Adding to My Must-Read List: Waking Up by Sam Harris

Sam Harris has a new book out and I’m definitely going to read it. Anyone want to join me?

Waking Up by Sam Harris

You can read Chapter One here:

Waking Up by Sam Harris

I’d love if some of you wanted to join me in reading this and we could discuss it.

[Edit: Looks like it’s being released on Sept. 9th so we’ll have to wait until then to get it.]

Happy reading!

What Should We Think About Death? Narrated by Stephen Fry

Came across this great video from the British Humanist Association and narrated by Stephen Fry:

It looks like the British Humanist Association has some great videos on their youtube channel including other ones like this one which are narrated by Stephen Fry. Check out their youtube channel here. They also have a Facebook page which looks like it’s worth following. And here is the link for their main website.

Enjoy!

Beautiful U R – Deborah Cox

This song really encouraged me this week. In the past few weeks I’ve had to get back in touch with who I am deep inside and bring her to the surface again. Looking honestly at yourself and all of your insecurities isn’t a fun experience! It’s been painful but liberating and necessary. Thought some of my readers might need to hear the message in this song as well.

I might be able to give my blog some more attention soon. Stay tuned!

The Benefits of Contemplating Death

Ever since my deconversion I’ve been much more aware of how temporary my life and the lives of those around me are. Once I came to the conclusion that there is no afterlife, I became much more aware of how I want to spend my remaining days on earth. I find this has really helped me to keep my eyes more focused on what’s really important in my life and what isn’t. Of course none of us will ever be perfect at this, but contemplating death is a good thing to a point and we should use it to help us keep things in perspective and to appreciate each moment more. Considering I think the formation of religions was and still is based on this ultimate fear of our own death and our inability to control that and many other things in our lives, this is a topic that I’ve thought about a decent amount. And as foreign as the idea is to us – I encourage all of us to think about death more often! Not in a fearful way but in a way that reminds us that each moment in our lives is precious and that we should choose wisely how we spend them.

Here’s a great post: Before I Die: A Global Ethnography of Anonymous Aspirations in Chalk and Public Space

The book I recommended in a previous post also covers this topic near the end: The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman

In that book, I came across these other titles that he mentions and they are on my to-read list:

Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death by Irvin D. Yalom

The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker

Anyone have thoughts on this topic?

Book Recommendations – February 2014

I’m on a role with listening to audio books lately! I love listening to them while I’m cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, etc. Might as well get some reading in while getting chores done! And the last few have all been awesome so I wanted to share them here. I’m not going to do lengthy reviews of any of them – just go read them! (… or listen to them …)

1. The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life’s Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections by Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D.

If you need intense and fast-paced books, this one is not for you – but I loved it! Rosenthal is a psychiatrist and in the book he gives examples from his own life and from those of friends, family members, and patients of his to teach us important life lessons. You feel like you’ve sat at the knee of someone very wise and walked away wiser yourself because of it. Highly recommended.

2. The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman

Loved, loved, loved this book! This book might totally change your perspective on how you approach life and your quest for happiness. Go read it! Did I mention I loved it? 🙂

3. The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D

I’m only about halfway done this book but I like it enough so far to recommend it to you. If I hate it by the end I’ll let you know! What I love about this book is that it demonstrates how many various external and internal factors affect our behaviour and decisions without our even being aware of it. We tend to think that we make most of our daily decisions based on rationality and logic but the studies described in this book show that that is often not the case – and yet we are totally oblivious to it! Interesting read at the very least.

Let me know if you end up reading any of these and how you liked them.

What Led Me to Leave Christianity?

Back in October I received the following comments and questions from a visitor to my blog but life was too busy for me to really give it a well thought out answer. But I’m taking the time today! And I’d like to mention here how much I appreciate respectful comments and questions like this even if the author and I don’t have the same viewpoint. Also, if you’ve followed my blog for very long you know that I don’t write posts very often, but when I get in the zone, I write long-winded ones – lol! So I somewhat apologize for veering off topic – this turned into a revisiting of my deconversion. But I hope it gives my readers a bit more insight into my journey and maybe it will even help someone who needs to know they aren’t alone in their doubts and questioning.

Brenda, I am a fairly recent “convert”, if you’d like to call it that, to Christianity, and in comparing my own conversion to your “de-conversion” or what have you, I am really struck by the fact that we both cite reason and evidence as two of the main factors spurring us to change sides, so to speak.

So, I must ask: What really clenched it for you? What convinced you that Christianity is false? What convinced you that God does not exist? I ask only because I didn’t believe in God or in Christ’s divinity until two years ago when I actually began looking at the evidence, and saw that a lot of it points to Christ, that a lot of it corroborates historical/geographical details from the Bible, that there are good reasons to believe in an infinite-personal Creator of the universe. Have you looked into these matters much? I mean, as someone who had grown up assuming that the only way to be a Christian was by blind faith, I was stunned!

I go to a church where about 40-50% of the congregation is from an atheist/agnostic background. Conversions happen everyday, literally; it’s very much the norm to see a college-educated atheist or agnostic come to our Bible studies for a few weeks or months and wind up accepting Christ. I was one of them. So, to hear of someone abandoning their faith–especially after 20 years–is quite surprising to my ears. Anyway I was just wondering what your thoughts would be on this.

~Leggatt

Hi Leggatt – thanks for your comments and questions!

What convinced me that Christianity is false?

Here’s a link to My Story if you haven’t read it already. In there I talk a bit about how I started doubting the Bible’s infallibility and from there I started realizing that if the Bible wasn’t perfect then how in the world would I know what was true in it and what wasn’t? It was a frightening experience. I had trusted the Bible as my perfect guide to truth and in a pretty short period of time I realized it was likely just written by a bunch of ancient people who didn’t know much at all about the world and wrote it out of their own ignorance.

That realization freaked me out! If the Bible didn’t have some ultimate truth in it, then where was truth to be found?? I went on a desperate search through books and online to try to find some way that I could recognize and discern truth. I looked at more liberal branches of Christianity, deism, agnosticism, new age material. I was desperate to find some sort of solid ground where I could plant my feet and at least feel like I was on the right path towards truth.

I read and read and read to no avail. But then I reached a turning point. I realized that all of these ideologies were just guesses. All of the people putting forth these ideas and thoughts and guesses were just people like me. They didn’t know any more about any of it than I did. I had been looking around hoping someone somewhere knew more than I did and could show me the way or at least point me in the right direction. But I realized they were all just humans like me who were born not knowing anything and were taught by those around them to think a certain way and while that could look very authoritative, they were just guessing. Almost all of their ideas came from looking around just like I did and they tried to make sense of it and put their own spin on it and called it truth.

So pretty quickly I decided that my best course of action from that point on was to stick with science. It’s not perfect but more than anything else out there it seeks out evidence and makes that its highest goal. No wishing, no hoping, no faith, no manipulation, no using people’s feelings to convince them of anything. No ancient books, no loyalty to ancient wisdom if it doesn’t hold up, no praying, no ceremonies … nothing is sacred … except truth.

And then I took a deep breath, looked around at the world, and I felt peace. You don’t hear that very often, that something as ‘cold’ as science or atheism could give someone peace – but it did. There’s a peace in doing away with all of that other stuff and just saying to anything that comes across my path, ‘Show me the evidence and show me the truth. If you can’t do that for me then I don’t have the time or room in my life for it.’ That was a filter that cleared so much garbage out of my mind and I could then just look at my life and love the people in it and start creating the kind of life I wanted. And I haven’t regretted it for a minute.

But you asked me about evidence and all I can say is that I just don’t agree with you that the evidence is there. You can do searches on my blog and you can visit my Links page, my Bible page, and my Books page where you can see many of the blogs, websites, and books that I read during my deconversion that ultimately led me to where I am now. Many of those will do a better job of explaining in-depth the problems with the Bible and why I absolutely think there is no evidence for the truth of the Bible or any of its core teachings. [Edit: Visit this blog’s Journey pages for some in depth Biblical Criticism. There are many more out there as well. This one is another good one.] You mentioned that you found historical and geographical details from the Bible to be convincing (which I don’t) but even if some of those things were true, it doesn’t mean that anything else the Bible teaches is true. It doesn’t follow that because a historical fact might be true that therefore the spiritual teachings in the Bible are true at all.

Here is a post/page that I wrote explaining why I will never return to Christianity and it probably summarizes well the problems I discovered within Christianity as I went through my deconversion journey: Would I Ever Return to Christianity?

In hindsight, I honestly think people choose religion out of fear and then once they’ve latched onto a worldview they only see the evidence that fits that storyline. What are people afraid of? Everything. Death mainly. There is fear that we are alone in the universe, fear of just living with our mistakes without any chance of truly redeeming them. Fear of hell. Fear that has been built into us as children. Fear that is likely wired into us from our early evolutionary beginnings as humans. It’s a scary world – whatever your particular fears might be. Religion holds out a branch and says hold on! We have some solid ground for you and we have almost all of the answers for you! But instead of grabbing onto that branch and all of the baggage that comes along with it – I would urge my readers to look at their fears directly. Realize that some of them are founded in reality (death, catastrophes, loss, loneliness, pain …) but that some aren’t (hell, sin, all of those worries about bad things you think will happen but don’t …). And the best way to face those hard-to-handle things in life is to take a breath, face the reality of what’s in front of you, know you can handle it, and build the life you want in the here and now. And don’t forget to grab onto all that wonderful and awesome stuff that is out in the world while you’re at it! Love, sex, friendship, births, achievements, music, art, nature, conversation, smiles, laughter … they are all out there to enjoy while we’re here!

Well Leggatt (and the rest of my readers), I hope that gives you some insight into my journey. I didn’t want to rehash all of the research I’ve done regarding the evidence for or against Christianity – I’ve already documented that on my blog over the past few years. If you find any posts that you’d like to discuss further and in more detail I am open to that.

Do any of my readers want to chime in with their own thoughts on this topic or on anything I shared?