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Author Topic: Questions for former atheists  (Read 5345 times) Average Rating: 0
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ctoe
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« on: July 15, 2007, 05:33:22 AM »

1) What led you to believe in God?

2) How did you come to find Orthodoxy?

I ask because I no longer consider myself an atheist, and I'm feeling rather lost as a result. So any insights gleaned from your conversions would be helpful.

Thank you.
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« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2007, 06:13:49 AM »

I wasn't an atheist but I konow someone who was atheist and brought orthodox revival in Russia and America, Father Seraphim Rose. Here are some books: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_b/104-3666268-9467966?initialSearch=1&url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=seraphim+rose

The one in which he says a lot about his strugles and conversion to ortodoxy is here: Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works http://www.amazon.com/Father-Seraphim-Rose-Life-Works/dp/1887904077/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2/105-0863616-6305236?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1184494004&sr=1-2
The one which gives comparation between Orthodoxy and yoga, new age , budism is here: Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future http://www.amazon.com/Orthodoxy-Religion-Future-Seraphim-Rose/dp/188790400X/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/105-0863616-6305236?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1184493944&sr=1-1
What orthodox people believe it happends after death: http://www.amazon.com/Soul-After-Death-Contemporary-After-Death/dp/093863514X/ref=sr_1_4/105-0863616-6305236?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1184494051&sr=1-4  Actually a study was done with people going into coma. They were asked if they remember anything and surprisingly they said yes, seeeing angels, seeing what happened in another room after soul got separated from body were some of the answers.
Another book about absolute truth, half truth, some truth and going for absolute truth which is in ortodoxy is here:
http://www.amazon.com/Nihilism-Root-Revolution-Modern-Age/dp/1887904069/ref=sr_1_5/105-0863616-6305236?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1184494169&sr=1-5

If you are interested in a new perspective about life on Earth you can look to those movies:
http://www.drdino.com/downloads.php

I hope this helps.
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« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2007, 06:46:29 AM »

1) What led you to believe in God?

2) How did you come to find Orthodoxy?

I ask because I no longer consider myself an atheist, and I'm feeling rather lost as a result. So any insights gleaned from your conversions would be helpful.

Thank you.



Dear Ctoe,

I'm not Orthodox.  I'm a Catholic who is verging on becoming an Orthodox catechumen.  Still, I'll try to respond to your questions.


1) What led you to believe in God?

For me, nature.  Everything has a cause, so I reasoned there must be an uncaused cause, a first cause, a something or a someone that got everything else going.  Also, everything has being, even though everything eventually passes out of being; so, I reasoned there must be something or someone that in turn gives being to everything else.  Also, everything seems to follow natural laws or natural designs, so I figured there must be a designer of nature.  Finally, on an emotional level, sometimes everything seems beautiful and filled with life.  Sometimes, the cosmos and everything in its seemed like a fantastic, ongoing work of art suffused with life itself.  So, I put it all together -- a prime mover, a being who was beyond all being, the designer and the artist of the cosmos, and I decided that this must be God. 

I'm glad you wrote "believe in" God because I also figured out that God can't be proven.  There are equally good, logical refutations for each of the points made above.  In other words, there is no definite proof for the existence of God.  The atheist concludes that, therefore, there is no God.  The agnostic concludes that there is an open question about God.  The believer concludes that faith carries a person past the point where reason is too limited to go, and believes in God.

And then, looking back, it becomes clear that belief in God is itself a gift from God.


2) How did you come to find Orthodoxy?

First, I found out about Orthodoxy by people I knew who were Orthodox.  However, their religion did not make much of an impression on me at the time, neither good nor bad, because I wasn't really interested in religion for a long time.   Later, I became very interested in religion.   At that time, a Catholic priest I knew turned out to be an Eastern Rite priest.  He introduced me to the Eastern Church and its mindset.  I started doing reading on my own.  Two books by Bishop Kallistos (Timothy) Ware were particularly useful for me:  The Orthodox Church and The Orthodox Way.  Then, I started visiting various Orthodox parishes and talking with Orthodox priests.  Finally, I use the internet (including this forum) as a source of learning about Orthodoxy. 

I am still undecided about Orthodoxy, but I am still looking into it.  I like the worship because it is structured and reverent.  I like the prayer and spiritual life because it is very deep and very rich, the theory and practice of theosis.  It is also, thus, a disciplined religion which requires its members to lead self-disciplined, consciously aware lives (instead of just going through the motions); and I really like that.  I also like the antiquity of Orthodoxy because that tells me it must be doing something right to last so long; and it will probably therefore be around for a long, long time.  But, that also means that Orthodoxy is a very conservative religion.  Also, Orthodoxy can be affected by or actually perpetuate religious nationalism, phariseeism and anti-semitism.  Part of that is due to history, and part of that is by cynical choice by some of its leaders (and followers) over time.  And, like in any church, there are some people in Orthodoxy who think they alone know God, or that they alone know Him fully and correctly, and that everyone else is therefore a heretic and sinner.  Most Orthodox folks whom I have met in the U.S. seem to be normal human beings who are balanced in the lives and in their religion.  They believe in their religion, and they believe it is correct, but they are tolerant and respectful of others (at least in public) and they can be humble about themselves and their lives.  Finally, a lot of Orthodoxy in the U.S. is maintained by the descendants of immigrants who have chosen to preserve parts of their ethnic heritage; and this can be a pleasant a different thing to experience for those of us who have not preserved our ethnic heritage; and the food tends to be remarkably good, too, as a result.  That is a minor point spiritually, but it is a major point humanly; and, as the Orthodox are fond of reminding people, man is both body as well as soul -- so eat well.  Etc.  There really is a lot of good in Orthodoxy --more good than bad-- and I while I am still undecided, I find enough to be appealing that I am still looking into it. 

I would encourage you to look into it too.


Moderatorial note:  Minor edit to replace proscribed word
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« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2007, 07:32:42 AM »

Welcome CTOE,

We hope to see you post again on the Convert issues Forum.

In Christ,
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« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2007, 08:47:11 AM »

Well I was brought up in a Greek Orthodox family my parents were believers but never forced me in to anything, I thought that believing in God was for stupid people,we used to go to church on the holy days (easter and Christmas) ,my Dad was the biggest influence when he told me that he believed in it. For years I questioned from about 8 years old to about 16 years old in between there I became agnostic/ atheist then after a conversation with my grandmother about religion I began to tear up and I felt the faith that I had always wanted in my life. After believing in God, the conversation I had with my grandmother was about Jesus so I said to myself he must be God. After some heavy research in to Christianity, I came to the conclusion that the authority over the bible was not mine but that of the church that God set down, then it was either Catholicism or Orthodoxy, my main problems with Catholicism was the view of the pope (Bishop of Rome) and there views on salvation which did not seem in tune with an all loving God. So My journey started with Orthodoxy, atheism, agnosticm, Theism, Christian then to the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic faith. 
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« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2007, 09:00:56 AM »

Welcome prodromas, ctoe and Aidrian!

ctoe,
I was baptised as an infant and brought up in the Orthodox Church, so I can't answer your question, since I've never been an unbeliever, but something in your post intrigued me. You said:
I no longer consider myself an atheist, and I'm feeling rather lost as a result.
What does this mean for you? Are you talking about a loss of identity? Are you talking about a loss of "bearings" and "where you are going"? I'm genuinely interested in hearing about your experiences if you'd like to share them.
George
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« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2007, 01:22:57 PM »

That's directly to me, thanks!

I was, indeed, raised in the former USSR as an atheist (secular humanist).

What lead me to belief in God, hmmm. Very hard to say rationally. Probably not what, but Who (and the answer is He) Smiley. Since I was 9 or 10, I was for some reason tremensously moved, emotionally, when I heard liturgical music, both Orthodox and non-Orthodox (esp. Pergolesi and Bach). When I began to read serious books, one of the first was Tolstoy's "War and Peace" (I read it for the first time when I was 12.5 - 13), and, again, when I was reading about Natasha Rostova listening to the "ektinia" in a church, I was moved to tears.

Another factor was simply youth rebellion. All of my schooling was anti-theist, and I hated my oppressive, boring Soviet school. So... there. Smiley

What lead me to Orthodoxy? First, my cultural heritage (Ukrainian), and, second, a certain strange spiritual void that I felt when I experimented with attending today's American Protestant churches. As my wife worded it, visiting them was a comeback of the Soviet Union era Communist Patry meetings (pompous, quasi-emotional, not real, "plastic," a thing you "ought" to do to be "good," etc.).
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« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2007, 05:03:36 AM »

First, I'd like to thank all of you for responding to my questions. You have provided me with much needed information.

@Adrian: Thanks for the links. I run across Fr. Rose's books occasionally when I browse Amazon for books about Orthodoxy. Since you recommend these titles, I'll be sure to give them a second look or check them out from my local library.

@Jonas: Your journey to belief sounds eerily similar to mine. Last school semester I was in class listening to some students argue with my biology professor about the theory of evolution, claiming the evidence for the theory was scant or unreliable (which is hogwash). I stopped paying attention to everyone as their bickering was getting boring. Meanwhile, thoughts of the creation (of life on earth) began to creep into my head. I remember being awed at the thought of how a single, primitive organism (theory of common descent) eventually spawned all the diverse and bountiful life we see around us today.

How could that be? One single organism... It's almost as if God planted the seed of life and watched it grow.

If that is not a good enough reason to believe in God, then I don't know what is.

It's funny: A lot of Christians spend an inordinate amount of time trying to disprove evolutionary theory, believing it will utterly destroy their faith. But for me, it was a turning point. It was studying evolution that compelled me to believe.

@Thomas: Thank you, Thomas. I'll do my best to participate as much as possible.

@ozgeorge: I would say that what I'm feeling is a loss of bearings. I was so sure before. Now, I'm lost, trying to claw my way back to a sense of certainty. There are also feelings of loneliness and incompleteness. You would think believing in God would make me happy--to know that there is something out there other than nothing. But no.
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« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2007, 03:52:53 PM »

1) WebPages about Biblical accuracy, prophetic fulfillment and miracles. This Protestant website, especially. Before that research, I had decided to adopt a religion, any religion, to help alleviate the emotional strain of problems I had at that time. Gideons International had given everyone in my school a free book of the New Testament, which is sitting in front of me as I type, and my previous school had given me grounding in liberal Protestant ways, so that was the religion I chose for convenience. I can't really relate to that decision-making process now, but I was twelve/thirteen and desperate. But I still wonder, if that hadn't happened, would I have much interest or knowledge at all in spirituality by this time? Probably not. About a year afterwards, I experienced at least one case of a prayer I forced myself to believe would be answered apparently being answered, against staggering odds, plus another, relatively dismissible but convincing enough one for me, and then I was sold. Somewhere along the line I decided I really, really didn't want to believe in the version of Christianity I had come to understand, before a lot of Internet research brought me, at first reluctantly, back to it.

2) A couple of weeks ago I was browsing the Internet for Christian or scholarly theories about Genesis and Creation. Stumbled on a website outlining differences between the three broadest denominations, and Orthodoxy, which I knew next to nothing about, caught my attention. My own thoughts had been in agreement with much of the doctrine for some time. From there I read more about its history and point of view. Realised that it seemed to reconcile my conflicting thoughts about the validity of Roman Catholic vs. Protestant assumptions, and here I am. Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2007, 08:31:04 PM »

@ozgeorge: I would say that what I'm feeling is a loss of bearings. I was so sure before. Now, I'm lost, trying to claw my way back to a sense of certainty. There are also feelings of loneliness and incompleteness. You would think believing in God would make me happy--to know that there is something out there other than nothing. But no.
Thanks for explaining that!
It makes sense to me, because for me, my Faith underlies the meaning of everything. It is my "ToE" ("Theory of Everything"), so if I was to lose it, I would certainly be lost, so I can imagine the reverse would be true.
Interestingly, like yourself, studying Evolutionary Theory actually made me wonder more at the Wisdom of God. My inner circle of friends in High School were all Orthodox from different traditions (Russian, Greek, Serb, Antioch) and we all attended the same religious instruction class, and they all expressed the same experience- Evolutionary Theory made us wonder more at the Wisdom of God. It never seemed to challenge our Faith the way it challenged the Protestant kids Faith (and I'm thinking specifically of a group of Presbyterian Reformed kids and Assembly Of God kids who protested at being taught Evolutionary theory). It didn't seem to be a problem for the Catholic and Anglican kids either.
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« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2007, 01:40:09 AM »

I ask because I no longer consider myself an atheist, and I'm feeling rather lost as a result.

  I can totally appreciate where you are at this point in time, if I correctly understood you. If you are saying that you had a lot invested in your atheistic outlook and now that you have come to no longer believe this is true, coupled with the uncertainty of where you fit in (spiritually speaking), then maybe you can relate to my story.

 I was raised as a Christian but, to make a long story very short, I became Muslim as a young adult. I didn't pray as often as a pious Muslim should pray (5x per day), but I did study the Qur'an along with various other Islamic writings. I was very involved in Islamic missionary work through booths at local functions, dropping leaflets around the area, and holding big conferences at the biggest University in town. I would write articles and submit them to various Islamic websites and finally helped to establish an online Islamic association with other Muslims from two Islamic countries. I routinely asked for and received Qur'ans and other literature from the Sa'udi Embassy in the attempts to bring an awareness to the area. Unfortunately, my efforts may have paid off because we have a mosque that was funded by the Sa'udi family. You can see that being a Muslim was who I was, what I did, and how I looked at the rest of the world. You could say I ate, slept, and drank Islam. So you can see what a crisis it was when I could no longer believe what the Qur'an said. I was even sort of shocked myself. Things really began to unravel when my Muslim wife and I realized that we could no longer stay married. Everything, and I mean everything was crumbling around me. I was very afraid and felt as if lost on a stormy sea, with no land on the horizon. Everything I was previously living for was gone. Imagine also, not being able to talk about it with friends because they were also Muslim and wouldn't have been able to handle it (not to mention the added stress of trying to keep it from the more extremist elements here). If I didn't believe in the Islamic or Christian concept of God, what did I believe? After devoting so much of my time to propagate Islam, what was I going to do now? How do I just live my life? It was a very confusing, frightening period in my life. And that's exactly what Jesus wanted me to go through. Yet, had someone told me that at the time... I shudder to think of the profanities that I would have hurled at them from my rotten core. If you wish to hear more about how I continued on, just ask.

  I might add that simply believing in God does not necessarily make one happy. I've encountered plenty of grumpy crabby (and downright rude) Christians. Since you now believe in God, why not begin to pray to Him? You talk to your friends and family, yes? God will hear your prayers. And please don't worry about what to say. The Holy Orthodox Church has plenty of prayers you may use, but for now, just start talking to Him. I believe you when you say you feel lost. I will pray for you, as I'm positive many on this forum are already doing. And please continue to ask your questions without fear.

 In Christ,

 Gabriel
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« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2007, 05:25:25 PM »

Interesting, the question was for former atheists, but only one person who was raised in an atheist family responded (me). No former atheists (as far as family upbringing, schooling is concerned) on this forum, except myself?
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« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2007, 07:18:57 PM »

@Gabriel: Thanks for your kind words and prayer. They mean much to me. As for my telling anyone about my new found belief, I haven't. Not friends or family. Nobody (aside from hundreds of people on a semi-anonymous internet forum). I'll let them all know when the time is right, but for now, I need to figure things out.

I started praying the other day with the Jesus Prayer. It felt a little awkward at first, having not prayed before save for a few extemporaneous moments as a child, but I loosened up and began to find comfort in it.

This website offers a number of Orthodox prayers for various occasions. I will start integrating some of them into my life.

By the way, what version of the Bible do most Orthodox worshipers use? I have a King James Version a Mormon proselytizer gave me about ten years ago. Is that sufficient?
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« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2007, 10:25:36 PM »

Opinions will vary widely on the topic, but I think your King James will be sufficient. You may also want to pick up a copy of the Orthodox Study Bible. It's a New Testament in the New King James version that has study notes pointing out how Orthodox theology can be found all over the New Testament. It's a wonderful resource, and it only costs about $30. Many parishes have them available for sale or library loan.
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« Reply #14 on: July 18, 2007, 11:28:51 PM »

@Gabriel: Thanks for your kind words and prayer. They mean much to me. As for my telling anyone about my new found belief, I haven't. Not friends or family. Nobody (aside from hundreds of people on a semi-anonymous internet forum). I'll let them all know when the time is right, but for now, I need to figure things out.

I started praying the other day with the Jesus Prayer. It felt a little awkward at first, having not prayed before save for a few extemporaneous moments as a child, but I loosened up and began to find comfort in it.

This website offers a number of Orthodox prayers for various occasions. I will start integrating some of them into my life.

By the way, what version of the Bible do most Orthodox worshipers use? I have a King James Version a Mormon proselytizer gave me about ten years ago. Is that sufficient?

 Hi ctoe,

 Like Ytterbiumanalyst mentioned, the KJV is sufficient if you can deal with the Old English. I also agree with Y about the Orthodox Study Bible. It's the New King James Bible and it has lots of explanations.

 If I may ask, are your parents atheists? How about your grandparents? I apologize if overstepping some boundaries.
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« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2007, 11:39:00 PM »

Thanks for the recommendations.

@Gabriel: I grew up in an areligious family. My mother was baptized Catholic; my father, Baptist. But we never attended church, discussed religion, nor thought about religion (to my knowledge). Given what I know about demographics, this is quite unique for a working class family.
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« Reply #16 on: July 19, 2007, 01:56:52 AM »

Thanks for the recommendations.

@Gabriel: I grew up in an areligious family. My mother was baptized Catholic; my father, Baptist. But we never attended church, discussed religion, nor thought about religion (to my knowledge). Given what I know about demographics, this is quite unique for a working class family.
That is unique. If you don't mind another question, how did you come to believe in God? 
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« Reply #17 on: July 19, 2007, 03:58:51 AM »

I don't mind the questions. Honest. In fact, I find them quite useful because I practically never think about the religiosity of my family or myself (until recently).

The main reason for my about face is the universe--that massive, unknown, mysterious realm which only but a mere fraction we'll ever, as a species, likely explore. The universe is filled with truly amazing objects such as quasars, black holes, and etc. that the human brain can not fully comprehend. For instance, here's a link to an image of what our Sun would look like beside the largest known star, VY Canis Majoris. Try wrapping your head around that.

This wonderful universe of ours came from some place. The most widely accepted theory is that it resulted from a Big Bang. What caused that Big Bang is a topic of much theorizing and conjecture.

All the theorizing and conjecture make for some fascinating reading, I admit. However, I found myself unable to agree with materialistic explanations for the origin of the universe, such as our universe being a "bump" which occurred in the multiverse (but where did the multiverse come from, one has to wonder).

It was about that point when my conversion occurred.

My story doesn't sound very rational. But I never claimed it was.

And, as I mentioned in an earlier post, my readings in evolutionary biology led me further down the road to belief.
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« Reply #18 on: July 19, 2007, 04:48:47 AM »

Interesting, the question was for former atheists, but only one person who was raised in an atheist family responded (me). No former atheists (as far as family upbringing, schooling is concerned) on this forum, except myself?

My family is atheist/agnostic. I just found Protestantism first because was the dominant Christian presence in my life.
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« Reply #19 on: July 19, 2007, 09:05:12 AM »

My family is atheist/agnostic. I just found Protestantism first because was the dominant Christian presence in my life.

That makes it two of us. Smiley

I grew up in the midst of a culture that was at its root, at its essence very Orthodox, but I was also surrounded from all sides by atheism; my family and many close friends of my parents were what you might probably call secular humanists (opposed to the then incumbent Soviet "regime" and more or less idealistic, but believing very firmly that there is no deity, nothing supernatural in the world); and my schooling was mostly militant anti-theistic.

My wife is an atheistic secular humanist, but I have recently discovered that I am in a better position than some people on this site and on some other Orthodox sites who struggle with their Heterodox Christian family members for their acceptance of Orthodoxy.

I know some people who identify themselves as Orthodox and yet swear that they are atheists, their favorite authors being Nietzsche et al.; they say they are Orthodox because the Orthodox rites are part of their personal "microcosm," the beauty without which they cannot imagine their lives, but there is no "god," of course. Smiley

As for the arguments from nature - people who don't believe in God might discard them very easily, they don't ring any "theistic bell" in these folks. Amazing creatures and objects just evolved... it's all just the everlasting change of the hamiltonian in the elementary particles immersed in the gluon-bozon plasma. Smiley Smiley Smiley No one "put it there." God is a myth made by humans who are scared of uncertainties. Etc., etc., etc., etc. Smiley
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« Reply #20 on: July 19, 2007, 11:21:24 PM »

My wife is an atheistic secular humanist,
Heorhij, I will pray for her that thru your example she comes to believe.

I know some people who identify themselves as Orthodox and yet swear that they are atheists, their favorite authors being Nietzsche et al.; they say they are Orthodox because the Orthodox rites are part of their personal "microcosm," the beauty without which they cannot imagine their lives, but there is no "god," of course. Smiley
This has always puzzled me, but I understand it's really not uncommon. I've been exposed to this before when reading about Judaism and Dr. Kyriacos Markides in his writings, but it still puzzles me.

As for the arguments from nature - people who don't believe in God might discard them very easily, they don't ring any "theistic bell" in these folks.
Very true for me. I remember backpacking in the Boston Mtns in Arkansas one time. As my friend and I looked out from a conservation tower just at sunset he remarked, "How can somebody not believe in God. Look at how beautiful this is." I agreed with him that they were beautiful, but said nothing about God. It just didn't ring true with me at the time.
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« Reply #21 on: July 20, 2007, 06:18:19 AM »

As for the arguments from nature - people who don't believe in God might discard them very easily, they don't ring any "theistic bell" in these folks. Amazing creatures and objects just evolved... it's all just the everlasting change of the hamiltonian in the elementary particles immersed in the gluon-bozon plasma. Smiley Smiley Smiley No one "put it there." God is a myth made by humans who are scared of uncertainties. Etc., etc., etc., etc. Smiley

For me, the issue was "God of the gaps" -- the claim that God is just a convenient label for explaining whatever we cannot scietifically explain or ontologically/psychologically accept.  Yet, for me, the nagging questions that brought me around to God were all pointing back to the ultimate cause of everything in nature that I noticed and marvelled at.  Logically, there was a point where my reason couldn't go anymore --God as the prime cause was neither provable nor disprovable.  But, I noticed that once people took the leap of faith and believed in God, they appeared to find the answers they were looking for.  So (by grace, I later recognized), I took the leap of faith to God:  and I found that He is there!   Smiley
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« Reply #22 on: July 20, 2007, 10:01:56 AM »

That makes it two of us. Smiley

I grew up in the midst of a culture that was at its root, at its essence very Orthodox, but I was also surrounded from all sides by atheism; my family and many close friends of my parents were what you might probably call secular humanists (opposed to the then incumbent Soviet "regime" and more or less idealistic, but believing very firmly that there is no deity, nothing supernatural in the world); and my schooling was mostly militant anti-theistic.

My wife is an atheistic secular humanist, but I have recently discovered that I am in a better position than some people on this site and on some other Orthodox sites who struggle with their Heterodox Christian family members for their acceptance of Orthodoxy.

I know some people who identify themselves as Orthodox and yet swear that they are atheists, their favorite authors being Nietzsche et al.; they say they are Orthodox because the Orthodox rites are part of their personal "microcosm," the beauty without which they cannot imagine their lives, but there is no "god," of course. Smiley

As for the arguments from nature - people who don't believe in God might discard them very easily, they don't ring any "theistic bell" in these folks. Amazing creatures and objects just evolved... it's all just the everlasting change of the hamiltonian in the elementary particles immersed in the gluon-bozon plasma. Smiley Smiley Smiley No one "put it there." God is a myth made by humans who are scared of uncertainties. Etc., etc., etc., etc. Smiley

That last one always strikes me as particularly unfounded, but I can appreciate where it comes from. My life would be considerably easier and more certain if I just didn't think about religion. Yet I searched for it originally because that was my impression of it, too. Only now I'm irreversibly enveloped in spiritual/ultimate truth seeking, and only very recently within that, has that in secular human respects easier and more certain lifestyle seemed too shallow, harsh and cold without the focus and consistency that grows from within, not even in external beliefs. Before I became interested in Orthodoxy, I had long decided to be Christian not because I 'felt like it' but because it was right to worship God if He exists (and wise to if He sends you to Hell otherwise Tongue). That was important, I believe, and because God is goodness and sacrifice then I believe theosis should be based primarily on the desire for doing what's right. However only since I've discovered Orthodox thought have I really appreciated the spiritual and practical worth of the subjective experience and 'selfish' longing for God as well.

I share your realisation that our situation is relatively easy. I suppose I am very lucky compared to most converts, as most converts are apostates in some way or other and induce much more anger. I'm just a freak.  Grin Yet I don't always feel luckier. My main problem is not the anger of those around me, but their fear and the guilt it gives me, because the adults in my family are so frightened of organised religion. This fear is also slightly conditioned in me and can be awakened whenever I see it in them: I'll suddenly feel incredibly stupid as they see it as stupid. This makes it difficult to explain to them because in their presence I can't say certain things and feel like I mean them, they become less real and immediate to me, which makes me look very unsure and vulnerable about it. Undecided Heorhij, did you ever have the same experience as a result of the social conditioning attempted on you? That sounds much more deliberate than what happens in the UK, but I wonder whether it's as effective.
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« Reply #23 on: July 21, 2007, 09:21:00 AM »

Narrowpathplease, yes, indeed, I have experienced pretty much the same, and continue to experience the same. Virtually all people I communicate with are very conditioned into believing that organized religion of absolutely any kind is at best superfluous and at worst oppressive/manipulative/corrupt/profit-seeking/criminal. Some of my wife's Ukrainian relatives, for example, say that they believe in God "the way our ancestors believed" (i.e. Orthodox), have icons at home, and even sign themselves with the sign of the cross once in a while. But one just can't even mention going to church when they are present, in any way. The mere word "church" in their minds is associated with the current divisive, angry, corrupt, dishonest post-Soviet Ukrainian politics. If you ask them something like, "don't you ever want to go to church, join a parish," etc., they will immediately say, "what, go to those POPY (colloquial term for "priests")? But they are all deceitful bastards, they are after our money, and their bishops are all politicians - liars, bribe-takers, just look at their fat bellies and fancy Mercedezes!" etc. I learned the hard way that I simply cannot make them "think outside of the box," so I do not "preach" to them about impossibility of "dancing alone" for an Orthodox Christian, etc.

All of my own living relatives and virtually all of my friends have the same extremely negative opinion about "organized religion," but in their case it is the combination of the above belief that organized religion is corrupt just like all politics is corrupt, and of the agnostic thesis that no one can possibly be aware of the existence of any deity, of anything supernatural. That's, I believe, very much the result of their conditioning in the former USSR where the intelligentsia was seriously exposed to scientific literature and to writings of various philosophers, but not to the writings of Christian theologians.
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« Reply #24 on: July 22, 2007, 05:30:59 AM »

Heorhij and Narrowpathplease, you have a great amount of courage!

May God bless you for your witness!
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« Reply #25 on: July 23, 2007, 12:07:19 AM »

But they are all deceitful bastards, they are after our money, and their bishops are all politicians - liars, bribe-takers, just look at their fat bellies and fancy Mercedezes!" etc.
I never would've believed this was possible about priests (I'm so naive sometimes  Tongue) until I began dating a Romanian girl. She leveled the same charges against many priests in Romania as well. Thankfully though, she does want to go to church with me.

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« Reply #26 on: August 07, 2007, 03:30:21 PM »

1) WebPages about Biblical accuracy, prophetic fulfillment and miracles. This Protestant website, especially.

Very interesting web-site!  Thank you very much for this! 

I especially liked their article on Infant Baptism...unfortunately they did not commit to an answer, rather they leaned towards adult baptism, without endorsing it. 

I think I might e-mail them.  Thanks again! 
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« Reply #27 on: August 07, 2007, 07:37:59 PM »

...so I do not "preach" to them about impossibility of "dancing alone" for an Orthodox Christian, etc.
So....I guess you read the Frank Schaeffer book?
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« Reply #28 on: August 09, 2007, 01:52:21 PM »

Elisha, no, unfortunately not yet. I just read *about* F. Shaeffer and this expression, and liked it.
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« Reply #29 on: October 28, 2009, 10:02:14 PM »

The OP doesn't appear to be participating on this forum any more, but I think it's an interesting subject and I want to add my two cents now that I've exited atheism.

I will admit that I don't consider the evidence for believing in God to be overwhelming. So while I don't have blind faith in God, it is nonetheless an evidenced faith or opinion, and not something I'd call a certainty or fact.  After having spent eight years as a Christian, I then spent about four years bouncing between atheism and Orthodoxy. And after looking at all the evidence, and weighing all the opinions, and considering all the arguments, I did finally come around to belief in a God again.

When I weigh the possibilities on the evidential scale, I just find the idea that a God exists to be slightly more persuasive than the atheistic alternative. I've been thinking, especially over the last couple weeks, why exactly I believe in God. At this point I would primarily point to the cosmological and teleological arguments, and also the argument from religious experience. It's not that these arguments, as traditionally presented, are slam dunks. I just find that the questions and avenues of exploration that they raise leads to a conclusion that is slightly in favor of the existence of God.

Religious experience is really the glue that binds the evidence together for me. And I think that the argument from experience is more than just some gut reaction. I am not one given to sensationalistic or ecstatic experiences, I am too much of a skeptic for that. I'm not even talking about experiences I've had in a religious context (e.g. a church or monastery). I am talking about my experiences in my search for truth, my triumphs of discovery, as well as my failures. In spite of all the good arguments against the existence of a God, I still have had an inexplicable sense of something other, something more profound. Admittedly, this is something of an argument from authority, in that I am an authority unto myself in this case, But I think that this is a necessary evil for us as human beings engaging in this truth-seeking pursuit.

Reason plays it's part as well in the arguments for the existence of God, but I would be lying if I didn't admit that something akin to faith didn't also play a part. Evidenced faith is a leap that you take when the evidence doesn't quite bridge gaps in knowledge, and I'm not ashamed to admit that there are many gaps in the knowledge that I think I have. I don't think you can believe in a God merely through reason. I consider the arguments for the existence of God to be too weak for that. I think reason and experience can take you only so far, and at that point you must make a choice to leap over an chasm of missing evidence.

And thus I believe, whether or not it is considered irrational by some. I cannot help but believe, because to do otherwise, at this point, would be to deny the conclusions that I have arrived at simply because I don't want to accept them. Some would argue that believing in God is an intellectually shaky place to be, but in any event it's a better place than being intellectually dishonest and lying to myself. However, I must admit that the God that I came to believe in was much different than I would have guessed at the start.

Now, as for confusion, one thing that has helped me through the years, and especially of late, is to sit down and write my beliefs out. Put them down in print on your computer, and do it as systematically or orderly as possible. Then ask yourself why you believe such and such? What objections are there to these beliefs? What possible other beliefs/actions will arise from taking these beliefs to their logical conclusions? When I decided recently to again write out what I believed, I put my thoughts into sections like knowledge, deity, creation of the universe, the nature of man, salvation and the afterlife, and morality. It helped me immensely in clearing up things in my head.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2009, 10:05:59 PM by Asteriktos » Logged
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« Reply #30 on: October 31, 2009, 08:08:58 PM »

1) What led you to believe in God?

2) How did you come to find Orthodoxy?

I ask because I no longer consider myself an atheist, and I'm feeling rather lost as a result. So any insights gleaned from your conversions would be helpful.

Thank you.

The first-causes argument.  Science only observes the forces of entropy and decay.  The fact that there is order at all to begin with means there must be a powerful organizing force in the universe.
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