Monday, February 23, 2009

Losing My Religion

I found this post over at Debunking Christianity and really enjoyed the response to criticism by William Lobdell. Lobdell is a former devout Christian and makes many statements about his de-conversion that parallel my own life/feelings. He has a book coming out and decided to respond to criticisms of his book ahead of time which I thought was interesting. I especially like the over-all accumulation of evidence/reasons to question as similar to my own experience. Christians always want to claim you never really believed (which is incredibly condescending) and is plainly just not true. This combined with discoveries in anthropology, in-group selection, natural progression of religious ideas that parallel social structure etc. (for example all religious people thin they are right and do not accept they could be wrong and obviously have never looked at the past "known beliefs" within Christianity - foir example John Loftus posted this nic short list of some core theological beliefs that were taken for granted in Christien Theology -these are no longer accepted yet ironically most Christians today are just as sure they are correct as people from the past probably thought - and peopl today do not see the irony:

From Loftus - "Christian theology has changed so much that one would not even recognize the Christianities of the first century or two.

Let me just mention some theological changes:

Creation - Not until around 200-700 AD did the church accept creation ex-nihilo.
Hell - From fire and brimstone to the absence of God to annihilation
Baptism - Probably from Immersion to sprinkling; from adults to infants.
Atonement - From ransom to satisfaction to penal-substitutionary to moral influence to relationship theories
Predestination - Possibly "mixed" to Calvinism to Arminianism to Calvinism back to Arminianism
Christology - From Paul to Chalcedon to Kenotic theories
Inspiration - From who knows what to mechanical to verbal-plenary to inerrancy to neo-orthodoxy.
Women - From servants who obey in quietness to teachers and ministers and professors
Slavery - From Paul (Philemon) to southern Slavery to abolition to anti-racism."

I definitely believed at one time but eventually there was just too much evidence against for me to continue to swallow twisted logic and bizarre interpretations to try and fit all of the facts.

Exert from Lobdell's posting:

"With the launch of my book a week away, I’m starting to read and hear an increasing amount of criticism–something I expected with a memoir titled, Losing My Religion. They have their opinion; I have mine. Fair enough. But I thought I’d take a stab at answering some of the most popular criticisms.

Criticism: You’re anti-religious or anti-Christian. I’m not. I miss my faith. But I can’t believe what I feel in my heart (and see with my eyes) is untrue. I believe I’ve found the truth, but have enough humility (and experience) to know I need to keep my eyes open for new information that could reshape my views. So far, in my three years as an out-of-the-closet atheist, the evidence has continued to pile up against a personal God who intervenes in my life. In the end, I’m anti-hypocrisy–especially when the hypocrites operate under the guise of God.

Criticism: You are trying to lead people away from God and/or Jesus Christ. Not really. This is just my story. I’m really hoping my journey will let folks know it’s normal to wrestle with doubts and also to get people to think more about faith and its shortcomings. Some of the biggest fans of my memoir have been pastors and other reformers who think the Body of Christ has grown soft and could use the wake up call. Christianity would make a whole lot more sense to me if Christians acted like they really believed the message of the Gospel.

Criticism: You’ve confused the sinfulness of man with a perfect God. This is condescending. In Christian theology, I understand the difference between God and fallen man. And I know that means Christian institutions, run by human, won’t be perfect. But the argument falls apart on several levels. First, despite man’s fallen nature, Christian institutions should behave in a manner morally superior than their secular counterparts. I didn’t see much difference. But that not even where I lost my faith. (this section definitely parallels my own experience - loopa) That fact only caused me to start questioning other aspects of Christianity: why Christians behave basically the same as atheists in terms of morals and ethics; why no studies show that prayer works; why God gets credit for answered prayers and no blame to tragedies; and why the Bible is filled with a litany of bizarre punishments (death for working on the Sabbath, for one), a wrathful God who wipes out whole populations; why Christianity would be the one true faith out of the 1,000 of religions past and present; how God could be both merciful and just (the notions are contradictory); and even why Jesus didn’t speak out against slavery (in fact, he only says they should be beaten less). Eventually, my faith collapsed under the weight of all the evidence against it. I’d say as a Christian, I had mistaken a man-made creation for one developed by a loving God.

Criticism: You were never really a serious Christian, so you didn’t really lose your faith, you never had it. I’d agree with half that statement. I didn’t really lose my faith in the sense that you can’t lose something that didn’t exist. But I indeed was a serious Christian for more than a dozen years. I went to church weekly. I was member of a small men’s group that studied the Bible. I went on retreats. I read the Bible daily. I prayed several times a day. I read scores of Christian books. I don’t see how anyone could argue that I didn’t take my faith seriously. I think it helps critics to paint me as a half-ass Christian because then I’m easily dismissed.

Criticism: You’re just trying to sell books. I do want to sell a bzillion books, but that doesn’t change my experiences or my de-conversion journey. I also find it funny that Christians never accuse Christian authors–who make a fabulous living off their books–of “just trying to sell books.”

Criticism: You’ve consigned yourself to an eternity in hell. Look, I’ve tried my hardest to hang on to my faith. I just don’t have it. If there happens to be a Christian God and, given the circumstances, he still sends me to an eternity in hell, then what kind of loving God is that? Does that make sense to anyone? What kind of person are you worshipping? More likely, if I’m wrong and there is a loving God, I imagine he would look at me and said, “Son, I know how hard you struggled to believe. I’m very proud of your effort. I love you. Let’s spend eternity together.” What would you do as a loving father?

I didn’t write this post to sway critics. I’m guessing they are locked into their beliefs. But I do think there are a lot of people in live in shades of gray. I at least wanted to give those people something to think about.

- William Lobdell"

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