Friday, December 5, 2008

The Uprising: Conversion to Christianity?

Last night, Nighline did a story about religious reality TV. There are apparently at least three shows now that feature a group of Christians as they try to spread their message, including one called The Uprising. As I watched this show, I was reminded of something I've seen many times as people have tried to convert me back to Christianity and to convert others to Christianity. I've heard stories of how Jesus can change your life and how wonderful Jesus is, and why wouldn't I want to be a part of that?

Sure. I'd love to. Sign me up. I would love more than anything to know that I could live forever after I die in a beautiful, loving place called Heaven with wonderful people like God and Jesus. Where do I sign? Except there's a fundamental problem that these people seem to miss: I don't believe Jesus is real. So before I can possibly accept Jesus into my heart, first they better figure out some way to convince me that Jesus is real. And sorry, most of the testimony I read of how Jesus did this for somebody and Jesus did that for somebody can be chalked up as pure coincidence. While reading the comments to a story on a local newspaper site, a woman said that Jesus healed a sick relative of hers. Well I've been healed many, many times, and so has everybody. News flash -- the body has a way to heal itself. When I get cut, my skin regenerates.

What I'd be curious to hear from this woman who responded to the newspaper story (not that she's reading this post, unfortunately) is how many times she's prayed for people to heal and how many times it has actually worked. Don't get me wrong; I admire the fact that she cares so deeply about these people and I wish everybody cared so much. And so I would venture to guess she has prayed for others many, many times. Does only one or two incidents of the person getting better prove to her that God did it and that God is real? That doesn't cut it for me.

This becomes especially true for me when you start to factor in the fact that this "God" character as described in the Old Testament bears remarkable similarity to the other gods of the time -- gods that nearly all of us, Christians and non-Christians alike, agree that didn't exist.

And so if people want to convert me, first they'll have to convince me that Jesus is real. I don't believe it. I used to, but not anymore. Jesus isn't real; God isn't real; the Holy Spirit isn't real. How can I "come back" to Christianity when I realize that these three things don't even exist?

Most people I know who are former Christians are in the same boat as I am: We were incredibly reluctant to leave the religion. After believing and for so long, we tried and tried and tried to find Jesus, to find some sense that he's real. But after time we started to realize that he doesn't exist. Many of us have shed a LOT of tears over this. It's not a happy thing. It's not an angry thing. It's a SAD thing. Ask any former Christian if they felt sad and alone, and they will almost certainly answer YES. It was a horrible, horrible thing to start to realize that this God and this Jesus and this Holy Spirit that we had worshiped and believed in with all of our heart for so many years simply isn't really there.

So people can tell me I'm going to go to Hell, but it won't work, because I don't believe in Hell. They can tell me I obviously wasn't a real Christian because I didn't have the Holy Spirit in me (which I've been told more than once), and I agree: I didn't have the Holy Spirit in me, and neither do you, because the Holy Spirit doesn't exist. They can use all the means they can come up with to convert me, but at a most fundamental basis, none of it will work, because there is no Jesus. Sphere: Related Content


Anonymous said...

Hey Jeff, I'm sorry you see things the way you do, though you'd probably say the same back to me.

I would like to ask you to consider again something you said in your post. In a few places you flat out stated that you feel God simply doesn't exist. But the problem with stating that is that you are now faced with the burden of proof. How could you go about proving that for certain God doesn't exist?

I'm not saying this is proof that He does exist. I'm just saying that for a person to declare such a thing as fact, they have two choices (as far as I can see)...

1. They need to have something rock solid to stand on (undeniable proof).


2. They must admit that faith is the thing they stand on (and have good reason for that faith, to give their faith some validity).

Thanks for your time!

mary said...

I really like the new layout Jeff, good job.

Jeffrey Mark said...

Hi Chrisjesse, thanks for the comment.

I'm very familiar with the burden of proof concept. And I'm also aware that by stating "God does not exist" I'm placing a certain amount of burden on myself (as opposed to saying, "I don't think there's a God, but I'm not sure," or that sort of thing.)

My feeling is that I have no reason to suspect there's a god. There *could* be, but I highly, highly, highly doubt it.

But even so, I'm not interested in a philosophical argument about burden of proof. I know where I stand in my beliefs, and this particular blog entry isn't about convincing Christians that God doesn't exist. If I were to take on the burden of proving my case, then I would be attempting to convert Christians to non-belief. But this entry is about convincing me that God exists. So I'm not willing to take on the burden of proving my case, because even if I can't prove my case, that doesn't convince me that God exists. Does that make sense?

Thanks for the note!

Anonymous said...

Hey Jeff,

Sure that makes sense. I should clarify my original post. I meant to ask you to consider and chew on the evidences in the case for God combined with the fact that God cannot be disproven.

I know that there are a lot of things that cannot be proven or disproven. And I know that the fact that we cannot disprove God does not necessarily prove that He exists.

But when you look at all the things that "could possibly" (from an non-believer's point of view) point to God, things evident in every man's life, and combine all of that with the fact that He cannot be disproven (after thousands of years of men trying to), you're left with a truly unique situation. One that's surely worth keeping on the table of thought.

I wish I could convince you at this very moment that God exsists. But for now I just ask you to consider and process these two things jointly:

1)the particulars of how impossible it is, logically and scientifically, to disprove God.


2) the volume and depth of evidences used to back the existence of God

sorenthia said...

crisjesse, there is an inherent problem with your argument. You state that one cannot prove that God doesn't exist; but you see in logical discourse, one is never called upon to prove a negative. The burden of proof is on he who makes a positive claim about the existence of an entity.
A famous illustration of my point is that of the teapot whirling around Saturn. Allow me to claim that there indeed IS one. Your response would be "Well, Sorenthia, prove it!"
At this point, I have no right to say, "No cris, you DISPROVE it!"
This is fallacious reasoning.
Remember, when we are born, we are born without notions of whichever particular god is in whichever local holy text. That we accept the gods of our particular culture is nothing more than a sociological phenomenon applicable to 95% of the human species.
Like Jeff, I too am a recovering christian, and there are many, many more. For many of us, it begins with the realization that those who worship false gods make the same claims, report similar feelings, and claim the same depth of faith as do we. If one is not arrogant, and can see he is not a special snowflake, some very pertinent questions arise. Follow your intellect to freedom, cris.
Life is so much more beautiful when your mind is free to appreciate it.

GoddessFourWinds said...

I was Catholic until I was 17 when a very wise man made me think about all religions in ways I'd not done before. He made me question what I thought I knew. He knew more about the bible than I ever could, and his arguments made sound, logical sense.

I did not feel sad and alone. I was outraged that I'd been deceived my whole life.

The whole "Prove God doesn't exist" is such a stupid statement, IMHO. It's the same as saying "Prove faeries don't exist." Or elves or any other supernatural (ie, made up) character. I think it's up to the believer. After all, they're the ones with all the proof, right?

There is a YouTube video called "10 Questions that Every Intelligent Christian Must Answer." I think that's a good place for Christians to start when they try to start conversion.

Thanks, Jeff.

annie said...

The whole problem with the "god" concept is that it encompasses everything we can't explain. It starts by defining god as the unknown, but then proceeds to give a very exact definition of what that unknown is. That's not rational.

IMO, there is a lot about energy and waves yet to be learned. What people define as god today is likely to be empirically understood at some point. Until sucha time is reached all we can say is "I don't know" when talking about things we don't understand. To say that we do know the nature of the unknown is the height of the arrogant religious mind.

Robert said...

Right on! They are using emotional reasoning which is based on a very weird fallacy. It doesn't matter how much you want something to be true. Wanting something to be true will not make it true. Appling “want” as a factor in deciding if something is real must be the most basic definition of delusion. The threat of supernatural violence is even more fallacious. Deluding yourself into believing something for which there is no good evidence because you are afraid of something else for which there is no good evidence, must cause a peculiar kind of blow to ones self esteem and sanity. Crisjesse's assertion "that you are now faced with a burden of proof." is stupid. No one believes anything unless they feel there is a good reason to believe in that thing. Otherwise we would all believe in everything that anyone could imagine.

Robert said...

Right on! They are using emotional reasoning which is based on a very weird fallacy. It doesn't matter how much you want something to be true. Wanting something to be true will not make it true. Appling “want” as a factor in deciding if something is real must be the most basic definition of delusion. The threat of supernatural violence is even more fallacious. Deluding yourself into believing something for which there is no good evidence because you are afraid of something else for which there is no good evidence, must cause a peculiar kind of blow to ones self esteem and sanity. Crisjesse's assertion "that you are now faced with a burden of proof." is stupid. No one believes anything unless they feel there is a good reason to believe in that thing. Otherwise we would all believe in everything that anyone could imagine.

Like a Mustard Seed said...

Jeff, you are completely right to not put a fake, religious belief into something, or someone, whom you've become convinced isn't real. It would be dumb to continue believing in Santa Claus, just because I like the idea, even though everything I know tells me he's not real.

However, logical arguments and human reasoning are really poor ways to try and determine if God is real. In the bible, people are not left to their own deductive reasoning to discover if God is real. I am not going to try and logically convince you that God exists. Instead, I'll simply pray that God will do what He has done countless times throughout human history. That is, that He will simply put the burden of proof on Himself. The apostle Paul was convinced that Jesus was a hoax, and dedicated his life to eradicating his followers, that is until Christ himself showed up, and blew his beliefs on the reality of Jesus to pieces...

God is revealing himself to people all over the world, all the time, through dreams, through miracles, through all kinds of experiences that did not originate in the minds of men. My grandfather saw Jesus, with his own two eyes, from his iron lung as a victim of polio. I myself have never had such an experience, but that's okay. Not everybody needs one. I pray that you will encounter Jesus in such a way. The only question for you is, what will you do if Jesus shows up?


splatdown2002 said...

Keep running! Do not stop to listen to Christians! They don't listen to their Christ figure anyway (or at least the words attributed to him). Me? I listen to the "spirit" that lies behind those words, but no; I don't believe he ever existed as a person. Or a god. Nor do I believe it is important. Peace, Jim

Jonathan E. said...

Hi Jeffrey Mark,

I am new here, but I want to thank you for this blog, I'm also a escaping Christian and I recognise a lot of problems and feelings you have.

Hi crisjesse,

First of all, I also think that god should be proven to exist by christians, and not be disproven by other people.
I think there is an actual proof for the non-existence of a "god in the Christian view", and that's the suffering of the people on the earth.

This are the main characteristics the god of the Christians has (according to the bible and other Christian pieces of writing):

1. God is almighty.
2. God is perfect (in goodness, justice and knowledge)

The suffering in the earth, especially the senseless suffering of a young, innocent child, is the proof that such a god can not exist.
It makes no sense if there would be a Satan to blame the suffering, or if it would be the people who need to be punished. If god is able stop the suffering in any way, he is also a kind of responsible for it. Especially because he created the devil himself.
The eternal punishment for the bad people on earth can't exist if god is perfect in goodness, there is no sin that could be a reason for a such a hard punishment, especially because we are created as weak people.

If there is a god that is almighty and perfect, he knows that there is suffering right now, and that there will be suffering, and he would stop and prevent that, but in real life he doesn't stop this suffering.
Some people say suffering can be good, that you can learn from suffering, or can live closer with god after suffering, but most of the suffering is not good, and can not be good in any way.
Some people say the reason of the suffering is the sin of the people on the earth, but even if that is true, god can not be perfect (in goodness) if he will let people be able to sin.

You can believe in a god that is perfect but not almighty, or in a god that is almighty but a really bad guy. I can not disprove that, but that is not the Christian definition of god.

Hi Daniel (Like a Mustard Seed),

I wanted to make a little comment on the argument of god showing up to people everywhere.
It seems to be always other people that get this experiences. Often people that believed very strong already, before they get those experiences. or people are suffering and hope very hard there is a kind of god. I think the apparitions of Jesus, or any form of a message of god, are all imagination, because they always happen to be at the kind of people that really want them.
About your example of the apostle Paul, I simply don't believe that it happened.

If Jesus would exist and would show up to me, I think I still would not believe that he is god (almighty and perfect).

About your praying, I think that may be another kind of disproving that god exists. From what I have seen as a seventeen year old boy, it really doesn't matter if people pray for anything practical. I mean, people can feel better after they prayed, and people can feel better if other people pray for them, but I never have seen any practical changes after praying.
For example illness, there are a lot of people praying to get well. I think someone that is ill and does not pray has the same chance of getting well.

Like a Mustard Seed said...

Jonathan E...

Just wanted to quickly respond to your point about the issue of suffering, being used as the reason for why God cannot be both completely good, or completely omniscient.

This argument is probably the #1 reasoning people use to say why the God of the Bible cannot exist, and so it is probably well worth addressing.

The main part of this position that is problematic is this: It relies on the assumption that suffering itself is a bad thing, that is, it is based on the idea that humans are meant to live according to a certain standard, that there is some reason why it is unnatural for human beings to experience things like pain, hunger, or death.

You see, if there is no God, if there is no being who created the universe, and everything in it, who placed upon it a standard for how things are supposed to be, then there is really no basis at all for claiming that anything is "wrong" to begin with. According to say, an evolutionary framework, a million people being killed by an atomic bomb is no more "wrong" or "bad" than an insect being eaten by a frog... Everything is then natural, and one occurance is just as "acceptable" as the next.

It sounds like you have heard pieces of the explanation of how a good, powerful God could allow suffering, but have rejected it, because you have not grasped the crucial point. The reason why God can allow there to be suffering on the world, is because God has allowed us to decide for ourselves whether or not to accept Him as the rightful ruler of all creation. He chose to give us free will, He did not create us, (or even Satan), as being wicked, but we became wicked when we rejected Him. The suffering we all see in the world is the consequences of that rejection, but that does not make God the architect of the world's fallenness. On the contrary, despite our rejection of Him, He has made every effort to reach out to US, and to redeem what was broken, although many people do not realize, or appreciate this fact.

In short, pointing to all the suffering in the world, actually points to there being a creator, to there being some kind of standard for the world, and for humanity, that isn't being met. This doesn't contradict what the Bible says about the world, or about God, but rather upholds it. If there is no God, no ultimate reason why a person should have any value, any worth, any dignity, then there is no reason to care about "suffering" in the first place.

The argument against God because of suffering, actually ends up turning around and giving the atheist nothing left to which he can base that very argument on.....


Jonathan E. said...

Hi Daniel,

I would like to make a response on your comment.
There are a few things that cause suffering from which I can understand people are to blame for them.
For example all the suffering caused by crime, or by the pollution of the environment.
But all that other problems, caused by 'errors' in the DNA, and diseases that can't be caused by any human mistake for example, are also a consequence of the choice of two people wanting to know what is right and wrong?
I think the sentence is far too easy, that all the suffering is a consequence of us people.
If it is a consequence, the suffering is still a very cruel punishment for us people, it is not like we created the bad things ourselves.
No, there is no real free choice in Christian beliefs, it is between choosing eternal suffering versus temporary suffering. I can not really call that freedom of choice. It is more like obligation.

I base my opinion about suffering on 'The Universal Declaration
of Human Rights'. I think that is a pretty stable base to use for thinking objectively about suffering in the world.
If you use God's opinion about what is suffering or not, and what is right and what is wrong about suffering, it will be much more difficult. That is because there are pretty big differences in what is right and wrong between the OT and the NT. There are also many different interpretations of the OT and the NT, so it is really hard to define, even in a conversation with other Christians, what exactly is wrong, right, and what is suffering.
Then you have the problem that God decides what is right and wrong, and he has the freedom to change it any-time. What is suffering today, can be a cause of happiness tomorrow. The point is: with a God with supernatural powers, there is nothing sure, so I absolutely do not understand why you think you have such a solid base right now.

All suffering is bad in my opinion. People can learn something from suffering sometimes, but most of the time suffering is just useless.
If god uses suffering, or uncertainty about what he means with the bible, to bring people closer to him, it would be very egoistic. That he created us, and then he created the possibility of suffering (which way it was, by Devil or human themselves, it does not matter), is very egoistic, it is creating a kind of play-ball out of human lives.

Of course there are goals for atheists, they do not have meaningless lives. For example happiness, it is logical for people to strive to happiness for themselves and for others. Next to that there are many many goals, an atheist has a lot more freedom than a Christian person, just because an atheist can live for himself and a Christian lives for god.

Finally I wanted to say a little about this sentence: "On the contrary, despite our rejection of Him, He has made every effort to reach out to US, and to redeem what was broken, although many people do not realize, or appreciate this fact."
It is a very sweet thing to say, just like a standard evangelical message, but I think it is just not true.
First of all, most people living on the earth, including Adam and Eve, do not reject God intentionally. They want to live with him, and love him, but they do not get any response except for a very hard to understand bible, which made them controvert. The choice of the first two human on the earth was not against god, but for more knowledge, and the fact that they chose for it is possibly caused by the curiosity God created in them.
Second of that, I do not think God made every effort to reach out to the US.
If God is omniscient the effort he made (or not made) is proportional very very little. He did not even make people believe what he said to them personally, instead of that, people have to trust other people, or their own interpretation of a very old book.

In this comment I assumed that god exist, just for clarity.

I do not know why you mention that god has made any effort to the US . I am from Europe but I would not understand why god makes any difference between people for example from Israel or the US or the rest of the world. Assuming that he created all people, it would not do justice to make that kind of difference.

Having said that, I want to emphasize that I do not hate Christians. Almost my whole family is Christian, and I am assumed to be Christian too, but I just can not understand the way Christians adjust their interpretation of the bible and what they believe to what they personally like. There has to be one truth, so if god would exist, so would the hell, and the inequity of him I do not understand. Christians tend to push away the difficult and negatives things of god away, but that is not fair in my opinion.
If god does not exist, it makes the world looking a lot brighter to me.

I am sorry for my English, some words are just copied straight from the dictionary, so I hope my comments are understandable.

Like a Mustard Seed said...

Hey Jonathan,

Your english is quite understandable, I assure you! I'm actually surprised to learn that it's not your first language...

Perhaps it was I who wasn't very clear in parts of my earlier comment. My reference to "US", wasn't talking about the United States, I meant us, as in the entire human race...

You made a lot of interesting points, and I honestly don't think I can respond to them all here, but I'll try and respond to a couple...

Yes, it's true that not all suffering in the world is caused by direct human action. We see things like disease, natural disasters, and genetic deformities, all which don't seem to be "our fault". But my earlier point still stands, why, if there is no creator, nothing to say why things should be this way or that, can you even complain about anything at all?

Everyone, whether they be atheists or theists, still adhere to the assumption that there is a way that things are "supposed to be"... That is the only way we can even talk about something like suffering. Only if things like pain or sickness are not according to some original plan, can they even be made distinct from anything else we collectively experience...

It may seem that there would be more freedom if there is no God, but are you really ready to accept all the implications of such a freedom? It means that in the end each individual pursues what is right in their own eyes. Appealing to calls for the "greater good" is only an illusion, because you have nothing left to base such an ethic on... Everything becomes completely arbitrary, and nothing is really right, and nothing is really wrong. Such a freedom is not a haven, but a hell, and I suppose that is why I do believe in such a place. Not because God is so unloving that He desires to torment people for eternity, but because He will drag anyone who rejects Him into His Kingdom, but rather will permit them to spend eternity according to their heart's desire, apart from Him... Such a thing is it's own punishment, such a place, where everyone is left to decide what is right or wrong in their own eyes, is hell...

To say that Adam & Eve were only pursuing knowledge, and were unjustly punished, isn't accurate I'm afraid. The DID know what God had said, but chose to reject His instruction, and to decide for themselves if it was indeed bad... Ironically, it's that scene in the beginning of the bible that sums up this whole discussion here, which centers on there ultimately being two choices, to accept that only God has the right to declare what is good and what is evil, or to deny Him that right (by simply denying that He exists) and place that mantle upon ourselves. That's what that scene in the garden of Eden was all about...

To say that the God of the Bible is the one who is arbitrary, changing his definition of good and bad, is a common position, but it isn't accurate. The reality is God never changes. The Old Testament and the New Testament are not at odds with each other, nor do they represent two versions of God. The fact that imperfect humans have disagreed with each other, and misrepresented God countless times over the centuries does not mean that God himself is fickle and confused, as we are.

Unfortunately, to fully get into to that would require way more space than I'm sure the author of this blog would appreciate me using (in fact, I've probably already outworn my welcome!) But if you are interested in talking about that further, I'm always open to dialoguing with people via email... The bible is not as difficult to understand as most people think. Much of the difficulty lies in the fact that it has been used and abused by "religious people" since it's inception, twisted in order to back the selfish aims of men who never knew God to begin with.

It is my guess that you, and probably most of the people who sympathize with this blog, have most likely only been exposed to the corrupted systems created by men in the name of God, and never encountered the real Truth of Jesus. Jesus did not come to create a religion, He came to give us LIFE...

In fact, I really love the title of this blog, Escaping Christianity, because I too escaped that dead thing that calls itself "christianity", and instead found Christ himself...


Like a Mustard Seed said...

oops, I meant He will NOT drag anyone into His kingdom....

sorry for the confusing typo..

Anonymous said...

The issue isn't whether or not god or gods exist, it is the issue of whether or not Christianity is real.

There very well may be a god or gods, but they're not the Christian god, Islamic god, or the gods of Judaism.

These three Abrahamic religions do not own the concept of god.

Christianity is a religion that can be shown with historical, archeological, and logical and direct evidence to be false. Belief, theory, interpretation, and conjecture should be avoided in coming to this conclusion; belief created this mess in the first place—belief is the game of the Christian.