Friday, August 23, 2013

I used to be an atheist - Aru

Depending on your level of amnesia, or not-having-read-the-post-edness, you may recall that the "tips" section of the guide for converting atheists to Christianity suggested bringing up examples of atheists who had converted... and that would somehow magically be convincing to the remaining atheists.

Here's the first person they cited.

Let's take an moment to take in a particular point. This... this, is one of the two examples that was supposed to help persuade atheists to become Christian.


God can answer for Himself, and we can prove it!
Oh boy... here we go. He's got peer reviewed journals of laboratory-repeatable experiments, right?
When I was 21 my best mate Pete and I were stoned sitting at the back of his house. I decided to put God to the test and challenged Him to shake the big old tree out the back.
As expected, nothing happened. Nevertheless, I still believed God was real. I just hadn't seen any evidence that He existed and cared about us. 
Setting aside obvious jokes about being a stoner, etc, right away we can see that he isn't a particularly great skeptical, critical thinker. 

What if the tree had shook? How do we know a universe-creating superman did it? Has he ruled out aliens who were playing a practical joke? Or maybe a regular person, who was in the tree, that they didn't notice, who pranked them? How would he have ruled out coincidence? Maybe he was mis-remembering the event?

The evidence he was looking for was pathetic, and poorly conceptualized.

This was not a great start to his golden skeptical career.

I was the lead guitarist in a Metal band called "Sonarek" (pronounced son-aar-rik). I wanted to write a hard-core death metal song so started reading 'Revelations' in the bible because I knew it talked about the big bad devil!!!!!! Nasty! Anyway, as I started reading Revelations it suddenly became really clear that God had an actual plan for mankind which was being fulfilled now. The disheartening thing is that I knew I wasn't right with Him. 
I literally burst out laughing when I first read this.

I can barely parse it. I read Revelations. It's interesting, and rather insane. What about it was particularly convincing? He doesn't say.

As far as I can tell, it's a reference to the arguments from fulfilled prophecy, which are a joke. I spent a considerable amount of effort long ago describing the myriad of ways that prayer can "appear to work", even if nothing supernatural had interceded. These so-called prophecies suffer from a similar affliction - they are vague, unspecified and the believers can warp/translate either the prophecy or the events to fit each other.

The end times have been "almost here" for thousands of years.

I can't tell that any kind of evidence, or critical thought took place within this part of his story. He read a book that talks of prophecies, and he thinks it's real... for no apparent reason.

"Gullible" comes to mind.
A lot of things happened in the few days that followed which resulted in me wanting to fast for as long as it would take for God to prove Himself to me. I WANTED EVIDENCE and not just fancy convincing words from churchy people!!!! It took a simple message by a member of the Revival Centres International who expounded unto me the graphic details of the Lord Jesus' sacrifice and suffering He endured. It was a far cry from the pictures we see in paintings today. It was indescribably horrific. But the pricking of my heart / conscience was that He did it for me. I owed Him the decency of checking out if He was real or not. 
Woo! This tired old trope!

"See, I was a skeptic JUST LIKE YOU"

I congratulate this person for at least wanting evidence before belief, but it's too bad he had no idea what evidence was, what the standards of evidence are, or how to mitigate human error in any kind of meaningful sense. The intention was correct. The execution... was not.

These people explained to him the horrible things Jesus went through on his behalf... and no mention of them explaining how they know any of the accounts actually happened.

I went to the Revival Centre church meeting the following Sunday with the intention that I would never go to church again if God failed to prove Himself to me that day. I can't remember a thing about what the pastor talked about. In fact, I was more interested in the Ovation guitar a guy was playing in the band. The one thing that did get my attention was when the pastor asked if anyone wanted to get baptised and be married to God. I put my hand up and went to the baptism room. As I waited in the changing room by myself, I prayed to God and openly reminded Him that I would never go to a church again if He didn't prove Himself to me that day. The pastor guided me under the water to be baptised (by full immersion i.e. right under the water). He then tried to lift me up out of the water but I resisted and purposed to stay under the water and make sure God knew I was dead serious about wanting EVIDENCE that He existed and that He worked with mankind now. 
What's curious about this account is that he was demanding evidence, while having this mentality that essentially already accepted that this entity existed. I can't picture a skeptical, critically-thinking atheist going through these motions.

Would I really almost drown myself to make sure my imaginary friend KNEW I WAS DEAD SERIOUS?

He was already primed to accept any "signs" that he thought was sent to him.
As sure as Moses parting the Red Sea or Daniel being saved from the Lions in the Lion's Den, God proved Himself to me unequivocally. I instantly began speaking in a totally new language. A language that I had never learnt. I instantly lost the desire for cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana (of which I had been doing for at least 5 years). I noticed that "swearing" became like a kick in the guts of which I stopped swearing within the week.
Here's the part where the "testimony" includes wild assertions with no evidence to back it up.

Fine, swearing and cigarettes - that's easily the placebo effect... but speaking a totally new language? Which one, may I ask? Do you have any demonstrations, that aren't just some random phrases you memorized? Can you hold a conversation with a fluent speaker of this language? What's your evidence that you didn't speak this language before?

So we have an absurd vague unsupported claim.

*ZONK* I'm totally convinced!

I love how his drug habit went away instantly, but it took him up to a week to stop swearing. Is swearing a more difficult habit to break than chemical-based addictions?

Note to the author... this may have convinced you, but this is supposed to be something that convinces me that Christianity isn't turbo-nuts insane. Your personal experiences are your own. I don't even believe that they happened the way you say (I've been given no reason to).
I was unsure what had happened but knew that something AMAZING and SUPERNATURAL had taken place. It wasn't until after the meeting that church members began to congratulate me for receiving. RECEIVING WHAT??? I had no idea of what I had received. When I asked what it was that I had actually received....they said "The Holy Spirit". They then backed up that comment by showing me the 3 accounts in the book of ACTS where that same experience was had by Jesus' disciples and thousands of others around that time. 
How did you know that something supernatural had taken place? How did you confirm it (a requirement to be knowledge)?

Is that the confirmation? Because the book described a common euphoric psychological phenomenon? How do you know the book's description of those events to the disciples is accurate?
I am now 38 and the same God that proved Himself to me when I was 21 has continued to bless abundantly. I have the same problems and day-to-day issues that everyone else has, but one thing I can testify to is that over the last 17 years of being spirit-filled; God has made every single issue a blessing when I have trusted in Him. 
Okay, so your mind got warped, but your life is otherwise indistinguishable from someone who's looking at normal events through rose-tinted glasses.

I now put you to the challenge of having God prove Himself to you unequivocally.
That's an oddball conceptualization of the burden of proof. No, that's his challenge... or yours. If either you, or your imaginary best friend want me to believe in said imaginary best friend, that's up to you to supply sufficient evidence.
You too can have personal evidence that God is true. You won't and don't need any fancy schmancy spiritual oversight to convince you that God is real. He will do it Himself.
 Oh, so you agree that it is his burden, after all.

I don't consider "personal evidence" to be evidence. If I had an odd experience, my first actions would be to investigate and test hypotheses about what happened. I'd undergo a process that significantly mitigates human error. I'd apply skepticism, reason and critical thinking - all concepts you appear to be completely unaware.
He says our part of the deal is to "Repent" (put your thinking to the side for a minute),
Okay, I think I've pinpointed where this atheist went wrong... bad, former atheist, bad!

That's ludicrous. Thinking is how we figure out reality. If you weren't thinking, it's no wonder why you failed to accurately assess reality.
and "be baptised" (by full immersion under water). His part of the deal is to fill you with His Holy Spirit with the bible evidence of "speaking in tongues" (a prayer language you will never have spoken before). 
I was baptized when I was a baby.

.. but that's the language you were talking about? Speaking in tongues? It's not a freaking language! Do you even have a semblance of a grasp of an understanding what language is? Have you actually tried communicating with another person? What tests have you set up?

I can think of an experiment.

Two randomly selected believers, who don't know each other, who "speak in tongues", both write down what they intend on saying on cards. They speak those ideas to the other person, and then the other person writes down what he/she thinks was said. See what the results are.

See? This assertion that it's an actual language is testable. We can set up controls and procedure to cut out the possibility that the believers don't cheat, or otherwise accidentally contaminate the results. We can actually isolate and verify whether it's actually a language.

Linguists actually have looked into it (Wiki link) and have found that it's only superficially sounds like a language, and nothing more.

I thought this guy was talking about, all of a sudden, speaking Russian, or something.. you know, something that's not just incoherent unintelligible gibberish that anyone can do.

Not speaking gibberish... now that's a challenge!
He has a plan! He will return! He is offering us salvation now in order to be transformed from mortality to immortality at His coming. DON'T MISS OUT!
Don't miss out as this deal ends on August 29th! This one time offer comes once in a lifetime! ... please, buy our used car!

It just comes across more like a sales pitch, than anything else. Religion is all about marketing products you don't need for problems you don't have, and ultimately, the products don't work.

He used to be an atheist!

This was specifically cited as an example to provide to atheists, to help try to convert them to Christianity. Instead, it was one of the single most vapid things I've ever read.

I'm left thinking, "Gee, it's no wonder he's a theist. He has absolutely zero capacity for any level of rational thought. Why didn't he convert sooner?" What I'm specifically not thinking is, "Oh! He has some good points, I think. Maybe I should look into this more."

Ugh... I looked at the other example. It's even worse.

I don't believe anymore that the authors of the guide put these examples in there. Multiple hands have been in this pot, and I'm willing to bet that this evangelizing church decided to slip in a couple of their own examples to "spread the word.", not because these two people are particularly well known, powerful examples.

I'm surprised that Antony Flew (Wiki link) didn't make the list. He's what we usually hear a supposed "famous atheist" that none of us heard about before. As usual, the former atheist converted for bad reasons, citing:
Flew stated that "the most impressive arguments for God’s existence are those that are supported by recent scientific discoveries" and that "the argument to Intelligent Design is enormously stronger than it was when I first met it". 
So, what are the results of these testimonies on my opinion about this topic?

Yeah, not persuaded.

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