Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Unicorn Delusion

Recently I re-watched a debate, from 2010, between Bart Ehrman & Dinesh D'Souza (found here).  In it, D'Souza makes an argument that I've heard him make numerous times before.  So as not to mischaracterize it in any way, I'll quote from Dinesh directly...

"If you really don't know, than what do you do?  Generally, you ignore it.  I don't know if there's life on other planets.  But I don't go debating guys who think there is.  I don't know if there are unicorns, I don't believe there are.  But I haven't written any books called 'The Unicorn Delusion', 'The End of Unicorns', 'Unicorns Are Not Great'...there is something about this new atheism, the aggression about it, and its obsession with God.  One of my atheist debating partners, Christopher Hitchens, I think he probably thinks a lot more about God than a lot of lukewarm Christians.  So there's an interesting thread that links belief and aggressive unbelief."  (Bolding mine)

It should be noted that Dinesh typically gets a great reaction from the crowd when he presents this.  In other words, the argument has been rhetorically effective for him.  It almost seems to me as if he keeps it in his back pocket, for extraction at the appropriate time (often during the q&a period) when he most wants/needs the audience to feel that he's just had a brilliant insight into the very nature of the God debates.  (But one that only he was smart enough to pick up on.)

So, what's my problem here?

Well notice, first off, that Dinesh began by making a case against agnostics ("if you really don't know...") but then flipped to making one about "aggressive" atheists.  That's fine by me, in so far as it goes, but I do think it's worth noting that he uses this bit regardless of who his opponent is or what their specific beliefs actually are (and Ehrman is an agnostic, not an atheist).

Secondly, it seems to me that the thrust of D'Souza's point lies in the bolded statement above.  I don't want to put words in his mouth but, to phrase it another way, he's essentially saying "why do unbelievers care about God so much?"  "Why don't they just ignore him!"  Bubbling just beneath these comments is the subtle (or maybe not so subtle) implication of a spiritual war, raging inside the heart of every infidel, an anger against God that results in their near obsession with destroying all things God related.  Of course Dinesh never says as much, since he knows such a premise would likely be challenged, but this is how I would have taken his statements while I was still a Christian myself (and I suspect he intends for the believers in the audience to make the same connection).

But there is a fatal flaw in Dinesh's line of reasoning.

Can you see it?

Here's the thing...some unbelievers are fixated on God, but not unicorns, because belief in the former is pervasive and harmful (and belief in the latter is fringe, at best).  As hard as it may be for Dinesh to believe, this is why they care so much about God.  Many of the so called "aggressive" atheists feel that religion is holding us back, as a society, if not causing irreparable harm (or even the potential destruction of our very species, should the wrong people happen to get their hands on nuclear weapons).

There is a thread of truth to what Dinesh is saying though.  People do often simply ignore things that they don't believe in.  Most of us don't spend a lot of time trying to debunk the beliefs of those who think they were abducted by aliens, for example (although thankfully there are some, such as Michael Shermer, who do this for us).  But suppose there were millions of people the world over, who insisted that we should be teaching our kids about the "truth" of alien abductions in elementary school...would Dinesh be o.k. with that?  Or, if it were unicorns instead, would he stand idly by and allow belief in unicorns to invade the science class?  I sincerely hope not.  What if teachers were being pushed to "teach the controversy", about whether or not there really are unicorns?  Or if scientists were being accused of having an institutional bias against further research into unicorns?

So, what Dinesh fails to see (or admit), is that actually people would write books called "The Unicorn Delusion" etc.. if in fact there were a unicorn delusion!!

But there isn't.

There is however a very large "God delusion", and therein lies the key to understanding this distinction that seems to puzzle D'Souza so.

Monday, 26 December 2011

The Five Stages Of Grief

I want to be careful not to sound overly cheerful, about my de-conversion, since in reality it was one of the toughest things I've ever been through.  It's true that I feel peaceful about it now, as I discussed last time, but while it was still going on my emotional life was anything but peaceful.

In the fall of 2009 I had one of those rare "eureka" moments, while reading an article online. Frankly, I can't even remember what the article was about but, for whatever reason, it made reference to the famed "5 stages of grief".  It hit me, in that moment, that I myself was in the latter stages of a grieving experience.  Oddly enough, I hadn't even contemplated this possibility prior to that very moment.  I guess I had always just assumed that a grieving process was only meant for those dealing with a physical death.  Not so.

Here's how the five stages of grief manifested themselves in my own de-conversion...


In numerous posts I've mentioned the fact that, initially, I set out on this investigation with the express purpose of deepening my faith.  What I discovered shocked me to my core, but even still I went through a very long period of denial about the implications of these various discoveries.  I still remember re-assuring my wife, as I shared with her about what I was reading, "don't worry honey, I may wind up with a more liberal version of the faith but I'll still be a Christian!".  This was a conversation I grew to regret, mostly because my wife actually believed me.  As such, it was an even bigger shock to her system when I ultimately revealed that I could no longer consider myself a Christian.  (She cried the first night I told her.)

I never intentionally deceived my wife, I was simply in denial.


For me, the anger phase centered around this general feeling that I had been lied to all of my life. What do you mean there are unreconcilable contradictions in the Bible?  Actual historical errors? In the Bible?!?  You've got to be kidding me!  Why didn't I know about this?  The evidence for evolution is conclusive?  The "creationist" arguments have long ago been soundly de-bunked? Why hadn't I previously been aware?  And you mean to say my "relationship with Jesus" has been imaginary the whole time??  Mixed in with all of this was an anger toward myself.  I was beginning to realize that all of this information had been "out there", all along, but I had simply never taken the time to seek it out.  Why had I been so content, to swallow the Christian worldview without really investigating it properly?

I also found myself having new problems at home, and at work, because things were getting to me in a way that I would never normally allow them to.  It took me a while to make the connection between what was happening in those other areas (work/home) and what was happening inside of me.


I've written before about the bargaining phase, at this link, so I won't repeat myself here.  Suffice it to say, I wanted desperately to have some sort of supernatural experience that would confirm the truth of Christianity.

I'm still waiting.


I have a confession to make...I've always been a believer in the power of positive thinking.  Not in some corny new age-ish "name it and claim it" sort of way, but in the simple sense of believing that what we say to ourselves matters.  I even read a Tony Robbins book once and, at the time, it actually helped me out of a funk that I was in.  I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but it's true.

Having said that, no amount of positive thinking was enough to hold off intermittent bouts of depression during my de-conversion.  Coming to grips with the fact that Christianity is actually false was almost more than I could bear.  Everyone in my family was/is Christian, as I've already talked about, I work for a Christian company (a situation I have yet been unable to remedy), and my very identity itself has always been inexorably tied up in the Christian faith.

Who am I?  What am I supposed to do now?  How can I ever tell my family & friends about this? These sorts of questions, when experienced simultaneously, are almost enough to lead anyone to the edges of despair.  It was while I was in the midst of this on again/off again depression phase (and still struggling with anger too) that I stumbled into the aforementioned article on the five stages of grief.  I realized then that many of the problems were actually of my own making; a direct result of my stubborn refusal to move on to the final stage of the process...


It was almost exactly two years ago that I finally accepted the fact that I am an atheist.  I can still remember repeating it to myself over and over...not as a mantra, but out of shock and to get used to the feeling of those words in my mouth.  "I am an atheist."  "I am an atheist."  Holy crap, I am an atheist!!"  It felt weird.  In many ways, it still does.  Atheists aren't like I used to think they were.  Sure, I guess it's true that some of them are "angry", but not at all for the reasons I had always assumed (ie. that they're "rebelling against God", or some such nonsense).

Has anyone else, atheist or otherwise, gone through a similar grieving process?  How long did it take you to fully accept your change of heart?  What was the trigger that moved you on to the acceptance phase?

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

What It Feels Like

For me, the single most surprising thing, about becoming an atheist, is how it feels.  Simply put, I have never felt more at peace with myself.  Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised, by this, but I really am.  I think this peaceful feeling is pretty common among new unbelievers, actually.  I hear a lot of (other) former Christians say things like "life makes more sense now", and I think this is basically what they mean.

Surely, part of it has to do with the simple reduction in cognitive dissonance.  After the questions begin, and one begins to learn about the serious problems with Christianity's core truth claims (such as the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth, or Jesus as God), it creates a very uncomfortable feeling in the pit of the stomach.  This is mostly because your intellect goes to war with your emotions, and it does so with or without your permission. What I had wanted (and expected), when I first started out on this investigation, was to deepen my experience of God. What I got, instead, were more and more questions, followed by doubts and, ultimately, complete disbelief.  During that middle period though, when you know you're doubting but are still unwilling to say that you don't believe, there is a tremendous amount of inner turmoil.  (I'll be writing more about this turmoil in my next post.)

Having said that, I think there is an additional factor at play here.  My feeling now is that Christians are, essentially, thinking from within the confines of a pre-determined bubble. "Deluded" seems to be the current word of choice, for atheists (when speaking about the religious), perhaps because "brainwashed" unfairly suggests nefarious intent.  But the funny thing about a brainwashed person is that they do not know they are brainwashed.  It's only after coming out of the "delusion", or the "brainwashing", that it becomes clear to them, in retrospect.  So, do I think I was "brainwashed", as a Christian?  Well, yeah, kind of.  But the people who "brainwashed" me really believed it too!  Probably a better, and more accurate, word is indoctrinated.  I certainly don't have everything figured out today either (who does?) but all I know is I'm thinking much more clearly than I used to.

A few weeks ago I ran across the following photo, at the Unreasonable Faith blog, and it generated some interesting discussion.  The caption read "This is what becoming an atheist feels like...".

There were a few who took objection to the photo; claiming, for example, that it was "elitist" and "arrogant".  One commenter said that it implied atheists think of themselves as "part of an illuminated minority that knows better".  I'm actually very sensitive to this critique and, more generally, to the view that many atheists give off an elitist vibe.  I don't always agree (that this person or that person is arrogant or elitist) but, regardless, I can certainly understand where the criticism is coming from.  On the other hand, I think the photo is partly trying to capture an emotion, and in that sense it represents perfectly how I felt upon leaving Christianity.  If I were still a Christian I would probably say that the photo "ministered to me"; this is Christian-speak for "it touched my emotions, and I'm pretty sure the Holy Spirit had something to do with it".

Speaking personally, I would much rather someone just tell me what they truly think.  Straight up. No punches pulled.  If you believe I'm "brainwashed", "dead wrong", "deluded", "deceived by the devil", or whatever, I'm o.k. with hearing it that way.  I won't take offense.  And I will actually (gasp!) consider what you have said with a (double gasp!) open mind.  I'll also expect you to stick around long enough for a conversation about it.  "The problem" comes in, I think, when we express our legitimate disagreements in a disrespectful tone.  But, of course, you would expect a guy who calls himself "Respectful Atheist" to say that, wouldn't you?

What do you think?  When I say above (somewhat reluctantly) that I feel like I was "deluded/brainwashed/indoctrinated", as a Christian, are believers justified in saying that I'm "elitist" or "arrogant" for framing it in these terms?  No one has actually ever accused me of this, I'm just thinking out loud here.  

Sometimes I wonder if Christians only think this way because it plays perfectly into, what I believe are, their pre-conceived notions that atheists must be angry and rebellious (because, deep down, atheists actually know that God exists; and they're super pissed off about it)!

For those reading this blog who have themselves held to two diametrically opposed worldviews, at different stages of life (ie. Christian turned atheist, or atheist turned Christian etc.), did one feel better than the other?  If so, why do you think this was the case?

Sunday, 11 December 2011

The Roots Of Faith

It was difficult to let go of Christianity.  Looming before me was the prospect of becoming literally the only unbeliever in my entire extended family.  Our family has, what Christians sometimes call, a "spiritual legacy" and (until this point) it had remained completely in tact among my siblings, first cousins, aunts, uncles etc.  How might breaking that chain impact future generations?  Would my children become atheists, Christians, or something else?  And what about my children's children, and so on and so forth?  There was simply no way to be predict the ripple effect.

I knew very well what my reasons were for leaving the faith but, this got me to thinking, why had I become a Christian in the first place?  On one level, the answer is pretty straightforward.  My mother led me to Christ, at the age of five, by the side of my bed.  It's a day that I still remember vividly.  But, why had my mother become a Christian?  And, my father?  

My dad's "testimony" begins with an invitation to church (it was somewhere around age 8, I believe).  The sermon that day was on hell and, long story short, the little boy, the one who was to one day become my dad, went forward and got "saved".  Afterward, in part because of his influence & persuasion (plus that of a local pastor), both of my father's parents "accepted the lord" as well (and, ultimately, his siblings).

My mother's parents were also "unsaved" when they got married.  As I understand it, they found themselves in a pentecostal church, got "born again", and the rest, as they say, is history.  (I get the impression it was one of those highly emotional evangelistic revival type meetings.)

So, why do I bother to bring this up?  

Well, what really struck me, as I thought more about this spiritual legacy, was how incredibly flimsy its foundations were (and are).  

I mean, my father was just a kid who (quite literally) got the hell scared out of him.  What child wouldn't go forward, to get saved, after a sermon on the horrors that await them if they don't "accept Jesus as their lord and personal savior"?  Had he really understand the implications of what he was agreeing to, especially at such a young age?  Did he consider the fact that this information (presented to him by a trusted adult) might, in actual fact, be false?

Of course not.  Like I said, he was just a kid.

In my mother's case, her father had been doing a bit too much smoking & drinking, in the early days of his marriage.  The conversion experience helped to put him on the straight and narrow, so to speak, and he subsequently took the necessary steps to clean himself up.  From that point forward, they were a "Christian family" and my mom, plus all of her siblings, accepted the lord. Might my mom's dad have become an alcoholic, were it not for what happened at the pentecostal church that day?  It's hard to say.

Here's the thing...despite the positive side effects, which I don't question, do either of these stories represent good reasons to embrace Christianity?  Remember, it was these very experiences which led to the so called spiritual legacy in my family.

As I pondered more on this dynamic, I began to also analyze the conversion experiences of other Christians that I know pretty well.  Were their initial reasons, for "accepting Christ", any better than my mom's or my dad's?  I won't take the time to tell you each of their stories, since I have already illustrated the essential point, but my conclusion, after going through this analysis, was as follows...people, generally speaking, convert to Christianity due primarily to one of the following three factors (or some combination thereof)...

  • a Christian home
  • a personal crisis (emotional, financial, physical...)
  • the influence of a friend and/or family member

I'm sure there are exceptions to this rule (aren't there always?) but it's crucial to keep in mind that exceptions don't disprove the rule (that's why we call them exceptions).  Having said that, I've actually found it surprisingly difficult to think of viable exceptions to the above three scenarios (even when I'm trying to do so).  Reflect on your own conversion experience for a moment...does one or more of these areas apply, as the primary factor leading to your conversion?  How about the conversions of your family & friends?  I'm willing to bet that nearly all of them will be a perfect fit with only, at best, the occasional exception.

Initially, I wondered if someone like William Lane Craig might serve to be an exception.  After all, Craig is arguably Christianity's #1 living defense lawyer.  Surely he, if anyone, must have accepted Christianity for purely rational reasons.  Not so.  Actually, the way Craig tells it, he was on his way to becoming a "very alienated young man", filled with "hate" and "inner anger", the kind that "eats away at your insides", "making every day miserable" etc.  While in high school he ran into a girl, named Sandy, who had a happiness about her that he didn't have at that time in his life. After finding out she was a born again Christian, Craig read the New Testament and became captivated by the "ring of truth" to Jesus' teachings (yes, he actually used the phrase "ring of truth").  It sure sounds to me like the main influences, in his conversion, were personal crisis (my second point) and the influence of friends (my third point).  I would encourage you to watch Craig's testimony, in his own words, right here.

Here again, you might be tempted to ask, what's my point?

Well, take note of what's missing here.  If my basic theory is correct, than consideration of the evidence is not one of the primary factors which leads to (the lion's share of) Christian conversions.  In other words, the majority of Christians embrace Christianity, initially, for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with its truth claims.

Later on, some Christians do seek out rational reasons, to stay with Christianity, but in doing so most still don't stop to truly consider the potential implications of the fact that they initially embraced it for really bad reasons. And, of course, the longer one holds to a belief (whatever it is) the more difficult it becomes to change.  Our own brains works against us, in this respect, falling victim to various sorts of bad thinking; ie. the sunk cost fallacy (the more you invest in something the harder it becomes to abandon it).

Now, a Christian might be tempted to say, as a defensive measure, that the same three factors apply to de-conversions; ie. those who, like me, move away from Christianity to some manner of disbelief.  They might be tempted to say this, but I genuinely think they would be mistaken. Actually, as best as I can tell, the majority of de-conversions are solo (in fact, often deeply private) experiences that are spurred on, at root, by intellectual doubts.  Usually these people are moving away from how they were raised (in contrast to the first point), typically their lives are going reasonably well (in contrast to the second point), and they are more often than not turning against everything that their family & friends still believe (in contrast to the third point).  Are there exceptions?  Of course there are.  But the more I read de-conversion stories, the more I realize that they differ markedly from conversion stories; and usually in ways that are quite similar to the ones I've just mentioned.

Of course, it would be fallacious to immediately disregard something, simply because of the manner in which it was first embraced (that doesn't necessarily mean it's false).  Even still, I now see that there are "good" reasons, and there are "bad" reasons, to both accept and reject beliefs. Not all reasons were created equal, and recognizing this is one of the keys in learning how to think well.

How about you?  Did you embrace your current belief system (be it Christianity, atheism, or something else) for "bad" reasons?  If so, maybe it's time to re-examine it.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Burn In Hell!

Ok, I admit it.  I gave this post a provocative title, in part because I wanted to grab your attention.

Having said that, I'm also trying to make a point (keep reading).

I've written before, about hell, right here.  But at that stage my blog was just beginning, and I wanted to tell a significant chunk of my de-conversion story before getting into this issue too heavily.  Suffice it to say, the time feels right to share some of my more recent thoughts on hell.

As I began to strongly consider the fact that Christianity might be false, deliberations on hell became both deeply urgent and deeply personal (for obvious reasons).  Surprisingly though, I felt very little fear throughout.  Logically speaking, I should have been utterly petrified since, if Christians are right, I am now on my way to an eternity of horrific and unimaginable suffering (separated from both God and nearly all of my family/friends).  Why was I (am I?) not more afraid??  As I began to ponder this, it hit me...I'm not afraid because I find the case "for" hell to be alarmingly unconvincing.  I think, at a certain point in the de-conversion process, my mind changed, on hell, without my even realizing it consciously.  But, what was it that led me to conclude hell is imaginary?  Well, there was no one argument.  Actually, I now find the Christian hell to be implausible for all sorts of different (but complimentary) reasons.

As such, consider the following to be my "top 5"...

5) The Christian hell is implausible because only part of the Bible teaches it

Yes, you read that correctly.  It is indeed true that only part of the book that God supposedly wrote (from start to finish?) even teaches that there is an afterlife, at all, much less a heaven or hell.

Listen to John Loftus, "The concept of life after death mostly developed in the Apocryphal literature during the intertestamental time between the Old and New Testaments (from passages like Job 19:26, Isa. 26:19, and Dan 12:1-3)... wasn't accepted until the second century BCE, in the days of the Maccabean crisis when the return to life of the dead came about.  The whole concept of hell developed during the Hellenistic period and then was adopted by the New Testament writers."  (from "Why I Became an Atheist")

It seems to me this is problematic for the Christian worldview.  Don't Christians believe that God inspired all of the Bible?  Is it likely that he would allow entire books, to become part of his holy canon, that hold inaccurate views?  But the bare fact remains...some of the Old Testament, in particular, simply assumes that there is no afterlife.  I'll have more to say on this topic, especially as it pertains to how Christians latched on to the concepts of heaven & hell, in point number two.

4) The Christian hell is implausible because the punishment doesn't fit the crime

Frankly, this is so plainly obvious, I almost feel silly in extrapolating the point.  I need to do so, unfortunately, since many Christians will not accept it at face value.  Also, I've found the usual responses, to this argument, to be incredibly weak.  The most common one seems to be that sinners deserve "eternal" punishment, because they have sinned against an "eternal" God.  But, where is the proof of this contention?  It's a pithy (and as such memorable) way of responding to the objection, sure, but is it anything more than a play on words?  Hardly.  In fact, that's precisely all it is.  Do we, as humans, punish people for greater lengths of time based on the greater age of their victim (ie. an older person vs. a child)?  If anything, it's the other way around.  Thoughtful Christians, of course, will say this comparison isn't applicable (since God is "outside of time", whatever that means, and therefore in a wholly separate category).  But when they're done, with all of the philosophical hand waving, I'll still be here asking them for actual proof that sins committed during a finite lifetime are worthy of "eternal" punishment.

I've also noticed that, on the rare occasions, when Christians dare to talk about people "deserving" an eternal hell, they inevitably use someone like Adolf Hitler by way of illustration.  But the vast majority of those in hell, according to the Christian worldview, will be law abiding citizens.  Not only will they be incomparable to Hitler, in nearly every conceivable respect, they will actually be "good" people by our human standards (did God give us those sensibilities, or didn't he?).  Y'know, your neighbor down the street; the one who volunteers at the soup kitchen once a week.  That's the guy God deems worthy of eternal suffering (with no chance of reprieve).  And it does Christians no favor to argue that hell has different levels/gradations, of punishment, since all of it is still pretty awful by their own admission.

Let's face it, a loving God would never allow a hell to begin with.  And to say that he essentially had no other choice (as some apologists argue) is ridiculous.  He could have created only heaven, for example, with all of us living in it from the very get go.  And if he foreknows that billions of people will burn in hell, for ever and ever and ever, why not prevent those people from ever being born?  Why create the human race at all?  The questions are nearly endless.

This leads me into my third point...

3) The Christian hell is implausible because it necessarily means that humans are more compassionate than the Christian God is

If, somehow, the human race were able to vote on how Hitler would be punished, what do you think we would decide?  Initially, there may be some who would argue for "eternal" torment (mostly the religiously minded, perhaps?) but, after the dust settled, is that what we would wind up settling on?  I don't think so.  I believe that reason would win out, in the end analysis, and even if we did decide to torture him, let's say, we would not vote for it to be never ending (if such a thing were even possible).

Does this mean we are more compassionate than the Christian God?

Dr. Keith Parsons makes a similar point, in a chapter called "Hell: Christianity's Most Damnable Doctrine" (from "The End Of Christianity")...

"...we now refrain from subjecting even the worst the sorts of punishments that the most advanced societies regularly inflicted on criminals just a few centuries ago.  Not that long ago criminals were regularly broken on the wheel, roasted on gridirons, torn to pieces with red-hot pincers, drawn and quartered, impaled, crucified, flayed, starved, and so forth.  We no longer inflict such punishments on even the worst criminals.  Why?  It is not that criminals have gotten any better; we have.  However odious someone is, we now think it's wrong to boil them in oil, skin them alive, or beat them to death with sledgehammers. Again, why?  Are we more sentimental or more tolerant of moral turpitude now than our forebears?  No, I think that the unwillingness, at least in liberal democracies, to resort to the old medieval punishments is one of the few unquestionable examples of moral progress.

Would you ever tell someone to "burn in hell!", and actually mean it??

2) The Christian hell is implausible because of its origins

Firstly, many Christians don't realize that the notion of having a destination for the wicked was, at one time, tied to a literal place, right here on earth, called Gehenna.  Eventually Gehenna became divorced from its geographical location, but it retained many of the same (fiery) characteristics.

Secondly, as I began to understand more about the apocalyptic nature of Jesus himself (which I discuss here, here, and here) many additional pieces began to fall into place.  Listen, as Bart Ehrman explains...

"...Jesus' message--like that of other apocalypticists--can be understood as a kind of horizontal dualism between this age here on earth and the age to come, also here on earth.  I call it a horizontal dualism because it can be imagined as a horizontal time line divided into half.  At the end of this age, which is imminent, there will be a judgment and we will enter into the new age, on the other side of the dividing line.  When the end never came, Christian thinkers reconceptualized this time line and in a sense rotated it on its axis, so that now the 'end' involves not a horizontal dualism but a vertical one.  Now it is not a matter of two ages, this one and the one to come, but of two spheres, this world and the world above.  No longer is the physical resurrection discussed or even believed.  Now what matters is this world of suffering below and a world of ecstasy in heaven above.  This duality works itself out in a doctrine of heaven and hell.  Why above and why below?  Because the dualism remains in place, but has become spatial rather than temporal... ...In short, with the passing of time, the apocalyptic notion of the resurrection of the body becomes transformed into the doctrine of the immortality of the soul.  What emerges is the belief in heaven and hell..." (from "Jesus Interrupted")

1) The Christian hell is implausible because there's simply no good evidence for it

I don't think there's much more to be said, on this point, other than to issue it as a simple challenge to Christians.  If you have evidence, that hell exists, where is it?  I remember reading Bill Wiese's original (2007) release of "23 Minutes In Hell", while I was still a believer myself. These sorts of personal stories seem to be the best that Christians have, on hell, in the evidence department.  It's worth noting that I found the book unconvincing, even then, despite the fact that I had no doubts whatsoever about there being a literal hell at that time in my life.  I think it goes without saying that I find it even less convincing now, in retrospect.

Before I wrap up, I'd like to share one more quick thought on hell.  It's something I could have rightly covered, under point number 3, but I wanted to save it to the end (since I find it to be especially egregious).  C.S. Lewis once famously argued that the doors of hell are "locked from the inside".  In other words, people are in hell because they choose to be there.  On one level this is an appealing argument, for Christians, since it seems to absolve God of responsibility while, at the same time, acting as a handy justification for why hell is eternal.  There's only one's bullshit of the highest order.  As I discussed a little, near the end of my last post, there are many, many, many people who don't believe in Jesus for primarily intellectual (instead of emotional) reasons.  To imply they will persist in "rebelling" against God, even after death (when they are decidedly proven wrong on the matter), is to assume that there are no sincere (but honestly mistaken) unbelievers out there.  Not one!!  What do atheists, like me, need to do to convince Christians they are dead wrong about this?

So, there you have it.  This is my case, in very brief form, for why the Christian hell is a mythical place.  To the Christian, reading this blog, how would you respond to these five points?  (Or, will you ignore them?)  And are you willing to honestly consider the fact that hell isn't real, or will you just continue to take it "on faith"?