Going Back To Faith.
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13-12-2015, 04:06 PM
RE: Going Back To Faith.
(13-12-2015 04:00 PM)jabeady Wrote:  I envy believers. Once having been of their number I have personal knowledge of how comforting and comfortable it can be; I find failed apostasy to be perfectly understandable and I can sympathize. Having an Our Father Who Art in Heaven in whose lap you can safely sit until life's demons leave you in peace is marvelous. But there's a problem. Faith is another word for trust, and religious faith is inherently a complete trust in God. Generally, people trust one another until and unless shown that their trust may be misplaced. We trust our parents most of all, and if they say that there is a compassionate, all-powerful God in which you can and must have complete confidence, it must be so. Then, at some point, you start to notice things: prayers seem to go unanswered, bad things happen to good people, what you're taught in church conflicts with what you're taught in school, and religious explanations for what you see around you seem tortured and unsatisfying. In short, you come to doubt that God is completely trustworthy. And so it begins. Eventually you choose to depart from the nest and strike out on your own. Then you find that it's cold, wet and dangerous out here. You remember how warm and comforting it was, and that sense of affectionate safety overrides your doubts. Your human nature allows you to gradually meld your experience on the Outside into your memories of your faith, so that you can simultaneously acknowledge and ignore the disconnects between the two. And so you gradually retrace your steps until you're back among the fold.

Nicely said!
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13-12-2015, 04:35 PM
RE: Going Back To Faith.
I can sympathize, because this happened to me for a short while. While your read this, I'm sure there will be plenty of facepalm moments, but as someone who ended up "going back to faith" and managed to get out of it, I figured my story might shed some light. Or highlight my stupidity. Or something.

I've considered myself non-reilgious since about middle school, sans a six month episode in my life. While the actual label I put to "non-religuous" wavered between agnostic and atheist, the detail dosen't matter. The six month episode where I identified as religious in this period, however, is my first semester as college.

During my freshman year of college, I tried very hard to be social as a result of a rather dramatic event that happened in my senior year in high school (the details don't matter, it just involved a crippling social anxiety fear). I ended up playing with a group of people playing soccer on the campus field, and they mentioned something about a free BBQ at 6PM. A chance to play with people and eat free food? Why would I say no? Anyway, it wasn't until the food came around I realized that this was a Christian club and I had already had food at my plate that I decided I already committed myself to this show. I should mention, prior to eating food, I already gave out my phone number to someone in the club.

Now, this club was part of a larger Christian church, but not your typical Christian Church. The area I lived in at that time has a lot of Asian immigrants; churches tend to serve as an extremely important community center. After all, you recently left your country, your English skills are maybe enough to get by, and this is a brand new world. Churches can connect people to you, and most churches (this one included) were first or second generation families. Moreover, a significant number of people (mostly first generation parents) in the church weren't raised to be Christian; rather, they adopted the faith when they arrived. As such, the sermons tended to use (in retrospect, highly cherry-picked) stories in the Bible to relate to people who are in a new situation. Yes, most of the sermon that night was dedicated towards what it feels like to be a Freshman in a new college. With hindsight, I can see why I was enamored with the performance. There was about 30 minutes dedicated to some Bible story I can't be arsed to remember, but that was that.

The night ended, and I figured it was the end of that. Except, I gave out my phone number. The people were smart and circulated my phone number, and before I knew it, I was asked to go to church. I made it extremely clear at this time I was agnostic, and was going mostly for curiosity's sake; in reality, it was probably because I had trouble saying no.

And so began the inevitably waking up early to go to church that continued back and forth throughout the semester. The pastor who ran this church was very charismatic, if nothing else. His stories were always a weird mix of secular messages encoded in the context of the Bible (again, using very cherry-picked stories) and admittedly, a lot of the secular messages I learned then did shape me who I am today. The sermon series I remember the most is being grateful, where I remember them playing a recorded testimony of a fellow in the church who said they were jealous of how other people can so easily converse and how they had trouble approaching people. I guess, hearing something that hit so close to home was enough to make me vulnerable. And slowly, over the next few weeks, the amount of bliss I felt going for church made me think God--the Christian God--was real. The only hesitation as to why I didn't tell the church I was born again (and I'm fucking glad I didn't) was a particular concern I had.

Namely, what was their response to homosexuality? I figured out I was gay in high school, and well, for me having to go back in the closet and live life alone was a no. Bringing the topic up was difficult, and eventually, after finding out the church had a website and fora with occasional answers, I figured out the answer. Essentially, they were the "it's okay to be out don't act on it." This was a no for me. I knew I had to leave this church. If I were to stick with religion at all, it'd be another church.

As the Fall semester ended and Spring Semester started, I ended up taking a very large load of classes. I was in part legitimately busy, and had to skip church the first few weeks. And as I eventually adjusted and the group kept calling asking if I were going, I eventually found saying "I'm busy with homework" a convenient excuse. Eventually, they stopped calling. I stopped going. I got out of the church, and in retrospect, probably one of the most important (and best) decisions I made even my way around it was incredibly passive.

After time passed, I managed to get some perspective of the whole situation. The reason why I found the church blissful had nearly everything to do with my crippling social anxiety at the time. I'm still as reserved as fuck in real-life, but I found out instead of aspiring to be a social butterfly like others I'm okay being the shy kid in a small group of friends. One part I felt guilty about at the time was when a sermon there made a point that lying is bad. However, I then decided to pick up and read the Bible--I (perhaps wisely) picked up the Skeptic's Annotated Bible. The only reason I kept reading after a certain point was because I found some of the stories hilarious, but also made me realize by cherry-picking a handful of stories in the New Testament, they lied about the context they were delivering sermons. And, because this happened in my first semester as a Freshman (where the only "science" course I was taking was calculus I); going through science courses changes your perspective of the world. I think what largely undid any lingering feelings of Christianity being true were the science courses I took throughout these years. I eventually took the approach that all truth is provisional; and provisional truth is established through empirical evidence. Hopefully it follows why God is considered provisionally untrue under those conditions.


All in all, I don't regret going to the church during that period. They were primarily secular stories coated in Christianity addressing first and second generation families who came (primarily) from China. And while I was able to eventually shed the Christian sugar-coating, some of those secular messages still stuck with me. But also, I do think leaving was important.

Anyway, I'm not sure if my anecdote clarifies anything regarding this thread, but since it was somewhat relevant, I figured I'd share it. Perhaps it gives some perspective as to why people go back to faith.

Granted, the most hilarious fact in hindsight is I'd still probably be Christian if i weren't gay. Laugh out load
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13-12-2015, 04:37 PM (This post was last modified: 13-12-2015 04:51 PM by GenesisNemesis.)
RE: Going Back To Faith.
Quote:why would anyone go back to using an unreliable method such as faith (or authority, revelation or tradition)?

Because to them religion gives them a sense of purpose, as well as a greater sense of community, and they haven't fully come to terms with the idea of a purposeless existence. Regardless of what others may say, it does take a lot for some people to come to grips with that, because they don't know how they would function in that scenario, or if they even could function. I don't necessarily blame people for not wanting to accept the idea of a purposeless existence- it requires a specific mental toolset to be able to accept it and embrace it, and it is not easily arrived at. Like you said, they're going back to an unreliable method, so they don't have the firm methods of reasoning to begin with.

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14-12-2015, 05:41 AM
RE: Going Back To Faith.
If you're looking for community there are atheist groups that meet up. All you gotta do is look online "atheist groups in [your area]".

I go drinking once a week with about 15 - 20 atheists. There are also various humanist groups in my area.

Of course this is perfect for people who live in the city. I live in the Columbus OH area. If you live in small town USA, everyone knows everyone and it's all "john cougar john deere john 3:16" Murica! (I realize I'm bordering on offensive stereotype here, sorry), finding a group of "nones" may be hard.

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14-12-2015, 09:12 AM
RE: Going Back To Faith.
(13-12-2015 08:32 AM)jennybee Wrote:  I think it has some to do with brainwashing and the fear of what if, despite the rational side of yourself telling you otherwise. I think some people want to believe despite all of the evidence telling them otherwise. I also think there can be pressure from religious family and friends--or a desire and wanting to belong to a community and feel included with all of your family and friends. I think some may also have had natural experiences that may *seem like* divine intervention or a miracle and choose to attribute xyz occurrence as being from God.

I think that's an entirely normal thing. Hell, I still get those emotional twinges of "what if I'm wrong". This is five years after getting to the point where I was able to comfortably let all that shit go.

Religion has a really good recipe going for it in terms of keeping people in the fold, and getting those who have lapsed back:
  • Religion make nonfalsifiable claims.
  • Our brains are wired to react on visceral fight-or-flight reactions first, emotions second, and then look at it rationally (if you haven't already made up your mind).
  • Building on the above point: our brains are incredibly good at rationalizing.
  • Similarly, our brains are super good at finding patterns where none exist.
  • Our brains tend to place much higher value on what we lose than what we gain. We are very loss-adverse. This is the crux of all of those "but what if you're wrong?" arguments. This is why salvation is advertised as freely given, and that it's up to us to fuck it up (ties nicely in with free will excuses).
  • In many societies, religion is strongly ingrained in the culture. It has a profound effect on the non-religious, as well. People can get kept in or pulled back in just due to societal pressure.
  • A lot of the apologetics do a good job of blaming us for questioning and rational thought, placing a higher emphasis on faith and submission, even if (or especially if) it doesn't make sense.
  • A lot of people have a hard time separating a profound feeling of happiness or comfort from the Holy Spirit. One good rush of endorphines, and they're claiming they've been touched by God. Similarly, this is the same type of argument you get from people seeing a baby and knowing that God is real. Yay, oxytocin (maybe this is why people say "oh, God" in bed?)!
  • I suppose there are also overt threats, too. Luckily, I don't think many of us have to deal with it, but this should be included for completeness' sake.
So, it's not surprising to see people lapse back. A lot of times, they seem to adopt a more "spiritual" set of beliefs that are less restrictive than their previous religion's. Still, the reasons tend to almost always be highly emotional.
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14-12-2015, 09:25 AM
RE: Going Back To Faith.
(13-12-2015 01:31 PM)Heatheness Wrote:  
(13-12-2015 12:46 PM)Hobbitgirl Wrote:  Not everyone gets to atheism through rational thought or skepticism. I find the ones that return to religion tend to not be from the skeptic rational group.

True, I think they are of the class "angry at god atheist" types. A real atheist is not angry at an imaginary deity, that would be pointless and absurd but I do think there are people who claim "atheist" that are really believers that are angry at their chosen god. They use their "I'm atheist" as a childish act of defiance against their god that disappointed them or made them angry. Separating the two is not impossible but the religious have no stake in truth so they lump us all together.

It's also an attempt to validate their claim that an atheists non-belief is just a childish tantrum.

I wouldn't go so far as to call them not real atheists. That's a scotsman. If they don't believe they are atheists.

It's just their disbelief doesn't have as solid of footing.
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14-12-2015, 11:03 AM
RE: Going Back To Faith.
Some good points that first came to my mind as well.

Conversion as well as de-conversion is not an overnight switch but a process for many. One doesn't logically put themselves back into conversion because the math doesn't add up. It may be or start slight, but usually stems from something like loneliness, low confidence, fear, needing a sense of belonging, etc.

It's similar with other groups, such as ISIS. People want to belong and feel like part of something bigger, even if at first they know it is probably wrong. That's how we social creatures are, even if we think we're not. Even the most introverted of us who think we're fine all alone. It's not what our brain wants (or has evolved) to feel. A community, whatever that looks like, is important. The community of a church, a concept in a book, a brothel, a terrorist group, a non-prof organization, AA club, an online group- whatever it is. If the current community isn't doing the trick then one will look elsewhere and if the boot starts to fit then there you have it.
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14-12-2015, 12:28 PM
RE: Going Back To Faith.
It has only been about a year since I deconverted. However, I still attend mass with my wife out of loyalty and love for her, her family and her culture. (most of her family members know I'm a nonbeliever by now, even though I don't wear it on my sleeve).

Being subject to weekly indoctrination I often get a slight nagging doubt of my disbelief.

But I have an easy antidote for this. I just come home and pull up an atheist video which clears my brain of all the muck and soon I'm thinking rationally again!

Here is one of my favorites. He hits many of the key points.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-i3mX0YRrjM

"Why hast thou forsaken me, o deity whose existence I doubt..." - Dr. Sheldon Cooper
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14-12-2015, 12:48 PM
RE: Going Back To Faith.
Not impossible to think there is no god then go back to believing in a god. The flaw is that the logic sucks in doing that. Intelligent or not, the people who claim this simply fail to consider the age of the universe and the age of written tradition compared to even the age of our species.

Some "former" atheists may have been, you cant doubt their sincerity, but you can doubt their sample rate and selection bias and perception of reality.

The simple fact remains when given the choice of a god of the gaps filling in the answer to "all this" vs humans making up gods, the choice is obvious. Most who claim to be former atheists simply take that as an emotional reaction to bad that happens. The ones who claim to be educated and objective, are not being objective, but fishing for excuses to go back.

If a god existed beyond popularity of the claim, someone would have a patent and someone would have won a Nobel Prize in "God theory".

Now, if you face someone saying "This person was smart and educated" yea, and so what? Every religion pulls that tactic to point to their particular deity. But when they cant get away with that, they turn to the tactic of trying to co opt science saying it matches their holy writings. But this isn't limited to Christianity. In my 14 years of online debate, I have seen the debunk and co opt tactic from Jews and Muslims and even Hindus.

The fact remains that science is a tool, a method, it is not a religion, it is not there to prop up ANY god claim or any religious club.

Poetry by Brian37(poems by an atheist) Also on Facebook as BrianJames Rational Poet and Twitter Brianrrs37
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14-12-2015, 01:57 PM (This post was last modified: 14-12-2015 03:14 PM by Full Circle.)
RE: Going Back To Faith.
(14-12-2015 09:12 AM)RobbyPants Wrote:  [*]Our brains tend to place much higher value on what we lose than what we gain. We are very loss-adverse. This is the crux of all of those "but what if you're wrong?" arguments. This is why salvation is advertised as freely given, and that it's up to us to fuck it up (ties nicely in with free will excuses).

This is a very important point Robbie brings up, it plays out everyday in financial markets too.

Professor Meir Statman is an expert on a behavior known as fear of regret. Psychologists (such as Statman) have concluded that investors typically consider the loss of $1 twice as painful as the pleasure of a $1 gain.

In the case of religion losing eternal paradise is twice as regretable as the pleasure of living a secular and humanist life.

“I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man’s reasoning powers are not above the monkey’s.”~Mark Twain
“Ocean: A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man - who has no gills.”~ Ambrose Bierce
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