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I recently met a new friend who says that he went from being an atheist to a Christian. I found this intriguing since I (and many other people I know) went from being a Christian to an atheist. I present below, first, what he calls his "testimony," and following, my response to it. I have decided to make this section "interactive."
    Please do not waste your and my time if you're the sort of Christian who simply wishes to rant about how I'm going to hell. I assure you, it is an exercise in futility and I will simply ignore any such posts.
Some visitor responses to the debate are here.

However, if you are the sort of Christian (or a believer in other religious claims) who wishes to make an attempt at rational justification for your opinions, or if you are a non-believer who wishes to answer the religious claims made here, please read Jordan's piece, then my response, and then feel free to respond. You may respond to only one writer or to a small group of people I have chosen to receive the responses. If you would like to be in this group let me know. If you wish to respond:
*ONLY to Jordan, click here; *ONLY to me, click here;
or to the whole group post here.

I may decide to post particularly interesting responses elsewhere on the site for all to read. I would like to hear from anyone who wishes to share their "conversion story" of going from atheist to Christian or vice-versa. Be aware that anything you write may appear on this site and/or in the print magazine SOAR unless you specifically place the words "NOT FOR PUBLICATION" on it.

Birth and Death of an Atheist

by G. Zeinelde Jordan, Se. (September 1999)
no copyright is enforced

I will never be the same again. I will never return. I've closed the door. I will walk a path. I'll run the race. And I will never be the same again.- Hillsongs of Australia

Throughout my life, I observed people behaving differently in church than in daily living. I found such hypocrisy all too common in church-going Christians. I also observed they would accept "sin" in their lives, confess it or answer an altar call on Sundays, then continue it the next week. That taught me sin was preferrable over God's design. I deduced God might not even exist; if He were real, people would not discard Him as they exited church doors. If God did exist, His design for man evidenced flaws. I had my own design: sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, and a little bit of country.
    In doubting God’s existence, I began doubting Christ’s historical existence. Let’s face it: It is the most awesome story ever told. It is awesome beyond the basic resurrection aspect inasmuch as it represents love, forgiveness, and acceptance beyond man’s comprehension. After all, my high school education included “facts” about human origin conflicting with the “Holy Book.” My secular government education taught me many things opposite biblical teachings. By my early twenties, I simply did not believe the gospel message. Many times people asked me how I could not believe in God. Such people amazed me. Why the confusion?
    "I don’t believe it,” I would answer. "I think it’s a fairy tale with moral teachings intertwined. Further,” I often said, “I think the Bible is used for milking money from the masses and controlling their minds and behavior.”
    I would say that as if I had some grip on controlling my mind and behavior. The fact of the matter is that my drug addiction had seized control of mine. I experienced continued failures the following years. In the end, when my size 30 pants grew baggy on me, and my eyes were ringed in that which remained of my eye sockets, I had failed my travel business, my clients, my family and friends, and my creditors. One drug buddy, Eddy, put a gun to his head and ended his agony. I considered following suit. Other drug buddies had either over-dosed or were in prison.
    One day, I took a ride, a long ride, up the California coast. I thought a lot, a whole lot. Still high as a kite on speed, I was arrested and the car was impounded. I had lots of time to think throughout my stay in that northern California “County Hilton” nearly one and half decades ago. More importantly, I had time to cry. For the first time in many years, I managed to shed a tear. Then I shed more, and more, and more. I thought of every person I had harmed. If tears had never “made the man,” they made this one that day.
    Possessing nothing but shame, disgrace, and unpaid bills, I appeared at Ma’s doorstep. She and my brother Tony nursed me back to health. I did not work for weeks. I ate, slept, and read. I survived. My drug addiction was behind me, and it has stayed there since. Praise God.
    I had always enjoyed reading, particularly history. I found American history especially tantalizing. The more history I read, the more I despised Christians. I learned of my ancestors, the Portuguese. I learned of their conquering and enslaving African tribes, and their brutal treatment of peaceful natives who welcomed them as friends. Apparently, their Catholicism failed to circumvent their evil nature. I learned of the Spanish conquistadors doing the same in South America, and of the Spanish and Italian Inquisitions robbing the masses in the name of the church and Jesus Christ. I learned of the English Crusaders conquering, raping, and pillaging distant lands and claiming their spoils in the name of Christ. I read about America’s Christians massacring American Indians who had welcomed them with open arms. Surely, I wanted no part of the evils of what following Christ represented. Christianity repulsed me. I was so repulsed I chose to battle it. I grew outraged at Christianity. I felt conned.
    At age 28, I joined American Atheists, a national organization of like-minded infidels. I learned so much that soon I banned Bibles from my home. Someone could enter my home with muddy shoes, but Bibles had to be left at the door.
    I described myself as philosophically agnostic, for I felt there wasn’t enough evidence to prove or disprove the existence of God, and a practicing atheist, meaning I lived on the premise no God existed. As far as an outright label, I identified myself as a “freethinker.” I retain that label today, second only to “Christian.”
    American Atheists offered me an outlet from which to spew forth my venomous anger about Christianity. American Atheists rented space at the Arizona State Fair in 1990, which provided me an opportunity to vent my anger publicly.
    After a personal encounter with American Atheists president Madalyn Murray O’Hair, I decided American Atheists was not worthy of my time and energy. I sensed ugliness and evil in her that her printed materials masked. I canceled my membership.
    For family reasons, I relocated from Phoenix, Arizona, to Marietta, Georgia, in 1991. There I met up with the Atlanta Freethought Society (AFS), another group of infidels. It was a local chapter of the national Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).
    FFRF seemed to offer what I pursued. I strongly desired to be a part of Christianity’s destruction. I wanted to contribute my small part in “restoring the wall of separation between state and church,” a wall I would later learn was nonexistent. It was merely a phrase coined by America’s third president, Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to a Baptist congregation assuring them the federal government had no power to interfere with their religious practices.
    The AFS seemed to offer the ideal activism. Their first pro-active event after I joined them was to display a “Jesus Christ is a Myth” banner in the park on the square in McDonough, Georgia in 1991. Being there made me feel a part of the educating of America. The event made national news.
    One problem I encountered with atheistic organizations is that they seemed to require a religious reverence for their non-religion. When O’Hair visited Phoenix for a solstice celebration, members argued over which blessed atheist would buy her dinner, drive her around, lay out red carpet, etc. Her papal arrival had me wonder if I could cure my cigarette smoking addiction by touching the hem of her garment.
    I later let my AFS and FFRF memberships lapse because I tired of the continued bickering amongst members about what “freethought” should mean. The local AFS chapter later severed its tie with the FFRF after its president, Tom Malone, pouted over a disparaging remark made by the FFRF. Later, other members split off to form Humanists of Georgia, while others stayed behind to argue about trivial matters as if they were of national interest. I would join again, lapse again, and so on. I was not favorably impressed by how the “intellectual elite” couldn’t seem to get along even on a local level. I often described them as the “Catholics and Baptists going at it again.”
    I did not like Christians, and I would have nothing to do with someone once I learned of their Christianity. Then in 1992 I met a man named Jim. I learned of his Christianity, but I liked him anyway. I respected his honesty, intelligence, and good character. We became friends despite our disparate theistic positions. He made an example of not condemning, but trusting his light to shine onto me. That shocked me because I had grown accustomed to “religious fanatics” attempting to force other people to conform to their religiosity or spewing forth condemnation on dissenters. Jim accepted me as a friend and left the rest of the work to the “Holy Spirit.” His attitude and obedience to the Lord opened the door for someone else who would show me just who Jesus Christ really was, is, and will always be.
    It happened one day as I scanned the radio dial. I came across an argument between an atheist and a Christian. The Christian was former U.S. Congressman-turned-radio-talk-show-host Patrick L. Swindall. The caller expressed his venomous anger towards Christians. The host behaved much like my friend Jim. The Christians I usually heard debating atheists cut off callers very quickly when the callers spoke outside a “Praise the Lord” direction. Not that Swindall fellow, though. He treated the caller with utmost respect and patience. To me, Swindall won the debate hands-down merely because of his manner. I listened to the rest of his show. Then I listened daily. His politics intrigued me. Every political solution he espoused met the concerns of atheist activists and honored the rights of Christians. I grew to admire Swindall. I eventually sent him a letter commending him on his show, his politics, and his religiosity. He responded with an invitation to my wife, Vickie, and me for lunch, and drove half way across the Atlanta metropolis to meet us. He shared his personal testimony. He did not convince me of God’s existence at that luncheon, but he demonstrated true Christian outreach. I grew so impressed with his politics and religiosity I decided to write about him, for I felt even we atheists should support his show and, ideally, his run for a return to office, if ever he decided to run again. Hence, Perjurer or Saint? (A Freethinker Introduces Pat Swindall) was born. I titled it such because Swindall had been charged and convicted of perjury in a case my lay investigation convinced me was a frame job to remove him from office. The more I looked into his innocence, the more certain of it I grew. More importantly, the more I looked into his case, the more I learned about the Jesus Christ Swindall worshipped.
    In my research (for Perjurer or Saint?), I closely examined Christian and atheistic political propaganda. I compared those two versions of American history. To illustrate that America’s history is being rewritten, I include the following excerpt from my manuscript:

The atheists, Ed and Michael Buckner, cited a 1975 edition of National Geographic as their source in citing Benjamin Franklin’s words in their publication Quotations that Support the Separation of State and Church (1993, page 27).
I believe in one God, Creator of the universe . . . . That the most acceptable service we can render Him is doing good to His other children . . . . As to Jesus . . .I have . . .some doubts as to His divinity.
    In America’s Real Religion, Gene Garman (1994, page 110), presents the same quotation citing Albert Henry Smyth’s Writings of Benjamin Franklin (1905). The omitted phrases follow.
After universe: “. . .that He governs it by His providence. That He ought to be worshipped.”
After children: “That the soul of man is immortal.”
After As to Jesus: “ . . .of Nazareth . . . I think the system of morals and His religion, as He left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see.”
After I have: “ . . . with most of the present dissenters of England.”

    In the Buckners’ defense, they went on to quote other Franklin thoughts that expressed a value for religion. Quite possibly, the omission came from their source, and they merely trusted it.
    Patrick L. Swindall’s personal relationship with his Lord and Savior ultimately changed my life, literally forever. His example of walking tightly with his Lord, yet honoring the rights of non-believers, sang to my political soul.
    G. Zeinelde Jordan was changing. I changed so much I submitted an article to the AFS newsletter entitled My Appeal to the AFS. I did not expect it to make print. I was right, but I felt good that I made an attempt to open some eyes. I charged AFS with committing the same poor ethics they charged Christians with, such as using government-funded (public) schools for proselytizing their religious faith (Humanism). I reminded the AFS I was a member because I opposed religious tyranny, including our anti-theistic religious tyranny. I claimed they rejected a God of spirit only to embrace a God of government. They applied a double standard in what they battled Christians about because, after all, they “had it right.”
    At that point, despite my lack of belief in the existence of God, I decided the Christian movement in America was worthy of support. My “net results” orientation led me to question America’s current state of affairs. I had no doubt America was better off when up was up, down was down, good was good, and bad was bad. It became clear to me that America’s revolutionary morals shift of recent decades produced infanticide, fatherless children, increased drug use, and violence in classrooms.
    Then a friend of a friend put Tim LaHaye’s Battle for the Mind in my hands. LaHaye did not convince me a God existed, but he clearly depicted I believed what I believed merely because of my indoctrination.
    In an attempt to gain cross-cultural insight, I decided to visit a Christian church. I was convinced I could better understand Swindall’s religiosity by witnessing a Christian congregation first-hand. I chose West Cobb Baptist Church because I knew a member. I enjoyed the service and the sermon. A few days later, its pastor, Scott Beasley, and a church member visited us. We had a delightful time with them. They appeared quite sane. The congregation drew Vickie (also a philosophical agnostic and practicing atheist). She expressed a desire to return. I consented. I encountered none of the “religious fanatics” I expected to encounter. The congregation exhibited warmth, love, and, to use Vickie’s term, a “fuzziness.” We continued our learning expedition for seven weeks. I experienced serious intellectual battles over the attraction. I felt my brain would break at any moment because the sermons were making sense. However, to accept such realities meant to discredit all of my cherished beliefs. Also, what I had been hearing on the Pat Swindall show about theism kept validating the sermons in practical terms.
    When Jim learned of my West Cobb Baptist Church visitation, he supplied me with a New King James Version Bible to use as a reference source to review scripture first-hand. A Bible finally made its way to the Jordan library. I used it to look up scripture referenced in my atheist literature and “Pastor Scott’s” sermons.
    Vickie and I discussed Christianity and Jesus almost every night throughout our seven weeks of church visitation. One evening, I confessed to Vickie that despite my years-long venomous disgust toward Christians, I had to admit, “Anything that Jesus fella actually said or did is not particularly offensive. It is what has been interpreted about it that is harmful.” I went on to deduce, “Vickie, it reminds me of the old saying, ‘The only thing wrong with Christianity is not that it has failed, but that it has never been tried.’

That statement was actually made in opposition to Christianity, but let’s examine it. Christians claim this Christ fella is without blemish. They worship Him and claim no one can match His purity.
    Actually, if there is any truth to the Bible, it demonstrates how much the conquistadors and other barbarians would need that Christ figure. I have to ponder this further because, viscerally, I am beginning to think that Jesus fella took a bad rap, and sadly, mostly because of those who claim to follow Him. After all, I have always admired Mark Twain’s claim that ‘If Christ were real, there is one thing He would not be, and that is a Christian.’”

I considered, Perhaps He would be -- a God?

    “At this point, I would be lying to you, myself, that congregation, and their God if He exists, if I were to claim I don’t believe that congregation has something from on high. I’m not saying I believe in a God, or I can anthropomorphize that force. I’m saying there’s more to it than I have knowledge to explain. Don’t expect me to run up the altar. However, they deserve a new respect.”
    Vickie responded with, “You realize if that Jesus is anything, He is everything.” Her observation stuck with me unshakably.
    I obsessed over Christianity and atheism. I disliked what was happening. I began thinking I had been wrong and had unfairly blamed Jesus Christ for what humans had done in His name. I felt somewhat shamed and remorseful. After great agonizing and investigating, I determined:
    1. Unconstitutionally, Secular Humanism is America’s governmentally established religion despite the “wall of separation” value secularists espouse. I devoted years of support to organizations that professed to be protecting that wall, while in practice were actually forcing a non-theistic religion onto the public.
    2. Humanists control mainstream media, politicians, and the entertainment industry.
    3. Religiosity was a factor in America’s history. That history has been rewritten or omitted in some public [government-run] schools. For example, some public school texts omit George Washington’s religious references from his Farewell Address.
    4. Currently, American governmental entities have grown totalitarian and coercive whereas Jesus still seeks voluntary hearts.
    5. Jesus endured attacks from His corporeal visit through today yet survives. Christianity flourished against all odds.
    6. Jesus’ teachings do not support the Christian atrocities I have condemned throughout my atheism. Jesus should not be charged for those atrocities. Further, atheistic regimes have committed equally atrocious acts in the name of “the people.” Both atrocious histories merely demonstrate just how much Christ’s teachings are needed.
    7. I reject the idea the apostles allowed themselves to be persecuted over something they knew to be false. I also reject that the apostles and the 500 witnesses to His ascension into Heaven experienced joint hallucinations. Science has yet to prove such hallucinations are possible. The apostles had everything to lose by practicing their faith and nothing to gain. Cultists are convinced of a future happening; W.W.II Japanese kamikaze pilots (similar to other religious and political martyrs) were youth indoctrinated from birth regarding the Empire/God unity concept. The disciples were neither cultists, nor kamikaze styled religious fanatics, for they were steadfast over something they personally witnessed.
    8. If Jesus and His apostles (authors of the New Testament) existed and were truthful, the empty tomb is beyond secular explanation. If Jesus and His disciples did not exist, who wrote the New Testament and why? I reject that some loonies wrote it, then ignoramuses followed their insanity for 2000 years. There had been other virgin births and saviors in actual religions that died. Why would a fantasy version live on? Why would lives be changed by it?
    9. Bible prophecies have come to pass against enormous odds.
    10. Women are not the subjugated male-inferiors that non-Christians perceive the Bible teaches. Husbands are to sacrifice themselves for their wives as Christ did for the church (Ephesians 5:25).

    With those 10 points in mind, I further determined that, even if Jesus had been a mere man, I could support His teachings with vigor and zeal, if the supernatural aspects were applied figuratively. Later, I questioned if I was correcting the teacher by omitting the supernatural of which He spoke. Still fighting it, I owned up that following is following, whereas tailoring is tailoring. Deep down inside I knew He actually deserved to be accepted and followed by His standard, not mine. I questioned that millions of people have accepted Him via a sinner’s prayer of admitting guilt and repenting. Was I the insightful sage who knew what millions of others did not? I thought not.
    I knew decision-making time was approaching. I strongly felt called. It was beyond my intellect and I did not want to give up my cherished intellectualism. Little did I know I would not have to give it up, just be willing. I began thinking I was. I could not go so far as to say “Jesus is Lord.” However, I felt I was being called to accept Him and the rest would take care of itself.
    Vickie and I went through this intellectual turmoil together. She was going through definite changes. I felt it was wrong to have married her as an atheist, then embrace Christianity. However, I sensed an altar call of her own growing near. I decided I may have to answer the call without her, but I doubted it would come to that. Then, on March 1, 1998, on the way to church I put my hand on her knee and said, “Don’t be concerned about me. I’m pretty sure I’m ready, if ever you are. I don’t want to hold you back, and I don’t want to entice you.”
    That morning, I felt Vickie’s hand tap me during the invitation. Hand in hand, we walked the aisle. I reached into the congregation and pulled Sam Rothrock, the Sunday School teacher, out and told him, “We want to get this right. Help us out.” There on the altar of that tiny mobile West Cobb Baptist sanctuary, Sam led us through the sinner’s prayer of repentance and acceptance.
    The moment I rose from my knees, Jesus Christ became my Lord. I could speak it; I could shout it; I could sing it; I could write it. Jesus Christ is Lord.
    Standing there, only Hollywood’s special effects could paint a picture of what happened to me inside. I asked Him in and He entered. I felt an unknown peace flow through me. I did not know I lacked peace until peace flowed. Bill Gaither describes it best in It Is Finished with: “These were battles of my own making. You see, I didn’t know the war had been won. It is finished; the battle is over. It is finished; there’ll be no more war. It is finished, the end of the conflict. It is finished and Jesus is Lord!”
    Then thoughts of my atheistic former colleagues flowed through my mind. Throughout my metamorphosis, I had developed an animosity toward them and what they represented, but that disappeared. A flowing love and compassion, only Jesus could feel for us and them, flowed in. I felt wise. I felt insightful. I enjoyed the peace. I knew I was saved. A few weeks later, Pastor Scott Beasley baptized us.
    There were immediate character changes in me, and there have been more changes over time. It was not a conscious effort to “clean up” my language, but expletives lost their usefulness. My taste in music changed. There really just is not anything worth singing about, other than Jesus. Being saved is, in fact, a born-again process. Now, a year and a half after my salvific experience, God’s Word continues gradually replacing layers of Secular Humanism.
    One morning shortly after my salvation, Vickie and I began intellectualizing over morning coffee in bed. The conversation went in such a direction that I said, “Hey, let’s go through my atheist magazines and find the articles that challenge the Bible’s historicity and present its contradictions.”
    Surprisingly, locating such an article required searching. I had never noticed until then that the articles primarily simply bash Christians. Eventually, I found one.
    “Okay, let’s look up these passages,” I challenged. We did. The claims were false.
    Then a thought occurred to me and I turned to Vickie saying, “For many years Christians claimed I accepted my atheism by faith. I argued with them. Now, I realize that I read these articles without ever looking it up myself. I took it as a given that the scholars were the ones exposing the truth. Remember, I would not allow a Bible in my home. I thought these ‘contradictions’ were factual. I have the feeling that God, early on, began shaping me (the freethinking, Christian-hating, atheistic agnostic) into a writer for Christ. Well, so be it.”
    Weeks after I embarked on my new path, my mother mentioned to me that although she always considered me a wonderful son, and considered Vickie the finest daughter a mother-in-law could have, we were even better after committing to Christ. Indeed, she began evaluating her own religiosity. A couple months later, I sat in the congregation at Sunset Hills Baptist Church with camera in hand to snap a picture of my mother’s baptism.
    So goes the birth and death of an atheist. What I want atheists to know is that we have been lied to, my friends. The religion of Secular Humanism has infiltrated America’s schools, newspapers, magazines, and television networks. Its adherents use taxpayer dollars to indoctrinate an unsuspecting populace with their religious tenets. Unfortunately, they are succeeding.
    What I want Christians to know is that your walk, your example of living the faith, or swaying, is crucial to the salvation of others. If you live in hypocrisy and duplicity, a lost person will see our Lord Jesus Christ as phony, impotent, and useless. He shed His blood on a cross that all may have eternal life. How will you serve Him -- by making a poor example?
    I came to know Christ as my personal Lord and Savior because devout Christians accepted me and did not condemn me. They loved me. They followed Christ’s teachings of loving their neighbor as themselves, and allowing their light of Jesus Christ to shine so brightly I could not deny it. Keep in mind, at the heart of my atheism and now at the heart of my devotion to Christ lies the fundamental, life-changing, salvation-grabbing principle of distinguishing Christ’s teachings from “Christian” behavior. Please make His example your daily-living guide. He works. Meanwhile, I pray I remain the same at work, home, and play as on Sundays. To God be the glory!

    I now share what Swindall shared with me in my cherished autographed copy of his A House Divided:

“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power. -Colossians 2:8-10

    For skeptics, I recommend reading Scaling the Secular City, by J. P. Moreland (1987), Baker Book House. For a succinct delivery of its principles, read Know Why You Believe, by Paul E. Little (1976), Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois 60515.
    Obtain a copy of Dr. Hugh Ross’ audiotape, Beyond the Stars: An Astronomer’s Quest, from: Life Story Foundation, P. O. Box 79, Forest VA 24551-0079, 800-661-1141.
    No political library is complete without a copy of Tim LaHaye’s Battle for the Mind (1980).
    Pat Swindall’s A House Divided (1986) provides an understanding of religiosity in American politics.
    No non-believer has made an informed decision without knowing Lee Strobel’s legal-journalist investigation results revealed in “The Case For Christ (1998)
    Use care when reading anti-God literature. It can be convincing when claiming, for example, “There is not enough secular evidence to confirm Christ’s existence.” Before lending credence to such claims, bear in mind that our nation’s heritage has been rewritten. I remind you, many public school textbooks have George Washington’s godly references omitted from his Farewell Address. Also, Congressman Swindall reported a public school student challenged him on the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, claiming it mandates a wall of separation between state and church. He then opened up his textbook displaying a “wall of separation” rewrite. The teacher defended it as a paraphrase. Do not think secularists only began altering history here in America. Enemies of the cross have always attempted keeping the greatest story ever told untold, or changed. Be wary of intellectualism; it led Eve to the apple. Any true intellectual would value Albert Einstein’s words, “We should take care not to make the intellect our God; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.”

    G. Zeinelde Jordan, Se. (age 39) has been a member and drama ministry performer of West Cobb Baptist Church in Powder Springs, Georgia, since his salvation, March 1, 1998. He is a researcher for CSM, Inc. in Marietta, Georgia, and editor of the Museletter, a monthly publication of The Literary Round Table. He is completing two manuscripts. “Perjurer or Saint?” is a monograph about former U.S. Congressman Pat Swindall, which he began while an atheist demonstrating the innocence of a Christian wrongly charged with perjury. The work reveals that investigating the subject led him to know Jesus Christ as Lord. “Shiny Hats” is Jordan’s testimony from age six when he first formed political and religious impressions resulting from an evil woman who intercepted his happy childhood, then haunted his memories many years. He expects to complete both manuscripts by winter of 1999. His wife of four years, Vickie L. Patterson, Ph.D. (Gerontologist, Community Psychologist), is on the board of directors for Caring for the Elderly, a non-profit organization that supports in-home caregivers of elders. She is also a private consultant in gerontology and community psychology. They live in Marietta, Georgia, with their three dogs and two cats. They have no other children.

G. Zeinelde Jordan
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My Response to Jordan
by Temy R. Beal (October 1999)
Warning: Copyleft projected!

In one sense, Jordan, I suspect that you and I are alike – that is, we would both be considered by most other people to be extremists, at least the kind of extremist who takes his beliefs seriously enough to defend and to live by. I seem to remember someone once saying something like, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” I feel that way with respect to truth. One troubling difference in our ideologies is that if one truly follows Christianity to an extreme, one is bound to kill other people. For better or worse most of the many millions of Christians in this country are lukewarm at best. Very few read the Bible, even fewer un-derstand it, and fewer still have any inkling of the history of their religion and what it is founded upon.
    Though you and I do not yet know each other very well, I think you do know me well enough to know that I could not let the assertions made in your testimony to pass unchallenged. Indeed, I intend to challenge them with both barrels blazing (figuratively, of course).
    First, I offer my sympathies on being addicted to drugs and the “failures” you experienced. This culture is extremely well-adapted – mainly by influence from Christianity – to heaping guilt upon those who do not succeed in playing the games it is founded on. “Shame and disgrace” are the trophies awarded anyone here who “fails” in business, or who has the “moral failing” of succumbing to a psychological or mental illness, disorder, or addiction.
    You say “Christianity repulsed me” and “I felt conned.” These are almost inevitable feelings one will experience when the door of reason is really opened and the light of truth shines upon Christian ugliness. There are several possible paths one may take from that point onward. Many of us took the path of searching for truth and vowed to never stop the search until it was found. Unfortunately, you apparently did not follow this path to its conclusion. This is evident from “I described myself as philosophically agnostic.” The agnostic who has left religion behind has stopped in the middle of the road and cannot or will not proceed, and will argue that at either end of the road lies madness, despite the fact that he has not yet been to the other end.
    To retain the label “freethinker… second only to Christian” is to abandon freethought. For a freethinker worthy of the appellation, in my opinion, “my thoughts are free” is not second to anything. The moment that you exempt Christianity – or anything else – from skeptical and critical analysis, in that moment you have accepted dogma or emotional “warm fuzzies” as superior in that field instead of thought.
    It is perhaps unfortunate that your first encounter with “real atheists” was with Madalyn O’Hair. Though I never met her, I have read many different sources which paint her as an especially obnoxious person. True or not, she does not represent all atheists any more than Jerry Falwell represents all Christians.
    In reading a great many of Jefferson’s writings, including his letter to the Danbury Baptists, it is abundantly clear that his intention was indeed a “wall of separation.” He did think that the government should have no power to interfere with private religious practices, and he also thought that religious groups and clergy should have no undue influence on secular government. The idea of a “one-sided wall” is a convenient fiction invented by those Christians (such as D. James Kennedy) who wish to completely do away with ALL secular power and have the government be the enforcing arm of the church. Now tell me, Jordan, when was the last time you saw a wall which had only one side? Such a discovery would overturn all of physics!
    It is one unfortunate aspect of human nature – to which atheists are not immune – that hierarchical groups form and either an individual or a small group arises to “take charge” of things. From my reading it is apparent that Madalyn was not one who “worked well with others.” I see some evidence of heavy-handedness in the leadership of FFRF.
    This is the single worst problem “organized” atheism has – it is the major reason that there are so many "lone wolf" atheists. Many of us admire most of the work that some of these groups do, but are simply unable in good conscience to stifle our own autonomy to the extent required by some atheist or freethought groups. A great many churches and larger organizations such as the Southern Baptists have similar problems, though not nearly to the degree the athe-ists do. This is primarily because the same personal attributes that help make one an atheist, also make one wary of “groupthink.” Christianity is utterly dependent on groupthink, and all “rebelliousness” is discouraged from the pulpit at least, and often harshly stamped out by whatever means necessary.
    The “intellectual elite” can indeed be a problem in freethought groups, just as the “spiritual elite” can be in religious groups. This is due to another unfortunate innate human problem – lust for power and prestige. Those who fall into this trap have not found the wisdom or integrity to acknowledge when they are wrong. It is often said that truth is the first casualty in war. Unfortunately, it is also all too often the first apostate of many groups of all kinds.
    As Bill points out, [in SOAR, Vol. 3 No. 4]you seem to have a tendency for wild swings. You go from being a Christian to hating Christians. Makes one wonder whether you now hate atheists. I too, felt conned and was very angry for a time after coming out of religion. But I was able to direct my anger, which blossomed into a profound loathing, toward religion and not its adherents. There are many “liberal” Christians, of which you are now apparently one, who truly are good-natured and kind people. However, “liberalism” is sharply at odds with biblical Christianity.
    It is apparent from the whole of your writing that you were an atheist in name only at best, apparently a relatively brief period in which you might not have believed there was a god. Since you indicate that you were a Christian before this period, it is more like a case of a Christian becoming disgruntled with god, than of a serious deconversion to atheism. An atheist who has been an atheist for some years and who thoroughly understands why he is an atheist is not going back if he is intellectually honest. It would be like trying to unlearn the alphabet. This lack of understanding of what atheism is about is evidenced later on when you say you were convinced that your beliefs were held only by faith and indoctrination. Atheism requires no faith whatever and I seriously doubt it would be possible to “indoctrinate” anyone into being an atheist, and would certainly be unethical if it were. This is the methodology of religions and cults, not freethought.
    While atheists may certainly agree with some of the politics of some Christians, no real atheist, in my opinion, will be “impressed” by anyone’s “religiosity.” I know virtually nothing of Pat Swindall and have no idea whether he is guilty of the accusations or not. In any case, I don’t see the relevance of that to Christianity and atheism.
    Nor do I see the relevance of the slam against Ed and Michael Buckner. Your implication is that they may have deliberately misquoted historical figures to further a political agenda. I know Ed Buckner fairly well and consider him one of the most honest people I know. He often makes a point, when speaking to freethought groups, of telling his audience to check and double check all quotes to be certain of their authenticity. If he made an error, I have no doubt it was an honest (and rare) error.
    As the former editor of a freethought group’s newsletter, I can certainly understand possible reasons why My Appeal to the AFS was not printed. In my personal opinion, it should have, and should have been answered. But if an AFA member had submitted something similar to The Alabama Freethinker (TAF) while I was editor, it would probably not have seen print there either. Though I was the editor, I understood that TAF was the group’s newsletter, not mine, and for whatever reasons, many of the leadership of the group would not have wanted such a thing in their newsletter. This is one reason I probably would have started SOAR even if I had continued as editor of TAF. On the other hand, do you suppose for one second that if I were still attending my old Assembly of God church that I would get space to criticize anything about Christianity in their newsletter?
    Your charge that some freethinkers “embrace a God of government,” only with a small “g,” has merit. A typical Christian assertion is that people cannot be moral without the threat of eternal punishment from their god. Too many freethinkers seem to think that people cannot be moral without the threat of physical punishment from government (is this anyone you know?). The Christian version of this is based on the notion of “original sin.” The secular version seems unduly influenced by that as well – it seems to assume that humans are naturally bad.
    However, your charge that Humanism is a “religious faith” is bunk. Humanism, as defined by Encarta Dictionary, is: “A system of thought that centers on human beings and their values, capacities, and worth.” I know some people call themselves “religious humanists.” There are even some who call themselves religious atheists. To quote Clark Adams of the Internet Infidels, “If atheism is a religion, then bald is a hair color!” Perhaps these folks want to be people of reason but fear of Pascal’s Wager has them dangerously spreadeagled with one foot in each camp and the gap is ever widening. I don’t believe that one can hold “a system of thought that centers on human beings…” and simultaneously embrace religion, which is an ideology that centers on one or more deities.
    You say you have a “ ‘net results’ orientation” which I take to mean you are a “bottom line” person. This is good because, believe it or not, this writing will eventually get to a bottom line.
    It is much easier in some ways to live in a society in which, as you put it, “up was up, down was down, good was good, and bad was bad.” But only for those who wish to abdicate their own decision making responsibilities for themselves to some external power, be it a god or a government. It is all-too-religious a notion to blame all society’s ills (drug use, fatherless children, etc.) on a lack of morals. This is a gross oversimplification and ignores the fact that there are myriad factors which influence these things, including some of the most cherished ideologies in the society.
    I have not read LeHaye’s Battle for the Mind, but I can tell from the author’s name and the title that it is the typical Christian view of things, i.e., will your mind be controlled by “God” or by “the world.”
    The humanist/atheist/freethought view is (or should be) that the individual should think for himself about all things without regard to dogma or authority – something which is anathema to all religion and most of what we call politics.
    You say, “Anything that Jesus fella actually said or did is not particularly offensive.” Really? Aside from the fact that it has certainly never been proven that “that Jesus fella” ever existed in the first place, many things he supposedly said and did are offensive to most of us. You want examples?
    Luke 19:27(TEV) “Now, as for those enemies of mine who did not want me to be their king, bring them here and kill them in my presence!” Ordering his sycophants to kill anyone who won’t worship him is not offensive to you!? What happened to freethought? Or freedom? Mark 11:13(TEV) “He saw in the distance a fig tree covered with leaves, so he went to see if he could find any figs on it. But when he came to it, he found only leaves, because it was not the right time for figs. 14 Jesus said to the fig tree, "No one shall ever eat figs from you again!" And his disciples heard him.” A guy who would curse a fig tree for not having figs on it out of season (didn’t he know the season? The fig tree’s nature?) is a guy you admire and want to worship!?
Ah, but it’s only a parable, you say. Well, what does it mean? Maybe he was trying to show the disciples how to use supernatural power?
    Matt. 21:20 “The disciples saw this and were astounded. "How did the fig tree dry up so quickly?" they asked. 21 Jesus answered, "I assure you that if you believe and do not doubt, you will be able to do what I have done to this fig tree. And not only this, but you will even be able to say to this hill, "Get up and throw yourself in the sea,' and it will.”
    Yeah, sure, show me someone who can do that trick besides maybe David Copperfield. Or maybe the parable means kill all those you can’t convert to Christianity. Luke 13:6 “Then Jesus told them this parable: "There was once a man who had a fig tree growing in his vineyard. He went looking for figs on it but found none. 7 So he said to his gardener, "Look, for three years I have been coming here looking for figs on this fig tree, and I haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it go on using up the soil?' Sure, if they won’t be Christians, kill them. Why should they go on using up the air and water and soil, etc.? Sounds pretty offensive to me either way you look at it.
   Ah, your 10 points. Jordan’s shorter version of Luther’s “95 theses”?
1. I have already answered. Secular Humanism is not a religion. More and more I am convinced there is no such thing as a “non-theistic” religion. I say the minimum definition of “religion” is belief in and/or worship of one or more supernatural beings.
2. “Humanists control mainstream media, politicians, and the entertainment industry.” Replace the word “humanists” in that sentence with “Jews” and you would have a statement that could have come from any white supremacist group. Such a statement from the white supremacist would be closer to the truth – it can be shown that a huge number of Jews do hold high positions in these areas, especially politics. While there are almost certainly some humanists involved in these areas, their numbers are extremely low. That humanists control these areas is simply false.
3. I have never heard anyone assert that “religiosity” was not a factor in America’s history. To my knowledge, there were no atheists at all among the “founding fathers.” Paine was one of the most religious men of his time. He detested Christianity though, about as much as he detested atheism. The man was a Deist. It is true that the textbooks used by many public schools today omit quite a bit about early American history – a situation that parents and teachers should demand be remedied. But the charge that American history is being rewritten by those evil Secular Humanists is pure Christian propaganda and I challenge anyone to produce any credible example of that.
   Most secular people want government to be completely neutral regarding religion. This may arguably be a desirable ideal but it is simply impossible in practice because government does not exist as an entity unto itself – it is made up of people. And as long as religious people are allowed to hold governmental positions, the government cannot be neutral toward religion. Any person who is sincere in his religious beliefs, will attempt to live those beliefs. If a sincere Christian is in any government office he will attempt to make policy, vote, etc., based on his beliefs. To do otherwise would be hypocritical. A Christian who is truly trying to live according to biblical principles will understand that he is ordered by his god to evangelize at every opportunity. This will obviously include using whatever political power he has to that end because, to a sincere Christian, doing what he perceives to be the will of his god is and always will be number one priority. This is why I only reluctantly support the notion of “separation of church and state.” It would be good if it could be achieved but it cannot. This is also why I assert that BOTH church and state should be abolished utterly.
4. A) I certainly agree that American government is growing more totalitarian and coercive – this due mainly to Christian influence – it being by far the most dominant religion in the country. I cannot imagine any government being nearly as totalitarian and coercive as Christianity. B) “Jesus still seeks voluntary hearts” is pure nonsense. Remember Luke 19:7. Yeah, sounds real “voluntary” to me!
5. Considering that Christianity absorbed such a huge amount of the pagan dates, rituals, etc., and considering that throughout history Christianity has lived the above verse, literally slaying millions who would not conform, it’s hardly surprising that it “flourished.”
6. By “atheistic regimes have committed equally atrocious acts,” I presume you refer to Stalin. It is true that such regimes committed atrocious acts, but there are two points on that: 1) the number of acts and the number of dead pale in comparison to those committed by religions and, 2) the terrible things done by atheistic regimes were not done because of atheism, whereas those done by religion are al-most always done because of the religious beliefs. The Jewish belief that “God gave us this land” is the reason they made war on the Palestinians and took their land. The same belief by Christians caused them to take the lands of many people. Granted this makes little difference to the dead, but it should matter a great deal to the living.
7. I have to go through this one point by point. “I reject the idea that the apostles allowed themselves to be persecuted over something they knew to be false.” A) You have no proof there were apostles, B) if there were and they thought their beliefs were true, it only shows their gullibility. Whether or not they believed this stuff is irrelevant to whether it is actually true.
    “I…reject that the apostles and the 500 witnesses to His ascension into Heaven experienced joint hallucinations. Science has yet to prove such hallucinations are possible.” A) You don’t know that there were either 500 witnesses (who were they?) or an ascension. It is only one ridiculous claim in a book chock full of ridiculous claims. B) Mass hallucination is a well known and fairly common occurrence. Recently thousands claimed to have witnessed appearances of the Virgin Mary and all manner of “miracles” in Conyers, GA, only they didn’t think they were hallucinations of course. Those experiencing hallucinations rarely know they are hallucinations.
    “The disciples were neither cultists, nor kamikaze styled religious fanatics, for they were steadfast over something they personally witnessed.” You are simply assuming the truth of something you want to believe. The Heaven’s Gate bunch sincerely believed that they would be “going home” on a spaceship. Did that sincerity make it true? Where is the hard evidence that these disciples existed, or personally witnessed these things?
8. “If Jesus and His disciples … existed and were truthful, the empty tomb is beyond secular explanation.” Very big IF on both counts. There are many possible “secular” answers to why a tomb might be empty. I’m sure you could think of some if you try.
    “Why would lives be changed by it?” People’s lives can and do dramatically change all the time based on beliefs the individual acquires. This says nothing whatever about the truth or falsity of the beliefs.
9. “Bible prophecies have come to pass against enormous odds.” If enough people “prophecy” enough things and enough people “interpret” them for long enough, it would be astounding if none of them “came true.” Most biblical prophecies are either not prophecies at all or were made after the fact. But Farrell Till’s The Skeptical Review is a better place for in-depth discussion of prophecy fulfillment claims.
10. “Women are not the subjugated male inferiors that non-Christians perceive the Bible teaches. Husbands are to sacrifice themselves for their wives as Christ did for the church (Ephesians 5:25).” Ephesians 5:22: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” Colossians 3:18: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.” Christianity is an extremely patriarchal religion. To assert that women in general were anything more than chattel in biblical teachings is disingenuous.
  nbsp; Most atheists I know are repulsed by the idea of being subservient, especially as to a king. As an atheist, as an autonomous being, as a man, the mindset of a person willingly abdicating their dignity and responsibility for their own lives is troubling. The notion of letting someone else live for me, either real or imaginary, is repugnant. As a Christian for over 25 years, I certainly understand the feeling, and how it seemed a good thing at the time. As an atheist it is sometimes difficult to believe that I ever thought that way, and it’s most embarrassing. I value my life highly, but I would die before I would willingly bow or kneel to anyone, god or otherwise. I keep my seat in a courtroom when all are ordered to rise. I do not take orders.
    “It is the most awesome story ever told.” Not hardly. I think the story of a man actually setting foot on the moon passes this one by a mile. I would credit the “Jesus story” with being one of the dumbest and most asinine ever told. You have a being of incredible power – enough to make an entire universe (somehow). Yet that “omnipotent” being cannot fathom a better way to communicate with his creatures than “inspiring” a few of them to write a book! How absurd! He could have as easily “inspired” all humans to behave as he wanted couldn’t he?
    Then the “omnipresent” being sends a part of himself (somehow – God works in mysterious ways) to live a while among humans to die to redeem them from punishment that he would otherwise impart to them – for behaving as he surely knew they would to start with if he was so smart. The very notion of “vicarious atonement” is vile and goes against any reasoned sense of justice. Christians make a big deal of the alleged death of Jesus, which is a crock on several levels. A) He probably never existed at all. B) If he did, and said and did the things attributed to him in the Bible, he was obviously a pathetic and severely deluded fellow. If he had been what the Bible claims he was, then his dying, while very painful (though it need not have been) was hardly a big deal. If I knew with certainty that I would be resurrected very shortly, dying would be at most a minor inconvenience.
    The bottom line? Yes, at last we have arrived! Here it is: There is not a shred of evidence that the biblical god ever existed or could exist, and the historical existence of many other biblical characters, including Jesus, Moses, Solomon and David, is in doubt. Further, the “omni” attributes contradict themselves, each other and common sense – therefore no being can exist which possesses them.
    One of the most fundamental precepts of science is that matter can neither be created nor destroyed – only its form changes. You either accept that as true or not. If so, it blows the god hypothesis out of the water because the universe obviously exists and is made of matter – therefore the universe itself is eternal (in some form) and had no need of a creator. If you do not accept that as fact, then you should provide compelling evidence that it is false.
    Any being which demands to be worshipped, no matter how powerful, is unworthy of even respect, much less wor-ship. Worship is a demeaning act which is beneath human dignity…. and it truly saddens me that a good man would subjugate himself so, into an Orwellian world of double-speak where groveling is a privilege, suffering and persecution are blessings, and dying means eternal life. Did you forget that you like a world where up is up and down is down? That is my bottom line.

"We may define "faith" as the firm belief in something for which there is no evidence. Where there is evidence, no one speaks of "faith." We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence. The substitution of emotion for evidence is apt to lead to strife, since different groups, substitute different emotions." – Bertrand Russell

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Backwards Converts Wanted! :-)

Thankfully, alleged conversions from atheism to religion (so far I've only heard to Christianity) seem to continue to be much more rare than stories of people coming out of religion to at least agnosticism, Deism, or atheism.
   Above is the "testimony" of Jordan, who claims he was an atheist and became a Christian, follwed by my response to that. Now I find another guy who claims to have gone from atheist to Baptist to Catholic. Read the story of Gary Hoge.
   I think I will start collecting stories of people who claim to have converted from atheism to religion, especially some flavor of Christianity. If you know of such a story that is posted on the web somewhere, please send me the URL. If you know of a story not posted, please ask the person to send me their story, particularly including their reasons for conversion, to either my email or postal address:
P.O. Box 447, Ariton, AL 36311-0447

   And yes, I would also like very much to hear the same from any former religious folk who now call themselves atheist or agnostic.
   These are not the only two such stories I have read (though I now have forgotten where I saw others). My purpose in wishing to collect such stories is to thoroughly examine them, compare them, and attempt to spot common threads that may run through all of them.

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