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I share your concerns about the value of arguing with theists, Martin. In fact, I have often felt concerned that engaging in such arguments may actually strengthen someone's commitment to their religious position. Personally, I don't want to be responsible for derailing or even delaying someone's journey to freedom. I have long suspected that my flight from Christianity caused my dearest Christian friend to hunker down and shore up the walls around her faith. She is certainly a lot more overtly religious now than she was when we were both Christians. Although I couldn't have done this any other way, and although I have not overtly attacked her beliefs, I feel partly responsible for her current state. In any case, I am determined to try and conduct myself with compassion when engaging with theists. As you rightly point out, being religious isn't a problem of lack of intelligence or even ignorance, necessarily. There are reasons people find religion appealing. Shouting in their faces is not going to convince them there isn't a big pay off in religion. And, as a friend of mine commented recently, until we have an alternative community to offer them in place of the one they would leave behind if they lost their faith, we should tread carefully hauling them away from their existing support network.
9 months ago on A Rant – I Quit
@mariaRB My heart goes out to you, Maria. Although I was quite young when I went in, I at least had some pre-existing frame of reference to guide me back to the real world when I came out. It's much tougher for the kids. Good for you doing the work to get free. I wish you and I could have coffee too :)
2 years ago on The Dreadful Dangers of Learning to Think: A Cautionary Tale – By Jane Douglas
@Apologist I'm afraid you are generalising about fundamentalists. I was very much a NT believer and held that God was righteous, merciful, gracious and loving. However these are terms that only make sense in a binary. God is righteous/we are wholly unrighteous; God is merciful/his justice dictates that he will destroy his enemies; God is gracious/those who fail to acquire a privileged state will be condemned to an eternity of torment; God is loving/he hates sin and will punish sinners in fiery agony forever. For every cuddly Christian doctrine there is always a cold, dark, horrifying one lurking in the shadows.My whole life was built on loving God with my whole heart because I believed in his goodness and that he first loved me. I thought I was imparting wondrous truths of divine grace and eternal mercy to my children. What they were actually hearing was the flipside - the guilt, condemnation and judgment which were necessarily present, although generally unspoken.I also thought I was engaging in sound thinking both about my faith and the world at large. I now realise I only imagined I was thinking well; my thinking was bounded by invisible stainless steel walls that prevented me from honestly applying true rationality to my faith. Your comment raises common criticism leveled at people who come out: I - and others like me - were doing Christianity wrong, while you are doing it right. That there are thousands of people who think they are understanding God and the Bible rightly, and that they all disagree with each other in myriad details used to mystify me. Now I realise that that is, of course, a likely outcome when in fact the whole thing is a make believe structure with no actual evidence to support it. People construct a Lego Jesus in their own image and then wonder why it doesn't look like their neighbour's version.
Sorry about the lack of paragraphs. Apparently ordinary returns aren't sufficient.
@TGAPDad As a result of the Christian fundamentalist crazy I inflicted on my family, my two oldest children - then in their mid-teens - both presented with sudden and extremely severe psychological issues that lead to numerous traumatic hospitalisations for both of them over a many months. I had been completely oblivious to their mental suffering until that point. (I've written elsewhere about factors such as this that formed part of the process of my coming out of Christianity.)Christian fundamentalists - at least those of my former ilk - believe that if you build your life on the Bible's teaching, and instruct your children well, those children will never 'rebel' or even struggle to navigate the bumpy road to adulthood. What happened to my kids - to my whole family - was purely terrifying to my Christian friends. The notion that this could have been as a direct result of our faith practice - and therefore that it could also happen to them - had to be denied. So they rationalised it away by building a story that the children and I were doing Christianity wrong, or sinning, or in some way deserving of the disasters that befell us. In order to sustain their belief in a good God who always does right, they set their compassion gauges at 0 and turned their backs on us. Dozens and dozens of close friends. No phone calls, no visits, no emails. Nothing. We were dead.Just this week I passed an old friend in the shopping centre. She couldn't even meet my eye and, looking at her feet, scurried past in order to avoid me. I understand. She'd be afraid she wouldn't even know where to start a conversation: my divorce (sin), my awesomely un-Christian kids (sin and parental failure), my walking away from my faith (apostacy), my writing about it in public (traitorous apostates are the worst). Still, it hurts. We were friends.The warmth of fellowship outsiders think they can see in the church is largely an illusion. Christians' reason for gathering is make believe and their actual doctrinal and practical agreement probably minimal despite how they may seem to mostly get along. The place is full of incredibly needy, mixed-up people trying to perfect themselves with rituals and incantations. I found the many churches I attended - almost without exception - to be hotbeds of vicious gossip thinly disguised, and rife with condemnation and judgementalism. To stay A-listed in a church, you have to tick certain boxes with diligence and certainty. When you fail as spectacularly as I did, Christians can be ruthless. I still have just one Christian friend left and it hasn't been easy for her to stick with me through thick and thin. My atheism is undeniably difficult for her, as her continuing faith is for me, but we love each other enough to keep doing our best to stay in relationship. She is a rare woman in any sphere but an endangered species in the church. I don't miss them one bit.