Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Do Atheists Ever Become Christians? MP3 Audio

Do atheists ever become Christians? In this talk given at William Lane's Craig's Defenders class at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Holly Ordway discusses her journey from atheism to Christianity. Entitled Inside the Mind of a Former Atheist, this is an interesting look at how God works in the heart and the mind. Holly Ordway has written about her journey in Not God's Type: A Rational Academic Finds a Radical Faith. Holly's blog is here. More about this audio here.

Full MP3 Audio here.

Enjoy.

24 comments :

Lee said...

Do these former atheists ever provide good reason and evidence for their conversion?

Is it provided in this lecture?

Lee

Brian Auten said...

Hey there, Lee!
Good to hear from you.

Do they explain how they came to believe and some of the reasons? Yes.
Do they provide proofs that will convince everyone else? No.
Is it worth listening to? Yes, I think so.

I'd be interested in hearing your feedback after listening, if you like.

Take care.

Davitor said...

This is why I'm so involved in our Unity Church because we have thousands who were atheists or agnostic at point in their lives but have now come to acknowledge and accept The Christ in All.

info said...

Just found this site and look forward to exploring the vast amount of info on it. Just wanted to make a quick comment on the audio from this post about the 9-11 attacks (around 12-13 minute into the audio) 'why do i care that these people are dead, I do not know them'. I just want to make sure people understand that as an Atheist I can still have many reasons to care about other people and about people I do not know. I hope that is not something most religious people feel in general. I look forward to exploring more of the lectures and discussions and thanks to the creator of this site for the work they have put into this.

Stephen said...

Hello and welcome to the site. I do not run it, but Brian does, and he has posted above. I think most of those on this site have been involved with enough atheists to know that they have reasons to care about people, but as a sort of welcoming query, allow me to ask what your reasons are? Interaction on this sight is always civil and usually probing. Don't feel compelled to answer, I am merely curious.

Stephen said...

Hello and welcome to the site. I do not run it, but Brian does, and he has posted above. I think most of those on this site have been involved with enough atheists to know that they have reasons to care about people, but as a sort of welcoming query, allow me to ask what your reasons are? Interaction on this sight is always civil and usually probing. Don't feel compelled to answer, I am merely curious.

info said...

hi Stephen, thanks for asking. I am not sure the exact reason almost all people have empathy of some sort for others. My guess (and i could easily be wrong) is that it is a positive trait that we evolved to have because it is useful for a strong society. Evolve may not be the right word. Possibly a meme or a cultural idea that is passed from generation to generation. It could be reinforced by others because it has positive outcomes. (again i could be wrong on this) This is my best guess why almost all people have empathy. - paul

info said...

the last post was my idea on why most people have empathy. here is my personal idea, and I am still working it out, and do not expect others to agree. I do not believe in freewill. (and that is another discussion altogether) i believe all of our actions, thoughts and so on are taken because of our genetics and our experiences/environment. I did not control my first experiences/environment or my genetics and all actions I take are from one of these so I do not have freewill. This may or may not be true but because I currently believe this I also believe i could have been born in any circumstance (any genetics and any environment). I could have been Hitler or Mother Teresa or any one else. If I believe this I have come to the conclusion of empathy for all people as I could have been in any other persons shoes. I struggle with this as I know that the $2 i spend on coffee (and do not even think about it) could provide much more benefit to a person in a poor country (one of the billion or so people that live on a couple dollars a day). I could have been that person. The only reason I am relatively rich is that I was born with these genetics and this environment. I struggle with this and I have an explanation but this post is getting a bit long. And yes, I could be 100% wrong :)

Trent Collicutt said...

info, very few people would say an atheist can't have empathy or be moral.

From the large amount of literature, they might say that they can't explain why they do. The Christian beleives that they can explain it, even if you don't accept the explanation as true. But then again, whatever explanation you do come up with, others will not accept it either.

info said...

"very few people would say an atheist can't have empathy or be moral" - I was just pointing to that idea in the talk. Some people do believe the only way morals can come is from God, gods or a supernatural thing of some sort. As a person that cares deeply about others but does not believe in a god I think this idea is not only wrong but potentially problematic. But this idea could be wrong and not problematic, I am still trying to figure out how important (and in what areas) truth is. I can easily imagine the belief that a god will punish you if you steal, cheat, murder being a positive aspect to a society. The god in that equation is not necessary to be true in order for that to be a positive belief. It gets scary to me when that same god says slavery, international relationships and gay relationships are wrong. (i am not saying any one religion says these things but some may)

"The Christian beleives that they can explain it, even if you don't accept the explanation as true"

Being able to come up with an explanation for something is not what makes it true. people did explain thunder and lightning as the gods being angry and at one point in history that was a best explanation a person cold come up with, Now, using science, people have a better explanation. I have a guess about how morality came to be but i am sure it is not 100% correct and may not even be close. Scientists and philosophers are learning and understanding more about ethics and morals every year and even if they do not come up with all answers that does not make them wrong. My idea that what the Christian believes is wrong is not because i reject the conclusions (but i may in some cases) but because i reject the way they came to these conclusions and the way they will be able to come to future conclusions about morality. Morals in the USA over slavery, womens rights and so many other things have changed over the last couple hundred years and I am sure they will continue to change. I worry that Christian moral philosophy could have a negative impact on the future, not as much because what it says but because of how it came to these conclusions. --- But i may be wrong and i change my mind as i learn and grow. I could be defending religion in the future :)

info said...

correction: It gets scary to me when that same god says slavery is ok and interracial or gay relationships are wrong. (i am not saying any one religion or god says these things but some may)

Stephen said...

How do you think that Christians make decisions about morality?

info said...

My guess is many use the bible and some go as far as saying the 10 commandments specifically are the basis for morality. (arguing to put the 10 commandments in court house and such). I am guessing it is a combination of bible, specific ideas from the leaders (pastor) and personal logic as well as other environmental factors such as society norms and the like. Well, i really believe it is from genetics and environment (see ideas about free will above) but that said the religion aspect is a strong aspect of the environment. -- The part that scares me is the bible and pastor part. what do you think? Am i correct about these as I am not sure. I could be way off.

Stephen said...

Hey Info, I would say that you are mostly correct, but as you might expect, I would characterize it differently. This is a very reasonable way to look at morality, even given your criteria listed above.

Anyone would be hard pressed to find a book that has influenced the morality of the Western world more than the Bible. So, studying it to determine our moral choices makes perfect season. Furthermore, there study is enhanced by teaching from someone that has specific training in their area of study, the pastor, as well as reading books on the subject. Not all Christians will read Aquinas, but even popular, contemporary authors provide some ethical thoughts that add balance or support what the pastor said. Taking the advice of friends is also common. The other three (environment, societal norms, and genetics) apply just as much to the atheist as the believer, so I have not bother to analyze them, but I will ask a question about one of them.

Based on the tone you took above when speaking about slavery, women's rights, and homosexuality, it would seem that your morality seems to be grounded in something that is objective. Some things are always right, other things are always wrong. First, have I characterized your view correctly? And afterward, how do you account for this on genetics and societal impact alone?

info said...

Stephen, thanks for the discussion. I see what you are saying and i have to take back part of what I said before. "The part that scares me is the bible and pastor part." I should have taken out the pastor part. That does scare me but it is not because they are a pastor but because they use the bible as the foundation. It is scary that a person uses this and has such control over other peoples lives. But as you pointed out it can be looked at as "Taking the advice of friends" and this (the ability to get info on a subject from someone else you respect, not the specif advise),is a good thing. I believe all of these fall into the category of environment. I my opinion we have two influences on our actions/thoughts and they are genetics and environment(including past experiences and basically everything we have been discussing).

Stephen said...

info, I am enjoying this conversation as well.Thanks for clearing that up, Info. Too often when people misunderstand a view, they are accused of a straw man fallacy, which I don't think is always useful unless they continue to misrepresent the view.

Allow me to restate my question above, in case I expressed it poorly the first time. Judging for the post above, you would say slavery and mistreating women is wrong. Are these wrong all the time, most of the time, or neutral actions?

info said...

Here is my ideas on the bible and why i do not think it is (or should be)a standard for our morals. It may have some great wisdom, years beyond the wisdom of its day. I personally think it can and does influence molars and may have done a lot of good. (I have not studied if it has done more good or bad but that is not the point). It may also be the book that has influenced the morality of the western world more than any other. (again i do not know) Let us assume it has had the most influence on morals and it has had a positive influence. That does not make it a book from God. And that does not make it correct as far as morals. And it could have done a lot of positive in the evolution of morals and still not be correct.

Imagine a book, written that says treat elders with respect, do not steal, do not lie, and do not associate with people that have red hair. If this was written in a time where people did not respect elders, did steal, did lie and seldom came in contact with people with red hair and had no red haired people in it could provide a positive situation. It is possible the neighboring society had been hostile and had many red haired people and all contact with red haired people had been negative. This could benefit society quite a bit but that does not make it true in all cases, but again, it could be good for that society.

I think a better book with the same info would be written that says treat elders with respect, do not steal, do not lie, and do not associate with people that have red hair plus if you can figure out reasons these are not the best laws using logic and investigation please change them as these are the best we have come up with so far to keep our society flourishing. If we find out that respecting elders is actually a bad thing please stop doing it. If we find out redheads are not bad please stop avoiding them.

By putting some morals down as basic rules it allows us to go about our lives farming and raising our family and working without having to spend years thinking about what is right and wrong for every situation and this is probably a good thing. But saying that something written 2000 years ago is the correct way to look at the world scares me the same way that saying do not be in contact with redheads scares me. But the same morals plus the idea that you can change your morals if you find convincing evidence to change them and have an open mind to changing them after using logic and evidence is a much stronger set of how to come closer to the best morals to live by.

My understanding is that the bible is the word of God and if you believe that, it is understandable that you take it for its word on all moral actions. To people that do not believe it is the word of God, think it could have a lot of positive morals in it but do not give the morals the option to change, think it is really scary even if it has done a lot of good and has primarily good ideas. (I am not sure if it is good overall but i have seen a lot of questionable verses)

info said...

Stephen, i just wrote a really long post and it has not been posted yet. not sure why but it was about my ideas on the bible and morality. I did not save it so i will have to re write it. and i am about to answer my ideas on "some things are always right, other things are always wrong". yes, thanks for the great discussion. you are helping me flush out my ideas. This is my first time having a blog discussion on any topic.

Brian Auten said...

info --

That went to the spam folder. Fixed now.

info said...

as far as objective morality ... I am not sure on this. (I am so new to this topic but have been studying it the last few weeks)

You are correct in what i said about slavery, women's rights, and homosexuality. I think, given what we now know about the world slavery is bad, womens rights are good and accepting homosexuality is good but these may not be the final correct answer (if one exists) and they could change. That is easy to say as a straight, white, male :)

I am guessing a correct morality could exist at one moment in time but be different in the future and ever changing or it could be a consent law but the individual ways we go about looking at it changes as we get more educated as a society. I do see the potential need to figure out what an overall objective is (and this may change too) but i may be wrong.(overall objective being different than moral right and wrong) The overall objective being the overall goal such as the most happiness for the most people, the continuation of our culture, race or species, the most pleasure, and so on. I am not sure and philosophers are working on it. But I am confident, that all else being equal, the desire to not have pain out ways the desire to have pain in a broad view. (the no pain no gain type of pain can be good) So under most world views less overall pain is good and ways to go about having less pain can be figured out using science. So to answer your questions i do not think some things are always right, other things are always wrong for all of eternity but i do think some things are more right and others are more wrong at this point in time. And we can figure these out. and we may figure them out based on wrong logic and should be able to change our ideas. Even if we do not know the overall objective, if one exists, we can still come to conclusions base on what we do know.

I often wonder what actions or thoughts i have now that will be outdated in the future. I am guessing that if i was the son of a slave owner in the south pre-civil war I would have been pro slavery. What ideas do i have now that will change? My ideas on homosexuality have changed? will my morals on the treatment of animals change. they may? I can imagine a world in the future where the idea of eating pigs (from what i understand they are smarter than dogs but i may not have my data correct on this) or any factory farmed animal is looked down upon the way we look down upon eating our pet dogs in the U.S.A.

So back to the questions referring to slavery and mistreating women "Are these wrong all the time, most of the time, or neutral actions?" I would say they could be wrong all the time using our current knowledge of the world but our knowledge could change and they could become right even if it is hard for me to understand why right now.

Again thanks for the conversation and thanks to Brain for getting the bible morality post up and for his work on the site!

Stephen said...

I am glad I am able to help you think through some of these things. Above, you said that just because the Bible has has good moral principles does not mean that it is divinely inspired, and you are correct. I found a link for you that goes over a few reasons to think the Bible is inspired, but it is not very extensive. Still, if you are interested, here it is.
http://carm.org/apologetics/evidence-and-answers/evidence-biblical-inspiration

What looks to be a more extensive version.
http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/inspiration.html

Theologically speaking, Christians are not bound to the old testament laws, at least not all of them. We are under a new agreement with God that has replaced the old law with a new law. There is still objective morality and moral lists of what Christians should avoid are found frequently in the letter to churches in various parts of the world, which makes us think that they are objectively true.

I think the second to last paragraph in your post keys on a tension between reality and what you are saying in your post. Philosophers have been working on this for millenia and there is no (I think never will be) a consensus on it in philosophocial circles. It seems like you can't conceive of a world in which those matters (asbusing women, etc) listed above would be bad things, but you can only say that they are good things for now. I think they are always true, just the same way the sun is always shining. We may not see it, it may not be shinging where we are, or there may be clouds in the way, but nevertheless is it still there. The ultimate biblical ethic is stated by Christ, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself." One does not have to be a Christian to believe this is a good ethic, but I think you do have to be a theist to believe it is an objective, always true ethic.

I don't think that you can say things like this based on evolution and culture, as these are want to change from person to person. If morality is determined by evolution, then condemning a murderer or rapist would seem as bizarre as condemning someone because they had red hair or blue eyes, or wings. It is a part of their core physical make-up that they can not change.

Other examples you give (such as eating dog v. pig) are cultural norms shaped by environment and not really ethical norms. These can change at whim and often do.

I have really enjoyed our conversation, but I may need to bow out because I have gotten sick. Enjoy the sight, perhaps we will run into each other again and have another good "talk."

info said...

sorry to learn you are sick. yes it has been a fun and useful for my own discovery of truth or at least my discovery of what i think and why. It really makes a person think about the views they hold when they have to write it down and explain them to others. I am sure i will respond to your post and check out your links but it may be a good time to end and move to the next after that. But i am enjoying so feel free to jump back in after you feel better if you have the time. this is taking away from time i should be working. Luckily i work for myself. :) feel better Stephen.

info said...

a few comments:

"If morality is determined by evolution, then condemning a murderer or rapist would seem as bizarre as condemning someone because they had red hair or blue eyes, or wings. It is a part of their core physical make-up that they can not change."

Yes, in my opinion it is bad to condemn the person who rapes or murders as much as the person with blue eyes or wings. But you can condemn the act of rape or murder. I agree that neither person had a choice (I could have been Hitler or Mother Teresa). I do not believe one person is better than another but some acts are better than other acts. I personally find the idea of justice for justice sake completely immoral. Justice as a deterrent or motivator could and often is ok.

------------

"Other examples you give (such as eating dog v. pig) are cultural norms shaped by environment and not really ethical norms. These can change at whim and often do."

That may be true but many people were mad at Michael Vick for his dog fighting activity. They would say that it is immoral. But what is dog fighting? It is an activity that uses animals to provide entertainment to us and that is not nice to the animals. It is not necessary for our survival (entertainment may be but not this type) but to some people it is enjoyable. They could get entrainment in a different way but this is what they choose. ----- What is eating a factory farm big. It is something people enjoy (cheap meat instead of other forms of protein or expensive meat) but is not necessary for our survival. The pig gets treated in such a horrendous way (and this also goes for other factory farming) that I would compare it to dog fighting in how bad it is but it is done on such a wide scale so it may be much worse. We as humans do not need this meat. We can get more calories or protein from other forms of food production or from animals that are treated much better.

that said I am not sure if morals we are talking about extend to animals but i think they do. Did i just defend Michael Vick? haha

p.s. I love dogs. and i do not eat factory farmed meat. I just can not condone one without condoning the other.

Anonymous said...

How can you try to deter someone from doing a particular act without freewill? By definition they cannot be culpable because they were not free not to do the act.

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