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I need advice about deconversion

I've had a lot of doubts for a long time that have finally culminated in a desire to really start breaking away from the Christian belief system. I've decided that if what is called Truth cannot stand up to honest intellectual inquiry then it's not true, it's something else. But, for me, this is an action that is easier said than done. There is fear and there are conditioned responses and there is family and these are the main obstacles for me right now. Now I imagine that some of you who are reading this have had similar experiences, so my purpose in writing this is to solicit any advice and/or insight that any of you may have. What do you think?

Dear Will, I cannot really say my experiences have been linear to yours, but I do want to let you know that I'm positive you aren't alone. I suppose I was lucky enough to grow up in a household that was free of propaganda (well aside from the usual parental chatter). My mother was raised Catholic and my father Buddhist. Later in his life my father became an Atheist and I never really knew any of this until my young adult years... that's how little they tried to push their beliefs on my brother and myself. I cannot imagine growing up in a household where you are told what to believe and condemned if you don't. However, I did question whether or not there was a god for quite some time when I was younger. I went to church a few times, even a summer bible school, but it never really caught on. It all came down to how unfair this "God" seemed... with all the horrible things going on in the world. Not to mention how it was all okay once you confessed your sins. I totally believe that you should be responsible for your own actions and that religion is just a cop-out. Besides, if there IS a "Heaven and Hell", who wants to be up there with all the saved murderers/molestors when you could be down with all the free-thinkers? :)

I commend you for becoming a skeptic and even making it to this point of inquisition. I'd recommend listing the things that you find hard to believe and then find responses that The Atheist Experience or Non Prophets (or even Hitchens/Dawkins/written literature) gives to that list.

As far as letting your family/friends know what's going on with you, I can't really say that I have any personal advice for you. However, there is a book that I am currently reading called "Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists" by Dan Barker. It's an exceptional read and tells of his life from a complete fundamentalist who would confront you on the bus and try to save you, to "coming out" essentially to his friends and family. If anything, I'd read either that book or many of the other incredible reads on Atheism. Finally, I'm sure Matt Dillahunty would be one of the BEST to respond to you here, as he was studying to become a preacher (I believe?). I'd email him if you're looking for answers specifically related to what you're going through.

In any case, this may have been the longest and most unnecessary post ever, or maybe it was enough to let you know that Atheists are cool and awesome and we need more people on our side! :)

- Jessica (fr Florida)

Read "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins

What you are saying is that you have a different perspective on religion than those around you, and you have outgrown the situation that you are in. What you call doubt is really enlightenment, and the desire to know what is real or true. Many people will not admit that they pay lip service to a belief that they no longer believe. If we can identify things which we cannot doubt, and which do not come from a belief without knowledge what is real will be there eventually.

I think one reason some people need religion is their need for everything to makes sense, but in reality many things in life do not make sense. Everything doesn't always come out right. It's not a perfect world, but there is always the next world. However, I think it would be much better for mankind if this world was more equitable.

No doubt fear plays a large part in abandoning our own judgement for someone else's ignorance. Fear and brainwashing, sounds like the present administration.

I don't believe in provoking anyone into an argument over belief, but it is amazing how many people have attacked me over my non-belief. In their gossip-ridden world they have circulated in all their lives they find it important to them personally that I don't believe in God. I don't recommend this, but I let them have it! As a matter of fact, one fat slob actually told me that I might need to ask the mayor if I could live here. Some people find it shocking when you reduce their "Gawd" to the superstitious nonsense of its natural origins.

If belief goes unquestioned how could anyone know what is true, and call it knowledge? Do you assume most anything to be true without any further investigation? Scientists approach accepted theory with a reasonable amount of doubt because they might discover something that was not known about when the theory was developed. It doesn't necessarily change the theory, but it does improve them. Otherwise untrue things would be accepted. But that's not what has happened with religion. There is no growth what so ever in that field. It's like the bridge to nowhere.

I don't read books about atheism for the same reason don't listen to a preacher. I already know. Our battle is just.

"I think one reason some people need religion is their need for everything to makes sense, but in reality many things in life do not make sense. Everything doesn't always come out right. It's not a perfect world, but there is always the next world. However, I think it would be much better for mankind if this world was more equitable."

You've touched on a salient point here, Linda. For me, I find that my reason for not needing religion is my need for more things to make sense. To me, the idea of hell is cruel and unusual punishment. If a christian really believed in hell then wouldn't he commit his life to helping as many people as possible avoid it? Prayer is another thing: I listen to people pray and it sounds like they're begging and pleading with god for whatever it is they need. If I asked one of my friends for a glass of water in the same manner that a christian prays to god, my friend would ask me what was wrong with me. If a christian really believed god was hearing him and wanted to honor his request, why would he grovel so? It seems that the christian approach to hell and prayer indicate more unbelief than faith. Maybe christians have more potential for atheism than they know.

Truly we live in an entropic universe. Things don't always go right, children are born with profound deformities, people die unfairly, the evil prosper whilst the righteous fail; we know these things, this isn't news. It galls me how insensitive and smug so many of those who profess to know god are, and it cuts all the way across the cultural spectrum, for the homeless guy to the highest offices in the land. It seems to me that if god does exist, then he is the absent landlord.

"It galls me how insensitive and smug so many of those who profess to know god are, and it cuts all the way across the cultural spectrum, for the homeless guy to the highest offices in the land. It seems to me that if god does exist, then he is the absent landlord." As the republican nut-bag Sarah Palin would say, "You betcha!"

It takes honesty and maturity to realize these things. There is a professor who wrote (in the late sixties) about something he called "relative psychiatry", if I remember correctly. Something he said really struck me-he said that most mental disorders are basically the result of people trying desperately to make everything make sense, and when they can't, they can't stand it-the inability to fully understand or control the world around them. So they develop little rituals-like repetitive praying-to deal with this anxiety. I think this is so true. He said a real good way to overcome this anxiety is to tell yourself that it is not necessarily a bad thing that we don't always have the answers-to embrace life as it is-imperfect. But one thing he didn't talk about is how to cope in a world where the religious dominate. When you realize you don't believe as they do, where is your support system? That is what communities like this one should really reach out and try to be for one another-and I can imagine how hard it is when your immediate family does not support you. Oddly enough, one place where people would really understand what you are going through would be in communities where people have fled cults-like the fundamentalist latter day saints-that they have been raised in their whole lives. When they leave, they loose their family, job, and life as they know it. And to make matters worse, many of them have been so isolated and brainwashed that they are terrified of the new world they find themselves alone in. Just remember- you are definitely not alone in your struggle.

Religious faith compels people to have faith in what someone else has decided is true, and not what they have found to be true through their own careful study and consideration. One argument against atheism is that nobody can prove god doesn't exist, so everyone should believe in god to be on the safe side. It never occurs to these diehards that nobody can prove elves, fairies, or leprechauns don't exist. So, I guess they believe they do? Take it on faith alone! And just how far should we go with this kind of logic? Or do they only apply this to the invisible god? Yes they do! They believe that they are really clever to have figured all this out. The idea is that no matter what they will go to heaven. One of the candidates for the presidential nomination who lost used that silly argument. It's pretty obvious that they don't want anyone to find any answers by investigation, because then people would probably find out that they are being deceived. Most people really don't know and nobody wants to educate them in anything but superstitious B. S. They also are not told of the many wrong things that have been, and are being, done in the name of religious dogma.

Some people think that people have the right to be atheists, but they should be apologetic, because it is wrong and harmful. Like "Oh! Please excuse me for not speaking in tongues, fainting or having fits because god is in the house, because there is no god! Atheists are unapologetic about their atheism for the same reason that these fools are not apologetic for their ignorance. And they should be!

Religions require leaps of faith that some people won't make, and they have too much self-respect to go along with this childish nonsense. It is much easier for me to be "left behind" than it would be to join their club. I think that everyone has the right to find the answers within themselves. Whatever anyone decides to believe it should their own decision. I was never going to be "one of them" because of my disposition.

Most of the people who consider people like us awful have never looked for the reality of things through proper analysis or logical reasoning. They believe without asking questions. The media, government, and all kinds of people are talking about being inclusive of all religions, but everyone knows that they're not. It's institutionalized bigotry, they do hate people of other religions, and this is just another form of their hypocrisy.

I agree that if a deity created mankind and the universe and this deity continues to act in the universe it is sure overlooking a lot of bad things that it obviously has done nothing to stop.

Every major religion (except Islam) is declining in Western Europe. The drop is most evident in France, Sweden and the Netherlands, where church attendance is less than 10 percent in some areas. Industrialization, urbanization, and widespread education are the reasons for the decline in religion. But most of all it is continent's unprecedented affluence. History proves that when the people have opportunities and education religion declines. It changes things dramatically.

"There is a professor who wrote (in the late sixties) about something he called "relative psychiatry", if I remember correctly. Something he said really struck me-he said that most mental disorders are basically the result of people trying desperately to make everything make sense, and when they can't, they can't stand it-the inability to fully understand or control the world around them. So they develop little rituals-like repetitive praying-to deal with this anxiety." - Emily

Some years ago, I knew a woman who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She had to get prolixin injections but decided to discontinue due to the side effects. The result was that her condition deteriorated and she started to manifest three differing personalities. One was completely normal and rational; one would never know that there were any mental health issues. The second was a sort of Hitler-esque character who would go on about racial issues. The third was a fundamentalist bible thumper, decrying everything as evil. It was quite unsettling and, at times, downright scary to see the physical changes that would accompany these manifestations; differences in posture, facial expression, vocabulary. But another thing that stood out to me was the manner in which she would form illogical associations between things in an attempt to understand reality, like saying that Levi Strauss was a company run by jews because they marketed jeans under the name Levi, or that her name should be Luna because she was born under the astrological sign of cancer which is a moon sign and because Luna is the root word for lunatic. She had great pattern recognition ability but a severely impaired ability to differentiate between the likely and the absurd.

I've since become persuaded that poor Luna was not an exception, but an extreme example of all of us. Any of us could be like her given the necessary conditions and it may well be that all of us are just a little crazy. Our species can spot patterns all right, but when it comes to separating the likely from the unlikely, we have a lot of room for improvement. This is part of what gives religion power; it's a pattern of thought that is accepted as true by many folks just because it has a little internal consistency, facts be damned. The majority of people say they want to be free, but what they really want is to be led and religion can fulfill that desire admirably. It led me for a lot of years and I turned off my thinking about anything that gainsaid it and I feel like I really wasted a lot of valuable time, but then again, those experiences contributed to making me the person I am today and so they have value.

"History proves that when the people have opportunities and education religion declines. It changes things dramatically." - Linda

No doubt. Over the last week I've been perusing a number of atheist, christian and academic sites and have run across information about the Ugarit tablets, specifically a passage from those tablets designated KTU 1.1 IV 14 which states that Yahweh was a son of the overgod El. So the Israelites just co-opted a bunch of Canaanite deities for their own. Is that so? I've never heard of this, but I sure wish I had sooner. To me, this just blows a gaping hole in the whole christian belief system.

The Ugaritic alphabet is among the oldest that has been discovered; the transliteration (the practice of transcribing a word or text) has proven that the culture and religion of Israel in its earliest period come from Ugarit. Texts, which were discovered at Ugarit, were written in one of four languages: Sumerian, Akkadian, Hurritic and Ugaritic. The tablets were found in the royal palace, the house of the High Priest, and some private houses of evidently leading citizens.

The Sumero-Akkadian story of the creation of the World found its way to Palestine long before the Israelites' advent there, and learned them from the Canaanites. The style of writing discovered at Ugarit is known as alphabetic cuneiform. This is a unique blending of an alphabetic script and cuneiform (a unique blending of two styles of writing.) Cuneiform was passing from the scene and alphabetic scripts were coming in. Ugaritic is a bridge from one to the other.

Besides single words being illuminated by the Ugaritic texts, entire ideas or complexes of ideas have parallels in the literature. Deities worshipped at Ugarit were El Shaddai, El (the chief god) Elyon, and El Berith. The Hebrew writers apply all of these names to Yahweh. What this means is that the Hebrew theologians adopted the titles of the Phoenician gods and attributed them to Yahweh in an effort to eliminate them. If Yahweh is all of these there is no need for the Phoenician gods to exist. This process is known as assimilation. Besides the chief god at Ugarit there were also lesser gods, demons, and goddesses. The most important of these lesser gods were Baal, Asherah, Yam and Mot. In Hebrew Asherah is called the wife of Baal; but she is also known as the consort of Yahweh! Baal (a lesser deity) is described as the "rider on the clouds" interestingly enough, this description is also used of Yahweh in Psalm 68:5. One Ugaritic text testifies that among the inhabitants of Ugarit, Yahweh was viewed as another son of El (sm . bny . yw . ilt ) "The name of the son of god, Yahweh." This text showing that Yahweh was known at Ugarit, though not as the Lord but as one of the many sons of El.

Among the other gods worshipped at Ugarit there are Dagon, Tirosch, Horon, Nahar, Resheph, Kotar Hosis, Shachar (who is the equivalent of Satan), and Shalem. One of the most famous of the lesser deities at Ugarit was Dan'il. There is little doubt that this figure corresponds to the Biblical Daniel (while predating him by several centuries.) Most scholars agree that the Canonical prophet was the Ugarit Dan'il. Another creature is Leviathan. Hebrew text Isaiah 27:1 and Ugarit texts describe this beast. In Ugarit, as in Israel, the cult played a central role in the lives of the people. Ugaritic myths - story of Baal's enthronement as king. Baal is killed by Mot (in the Fall of the year) and he remains dead until the Spring of the year. His victory over death was celebrated as his enthronement over the other gods. (Sound familiar?) The Hebrew text also celebrates the enthronement of Yahweh. As in the Ugaritic myth, the purpose of Yahweh's enthronement is to re-enact creation. Another interesting parallel between Israel and Ugarit is the yearly ritual known as the sending out of the "scapegoats" one for god and one for a demon.

The texts from Ugarit were found about 1923 and were interpreted later on by a man who was an expert in ancient languages and decoding. We understand the literature itself much better now, and we are now able to clarify difficult words due to their Ugaritic homogeneity. What all of this means is that all religions come from these ancient myths/superstitions!

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