Why they don’t believe: Edward Babinski by Randall Rauser

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Why they don’t believe: Edward Babinski

This is the third installment in my series in which atheists and/or Christian skeptics who received a golden ticket in their Willy Wonka chocolate bar are invited into my factory to share their reasons for disbelief with my readers. Today we have Edward Babinski. Ed edited the book Leaving the Fold and blogs here.

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Tried Christianity, several franchises in fact. Was baptized and confirmed Catholic. Born Again Evangelical, Charismatic in teens and college. Also had friends who were Orthodox, and, Reformed, visited their churches. Read C. S. Lewis, Chesterton, Francis Schaeffer, McDowell, assorted IVP books, Reformed theology, and later read moderate and liberal theology. Saw several friends grow cooler toward Evangelicalism, others became lukewarm or left the fold. They left Evangelicalism for either more inclusive versions of Christianity, more inclusive non-Christian religious views, or for agnosticism or atheism. I tried to argue two of the most intelligent ones “back into the fold.” One knew comparative religion and mysticism, and another was obtaining his Ph.D. in New Testament studies. After years of exchanging lengthy letters and booklists with them, I was the one who began to mellow and even grow lukewarm toward my former Evangelical beliefs. A third person whom I corresponded with had an advanced degree in Chinese studies and read some C. S. Lewis type materials I sent him and had a conversion-like experience, but in the end Christianity was not for him either.

As I learned about the Bible’s lack of indisputable prophecies, and reliance on mere analogies/typologies and stretching the meaning of OT passages, I grew disillusioned. –When I learned about the variety of historical interpretations of the books of Moses, the Book of Daniel, and the Gospels, by scholars from a wide spectrum of approaches to biblical history, I grew disillusioned.–When I considered whether people should be damned or annihilated based on which religious doctrines/dogmas they “believed,” or which God (or version of God) they “loved,” such threats began to make less sense to me.–When I read the Bible and Gospels themselves, I ran across passages that made me wonder “why is THAT even in the Bible?”–When I studied NDEs I began to realize they do not all point to Evangelical or orthodox doctrinal Christianity being the one true religion.–When I studied miracle stories and coincidences from a wide variety of sources they also did not point in the direction of any one religion being true.–When I studied the history of life on earth including the history of early primates and early species of homo, additional questions arose.

One estimate at a science site points out that as many as “7 billion humans” may have lived and died before the written revelations of ancient Israel or Jesus’ followers were ever composed. I guess God thought those 7 billion who lived prior to the days of written revelation could get along O.K. without it. And it took 1500 years or more after the birth of Christianity before it began to reach humans living in the New World and other distant regions on earth. I guess God thought those millions could get along O.K. without it. And during the first 500-1000 years of Christianity I guess God thought it was alright that Christianity lost the Eastern Roman Empire, its Christian Emperor, bishops, including Christianized North Africa, Augustine’s home. Lost to Islam. And Islam became the world’s second largest religion. I guess God didn’t think it was important to inspire Mohammed with the same message as St. Paul. Today, look at Europe, the center from which Christianity spread to the rest of the world–it now has fewer believers percentage-wise than ever before, fewer than in North and South America or Africa.

The God who allegedly used to send miracle working leaders, judges and prophets, when needed to set his nation straight, now sends us televangelists (of an Evangelical or Catholic persuasion–, the Eastern Orthodox, and Calvinists, haven’t mastered how to set up worldwide networks yet). Yes, we’ve had our shared of “Popes” and “saints,” and their relics, miracle stories and apparitions, but then Protestanism came along and they were not impressed by such stories, in fact they debunked the hell out of them or said their power was from Satan. One need only read the books or just their titles, by Protestant debunkers of Catholic miracles. Such books appeared from the 1500s to today. So miracle debunking began even before the Enlightenment. B.B. Warfield, well known Protestant scholar and father of a popular form of inerrancy, wrote a book debunking Catholic miracle tales, and Protestants have also debunked the tales of miracles that came out of the 1970s Pentecostal revival in the Philippines.

God could inspire new revelations, like, “It’s time to stop seeking to fill the earth, to let the garden grow back, stop trying to cut down everything to make more stuff just for humans, which also creates more waste poured over the earth.” Such a new revelation could also feature passasges foretelling events with astonishing exactitude. Or why the need for written revelation or even prophets, since billions of humans lacked written revelation in the past as stated already, and because God could speak or appear to anyone anytime directly, and show anyone the same true clear vision of Jesus, and of heaven and hell, to let us know what’s going on. Instead, science seems to have a greater power of universal demonstration than religion. Science has demonstrated that the death of our planet seems inevitable in a cosmos such as ours, via any number of probable doomsday scenarios, after which stars have enough fuel to continue burning for billions of years after ours is gone, and some regions of our cosmos are still forming new stars at a huge rate. Furthermore, The rate of miracles at Lourdes (the miracles vetted by Catholic doctors who question the likelihood of any particular case being a genuine miracle, and only admit some are “miracles”) is actually lower than known rates of spontaneous remissions from cancer that occur regularly and to people with a variety of religious beliefs or none.

Even if Christianity is true, it does not appear to be fair for people to be divided into “saved and damned” based on how much they endorse (or question) the existence of “invisible places they have never been to and cannot even pretend to ‘see’ via any known universal means, and based on accepting various theological terms, ideas and functions, and the purely magical relationships between them.” Theoretical physicists do not form literal churches with particular doctrines and damn each other to hell or annihilation for holding different hypotheses such as string theory or quantum loop gravity. They form diverse schools of thought, admit their knowledge is limited and their conclusions tentative. In the world of religion you either believe in particular magical terms, ideas, functions, actions and “holy” places and “holy” writings (interpreted the way your particular church interprets them), or you find them questionable (and you don’t have to be an atheist to find particular religious terms, ideas, functions or ultimate destinations questionable–Christians have been debunking each other’s views for ages and continue to do so).

The long version of my testimony:

http://etb-former-fundamentalists.blogspot.com/2012/04/edward-t-babinski-if-it-wasnt-for.html

Reasons to question Christianity:

http://etb-agnosticism.blogspot.com/2012/04/agnosticism-reasons-to-leave.html

Questions for resurrection apologists:

http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2013/03/carnival-of-questions-for-resurrection.html

 

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Whew! Some people identify one event or moment or argument as the catalyst for a shift in one’s fundamental belief commitments. In other cases the process is much too complex to describe in those terms. For example, I ask myself how I moved from the young earth creationism of high school to the theistic evolution I had adopted by my late twenties. Thinking back I recall one event in particular. I had purchased a series of cassette tapes from the Regent College bookstore (I was doing a Masters degree at Regent at the time). The tapes consisted of a course on science and religion delivered at Regent by Philip E. Johnson. (I do remember in my defense that the tapes were on sale!) I hadn’t bought the tapes to argue with the cassette player … but that’s what I ended up doing. The more I listened the angrier I got listening to Johnson’s poor theological reasoning and his uninformed critique of Neo-Darwinism. And it gradually dawned on me that somewhere along the line a fundamental shift (or series of shifts) had occurred.

Ed’s narrative is complex and includes everything but the kitchen sink (though one might even find one of those in the links he provided!). While it may be hard to tease out fully articulated arguments, I think this is a fair and accurate account of the way many people change their fundamental beliefs, with a flurry of partially formed considerations that, brick by brick, build a general wall of incredulity toward formerly held beliefs.

If there is one theme that seems to recur more often than others, it seems to be Ed’s incredulity toward Christian soteriological exclusivism (henceforth CSE), i.e. the position that one must assent to propositions about Jesus in order to be saved by Jesus. That’s unfortunate because many Christians reject CSE. What is more, even Christians who say they affirm CSE are rarely willing to endorse it categorically when placed in the interrogation room and presented with real life scenarios.

Let me give you an example. Su Ji is raised in a North Korean labor camp where she lives with her entire family. The reason? Her grandfather was accused of criticizing Kim Il-sung thirty years ago. (North Korea standardly imprisons three generations for “political crimes”.) One day thirteen year old Su Ji is caught attempting to smuggle a handful of rice out of the confectionary. As a result she is beaten to death in front of her parents and other prisoners. Obviously Su Ji never heard the gospel let alone had a chance to respond to it. Is she in hell? I’ve shared that scenario with many self-described exclusivists, and never once has one of them said “Yes”.

(No doubt there are some who would say yes with a nod toward passages like Acts 4:12 and Romans 10:9. However, to attempt to use those texts categorically as a basis to conclude that a child like Su Ji is surely the worst kind of hermeneutical abuse. Acts 4:12 speaks to the Christian’s commitment to the fact that Christ is the sole one through whom all people are saved. It doesn’t present necessary and sufficient conditions for salvation that would oblige a Christian to conclude that Su Ji is lost. And while Romans 10:9 provides sufficient conditions for salvation, it never provides necessary ones.)

This reflects a most unfortunate situation in which folks grow incredulous toward Christianity because of their experience with one particular segment of it — one particular set of beliefs or one social group. After the fact it may be pointed out that this step in your deconversion was never a part of core Christian commitment, but by then it is likely too late.

Related posts:

LEAVING THE FOLD by Edward T. Babinski. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1995. 462 pages, 4 appendices, index, notes. Cloth; $32.95.

_________ This book came out in the late 1990’s and here is my review of it. My friend Ed Babinski wrote it. LEAVING THE FOLD by Edward T. Babinski. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1995. 462 pages, 4 appendices, index, notes. Cloth; $32.95. The purpose of Leaving the Fold is to give a clear picture of […]

Chance to visit with Jim McCollum of FAMED SUPREME COURT CASE!!!!

________________ During the last twenty years it has been my practice to visit in person with those that don’t agree with my political or religious views and just try to get to know them. Back in 1996 while on a family trip to  New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Delaware, and New Jersey,  we had dinner one […]

Answers to historical problems in the Book of Daniel (Part 1)

(Part 5 of 5 film series on archaeology) Critics claim that there are historical problems with the Book of Daniel, but is that so? For many more archaeological evidences in support of the Bible, see Archaeology and the Bible . (There are some great posts on this too at the bottom of this post.)   Till Is […]

 

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Comments

  • edwardtbabinski  On April 15, 2015 at 2:40 am

    Hi Ev, I see that you republished Randal Rauser’s dead off analysis as to why I left the fold. Comments below are directed at Randal, not yourself.

    What you [Randal] refer to with your particular slant or point of view, as, “a flurry of partially formed considerations that, brick by brick, build a general wall of incredulity toward formerly held beliefs.” (Really, a “flurry of partially formed considerations?” I hope you’re not challenging me to go into detail, because then you’ll see it was “a blizzard of fully formed considerations,” not a mere flurry of partially formed ones.) Contra your general slant on why my views changed here is my own take:

    “The arguments that I had used to defend the truth of Christianity were peeled away from me like the many layers of an onion’s skin. I put up all the intellectual resistance I could, and winced at each layer’s removal. I suffered through dark nights of the soul pondering whether my beliefs might not be too narrow or even wholly false. Imperceptibly, my fears, doubts, and grief blossomed into relief, relaxation, and joy.”

    Neither is my experience unique. It has occurred to plenty of Christians since the 1800s who pursued higher degrees in the historical study of the Bible, and it has occurred to entire institutions of higher learning that were founded by conservative Christians yet which grew more inclusive/moderate/liberal/agnostic/secular during a period of a century or two as the professors and students at such institutions as Harvard, Yale, Princeton and others, continued to interact with leading scholars in historical-biblical studies from around the world.

    I held onto my Evangelical Christian beliefs just as everyone else who is comfortable with their beliefs holds onto them, making allowances and qualifications of a “micro-evolutionary nature” at first (to use a metaphor), adding further allowances and qualifications after having read more comparative religion, comparative theology, comparative history and science, until my self-designation, “Evangelical Christian,” died the death of a thousand qualifications.

    I suspect we’d agree that a lot of people who claim they were once “atheists” or “Christians” held a shallow understanding of either or both. So the chances of a worldview taking hold on a person increase if they encounter such a worldview while young. To acquire a worldview one need only begin by appreciating a few simple ideas that cover some major bases, and then that person can keep adding qualifications to each base to try and keep the worldview afloat in the face a multitude of rival ideas and interpretations in religion and philosophy. But once the process of making a worldview one’s “own” begins then one’s brain-mind resists tearing down all the walls of it’s worldview and starting over, and would much rather rearrange the furniture inside those walls–just like you and I did, when we switched from creationism in high school to theistic evolution in our twenties (we have that in common, and we both remained Christians at that point. In fact I edited Theistic Evolutionists’ Forum for a few years). And once a worldview is more developed or integrated with the rest of one’s knowledge, “answers” to various questions come popping out with less and less effort when debating it with others, much like having developed a set of mental reflexes.

    Part of continuing to believe in, and defend, one’s worldview also involves our own private artistry or creativity–to which we are often blind. “We are all greater artists then we realize” (to cite N.) when it comes to defending our worldviews, and intelligent people will juggle and rearrange ideas, adding ingenious qualifications and sub-qualifications within their framework of beliefs to maintain them, which helps explains the continued existence of plenty of rival schools of biblical interpretation, and plenty of rival “viewpoints” books (Evangelicals debate each other on a host of issues in such volumes), as well as rival schools of philosophy that have continued to exist for the past 2,500 years from supernaturalists to naturalists (each major philosophical question has been sliced into thinner sub-questions from then till today, so there is an even greater diversity of possible mix-and-match replies to the big questions).

    There are also biological limitations to people immediately grasping one another’s beliefs, because the brain-mind system functions on the basis of electro-chemical pathways and neuronal connections which undergo changes with age and experience. It takes time for electro-chemical pathways to shift, or for new dendrites to form between neurons. One probably has to run repeatedly into the same questions more than once before the brain-mind grows more conscious of the full implications and nature of such questions. Or conversely, if one is around people who speak the same lingo, adore the same shibboleths or code words and phrases, one’s brain-mind and worldview is being reinforced in the same biological manner, and even more ready to reject the ideas and arguments of rival worldviews. So there are natural biological limitations to changing one’s mind and the older one grows, the less flexible one’s mind becomes, strictly biologically speaking. All of the above helps explain why it is difficult to “argue” a person with a worldview into switching it for a completely new one, especially if that person already has a deeper more developed (rather than shallower less well developed) worldview and has held it a while.

    I’d add that life is short, time for study and experiences are limited. No two people have read all the same books and shared all the same experiences. So how can they be expected to believe or love the same things in the world of religion and/or metaphysics?

    And speaking of communication difficulties, words do not equal things, maps do not equal the territory, models do not equal reality. But those are all we have to work with, words, maps and models. Our brain-mind forms models of the world around us. It receives data from the outside world via the senses and constructs a model of the world, including the “world” of personal interactions, and these models are ceaselessly revised via feedback loops (even during dreamless sleep the brain is highly active, probably sorting and resorting, or loosening some connections so as to remain flexible to learn more the next day).

    All of the difficulties above seem natural and obvious. But also note that Justin Bierley at the Christian radio program “Unbelievable” has produced over 70 debate programs with people of rival beliefs, including Christians who interpret parts of the Bible differently (Christians remain the greatest debunkers of all time of each others’ views), Jews, also Jewish-like churches that preach Jesus was the Messiah but not God or part of a Trinity, atheists, Wiccans, agnostics, universalists, Bahai’s. Few of them find the views of others so tempting as to convert. Same with all the debates between Christians and atheists on youtube. Even the rare atheist convert, such as Antony Flew, did not convert to Christianity or even to belief in an afterlife.

    In my case it was painful drawing away from “the fold” but even more difficult trying to accommodate a host of new data and new questions to fit within my old framework. If you don’t believe me concerning the existence of such a wealth of perplexing data, then consider listening to free biblical studies podcasts (I wish they had been available when I was a curious teen), like these:

    NTPod

    The Human Bible

    The Bible Geek

    The Skeptic’s Testament

    And there are the following free podcasts at itunesU:

    Introduction to New Testament History (Yale University);

    Kenneth W. Clark Lectures, “The Historical Jesus and the Theological Jesus” by Dale C. Allison Jr.

    Exploring the Origins of the Christian Gospels, “The Apocalyptic Worldview of Mark” by David A. Sanchez (Loyola Marymount University)

    Such podcasts make it easy for anyone to learn about the myriads of questions raised by biblical scholars. “Christian Apologetics” does not stem the tide of such questions because the proposed “orthodox” answers are not themselves inspired nor inerrant, and many questions involve inadequate evidence that has to be analyzed via mere probabilities not certainties. What are the odds that every question involving unknowns has to have an “orthodox” answer, especially since none of their orthodox answers are themselves inspired or inerrant?

    LASTLY, when you consider your own testimony/journey, Randal, what does that suggest to you? Here’s what you said in an interview at Apologetics 315:

    “I was born into a Pentecostal home, Evangelical in orientation, so I grew up in the church. I had a day when I said ‘this is the day when I became a Christian’ when I was four years old, but looking back it was just something in the air I breathed, I was just immersed in it. It was very natural for me to go to a Christian university and to study religion, which segued into the other disciples like theology and so on. There’s no big conversion experience, it sort of seemed like it’s in my DNA.”

    I see that you have no serious recollections of having ever been a non-Christian in the first place. (I’m sure there’s tons of adherents of all the world’s religions with similar recollections.) It’s in your DNA? I guess God specially arranged nature via His grace (=Divine favor) so that you would be born with Original Grace instead of original sin? Knowing your background it’s little wonder that you have difficulty imagining how anyone could possibly believe differently than you. Neither are you alone in thinking in such a fashion because many other Christian apologists whose interviews I have listened to at Apologetics 315 were either raised Christian or were young and held shallow or nebulous worldviews prior to converting to Christianity and adopting and learning to defend that worldview. So they also have difficulty imaging how anyone could hold a worldview in a deep serious sense that was not a Christian worldview like their own.

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