My only communication with him is by e-mail now, and ever since leaving home on bad terms at 18. It should be noted that my dad, unlike my mom, has been loving in spite of everything, so we have managed to keep our relationship mostly in tact. (any names mentioned have been changed in this account.)

Hey dad,


Sorry it's taken so long for me to reply. It's been really busy up here with the vacationers. I had 40 + hour weeks this week and last at work ... so it's been hectic. In the little free time I
had, I wanted to practice math ... I didn't do as much as I would have
liked, but didn't neglect it completely. I have to keep it up though - I
only have a year at this point to cram it all in my brain. The guitar
playing is going better - on a good week, I practice about 30 minutes
every day. I didn't get to much last week though ... still, I'm getting
better slowly. My fingers don't hurt as much as I expected based on your
warning, and I get the basic concept of how to play ... mostly what is
hard for me is learning to read music. It seems to be easier for me to
memorize and play than to read as I go. I need to learn to read music
though.


As for your question (who was Jesus?), I have to disagree about it being 'the best place to start'. It may be the best place to start in terms of
evangelizing, but I am not interested in being witnessed to. I know the
routine as it's one that I've been far more than exposed to for most of
my life. I even shadowed you in EE if you remember, as well as read 'the
Case for Faith' in youth group and again, years later on my own, so I
can predict where you were headed with that.


I'm far more interested in the 'evidence' that led you to your decision (to have faith that Jesus is who he said he was). I already know, obviously, who Jesus
is to you ... but why that decision for you personally- and what pushed
you to it? I am also more than familiar with C.S. Lewis' logic as to why
choice A supposedly makes the most sense (i.e. how can you believe him
to be a good person AND a liar, the signs of him not being crazy, etc
etc) I'm not having a debate with C.S. Lewis, though - I'd like to know
in detail what you believe and the logical reasons as to why it's worth
believing, to you. Since you've also claimed to be interested in what I
believe, I will do the same. I hope this is truly the case (that you
want to know what I believe) rather than an excuse to witness. I don't
mean to accuse, but it's just that, based on the way it started, it
reminded me of the EE routine. I'd like to keep this as a
discussion/debate - where you present your side and I, mine. :)


As for your question, I will still answer it, although my view does not really fit into the box of choices you've presented me with. That said, I pick D)
he was a man and the story about him grew vastly out of proportion over
time. (ref. the telephone game, any word of mouth communication, etc)


I believe he existed (there is plenty of evidence to support that) However, I think it's pretty ridiculous to assume that because people said he claimed to
be God that he MUST have claimed to be God. Your options have a
prerequisite of the Bible being completely accurate, which we cannot
assume.


Winston Churchill was a great man; one of whom people sometimes believed to be the reincarnation of king Arthur. If he had lived during
the dark ages, back when people assumed that magic, demonism,
witchcraft, etc. all existed (and believed in them in order to explain
the (at the time) VAST gaps in the knowledge science now provides), it
would be entirely possible that, over 2000 years, people could build a
religion around his simple good deeds based on that one crazy rumor
.

At the time Jesus lived, the Jews had been looking and praying for a messiah for centuries. It would be easy to assign those attributes to a great man (Jesus) to acquire the comfort provided by his message, and make it seem
more real
.

Even though this is the view that makes the most sense to me, I still do understand why people want to have faith (in Jesus, particularly). I also don't see any major problems
with having that faith (even though I personally feel it's a waste to
willingly choose such a narrow view of life when a more objective path
allows you to see and understand so much more), unless that faith is
taken to an unhealthy extreme (ex. when Christians, rather than mind
their own lives, choose to butt into the lives of others, sometimes to
the point of abuse or even death - wars, murder 'in the name of God',
etc etc.)


While I'd still like to know the specific evidence that led you to Christianity, I personally believe that the Christian faith has very little to do with actual evidence and
everything to do with mental and emotional comfort. I can even recall
you, in a past e-mail, claiming to have been 'attracted' to
Christianity's message because it was a nicer and happier view, the idea
of an afterlife. The truth is rarely happy though, in fact, it's often
cold (when you tear away what I call 'the fluff'). Humans (not just
Christians) believe what they want to believe ... we believe what is
comforting to us ... we believe what fits our emotional needs. That is
how the mind works. I'm sure you've heard stories of victims that have
experienced some sort of trauma, where the mind at some point buries the
truth of what happened because it was too much to take (too
uncomfortable). The mind does not like to be uncomfortable - asberger's
syndrome as well as various other mental disorders are extremes of this,
where you can more easily see the evidence of how the mind repels
change (remember Jeb and his routines?), but we all in fact are that way
to some extent. An example is the girl who just broke up with her
long-term abusive boyfriend. Logically, she has every reason to leave,
but somehow clings to him still (in a way, a form of Stockholm
syndrome: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_syndrome).
Even when things are obviously 'bad', 'wrong', or 'unhealthy', the
mind has gotten used to this scenario (it's become routine) and it
doesn't want to change (familiarity = comfort; change= fear of the
unknown.)


Basically, the human mind is wired to 'fear the unknown' (although to what degree varies from person to person; ex. someone with aspergers vs. the adventurer who seems to 'get off' on
that same fear) ... and this is something we must fight to get anywhere
in life. I believe that faith in Jesus, while a nice thought, is nothing
more than a comforting idea to ease the mind's natural fear of the
unknown, but on a much larger scale (i.e. it affects one's entire world
view, as opposed to getting out of a relationship or changing jobs). I
think it is impossible to know anything for sure, and this especially
applies to 'what happens after we die'. Since I believe 'it is
impossible to know anything for sure' and that the message in
Christianity is nothing more than 'a comforting idea' to ease our 'fear
of the unknown', I've decided to live as objectively as possible; even
though I believe it impossible for any person to remain fully objective
in life due to the minds needs for certain comforts, objectivity is what
I strive for. I will try my best not to attach myself to any comforting
idea, ultimately because I don't want to be comforted .... I want to
see and I want to know; I don't want anything to hold me down as I truly
explore the world around me, and that requires me to be 'uncomfortable'
at times. I've decided that learning is more important to me than
comfort, and I don't want to 'grow' in the jar that any religion will
trap me in; I want to grow as truly and freely as I can.

I know you may not accept/understand/want to understand what I'm saying, but you said you wanted to know my view, so I presented it. I
hope you can look at it from an objective stand point; I don't want you
to think poorly of me or to be hurt by it. I know that, based on your
faith, the decision to accept Jesus is literally 'life or death'. This
is why I worry that you are hurt by my view ('only the saved make it
into heaven, those who believe in Jesus as their personal savior').

This brings me to another point: what is your opinion of the idea 'once saved, always saved?'. I ask this because I truly left my faith
behind. (This is my 'testimony', as to how and why I left my faith
behind) When it existed, it was very real to me. There were many things
I didn't like about 'Christians' even from an young age (things that
didn't seem 'right' to me, things that didn't connect) and there were
definitely doubts that I ignored at the time (things that didn't make
sense, but that I still clung to, sticking with what I'd always known
(ref. change is scary!!)) ... but none of that changes the fact that I
truly believed I was saved, at the time. I faithfully prayed to God, and
I really did believe in his existence, and in Jesus as my personal
savior. I was young, naive, and inexperienced with life, but my faith
was real. As I grew older, as I got to know more people (even ones
outside the 'bubble' of Christianity), as I became more and more
experienced with life ... the 'flaws' of Christianity became more and
more evident. Still, I wasn't ready to give up what had always comforted
me, for as long as I could remember. I concluded that 'Christians' were
just bad examples most of the time, but that Jesus was still real and
perfect. This period was my gradual transition into agnosticism, but
eventually, I realized my faith was holding me back from what I wanted
out of life: to learn and grow (that is truly all I desire from life).
This was the turning point for me. I came to a place where I realized
that I didn't know how to live without that comforting message, but that
I NEEDED to get out of my comfort zone to explore and see life for what
it really is. I knew it wouldn't always be pretty, warm, or fuzzy ...
but knowing became more important to me than feeling comfortable. On a
physical level, experiencing Daniel's lifestyle might have been what
brought this to the surface - losing all my physical comforts (a stable
place to live, always food to eat, money for things, security in
general) ... all the little things I never knew to be thankful for. As
rough as that ride was, it was worth it in the end because of the
knowledge and experience gained.

Quite honestly, I think I have a fetish for struggling. Where exactly it came from, I am not sure ... but it could have something to
do with my 'routine' of struggling (even as a child, my little opinions
often differed immensely from mom's, and so I almost always had to
'fight' for what I wanted - even the little things.) For whatever
reason, I seem to like to 'fight', at my core (not physically ... and
not always, as I am non-confrontational in most situations.) I'm sure
that had a lot to do with my infatuation with Daniel in the beginning of
our relationship (fighting for him) and I'm sure it's also why I adapted
so easily to the new lifestyle (moving in combined with the craziness
of his living situation) - I was all ready to endure whatever I needed
to get through it. While this is a trait that I am proud of (that I am
willing to fight and be strong), I am also aware that it is one to be
controlled (i.e. 'fighting for the sake of fighting is never a good
thing. "choose your battles.")

While this trait led me to many 'mistakes' I'm sure, and caused me to not handle some situations perfectly, it got me where I am today, for
which I am grateful. This may not make much sense to you, but the
freedom and feelings of 'joy' that Christians claim to have experienced
when they gave their lives over to Christ are the same feelings I
experienced when I started throwing that view away. I realize however,
that those 'feelings' (both in my situation and the new Christian's) are
only a positive emotional side effect of the idea of a 'change for the
better', but I thought I'd point it out all the same. In the same way
the new Christian feels a sense of relief when he decides to believe all
his sins have been washed away and that he's turning over a new leaf, a
'fresh start', I also felt 'rejuvenated', no longer having to cling to a
view that didn't make sense; it made me feel like 'a new person'. Any
sincere decision for a lifestyle change 'for the better' would make a
person feel this way.

I guess what I'm mostly curious about is your opinion of my view in general, but particularly on 'the mind's fear of the unknown' and it's
connection to Christianity (the 'need' for religion). As mentioned, also
the evidence that led you to believe. I'd also like to honestly know
how much the 'desire for a comforting message' had to do with that
decision. Was that almost the entire reason, or did the 'scientific
evidence' come first? Maybe this would be hard or impossible to answer
honestly. :-/

On a final note, I just want you to know that I think faith in Jesus (faith in general) can be a good thing. Even if it can't be proven (the
whole point of 'faith' is to believe even though there is no definite
proof). I think for those that want to live a simple, happy life ....
the message is perfect, and comforting. I don't think there is anything
wrong with wanting to be comfortable in some things, as long as it isn't
holding you back from something else you want even more (i.e. it's
more comfortable to not learn how to drive for some people, but they are
often better off learning anyway, getting past that, so that they can
become more independent). If you like your faith, I wouldn't want to
take it away (not that I could - people believe what they want to). It's
just that, for me, I do not want or need it.

I am hesitant to send this, because a part of me is afraid that maybe it would be better left unsaid, but I also feel compelled to
express some of these things. I know some may hurt your feelings, but I
just hope they aren't hurt too much. It really isn't my intention ...
it's just that I know I can never express any of this to mom, and it's a
topic that is very important and interesting to me; something it'd be
nice to talk to a parent about (most never get this chance, due to the
'stickiness' of it). Even though our views in this obviously differ,
it'd be interesting to know your personal story ... and I'd also like
for you to know mine ... and just for you to know that I don't live
blindly ... I do have thought out reasons for my opinions.

love,

Bee

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Comment by Ella E on January 17, 2011 at 3:12am
Wonderful letter, Bee, well done. You write so sincerely and without extremes of emotion or expression. I would be really proud of you if you were my child.
Comment by Loren Miller on October 16, 2010 at 7:11pm
Tai, I may not be the most knowledgeable atheist out there, but I say this, and I say it without hesitation:

I'm glad to help.

If you'd like some sources or info or whatever, give a shout ... and if I don't have what you need, someone else around here very likely does!
Comment by Sarah Bova on October 16, 2010 at 5:36pm
Thanks so much for the suggestions, guys. I found 'the God Delusion' by Dawkins on Amazon - I think I may start myself off with that. There are so many that look good though ... I've been previewing them.

I think I may have seen bits and pieces of Nova? Still,, I will definitely check it out when I have the time. That one seems like it would be perfect for me.
Comment by Glen Rosenberg on October 16, 2010 at 10:45am
I second Loren. Good stuff cheap.
Comment by Loren Miller on October 16, 2010 at 5:11am
Hey, Tai!

If you want something truly solid regarding the whole creationism vs. evolution, may I suggest PBS's NOVA program documenting the events in Dover, PA and the trial: Kitzmiller v Dover, which basically blew ID back into the woods:

NOVA - Intelligent Design On Trial

The video for that program is available as well. It's not quite two hours long, but very well worth your time.
Comment by Glen Rosenberg on October 16, 2010 at 1:13am
I am not familiar with David Moody. I have read enough creationism v evolution to know that it is Secretariat moving like a tremendous machine (his forbear eohippus was the size of a big rat)versus a mule. (Mules do race at california fairs.) I am being generous comparing creationism to a mule. Cuz ya gotta be a regular jackass to endorse creationism.
You have the curiosity and the intelligence. Now go take on the day. Tai Bee will assimilate, be conversant and know what to say.
Comment by Sarah Bova on October 15, 2010 at 11:35pm
Ahh yes, Dawkins has been suggested to me already. I haven't read any of his books, but I've watched videos on youtube. I can tell he'd be helpful, though. I will have to look up the other names you've mentioned ... thanks!!

My dad is really big on 'Creationism vs Evolution'. He is not an overly passionate Christian generally, but he really gets into THAT topic. For reasons already stated, I've never been able to level with him there. Apparently, the 'scientific evidence' for God's existence is what pushed the decision (to become a Christian) that was originally (admittedly) based on a simple desire to ease the fear of death. I guess he really NEEDS the science to be there and 'strong enough' in his own mind. He sees stronger evidence where it isn't. I just need to understand better ...

I remember him showing me a 'David Moody' (have you heard of him?) science tape when I was 12 or so - he loved those tapes! It was a debate between an evolutionist and a creationist. I remember noticing that it didn't seem fair - the evolutionist was obviously a moron, and the creationist seemed a little to good to be true. I figured I just didn't know enough and ignored that instinct (I did that a lot). My dad showed that video to my 'boyfriend' of the time (in one of his many attempts to convert him) and he noticed the same thing I did - that the creationist only looked good in comparison.
Comment by Glen Rosenberg on October 15, 2010 at 11:11pm
Tai Bee,
That clarifies things. I suggest (time permitting) that you read. Try Why I am not a Christian by Bertrand Russell or something by McCabe, Feurbach, Hitchens, Harris or Dawkins. Any one of these authors will broaden your understanding and increase your fire power. In dealing with your dad pay special attention to the conflicts between science and religion.
I give you credit. It is not easy to stand alone.
Comment by Sarah Bova on October 15, 2010 at 8:05pm
Glen,

I am at a point where I can see past the emotional aspects of 'the muck'. I am not however properly educated, having been home-schooled under strict christian guidelines. My dad is very interested in science (as unfitting as it may seem). As much as I can tell that some of his ideas don't make sense scientifically, I don't know enough to refute it. I was taught from a science book that was from a Christian worldview (lol) ...

I'm trying to learn what I can on my own, but the emphasis has been on math (yes, I fell behind there too) as I'd like to get into a good college next year. Having been home-schooled, I wasn't required to take the SATs. That is what I'm currently preparing myself for. Luckily, English has never been a struggle, but in math (and science), I have a long way to go.

eek ...I wouldn't use Atheist Nexus to cheat ... ;) I've pretty much known some of what I needed to say for a while. I guess I like to see others reactions or see if anyone else can relate. I tend to feel pretty lonely in this, even though I obviously am not.

I do have trouble with face to face confrontation, but I consider it a bad habit that I'd like to shake. I believe I can, with lots of practice. With my dad, it has to be via e-mail though - it's the only way I communicate with family (living far away from them).
Comment by Glen Rosenberg on October 15, 2010 at 7:32pm
Tai Bee,
My issue was whether I would have seen through the muck had I grown up with religioparenting.
If you have trouble with face to face confrontation, argument then I suggest you do it incrementally via email. If you use atheist nexus to cheat-you my dear will pay the consequences. VICTORY AT SEA

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