CarriedTheCross & Religion

I was raised by a non-religious family, and between birth and middle school I had little to no conception of who or what ‘god’ was.  Upon entering middle school, I began to interact more with children of Christian families, which led eventually to my conversion and a committed Christian faith by early high school.  I entered a small evangelical college as a religion major with the intention of pursuing some kind of full time ministry.  After a few years of frustration with the department, I switched my major to philosophy.  Over time, my skepticism, my studies and my personal convictions culminated in a de-conversion from Christianity before my senior year of college.

To borrow from the writings of Bertrand Russel, if I am talking to a philosophical audience, I would refer to myself as an agnostic.  This is the most accurate description of my view concerning ‘god.’  I have neither epistemic proof for or against the existence of the divine.  However, if I am speaking to a popular audience, I would deem myself an atheist.  I am convinced that the burden of proof lies with the theist to prove the existence of a deity, and the theist has failed.

After a short period of open hostility to all forms of religion, I have come to more moderate positions.  I value the social services provided to the world by some religious groups.  I recognize that many people are motivated by their religious faith to do “good works” and meet real needs of real people with real problems.  At the same time, I embrace the concept of “conversational intolerance,” coined by Sam Harris.  Like WK Clifford, I believe, “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” 

In looking at the past, I can see the real value of religion over the course of human history.  At the same time, I believe that religious belief must necessarily surrender itself to truth over time.  As the world becomes less religious, I am convinced that secularists will step into the positive roles once fulfilled by religious persons.


5 Responses to “CarriedTheCross & Religion”

  1. Do you want to know how shocked people are when I tell them these things about me and religion (I bet you’ll laugh your socks off instead):

    * when I first of Jesus of being born in Bethlehem, I thought it was Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

    * I never heard of “God” till I was shy of my 8th birthday.

    * I heard of Sunday school when I was 7, but didn’t know it was a part of “church” and “religion” till I was 8.

    * I thought people put their dead on a plane to get to heaven till I was about 9 or 10 years old.

    * I hated gay people (only after I first heard of gays in my freshman year of high school) till I found out two friends of mine in high school were gay. That’s when I realised that I based much of my hatred back then on others’ opinions without basing it on my own experience.

    * my sister at one time was a Satanist when I was a Christian. Our arguments were about whose music to play in my car on the way to school.

    * and, I never was able to convert anyone yet in my life to Christianity.

  2. Derek Rishmawy Says:

    Overall, I like your position. It’s much more reasonable than a lot of the “atheist/agnostics” I run into. I appreciate your willingness to hold a balanced position without the kind of vitriol and demonization of the other side that characterizes so much of the current discussions on religion.

    Beyond that, have you read William James’ article on the will to believe? I ask cause you quoted Clifford’s article on the ethics of belief and I read the both of them in the same class at UCI on evidentialism and all that. Also, just out of curiousity, what would you consider to be sufficient evidence for the claims of Christianity?

  3. Derek,

    I’ll have to look up the James article. Thanks for the tip. 🙂

    As for what sufficient evidence I would need, thats a loaded question. Maybe I’ll tackle it in a blog entry here soon.

  4. Derek Rishmawy Says:

    Yeah, that is a pretty broad question. I’m still debating the merits of evidentialism and the role of natural theology and apologetics myself.

  5. Derek Rishmawy Says:

    Oh, by the way, on the topic of evidentialism in relation to the epistemology of religion: I highly recommend that you read the work of Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff in “Faith and Rationality.” I’ve just read the first few articles and I find their work to be extremely interesting if not compelling. Its one of the earliest beachhead works in the field of Reformed Epistemology, challenging foundationalism and the evidentialist thesis (Clifford), without lapsing into fideism. I’m looking forward to reading Plantinga’s work on Warrant in belief.

    Anyways, just throwing it out there.


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