While surfing twitter the other day, I noticed a gentleman soliciting interviews from atheists. I’m always wary of christians bearing gifts of goodwill toward their fellow man while proselytizing for jesus. So I asked I asked a couple questions, got some generic answers, and declined and moved on. Then he published to his blog, and I thought I’d give a closer look. He seems to be using a standard questionnaire and so I answered the questions and sent a copy to him. I haven’t heard anything back, so I’m assuming it will never see the light of day there. There’s no sense in wasting effort, so here are my responses. Its kind of a “get to know your local atheist” theme. I always find the questions christians ask to be loaded in ways designed to steer the participants to conclusions they would like you to make. [I have made some small edits to my original text.] Unfortunately it’s half a conversation that never happened. We should make up questionnaires for christians. What would yours look like?
Tell me about yourself:
I’m out in real life as an apostate and a member of the LGTB community, but as a matter of common sense I prefer to remain anonymous on social media. Moine will suffice as a name. I’m retired. I’ve tried my hand at many things, you could say I’m a jack of all trades, master of none. I have several degrees, some from Seminary and others from secular colleges. I’m curious about things, so consequently tried things many would consider esoteric. I’ve traveled extensively, lived in communes, lived off the grid, studied clay composition, wood carving, and many other things in pursuit of what I feel are life affirming and positive.
Do you consider yourself to be an atheist or an agnostic?
I’ve used various labels over the years, I’ve settled on apostate. I prefer it because it tells more about me than that I doubt god claims. It tells people [or should anyway,] that I was an active participant in faith/religion and that I left it because I find there to be no merit in it.
When did you become an apostate?
Round about 1969-70. It was an evolution for me over a long period of time [26 years]. I had to outgrow childhood inculcation, develop an intellectual curiosity, and learn to distinguish between what you would call theology and what I call justified truth. Eventually I came to the realization that, although others around me had “spiritual experiences”, nothing remotely like that had happened to me and did not seem likely to in the future. It became increasingly obvious to me that I couldn’t honestly serve as a spiritual guide for others because for me it had become an empty, meaningless existence. Faced with what many call a crisis of faith, after graduating from Seminary, I declined to accept any pastoral role and volunteered in the military. I dug my first foxhole as an atheist. I understand some christians don’t believe that’s possible.
Do you consider yourself a former christian?
In the sense that I followed the tenets of faith laid out by the church, yes. I don’t consider myself to have ever been what you would call a true believer.
Why don’t you believe in god?
The Judeo Christian god as described in the bible has been thoroughly disputed in my opinion. Advances in the understanding of science, archaeology, textual comparison and criticism, basically all the disciplines required to observe the world around us, directly contradict the narrative of the bible. While the bible might be considered an inspirational source, even there it falls short as a moral guidepost. I really like Katha Pollit’s excerpt from “Stacked Decalogue” in “The Nation”. The whole article is a must read! And I quote, “When you consider that God could have commanded anything he wanted–anything!–the Ten [commandments] have got to rank as one of the great missed moral opportunities of all time. How different history would have been had he clearly and unmistakably forbidden war, tyranny, taking over other people’s countries, slavery, exploitation of workers, cruelty to children, wife-beating, stoning, treating women–or anyone–as chattel or inferior beings.” Essentially, christianity has taken a slice out of time and Israeli culture and tried to impose it on 21st century civilization. In case anyone’s noticing, it’s not working all that well. That’s not to say there isn’t some ineffable force that could be partially identified using god as a placeholder until an adequate description is formulated. As of now, we don’t have the tools to discover if that is true or not. It’s currently beyond the limits of our knowledge.
What would you say to god believers out there?
Thank you for intending to be a better person. If you feel the only way you can do that is to be a believer, then you have my wholehearted support. That you can find comfort in it is a wonderful thing, be thankful, not everyone can. Also, please, please, stop trying to find ways to value and impose your beliefs on others. It may come as a surprise to you, but your belief system is not more important than those of others in a secular pluralistic society. For those unfamiliar with that idea, here’s a quick definition: “a state of society in which members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious, or social groups maintain and develop their traditional culture or special interest within the confines of a common civilization, who don’t always agree but find areas of commonality and consensus for the good of the whole.” You know, democracy.
Are you mad at god?
No. That’s a popular misconception among believers. I think you will find it a rare occurrence among declared atheists.
Do I hate the christian god?
Again, no. It’s an anthropomorphic projection of the human psyche. The stereotypical adult child relationship. It’s emotionally stunted and maladaptive when taken to the extreme for the people who practice it.
Should I stop believing in god or stay the way I am?
That’s up to the individual. You may spend your entire life as a believer, or you may experience enough doubt to make a change in your thinking. I don’t try and dissuade believers. It’s a fruitless task as far as I’m concerned. Change always comes from within, not without.
Have you or do you currently read the bible or any religious books?
Yes to all. One can’t accept or reject truth claims without being familiar with the subject. I often encourage christians to read the bible. They seem to be the ones most unfamiliar with its content.
Would you recommend any one book?
It depends on who I’m talking to. I like a wide range of reading, from Feuerbach, to Dennis the Menace. My current favorite is a book titled “Questioning Islam” by Peter Townsend. I encourage everyone to go out and get a copy. It’s a modern seminal work. Even christians will find it useful, I’m sure.
Have you ever heard of “presuppositional apologetics”?
Yes. It is a ridiculous position with no grounding in either knowledge or philosophy. The recent fellow who has “popularized it” is an odious man of dubious intellect. It’s a disingenuous approach at best.
I’d like to read you a bible passage, is that OK? [Rom 1: 18-21] Do you agree or disagree with that?
God’s Wrath Against Sinful Humanity
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
It’s typical evangelical boilerplate intended to instill fear in the credulous. Why would I take it seriously, and why would I think that would square with the teachings of unconditional love also found in the bible? I’ll ask you this question in response, give me your best moral thinking about it if you want. You and your son are walking on an old farm. Your son falls into an old abandoned well full of water and he can’t swim. You see a ladder nearby long enough to reach the bottom of the well. What would you do? Would you A: rescue him immediately without condition? Or B: Promise to rescue him but only if he first promised to love and obey your commandments without question or you will throw him back in the well if he fails. Which would you find a more loving, sensible choice?
Is there anything in the bible you strongly disagree with?
Where to begin? There are the obvious social issues, of course. I’m sure others have mentioned them already. I reject the idea that truth claims made in the bible are sacrosanct and must be accepted without evidence. [Heb 11:1] It is the ultimate dishonesty in my opinion. And if one thing is proven a lie, then none of it can be accepted as truthful.
Do you ever debate religion/existence of god with anybody?
Occasionally on Twitter and other social media.
Have christians ever tried talking to you about becoming a christian?
More often than I can recall accurately. There was a great deal of consternation among my family and christian friends when I came out as an apostate. Some did not give up easily.
Are you open to the existence of god? What would have to happen for you to say god exists?
Sure. If someone demonstrated god in a testable way I’d accept it as true.
If I discovered christianity was true, would I be a christian?
I suspect a discovered god wouldn’t remotely resemble anything in today’s christianity.