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Journal of No. 118


March 6th, 2009

How not to reconvert an atheist @ 01:28 pm


As I mentioned a couple years back, the LA Times' religion editor lost his faith and wrote a few articles about the experience. He's recently expanded these to a whole book, and he's gotten a lot of fan-mail from Christian readers helping to pull him back into the fold. Here's his response.

He remains a "reluctant" atheist and (as I said at the time) I never found his reason for giving up Christianity very compelling, but his essay still has an interesting perspective (and a few funny bits).
 
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From:aaronjv
Date:March 6th, 2009 10:46 pm (UTC)
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His book is on my Amazon wish list.

However, I am not sure I agree with his statement that you quoted in the old post:

"Clearly, I saw now that belief in God, no matter how grounded, requires at some point a leap of faith. Either you have the gift of faith or you don't. It's not a choice. It can't be willed into existence. And there's no faking it if you're honest about the state of your soul."

If I read that correctly, faith sounds like a genetic trait; either you're born with it or you're not, like homosexuality or blue eyes. I happen to think that believers choose to make a leap of faith, and non-believers don't. Yes, nature and nurture are like wind gusts at the faith cliff edge, but ultimately I would like to believe (hmmm...believe...) that all humans at some point in their lives use their free will and say to themselves, "ALLAHU AKBAR!" or "PRAISE JESUS!" or "No thanks."
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From:essentialsaltes
Date:March 6th, 2009 11:32 pm (UTC)
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If I read that correctly, faith sounds like a genetic trait; either you're born with it or you're not, like homosexuality or blue eyes.

I don't think he's implying genetic determinism. Presumably, he was formerly able to make that leap, but now he cannot. So having or not having the gift of faith is not immutable.

I happen to think that believers choose to make a leap of faith, and non-believers don't.

Sure. Here I think the difference in the two views is almost semantic.

We can tell who has "the gift of faith" by who chooses to make the leap of faith.
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From:dustchick
Date:March 7th, 2009 12:42 am (UTC)
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I happen to think that believers choose to make a leap of faith, and non-believers don't.

I think that depends on when the choice is made. A child who is indoctrinated from birth didn't make the choice to believe. He or she may later choose NOT to believe. Choosing to continue believing changes nothing, especially when considering that not believing is more risky.

Did that make sense? I haven't had enough chocolate yet today.
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From:essentialsaltes
Date:March 7th, 2009 01:13 am (UTC)
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Choosing to continue believing changes nothing

Perhaps, but maybe that makes the person's faith explicit, when before it was implicit. It promotes it to 'real' faith as opposed to some ingrained reflexes taught to a receptive and uncritical child.

I don't really have a dog in this hunt, I was just trying to show that Aaron's position and Lobdell's are not necessarily that far apart.
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From:dogofthefuture
Date:March 7th, 2009 05:33 am (UTC)
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Curiously, I went and read the old post as well, and had somewhat of the same thought you did. In this case, I don't think that Lobdell's use of the phrase "gift of faith" was anything more than a rhetorical misstep, as it implies an ability some don't have.

Hell, we all have the *ability*, I mean every April I have faith that come October, my Padres are going to win the World Series. (So far I've been disappointed, but in terms of actual evidence that it might come true, my Padres have come a lot closer than any evidence for a God.)

Er, so anyway, I do agree with you, but I think it's worth pointing out that his choice of that phrase might say more about his sadness to have lost a certainty than anything about faith itself. It was a false certainty, as he's come to understand, but one that he still feels the absence of.

Journal of No. 118