Daddy Issues

I’ve been writing out my personal story lately, and am working on installment six.

Last night, despite her usual reticence, my wife and I were discussing the manipulation and spiritual abuse we endured early in our Christian life, detailed in installment 5. In particular we were discussing why I was so compliant with J and the other leaders, why I was so willing to defer my autonomy to them. Even within my biography, that I haven’t the patience to go backwards in right now, I focus on my powerful belief in God/Jesus and my fear of not being obedient to him, and so on.

But while we were chatting, my wife said, “You know, maybe it was also another manifestation of your daddy issues, growing up as you did without a father. Maybe you looked at them as substitutes for the missing male figure in your life.”

Holy. Shit.

I told you she was the smart one.

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but for readers unaware, my father, who was a really fucked up human being (not all by choice – he was terribly abused by several adults as a child), left us when I was 6. I didn’t see him again until I was 14, almost 15, and in that time heard from him only a few times – you could count them on one hand.

I really try to be introspective. I try to be honest with myself, faults and qualities alike. I try to understand why I do things, why I react in certain ways, why I do what I do and say what I say. And I thought I understood myself to a reasonable extent.

And I’ve spent a lot of time working through my Daddy Issues, and my parent issues, having a wonderful mom who will actually talk with me about the impact of her life issues on her sons.

But I confess I never once considered how that may have energized my ready capitulation of my free will to these men. But it makes perfect sense, and is worth exploring.

Furthermore, I’m starting to think that dynamic might have come into play not only in relation to the male leaders I looked to, but also in my relation to the god I believed in. Did I need to believe so badly, and did I need to stay “in his will” so badly, because I was afraid that even this supposedly infinitely loving Abba Father would reject me once again, to a fate much worse than simple loneliness and childhood abandonment?

In hindsight, there were times as a Christian when I was bothered by the fact that I sometimes treated god as an out-of-sight, out-of-mind kind of god. Like my dad. And I worried he would know and, of course, somehow reject me. I spent a lot of energy rereading verses that promised eternal security, perhaps because that was a guarantee that I finally would not and could not be rejected or abandoned.

I think there’s a lot of insight in T’s thought, and I think it speaks to the larger idea that the gods people believe in usually, very coincidentally I’m sure, think much like the believers do. Imagine that.

My dad has been gone for years now, and for better or worse I still find his fingerprints all over the place. Thankfully I have such a lovely woman in my life who helps me find them and helps me polish them off the surfaces on which they don’t belong, and preserve them in the places where they do.

My Story – A Serial Comedy/Drama/Tragedy/Redemption Passion Play

Recently I was trolling through other free-thinker’s sites, doing some random reading. I came across the Atheist Forum, hosted by Michael Vito Tosto. He’s written a ton of thoughful material on the journey through the Christian life and the aftermath of finding freedom. Delightful stuff and worth the read.

On his site he took the time to tell the story of his entire Christian journey. I saw so much of myself in the things he put him through, in the things that others put him through. Those of us who’ve made the Great Escape bear scars and have stories that need telling if for no other reason than to simply vent the spleen.

So, bit by bit, I’ll be doing the same. Taking inspiration from Mr. Tosto, I’ll make it a separate set of pages from my regular postings. I hope those of you who have escaped can find a little commiseration. I hope those of you who are searching can see that you’re not alone in your doubts and your struggle, and that you’ll see that it’s safe out here for you too.

I confess that most of all, it will be good to tell the whole story and just get that off my chest. We had some very good times and knew some very good people. We also endured some very difficult bullshit that we’d never have subjected ourselves to without the impetus of religion, and it’s that which I’ll highlight.

But most of all, my life was not my own, and my view of the world around me was skewed.

I was blind, but now I see.

It’s good to be free.

My Story

Presuppositionalism – the The Cancer of Apologetics – Part II: Tenets of Presuppositionalism

In Part I I set the general ground rules for our discussion of Presuppositionalism or The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God (hereafter TAG.)

In this post, which should be relatively brief, I’m going to lay out the basic tenets of the Presuppositionalist position.  I’ll refrain from actually evaluating the arguments themselves at this point.  We’ll do that in part III.

The main difficulty in delineating the TAG is that it is primarily a tool of confusion to derail criticism and deflect skeptical enquiry.  Well, presuppers won’t admit that, but that’s how it plays out in praxis.

So, what precisely is the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God? There isn’t just one simple accepted line from the TAG Association of Blah-Blah, but it goes something like this:

God is the source of logic, reason, and morals, which contribute to the body of knowledge, therefore no logical, reasonable dialogue is possible, and no person can claim to have any knowledge, without the precondition of God’s existence.

In other words, you can’t even have a discussion of whether or not god exists, unless you first assume god exists.

I would think just that last sentence would be enough to show this apologetic trick for the nonsense that it is. Yet this mode of discussion persists among a number of popular internet apologists. There are some who are wholly committed to this line of reason, Sye being the most infamous.

This mode of argument pivots on the idea that the Laws of Logic are absolute. In order to determine an idea to be absolute, one must have an absolute authority as the source of that absolute, and only (a) god meets that criteria.

Further, the presupper asserts that when a non-theist uses logic and scientific reasoning, or refers to knowledge, even in an attempt to refute the existence of any god, that the use of said logic and even the ability to reference god is itself proof of god’s existence, because how can we even conceptualize such things and know such things if they did not already exist, and how could they exist conceptually if there wasn’t someone to conceptualize such things from the beginning of the universe?

You see, it gets a little confusing.

Matt Slick, another of your hardcore presuppers (and a Calvinist to boot, how’s *that* for presupposition?) has published a longer, more detailed explanation of the TAG. I’ll reproduce part of it here:

The Laws of Logic exist.  The Laws of Logic are conceptual by nature–are not dependent on space, time, physical properties, or human nature.  They are not the product of the physical universe (space, time, matter) because if the physical universe were to disappear, The Laws of Logic would still be true.  The Laws of Logic are not the product of human minds because human minds are different–not absolute.  But, since The Laws of Logic are always true everywhere and not dependent upon human minds, it must be an absolute transcendent mind that is authoring them.  This mind is called God.  Furthermore, if there are only two options to account for something, i.e., God and no God, and one of them is negated, then by default the other position is validated.  Therefore, part of the argument is that the atheist position cannot account for the existence of The Laws of Logic from its worldview.

We’ll dig into this in our next chapter, but for now, I just want to illustrate the position they are taking, as well as the logical flow of thought they put forward to support their view.

And as you read through, try not to lose sight of the fact that, despite their protests otherwise, the only purpose of this argument is to remove the question of god’s existence from the realm of argument. They want you to give in to their position in order to discuss their position.

In our next chapter, we’ll start pulling this apart, one step at a time.

Sanctimonious Sanctity

A brief and amusing primer, in case you were wondering…

Because, let’s be honest, the whole “Sanctity of Marriage” excuse is a baldfaced joke – a lie even. There is far more adultery, fornication and divorce than there could ever be homosexuality, because, you know, math?

Yet the big threat to Life, Liberty, and Happiness, to hear the bigots tell it, is the Homogays!

You would think if the Sanctity of Marriage was really so important, they’d try to outlaw divorce and bring back the death penalty for fornication and adultery.

You’d think. But they don’t think. They just hate.

Your Best Shot

Well, after a rather lively, lengthy, but ultimately empty exchange, our recent Anglican Priest visitor has apparently surrendered. Well, he ran away, waving a white flag, proclaiming victory for himself and reveling in my impending damnation. So it looked a lot like a surrender.

Why is it Christians are just so delighted by the thought of others suffering eternal torture at the hands of a loving god?

But I digress. Back to the topic at hand.

As in this last exchange, I have been deeply disappointed by the level of rational engagement I get from theists here and in other social media forums, such as Facebook.

Granted, you do find a few who will wrangle with you and leave you thinking, but they are a true few and they are far between. Worse, you have to wade through a massive cadre of one-liners and uninformed hyperbole from the other 200 folks in the thread to carry on one decent conversation. It drives you to the point of giving up trying to be reasonable and simply trading one-liners for one-liners. Let me tell you, the temptation is strong, and the will of this author, at least, is ofte not up to the task.

I have to acknowledge the perception gap that exists in trying to carry on a rational dialogue. It arises from the schism of authority. The rational skeptic only accepts reasonable evidence. The supernaturalist/theist accepts the bible as evidence and believes in god so deeply that they’re unable to look from another perspective. God is a given to them. (See my recent article on Plato’s Cave.)

But a lot of points can be given for trying, right? Trying would be bringing your best arguments for the existence of god, veracity of the bible, resurrection of Jesus, and so on, and then being able to defend your arguments in rational discussion. This means neither side can claim special acquisition of knowledge outside of our general human ability to perceive the universe around us.

Trust me, we lose a lot of theists right there.

Anyway, I would love my occasional believing readers to put forward their best arguments, or the arguments of others that to them bolster the reasonable conclusion that their faith is true and worthy of adherence.

You trust the work of Lee Strobel? Pick an issue, bring his best argument, and be ready to defend it. William Lane Craig? Norman Geisler? Sye Ten Bruggencate? Yourself? Bring it.

Send your assertion and supporting argument to me at winlb@yahoo.com. As I don’t expect to be inundated with droves of challenging believers, I think I can pretty well promise that any reasonably coherent arguments I receive will become future posts where I’ll address the argument to the best of my ability and invite my readers to weight in, whichever side of the argument they’re on.

I’m no dummy, but neither am I the smartest guy in the room. But let’s dialogue. If god’s word be his own truth, then pursuit of truth can only lead to god, right?

Well, we shall see.

So Sorry, So Sad

How would one describe the true Christian believer?

Faithful? Dedicated? Devoted? Confident? Hopeful?

How about arrogant?

It’s not always obvious, because the outward expression of faith, person to person, usually follows a typical pattern of expected behavior. Like the winsome priest going from room to room at the hospital, they often take on an air of humility and winsomeness. I know online behavior can be a lot more… extreme, but that’s probably true in nearly every category, not just when dealing with religion.

Yet if you peel back what is said, there is an arrogance that follows the True Believer.

I don’t always see it or notice it myself, but it was sort of laid bare in a couple of comments to my About WINLB page.

First a commenter said, “I’m so sorry.”

That’s it. That’s the entire comment. So I answered, “For…?” But I don’t need her to come back and tell me. I already know. She’s sorry that I no longer believe. If she was to say it herself, she’d probably be sorry I “lost my faith,” as though that loss is a subtraction from my otherwise whole self and something to be somehow regained.

The next commenter, apparently an Anglican Priest, said, “Sad!” then went on about gentiles and the covenant. It was rather unclear to me, so I asked him to clarify. His answer?

Of course I am responding to your so-called “deconversion”! Again, very sad! Note the great Parable of the Sower, (St. Mark 4: 1-20 … of course noting too, Matt. 13: 1-15 / Luke 8: 4-10). See also, Matt. 7: 13-23, etc. “I never knew you!” As it quite appears, you sir have NEVER known Jesus the Christ!

Insert heavy sigh here.

Both of these comments, the concise and the wordy, are loaded with the arrogance of those who think they know what cannot actually be known or demonstrated to be true.

The problem with the True Believer is that they don’t recognize that their worldview, their religion, is a belief they chose (or with which they were indoctrinated in youth) among a world full of different religions and ideas about the world. They don’t actually know, but the nature of their religious belief, and its underlying theology, pretends that their belief is tantamount to knowledge, and that their emotional experience is tantamount to true communion with the god of the universe.

Exacerbating this with all faiths is the insularity of churches, of most religious organizations. You feed at the same trough every week, and you only get that viewpoint, until it seems like the only truth out there because you haven’t bothered to actually check out any other ideas.

This fosters a rank arrogance among Christians that somehow they are the chosen, the elite who have been given Truth, and from that are therefore qualified to view others who do not share in or believe that same Truth as deficient, as lacking in some way.

I’m sorry? No, dear, I’m sorry that you somehow think that I’ve actually lost something. I’m sorry that your view is so narrow that you can’t see that I’m actually a whole person who has simply chosen a different path, one that rejects the self-hatred of Christianity.

How sad? Yes, how sad that in your arrogance you seem to think it’s your place to judge me somehow deficient and lacking. How sad that your belief, which is just one belief among many, and even that just a version among thousands, blinds you to the fact that you are no more a whole person than I am, with simply a different belief.

I was NEVER a Christian? Surely you’re read enough to know a No True Scotsman fallacy when you see it. Or when you type it out yourself. How arrogant of you to presume that somehow my 26 years of Fundamentalist Evangelical devotion to Christ was fraudulent just because the conclusion I have come to differs from yours.

How arrogant the believer has to be to presume his or her belief, his or her ideas, to be the only Truth in the entire universe. How arrogant these commenters to presume to judge me on the basis of their belief that, held under the light of reason, cannot stand up to the scrutiny of logic.

If they were truly humble, they would come as the equals they are, recognizing that their beliefs are but their ideas, and that whatever they believe, they might have something to learn for themselves while they presume to teach me.

But of course Christian belief doesn’t work that way. Assurance is necessary, even if it has to be manufactured emotionally, because hell awaits those who are not confident in their faith to profess Christ as Lord even in the potential face of persecution and death.

They’re taught that they better know for sure what they believe, and affirm that belief by receiving the free gift of god and undergoing the transformation of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. If you are taught that you have the actual Spirit of God living inside you, that has regenerated that part of you that connects to god, and if you get a warm fuzzy from it at some point, how can this Truth you’ve chosen to believe not be the actual only Truth?

And therefore the Arrogance of Knowledge is the only stance they can take without actually walking the road of reason that, for some, leads to liberation from religious delusion and enslavement.

I do admit to getting angry, but I was there once, so perhaps a little temperament on my part is in order.

But not so much that I won’t call it out when I see it.

And I Feel Fine

It’s the end of the world as we know it.

It’s the end of the world as we know it.

It’s the end of the world as we know it,

And I feel fine.     – R.E.M.

The end of the world as we know it. I can tell you from experience that most Evangelical Christians live like it’s going to happen tomorrow. They don’t follow Christianity as a live for today, just be a good person sort of thing. They are intensely interested in the future and modern politics. They are convinced the rapture is right around the corner, followed quickly by the Tribulation and the return of Jesus Christ. What is written in the Left Behind books they believe is really going to happen.

According to modern apocalyptic thought, one of the main hallmarks of the final conflict and the tribulation will be a one-world government headed by the Antichrist. They believe that one of the Antichrist’s main tools will be control of the world financial system via a single currency, and that this currency will be purely electronic. Nobody will have cash or credit cards. Instead they will have a mark on their arm or forehead, a number on their skin that will be their personal number, their access to the economy, tied to their accounts. No mark, no money, food, no living. They see that as a step toward the number of the beast..

Some ways back there was an article in the online news about Sweden becoming a cash-free society. I thought it was interesting when I read it. Later in the day a Christian friend of mine posted the same article, quipping, “Hmmm… interesting!” Another friend commented something to the effect of: “The time is near!”

To them, it’s not about a better money system, a fairer money system. It’s about the coming one-world government, led by the Antichrist.

They believe in the days before the rapture that Christians will be increasingly persecuted. They believe they will be rounded up, given one chance to renounce their faith, and executed if they refuse. They believe the world is getting worse and more violent, and they will be the scapegoats in the end. They believe that they will be raptured away, and that there will be a group of Christians who come around after the rapture and endure the Tribulation. At the end of the Tribulation comes the Ultimate Religious Revenge Fantasy – when all the goats, all of us unbelievers, will see Jesus returning in the clouds, and it will be too late. They will watch as all of us heathen are in an instant plunged into everlasting torment to suffer for eternity for a brief lifetime of supposed sin.

They believe this stuff like they believe the mailman will come by and deliver the mail this afternoon. This is real world training. This is the problem with so much religious indoctrination. They’re not just working on being better people and finding peace and happiness. They apply this worldview to every real world action they take. They interpret every news item through that filter. It’s a mindset that is completely opposed to real world progress, because their primary hope requires the world to, literally, go to hell in a handbasket.

There was another Facebook post by a Christian friend that repeated an old saw I’ve heard several times.  They said:

Yeah, I am not much into politics and I try to discourage (my spouse) on too much focus on it. I think it’s akin to rearranging the deck chairs 0n a sinking ship.
The darker things get, the Brighter our Light!

Isn’t that rosy?

Making a better world for ourselves and our children and our childrens’ children is difficult. But one would think it would be a bit easier if there weren’t a large segment of our population who not only don’t think it’s worthwhile, but whose primary hope requires everything to get worse.

Let’s leave off for a minute that the deck chair comment is bullshit, because we all know they’re more than willing to mess with certain deck chairs, like the ones on the Homosexual deck, right?

How do you convince the Evangelical to be a part of the solution? How do you convince them that it’s worth their while to promote peace and understanding? How do you get them to care about the environment for the sake of future generations? How do you get them to care about any of it when they don’t even think there are enough future generations to come? How do you get them to stand up for peace and understanding in a multi-cultural world when, 1.) they think their belief system is the only right one, to the exclusion of all others, that all others are errors that must be exposed and those adherents evangelized in order to hasten the end, and 2.) they look forward to the war and conflict that must come to bring about the Millennial Kingdom and their final hope?

It’s asking them to go against the very heart of their beliefs. It’s asking them to literally waste their time and effort for goals they not only don’t believe in, but that are, in some respects, opposed to their final hopes and religious dreams.

This is one of the great modern harms of religion. It’s not just bombings and beheadings, as horrible and frightful as those are. It’s the fact that religion takes whole populations of talented, capable people, and completely incapacitates their ability to contribute to the progress of society and our world. It sets them up in opposition to humanity’s best interests.

It’s not that they don’t contribute to society at all, of course. But in view of the big picture, they’re not looking for a better tomorrow for everyone. They’re only looking to their ultimate revenge fantasy of seeing all the other non-believers or believers in the wrong religions go to eternal punishment so they can spend eternity being right.

And suddenly I don’t feel so fine anymore.