Posts in Christian Beliefs

God Experiences: Summary and What It All Means

Written By | September 4, 2015 | Posted in Christian Beliefs | No Comments

For the past couple of weeks, I have shared a number of experiences that I used to point to as evidences for the existence of the Christian god. I have also explained why all of these experiences eventually failed to stand up to critical thinking and reasoning as my understanding of statistics, psychology, and science grew over the years. I could have easily written another dozen blogs or so covering topics like supernatural intervention in job interviews and career choices, family situations such as having a special-needs child with successful a successful response to intensive therapy, just-in-time financial rescues, times where I legitimately believed I had used supernatural abilities, and so forth, but the basic themes would all have been the same. In the end, none of my experiences have had any defining characteristic that force a supernatural explanation. Sure, some of them seem to defy the odds, but in all cases the improbable turns out to be possible, and completely natural explanations exist. Attributing anything that happens to God is a matter of pure choice and will, ignoring the fact that similar outcomes occur for others regardless of religious background, and with selection bias leaning towards crediting the supernatural with good things and excusing or ignoring bad things. This perfectly describes the phenomenon of confirmation bias, which I have written about many times in the past. This means that by any objective standard, all of your personal experiences – and I mean every single one of them – is invalid in terms of proof of the existence of anything in the supernatural sphere. If you are in possession of any kind of evidence to the contrary, I would love to see it. And I’m not kidding or being facetious – I really, really would. But I suspect no one will step forward to provide it. Based on nearly three decades of searching and investigation, it’s just not out there.

So what? (more…)

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God Experiences: A Personal Relationship

Written By | September 2, 2015 | Posted in Christian Beliefs | 2 Comments

Setting the Stage

Like most kids, I had an imaginary friend as a child. His name was Friend Jason. He was identical to me in every way, except for the fact that he was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. Growing up in an unstable home, Friend Jason was my confidant, someone who I talked to on a daily basis. When I went to Kindergarten, I took him with me. I was scared and needed someone to talk to, and he seriously – no joke – helped me just by being there in case I needed him. As Kindergarten wore on, however, and I started to make friends, I realized that I was needing Friend Jason less and less. I also vaguely remember comments made about big kids not having imaginary friends any more – possibly made by adults in my life (the memory is pretty foggy). As my need for him grew less and less, and the subtle pressure to “grow up” and stop having an imaginary friend became clear, I made the decision midway through Kindergarten that it was time for me to let him go. I remember it well: I brought him out one last time, my heart heavy and tears in my eyes, and I told him that I couldn’t play with him any more. I remember him being sad, but understanding as always. I gave him one last hug, and with that, said goodbye to the person who had been my best friend for as long as I could remember at that point. I knew he wasn’t real, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. Whether or not he actually existed, I was losing a friend who had meant a lot to me, and the pain I felt as a six-year-old boy was very real. In fact, in recounting this story, I can still feel it today.

I was a kid that wanted to believe. (more…)

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God Experiences: Worship Music

Written By | August 31, 2015 | Posted in Christian Beliefs | No Comments

Setting the Stage

In the little church community that I grew up in, I seldom felt “moved” by God during congregational singing. Occasionally my family would attend a southern gospel concert, however, and I would experience emotions during the moving songs and testimonies that I clearly identified as the Holy Spirit. I would weep at the plight of the lost, marvel and praise God for the testimony of these men and women, and pray for a revival of God’s spirit to sweep across our nation like it was sweeping my heart in those moments. Otherwise, however, church music for me was a fairly non-eventful experience throughout high school. All of that would change dramatically when I went to college.

The college I had chosen (or, more accurately, felt led to attend) was Southwest Baptist University (SBU) in Bolivar, MO. I had selected this school to attend primarily because I felt it would help me strengthen my faith, sharpen my witness, and allow me to exercise my gifts in ministry through both preaching and piano playing. Nothing in my religious life, however, had prepared me for the experience of worship music on a regular basis. (more…)

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God Experiences: Supernatural ACT Exam

Written By | August 28, 2015 | Posted in Christian Beliefs | 1 Comment

Setting the Stage

I desperately wanted to go to college, but knew that my family would be able to provide little, if any financial support. My only hope was significant scholarships, and my best bets there were academia and music.  A sports scholarship was not in my future… :) And so, my junior year of high school saw me studying endless hours for the ACT. We had in-class prep in math classes, and after hours the computer lab was made available for practice exams. I spent so many hours going through them that by the time I was finished, I could score nearly perfect on most of the tests because I had seen every question in the bank multiple times. I was determined to do as well as I could – my brain was my ticket to freedom.

Also along this time, attendance at our church, and in particular my church youth group began to pick up dramatically. I was still an oddball among them, but found a place where I more or less belonged. We formed a puppet / mime ministry and named it “Friends Forever, Inc.” after a popular Michael W. Smith song. Feeling God’s call on my life to do more, commit deeper, and dedicate my skills to his purpose, I had also “surrendered into the ministry” with an emphasis on preaching the gospel. When I look back, I cringe at a lot of my naivety, but there were sustained moments of both personal happiness and a growing sense of God’s love and direction in my life. (more…)

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God Experiences: I Should Have Died

Written By | August 26, 2015 | Posted in Christian Beliefs | 2 Comments

Setting the Stage

If you were to listen in on conversations around the dinner table during my childhood, you would hear story upon story of miracles that were happening all around us, followed by thankfulness to God for the fortuitous outcomes. Examples of this phenomenon over the years include:

  • My grandmother nearly being blinded in one eye due to a seat spring, had it hit just a fraction of an inch differently;
  • My brother almost dying as a baby from some respiratory illness;
  • Various family members and friends involved in car wrecks that should have killed them, but didn’t;
  • Times of significant financial struggle where someone helped out, with just what was needed in order to get by;
  • And on and on and on.

Growing up and hearing these stories told and re-told on a consistent basis reinforced the idea that I was living in a world that was actively trying to kill me, and that God and his angels were actively engaged in spiritual warfare, intervening on my behalf in order to save my life and help me fulfill whatever plan God had for me in life. The way I was raised, there was simply no way to explain positive outcomes, plus survival of terrible experiences, without supernatural intervention. (more…)

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God Experiences: Saved from a Bully

Written By | August 24, 2015 | Posted in Christian Beliefs | 1 Comment

Setting the Stage

My life had taken a turn for the better when I realized that at least part of my isolation was self-inflicted. This did not, however, improve the bullying situation at my school. Maybe it was just a different time and place, but the amount of outright assault and battery that happened to me and a few other vocal oddballs, right in the classroom, right in front of teachers whose greatest intervention was “Gene, settle down…” staggers me as an adult looking back on it. I was a late bloomer and did not hit a significant growth spurt until about my junior year, so the guys that were pushing me around and worse were usually at least twice if not three times my size. It was also in this climate that I fully embraced the concept of Christian persecution in our society. A big part of what I was bullied about was just being a person who did not back down from what he believed to be right, and this included attacks on my or other people’s expressions of faith. I also had a protective streak and, just like I had done for my mom with my step-dad, I would step into situations to defend my younger friends who I felt could not defend themselves. Looking back, I wish the school system had been set up better, or that the teaching staff at my school had actively engaged with a zero-tolerance policy in terms of threatening or abusive behavior. But, I suspect, this was just seen as part of some accepted natural order: the short, nerdy, loud-mouthed religious zealot getting pushed around by the bigger, more athletic, less religious “rulers of the school” as it were. Frankly, if I were to be aware of one of my children being subjected to similar treatment today, not only would I directly intervene with the school and staff, I would likely file lawsuits against the school and the families involved if it reached that level. But I digress… (more…)

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God Experiences: Saved from Suicide

Written By | August 21, 2015 | Posted in Christian Beliefs | 1 Comment

Setting the Stage

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the moment of salvation did little to improve my home life long-term. Things escalated with my stepfather as I got older. I was a fairly smart kid with strong leadership traits, plus an overdeveloped sense of right and wrong. He was of average intelligence (if not a little below) and a bully. From a young age I found myself calling him on his behavior – in part, stepping into that role to defend my mom – and being punished in multiple ways as a result. The worst was when he figured out that by overtly befriending my younger brother he could get him to team up with him and ridicule me, behaviors for which he was rewarded. It was the only meaningful way my stepfather could hurt me, and it was effective. This intentional manipulation by him over the years created an emotional wedge between my brother and me that sadly remains in place to this day. The result was that I felt isolated, even in my own family. During this time, church became ever more important to me, and I looked for any excuse I could find to be there, and really, anywhere other than home. I took leadership roles in church plays, musical productions, and shared the gospel message with my friends. Everywhere else in my life, I felt different and out of place, but at church, my special skills were valued and appreciated. In many ways, it was the place where I found the most peace and happiness. (more…)

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God Experiences: Salvation

Written By | August 19, 2015 | Posted in Christian Beliefs | No Comments

Setting the Stage

I grew up in a lower-class family. My mom worked low-paying factory jobs in Lebanon, MO. We never went hungry, but often lived in low-rent apartments or in trailers parked on a grandparent’s farmland. I played baseball, but otherwise most activities (for example, Boy Scouts) were not options if they had any required costs. I don’t have many memories of my dad prior to the divorce other than a lot of fights. I remember that my dad slept in our room, and my brother and I slept in the “master” bedroom with our mom. I was five years old when we moved in with my grandparents. About a year later (my dates may not be exactly correct…), my mom remarried. His income was relatively high compared to hers, and as a result we were financially dependent on him. It was clear early on that he resented having to help pay for our childhood expenses. He was physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive, and I was a frequent target. I try as hard as I can to look back on my early childhood and find happy memories, and while there were people and moments, for the most part I lived in a state of fear, anger, and the threat of abuse.

The one saving grace for me was church. (more…)

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I Experienced God, So Why Am I an Atheist?

Written By | August 17, 2015 | Posted in Christian Beliefs Uncategorized | 2 Comments

At the end of any serious discussion around belief in the supernatural, the Christian (or other theist) struggles to gain ground on every philosophical, scientific, and logical debate. By any standard that a believer would enforce for someone of a different belief, their own arguments fall. The final ace in the hole for most, however, is the personal experience card. Nearly every true believer of any faith will tell you they *know* that God / angels / demons / ghosts / spirits / heaven / magic / etc. exists because they have personally experienced it at some point in their lives, and if only I were open to accepting what is clearly before me, I could experience it too and know the truth. They feel that this is an impossible to defeat argument – after all, how can I possibly tell them that their personal experiences, those feelings, that relationship that they absolutely know to be real are just figments of their imagination? Again, if I had experienced anything similar, there would be no way I could not believe.

Here’s the rub: almost without exception, I *have* had experiences that – at the time they occurred and for years afterwards – I believed could not be explained in any way other than to invoke the supernatural. I *did* have a relationship with God – one in which he and I conversed on a regular basis, where I earnestly looked for wisdom and guidance. I *did* on multiple occasions surrender my life or renew my commitment to him to lead and guide as he would see fit. I felt that still small voice, and it brought me to tears. I wept alone in my home on multiple occasions during prayer, lying in bed or on the floor, simply overcome with the presence of God and the feeling of his hand guiding my life. I had faith, and a faith that was so powerful that I let it guide my decisions and direction in life in substantial ways. I experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, felt his indwelling as I preached the gospel and led others to Jesus via the Roman Road of Salvation(tm). I had life-threatening experiences in which I was positive I should have died or been critically injured in which I came out either unscathed or only slightly wounded. I looked in my life and could see how extremely negative experiences had been crafted so that something amazing that happened later was made possible, and only because of the bad things that had happened.

And yet, here I am, a non-believer — not only in Christianity, but in the existence of the supernatural altogether.

(more…)

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The God Question

Written By | May 21, 2015 | Posted in Atheist Life Christian Beliefs Religion | 19 Comments

A brief word of housekeeping: my family is finally settled in our new house in Tennessee. The road from Florida was long and aggravating, but we’re in a great house and are glad to be settling down. I hope that a stable routine will allow me to start blogging more. We are also hoping to present a facelift for The Book of Wonder soon: a new theme built on top of a new CMS. Finally, keep an eye on this site over the next few days as we will be introducing a new contributor to our virtual pages.

Housekeeping done, on to the post!

How do you answer the God question? What means do you employ to arrive at your conclusion?

There are many reasons why I have concluded that there is no God, and many more reasons why I have a very high degree of certainty that Christianity is not true. I hope to explore these reasons further in future blog posts, but at the root of the God question there is a question of trust: to what and to whom will you turn when trying to discern what is true and what is false?

I grew up in the church, surrounded by the language of faith. But the church of my youth was also something of an intellectual church: wrapping Christianity in a veneer of academia. I learned the Westminster Catechism; I listened to lectures by R. C. Sproul; I had lessons from books by Cornelius Van Til, Francis Schaeffer, and other apologists. All of these were meant to teach the defense of the faith: how to have intelligent answers to the challenges of skeptics. And it is true that the answers were intelligent. Many of them were internally logically consistent and, left to themselves, reasonable enough. They provided Christians with the idea that religion, theology, and apologetics are grounded not just on revealed Scripture but rigorous reason. I bought into the notion. I already loved the God of the Bible; now I could also love the sense of intellectualism that came with knowing more about him and how to defend his word.

The problem, of course, is that it was a house of straw. An internally consistent world is not automatically the real world. Case in point, look at many of the ideas of theoretical physicists. Many of their theories are completely consistent, logically rigorous, and mathematically sound, and many of those same theories fail to describe the world as it exists.

(more…)

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