Raft slab foundation

WINC: My New Foundations for Beliefs

As I prepared to begin phase 2 of my research – examining the truth claims of Christianity and the Bible – I quickly determined that regardless of where my investigation led, these would be my new foundations for belief.[1]

  1. Truth should withstand scrutiny.
  2. “Faith” with insufficient evidence as a basis for belief is a liability.
  3. Minimizing presuppositions is necessary if I hope to discover the truth.
  4. At a minimum, a just god who punishes is morally obliged to inform transgressors of the requirements ahead of time.
  5. The burden of proof is on the one making the claim.

Along with the evidence (and lack thereof, in some cases), these ideas would later underpin the reasons “Why I’m Not a Christian” (WINC).

Finding Truth

How does one discern truth among a multitude of mutually-contradictory (religious) claims? By challenging them. By requiring evidence before accepting any. All scientific-like.

“Truth should withstand scrutiny.” This became my mantra. It defined the approach of my research.

I was going to go for the jugular. If Christianity is true, and God is good, and I am made in his image, and he wants me to know him, then he should want me to know it, and I have good reason to expect that its claims should withstand rigorous examination.

Faith is a Virtue?

I could accept that, if the Christian God hypothesis is true, that a faith that “fills in the gaps” could be acceptable, or even virtuous. But faith without evidence, as a foundation for belief, won’t cut it. That would leave me open to believing all kinds of falsehoods.

Such a faith would be blind faith. Credulity. Gullibility.

Not a virtue.

Presuppositions

As I explained in Why I Was a Christian, I had presupposed both God’s existence, and revelation to man. This would not do any longer.

In my experience, Christians are prone to claiming that (1) they presuppose the existence of God or a god, whereas (2) atheists presuppose that there is no god. Therefore we reasoned that the former was acceptable, and even virtuous; whereas the latter was a jump to a conclusion, and borne out of rebellion.

Baloney.

Christians who presuppose God’s existence are assuming (at least a large chunk of) their conclusion. In reading what well-researched atheists and deconverts from Christianity have to say for themselves, I’ve come to find that, in general, they didn’t make such an assumption. They just evaluated the Christian God claims, and found them unsupportable in some cases, and demonstrably false in others.

In any case, here was (and is) my take on it:

  • Maybe a deity (or deities) exist.
  • If so, maybe he/she/it has revealed him/her/itself to us. Maybe not.
    • (Or maybe they have revealed themselves…)
    • If no such revelation has occurred, then humanity would not yet have the answers to things neither revealed nor yet discovered–especially as it pertains to the origin of the cosmos and human sentience.
  • There is definitely a “how” we got here. There may or may not be a “why”, i.e. an external purpose from a sentient being(s).

Presuppositionalism is a lazy, dishonest shortcut. I aim to only presuppose things that are necessary for intelligibility, like the existence of the external world, and logic. But I think maybe these things are not even presuppositions at all, as they are borne out by the evidence.

Required to Inform

At a minimum, a just god who punishes is morally obliged to inform transgressors of the requirements ahead of time. Even the apostle Paul tries to claim that everyone has been informed (Rom 1:19-20). He just doesn’t offer any evidence for his unfalsifiable claim.

Would someone challenge my claim? Maybe based on the legal principle that “ignorance of the law does not excuse“. On the contrary, I contend that this non-universal principle is in place to avert a graver injustice – that of a guilty perpetrator feigning ignorance to wrongfully escape conviction. It is the best effort of humans to work within our own finiteness. An omniscient, omnipotent deity could ensure that we’re all informed of the requirements (like Paul suggests he has), and he could provide proof that we have such knowledge (which Paul didn’t). Therefore the principle does not apply in this situation.

Perhaps – or probably – a compelling case can be made that there are no circumstances under which eternal punishment for finite crimes by finite beings is justified (whether by torture or annihilation). But I didn’t need to go there, at least not yet. The above was enough for me to proceed to examine the evidence. I could circle back if need be.

Burden of Proof

The burden of proof is on the one making the claim. This is the justified rule in debates. It is how we discern between competing, mutually exclusive claims.

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” (Carl Sagan)

“What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” (Hitchens’ razor.)

I pretty much formulated the thoughts in the first paragraph on my own, before digging into my research. And I came across the two quotes rather early on in the process.

I don’t recall exactly when I came across Richard Carrier’s Why I Am Not a Christian, but I think he illustrates the above principles pretty well in the section A Digression on Method.

Threshold of Evidence

Some believers may not believe me (ha!), but I planned to – and I feel like I did – give Christian truth claims the benefit of the doubt, to a reasonable extent.[2] As I mentioned when embarking on my research:

I’m not expecting to find proof “beyond a reasonable doubt”. I’m just hoping that the “preponderance of evidence” leans one way or the other.

Onward

Having given some thought to my approach, I proceeded to focus on the research itself. Lots of reading (sources with multiple perspectives), watching and listening to debates (especially on the historicity of the alleged resurrection of Jesus), and reading and commenting on others’ blogs ensued.[3]

Notes

  1. Image credit: Bill Bradley. (Image source: Wikipedia.)

1. Not that I listed them at the time, and it’s not necessarily a comprehensive list…

2. If I didn’t give them the benefit of the doubt, then I might have dismissed them out of hand, as most of us do with the vast majority if not all of the world’s religions.

3. For the most part, I did not post here on my own blog as I researched. Hazards of being an introvert?

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66 thoughts on “WINC: My New Foundations for Beliefs

  1. chicagoja

    Philosophers have debated these questions seemingly forever without coming up with an acceptable answer. The reason, from a scientific standpoint, is that science cannot observe beyond space and time. From a religious perspective, god, if he exists, is infinitely unknowable notwithstanding what the deists say. So, the existence of god can never be proved or disproved. Therefore, faith does matter even if there is insufficient evidence (which obviously there is). Note: The Bible can hardly be accepted as the unerring Word of God. People develop belief systems one of two ways – through personal experiences or by accepting someone else’s opinion. Unfortunately, in the world today there is too much of the latter. As a result, society’s legacy is social conditioning.

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    1. ratamacue0 Post author

      Hi chicagoja,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Philosophers have debated these questions seemingly forever without coming up with an acceptable answer.

      Which questions? I made statements, and explained my reasoning behind them. (Or at least I tried to.) If you want to put forth some alternatives, it would help if you could specify and support them.

      From a religious perspective, god, if he exists, is infinitely unknowable notwithstanding what the deists say.

      What do you mean when you say that “god is infinitely unknowable”? Also, why should we believe that any possible or existing “god” is sentient, and presents as a male? Or are you just using common religious nomenclature to describe why you reject it?

      I’m having trouble making sense of some other parts of your comment, too. Maybe answering my questions here will shed some light on those parts, too.

      Note: The Bible can hardly be accepted as the unerring Word of God.

      We’re on the same page there. 🙂

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  2. unkleE

    Hi, I agree with most of these too, but I disagree with one – “Required to inform”. There are many situations in life where informing someone is counter productive. e.g. if the cops are doing a sting using someone who has infiltrated a gang, it would make no sense to inform them they are under test and surveillance. Or, sometimes a parent or teacher will watch a child without making it obvious to see how they will behave in a particular situation when they think thy are not being watched.

    Or to take a fairy story example – if a prince wishes to woo a commoner, he may decide not to announce he is a prince so he makes sure the girl loves him for who he is not for his position and wealth.

    It is surely possible that God could have similar reasons for not making himself more obvious?

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    1. ratamacue0 Post author

      Hi unkleE,

      Hi, I agree with most of these too

      I’m pleasantly surprised. 😉

      but I disagree with one – “Required to inform”. There are many situations in life where informing someone is counter productive. e.g. if the cops are doing a sting using someone who has infiltrated a gang, it would make no sense to inform them they are under test and surveillance. Or, sometimes a parent or teacher will watch a child without making it obvious to see how they will behave in a particular situation when they think thy are not being watched.

      I don’t think these analogies hold. I’m talking about a moral imperative to disclose the requirements that must be met (i.e. about what the law says, and the consequences of jail for breaking it). I’m not talking about informing about the surveillance that tests whether the requirements have been met. (Although, as it happens, the proposition that Yahweh put us all here as some big secret test smells funny to me, too.)

      Or to take a fairy story example – if a prince wishes to woo a commoner, he may decide not to announce he is a prince so he makes sure the girl loves him for who he is not for his position and wealth.

      The first problem I see with this analogy is that the prince (presumably) doesn’t kill or torture the commoner if she doesn’t love him.

      It is surely possible that God could have similar reasons for not making himself more obvious?

      So far, I don’t find it plausible.

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  3. Professor Taboo

    I second (or third? fourth?) the comments above — excellent critical thinking Ratamacue0!

    Your #1 foundation at the top is a principle all rational people should have. I guess that is TOO profound and far-reaching a principle for many to understand, even grasp; I don’t know. In science that’s how something/an equation becomes Law — at least for the foreseeable future, huh? 😉

    But of course, many in the clergy strongly advise you not to doubt (question?) God, Christ, and Scriptures like that, don’t they? 😛

    Liked by 3 people

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    1. ratamacue0 Post author

      Thank you kindly, Professor. 🙂

      But of course, many in the clergy strongly advise you not to doubt (question?) God, Christ, and Scriptures like that, don’t they? 😛

      I suppose this must be true, but somehow I still have trouble seeing it. The exhortations to faith are probably enough to prove your point, and the fact that it took decades for the very question to dawn on me is also consistent with it. I don’t remember blatantly being told not to doubt, or that doubt or questioning is a sin. (But maybe that was there, too?) In any case, it’s kind of…insidious.

      …I’m looking forward to reading and responding to the comments you left for me today on several of my posts. Thanks so much for your time and interest, and for sharing your own thoughts and stories. 🙂

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  4. SelfAwarePatterns

    “Truth should withstand scrutiny.”
    Well said. In my experience, truth is strengthened with scrutiny, and falsehoods wither from it. The trick, of course, is avoiding the very human tendency to rationalize, but I think the rest of your points protect against that.

    Best of luck with your search.

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  5. Peter

    What I have found interesting in reading the stories of people who De-converted from Christianity is that often the trigger has been more detailed study of the Bible. A cursory knowledge of the Bible does not tend to raise the challenges to faith that come from identifying what seem to be clear contradictions. If the Bible was inspired then one would expect more detailed study should increase faith not challenge it. I well remember a wonderful Christian man who decided to undertake serious Bible study late in his life, he found it robbed him of his simple untroubled faith. He went to his grave a troubled man having lost the peace that comes from assurance.

    Conservative Biblical scholars do have an answer for the most intractable problems, the term ‘holy mystery’! This tends to work (to an extent) for theological issues but is less persuasive for clear factual differences (such as the contrast in the story of the healing of Jarius’ daughter between Mark and Matthews gospels).

    Picking up the Holy Mystery theme, the conservative scholars might argue that God is not obliged to accord with our logic as God sets the rules not us. But that still leaves the troubling issue that increased study of God’s word seems to challenge faith rather than encourage it. Why would an all powerful God allow obvious errors to be recorded in His Word? Some great minds from the past have argued that God will never provide definite proof of his existence as that removes the need for faith. But that then raises an obvious question, how would an honest enquirer know which of the various competing religions is correct?

    There is one final argument from the conservative scholar, that the Bible can only be truly understood by the mind enlightened by the Spirit of God.So if one struggles with the issues in the Bible it indicates an effort to understand in the flesh not the Spirit. However that then leaves the problem of how does one study the Bible in the Spirit unless God deigns to enlighten one.

    In the Book of Job there is an encounter between God and Job. Job wanted to question why God allowed so much trouble to befall him. When God turned up, his words to Job were along the lines of ‘who are you to question me’. God never answered Job’s questions, though he did later commend him.

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    1. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

      Peter, you raise very good points. For me, personally, I know I went the distance. I know, to the best of my ability, that I “emptied” myself out — “died to myself”— “decreased so that “He” could increase”. The Bible states that we are to study to show ourselves approved, and study I did — extensively. I prayed that God would illuminate his word because it was the desire of my heart to delight myself in the lord. But as I began to study the Gospels horizontally, meaning reading back to back, Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, (which I’d never done before) I started getting red flags and the inconsistencies were glaring. But I blew it off initially thinking that it was my own misunderstandings. When I sought guidance from clergy to help answer my questions, they didn’t have the answers and told me that we shouldn’t lean on our own understanding. OK. 😉

      However, as I delved into the OT, oh my, it got much worse and I was having a difficult time accepting the picture that was unfolding about God’s character and the patriarchs. The more I continued to study, the more I lost my peace and my faith began to wane.

      I agree that people who don’t get deep in study, regarding the Bible, tend to get the best benefits from their faith — a certainty — an assurance of an afterlife and a supportive social network. But if people are really honest with themselves, those who have studied the Bible extensively, they will generally come to the same conclusion as many of us have — that the very foundation of Christianity is made of sinking sand.

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      1. chicagoja

        Religion is for people that don’t truly want to know God. They are like little children who just want their Father to comfort them and tell them everything will be okay. So, for them, faith is just fine (because they wouldn’t want to know the truth). The truth is often ugly and painful. That’s why they say that ignorance is a bliss.

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        1. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

          Hi John,

          I took a quick peek at your blog and About page but haven’t read any of your posts. I’m intrigued by your research. Seems similar to my own. What is your idea of God and your methodology in getting to know God. Who is God in your opinion?

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        2. chicagoja

          I do believe in God but you’ll have to read my posts in order to soak it all in (i.e. 20 words or less won’t do). My research is based primarily on paranormal events that have occurred in my life. Religion would no doubt call them divine revelation.

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        3. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

          Have you looked into Michael Persinger’s work regarding geomagnetic activity and how poltergeist and paranormal activity increases during strong geomagnetic storms (after earth directed coronal mass ejections)?

          “Several researchers have reported that poltergeist episodes frequently began on the day (± 1 day) of a sudden and intense increase in global geomagnetic activity. To test this visual observation, a near-complete account of these episodes for which the inception dates were recorded and verified was examined. Statistical samples clearly indicated that global geomagnetic activity (aa index) on the day or day after the onset of these episodes was significantly higher than the geomagnetic activity on the days before or afterwards. The same temporal pattern was noted for historical cases and for those that have occurred more recently. The pattern was similar for episodes that occurred in North America and Europe. The results were statistically significant and suggest that these unusual episodes may be some form of natural phenomena that are associated with geophysical factors.”

          (Gearhart, Livingston, and Persinger, M.A.; “Geophysical Variables and Behavior: XXXIII. Onsets of Historical and Contemporary Poltergeist Episodes Occurred with Sudden Increases in Geomagnetic Activity,” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 62:463, 1986.)

          …not to mention abnormal electrical activity in the temporal lobes.

          “People who report objects moving in their presence, unusual sounds, glows around other people, and multiple sensed presences but do not meet the criteria for psychiatric disorders have been shown to exhibit electrical anomalies over the right temporal lobes.”

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22229671

          and

          “Data from the 19th century on hallucinations and magnetic disturbances were found to exhibit a direct and statistically significant correlation. The aa magnetic index over the period 1868-89 and concurrent visual hallucinatory activity were found to co-vary. Magnetic influences on the pineal hormone, melatonin, are suggested as a source of variation. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2012623

          and

          “Between April 1968 and May 1971 hundreds of thousands of people reported seeing apparitions of the Virgin Mary over a Coptic Orthodox church in Zeitoun, near Cairo, Egypt. When photographed, these phenomena appeared as irregular blobs of light. Primarily there were two types of events: small, short-lived highly kinetic and more persistent coronal type displays that were situated primarily over apical structures of the church. More detailed descriptions of the phenomena , such as visions, often occurred as ‘flashes’; their details usually reflected the religious background of the experiment.

          The characteristics of these luminous phenomena strongly suggested the existence of tectonic strain within the area. […anomalous luminous phenomena are generated by brief, local changes in strain that precede earthquakes within the region. Psychological factors determine more elaborate details of the experiences because there are both direct stimulations of the observers brain as well as indirect contributions from reinforcement history.’

          [Analysis revealed that) ‘luminous phenomena in Zeitoun increased during the month of or the month before an increase in regional seismic activity’ (Derr, John S. & Michael A. Persinger ‘Geophysical Variables and Behavior: LIV. Zeitoun (Egypt) Apparitions of the Virgin Mary as Tectonic Strain-induced Luminosities. Perceptual and Motor Skills 1989, 68, 123-128]

          I’ve read well over a 100 of these types of studies. Was just curious if you’ve investigated any of this. Have you ever read the paper “Ghost in the Machine”?

          Liked by 1 person

        4. ratamacue0 Post author

          I do believe in God but you’ll have to read my posts in order to soak it all in (i.e. 20 words or less won’t do). My research is based primarily on paranormal events that have occurred in my life. Religion would no doubt call them divine revelation.

          Which god? Or what are the characteristics of the god to which you refer? I think these are questions you ought to be able to answer with reasonable brevity – enough to fit in a comment here.

          And why should I believe your claims above all others that contradict it? This, I expect, would be more involved. Feel free to link a post of your own here if you’ve addressed this question.

          Actually, the paranormal activity I was referring to is what the Human Genome Project calls hyper-communication.

          I’m not familiar with this alleged phenomenon. Could you describe it briefly? And provide some sources/links about it that you find descriptive and/or persuasive.

          I figure several of the people who wrote parts of the bible probably had some weird experiences, or wrote about others who had. And yet if I understand, you also reject their interpretations of those types of experiences. Why should I trust yours?

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        5. chicagoja

          All very valid questions. First of all, hyper-communication is the process by which life forms can communicate with each other across vast distances in the universe. Some scientific experiments might refer to it as non-local area phenomena. If true, it would explain the expression that we are all one. As far as your believing in what I might say (over what someone else might say), that’s totally up to you. I don’t try to convince people, but rather to simply speak my truth. I realize that very few people have the same perspective that I do. Hopefully, you have a curious, open mind and will want to explore more. If you do, the search for the truth might take you to some unexpected places. Everybody’s truth is different so don’t be disappointed that others express their own truth differently – like myself.

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        6. ratamacue0 Post author

          I don’t try to convince people, but rather to simply speak my truth. I realize that very few people have the same perspective that I do… Everybody’s truth is different so don’t be disappointed that others express their own truth differently – like myself.

          I accept that we all have different perspectives, and generally we stand to learn something from each other. But I don’t buy the whole “my truth / your truth” thing, as if multiple contradictory explanations for a given event or phenomenon can simultaneously be true. I’m not aware of any arena where that does show itself to be good or true or useful. And if scientists and engineers thought that way, we wouldn’t have this wonderful technology enabling this very discussion.

          Hopefully, you have a curious, open mind and will want to explore more.

          I like to think I do have an open mind. However, while I appreciate your acknowledging the validity of my questions, you answered almost none of them. You haven’t given me much to go on, and I’m not interested in a wild goose chase.

          Feel free to go back and answer my questions, present evidence / sources, etc. if you want.

          Liked by 1 person

        7. chicagoja

          Just to clarify, “my truth/ your truth” means that we each think that we are speaking the truth when in reality maybe neither one of us are.

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        8. ratamacue0 Post author

          That I can acknowledge.

          I have to say though, whenever I’ve heard people use that phrasing, it’s never conveyed the meaning to me that you’re suggesting here. And I’m not convinced that people in general use it to mean what you said here. If you think this is a misconception of mine, I’d be interested to see some sources indicating general usage, as it’s always rubbed me the wrong way.

          And if I’m not the weird one, then you might want to consider using different phrasing in the future. (More like your clarification.)

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        9. ratamacue0 Post author

          I’m not sure it is okay.

          I can get on board with different styles of writing. But words have usages. Despite your clarification, from your last comment, you still appear to be attempting to water down the meaning of the word “truth”. To what end? Are you really interested in clear communication, examining ideas, and finding out what’s actually true? Or do you just feel good believing what you believe, injecting some vague claims into a conversation, and hoping to get a pass because it’s not really clear what you’re saying?

          And still, you’ve answered almost none of the questions I put to you, where I asked for clarity on what positions you were taking, and evidence for them. You didn’t even bother to provide links to resources or evidence, or point to specific posts on your own blog providing any of these.

          If you have some beliefs that you’d like to present (for examination) and explain (so that they can be understood), and you’d like to support your claims with reason and evidence, feel free. If you’d like to present some evidence or arguments against my positions or anyone else’s here, also feel free. If not…maybe don’t feel so free.

          Liked by 1 person

        10. chicagoja

          It sort of sounds like you’re demanding that I act a certain way (e.g. answering your questions) and accept your interpretation of word meanings and so on. Not sure what it is that you think that you are offering in this back and forth. However, since you obviously think that you are “a great mind” you should tell me what you think. Maybe, I could learn something.

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        11. ratamacue0 Post author

          It sort of sounds like you’re demanding that I act a certain way (e.g. answering your questions)

          Note my blog title. Aspire to find truth. If you’ve got a better way besides what I’ve proposed (challenging claims, investigating evidence, etc.), I’m all ears.

          If you don’t, and you’re just interested in making baseless claims, then I’m not interested in giving you a platform.

          and accept your interpretation of word meanings

          I’m interested in clear communication. To that end, just now I even did a quick web search to double-check my understanding of the meanings of the word “truth”. (It did conform.) If you can demonstrate that people use “my truth / your truth” to mean “we each think that we are speaking the truth when in reality maybe neither one of us are”, please do so. Heck, even if it’s not common usage, I’d be interested to hear an argument for why it’s useful. Until then, it looks to me like you’re doing people a disservice by contorting the language in that way.

          Not sure what it is that you think that you are offering in this back and forth.

          Me? Not allowing unsubstantiated claims to go unchallenged, toward that goal of finding truth. Challenging you to either address or challenge some of my claims, present some sort of case for your claims, or reconsider – your claims and apparently your methodology.

          You?

          However, since you obviously think that you are “a great mind”

          Hmm…ad hom? Regardless, irrelevant.

          you should tell me what you think.

          About my own claims? That’s in the post.

          About yours? I don’t know what you’re claiming. You’ve ignored or dodged my challenges and requests for clarification.

          In short: put up or shut up.

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      2. Peter

        Hi Victoria

        I was just reading an analysis on Exodus 4:24-26. Biblical scholars admit that this is one of the most perplexing texts in the whole Bible. One of the greatest intellects in the history of Christianity, Augustine, commented that texts such as these as in the Bible to keep us humble. I conclude from that the great Augustine who was a master at developing allegory to explain away the violence in the Old Testament was stumped when trying to come up with a satisfactory allegorical explanation for this text.

        A typical allegorical application is God’s command to eradicate the Amelikites. They are seen as code for sin in the believers life so the application becomes the need to remove sin in our life, to be ruthless with it, give it no quarter.

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        1. chicagoja

          There is some logic in the Bible, just not what you may get from a Christian theologian. If you read the Bible with the understanding that God is not really the Prime Creator, or even the one referred to in the Bible as the Most High God, it will give you a totally different perspective.

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        2. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

          Hi Peter, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I sometimes chuckle at myself when I think of all the times I invested lots of energy thinking about this stuff — only to find out that we have a good bit of evidence that the Pentateuch is historical fiction. Also, It would have been so much easier to comprehend if the so-called God of the Bible had just given us basic lessons in neurobiology. 😀

          Hope you’re having a good week so far.

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    2. ratamacue0 Post author

      What I have found interesting in reading the stories of people who De-converted from Christianity is that often the trigger has been more detailed study of the Bible. A cursory knowledge of the Bible does not tend to raise the challenges to faith that come from identifying what seem to be clear contradictions.

      This is consistent with my own experience, and what I’ve read of others’.

      If the Bible was inspired then one would expect more detailed study should increase faith not challenge it.

      Indeed!

      Conservative Biblical scholars do have an answer for the most intractable problems, the term ‘holy mystery’! This tends to work (to an extent) for theological issues but is less persuasive for clear factual differences (such as the contrast in the story of the healing of Jarius’ daughter between Mark and Matthews gospels).

      I can’t help but think, “holy copout!”

      Batman. 😉

      I could accept it in some instances, really. But if there really were some divine guidance behind the bible, he/it doesn’t seem very interested in convincing us of the truth of the message that’s supposedly of the utmost importance – nevermind communicating it clearly in the first place.

      Picking up the Holy Mystery theme, the conservative scholars might argue that God is not obliged to accord with our logic as God sets the rules not us. But that still leaves the troubling issue that increased study of God’s word seems to challenge faith rather than encourage it. Why would an all powerful God allow obvious errors to be recorded in His Word? Some great minds from the past have argued that God will never provide definite proof of his existence as that removes the need for faith. But that then raises an obvious question, how would an honest enquirer know which of the various competing religions is correct?

      Spot on with the “whys” and “hows”.

      About faith…I did give some thoughts on that in the post. 🙂

      There is one final argument from the conservative scholar, that the Bible can only be truly understood by the mind enlightened by the Spirit of God. So if one struggles with the issues in the Bible it indicates an effort to understand in the flesh not the Spirit. However that then leaves the problem of how does one study the Bible in the Spirit unless God deigns to enlighten one.

      There is so much assumption in that line of thinking. And if it were true, how could you ever trust your own judgement, anyway? No matter which side of belief you fall on.

      In the Book of Job there is an encounter between God and Job. Job wanted to question why God allowed so much trouble to befall him. When God turned up, his words to Job were along the lines of ‘who are you to question me’. God never answered Job’s questions, though he did later commend him.

      Yeah. To me, this one is a powerful illustration of the evil side of the Yahweh character.

      He suggests that Satan cause calamity to befall Job. He allows Satan to cause him horrendous pain, and kill his family. (And no, giving him a new family does not make up for it.) Then when Job has the “audacity” to ask why, Yahweh basically says, “Fuck you; I’m the boss.”

      And yet he’s totally loving and exists and wants to have a relationship with me. o_O

      …I hope that wasn’t too much for you. I have stong feelings about that one. It makes me angry to think that submission to such a character is touted as a virtue, when there are better reasons to doubt his very existence.

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      1. Peter

        The verse that had been going through my mind is where God says to Moses: ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy’.

        Applying the logic of St Paul, of salvation by grace and God electing to save some before the foundation of the earth, implies that some (the majority – based on Jesus’ own admission) are just unlucky God decided not to show them mercy. Especially as Paul makes clear it is not based at all on our merit or character, rather God’s inscrutable wisdom.

        That great mind, and a person with a caring heart, St Augustine argued that the wonder was that any were saved at all. However he was troubled by young babies dying before being baptised. He argued their must be degrees of hell and they were in the least horrific part. No where does the Bible teach this and it seems that Augustine came up with this concept because his heart could not accept that God could send a young baby who never had any chance to live to the worst kind of eternal torment.

        The Bible says everyone who seeks finds. But experience suggests this is not the case. Conservative Bible scholars suggest those who do not persist were not true followers, citing the teaching in the first letter of John, ‘they went out from us because they were not one of us’.

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        1. ratamacue0 Post author

          The verse that had been going through my mind is where God says to Moses: ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy’.

          Not quite as egregious, but still the same “I’m the boss” idea.

          Applying the logic of St Paul, of salvation by grace and God electing to save some before the foundation of the earth, implies that some (the majority – based on Jesus’ own admission) are just unlucky God decided not to show them mercy. Especially as Paul makes clear it is not based at all on our merit or character, rather God’s inscrutable wisdom.

          Inscrutable, lol.

          Yeah, frankly, that proposition just doesn’t sound fair, just, loving or kind to me. All of which are proposed as additional characteristics of Christianity’s god.

          Augustine…was troubled by young babies dying before being baptised. He argued their must be degrees of hell and they were in the least horrific part. No where does the Bible teach this and it seems that Augustine came up with this concept because his heart could not accept that God could send a young baby who never had any chance to live to the worst kind of eternal torment.

          He was right to be troubled by the notion, but I don’t think the truth lies in extrapolating that babies get just a little eternal torment; nor to the “age of accountability” idea, with so little evidential support at the core of the hell proposition.

          The Bible says everyone who seeks finds. But experience suggests this is not the case. Conservative Bible scholars suggest those who do not persist were not true followers, citing the teaching in the first letter of John, ‘they went out from us because they were not one of us’.

          Ha, well I sought…and here I am. 😉

          Ah, yes, I John 2:19. Excuses, circular reasoning, no true Scotsman Christian… They definitely didn’t leave because we’re wrong – no, none of them. Nothing to see here; move along.

          I think this type of question-squelching has been a factor in the success of Christianity.

          Like

        1. ratamacue0 Post author

          Heh. I think there’s a time and place. When the situation calls for it…

          Hopefully it’s not counter productive; or if it is, hopefully someone tells me.

          Like

  6. Ain't No Shrinking Violet

    I never would have guessed you were angry either…you’re quite cool and collected in your arguments. Now me, I’m just flat pissed off, and struggle mightily to remain to be cool when talking to real-life religious people. I’m overwhelmed with the desire to slap them and scream, “how can you be so stupid!” This is likely a severe case of transference; I really want to slap the hell out of myself for being so stupid and buying into religion hook, line, and sinker, for so long.

    A question on your timeline for my own clarity: how long ago was it that you stopped believing in christianity? I read that you were inactive for a long period of time before you decided it wasn’t true, so I’m trying to get a feel for where you’re at now. Do you feel like you’re recovered completely from your deconversion? I’m about six months out from losing my faith, and about two months out from declaring myself an atheist to my friends and family, so I’m wondering how we compare there.

    PS Your name was so confusing to me, yet vaguely giving me childhood memories, so I looked it up. Of course it’s drum pattern…I remember it from band practice! You are a musician?

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    1. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

      Hope you two don’t mind me butting in here. Violet, you wrote: ” I really want to slap the hell out of myself for being so stupid and buying into religion hook, line, and sinker, for so long.”

      Oh how I can relate. It took me a long time to forgive myself. It’s been 10 years since my deconversion and every so often I will need to have a good cry about the years I wasted devoting myself to a falsehood. It also took me about 8 years before I started blogging about my deconversion and how ticked-off I was, especially learning that there are certain methodologies that many clergy use to emotionally manipulate people. I hate being deceived.

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      1. Ain't No Shrinking Violet

        Honestly, I think religion is just form of a cult. They limit the flow of knowledge, forbid you to ask questions, and surround you with people who think exactly like you…if you don’t obey, you’re thrown out and damned to hell. I do not mean to minimize the experience of cult survivors who were seriously abused (many of whom I worked with in my job as a psych nurse), but there ARE some similarities between cults and what would be considered mainstream religions…more than what people might like to think.

        V, I’m glad you told me how long it’s taken you to get over your deconversion. I keep thinking I should be over it already, but maybe I need to reconsider that idea. It feels like my entire life was based on a lie, and only in the last six months have I been able to live in “reality.”

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        1. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

          “but there ARE some similarities between cults and what would be considered mainstream religions…more than what people might like to think.”

          I agree Violet, and I don’t think you are minimizing the experiences of people who were involved in a cult. It’s hard to admit that I was in a one-sided, deeply committed love relationship for so long.. For me, it was such a betrayal of trust, and I’m not sure I’ll ever fully get over it. Have you read any of the articles by Psychologist Marlene Winell regarding Religious Trauma Syndrome?

          http://www.babcp.com/Review/RTS.aspx

          An excerpt from article 1, Dr. Winell states:

          “Real damage is assumed to be done by extreme fringe groups we call “cults” and people have heard of ritual abuse. Moreover, religious institutions have a vested interest in promoting an uncritical view.

          But mind-control and emotional abuse is actually the norm for many large, authoritarian, mainline religious groups. The sanitization of religion makes it all the more insidious. When the communities are so large and the practices normalized, victims are silenced.

          If you read the articles on her website (listed in the link) she shares that people have experienced Complex PTSD due to mainstream religion.

          You wrote: “V, I’m glad you told me how long it’s taken you to get over your deconversion. I keep thinking I should be over it already, but maybe I need to reconsider that idea. It feels like my entire life was based on a lie, and only in the last six months have I been able to live in “reality.”

          TBH, I’m amazed how far you have come in such a short amount of time.

          Like

        2. Ain't No Shrinking Violet

          That is *very* interesting material I’ve never seen before. I will absolutely be checking out the links…thanks for sending it my way!

          Liked by 1 person

        3. ratamacue0 Post author

          I’m not an expert, but (provisionally) it seems to me that the main differences between cults and religions are severity and popularity.

          I keep thinking I should be over it already, but maybe I need to reconsider that idea. It feels like my entire life was based on a lie, and only in the last six months have I been able to live in “reality.”

          Not to minimize anything, but…better late than never?

          I too wish…if only I had…if only they hadn’t…but, it is what it is. All I can do is process the pain, and try to find and create some new meaning and joy; analyze and tear down the harmful thought patterns, and try to create some new helpful and true patterns…

          It’s okay to feel what you feel, and to take the time you need to process it. Just try to keep moving forward, friend.

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        4. Ain't No Shrinking Violet

          “Better late than never.” Absolutely! That does not minimize anything, it’s the straight truth.

          I do feel atheism is very much a net gain. Before I declared myself an atheist though, I was in this muddling, middle phase where I wasn’t sure which way I was going to end up going, and that was quite painful. Once I made the decision that I was in fact an atheist, that’s when the net gain set in. It took awhile to get there.

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    2. ratamacue0 Post author

      I never would have guessed you were angry either

      Haha…thanks.

      Well, I guess in my mind, the anger alone isn’t enough to demonstrate the Christian propositions untrue. And I consider my anger to be a consequence of that, not the cause of my disbelief. I was (unintentionally) deceived / mistaken about this stuff for decades, and now I see how it’s caused harm and wasted time and resources and bad decisions for me and others…I want to help, and I want to be able to demonstrate that I have good reasons.

      It’s who I am, and where I’m at. It’s not for everyone, though. And since the supernatural claims of Christianity are false, I’m fine with others’ choices not to go the same route as me (so long as they don’t get sucked in).

      That was a bit of a ramble; hope it was moderately coherent…

      Now me, I’m just flat pissed off

      Not without cause. I’m glad you’re able to check yourself on that, though, and to zoom out, and consider transference and the like.

      how long ago was it that you stopped believing in christianity?

      Hard to say exactly, but judging by my comment history, I’m thinking somewhere around June – July of last year.

      I’m not sure it’s exactly on-topic, but I feel like you might find this comment of mine interesting. It is from about that time.

      I really want to slap the hell out of myself for being so stupid and buying into religion hook, line, and sinker, for so long.

      Understandable. It makes me sad to consider my own gullibility. And it’s not like that’s completely gone now. But I’m learning.

      Do you feel like you’re recovered completely from your deconversion?

      Depends on what you mean, I guess. There’s still a lot to learn and process. I wonder if we ever completely “recover”. I think I’m over the shock. There’s still a lot of “now what?”, though.

      I’m about six months out from losing my faith

      FWIW, I prefer to frame it as shedding my faith. Which is not to invalidate the feeling of loss – I had that too. Deconversion, and the research behind it, was a time-consuming and painful process for me, as for many. And we came to realize that we don’t have any good reason to expect eternal life – that feels like a loss, too. But by shedding irrational beliefs and thought processes, and with the conclusion that I now know more true things than before, I consider it to be a net gain.

      And especially when believers want to challenge us – sometimes sanctimoniously – I think it’s better if we don’t play into the “sad, hopeless unbeliever” stereotype.

      That’s not to say everything is rosy now. Life is hard, and easy answers are often scarce – perhaps especially to the stuff we care most about. But it’s part of the human condition. A comforting answer [to them] + desire for comfort ≠ truth.

      (I meant to share the losing vs. shedding idea as a comment on your blog, but got busy…so now works.) 🙂

      I’m about six months out from losing my faith, and about two months out from declaring myself an atheist to my friends and family, so I’m wondering how we compare there.

      A little ahead, a little behind. Stopped believing a few months before you, told some family a bit before you, but I haven’t told everyone yet.

      I also hadn’t described myself as an atheist yet, as I wasn’t sure that I bought the “soft atheism” / “lack of belief” type as common or historical usage. I read a bit very recently, and it seems to me that the philosophy and the use of the term evolved over time, and the historical usage is kind of murky. So I think provisionally that agnostic/negative/soft atheist is probably an accurate descriptor of my position on deities in general.

      For me, I think my time (~10 years) as a “backslidden” Christian made the transition easier. But I am quick to point out that it was the process of trying to return to faithful practice and belief that led me to research more deeply, and eventually to “see the light”.

      PS Your name was so confusing to me, yet vaguely giving me childhood memories, so I looked it up. Of course it’s drum pattern…I remember it from band practice! You are a musician?

      You get a gold star. 8)

      I can’t use the present tense anymore, but once upon a time…and it’s still (obv) a part of me.

      Liked by 1 person

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      1. Ain't No Shrinking Violet

        Hello there ratamacue…just checking in and seeing how you’re doing. By the way, I finally got my new glasses and see your avatar is *musical notes* for heaven’s sake, which might have given me a clue about the nature of your name and your musical abilities. All I saw before was a black and white blur!

        Liked by 1 person

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        1. ratamacue0 Post author

          Hey Violet,

          I’m alright. Keeping busy. Work, hobby stuff, and…whatever.

          Lol about the glasses, etc. 🙂 I’m glad you can see!

          I don’t just march to the beat of my own drummer; I play the drum myself…

          I know what I want my next post to be (well, OK, a couple options, depending on if I stay on-topic or not), but unfortunately I’ve burned through all my completed drafts. I wanted to keep some queued up and stay ahead…oops. Now I have to make some more effort and write again. I’m a bit (ha!) of a perfectionist, so it takes me a while…

          Like

        2. Ain't No Shrinking Violet

          You’re very disciplined with your writing…I usually just go with inspiration whenever it hits. That said, my topics are a lot easier than yours and I don’t have to research anything. Thank goodness, because I can’t manage anything more complicated at this time in my life.

          I remember from before you saying you were a drummer in the past, and still play even now. Back when I was about 14 I wanted to play snare in band but simply could not master the coordination it took to play different rhythms with each hand. Next I tried violin and cello, and had the same problem…your hands are very doing different things and it was no good. I finally ended up on the flute and did fairly well at that. It’s odd this was such a problem for me because I was very coordinated in ballet, but it just didn’t translate to instruments. What a shame. I love to watch drummers on youtube (and my first love was a drummer in a metal band), and never stopped being impressed with the coordination and talent it takes. I hope you still get to enjoy your drums as much as possible! 🙂

          Like

  7. unkleE

    Hello everyone, I’ve been reading all your comments, and I’d like to ask you all a question please.

    Some of you will know that I am a christian, but I live in Australia, not in USA as I’m guessing most of you may, so I am not familiar with the church scene over there. I’m interested to hear a little more about your experiences, not as some beginning to an argument or anything, but as a genuine question to help me understand.

    Some of you have mentioned the mental anguish you felt as you moved from believer to unbeliever, and some have mentioned that you felt the church, or more specifically your pastor, manipulated you in some way. May I ask what caused the mental anguish (was it fear of hell, or loss of certainty, or loss of the familiar, or … ?) and what specific things were done to manipulate?

    Please be assured I’m interested to know and won’t be dismissive or rude about anything you say. Thanks.

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    Reply
    1. Ain't No Shrinking Violet

      I’m hesitant to answer you Unkle, but I’ll go ahead with this one because most christians don’t give a single thought to what deconversion might be like.

      The primary anguish for me was that of LOSING GOD. I spent my entire life (41 years) devoted to god, trusting in his word, believing in his love for us, believing in his justice, praying ceaselessly to him, trying to live to serve him in all ways. To have your faith evaporate when you have invested so much is a terrible thing, and is like losing the love of your life. To have to recognize that everything you once thought to be true was no longer true, is a deeply jarring experience.

      “was it fear of hell, or loss of certainty, or loss of the familiar…” Those things were really far down on my list of concerns. After my immediate pain over losing god and finding I’d built my life entirely on false beliefs, my next greatest concern was that almost everyone I loved was devoutly religious. As I suspected, 99% of them severed ties with me after I declared my atheism…this wasn’t a surprise to me, but it hurt nonetheless.

      As for how my church manipulated me, I would more use the words “harmed me.” The first part of the harm: I was told my son was demon possessed and encouraged to have an exorcism on him, when in truth he had undiagnosed autism. Catholics have a real belief in demons, so this is not as far fetched as it might sound. The second part of the harm: I minute I started questioning my faith, fellow believers called me things like, “instrument of the devil,” and condemned me to hell. Not a single christian ever questioned the reason why my faith had evaporated. I was treated like a criminal then, and still am now.

      I hope these words will give you some idea of what a deconvert might go through…and I hope they’ll make you less likely to judge us so harshly.

      Liked by 2 people

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      1. unkleE

        Hi ANSV, I’m really sorry that you feel I have judged you harshly. But also mystified. What did I say that gave you that impression?

        As far as I can tell, I only made two comments on this thread, including one just above your comment, so I presume you are referring to that. What did I say in that comment that made you feel that way?

        I wrote that post because I could see that people had been hurt by the church and I genuinely wanted to hear what you all had to say. I meant what I said when I wrote: “Please be assured I’m interested to know and won’t be dismissive or rude about anything you say.”

        For the record, I try not to judge people, and certainly not harshly. I don’t accuse people who stop believing of anything, though if involved in discussion I may nevertheless disagree with them, but courteously. I am not an apologist for the church, I think the various organisations called churches are very poor representations of Jesus and I think almost all of them need drastic reformation. I am really sorry for the ugly things that were said to you.

        I’m not sure what else to say. I hope you can see that I haven’t intended any hurt, and I don’t think I have said anything that could be interpreted that way. But if you point something out, I will certainly apologise specifically.

        Thanks.

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      2. unkleE

        Hi Violet or ANSV,

        On re-reading your comment and my response, I think I may have read too much into your last sentence about judging. I was so concerned to clarify how I felt that I didn’t notice that you may have simply been explaining what you hoped wouldn’t happen, not accusing me. So I apologise if I misunderstood you.

        Thank you for sharing your experience. I can understand, like I have said to peter, that stopping believing in God can be like a bereavement or a divorce, and obviously I can understand how that would be hurtful.

        I’m really sorry that nearly everyone of your former christian friends dropped you. I can’t understand that, you’d think they’d be wanting to reconvert you! Was it a fundamentalist church that practiced “shunning”? It is a sad fact, I think, that many christians cannot really understand that someone might stop believing because they can’t see sufficient reason to keep on believing. I think there is sufficient reason (otherwise I would stop too), but I can understand that other people think differently to me.

        Anyway, thanks for sharing what is obviously very personal to you.

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        Reply
        1. Ain't No Shrinking Violet

          Hello Unkle. After re-reading the last sentence on my previous comment, I can see it was poorly worded and could be construed to contain the slap of an accusation. I apologize and assure you that was not my intention, and I’m glad you caught onto that. I’ve been treated very badly by the christians in real life and it’s made me wary…too much so.

          My church was catholic. Technically speaking we’re not taught to shun, but privately it happens all the time if you’re in a particularly traditional and devout congregation and family, as I was. People did indeed try to reconvert me, aggressively so. Unfortunately they wouldn’t actually speak to me, they would only bible-bang or condemn me. This is because we’re taught that Jesus hates those who lose their faith (2 Peter 2:21). Catholics also throw in a little additional fun because they believe in demons…so people who have lost their faith are under the influence of demonic presence. Atheists are just flat-out in league with the devil. This makes it almost impossible for the deconvert to maintain their relationships.

          The teachings on hell are very difficult to accept. Back in the day the catholics told us if babies died before baptism, they would burn in purgatory unless they received enough prayers to send them to heaven. Thanks goodness they’ve recently done away with this teaching.

          Liked by 2 people

    2. Peter

      Hi unkleE, I am aware that some people have found church experience to cause them mental stress. However in my own case I no complaints about how I have been treated by Church folk. In fact I have generally found them quite supportive. But I suspect that might also be because my church experience has been in a more middle of the road type church, one that was open to science and did not see the outside world as evil.

      Where-ever I can I try to read the stories of those who have left faith behind. What I find is a correlation behind mental stress whilst in the church and the degree to which the church has fundamentalist tendencies. However I should emphasise that this is not a scientific study.

      In my own case my mental anguish has some similarities to Violet. When one questions belief that has been part of your whole life, it is a big thing which is bound to cause stress. In addition you effectively lose your best friend, the one who understood you when no-one did, the one who you knew would be with you through all the troubles of life.

      I must admit that Hell troubled me. It always seemed so unfair. I have had relatives die unrepentant and I felt so bad that based on my theology they were suffering eternal torment. Plus I suspect that deep down I had a fear about myself also. I studied the Bible teachings very carefully on what was required for salvation and avoiding hell and I could not determine a clear answer as the Bible teaching could be interpreted in so many ways (dare I venture to say it seems contradictory at times). My Church never really preached on Hell, it was more my own reading that caused me to form opinions on the matter.

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  8. Pingback: WINC: Alleged Resurrection – The Gospels | aspiretofindtruth

  9. unkleE

    Hi Peter, it’s nice to see you in another place!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I think you are right – people leave all sorts of different churches, but it seems like the “fundamentalist” ones which cause people the most emotional grief.

    Yes, I can understand that the process of losing belief in God could be difficult for some people, perhaps a little like a bereavement (as you say) or like a divorce. THis seems to vary among people – some feel a great sense of relief to get away from a belief or a system that they really didn’t feel part of, while others are as you say. I haven’t experienced that, but I can imagine it.

    Yes, I think hell is a most distressing idea, and I can’t understand how christians still believe it in its traditional form. I have studied it and feel quite confident, based on some expert comments by a Professor of NT Greek, that christians have misrepresented what Jesus said on the subject. I’m deeply sorry that people have been hurt by the conventional view – and I think God doesn’t want us to respond out of fear, but out of love.

    Thanks again for responding.

    Like

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  10. unkleE

    Hi Violet, I’m glad we sorted that out then! Thanks for clarifying. I must say I am a little surprised that Catholics have behaved that way, but churches seem to differ from country to country. All the best.

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