Sunday, March 04, 2007

My non-deconversion...

The Infidel Guy is re-posting many of his old radio shows on his podcast stream at the moment. Last week, I ended up listening to an old show that I had listened to over a year ago. I even commented on it back then. The show was an interview with an ex-fundamentalist (her word), ex-wife of a Baptist pastor. She 'deconverted' and is now an atheist.

When I re-listened to the show one thing struck me - she had had all the same doubts as me, all the same issues that I have raised on this blog. Yet she abandoned her faith as a result of the questions. I didn't.

Why is that? How can the same questions lead to different answers for two different people?

I keep coming back to the same conclusions that I commented on the first time round - it is the difference between head-knowledge and experience. For her, Christianity was entirely a system of belief, built on things she knew from a book. For me, there is much more to it than that, I only became a Christian when I saw the effects of God in people's lives. I know he is there, not from a book, but having seen and felt him.

Now I'm not saying, as many have said to her, that she can't have been a real Christian in the first place. What makes you a Christian? Well, the biblical answer (Romans 10v9) 'if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved'... As far as I can tell, she used to satisfy those criteria. But when she lost her faith in the historical accuracy of the bible, she lost her faith in Jesus.

When trying to get my head around the differences between her and me, I came up with this (probably not very good) analogy:

Strange as it might seem to us non-Americans, there are a great many supporters of President Bush in the USA. Many of them will never have met him; does that make them not-real supporters? Of course not. Now, with carefully presented arguments and evidence, it might be possible to convinvce one of those supporters who have never met the man that he is, in fact, an entirely fictional character - devised by the government to fool the people. Policy decisions are made by other folk in the administration and the face on the TV is just an actor. Someone who has never met him might be persuaded by this reasoning. However, if you tried that reasoning on somebody who had actually met him or knew him, it wouldn't work because their experience of the man would hold a greater weight than any body of evidence presented. Does that make sense?

I'm just saddened that the woman interviewed on the Infidel Guy show never actually experienced the real Jesus. Maybe she will yet.


Anonymous said...

How does this analogy work? You have never met "him" either. You have seen how the idea of a god has benefited people's lives. But you have never met "him." How can you prove that GOD helped anyone and that it wasn't simply the idea of God?

Ricky Carvel said...

How do you know I've never 'met' him? You're probably starting from the presumption that 'he' is not there.

Yes, I have seen how the 'idea of god' has benefited people's lives, but I have also seen changes in people that I find it hard to explain without some form of real external (or rather, internal) influence acting on them.

Of course, I can't prove this to anyone who hasn't observed or experienced the same things.

I am a naturally skeptical person. I have analysed and re-analysed the things I have seen looking for other 'natural' explanations, but (so far at least) I cannot explain all of what I have seen and experienced without some kind of external intelligence having influence.

However, I will say that not all of what I have seen perfectly matches up to the description of God as given in the bible. From this I have come to the point of questioning the accuracy of the bible more than I question the existence of God.

lotus said...

good question- but your conclusion does not satisfy me. i have had experiences with god and have met many people who work over seas and witness miracles. my brother in law was healed from a deadly allergy to bee stings, i have seen and experienced 'god'--- it has not been all head knowledge, and yet i am on the path to ...? deconversion? maybe- not because i have not had experiences but because i will not base my life on a set of beliefs that are validated by experience. i once asked a mormon how he "knew" the book of mormon was true- he said becauase he asked god and god told him it was real. therfore if experience validates the truth then all religions/gods could be true bec/ people have had experiences.