Q & A

Photo by Marco Belluci
Photo by Marco Belluci

Last week, I got a note from someone who knows me but wishes to remain anonymous. I haven’t talked to this person in a very long time and he says he stumbled onto my blog and so decided to ask a few questions. I thought it would be interesting to share this conversation here.

1. In your “deconversion” (if you would even use that term), what was your greatest obstacle to walking away from your faith?

Cognitive dissonance. I saw inconsistencies with the doctrines — inconsistencies that I glossed over when I was a believer, or accepted the explanations for. But when I really thought about the answers I was given, it just didn’t make sense to me.

Let’s take the main doctrine of salvation, for example — Jesus came to die for my sins so I wouldn’t have to go to hell. I cannot reconcile the idea of hell with a loving God. I cannot even reconcile it with a just God. The punishment far outweighs the crime. Why the need to make one suffer for all eternity when you had the power to just snuff the life out? And for what crime — simply not believing, or believing the wrong god/gods?

Anyway, that was one of things bouncing around my head at that point in time when I was seriously seeking answers to these hard questions, and I couldn’t find a Christian answer that sounded right. For some reason, the answers and explanations I got sounded like excuses or just bending over backwards to accommodate the idea.

2. Did you ever consider yourself to be a Christian?

Yes, of course. At one point, I was even committed to be a full-time worker/pastor in the ministry. I was very active in the choir, was an officer/leader in fellowships, etc.

3. How would you compare the joy you experience now with the joy you experienced before committing to atheism?

I don’t know that I’ve “committed” to atheism, I’ve just abandoned my former belief. What I’m committed to is finding the truth via reason. Why reason? Well, faith is too fickle for me — how do I decide where to put my faith? Every other religion is also asking for the same type of faith (in their version of god or in their holy book).

I have also tried “just believing” in many instances and more often than not, I was just disappointed in the end, or would end up rationalizing my experience such that no blame whatsoever was placed on God. It was always my fault, my lack of conviction, my lack of prayer, and so on.

When I became honest with myself and started to really examine those experiences, I came to the conclusion that faith doesn’t work for me, and in the instances that it does, it is coupled with reason. And so I decided to put my reason to good use because apparently God gave me a lot of that (I was still a believer at this point) and I treated that as my gift, and this is where it has led me so far.

I am open to there being some sort of “god” or “higher power” or “creator” (a deist position) if there is evidence later on to convince me of it. I just cannot make sense of God as presented in the Bible.

So, back to your question of joy — there was a time when I was a Christian that I also experienced euphoric joy, especially when I was engaged in praise and worship, I look at it now as more of an induced kind of joy — like I hyped myself into it.

Now that I am truer to myself and don’t make contorted excuses for my belief, I do have a deeper joy and peace than when I was a Christian.

4. Have you ever doubted your decision?

Mildly perhaps. I just found myself thinking — what if I’m wrong about all this? Then I actually prayed and said, “Lord, I just need you to make yourself real to me. If you’re real and all-knowing then surely you know how to convince me that I’m going on the wrong path. Please, if you’re real, then let me know you’re real in a way that will silence my doubts.”

That was about a year or more ago. I’m still waiting for the reply.

5. Do you get annoyed with Christians like myself asking questions like this?

No, I don’t. I actually appreciate it a lot. What gets me really pissed is when people I know (friends and relatives) listen to rumors about me and they go on and spread more rumors or ask questions from other people who are equally clueless, until everything is twisted in the end. They could have just dropped me a note (as you have done) or email me (my email address appears in my column every week so it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out) or just set a time to talk to me and ask me their questions directly. I’d be more than happy to answer those.

6. Do you have any regrets about the path that you took to reach this point in your life?

Not really, except perhaps that it took me too long to really embark on it. It would probably have saved me a lot of angst and confusion earlier on.

I have some earlier writings which deal with this if you want to take a look:

http://freethinking.me/essays/the-beauty-of-doubt/

http://freethinking.me/essays/unraveling-my-faith/

http://freethinking.me/essays/belief-unbelief-and-that-little-comma-in-between/

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Andy Uyboco is a businessman, trainer and speaker. If you have other questions you’d like to ask, send me your email at andy@freethinking.me.

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6 thoughts on “Q & A”

  1. ” I cannot reconcile the idea of hell with a loving God. I cannot even reconcile it with a just God. The punishment far outweighs the crime. Why the need to make one suffer for all eternity when you had the power to just snuff the life out? And for what crime — simply not believing, or believing the wrong god/gods?”

    This is one of the easiest things for me to disgree with you about. The concept of hell makes perfect sense to me. One perspective is, if the God of the Bible exists, how many times have you or i sinned? Could we go a day without sinning? A week, a month? What would be a fair punishment? Especially compared to a perfect and holy God?

    If God were to just end people if they disagreed with Him, wouldn’t you think that was cruel? I am sure you would think that of a person. If there was no lofe after death, and you didn’t like or agree with your president or other person in charge, and they jist ended you, would you not think that was horrible?

    Another perspective is that the torture that some people think of may not be accurate. I see it as a mental ( or spiritual) suffering of the knowledge that you willfully rejected the love and relationship with the one true God. It is a choice of the individual to spend eternity away from God. What would be worse: making Anton LaVey go to heaven or honoring his wish?

  2. //if the God of the Bible exists, how many times have you or i sinned? Could we go a day without sinning? A week, a month? What would be a fair punishment? Especially compared to a perfect and holy God?//

    So let me get this right. You think that an infinite amount of suffering is fair punishment for having sinned a finite number of times, with no regard for the type of sin? Even if a person commits sin every day of his life and he lives for say, 80 years, that’s 29,200 days. And yes, I even counted his baby years because he is just that bad. For 29,200 days of sin, this person gets an eternity of suffering. That’s fair? That’s just?

    You ask me what would be fair punishment? Well, why don’t we say he suffers the same number of days as he has committed sin? After that, he is considered purified and can then be at peace. How about having a multiplier for more serious sins like murder. e.g. murder = 1000 more days in hell rather than just 1 day, and so on.

    Wouldn’t you agree that is more fair?

    //If God were to just end people if they disagreed with Him, wouldn’t you think that was cruel? I am sure you would think that of a person. If there was no life after death, and you didn’t like or agree with your president or other person in charge, and they just ended you, would you not think that was horrible?//

    In what way would it be cruel? If your existence ended, you would feel nothing — no pain, no pleasure. You wouldn’t even be conscious. That would be preferable to spending the rest of your existence in agony. I don’t understand why you can’t see that. If you had a choice between being slowly tortured for the rest of your life (with no hope of rescue), and an instant death, which would you prefer (even if there were no life after death)?

    In fact, this is why there is a Death With Dignity law in some countries. People who are terminally ill with almost zero chance of recovery, whose diseases can cause severe pain, loss of muscular or mental control, etc., can choose to just end their lives before those effects set in.

    //It is a choice of the individual to spend eternity away from God. What would be worse: making Anton LaVey go to heaven or honoring his wish?//

    So assuming you are correct and that it is a choice, how many times have you made a choice, then realized it was wrong or undesirable and then changed your mind (or wished you could)? Nobody in his right mind would choose an eternity of torture. But they can, while on earth, choose to believe in their senses rather than hang it all on faith. Now, if they are to be punished for all eternity because of that, that is far from what I would expect of a just and loving deity.

    It’s funny that you mention LaVey because LaVey was actually more of an atheist than a Satanist (see Did Anton LaVey Worship the Devil?). If he indeed went to hell, it was not because it was his deepest “wish” was to worship the devil, nor was it his wish to be burned forever. I just find that statement about “honoring his wish” to be a hollow excuse.

  3. There are many links that i can post for you that lay out good, solid, logical reasoning. Here is but one: http://www.focusonthefamily.com/faith/becoming-a-christian/is-christ-the-only-way/is-hell-real .

    This seems like this is the most hot topic for you. This seems to have hit a personal note for you, much more than the mental workings out the others seem to be.

    What kind of suffering or torture do you think is in hell (if there is one)? What is a million days compared to eternity? A drop in the bucket.

    I was the primary caregiver for my parents for many years. At one point, the doctors and nurses told us she would not last an hour. She lived for six more years. About the same time, my dad fell over dead at the office. No pulse. No respirations. He was revived and lived another twelve years. Death with dignity to me is a disgusting joke. I don’t believe in the nonsense of quality of life because there are too many factors that nake it subjective. I do believe in the sanctity of life. During that time, and especially now that they are both gone, i am also the caregiver for my mentally retarded sister. While my parents were sick, i also had to deal with another sister who tried to make quality over sanctity of life arguments.

    As far as LaVey goes, i should have stated his thoughts as explained in his most infamous writing. I don’t know if he went to heaven or hell. The real point is that if someone, in your estimation, actively, willingly, for their essential lifetime, chooses to reject God and wants to spend eternity away from Him, why would a just and loving God force that person to spend eternity with Him? That is not hollow.

    “But they can, while on earth, choose to believe in their senses rather than hang it all on faith.”

    Do you only believe in what your (five?) senses have shown you? Putting aside religion for just a moment, is there nothing you have faith in that gas not been verified by your senses? Have your senses ever been wrong?

  4. //There are many links that i can post for you that lay out good, solid, logical reasoning. Here is but one://

    Well perhaps there are, but I was severely disappointed at the one link you decided to post.

    Even after reading the article twice, I’m sorry but I did not see “good, solid, logical reasoning” unless perhaps one has already accepted certain premises which are:

    1) That what the Bible says is all true.

    2) That the Christian concept of “God” is true.

    3) That man has a soul that lives on forever after he dies, and that there are only two “final states” that are possible for that soul.

    However, for someone who thinks those premises are unproven and therefore not reliable, the “logic” in the article is far from solid, only goes around in circles, and isn’t convincing at all.

    //This seems like this is the most hot topic for you. This seems to have hit a personal note for you, much more than the mental workings out the others seem to be.//

    Well, yes because it’s quite an insane, childish idea yet it holds many in its thrall.

    Ok, I’ll quote a couple of paragraphs from article (in italics) and I’ll comment as we go along to better illustrate what I meant up there:

    …God has made efforts to reform people. Each of us is given a lifetime to reform and embrace God through Christ.

    This assumes that I believe in the biblical stories and the overarching biblical model of life. That people were born with original sin and need redemption otherwise their souls go to hell. But I don’t.

    Besides, this is quite a conceited view. What about those who were raised as Muslims, Buddhists, Hindu, Sikh, etc.? Some people live their entire lives without encountering the Bible or hearing about Jesus. Do they deserve hell too?

    Unfortunately, some reject God and His truths, choosing their own path rather than God’s.

    Here’s some news. We ALL choose our own paths. Even when you THINK you are following God’s path, it’s still you choosing that path. And don’t you sometimes think you made the wrong choice or that you “misheard” or “misinterpreted” what you thought was the “Lord’s leading?”

    As for eternal suffering being overkill in reference to limited or temporal behavior, this fails to understand the nature of sin and its relation to a holy God.

    So that’s it? That’s all the author has to say about the “overkill” issue? What is it that I fail to understand? No explanation nor elaboration?

    When it comes to suggesting annihilation as opposed to eternal suffering in hell, again this seems like a plausible objection. It fails, however, to understand that God is a God of life. Human beings are made in His image (Genesis 1:26, 27). Therefore, every person is of inestimable value.

    Again, references made to a primitive book that I believe contains a lot of myths and folklore, not that it was the authors’ fault, but that was simply the way people thought back then.

    First, annihilationism does not fit the biblical evidence.

    So? I’m not saying it does. I’m saying it makes more sense, and is more compassionate THAN letting someone suffer forever. Did you ever have to bring a pet that was too old or too sick to the vet so he can put it down? That’s the same thing I’m talking about.

    Second, as has been noted, it fails to understand the worth God places on human life. Third, God respects human choice.

    And again, if he really places value and worth on human life, why make them suffer? Because he respects their choice? What kind of logic is that?

    For example, you caution your son against joining a gang but he rebels and still joins anyway. Then one day, you see your son being beaten up by his fellow gang members for some offense he did, do you just say, “Well, you made your choice, kid, so you’ll have to live with the consequences. I tried to warn you, but you wouldn’t listen. So I’m sorry but I can’t get you out of the mess you’re in now.”

    Is that the kind of God you think I should worship?

    //I was the primary caregiver for my parents for many years. At one point, the doctors and nurses told us she would not last an hour. She lived for six more years. About the same time, my dad fell over dead at the office. No pulse. No respirations. He was revived and lived another twelve years. Death with dignity to me is a disgusting joke. I don’t believe in the nonsense of quality of life because there are too many factors that nake it subjective. I do believe in the sanctity of life. During that time, and especially now that they are both gone, i am also the caregiver for my mentally retarded sister. While my parents were sick, i also had to deal with another sister who tried to make quality over sanctity of life arguments.//

    I’m glad that your dad and mom both got their “second leases” on life, but your examples do not address the Death with Dignity laws. So before you dismiss it as a disgusting joke, perhaps you ought to read up more on it.

    //The real point is that if someone, in your estimation, actively, willingly, for their essential lifetime, chooses to reject God and wants to spend eternity away from Him, why would a just and loving God force that person to spend eternity with Him? That is not hollow.//

    Again, you are presuming that this heaven and hell model is real. For me, that is a presumption that first needs to be proven or demonstrated convincingly.

    //Do you only believe in what your (five?) senses have shown you? Putting aside religion for just a moment, is there nothing you have faith in that has not been verified by your senses? Have your senses ever been wrong?//

    Well, yes, I do have “faith” in certain things but I do know when I am taking chances and when I am not. There is the age-old example of before you sit down on a chair, you do so with “faith” that it will hold your weight and not break down.

    Yes, but this kind of “faith” is backed up by several things:

    1) You may have seen people heavier or bigger than you sit on the chair.
    2) By experience with other chairs, you know that most chairs can hold your weight, provided they aren’t defective.
    3) By inspection, you can surmise if the chair is sturdy enough to withstand your weight.

    So to answer your question, no I do not always wait for verification by senses before I act on something. But I know when I am simply assuming or hypothesizing as compared to making a more informed choice.

    Have my senses ever been wrong? Of course, but that doesn’t mean I stop relying on them. I have to find out what went wrong and then compensate for that. E.g. I wear glasses to correct my vision, etc.

    There were many times when “faith” went wrong for me as well. There were times when I thought God was telling me something even though it was contrary to what I thought was common sense. The scriptures I read seemed to confirm it, as well as church “elders” who gave their blessings on the matter. In hindsight, that was one of the poorest decisions I ever made.

    So going back, yes, I still operate on some sort of “faith” but if there is evidence to the contrary, then evidence wins hands down.

    To quote American physicist Richard Feynman: “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.”

  5. You use a lot of words putting down Christian theology, “However, for someone who thinks those premises are unproven and therefore not reliable, the “logic” in the article is far from solid, only goes around in circles, and isn’t convincing at all.” “Well, yes because it’s quite an insane, childish idea yet it holds many in its thrall.” “So that’s it? That’s all the author has to say about the “overkill” issue? What is it that I fail to understand? No explanation nor elaboration?” Etc… I am trying to show you a logical progression of thought, but, as mentioned in a previous post, your counters always seem to be that you don’t believe it, like the Hitching’s debated I referenced. You says things like childish and archaic without showing why they can’t or aren’t true. You make more assumptions than you accuse others of. “I’m glad that your dad and mom both got their “second leases” on life, but your examples do not address the Death with Dignity laws. So before you dismiss it as a disgusting joke, perhaps you ought to read up more on it.” By the way, that subject was one of my first big interests, starting in grade school, and I have read more on that than anything else, and, more importantly, lived it as well.

    “There were many times when “faith” went wrong for me as well. There were times when I thought God was telling me something even though it was contrary to what I thought was common sense. The scriptures I read seemed to confirm it, as well as church “elders” who gave their blessings on the matter. In hindsight, that was one of the poorest decisions I ever made.” What is an example?

    “Again, you are presuming that this heaven and hell model is real. For me, that is a presumption that first needs to be proven or demonstrated convincingly.” And what would you accept as proof or demonstrated convincingly?

    “Besides, this is quite a conceited view. What about those who were raised as Muslims, Buddhists, Hindu, Sikh, etc.? Some people live their entire lives without encountering the Bible or hearing about Jesus. Do they deserve hell too?” Conceited? Most people use the word exclusive. Is truth conceited? Is your view conceited? Think bigger. If the Bible is true, what about Abraham? Moses?They died without encountering the Bible or hearing about Jesus. I believe the Biblical view demonstrates that everyone can encounter the true God. A small light into the heart and mind of God. How they choose to respond to that light determines how much more light they are given. But you will probably say that you don’t believe in the Bible, so that will be a moot point for you.

    “To quote American physicist Richard Feynman: “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.” Interesting choice. Swords cut both ways. What part of Christian theology has had an experiment, when was it, who was involved, and how was it wrong? And your philosophy, every facet that you believe has been proven by experiment? Please elaborate.

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