The sad testimony of the daughter of a Calvinist apologist

Rachael Slick, daughter of Calvinist fundamentalist Matt Slick, explained why she gave up her faith and became an atheist having no longer any contact with her parents.

I was born in 1992. My parents named me Rachael, after the biblical wife Jacob loved.

Rachael (right) with her parents



One of my earliest memories is of my dad’s gigantic old Bible. Its pages were falling out, its margins were scrawled over with notes, and the leather cover was unraveled in places from being so worn out. 
Every night, after we stacked up the dishes after our family dinner, he would bring it down and read a passage. I always requested something from the Book of Revelation or Genesis, because that’s where most of the interesting stories happened. After he was done, he’d close the Bible with a big WHUMP and turn to me.

“Now Rachael,” he would ask, “What is the hypostatic union?” 
and I would pipe back, “The two natures of Jesus!”


“What is pneumatology?”


The study of the holy spirit!

“What is the communicatio idiomatum?”


The communication of the properties in which the attributes of the two natures are ascribed to the single person!



Occasionally he would go to speak at churches about the value of apologetics and, the times I went along, he would call on me from the crowd and have me recite the answers to questions about theology. After I sat down, he would say, “My daughter knows more about theology than you do! You are not doing your jobs as Christians to stay educated and sharp in the faith.”



Conversation with him was a daily challenge. He would frequently make blatantly false statements — such as “purple dogs exist” — and force me to disprove him through debate. He would respond to things I said demanding technical accuracy, so that I had to narrow my definitions and my terms to give him the correct response. It was mind-twisting, but it encouraged extreme clarity of thought, critical thinking, and concise use of language. I remember all this beginning around the age of five.



Rachael receives an award from Awana for being the most ‘godly’ student. She would later complete the Awana course, memorizing over 800 Bible verses along the way.

I have two sisters, three and seven years younger than myself, and we were all homeschooled in a highly strict, regulated environment. Our A Beka schoolbooks taught the danger of evolution. Our friends were “good influences” on us, fellow homeschoolers whose mothers thought much alike. Obedience was paramount — if we did not respond immediately to being called, we were spanked ten to fifteen times with a strip of leather cut from the stuff they used to make shoe soles. Bad attitudes, lying, or slow obedience usually warranted the same — the slogan was “All the way, right away, and with a happy spirit.” We were extremely well-behaved children, and my dad would sometimes show us off to people he met in public by issuing commands that we automatically rushed to obey. The training was not just external; God commanded that our feelings and thoughts be pure, and this resulted in high self-discipline.

Rachael (bottom row, second from right) and her fellow homeschooled friends know to obey!

I recently came across this entry in a workbook I wrote when I was nine:


I’m hopeless.

Oh boy. I’ve got a lot to work on. I try to be obedient but it’s so hard! The more I read, the more I realize how bad I am! My problem is that when things don’t make sense to me, I don’t like them. When Dad gets mad at me for something, everything makes perfect sense to me in my mind, so I tend to resent my parents’ correction.

I have just realized that I yearn to please the lord, but why can’t I? I just can’t be good! It seems impossible. Why can’t I be perfect?

At this point, my dad was working at a tech job during the day and working in his office, writing and researching, at night. He developed a huge collection of books, with bookshelves that spanned the wall, full of Bibles and notebooks filled with theology. This was the early stages of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.


It became a sort of game to watch him go “Mormon hunting”; if he saw them on the sidewalk, he’d pull up in the car to engage them in debate. After the Mormons visited our apartment a few times, they blacklisted us, and none of them ever visited us again. My dad was always very congenial to those he debated, and most viewed him as charismatic — though his debate tactics were ruthless and often more focused on efficiency than relationship-building.



We moved to Idaho when I was 12. My dad worked at Hewlett-Packard for a while but eventually made the big decision to make CARM his full-time career.



It was around this time my dad began receiving death threats — though I didn’t find this out until later. Someone was sending him graphic pictures, descriptive threats of rape against his family, and Google images of locations near our house. He got the FBI involved. They eventually determined it was someone from across the globe and likely posed no risk to us. My parents installed a home security system after that, but it only reinforced the “us vs. them” mentality he already held. My dad spoke frequently about the people “out to destroy him” and how his “enemies” were determined to obscure and twist the truth.



I wasn’t privy to a great deal of what went on behind the scenes at CARM — likely because I too young to fully understand it. A few times a year there would usually be an “event” that would capture most of his ire. For a while, it was the Universalists who were destroying his forums. Another time, it would be his arch-nemeses in the field of women in ministry or “troublemaking” atheists. Beyond these things, I knew little, except that I was immensely proud of my dad, who was smart, confident, and knew the Truth more than anybody else. I aspired to be like him — I would be a missionary, or an apologist! (Though not a pastor; I was a woman and thus unqualified for that field.) God was shaping my destiny.



As my knowledge of Christianity grew, so did my questions — many of them the “classic” kind. If God was all-powerful and all-knowing, why did He create a race He knew was destined for Hell? How did evil exist if all of Creation was sustained by the mind of God? Why didn’t I feel His presence when I prayed? 


Having a dad highly schooled in Christian apologetics meant that every question I brought up was explained away confidently and thoroughly. Many times, after our nightly Bible study, we would sit at the table after my Mom and sisters had left and debate, discuss, and dissect the theological questions I had. No stone was left unturned, and all my uncertainty was neatly packaged away.



Atheists frequently wonder how an otherwise rational Christian can live and die without seeing the light of science, and I believe the answer to this is usually environment. If every friend, authority figure, and informational source in your life constantly repeat the same ideas, it is difficult not to believe they’re onto something. My world was built of “reasonable” Christians — the ones who thought, who questioned, who knew that what they believed was true. In the face of this strength, my own doubts seemed petty. 



There was one belief I held onto strongly, though — the one that eventually led to my undoing. I promised myself “I will never believe in Christianity simply because it feels right, otherwise I am no better than those in any other religion I debate. I must believe in Christianity because it is the Truth, and if it is ever proven otherwise, I must forsake it no matter how much it hurts.”



Twice, I attended protests. Once, in front of an abortion clinic, and another time, at the Twin Falls Mormon Temple. I went to public high school for a few months, where I brought the Bible and a picture of my parents for a show-and-tell speech of the things we valued most. I befriended Cody, a World of Warcraft nerd, for the sole purpose of telling him he was going to Hell and that he needed to repent. Every time I heard someone swear in the school hallways, I would close my eyes and pray.


I informed my parents that I wanted an arranged marriage because love was a far too emotional and dangerous prospect, and I trusted them to make an informed choice for my future far better than I ever could. My romantic exploits through puberty were negligible.



I ran away from home when I was 17 (due to reasons not pertinent to this post) and went to college the following year. I must have been a nightmare in my philosophy and religion classes, raising my hands at every opportunity and spouting off well-practiced arguments. Despite this, my philosophy professor loved me, and we would often meet after class, talking about my views on God. Even though he tried to direct me away from them, I was insistent about my beliefs: If God didn’t exist, where did morality come from? What about the beginning of the universe? Abiogenesis? There were too many questions left by the absence of God, and I could not believe in something (godlessness, in this case) that left me with so little closure. My certainty was my strength — I knew the answers when others did not.



This changed one day during a conversation with my friend Alex. I had a habit of bouncing theological questions off him, and one particular day, I asked him this: If God was absolutely moral, because morality was absolute, and if the nature of “right” and “wrong” surpassed space, time, and existence, and if it was as much a fundamental property of reality as math, then why were some things a sin in the Old Testament but not a sin in the New Testament?

Alex had no answer — and I realized I didn’t either. Everyone had always explained this problem away using the principle that Jesus’ sacrifice meant we wouldn’t have to follow those ancient laws. 
But that wasn’t an answer. In fact, by the very nature of the problem, there was no possible answer that would align with Christianity.



I still remember sitting there in my dorm room bunk bed, staring at the cheap plywood desk, and feeling something horrible shift inside me, a vast chasm opening up beneath my identity, and I could only sit there and watch it fall away into darkness. The Bible is not infallible, logic whispered from the depths, and I had no defense against it. If it’s not infallible, you’ve been basing your life’s beliefs on the oral traditions of a Middle Eastern tribe. The Bible lied to you.


Everything I was, everything I knew, the structure of my reality, my society, and my sense of self suddenly crumbled away, and I was left naked.



I was no longer a Christian. That thought was a punch to the gut, a wave of nausea and terror. Who was I, now, when all this had gone away? What did I know? What did I have to cling to? Where was my comfort? 

I didn’t know it, but I was free.



For a long time I couldn’t have sex with my boyfriend (of over a year by this point) without crippling guilt. I had anxiety that I was going to Hell. I felt like I was standing upon glass, and, though I knew it was safe, every time I glanced down I saw death. I had trouble coping with the fact that my entire childhood education now essentially meant nothing — I had been schooled in a sham. I had to start from scratch in entering and learning about this secular world. Uncertainty was not something I was accustomed to feeling. Though I had left Christianity intellectually, my emotional beliefs had yet to catch up.



Eventually I worked up the courage to announce my choice on Facebook — which generated its own share of controversy. I’m fairly certain I broke my mother’s heart. Many people accused me of simply going through a rebellious stage and that I would come around soon. Countless people prayed for me.

I don’t know how my dad reacted to my deconversion; I haven’t spoken to him since I left home.



There was no miracle to cure me of the fear and pain, no God to turn to for comfort. But it did heal. Eventually. I only barely fear Hell now, and my instinct to pray only turns up on rare occasions. For a while now, I’ve been educating myself in science, a world far more uncertain than the one I left, but also far more honest.

Rachael Slick



Someone once asked me if I would trade in my childhood for another, if I had the chance, and my answer was no, not for anything.
 My reason is that, without that childhood, I wouldn’t understand what freedom truly is — freedom from a life centered around obedience and submission, freedom to think anything, freedom from guilt and shame, freedom from the perpetual heavy obligation to keep every thought pure. Nothing I’ve ever encountered in my life has been so breathtakingly beautiful. 



Freedom is my God now, and I love this one a thousand times more than I ever loved the last one.

Personally, given the utter absurdity of Calvinism, it does not stun me that a person of her intelligence and honesty left behind this wicked  belief system.
I just find it depressing that she rejected Christianity altogether.

While I believe that creationism drives many people away from God, I think that doctrines presenting God as being morally evil are much more efficient for bringing new converts to anti-theism and I think that they plaid a decisive role in her case too.

It is worth noting that except  the problem of evil in the world (which is admittedly a tough nut to crack), all other arguments she mentioned are actually just good arguments against fundamentalism.

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85 thoughts on “The sad testimony of the daughter of a Calvinist apologist

  1. The problem is, I don’t really see any arguments from her, save for the claim that there’s no way for something to have been immoral in the old Testament, yet not immoral in the New Testament – and I think that’s trivially answered. In fact, I don’t even see all that much that has to do with Calvinism, or even Christianity intellectually. She even says herself that the main issue for her is now she can do what she wants without feeling guilty, and she feels more free as a result. That’s a sentiment you can cite even if you’re not a Calvinist. In fact, it’s probably the textbook reason a lot of Christians say is why people really end up rejecting Christianity.

    I think the problem here may be that there’s this idea that ‘people leave Christianity because it’s too demanding, it’s those close-minded conservative sorts pushing people away, it’s their young earth creationism’. In this girl’s case, it seems to have more to do with her rejecting one culture for another, and family issues. ‘She can have sex with her boyfriend now without feeling guilty.’ What is the Christian faith that regards premarital sex as A-OK and not a problem?

  2. thanks for this Marc.

    now, to challenge your understandings:

    “, given the utter absurdity of Calvinism…”

    how is this a given?

    “I just find it depressing that she rejected Christianity altogether.”

    why does this depress you?

    you have a story of a young homo sapiens spewing their guts for you, trying to explain, it appears, why and how and what lead them to their understandings about its life, and, this depresses you?

    is that what your Christ taught you?

    “presenting God as being morally evil…”

    don’t shoot the messenger, right.

    “all other arguments she mentioned are actually just good arguments against fundamentalism.”

    this one is as loaded as it gets. much too much to unpack here.

    when one homo sapien opens up their heart to you, perhaps it’s good cricket to accept the gift graciuosly; and, if s/he acclaims that s/he has found freedom/happiness, then perhaps also it’s nice of us to celebrate with them.

    • when one homo sapien opens up their heart to you, perhaps it’s good cricket to accept the gift graciuosly; and, if s/he acclaims that s/he has found freedom/happiness, then perhaps also it’s nice of us to celebrate with them.

      It’s not really a gift. She’s telling a conversion story, in part to try and argue why one view (Which others believe gives them freedom and happiness) is wrong and something she challenges. She’s not sobbing frantically, spewing her guts because she’s been forced to.

      It’s clear Lothar finds her story depressing because Lothar thinks that, at least in part, her current decision is intellectually lacking, and was partly the product of her environment. A little bit how if one ‘homo sapiens’ is raised in an abusive home they may come to dislike certain people, and that fighting certain people may make them happy – but ultimately there’s something at work there which needs to be criticized.

      Why are you afraid of having someone’s choices and claims critically examined and studied? Why do you condemn having sympathy for someone who may have made some wrong choices in part due to environmental factors?

      • @ Crude

        “It’s clear Lothar finds her story depressing…”

        it may be clear to you, but it is not clear to me, hence i asked, “why does this depress you?”

        “her current decision is intellectually lacking…”

        pour moi, the following sounds like she has been schooled to practice intellectual rigour in her thinking:

        “Conversation with him was a daily challenge. He would frequently make blatantly false statements — such as “purple dogs exist” — and force me to disprove him through debate. He would respond to things I said demanding technical accuracy, so that I had to narrow my definitions and my terms to give him the correct response. It was mind-twisting, but it encouraged extreme clarity of thought, critical thinking, and concise use of language. I remember all this beginning around the age of five.

”

        “Why are you afraid of having someone’s choices and claims critically examined and studied?”

        i’m not sure from where in my post you garnered this understanding?
        where did i show fear?

        “Why do you condemn having sympathy for someone who may have made some wrong choices in part due to environmental factors?”

        here too, in my post, not sure where i condemned having sympathy?

        i note that you took the liberty to essay answers on behalf of our host, which is all well and good. nonetheless, if i may be bold, i shall wait in joyful hope for a response from lotharson himself.

        cheers

      • Yes, I read this testimony on Rachael’s blog. As xon-xoff points out, she was trained in critical thinking by her father, at least within his system of belief. Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for Rachael, critical thinking tends to transcend belief systems.

        Martin Luther admitted it bluntly: Die Vernunft ist des Teufels höchste Hure. Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore.

        cheers and happy holidays (holy days in Old English), zilch

      • pour moi, the following sounds like she has been schooled to practice intellectual rigour in her thinking:

        Fun question:

        Do you think her father has been schooled to practice intellectual rigor in his thinking?

        Or are we in some bizarre situation where her constant interactions with her father taught her how to think critically, but somehow her father doesn’t do so?

        i’m not sure from where in my post you garnered this understanding?
        where did i show fear?

        By your worried, pleading reactions at Lothar questioning her reasoning broadly?

        here too, in my post, not sure where i condemned having sympathy?

        By reacting poorly to Lothar expressing sympathy to her state and lamenting what he thought was poor, if situationally understandable, decisions.

        zilch,

        Yes, I read this testimony on Rachael’s blog. As xon-xoff points out, she was trained in critical thinking by her father, at least within his system of belief. Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for Rachael, critical thinking tends to transcend belief systems.

        I ask the same question of you: so then you’d agree that Matthew Slick is well-trained in critical thinking, and he’s arrived at his decisions in a thoughtful, intellectually rigorous, and critical way?

        • Hello Crude, these are good points.

          Rachael was really trained to critically think, so this one example of a child traumatized by fundamentalists who do not reject an intellectual approach by any means.

          Otherwise, even if he looks quite challenging (and he truly is 🙂 ), Vernon (Xon-Xoff) seems to be quite a nice person, I skyped with him and we had a lot of fun together.

          There is a world of difference between him and angry atheists such as John Loftus, let alone with fascistic atheists like Dawkins and Boghossian.

          I don’t think he is really more challenging than you (or I for that matter) might be towards atheists under certain circumstances.

          But it is true I would appreciate if he were sometimes a bit more constructive, like Zilch 🙂

          I wish you nice preparations for the Christmas time!

      • @ Crude

        “By your worried, pleading reactions…”
        “By reacting poorly…”

        really? i’m a little flummoxed here.

        i’m curious if this understanding is shared by lotharson too?

        did i demonstrate a worried, pleading reaction, and, did i react poorly by asking a few questions to lotharson about his understanding of the young lady’s story?

        just so you know, when i wrote my original post, i was neither worried, nor was i pleading–at least as far as i can recall, being of sound mind at the time. perhaps i reacted poorly; but this, i submit, would be a value judgement on the reader’s part.

      • xon-xoff,

        just so you know, when i wrote my original post, i was neither worried, nor was i pleading–at least as far as i can recall, being of sound mind at the time. perhaps i reacted poorly; but this, i submit, would be a value judgement on the reader’s part.

        I go with the evidence I have, and make provisional decisions based on what I get. What more can I do?

        And I’d like a response to my question. See, I’m of the suspicion that we have a case where a woman trained rigorously by her father to engage in critical thinking is held up as an example of free thought and critical analysis… when she comes to the right conclusion.

        But her father has not. Therefore, he can’t be held up as an example of critical thinking and rationality just as she is – because he came to the wrong conclusion.

        Please, prove me wrong.

      • Hey crude! You ask:

        I ask the same question of you: so then you’d agree that Matthew Slick is well-trained in critical thinking, and he’s arrived at his decisions in a thoughtful, intellectually rigorous, and critical way?

        Critical thinking is not an either/or proposition. It’s a stance vis-à-vis the world that can be applied more or less consistently, rigorously, and thoughtfully. It’s not guaranteed to churn out only correct worldviews, but it’s better than any alternative I’ve seen.

        Aristotle might reasonably be called a critical thinker, right? He did get lots of stuff right. But his prejudices led him to some false ideas too- for instance, that women have fewer teeth than men.

        It’s not as simple as saying that you either have critical thinking or you don’t (is it?). But it’s a step in the right direction, especially if you apply it to all your beliefs.

        Merry Christmas and/or other holiday of your choice! Cheers from cool Vienna, zilch

      • zilch,

        Critical thinking is not an either/or proposition. It’s a stance vis-à-vis the world that can be applied more or less consistently, rigorously, and thoughtfully. It’s not guaranteed to churn out only correct worldviews, but it’s better than any alternative I’ve seen.

        Fantastic. You made it sound as if it was clear that Slick’s daughter was a critical thinker, a reasonable person who came to a reasonable belief as a result of her critical thinking.

        Can you say the same for Slick? Or are you determining whether she is or isn’t a reasonable, critical thinker pretty much on the data of ‘Well, now she has a belief I do!’?

        Aristotle might reasonably be called a critical thinker, right? He did get lots of stuff right. But his prejudices led him to some false ideas too- for instance, that women have fewer teeth than men.

        …Prejudice? Last I checked, Aristotle apparently came to that conclusion because he counted their teeth.

        It’s not as simple as saying that you either have critical thinking or you don’t (is it?). But it’s a step in the right direction, especially if you apply it to all your beliefs.

        Here’s what you said earleir: “Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for Rachael, critical thinking tends to transcend belief systems.”

        Indeed it does – including, one would suppose, atheist belief systems.

        So, back to my question. I’ll even specify it more: Are you saying that Rachel is properly applying critical belief to her beliefs, and her father isn’t?

        Because if you’re jumping back to ‘Well, I don’t know if she is or isn’t, who’s to say?’, then so much for ‘fortunately for her, and unfortunately for her father’.

    • Hi Vernon.

      I largely agree with Crude’s answer to your comment.

      I certainly respect the decision of someone having struggled with the holocaust to become an atheist, I think it might under many circumstances be the most reasonable choice.

      But having had many experiences with fundamentalism and anti-theism, it is not hard for me to reasonably assess the main reasons of her lost of faith as being due to the profound wickedness of the god she was raised to believe in.

      And I certainly believe this is a very poor ground for becoming an atheist.

      You cannot conclude from the absurdity of a theological system that there is most likely no God.

      Surely, if a Homo Sapiens were to become a young-earth creationist after hearing the arguments of Ken Ham and found joy and satisfaction in this way, you would not be particularly happy, would you? 🙂

      “, given the utter absurdity of Calvinism…”
      If you really believe that all theological systems are equal with respect to their morality and factual accuracy, there is nothing I can say here.

      • @ lotharson
        “Surely, if a Homo Sapiens were to become a young-earth creationist after hearing the arguments of Ken Ham and found joy and satisfaction in this way, you would not be particularly happy, would you?”

        actually, i would be more curious as to the reasons for the homo sapiens’ choice, as i am with this young lady you brought to our attention.

        in fact, freedom to believe is important, methinks.

        if a lifelong atheist wakes up one day and submits that the Modal Ontological Argument convinced her that your omni-god exists, then good for her. i would be generally apathetic and curious. that’s her given right, right.

        “If you really believe that all theological systems are equal with respect to their morality and factual accuracy,”

        i’m not sure what to believe. how do i evaluate the various theological claims? what’s the criteria we use to discern the factual accuracy and morality?

        “And I certainly believe this is a very poor ground for becoming an atheist.”

        what would be rich grounds for becoming an atheist?

        cheers

  3. The fact that Rachael was raised as a Calvinist belonged at the top of the post. It all made so much more sense knowing that. In Calvinism, God creates some people destined for hell, and others destined for salvation. That is a morally evil way to portray God. First of all, it robs the human dignity of conscience and free will. Secondly, the one who espouses such a view is constantly terrified of finding out, at the end of life, that they are among the damned. The only way to be certain one is not damned is to follow every precept of God as determined by Calvinists. It’s no wonder she feels free, now. Not free to do whatever she wants, but free from wondering if anything she does measures up to the legalistic standards she was taught.

    • Hello Sheila, thanks for your comment!

      I think that in most cases, angry atheists in America (and to a large extent in the whole western world) were former fundamentalists who gave up their faith because they were utterly disgusted by the immoral god they were raised to believe in.

      Were you a Calvinist? You could be interested to take a look at my series on this wicked belief system:

      https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/?s=Naked+Calvinism

      Comments are free at any time there.

      Lovely greetings from Lorraine, the land founded by king Lothar the great (and my homeland for that matter).

      • I was raised a die hard Fundamentalist, which has its own messed up way of thinking. We were exposed to Calvinism. As an adult I attended a very conservative independent Baptist church for awhile, and one of the elders was a die hard Calvinist. I’ve engaged Calvinists from time to time over the years. I’ll be interested in checking out your post. After Christmas. Have a blessed one!

  4. While I believe that creationism drives many people away from God, I think that doctrines presenting God as being morally evil are much more efficient for bringing new converts to anti-theism and I think that they plaid a decisive role in her case too.

    I doubt that, this would only work if beliefs are chosen, so that you could simply choose to believe the negation of what you used to believe because you don´t like the consequences (e.g. the God you believe in being a morally evil being).
    That´s not how it works, you cannot simply choose to believe (or stop believing) something.

    • It would be interesting to poll atheists on why they are not theists: I’m not aware of this having been done in a systematic way. My impression, which is of course not statistically valid, is that theodicy, or the Problem of Evil, is mostly claimed as the cause for loss of faith among former fundamentalist Christians. Lifelong atheist/agnostics such as myself typically find lack of evidence for God’s existence as being grounds for our belief.

      • @ zilch

        i too should like to see the results of such polls. for me personally, i think it’s similar to what you described: the lack of evidence.

        by the time i was seven, i had already given up on Christianity. it just did not make any sense to my callow brain. nonetheless, i think i remained a deist until about sixteen–i still felt that there was some kind of deity which was the grand cosmic creator/designer.

        i then spent years in research on Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Jainism, Shinto, Satanism, Spirituality, et al, from where i considered myself agnostic. by my early thirties, i came to understand that i could not ideate the concept of a god. now, at 51, i consider myself atheist: the god concepts presented to me appear to be anthropomorphed super women/men.

        on the problem of evil, i don’t know that this is a problem. stuff just happens.

      • @zilch:
        That was also my impression, I often hear the problem of evil being mentioned as a reason for deconversion (not only from former fundamentalists), but I rarely hear it from people that never were religious to begin with.

      • Lifelong atheist/agnostics such as myself typically find lack of evidence for God’s existence as being grounds for our belief.

        They’d need different evidence and arguments. An agnostic would only require, in principle, a lack of evidence. An atheist, claiming no God/god(s) exist, would require evidence for said belief.

        The latter is lacking to the point where most atheists I run into become agnostics the moment this is pointed out.

      • lothar- I tend to go with the fairly standard modern definitions: atheist means “not believing in gods” and agnostic means “not claiming to be certain about one’s beliefs”. I would call myself an agnostic atheist.

        xon-xoff- yep, I spent a fair amount of time looking at other belief systems, especially the Ba’hais. But I never found anything that didn’t seem like just another story.

        And yeah, the problem of evil is only a problem if you think God is good in any sort of way comparable to human good. If God has different ideas about what is good, then anything goes.

        holiday cheer to you and yours, zilch

      • @ crude

        ” An atheist, claiming no God/god(s) exist, would require evidence for said belief.”

        i do not assert that there are no gods. i do not think i have the wherewithal to make such a claim.

        “when she comes to the right conclusion.”

        where did anyone claim that the young lady came to a right conclusion?

        “because he came to the wrong conclusion.”

        where did anyone claim that her father came to a wrong conclusion?

        “atheist belief systems.”

        pray, do tell, what are these?

        i was not aware that there are atheist belief systems.

        buon feste from South Italy

      • I tend to go with the fairly standard modern definitions: atheist means “not believing in gods” and agnostic means “not claiming to be certain about one’s beliefs”. I would call myself an agnostic atheist.

        To me, it depends a lot on the particular conception of the particular God that is in question. For some conceptions of some Gods, I would call myself a gnostic atheist, I don´t merely disbelief in the God that Ken Ham argues for, I believe that this God *demonstrably* cannot exist. For other conceptions of some Gods, I am an agnostic atheist, particular for those that are trivially compatible with every conceivable observation. And for yet other concepts of God, I am simply completely indifferent as to whether they do exist or not (I couldn´t care less whether the “God” that Karen Armstrong describes actually does exist or not for example – its existence or non-existence doesn´t seem to be of any relevance whatsoever to me).

    • Beliefs need to be informed. If you decide not to follow other views, then your beliefs will likely remained untouched. But if you are curious, as is Rachael, and you have critical thinking skills, you cannot help but take note of what else is out there in the marketplace of ideas. And, you can absolutely change how you believe. I was raised in a very strict Fundamentalist home, where we were taught that Roman Catholicism is a cult. I learned that the information I had been given about RC was wrong. I not only changed my beliefs about the Church, today I am a Roman Catholic. Yes, you can choose to change your beliefs.

      • Yes, you can choose to change your beliefs.

        No, you cannot. Your beliefs can change, but only as a consequence of a process like the one you described – by getting access to new information (like the information about Catholicism that your parents withheld from you), by hearing new arguments, seeing new evidence, reading, discussing, experiencing and so on and so forth. You *become* persuaded (or not), but you cannot *choose* to be persuaded by somthing. Try it out if you don´t believe me, just pick anything you believe in and freely choose, out of the blue, to genuninely(!) believe its negation.

        • Semantics. New information demands a choice: will you believe the information or not? But, I don’t really care. You can have this point if you so, um, if you so choose….

        • Ah, but you really can’t. When new information enlightens you, your belief will be changed. (Unless you choose to ignore or reject new information, of course). Belief entails being persuaded about the veracity of a claim. Whether for good reasons or bad ones, you generally don’t choose what you believe. Learning about the null position and how that can push you to find verification of a claim is what we all should know.

      • Ah, but you really can’t. When new information enlightens you, your belief will be changed. (Unless you choose to ignore or reject new information, of course). Belief entails being persuaded about the veracity of a claim. Whether for good reasons or bad ones, you generally don’t choose what you believe. Learning about the null position and how that can push you to find verification of a claim is what we all should know.

  5. Rachael:

    Thank you for sharing your testimony. I can feel a lot of pain in your story.

    Whether or not your parents were Calvinists, it is important to develop your own voice in life and to differentiate yourself from your parents. Like the Prodigal son, we cannot come home until we have properly left it. Keep in mind, however, your parents are likely also going through pain with your distancing. Perhaps during the holidays, find some neutral ground to see where they are at.

    When I was a teen, my church fired the youth director that brought me out of my shell. For about three years I refused to enter a church voluntarily because I was so bitter about her firing. After that point, I realized that my problem was not with God, but rather with the elders in my church. At that point, I began attending church again and became active in leadership. Much later, I discovered a call to ministry.

    Atheism is a parasitic religion–it is the religion of the not–I am not this; not that; not the other. It feels good but is no help in living a balanced life.

    When you are ready, please give God a piece of your mind. God appreciates rage–it is a real emotion and it implicitly takes Him seriously. If you need help expressing your rage, read through the psalms.

    Stephen

  6. So wait: She ran away from home and realized that Christianity was really difficult. Then she heard one of the simplest, easiest to answer questions about Christianity and all of a sudde, when it just so happened that there was a lot more temptation to sin around nher (and a lot more fun to be had), she just then found this objection, “unanswerable”, which is great for her because now she can sin without feeling guilty.

    Color me unimpressed with her “critical thinking”.

    • It seems that might only be a part of the explanation.

      According to my own experience, such people leave the faith because of the evil features of the god they were taught to believe.

      You are right that some folks give up Christianity because they find it difficult but they are in the minority.

      I don’t know Rachael personally and prefer to be charitable towards her and don’t see any reason to suppose she is more flawed than I myself am.

      • I don’t assume anybody is more flawed than me. Who’s to say I’m the better person? I’m merely going by the information she gave, and I have to say that I don’t think it paints her “conversion” in a very good light at all.

        And Merry Christmas!

  7. “Freedom is my God now, and I love this one a thousand times more than I ever loved the last one.”

    The crazy thing is seeing where Rachael’s freedom has taken her. She’s now working in porn as a “camgirl” under the name Aella_Girl.

    • The crazy thing is seeing where Rachael’s freedom has taken her. She’s now working in porn as a “camgirl” under the name Aella_Girl.

      Ah young woman enjoying amateur porn? Oh the humanity! Thank God that we have morally upstanding, stalking (which is of course totally not creepy as fuck) menly men like you to put that bitch into her place. By all means, do continue your important stalking-and-watching-porn mission from that moral high ground of yours. Happy fapping!

      @Marc: it´s your blog but I´d strongly recommend to delete that comment (or at least the link to his blog) and my reply to it.

    • Hello, I must say that your behavior is utterly disgusting and unchristian.

      Jesus never put shame on sinners, on the contrary he was very compassionate towards prostitutes and Rachael is very far from being one.

      By acting in this ignoble way, you are strengthening her feeling that Christianity is evil.

      I really urge you for God’s sake to destroy your website, apologize and repent .

      I hope you will have the gut to answer me.

      • Sorry lotharson, answer what? It’s cool to discuss Rachael’s “sad testimony” as long as we don’t connect her very public personas to get a more accurate picture of how sad her life truly is?

        If anything, her story is a sad testimony of the hardcore patriarchy fundamentalist homeschool movement, which IMO is harmful to women and the Gospel.

        Sorry to ruffle your feathers. Heaps of shame on me, I guess.

  8. Lothar, I doubt this has anything to do with Calvinism; I think it has to do with fundamentalism and following the Not in Heaven doctrine.

    Freedom is my God now, and I love this one a thousand times more than I ever loved the last one.

    This is an extremely interesting statement, given that unless we reign in our freedom, we can do nothing. For example, let’s say I want to play a sport. If I do not follow the rules, I cannot play it properly. I have to discipline myself to do things the right way, to build up skill. Indeed, skill is wise rule-following to obtain valued ends.

    Os Guinness especially focuses on freedom to, and not just freedom from. We only have freedom to build things if we understand the rules for how to build them, and follow those rules. You cannot get a society without rules. You cannot get science without rules.

    The error that I think/hope Rachael Slick and others are reacting to is an ossification of the rules, kind of like that stone heart that Ezekiel 36 talks about. It’s like thinking that F = ma is utterly and completely true, instead of a good approximation for certain situations. When the Apostle Paul talks about ‘works righteousness’, I am convinced he is talking about following some ossification of the rules, instead of being forever open to God continually pulling us to live in better and better ways. The latter requires believing God; the former just requires following rules and punishing others when they don’t.

    The Christian says that unconditional love is something of supreme value, but something that can only be required by living according to rules, such as being faithful to someone. Those who refuse to live by those rules may never know the joy of the result of doing so. Crucially, sometimes you have to believe before you get evidence. I think this is the essence of faith. It is a risk: maybe your faith will be misplaced. The Christian says that it is worth the risk.

    • @ labreuer

      “Crucially, sometimes you have to believe before you get evidence.”

      how does one believe before the evidence is “got”?

      and, how does the evidence become “gotten” after one believes?

      moreover, if something is evidence, perhaps it should be evident whether or not i believe, yes?

      • I call it ‘tentative belief’. As to ‘how’, it’s the slightest bit of doxastic voluntarism. I believe ‘choice’ is possible, even though I don’t know how on either a logical or naturalistic basis.

        Some tentative beliefs turn out to be wrong. The longer you go without evidence, the more likely it seems that they were wrong.

        Perhaps you find it odd that I subscribe to having beliefs which I allow to be falsified?

  9. Hi Rachel,

    Very Sad what happen to you Rachel.

    Having endure a Stealth Covert Hyper-Neo Calvinist sneak his toxic Methodology in our own church, who embraced a Sin Centered Ministry rather than a Christ Centered Ministry who actually emphasized he will not center his Ministry around love…has compelled me to say you aren’t the only one exposed to toxic “Methodologies.”

    I suspect that in Rachel’s situation the “Methodology” you were exposed to, didn’t embrace enough of certain scriptures, in particular 1 Corinthians 13:13,,,”Now these three remain: Faith, Hope and Love. But the greatest of these is Love.”

    In a strict smothering environment if your parents actually loved her (and I’m sure they did) it was their lack of Biblical balance that made it virtually impossible for you to identify and see any kind of identifiable love directed at you, which was then exacerbated by lack of Biblical knowledge of how to raise kids. (and for Husbands and Wives to even love each other)

    My impression is I’m sure there was also a lot of tension even between your parents, because if they embraced such a harsh view of avoiding biblical verses regarding Love. (the abusive one’s like to proclaim they embrace “tough love”)

    I’m also understand impression your parents was exposed to something very toxic from those that embraced of reckless interpretation of scriptures and a reckless interpretation of Love.

    Rachel, I see a sensitivity in you that wants to embrace being a loving person…and though you don’t proclaim a belief in God,,,,I think we all can agree what 1 Corinthians 13:13 says in that “Love” is greater than Faith and Hope.

    In Love
    Mark

  10. I can’t believe in the Calvinist version of God because if he controls every aspect of everything then when he sent Jesus, he did it save us from himself. I have never found a Calvinist that would address this issue. I do see some spectacular tap dancing around scripture but no one can directly address this inevitable Calvinist delema.

  11. I’m kind of late to this thread, but I hope I have something valuable to share, perhaps a constructive criticism. We Calvinists enforce, sometimes, a rigid discipline that is difficult for a child of Adam to perform, nay, even a born again child of God with opposing natures. Have we ever considered that, perhaps, we are usurping the right of the Holy Spirit to work in His Children, running our households like His work is our job, like bootcamp? I served during the Vietnam War when bootcamp was 12 weeks. Boy, was I ever happy to get out of there. I felt free, but I rarely acted like a reprobate. The Holy Spirit works on his schedule, in His time, in His way, and we want to force everything on the unwilling, and the result is rebellion. The Holy Spirit works in another way, working within us with the water of the Word, and with power, softening the strongholds of resistance, creating a new heart. We can’t do that. Zechariah 4:6

  12. Robert Sparks: Yes, we Calvinists teach that Jesus’ sacrifice was to propitiate God, who would be our judge and punisher. After all, it was God whom Adam and his progeny offended, being sinners, and sinning, against His holiness.

  13. Not a surprise. Salvation is not human decision. It is God’s. There are many who profess to be Christians but actually they are not.

    • Your comment is an excellent example of the fatalism and smug, self-righteousness of Calvinism. There is no good news except for the elect.

    • True Calvin is the reply. The premier example of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. You have no idea what it is like to fervently believe, only to discover your belief is resting on nothing solid. I can tell you that I was a devoted born-again, baptized believer in Christ until I was 60. People like you who claim to read minds are the worst of the worst in Christianity.

  14. I find the churches breaking free of me. In the 1980’s the Religious Right swept in as the prevailing dogma, and what would have been lofty doctrine and actions was dumbed down to “family values”. This was a strong enough worldview to plunge the US into the most disastrous foreign policy decision in Iraq since World War. And also block a moderate Republican from office. Now the political pendulum is swinging the other way. Religious right is out, arcane liturgies, rap music services, tattoos are in, in the emerging church movement.

    Thanks, but no thanks, Now I’m finding discovering the real history of mankind more interesting: There are cultures that were established in the Fertile Crescent thousands of years before Abraham and have left tell tale remnants unearthed by archaeologists in the last decades. They may have walked the same journey that Abraham took—but they must have had their own legends that went back to when their tribal societies were young. They domesticated grains and farm animals and settled in villages in southern Turkey and Northern Iraq, and we are finally discovering those, And even a temple or two to the animals they hunted and apparently worshipped in some way..They later formed written languages that the Hebrews adopted and changed as they became elitists in Babylon.

  15. It seems to me that a theological tradition which emphasizes the absolute sovereignty of God as the paramount truth to know and respond to has produced a particular father who reveled in treating his own daughter as if he were her sovereign. Rachael rightly rejected that first, then when finally free of that, got lost in a sea of self-rationalizations that will only seem to satisfy for a while. It seems to me that she’ll realize she hasn’t considered and rejected the very real God, only a version of Him which is lopsided. I hope and pray that she is drawn back to the true God, and can learn to embrace some of His mystery as a real Person, and not just some half-baked logic puzzle. God loves you Rachel– the One Who knows you best loves you the most. This is a far more important issue than just coming of age and exploring your true faith; these are the years which begin to define the cast and tenor of your sojourn in life. Fearing hell is no reason to live well; only coming to know God’s true character as revealed by Jesus by the Spirit’s prompting can begin to do that. There’s a great gift, waiting to be unwrapped, in your particular sojourn. Don’t lose sight of that and neglect to ever open it. You also have a good friend in Lothar. Cheers!

    • And which “true” God should she believe in? The Calvinist one? Or perhaps any of the other denominations’ Gods? Maybe that “true” God is Roman Catholic, Eastern, or Orthodox. I’ll save Rachael the trouble, since it took me nearly 60 years of searching: none of the above!

  16. Thank you. I deeply appreciate the story of your journey, Rachel. And yes, I am sorry that your faith was only in a book. I am an apologist. I am a theologian. And, I resonate with your questions. The Triune One is willing is with you. He has never left you. Even in 2 Timothy 2, it says that He remains faithful, even when we are faithless. And, the truest freedom is something you may not have yet found. It is indeed, for freedom that we have been set free (Galatians 5). And, I believe that this freedom is what Paul talks about in Philippians 3: simply that we come to know God. Jesus, a Person is the Way and The Truth, and The Life… The Bible absolutely points us to Him. But the Bible is not a magic decoder ring: it is an exquisite icon pointing us forward to a deeper Reality. This freedom allows us to have questions. This freedom allows us to Love Him, feel Loved, and Love others because we come to find that we are absolutely swimming in Him. This freedom allows us to understand that God is an Artist, not just an engineer in some control room, throwing switches and pulling levers; he works within and through the imperfections of people, institutions and cultures. This freedom allows us to understand that the utter sovereignty of God is often proved by His Love that will not compel us against our will. If you ever desire to talk, or dialog on questions – I would be available. I am currently working in international education in China, but often make time to walk through people with their questions. Yes, data and logic are wonderful tools, but without the relationship – they predictably fall flat. Grace and peace to you.

    • Your interpretation of the NT is no more nor less authoritative than anyone else who claims to be rightly dividing the word of “truth”. You all cannot be correct, but all of you can be wrong.

      • You are absolutely correct. Truth is simply what it is. And it is way above my pay grade to ever assume that I am the one who is correct. It is fair to say that truth is true… But it is never my place to assume that my thinking is the only right answer. Thank you for your insight

          • Best regards to you @sheila0405. I do indeed understand the dynamic of which you speak throughout the conversations above. I have been down through dark paths of multiple crises of faith in my own life… I will not bore you with the details, but may I assure you that some of my losses have been catastrophic and painful beyond words. And, what I have found, is that solid, critical thinking actually leads us back to a choice: to believe or not to believe.

            My sense (only an opinion) is that The Creator has deliberately Designed into us this freedom, and abides with us in Love as we struggle… However, my years as an engineer in high-tech, and then as an educator in international education, never prepared me for Him revealing Himself to me in some very personal ways.

            While I must leave open the possibility that I have had some sort of “break from reality,” my sense is that I have actually met the Person of Christ, through His Holy Spirit – and the result is a completely different existence. Upon my full surrender and a choice to simply trust Him as God (and The Way back Home one day), and see myself as the created (thus in need of The Creator), what has flowed into my life is a Love and care for God, myself, and others that I cannot explain.

            I have many atheists in my courses here in China… But what I have found is that, as vital as they are, solid critical thinking and logical arguments do not move the dialog very much… Usually they create more separation. No, the path forward is to enter into appropriate relationships with people and just plain walk alongside them. (I heard someone say: “nobody cares how much I know, until they know how much I care.”)

            This pluralism does not require me to give up my hard-fought and found identity, but it does require that I see the person in front of me as exquisitely valuable, and worthy of the same freedom for which we were both created. And I guess, it is only in this space that I feel I have ever really learned from another, and/or enabled them to see with a few rays of The Light that i have discovered.

            Grace and peace to you from 中国天津 (Tianjin, China).

          • I am sorry that I just saw this. I am glad for you. I once believed as you do. I am happy for me. We both appear to enjoy where we have landed in life.

  17. I see her point and sadly agree with her. She was right to reject Christianity altogether. I am a Christian myself, but God doesn’t need that in order to love us. Our response to it makes no difference in its response to us, it loved us and saved us, period. I am happy for her for having found freedom. 🙂

  18. Her argument is based upon a false presupposition, that what was considered immoral in the Old Testament is not in the New. This is a blatant non sequitur based upon false theology. Christ did not abolish the Law. He declared so: Think not that I am come to destroy the Law… not one jot or tittle shall pass from the Law. Were the Law abolished, there would no need to repent or be saved. Christ put to death the CURSE of the Law, the death penalty that was against us, when He took that Judgment upon Himself. The Law still exists because God is Immutable and Holy and He declared “be holy as I am Holy”–and therefore the moral standard for us cannot change. Darkness never becomes light. Evil never becomes good. Immorality never becomes moral. The epistles of John were the last written in the Bible. He speaks of sin and repentance, which would be senseless had the Law been abolished: for there could be no sin. John wrote that he who says he knows God and keepeth not His Commandments is a liar (that is, HE DOES NOT KNOW GOD) and the Truth is not in him. Those who are so easily confused to think that Christ abolished God’s Law (even though He said that He did NOT–and thus, they follow a false christ, not knowing Christ’s Voice) are under profound delusion and don’t know God–they don’t know His Self-Revealed Nature, but they project their sinful, feeble, corrupt, confused humanity onto God and then falsely infer that God is the way they are, and thus, the humanist (whether he realizes that he is such or not) creates “God” in man’s own image. But God rebukes such, “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself, but I will rebuke you and set things [more properly, truth] in order before your eyes”.

    Sin, John defines, is transgression of the Law. The Law was NEVER for salvation. The Law is God’s “House Rules” He expects His children to follow. The sacrifice of animals provided a temporary atonement until Christ came. The curse of the Law was against us was paid in full and thus cancelled, and the means of salvation was fulfilled in the Eternal Sacrifice of Christ. The problem is humanism in false theology and the blindness of God’s people–most of whom don’t know Him, according to John. How TRAGIC that this girl, with all she knew, based her entire life-changing decision of a false presupposition. That is like a young girl killing herself after reading her boyfriends love-letter to another girl… when in reality, the love-letter was written to her.

    My dad raised me similar to her. Same thick leather belt (an old mail carrier bag strap he got somewhere, flea market maybe), had us line up for company, perform on command… answers had to be “yes SIR”, “no SIR”. No interrupting. No talking back. Have the proper attitude. We played chess. Had family devotions. Memorized questions. No trial seemeth joyous at the present. It seemed like Hell. But Scripture commands, “Train up a child…” not “do what your child says ‘feels good’.” Part of the reason society has been destroyed is because parents let their children raise themselves–or let the public schools and media and their friends raise them! and another reason is atheistic professors who turn them from the truth with good sounding but sterile arguments, and off on their own, without their parents, impressionable young minds are easily confused.

    See my book trilogy: God and Evil, Does God Repent?, and The Sovereignty of God.

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