November 18, 2017

Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found It Again Through Science. A review of the book by Mike “Science Mike” McHargue. Part 4.

Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found It Again Through Science

• Part 4

In the world of nerdery, just like any sub-culture, there are the elites.  Elite nerds are computer savvy, science aficionados, and they work at places such as Apple, or Google, or even Marvel Comics.  But if nerdom has a Mecca, it would have to be NASA.  Mike’s social media expertise earned him an invitation to Dryden Flight Research Center who were opening their doors to the public for the first time and were inviting a handful of bloggers to document the festivities.

About a week later, Mike got an email from an old friend who had moved to Los Angeles for seminary and was also working for Rob Bell.  Bell was holding a small 50-person conference on creativity.  Mike had heard that Bell was a master at building storytelling suspense, even as he broke down complex, ancient ideas about God.  Of course, he didn’t care about explaining God to people but if he could pick up some useful creativity tips it would help his career.  The Bell conference was right after the NASA conference.  Coincidence?  That’s all Mike thought it was, but Mom and wife were convinced that “God was going to move”.  Mike said:

I tried to be gracious, but it annoyed me how much significance my wife and mother placed on this timing.  What they saw as the hand of God was nothing more than pattern-matching systems in human brains.  But they were right.  As it turned out, that trip would leave one hell of a pattern on me.

Dryden Flight Center

NASA was everything Mike had hoped for and more.  There, right in front of him was an honest-to-God SR-71 Blackbird, he got to sit in a fighter jet and saw gear used to test the Apollo mission.

But the best part was:

What I enjoyed most was the community of nerds.  At Dryden, I wasn’t a deacon.  I wasn’t a Christian at all.  No one here cared I thought the universe was billions of years old.  No one asked about my thoughts on God.  We were just a bunch of science nerds hanging out on the frontier where great science was done.  For the first time, I felt I was able to be myself—my true self.  I took off my Christian mask and felt the sunlight on my face.

The next day he drove to Los Angeles where his friend and coworker was celebrating her 25th birthday at a bar.  They had a few drinks and then a few more.  Then the birthday girl had a brilliant idea—karaoke!  Well they stumbled into an old neighborhood bar where the songs were the old familiar standards, and everyone was singing along.  In Mike’s words:

A couple of songs in, I looked around the room.  Everyone was smiling and singing.  They were strangers an hour ago, but now they had their arms around one another’s shoulders… People held hands.  They sang without self-consciousness or shame.  They weren’t performing either.  In all my years of singing in pews, I’d never heard anything so beautiful…

Somehow, in this small bar in Los Angeles, people had left their egos behind and were simply celebrating life together.  There was no shame or pride.  There was no posturing.  There was just the music and the joy of being alive…

In that bar with my friends and the singing crowd, I felt the presence of something greater than even the grandeur of the cosmos, something more mysterious than the teeming subatomic particles that comprise our reality.  I searched my mind for a word that would describe this perfect moment.  It was more than beautiful, more than sacred.

Holy.

It was holy.

The book by Donald Miller, “Blue Like Jazz” played an important role in Mike’s life.  In fact, Mike had a bit role in the movie made from the book.  You can see him sitting in the front row of the church in the movie’s trailer.

In the book, young Don gets angry and storms out of his church.  He’s angry because his Mom is sleeping with his youth pastor, a man who supposed to be a mentor to Don.  Don is so hurt by this betrayal that he goes from being a good Baptist to an angry rebel, pulling his faith apart piece by piece.

The next day after the karaoke party, Mike and his friends discover, by some quirk, that Blue Like Jazz was playing nearby.  So they go see it.  At first it was funny, seeing yourself projected on a screen, but then when the movie got to the betrayal scene something broke in Mike.  He realized that the God he no longer believed in betrayed him just like Don Miller:

This God whom I’d loved and worshipped, whom I’d trusted, who was supposed to be all-powerful, had sat by and done jackshit while my parent’s marriage fell apart.  Where was God when Dad started to fall in love with another woman?  Was He distracted?  Where was “the One who can part the sea” when the two of them held hands for the first time?  Where was the Almighty when Mom prayed for things to get better?  “Great is Thy Faithfulness”?  Hardly.  Great is Thy neglect, great is thy cosmic indifference.  Great is thy absence.

The anger didn’t last long.  It soon turned to sorrow, an aching sense of loss over what was and what could have been.  I thought about going fishing with my dad, of saying prayers with my mom, and laughing around the dinner table.  I thought about the wholeness of a family that was centered around God.  A God who never was…

For the first time, I realized that my deconstruction of faith hadn’t been the rational and clinical pursuit I believed it to be.  When I opened Genesis, I wasn’t just looking for answers: I had a bone to pick.  I’d wanted answers for Dad, sure, but I’d also expected answers for myself.  I’d expected God to justify Himself to me, but God failed to do that.

Instead, He bowed His head and died.

The next morning when Mike went to the Rob Bell conference, he was wary and intensely skeptical.  He was now tired of maintaining his façade as a Christian.  He knew he couldn’t keep the act up anymore.  As he approached the little bungalow that hosted the conference Rob Bell was standing outside and greeting people.  But he didn’t want to meet Bell; all he wanted to do was mine some secrets about creativity and then get the hell out.

The conference was a mixed bag for Mike.  He was delighted and surprised to see Christians who were unafraid of dealing with evolution and had an appreciation for the good things that science, and a respect for empirical evidence, brings to society.  But at the same time, when the subject of the New Atheism came up this same roomful of basically science-literate believers, instead of dealing with the real claims and implications of empiricism, instead dealt in truisms and sound bites.

Rob Bell

Mike couldn’t take it anymore, he raised his hand, and Bell called on him.  He admitted what had been going on in his life for the last two years.  He was a Southern Baptist atheist.  He told the room how his faith had deconstructed; that anyone who understands how the universe works could not believe in God.  The horse was out of the barn.

To Mike’s utter amazement Bell said, “Thank you.  On behalf of everyone here, thank you.  I think we all needed to hear that.”  A few people began to clap, and as he looked around the room, instead of angry, scolding faces, people looked genuinely concerned for him and his struggle.  Then Bell said:

You are here, and there is something in you that doesn’t’ go away even when you become an atheist.  I say, let’s all celebrate that.  There’s no need to define it further—our words will just screw it up.  I think that God, if there is a God, doesn’t ask you for anything more than that.  I really believe that God is that which we can’t stop talking about, and that God is what happens when our words fail.

Mike realized that the people in that beach house that day accepted him exactly as he was.  He didn’t feel like an outsider.  He threw the fullness of his doubts about God at them, and they held it with grace.  They didn’t shout him down or take apart his arguments.  They didn’t try to win him over or rebuke him.  They just accepted him.  And they even thanked him for caring.  Mike said this:

If you’re a Christian who wonders what to do with someone who’s in doubt, consider these words carefully: Love and grace speak loudly.  The first and best response to someone whose faith is unraveling is a hug.  Apologetics aren’t helpful.  Neither are Scripture references.  The first thing a hurting person needs is to know they’re not alone.  My path back to God was paved with grace by those who received my doubt in love.

For the first time in a long time Mike felt the presence of God.  He found that confusing and disorienting.  It’s not as if he believed again—he still had the same rational objections to the existence of a supernatural deity.  It’s just when he pondered Rob Bell’s challenge to put all his questions in a mental bucket called God, he felt God again.

After the dinner on the last night of the conference they all went downstairs where a table was set with bread and wine.  Well, Mike knew what was coming next—Communion, the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper.  Jesus’ body broken for him.  Except that was impossible.  And what would it help?  Are we saying God sent Himself in the form of His own Son and then died to protect me from Himself?  The punishment He Himself was going to give me for not believing in Him?  That didn’t make any sense.  In Mike’s own words:

The problem was that I couldn’t take the bread without taking the metaphor.  And that felt dishonest.  I didn’t believe that the body of Christ was broken for me, because I didn’t believe there was a body to break.

I decided to walk away.  But just when I was about to turn, I heard a voice say, “I was here when you were eight, and I’m here now.”

I froze, startled and amazed.

Mike thought about his life up to that point; the hiding from bullies, talking to Jesus in the woods, his daughter’s baptism, his wife in her wedding dress.  About all the awful things he’d done even when he knew better, and yet how full of laughter and love his life was despite that.

And he reached out and took the bread from Rob’s hand.  The Rob said, “This is the blood of Christ shed for you”.  He dipped the bread into the wine and ate it.  He took the bread and the metaphor and ran from the room, his face full of tears.  Mike:

This is the part where I should explain the science of how a sane person can hear an audible voice in a room where no one has spoken.  Believe me, I’ve spent a long time researching it, and I would love to explain it.  I can’t.  The closest thing I can find in the sciences are hallucinations.  Maybe that’s what happened.  Maybe I had so much longing and pent-up emotion that I fell into a semi-hypnotic state in a very suggestive environment.  The bread, the wine, the prayer—there’s a reason the Eucharist is a sacrament.  This table has spoken to people confused about God for thousands of years before I picked up The God Delusion.  Even though it’s my life’s mission to help reconcile God and the sciences, that process breaks down at this point in my story.  I can’t explain what happened in that moment.  Which is unfortunate, because hearing Jesus speak to me was nothing compared to what happened next.

Mike couldn’t sleep that night; so much cognitive dissonance was roiling his thoughts.  About 2 or 3 in the morning he went down to the beach below his hotel.  He was pretty high up on the beach and couldn’t see the ocean, it was all black; but he could hear the waves.  He couldn’t tell where the water ended and the sky began—a powerful force he could hear and feel but not see; a metaphor for this relation with God.  So he began to “pray” facing the waves.  He began to pour his heart out.  He couldn’t unlearn all the things that made him no longer believe.  He couldn’t understand why a supposed good and all powerful God would allow all the suffering that went on.  Why would you answer one mother’s prayer for her child while another mother pours her heart out and yet her child starves, or is raped, or is killed by some warlord?  But I miss you God and I don’t want to be away from you anymore.  From the book:

So let’s make a deal.  I will try to do the best I can to do good in this world.  I will serve others, and work against suffering.  But I have to keep asking these questions about your justice and mercy.  And I can’t forget about suffering.

Let’s just keep talking about this, You and I. I don’t ever want to be away from you again.  I can’t do that anymore.

All I know is, I met Jesus tonight.

When I said the word Jesus, the waves rushed toward me.  I was standing high up on the beach, 25 or more above the waves, but still the water rushed up and over my feet—all the way up to my shins.  I thought about what Rob had said: that Christ’s last act of service before His crucifixion was to wash the feet of His followers… Time stopped.  The waves seemed to stand still, as if an unseen hand had pressed pause on the universes remote… I don’t know how long it lasted, but it was by far the most powerful moment of my life… After it was over, I understood why someone would feel compelled to write about a bush that burned and was not consumed.  Or a blinding light on the road to Damascus.  Or an angel telling a 14-year old virgin girl she was pregnant with the Son of God.  There weren’t words to describe the things they, and I, experienced.

Well there you go, Imonks.  An atheist hears the audible voice of God and has a mystical experience on the beach.  But here is where Mike goes off “script”.  In the evangelical script, Mike drops to knees and repents of his doubt and unbelief.  He goes back to church, gives his “testimony”.  All is clear now, the clouds have rolled away, the sun has risen, hallelujah, halleluuuuuuuuuuuuuuuujah.  Except he didn’t.

He went and had a complete neurological exam including an MRI to see if he had a brain tumor that caused the hallucinations.  He went and had a complete psychiatric exam to see if he had symptoms of mental illness.  You see Mike had become an emotional and experiential Christian who was also an intellectual atheist.  I told you his story doesn’t fit any script you’ve ever heard before.

Life is like jazz because it doesn’t resolve… But what if we’re not alone? … What if all these stars are notes on a page of music, swirling in the blue… like jazz…

Comments

  1. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    After it was over, I understood why someone would feel compelled to write about a bush that burned and was not consumed. Or a blinding light on the road to Damascus. Or an angel telling a 14-year old virgin girl she was pregnant with the Son of God.

    Because they had had a truly Extraordinary Experience.

    Except he didn’t.

    He went and had a complete neurological exam including an MRI to see if he had a brain tumor that caused the hallucinations. He went and had a complete psychiatric exam to see if he had symptoms of mental illness.

    An experience so Extraordinary that he had to rule out possible “mundane” causes.

    “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”
    — Arthur Conan Doyle

    I told you his story doesn’t fit any script you’ve ever heard before.

    And the fact it DOESN’T fit any standard script adds to its credibility.

    • Stephen says:

      “Because they had had a truly Extraordinary Experience.”

      So why do some people get the special treatment and others get nothing but silence? And why is it considered presumptuous and arrogant in some quarters to be unwilling to accept a second-hand revelation?

      “An experience so Extraordinary that he had to rule out possible “mundane” causes.”

      But if you look at the actual science of this you will see that perfectly healthy and normal folks have auditory and visual hallucinations all the time. You don’t have to be mentally ill or diseased. It’s just not much discussed because of the stigma that mental illness has and the automatic association of these experiences with mental illness.

      Look I’m not denying the importance of Mike’s experience to him but there’s a limit to how much use this kind of thing can be to others. Any private revelation is merely hear-say to everyone else.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Any private revelation is merely hear-say to everyone else.

        Which is why in my church (RCC) private revelation is binding only on the one having the private revelation. Others may follow on a voluntary basis, but it is NOT required.

    • ““Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

      Sure. Since pregnant virgins are impossible, I conclude that Mary had sex with a human being.

  2. What strikes me is how Mike’s inner turmoil was seemingly caused more by the particular Christian sub-culture in which he existed than by the intellectual questions he had. I’m not saying the questions were non-problems, but in a different setting he could probably have worked through them (or lived with them) with more peace of mind.

    Which brings me to a different question: how do you nurture a kind of church/community culture where faith is encouraged without demonising doubt, and where doubt is accepted without causing ‘simple’ believers to stumble and fall?

    • Robert F says:

      It seems to me that the kind of faith such a community would nurture would have to be compatible with not only a wide variety of interpretations and experiences among its members, but also much change in its own theological self-understanding and interpretation. It must be willing to change. That’s a hard goal to achieve.

      • Especially if they/you think they/you already have the eternal, transcendent, unchanging Truth about all things, applicable to all times and all places.

        • Robert F says:

          Yes. This is the core of the problem. I personally believe that there are truths that endure, that are objective, but they are hard to define, and are context-sensitive. Truth and ethics, and theology, are situational, not because they are completely relative, but because they depend on the entire field of reality that they are set in, and our understanding of it, for their truth value. Objective truth is not truth abstracted from the context we experience and know it in.

    • Robert F says:

      Such a community would need a solid sense of tradition, but also a creative improvisational ability…. like, uh, jazz.

    • Which brings me to a different question: how do you nurture a kind of church/community culture where faith is encouraged without demonising doubt, and where doubt is accepted without causing ‘simple’ believers to stumble and fall?

      And those are the questions that Pete Rollins attempts to find answers to. Part of the answer seems to be eschewing over-wrought certainty whilst affirming love as the truest existential reality.

  3. Robert F says:

    dry summer
    thirsty branches
    rain in the forecast

  4. “Mike had become an emotional and experiential Christian who was also an intellectual atheist.”

    Not to disparage Mike’s journey, but I’m pretty much the exact opposite – an intellectual Christian and an emotional and spiritual atheist. :-/ Perhaps that’s why I never have really struggled much with the “problem of evil” – God isn’t here primarily to fix our problems. Besides, if He were to fix my problems, it would be only fair if He were to fix everybody else’s too at the same time.

    There’s a theogical term for that. It’s called “Judgment Day”.

    • StuartB says:

      Like being a optimistic pessimist. I hope for the best but deep down I know it’s not going to be all that great…and I love being pleasantly surprised and proven wrong!

      I’ve had people my whole life tell me I’m too critical and that nothing is ever good enough for me. Which isn’t true. If something is amazing I praise it, and when it’s ok but could be better, I focus on improving it to make it better. That’s being critical but that’s not tearing down, that’s wanting to make things better.

    • If god isn’t here to fix my problems then why worship him?

      • Rick Ro. says:

        Fixing your problems might cause you a hell of a lot of pain. Are you ready for that?

        • “Fixing your problems might cause you a hell of a lot of pain”

          Yeah, that’s just something christians say. Betting if god were to, say, rescue a Yazidi slave-women from her captors that it wouldn’t cause her any pain. But he can’t even be bothered to do that.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            –> “Yeah, that’s just something christians say.”

            B.S. I’m saying it as a human being who knows that my own “problems” are often self-inflicted and that if I truly wanted to fix them it would cause me a lot of pain, pain that I’m pretty unwilling to suffer. Hence, I remain broken, and you will, too, given your responses.

            • Well, I’m pretty sure a LOT of people have a LOT of problems that are *not* self-inflicted. And god helps none of them.

              You can consider yourself anything you want. Me, I’m fine, thanks.

          • Ok, what’s stopping you from going out there and helping them? That’s pretty much the biblical model of how God wants things to get fixed.

            • I do my part, thanks. But ever and always there’s objection then that a world “where god allows man to choose good or evil” looks and operates *suspiciously* similar to a world where god doesn’t allow or disallow anything because god doesn’t exist and we’re all just sort of muddling our way through.

              So if there’s no news, no cavalry coming, just long wait for a train that ain’t coming, we *could* at least make things easier for ourselves by shucking off the needless gloss.

              • Robert F says:

                Who are you to say what someone else needs? One man’s needless gloss is another woman’s lifesaver. Never saw the play/film Equus? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equus_(play)
                We could make things easier for ourselves by committing mass suicide, too; what to you is a baseless myth is to others is a story that makes the difference between life and death. Are you so sure that the stories you tell yourself are gloss-less? Would you really have someone else give up their illusions for yours? Sounds like hubris to me; sounds like the very thing you condemn Christian proselytizers for.

                • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

                  J’s just a funhouse-mirror reflection of a Fundamentalist Christian.

                  Like Ayn Rand and Josef Stalin, total opposites on the surface but identical underneath.

                  Fundamentalist thoughtstopping and nastiness can attach itself to any belief system or ideology, not necessarily a religion. And converting or deconverting just changes the attached ideology, nothing more.

                  • Robert F says:

                    So true. Human beings seem to have a genetically embedded tendency to turn everything they touch into a religious project. Maybe that’s the unique characteristic that distinguishes us from other animals? Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you J, as an example of homo religio’s endlessly elastic ability to turn any belief system into religion.

                  • Robert F says:

                    You have to admit, he’s a fascinating study. He deems our interest in religion irrational, yet he spends a considerable amount of time among us. If we are irrational, what does that make him?

      • Because He created us? Because he deserves it? Seriously, dude, have you read Job? A major theme of that book is that if you’re worshipping God only for the benefits package, you are really missing the point.

        • “have you read Job”

          Yes.

          “A major theme of that book is that if you’re worshipping God only for the benefits package, you are really missing the point.”

          Is it? Seems like the major theme of the book is that our suffering is directly caused by god because god is bored and playing games with us.

          • I might suggest you read it again and note who exactly does what. Again, you aren’t helping your case by constantly making transparently sweeping generalizations. Either dialogue with us seriously, or go play your rhetoric games somewhere else.

            • Maybe it would help if you wrote a better bible.

              • David H says:

                Your comments offer literally 0% productivity to the conversation. Objectively speaking, I don’t see why you bother…do you get some sort of “high” from it or something?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Besides, if He were to fix my problems, it would be only fair if He were to fix everybody else’s too at the same time.
      There’s a theogical term for that. It’s called “Judgment Day”.

      C.S.Lewis makes the exact same point in his essay “The World’s Last Night”.

      • Why should I care what C.S. Lewis said?

        • Rick Ro. says:

          Because he might have some wisdom and insight that might help you become a better human, maybe…?

          • Not interested in his drawing-room spellcasting, thanks.

            • Just interested in snarky flippant comments, eh? How… unoriginal.

              • ‘Course if it *was* original you’d call it heresy!

                • David H says:

                  “Why should I care…Not interested…” well seeing as you go to the trouble of commenting and voicing your opinion here, I’d say we have quite the dichotomy on our hands

                  • Robert F says:

                    For someone who doesn’t care he sure puts a lot of effort into it…

                    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

                      Like pathological Furry-Haters around Furry Fandom. Just as Furry as the “SkunkF’ers” they rant about and denounce, only flipped one-eighty from Total Blind Adoration to Total Blind Hatred. Otherwise they’d just distance themselves from their object of hatred instead of always coming back to it (including attending Furry cons, subscribing to Furry art channels and feeds, etc),.

  5. “The mature mind knows that it is evolving and that growth and development are satisfying and pleasurable in and of themselves. Maturity implies that one has learned how to be comfortable with uncertainty and has included it as a legitimate ingredient. Uncertainty leads to discovery, whereas skepticism is stultifying.” ~David R. Hawkins

    • Stephen says:

      I don’t know Mr Hawkins’ work or the context in which this statement was made but he seems to be confusing skepticism with denialism. A skeptic is someone, following after Hume’s formulation, that refuses to accept a belief without a good reason to do so. Skepticism is based on uncertainty and provisional truth. But I can see where having one’s beliefs questioned and being discombobulated because you can’t justify them can be quite stultifying.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        I think I’m with you there, Stephen. As a skeptic myself, I don’t agree with “skepticism is stultifying.” My skepticism causes me to look deeper, to see if there’s truth in that in which I’m not quite seeing it.

      • “Skeptic”, from Gr. “skopos” — to look closely.

  6. StuartB says:

    I decided to walk away. But just when I was about to turn, I heard a voice say, “I was here when you were eight, and I’m here now.”

    Quite a lot hinges on that divine intervention. Blessed are those who never receive it, huh?

  7. Ron Avra says:

    Good series; I’m enjoying it. Thanks.

  8. Ben S and Robert F both brought up types of communities- and so does the book with traditional ones and M Bell and Jazz types. Max Weber says that predestination, dualism, and karma all existed to allow individuals to trancend themselves in favor of social order. And hence the search for communities that can hold doubts and allow some transformation. Let alone communities about theodicies of wealth and theodicies of misfortune( that are so real when explored).
    Mike Bell has leaned toward what has been called an essential kenosis. That is the theme of “Love Wins” that caused so much furor back in that day. This is why I included open futurism(theism) in the 3rd installment of this series of posts. It is integral to essential kenosis, along with law-like regularities to creation, self-organization, agency, and freedom. Michael Martin has discussed what he calls the relatively minor theodicies( on the wiki Theodicy site). No community is therefore a defense or solution to our problems( and that may be an approach like the present Benedict Option that has been offered). But rather, community is just the self-organization and freedom and agency and open future that is the reality of our humanity.

  9. No one uses the word ‘New Atheist’ except Christians.

    It’s like when a Christian talks about their past life and says they “joined the New Age movement” or “were a Wiccan and worshipped Satan and sacrificed babies.” I just classify that as ‘something Christians say’. Lies, really.

    • Ron Avra says:

      Lies is going a bit far. It can be difficult for someone to describe or give an account of their experience, but that does not warrant a cavalier dismissal.

      • No, I think it’s about right. When someone says something that’s transparently fabricated (any of these supposed baby-sacrificers go to the police after leaving the ‘Wiccans’?), then we call that a lie. Nothing cavalier about dismissing them.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I call it “trying to out-Warnke Mike Warnke”.

          But it’s a symptom of an underlying problem: Spectacular Testimony as Proof of Salvation is an Eleventh Commandment in some circles. Noobs are under severe pressure to “Have a Testimony” (the more spectacular and extreme the better), and a “Can You Top This?” competition sets in.

          • It’d be more Spectacular if it weren’t the same thing over and over again, in a way that totally belies that all involved are Working From a Script.

            In Umberto Eco’s book “The Name of the Rose”, some characters note that the EXACT same things are being said (in 1300 A.D.) about ‘heretical’ movements like the Fraticelli as were said about the Donatists in 500 A.D.

            Now one way to interpret that is that all heresy is the same heresy. The other is that everyone who condemns heresy has just read the same books.

            I mean what is “Four Blood Moons” but a relaunch of “Late Great Planet Earth” or “If Footmen Tire You What Will Horses Do?” or “88 Reasons the World Will End in 1988” or “Left Behind”?

            Someone needs to make a bingo card for ‘testimony’ of this type. Some squares could be:

            -I joined the New Age movement
            -I was a Wiccan
            -Wicca used interchangeably with Satanism
            -Wicca used interchangeably with Unitarianism
            -I was a Hare Krishna
            -I sacrificed babies
            -[conspicuous lack of details about said baby-sacrificing; certainly no indication where these babies came from or that one contacted police about it]
            -[met such-and-such ‘New Age’ ‘celebrity’]
            -use of the term New Atheist or New Atheism

        • Ron Avra says:

          Baby sacrificers are not relevant to the present discussion.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            But the claim is an example of Spectacular Testimony Inflation.

            • Ron Avra says:

              Personal experience is personal experience; it has a profound effect on individuals in a variety of environments.

              • Good thing there’s only 9 commandments; it’d be real inconvenient if there were one about bearing false witness.

                • Ron Avra says:

                  The presumption that the witness is automatically false is not merited.

                  • Yes it is. These are obvious, demonstrable lies.

                  • “You are referring to Mike McHargue’s account of his time with Rob Bell?”

                    No, I am not.

                    • Actually, wait: Yes I am, at least insofar as the “New Atheist” mention goes. That never happened. It was fabricated.

                    • Ron Avra says:

                      As long as you allow Mike McHargue his space, I can go with that. I don’t think he uses the term New Atheism, at least I don’t see it referenced in the excerpts.

          • You’re right! Discussion of baby sacrifice is completely irrelevant to every discussion!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      No one uses the word ‘New Atheist’ except Christians.

      Same with “fornication”. (I use another F-word.)

      Shtick like that is why I’ve become allergic to Christianese. Accidentally or deliberately, Over-Jargoning obscures the meaning to those outside the Inner Ring of Illuminati. SPEAK AND WRITE CLEARLY!

    • Iain Lovejoy says:

      “New Atheism” was coined by agnostic journalist Gary Wolf.
      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Atheism
      Uses of term “New Atheism”:
      Jeff Sparrow (atheist):https://www.google.fr/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/30/we-can-save-atheism-from-the-new-atheists
      Christian in-house magazine (not) the Economist: http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2011/12/richard-dawkins-issue-hitchens
      Another atheist:
      http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/837758
      The term ” new atheist ” is not (admittedly) used particularly often by those identified as “new atheists” themselves, but unless you have been living on Mars you must have noticed everyone else does, so what’s with the accusations of “lies”?

      • Ron Avra says:

        Thanks for researching that.

      • I have words for theists that they don’t use about themselves. Would you like to hear them?

      • Robert F says:

        Whatever you want to call them, the currently popular crop of atheists are trying to reinvent the wheel, as if Nietzsche and Sartre never existed; they possess nothing of the older generation’s profundity. Frankly, they’re boring. Put you right to sleep.

  10. Ron Avra says:

    Baby sacrificera are not relevant to the present discussion.

  11. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    This the same Rob Bell who got piled on by Team Hell for Heresy?

    (And who coined a favorite phrase — “Poem Truth vs Math Truth”.)

  12. Rick Ro. says:

    I think this is my favorite post of the series. A lot here that resonates with me, from Blue Like Jazz to some of the Rob Bell comments to hearing an audible voice speak directly to me when there was no one around. Twice. I knew it was Jesus both times. I ignored that voice the first time, but not the second time.

  13. Dana Ames says:

    Sigh. It’s a crying shame that Mike’s church environment was such that he believed he had to construct a false self in order for him to fit in and for church people to be comfortable around him. It seems that’s the case for other social groups too, viz. elites in the sub-culture of nerdery, but it should not be that way among Christians. I’ve heard the same description of “holy” applied to U2 concerts, and I’m not at all surprised at the relief and joy Mike experienced simply being able to drop the mask. May God forgive us.

    When the series first started, I went to Mike’s blog and read through it, and got the gist of his experiences. I’m glad for Mike/Geologist’s excerpts from the book, and the narrative connections. I think the whole rejection of God happened not because Mike M read Dawkins, but because the god Mike was taught to believe in didn’t fulfill his expectations when tragedy happened in his life (because tragedy isn’t supposed to happen if you believe correctly, right?). If that god falls apart so easily in the process of simply living life, then it’s the wrong god. However, I think Mike began to encounter Jesus at what seems to be the point where he’s farthest from him, even before the waves – the point when he realized he’d “expected God to justify Himself to me, but God failed to do that. Instead, He bowed His head and died.” Now *that’s* the true God – the God who is humble, and unafraid of humans rejecting him.

    I found this paper very helpful for getting some further clarity regarding the humility of God, and what it means to be human.
    http://www.oodegr.com/english/dogmatiki1/G1b.htm

    Dana

  14. Klasie Kraalogies says:

    In then end, this story relies on private experience. which is just that. Private, personal, deeply emotional experience. Something we have to handle carefully, tenderly. Both in the original rejection, and then the re-accepting of Christianity

    That being said – what I tried to do in my own series some months back is to relay my own careful handling of the pitfalls of personal experience. Deeply personal experience is like a single data point on a plot – one can read many things into it, depending on how you look at it. This is had to admit. Because it takes the comfort away from being your own arbiter of truth – because you know you might be wrong. Therefore one has to doubt – take indirect approaches, turn the questions upside down and ask them from the other way, turn the emotions inside out. What if the opposite side where the nasty bastards – how would that change your perception of truth and reality? What are the real “data points”, once perceptions and feelings are stripped out in as far possible? These are difficult things.

    Doubt yourself and especially your feelings, and emotions. Biochemistry is no guide to truth….

    • Ron Avra says:

      Thanks for the perspective.

    • I totally disagree with how you come up with what you do. I hope the rest of your life goes well for you. You totally ignore how God made us when you take the way we are made and say it is no way leading to the truth. You become intellectually void.

      • Just to follow up…..K In the OT we see God has emotion and we were fashioned as Him. When we use intellect and our feelings we experience God. If we can not follow this way then we perceive him the way we do. Intellectually love makes almost no sense at all. Just on the side absolutely no sense at all. Yet love produces all the things inside our being physically and mentally. You can’t deny it. Love just might produce things in our God that make no sense like way after my divorce of a 20 year plus relationship that I go wow I can’t believe I ever acted that way. I still love her but I have no want. She is dead to me now.

        I’m just human and not divine. God in Job says who are you that created a tree. Where were you when I set the foundation of the world……………….whatever…………You know……………….I’m not going to preach to the choir. K everyone has been hurt in some or another and those things act on us in the way we react to things. I am certain I have reacted to things I wish I could take back. I also am certain that others have too. May your best years be in front of you……..

        • The speck of light that is our world from way out in space is still a light no matter how small it gets now isn’t it and that’s amazing

  15. Hi admin, i must say you have high quality posts here.

    Your website should go viral. You need initial traffic boost only.
    How to get it? Search for; Mertiso’s tips go viral