Thursday, December 13, 2007

Near Death Experiences

I received an email asking about near-death experiences:
I read a lot of your website and I think you have made so many great points about the bible.

I too have been going through my own search for truth and appreciate your views on many of the subjects you have written.

One of the things that I find a little puzzling is your confidence in this life being all we have. Although most all of your points seem valid to me I wonder how much you are willing to investiage the Near Death Experience (NDE), or Out of Body Experience (OBE).

The NDE and OBE documented by some very respected Doctors of Medicine would seem to point to something beyond this life as we know it. I am aware of the scientific explanations of certain chemical reactions at time of death producing this phenomona but we simply do not have an explanation for certain individuals who have claimed to hover over their bodies or travel to other places at the time of their legal death (no brain activity or heart function) -- some can repeat conversations from medical staff after their legal death!

The last issue I still struggle with is matter -- the creation of it, or the origins of it -- did it always exist? Is that possible? Was there never a nothing -- is that possible? How could something come from nothing?

I am just talking off the top of my head at this point but would love to engage someone on these subjects. It seems to me that while you may be right on historical matters there are just some issues we cannot know at this point. It doesn't seem profitable to pull away from the notion of a Creator or an afterlife with what we feel so sure of.


Your concern is that near death experiences indicate that there is something beyond this life. You recognize that there are arguments that explain the subjective feelings of these experiences. When brains are deprived of oxygen, they can respond in confusing ways, which can be interpreted by the patient as a near-death experience. But what about the reports that some people have made observations of events that occurred while they were in this near-death state? Does this prove they were outside the body and making observations of the world?

Before we look at the reported evidence, lets think about the problems with such claims. How exactly is it that these people are able to hear voices? Their brain is practically shut down, and is not responding to sounds heard by the ears. So how are these sounds being heard? Is the soul able to detect sounds without the benefit of ears? If so, why do people have ears? Why doesn't the soul simply tune into these sounds all of the time? And why can't deaf people hear? If souls can hear without using their ears, one would think that deaf people could hear without using their ears. And if the soul is somehow hearing these things and remembering them, exactly how is the soul transferring those memories to the brain. For science demonstrates that our memories are stored in the brain. So how do souls transfer this knowledge? Does the soul somehow manipulate the molecules in the brain? Souls are supposedly immaterial, and are supposedly undetectable by physical means. If souls are able to rearrange molecules in the brain, why aren't we able to detect these souls working?

If we instead decide that the soul is actually using the patient's physical ears and auditory portions of his brain, where exactly is the miracle here? This would prove only that the patient may have drifted into states of consciousness or near-consciousness during the experience. That would do nothing to prove they were outside of their body.

The same problem occurs when we think about the other senses that the soul would be using in a near-death experience. Exactly how are these people seeing without eyes, or smelling without noses?

So there are many problems with believing that the soul of these people is observing while the brain is technically at or near death. Nevertheless, if it really happened, we would need to recognize it.

I don't find that the reports of physical observations during that experience are that impressive. Much that is reported represents basic knowledge of emergency room procedures. Also, the patients have had time to interact with doctors and nurses after the experience. Further, many of these patients are familiar with what others have reported when near death, and they know what they are expected to say. Could their minds simply be assimilating the knowledge of these various sources? In the fog that their brain experiences in the recovery process, could the brain piece this all together into a story? Many of these reports do not occur until weeks after the experience. It is well known that memories change with time, and tend to change in the direction that the person wants to be true. Could it be that these "memories" simply grew with time as the patient tried to make sense of it all?

It would be far more impressive if the patients could report things that they could not have known from any other source. For instance, some have put laptop computer screens in the room, with the screen facing toward the ceiling and away from the people in the room. If the patient's soul is indeed hovering over the room, then he should see the display on the laptop and tell us what was on that display. I understand that such studies have not yet produced interesting results.

Until I see impressive responses that could not possibly have come from other sources, and as long as the concept of a disembodied soul conflicts with so much known science, I will remain skeptical of the claims of out of body experiences.

For more information see Near-death experience.

"Just because the evidence no longer exists doesn't mean the events didn't happen"

I received an email from RS, agreeing that the things of faith cannot be proven, but suggesting that they just might be true anyway:
I've read your site to the point where I started to get a headache. You are one of those people who I find amazing. You have the ability to go deep on an issue and ask some really pertinent questions. I have seen others who have done the same on other topics; for example the Muslim woman with whom you briefly debated. She came across as so steeped in her worldview that she appeared blind to another way of looking at things. I've seen Atheists do the same. So what's my point? You may have come to erroneous conclusions based on your interpretation of the evidence that you found or failed to find. Or, maybe you're right. I agree with you that the Bible is an unreliable document generally. But, I suspect there are nuggets of truth, revelation, inspiration, and wisdom salted among the myths and legends. The problem is in sorting the wheat from the chaff, if you'll pardon my mixed metaphors. At one time I was tempted to conclude that Jesus didn't exist, or if he did he didn't resurrect from the dead based on the lack of empirical evidence. However, I've pulled back on that because I see that as a faulty conclusion. There wasn't enough evidence to convict OJ. But, that doesn't mean OJ didn't do it. Unfortunately not every scrap of everything written 2 thousand years ago is still around. So we are not in a position to examine and weigh every bit of evidence that could have been available. So, just because the evidence no longer exists doesn't mean the person or the events didn't happen.

I think trying to come to conclusions about God and the world in general from a strictly logical, intellectual approach is inadequate. I'm not sure all of what's available to know or experience can be determined that way. I've tried your approach and found it unsatisfying. I think its foolish to dismiss what those claiming to have spiritual insight and wisdom have to offer. Perhaps God is the very energy inside every cell in your body. Just because you don't understand how God relates to the universe doesn't mean God doesn't relate to the universe. And you may be approaching the arrogance so often seen in Christians, Muslims, and Atheists who seem to think they have it all figured out.

An old friend of mine said, "Opinions are like a**-holes: we've all got one." It seems to work for me as long as I keep perspective and realize that our conclusions are just opinions. I don't think any of us have any idea of what's really going on in this universe we occupy.

Having said that I appreciate your web site. People need to be challenged and disturbed a little. One of the most toxic combinations is ignorance and arrogance. There's too much of that in this world, especially the world of religion. You've done a lot to chip some of that away.



I'm glad you found my site to be challenging.

You are right that we do not have every bit of evidence from ancient times, and we cannot say with absolute certainty what happened. That is understood by all historians. We have only bits of writing and other artifacts to go by. Could the writer of those texts have been mistaken, or lying, or simply writing fiction? We don't know with absolute certainty. But there are methods of historical investigation that let us know with a high degree of certainty, even if we don't know with absolute certainty. Basically we look for agreement of different texts from independent sources. If the writers of several independent nations all record the same event, then we think it probably happened. But nobody knows for sure.

When dealing with the gospel accounts, we run into the problem that the stories are not verified outside a small group of people, who may well have been intending the accounts to be interpreted as fiction. Now if these events had actually happened; if many people had risen from the dead and walked around Jerusalem as Matthew records; if many had been healed of diseases; if thousands of Christians were proclaiming that a man was recently resurrected from the dead; and if a star had indeed let wise men to a particular spot, we would expect many historians to record that such events happened. For there were other historians who wrote in these times, and they seem to be unaware that the gospel story happened.

Now of course I cannot say with absolute certainly that these events did not happen, and I think I make that clear at my site. If I said anything that hints that I know these things with absolute certainty, then please show me what I wrote that hints at that. For I never intended to imply that I know these things with absolute certainty.

Do you use the same argument for other claims of ancient history? Do you believe that Asclepius was capable of doing many miracles? Do you believe that there was a statue of an athlete at Olympia with healing power? Will you go to that statue the next time you are sick? (See Kooks and Quacks of the Roman Empire) If you instead dismiss those claims of other religions, what makes your religion different? Why should one doubt the claims of many of the supposed healers of ancient Rome, except for one?

You say, I "may be approaching the arrogance so often seen in Christians, Muslims, and Atheists who seem to think they have it all figured out." On what do you base your accusation? If I have said anything that approaches arrogance, than please tell me exactly which words I have said that you think approach arrogance. My words have been on public record here on the Internet for years. If you think some of those words approach arrogance, please let me know which words you object to.

You say that there are nuggets of truth in the Bible, and we need to sort that out from the chaff. Yes, I agree. I know of nobody who claims that every sentence in the Bible is false. All admit that there is some truth there, as there is in almost any book.

You say, "I think trying to come to conclusions about God and the world in general from a strictly logical, intellectual approach is inadequate." But what is your alternate? You don't offer a method of finding out about God and the world, but you suggest that we can get this insight by listening to certain people. You write, "it's foolish to dismiss what those claiming to have spiritual insight and wisdom have to offer." Well, I agree with listening to what they have to say. But if they claim to have knowledge of God, how do they know they are right? Is there any reason to believe them? And what am I to do with the thousands of claims of insight? Surely you must know that there are many religions, cults, denominations, and sects. Surely you must know that these people have radically different views of God. Can all of them be right? No? Well, if some are wrong, how do you pick out the views that are right? Unless you can suggest a method of doing that, one is left with a system based on luck, in which one simply chooses to believe somebodies claims, and hopes he was lucky enough to pick the right guru.

You say, "Just because you don't understand how God relates to the universe doesn't mean God doesn't relate to the universe." Yes, of course, that is true. The fact that I do not understand something does not mean that it doesn't happen. I thought I made that clear at my site

You say, "I don't think any of us have any idea of what's really going on in this universe we occupy." I find that to be a rather strange claim. Surely you must realize that scientists know a great deal about the universe. Yes, we may not know things with absolute certainty, but we do have a good idea of how things work. So how can you suggest we have no idea what is going on?

So let me reiterate that I don't know the answers to religion with absolute certainty. I do, however, think that I have studied the issues sufficiently to reach strong but tentative conclusions for myself. I invite you to read my writings, for they might be helpful, but you are all welcome to decide for yourselves what is right on these issues.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

When were the gospels written?

One of the most common portals to my site is the page entitled, "When Were the Gospels Written?" I wrote that page because I could not find the topic covered sufficiently on the web. Since then, many people have found that page with Google searches. The page is sometimes referenced on various forums, either as an authority by those that agree, or an object of derision by those who don't. I am flattered by the attention given to that essay.

It's been a busy summer. In August RA wrote to me about this subject. I finally take the time to address him here.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What About Islam? (continued)

It is amazing how religion can convince a person that he or she is right, and that those who disagree are wrong.

Is the Bible or the Quran a miraculous book in which the writer knew scientific facts far before they were known to others? Previously "Honey" argued at my blog that the Bible was such a miracle book, and that all such miraculous claims for the Quran were false. Now we find Iesha arguing that the Quran is a miracle book of science and the Bible is wrong. How is it that each can be so sure that she is right and the other is wrong? Each can see the obvious flaws in the other's arguments for her book. Yet each seems unable to see the faults in her own arguments, which are quite similar. Such is the grip of religion.

(Click here for more.)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Debating Islam

Our discussion of Islam continues. Iesha had written to me and said, "write to me...all that you dislike about Islam...any 'mistake' in the quran." Iesha informed me that she would try to answer my objections. She wrote that when I get to know it, "You'll begin to love Islam." I wrote back, pointing out that the Quran sometimes encourages intolerance and evil acts. (I was not condemning all of Islam, nor was I condemning all Muslims. I was merely pointing out that I see that the Quran has faults, even as I point out that the Bible has faults.) Since the Quran approves of things that I consider unjust and intolerant, I do not love that book. Sure, there are good things in the book, but I find the intolerance unacceptable to my tastes.

After reading Iesha's later comments one might well ask if she ever really expected us to fall in love with the book, as opposed to following it out of fear of Allah. For fear seems to be the thrust of her latest posts, arguing that we need to be scared of Allah, lest he do horrible things to us.

Click here for more.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

"Peace be with you"

Iesha has posted a comment (here) concerning my "Branded on the Nose" entry. I address Iesha here.



I see you have bypassed most of my questions. No problem, I will simply ask again:. Once more:

Some believe the Bible but not the Quran. Some believe neither book. Do you think that they should have their skins burned off of them forever, continuously having fresh skin restored so it too can be burnt, further torturing those who came to a different conclusion from you?...If a person disbelieves the Quran for rational reasons, does that person deserve eternal torment?

I think it is evil to torture people for not believing something. What do you think? Please answer.

You write:

As-Salam u Alaikum

The words that I have cited above, most of you might not pronounce them correctly, these words are the ones which begin any conversation in the day to day life of a muslim be it formal or informal, be it the meeting with a friend or a business transaction.And what do these words mean?

Well according to how Islam has been branded, the ideal greeting should have been "death to the infidels" and things like that but these words actually mean:"Peace b upon u" And it is quite well known that even during the Prophet's time the Muslims used to openly greet even Non muslims with the same greeting.

Thats not all, after each of the five prayers a Muslim turns his face to the wright and left and says "Peace be upon u" meaning to send peace all around. Further among the many suplications one is "O lord!u r the peace and frm u is the peace, guide me to peace and make me enter the doors of peace" Further whenever a Muslim makes mention of nay of the Prophets of Islam, be it Moses or Jesus or any of the Biblical Prophets it is OBLIGATORY to say Peace b upon Him.

Now you tell me is this the way that an intolerant and fanatic religion tells its folllowers to behave in their daily life? How many times do u even use the word PEACE in your daily life?

Excuse me, but I have never said that Islam is an intolerant and fanatic religion. Those are your words, not mine. Please do not pretend I am saying something that I am not saying. That will get us nowhere. I have already explained to you that I have no objection to you finding comfort in Islam. You can certainly find good in Islam, and you are welcome to enjoy its culture. That is not the issue.

The problem is that you are trying to convince me that the Quran is infallible. It is this claim that I disagree with. I can see that the Quran is filled with mistakes, as I have explained to you in my previous post.

You mention that you greet people with "Peace be upon you." That is a good way to greet people. Your culture has good sayings. My culture has good sayings. This is not the issue. The issue is whether or not a certain book is perfect. Could I ask you to please stick with the issue?

And no Iwill not agree agree with u that there are mistakes in the Quran, NOT UNTILL MY LAST BREATH! Because Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him has said; "A true Muslim is He who holds firmly to his faith even if he is threatened, even if he is tied between two walls and his body is sawed into two, even if all his flesh is scrapped off bit by bit, still he should remain true 2 islam" This is my unshakable faith1 And u cant be so bad to me can u?

How do you know you will not change your mind before your last breath? What if you find new evidence before your last breath? Will you change your mind if you find new evidence that clearly shows you are wrong? A person that will not change his mind even if he is presented with clear evidence is a closed-minded person. Are you a closed-minded person?

If you try to argue that you know there cannot possibly be evidence against your beliefs, then I will ask you how you know that. Surely you do not know everything, do you? Well, if you do not know everything, how could you be absolutely certain that within the vast body of knowledge in the universe, there is not some evidence that proves you are mistaken about religion?

And so if we cannot be absolutely sure we know everything pertinent to the question, and if you do not claim to be closed-minded, then you must admit that you might someday find new evidence that will change your mind about the Quran. So is your statement above false? Is it possible that some day you may change your mind?

And no, of course I would not threaten someone and tie them between two walls and scrape the flesh off them so that they would believe what I believe. How can you possibly ask if I would be so bad? I wouldn't think of doing that. As I explained before, I believe in using the pen, not the sword, to spread my ideas.

Now, to begin with the thing i find wrong with merle's interpretation is that where ever there is a sentence like "WE shall punish them.... "WE shall brand them on their noses...WE shall burn them...", MERLE resorts to asking me and muslims in general "Why do U want 2 burn me? or Why do U want burning water 2 b poured over me" And he says "Should I be scared of u?"

WHEN DID I SAY THAT? THE QURAN SAYS THAT NOT ME WELL WELL... Just to remind our very intelligent friend, here the WE refers to GOD not Muslims, the punishment that is being refered to is the one which will be given in the hereafter, and yes it does expect u to be fearful but not of me or anyother Muslim, it expects u to fear Allah, who is as Jesus says "MY LORD AND UR LORD".

Excuse me, but did you notice that I never asked the three questions that you listed here (although the last question is close to something I asked). Why do you make up questions and pretend I asked them? Why not answer the questions that I actually asked instead of making up questions and pretending that I asked them? Wouldn't it be more meaningful if you actually answer the questions I ask, rather than make up questions and pretend I was asking those?

You say that it is God, not Muslims, that are doing the acts here. But the verses I quoted often referred to people doing the acts, not just God. For istance, Quran 9:123 says "O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him)." I quoted that verse to you before. It clearly refers to people doing those acts. Do you agree with me that this verses recommends that people do evil acts? Or do you think it is right to harshly fight unbelievers?

If someone harshly fights others, what good is it to say "Peace be upon you" while harshly fighting the person being greeted? Would not that be decptive?

And how can you interpret the word "we" in the Quran to mean God? The word "we" appears to refer to Muhammed and his followers. Look at the first chapter of the Quran:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, The Beneficent, the Merciful. Master of the Day of Judgment, Thee (alone) we worship; Thee (alone) we ask for help. Show us the straight path,

Who does "we" refer to in this passage? Who is talking here? Clearly it is a man talking about Allah. The word "we" refers to people who worship Allah, who ask Allah for help, and who need to be shown a straight path. Likewise, in the verses I quoted previoulsy, "we" seems to refer to people. If it refers to God, how do you know that? Doesn't a book need to clearly define what it means before it uses a pronoun? If the word "we" does not mean the obvious--Muhammed and
his followers--where does the Quran state that "we" doesn't mean that? How can one arbritraly assign a meaning to the word "we", when there is nothing within the context of that book that makes that meaning obvious?

But even if "we" refers to God, how do you explain the fact that the "we" are doing things that most of us regard as evil, such as continuously torturing people because they don't believe what "we" think they should believe?

You can see for ur self in various places the Quran has harsh things to say to THOSE WHO BURRY GOLD AND SILVER, THOSE WHO STEAL THE ORPHANS PROPERTY,THOSE WHO FROWN AT THE GIRL CHILDA BIRTH, THOSE WHO LIE etc.

Many good books teach good morals. There are verses in the Quran that teach good morals. Great! But what about the verses that praise things that many people consider to be evil?

The basic declaration of Faith or EMAN in Islam is :"I believe in Allah and his books and his Prophets and his angels and in the day of judgement and in Destiny"

I find no evidence that the Quran is written by God, therefore I don't believe it. Do you think I deserve to be tortured for all eternity, because I carefully examined the data, and have reached a different conclusion from you?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Response to a Muslim: Will we be branded on the nose?

I get many emails suggesting I need faith, but people cannot seem to agree on which faith would be best for me. Here is another email from a Muslim, suggesting that what I really need is Islam. IJ writes:

ASalam u alaikum, may peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon u

Brother Merle,

Hope ur in good health. after a long long time im writing 2 u. Where have u reached in ur search 4 the truth? U might have denounced one faith, but what are u going 2 replace that space with? atheism? agnostism? hinduism? budhism? what....? WHY NOT ISLAM?

Yes i know u'll be thinking im nuts, but how much do u know abt Islam? U might have proved that the bible is not the word of God and that Christianity is a hoax, but can u dissprove Islam? WELL, NOBODY CAN! COZ ITS THE TRUTH, ITS FRM GOD!

Surely u could try out wether im just fooling around or wether its a big joke. All i want 2 say is that dont involve any one else in this and lets have a fair debate.

Herez what u do:

write to me in pts all that u dislike abt Islam , all that u find really stupid, any "mistake" in the quran what ever you can find to deny the fact that islam is the truth.


I'll try my best 2 give u the best answers ( if Allah wills), if u get all the answers , the choice is up 2 u and if i cant give u the answers, then ive failed.

Just remember one thing, it was just by accident i discovered ur site, and I dont know what motivated me to interact with u and to be really sincere im trying ro convince u abt Islam only beacuse i really feel concerned 4 every person who hasent got 2 know a great deal abt Islam, coz when u know abt it, YOU'LL BEGIN 2 LUV ISLAM!

Who knows maybe Allah wants 2 guide u , for its only He who can guide. As He says in the Quran:

"The one whom Allah guides, no one can misguide

and the one whomw He misguides no one can guide!"

My favourite verse frm the Quran is:

"When truth is heard out falsehood, falsehood perishes, for falsehood by its nature is bound 2 perish!"


Its available at

May Allah Guide us all close u the truth and spread the peace of Islam.

I respond below:



I can see that you find much comfort in the culture of Islam. Many others find comfort in other cultures. If you were simply saying that you find good in your culture, but that, like all cultures, Islam has a mixture of evil and non-truth mixed with the good, I would have no objection. But your claim goes much deeper. You imply that there is no mistake in Islam. In that I think you are mistaken. There are mistakes in Islam and in the Quran, as there are mistakes throughout all of human enterprise. How can one possibly deny that?

You ask what I find wrong with Islam. Well, for one thing, I find a disturbing amount of intolerance in the Quran. Perhaps you can explain to me why a book from God would appear to be so intolerant. Here are a few example verses:

4:56 Lo! Those who disbelieve Our revelations, We shall expose them to the Fire. As often as their skins are consumed We shall exchange them for fresh skins that they may taste the torment. Lo! Allah is ever Mighty,

Okay, so if I don't believe what you have to say, I will be exposed to the fire? And as often as my skin is consumed it will be replaced with fresh skin, so I can suffer more? And what is the crime for which this punishment is meted out? Do you recommend all of this torture of those who examine your religion, and come to a different conclusion from you?

IJ, people look at religion and come to different conclusions. Some believe the Bible but not the Quran. Some believe neither book. And do you think that they should have their skins burned off of them forever, continuously having fresh skin restored so it too can be burnt, further torturing those who came to a different conclusion from you?

Why not simply approach religion from a rational point of view? Perhaps others have come to a different conclusion from you for reasons that to them seem rational. If a person disbelieves the Quran for rational reasons, does that person deserve eternal torment?

4:74 Let those fight in the way of Allah who sell the life of this world for the other. Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward.

And so do you encourage people to fight in the way of Allah, even if they have to fight to the death?

When I find people who differ with me, I prefer to use the pen--or the keyboard--rather than the sword. Do you approve of the sword for solving such disputes?

4:150 Lo! those who disbelieve in Allah and His messengers, and seek to make distinction between Allah and His messengers, and say: We believe in some and disbelieve in others, and seek to choose a way in between; 4:151 Such are disbelievers in truth; and for disbelievers We prepare a shameful doom.

Ah, so do you agree with preparing a shameful doom for those who disbelieve? The hijackers on 9/11 prepared a shameful doom for many who did not believe. Do you think they did the right thing? Or do you think it is wrong to prepare a shameful doom for disbelievers in Islam?

7:179 We urged unto hell many of the jinn and humankind, having hearts wherewith they understand not, and having eyes wherewith they see not, and having ears wherewith they hear not. These are as the cattle - nay, but they are worse! These are the neglectful.

Ah, so I, and the many Christians, atheists, and others who disbelieve your book are cattle, and even worse then cattle? Why does your book resort to name-calling? And why does your book so viciously destroy the self-esteem of others?

9:5 Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

So do you think it is good to find those who worship a different God, and to besiege them and take them captive? Do you approve of slaying me or making me a slave or yours if I don't believe your book? Do you approve of wars of conquest in the name of Allah?

Or do you admit that this is one of the places where the Quran is mistaken?

9:73 O Prophet! Strive against the disbelievers and the hypocrites! Be harsh with them. Their ultimate abode is hell, a hapless journey's end.

And you believe in being harsh with LorMar, noogatiger, Honey, and others who have posted here and don't believe your book?

Come on, why can't we all be friends?

9:123 O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him).

And do you follow this verse? Can we expect that you will fight against us if we don't believe your book? If so, should we be scared of you?

Or do you see that this verse is mistaken, and therefore do not do what it says?

18:29 Say: (It is) the truth from the Lord of you (all). Then whosoever will, let him believe, and whosoever will, let him disbelieve. Lo! We have prepared for disbelievers Fire. Its tent encloseth them. If they ask for showers, they will be showered with water like to molten lead which burneth the faces. Calamitous the drink and ill the resting-place!

Have you no pity on the suffering of others? If they are suffering in fire, and they beg for showers, why give them showers of molten lead?

22:19 These twain (the believers and the disbelievers) are two opponents who contend concerning their Lord. But as for those who disbelieve, garments of fire will be cut out for them; boiling fluid will be poured down on their heads, 22:20 Whereby that which is in their bellies, and their skins too, will be melted; 22:21 And for them are hooked rods of iron. 22:22 Whenever, in their anguish, they would go forth from thence they are driven back therein and (it is said unto them): Taste the doom of burning.

Is that what you will say to me if I don't believe your book? Will you tell me to taste the doom of burning? Will you agree with those who pour boiling fluid on my head, and melt my skin?

Tell me please, do you think I would be a better person if I believed and followed your book, and did what such verses recommend?

25:36 Then We said: Go together unto the folk who have denied Our revelations. Then We destroyed them, a complete destruction.

So do you encourage those who destroy the disbelievers with a complete destruction?

Can you see how some might think such verses promote terrorism?

34:5 But those who strive against Our revelations, challenging (Us), theirs will be a painful doom of wrath.

But if nobody is ever able to challenge the revelations, how do you know the revelations are true?

I am skeptical of anybody who refuses to let their claim be challenged, and threatens wrath on those who wish to challenge the claims. I prefer free discussion.

If a witness refuses cross-examination on the witness stand, doesn't that cast doubt on his testimony? If your book refuses cross-examination, can you see how some of us see this as reason to be even more skeptical of its claims?

68:15 That, when Our revelations are recited to him, he saith: mere fables of the men of old. 68:16 We shall brand him on the nose.

And if the people who post here, such as Honey or Noogatiger, do not agree with your book, will you brand them on the nose? Should they be scared of you?

2:8 And of mankind are some who say: We believe in Allah and the Last Day, when they believe not. 2:9 They think to beguile Allah and those who believe, and they beguile none save themselves; but they perceive not.

Okay, so we cannot escape this fire and branding on our noses by simply claiming to believe? We must truly believe, or we will be branded on the nose?

I am sorry, but if the facts do not support an assertion, then I cannot believe it. I can pretend to believe it, but I cannot believe something when I think it is not true. If I cannot escape doom by pretending to believe, then your book offers no hope.

Okay, that is just the tip of the iceberg. I could cite many similar verses. Let's start with those. These verse seem wrong to me. If you do not think they are wrong, please explain.

I think you will agree with me that there are indeed some mistakes in the Quran.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Greed, fear, hell, and the search for happiness

Let me share another email with you:
Putting aside for a moment your own sad future -- and please don't bother telling me that you don't believe you're going to Hell, because it will not change my mind nor your future -- what is the point in making the "questioning" site? Please, do not answer this with bunch of "freeing the mind from the bonds of religion" rants. Just mull this over.

I stumbled upon your site by searching on the Internet for "Jesus happiness" in hopes of finding ways to turn from sinful, materialistic greed and look to the Lord for guidance. Lo and behold, your site turned up instead.

Your site basically is trying to get us to "question" Christian beliefs, correct? *My* question is...why? If you are an ex-Christian, fine. I'm very sorry to hear your story. But why do you feel the need to try to undermine others' beliefs? Suppose you are wrong -- you have effectively led all those who read your essays against Christianity and believed them into Hell for the rest of eternity, and away from Jesus for the rest of their life. Suppose you are right -- you have effectively relieved them of going to Church once a week and given them "wiggle room" on sin. Sin, whether or not you believe it is God's law, is not only spiritually but also morally wrong.

Your reasoning for putting up the website, unless you have no concern for anyone but yourself, is terribly flawed. By even creating this site, you assume that you are completely right on the existence of God and nature of Jesus. Now, you may have heard this argument before, but can you name the number of dust mites in a square yard of floor in Beijing off the top of your head? It's relatively safe to assume you cannot. Therefore, you do not know everything. Actually, humans generally do not know a tenth of a percent about everything. You must know everything to say with absolute certainty that any given thing does not exist. For instance, for me to say that there is no iron in the United States whatsoever, I would need to thoroughly know every square millimeter of the United States, every person's home, even underground. However, to prove the existence of iron in the US, I would need to see but one fleck of iron within US boundaries to say with absolute certainty that iron existed in the USA.

Even if you knew an incredible one percent about everything, is it possible that in the 99% of everything you did NOT know, there is sufficient evidence to prove that God exists?

Please think over your reasons for putting up this website. I'll be praying for you.

-Ms. V.

She asks me for my reasons for putting up the website, and then asks me please to not answer her question by speaking of freeing the mind. If she begs me not to answer, why does she ask?

I have already made it clear on my opening page why I put up the site. I want people to understand why I have changed my mind about religion. Many have found this helpful to them, and I am glad to help other people.

She explains to me that I do not know everything, and that I do not know, for instance, the number of dust mites on each square yard in Beijing. Yes, of course, that is true. I do not know everything. I readily admit that. That is the basis of agnosticism. We don't know everything, and even the things that we do "know", we know only because our senses have determined it. But could our senses be fooling us? Could there be things that our senses have not yet been made aware of? Yes, of course. And since we cannot know everything, we can not know things with absolute certainty. Thus we cannot be dogmatic when we make claims.

Seeing that she agrees with me that we don't know everything, then may I ask her why she makes dogmatic statements about hell? Why does she tell me my views of hell won't change her mind, and that she is right about my future? Surely she does not know everything, does she? To use her illustration, she does not know how many dust mites are in every square yard in Beijing, does she? Okay, if she does not know everything, why does she insist that she is right about hell and that those who disagree with her are wrong? And why does she ask those who disagree with her not to present their arguments? If she will not hear my argument, how can she be sure that her argument is right and mine is wrong?

She tells me please not bother answering with my beliefs. She asks me only to mull over the concept of hell. Perhaps she should read my story at my site. I grew up with the fear of hell, a crippling fear that destroyed much of my happiness as a child. I mulled over the fear of hell many times. So by asking me to mull over hell once more, she is asking me to take a step backwards, to the fear that once dominated my life. Why?

She says that to prove with absolute certainty that something doesn't exist one would need to know everything. That is true. And so for her to prove with absolute certainty that Allah will not send her to hell for believing in Jesus, she would need to know everything. To prove with absolute certainty that the Greek gods are not reigning down terror from on high, she would need to know everything. Does she lie awake at night, worrying about the wrath of Allah or Zeus? I don't think so. Since she cannot prove with absolute certainty that there is no space alien hidden behind her at this moment, is she living in panic that she will be hit by its laser gun? I don't think so. Why not? Although she cannot prove with absolute certainty that the fear of Zeus or a space alien is groundless, the chances that such things are true are so remote, she doesn't worry about them. Could the same reasoning be applied to the fear of hell?

We cannot spend our lives in fear of all the things that might possibly be true. If she wants to propose that something might be true, and wants to give me a reason for believing it is true, I am willing to listen. But when she demands that I fear things without reason, she seems to be asking me to take a step backwards.

Is it possible that within the 99% of knowledge that I don't know, there exists a proof of gremlins, demons, gods, aliens, or monsters? Uh, yeah, perhaps it is possible. But is it plausible?

Okay, now tell me, Ms. V.: Do you have any proof of your claim? If not, why explain that there might be a proof somewhere?

Ms. V. reiterates a version of Pascal's Wager, which I have addressed many times. I have been asked often, "What if I am wrong?" Okay, what if there really is a being who will damn all people who are wrong in their beliefs? But somehow many people don't apply the same logic to Allah. What if Allah exists, and will damn all people who believe in Jesus? Will you embrace Islam, just in case? If you do not ask me to embrace all possible religions, just in case they might be right, why do you ask me to embrace one, just in case?

Ms. V. suggests that I write to give people wiggle room to do moral wrong. That is completely wrong. I certainly have not written for that purpose. Many of us have found that setting our minds free builds our moral strength. We are now free to love others, not out of the fear of hell, but by seeing the need for cooperative relationships and by feeling the feelings that our actions cause in others.

Ms. V. says she found my site by searching on the internet for "Jesus happiness," searching with "hopes of finding ways to turn from sinful, materialistic greed." Human greed is understandable. We evolved in circumstances where food, clothing, shelter, tools, and other material things were in short supply. To the extent that these things provide necesities for survival, they are essential to happiness. So we have a natural urge to obtain such things. But the human mind is not good at shutting down those urges. Even after we have had our basic needs met, the unhappy person can find herself continuously greedy for more, with the mistaken hope that more stuff will bring more happiness. The solution to greed appears to be that of overcoming the natural urges by use of reason. We have many natural urges, but reason can show our urges where they must back off.

I could explain to her that I have found true happiness by setting my mind free to think, by exploring the world around me, and by setting out in cooperation with others to build successful lives. But unfortunately, she asks me not to "rant" about such freedom, but rather to retreat to mulling over the fear of hell.

It appears from her email that Ms. V. is not happy. Else why would she be searching on the Internet for "happiness" and looking for relief from materialistic greed? I wish I could help. But as long as she begs me not to present my views about happiness, I cannot do much to help her.

But perhaps others will want to hear what I say. I have found happiness in setting my mind free, in exploring beyond the religion I inherited. Perhaps others will also find this satisfying, and will find it far better than a life of materialistic greed. If this does not help you, then please feel free to surf on. But if it helps, I am glad I was able to help.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Replacing mainstream science with what????

Should I continue to deal with the comments of the women known as "Honey" here at this blog? She continuous to argue against the conclusions of mainstream science, but what does she put in its place? We find another comment of hers at The Origin of Life. I respond to her here.

All the scientific evidence we can gather on the matter demonstrates that life does not occur spontaneously.

As I explained to her before (here) her hero, Louis Pasteur, and others have demonstrated that life does not occur spontaneously under the known present conditions. But we notice that she conveniently ignores that detail. Nowhere has science ever tested, or been able to test, the concept of life evolving from primitive chemicals on the early earth over millions of years. As I have explained to her before, such a test would be impossible, for it would require millions of years--and we don't have time to wait that long--and it would require exact knowledge of conditions of early life.

So exactly which experiment is "Honey" referring to that, after millions of years of conditions in the reducing atmosphere similiar to conditions on the early earth, life was found not to occur? Would she please explain to me when and where that experiment occurred? What's that you say? Ah, such an experiment was never done, for it would require millions of years! Aha! The experiment was never done! Now if the experiment was never done, how can she possibly infer that experiments say the original emergence of life by this process was impossible? Don't we need to do the experiment at least once before we make the claim that experiments verify our conclusion?

As I explained to her before (and she ignores) her hero, Pasteur, said, "I looked for spontaneous generation without finding it, but I do not believe it to be impossible." Pasteur knew that his not finding the spontaneous emergence of microbes under the conditions he tested in no way proved it to be impossible in all conditions. And Pasteur was not even attempting to test the conditions of early earth. That was not his purpose. He had other concerns in mind, that is, how to form and control the microbes that cause fermentation, thus enhancing the production of beer. And yet somehow, Honey chooses to extrapolate from the fact that Pasteur could not find the spontaneous emerging of life under the conditions he was testing to the false conclusion that life could not occur spontaneously under any possible condition.Is such an extrapolation justified?

And what a coincidence...the Bible says that GOD gave life to everything.

The question before us is not whether God was involved in the process--a question I do not normally address--but what that process was. Science is very clear on the process that formed modern life. After the first microbes appeared, these microbes evolved into the range of creatures we see today. There is overwhelming evidence for that.

Now if "Honey" can agree with me that evolution is the process by which modern species arose, we could move on to discuss whether God was behind it all. But if she denies evolution, then she finds herself in opposition to a vast amount of solid science. And if she denies evolution, what does she put in its place?

The Biblical evidence is that God created the first of, and that reproduction followed after it's kind.

And the scientific evidence is that "kinds" have been varying with time. For instance, there is a well established series of horse fossils that shows that modern horses and zebras evolved from a small fox-sized creature. Does Honey deny this? Okay, then exactly how did the first Zebra come into existance? If Honey knows better than mainstream science, would she please present us with an alternative? How exactly did the first Zebra come into existence?

"Special creation"? "Out of nothing"? I didn't use these phrases at all, and I make no such claim.

Ah, so now we run into the traditional denial and obfuscation. "Special creation" is the term used for the belief that God specifically made each "kind" distinct, without using the process of evolution. But Honey doesn't like the term "special creation"? Fine, she may use whatever term she wants. But what term does she use? If she is going to deny evolution, doesn't she need to present us with an alternative? How exactly did the first zebra come into existence, if not by evolution, and not by "special creation"?

Honey is replacing mainstream science with what?

God created man out of the dust of the Earth, and the Breath of God, so there is every reason to believe the other forms of life were created in similar manner.

Mainstream science teaches that out of the elements of the earth and the atmosphere, over time, life emerged. The question is not whether life originated from the existing elements--on which we both seem to agree--but how this happened.

How did the first zebra come into existence? I await anxiously to hear Honey's answer.

Friday, June 08, 2007

"Why does the Bible need so much clarification?"

Here is another email from another user that is finding the joy of exploring.
My husband has recommended your site to me as of late. I have just began reading on your website and found the section entitled "Is the Bible Perfect" particularly interesting.

I have been a Christian for about 12 years now and before that grew up in a house with an awareness of God. I have recently been discovering that I have some nagging questions in the back of my mind about the Bible and about God and his character/actions. Until recently, the past 2 years or so, I would define myself as one who tried to think as little as seemed to work for me. If you have no opinion you can never be wrong, right. Well, that's how I learned to survive through my teen years anyway. If I found a reasonable explantion for something I went with it and "preached/believed it as truth."

I've come to a point in my life where I am no longer satisfied with what I've been taught simply because it's what I've been taught. I really want to know what I believe and why I believe it. I've come to the realization that the "convictions" I have formed as a Christian were mainly formed because it was "the right decision" or the ones that sounded good. But I really didn't put a lot of thought into forming them. I realized that I have not done much investigating at all of the Bible and I have been calling myself a good Christian for so many years. I don't know how I've come to believe half of the things that I do. I'm in no way saying that everything I've come to believe is wrong...but I do think that not being willing to investigate if what you believe, i.e. investigating if it's coming from a credible source is wrong.

It's really creating some problems for me right now. At the church I currently attend I am pretty well known...mainly because my parents are well known in the church. My friends have always looked up to me as "spiritual" and a good disciple of Jesus. Recently I've been "trying to test the waters" with a couple of friends and asking them why they believe in God. You may be surprised, or maybe not, but many people don't react well to this question. Most of the responses I get are, "Why DON'T you believe in God?" Now what kind of logic is that? And another reason they give me is that they "feel its the truth, and that their life is better now than before they became a Christian." That presents two problems for me. The Bible that they hold so dear tells them that the heart is deceitful above all should their feelings prove the validity of the Bible and God? And, secondly isn't it possible to live a good life without being a Christian? When one becomes a Christian they do make choices to stop doing things that harm themselves and others...and the lack of doing things does make the situation better. But I believe someone who is not a Christian can make these same "healthy" decisions in their life and the outcomes would be the same.

My husband and I are going through some tough times right now and I'm at risk of losing some friends because of the questions I have about God. I'm facing some really tough times ahead...questioning might leave me alone...but I have to do it. Ignorance is no longer bliss for me...some days I really wish it was still, but it's not.

Anyway, this brings me to the point of my letter...sorry, it took me so long to get here. I'm beginning to study out what I believe and why. I've been trying to take a closer look at the bible and all religions. I so many questions about why the bible seems to contradict itself, why God seems to have changed so drastically from the Old Testament to the New and I have a hard time with the claim that only Christians have it right and are going to heaven.

So, needless to say your section "Is the Bible Perfect" jumped out to me and I wanted to comment on a particular paragraph. It is the paragraph about 1 Kings 4:26 and 2 Chronicles 9:25. I found the discrepancy interesting. I looked the scriptures up in my bible, the NIV, and saw that 1 Kings 4:26 said "four thousand stalls for chariot horses, and twelve thousand horses...", not the "fourty thousand" you quoted. I thought that was odd so I went back to your site and clicked on the link for the scripture you provided. The link brought me to the New American Standard Bible translation. I then proceded to look up the scripture in every translation I could and noticed that The KJV and many others all said fourty, but the NIV said four as did the New International version. Wow!

I have to admit reading this paragraph on your site and the chart toward the bottom of the page have addressed some of the questions I've been having lately. I have to admit I've been one who never really questioned the Bible much or it's consistancy. I have just regurgitated the same rationalizations passed down to me on to others. The bible says that it was inspired by God and its still living and active and that nothing should be added or taken away...what about changed? I am just at the beginning of my journey to find out what the hell I believe...I feel like I don't know anything at times. But, I'm am determined to question and I believe I will have stronger convictions than ever about what I believe...and it may not be what I've been taught for so long...and that's scary to say.

I guess what I'm trying to say/ask is why does the Bible need so much clarification? Why do so many things need to be interpreted or justified? Just because it does doesn't prove to me that the Bible isn't valid...I guess I'm saying is that it just stinks. It would be nice to have a book that just spells everything out clearly. And if one translation says four and another says are right in asking, "Who has the right version?" I'm now asking myself. I've got a lot of studying to do.

Yes, indeed, why does the Bible need so much clarification? Why must there be an army of apologists, continuously explaining away the problems? Why should a book written by God have so many problems?

Since one version of the Bible says "four" where another says "forty", which is correct? If one version had said the horses were strong but another said they were mighty, that would just be a difference in translation. But here we have differences in content. Different manuscripts say different things. And nobody can be sure which is correct, or if both are wrong. And if we cannot be sure which is right, how can we be sure any is a reliable copy of words written by God?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

"Post it on you site or be branded as a coward and a fake"

Recently I received another email from TR, whom I had previously answered here on this blog. I wrote back reminding him that I have addressed most of his comments elsewhere on my site, and asking him to read what I have already written. Instead, he responded by saying, "Post it on you [sic] site or be branded as a coward and a fake." Aw shucks! Does TR really think that I am trying to keep people from reading what he writes? I think most of my readers can see through his arguments. For the record, here is his argument:

I read your response on the web page as Another Challenge to my web site. Your answer to can scientists bring back a man from the dead after four days was no answer. You simply attacked my statement on your computer and claimed I cut off the branch I was sitting on by attacking Science. How about answering the Question instead of attacking my statement. In the statement I made about with some thought many Scientific statements can be explained away, you said explain away Newtons Principia, which was a philosophy which has been obsolete for more years then we have been alive and does not fit into traditional metaphysics. Even Einsteins theory of relativity may well be defective according to New Sciences. Even the Big Bang that I mentioned could well be flawed.Thats why Science still cannot be considered more reliable than the Bible. As far as your statement that we (who is we, is that you) have found the spot in the human genome where two of the apes genes were joined were joined together to make the human gene is simply not true. There are some resemblences in all dna to all other creatures , as , but none linking in a standard definable relatable form to human. We are totally in a class of our own.Have you ever seen the working parts of the human ear, and if so can you actually believe this was all an accident of evolution. Even the top Scientists are saying that they believe there must have been intelligent design in this. Yes all things will evolve and change but this does not mean that the creation did not happen. If the theory of evolution were all true, then the fossil records would reveal literally billions of transitional forms. The fact that there have been so many fraudulent or mistaken claims on this front demonstrates how desperate the evolutionists are to produce even one! But nothing proves the impossibility for transitional forms more than the supposed evolution of Homo sapiens from their common ancestor with apes. When I said many scientists cannot perform some simple tasks but can sell books with baffling explanations to get noteriety I could well have been explaining your website. Science world on December 2000 claimed that Einstein could not speak until the age of three, and got bad grades in history and languages. Whether true on not its well known that many more books and theorys that have been lies were printed than were true and thats even more true this year. Its also documented that many gifted scientists are so preoccupied with their Science that the cannot see much of anything else. Some have reached a complete breakdown in the ability to cope. Some of the most intelligent were also dangerous and are in our prisons. Your statements about fossils between humans and apes are totally wrong. In fact the absence of any fossils to this effect is the biggest block to evolution. And your response about Dinosaurs into birds. Dinosaurs were upon the earth in 1400 B.C. At least you should read Job ch 40 , 15-24 .The description of the behomith could be nothing less than a dinosaur. Read ch 41 for the leviathin. Leave it up to scientist to date them millions of years ago. Samples of 200 year old volcanic eruptions sent to various labs were dated from 25000 to millions of years of age. Trust Scientists, hell I guess we should trust Lawyers and Doctors too. I wouldnt put my life on the line for either one without deeply scrutinizing. Trust me that I know what Im talking about in Doctors, be sure to carefully watch your treatments especially now. The bible does not actually encourage the eating of beef more than fish and veggies as you said, and why do you believe these Scientists that claim beef is unhealthy anyway. Beef raised naturally without the scientists additives , hormones, and growth enhancing drugs is quite healthy if prepared properly and eaten in small portions. Remember what the Bible says about gluttony. Well guess what the Bible scores again. Eat a variety of food is ok but not large amounts. We can eat almost anything that moves that God created , unless Science has fooled with it in a negative way. The Jewish were living in less than backward conditions in a hostile world much different than you and me. The savage way of life and freedom from slavery was likely ruled as needed. You probably believe rules should be the same then as now. Prison has different rules, different societys have different rules. The Isrealites worshipped idols, sacrificed animals, even killed and stoned their own. It took time and finally Jesus to change things. I agree that we should examine and question all and everything including the Bible and Christianity. But I cannot agree with your attempts to use statements that are not true and disguise them in smoke to influence believers. Its just too important a subject that can cause eternal hurt to some. This to me is as damnable as someone who sells drugs, Do you actually believe creating more Atheists will improve life for anyone. Its the same as a drug dealer who thinks he can just sell a few without harming anyone. As far as my statement that most books that tell you how to do things being total garbage note that I said most.. I read , I scan the internet, and examine the content for value and toss out the rest which is usually 90 percent wrong to me. I think your problem is that you tend to use everything that you can use without filtering out the truth because it doesnt suit your purpose. There is gray area to everything and a few things may be undeniable in any situation.. If Einstein had not taught himself calculus and developed special relativity as his own, he would likely have never developed his theorys. He accomplished more by not using other theorys.

TR says, "There are some resemblences in all dna to all other creatures...but none linking in a standard definable relatable form to human."

Huh? Where has TR been? It has been known for a long time that chimpanzee and human DNA share much of the same code. TR could have found this out for himself with a simple google search for "Chimpanzees human dna percent" So with broad scientific understanding that chimp and human DNA have much in common, where does TR get his data that there is no definable match? Should we simply ignore all of the scientists who study this issue? Is TR going to suggest that he understands DNA better than thousands of scientists?

That is just one example of a claim by TR that most scientists would consider to be nonsense.

TR claims that the discovery of the spot where two ape chromosomes are joined in the human genome is false. He can look at the link On Apes and Humans for details of this discovery of the spot where the two chromosomes joined. Now what is TR's evidence that the data presented there is false?

TR claims, "Its well known that many more books and theorys that have been lies were printed than were true." No, that is not well known. Who besides TR makes that claim? And if TR is the only one making that claim, how can he say it is well known?

And if most things TR reads are false, how can he believe anything he reads? If most people are speaking falsely to him, how can TR detect who is telling the truth in the midst of all that mistruth? I anxiously wait to hear his answer.

If we are all to assume that most of what we read is false, should we assume that TR is misspeaking to us also? If not, why not? If we are to assume most of what we read is false, should we not also assume that most of what we read from TR is false? If not, what makes TR's claims so special that we should believe him, but not other people?

TR seems to be unaware that the fossil record is filled with transitional fossils, including transitionals between apes and humans. I link to some files documenting those transitionals at my site. I invite TR to read about those transitionals before he claims again that they do not exist.

I ask TR to document his claim that 200 year old rocks date to millions of years. I am quite certain this is a false claim. If he expects us to believe it, I ask him to tell us how he knows it is true.

Oh, and by the way, I did answer TR's question about whether science can bring back a man from the dead after four days. I said, "Nope". That is my answer. Now can TR please kindly tell us what part of "Nope" he cannot understand?

I won't get into the rest of his email, which is basically a rant against scientists and other professionals. I think my readers can see for themselves the emptiness of TR's claims.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Origin of Life

"Honey" has left a comment (here) discussing Louis Pasteur (again) and the origin of life. I address her comments here, expanding on the issue of the origin of life:



You wrote :

[Pasteur was] Free from what?


…and then please let us know exactly what it was that Pasteur was free from after all those years of scientific observation.

Louis Pasteur was free to discover the world for what it is.

I am not sure why you asked me to read that link, because it describes Pasteur's drive to discover the truth, wherever it might lead. Yes, the link says Pasteur was a theist, and I have already admitted this. Pasteur was a practicing Catholic. But in his science, it appears he was able to leave the dogmas behind, and to pursue the truth wherever it led. That is why I say his mind was set free.


“Yes, understanding the origin of life is still a big hurdle, and scientists still do not understand exactly how it happened. But they have no reason to believe it did not happen on its own.”

So the reality is, that you want us to disregard what God says in the Bible, for which there were numerous witnesses (of Christ’s life and resurrection from the dead – and Christ himself attests to the truth of the Old Testament Law and Prophets), and replace it with something THERE IS NO EVIDENCE FOR. There are two reasons to believe it did not happen on its own – 1. God said He created it. 2. No matter how hard we try we cannot make it happen.

Wow, where do I begin?

First, I was discussing the origin of life here, and not the entire content of my worldview. When I said that scientists do not understand exactly how it happened, "it" refers to the origin of life. I was by no means declaring that there was no evidence for anything I believe.

Second, there is plenty of evidence for the points I stress at my web site, such as the old age of the universe, evolution, mistakes in the Bible, etc. I am by no means stating that I have no evidence for my views.

Third, regarding the origin of the first life--that is, the origin of the first microbes--this event is so far remote, and the evidence of what happened is so scarce, that we cannot be dogmatic about it. However, once those first microbes had come into existence, there is very clear evidence that all other living creatures evolved from those microbes. So when I mention discussion about the nature of the origin of life, I was by no means doubting the evidence for biological evolution. The fact of evolution has been firmly established by science.

Fourth, the fact that there is a gap in our current knowledge when it comes to the first microbes does not prove that this is where we must insert God. Many people jump when they see this gap in scientific knowledge, and they assume that since scientists don't understand it, therefore God did it. This is known as The God of the Gaps. If, for instance, scientists say they don't know where whales come from, people would jump in and insert God into that gap, and say the first whale was a miracle. However we now have a range of intermediate fossils between land creatures and whales, and we now have a good idea how they evolved . Okay, so now does God back out of that gap between land creatures and whales? Do we now search for another gap to put him into? The problem with inserting God every time we find a gap in our current scientific knowledge is that the gaps keep getting smaller. Is God shrinking? One sometimes feels like a fool defending the God-of-the-Gaps, for the gaps in our knowledge keep getting smaller, and the God-of-the-gaps defenders find themselves constantly backpeddling. I cannot say with absolute certainty that God did not step in at this gap and create the first microbe, but I would urge caution in inserting God whenever one sees a gap. If one does not enjoy backpeddling, then one should not be authoritatively inserting the God-of-the-gaps every time she finds a gap in our current knowledge. If there is a gap in our knowledge, why not just say , "We don't know".

Fifth, you say there are two reasons to believe "it" did not happen on it's own. (I assume by "it" you are returning to the subject, that is, the origin of the first microbes.) The first reason you give is that God said he created "it". Oh, really? Exactly where did God say he created the first microbes? Please show me. Are you referring to the Bible? The Bible makes no mention of microbes. Genesis reflects the primitive views of an early tribe that certainly had no microscopes, and had no concept of microbiology. So exactly where does the Bible say that God made the first microbes? Are you just pulling on my leg? The second reason you give is that humans cannot do it. But how does that prove the spontaneous origin of life is impossible? The origin of life was apparently stretched over millions of years in an environment far different from our own. We don't understand it all yet. There is a gap in our knowledge. Your argument here is nothing more than a God-of-the-Gaps argument.

Sixth, regarding the witnesses to the resurrection that you claim, see my web site where I deal with that issue.

You also said, and I quote:

“To win the argument, I would need to prove that all possible means for the spontaneous origination of life were impossible. That I could never do. So I abandoned the fight.”

How do you reason that you have to prove anything? The proof is in the Bible. If they want to claim differently then THEY SHOULD PROVIDE PROOF that their belief is correct. Christians have the Bible – atheists have nothing.

No, the burden of proof was indeed upon me, for I had made a specific claim back then. I had been arguing that the natural origin of life was scientifically impossible. Now since I had made the assertion, the burden of proof was on me to back it up with evidence. I made a fairly noble case for one particular aspect of that assertion, that is, that proteins could not have evolved first. But all of my evidence against the view that proteins evolved first did nothing to prove my assertion that the natural origin of life was scientifically impossible. To prove it impossible, I would have needed to prove that life could not have arisen by any possible method. When I realized what I was up against, I wisely abandoned the fight. I could never prove that the natural origin of life was impossible.

Later my views would evolve even further, to the point where I now think that the first life most likely came by natural causes.

Also, my defense at this site is not of atheism in particular, but of the freedom of thought that allows one to explore beyond the restraint of predefined dogmas.

And yes, I do have something on which to base my views. I have reason and the accumulated scientific evidence.

Now, think carefully for a moment about how illogical and unscientific this ‘spontaneous life’ dilemma really is. How is it that scientists can suggest numerous possibilities, none of which, even under the most favorable of synthesized conditions, can actually produce life, but they can then turn round and expect Christians to accept these possibilities on the grounds of SCIENCE! If your foundation is science, and yet you can’t prove your theory scientifically sound and expect intelligent others to discard their beliefs, then YOU’D BETTER GET REAL ABOUT WHAT YOU BELIEVE.

I am real about what I believe. There is overwhelming evidence that the earth is billions of years old and that life evolved from the first microbes.

And no, we have not yet produced life in the lab. In the first place, nobody knows how it began, so we don't even know exactly what to test. In the second place, this would require duplicating the original earth conditions. Although we have a good idea what it was like on the early earth, we don't know all the details, so we cannot know exactly what to duplicate when we design our experiments. Third, the origin of life is thought to have taken millions of years. We can't wait that long to see how an experiment turns out. So the fact that we have not created life in the lab in no way proves that the origin of life by natural means is impossible.

Let me close with a quote from Bossuet
"The greatest disorder of the mind is to believe that things are so because we wish them to be so."

Okay, we both agree that it is a great disorder of the mind to believe things because we wish them to be so. Since we agree to this, let us then look at the facts, and not simply try to confirm what we wish to be so. I think the facts will lead away from the dogmatic assertions of fundamentalism.

Friday, June 01, 2007

We are not alone

We are not alone. Many have gone through similar experiences of doubt and enlightenment. Another reader shares his story:

I have read your story and was nearly moved to tears at the similarities of thought we possess. I now know that I am not alone as I've felt for the past 10 years. Out of respect for your time and eyesight, I will try to be as concise as I possibly can. As much as I'm sure you feel encouraged by the stories of others, I do not wish to be a burden. That being said, on we go:

I am now 27 years old. My recent decision to leave Christianity and religious dogma of all kinds has thrown my life and the lives of my loved ones into upheaval, even threatening to tear my marriage apart. (Thankfully, we do not have children.) The friends I've made over the past decade, the woman I've married--have all come from the one church I've attended for the past ten years. (I will get into the myriad of church experiences I've had since childhood a bit later). Prior to my momentous decision, each of my Christian friends had learned to accept me as "the Questioning Christian," the one who was just never satisfied with the "company line," but they did so with the expectation that I would always "come to my senses" and accept the "truth." (I must admit that this is better than being ex-communicated for a difference in beliefs, but it's a far cry from a healthy situation!) I cannot begin to explain to you how painful it's been for me to be surrounded by "believers" whose "faith" seemed to find its basis in a lack of desire to question rather than in some loving devotion to God. I berated myself constantly for thinking such "evil" thoughts, and often wondered if Satan asked "to sift me as wheat" like Peter. Indeed, no one else seemed to be as tormented with questions as I was! This would typically result in a pendulum swing of thought and emotion, ranging from pride that God thought so highly of me (which I would then feel guilty about) to wondering if I was going insane from believing that there was a demon influencing my thoughts. I find it near miraculous that I can laugh about it today. Countless times I have been looked upon with sincere pity by fellow Christians who could never figure out, "What's wrong with Jeremy???" Not knowing that I had a choice, I internalized those questions and wondered the same thing concerning myself. Christianity has done horrible things to my mind, Merle, and I've been beating myself up for years, trying to tell myself that I was the problem. No more.

I was born on February 11th, 1980 in Galliano, Louisiana. My father has never been religious, and to this day I have no idea what he thinks of religion...or politics...or anything. But that's an entirely different story. My mother, however, has been a searcher all her life. She grew up in the Catholic tradition, but found it to be a "lifeless tradition." She wanted excitement, and she found it in Pentecostalism--in spades. The Neo-Pentecostal movement formed my first impression of Christianity. (You may cringe if you like). Aided by my earliest memories as well as my mother's testimony, I was not your average child. My mind took in and assimilated information at alarming rate. I was truly the "inquiring scientist'" that children are described to be. My inquiry was fearless--that is, until Christian dogma came along. Combined with the emotionalism of the Pentecostal movement, I learned explicitly and implicitly to disdain knowledge and intellectual matters (outside of Christian thought, of course), shunning them for emotions, A.K.A. "specific direction from God" and "spiritual experience." Even more terrifying, I learned that God would make fools of those who "leaned on his own understanding." I began to grasp Christian concepts--the explicit as well as the implicit--from a very early age. I was fascinated by the supernatural through the help of Pentecostalism, and the concept of an ever unfolding spiritual war happening all around me filled me with fright and wonder. In fact, I can encapsulate everything I've ever learned about the Bible in those two words: fright and wonder. Fright kept me chained to the dogma, and wonder kept me asking the questions. This is a recipe for some serious discontent, as you well know. I can still remember lying in my bed at night at the age of six or seven, wondering incessantly if God was going to send me to hell for kissing a girl on the school bus, and this was only the tip of the iceberg, a very small window into what was a torturous thought-life even as a young boy. I've spoken with my mother years ago about my troubles, and I do not blame her--but I still feel the residual anger toward what I was taught so recklessly. So much time lost to worrying over groundless fears! Children are so vulnerable to this terrible indoctrination. They depend on their parents and guardians to teach them "how things came to be this way," and a large majority of otherwise intelligent people persist in teaching these defenseless minds to regard incredible, terrible, unjustified claims as self-evident. How can this go on and not be construed as child cruelty? But I digress by preaching to the choir, here. :-)

About the age of nine, a terrible falling-out occurred between my family and the leadership of the only church I had known. From that point, up until my late teens, church attendance was spotty at best. A Methodist service here, a Southern Baptist service there, a Catholic Mass on Christmas--it was all good. I took it in stride, not remembering much. All in all, I was happy to be free from the church culture of my youth: 4 hour long, fire and brimstone lessons on Wednesday and Sunday nights (no children's classes) and of course, the Sunday service. As God-conscious as I was at such an early age, I still liked my episodes of Knight Rider on television, too. Our flight from Pentacostalism was just that--still Christians, just not THAT kind of Christian anymore.

My teen years were pretty typical, I think. Experimentation with sex, drugs and rock'n'roll. To be sure, my biggest headache concerning my childhood religious beliefs during this time centered around the "demonic qualities" of rock music--a doctrine virtually pounded into my head during my years spent as the child of a Pentecostal mother. Seminar after seminar vilified the kind of music I loved most. People don't seem to understand the anguish I went through in trying to understand why particular guitar sounds and drum patterns were pleasing to the Devil. In my heart, I constantly wondered, "What does that say about me? I love Led Zeppelin!"

I understand that this position is extreme--even for Christianity. These are not the reasons I've shed religious dogma. More on that later. I'm simply describing the mental anguish caused by religious dogma in my formative years. Believers raised in more conservative circles may wish to point to the specific teachings as the root of my anguish and not the religion itself, but those seminars made a very strong case as to why I should believe that rock music was a form of Satan worship--especially to an eight year old! Scriptures were even used to back up the claims! All the children, young and old, were required to watch so that we could recognize the "wiles of the Devil." In the culture I grew up in, Satan and his minions were present in everything--even in my Transformers toys. We were pressed to burn them, along with any other toys that possessed "Satanic" qualities. I say again, it is near miraculous that my little mind held up under the strain of such teachings. It has taken me at least a decade to forgive.

I did not become heavily involved with religion again until the age of 17. Chasing hedonistic pursuits had landed me into trouble on various fronts, and nightmarish experiences with hallucinogenic drugs pushed me to the breaking point. One experience in particular is seared into my memory, as I spent nearly 12 hours in a kind of religious psychosis, convinced that I was forever separated from God and doomed to hell for my transgressions. (If you think an obsession with hell is painful enough in everyday experience, you should try it on LSD). This experience in particular turned me back to religion, and I was convinced that God had used my drug experience to put me on the straight and narrow. My mother and my brother began attending church as well, and we enjoyed a period of intense closeness. The particular brand of church we attended was a more moderate version of the Pentecostal church I grew up in. The ecstatic utterances and spontaneous dancing, laying on of hands and experience seeking was still the norm, however. I regularly heard the pastor of the church talk as if God were truly speaking to him directly, and I became enthralled with the idea that I could become so spiritual that God would speak to me also. But it never happened. I would often wonder why. Did I not pray enough? Should I have shared with that one person I was afraid to share with? Surely that was it! Next time, I would do better! This began in me a cycle of reaching for an impossible goal and then becoming disillusioned only to "repent" and do it all over again. Like you, I have walked up for countless "altar calls" in order to re-dedicate my life to the Lord. After awhile, it became embarrassing to continually walk up to the front, so I would try to do it quietly in my seat--but would start to feel guilty for being "ashamed" of God. Again, I realize how neurotic this practice is, but I am certainly not alone, and faith-based, dogmatic belief is to blame for it. I did not ask for the such misery gift-wrapped as "good news," and I was not comforted by the words of those who did not feel my misery due to a lack of thought on the issue. I continually tried to convince myself that I was the problem, that I had some innate mental illness which caused me to misinterpret the teachings of the Bible. I desperately wanted to believe that I was the problem and routinely begged God to change my personality (which scared me to the core) so that I could truly believe and be happy as a Christian. I was petrified of admitting to anyone (myself included) that I liked myself more as a non-Christian than when I was trying to be "holy." No matter how many times I read Scriptures to "fix myself," no matter how many times well-meaning believers tried to cast demons out of me by the laying on of hands, the mixed messages I was getting from the Bible and from believers were driving me toward mental illness. After repeated conversations with older believers about the evils of rock music and my lack of repentance in this area, (which ultimately meant that I didn't truly love the Lord), I quietly faded away from the religious life. The guilt I felt became more and more intense, as I was sure that my reason for leaving was inadequate and full proof of my "rebelliousness." In my eyes, everything that brought me happiness was now evil and contaminated by my apostasy, and I needed to feel guilty as my punishment! There was much to feel guilty about. Surely, your fundamentalist friend, Jeffrey Wilson would say that I was getting what I deserved. And I believed him, too--for a long time after this. Many years passed before I started to realize that guilt and fear are terrible motivators for genuine love and gratitude.

At the age of 18, I joined the Navy and transferred to a ship on the east coast. I was far from home and enjoying my new-found freedom, but I was not prepared to handle the responsibility. In the year I had spent away from religion, my apostate mind was sufficiently seared so that I had no thoughts of God. :-) I was dating a nice girl, felt more like myself again, and planned on marrying her within the year. I messed up, and the relationship was no more. I was alone in a strange place, and so I sought out my old friend, Jesus. Surely he would take me back! Jesus was the one who used to protect me from Satan and his baddies at night. He even used to protect me from the vengeful God who was always threatening to throw me into the Lake of Fire! I imagined Jesus stepping in on my behalf and pleading for the Father to give me one more chance. But I was beginning to wonder when Jesus would get tired of me. When would I stop being so rebellious and feel grateful to God? The question burned within me again, and I sought out a church similar to the one I had attended before. This marks the beginning of a journey that lasted nearly ten years, culminating in my new-found position as non-believer.

After dabbling in the Pentecostal circles for a month or two, I began to "backslide." I prayed that God would lead me to a church that would meet my needs, help me to be truly righteous. A few weeks later, I walked into a McDonald's on my military base and there sat two young men, reading their Bibles. They seemed to be engaged in a deep discussion. I felt the confirmation from within, telling me that this was my answered prayer. I struck up a conversation with them, and the leader of the two latched onto me, determined to help me become a "real" Christian. This man soon began to challenge my beliefs, even challenged the way I "prayed Jesus into my heart!" He told me that I needed to be baptized with a full knowledge of the truth in order to be saved. I fought like hell. I yelled and screamed. I called my mother for support. But in the end, I believed that God put me there for a reason, and so I "admitted" that I had never been a Christian. (Considering how many times I "re-dedicated" my life to the Lord and all the "sin" I had been in prior to that point, it felt futile to argue that I was a Christian). A study group was formed, and I was taught the basics of salvation from the ground-up. It was obvious to me that this church was serious about its beliefs, and they made it clear to me that I needed to do the same for others, even for people who believed themselves to be Christians already! I struggled terribly with this, but who was I to argue? I was 19, and I wanted to save souls. Indeed, they even pointed to the humility of Apollos when he discovered that he did not know about "real" baptism! I knew people would hate to hear it, but I had to proclaim the "truth." It was the loving thing to do, right?

As being a Christian goes, this movement did some great things for me: I was forced to truly "know my Bible" and to learn how to form arguments for the validity of Scripture. Pentecostals are more interested in experiences, per se. This transition in thought was very much a paradigm shift for me: from intuition and inner voices to scriptural authority and reason. Making this change proved to be very difficult, however. As much as I wanted to use reason and logic to bolster my Faith, I couldn't seem to shake the weight I had placed on my feelings and experiences. I read many books about the errors associated with the charismatic movement, trying to help myself along. I saw the validity of the arguments, but I had no volitional control back then. Trying to deal with my hyperactive conscience was torturous, and I soon hated being a Christian once more. Yet there was a problem this time. I had made a life-time commitment, and I felt I needed to do everything in my power to "think rightly." The community of Christians I had come to know expected me to be a true disciple of Christ, to live out the Great Commission. I knew that I needed to get help. I couldn't walk away just because I was miserable, could I? No! Miserable or not, I felt that I needed to live in accordance with the Truth.

From 1999 to 2004, I made incredible break-throughs in my thought-life. I saw a Christian counselor and read books about "making every thought captive to Christ." I learned how to avoid falling down that hole of groundless fears--at least in the framework of Christianity. I wasn't constantly plagued with accusatory thoughts, and I began to think more clearly about who I was. That's when pesky words and concepts like "self-esteem" and "perfectionist complex" and "self-worth" and "self-concept" began to enter my mind. Although I couldn't find these words in the Bible, they sure seemed to hold the key to my healing! Even more mind-blowing, I learned that my conscience could be mistrained and was not the voice of God! A part of me felt set free, but another part of me was perplexed. Where did these ideas come from? Were they "biblical"? I didn't know it at the time, but I had started my journey toward being a liberal Christian. First stop: moderation.

To be sure, I was never a good "Fundamentalist." Although I felt guilty for admitting it, I felt too "intelligent" to believe that a snake actually talked to Adam and Eve. I remember being petrified the first time I "confessed" this to a friend of mine, but he didn't burn me at the stake. In fact, he informed me that most Christian scholars interpret the story as an allegory. I was dumbfounded! Was it possible to have such thoughts and to be a Christian? I felt that a narrow gate had been opened to a vast expanse! Would this be the way to my happiness as a Christian? For quite a while, I thought so. But the unthinkable happened. My new-found perspective had to be applied to the whole of scripture. I had never thought of something so fearful and wondrous before! (There are those two words again). This was very problematic to me. Who was I to decide how scripture should be regarded? Was it enough to form my own opinions and to keep them to myself? These were nasty thoughts, indeed. I doubt I need to extrapolate very much to show you where this is going. In the next two years, I would conclude that I had taken the Bible at face value, and had therefore, very inadequate reasons for belief---the nastiest thought of all. It all began there, my friend, but it would be a long, hard road before I was able to admit to myself that I had given up on Faith--much less to admit it to others, namely my wife!

My transition from moderate to more liberal happened gradually. I began to be bothered by my private, "alternate take" on the Bible. I felt somewhat guilty, but I knew that it was time to be the "Questioning Christian." My first forays into exploration were timid at best. Lee Strobel's, "The Case for Faith," and the usual suspects were rounded up for a crash-course in apologetics, but my upbringing still had a hold on me. I had long been warned to watch out for the "dangerous knowledge" of the skeptics and the atheists. Although I fancied myself a "juror" at the Grand Trial of Truth, it was not so. I was only concerned with one side, only concerned with finding a little "proof" to back up my foregone conclusions. I can remember looking at a book of essays by Bertrand Russell with absolute dread. I wanted to read it, but I was afraid of my desire. I ran away, thinking I was a juror when I was little more than a pawn for the Defense. The flames within were really stoked when I later realized that this is the modus operandi of modern believers everywhere. Actually, I can't give them even that much credit. Today, the average believer gets his/her "faith" in the form of certitude, combined with a package of conventional wisdom that states: "Shhh...quiet those questions and devilish doubts. All of those nice apologists have done the hard work for you. There are many reasons for Faith outside of Scripture!" Far from doing even a miniscule amount of work, i.e. actually reading the book, the average believer is just content to hear such a comforting statement and to leave it at that. I could not ignore the dishonesty of such an action.

But prior to that realization, I just drifted. I became listless and evasive, ducking out of every church service I could. The glorious heyday we once shared as a congregation had degenerated into something of a struggling support group, position-less on nearly everything out of respect to "tolerance." Many rose up and spoke loudly to rouse the congregation into action, but we were all lulled to sleep in the doldrums that exist between "certainty" and "uncertainty." I was disgusted by the halfway house we were occupying, and although those who spoke up attributed the slump to "a lack of faith and action," I knew there was something else under the surface for me. I realized how often I had launched myself headfirst into the "lifestyle" to forget about my questions, intellectual and ethical. Now that the lifestyle had faded, all I had were my questions, and it struck me that no amount of activity--no matter how productive--proves anything about the literal truth of my religion. (For some reason, I am one of those rare people who really NEED to know if what I believe is true. I want no illusions, no matter how comforting or useful). I knew that I had to do something soon, but I wasn't ready to ask The Question. Another year passes, the listlessness turns into a low-level depression.

Suddenly, I find something to care about. I read a book about climate change, "The Weathermakers." I begin to ponder why religionists, on the average, do not care about the planet. A gospel song comes to mind: "This world is not my home, I'm just passing through..." Another unthinkable thought begins to form in my head, but I push it away. Six months pass, and I unwittingly pick up a book that will be the catalyst for my abandonment of Faith. It didn't "prove" God false, however. It didn't attack any religion, Christianity included. But it did help me to finally ask the un-askable: "Do I really need a Savior?" The question came and I thought I might die. I waited. Life went on.

The name of the book is "Ishmael," and the author is Daniel Quinn. I would not be surprised if you've heard of it, as it was written in 1991. Mr. Quinn has not posited a new religion, and I no longer need an "answer book." It was simply the first step in a journey that would lead to Darwin, Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, dialogues with atheists and believers and lots and lots of journaling. As time went on, it became more and more clear that I was never the problem. The problem has always been the dogma. As I currently stand, I simply do not know the number of the gods, and no one will coerce me to make absolute claims on insufficient evidence. I will only grant the degree of certainty afforded by the evidence--what everyone of us does in every sphere of discourse--except religion! What a revolutionary thought it is to realize this! I am not required to be disingenuous! I am not required to act "as if" when I truly do not know! I can now resume the fearless inquiry of my childhood! I can be a juror and examine both sides, unafraid of unraveling my nicely packaged worldview! I can revise, redefine, change my mind! What freedom! The shackles are off!

Most recently, I've come to a startling conclusion. Even if the claims of the Bible were true in its entirety, I do not think I could bring myself to freely worship the god of the bible. This has floored me, as it's taken me ten years to admit to myself that the god of the bible is a destructive, childish tyrant. How truly apostate I must be when my ethical values are beyond that of the Creator! I simply cannot worship a god such as this in a genuine way, and I will not engage in verbal gymnastics to make apologies for this god. The only option beyond this is to worship Naked Power, and there is nothing in me that wishes to do so. Outside of my very real intellectual problems with the biblical and modern conceptions of Faith, I have ethical reasons to oppose such a god. I sometimes struggle with irrational fears involving hell-fire concerning this statement, but a lack of "proof" to the contrary does not add up to having a valid reason to make absolute statements as to the existence hell, either. Such a simple thought was impossible for me to think prior to this period in my life. I was chained to my fears--but only until I realized that I held the key the entire time. If the Creator of the Universe is the Christian god, and this "all powerful, all knowing, all loving" deity fashioned me uniquely, then a skeptic I shall be! If this god will condemn me to eternal hellfire for refusing to be disingenuous, then I guess I never had a chance.

In closing, I would like to thank you for sharing your story with the world. I am sure you've helped many to see that they, too, are not wicked for wishing to use their reason and intellect, to question, not terrified of being wrong. How freeing it is to no longer blindly accept terrible, unverifiable propositions! It is not self-evidently virtuous to suspend one's "god-given" reason in favor of fantastic propositions that dangle all of humanity over a flaming pit! Is it any wonder why dogma is so hard to shed? Never again will I bow to an oppressive doctrine of fear, calling it "good news." I would not do it even it if were true--but I will not shy away from the truth all the same. Thank you for reading the story of my life.

Yes, there is freedom from the fear of hell and guilt that can cripple the thought life of a child. This man has found his way to a new life. I congratulate him for his courage and resolve.