Reading the Wrong People

Table of Major Written WorksSome friends have considered that my departure from Christianity must be due to a misplaced emphasis of the sources that I have consulted. That is, perhaps I spent too much time reading “the wrong people”, and so came to bamboozlement. This is a legitimate concern, and I suspect that it may be more broadly held than I would hope. It struck me as incorrect on first blush, but I did go back and actually catalogue my sources by worldview.

Taking only the major written works that I read (a few dozen), the statistics sum as shown in the first chart. As can be seen, theist sources dominate the atheist/agnostic sources by 3 to 1. Neutral sources included generic information without direct bias or commentary on Christianity one way or another, while the mixed category denotes resources like “multi-view” type books.

Table of All SourcesIf the net is cast more broadly and extended to include all resource types – including shorter articles, book reviews, Wikipedia entries, and the many debates and lectures that I have watched – the percentages shift as shown in the second pie chart (130+ total).

For myself, I can find no intrinsic indictment in these statistics, nor a visible dereliction of duty, nor an inundation of dreaded atheistic slant. Rather, the collection represents a range of viewpoints, and it favors Christian-biased sources more heavily than any other segment.

Yes, I must maintain, it is possible to become convinced that Judaism and Christianity face intractable problems as a result of a well-rounded, detailed, and broad-based research effort. My conclusions have not been for lack of consulting Christian scholarship. After all, that was my fortress of first retreat. But the vanguard within those walls sadly could not answer…

See the Review of Sources and the Bibliography for detailed lists.

Comments

  1. Then there are those of us who only consulted “Christian” material and came to our non-theistic conclusions . . . likely that it wasn’t the “wrong people” for me but satan and his cohorts that led me astray. 🙂

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    • Ah yes. When all else fails, attribute invisible agency. It is hard to seriously contend with such a proposition, except to say that the indwelling of the spirit seems a somewhat permeable barrier to such dark influences.

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      • If I pointed out that greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world, they’d switch to . . . you were never a Christian in the first place.

        Round and round we go. 🙂

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      • “You were never a Christian in the first place.” is my favorite.

        Once, a colleague of mine accused me of that — her and her husband were Evangelicals and loud about it — but they were young. So I then likened my Christian days to her husband’s when described my deep prayer life, daily long Bible readings, leading Bible studies, witnessing and deep love for Jesus. Then I told her I saw what I was doing and stopped. “And though you feel your husband is a Christian today, with similar activities, tomorrow, he could surprise you and joined the damned like me and stop believing in Jesus. Would that mean he was never a Christian — that he is not a Christian now?

        She started to cry. Whoooops, I went too far. But damn it, that is the point!

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      • (Modified after correction from tlethbridge)

        Zoe and Sabio,

        Excellent observations. I have a couple of thoughts on “You were never a Christian in the first place,” which maybe deserve a blog post of their own. One part of all of this that has been truly frustrating is the tendency people have to move things from objective discussions of the text, of evidences, and of critical thinking, and transferring the conversation to the subjective realm. The basic claim here is that there is something wrong with *you*, not your assessment of the texts or the information. It moves from a serious discussion of the very tangible problems into a muddled area of subjectivism and personal experience, where in truth nobody can really do anything but conjecture about the other person’s insides. I don’t like this move to the subjective, because it beats the retreat from the actual issues at hand. But if that is to be the game, sometimes the best thing to do is perhaps to push the accelerator to the floor.

        To me, the simplest answer is, “Nor are you a Christian now.”

        Whatever evidences they present in defense of their Christianity, I can claim the same. Confession of belief? Personal experiences? Relationship with God? A touch of the spirit? Outward/sacrificial ministry? I had excellent claims to them all. It was never casual, short-term, or superficial in my life. The attempt to draw a distinction between us will wind up without a difference.

        After the claims are made, the follow up is, “Your claims are not nearly enough, for they are the same as mine, and you yourself judge them as not actually meaning anything. I knew about myself and my faith everything you claim to know about yourself and your faith, and you say that can all be mistaken.”

        The church has a long-standing conundrum surrounding the question of apostasy. The two classical ways of handling this depend upon the salvation framework a person endorses. (Post modified due to incorrect conflation of Calvinist/Arminian views) One can favor the once-saved-always-saved framework, and thereby conclude from a person’s falling away that they were never really believers anyway. Or one can favor the view that legitimate belief can be followed by a true falling away, such as in the case of Saul. But both explanations wind up seeing similar circularity problems as the Christian bookkeeping on the question of prayer.

        At bottom, confessing with one’s mouth and believing in one’s heart simply do not equate to perseverance. The NT equations for prayer/answer do not actually function per their ostensibly simple descriptions either. And so come the many nuances and caveats. In the end, they honestly just don’t know. Neither works as advertised, and so the theology builds in an effort to “square the circle”. I think a conditional flow-chart diagram would be very interesting here. There are a number of loop-backs and exception clauses built in to both the prayer and apostasy models.

        My 2 cents…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Goods scientists reading good literature come up with wrong conclusions all the time. Nothing new there.

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  2. What reversal of position? Did i miss something somewhere?

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  3. I had similar things said to me when I left Christianity. And like you, when I went back through my sources, it turned out that the majority had been Christian. In fact, there were a couple of Christian books that actually pushed me away from the faith even faster because they sometimes seemed a bit loose with the facts.

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    • Exactly. In my case, it was seeing the arguments to which we were reduced. I considered more times than I can well remember: “is this honestly what we have come to? Arguments from rather confected evidences and circular reasoning? At the pinnacle of Christian thought and scholarship?” These things as well as the obscurantism – in the end I found that only the secular writers would give the fuller story with all the information. And that was a sad realization, at least at the time.

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  4. Reblogged this on kindism and commented:
    If only the accusations hurled at me were as simple as “reading the wrong people.” I was accused of “letting mortal mind win” and being a failure as a parent for not “protecting” my children, and doing untold damage to them because I’ve chosen NOT to radically rely on Christian Science (my misplaced faith nearly got me killed).

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    • Hi Kat,

      Yeah, people can say hurtful things. I’ve had a number of very gracious friends, often deeply concerned. Some not so gracious. Its tough. I consider the fear that I shouldered while going through this all myself, and I realize that what motivates a lot of the less-charitable feedback is simply a very genuine fear. Fear for me, for my wife, my kids, our temporal fate, out eternal destinies, etc. It is real concern and real fear, regarding threats and dark powers that we believe are very real. So I get where they are coming from. One day I’ll write a post that I’ve been putting off regarding Satan and Hell, and how/when I came to realize what late inventions they actually were, and how transparently they actually are as human contrivances, and how afraid I always was of those things since childhood. Those are fears that do not lift easily. For my friends, I gauge by that where I can. Doesn’t keep me from getting miffed at times, of course. 🙂

      I haven’t ever been connected to the Christian Science scene, but in my younger childhood I was in another group that also believed “in belief” as a path to changing reality and our conditions. Would be nice if it worked.

      I will head over to your blog tomorrow and check it out a bit more… Cheers!

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      • The things they say out of “love.”

        Christian Science doesn’t have anything as simple as Satan and Hell, some days I wish it did, we have “mortal mind” and “aggressive mental suggestion.” We’re a small niche religion and the number of those of us who have left (and who haven’t turned to JESUS!!! and are willing to talk about it – even if we do it somewhat anonymously) is even smaller. If you do check out the blog, I’d recommend starting at the beginning – a very good place to start.

        I’ve been enjoying your blog – particularly like the bibliography, always nice to see things well-sourced!

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      • The bibliography and the “rapid resources” pane on the right are two of the most important things on there, IMO. The best thing for all involved is to actually see things from outside the bubble, to be more informed, and to be conversant about the issues. I hope to keep adding more content there, and to make it more accessible for folks. A prop for the door to start inquiry.

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  5. I admit, I didn’t do any extensive research, I started reading the Bible from cover-to-cover (I got part way through the Old Testament) and was horrified at what “god” had done/commanded/required and didn’t want to be a part of it anymore.

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    • Christians first informed me that everything I thought I knew about the OT was wrong, and that the church itself had been quite wrong for a long time (Enns comes to mind).

      But I would say that Letter to a Christian Nation was a breakpoint. It isn’t possible to read it the same way after Harris or Hitchens. But then again, Paine had pointed out the same things 200 years ago. I know that horrified feeling. For me, it was a sense: “my god, what have I done? what have I been endorsing?”

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  6. Fun stats!
    I exited only really reading Christian stuff too. But conversations with non-believers got me thinking too: not philosophical conversations — just ones where I realized I was the same as them.
    And I tried to hang on to Christianity while I was leaving by reading different flavors but none offered help. So, people said I had mingled with the wrong people — they were right.

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    • Christians should care to only mingle with their own kind — it is wise advise.

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      • Its been hard/sad for me to realize that I’ve been bigoted against “the wrong people”, who happen to not be any different from me, except perhaps that sometimes they are less narrow minded and more accepting than I am. I’m working to change/improve. Three and a half decades tends to leave some deep habits behind.

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  7. I started out with evangelical approved Christian books in my search for answers that had been troubling me. When those raised even more questions, I expanded to books by the deconverted and by those who identified as Christian but whose belief system would never have been accepted by where I was coming from. If I actually tabulated, it might be 50/50 based on author’s self identification, but probably 75/25 against the evangelical position. Those who would accuse you of reading the wrong authors would consider liberal (apostate) Christians as worse than the atheists.

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    • I had thought about potentially breaking the “theist” category down further. Right now, it includes liberal/conservative Christians, plus those writing from Judaism (say, in defense of the OT, etc). In particular, I had a specific critique in mind, which revolved around the phrase “you have been immersed in the world of anti-faith thinking.” Everyone in the theism category would most decidedly be advancing faith thinking, hence the breakdown. But to even things, I also lumped the atheists, anti-theists, and agnostics into one bracket. Seems symmetrical.

      One thing is certain – any religious change can be blamed on breaking that old hermetic seal. Become a Catholic? That’s what happens if you read Catholics. Leave Mormonism for mainstream Christianity? That’s what happens if you read non-Mormon sources. Or the Church of Christ. Or the evangelical wing. And on it goes.

      Those who would accuse… they will find reason, and it won’t make much sense, but they’ll find one.

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  8. Correction made to “Zoe and Sabio” post above.

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    • I was from the OSAS camp so those who dare to call themselves my friends don’t see me as deconverted or apostate. I’m still saved. Lucky me. :mrgreen:

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      • I also meant to add that even though I was in this OSAS camp, the camp itself was infused with Calvinism. Then Calvinism was divided into two camps, 3-point and 5 point. I can recall trying like crazy to sort through it all and have it make sense. Obviously, I failed. 😯

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  9. Reblogged this on Emerging Gently and commented:
    Reading the wrong things, in Christian Science land, it’s more like letting the “wrong thoughts” influence you. Many a Christian Scientist would think that I and everyone else who’ve had the good sense to run for the exit are under the pernicious influence of “mortal mind”. No, the only thing I’m under the influence of is a little thing called common sense.

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Michael Seidel, writer

Science fiction, fantasy, mystery and what-not

cas d'intérêt

Reflections of a Francophile

Two Wheels Across Texas

My Quest to ride through all 254 Texas Counties

The Curious Atheist

Freely Seeking Truth After Religion

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I don’t want to start a class war; it started a long time ago and, unfortunately, we are losing.

Secular Wings

My freedom from spiritual abuse happened when I walked away from the abusers. My healing and recovery from the complex trauma of spiritual abusers, spiritually abusive faith and toxic religion happened while I was still a Christian and continues to this day. My deconversion came later after many many years of studying the Bible, Christian apologetics, cults and spiritual abuse. When I realized that the Bible is not the inerrant Word of God, the only honest thing I could do was to stop calling myself a Christian. What I write here, may be very different from what I’ve written in the past. It might also be repeats of the past themes. ~ Zoe

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Thoughts on History, Religion, Archaeology, Papyrology, etc. by Brent Nongbri

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