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

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Sat Nov 28 2009 - 21:48:23 EST

You know, at the risk of broaching territory that's probably verboten on
this list, I'm going to say something which I feel many here would like to
say, but a mangled sense of Christian courtesy forbids them it.

Bernie, you're not an effective atheist. You said once that your goal now
was to be an "anti-christ". Well, I'm sorry to say that that's really not an
option. There's a lot of speculations about the traits of any supposed
anti-christ. Particulars vary over the origin, the level and style of
deceit, etc.

But I don't think anyone has ever expected the anti-christ to be
demonstrably slow-witted and easily confused, begging people to be "pithy"
(as in, relate ideas as briefly as possible, using words with the fewest
number of syllables) because - let's face it - more in-depth conversation
only makes them frustrated and bewildered, and they can't rightly figure out
what's being said if the subject matter is complicated. An anti-Christ like
that would be evidence that God's sense of humor is even more abundant than
has previously been estimated.

Look. You started off as a Catholic - that's great, but as someone who had
12+ years of Catholic schooling, I realize how little that means. I've run
into one person after another in my own life who proudly states how they
"grew up as a Catholic" as if that was a sign of expertise, and then when I
ask them what the immaculate conception is - and they flub it horribly -
they get angry and point out how they know the Hail Mary by heart. It means
little, shockingly little. Asserting you know a lot of about Catholicism
because you come from a Catholic family is like trying to say you have a
Harvard education on the grounds that you grew up in Boston.

(Incidentally, if you felt the urge to tell me what the immaculate
conception is just now, don't. Since you'd apparently not understand how low
of a bar that question is when asked in a static email on the internet if
you did try for that.)

The same goes for "extensive apologetics and evangelism training". If you've
had those things - and I do not deny you've had such in name - they
apparently left little of value impressed on you. I'm sure the diploma looks
nice, but then again it damn well better for how much time and/or money you
invested in the training.

Think about it this way. By your own estimation, you've spent the greater
part of your life making obviously bad decisions. You started out as a
Catholic, then rejected as much for a "born-again" life. You ended up
burdened with the views of your peers, tried to defend them, failed, and
then shrugged those off. You spent time backsliding, failed at that, and now
you've become - practically overnight - an atheist.

Do you think, perhaps, your problem is that you not only have a horrible
track record with thinking things through, but you also tend to slap a label
on yourself and aggressively dance to a brand new tune, committing way too
easily and too easily? That maybe, just maybe, what you really need to do is
spend a long period of time as an honest-to-goodness "nothing in
particular", give up debating, and dedicate yourself to thinking and
learning without trying to get down in the ditches, arguing for things you
may or may not be convinced of, and frankly have a tenuous grasp of anyway?

There are more options than Christianity and atheism. There's deism. There's
buddhism. There's mere theism. There's hinduism. There's Islam. There's
panentheism, pantheism, and who knows what other variety of options out
there. Stop trying to be something you clearly aren't cut out for, namely a
front-line debater. You weren't William Lane Craig when you were a
Christian. And now that you're an atheist, you're not even Christopher
Hitchens after 5 rounds of rumpleminze. You're just a confused guy,
desperately trying to be on the winning side, but clearly lacking the
ability to discern what that side is, or argue effectively for it even if
you ever managed to stumble upon as much.

So there's my advice. Take a break. Stop trying to be some label. Read and
reflect, think and ponder. Believe it or not, it's okay not to have the
answers to life's big questions, and to admit as much. But whatever you do..
please, spare people from having to pretend that you're actually an
intellectual threat, or a potential major force for atheism. You're, at
most, the atheist version of the guy ringing the bell for the Salvation Army
outside of Walmart. Loud, obvious, but rather easy to mentally tune out
because his hallmark isn't innovation, but simple repetition.

On Sat, Nov 28, 2009 at 8:52 PM, Cameron Wybrow <>wrote:

> Bernie:
> 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.
> Cameron.
> ----- 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 21:48:41 2009

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