Re: pendulum swings (was: Re: [asa] Gospel in the Stars WAS Star of Bethlehem presentation?)

From: Cameron Wybrow <>
Date: Sat Nov 28 2009 - 20:52:54 EST


Regarding all biographical omissions and misrepresentations, I stand
corrected. However, I believe that between your college days and fairly
recent times -- that is, over a fairly extensive period -- your beliefs were
roughly "fundamentalist", were they not? I was not arguing that a
fundamentalist could not have been a Catholic or something else in an
earlier phase. I was only pointing out something about what happens to many
fundamentalists once they become atheists. I believe that your case still
fits roughly within the pattern that I've described.

I would never dream of interfering in what you choose to teach your
children. But just as a point of advice: isn't the best way of teaching
one's children anything to give them an example of a parent who is
comfortable in his or her own skin? So if you are quite comfortable being a
non-Christian now, why is preparing a set of anti-Christian arguments for
your children a necessity? Why not just discuss such subjects with your
children if and when it becomes necessary?

I agree that you should not have to pretend to be something you are not at
family functions. And if someone at a family function criticizes you for
your current position, of course I would expect you to defend yourself from
unreasonable attacks. But if your family doesn't raise the issue, I see no
reason why you need to worry about it.

More to the point (since you can't avoid children and family functions, but
can avoid just about everything else if you choose), why is it necessary to
justify your new position to strangers on the internet? If you simply enjoy
arguing about such things as a sort of intellectual sport, well, I guess
that's your business, but you seem to be wrestling awfully hard and the
stakes seem awfully high for you. That's what I meant when I said that for
many others the abandonment of faith is liberating, whereas for you and many
others it seems that the faith is never really left behind, but always
follows one around, like a spirit that refuses to be exorcised.

I can only speak from my own biographical perspective, and the religion
professors and clergy and liberal religious writers I know who have thrown
aside "conservative" views and adopted "liberal" ones, often seem angry,
vexed, and in deep inner conflict, as if they are still trying to validate
breaks with their past, breaks that were in some cases made years or decades
ago. They don't seem like happy people to me. On the other hand, I know a
good number of quite mellow, quite cheery ex-Anglicans, ex-Orthodox, and
ex-Catholic people who do not seem to be carrying inner demons around with
them, and enjoy their secular lives. As I'm in favour of people being happy
wherever possible, my recommendation is always: If you really think that
something you used to believe is false, walk away from it toward something
that is more true; don't spend your life batlling it. Look forward, not
backward; think positively, not negatively. But if you really think that
you must keep battling what you used to believe, there is a strong
possibility that what you used to believe still commands part of your soul.
Until that remnant is frankly acknowledged, fully analyzed, and dealt with
(one way or the other, either by returning to the faith or realizing that it
no longer has any attraction for you), you will never be free of the old
beliefs; you will still be dancing, at least in part, to their tune.

I hope I've spoken respectfully here, and I hope that you understand that I
have not criticized your current religious position as such, and have not
tried to tell you that you are wrong or should go back to anything. I'm
willing to grant -- for the sake of argument that is -- that your current
atheistic position might be the right one. But even granting that, I think
that your apparent intention to spend a good part of your future slaying the
dragons of your past is unlikely to accomplish any good for the world or
contribute to your own happiness. So I advise against it.

That's just two cents' worth, I know, but it's the only useful thing I can
think of to say on this subject.

Best wishes, Bernie.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Dehler, Bernie" <>
To: "asa" <>
Sent: Saturday, November 28, 2009 7:40 PM
Subject: RE: pendulum swings (was: Re: [asa] Gospel in the Stars WAS Star of
Bethlehem presentation?)

> Cameron said:
> "Bernie started as a fundamentalist and now is an atheist, albeit stopping
> for relatively brief periods at some half-way houses along the path."
> I grew up Catholic. In college (29 years ago), I became a born-again
> Christian, which created a lot of shockwaves in my Catholic family.
> Before leaving Christianity, my last two years were as an evangelical
> Christian, with people like Francis Collins and Denis Lamoureux as my
> role-models. So I think your characterization is superficial and wrong.
> As a Catholic, I thought the creation story and global flood was a myth.
> As a born-again believer, I struggled to accept them as true, as my new
> peers accepted it. In my final stage as an evolutionary creationist, I
> went back to the Catholic understanding of the creation story and global
> flood as a myth. (Yes, I know that 'myth' is a sensitive word and it is a
> valid term in evangelical theology as long as it is defined
> appropriately.)
> Cameron said:
> " If you look, on the other hand, at Catholics or Anglicans or Greek
> Orthodox or mainstream Protestants who become atheists (with a few
> exceptions, such as Catholics who have been badly burned by immoral
> priests or by the hierarchy), they are rarely preoccupied with the
> religion in which they used to believe. They just drift away from it,
> going to church less and less often, until churchgoing stops altogether
> (except for weddings and
> funerals)."
> Most people do just drift away. I serious considered this approach as
> well. But there are some main reasons why I didn't:
> 1. My children. I didn't want them to have to relearn everything that I
> learned. Iplan to write about my learnings to give them a boost. I wish
> I had that from my elders.
> 2. Confusion and hypocrisy. I didn't want to go to family functions and
> pretend to be something I'm not.
> Another huge reason: I have extensive apologetics and evangelism training.
> I plan to use that for atheism. And yes, I also want to document reasons
> for my own self too, as I sometimes have great ideas then totally lose
> them. They need to be captured so I can remember myself, because there
> are so many fields of science involved (philosophy, biology, history,
> psychology, etc.). So my new hobby will be atheistic evangelism (which I
> would do under the banner of secular humanism, which the focus on
> 'humanism'). The good thing about being on the forefront of any faction
> is getting a hold of the best arguments. If I see the path coming to a
> dead-end or a better path is available, I'll take it. That is why I
> deeply appreciate debates, as the debater's job is to find the best
> arguments for their side.
> ,,,Bernie

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Received on Sat Nov 28 20:53:41 2009

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