Sunday, September 10, 2017

The fundamentalist mindset

While I was reading an excellent book on atheism I came across a quote that I thought would be quite useful in this post and its subject matter. The book is Atheism Advanced by David Eller the second volume of a two part series. In it he makes reference to Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and the preface to his books second edition Critique of Pure Reason. Here is the quote: " I had to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith."

I was very moved and impressed greatly by this quote because of its simplicity yet at how effectively it manages to explain a rather complex aspect of fundamentalist belief. From my own personal experience in the ministry I can tell you that faith is what I like to call the ultimate equalizer when it comes to arguments against it. The reason I say this is because most fundies do not rely on knowledge, logic, or reason to validate their beliefs. In fact many of them have never read the Bible from cover to cover much less taken deep philosophical courses or studies on theology. The theology that they have studied is really not theology because it is not philosophical but rather faith based.

The difference between faith and knowledge is that faith does not have to make sense; it just is. It is believed and it is accepted regardless of the absurdity of its claims. Knowledge demands evidence at all times. There are three types of evidence most commonly referred to in philosophical argumentation. Let's review those and define them before going further.

empirical:  capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment
objective:  of, relating to, or being an object, phenomenon, or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers :  having reality independent of the mind
subjective :  characteristic of or belonging to reality as perceived rather than as independent of mind 

Empirical and objective evidence are quite similar in that they are both reliant on observation, experimentation, and experience that can be perceived by all interested parties. Subjective evidence on the other hand is based on the subject meaning the one perceiving. Fundamentalists base their entire belief system on subjective "evidence." Their sense experiences of the so called Holy Spirit etc. serves to validate everything they claim. 

I had many of these personal experiences myself and it was these experiences that confirmed to me that God was with me and abiding in me. I spoke in tongues (glossolalia), and basically at one time or another utilized during my ministry one of the 9 gifts of the Spirit as they are outlined in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

When I prayed I felt a tingling sensation coarse throughout my entire body from head to foot. I interpreted this to the presence of God. I prayed in my head and often received responses to my petitions in my own voice. I believed in those days that I was a vessel for God to manifest his power in and through me. Many claimed to have been healed, had prayers answered, been blessed in some way either spiritual or physically through my ministry. I served God sincerely with the utmost integrity that I could muster. I believed everything I did wholeheartedly and was fully committed to the service of the Lord. This is why when I started to doubt and realize that what I had believed was not true I was devastated beyond description. I was angry that I had wasted so much time and energy believing and promoting those beliefs openly and publicly. I think that the more you put into it the harder it is to break free and the more devastating are the effects of that separation. 

The bottom line is that the fundamentalist does not come to their beliefs through reason but for the most part through experiences. This is why logical argumentation and reason have no effect on them. They view every attempt to convince them otherwise as an attack against their religion and their God. They are taught by the church elders not to question anything pertaining to beliefs because Satan can use those very doubts to ensnare them and lead them away from the "truth" and God. This is why you hear believers often claim that they are being persecuted by those on the outside. They are completely antagonistic to criticism. 

In my opinion it takes an experience or doubt that is so serious that it forces the believer to think about and reassess their beliefs. Sometimes it's a series of experiences that make them question everything that they believed. This is an emotionally painful process and a very difficult time for the believer. No one likes to discover that everything that they have ever believed and committed themselves to turned out to be wrong. Nor to think that they were blinded by their beliefs to these facts. 

Every former believer has his or her own journey from theism to atheism or agnosticism. They are all unique and very personal to those that have experienced them. But they all have one thing in common and that is that they are all based on doubt. Something made them all question what was formerly unquestionable. The range of emotions that one feels during this process are difficult to put into words but in my experience fear was the greatest and most powerful experience I had to deal with. I will try to discuss the aspect of fear from a fundamentalist viewpoint on my next post.

Monday, September 4, 2017

How I once believed in Christianity part 2

If you have taken the time to read my previous article you may recall that I briefly spoke of my physical experiences such as speaking in tongues, prophesying, casting out demons, healing people through the power of faith, etc. served as confirmation of my beliefs and that with each experience I believed that I was on the right track.

First and foremost as a fundamentalist believer you must come to the realization that you are in the world but you are not of this world.

14I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.  John 17:14  NIV

With fundamentalist believers it is always us against them (the world). We chose to live in obedience to God and walk in righteousness while the world (non-believers) chose to pursue the pleasures of this world and of the flesh. As a fundamentalist you are convinced that everyone is a potential tool of Satan for the sole purpose of dragging you away from the Lord and leading your soul into eternal perdition. You are led to believe that you have been particularly chosen by God for salvation and that the majority of the people in this world will lose their souls to hell and eternal torment. 

14“For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14  NIV

 13“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.  Matthew 7:13-14  NIV

When you are properly indoctrinated you come to believe that you are one of the chosen out of the billions of people in all the world. Not only do you believe this wholeheartedly but you are grateful that God has chosen you. The prospect of eternal life in the presence of the creator of all things excites you. 

It is because of these core beliefs that fundamentalists who have so called experienced the gifts of the Holy Spirit in their lives are nearly impossible to convince that what they have experienced is easily explained away naturally or that what they believe can be debunked with simple logic. Even when a small seed of doubt is planted the very fear of offending God by daring to question or doubt your beliefs serve to keep you in line. 

In my own personal experience I had read the Bible four times from cover to cover and the more I read it the more disgusted I became with my beliefs and with the God that I served. I was terrified about my doubts and the Bible made sure that I understood the gravity of my situation by providing nice threats for leaving the faith. 

26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 31It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:26-27;31
NIV 

As you can see fear is also a very powerful force in Christianity. It is actually a virtue throughout the scriptures to fear the Lord and love him with all your heart. You demonstrate that love by living accordingly and in complete and total subjection and obedience to the Lord. After I had freed myself from all the chains of superstition through reason it was the fear that was the hardest to break free from. That nagging doubt about being wrong.


 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

How I once believed in Christianity Part 1

I have been an atheist since 2004 when at that time I had renounced my faith in Jesus and stopped eagerly awaiting his return. It often amuses me throughout the years and many books I have read written by atheists at how baffled they are at the believers inability to see the irrationality of their beliefs. It is for this very reason that I have decided to share my experience as a fundamentalist Pentecostal evangelist and how I personally experienced my beliefs.

The very first thing that you must understand is that I was a literalist.. I believed the Bible to be inerrant and one hundred percent inspired by God through its authors and the various texts we now have. I once owned a pocket red letter addition of the New Testament and recall how excited I would become at the thought of having in my hands the very words of Jesus Christ! As a fundamentalist Pentecostal believer my experience with the church and my beliefs did not come through study but rather through experience. The type of "study" done by me was heavily biased in favor of my beliefs and my confirmation bias assured that I always got the answers that I sought.

Another thing that is important to understand was that my so called religious experiences were considered and seen as confirmation of my beliefs. For instance, if I was praying and I felt a tingling sensation going down my spine or a presence surrounding my being; then that was evidence enough to indicate to me that God was near and was attentive to my prayers. I believed that everything that happened in this world whether bad or good was God's will with an ultimate and greater purpose behind the event.

39“See now that I myself am he!
There is no god besides me.
I put to death and I bring to life,
I have wounded and I will heal,
and no one can deliver out of my hand.
Deuteronomy 32:39 NIV

This is why most fundamentalists rejoice when they see disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, and the latest one in Houston Texas hurricane Harvey. They don't see the death tolls as unfortunate but rather they view it as God's wrath on these people for idolatry, fornication, and a slew of other sins they believe may have offended the good Lord. They don't see the victims as unfortunate victims but rather as God's enemies being subject to his "just" judgement and wrath!  Never mind the children and many innocents that might have died. They have been given a blessing in that if there were any innocents they would be meeting their maker soon and so the ends justifies the means. 

I personally saw the world in black and white there were no grey areas. Either you served God or you served Satan. By serving I meant in how you lived your life and how that was seen and reflected outwardly by others. If you lived in accordance to what I believed was God's will then you were a servant of the Lord. If you lived contrary to what the Bible taught as God's law and will then you were serving Satan. You were in essence an enemy of God. 

All other Christian sects were wrong and all other religions were false teachings inspired by Satan. There was a time that nothing could have convinced me otherwise. I believed that I was following the true path of Christ and my spiritual experiences served as confirmation to myself that I was on the right track. I used to speak in tongues, dance in the Spirit, prophesy, interpret tongues (or so I believed), had visions and dreams. My ministry consisted of casting out demons from those I believed were afflicted by Satan and his minions. Casting out of demons (exorcisms) was the norm in my ministry. 

I believed I was anointed (chosen) specifically by God to break Satan's hold off of the lives of the many victims I believed to have helped in those days. They passed out at my words, a wave of the hand, a tap on the shoulder etc. I felt I was filled with the Spirit of God to carry out these amazing feats. I never once dreamed that I was living a lie or deluded. But it was these many experiences that served as evidence and convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was with me and I was doing his will. Any attempt by anyone to tell me otherwise no matter how rational their argument was was seen as an attack not by that individual or group but rather by the Devil and his cohorts. 

12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 
Ephesians 6:12 NIV

Fundamentalist are often warned by their church elders to never let anyone try to convince you of the falsity of your faith. I used to view any attempt to change my mind about my beliefs as nothing more than people being used by demons and their many wiles to draw me away from God. If you weren't with us you were against us and I in turn was against you. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Good without God

Usually when the phrase used in the title of this post is used it is in reference to the relation between morality and a belief in God. For some reason theists tend to believe that without a belief in thier god or a god in general we cannot know about morality or how to be moral. As ridiculous as that belief is it is not the topic of this post.

I have a tee shirt that has the phrase ;"Good without God" on it, but when I think about it I use it to mean that I am in no need of a god or god beliefs whatsoever. So this phrase has two meanings to me: the traditional sense for which it was originally intended and the one that I have intended for myself.

I have found since I have embraced atheism in 1994 that any meaning I find in life is determined by myself and what I think is important. I don't need to worry about heaven or hell or an imaginary afterlife. I have come to realize that this life is all that there is and that I have this one shot at making the most of it and enjoying it to the fullest within reason.

I realized that I don't have to carry the burden of guilt brought on by the imaginary belief in being born in sin or as a sinful creature. As an atheist I view sin as anything that is offensive to or in direct disobedience to what I may believe to be the laws of God or a religious institution who claims to represent him. Therefore in my way of thinking if God or gods do not exist; then there is no such thing as sin and it only makes sense inside of a religious context.

I don't rely on God for favors or good fortune nor do I plead for his forgivness or help. I realize that we are responsible for our own lives and the decisions we make. Of  course because of the unpredictablility of life sometimes we will face great obstacles and adversity. But that doesn't mean that we lay down on the ground in defeat or throw up our hands and surrender. Anyone who values their life will fight and do what ever it takes to achieve their goals and climb out of the direst of circumstances the good old fashioned way, with dedication and hard work.

I literally have no use for god beliefs or a god and I take full responsibility for all of my actions for better or for worse. That's what adults who live in the real world do. I don't believe in fate and I don't believe in destiny. I believe that I can do practically anything I put my mind to when I set out to do it. I take all the credit and the fault for my acheivements and failures in life and will continue to do so as long as I live.

I am absolutely good without God and live life happy and free because of it. Nothing holds me back from going after my dreams, being a good person, being moral as I understand morality and appreciative of every second I get to enjoy breathing and living above ground.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The cart before the horse

Putting the cart before the horse: Reverse the accepted or logical order of things.

I often find it quite amusing when I see prominent atheists actually debating with theists about the attributes of the god of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims; which according to the proponents of those three religions of the book is one and the same god. That claim in and of itself is one that is debatable since the deity of the Old Testament and the New don't even seem like the same god. The same could be said about the god of Islam aka Allah.

I think that any discussion about the god or gods of the book are a perfect example of putting the cart before the horse. For instance, how could you argue logically or reasonably about the attributes of any deity without first proving that that deity exists? It's like arguing about the diet and preferred habitat and behavior of Bigfoot without first proving that he exists. How can you discuss whether Bigfoot is a nocturnal creature, a predator, or prey of some other creature of the woods? What can be known of something whose very existence is yet unknown?

When considering the so called attributes of the god of the bible you have to first go to the source of information where those attributes themselves are outlined. In our case they are outlined in the Bible itself. Now, considering this fact doesn't this fact alone defeat any argument that can be made about the attributes of God? Isn't this circular reasoning akin to the phrase Jesus loves me this I know because the Bible tells me so?

circular reasoning:  A type of reasoning in which the proposition is supported by the premises, which is supported by the proposition, creating a circle in reasoning where no useful information is being shared.

In order for a theists to argue about the attributes of his god he must begin with a set of presuppositions. In this case the presupposition that God exists is one that is vacuous and without any supporting empirical or objective evidence. It is taken on faith which is no better than accepting a belief in something without evidence or reason like a gut feeling.

If you insist on arguing about God being omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent etc. then you must first prove in my opinion that he exists. If you can't do so (which in fact to date I know of no one who has been able to do so convincingly) then there is nothing to discuss. Do you think that we should hold debates about Santa Clause, leprechauns, fairies, gnomes, etc. and their attributes without first proving that they exists? It sounds ridiculous doesn't it? Then why has man invested and wasted so much time and effort trying to discuss gods without a single piece of evidence for their existence? There is no difference.

The only reason that this subject is so "important" to some is that it gives them a sense of purpose to their own lives. They like to be comforted that beyond this life there is a better one in which they would be nothing but love, peace, and happiness. All these beliefs are just that nothing more than unfounded beliefs based on ancient myths and superstitions.

This is just my point of view on the entire matter although I think that this form of reasoning is valid and logical. Show me that your god exists both empirically and objectively or else we have nothing to discuss. Sacred texts don't count as evidence, neither do subjective experiences, etc. In closing any and all arguments about God and his attributes are nothing more than argument based on speculation and amount to nothing more than an argument from ignorance.

argument from ignorance: The assumption of a conclusion or fact based primarily on lack of evidence to the contrary.