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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Blogging as a spiritual experience

Deutsche Version: Das Bloggen als spirituelle Erfahrung .

 

I have begun to blog several months ago after I realized it would be good to write down some of the numerous thoughts which go though my mind. Despite their tentative and evolving nature I have the hope they can be useful to other people dealing and struggling with similar issues.

I am deeply disturbed by the fact that legitimate debates and discussions between Christians and atheists are degenerating into rhetorical tricks, name-calling and emotional bullying.

Since I began blogging and commenting I’ve been confronted with very hostile people from both extremes of the political and religious spectrum (needless to say that their enmity was sometimes due to mistakes I did).

I have progressively realized that this represents a wonderful opportunity for me to follow one of Jesus hardest comments, namely loving one’s enemies like oneself.

 

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I haven’t real enemies in my real life and I almost never encounter people showing any kind of hostility against me. Things look really different on the Internet where many folks can allow themselves to be aggressive, disdainful and hateful without having to fear any personal consequence, being protected by the veil of anonymity.

This is where the temptation comes in to respond to this by using the same means. As Christians, it is vital to ask oneself, at that moment how one can love the other person in spite of her behavior, that is how to search her good despite all the anger one might feel inside.

Rebuking and using irony might sometimes be in order but NEVER with the goal to break her.

All this Internet experiences show me I have a lot of progresses to achieve in many respects. But this can be a marvelous way to become more and more loving and compassionate.

And as the apostle Paul would say, if I possess the best arguments of the world but don’t have love, I am nothing.

 

 

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A Lesbian coming out as a commited Christian

Interview with Kimberly Knight about progressive faith and tolerance

I had the immense opportunity to have a chat conversation with Kimberly Knight, who spoke of her experience as being a passionate follower of Christ while being gay in an American context.

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I report it as vividly as it happened. Both of us would be glad if her testimony would be of help for other struggling Christians.

Kimberly Knight: Hi there, so sorry. I took a little nap and it went a bit longer than I planned :$

Lothars Sohn: Alright I know that all too well :=) One feels kind of frustrated after that, doesn’t one? 😉

Kimberly Knight: 🙂

Lothars Sohn: Anyway I’m so glad and thankful you’ve accepted my invitation!

Kimberly Knight: my pleasure

Lothars Sohn: So I would like this to be more a conversation than an interview. So if you wish you can ask me things back

Kimberly Knight: ok – sounds good

Lothars Sohn: What would you tell us if you were to sum up the most important steps of your life?

Kimberly Knight: Wow, that is a big question…When asked, a few key places in my journey come to my mind: my childhood with my parents, though not perfect, was formative in good and challenging ways.I was fortunate to have both of my parents together until the day my mother died in her 60s…

Lothars Sohn: I’m sorry for that…it must have been very painful

Kimberly Knight: I was raised in the southern US and much of our lives revolved around food – holidays, daily meals, friendships.

Lothars Sohn: Is that not the case EVERYWHERE in America? 😉

Kimberly Knight: indeed but there’s nothing as good as southern fried chicken, buttermilk cornbread and a huge potof collard greens…I felt loved by my parents even if over the years it was clear we were so very different.

Lothars Sohn: I know that feeling all too well.

An important part of my faith journey happened when I was a teenager, we attended a church named Confederate Ave. A Baptist Church in downtown Atlanta. We worshiped with an all white congregation and I really felt like I belonged there, I loved the church, the youth group and the Wednesday night suppers.

Well, there is one Sunday that I will never forget.  The church was packed, more than I had ever seen. This was in the early 80s and people who had been members but not attending for some time were present. The reason that everyone came that day was to vote about a membership request and behold, the custodian for the church, an elderly black man, wanted to join the church. I understood that to mean he wanted to give his life to Christ that is how we talked about it, joining the church meant giving your life to Christ.

But when I witnessed the congregation voting, by a show of hands in the sanctuary, whether or not he would be allowed to join, I was devastated because it seemed to my young self that they were deciding whether or not he could give his life to Christ.

So in that instant I understood for the first time what religion looked like – and it looked like humans deciding who was worthy of God and who was not.

Lothars Sohn: Yes!

So I walked away from the church that day not to return for a decade but – i went to college and studied religion

Lothars Sohn: to a secular college?

Kimberly Knight: yes I thought a wholly academic approach would appease my mind and my heart

[Lothars Sohn: I had a similar feeling…

Kimberly Knight: well, that is what i told myself

Lothars Sohn: you were young…

Kimberly Knight: yes so I took my sweet time in undergraduate school and I was starting to understand who I was – well, i was confused and was trying to NOT understand who I was Through a series of bad and then somewhat better choices I was now attending a United Methodist church in my neighborhood

Lothars Sohn: and then you probably wondered: does God really want that for my earthly life?….

And my pastor (who would later come out too and start a UCC church) introduced me to my now partner and it was like God smacked me in the head with a cosmic frying pan. As I began to enter seminary I also started coming out and  I could feel God walking with me in such a tangible way like I had never felt before. 

When I kissed my wife for the very first time, I knew I was home though I kept waiting for it to feel bad, dirty and wrong – gross even, but it only felt more right every time she kissed or touched me and so I began the long process of shedding my old life and claiming the next part of my journey as God wanted it for me.

That is a long answer and there are many more points on the journey but – there you go

Lothars Sohn: of course, it was very poetically described :=)

Kimberly Knight: thank you – I have never blogged about that – not yet but likely will soon

Lothars Sohn: I’m looking forward to it! Now would be my next question

It is clear that (conservative) Evangelicalism in America is facing a great crisis. An increasing number of clever young people are leaving conservative and fundamentalist churches and oftentimes become very resentful atheists. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?

Kimberly Knight: That we are in a great shift….some are calling it another Great Awakening in America

Lothars Sohn: For me it would be a Awakening if those folks gave up their wicked theological beliefs and worshiped a truly loving God instead of becoming militant atheists.

Kimberly Knight: I believe some people, with hungry minds and open hearts are engaging the Bible in ways they were specifically trained not to – with questions and faith rather than certitude and dogma

Lothars Sohn: I hope so, but I have experienced all too often how people who were fundamentalists turned into nasty antitheists who want to destroy every religion and oftentimes even Socialism for that matter

Kimberly Knight: indeed but that is not what I am seeing in the Emergent movement

There are plenty of atheists who are really just angry at religion and God but in the emergent movement something else is happening and it is becoming more progressive and it is moving toward activism.

Lothars Sohn: That’s also what I am aiming at with my blog.

Kimberly Knight: me too, exactly

Lothars Sohn: I am sure that fundamentalism is destroying Christianity

Kimberly Knight: well, in some ways – but it also may end up saving it, that is a weird thing to say, let me explain… perhaps the best thing to happen for LGBT rights is Westboro Baptist nonsense

Lothars Sohn: I understand but feel sad about them, often angry but also sad. I wish them to get “saved” from their wickedness.

Kimberly Knight: me too…but, if American Christianity had just idled along as bland and ineffective that might have killed it and was killing it, since that is not Christian either. But with the willful ignorance and the twisted rendering of the bible, people had something to get mad at – to awake from and were so tied to a life within the church they had to seek for answers that still equaled God

Lothars Sohn: This leads us to my next question

On of the purposes of my blog is to defend a form of progressive Christianity which is intellectually honest and rationally and morally acceptable.

One complaint of militant atheists (the so-called New Atheists) is that liberal and progressive Christians are dangerous because they legitimize the existence of fundamentalism. I believe that in quite a few cases they are unfortunately right since many liberals AVOID confrontations to preserve “the Christian unity“.

What should we do about that?

Kimberly Knight: Oh, well I do not avoid confrontation as you see 🙂

Lothars Sohn: yep!

Kimberly Knight: and yes, plenty of my progressive sisters and brothers criticize me for not being gentle and loving (which I am) or for not being a bridge builder (which I am)

Lothars Sohn: but Jesus was confronting some of the pharisees of his time all the time those who had a wicked theology and behavior

Kimberly Knight: I feel called, in no uncertain terms, to confront that which has hijacked the gospel. not that God needs little me to defend God but because I feel called to be very clear that what many Americans think about Christians, God and Jesus are obsoletely wrong and it is wrong for me to remain silent when I can speak up

Lothars Sohn: For the readers, could you please put the NALT project in a nutshell?

Kimberly Knight: Hmm, well that is not my project and I have not even recorded a video yet but i can try: it is a project, inspired by the It Gets Better video project where progressive Christians are invited to share a video talking about how they understand their faith, primarily in terms of love and radical hospitality

Lothars Sohn: that speaks to my heart 🙂

Kimberly Knight: Create a video, upload it to YouTube and tag it with the appropriate words and key pharses and then let NALT know it is out there

Lothars Sohn: I am sure this is going to have much success

Kimberly Knight: I hope so and I know it has been criticized (exactly for why you mentioned)

Lothars Sohn: and I hope this will also show to the non-Christian world that we don’t agree with what fundamentalists are doing

Kimberly Knight: but I am a fan of the project if it saves one life, prevents one person from believing that God hates them

So here is a question for you: why the name Lothars Sohn?

Lothars Sohn: I come from Lorraine/Lothringen, a region in France with a German-speaking part, expect that the French government destroyed our culture and language

 Kimberly Knight: I am sorry to hear that

Lothars Sohn: I am proud of my root and have taken “Lothar’s son” as name in honor of king Lothar the founder of my region.

And like the Israelite are sometimes described as being the children of Abraham I am a child of Lothar 🙂

Kimberly Knight: cool

Lothars Sohn: Did you take a look at my theological argument for the acceptance of homosexuality? I think it is extremely compelling

Kimberly Knight: I have not yet, I am sorry – can you resend the link…this latest blog post about my seminary has taken a great deal more energy than I imagined

 Lothars Sohn: Alright! No problem.

Kimberly Knight: and now I am supposed to be writing a sermon for tomorrow

Lothars Sohn: You can perhaps hope that the Holy Ghost will transfer all words to your brain tomorrow at 09 am 😉

Kimberly Knight: that is apparently what I am counting on

Lothars Sohn: But let’s move forward if that’s the case.

Many conservative Christians agrees that homophobia is morally wrong while holding fast on the idea that homosexuality is inherently sinful. They teach that the desires are not sinful but that God demands from homosexual to always remain single but that one should encounter them with compassion.

What is your response to this widely held belief?

Kimberly Knight: LOL, well, that they are wrong

Well, here is why – I believe in a created universe and us as creatures created by our creator in that universe and I know that God – who is love – did not create millions of people that are expcted to remain single and in pain for their whole lives. We are created for relationships.

Lothars Sohn: yeah, I often say to grow in our ability to give and receive love

Kimberly Knight: and some are created to love people of a different gender and some are create to love people of the same gender and there are scads and scads of biblical arguments we could engage in but if in the end we are not acting out of love and compassion, then the answer is always wrong

Lothars Sohn: That’s no problem for homosexuality but I am struggling a lot

with pedophilia which is undoubtedly harmful (unlike homosexuality or trans sexuality)

and people never choose a pedophilic orientation

Kimberly Knight: right

Lothars Sohn: why would a good God allow that…I struggle a lot with that problem…

Kimberly Knight: but that is an orientation that is based on predatory behavior…Ah – that is a good question and that is the theodicy question right?

why does God allow cancer or earthquakes or rape or domestic violence?

Lothars Sohn: it’s part of it but it’s more than that

because human evil is supposed to stem from our free will

but many psychopaths and pedophiles have no such free will, they are evil from their early childhood onwards.

How can God, how can we hold them accountable, if they were wired that way so to speak?

Kimberly Knight: because what they do robs another of their humanity and anything that robs another of their humanity – anything that causes such pain or death even…

One can only be guilty if one have had the choice to do otherwise and psychopaths seem to be machines which have been programmed to kill.

Kimberly Knight: not really and there is a difference between guilt and evil or guilty and wrong

Lothars Sohn: yeah I would say it’s bad, terribly bad what they do

Kimberly Knight: and so, they must be stopped by other humans with free will who understand that what they do harms innocent people

Lothars Sohn: Yes but I believe that no psychopath will end up in hell for having done what his brain was programmed to, God will redeem him

Kimberly Knight: well, I am not sure what I think about heaven and hell

Lothars Sohn: Welcome to the club, I am also unsure about heaven and hell 🙂

Kimberly Knight: All I know is that the life we have to live should be lived with love and compassion and yes, I may have compassion for the murderer and understand that they were broken by the evil free will of others likely

Lothars Sohn: sometimes yes

Kimberly Knight: but I can still believe they must be stopped from perpetuating the cycle

Lothars Sohn: Of course! And I try to take very seriously Jesus call to love our FOES

Kimberly Knight: yes, that is the hardest of all

Lothars Sohn: But to my mind God can only be just and good if He offered eternal life to everyone truly desiring him

I don’t know that but I diligently hope it is true 🙂

Kimberly Knight: me too

Lothars Sohn: Otherwise I am dumbstruck by the fact that conservative American Christians focus most of their attention on homosexuality and abortion. But when I ask them about the communism within the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles, they say it was bound to a specific time and place and is no longer valid today.

How do they manage doing this?

Kimberly Knight: the way all humans do – we see what we want and we ignore what we do not, they read the bible through the lens of their desire

Lothars Sohn: Is it not ironic that they pretend they are the ones who take EVERYTHING in the Bible seriously

Kimberly Knight: yes

Lothars Sohn: the people holding the view that homosexuality is sinful are often good persons who are wrong and sometimes even brainwashed. How can we encounter them in a spirit of love while not hesitating to point out their errors?

Kimberly Knight: i suppose it depends on their posture and by that I mean, if they are content to love and not try to create secular laws based on their religion and are not about hurting or changing anyone, then we can likely be in relationship and being in relationship does more to point out errors than telling them so

Lothars Sohn: True enough! But even people wanting to turn America into a theocracy can have a good heart even if they are terribly misguided…

Kimberly Knight: oh yes, and I have met them many times and there is rarely a thing I can say to change their mind so sometimes relationship is not even possible

Lothars Sohn: that’s the real tragedy of fundamentalism of any kind, religious and secular alike

Kimberly Knight: yes and that is what makes it unChristian because if we can not be in relationship and find a way to love one another then we are going against the will of God as revealed in the Incarnation

Lothars Sohn: And they often bully emotionally those they view as their enemies

Kimberly Knight: oh yes

Lothars Sohn: but many militant atheists who are former fundamentalists bully their enemies in the same way, in a very unrighteous manner

Kimberly Knight: yep, equally as wrong

Lothars Sohn: How should we react as Christians when confronted with such bullies?

Kimberly Knight: sometimes it is walking away, sometimes it is confronting them

Lothars Sohn: Consider someone for instance who says that in the LONG term, he wishes “fags” to be put to death. The Westboro baptists aren’t the only ones out there who want the state to murder homosexuals.

Kimberly Knight: then I confront them with truth and then walk away

Lothars Sohn: yes, Jesus did that!

My honest investigation of the Bible has led me to the conclusion that the books considered as Canonical are NOT more inspired than other religious books.

What is your own view of the Bible?

I know it’s a big one 🙂

Kimberly Knight: oh I agree, I have for a very long time…I am reading (off and on) The New New Testament. an interesting collection

Lothars Sohn: and what is the NNT?

Kimberly Knight: a compilation of canonical and non-canonical texts into a new canon but of course it leaves out plenty that could be there

Lothars Sohn: And what kind of texts are those?

Kimberly Knight: it is an extended version of the New Testament including very early Christian texts having been rejected by the Church. Sleep well!

Now we have touched on many topics during this conversation and we would be extremely glad to learn what our readers think about all of this.

 

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Is John Loftus a consistent biological robot? Can he avoid redefinitions?

Alex from the website http://www.skeptiko.com

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dealing with paranormal topics interviewed the militant atheist John Loftus.

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I am going to offer my random thoughts as the dialog went forward.

John is a former conservative Christian who has been emotionally abused by Christian fundamentalism which taught him he had to worship an evil God along with an inerrant Bible.

He became a resentful atheist and now seek to destroy the whole Christendom at all costs.

The topic of the interview was the so-called Outsider Test of Faith (OTF) which aims at pushing Christians to evaluate their religion in the same they critically considered other religions.

As a progressive Christian, I completely agree with that!
Actually, when conservative Evangelicals from the website “AnsweringMuslims.com” point out that the Koran is false because it includes immoral stuff, I evoke worse atrocities in the Bible and tell them with love that they ought to treat Muslims as they themselves would like to be treated by Antitheists. Alas I have never gotten any kind of response from them.

I believe that the Biblical Canon is not MORE inspired than book outside the Canon and when discussing with fundamentalists, I often get answers from folks wanting to prove the Bible by assuming (without any reason) that other parts of the Bible is true.

So progressive Christian do the same experience as non-Christians when dealing with fundamentalists trying to prove their very specific worldview.

That said I believe a valid OTF should mean we are agnostic about every worldview for avoiding biases. I am not sure this is possible to do that while still being able to consider evidence and thinking logically.

Alex agrees with John that Christianity ought to be debunked and dismissed some Christian miracles such as the virgin birth and the empty tomb as nonsensical.
For someone open to the serious investigation of anomalous data, this is strange, to say the least. The empty tomb is a well attested fact accepted by most critical scholars. It is its explanation which is uncertain and heavily depends on worldview commitments.

Alex did not contest any of John’s argument against Christianity (and most of them are actually aimed at Conservative Evangelical Christianity and are very weak against other forms of Christianity) but focused on the problem of materialism and biological determinism.

This is certainly the weakest point in John’s worldview and one he is not well equipped to deal with, since his specialization is in theology, anti-theology, and a bit of philosophical theology.

He was humble enough to recognize this and referred to other naturalism defenders such as Victor Stenger and Keith Pearson. Exposing some fallacies of these authors will be the topic of future posts here…

Alex is a non-Christian theist strongly rejecting materialism and wanting John to defend his own worldview, namely Reductive Materialism (RM) to an outsider like himself.

John is misleading as he said that atheism makes no positive claim at all. This is even worse for Reductive Materialism (RM).

Saying that everything which is real is IDENTICAL to material processes is clearly a positive claim, which not only (given the existence of countless unknown parallel worlds) cannot be reasonably proven but is also probably inconsistent.

John agreed that in one million years (let alone in one trillion years) nothing humans can do matters.

But he emphasized that his actions and his love matter now.

But is John really capable to love, act morally, combat injustices if he thinks at the same time that his love is IDENTICAL to a bunch of molecules, atoms and more elementary particles moving within his brain?

Is that compatible with the way humans over the centuries in the entire world have felt about love?

Would it be not more honest for John to accept the fact that love is an illusion, just a bunch of physical processes leading a self-reproducing chemical system to produce offspring?

John is persuaded that an objective morality exists, and that many stuff described in the Old Testament are wrong (and I partially agree with him about that).

But if everything which is real is identical to particles, and the proposition “Genocide is always wrong” is real, then to what neutrons, atoms, molecules, currents is it IDENTICAL to?

The overwhelming majority of humans would find it absurd to reduce the moral wrongness of an atrocity to a bunch of particles without completely redefining the word.

And when John speaks of making a choice, he is just expressing the fact that his brain molecules are going to push his body to act in a certain way, according to purely physical causes which can be traced back ultimately to the big-bang.

Is that not a striking redefinition of a “free choice”?  How can it be freer than a choice predetermined by God?

John rightly pointed out that fundamentalist and many conservative Christians have a harmful influence on them and others and ought to lose their faith.

I agree and interact a lot with such folks as a blogger. But why should progressive Christians like myself worshiping a God who is perfectly good and loving and rejecting any kind of human dogmas (both outside and inside the Bible) give up their faiths?

And anyone taking a look at my blog, at those of Randal Rauser, James McGrath, the Naked Pastor, Rachel Held Evans, Kimberly Knight and many others won’t fail to see that the antitheistic meme (Liberals and Progressives legitimize fundamentalism) is completely wrong.  We constantly oppose fundamentalism.

John thinks apparently that deism and the belief we live in a very complex computer simulation are not irrational. Great, but if that’s the case, he should view himself as an agnostic rejecting traditional religions.

Considering this whole debate, I regret that Alex did not show slightly more respect to John who was very polite. But I understand it is very hard not getting emotionally involved during such discussions  and I am unfortunately no exception.

I don’t agree with Alex’s final claim that science shows us that consciousness survives death. While sometimes very intriguing, the results of parapsychology and NDE researches are far from being conclusive.

I am much more convinced by philosophical arguments showing that consciousness is not the same thing as material processes studied by science.

Now I am looking forward to receive critical and approving comments!

 

 

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