Hello!

5 Feb 2008

Hello and welcome. Call me Defaithed. Male, 40-ish, American. (Not that any of those matter.) 

The writings to follow have been a long time in coming. A really long time – over 20 years. There'll be a lot to say.

After so many years of having "lost the faith", I think the first public writing I've done on the topic – i.e., outside of private communications with friends/family – was a few comments in an article on the Richard Dawkins web site, Two Ex-Jehovah Witnesses to Tell Why They Became Atheists. Look there for comments by "defaithed"; that's me. An excerpt by way of self-introduction:

I guess I was one of those [religioned] kids who always had doubts but suppressed that voice. (After all, He can even read your mind...) I'd see the "map" in one of the books (I forget which) that innocently plopped a dinosaur (Plateosaur-looking, IIRC) among ancient peoples. So did this mean dinosaurs lived with people? And nobody really had a clear answer; it was firmly in "don't think or ask about it too much" territory. Then there were the eating conditions in "paradise": if we wouldn't be eating meat any more, what about fish? No more shrimp, even? "Don't worry, it's all part of the plan and will get worked out. Concentrate on what's important here and now..."

Therein are the two threads of upcoming posts: 1) Having and then leaving "faith" (yes, Jehovah's Witness, but the brand name isn't important); and 2) Finding freedom to pursue a supressed fascination with science (or should I simply say "with reality"?).

Finding that freedom too late, alas, to have actually become a scientist. Hence my subtitle, "a layman's journey from religion to reason". I'm no practicing scientist, but that doesn't stop me from following its ideals and methods wherever I can. (And by the by, I'm no theologian either, so I'm a layman there too. Whatever a theology layman is.)

Lots to say. But even when poking fun at faith, I'll do so without bitterness. (Bitterness over my case, that is; there's plenty to dislike about what faith still does to those caught in it, especially kids.) Well, I do feel some anger and disgust; no question about that. I've got young kids, and I feel like fightin' when I see the religious nonsense that still taints schools, government, and society in general. But I also see a swelling tidal wave of sense that's knocking popes and preachers onto their cans; that gives me great hope.

The land of reason is a great place, and I'm loving every day in it.

Comments

Is is possible for faith AND reason to co-exist?  To you as an "ex-faithhead", must they forever be inimical?

defaithed's picture

I think you can guess the short reply: It's an unanswerable question without defining the fuzzy stuff – in this case, "faith". 

Some (including some self-described "faithful") define faith as belief not based on evidence or reason. If that's the case, then clearly it's opposite to reason. 

"Co-exist" is another matter, though. Faith (by any definition of that word) obviously co-exists with reason on our world, just like war and peace, love and hate, wealth and poverty, and other opposites co-exist on our world. Obviously faith and reason can co-exist when each resides in a different person.

Can they co-exist in the same person? That seems trickier, but again I'd have to say "yes". As humans, we can all certainly hold conflicting views on things, conflicting ways of thinking. How about a man who is truly tolerant and open-minded to all peoples, without a thought to race or nationality – except toward those damn sneaky Greenlanders, curse them! Would we deride that man as prejudiced? Or would we say he's mostly tolerant, with a smattering of prejudice? Do tolerance and prejudice "co-exist" in him? 

Putting aside the Socratic questions. my final answer would be: Yes, faith and reason can co-exist in the same person. But it's a trivial thing, no different from the way that love and hate, selfishness and generousness, courage and timidity, ad infinitum, swirl together within any person. I'm not sure what the significance would be – other than my tentative assumption that, perhaps more easily than with many attributes, we can make a conscious effort to completely jettison "faith" from our makeup.

But again, that's all based on one definition of "faith", a word that's too often left fuzzily undefined. I'd have to ask you: Is there a definition of "faith" that changes how one would look at all the above?

I stumbled upon your blog while searching for motivational work out posters through google images. How it came across your poster with Jesus holding a dinosaur, I have no idea.

From the little bit of digging around I've done on your blog I thought I would post and let you know that God loves you, and He is constantly working in your life to bring you back into a closer relationship with Him. I feel that God has great things in store for you. Examine the life of Saul who brutally murdered and persecuted Christians. God changed his life (and name) and used him to do great things in the life of many Christians.

Good luck trying to deny the existence of God when all you have to do is open your eyes to see many examples of His wonderful creations. He is here to welcome you back with open arms when you realize how wrong you really are.

Go with god, visitor, go-just GO. 

I stumbled upon your blog while searching for motivational work out posters through google images. How it came across your poster with Jesus holding a dinosaur, I have no idea.

From the little bit of digging around I've done on your blog I thought I would post and let you know that God loves you, and He is constantly working in your life to bring you back into a closer relationship with Him. I feel that God has great things in store for you. Examine the life of Saul who brutally murdered and persecuted Christians. God changed his life (and name) and used him to do great things in the life of many Christians.

Good luck trying to deny the existence of God when all you have to do is open your eyes to see many examples of His wonderful creations. He is here to welcome you back with open arms when you realize how wrong you really are.

defaithed's picture

Thank you for the well-meaning thoughts. I don't doubt that they're offered in a sincere gesture of kindness.

But, if you've dug around this site a bit, you should be able to guess my response to the God content of your message:

The gods of the Great Trinity love you, and are constantly working in your life to bring you back into a closer relationship with Them. I feel that Vishnu has great things in store for you. Good luck trying to deny the existence of Brahma the creator when all you have to do is open your eyes.

Sound good?

(Incidentally, should you talk to your God in the near future, ask him to quit worrying about my well-being – I think I enjoy more wealth and comfort than 99% of the people on this planet – and ask him to instead heal the children in your local hospital's pediatric cancer ward. You might ask him that… but you know it'll have the exact same effect as asking a brick wall. Some "god".)

Thanks for the great site. It's a bit whelming to be a
free thinker in the Land of Nod, particularly the armpit
South (where I currently am entrenched!)

The internet certainly provides a myriad of support to
all aspects of an outcast whose views are not shared (or, at
least publicly proclaimed) by the masses.

I had, for a long time, struggled to make peace with allowing others to do and say and feel what they wished.
Of course, as anyone paying attention can tell you, this is the passivity we are taught. To be resepctful and contrite and not oppose, ever.

Well, to Hell with that. It's no longer simple 'difference of opinion.' It truly is a culture war, and you're either fighting back or being trampled upon. I choose reality and inner strength, not supersticion and fear-mongering.

Thanks again,
Robert

defaithed's picture

Thank you for the comments. Yes, the passivity and respect you mention are part of the special treatment traditionally handed out to faith - while the lack of those traits is perhaps the signature characteristic of the "New Atheists" one hears about.

(Then again, it's not at all as new as people think; one of my moderate surprises upon learning about "atheist culture" is the legacy of atheists from many generations past who weren't afraid to speak openly about religion. The vocal atheists today are carrying on a fine tradition.)

Hi, 

i stumbled upon your website, and then i started reading some of your writings.

 

i don't wanna debate any religions, beliefs, whatsoever, but i think i always had the wrong idea about atheism since i was little. i mean, i live in a country where my government only acknowledge five religions. so, every children in my country, were brought to believe in God, that you must choose your religion etc etc, even if you already got one then when you're an adult you decide to convert to new religion, some people you know will talk about you leaving your old faith ( the big why question will come up) behind your back even though it's none their bussiness. that's what happen when you live in a country that so concern about religions. i hope you get the idea.

 

i myself believe in Allah and His Messenger, but then again when i grew up, I believe in Jesus Christ, I believe in Hinduism, I believe in The Universe, I believe in many. i've been told that believe in many things can be regarded as hypocrite. but what can i say, sometime i believe there's no hell nor there's heaven. i mean, who had been there? to heaven and hell? where's the actual evidences? but it doesn't matter what i think anyway, let me get to the point fast.

 

i had a teacher, and he's atheist, and when i asked him about the difference between atheist and agnostic [i've always been confused between this two] he said that, agnostic doesn't believe in god, while atheist believe in many things, atheist believes but they choose none. or something like that, i forgot what exactly did he say.

 

some of my friends [they're not atheist/agnostic] said to me that agnostic is like when you're Christian, you also believe in Catholic, acknowledge Hindu's deities, etc. but atheist is like you don't believe in anything at all. not even God or big bang theory.

 

as i grew older, i pray less frequent, even my friends seldom go to church. religious people will say, that we'll be condemned and put in hell on judgment day, because we lose our faith along the way, you know, stuffs like that, that we should go back to God's way before it's too late. so, would you kindly answer my question, about atheist? like what is it, who is it, is it a religion and what's the difference between agnostic? when people can call themselve an atheist? i mean, please just enlightened me .

 

thanks

 

 

defaithed's picture

Atheist or Agnostic? Or both?

You can find many explanations online, but I'll just point to what I think is a good one, from the fine folks at Iron Chariots. (These are the same folks behind The Atheist Experience; they know what they're talking about.) 

http://wiki.ironchariots.org/?title=Atheist_vs._agnostic

In short: Atheism vs theism addresses belief: whether or not you believe something. A theist says "I believe there is/are god(s)!" An atheist says "I do not believe there are gods." (Note that this is not the same as saying "I believe there are no gods.")

Agnosticism vs gnosticism addresses knowledge: whether or not you claim to know something.

These yield four combinations:

Gnostic theist: "I believe there is/are god(s), and I know this to be true." This is the true, sure believer. Who probably wants to "save" you. (Or kill you as an infidel, in sad cases.)

Agnostic theist: "I believe there is/are god(s), though I can't say I know that this is true." This is the more "liberal" believer who accepts that he could be wrong in his belief. Generally more open-minded and pleasant than the above person!

Gnostic atheist: "I don't believe there are gods, and I know this to be true." This is what many detractors insist is the definition of an atheist. It ain't so. There certainly are some atheists who fall under this category, but they seem a small minority. 

Agnostic atheist: "I don't believe there are gods, though I can't say I know that this is true." This seems to best describe most atheists. It's an honest stance that admits we don't – and perhaps can't – know that there isn't an Allah or Vishnu or what have you.

(However, don't mistake the agnostic atheist stance for a wishy-washy "gee, maybe there are gods, maybe not." That's not the case for most. These atheists will usually follow "I don't know that there's no god..." with "... just like I don't know that there's no chupacabra in my back yard, or colony of Venusians in the Bermuda Triangle, or ghost of Liberace in the school locker room." It's perfectly okay to say "I don't know that this is false..." and follow that with "...but I think it sounds ridiculous!")

So. In short, there isn't an "atheist vs agnostic" dichotomy. An atheist is an atheist (as in, "I have no reason to believe that Vishnu or Thor or Yahweh are real"), and is also gnostic ("I know Allah isn't real!" – not a common stance), or is also agnostic ("True, I don't know that Allah isn't real" – a common stance, though usually followed by "but an Allah in a heaven sounds about as likely as a leprechaun under a rainbow.")

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