Feedback discussions - AJ

a fellow freethinker - has a minor rant at me that I should concentrate more on the emotional/spiritual side of deconversion.

----- Original Message -----


To: Steve Locks

Sent: 01 November 2001 18:10

Subject: Christianity

I have looked at your website and am sorry to tell you that what you are

trying to do will end in failure. A few people here and there may deconvert

but most will not. Why? Because you like so many others have missed what

christianity is achored upon. Christianity has nothing to do with

rationality it,like all religions,is based on emotions and is designed to be

a tool able to manipulate people's minds on a level that goes deeper than

rationality can penetrate. Debating the dogma itself is irrelevent because

most people are swayed by emotions rather then reason. If you truly want to

deconvert people you need to come up with some sort of atheist/freethinking

ideology that could sway people's emotions the way religions do. You need to

show people that atheist/freethinkers can have more powerful and profound

experiences in ways religion couldn't even begin to imagine.

Atheism/freethinking in it's truest sense is boring to most. If

atheism/freethinking is to succeed than instead of wasting time in debates

with christians we need to spend more time showing how exciting it can be to

be free of religion.


A fellow freethinker.


----- Original Message -----

From: Steve Locks

To: AJ

Sent: 07 November 2001 21:50

Subject: Re: Christianity

Hello fellow freethinker,

Thank you for your thoughts. I do have some sympathy with what you say and used to think even closer to the idea that one needs to address emotion more and rationality less. However my time spent looking into the hundreds of deconversion stories I have read and discussions with other ex-Christians has revised my opinions somewhat.

As can be seen from many of the stories you can read via my site, the surprise is that it frequently actually is rational argument that convinces people that Christianity is unwarranted, rather than emotional reasons. It may be hard to believe that a fundamentalist could be swayed by rational argument and it is rare indeed that rational argument brings a sudden realisation. However, the fact remains that I have spoken to many previously impervious hard line fundies who are now freethinkers. Such people often report a growing cognitive dissonance within their Christian thought until the bubble bursts - a process that usually takes years of study - usually of the bible and Christian ideas, but also chewing over arguments they have been given from outside. On the ex-tian list, some have written that they really should thank so and so for putting forward an argument that started them thinking. So, it certainly isn't irrelevant to debate, and if you wish I can send you accounts of people who have deconverted directly through debate as well as many of those for whom debate/discussion was an important factor (as it was for me), even if not the only element.

Also I don't want to emotionalise anybody into or out of a belief, and so rational discussion is the only way of opening eyes honestly. We can and should describe our inner feelings, but whether atheism makes us feel better or not, the bottom line still remains - is Christianity (or another religion) a tenable belief when scrutinised?

Nevertheless, it is quite right to discuss the emotional and spiritual aspects of life for those of us without religion as there is plenty of misinformation spread around churches that those without a religion/Jesus are empty and nihilistic. Although this is something I would like to address more fully, I feel you have been a little unfair on me as I do mention this at a number of places. For instance, even in my "testimony" at /why.html I wrote:

"I was kept back though by the feeling that as Thomas Merton said "by denying God we are denying ourselves." If I wasn't a Christian I would be missing something important in life, therefore there had to be something in it...I had thought that we only become fully human by believing in God, and now one of the deepest human experiences was only possible for me if I didn't believe in God, or at least didn't believe in the afterlife. How could this be? ...I had allowed myself to ask if Christianity made more sense, and was at least equally rich if it was not of God, and overwhelmingly this was what I found...Due to my total change of world view I also had some very weird experiences that were not like anything I had expected. I was struck enormously by what I called "existential shock." I was completely amazed at the mere fact of existence. Not in a "wow that's impressive" manner but in a feeling that I only had religious words for. It was being struck by the amazing "sacrament" of life - or the utter shock and opportunity of existence over its alternative. It was totally numinous and an almost disturbing feeling that existence is the case. I felt transformed, awed, excited - the whole world seemed more special than can ever be said. Life was far more poignant without Christianity than it had ever been with it. I was not expecting this to happen to me. I thought these experiences were what converted people to religion, not what you got when you left!"

Also at my quotes page http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/quotes.html you will find more remarks on the wonder of life as a filthy heathen, and I mention it numerous other times in my feedback and elsewhere.

Now I've said all that, I also want to remark that deconverting Christians is not what my site is about, the appearance of my feedback to the contrary! When I started getting criticisms from Christians my heart sank, as that is not what I wanted to spend my evenings in debate over. Instead my site is primarily a resource for new ex-Christians (and the not so new) so that they can know they are not alone. I get plenty of appreciative emails from such people and so I know it is a success in doing exactly what I originally aimed. i.e. what would I like to have stumbled across when I was a new ex-Christian?

For more on this see /feedback/ashley_coogan and /feedback/a-priest

You wrote

<< If you truly want to deconvert people you need to come up with some sort of atheist/freethinking

ideology that could sway people's emotions the way religions do. You need to

show people that atheist/freethinkers can have more powerful and profound

experiences in ways religion couldn't even begin to imagine. >>

Have you had any luck with this? Also how do you feel about the importance of having a rational approach to beliefs that is strong enough not to be swayed by emotions? As great as life enhancing experiences are, in "Everyday Ecstasy" Marghanita Laski points out the actual and potential results of reliance on ecstasy or mystical experience as contrasted with conduct based on reason and analysis. I think that goes for the connection that plenty of atheists also report (and as are described by Laski) in that we still need reason to be our guide, even if great feelings are inspirational.

I'm the last one to want to be a cold fish, but at the same time I am worried about the dangers of emotionalism or too much reliance on feelings.

That's it! Thanks for your input.




Leaving Christianity