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A Bur in the Shorts of Believers

By Carl S ~

IIt’s shortly after midnight and I can’t sleep. I’m still bothered by a short conversation of 6½ hours ago. Last week, my wife brought home from her church a claim from the Teen Challenge movement which said that their success rate is 86% in rehabilitating drug addicts. I found this claim preposterous, so I asked my friend to check out this claim on the Internet. He found and printed off the results of investigations of Teen Challenge which showed they achieve this 86% “success rate” by preselecting their clients, mostly selecting those who have already been through detox, and not counting as failures the 35-40% of their clients who drop out of the program. So, by carefully screening their clients, they achieve a real success rate of a little over 50%.

Teen Challenge Thrift StoreImage by vj_pdx via Flickr
I brought this printout with me when I went to pick up my wife at another church member’s house, with the expectation that he would want to see it. Without even looking at it, he dismissed it, saying, “ You can’t believe what people say on the Internet.” (Oh, and just because a claim is made in a church, it’s trustworthy?)

I tried to point out that there are authenticated differences between Teen Challenge claims and the facts, but my words were to no avail, though I suggested that I would not write a check on the spot without knowing how the money would be spent. (Which, by the way, I observed the church members doing.)

Once a year, Teen Challenge shows up to ask for money, and I remember the party line speeches. But mostly what stays with me is what happens after the service, as I watch those members of Teen Challenge. They stand there looking like vacuous zombies. And I am reminded of a man who was considering becoming one of Sigmund Freud’s patients, who asked, “If my devils depart, will my angels also leave?” I would say that their angels have also departed in a trade-off of one addiction for another.

This was the evening of the day I read “Atheist Needle in a Hay Stack of Christians”, by Jasiel, on this site. I was struck by the contrast between that church member’s response to my Teen Challenge printout and Jasiel’s words. The people on this site seem so very alive; the writers’ stories, testimonies, comments, and sharing of experiences are all articulate and SANE. But most of all, I see their HONESTY. There are common threads in their stories, though a common destination has been arrived at via many different paths. I see that many have been outright rejected, reviled, looked upon as fools, by the “forgiving” Christians, who, it seems, only forgive each other. They are accused of being “deceived by the devil,” and a shame to family and community, rejecting God so as to be able to lead immoral lives, etc., etc.”

Such are the judgments on honest, sincere individuality. I find this major difference between the ex-Christians and believers: the “exes” became so through a deep desire for the truth, a serious concern for morality, sensitivity to justice, and a sincere respect for honesty. (Else, why bother?). The typical believer is not interested in these things enough to invest the time and effort. Whereas the ex-Christian had doubts in need of resolution, and passionately looked for answers, the true believer couldn’t care less; an attitude quite perplexing, considering his assertions that his religion is such an encompassing power in his personal life.

One would think the believer would seek information, pro or con, for such an important decision as this, consulting many sources and testimonies, and hearing all sides, as a jury does. But no, only confirming stories, readings and sermons are permitted. Truth is inconsequential. Therefore, you’ll find that the “ex “ is generally much more informed, articulate and honest. Where believers quote the words by rote they have been taught, and repeat dogmas they’ve never really thought about, they are threatened by any criticism of their beliefs (sometimes by mere comments), no matter how well or delicately said. Non-believers can discuss with ease the fears Christians have, because they cared enough about truth to go through hellfire to examine those fears up close.

If our ridicule becomes stock in trade, it is because laughing at the ridiculous is the natural response of free people. A free mind cannot be intimidated by non-evidential claims to power. The truth has made us free, and no one can take that from us. Freedom has not come easily. For those who are praying that we “come back,” we can only hope they will someday be free also. Unfortunately, too many don’t know any better; they’re born into and live in a kind of Communist East Germany, where they are told that the outside world is either depraved or deprived, if not downright evil, without their beliefs.

Here’s a quote you’ve heard before, ”Unless you become as little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, you must enter as gullible children. That leaves us out; we’re adults. On the other hand, I think Christians are as gullible as those former Soviet citizens, who were told they were living in a workers’ paradise, and believed it, because they couldn’t or didn’t want to know any better.

Welcome to candor and outspokenness, to anger and laughter at religion, and to discovering a world your ancestors never knew in Nature. No gods nor demons, and no masters.