Baptists Meet with Skeptics

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discussionHave you ever been in a room full of tension? Perhaps your temperature is rising or your face is flushed from someone’s comment. Some hope the tension will die down quick and we just live in peace. Others may add to the fire with strong remarks of their own. If you’re like me, you just enjoy watching tension build and internally laugh about it. I grew up with a lot of conflict around me so it doesn’t faze me. I will say that I have felt the other emotions I described as well, but not yesterday.

Since my deconversion, I have wanted to share more about my experiences. I obviously blog about it, but I enjoy talking about it more. I am fueled by public speaking and feel that I can communicate better in person. So I have been looking forward to yesterday’s event at the First Baptist Church. Two weeks prior to this, I was able to speak about my atheism to a graduate counseling class in a discussion of spiritual diversity. So I was slightly prepared for the Baptist church.

Originally, this event was meant to be a discussion but somewhere along the line it evolved. Now this discussion was actually the 2nd part of a prior meeting that the Michiana Skeptics had with the Revive Indiana people. That meeting led many to realize, we all have different definitions for different words. So, we had a 2-page outline of things to discuss. Issue was, we got stuck on the first point.

Before diving into the discussion, I do want to say my first impressions. When I arrived to the actual church property, I was intrigued by the almost hidden driveway. They have a huge sign by a driveway that takes you into a forest. But once you’re in, you eventually reach the church. It was probably the 2nd nicest church I have personally seen. The nicest was the Willow Creek Community Church.

Anyways once I was inside; I was greeted and given directions on how to navigate my way through. I reached the 2nd greeter, Pastor Chris. He had a Captain America shirt and I joked with him on how this facility would be a perfect place to have a nerf war. He began to laugh and agreed. We small talked for a bit and honestly, I really came to like the guy. I wish I had him as a youth pastor when I was growing up. He ended up being one of the moderators for the discussion and did a good job on giving fair chances for people to talk.

The group itself was probably about 25-30 people with an almost even split between skeptics and Christians. I knew few of the skeptics and luckily my friend Philip came with me from Andrews. So I didn’t feel like a complete stranger. Once we all settled in, Chris got our attention and passed the baton to Fred, the other moderator.

So we were lead to the first question. How do we define faith? Skeptics’ opinion is believing without evidence, which is kind of backed up by Hebrews 11. The Baptists’ is believing with sufficient evidence. For about 5 minutes there was a disagreement and then a handsome, young man (me) suggested that we define evidence first… so we did.

It seemed like a great idea to define evidence but it lead to more disagreement. We became stuck on objective vs subjective evidence. Being once a Christian, I understand how important these subjective experiences are, which is attributed to God. Honestly, it’s really the only “evidence” that Christian have. Melissa from the Skeptics group suggested that other religious people have the same experiences for their God so it really isn’t a reliable source of evidence. The Christians disagreed and said that we need to focus on them and not other religions since they aren’t being represented.

As if that disagreement wasn’t enough, this guy kept saying how subjective things cannot be measured. That’s when that handsome guy spoke up again. I mentioned how the Psychology (the program I studied) is a discipline precisely for subjectivity, mainly behavior. This lead to another disagreement, which Chris said that Psychology was the study of the soul… facepalm. Philip (who is another Psyc major) broke down the history of Psychology and how it came from dualism and Platonic thought… went over their heads. Chris and some other random guy (lets call him Lt. Surge) both said, “no we disagree (to facts)”.

During the disagreement on Psychology (which none of them had any clue about but randomly knew all about it) Lt. Surge went up to the front with a marker in hand and drew a box on the drawing board. He said that we skeptics were stuck in this box and don’t think outside of it. It was pretty condescending but honestly I almost laughed at the ignorant statement. So know we are debating about if we are in a “box”.

This box issue led to other issues and I think at this point there were under-toned attacks made from one camp to another. Nothing over the top or blatantly rude but still enough to inspire one Christian guy to say we need to stop misrepresenting each other and learn to forgive. At that point I called him out and said how they started the whole box thing which fused much controversy. They apologized and took down the drawing.

After that, the convo became relaxed and dwindled to an inconclusive ending. We did agree on minor things and to meet again. We were all able to talk after wards with one another which I got to know Chris more. From my part and the hope of other skeptics is to honestly build a community with more Christians despite our differences.

My Time in Prison

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prisonPrison. A place in which a criminal is placed as a punishment. How did I end up in this place? My cell is relatively silent. For the most part I’m in solitary confinement. I spent countless of hours staring at a ceiling wondering when I will see a free man. As an extrovert this slowly rots my social well-being. I do all that I can to keep my sanity.

It’s said that you hear heavy sobs from thugs, pleas from “innocent” inmates, and sexual activities in which someone didn’t give consent. That is not the case in the prison in which I currently reside. For some reason the prisoners are enthralled to be here. In fact, they want to be in this prison. When I voluntarily leave my cell I see people who think that are chained up. I walk around and have yet to see one bar and that is what drives me insane.

You see the prison in which I am at is, invisible. Everyone around me believes that there is a Warden that has set these boundaries in which we cannot cross. This Warden has placed these bars to keep us safe from a Dragon; a Dragon which has been defeated by the Warden before he left. He promised to return but until then we are to remain in his prison. Now in order for the Warden to free us from this prison, we must believe that he exists. We may occasionally escape our cells by crossing these boundaries but He will forgive you, so as long you repent and… believe.

Here’s the catch… EVERYTHING IS INVISIBLE. I point this out to the other guys but no one listens. I show how there is not one piece of evidence that shows there’s a Warden out there, let alone a prison. I get shunned for stating such “arrogant” things and told that I’m being “rebellious”. I naively thought that if I pointed out the obvious people would begin to see that there is no Warden. Now I’m viewed as a secret agent for the Dragon.

Imagine, me a secret agent for a Dragon that was supposedly long ago defeated. How would that work? Also if I joke around about this Dragon, which I occasionally do, a deep fear is summoned. “Don’t play like that!” “He will possess you!” Such irony… every week they celebrate how the Warden defeated this Dragon, yet this Dragon is still feared. A Dragon that is invisible. I once read, “What’s worse than an imaginary friend? An imaginary enemy!”

Hearing constant praises to this Warden and attending classes that only speak about Him takes such a toll. A toll which lead me to my self-appointed solitary confinement. Ironically, I created my own jail cell as a reaction to an invisible prison. Yes, I spend hours in my personal cell. I realized that I have really begun to shut down. For two weeks, I didn’t go to my classes. The work is somewhat being done… but I am honestly losing it.

Sometimes, I wish I was healthy so I can smoke something relaxing. Orange Haze, Kush, or Sour Diesel would help my case. I browse through leafly and reminisce on the old days in which I enjoyed these aforementioned strains. I even breathe deeply as if I was holding in smoke in my lungs to warm them up and to burn my throat. I would trade one fantasy world for another but risk being further looked down upon.

I even search for others that have realized there is no prison. To my dismay, it is like finding a needle in a haystack. Probably worse because it’s a needle disguised as a haystack since it doesn’t want to be found and discarded. I don’t blame them though for it is difficult to be a public non-believer. Sometimes I wish I would’ve stayed in the closet but that would be like hiding in a box in my already solitary confined cell. To my good fortune, I have managed to find some needles but I am sure there are more to go.

Luckily my time is coming to an end in this prison. So there is light at the end of the tunnel. Light that shines on the darkness of my cell. Light that brightens up my outlook. Light that will safely guide me out of this prison.

Taking A Stand

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takingastandTaking a stand for justice requires people to have courage. The past few years I have been hearing a lot of arguments for the LGBT community to be accepted. Supporting friends have taken the alias of Ally. The African-American community has been arguing against systematic racism. They have received support from different friends of various races and ethnic groups. We have seen how these groups have been mistreated, and our society is beginning to respond by taking a stand for justice.

I myself have had lot of support from family and friends in my transition from Christian to atheist.   I have received messages of encouragement from these “allies”. But today I ask my Christian friends to take a stand for justice. To take a stand for atheists.

Suppose I live in a cave that I cannot leave.   Also you are the only one that can enter the cave and can only enter if you carry nothing on you except your clothes. For months you have been telling me with urgency that I must believe that President Obama exists. If I don’t believe you for his existence, then I will receive the same capital punishment required for serial killers. In this case that punishment is to be slowly roasted like a marshmallow over a camp fire.

Now after many years I don’t accept what you say. One morning, when you enter, all you find is a toasted corpse. At that point, would you honestly say that I rejected Obama and choose to be incinerated? Or would you realize how immoral it is to burn someone to death for not taking your word?

I understand that you’re probably thinking of all the apologetic arguments made. Let me list a couple and quickly show how irrational they are. “I was given ample time and opportunity to accept.” Time and opportunity doesn’t equate to evidence. Without evidence, you cannot accept something as fact. Some people may to choose to believe it but others even if they tried to believe, cannot.

“Without ‘Obama’ I wouldn’t know the law and cannot be ‘moral’ without him.” That’s cute. Let’s assume that God does exist and that his moral law is true as well as grace. In this way of thought I could’ve have killed and raped people, but as long as I have a relationship with God and asked for forgiveness I’ll be treated as royalty a la David. Funny how so many Christians say, “That evil people and their acts must be destroyed like Hitler.” But if Hitler was to repent… he would be saved… let that marinate.

The issue here is that even if I have kept the law to its smallest detail, I would be accused of being a legalist at best. Almost as if saying, “how dare you try to be a perfect citizen.” And if I don’t believe, even keeping the whole law, then I am damned to fire. People, salvation has nothing to do with morality but whether you believe or not, yet punished as if believing was a moral issue.

This, my friends is such an immoral and odd way to operate. Can you truly say that I deserve to be damned for not believing in the “correct” choice? Do you really think this is… just? Would a rational and loving God really destroy people for… not believing? What if God gave the most important evidence, like actually showing up? Would it still be just to kill with fire for not accepting him? My friends I hope that you can truly think about these points. I hope you can see the fraud being taught as truth and finally take a stand for justice.

Returning to Christ!

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returntoJesusAfter much thought and praying to the air, I have decided to re-dedicate my life to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I decided to take the smart route according to Pascal’s wager. Why allow myself to be destroyed by God? I rather have him save me from himself. You’ve heard it said before, “If you can’t beat them, join them!”

Never mind the lack of evidence that is out there for his existence. I choose to force myself into believing since the improbable rewards of eternal life are more than worth it. Who cares if I have to spend the rest of my life worshipping the Holy Judge that just blasted my family and friends with molten lava. They had their chance to repent and choose the only way to salvation. I gave them enough warnings, well every other religion gave them a warning also but let’s be real… my religion is the correct one because it says so in the Bible.

Speaking of the guide book to morality, now my eyes are truly open to what is good. It makes total perfect sense that I should go and kill every man, woman, child, and animal that God commands me to destroy. He’s the ultimate judge! Due to my inherit sin problem I cannot tell what is right or wrong so I will leave it up to that ancient book which was put together by random ass people and tells me it was inspired by that all loving God!

I feel so complete now. Almost as complete as the fossil record that was laid out by Lucifer himself to fool us into believing that silly theory. You know that theory that hasn’t graduated to a law. I’m talking about evolution of course. I don’t come from a monkey, and the universe didn’t come from nothing. Did I just mesh evolution and a false form of the big bang together there? Oh well there both silly since there is lots of evidence for it, I mean no evidence for it, so as long as I close my eyes and ignore it. Seriously though, it’s that easy to be a Creationist… ignore every single transitional fossil that exists and yell at the top of our lungs… “Jesus is the Creator of all!!”

Now I have to return to second guessing what God’s will is for my life. Yeah I will have some kind of internal subjective feeling that will allow me to make my life’s most important decisions. This is for sure the best method that God has to communicate with us… I wonder if Verizon has been able to build towers in Heaven yet.

Now to the homosexuals… Let’s remember guys, God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve. God, since his creation, made sure that man doesn’t grab another man’s genitals and passionately caress them as he inserts it slowly into his mouth and…. Oh no!!! Stop!! Get out of our stores!! You’re violating my religious rights for having genuine, sincere feelings for each other. We must stop the gay agenda with as much bigotry as possible.

I no longer wish to be a hurt, insecure, stupid, immoral, irrational, god-hating, satan-lover atheist. Oh those atheist with their pesky facts who just want attention to themselves. They are so in denial that atheism is a religion. Don’t they realize that not collecting stamps is a hobby and not exercising is a workout routine?? Follow that logic and they will realize that not believing is a belief system.

So yes guys, there you go. I have reconverted to Christianity. May the Lord bless you greatly today and that he will never cease to amaze you as he does me. AF.

Unmotivated

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unmotivatedIt’s been awhile since I have last blogged. I honestly have lost motivation to continue blogging for many reasons that I want to explain.

1. For starters, I will assume that a good majority of us don’t like Jehovah Witnesses at our doors on a Sunday morning. These guys don’t understand what no means or don’t come back to my house. They keep trying to get you to convert any moment you speak to them. Of course, not all Jehovah Witnesses are like this. I have an uncle who is a Jehovah Witness, and he never bothered anyone of us about his belief. Point is, I’m not trying to be a “Jehovah Witness” for my lack of belief. Yes I do want to speak my mind but not smother anyone with my thoughts.

2. Imagine that you were stuck on an island with adults that kept talking about Christmas. They mention how they will be getting their gifts from Santa Claus on that day. These guys all share their “experiences” with Santa Claus and how Santa is such a great friend. After a few weeks of this you eventually begin to lose all hope since you’re surrounded by grown children. This is how I feel after being in the Seminary again. I am constantly drained by the bullshit that I hear in this building. I want to escape this crap and blogging about Christianity isn’t exactly helpful.

3. I have been rightly criticized for mainly critiquing Christianity. I haven’t really mentioned much about other religions. My original intent was to explore other religions since I wanted to embark on a religious journey… Fuck that. It really isn’t a journey anymore. In my mind, most religions are full of bullshit. The funny thing is we all seem to be aware of it and pick fun of other religions expect our own. So yes my journey really is over. I am very likely (99.99% likely) to remain atheist/freethinker.

4. I’ve been pretty open about the reasons why I left Christianity and been as clear as possible. Yet somehow, people still don’t grasp my reasons for leaving. There are still strange interpretations of what happened in my change. I still get told that they think I’m just being rebellious toward God or rejecting him. People… I just don’t believe… this isn’t rocket science. I don’t understand how people equate unbelief with rejection. I’m sure the Bible makes this connection somewhere in there, which is stupid. What’s the point of blogging about my experience if someone is going to re-interpret what I say? Then again, what a fool I am for not expecting this.

5. It was very difficult and time consuming to deconstruct my worldview. I was very comfortable as a Christian and wanted to do great things for “God”. This deconstruction took so much energy that I don’t have much left in the tank. I haven’t even been fully able to express what my worldview is now. I don’t think I want to spend time building a new view. There are so many different areas in life that I don’t want to become unbalanced and just think about worldviews and religion.

6. Finally, I’m in such an awkward point of my life that blogging about my thoughts is definitely not the most important thing. There are many personal and professional decisions I must make and none are easy. So lot of my time has been devoted to really thinking my life through.

So there you go folks, a quick update on my blogging days. Also this week I will post my blog on the Book of Mormon play. It’s halfway written, but again… I was un-motivated to continue. Writing this post, though, has strangely re-motivated me. Thank you for your time.

Hell Doctrine is Twisted…

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funny-Jesus-knocking-door-salvationHere are my thoughts on hell. After learning how Isis burned someone to death and seeing a picture of this event, I couldn’t help to feel emotions of anger and disgust. There is minimal foul language so I placed an age restriction on the video so you will have to sign in. Before you watch the video, please put the “God is good” bias to the side and view this as objective as possible. After watching the video, please take some time to wrestle with the ideas. If you reach a different conclusion, I understand. I am just thankful for your time and patience to hear out my point.

Religious Positive Influences

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crescentcrossHello everyone! Today I want to share about the positive impact religion has had on my life. Let’s go back in time to when I was a teenager. I had just moved to a town called Orange in New Jersey and other than my cousins in the neighboring town, West Orange, I knew nobody. This is an urban town which had a very low-quality education program. I was a Sophomore and there were classes there that I took in 8th and 9th grade, very discouraging. Anyways, I made a friend, Alex*, from my history class and he taught me how to make some money (I’ll let you wonder what that means). So we would skip school to get supplies and come back to make sells. We did this a few times till it led us to drop out of school.

When I dropped out I had mental aspirations to start my own business, which I did with my father almost a year after leaving school. But during that time I began to hang out with another group of friends. With these guys we would just party all the time. Weekends were pretty much dedicated to parties and getting high. One buddy, Stan*, for some reason always found himself in a fight with someone. I never understood why trouble always found him, he really wasn’t a troublemaker. But he did have a temper and once something started he never backed down.

I stopped working with my father and I honestly wasn’t doing much progress in anything at the time. Alex’s older brother, Jay*, one day saw me. And he pretty much started to flat out tell me I was wasting my life away and needed to get my sh*t together. For some reason I knew he was right. So I started to hang out with Alex again and his whole family. Jay would speak to me about Allah and how Allah wants the best for me. So I got back to my business grind with my father. If you notice, it wasn’t Christianity that got me to start thinking straight. Rather it was Islam. I am aware that Islam has such a negative perception and many extremists go too far. Also, I don’t agree with Islam nor do I think the Qur’an is the perfect book from God. But Islam did give me the initial push to search for meaning in life and to have a drive for success.

After that initial progressive push, I began to study about Islam and the Qur’an to look for God. The way my friend portrayed him, seemed cool. At the time I was skeptical about the claims they made but I gave it a shot. Soon after, there was a tragic event in my family and I honestly needed comfort. So I began to go to church. The church I grew up in because it was ingrained in my mind that surely this has to be the correct church of God. After reading the Bible again, I started my own Bible study group with my party friends and cousins. The pastor suggested that I should study theology and continue my education. Prior to this I gave meager attempts to go back to school. But now religion again gave me another progressive push.

I had already received my GED, which Alex and Jay inspired me to get. So I applied to Andrews and next thing you know I pack my stuff and get myself stuck in Berrien Springs, MI. Where I am still at after 7 freaking years. I did switch my major from theology to psychology, which I love. Luckily, Seventh Day Adventists tend to be pretty pushy about education so the environment here helped me to focus, which was needed. I was taking a full load of college classes after being out of school for 4 years. I barely had 2 years of high school and I never paid attention in class. So I had some serious adjustments to do.

During my time in Andrews, I joined a budding ministry group which eventually named itself Makarios. With this group I found meaning and a purpose. We traveled across the US and even Internationally to encourage Hispanic youth for higher education and about that dude named Jesus. It helped me to come back to Andrews and stick with my education. I eventually became the director and I learned so much about leadership. As I look back I realized the many leadership mistakes I made but I grew from them.

Religion has helped me to progress forward in life. I fell in love with learning and thinking critically. It was difficult to let go of my Christianity because it has helped me so much but once I dropped it, I felt free and less burdened. I guess I can say Christianity was a huge stepping stone and lead me to endless possibilities of how to live the rest of my years on Earth. Hopefully in my limited years here, I can positively impact those around me. Thank you for reading.

*Pseudonym

Mary’s optionless choice

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gabriel%20visits%20maryHello everyone! Another week at the seminary has gone by and I have learned a lot. I wanted to bring up many highlights to your attention. One story was about a professor who heard audible voices, twice. I originally had that story on this post but it extended the post to about 950 words and this topic of virigin mary is one I really want you guys to mentally wrestle with. If you guys want to hear about the audible voices story, please let me know. For today I want to mainly focus on virgin Mary’s choice. Before I do I want to say that tomorrow I will blog on the few positive impacts religion has had on my life. And on Tuesday I want to continue on my deconversion process, which is about my time helping out at a church plant. With those announcements out of the way, let’s dive into this week’s secret atheist agent experience.

Theo 2 – Virgin Mary… this story is a very interesting story. Mary’s virgin status is only mentioned by two books, Matthew and Luke. Mark and John don’t touch on it and neither does Paul and Peter in their writings. Now in Matthew 1:18 casually mentions how Mary is pregnant. My question is, did she even have a choice? I asked that in class, man the stares that I got in class. I already know what Luke says so I’m waiting for the teacher to say lets turn their, which she does.

Luke 1:28-37 mentions the dialogue that occurs between Mary and the angel. Please read it before you continue reading this. Ok you’re back. Some of you may read verse 38 and will be saying “you see! she does accept!” Don’t get too excited just yet.  Let me break down my point.

I will assume that the Bible is God inspired at this moment. The author Luke was a very technical writer and likely the most educated writer in the NT, other than Paul. With his background knowledge, he was most likely careful in his word usage. The word “will” is used an amazing 10 times! Now in the Greek version will isn’t directly exactly used, but it’s implied in it’s syntax. For example, syllempse, translates to “you will conceive” because it is written in a future indicative. More precise the book Greek Grammar by Daniel Wallace on Pages 569-570 says this is an Imperatival Future, which is used for commands. It also says it’s not as forceful as other commands, but it’s still a command.

Ok so Virgin Mary was commanded to have God’s child and people argue that verse 38 shows her accepting. Lets take a closer look, “Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.’ and then the angel left her.” Keyword here is servant. The word, duole, is better translated as handmaiden, a female servant. The professor said that it’s better translated as slave. Doule is similar to doulos (slave). Either way a servant, handmaiden, or slave doesn’t have much of a choice when their boss or master tells them what to do. That is precisely what Mary portrays and then says let it happen. So she really didn’t have much of a choice.

Let’s not forget that last week I learned that Luke-Acts is a humorous fable. How else would Luke know such accurate word usage in the private conversation between Mary and an angel? Some people may argue, well God told him. But that fails because we are aware of the contradictions between Luke and the other gospels.  If God was telling Luke what to write you would expect no contradictions. People then change their argument to that they were inspired and those contradictions show there was no plagiarism. I’m not trying to create a strawman but this is what many people do say.  Oh boy the rationalizations are so immense among apologists that you really have to admire the bs they put out. Thank you again.