I live with my fundamentalist Christian parents who do not know that I am not the same. I am going away to university next year, so my dad signed me up for an apologist conference over the summer. I strongly do not want to go, but it seems I have no choice. What should I do? The following link is the basic curriculum that will be taught at the conference: http://www.summit.org/curriculum/high-school/christian-school/ I am looking for tips on what to do while I am there to not go crazy or tips on how to avoid going in the first place. I'm scheduled to leave July 18, so any timely advice would be wonderful.

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Hi Rebecca, Exploring the web-site you mention above, I found an article – No God, No Good – written by Michael Bauman.

Among other things, Bauman says:

“If human nature arose as the chance result of a mindless evolutionary process, a process behind which exist no divine mind and no divine plan, then moral absolutes disappear. That is, if human nature is the result of evolutionary accident, and if right and wrong arise solely from human nature, then right and wrong are accidents, not moral absolutes.”

I couldn’t help myself and I submitted this comment:

"Evolution has programmed us, like many other organisms, to have a set of goals that define what is good and what is bad, what is pleasurable and what is painful. The name for this evolutionary approach to pleasure is functionalism."
Christian apologetics is a fascinating system of organized self-delusion. I realize it may be difficult to stomach, but I've never met a Christian apologetic argument that wasn't full of obvious holes, missing the point, bait and switch, and sheer wishful thinking. If you can, try to think of this experience as anthropology field work among a primitive tribe. Who knows, maybe you'll write a bestseller ethnography.
You don't say how old you are, but as you get older, you will have to exert your independence from your parents in many different ways, and differences in belief is just one. I think you should discuss with your dad that you don't want to do this even if you don't explain why. I expect you'll have a fight on your hands if he was so determined to "sign you up" without talking to you about it first. But, if you are over 18, your father can't force you to go or do anything against your will as far as religious worship goes. If they were to hold the fact you live with them over your head and you are over 18, maybe now is the time to start spreading those wings... Good luck!
I am 18, and I considered not going, but my parents are paying for a significant amount of my undergraduate school, and I fear that they won't if I don't go. This conference is the compromise for not having to go to a small Christian college.
Thanks for the advice, everyone. I think that I will go so that I can understand the Christian perspective. I find the one-sidedness of apologists very annoying, and I was wondering if you had any advice on how to keep my cool. I am considering listening to a few atheist/freethinker podcasts, but I don't know if this will make me even more irritated with my surroundings.
feel free to tell us how it's going if you need (im)moral support! (kidding)
Consider yourself a guerrilla infiltrator and make it a game. Go. Learn. Mingle with the maniacs. Report back to us. Re-enforce why you are not one of them.
Christian apologetics are great “believers,” prepared to accept without question the most outrageous concepts.

They believe …

1. that The Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God and they accept every word in it as literal truth.

2. in a personal Devil, “who goes about seeking whom he may devour.”

3. that Adam and Eve were real people, created by the hand of God in an earthly paradise called the Garden of Eden and

4. that their eating of the forbidden fruit – commonly thought as an apple – left all men sinners by nature.

5. in a literal Heaven and an everlasting fire-and brimstone Hell where all those who have not “accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior” will be tormented forever.

6. that Almighty God selected one small nation, Israel, as his Chosen People and, for their exclusive guidance, inscribed the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone.

7. that a Palestinian virgin was impregnated by God the Holy Ghost,

8. that her son, Jesus of Nazareth, was God in the flesh,

9. that he was executed by the Roman government but was resurrected by God the Father,

10. that he ascended into Heaven and will return to earth some day soon to judge the 6 billion living human beings and consign the wicked to endless torment.

I would rather ask:

1. How can one believe the biblical account of the creation of the world in six days when every eminent physicist agrees that all living species have evolved over millions of years from primitive beginnings?

2. Is it possible for an intelligent man or woman to believe that God fashioned the first male human being from a handful of dust and the first woman from one of the man’s ribs? Or would not the fact that the Bible has many references to the creation of man “out of dust” point to a lowly biological origin of the human species, which is consistent with the mechanisms of Evolution?

3. How could a loving Heavenly Father create an endless Hell and, over the centuries, consign millions of people to it because they do not accept certain religious beliefs? And having done so, how could he torment them forever?

4. Is it possible to believe that the Creator of the universe would personally impregnate a Palestinian virgin in order to facilitate getting his son into the world as a man? Indeed, since sex is God’s own good design for procreation, would it not be more suitable that God use it in this instance?

5. Why are there literally hundreds of Christian denominations and independent congregations, all of them basing their beliefs on the Bible, and most of them convinced that all the others are, in some ways, wrong? If all Christians worship the same God, why can they not put aside their theological differences and cooperate actively with one another?
Religion fascinates me. When I look back on what I believed when I was a fundamentalists I can't believe it. But the human drive for religion can't be dismissed. And from the viewpoint of learning and understanding people, I would jump at the opportunity now (knowing what I know and feeling what I feel) to go back into something like that as an observer. To better understand how it serves the people caught up in it.

Much as others have said, look at it as a sociological expedition. As if you were researching a book or journal article. Learn as much as you can. Looking on fundamentalists with empathy may make your path of non-belief much easier.

Good luck,
(or Sherrie)
I do have ADD! Haha, I never even thought about not taking my meds during the trip, I might do that! If I told my parents, I'm fairly sure that they would disown me, so that's out of the question.
Definitely go as it's a unique opportunity. You'll be glad you did later on. Your insider's perspective will help other atheists. Make sure you save all the material/propaganda they give you. You'll may want it for showing people what they taught (when you are ready to throw it out, donate it to a local atheist group for their library of "cultural competitors' crap"). I went to a large evangelical Jesus camp (www.kanakuk.com) growing up and I wish I had saved more material from it. Also, make contacts and keep their information. You can always throw out the emails later, but you may want them years from now.

If you are up to it you could also raise some questions while you are there... planting the seeds of critical thinking into your fellow apologists. Based on their website, I think the following material would be good to read/watch before you go so you can counter some of their claims: 10 myths about secular humanism, PotHoler54's The Made Easy Series, Carl Sagan's: A Demon Haunted World (the audiobook torrent)
Reading through these responses, I'd say you've got some really great advice! If it's at all encouraging, my four years as an undergraduate were easily the happiest of my life - that and I was still a Christian at the time! You have many exciting adventures ahead of you, and I feel confident that in the end you'll find that the whole ordeal of a summer Christian education program was worthwhile. Good luck :)


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