The Dreadful Dangers of Learning to Think: A Cautionary Tale – By Jane Douglas

Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Featured, Guest Post, Thoughts | 51 comments

Last week, an article in the Washington Post reported on the 2012 platform of the Republican Party in Texas and, in particular, its scarily backward education agenda. In part, the platform statement reads:

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

The GOP is right, of course. Teaching kids higher order thinking skills does empower them to challenge the fixed beliefs imposed on them through religious and parental authority. And so it ought.

Not so very long ago, but in a life far away, I was a Christian fundamentalist and homeschooling mum. No doubt that admission will conjure for you images of knee-length plaits, long skirts and minibuses ¾and you wouldn’t be far wrong. But imagining that I was also an entirely unintelligent religious redneck would be a mistake. Deluded is not the same thing as stupid.

In fact, I considered myself rather intellectually diligent; my faith and the lifestyle I had built around it were sustained by the belief that I had done a great deal of solid thinking about them both. I was a keen Bible student; I understood hermeneutical principles and was quite adept at using scholarly Bible study tools. I believed my views to be founded on solid truths that I had subjected to dispassionate reasoning before I’d embraced them. I could not see that my thinking was bounded by invisible stainless steel walls, that I engaged in rigorous intellectual wrestling only inside terribly narrow boundaries. The myriad assumptions upon which Christianity is based were simply invisible to me.

From where I now stand, I am able to identify some of the things that drew me into Christianity and caused me to cling to it as I did. I was not a loved child. This sad fact found me reaching young adulthood vulnerable and messy, my self-esteem negligible.  I was ripe for the picking by the young evangelists I encountered at that critical time. I can remember experiencing genuine joy the moment I found I believed that despite the disappointments of my childhood I had a heavenly Father who had created me, devised a plan for my life, and – although he knew me intimately, faults and all – loved me unconditionally. I believed the Gospel message because I was primed for it since toddlerhood: I already knew that I was vile and unlovable, irredeemably broken. It was a small step to accept that I was in desperate need of a Saviour who could love me to wholeness. Christianity provided me with solace, comfort, and a powerful super-ally I could depend upon to help me make sense of a world where felt unaccepted and alone. I was just 19 when I converted. My new worldview came with a ready-made scaffold inside which I could build the safest of structures for myself, insulating me from the pain of the past, and rendering me unsusceptible to repeating the mistakes of my parents.

So there I was: love-bombed into the heart of a happy-clappy mega-church. I now think that it was this same desire for plug-and-play security that led me to increasingly legalistic sects as time went by. I came to believe that the Bible had something meaningful to say about every aspect of life, from contraception to politics. I imagined the Book to be God’s Word, revealing his mind on almost any matter for which you’d care to dig out an apparently applicable principle.

In the midst of all this, I married a man who would later train to be a pastor, began a family and set about homeschooling my children. I went on to have seven in all, and educated each but the last at home. My oldest son, who is currently studying at university, has never been to a regular school at all. Strangely, it was through homeschooling that the tentacles of Christian fundamentalism began to lose their grip on me  – and on my children too. Unlike many fundy families who use ultra-religious programs such as ACE, we positioned ourselves at the admittedly socially conservative but rather academically inclined end of the homeschooling spectrum. One of the results of this was that I became convinced of the necessity to include critical thinking as well as formal and informal logic in our family’s educational program.

My insistence that these were essential subjects for study landed me in several heated disagreements with other Christians. Suzie, a floral-frocked ACE advocate, was particularly horrified at the idea. One Sunday she approached me with genuine trembling saying that if I taught my kids to question things, wouldn’t they someday, possibly, potentially question even (gasp) the Bible?! I held no such concerns and replied that there was nothing to fear; if the Bible was indeed Ultimate Truth, as I believed it to be, it could withstand the closest scrutiny. God, I said, was not one to be afraid of questioning.

However, learning to think, as it turns out, is a door that, once opened, cannot easily be shut. My faith began to erode as I gave voice to doctrinal difficulties and real-life concerns that had lain buried in some dark recess of my mind. I was further provoked by the many questions with which my now-thinking teenagers would pepper me. Then, when our family went through several back-to-back traumas that caused most of our Christian friends to drop us like warm dog shit, I started to realise that life wasn’t all that much tougher without them. Indeed, I was beginning to think that I actually had been managing more or less solo all along. I started to wonder whether those seemingly authentic, emotionally powerful ‘spiritual’ encounters with the Deity had been fabrications borne of my own desirous state of mind. Had any of it been real? The piercing glimmer of suspicion that I had fallen victim to a spiritual sleight of hand began to peep through fissures forming in the carefully constructed shell of my religious delusion. Little by little those tiny cracks widened and bright reason began to flood in.

Slowly, tentatively, I began to review my Christian life to see whether it had been built on any kind of serious, verifiable evidence at all. It seemed to me my intellectual integrity depended upon putting everything on the table for questioning – even the big, scary stuff. So I announced to my Christian friends that I planned to pull the whole lot out for scrutiny, to challenge even my most fondly held beliefs and just see where that would lead me. I thought it best to try and establish a position of relative neutrality to begin with. ‘Call it an experiment’, I said. So I stopped praying, reading the Bible, and going to church, and made a point of never referring to God at all, even in my mind.  Because of this I made an interesting discovery: nothing happened. Ab-so-lu-tely nothing!’ Things were no worse and, as the fear, guilt and condemnation began to dissipate, actually in many ways they were very much better. I seemed to get the things was I hoping for about as often as ever I had. Life has just as many ups, and as many downs too. But now I was taking responsibility for what was mine, understanding where I ended and others began, making decisions by applying reason and good sense rather than by twisting my brain into knots trying to imagine what might be God’s will in every situation. I was discovering the joys of Living in Reality.

But honestly looking at the Bible and the Christianity that I was doing my darndest to live – and impose on my children – brought more surprises yet. My thinking – by the end – went something like this: Either God is real or he is not. If he is real then either the Bible is his book or it is not. If God is real, and the Bible is his book, I want nothing to do with the bastard.

My disenfranchisement with Scripture was not instantaneous, though it was very much helped along when several of my children came out as same-sex-attracted. In my view the Bible was clear about homosexuals: hellfire and damnation for the lot of them. Although I hadn’t realised until that moment, when it came down to a choice between God and my kids, I sided with my children in a flash. And once I was in disagreement with God on a biggie like that, my confidence that the Book was a text I could depend on got the wobbles and before I knew it, the house of cards began to topple. It wasn’t long before I came to believe the whole damn thing was one huge and horrible hoax.

My journey with my kids out of Christianity to a life that those who knew me before quite wrongly imagine to be bleak, meaningless and without joy was ­– and probably still is –widely discussed among my old fundy friends. One particularly toxic woman said to me recently, “Do you know how much we all used to admire you, to want to be like you, how we wanted our children to be like your godly children?…Do you want to know what everyone is saying about you now…?”

Our story had become the basis of a powerful cautionary tale: The Dangers of Teaching Your Kids to Think.  But its moral is one I cannot gainsay. Just like the Texas GOP, my floral-frocked fundy friend had it right after all: you let your kids – and even yourself – loose in the wide-open space of Freethinking at your peril. Once you start looking for the wires, the performance appears as sparkling magic no longer, but is revealed as nothing more than cheap and tawdry trickery. The realisation is a shocking one but, oh the bliss, the indescribable bliss, of finally being the boss of your very own brain!

Jane Douglas is a student, blogger and freelance writer. She lives quite happily, thank you very much, with a mixed menagerie of children and animals near Brisbane, Queensland.

You can see Jane’s writing here http://puttingheroarin.wordpress.com/ and http://allthewayout.wordpress.com/

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51 Comments

  1. This is brilliant, and a story I identify with greatly. As a child of fundie parents, who still pray daily for my salvation, I am very familiar with the attitude and culture of ‘mega-church evangelicals.’  I too am happier, fulfilled, and more centered and at peace with my own existence in abandoning religion and embracing reality than I ever was floundering in mental gymnastics attempting to conjecture what the will of god might be. 

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    • @mariaRB
      @mariaRB,
      A sociopaths can likewise claim to be happy and fulfilled. How fuzzy feelings offer any veracity to one’s newfound secularism is anyone’s guess. 
       
      It’s also conspicuous that one is averse to “mental gymnastics”. That’s just the problem with many who cling desperately to a secular worldview. They’re intellectually lazy and averse to anything that requires rigorous thought. Of curse, that doesn’t entail that their secularism is necessarily false. But it does represent an inability or unwillingness to form a robust world view.
       

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    •  @mariaRB
       G’day Maria,
       
      Yes, the mental gymnastics involved in attempting to conjecture the will of a mythical god when you can see reality there, just beyond the veil…
       
      The cognitive dissonance that religion entails, for those who have developed critical thinking skills, it quite difficult to maintain for long.  Eventually reality will break through the veil of religion and at that point, you will wonder why you held on to the security blanket of religion for so long.
       
      The mental processes involved in proper critical thinking and much, much more satisfying than those involved into trying to read the mind of a non-existent god.  If people wonder why their god knows them so well it is simply because they made up their god, therefore their god is what they choose it to be – it has to know them as it is their own thoughts that have been warped into their image of god.
       
      As I often say, reality is an awesome place to live – I just wish there were more people here! :)

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  2. I thoroughly enjoyed your essay and identified with much of your story.  When I allowed myself to question the doctrines of Christianity it all crumbled in my hands.

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  3. An excellent story. I remember I was about 7 years old when I began questioning why I had to pray about possibly dying in my sleep, and how that was a horrible thing to think about…my mother agreed and that was the end of that!
     
    What’s funny is I then spent many years studying “spirituality” and religion academically (not theology) and, as much as I wanted to find something magical or real, just found the same silliness over and over again. 
     
    Every sacred book tells a very interesting story with both moral and atrocious topics…much like most other book. 

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  4. An excellent story. I remember I was about 7 years old when I began questioning why I had to pray about possibly dying in my sleep, and how that was a horrible thing to think about…my mother agreed and that was the end of that!
     
    What’s funny is I then spent many years studying “spirituality” and religion academically (not theology) and, as much as I wanted to find something magical or real, just found the same silliness over and over again. 
     
    Every sacred book tells a very interesting story with both moral and atrocious topics…much like most other book. 
     

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    •  @geilt Interesting. Why did you gravitate to academia rather than theology? I cannot help but think that those who decide to study religion in a seminary tend to arrive somewhere very different. It’s psychologically difficult to admit after the fact that we were scammed into buying into this or that bs.

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      •  @blamer I was born into Catholicism, but became a skeptic from a young age (10ish). I played lots and lots of medieval fantasy video games as a kid and in my late teens I wanted to find out if “Magic” was real. I studied spirituality / new ageish religious concepts for a year or so, then decided to build on my BA in psychology to get a masters in Religious Studies to see what the spiritual concepts were rooted in. 
         
        I had no desire to adopt a dogma at all, only to figure out if the metaphysical world was real and able to be manipulated. I was less interested in God as I was in Angels and Demons.
         
        In my Academic study, I was exposed to all the Sacred texts, and found a common theme among their esoteric teachings…that there was no real reason or purpose for Religion besides telling you to behave the way you already know hot to behave, good and with sound reason. 
         
        I adopted a very non-dualistic perspective of reality from studying Buddhism and Hinduism, that good and evil are human valuations of purposeless events that just “occur”. But I didn’t lose any appreciation for moral teachings from various other sacred texts. The bottom line is, there is no need for a God in my day to day life. I appreciate my life as it is, and am thankful for it, but not to any particular made up deity, person, place or thing. Lack of religion does not entail Anarchy, and lack of purpose does not entail depression. 
         
        I would love to discuss more, you can find me on G+ or geilt.com

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        •  @geilt Well good you went for the BA (psych).
           
          If only the sciences were a pre-requisite for entering the seminary. We’d have a far less anti-science rhetoric from clerics and the congregations they lead astray.

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        • …and congressmen.

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  5. Thank you for sharing your story, I feel the same way in that once I started critically questioning it the entire thing fell apart. I was indoctrinated as a child, basically since birth, and brought up in a southern baptist church. I truly believed as a kid because, well, that’s all I ever knew. Around high school I started realizing I was mostly just going along with the motions without truly feeling anything supernatural, and upon talking with my youth pastor about this he suggested a bible-reading plan that would take me through the entire thing cover-to-cover in a year.
     
    Ironically enough, that more than anything is what helped open my eyes. I identify so strongly with one sentence in this article in particular, “if God is real, and the Bible is his book, I want nothing to do with the bastard.”

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  6. I’m curious as to what trauma was visited upon you that would cause your like-minded friends to “drop you like warm dog shit.” As a lifelong atheist, I am always wishing for the sense of community and support that church communities provide their flocks. The willingness to abandon you over these incidences puzzles me. Can you share a little more detail on this (omitting specifics or embarrassing minutiae)?

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    •  @TGAPDad  As a result of the Christian fundamentalist crazy I inflicted on my family, my two oldest children – then in their mid-teens – both presented with sudden and extremely severe psychological issues that lead to numerous traumatic hospitalisations for both of them over a many months. I had been completely oblivious to their mental suffering until that point. (I’ve written elsewhere about factors such as this that formed part of the process of my coming out of Christianity.)Christian fundamentalists – at least those of my former ilk – believe that if you build your life on the Bible’s teaching, and instruct your children well, those children will never ‘rebel’ or even struggle to navigate the bumpy road to adulthood. What happened to my kids – to my whole family – was purely terrifying to my Christian friends. The notion that this could have been as a direct result of our faith practice – and therefore that it could also happen to them – had to be denied. So they rationalised it away by building a story that the children and I were doing Christianity wrong, or sinning, or in some way deserving of the disasters that befell us. In order to sustain their belief in a good God who always does right, they set their compassion gauges at 0 and turned their backs on us. Dozens and dozens of close friends. No phone calls, no visits, no emails. Nothing. We were dead.Just this week I passed an old friend in the shopping centre. She couldn’t even meet my eye and, looking at her feet, scurried past in order to avoid me. I understand. She’d be afraid she wouldn’t even know where to start a conversation: my divorce (sin), my awesomely un-Christian kids (sin and parental failure), my walking away from my faith (apostacy), my writing about it in public (traitorous apostates are the worst). Still, it hurts. We were friends.The warmth of fellowship outsiders think they can see in the church is largely an illusion. Christians’ reason for gathering is make believe and their actual doctrinal and practical agreement probably minimal despite how they may seem to mostly get along. The place is full of incredibly needy, mixed-up people trying to perfect themselves with rituals and incantations. I found the many churches I attended – almost without exception – to be hotbeds of vicious gossip thinly disguised, and rife with condemnation and judgementalism. To stay A-listed in a church, you have to tick certain boxes with diligence and certainty. When you fail as spectacularly as I did, Christians can be ruthless. I still have just one Christian friend left and it hasn’t been easy for her to stick with me through thick and thin. My atheism is undeniably difficult for her, as her continuing faith is for me, but we love each other enough to keep doing our best to stay in relationship. She is a rare woman in any sphere but an endangered species in the church. I don’t miss them one bit.

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      • Sorry about the lack of paragraphs. Apparently ordinary returns aren’t sufficient.

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        • @Jane D

          It sounds like you are describing the mere illusion of community and fellowship – shadows flickering on the candlelit walls. The shunning behavior actually makes sense from an anthropological perspective, a group that readily tolerates departure would gradually diminish in that context. So they build you a community, which is even plug-and-play for relocating families: just find your sect, and introduce yourself.

          All religions, large and small, have some form of meting out consequences for apostasy. In this way they can raise the cost of departure even while raising the cost of inclusion. Scientology is probably the most extreme example, but others abound: Jehovah’s witnesses, Mormons (especially the polygamists), Amish, Muslims, Jews, etc.
          I guess I really didn’t qite get the fact that the community was all an illusion. Thanks for filling that gap in my knowledge.

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      •  @Jane D  your story sounds resoundingly familiar. Except I was the teenager in this scenario, and my parents returned to the ‘ministry.’  If you weren’t on the other side of the planet, I’d invite you for coffee to chat about it. Solidarity. I’ve definitely found this side of the fence much more fulfilling. 

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        •  @mariaRB My heart goes out to you, Maria. Although I was quite young when I went in, I at least had some pre-existing frame of reference to guide me back to the real world when I came out. It’s much tougher for the kids. Good for you doing the work to get free. I wish you and I could have coffee too :)

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  7. Awesome article Jane! Much of my “religious thinking” revolves around a similar principle: “If God is truly all-powerful, and does nothing to help the innocents of our world, then he is not worthy even of my respect, let alone adoration and worship.” I believe in a God who wishes us well, but cannot intervene in our world. I’m not quite as good at letting it go as you are ;-)

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    •  @DylanCarmichael 
      If this god can only wish you well but not intervene in the world, isn’t this god much more like a football fan than a god?  What is the use of a god who can’t actually be… godlike?

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      •  @HiltonT  @DylanCarmichael Probably this, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deism
         
        If so, maybe the next bit to let go of is the capitalized G which would unlink what you have in mind from the monotheist’s name for that humanlike character of Genesis 1:1-3.

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        •  @blamer  @HiltonT I never said that he can’t be godlike. blamer has hit the nail on the head.  Blamer: I was born to two baptist pastors, old habits die hard ;-)

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  8. As a Christian I am also horrified by fundamentalism – perhaps even more than an atheist, because fundamentalism misrepresents the God I know is real and who is righteous, merciful and loving. The fundamental position emphasizes the righteousness but minimalizes the mercy and love. Although there are examples in the Old Testament (for valid cultural and historical reasons) I do not believe that God seeks to drive a wedge between a mother and her children for any reason.  Further I encourage the questioning of everything, my faith is built on reason, not indoctrination. Please see http://www.str.org

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    •  @Apologist I’m afraid you are generalising about fundamentalists. I was very much a NT believer and held that God was righteous, merciful, gracious and loving. However these are terms that only make sense in a binary. God is righteous/we are wholly unrighteous; God is merciful/his justice dictates that he will destroy his enemies; God is gracious/those who fail to acquire a privileged state will be condemned to an eternity of torment; God is loving/he hates sin and will punish sinners in fiery agony forever. For every cuddly Christian doctrine there is always a cold, dark, horrifying one lurking in the shadows.My whole life was built on loving God with my whole heart because I believed in his goodness and that he first loved me. I thought I was imparting wondrous truths of divine grace and eternal mercy to my children. What they were actually hearing was the flipside – the guilt, condemnation and judgment which were necessarily present, although generally unspoken.I also thought I was engaging in sound thinking both about my faith and the world at large. I now realise I only imagined I was thinking well; my thinking was bounded by invisible stainless steel walls that prevented me from honestly applying true rationality to my faith. Your comment raises common criticism leveled at people who come out: I – and others like me – were doing Christianity wrong, while you are doing it right. That there are thousands of people who think they are understanding God and the Bible rightly, and that they all disagree with each other in myriad details used to mystify me. Now I realise that that is, of course, a likely outcome when in fact the whole thing is a make believe structure with no actual evidence to support it. People construct a Lego Jesus in their own image and then wonder why it doesn’t look like their neighbour’s version.

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      •  @Jane D  @Apologist Spot on. The problem with Christianity as a whole is that it’s “My” Christianity. The problem with “My” Christianity, is that you support ALL of Christianity, the Good and the Bad, when you practice it, because you identify yourself as a Christian. You can’t pick and Choose what you believe is right and wrong from a sacred text written by God. The entire thing is supposed to be divinely inspired, isn’t it? Did God not mean what he had penned? Did he make a mistake? That brings up plenty of other questions.
         
        But the key one here is what makes “Your” Christianity better than another’s? 
         
        Sadly, the answer usually is the circumstances by which your life is currently presented with. If all is well, you are doing it right.
         
        Excusing and the reasoning away dogma and doctrine when it doesn’t agree with you…keyword you…is so easy to do, it is almost childish. 
         
        I feel that people should call their personal religious beliefs just that, personal, not Christian, Muslim Jewish, or whatever else they want to lump their piecemeal generic beliefs into. 

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      •  @Jane D  @Apologist Besides which, Christian voters are letting fundamentalists in the GOP dismantle Jefferson’s wall of separation between church rules and state laws.
         
        Christian leaders insist that without churches providing moral leadership then civilization is doomed. Just another fiction that holymen have mistaken for a fact.

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      •  @Jane D Hang on a second.  Perhaps I’m not the only one guilty of generalising here.  You know nothing about me or what I believe and yet you’ve immediately put me in a box and put words into my mouth.  You said my comment may “raise common criticism leveled at people who come out: I – and others like me – were doing Christianity wrong, while you are doing it right”,  however I did not in fact make that criticism.Actually you called yourself a fundamentalist Christian.  That’s a qualification of the word Christian and by definition sets fundamentalists in a group all of their own.  The fundamentalist approach interprets the Bible in ways it was not intended to be interpreted – it takes things too far and that is why it’s distinguished as “fundamentalist”.  As I stated the fundamental position misrepresents the teachings of the Bible.What I’m interested in is truth.  I’m not interested in “My” personal view of Christianity because we do not exist in a universe which is shaped by our own personal beliefs.  Reality has a way of hurting you if you ignore it.  Try jumping out of a plane without a parachute but believing that you’re wearing one.  It won’t make much difference what you believe.  It’s reality that matters, not belief.  I’m interested in reality and reality is the same for everyone no matter what they believe.The questions you asked were the right ones: “Either God is real or he is not. If he is real then either the Bible is his book or it is not.”  It is those questions which you should seek to discover the truth on, not swayed by the teachings of a position which you yourself have called fundamentalist.  Why are you rejecting God and the Bible because of the misguided interpretations of what you yourself have called a fundamentalist position?  Find the truth for yourself.  Here’s some good places to start http://www.str.org or here http://www.reasonablefaith.org or here http://www.pleaseconvinceme.com

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        •  @Apologist Jane’s pointing out that criticizing fundamentalists because they “emphasize THIS aspect of God/goodness, but minimize THAT aspect” is of the familiar form “those Christians are interpreting with the wrong amount of strictness”.
           

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      • @Jane [email protected]
        Jane,
         
        Nothing in your response provided an rational justification for your rejection of theism. When you write, “For every cuddly Christian doctrine there is always a cold, dark, horrifying one lurking in the shadows”, you do so as if that constituted an argument. Well, criminals may find prison to be cold, dark, and horrifying, but that doesn’t refute the existence of prison either. You continue to offer these emotive expressions which tell us nothing more than that you happen not to like God. Well, big whoopee. How is that at all an argument against theism? 
         
        You also offer an absurd argument, in which you suggest that, because theists may have different views, that that somehow casts doubt on the veracity of theism. Hey, NEWS FLASH, atheists represent a myriad of views as well. Come to think of it, corner ten people who fit into the any similar ideological category, and you’ll find that they differ on any number of ideas. The point is, you begin by addressing epistemology, and then switch gears and an offer a conclusion which makes ontological claims. 
         
        Apparently, the only thing “free” about freethinkers is that their thinking is free from reason or logic. 
         

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        •  @logosmann  That’s an argument for monotheism being wrong, as in not good.
           
          Elsewhere are arguments for monotheism being wrong, as in mistaken.

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        • @blamer
          @blamer,
          It’s unclear what “that” is to which you refer. However, I’ll just assume that you refer to something Jane wrote. However, Jane offered no argument for monotheism being “not good”, precisely because Jane offered nothing upon which to predicate her moral judgements. All she offered were emotive, autobiographical feelings about how she thinks God is a big meanie. Well, criminals think the cops are big meanies as well, but their opinions are also irrelevant.
           
          You opined:
          “Elsewhere are arguments for monotheism being wrong, as in mistaken.”
           
          We’ve still yet to see one. 
           

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        •  @logosmann Jane’s “that” is strictness. Mistakenly spreading the “wrong amount of strictness” isn’t good. Unintentionally seeding fundamentalism by teaching too much strictness isn’t good. Yet that’s what each of today’s monotheisms are doing. Particularly wrt Biblical prophets and other miracles.
           
          Eg1. Lev18:22 is divisive and harmful, yet stays in the Christian Bible.
           
          Eg2. Gen1:1-3 is known to be mythical and misleading, yet Christian teachings insist strictly on the historicity of its creator character …perhaps 14.6 billion years ago.
           
          History shows monotheism schisming into faiths instead of uniting around Biblical fables. For any surviving denomination –say Roman Catholicism– to be in fact most correct about the divine and therefore morally superior, would be literally miraculous.
           
          See wikipedia for 20+ arguments for monotheism being in fact mistaken:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arguments_against_the_existence_of_God#Arguments_against_the_existence_of_God

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  9. Jane,
     
    For one who claims to have embraced logic and reason, your entire screed is one logical fallacy after another, lacking anything resembling a cogent argument against Biblical theism.
     
    For openers, you quote the GOP platform, which clearly states that the Higher Order Thinking Skills it opposes is not, in fact, the ability to use higher order thinking skills, but is in reality an opposition to outcome based education masking as higher order thinking skills. You then proceed to knock down a straw man by pretending that the GOP platform, in fact, opposes higher order thinking skills. No logical person would fall for such sloppy legerdemain.
     
    You wrote that, “The myriad assumptions upon which Christianity is based were simply invisible to me”, apparently ignorant of the fact that every single world view, including your new found faith in secularism, is predicated on some set of first principle, which, in your case, remain invisible to you. 
     
    You recounted how you embraced a Christian world view because of your early emotional baggage. How on earth does that constitute an argument against theism? All you’ve done is offer us a bit of autobiographical information that has no logical relevance to the ontological question of theism. 
     
    You offered personal anecdotes, e.g., about friends who treated you poorly, about your internal doubts, about your friend Suzie who was opposed to asking questions, and so forth — can you please explain to us how any of that constitutes an argument against theism? 
     
    You then state that, if God is real, you want nothing to do with Him. Well, that’s nice. It’s not a rational argument against theism, but it’s nice that you’ve clearly admitted that your world view is ground in a personal prejudice, and not on anything resembling logic or reason.
     
    Another absurd reason for your new found secularism was that you had homosexual children. If their behavior is sinful, you’ll just reject the ground upon which any moral prohibition against homosexual behavior rests. That’s like rejecting the existence of a legislative body because your children are criminals. You don’t like moral rules, so you’ll reject them. It’s an infantile way of thinking. It’s like a child who doesn’t like you, so he places his hands over his eyes and believes he can ignore you out of existence. It’s utterly childish thinking. 
     
    Finally, you end with the snarky warning that people ought not to think, otherwise they might become “the boss of your very own brain”. Honestly, it’s not the offensiveness in your hubris that I find troublesome. It’s that fact that you exhibit any hubris at all, as if you actually offered anything of substance to undermine theism. 
     
     
     

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    •  @logosmann  
      Well then, let’s work on your arguments shall we?
       
      1) “critical thinking skills” – you’ll see that these are not in capitals.  They are not the title of a curriculum. They oppose these skills in their entirety, conveniently a part of OBE, rather than an OBE-specific curriculum based around them.
       
      2) You clearly intimately know how Jane thinks, to know that her first principles remain invisible to her.  You also fail to tell us what this first principle is in her case.  This would be basic evidence.  I would suggest that given she wound up losing her perceived “support community” over her worldview change, she has a better idea than most about how it came to be and what it really is.
       
      3) I’m amazed to hear that this post is about the ontological legitimacy of theism.
       
      4) Isn’t this post about how freethinking changed Jane’s mind on Christianity?  Not the greater validity of theology on the whole?
       
      5) “If God is real, and the Bible is his book, then I want nothing to do with the bastard.” She’s based her opinion of God on the evidence Christianity lays out for him.  The Bible portrays scene after scene of amazing amorality on the part of God, mass murder, sanctioned rape, forced abortion… He’s quite a horrific being, as it turns out.  
       
      6)  Except that there is clear and unequivocal evidence for the existence of the person the child doesn’t like.  There is no such evidence for God.
       
      The Major straw man in this argument is that this was never advertised as anything except autobiographical material…

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      • @DylanCarmichael
        Dylan,
         
        1) I would invite anyone to go back and read what Jane actually wrote. “Higher Order Thinking Skills” was indeed capitalized. Whether that constituted a curriculum is entirely irrelevant to my point. Jane engaged in a bait and switch, because clearly the GOP’s opposition wasn’t to higher order thinking skills, but instead was opposed to that which masked as such. 
         
        2) Regarding Jane’s first principle, she impugned her prior theistic beliefs based on the fact that they rest on a set of invisible “assumptions”, as if her newfound faith in atheism isn’t predicated on similar “invisible” assumptions as well. What’s sauce for the goose…
         
        3) You claim amazement at the notion that this post was about the ontological status of theism (why your state of amazement is relevant, we’re not told). Jane’s entire post implied that actually using logic and reason will lead one away from theism, and yet all she offered were a litany of  anecdotes offering no logical warrant for embracing atheism. 
         
        4) On the contrary, the only thing the post demonstrated is how sloppy thinking and subjective prejudice changed Jane’s mind. Moreover, fancying oneself a “freethinker” doesn’t validate poor arguments. 
         
        5) Given Jane’s rejection of God, upon what ontological ground is she (or any atheist) able to predicate any moral judgement issued against Him? Or is she merely being arbitrary? In fact, without such a rational ground for ethical ontology, your list of unproven allegations becomes a moot point. 
         
        6) Is there an argument to accompany that latter claim? You’ve examined and defeated every theistic argument? Or are you, like Jane, merely closing your eyes and ignoring valid reasons for theism out of existence? 
         
        Finally, you note that Jane’s post was nothing more than “autobiographical material”. Yes, and that was exactly my point. Jane offered her autobiographical material AS IF it constituted logical reasons for her newfound faith in atheism, when there was nothing logical about it whatsoever. If that is what constitutes “freethinking”, one has to wonder why its adherents elevate its rational value. 
         
         
         

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        • @logosmann @DylanCarmichael

          I was in the process of replying to Dylan, but your post makes it unnecessary. (Not to self: be careful about dragging your fingers when using the iPad to reply…)

          That said, I would like to address the “it takes MORE faith to be an atheist” gambit. The very nature of atheism entails an abandonment of faith. We by and large, make no distinction between “faith” and “blind faith.” All faith requires to some extent, usually to a great extent, an abandonment of logic. While there is no evidence anywhere for supernatural forces, much less beings, the faithful believe in them anyway. For the faithfull who happen to be scientists – Dr. Ken Miller comes to mind – I imagine there must be a fairly strong compartmentalization of their minds in order to maintain faith on the one hand, but seek evidence on the other.

          Atheism does NOT require faith; it virtually requires that faith be abandoned.

          To quote Mark Twain: “faith is believin’ what you know ain’t so”.

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        • @[email protected]@DylanCarmichael
          @TGAPDad,
          On the contrary, every world view requires faith in some set of foundational axiomatic premises on which one then proceeds to build further. Any notion that atheism is exempt from clinging to its own set of presuppositions is a failure to understand the epistemological enterprise. One only needs to iteratively ask the atheist, “How do you know”, following his chain of premises until he comes to some foundational set of beliefs for which he can provide no further deductive argument, but which serves as his faith-commitments. And take note that I’m not knocking the principle of “faith”. I’m only exposing the atheist’s hypocrisy, insofar as he has the hubris to actually believe that his world view is rational, while everyone else is making a blind leap into the absurd. 
          Furthermore, it’s not clear where you’re getting your definition of faith, but it appears you’re equating faith in Biblical theism with fideism, which is not at all the same. The Bible doesn’t contrast faith with reason. In fact, Jesus was clear that the greatest commandment included loving God with all of your mind. The Bible only contrasted “walking by faith” with “walking by sight” (i.e., empiricism). As it turns out, most atheists do subscribe to an empiricist epistemology, which, as any logician can tell you, is logically self-refuting. In other words, the Bible instructs us to not submit our world view to a logically absurd theory of knowledge. Contrary to the notion that Biblical faith is opposed to reason, it is, in fact, opposed to the very irrationality to which so many atheists cling. Mark Twain, as it turns out, knew not whereof he spoke. 
           

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        •  @logosmann  @TGAPDad  @DylanCarmichael 
           
          “On the contrary, every world view requires faith in some set of foundational axiomatic premises on which one then proceeds to build further. ”
           
          Then the “requirement” mentioned in this statement, itself, is also based on faith in some set of foundational axiomatic premises, no? Can we really argue anything with anyone if everyone’s “world view” is based on differing Faith ?

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        • @[email protected]@DylanCarmichael
          @geilt
          You’re absolutely correct. Everyone’s world view is indeed predicated on some set of axiomatic set of foundational premises, including the one that recognizes it as fact. That’s precisely where epistemology leads us. This is why I don’t knock the “fact” that atheist’s must have faith in some set of first principles. What I do criticize is their false pretense that they don’t rely on faith-commitments, when nothing could be further from the truth.
           
          You asked whether we can argue anything if everyone’s world view is based on differing faith. Well, there are a lot of first principles most of us do agree upon. Moreover, if rules of logic are one of those things on which we agree, then we can certainly begin to eliminate many particular propositional claims. For example, since empiricism is logically self-refuting, we can eliminate the claim which asserts that reality is limited to what can be observed through sense experience alone. My point being, simply because we must begin with some set of first principles, that doesn’t mean we’re left in a sea of relativism or skepticism (which are both self-refuting positions anyway).
           

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        • @logosmann @DylanCarmichael

          Reduction ad absurdum is what you are proposing. That is not the same as “faith”. We can observe the universe for a while and determine that its properties remain constant from one moment to the next, yet you would call this “faith” because we cannot explain their ultimate origins. We know how gravity works, and we have been able to observe that it has worked the same throughout millennia. W haven’t observed any times where gravity inexplicably worked differently for periods of time, like objects suddenly fell upward for example. So while we cannot explain WHY gravity behaves in this way (but with the Higgs Boson discovery, it’s just a matter of time), we know that it does and is a property of the known universe.

          The “holy” books are not like this. They have a history, that is somewhat documented, and more than a little sketchy. They were forged from words of men, long after the events described in the gospels, repeatedly copied over millennia, liberally amended, and carefully selected over the course of several councils where some books were rejected as simply too outlandish to be included. To treat this document as anything authoritative typifies “faith.” Not in the religious sense, but in the philosophical/logical sense. There is no independent evidence, outside of the gospels, of a historical figure matching the descriptions of Jesus. The character Jesus, is at. The most, an amalgam of iterant preachers of the early first century, but likely a pure creation of fiction.

          Having faith means remaining willfully ignorant of evidence, and declining to seek it. It means “believing” something regardless of what evidence exists or what it shows. Having faith in something is indistinguishable from wanting something.

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        • @[email protected]@DylanCarmichael
          TGAPDad,
          No, you’re still failing to grasp the nature of first principles. When you make claims about our observation of, say, gravitational behavior, you’re already placing faith in a number of first principles, e.g., that there is a mind-independent world, that you have access to this mind-independent world, that your senses are generally reliable, that you can identify objects and classes, that laws of logic apply to reality and to the phenomena that you presuppose is real, and so forth. None of these premises are provable, and yet you accept them and apply them in your daily life. These presuppositions are matters of faith, not subject to verification. 
           
          As for your analysis of the person of Jesus, you’re simply misinformed. Even most non-Christian historians admit to the existence of Jesus, whose historicity is supported by far more evidence than, say, Alexander the Great, a figure whose historical existence I suspect you wouldn’t doubt. It’s also noteworthy that you operate on the premise that the biblical record cannot itself be treated as an historical account, another premise you accept by faith, and for which there is no argument. The fact is, one can choose to take the New Testament record as a reliable historical document without treating it as infallible scripture. The only reason an atheist would choose not to do so is because most atheists have an a priori faith commitment in materialism/physicalism/naturalism, so they dismiss any account that doesn’t comport with their metaphysic. 
           
          Finally, note that Christian particularism is irrelevant to the ontology of theism. One need not be a Christian to be a theist, so skepticism about Christianity doesn’t help buttress the atheist’s case. 
           

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        •  @logosmann I don’t know what you are smoking but…  You’re very wrong here.   There are countless writings about Alexander from the period when he lived across many cultures.  There are works and decrees that were built in his name, and his tomb was a tourist destination for centuries.    We have found archaeological evidence of several of the battles his army fought with the Persians. There were coins minted with his likeness and his name on them during his reign, etc, etc. 
           
          Jesus by contrast was written about by Paul and then in the gospels at least 30 years after his alleged death. What little is supposedly chronicled of his life, there’s a large gap between early childhood and his 30s.  Not even a story record of what he did during his teens and early 20s. 
           
          And all of this ignores the simple fact that someone existing does not make them a God.  The Pharohs were gods to their people.   Their tombs and monuments still exist, even their mortal bodies are preserved for us thousands of years later.   If existing and claiming to be a god are all that is required to be a God then you must accept Ramses as your lord and savior.  Or how about Charles Manson?  He claims to be God, no?   How do you _know_ he’s not?   What if you’re just like the romans and jews, persecuting the second coming?
           
          So not only are you factually wrong on historical data but you’re also making an illogical leap of inference between a person having lived and a person being god incarnate.   Word it as pompously as you like, that isn’t logic. 
           

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        •  @logosmann MArk Twin no not whereof he spoke?  YOu mean the same as you?

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      •  @DylanCarmichael In addition to my prior response to you: there isn’t any “clear and unequivocal” evidence for the existence of the person the child doesn’t like. Such “evidence” must itself rest on prior assumptions about the reality of a mind-independent world, the reliability of one’s sense, the ability to classify entities, mind, identity and a host of other such presuppositions. And note that I’m not doubting those presuppositions, but only observing that your belief in the person the child doesn’t like has prior philosophical commitments which, given your statement, were apparently invisible to you. 

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        •  @logosmann Oho-kay then! No, they weren’t invisible, I was just unaware of the level of crazy we were taking this to…  So, based on the assumptions which make it possible to operate in this reality, (The object is as physically there as the entity making the sensory observation, a fact both the child and the observer are aware of) there is clear and unequivocal evidence for the existence of the person.  I would also *tend* to assume (though this is not *always* the case) that the child doesn’t like the person as a result of a specific interaction with the person… This is another significant point of difference in terms of not liking God.

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        • @DylanCarmichael
          @DylanCarmichael,
           
          You wrote: “The object is as physically there as the entity making the sensory observation, a fact both the child and the observer are aware of”
           
          On the contrary, it’s not a fact of which the child is “aware” in any epistemically verifiable sense. Rather, the child, like everyone else, first assumes (unless he’s a solipsist) that his senses are reliable and correspond to an external reality, and ONLY THEN, based on those first principles, can he proceed to verify his experience. And note that I’m not suggesting that the child has sat down and reflected on these first principle. Most people don’t bother examining what they believe or why they believe it. They just wander along their lives with their assumptions. But note that without these first principles, the existence of the person whom the child is ignoring is not as you suggest, “clear and unequivocal”. After all, if you were having an hallucination, would the objects of your hallucination clearly and unequivocally correspond to an external reality? Without beginning with the first principle that your life isn’t just one big hallucination, you could never say to have clearly and unequivocally been aware of anything.  
           
          Finally, it’s not at all clear what the likes or dislikes of the child have to do with the ontology of the person whom he’s ignoring, nor what it has to do with liking or not liking God. In fact, my earlier point was that a disposition of liking or disliking has no logical relevance to the ontology of any entity, God or otherwise. 
           

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    • @logosmann
      As a lifelong atheist, I am baffled by religionists asserting that it takes faith(!) to be an atheists, and continue to refer to it in religious context. Atheists have, by and large, abandoned “faith.” Not just religion, for which this is an oft-used euphemism, but the actual concept. “Faith” requires the believer to maintain beliefs even in the face of contradicting evidence. To quote Mark Twain “faith is believin’

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    •  @logosmann Ah the nit-picker.   The last line of defense for one completely lacking an argument.   Let’s flip your ‘logic’ back on you.  You say that her reasoning that ‘even if god is real, she wants nothing to do with him.’ is not a reasonable position because she’d side with her children over arbitrary hate? 
       
      Cancer exists.  I want nothing to do with it.  The mafia is real.  I want nothing to do with it.   Both seem pretty valid and reasonable.   If something is toxic, there’s no reason to be near it.
       
      Okay, I’m sure you’ll try to argue that god isn’t toxic but we’re talking about christianity here so let’s work through this.
       
      Possible cases: 
      A) God doesn’t exist.
      B) God exists.
         1)  God is love.
         2)  God has an arbitrary set of rules.
       
      For A:  Then the only thing that matters is how you treat others during your life.   You live, you die, that’s it.  If you’re a decent person, your memory lives on in the hearts of others and it’s about the best you can ask for.
       
      B1 is much the same as A.  A loving god has to accept that people will make mistakes and not everyone follows the same path but as long as you try to be a decent person and treat yourself and others with respect, you’re likely golden regardless of whether God is Jesus, Rama, Buddha, or whatever. 
       
      B2 is the fundamentalist God.  The one who expects everyone to follow a very specific set of rules.   Of course, most people follow what their parents taught them as children so Hindus or Jews or Muslims or Baptists or Mormons or somebody is doing it wrong and going to suffer eternal torment for things that were out of their control.  For much of human history, they might not even have known of the ‘right way'(TM)    I’m with Jane.  If that God exists, I wouldn’t want to worship him.   It’s no different from bowing to a mafia don.    Any decent person would stand in defiance against such a petty and small tyrant.  It also seems incredibly unlikely that such a being would be responsible for creation of the entire universe.    
       
      Oh, and speaking of the universe while we’re on logic fallacies, let’s talk about the ‘divine watchmaker’ nonsense.   For just a moment, let’s suppose the universe is so vast and complex that it requires a sentience to create it.   Okay.   Can you spot the flaw in that ‘reasoning’?  No?   Let’s apply some basic logic?  What do we know?
       
      1)  Universe is too complex to exist without an intelligence behind it.
      2)  Universe must have been created ergo universe is a subset of creator intelligence.
       
      And therefore:   God is too complex to have spontaneously popping into being and must therefore have been created by something. 
       
      Rut Roh!  That means God isn’t the supreme entity!  Meta God must have created God…  And Meta Meta God must have created Meta God, and so on.   So you god isn’t that great really.  There’s an infinite number of even more impressive gods that were each created by a slightly better God.   For all practical purposes, we can factor out god entirely since if God must exist at every set depth for the ‘divine watchmaker’ to tick, then he can be removed from the equation entirely as he is nothing more than a placeholder.
       
      Now, I understand if you can’t argue these points, you’ll be inclined to instead focus on the tone of my comment, labeling it condescending or something, but it’s not really much different from the tone you used in response to Jane and anyhow, if you did that, you’d have to concede that you’d descended into rhetoric instead of a logical debate.   You may also chose to bicker my entry point contending that her point was not ‘logical’ per your selective criteria and therefore I am off base in responding to you and try to use this as a means to not debate my points, instead declaring I cannot read or whatever other dismissive you chose.    This would be cowardly but it is a reasonable point.    It would however also be rather tedious and repetitive.   You already nitpicked her story without providing any reasonable defense for your position and it positively reeks of someone who is scared and trying to muddy the waters.

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  10. That is my story.  Her’s how I became atheists at an early age.
     
    Becoming Free
     
    Blame it on my parents.  They always told me to “think for yourself”.  I doubt they ever considered what would happen if I really did that.  
     
    Now, I suspect what they meant was, “Think what we tell you but do it in your own words.”  Too late.  When I was 13, I began to question everything and soon the total absurdity of religion became apparent.  
     
    Because I have been “encouraged” (forced) to read the bible several times, it was easy for me to see the contradictions in the book, what christians professed to believe, and how they really lived.
     
    When I refused to go with them to their church, they said they would “Make me go.”  
     
    I asked them, “How are you going to make me? How will forcing me to attend church change my mind?”  Already, their attitude was starting to harden me against everything else they would tell me.
     
    Their next idea was to have their minister talk to me.  I told them it was a waste of everyone’s time.  They persisted and had him come to the house to “Talk some sense into me.”  (as if they ever works for anyone)  After about 15 minutes of him quoting the bible to me and me pointing out that he was either wrong in his quotes or showing him how it said something else in another place, he became very angry and told me I was going to hell.  I suspect it was because I knew the bible better than he did and was, at age 13, able to prove how ridiculous his arguments were.
     
    I told him, “If there is a Hell I’ll see you there.  Save me a nice place, OK?”  He said I was an impertinent, disrespectful child.  By then, I was angry myself and for the first time, I told a christian that he was a hypocrite, a liar, and a fool.  My parents insisted that I apologize.  I refused and left the room to a lot of yelling and threats.
     
    For the next four years, I heard about this at least once a week.  So the night I graduated high school, I left my parent’s home and didn’t see them again for well over a year.  By then, with the credits I had accumulated in high school and summer school,  I had completed a couple of years of college.  Fortunately, I was able to pay for this myself.  I was entering the army and wanted to try to make peace with them, but had to listen to the same old recriminations and arguments again.  
     
    The next time I saw them was two years later when I was getting married.  After several years of an on-again, off-again relationship they finally agreed to just not discuss it any more.  I’d like to say that worked, but  subtle hints slowly became outright condemnation.  Then I took a job transfer from Ohio to Arizona, so family meetings were rare enough to become occasions for something other than contention. 
     
    I do have to say that I appreciate the other things they did for me, like encouraging my education and equipping me with the work ethic and attitudes I needed to survive and thrive at that early age.  In those areas, they were excellent parents and I am grateful for those things.
     
    What did I learn?  Even your family can turn against you if you refuse to share in their illusions.  There are times, if you are to become your own person, you must stand firm in what you know to be true.
     

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  11. I actually think that, deep down, xians KNOW that their beliefs are completely ludicrous.  That is why the GOP is so against kids learning critical thinking skills.  Anyone with half a brain can figure out that religion is nothing but childish delusional superstitions, so the only way to maintain that “faith” (in other words, the only way to keep people stupid so you can control them), is to deny them critical thinking skills. 

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    •  @keith pinster When anyone stands against learning or even rational thinking, they show they have something to fear from it.  The Great Obstructionist Party, being controlled by the religious reich has more to fear than most.

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  12. @logosmann You don’t say whether you actually believe in god or just stand to profit from those who do.  Your peevishness suggests the latter.

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