Two brothers. One a Christian. One an Atheist.
Feel free to join the conversation!


Seldom are men blessed with times in which they may think what they like, and say what they think.
Tacitus, 1st Century Roman Historian

Monday, 30 July 2012

God at Aurora?

Hey bro,

Came across this today and was curious to see what you thought about it.

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/28/my-take-this-is-where-god-was-in-aurora/

There are a few parts of the article that I had contention with, but I'd like to hear your take first before I start pulling it apart.

I'd also like to you to check one of the comments, it is a little tongue in cheek but the guys brings up a couple of interesting points... I've pasted it here.


Dear Christians:


God here. I thought I would take the time to personally explain my absence in the Aurora shootings. While I was at it, I thought I would also explain my absence during every murder, massacre and crime that has ever taken place in World history, and in every war, in every famine, drought and flood.


You see, I do not exist. I never have. Did it really make sense to you that I would create an entire Universe with billions of billions of planets and wait about 13,700,000,000 years just so I could focus on a few Jews from Palestine about 2,000 years ago while ignoring the rest of the 200,000,000 people on the planet at the time? Did I make those few Jews or did those few Jews make me?


Further, do you really think I would sit back and do nothing while Nazis killed 6 million of my “chosen people,” but find it important enough to intervene and turn water into wine to stop some hosts being embarrassed at a wedding in Cana? Why did I seem to be so active in the Middle East for a brief period about 2,000 years ago, but totally absent everywhere else on the planet and for the rest of recorded history? Did I make the Jews or did the Jews make me?


So, you really think my periodic miracles prove my existence hey? Then why not something inarguable and unambiguous, like a huge crucifix in the sky, or my face on the moon? Why is it always that believers have to construct my miracles out of perfectly explicable natural events?


This happens every time there is a tragedy or near tragedy of any kind, anywhere in the world and in all cultures. Captain "Sully" Sullenberger pilots a distressed plane to land safely on the Hudson River in New York City with no deaths, and it's a miracle from God; a young girl is found in India, totally terrorized, but alive after being abducted and ra.ped for a week, and it’s a miracle from my competi.tor Rama (or Vishnu or Shiva) that she is returned to her parents; or a family in Northern Pakistan survives an errant American missile attack, and it’s a miracle from Allah.


What all these self-serving proclamations of miraculous intervention always ignore is the downside of the incidents. The fact that the passengers and crew of Flight 1549 were terrorized and the plane destroyed, that 11 innocent people are dead in Aurora, that the girl was held for seven days, ra.ped and sod.omized and will be traumatized for the rest of her life, or that a number of innocent civilians were killed by the missile.


Of course, none of these incidents really are "miracles.” When the totality of facts are taken into account, "miracles" turn out to be nothing more than believers who are desperate for some sign of my existence ignoring the downside of a set of facts, focusing solely on the upside and calling the quarantined "good" a miracle from me or one of the other sky-fairies. A CEO might as well ignore the liability side of his balance sheet and declare it a “miracle” that his company just doubled in value.


Another annoying habit my “miracles” seem to have is that they always seem to tag along, just behind medical science, like an annoying kid brother who won’t go away. Until the mid nineties, those with AIDS who prayed for a miracle were never granted one. Medical science finds a way to permanently suppress the disease, and all of a sudden I start to perform miracles with AIDS patients. No polio patient ever received a miracle until the Salk vaccine and I routinely ignored cancer patients until chemotherapy and radiation treatments were developed. Suddenly, prayers to me from cancer patients are regularly “answered.”


Why is it that I still seem deaf to the pleadings of amputees who would like their fingers, arms or legs back, to those who have physically lost eyes or ears, to the horribly burned and to all others who ail from patently visible and currently incurable maladies? Why is it that, at the very same time, I am very receptive to the prayers of those whose condition is uncertain, internal and vulnerable to miraculous claims?


Take five minutes to make two lists; one of those ailments I will miraculously cure and the other of those I will not. You will quickly find it coincides perfectly with those conditions medical science (or the human body itself) can defeat and those we cannot. Why do you think that is? It is almost as my miracles are created out of medical ambiguity isn’t it?


No, my human friends. I am afraid I do not exist. I do not read your minds (or “hear your prayers” as you like to call it) and you are not going to achieve immortality (or “eternal life” as you like to call it) no matter how many commandments from Iron Age Palestine you choose to “keep”. Move on and enjoy the few years you have. You were all dead for the last 13,700,000,000 years and it wasn't that least bit uncomfortable now, was it?


God



Would love to get your thoughts bro.

Jake

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Nature/Nurture?

Hey Bro,

I know we still have a pretty healthy conversation going on over at The Infinite Abyss but I thought I'd throw this out there and see what you think.

We were both raised almost identically until the ages of 16/17, until you moved to the States. But I think its fair to say that you were already emphatically Christian at that point? Whilst I was a self-unacknowledged agnostic already well on the way to atheism.

Why do you think we have strayed down these separate paths?  Was my personality pre-disposed to atheism, or yours to theism? Did God choose to reveal himself to you and not me? Do you think your personal experiences with depression had any effect? We were educated at the same institutions and both went to the same churches up to a point, do you think you got more out of the sermons or that they had a more profound impact on you? Did you think a lot about God or a higher power growing up or did you find you had a need for something more?

Once we separated, I continued to live in the secular community that is Australia and then moved to pre-dominantly non-religious London; whilst you moved into the heart of Christian conservatism in Kansas and then even further down the Bible-belt into Texas. These were obviously contributing factors to the way we've turned out, but do you think they were consolidating factors? Do you think we would have turned out any different if our situations were reversed?

Curious to see what you think. Im going to try to get Mum and Dad to post too to give a little insight on the terrors we were growing up :p

Jake

Monday, 2 January 2012

The Infinite Abyss

Hey Bro,


So Part 2 is coming up, but thought I'd throw this quote out to you from a well known mathematician and physicist. Would like to get your commentary on his talk of the "infinite abyss". Do you feel it? Think it exists? How do you respond to this? 


Would love to know what you think. 


Here is the quote:


"There once was in man a true happiness of which now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does no obtain in things present. But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God himself.


- Blaine Pascal (Pascal's Penses, 113, thought #425)


Love you bro. Excited about the New Year on this blog with you.

Monday, 5 September 2011

mere freedom. (part 1)


Well it has been way too long since the last post, but a better time then ever to write a response to my bro. I feel like so much time has passed I should leave a little update for the readers and for us to look back on!

So much has happened since Jake posted. He has visited me twice (Colorado Ski Trip and Mavs NBA Finals Game 5!!!). We have shared some incredible times together, taken some great pictures (see below) and had some great conversations along the way. Jake wrote his last post right before he came to visit me for our Colorado trip. We had some short conversations about his post but not many at length.

I wasn't able to leave a comment at the time of the post, but I was really thankful for his honesty. It's about as open as I've known my brother to be about his own beliefs and it's great that we have it in writing. Any Christian out there reading should not be offended by my brother's comments and parallels to Santa. He makes a very real comparison that I'm sure a lot of folks haven't considered.  Believing a culturally accepted idea without careful examination of the personal implications on your life, can lead to a lot of disgruntled belief systems. "The Santa Effect"  if we want to call it that, has probably happened to a lot of Christians.

Let me be clear though: Santa is nothing like Jesus. Just on your logic brother, the reason people don't believe in Santa anymore isn't because they came to the knowledge of him not being real; it's because he is not real. Jesus is real. Historical and empirical data can back it up. Yet, even the bible clearly states that there are people that will never come to know who Jesus is (Romans 9:16), even though God desires everyone to know who He is (John 3:16). The people that love and trust Jesus, know Him because He is real. There wouldn't be an evangelical following of over a billion people for someone who claimed to have rose from the dead over 2000 years ago (something Santa can't compete with) if He wasn't real.

Another thought I had was on our upbringing. Jake's description of our childhood is accurate, yet his point of view on our community is obviously different from mine. Jake mentions that we were surrounded by Christians in our family. His description of an Aussie Christian is,

 "a belief in a spiritual God, but without disrupting a BBQ and a good drink on the weekends"

I would call this an accurate description, but my point of view would yield that this person is not a Christian. This is not to say that Christians don't participate in BBQ's or a couple of quiet ones (I certainly do!). However, if I were to continue on this line of thinking I could write a completely different blog post (coming soon!). I say all of this to say that from my perspective, Jake and I grew up in a loosely committed Catholic family that had thoughts about God but didn't know God. To catch a fuller context of this you have got to read Jake's previous post.

Those are just a couple of thoughts I have on your post, brother. I could go a lot deeper, but I'll save my others for later or in more of our conversations about this. :)

--------------------------------------------------------------

As I started writing this post, I didn't realize how long it would actually become, so I've decided to break it up into 2 parts. Part 1 will be most of the context in which I lived before becoming a Christian. Part 2 will deal more with my conversion and the immediate changes I felt on my life once it happened. This event at age 15, where my relationship with Jesus Christ began, was one of the most joy-filled experiences of my life, that has continued to produce more joy every day of my life. My story, as I've come to realize has also had very little to do with me, however, this first part will sound very me focused.

As a child I attended the same Catholic school (from 1st - 7th grade) as my brother, which led to public school (8th - 12th grade). Entering public school I had an idea of who God was, but I wasn't too interested in pursuing what I thought about it/him. My life at that point revolved only around one thing: basketball. I played any chance I got and as many teams as I was invited to. I was blessed with opportunities to travel, to play in a national tournament and get selected to some very elite programs. 

My regimen was very disciplined, my diet extremely curated and life, for lack of a better term, was very Catholic. My training had taught me that the only way to get somewhere in life is through a lot of hard work, and if someone gets ahead of you it's because they wanted it more than you did. So in my high school teenage years, I wanted to be a professional basketball player more than you did. And I'm not saying that to my brother.....I'm saying that to everyone. No one wanted it more than I did. Yet, I soon learned that just wanting it more didn't necessarily make you the best. But that's what I wanted; to be the best. I certainly had it in my mind that I was the best.

I was given every opportunity to become a professional basketball player. I had personal coaches, encouraging and supportive family and a community of basketball players that challenged me and ultimately made me a better player. Most of these elite players that I was on teams with were very good basketball players. They also had the advantage of playing in very large established programs with lots of other great coaches around them. The program I played in was more rural, a lot smaller and didn't get the kind of exposure as the others. I put in a lot of hard work to get to the level of some of these other players. In my heart, I thought I was the best, but in my head I knew I wasn't.

Ultimately when I realized that I wasn't the best, and that all my might wasn't getting me to that position, my life took a downward spiral. It started slowly, but quickly took a turn for the worse. Thankfully, drugs and alcohol are not a part of my story even though for many around me it was. My struggle, however, came with a condition that is just as addicting as those other things: depression. As my desire to play basketball waned, my self esteem got really low. It's weird to think of low self esteem or depression as addicting, but it can be. My thought on this from my own personal experience is that you become so focused on yourself and how you are feeling that you block out everything else that isn't focused on you. I got to a point where I didn't want to be around anyone. By the time I was 15 I was in the darkest place I had been in my short life. I felt that I had no friends (even though I was always surrounded by people), my afternoons after school were filled with sleep (even though my body wasn't tired) and I wrestled with suicidal thoughts (even though I never acted on them or attempted to. Praise God!). I truly felt at that point there wasn't a way out. 

The only light I had in my life at that point (or so I thought) was this one girl whom I thought was really cute: Rachael (yep, you know her Jake, and yes I've shared this story with her and her husband!). I thought she was the best thing going and I did all I could to get attention from her. She was in my extended circle of friends at the time and at some point in a brief conversation we had with each other, she invited me to attend church with her. Being completely honest, I had absolutely no desire to attend the church service. But I was interested in seeing her. So apparently, that's all the motivation I needed to go to church.

Mum drove me to the service (as I was too young to drive) and dropped me off at Lesmurdie Baptist Church for their Sunday night service. My goal was to wait around until Rachael came, walk in with her, sit through the service and pretend like I cared enough so she would talk with me afterwards. But to make a long story short, I never got that opportunity. She completely stood me up and never came to that service.

The more embarrassing part of this story was that one of my classmates that I recognized from school was also waiting outside the church. I had no idea why he was there at the time, because i didn't take him as a church goer. I came to find out later that he was there for the same reason I was. He had also been invited by Rachel, and had the same crush as I did. Probably had the same plan too. (OK....he probably wasn't as desperate as I was :)

We stood there for a good 20 minutes. Waiting. Everyone went inside, and it was just us two. Standing outside the front of the church. Waiting....... At one point he graciously walked over to me and asked if I wanted to go inside. I reluctantly said "OK" and walked in with him, but quickly found my own seat once we entered. 
  
From the instant I walked into that church, I couldn't believe what my eyes saw. All my Catholic background had taught me was that church was a place with bible readings and boring music and hard wooden pews. This church was different. They had a rock band, a drum kit, a mosh pit full of teenagers and cushions on the seats! I was instantly overwhelmed with how excited people were. I couldn't understand what they were making all their fuss about. Especially at a church. 

My shock quickly turned to curiosity. As I took my seat, my eyes wandered all around the room. I was trying to see who I could recognize from school. There were a lot of kids my age there, many that I knew. And they all seemed really happy too. Did I mention the mosh pit?

What I couldn't grasp was why they were so happy. God didn't make you happy. God told you what was right and what is wrong, and if you did more wrong things than right things God was not happy. And I had never met anyone that did more right things that wrong things. Which meant you could never be happy or 'right with God'. That was my understanding of God at that point of my life, and my fear now is that there are many people trapped in this understanding of God.

As I sat and listened to the sermon, the youth pastor did something I had never heard before. He talked about characters in the bible like he knew them. Like he had met them for lunch earlier that day or something. If I hadn't of grown up being a Catholic, I may have mistaken some of the characters he was describing as his neighbors from down the street.

When he started talking about Jesus, things started to get even stranger. People would cheer, start clapping and some would burst out in tears. At that point if you were crying, people would surround you and begin to pray. Something had happened inside of those people that I just didn't grasp. At first I thought it was just for show. I quietly thought to myself that I wouldn't let myself do that. Crying didn't look like that much fun in front of all those people anyway. 

That was my first experience of church outside of my Catholic background. I was shocked. I'd never seen church done that way before. People were genuinely happy and excited about their lives. In my state of depression, this was very different to how I was feeling personally. Even more shockingly, they were excited about God! I couldn't figure it out. Why were people so excited about God? Wasn't he just an eternal policeman in the sky? Were they just masochists waiting for their lightning bolt to strike them? I had to find out what was different about these people.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I'll end Part 1 here. Part 2 will deal with what happened at the joyous point of my conversion. I titled the story "mere freedom", because I hope you see from this part, the bondage I was in from my own emotions and thoughts. There is no need in this forum to go into great detail about how it deep that stage was in my life or the causes of it. But when I look back on this stage of my life now, I really begin to see the one thing that was keeping me there: my unrelenting focus on me.

Jake I'm not sure how much of this you were aware of or knew of, but I'm glad to share it with you. I'd love to hear your perspective of this stage in my life too, but I promise I won't wait to hear it before I start working on part 2 :)

Love you bro. Glad this conversation is ongoing...


 Jake and I in Colorado about to go skiing...

On the mountain with Bec....must have been bright out

 Heading into game 5 of the 2011 NBA Finals! Mavs vs. Heat!

At our seats! Mavs win!! Jake flew in from London just for the game!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Why I'm not a Christian

So this post is in response to Brenton’s big question on how I became an atheist. That was quite some time ago, and I’d like to say that it’s taken me this long because I have been deep in thought for the last 6 months, pondering my entire belief system and even my very existence! However that wasn’t the case… As is so often the case with writing (in my experience anyway), life gets in the way and my blog posts have been the unfortunate victim. That said though, I have put a great deal of thought into the subject and hopefully can shed a little light into my thought processes over my ‘conversion’ to atheism.

In my personal experience I haven’t really believed in anything with too much enthusiasm. No horoscopes, homeopathy, astrology or anything like that, so I have very little point of reference to compare my experience to. I’m going to attempt to put this in a context that everyone may be able to relate to, so I’m going to compare my belief in god to a belief in Santa…

This isn’t meant in any way to trivialise the influence god has on other people’s lives, but merely used as a comparative device to get my thoughts onto paper...
The belief in Santa is instilled from birth, used not only as a device by parents to make children behave in the lead up to Christmas, but also as a means to add a little magic and fantasy into Christmas for children. Neither of these I see as such a bad thing, especially for parents with excitable children. However this is of course based on the premise that all rational adults know that Santa doesn’t exist, and that one day in the foreseeable future their children will also come to this same realisation.

Santa was an easy thing to in believe as a child. All of my peers had the same belief, as did (or so it appeared) every adult I knew, and there was a tangible reward for believing in him under the tree every Christmas morning.

As we started to get older our parents used increasingly elaborate devices to keep the ruse alive. One year Mum ‘ran into’ Santa on a late night toilet run, another year (when we were starting to suspect) while we were at midnight mass our parents had our neighbours come to the house to leave the presents, write a note and even eat some the snack we had left all in the hope of keeping the belief alive.  

However there was no stopping the inevitable…

Once word had gotten around at school that Santa wasn’t real: which firstly introduced the possibility that an alternate truth to what our parents had told us even existed, and secondly shifted popular opinion (in my small world anyway) from one that believed in Santa to one that didn’t, the belief system started to break down. My rational mind started to think of the wondrous, yet unrealistic, things Santa accomplished in one night, and so eventually my belief waned and eventually vanished.

I don’t remember the exact point I stopped believing in Santa, and I’m not sure if there was even an exact point or day where I was told he didn’t exist. But I do know that I no longer believe.

Comparing a belief in religion to a belief in Santa may offend some people, but to me similar thought processes and principles applied, although given that these are on wildly different scales both intellectually and in terms of the time it took me to come to a conclusion.


So here goes with my personal experience of how I became an atheist…

A belief in a Christian God was also instilled in me from birth. I was baptised as a baby, and went to our local Catholic church regularly as a small child. My direct family were all Christian, my Dad’s side of the family devout Roman Catholics and my Mum’s side of the family Christian in what I like to call the traditional Australian sense of the word (a belief in a spiritual God, but without disrupting a BBQ and a good drink on the weekends). We lived in a nice suburb on the outskirts of Perth, Western Australia where religious diversity was about as prevalent as a UFO sighting. I attended a Catholic Primary School (Grade school for all you Americans out there) where we attended mass every Thursday and had a Religious Education class twice a week to learn about the glory of god, the perils of sin and the devil and the importance of living a good Christian life. I took my communion and confirmation with the Catholic Church while at primary school and was even a member of the school choir for a few years. A better Catholic upbringing you couldn’t ask for…

High school was a bit of a different story, Brenton and I went to a secular public school where religion wasn’t the main focus of school life. However my belief wasn’t changed, with so much else happening in life as a typical adolescent there was very little interaction with and almost no emphasis on religion and life moved on as usual. In my early years at high school I attended a few ‘youth group’ nights at the local Baptist church, and while I went mostly because it was what all my friends were doing at the time, when the subject turned to god the discussions only solidified my belief in what I already knew to be true.

Up until this point I had not met (that I can recall) a single person that was not of the Christian faith. No one had challenged my belief, nor did I have any reason to believe that there was a truth other that what the Christian faith had taught me, I was in a world much like the world I was in before the word about Santa got out. Everyone believed the same thing; no one challenged that belief, so there was no reason to believe otherwise.

Around about this time in my life my parents got divorced, which as a 13/14 year old wasn’t as traumatic as many people (including my parents) think it was, however it did result in a few changes in the relationship I had with my parents. One of the products of this was that my Mum and I started making more of an effort of finding things that we could do to spend time together. One of these things turned out to be a 4 week meditation class with a Buddhist monk. I’m not really sure what drew me (or Mum for that matter) to this at the time but I remember being pretty excited to experience the nirvana-like state of a meditation guru like I had read in the newspapers. I of course never got anywhere near this level, but I did pick up a few relaxation techniques that I still use to this day.

The class was as much about the Buddhist belief system as it was about the actual meditation and the monk running the class always held a Q&A session at the end of each class where we could ask him whatever we wanted, either about his religion, meditation or life in general. Now as I took those classes over 10 years and many, many beers ago the exact questions and answers I cannot remember. However what I do remember is always being impressed by the knowledge and wisdom of this guy no matter what the question from the entirely Christian audience. I remember numerous occasions where he was asked a question (and being the awkward teenager I was, none of the questions came from me) and thinking to myself ‘How is he going to get out of this one?’ but he would just take a deep breath and calmly answer whatever was thrown at him in relation to the Buddhist teachings. So here was this perfectly sane human being, albeit in slightly stranger clothes than I was used to, living a happy and fulfilled life with a completely different belief system to the one I held, and the only one I had experienced.

This was of course my first extended interaction with someone of the non-Christian faith, and was somewhat of a revelation to me at the time. These were the first conversations I had ever had about religion that even hinted at the fact that the Christian God wasn’t the only one out there, and it introduced me to the possibility that a belief in Christianity wasn’t a prerequisite to leading a normal life. So, much like when I heard the whispers about Santa around the playground, the cat was out of the bag and while I probably didn’t realise it at the time, this set me on the path to atheism.

Now I didn’t go out and covert to Buddhism the next day and devote my life to the pursuit of eternal enlightenment. I was still a teenager and went about my teenage life with not a whole lot gained from the class except a new found respect for the Buddhism faith, and a few new ways to get myself to sleep if I was anxious over exams. My life continued as I think is the case with most people, regardless of age or religious beliefs: without too much thought on the subject, and no real reason to challenge my existing belief system. I sometimes compare this, somewhat morbidly, to thinking about death. Death scares the shit out of me, and I have no problems admitting it. The thought of not existing is something that if I really think about I find difficult to comprehend. That said, I don’t really think about death all that often and my life will continue to plod along quite happily with me completely ignoring the subject.

So my life, and my belief in Christianity, went along quite happily for a few years without me sparing a thought for religion at all. Being a young male in a secular high school, where we were far more interested in girls, sport and drinking than anything else, discussion of religion rarely came up, and this suited me just fine.

University in Australia was much the same story; I had guys in my degree that were Muslim and Hindu, but studying in the socially inept field of Computing, discussion was hard to come by at all, let alone a discussion about religion. However, in my 3rd year of University I was accepted on an academic scholarship to go on exchange to the University of Minnesota, Duluth in America. This was the first time I had travelled by myself out of Australia and was somewhat of a coming of age for me.

Before heading up to Minnesota, I met up with Brenton who at the time was studying Theology and Youth Ministry at the University of Saint Marys in Leavenworth, Kansas. Now this was proper Christian country, if ever I needed a place to push me from the brink of atheism surely this was it??

I went to church with Brenton a couple of times, met all Brenton’s (mostly Christian) friends and thoroughly enjoyed my time there with not a bad word to say about the people I met or the experience as a whole. However I was starting to realise that I didn’t really agree with what some of these guys were saying, not just the political aspects of their belief (I vividly recall untoward opinions on homosexuals) but also the fundamental religious belief.

Looking back there are probably a number of things I can attribute to this disillusionment, the first one being that at the time I was studying in a very practical discipline, one where things were either right or wrong, there or not. Being in this mind-set coming to Kansas, with this being really the only other time I had seriously thought about religion since my meditation class, it highlighted to me the fact that the belief in an omniscient, omnipotent being in the sky wasn’t really something I could take seriously. Secondly was the vigour with which Brenton’s friends and their community held their belief. I had come from a culture where religion was pretty much a non-issue, so much so that I hadn’t had a conversation even in passing about religion for a good couple of years, and been thrust into one where it permeated every aspect of life. It was a little overwhelming to say the least.

I went up to Minnesota with a nagging religious doubt in my mind, which was soon overwhelmed by the excitement of being alone in a different country experiencing college life in America. One of the classes that were compulsory for exchange students to take was the Cultural Studies class. It was pretty much a chance for the students at UMD to pick our brains about our cultural differences and those of the different nationalities in the class. While these classes were essentially organised social lubrication, it did again remind me that there were other religions in the world, and there were perfectly sane, normal, happy people practicing them. This solidified the doubt I had when leaving Kansas pushed me further down the path of atheism.

After leaving Minnesota Brenton and I went down to Dallas, Texas for Christmas. Once again I met a bunch of Brenton’s friends and once again I haven’t met nicer people in my life and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. There is however one memory that stands out from that trip: while visiting the church of one of Brenton’s friends I asked about the massive nursery/crèche area for younger children and was promptly quoted statistics of how children are more likely to be ‘saved’ at a younger age than later in life. This really hit home for me and draws some parallels to the Santa rant I started this post with. If a child is introduced to a belief from birth, and that belief is never truly challenged by removing themselves from a closed community where that belief no longer holds true, then what is stopping them from plodding happily through life holding that same belief?

I returned to Australia an atheist.  
Nothing I’ve encountered from that point on has challenged that belief, and I doubt that very much will.

All that said, I think I’ve probably taken up enough of your time now…
I thank you for the patience to read all the way through and hope that I’ve given some insight into how I came to be the way I am.

I also hope that if you are reading this and haven’t seriously thought about your religious orientation, regardless of what it is, please take a minute or two to think about it or discuss it with someone that doesn’t hold the same belief as you. You may be surprised with what you discover…

Comments welcome as always…

Jake


Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Plato's Cave

Hey mate,

I know this is a little bit of a deviation of where we were heading but I came across this today (only 2400 years after it was written!) and was interested to see what your take on it was...

The words
The vid  - kinda primary school, but explains the premise really well…

When I first read this I related it to the conditioning of children into religion by their parents as the people in the cave and the person that leaves as people who have researched/discovered alternatives… but I’m guessing you are going to have a different take.
Would love to hear everyones thoughts...

J

Friday, 20 August 2010

From Atheism to Belief: The Sequel?

So Jake and I have been continuing our search into what influences and experiences helped originate his atheism. I may be even asking that question the wrong way, as it seems like there is a thought out there that we are somehow all born without a belief. This discussion was started on the comments section of the previous blog and if you haven't read it, I highly suggest that you do before you continue reading.
I would contend that being born without beliefs doesn't equate to atheism, but it seems that all may not think that way...


Jake and I had another conversation on this today and on the origin of his beliefs and it reads as kind of a sequel to our discussion. Seems like we have a sufficient prequel and sequel but no middle? Who says this story has to go in order anyway!


Also, just a sidenote: It may seem to everyone else that this is all that Jake and I ever talk about. But I can assure you as bros, the real conversations we have about our lives and events going on are happening.  Just not on this blog :) 


I do know this though. We have both been really encouraged by all your comments so keep them coming!


Here is the conversation:


Brenton  
Hey bro


Jake  
yo
Jake  
whats goin on


Brenton  
read your last comment..
Brenton  
I'm assuming that's not your response to my blog


Jake  
part of it
Jake  
was that not enough for you?


Brenton
Im fine with it being part of it...but there was no mention of influences or experiences that led you to your "99% atheism"
Brenton  
Would like to hear more of the origin of your belief


Jake  
what if i dont know...
Jake  
i dont keep a journal


Brenton  
It doesnt have to be exact...
Brenton  
I just think i'd like to hear more about how you came to this understanding


Jake  
i think ur making a big thing out of nothing
Jake  
which is probably why im having a bit of difficulty trying to answer ur questions


Brenton  
hmmm it's interesting you say that/
Brenton  
I think the reason I'm asking is because a big part of the atheist argument is they claim people of religion are either brainwashed, or culturally raised into their beliefs.
Brenton  
It seemed like a legitimate question to ask the same of you...


Jake
i wasnt culturally raised into atheism though
Jake
i was raised as a christian
Jake
so it isnt really the same


Brenton
So if you were raised as a christian, WHAT happened in you to refute that raising and become atheist?
Brenton
I think thats what I'm looking for.....and you probably are too?


Jake
weve been through this before though
Jake
i dont see a belief in god to be rational


Brenton
I can see this conversation going a lot better in person :)
Brenton
Something must have changed in you to go from "raised as a Christian" to "don't see God being rational" The must have been a catalyst to this change. Was the Cole's experience it? Is that all it took?


Jake
it was part of it
Jake
i didnt wake up one day and change my mind
Jake
and i dont know if i have any more stories like that


Brenton
and from your last comment it doesn't seem like you are an all the way atheist either...


Jake
only because i dont think anyone is


Brenton
I would agree with you.


Jake
im about as close as you can get though
Jake
:)


Brenton
Interesting that you can go all the way as a deist but not all the way as an atheist


Jake
well to believe in something 100% you have to close your mind to all other possibilities
Jake
which i think goes against what it is to be an atheist


Brenton
I disagree....an atheist believes there is no God. Meaning there is no option for God to exist...
Brenton
I would say that if someone wants to remain "open minded" as you call it, they'd have to be an agnostic


Jake
in the purest sense yes
Jake
which as i said, i dont think exists
Jake
im an atheist due to the lack of evidence in a god
Jake
any god


Brenton
then you're a skeptic, not an atheist


Jake: a skeptic would imply belief


Brenton
a skeptic agnostic
Brenton
And it sounds to me that the reason you are that way is because your "christian" upbringing did not provide enough evidence for you.


Jake
i would have thought that through our conversations you would know that i dont believe christianity to be what we were taught growing up
Jake
and agnostic implies that i am not certain in my decision
Jake
or that i havent made my mind up
Jake
i have
Jake
i dont believe in god, at all
Jake
but thats not to say that im not open to the possibility
Jake
and that is the main difference
Jake
between my athiesm and your deism
Jake
your mind is closed to any other possibility other than a christian god


Brenton
Well all I can say brother, is that when you meet Jesus and experience God, and I believe one day you will, you'll feel the same way too.
Brenton 
And that your mind is open to the possiblity is awesome!


Jake
not when
Jake
if
Jake
and let me point out that the fact that your mind isnt, is not
Brenton
You're right, my mind isn't open to the idea that there is no God because I've experienced Him. That's not to say that I don't doubt. I think in order to have faith, doubt is a inevitable element of it. But it doesn't mean I don't believe there is a God.


Brenton: One God.


Jake
yep i get that
Jake
but closed mindedness is the apex of a very slippery slope


Brenton
I think your data supporting the claim: that Christian deists who believe in one God that you can have a relationship with, are on the apex of a slippery slope? I think that data is working against you there.


Jake
closed mindedness is the underlying factor of everything that is wrong with religion


Brenton
I think you are going to have to define your phrase "closed mindedness" a little bit more. But I think that would require another blog...


Jake
it doesnt
Jake
you are locked into your belief
Jake
nothing i could say or do would convince you to not believe in god
Jake
or what is written in the bible


Brenton
Sure. But I could say nothing a human said convinced me of BELIEVING in God either.


Jake
thats beside the point


Brenton
Not really. Your judging my closed mindedness based on what humans can convince me of.
Brenton
humans can influence and sway my thoughts to go in many different directions, but for me to say "My hope and trust is in the Lord" doesn't come from being convinced of it by some human. It comes from God.


Jake
yep
Jake
still missing my point
Jake
lets forget religion for a minute
Jake
any conflict, ever, has been the product of 2 sides not coming to a mutual agreement
Jake
for that to happen there generally has to be compromise by both parties
Jake
if your mind is closed to compromise, there is conflict


Brenton
Agreed. closed mindedness in conflict is bad news.
Brenton
how does that relate?
Jake
now back to religion
Jake
you are closed minded
Jake
and we have a conflict
Jake
:)


Brenton
:)


Jake
get where im at now?


Brenton
The fact that I believe in a loving God that commands me to love my neighbour as myself presents the idea of conflict to anyone who doesn't believe in the same God?
Brenton
"neighbour" being anyone? of any religious or irreligious belief?
Brenton
I don't get it


Jake
ok when i say you i dont mean you personally, but Christianity as a whole
Jake
i know we dont have a personal conflict
Jake
but atheism and chrisitanity as wholes do


Brenton
So the fact that our beliefs as wholes have conflicting beliefs means we are on slippery slopes?
Brenton
I still dont get it.


Jake
when i said slippery slope i meant that closed mindedness can lead to other, more damaging, sentiments: intolerance, segregation etc...


Brenton
That's because Christianity is filled with broken sinful people like me. But atheism is filled with people like that too. Just because atheist aren't "closed minded" doesn't mean they aren't open to things like that....
Brenton
So I'm still not seeing your point


Jake
true
Jake
but it rules out religious conflict


Brenton
Try Stalin or Pol Pot....they were atheists....no religious conflict there?
Brenton
I guess atheism is "open minded" to genocide?
Brenton
That was a joke. Im still not seeing your point.


Jake
joking about genocide now?
Jake
:P


Brenton
well you say that atheism produces no religious conflict....I disagree
Brenton
Dawkins book is nothing but confrontational and causes conflict
Brenton
The fact that he says "tolerating other religions is wrong" is completely confrontational
Brenton
So I still don't get your point that Christians "closed mindedness" brings religious conflict. If Christians believed and practiced the teachings of Jesus there would be LESS conflict.


Jake
yeh but they dont do they?


Brenton
We certainly are not perfect in our methodology, but we strive for it.
Brenton
Is this another reason why you are atheist?
Brenton
Because you don't see the congruency in Chrsitians and its teachings?


Jake
disillusionment with christianity?


Brenton
sure. Im looking for anything at this point :P


Jake
yeh sure
Jake
but it isnt the only reason


Brenton
ok....thats what I'm looking for you to answer in response to my blog :)
Brenton
Might require some serious thought tho...