, small voice differently depending on the their predisposition, education and natural biases? Consequently, is that really a dependable guide?

If it was a friend who told you what you did was wrong, what was his source for morality?

I gave you what I perceive to be the basis of morality in my last answer, and admittedly, it’s not without its opportunities for challenge. It can lead to a post-modernistic mindset of “everything’s right as long as it feels right to me.” That, of course, is why we have laws to keep social order and benefit society as a whole. The morality question is a big one, and I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers.

Christians do, however, make that claim. Morality for them is black and white, cut and dried, but I’ve yet to have a Christian give me a suitable, irrefutable explanation for the basis of their morality. They tend to give God a moral pass for actions any fair-minded person would call heinous, and say that he can do whatever he wants because he’s God. That’s highly unsatisfying. What morality-based society would conduct genocide? Every single moral person would condemn it. Yet, that’s just what the god of the bible ordered. Think about that. Grown men had to rip babies from their mothers arms and shove a knife in their hearts or chop off their heads. Could you do it? Why not? It’s apparently moral because God said it is. What if the Holy Spirit instructed you to do it today? Can you be certain he wouldn’t? He has in the past.

The least satisfactory answers for the foundation of morality, in my view, are those to which Christians cling.

In answer to your specific question, I don’t think atheism has a response to your (or my) moral inability. That’s because atheism, unlike religion, is not a series of ideas. It’s a blank slate. It’s kind of like asking someone to prove God doesn’t exist. That’s, of course, impossible. You can’t prove a negative. I can’t prove that unicorns don’t exist. I’ve never seen one, there aren’t any in the fossil record, scientists the world over have been unable to present a unicorn, so I suspect they don’t exist, but I can’t prove it. Bring me a living, breathing unicorn that can be tested and proven to be an actual unicorn, and I’ll certainly change my belief in their existence. Right now, I don’t believe they exist, but if the facts change or my knowledge of those facts changes, my beliefs should change along with them.

Likewise, the onus is on theists to present convincing evidence that a god exists. What do the facts show?

So that leads me to my next question: What is your best, lock-tight argument that a god exists?
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18-11-2015, 03:50 PM
RE: Email thread with pastor
OP I apologise, most of it was TL;DR and I'm tired. But I think you got to the nub of it:

(18-11-2015 03:44 PM)NolaToad Wrote:  So that leads me to my next question: What is your best, lock-tight argument that a god exists?

Place your bets ladies and gents. 10 to 1 it's Kalaam. 4 to 1 it's personal experience. 4 to 1 also for some kind of biblical bullshit involving ancient scriptures. 8 to 1 ad populum. Any other categories?

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If you're perfect -- Alanis Morissette
(06-02-2014 03:47 PM)Momsurroundedbyboys Wrote:  And I'm giving myself a conclusion again from all the facepalming.
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18-11-2015, 03:57 PM
RE: Email thread with pastor
Personally I do not understand how anyone could ever believe the BS about gods in the first place. So I have nothing other than this: Why are you emailing your old pastor?

Let it go. He talks BS for a living. Stay as far away as possible.

And welcome to the forum.

NOTE: Member, Tomasia uses this site to slander other individuals. He then later proclaims it a joke, but not in public.
I will call him a liar and a dog here and now.
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18-11-2015, 04:00 PM
RE: Email thread with pastor
Welcome to the site.

(18-11-2015 03:57 PM)Banjo Wrote:  Personally I do not understand how anyone could ever believe the BS about gods in the first place. So I have nothing other than this: Why are you emailing your old pastor?

Let it go. He talks BS for a living. Stay as far away as possible.

And welcome to the forum.

Damn mate. have your niece gotten you with the Frozen bug?


Let it go, let it go, something something. . . ehrrmmm. . . snow?
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