Convinced about God…

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I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts recently. Trying to work through the backlogs of both ‘Unbelievable?‘ and ‘The Thinking Atheist‘ especially. I love these two podcasts, as they draw in a variety of guests, ideas and discussions. I also enjoy having one Christian podcast and one Atheist podcast – feels like a fairer listening schedule. No one should repeatedly back up their current position for fear of being wrong. We are all wrong about something, we just don’t know what we are wrong about right now.

One of the things I have noticed during my transition out of faith is how many different views of the term ‘Atheism’ there are. There are those like Jordan B Peterson who claim that those wielding the term Atheist are ‘soft atheists’, unable to stand by the ‘hard atheism’ of the Soviet position, that ‘there is no God’. Others like Matt Dillahunty or Sam Harris, for example, believe that there is no way we can definitively say there is no God, rather using phrases such as ‘I’m not convinced there is a God’, over ‘I am convinced there is no God’.

I recently listened to Douglas Murray on the Unbelievable? podcast talking about why he classes himself as a ‘Christian Atheist’, expressing that it would be very hard to be an atheist with the ‘self-evident truths’ that we claim are all around us, without inheriting them from Christianity. Almost like we have carried the morality and worldview we had across with us into atheism, but now obviously reject the Creator who people used to believe gave them to start with.

It’s really interesting how people define their belief system. It used to be really easy to tell people, ‘I am a Christian’, it made sense and people could identify with at least the core belief that the claim entailed. These days terms like Atheism or Agnostic seems too confusing or uncertain. Decades of language and belief shits have caused people to coin their own phrases and people like me feel like they have the need to explain what they are now calling themselves and why they are calling themselves that.

I personally tend to agree with Matt Dillahunty. I don’t think we can be certain that there isn’t a God. I don’t think we can deny that there could be a God and we just need the evidence to be strong enough to convince ourselves that He is real. But that doesn’t mean this God would be the Judeo-Christian God, and it also doesn’t mean that just because we can’t prove He doesn’t exist, we should act like He does and worship Him.

You see, I used to believe in the Judeo-Christian God, but over time as I read, listened and thought, it became apparent that I no longer did believe in Him. I don’t think that we are able to control what does and does not convince us of something but rather are carried by the pieces of evidence we view as most likely to be true.

I have mentioned this before, but I think it is worth re-hashing. People have told me to ‘just believe’ or to have ‘faith’ and carry on. But I want you to try something for me. Can you ‘just believe’ that Islam is correct and therefore worth following? Can you have ‘faith’ that Joseph Smith was correct and live like that from now on? No, of course, you can’t.

You see you require a certain level of evidence or proof that the claim is true before you believe it, and I am fairly sure you don’t actually control the tipping point upon which that level needs to reach before you are convinced of something enough for it to be ‘believable’.

Say deism is true, let’s say a God created the universe and then stopped engaging with it. Arguably, you could get to a position where you believed this was at least possible because we don’t have enough evidence to show that it is false. We can’t get back past the big bang to see, so we can assert whatever we want into that space, and people do just that. But say you do establish a deistic God, as Christopher Hitchens was so well known for saying, ‘All your work would still be in front of you’. You would now need to establish philosophical and scientific arguments and theories to establish a theistic God who was, is and will interact with this universe and us on personal levels.

To date, I have not come across evidence that convinces me enough to step back into a theistic belief system I held. But I am searching, questioning and wondering. It would be foolish of me to hang up my walking boots, sit back in my chair and claim ‘I am convinced there is no God’, how could I ever prove that claim is correct? It would be naive and ignorant of me.

Rather I claim that ‘I’m not convinced there is a God’, because of the evidence and how it makes sense to me. Lots of things play into this. How I was taught to view evidence at school and beyond, how I have navigated challenges and thoughts in life. Moral systems, belief systems, coping strategies, reasoning skills, communicating skills… all of these link and feed into how I used to, and still do rationalise and navigate what is in front of me.

I am aware there will be many people who think it is foolish. I am agnostic because I don’t know or think I can know anything for certain. I am Atheist in the ‘I am not convinced there is a God’ way, a soft atheist in Jordan B Peterson’s eyes, maybe. I feel like the term Agnostic helps to reinforce the uncertainty, the searching and the thinking.

I hope at least, that helps you understand why I currently call myself an Agnostic Atheist – ‘I’m not convinced there is a God’, which is very different from ‘I am convinced there is no God’.

I wonder, what do you call yourself and why?

_End of Blog Blurb_

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. It has taken me a few years to get to a place where I am able to share my loss of faith and to start writing about the journey that I am still on for you all. I hope you find it useful.

Support: The podcast and blog will always be advertisement-free, and your generous support on Patreon will enable us to continue doing this effectively and to a higher standard over the years to come. Please consider supporting the work we do.

Podcast: If you like what you read then you could always check out the podcast ‘When Belief Dies’, it is available on all major podcasting platforms or you can listen via YouTube. Dave and I upload and publish via Anchor FM each Wednesday at 7 am.

Grammar, spelling, capitalisation and punctuation: I am massively dyslexic. It has taken me years to get to the level I am currently at with writing and I have done this mainly through reading. I want to be better and ask you, reader, to please forgive any errors in my writing. I hope you notice improvement upon improvement over the coming years.

Time Frame: This blog is roughly twelve months behind where I currently am at in my journey out of religion. It’s important to remember that when reading and commenting.

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I’ll see you back here at the same time next week 🙂

-Sam

When Belief Dies #78 – 'A Scholar in the Wilderness' with Dale C. Allison When Belief Dies

This week Sam and Daniel are joined by Professor Dale C. Allison Jr. The video version of this conversation can be found here on our YouTube channel 12 hours after the audio version goes live. We take a look at Professor Allison's beliefs and work, as well as what he thinks it is possible to know about this world and the claims the Bible makes. This is a really refreshing conversation and sees Dale C. Allison balance faith, searching and knowledge in a really impressive way. Dale C. Allison's Bio: Dale C. Allison is an American New Testament scholar, historian of Early Christianity, and Christian theologian who for years served as Errett M. Grable Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Early Christianity at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He is currently the Richard J. Dearborn Professor of New Testament Studies at  Princeton Theological Seminary. You can find/follow Dale C. Allison Jr here:   Princeton Theological Seminary Resources mentioned in this episode:   The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus Night Comes: Death, Imagination, and the Last Things The Resurrection of Jesus: Apologetics, Polemics, History We hope you enjoy our show. When Belief Dies aims to honestly reflect on faith, religion and life. Your support via Patreon enables us to cover the costs of running this show and look to the future to make things even better as we build upon what we already have in the works. Please take a look and consider giving. Alternatively, you can support the show with a one-off gift via PayPal or Bitcoin. Use the following link to navigate to the website, to find us on social media and anywhere else we might be present online. #Podcast #Deconstruction #God #Agnostic #Christian #Atheism  #Apologetics #Audio #Question #Exvangelical #Deconversion #SecularGrace  #Exchristian
  1. When Belief Dies #78 – 'A Scholar in the Wilderness' with Dale C. Allison
  2. When Belief Dies #77 – 'Carts, Horses & Certainty' with Roger Bretherton
  3. The Ehrman Episodes #1 – 'Christ & Christmas' with Bart D. Ehrman
  4. When Belief Dies #76 – 'Purpose & Pokémon' with Daniel Kelly
  5. When Belief Dies #75 – 'Handbooks, Atheism and Honesty' with Dr Joshua Bowen

14 Comments. Leave new

  • Reading your blog is rather like looking at a star and having to remind myself that I’m seeing the star as it was ten years ago, due to its distance from us. For all I know, the star might have exploded seven years ago and the flash just hasn’t reached us yet. This blog is about one light-year from Earth.

    So I’m reading this after just listening to your podcast episode 25, published in November 2020, where you now call yourself an agnostic rather than an agnostic atheist. So rather than decide which vintage of Sam to respond to, I’ll just say what I think of these labels…

    I’ve heard people like Dawkins say that we’re all born atheists. A newborn baby has no belief or opinion about anything, and very little knowledge. But a baby is not an atheist the way I am an atheist: I’ve heard and considered the god claims, one of which in particular I used to believe, and I now believe none of them.

    I suppose there are adults who have never given serious thought to the claims of the Christian god or any other deity, or who are truly on the fence – thinking that a god is as likely to exist as not to exist. Somebody in that position might accurately be called an agnostic, period. But for me the term atheist is useful to refer to those who have considered the god-claims and find them not credible.

    Reply
    • whenbeliefdies
      December 12, 2020 3:28 pm

      Which makes complete sense!

      I just think that some people would say they are a ’hard atheist’ whereas I would say what you say here is soft atheism.

      We are not convinced that there is a God/gods (and yes, we have looked).

      I wonder what you’ll make of my chat with Graham Oppy (out on 6th of Jan), we touch on this and naturalism. I agree with a lot of what he says in the episode.

      Reply
  • I usually prefer to say that I am non-religious. That works reasonably well to shutdown attempts to convert me.

    At other times, I use “agnostic”. The trouble with “atheist” is that many people take that as implying anti-theist, which I’m not.

    Reply
    • whenbeliefdies
      December 12, 2020 4:22 pm

      Yeah, that makes a lot of sense!!

      Reply
    • Yeah, I usually only call myself atheist when I am talking to other non-believers. With others unfortunately the ‘a’ word still leads to all kinds of premature conclusions about me, my politics, my morality (or lack thereof, typically). “Agnostic” or “non-believer” don’t have quite the same effect.

      Reply
      • whenbeliefdies
        December 12, 2020 6:28 pm

        Though often believers just think ’they are confused’ or ’they’re too lazy to pick a side’, not helpful 😕

  • Sam, I continue to enjoy your blog, and I guess it’s time to check in on your podcast, too. Since the blog lags behind the podcast in time, it might be interesting to compare the two Sams.

    BTW, you gave me a chuckle with this typo: “Decades of language and belief shits have caused people . . .”
    I’m pretty sure you meant ‘shifts’ but oddly enough the sentence works either way.

    Reply
    • whenbeliefdies
      December 12, 2020 5:04 pm

      Haha – yeah that is a fantastic typo. I think I will leave it in 😂

      Enjoy the podcast, as and when you listen ✌️

      Reply
  • Labels convey so many different things to different people. No matter which one one decides to use for oneself, there is bound to be a misunderstanding at some stage. I went to a fairly Christian school, and ‘atheists’ were considered weirdos who ‘believed we are all related to monkeys’ (a fairly banal strawmanning of evolution, which was definitely not taught at my school!)

    ‘Non-believer’ seems to be the most neutral term in my experience.

    Reply
    • whenbeliefdies
      December 14, 2020 1:07 pm

      Love it!

      I wonder if the term naturalist can work…

      Or if it sounds too much like naturist 🤔😂

      Reply
      • Haha. A friend of mine once described David Attenborough as a ‘naturist’. I was a little surprised before I realised he meant ‘naturalist’. 😄

  • whenbeliefdies
    December 14, 2020 1:22 pm

    Ha – that’s epic!

    I mean, in the 1950’s it’d have been fine, but 2020’s – dear God no.

    Reply
  • Though I am functionally an atheist, I do not call myself an atheist because I figure that something caused all of this to be. I might as well call that something ‘God’. The characteristics of that god are the subject of much conjecture, investigation, and debate. As such, when the subject comes up in religious company, I refer to myself as a ‘God seeker’. I find the term to be disarming and non-repulsive to those Christians around me that I encounter on a daily basis. I also continue to call myself a christian because I identify with many so-called christian values – (love, self-sacrifice, inclusion, acceptance, forgiveness…) I recognize that these values are not exclusively christian, but given the society in which I was raised and live (southern United States Bible Belt), it works for me.

    Reply
    • whenbeliefdies
      December 14, 2020 3:23 pm

      Yeah, I really like this.

      Something did start all of this off – what that something is – we don’t know at this point. Can we ever know? Maybe, I honestly don’t know enough.

      But the more and more I look into the Philosophy of Religion the more I can understand why someone would believe in a God, I just don’t think there is enough evidence to say the Christian God exists.

      Reply

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