FAQ #6: Conservative Christian to Atheist – Why Such Extremes?

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Here’s a common question I receive:

FROM CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN TO ABSOLUTE ATHEIST?  WHY DO YOU NEED TO GO FROM ONE EXTREME TO THE OTHER?

I think I understand where that question is coming from.  Plenty of people who reject conservative Christianity still believe in God.  Couldn’t I reject the more ridiculous aspects of my former faith while not abandoning God (or spirituality) altogether?  This seems to be the opinion of my more liberal, deistic, and agnostic contemporaries.

I think I understand where the confusion comes from.  I spend so much time on this blog and on twitter arguing against Biblical Christianity, it may seem that I believe in the false dichotomy of Evangelicalism vs. Atheism, as if those where the only 2 choices.  Yes, I am aware that there are other ways of looking at the Bible, and there are other ways of viewing God than a biblical way.  My rejection of Christianity is in fact separate, though related, from my rejection of supernaturalism.

There is saying atheist use that I don’t entirely agree with, but it was a bit revelatory for me.

You (Christians) are already atheists concerning the rest of the gods worshipped in human history.  You don’t believe in Odin, Imhotep, Zeus, etc.  Christians have already rejected 4,999 other gods. We atheists just take it one god further.

Fundamentally, I think a monotheist has more in common with a polytheist rather than an atheist, but that’s really beside the point.

As a Christian, it never even occurred to me to consider the existence of pagan gods.  In all my Truth quests, I was willing to consider the positions of other monotheists… well, honestly, actually only other Abrahamic faiths.  I researched in great depths the claims of Mormons, JWs, Roman Catholics, Jews, and Muslims to compare them with Protestant Christianity.  But in all those cases, the Bible was still held as the authority and source of knowledge.  And honestly, it’s still the same historic God, just different interpretations and presentations of him.  But if someone would have presented me with Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, and asked:

Do you have a minute to discuss our lord and defender Zeus?

I would have busted up laughing.  Honestly, if I met someone who worshiped Athena in real life, I’d think they were a freak.  Oh, I’d be polite to them, but inside, I’d be like: j57rh

The thought of someone making blood sacrifices to the god Ares seems utterly ridiculous to me.  But why?  Do Christians have any evidence that there is only one God?  How do Christians know there aren’t 50 gods?

Well, because the Bible says…

I’m going to stop you right there.  What evidence do you have that the Bible is an accurate representation of the spiritual realm?  Evidence, not claims, not logical arguments, actual hard evidence!

Well, umm, archeologist have verified some of the events of the Bible.

Yes, some but not all.  As a matter of fact the entire Exodus, a movement of well over a million people, has no trace.  There’s very little evidence of King David.  And the only evidence we have of Jesus is the Bible.  But most of the Bible was written after these events took place.  So just because some authors may have wrote accurate accounts of a few historical events, doesn’t prove they wrote accurate accounts of spiritual events.

If I told you that I physically met with God and He audibly spoke with me saying “the drought in California was caused by Facebook memes”, nearly everyone would think I was crazy.  Even though I was right about the historical drought doesn’t mean that God hates memes.  A partially correct historical account doesn’t equal a correct spiritual account.

The Bible makes spiritual claims which are entirely unverifiable. There is no evidence to support the Bible as being more accurate about the existence of God or gods than the Qur’an, Book of Mormon, or the Necronomicon.  In order to believe the Bible is right about God, you have to presuppose it’s authenticity and accuracy.  In order to believe the Bible you also have to presuppose a monotheistic universe.  People simply believe the Bible because they want to, not because of any evidence.

Some people believe that “a changed life” is evidence.  But any philosophy, adhered to strictly, can change a life.  Mormonism changes people’s lives.  Islam changes people’s lives. Zen Buddhism changes people’s lives. Anthony Robins changes people’s lives.  Veganism changes people’s lives.  Evangelical Christianity does not have a monopoly on turning people around.  With that statement, therein lies my atheism.

I reject Christianity because it’s claims are unverifiable and it’s benefits are not exclusive.  But the exact same thing can be said of every spirituality.  Any claim about God, the gods, spirits, etc., are unverifiable.  And any benefit that comes from worshipping or venerating supernatural beings/forces are not exclusive.  If you cannot verify a god’s existence, and if you can receive the supposed benefits without that god… then why bother with a belief in the supernatural at all?

Listen, I know it’s odd for some of you to even picture a world without a supernatural element.  But do you have any evidence for the supernatural that goes beyond “that feeling” which makes you think there must be something “out there”?  Whether it’s “God”, Shiva, or Karma, do you have any evidence that supports your supernatural claim?

In any way, whatever being is out there, it’s clearly neither omnipotent or beneficent (man, I’m breaking out all the $5 words today).  Our prayers still don’t matter.  ISIS is still torturing and executing thousands.  People are still going to die from hurricanes and cancer, regardless of our beliefs or devotions.  Whatever force may be out there, it isn’t doing a goddam thing to help us.  You might be able to convince me to be a deist, and that our universe was created by a being who engineered the physical/mathematical laws that make life possible.  But whoever or whatever started ball rolling have had a hands off approach with this world.

I am an atheist, not just because I disagree with the Bible, but because I see zero evidence for any spiritual existence/being/force.

As I’ve said in a pervious post, technically I’m an agnostic.  Atheism is my opinion but I’m not against the possibility of a god(s).  Without evidence though, I see no reason to believe in any spirituality.

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14 thoughts on “FAQ #6: Conservative Christian to Atheist – Why Such Extremes?

  1. I disagree. With the earlier statement that you had gone from one extreme to the other. Let’s say you are a hebephrenic schizophrenic….a genuine lunatic…and then you are diagnosed and medicated, and you return to mental health. Normalcy. Is normalcy an extreme? Hell, no! Atheism is normalcy. Logical. Sane. The only position available if you are logical, and require just the basic facts about life and our experiences. You have returned to sanity. Congratulations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, obviously I think atheism is the logical choice. However there are good and thoughtful people that disagree with me, and some of them read this blog. So I wanted to give a reasoned response as to why I disagree with them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Whoa….did you just suggest that the bible hasn’t been proven or received the official stamp of approval from God? Because in my experience, Christians believe in the bible’s authenticity more than they believe in God himself. Most of them aren’t able to explain how they know that, but they are 100% sure that other Christians have tackled this problem and have answered it to their satisfaction. Checkmate, I guess 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Well said. After remarkably different lives, at this point in time we have the exact same opinion of reality, as far as spirituality or gods are concerned.

    Since I came to the states over 30 years ago, I could have built a small library out of books given to me by fervently believing Christians. Each book came with a “This book PROVES the GOD exists”.

    Invariably, I start reading, and then I read some more, then some more. All the while wondering when the money shot is going to happen. As the pages dwindle and the books goes into “goodbye” mode I have to conclude that, at best, I have been reading another collection of anecdotes, some more compelling than others, but all based purely on personal experience and making wild conclusions at that.

    Sure it’s wonderful that your daughter rolled her car 5 times on the freeway without getting a scratch on her on her way back from Church. But what about that bus full of nuns that fell of the embankment where half of them died? Speaking of nuns, what about those nuns that were raped and killed in central america a couple of decades ago?
    Your god decided to save your driving and texting daughter’s pretty ass but looked at the nuns, women that devoted their lives to His Glory and choose to do nothing? Really?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks so much again!!! Yes, as an agnostic agnostic seeker freethinker, I have been wondering along this line but couldn’t figure out how to ask it!

    I’ve been listening to some process theologians on podcasts, and back in college read some Whitehead, and somehow I can imagine a force for good, even if it’s Zoroastrian — that is, equally opposed by a force for destruction. Doesn’t have to have created the world, just be there in the good stuff. Not “supernatural,” but part and parcel of everything that’s real. I’m so agnostic that I’m still in Christianity, disbelieving the bad stuff and believing the good [the gospel according to me : ) ] — and enjoying appreciating the good in other traditions as well as atheism [is atheism a tradition? I will have to find an atheist theologian : ) ]. I especially appreciate atheism, because the objections of atheists are basically mine, too, and it helps me shuck barnacles that I haven’t been aware of having.

    I especially appreciate your writing… your attitude, values, and your exploring openly these questions. Deep gratitude; thank you from the heart.

    Have been thinking of you all today; sure the surgery went well; and hope your podnah sets spectacular records for recovery!!!!!

    [A ways back you unleashed the kids of English teachers… This is a grammarism that I think may be on the way out, because it’s ubiquitous and so I won’t be surprised to see the dictionaries soon start listing what’s been considered a mistake as becoming acceptable —

    The possessive of “it” is “its.” The apostrophe doesn’t make it possessive like most words in English; instead the apostrophe makes it a contraction:

    “it’s” = “it is,” “it has”
    “its” = belonging to it, like “his” and “hers”
    http://www.bristol.ac.uk/arts/exercises/grammar/grammar_tutorial/page_13.htm

    That’s why they call it the “Anguish Languish” : ) (There’re more weeds, but will spare you!!!) ]

    “Peace, and peace, and peace be everywhere” ….the Upanishads

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I had this whole thing about evil and suffering typed out, but really, nobody’s opinions are going to change much so I deleted it. (If you’re interested I saved it and can post it). But anyways, I’ve been pretty depressed on and off the last couple of years and seriously feel like I’m in complete spiritual darkness when it comes to God. Like you, I feel like he isn’t there and doesn’t hear anything. I just ask that you and your wife pray for me that the Holy Spirit would reveal God to me in real ways. I haven’t completely given up and I still have some faith in prayer. I will be praying for you with my fiancé as well. Hopefully God will listen and do something. (I know we’ve both probabaly asked for belief a thousand times but what’s one more) If he doesn’t answer, well then we’re still in the same position. All I know is, at one point, we both said we devoted our lives (our entire lives) to Christ so why give up so soon even though this dark time has been agonizing, beyond depressing, exhausting, and felt like an eternity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • CJ, I wouldn’t mind reading it, if you wanted to share. I think my email is linked to my post.

      I, as well as all ex-Christians really, promised their life to God. But when we can’t believe anymore there is no way we can continue to do that. We are not “giving up” on God. That sounds like a choice is being made. Belief is not something you can choose. I cannot choose to believe in God (or Allah, Zeus, Apollo, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Santa Claus or the Loch Ness Monster). I cannot choose to believe the Earth is flat. Everything I know informs my beliefs. That’s just the way it is.

      I hate how bad your circumstances sound. You don’t know me, but if you want to talk, please drop me a line.

      Cheers
      Shane

      Liked by 1 person

  6. “Well, umm, archeologist have verified some of the events of the Bible.”

    Gosh, historians have verified some of the events of Catch-22, therefore the whole book must be true!

    I’ve actually been to King’s Cross Station in London, which is all the proof I need that the Harry Potter series is true as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Life would be more sensible if there were some evidence for a deity or deities. That could be encouraging or discouraging evidence; the liberal Christian God is someone I could deal with, some variations of the Evangelical Christian god are downright evil, and there are heaps of Gods in between — and that’s just within Christianity. Look at all the other gods of all the other faiths! In fact, if you accept that each theist believes in a slightly different deity or deities, that’s billions of gods. There would be a meaning to life outside of what I can make of it, perhaps a much better meaning. Of course, it could be a much worse meaning, too.

    I don’t see sufficient evidence for any of those gods. Positive evidence; not being able to explain something naturally isn’t sufficient, because humans simply don’t have explanations for everything that happens naturally. Data; anecdote isn’t sufficient. Real world effects; “God spoke to me” is not a real-world effect. Even “I felt an overwhelming sense of X and I had Y personal reaction” is not a real-world effect. And of course, “my holy book says” is the lamest non-evidence of all.

    I don’t need theology to establish my morals/ethics. I don’t need it to tell me what to do with my life any more; I’ve figured something out. But like most reasonable people I have doubts; I have to constantly be refining my ethics and finding new meaning for my life; it’s hard work. It is easy to understand why people want to turn over the task to someone else. But it doesn’t work that way.

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  8. people ask that question? isn’t believing in a zombie deity extreme? how is not believing in a zombie god extreme? the former is irrational and nonsensical and the latter is self explanatory

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  9. Your reasoning process sounds similar to mine, although the polytheistic deities of ages past played a more central role. You see, in my upbringing I wasn’t really introduced to the diversity of the world’s religions as they exist today; I had some vague notion of “Protestants” who were Christians that rejected the Pope, and that there were “Jews” who didn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah, but that’s really all I knew. However, I had always been fascinated by the mythologies of the ancient world. The Greek and Roman gods, the deities of ancient Egypt, the Norse pantheon… all of these were fascinating stories to young me.

    But then there reached a moment when I realized, “Wait a minute. There was a time when these gods weren’t just ‘stories.’ Entire civilizations full of actual human beings genuinely believed that these gods existed, and they prayed and sacrificed to them believing that those gods would intervene in their lives. It was their religion, and they were just as sincere and devout as the Christians around me today.” At that point I had to ask myself which was more likely: that all those gods of the ancient world were just myths and stories dreamed up by primitive peoples to explain a complex and confusing world, BUT that I was fortunate enough to be born in a time and place where I was taught to believe in the one *actual,* real God — or that the God I was raised to believe in was just as much an invention of the human mind as all those others? When I framed it in those terms, the answer was obvious.

    Liked by 1 person

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