Minister became an Atheist
Dan became a teenage evangelist
at age 15.
At 16 he was choir librarian for faith-healer Kathryn Kuhlman’s Los Angeles appearances.
He received a degree in Religion
from Azusa Pacific University
and was ordained to the ministry
by the Standard Community Church, California, in 1975.
Dan preached for 19 years.
He maintained an ongoing touring musical ministry,
including eight years of full-time,
An accomplished pianist, record producer, arranger and songwriter,
he worked with Christian music companies such as Manna Music and Word Music.
For a few years, Dan wrote and produced the annual
“Mini Musicale” for Gospel Light Publications’ Vacation Bible School curriculum.
He tells his story in the books
Losing Faith in Faith (1992)
and Godless (2008).
Dan was PR Director of the
Freedom From Religion Foundation
from 1987 to 2004.
He was elected co-president of the Foundation with Annie Laurie Gaylor in 2004,
with whom he is co-host of
a national weekly talkshow on the
Air America network.
He is a contributing editor of Freethought Today.
He regularly travels
the country and the world
and participating in debates with theists,
many at college and university campuses.
Source - Freedom From Religion Foundation
(12 Nov. 1867 – 10 Jan. 1955)
was a former priest who became an English writer and speaker on freethought.
He entered the Franciscan order at the age of 15.
In 1890 he was ordained into the priesthood with the name Father Antony.
He was recognised as an outstanding scholar of philosophy, and was sent to study at the Catholic University of Louvain.
In October 1895 he was put in charge of the newly founded Franciscan college in Buckingham.
Shortly after leaving the priesthood, McCabe began writing.
He wrote From Rome to Rationalism, published in 1897,
which he then expanded to book length as Twelve Years in a Monastery (1897).
From 1898–1899 he was secretary of the Leicester Secular Society, and he was a founding board member in 1899 of the Rationalist Press Association of Great Britain.
He wrote prolifically on science,
religion, politics, history and culture,
writing nearly 250 books during his life.
Often unconscious act of referencing only those perspectives which are habitual to us.
A manifestation of our innate tribalistic tendencies,
may have to do with the neurotransmitter oxytocin.
While helping us to forge tighter bonds with people in our ingroup,
performs the exact opposite function for those on the outside
— it makes us suspicious, fearful, and even disdainful of others.
Ultimately, the ingroup bias causes us to overestimate the abilities and value of our immediate group at the expense of people we don't really know.
We justify what we have put effort , time or money into.
Observational Selection Bias
We are selective about what we notice.
An example is what happens after we buy a new car and we suddenly start to notice the same car everywhere.
It can feel easier to stick to our routines, political parties, our favorite meals etc.
Part of the perniciousness of this bias is the unwarranted assumption that another choice will be inferior or make things worse.
Has to do with our built-in desire to fit in and conform, go along with a group.
We tend to assume that most people think just like us.
Assume that a consensus exists on matters when there may be none.
( A reversal occurs when idealistic people think that they, alone,
have doubts, have concerns, etc.
and that all others in the group
adhere to all the group's
ideas and attitudes,
without private reservations.)
The Current Moment Bias
"Live a day at a time" can be good advice,
but can also trap us in sub-optimal situations, avoiding opportunities.
we tend to fixate on particular items.
( "Anchored" to what
all of these types of biases
provide as our mental milieu.)
from "The 12 cognitive biases that prevent you from being rational" by George Dvorsky
Could you see yourself remaining
in the church
under different circumstances ?
I sometimes think that if I'd not gone into the ministry,
I might have become so wrapped up in a career, family,
church social life,
and church local lay leadership
- I was a Sunday School teacher & the youth treasurer & a lay preacher -
that I wouldn't have time to think
& a busy routine would have
taken over my life.
( I'm sure that is what has happened with many of those who provide lay leadership in their local church,
they leave the thinking to the minister / priest,
who in turn relies upon the teaching
of older church leaders.
That is how the direction of each denomination continues over generations.)
I read extensively as a teenager & young adult,
so something might have triggered more questioning
& led to me leaving anyway.
I hope so.
Fix Reason firmly to her seat,
and call to her tribunal every fact,
Question with boldness even the existence of a God;
because if there be one,
he must more approve the homage of reason
than that of blindfolded fear.
In a galaxy far, far away.....
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Sometimes a large company will source a new CEO or senior executive from outside the company, even from another country.
( Sometimes that works well, other times it proves to be a dismal failture - that's not my concern here.)
My point is that one reason to choose an outsider is to have a fresh viewpoint available.
Another is to have someone who won't have loyalty to one office politics faction
or be blinded by one sub-group's strategic or technical preferences.
Management consultancies charge high fees and thrive globally, partly for the same reasons.
Imagine yourself to be a space-explorer who comes across a different sentient species, on a previously unknown world, with multiple isolated, different cultures.
As you visit each isolated continent you find that they do not have the basic technology to travel the extremely wild oceans and do not know anything about any other continent.
They are friendly & you are a competant linguist & communicator.
Each culture tells you a different world origin story and has a completely different religion.
What will be your evaluation of the real, objective truth of all these different stories ???
To try to think like an outsider is not a new idea.
( Some of the above might be an unconscious quote, I read constantly.)
I was reminded of it's truth again on a website by John W. Loftus M.A., M.Div., Th.M.
Here is a partial quote from John's site:
"How Evangelical Christians defend their faith is annoying to me for the most part.
They don't realize how inconsistent their approach is and how that same approach is used by people of other faiths.
They don't connect the dots.
They were born into a Christian culture
and became believers because of cultural influences
just like Muslims in Iran,
or Catholics in Mexico,
or Buddhists in Thailand,
or Hindus in India.
They know this
and yet WANT to maintain their religion is the correct religion anyway,
just like Muslims, Catholics, Buddhists and Hindus do when faced with this same sociological data.
Christians claim that these other religions are man-made ones.
But let's connect the dots here:
If other people in other parts of the globe have created man-made religions and are persuaded to believe in them because they were raised in their respective cultures,
then why is this not also true for their particular sect of Christianity?
Why do they think they are privileged to be born in the right time and place when others are not? *
If there is a God why would he privilege them like this?
It's the natural tendency we humans have for thinking we're special, that's why.
If you were a vistor from another galaxy - what would you make of this, honestly ??
Another reason is that thousands of paid ** professionals work very hard at promoting religion,
think they are working for God,
& are without time to really examine the truth of what they have been taught themselves;
- just as John & Dan Barker & I & countless ministers, priests & pastors
who have left religion did before we realised the truth.
** Similarly many more unpaid lay leaders go along with what they have been taught,
with even less time and information to properly question.
All these become guides, examples and role models for the young in their sphere of influence.
( See my section in left green panel below. )
* A concern at the back of my mind while I was studying was clarified
and given a framework for understanding group thought processes and behaviours
when I encountered the term "subculture".
( "a social group within a national culture that has distinctive patterns
of behavior and beliefs" )
Smaller subcultures can arise within an embracing subculture;
sometimes sharing some commonalities & drawing from an "outside" subculture.
( eg Catholic Charismatics )
Examples my concerns at the time:
The denomination I left was very evangelistic,
it's tiring, time consuming, strenuous efforts even ignored Jesus' specific words:
"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites [are]:
for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, ..."
( Matthew 6 v5 KJV )
Most other church groups did not do things the same way.
Some groups who were also making very strenuous , different efforts,
believed and tried to teach as "God's Truth" extremely different doctrines.
( some examples: LDS - Mormons ; Jehovah's Witnesses; etc )
One student had come to college from a church with which the SA had significant shared tradition.
He became quite upset when in a Bible class he was taught the SA's interpretation of some verse.
It apparently clashed importantly with what his previous church had taught him,
and apparently the instructor would not concede any validity to that interpretation.
( I wasn't in his class, & don't remember the issue.)
Most people in all these different groups,
including the group of which I was a member,
just totally discounted the existence,
and claims to "Truth", of the others.
Understanding came when I realised that all distinctive subcultures,
including the one that I was with,
have developed, instilled & reinforced,
that automatically made their own group
the final authority on some matters.
( A "tribalisic" way of interpreting and interacting with a wider culture. )
Only by mentally and emotionally "moving outside" can we attempt
to objectively judge the validity of those beliefs.
Here is an example of how people do not think things through :
Former minister Dan Barker, speaking to a mixed faith audience :
( talking about coherence )
“....Second, there is not even a coherent definition of a God.
We heard a couple of definitions of a God today, but they are not coherent.
In fact, they are mutually contradictory
. . . all of these ‘omnis’ . . . omnipresent, omnibenevolent, all-merciful . . . infinitely merciful . .
by the way
[turning to a Muslim cleric], if Allah is infinitely merciful, then I can’t go to hell.
Infinite mercy would have no judgment at all in it.
Even if I reject him, even if I spit in his face,
if he is infinitely merciful, he would not send me to your hell.
By the way, you get to sit on couches under the fig leaves,
and you get to laugh at those of us infidels whose skin is being burned off of our arms,
but Allah grows the skin back again so that he can burn it off again, and again, and again.
If such a being did exist, He does not deserve my admiration......
And that goes for the Christian god as well . . .”
Like Dan I prefer not to worship such a monster,
who would create a place like hell.***
The problem for so many of us is that we were never given
a realistic, rational , free from emotional pressure to conform,
chance to be free from the incoherent teachings.
These came to us ( literally ) with our mother's milk,
while she, herself, conformed to her parents' ( and the group's )
pressure to bring the grandchild, new husband ,
and her life-experience-poor and religion's-inconsistences-unaware self
to worship such incoherence.
Some of us, those babies, grew up in that environment,
immersed in what our main reference group taught was "reality".
We might have liked the minister / priest
and tried to emulate their commitment to this God,
which we did not realise was an incoherent idea.
If we were articulate, ( and sometimes even if we weren't :>) ,)
had a bit of the performance pleasure of a naturally captivating personality,
( dutifully ascribed to God , of course, because we did not want to be sinfully self-proud ),
we felt pressure to become clergy ourselves.
As we prepared to study, in theological college, as young ministers,
we sometimes cringed at some of the old-time preaching and practices,
but we were counselled to stay with the church.
We glossed over the unpleasant, like the eternal damnation concept
the limited thinking, didn't see all the incoherences, etc
Now we have an opportunity to leave all that behind.
( Many religious people have a genuine fear
that outside the church,
the world is a bad place,
and stay trying to be secure from percieved turmoil outside.
My wife, who is a church goer,
get's quite concerned when the news shows violence, ill-mannered or crude, uncivilised behaviour.)
This gets worse as people get older.
The un-churched desire a civilised society as much as anyone else.
People like Dan and all the ex-clergy who made a life free from religion
are proof that security, happiness, friendship and a healthy, satisfying life are very possible.
If you are clergy ( a leader ) thinking about all this,
Please have a look at New Reformation and Leaving
which have a link to the clergy project to help you sort out your future.
If you are a lay leader then this site is a start,
remember you are NOT the first to starting thinking about all this.
*** Re "hell" see The shameful residual background memory...
John W. Loftus M.A., M.Div., Th.M
has three master's degrees in the area of the Philosophy of Religion along with some Ph.D. work.
He earned his Th.M. degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 1985.
Those raised within the church will benefit from reading all of his "outsider test",
and his books & sites listed below
John is the author of
"Why I Became An Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity" .
Why I Am Not a Christian: A Summary of My Case Against Christianity (2008)
and the editor of & a contributor to "The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails".
He will contribute "Christianity is Wildly Improbable" in a forthcoming work:
seen by their loyal followers
to have special access to, and understanding of, the Divine,
have a special responsibility to critically study
and honestly examine what they teach,
whatever their tradition."
"The competing traditions of mankind can not all be correct,
in fact none may be correct."
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my updates and interesting snippets on Twitter.
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