15 comments on “What I Believed to be True

  1. If it’s any consolation, I don’t think you ever believed in God. Out of 11 statements, only 2 (possibly 3) of those actually resemble biblical truth. And you didn’t make a single reference to what you believe about Jesus (why God sent him, etc….). It’s clear that you believed a lot of things “about” God, but it’s very unlikely that you have ever believed “in” God.

    My list of beliefs from 2007 is almost identical (and also no based on biblical truth). I believed several things “about God” and all them were based on my own personal experience, or on things I had been told. What you did in 2001 and what I did in 2007 was nothing short of breaking the 2nd Commandment: We made up false Gods that we were willing to believe in.

    I’m glad you posted this because now your perspective about God and the Bible makes perfect sense to me. You didn’t stop believing in God. You simply never started. It’s obvious that both of us hit a crossroads in our lives where we started to doubt what we believed. Perhaps you examined your beliefs and realized that they made no sense, and eventually you stopped believing them all together. The only trouble with that conclusion is that you stopped seeking absolute truth and settled for relative truth.

    You are clearly an intelligent and reflective person. I think you should do a little research on absolute vs. relative truth and see which sounds logical to you. You might be surprised.

  2. I think you believed in God, but you were also aware of reality more than Bible literalists and worked God around that reality. You still went for an idealized, “omni-filled” God who gave us our morals, both are elements that are hard to think about while being intellectually honest. I recently had kids and I know morals aren’t magically instilled within them. They must be taught!

    Little monsters. :-)

    • Grundy, if morals must be taught, then where did we get our morals to begin with? Do you believe in absolute moral law (morality is universal) or relativism (morality depends on the circumstances). If you believe that moral law is absolute, then there has to be a moral law giver, a definitive standard by which morality is measured. I’ve heard the argument that morality arose out of a need to survive. For example, piranhas caught in a feeding frenzy will attack and kill anything that enters the water, but will not attack each other. But there is a flaw to this theory, and it stems from a gross misunderstanding of morality. Morality is not simply a choice between a good idea or a better idea, or between what is good for the individual vs what is good for the whole of society. Those types of choices are made with the intellect. Morality deals with whether something in inherently good or inherently evil. And those decisions go beyond intellect.

      Our conscience tells us what is morally right. But our brain is the one that ultimately makes the final decision (that is where our free will resides – our ability to choose). The internal dialogue that takes place is usually what determines the final decision we make. Sometimes we are swayed by what we want, sometimes by the consequences of our actions, and other times we are able to justify why something is acceptable in particular circumstance. This type of morality is very fluid and in order to nail down whether something is right or wrong, you have to clearly define the parameters. The problem is, you have to be careful of who is in charge of defining (or redefining) those parameters, or you might end up in Nazi Germany being told that even though it’s morally wrong to kill people, it IS okay to kill Jews because they are NOT people. Or how about the opinion that a baby is not born self aware and therefore can not technically be considered a person at birth. Which means that the parents of a child born with a disability should be allowed up to 30 days after the birth to decide whether or not to let the child live. Think I’m making this up? Just Google Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, Laureate Professor at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne. He specializes in applied ethics and approaches ethical issues from a secular, preference utilitarian perspective (Wikipedia). Intelligence is not measure of morality (or common sense, for that matter) so how would you go about electing a person to designate moral law for an entire society? Or do we just do just go with the majority vote? Should the majority of society determine morality? I hope you are beginning to see how complicated this truly is without a moral law giver (i.e. GOD!!!).

      People look at all the bloodshed in the Bible and conclude that it does not abide by the moral laws that are supposedly contained within it. But those people forget that the perfect moral law that was established by God was transgressed less than 70 verses into a book that contains over 30,000 verses. Does that mean we don’t need to abide by it? No. It means that the longer that we insist on our own moral independence, the worse we will end up. Don’t believe me? Open your eyes and look around. Turn on the tv. Read the newspaper.

      There is a lot more to morality than you have considered. Likewise, believing things “about” God is NOT the same things as believing in God. If you have “worked God around reality” then you have worshiped a false idol. Plain and simple.

      • Jackie – I am not going to start a debate with you because we both know it won’t go anywhere. I find your logic incredibly flawed – you find my conclusions to be incorrect. The irony is that despite your protestations, you and I are no different. I just believe in one less God than you do. You (and every other Christian I’ve met) come across as incredibly self-righteous and that’s because you are. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. Your beliefs and your religion (and in your case, probably your journey towards religion) have allowed you to conclude that you know better, think better and are better equipped to see truth than other people. Particularly those who haven’t come to the same conclusions you have. Right now, in the world, there is a mother who believes (just as strongly as you believe in Jesus) in Allah and the prophet Mohammed…in the Buddah…in Vishnu. Obviously this point could be applied to any religion or denomination you can to think of. She is as bright as you, as educated and well-versed as you, as well-read as you, as moral as you, as kind as you and as sure as you. And yet, you dismiss her as easily as you do me. That kind of arrogance is one of the many reasons I struggle with religion. (Please note I said religion and not God. I don’t struggle with God.) I am not a Christian for the same reason you are not a Muslim.

        Your distinction between believing “about” God versus “in” God is a silly one in my opinion. Like many of your opinions, it is backed up only by what you already believe. You believe in the Bible because the Bible tells you to believe in the Bible. You do not possess title on how one should believe in God and to tell someone (based on one blog post no less) that they never believed in God is not only dismissive, it is dead wrong. You don’t know what I believed – you know only what I believed in the 5 minutes it took me to write that list. It is a snap shot of a complicated subject and to summarize it the way you did just reinforces that you have a need to explain away any opinions that differ from yours.

        I can see that you are interested in religion. What I don’t understand is what you get out of reading an atheist blog. You know by now that I’m not open to missionary work. I am not lost or sad or broken or looking for answers. I don’t have any questions. Maybe since you are obviously a good writer and the subject is something you are interested in, you should start a blog of your own. Are you having doubts about your faith? In my life I have found that religious apologists usually have the most doubt. They seek out opportunities to defend what they believe – if only to confirm that they still believe it.

        As for morality requiring a God, I couldn’t disagree more. I’ve been meaning to write a post on that very subject so hopefully when I have some time this week I will write a post about that. :)

      • I have considered morality probably more than you have. I’ve decided that the lions share of morality is circumstantial. The big morals that you attribute to God are, at least in part, instinctual. If you don’t believe in evolution, there’s no point getting into it.

  3. What do I get out of reading an atheist blog? I believe there is more to learn from someone who has a different opinion than from someone who shares the same opinion. But why do I read your blog? Because you are an excellent writer, a loving mother, you express your thoughts very clearly, your perspective is logical and rational, and when someone disagrees with your point of view, you are not rude or disrespectful. Assuming that my belief in God was not a deal breaker for you, I think we might actually be friends in real life, or at least not enemies (I don’t go around professing Christ everywhere I go).

    I am defending my faith because I doubt my faith? Well, in 2007 I didn’t even have true faith. I had a default belief in something, but God was more like a conglomeration of invisible energy. God was a non-scientific name to explain a scientific based concept that had not yet been named (even Scientist agree that something has to be eternal, whether it be time, space, etc… ). My view of “Religion” was that they are all philosophies for life and that they all have something to contribute. When it comes to religion, we should just take the good from each, and leave the bad behind (kind of like a buffet). But then I met someone that had a very precise view of religion. He gave me the gospel in a nutshell, which was interesting because I’d actually never understood “why” Christ died on the cross. But it still didn’t mean anything. And I had a million questions which he could not even begin to answer.

    Well, rather than dismiss the idea all together, it sparked an interest in understanding religion. I’m one of those people that likes to know things, not just be told things. What you may not realize about me is that I am very heavy into the sciences. Science is one of my passions. It’s so structured and logical and the more you learn about science, the more there is to learn. I just love it and I’m at a loss for words when it comes to explaining just how passionate I am about it. I took 4 Chemistry classes in College just for fun. I took Calculus, just for Fun. My degree is in Biotechnology and Genetics. I can’t emphasis enough how much I LOVE SCIENCE! And the word science just means “Knowledge” so naturally, if there is something out there that I didn’t have a knowledge of, I wanted to learn more about it. And that’s exactly what I set out to do.

    There’s really only a handful of religions that require an in depth examination. Some “religions” are actually just philosophies, and don’t have a “God” per say. Some religions can be logically dismissed based on their creation stories which are even more unbelievable than Genesis (for example, the earth does not rest on the shell of a turtle). It’s the same approach you might take if you were trying to decide if there’s any evidence for Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy. Although you’ve never seen any of them, with a little research, you’ll discover that one of them was actually based on a real person. At this point, you start examining the facts that surrounded the real person, not the myth. This approach takes a long time because you have to be careful which sources of information you use. You need a good balance between proponents from each side, as well as some sort of neutral historical perspective. And this is how I ended up reading Atheist blogs. I followed Christopher Hitches while he was alive, and Richard Dawkins, and other notable naturalists. I keep up with science abstracts too. For a while, I was still trying to make sense of all the information I was collecting. But there comes a point when you start to form a conclusion based on what you’ve discovered. My conclusion obviously differs from yours. But I can honestly say that I have tried, and continue to try to see all sides. I don’t doubt my faith any more than a scientist doubts his or her theory. But that doesn’t mean we stop asking questions. If I am wrong, it will eventually become quite obvious. At which point I can continue in my own delusion, or I can become an atheist. Maybe you already surpassed me in this area. If that’s where my quest for knowledge and truth leads me, then I will get there in my own timing. But at the present moment, I have to live what I believe, otherwise I can’t really claim to believe it.

    Now, as far as being self-righteous, dismissive, and arrogant, I want to apologize for coming off that way. By no means do I think I am more capable of higher brain functions than you. I do, however, think that I have taken a different approach than you. If you drive through a town going 90 mph on the interstate, you can’t claim to know anything about the town, right? I’m not trying to dismiss what you used to believe about God based on one blog, but that one post (along with many of the other views you have expressed in other posts) are quite telling about how much time you actually spent getting to know the town. I’m sorry if this sounds dismissive, but nothing you write shows an understanding of the God of the Bible, and I was under the impression that you used to believe in the God of the Bible (since you are a recovering ex-catholic). I really don’t mean that to be derogatory, I just don’t know how else to say it. If you thought you believed in the God of the Bible, I’m sorry, but you did not. If, however, the statements you expressed were merely your beliefs about A GOD, then I have no place to disagree with whether you believed in A GOD or not. But, again, it was not the God of the Bible. Neither was it the God of Islam for that matter. This is not my opinion, it’s just fact. If you say you at an apple, but you really ate an orange, then you did not eat an apple, I don’t care how much you believed it was an apple. If this distinction is silly in your opinion, then so be it. I guess we just agree to disagree on that one.

    But I don’t understand why any of this makes me arrogant? I’m not criticizing you for what you believe. I am just sharing details about why I disagree. You say I come off self-righteous because I think I know better? Well, don’t you fall under that same definition? Don’t you think you know better? I’d rather leave self-righteousness out of this discussion because by that definition think it could be argued that we both are. But self-righteousness is rooted in hypocrisy, and I don’t think either one us is a hypocrite. We live what we believe. We don’t say one thing, and do another. Granted, other “Christians” might be hypocrites, but please don’t lump me in with what has become a stereotypical group.

    I don’t view Christianity as “better” than any other religion. And therefore I don’t dismiss anyone; not you, and most definitely not the mother in another part of the world that believes in Allah and the Prophet Mohammed. Why would you think that I dismiss anyone? Just because I don’t agree with your beliefs doesn’t mean I dismiss every word that comes out of your mouth? Maybe I need to go back through you blog and start commenting on the things I do agree with. But if I agree, what more can I say than “I agree.” Whereas, when I disagree, I qualify that with an explanation. If you think my logic if flawed, and my explanations are silly, then perhaps I will just stop sharing them because this is no longer a mutual exchange of ideas. I learn a lot from your posts. If you can’t say the same about mine, then I will politely excuse myself from any future discussions. But I have to say I am sad to go because I have truly enjoyed our interactions.

    Best Wishes,

    Jackie

  4. Ps. Just one thing I want to clarify before I go, even though it did not come up in this discussion, but it is sort of implied anytime there is a debate among different religions:

    The Bible does not teach that you go to Hell for not believing in God. It does not teach that the mother on the other side of the world that believes in Allah is damned for not accepting Christ. It does not teach that a child who is born in an impoverished Country is destined for eternal punishment because a missionary did not preach the gospel in her language. Hell, or eternal punishment, or whatever you wish to call it, is the consequence for a negative action. In this particular case, the negative action is “SIN” which is simply transgression (the breaking) of moral law. I can understand why you don’t believe in Hell, or Sin, or any other religious terminology. But if you believe in science, then you don’t dismiss this concept all together because the laws of physics proclaim that for every action, there is an equal or opposite reaction. It’s pretty well understood that the laws in our society are there to protect our freedoms, not restrict them. But if you break a law, you are subject to a penalty. You might have to pay a fine, or do some community service, or spend the night in jail, or maybe you are the lucky one that gets away with the crime, and eventually, you will be outside the statute of limitations and the crime will no longer be punishable. To put it plainly, there is no statute of limitations on justice. And in a wholly just system, every offense must be accounted for. Every offense leave an outstanding debt that must be paid.

    I know that “Jesus died on the cross for our sins” means nothing to you. But what it is intended to represent is the payment for the debt incurred by every moral law that has ever been broken. If you take into account the sins of one person, and add to that the sins of every person on the face of the planet, and add to that the sins of every person that ever has lived, or ever will live, and then you concentrate all that sin into one spot, you begin to understand what took place on the Cross when Jesus took upon himself the sins of the world.

    2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV) “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

    I know it is silliness to you. And that’s fine. I just wanted to clarify that point because it truly helps to break down that wall of intolerance between different religions. For me the question of which religion is right, is a secondary question. The primary question will always be, is there a God. If the answer is no, then nothing changes. But if the answer is anything less than no, if there is even 1 chance in a googolplex that the answer might be yes, then it changes EVERYTHING. Religion then becomes like multiple choice test, and you’re stuck wondering if you are really sure about the answer before you bubble in the circle. Is it A, B, C, D, or E, None of the above? Ultimately, you won’t know for sure until the test is over and graded.The one who gets it right either took a guess and got lucky, or knew enough about the other choices to eliminate them as possibilities. Whereas you have locked in E as your answer, I have bubbled in one of the other choices. But, both are subject to change anytime between now and the end of the test. :-)

  5. pps. (Final thought, I promise!)

    You should turn this blog into a book. You are an eloquent writer. Your posting tags could help you divine your blog into chapters. Or you could just go chronologically by post date. Seriously. I’d buy your book. And I’m willing to bet there are thousands more who would too. In fact, the people that follow your blog would likely tell others about it. I know we don’t agree about God, but that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize talent. If a I can enjoy your posts as a Christian, how much more would other atheists / naturalists / freethinkers enjoy it?!

    Okay, I’m done. Best wishes, today, tomorrow, and always. :)

  6. Actually, as a blog reader I must admit I thought the line “If it’s any consolation, I don’t think you ever believed in God” is kind of awesome, in its way.

  7. I just found your blog today and am SOOO grateful. I was actually thinking of starting one of my own just for the support. Us atheists mom feel so alone. (at least I do) there’s tons of support set up for religious moms but I feel like a fish out of water. I’m half afraid to tell other moms what I believe when I meet them. (although I definitely here what they believe on a regular basis!) Glad I’m not the only ‘good’ mother out there who is an atheist.

    • Bonnie – welcome! I know, it can be hard to share your thoughts about religion. It has always frustrated me that it’s so socially acceptable to spout off about Jesus but the party comes to a grinding halt if you drop the “A-Bomb” ha ha. I took my family to our local Pride party this weekend and it just reminded me that with continued effort and dedication, even the most maligned group can gain mainstream acceptance. Thanks for helping in the fight. :)

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  9. I take it you’ve come a long way since 2001 but the climb up is harder than falling back down. Constructing your own ethic is a lot harder than following someone else’s.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think its worth the effort, but millions of people have spent billions of hours on a few of those well tried ideas. Most of those hours were probably wasted. I’m being a bit sardonic but its likely that you have to be pretty relaxed on your core values to fit in.

    Some mores evolved in our culture for reasons. Respecting your parents (i.e. not swearing at them ;-) ) might be a good example of one of them.

    So my question for you is this: What did you gain and what did you lose? (Here’s three that come to mind from what you said in 2001)

    1. All people are born good. Good was pretty easy when there was a god. Now you have to think it through. Have you come up with a fast rule to tell good from bad? Is it gut instinct or do you have to study the situation out for an hour?

    2. There was something out there (lets call it god) that will forgive mistakes. Seems like a good concept to have if you have a lot of regrets. Sometimes personal atonement is hard to reach. I’ve heard it gets harder when you get older. Perhaps its time to insert some meditation eh? Inner Peace, ah-ommm. If all else fails you can always complain at family how misunderstood you are ;-).

    3. The cold hard truth that there is no mansion on the hill after you die. That in fact you will one day not wake up, and experience of life in all its pleasure or pain will be gone i.e. your personal identity will cease to be. So you learn to live in the moment and have a healthy respect for the time you’ve got. Any other thoughts on that?

    I am curious to what ideas you have come up with. I have tried most of these myself in one form or another so I’m not judging. I’m more interested to know if any atheists (who are not professional philosophers) are putting the long hours required to figure out how live life and get along with others.

    Okay magic screen, relay back to me some answers from afar.

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