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Saturday, August 9, 2008

I've converted

I've been giving this a lot of thought lately, and I've been wrestling with this for quite some time now. I haven't even told my wife, and I doubt that I'll have the guts to do so before she reads this for herself.

The thing is, I used to not believe in God (or any gods, for that matter). I accepted the biological theory of evolution. I felt that I understood that it had nothing to do with the big bang, crockaducks, or lightning hitting a mud puddle. I used to feel that saying "God did it" to explain the unknown wasn't an honest method of discovering the nature of the natural world.

I used to think that it was absurd to say that God became a person and then set things up so he could be killed only to come back so all of our sins would be forgiven (with the exception of the sin of not believing in Him). There also was a time when I thought that it was ridiculous for somebody who told one lie to deserve the same punishment as a rapist.

I was aware of all of the contradictions in the Bible. I realized that the stories of Samson, The Tower of Babel, a virgin birth, etcetera violated even the most basic knowledge of history and science. I used to see that there really wasn't anything more credible about The Bible's stories and the stories from various mythologies throughout the world.

But, now I've finally come around and seen the light. I mean, nobody has ever found a crockaduck, have they? It's crazy when you guys say that lightning hit a mud puddle and then ooze became a monkey that became us! All those contradictions that I saw were only because I wasn't reading The Bible with my heart open to Jesus! As for Samson, who's to say that you can't lose your superhuman strength by getting a haircut? There's so much that science is wrong about that it's likely that one day it will discover the connection between hair length and superpowers.

Pause for head-scratching, looks of confusion, and possible laughter.

Okay, obviously I'm fooling around here. What I wonder is this - while all of the atheists and agnostics on this blog don't agree on everything, I think it's safe to say that the above scenario represents a HUGE step back in logical thinking, right? It would be totally absurd to imagine somebody going from understanding why the crockaduck is a stupid argument to suddenly believing that it's a good one, correct?

What I wonder about is that some fundamentalists like Ray claim that they once weren't believers. Mike Seaver...ummm...Kirk Cameron claims that he was an atheist and he used to accept evolution. We laugh at his comments because it's clear that he doesn't even understand what it is, and it's unlikely that he ever did. After all, he would have to go from a state of understanding to a state of not understanding, and it's hard to imagine that.

I think that we all can believe that folks like Cameron and Comfort when they say that they didn't always believe like they do now. What we find crazy is the notion that they were anything like us. I mean, I've known some atheists and agnostics in my time who didn't seem to understand some basic scientific concepts (including evolution), so that's easy to believe.

What I want to know is, has there ever been an atheist who really understood evolution, logical fallacies, the big bang, etcetera and then became a fundamentalist like Ray Comfort. I can buy it that there might very well be some who become theists, but there can't possibly be any who go from being like, let's say Maragon, who can write on logic and biology in some detail to being somebody like Vera, can there? Do any of you know of somebody like that? This goes out to everybody. If such a thing has ever happened, I'm curious as to how it could.

EDIT: I'm going to be out of town next week (starting Monday), so please don't go thinking that the scenario that I wrote about above came true! Then again...hmmm...crockaduck...


  1. Perhaps it's difficult for us to imagine a woman like our Maragon morphing into a woman like (shudder) Vera. But let's not forget that something like that has happened to women in most parts of the world throughout much of human history, and continues to happen in many places to this day. It would surely have happened to -- for instance -- Ayaan Hirsi Ali, if she had remained in Somalia. The unconscionable waste of all that talent and all that passion would have gone completely unnoticed.

    How many times does that happen every day, I wonder.

  2. Lance,

    I read the first sentence. HAAAA!

    If you actually tried to pull tht off, you would be laughing at yourself!

    I hqave been contemplating a "I've Converted Post for a while.

    Well done, though!

  3. Yeah, I don't think Cameron was ever an atheist or evolutionist. And even if someone who once called themselves an atheist now says they're a deist or theist ( al a Antony Flew), well they just must not have been true atheists. They were false atheists.

  4. They were false atheists.

    That's what I was trying to get around to in a way. I didn't want to give the Ray Comfort "false convert" argument. That's why I can accept that there are atheists who become theists who still accept science (including evolution).

    I just can't see how somebody would go from truly understanding it to thinking that "crockaduck" is a good argument. I mean, they'd have to get stupider.

  5. Lance,

    I hope Ray doesn't quote mine your post for his blog. :)

  6. Actually, I came very close, after the death of my first wife.

    I was absolutely devastated...I was in a very unstable mental and emotional state, and highly susceptible to what we call "magical thinking". I found myself cleaving to the religious dogma I had previously thought I had outgrown.

    As for what happened next, I guess that the trauma gradually wore off, and I gradually came to my senses.

    This process was painful. In the beginning, I didn't even want to think at all...thinking was painful at that point, and mindless adherence to rituals was infinitely more comfortable. Plus, it was extremely comforting to be told that my wife was in a "better place", and that I would be seeing her again someday. Religious beliefs are seductive, especially to the emotionally damaged.

    But as time passed, and the wounds started to heal, I found myself thinking more and more clearly. Accordingly, I found myself trying harder and harder to reconcile what little faith I had with my knowledge of the physical world. I found myself having to push God back farther and farther, until the only place left for Him was as the "First Cause", who started the universe, and subsequently intervened not at all in human affairs. As we all know, even this position is not unassailable, and I found myself eventually having to abandon that as well.

    At this point, I am an atheist...probably fully an atheist for the first time in my life. I only hope that my newfound lack of faith can withstand the next emotional crisis I undergo...as I said, religious beliefs are seductive.

  7. Milo,

    I was actually thinking the same thing.

  8. Here we go about the crocoduck again...

    If only you guys knew how much he talks about that at home!

  9. tripmaster,
    thanks for sharing that. We can make ourselves believe things we'd like to be true, as an emotional escape hatch for situations like the one you've been in. That's exactly why skeptics keep saying, don't just believe it, don't just believe even what I'm telling you - check if it's true, no matter how comforting it might be to just succumb to faith. The opposite standoint is, take that leap of faith and then you'll see how true it all is. It's not finding God as much as it is tricking God into existence by abusing your brain. Mother Teresa couldn't accomplish that trick, so she just stuck with the groupthink because she saw no way to leave her own Gestalt behind, to climb out of the pit she had shoveled for herself. Letting go of faith means overcoming an identity crisis.
    So, why then are there scientists like Collins turning to theism. I suspect it's a deep-set longing for relatively simple answers that finalize a worldview. We instinctively seek to fill our gaps in knowledge. Some of that knowledge is counter-intuitive and difficult to comprehend. There is too much mankind has achieved for us to compute with our single brain. The best scientists of the world are also the most specialized ones. One may be a brilliant astrophysicist and not have more than a school education level of knowledge about biology. There are dark voids of ignorance at the pinnacles of all science. For some, it is soothing to place a deity-shaped stop sign in front of the void, to feel safe to circumvent that emptyness and get on with what they know how to deal with.

  10. There are people like M. Behe, who should know better. But then some failed scientists jump on the creationist's side for the money.

  11. Dale, when I went to see Expelled! the thing that struck me about Behe was his manner.

    He seemed discouraged.

    You'd think a man fighting for something he genuinely believes in would be able to get righteously angry about it. But, not only did Behe not make the effort for the camera, he doesn't strike me as the kind of fellow who has ever really been angry. Aggrieved by continual perceived slights from his Lehigh faculty mates and others, yes; but not angry. It seems rather a shame, because a good dose of high dudgeon might do wonders for that puddle-plain face and meekly stooping back.

  12. tripmaster,

    Thank you for your openess and honesty. Your telling that story is valuable to me.

    Frankly, I think it's probably normal to want to hold onto a comforting thought like heaven after a tragedy like yours. For most christians, I think, god is an amorphous force for good who they can metaphorically lay their burden on. It's more about coffee and donuts in fellowship hall than salvation from eternal damnation.

    I don't know you but I can't see you being infected with Ray's strain of christianity. How long before some asshole would ask you if your wife had been soundly saved and the implications of that. For a rational person to sink that low would require some sort of traumatic brain injury.

    Please, please don't take this as dualling tragedies but my wife and I lost a child shortly after birth. Well meaning people, christians, would say things like, "she's home now" or "it's part of god's plan" or, the worst, "god did this for a reason". I wanted to shout in their faces "you dumb fuck, what the hell are talking about".
    Anyhow, if I had been a believer how could I not see that as god killing my daughter? There was a medical explanation for what happened. It doesn't make it more or less devastating but you deal with it.

    Thanks again.

  13. {{{...For most christians, I think, god is an amorphous force for good who they can metaphorically lay their burden on. It's more about coffee and donuts in fellowship hall than salvation from eternal damnation.}}}

    I sadly have to agree.
    And with that we do you a great disservice for which we will have to answer.

  14. Don't be sad Patti. That's a lot of guilt and fear to carry. My point is if there's any comfort, hope, forgiveness or redemption to be found in religion, it's from the congregation not a supernatural source.

  15. weemaryanne said:

    Dale, when I went to see Expelled! the thing that struck me about Behe was his manner.

    Behe wasn't in Expelled. Maybe you're thinking of Flock of Dodos?

  16. Jason,

    You're right - my mistake. I was thinking of Bill Dembski in Expelled.

    Come to think of it, I'm not sure when's the last time I saw Michael Behe's picture anywhere.

  17. weemaryanne:

    Just picture Adam Savage, but evil.

    Dembski makes my skin crawl. I think he would even if he didn't stand for something ridiculous.


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