Skepticism

theological child abuse

Jewish author Shalom Auslander describes his experiences being brought in an orthodox Jewish community as “theological child abuse” in his new memoir, Foreskin’s Lament. This book is a must read for anyone wanting to gain more understanding of what it’s like to be raised in a fundamentalist environment. Auslander’s anger is tempered only by a sharp sense of humor, and his stories clearly show the lingering scars of his childhood torments. Fortunately Auslander was able to escape, became a writer, and found a way to productively channel his anger.

Not everyone who suffers from childhood spiritual abuse is so lucky. After I wrote about Matthew Murray the other day, there were a flurry of comments that showed that I wasn’t clear in what I’d written, saying that there are deeper problems in stories like this than simply claiming that the perpetrator of violence is insane. As it turns out, Murry was also a victim of theological or spiritual abuse.

He wrote:

“I got into a debate with two prayer team staff members,” he wrote. “These two staff members watched me throughout the conference to find out who I was with. They found my mother and told her this story that went something along the lines of I “wasn’t walking with the lord and could be planning violence.”

Murray’s mother, Loretta Murray, said through a spokeswoman that there was no such incident involving two church staff members.

After the conference, the user said his mother and a pastor searched his room for “anything evil,” including video games and a DVD collection.

“After that incident my mother searched my room for the next 3 months EVERY SINGLE DAY. After that I decided it was over, that I had had it with christianity.”

He said being removed from the Arvada mission caused him to lose his faith.

“When I got back home it was back to the good old restriction and that is when I started having serious doubts about christianity,” Chrstnghtmr wrote.

But according to the post, problems at the mission were only part of a troubled past.

“In addition to all of (Christian homeschool curriculum guru) Bill Gothard’s insanity, my mother was into all the charismatic/”fanatical evangelical” insanity.,” Christnghtmr wrote. “Her and her church believed that Satan and demons were everywhere in everything. The rules were VERY strict all the time. We couldn’t have ANY christian or non-christian music at all except for a few charismatic worship CDs.”

After trying to “go all out for God” and failing, Christnghtmr wrote he fell into deep depression.

I know many people will discredit his words because of his actions. But I believe him. I lived through very similar experiences and I know for a fact that stories like this are true. I’ve seen parents and pastors act like this, and I know the rest of what goes along with it. Religious indoctrination, when it fails to create pliant and obedient sheep, causes extreme emotional distress and constant mental torment. That’s bad enough for adults, but for children and teenagers, the terrors are beyond anything that can be created by ghost stories or horror movies. I’m 46, quit going to church over 15 years ago, and I still have nightmares. And I am not alone. I am in an ex-fundamentalist support group where I hear stories of adults, and even senior citizens, being haunted by their childhood religious indoctrination over and over and over again.

What’s sad is that his mother will be told that she has done nothing wrong, that she raised her son according to the Bible, and the churches and Christian organizations involved will not even be introspective enough to consider their role in causing Murray’s pain and anguish, and the blame will be put squarely on Satan’s shoulders. Such a convenient scapegoat.


Am I psychic or what? In my local paper, there’s an article today with the Christian home schooling institute coming out and saying, “This had nothing to do with our teachings.” The blatant denial is just sickening. Here’s what the kid had to say about it:

Me, I remember the beatings and the fighting and yelling and insane rules and the Bill Gothard bullshit and then trancing out… I remember how it was like every day was Mission Impossible trying to keep the rules or not get caught and just … survive.”

Although my mother never beat me, I remember similar things happening to other kids in our little cult group. Other news reports (not specified in the article I read) “also have leveled criticism at Gothard’s methods with allegations of corporal punishment and solitary confinement at a training center, and adherence ot a divine order that places men over women.” I really sympathize with Murray on this one. I really feel bad for him. I know that’s not the politically correct thing to say, but I don’t care.


This kind of child abuse has got to be put to a stop. I don’t know how, but it’s just not right to allow children to be put through the kind of mental torture that may haunt them for the rest of their lives. And it’s not right to ignore this just because people are in mourning. Now, when it’s in the forefront of people’s minds, is when it is time to call attention to this travesty.

Signing off for the rest of the year. Happy Holidays and I’ll see you all in 2008! Remember the true reason for the season.

Donna

writerdd

Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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22 Comments

  1. i started to make this comment and then kinda got lost as to what i really wanted to say, or at least how to say what i mean. i agree that it's horrible for a child to be subjected to this kind of treatment, but how would anyone go about doing that without interfering with other people's rights? is someone (the government, or any other group) telling a fundamentalist parent how to raise their child any different than an fundamentalist parent trying to get a book removed from a school, or public library because they don't want their child exposed to it's message.?

    we can't protect children from everything. i'm not saying nothing could, or should be done. protecting them from ridiculous extremes would be nice. i just don't know what can be done without taking it too far, or laying the groundwork to intrusions into everyone's private lives. i think what i'm trying to say is that what ever is done should be done in such a way as to protect children from abusive treatment (physical, or emotional) of any kind and not just abuse rooted in religion. i could picture a disturbed secular person committing similar "crimes" as a religious fanatic.

    i don't know if i'm conveying what i mean properly, or just causing confusion.

  2. I'll do you one better, thad: the greatest trick man ever did was convincing himself that gods exist.

    The British psycholgist Nicholas Humphrey once gave an interesting speech about this exact topic. It's available to read online as a PDF: http://www.humphrey.org.uk/papers/1998WhatShallWe

    I agree with Frankiemouse; it's hard to strike a balance between preventing abusive indoctrination and cutting into parents' rights. Humphrey suggests that teaching one belief system to a child is only moral if that child would, having learned of all belief systems, knowingly choose that belief system anyway; and that, not knowing what choice a child would hypothetically make, it is not moral to try to force any one perspective on the child. It's all well and good to say that, and I agree, but that's obviously not going to stop the fundamentalists.

    What's the answer then? I wish I knew.

  3. I can empathize with the concept of theological child abuse. My father is very dogmatic and believes in Satan actively trying to control the world. I have had to endure many ridiculous claims and lectures. With fear he was able to control and influence my mother into sharing some of these beliefs. Being young it is especially difficult, when you are a child or teenager you are completely powerless in controlling certain aspects of your life. You are born into imprisonment, and the more logical you are, the more of a hell this situation becomes. Reading about the music situation reminds me of an intervention my fanatical Christian brother-in-law had for me as a when I was around 11 or 12. He cam over to my house and forced me to watch a video, the focus of this Christian documentary was that music was a medium of the devil and Rock and Roll was Satan's magnus opus. I don't remember what much of the film was about, or specific arguments because I was actually on the way out the door to fool around with my then girlfriend. Talk about adding insult to injury! But one of the few things I do recall from the film was that you could easily tell how much of an influence Satan had on a musician by the size of the cross they wore on stage. No joke. After viewing the film my brother-in-law light a match and encouraged me to place my fingers into the flame so I could experience what my future would be for all eternity if I continued to listen to music. Somehow I disarmed that situation and he didn't force me to burn myself. I did make an argument about King David playing the harp in the Bible and trying to reason with him about the statement that all music is evil, his response was…."It's a little evil". Looking back and thinking about things like that still make me sick. My entire childhood was filled with all the ways I could go to hell, how I was an awful human being and being singled out as a problem because everyone else that is Christian and play by the rules is so much better than me. I'm sure any of that would be legitimate emotional abuse to a child if you take away any religious terms but people treat it as acceptable and justified because it's religion.

  4. Jaco45, that's a horrible story, and I'm glad you've made it alright. Something you said struck a chord, though, that I think is one of the keys to this problem. You said "I’m sure any of that would be legitimate emotional abuse to a child if you take away any religious terms but people treat it as acceptable and justified because it’s religion." And it's true: there are lots of behaviors that are unacceptable in any other context. If someone said they did such and such because music, movies, an educational institution, a political party, or anything else told them to, people may sympathize but sanction that behavior anyway, and whatever influence they cited will be heavily criticized, regulated, or deconstructed.

    Yet if these same behaviors – for example striking a child, refusing life-saving treatments, or psychologically scarring a child in any other way – are religious precepts, they become untouchable. Religion gets a free pass even when nothing else does.

    I think that's the first thing we need to recognize here… Just a thought.

  5. My Cousin,

    It was announced,

    Would be raised in all Catholic schools. (As I, myself was).

    I anounced, at a familly gathering, that I thought that practice amounted to child abuse (especially because she's really smart) and a few hundred years from now it will be seen as such.

    I'll be spending Christmas with my girlfriend's familly.

    I'm glad THEY still like me…

    rod

  6. I think that Christianity needs to be struck a serious blow. I'm all for freedom of religion, but this is the exact opposite. In an ideal situation the next step would be to respond to this crisis by taking away tax exempt status from churches based on certain criteria, such as a fundamentalist views of religious text. You hear the reports of so-called repressed memories of Satanic Rituals, which as any skeptic knows is bullshit, but this is just as bad, if a bit less dramatic. I am a La Vey Satanist and I know that if I ever caught someone practicing this kind of abuse in the name of Satan I would kick their ass. First of all because they would have totally lost the concept of La Vey Satanism which is, without going into too much detail, live your life for yourself and not some higher power.

  7. thad wrote:

    They say “the greatest trick Satan ever did was convincing people he didn’t exist.”

    I say, “the greatest trick god ever did was convincing people Satan does exist.”

    Thad, I always say: The greatest trick Satan ever did was convince the people that HE was really the creator.

    For proof of that hypothesis: see the personality of "god" in the bible.

    Regarding the "emotional abuse by religion" arguments being made, I'd say one of the things you might be able to do is making school attendance mandatory. No more homeschooling. If kids get in touch with alternatives to their hyper-religious home prison, they'll at least recognise there are other possible viewpoints. Some of which make a LOT more sense.

    Plus they'll learn real science instead of creation bullshit.

    Sure, kids might still be subjected to religious emotional abuse, but at least they'll know they can one day escape that hell when they grow up.

  8. Hey Jaco45,

    It's nice to hear that some people risk WAY more than I do.

    I may not have a family to talk to, so, that's just being alone.

    But I could kill them all at once and they are aware of that.

    It's too easy to be "brave", when you know you won't really be challenged.

    I'll admit it's lonely, but I wouldn't, myself, call it "brave". (Thank whoever that I have a good woman).

    You are BRAVE, in ways that I will never know.

    I was NEVER in physcal risk, from the likes of them anyway, but you were.

    That takes courage. I'm not sure I really have that, but you do.

    Keep swinging the hammer…

    rod

  9. I just read an well-written article in a Finnish journal about Finnish gays born into Laestadian families, and how they need to choose between themselves and their faith. It's not even about them not wanting to practice their religion, they really do. But their families and the Laestadian community casts them out for homosexual behaviour. They say it's not considered a sin to be homosexual, but even homosexual thoughts are a sin, and one should just learn to stifle all such aspects of one's personality. What a gentle and loving god these people have.

  10. I have been to many evangelical churches in my lifetime (54 years). The overwhelming majority of people I have met that call themselves "born-again Christian" have been loving, understanding people who only wish everyone well (even though some can be quite judgmental). Some, like my father, may go a bit overboard with mis-guided interpretations of what the Bible has to say. (e.g. I wasn't allowed to watch TV on Sundays.) Some, like the cases mentioned above, may go to extremes with wanting to suppress everything that even hints of possibly being influenced by Satan. But they are in the very small minority. I've seen it. I've lived there. I'm not sure how God's message of love and forgiveness could be considered bad. To me, those seem like pretty good attributes for anyone to have.

    There's no need to attack Christianity, just because some Christians act inappropriately. It would be just as misguided to point to Mike Tyson chewing on earlobes as an indication of the dietary preferences of black people. Mental or physical cruelty is a product of a poorly functioning mind, not of Christianity.

    I know what I've written opens the door for some very tired, knee-jerk reactions like "If God is so loving and forgiving, what about …". For those who consider themselves intellectuals, and really want some answers to those questions, there's a very left-brained book entitled "I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist" – Geisler/Turek. It makes a very strong, intellectual case that the evidence for God's existence is so strong, you would have to have more faith to ignore it than accept it. Another along the same lines: "The Case for Faith" – Stroebel. I recommend both.

  11. TheHawk,

    Some of your points are reasonable and well taken. That said, I will point out some things:

    First, your own personal experience, be it 54 years or 540 years, is no more sufficient to make a statement about Evangelical Christianity as a whole than any of the above-mentioned incidents. They are all personal, anecdotal accounts and, as such, are not to be considered as neccessarily representative of the religion as a whole.

    Next, I like how you've framed the issue as being about "God's message of love and forgiveness" – of COURSE no one could be against that! But what about the rest of the messages detailed in the Bible? What about the ways in which most believers rationalize and cherry-pick portions that they accept and portions that they don't. And, most importantly, what about the portions of the message which DO encourage hatred, prejudice, and mistreatment of those who have made different choices? How do you know which interpretations are misguided? I do understand that most Christians "wish everyone well," but what about evangelizing to people who do not think that a Christian's definition of well-wishing jives with their own? And what about when those well-wishes are accompanied with the threat of fire and brimstone for those who do not conform?

    Finally, it's not really going to cut it to come here and simply name drop a couple of books to sway the majority of this site's readers. I am, personally, unfamiliar with those books as I'm sure many others here are as well. I'd not expect success going onto a Christian website and simply writing "Read The God Delusion by Dawkins for a very thorough case as to why you're all wrong. Also God, The Failed Hypothesis by Vic Stenger."

    In some ways, the position you hold seems to be based on a preconceived notion of non-believers as people who just haven't read the right books and who can only respond with trite, unlearned answers such as the knee-jerk one you propose. I think you'll find that while that's true of a certain portion of non-believers, there are also a large number who are VERY widely read.

    My point is, could you provide us with any indication as to what "strong evidence" for god's existence is found in the Geisler/Turek book, and why this evidence indicates that this extant god is specifically the one of Protestant Christianity? Just as you've heard enough "knee-jerk" non-believer responses, many of us have ALSO heard enough of the same specious, oft-reputed, unspecific bits of evidence for the existence of a god which, as it turns out, always just happens to be the god of the person writing and not, say, Set or Zoroaster or what have you.

    I'm sure I speak for many of my fellow commenters when I say that I'd be more likely to pick up the books you reference if I was assured that I was not going to find the same "evidence" I've already seen elsewhere. One more restatement of Pascal's wager and, well, I might be ill.

  12. In some ways, the position you hold seems to be based on a preconceived notion of non-believers as people who just haven’t read the right books and who can only respond with trite, unlearned answers such as the knee-jerk one you propose.

    Yup. The way some guys think that lesbians are just women who haven't met the right (or a real) man yet.

    Or how would you feel if a gay person implied you were simply straight because you hadn't met the right guy yet.

    People who think atheists are just afraid to believe, or pretending not to believe for a variety of misguided reasons (being allowed to fuck everything that moves, have no morals, etc…) are just believers who are themselves rather unsure about their faith. They're just afraid to let go, and assume non-believers must be in the same boat. We're not, and most of the typical logically flawed arguments that are supposed to sway us just make us laugh.

    For the record, I'm an atheist for no other reason than the fact that I'm not convinced the idea of god(s) is anything other than the wild imagination of a stone age ancestor gone way beyond our control.

  13. For Expatria:

    You're quite right about my observations being personal and anecdotal. But that's what observations are. I mentioned my 54 years in an attempt at establishing some credibility as someone who isn't just a one-time or casual observer. I believe this amount of experience (observation) can be considered to be research, even though it wasn't intended as such. It just seems to me that if this type of behavior is fundamental to the Christian faith or representative of Christianity as a whole, I would have observed a lot more of it in my lifetime.

    You're also right that many believers are selective in what they believe from the Bible. Again, this does not define what a "Christian" is. It simply describes the behavior of certain people within the Christian faith.

    I agree that there are many extreme examples of this today and throughout history. I cringe at the knowledge that atrocities like the Crusades, the Inquisition and the Salem witch trials were all done by "Christians", ostensibly in the name of God. (And let's not even mention Jim Bakker, and others of his ilk.) But these again do not represent a fault of Christianity, but rather actions of very misguided Christians or pretenders to the faith.

    The other issues you raise cannot be dealt with in a forum such as this. They are far too complex, and many answers would lead to even more questions/issues. That's why I recommended those books. I am very much a left-brained thinker, and the books did supply a wealth of answers to questions I had – questions that are often raised by atheists, agnostics and other opponents of Christianity. For example, even as a Christian, I too had questions about what the Bible seems to advocate regarding "hatred, prejudice, and mistreatment of those who have made different choices". These are addressed in the books.

    I read as much as I can, both towards understanding my own faith and towards understanding opposing views. I don't expect to be swayed, but I always try to have an open mind. The scientific approach says to observe and then draw conclusions that are supported by those observations, until compelling evidence is presented which supports different conclusions. These books delve deeply into the specifics you're looking for.

    Pascal's wager, although related, is not what these books are about. The wager applies mathematics to the question of God's existence, while these books take an evidentialistic approach to apologetics – observation of real "things" and conclusions drawn from those observations. I have a degree in math, but I prefer the latter approach. There's more meat and less theory.

    The Geisler/Turek book starts with laying the groundwork (through observable evidence) for simply establishing the very existence of God. It continues from there, with each subsequent section building on the previous premises already established. It's quite the exercise in deductive reasoning and very interesting. I'd go into more detail, but the book does it far better than I could. (In a couple of instances, I believe the case they make is a little weak, but overall it is excellent.)

    The 2nd book was written by Lee Strobel, who is a former atheist – now a Christian – and has an impressive set of credentials: Bachelor of Journalism, Master of Studies in Law degree from Yale Law School and a professional journalist for 14 years at The Chicago Tribune. His book is a great example of investigative journalism, in which he conducts a series of interviews with experts in various fields, challenging them with a somewhat confrontational approach. This book specifically addresses many of the issues raised by non-believers – as Strobel himself had raised before becoming a Christian. The approach is different than the other book, but the result is the same – a solid case is made for Christianity making more sense than any alternative belief (or non-belief).

  14. For exarch:

    Please read my comments to Expatria, then read the books I mentioned and I guarantee you will find little evidence of "the typical logically flawed arguments". While recognizing that there are no absolute proofs for either side of a discussion like this, I'm talking about sound scientific scrutiny and deductive reasoning, which lead to conclusions that are far stronger than any others.

  15. TheHawk

    Thanks for your response. I must ask again, however, for you to actually describe something from these books…a touch of WHAT they say rather than just how they say it. I'm going to admit that I don't really care whether it's a left-brained, right-brained, or no-brained approach: I want to know WHAT they say so I know WHY it's any different than anything else.

    Similarly, the fact that Strobel, say, used to be an atheist does not make me any more interested, nor does his controversial tone. I've met plenty of people from both sides, as well as converts from one religion to another, and despite their own convincedness about the correctness of their conversions, no one has come across as terribly convincing to me.

    WHAT does Strobel ask? What does he answer? Obviously, there's no need to detail the whole of his book or of the other, just a DETAIL or two — one fact, one piece of evidence. SOMETHING so I know what I'm in for. A list of his credentials means little to me, in that it makes it sound rather like an argument from authority.

    You again refer to people following certain interpretations of the bible as "misguided" and "non-representative": according to WHO? Who determines why, say, many American conservative Christians accept the passage stating that a man shall not like with another man, yet refuse many of the dietary guidelines detailed not too far away? Why don't people sacrifice animals any more for, say, accidentally spilling seed? Where is that determination coming from? I'd say a clever argument could be made for a belief that following ALL of those guidelines is the "correct" approach and that a more reasonable Christian such as yourself is the "misguided" one. Hell, according to the Catholics ALL of you are misguided "pretenders to the faith"…didn't you hear the Pope last year? :-P

    What seems likely to you is irrelevant. I can guarantee that between the posters and commenters here, and the many people I've met personally, there's JUST as MUCH evidence (if we're going to count experience as such) of a pervasive "dark side" to faith as there is of a similarly pervasive light side. That YOU think your approach is correct and the others misguided is wonderful…they feel just as strongly about you!

  16. The comments seem to have successfully steered away from the actual content of writerdd's post, but I thought I'd throw in my two cents all the same.

    TheHawk, you continue to speak of different versions of Christianity that different people follow – some actually caring and compassionate, others hateful and narrow-minded. But the entirety of Christianity – any version of it – is based on the Bible; even self-proclaimed "Jesus freaks" who dispense with institutional religion and focus on "The Man" alone have no basis for their beliefs without the Biblical accounts of Jesus.

    It would seem to me, to paraphase the physicist Paul Bert, that "society marches toward morality in proportion as it leaves religion behind," and this is true for the individual as well. For example, the Ten Commandments are the fundamental law of Judeo-Christian values. Yet a law without sanctions is meaningless, and other books of the Old Testament (not that I know them that well, but I think I mean to say Exodus and Deuteronomy) indeed prescribe punishments to be meted out by humans – usually death by stoning.

    Yet what Christian today, if they adhere to the Ten Commandments and obey the Word of God, carry out his prescribed punishments for the violations of these laws? What Christian today adheres to the laws set forth in Leviticus, for another example and among others things, against clothes of mixed fabric or fields of mixed seeds? Not even the conservative Christians in America do this (although I'm sure many wish to create an America in which they can).

    One might make the argument that the birth of Jesus represented a new Covenant with God's people with which to save them (specifically, I heard this as a child in Catholic Sunday school). Yet not only did Jesus have some nasty moral proscriptions as well (the Skeptic's Annotated Bible highlights many such instances – http://skepticsannotatedbible.com), but many passages in both the Old and New Testaments indicate that the old laws, the Mosaic Laws of Exodus, Deuteronomy, Leviticus, etc., are to last for "a thousand generations" or "for eternity" (while others, incidentally, contradict this to suggest that Jesus overthrows the old laws).

    The point I'm trying to make is that, given the Bible as the source of Christianity, there seems to be no actual Christian living today. The people who try to "live like Christ" while ignoring institutional religion dispense with the Bible and its edicts on morality, creating for themselves a mythical representation of their figurehead that exists only in children's books – and creating their own sense of morality outside the Bible. Conservative Christians – the nutjobs that, as you say, and as is undoubtedly true, represent a minority of Christians – create their own morality as well by ignoring the nice parts of the Bible, focusing on some the bad stuff that most people disagree with, and – either by law or by conscience – fail to uphold the really nasty bits. Truly decent people who call themselves Christians, meanwhile, are only so because they are adherents to an institution that calls itself Christian: they focus on the nice parts of the Bible while rationalizing or ignoring any nasty bits that disagree with their conscience, again creating their own morality.

    In short (too late, sorry), most people calling themselves Christians – and this is true of all decent people of any religion, so far as I can tell – do not follow the foundational texts or edicts of their religion, separating what they consider "good" from what they consider "bad," and indeed this interpretation often agrees with broader cultural norms of what is "good" or "bad." The social, cultural, or personal conscience – liberal or conservative, loving or hateful – creates for itself a morality that looks almost nothing like what the Bible has to offer. What good the Bible does have to offer has been offered in cultures preceding Biblical times, and in this sense "good" people are following a historical or cultural precedent, not a singular holy text. Most relevantly, the majority of Americans can probably agree about basic concepts of morality whether they are Christian, Muslim, Jain, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, atheist, agnostic, or anything else. That we as a culture, Christian or otherwise, subscribe to a sense or morality that has little or nothing in common with the Bible does not bode well for that book – or for any other religious text – and does not make a convincing argument for religion.

    As one blogger suggests (http://www.idrewthis.org/2007/02/were-smarter-than-god.html): "[Liberal Christians] know going in what they believe is right and wrong, and they find the parts of the Bible that conform to that. That's precisely what I, an atheist, do, only without the Bible part. But atheists and liberal believers are drawing morality from some deeper, more complicated, very modern place, and it's the same place, and it is emphatically not scripture." (Emphasis mine; I do suggest you read the rest of that post – the same point is made as I am trying to convey, only more concisely and coherently).

    I have two other points to make very briefly. First, Expatria, in speaking of Pascal's Wager, meant only to draw an example of a typical believer's argument. Another common argument, for example, is the "argument from incredulity" – "the universe is so fantastic and amazing that only God could have created it"; a small sample of these arguments are presented here:

    Second, I agree with Expatria's call for specific examples of arguments or evidence to be found in the books you mention. I have heard of those two books, and I've also heard that they're petty tripe filled with the typical unconvincing arguments that any freethinker, myself included, has heard countless times. I am an atheist because I see no reason why we should assume the existence of the divine when there is no reason or evidence that such a thing should exist; because I see no reason why the universe, and all in it, shouldn't be perfectly capable of existing and functioning without the guiding hand of the divine; and because I have never once heard or seen convincing arguments or evidence in favor of any god or religion, let alone the Christian variety.

    One last link: an examination, critique, and refutation of Strobel's 'Case for Christ': http://www.bidstrup.com/apologetics.htm

  17. TheHawk wrote:

    For exarch:

    […] While recognizing that there are no absolute proofs for either side of a discussion like this, I’m talking about sound scientific scrutiny and deductive reasoning, which lead to conclusions that are far stronger than any others.

    I agree, there are no absolute proofs, no sound scientific scrutiny and no deductive reasoning which will support your case any more than they will support mine.

    So why insist that those things can be found in those books you keep hawking?

    Without proof either way, we have to revert to the basic state. But this is where believers and non-believers disagree.

    Believers insist that the basic state is "god exists", but why should that be any more reasonable than the assertion that "the Easter bunny exists"? In fact, it isn't reasonable to assume that at all. The basic observation we can make about the universe is that a creator does not appear to exist. So until proof is found saying otherwise, lacking any evidence to support either option, the logical position to take is to assume that something unproven and undetectable doesn't exist.

    At least that assertion doesn't conflict with the facts we've learned about the universe so far.

    On the other hand, the god hypothesis is internally inconsistent (omnipotence, omniscience, …) and on top of that, the best information resource available about god (the bible) is a bronze age storybook full of contradictions, misconceptions and logical flaws. And to top it off, no evidence of existence can be found.

    No amount of blathering and philosophying can change these basic observations. No matter how good the author of the book really is.

    So the conclusion is that we don't really know for sure, but it's clearly much more reasonable to assume "god" is just the figment of some stone age caveman's imagination who just had the crap scared out of him by a clap of thunder or something like that. The fact that many thousands of years later, well educated, scientifically literate people are still clinging to that preposterous idea is, in my opinion, mindboggling …

  18. writerdd,

    Sorry to hear that you, too, have gone through what can certainly be classified as child abuse, many were raised in cults, but there are plenty of stories out there that have nothing to do with religion. But there is a difference between having been a victim and choosing to continue being a victim. Most of us don't go shooting up folks in churches or anywhere else. I dare say that most of us take the lessons learned and have been successful in creating very different lives than how we were raised. Happy lives.

    This was not an act of a moment of passion. This took planning. I'm not blaming the victim and the pain he endured, but I am holding an adult responsible for his actions.

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