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Archived Letters

Wednesday, July 30, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Today's message was directed to you!

From Tom:

I have been visiting exchristian.net since the past month and I find it very interesting. Are there former ministers who have been to bible school or have studied theology intensively? Is there anyone here from South India? Especially someone who a pentecostal?

I am currently a pentecostal from South India (Kerala) but since last year I have been very critical of Christianity. Reading the bible and really thinking about it, the whole thing brings forward may too many holes for christianity (Firefox shows up a typo when I type christianity with a lower case C-hmmm-supernatural) to be a one stop shop for truth. I have slowly started to move away from christian beliefs and have been inching my way to atheism. And in most areas I have started to find answers that gives me some clarification.

However there is one aspect that stumps me and I have not been able to find any solid articles regarding it. It's about prophecies. And by prophecies I mean the ability of some pastors to know secrets of a particular person. We have quite
a lot of that in India. Predicting the future is nothing big, cause I have read about self fulfilling prophecies and such. But the following has me researching online frantically but not finding anything yet. There's quite a lot of 'supernatural' prophecy phenomenon and miracles (mostly unverified and quite a lot of them involves just doctors doing their job) in South India.

1. I recently had an interesting conversation with my sister and she told me about a pastor who visited her college and revealed things about her that he couldn't possibly have known ever. He did this again with her friends who weren't christians that turned out to be true. These are things their friends didn't know but he was able to reveal it to the person privately and sort of 'call them to action'.

2. She again tells me of a couple of students from a college prayer group who meet with a pastor they never knew when they went to a church. The pastor tells them that there is one student in the prayer group who cries out at night. It turns out that a student was going through quite a lot of personal problems and he used to cry at night after prayers. This student accepted christ eventually and was worried about his brothers who weren't saved. He prayed quite a lot and one day saw a vision of a large book and he sees the names of his brothers in the book. The next day he gets a call from his brother and the brother tells him that he accepted Christ last night (the night the student saw that vision). This is what the student told my sister and I have no way of verifying whether he exaggerated or just plain lied.

3. A girl was pondering over questions of God's existence over several months almost tiring herself out. One morning she goes to church with my sister and friends and the preacher speaks exactly 'what she needed to hear'. After the service, the preacher comes over to the group and suddenly points at her and says 'today's message was directed to you'. No one had told him anything about her.(Incidentally, this pastor's father is thought of as a false prophet by quite a number of people that I know personally)

4. I personally have had prophecies told about me. Most of them were predictions of my future which I could point out as self fulfilling and I could argue against it.

These are unverified but these are testimonies from my sister who has no reason to lie because she herself is a bit of skeptic although not as much as me. She does believe the 'holy spirit' reveals things but I definitely can't believe that unless it's verifiable. And plus there's just too many holes in christianity to reconcile it with this apparently supernatural phenomenon. I do think this is an area that needs some serious scientific research. If it's being done already please point me to articles regarding this.

Is it the unknown power of the mind? Would anyone here know anything in-depth about this? Have you gone through this experience?

Do you think the youth is vulnerable enough for people to look into their minds easily?

Please point me to articles that you think will help me with this question.

Regards

Tuesday, July 29, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Experimenting with experiential Christianity

From Alex:

Hello all. I'm looking for some input on an experiment I am considering. Before I get into the details of my experiment, a little back story is in order.

I'm a 19-year-old guy from southwest England. I was brought up casually Christian. My family isn't particularly religious, but the schools i went to happened to be Christian. I became an atheist when i was around 15 and haven't looked back since.

I was never really into it, to be honest; the only reason I believed was because I didn't know there was an alternative. Religious studies in my education was a joke; 90% of the curriculum was about Christianity, and while other religions weren't shunned from the lessons, they were treated with a definite undertone of "check out how silly the non-believers are".

In recent years, I have become a little obsessed with researching religion and atheism, and as many of you will understand, it has strengthened my atheism. I have felt an astronomically higher level of emotions, clarity and freedom ever since I discarded my faith.

However, reading testimonials from Christians and ex-Christians alike, I have heard stories of such profound clarity and emotion from the religious fold. Now, I am someone who is plagued by the knowledge that I will never know and understand everything, but I really wish I could. In a way, I feel that as much as I KNOW about the logic and reasons of why religion is false, I can never really understand it because I haven't experienced the opposite side of the spectrum.

The experiment that I am toying with the idea of carrying out is to try to convince myself that Christianity is true. I want to go to church, go to youth groups, read the bible, everything. I want to immerse myself in the culture and try to discover what it is that these people are talking about.

To my knowledge, this hasn't been done yet, but I would love to hear about any similar experiments so that I can also learn from those conclusions.

A lot of you may think that it is impossible to go back to it after learning about atheism. However, I have a moderate learning disability, and one aspect of it is a blurring between the boundary between my conscious and sub-conscious minds. This means that I have an extra-ordinary amount of control over my own feelings, and I can very easily convince myself of what I consider to be lies, and I can create false memories that without serious reflection, I will honestly believe are true.

My idea reminds me of a book that I read a short while ago. A journalist wrote a book about the drugs culture, and while interviewing a crack addicted prostitute, willingly smoked crack because he didn't think that he would be able to retain his journalistic integrity in his situation without discovering firsthand what it was like. He was fully aware that the addiction rate for first time users of crack is somewhere in the realm of 50%, but he still tried it. I feel the same way about my situation. Also, I understand that there is a danger, however small, that I may become too immersed in what I currently consider to be a delusion and be unable to get out again, but its something I feel that I should do.

I'm not sure whether I will ever actually carry out this experiment, but I would appreciate some feedback from people who have had different experiences in their lives.

Also, I understand that there may be some ex-Christians out there who may feel that what I want to do in some way cheapens their own experiences, especially if they have had particularly bad ones. I want everyone to understand that this is in no way my aim. My reasons are purely selfish and for my own understanding. In this same vein, I don't want anyone to think that I'm trying to set myself up as some kind of martyr or anything of the like. I'm not looking for any respect, disrespect, or recognition. I simply, desperately, want to understand.

Please reply with any kind of comment, criticism, warning or information.

Sunday, July 27, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

When was the Bible written?

From ATF

This is about an upcoming PBS TV special that will air in Novemeber this year.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/entertainment/tv/orl-exodus2108jul21,0,7755323.story

The Nova program will premiere Nov. 18. PBS presented a clip and a panel discussion at the summer tour of the Television Critics Association.

The program says the Bible was written in the sixth century BC and that hundreds of authors contributed.

"At least the first five books of the Bible come together during the Babylonian exile," says producer Gary Glassman.

The program challenges long-held beliefs. Abraham, Sarah and their offspring probably didn't exist, says Carol Meyers, a religion professor at Duke University.

"These stories are unlikely to represent real historical events, but rather there's some kernel of ancient experience in there which has survived and which helps give identity to the people at the time the Bible finally took shape centuries and centuries later," Meyers says.


ATF

Saturday, July 19, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Q&A about posting comments

Commenting using Disqus




Disqus is a comments system that’s new to this site, so I thought we should take the time to run through it to make commenters comfortable with and proficient at using it.

What is Disqus?


Disqus, pronounced discuss, is a service for blog comments. Disqus enables bloggers to make the conversations on their blogs more interactive and manageable. Our distributed comment system connects readers across blog communities, while empowering publishers in promoting their content.
In short, using Disqus is a better way for people to participate in conversations initially started by blog posts. Check out how Disqus enhances the discussion on this blog.

How does Disqus work?


Like your average blog comments system. With a few extra perks.
a compiled a little guide is below:

Sort comments

What? … You can sort the order of the comments to your own whim:
By Oldest, Newest, Hot and Best.

How?
… By pressing the above ‘OPTIONS’ button.

Please … Only reply when the Oldest or Newest setting is on, however, as this will mess up the structure and strived-for chronological and sequential nature of the comments.

Rate comments

How? … Comments can be rated using the arrows next to the display picture.

Why?
… Rating comments can, amongst other things, remove said comments - and even the person behind the comment himself from the blog due to his clout.


Questions, comments, complaints, compliments about the new commenting system? Leave a comment here or just message me.

Please … Only to use the rating for strictly inappropriate comments - not ones you formally disagree with in a discussion. Disqus allows the explicit feature flag as inappropriate, but I’ve chosen not to include this due to redundancy. The grounds for the rating are more subjective.

Undo your rating
… by clicking the selected rating.

You can’t rate a comment, if
… one of these conditions are met:

(1)It is your comment.
(2)The comment is a direct reply to you.
(3)You are not a verified user.
(4)Your clout is below a moderator-chosen threshold.

Editing your comment

You are able to edit your comment constantly, until someone replies to it. If you want to delete it, edit your comment to [DELETED], and I will delete it for you.

Advice and guidelines

Remember to reply to the proper post; if you reply to the blog post, type in the default field; if you wish to reply to a comment, use the reply field appearing by pressing the ‘reply’ below that comment.

Do I really need to create a user?

Nope, you can settle on commenting as an unverified user, if you don’t mind the couple of seconds it takes to claim your unverified profile one or creating a full profile. Though you won’t be able to have a profile, rate comments and deter and reward users, or be able to follow the comments of users you like.

It is not necessary to register in order to post. However, those who do register will find a wealth of features such as being able to edit comments, follow the posts of all and/or individual posters, follow comments on all and/or individual threads, receive email updates, create a profile, subscribe to rss feeds and a handful of other great options. One really cool feature is the option of posting a video comment. Another is a threaded reply ability which enables posters to reply directly to the OP or to a particular poster.

Note: Anonymous comments (comments by unregistered users) are moderated. Registered comments are not moderated and will appear instantly.
Or, use the brand new OpenID compatibility on the Disqus login page to log in using your username from services such as Google, Facebook, Hotmail - just to name a couple. At the moment, the feature isn’t integrated into the comments interface on the blogs themselves - yet.

Does Disqus support tags?

Some, yes. See below for a list I made after testing what popular and useful commenting tags Disqus supported.

Tags working

<blockquote> - Quotes, and indents, a long excerpt.

<hr /> Creates a horizontal line/rule.

<a href=”[link]”>[name]</a>

<b>

<i>

<u>

Tags not working


<li> - Creates a list.

<sub> - Subscripted text.

<sup> - Superscripted text.
By far the best way to participate and comment is to create a free profile at http://disqus.com, where you can set up email notifications, follow select posters or comments, keep track of your own comments, vote on posters, flag comments, etc.
<q> - Quotes a short excerpt.

<big> - Makes the text big. Duh.

<small> - Makes the text small. Duh again.

<del> - Strikes text (as the deprecated <strike>).

Web and mail addresses posted without any formatting are automatically converted.

Feel free to use this thread to play with and learn the commenting system.

Thursday, July 10, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America

Dear Friends,

Most of you who are getting this newsletter e-mailed me some kind words after my story in the Los Angeles Times ran last year under the headline, "Religion Beat Became a Test of Faith," which chronicled my spiritual journey from devout Christian to reluctant atheist.

For whatever reason, my essay hit a nerve -- I think because serious religious doubt isn't talked about with a great deal of honesty these days. At any rate, the story generated thousands of e-mails and many new friendships. Last fall, HarperCollins asked me to expand the material into a memoir.

Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America" is finished and will hit the bookshelves in February. This newsletter is designed to keep you up to date on the book, the book tour, appearances and signings. You can pre-order the book from Amazon (at a 34% discount!) by clicking here.

I also have ambitious plans for my website, www.williamlobdell.com, where I think an open and honest discussion about religion and doubt can emerge.

I'm very proud of how the book turned out (I think it's much richer and more compelling than the article that spawned it), and I think you'll enjoy it. It's already getting some very nice endorsements from believers and nonbelievers alike.

Thanks for listening.

William Lobdell

Click here for an NPR interview with Lobdell.

Click here
for another excellent article on Lobdell.