I find myself in the odd position of being the one in the house defending Christmas. A little background first.

My wife is a fundamentalist Seventh Day Adventist, or more accurately they seem to be some branch of the Seventh Day Adventists. My wife joined another fundamentalist church known as the ICOC about 10 years ago. This turned out to be a cult and they managed to indoctrinate me as well. While it was a truly alarming experience to go through, I think the net result was good. I was raised in a Baptist home but we weren't very fundamentalist. I maintained a passing belief in God for most of my childhood, teens and twenties. Honestly I just didn't think about it that much, and my wife seemed to be in pretty much the same boat.

Then the cult happened. I reached a breaking point after about a year in the cult. One day I just simply couldn't bring myself to go back in the building. I turned around and never went back. I spent roughly a year or so firmly convinced I was going to Hell. Even so, I couldn't bring myself to go back. Something in my mind just simply wouldn't bend that far. Over time I learned that the church was a cult and I began educating myself on what cults were. I had no idea before. Very few people do. That's how they work. If everybody knew what a cult was, nobody would join them.

One thing I learned about cults is their ability to suppress critical thinking processes. I look back and am shocked at how credulous I was, and what it cost me. I went back to school to finish a degree, and I needed a Humanities credit. I was intending to take a blow off class since I was supporting myself and trying to go to school, but I noticed that one class I could take to fulfill that credit was "Logic and Critical Thinking". On an impulse I signed up for it, because I knew largely what had happened to my mind at that point.

It was an insanely hard class, and I got the only "A" he gave out for that class. I think I was hungry for it. I'm not sure, but I don't believe that my grade was luck.

I realized that I couldn't go back to a Christian Church. I tried attending a church or two with my wife, but every time that little alarm bell in my head went off. I just simply couldn't do it. I searched around for something to fill the gap left. I studied several other religions, and even became fascinated with Taoism for a while. I think it's attraction lay in the fact that, at least in the version I studied, there were no actual Gods. It read more like a philosophy of life.

Time passes, I finally realize that I'm an Atheist, I love science, and I haven't believed in supernatural beings for 10 years now. This is the net result I believe to be good. I doubt I would have changed my credulous nature without having had it abused first.


My wife left the cult as well. I think in large part because I knew and told her that I would not let any kids we might have be raised in that cult. I was ready to leave her. But she questioned their doctrine and left herself. But she never left Christianity. I think she searched for a while on her own, and has now hooked up with this SDA group, who sounds largely reminiscent of the cult. The irony...

But it gets better. Two kids later, she now believes all holidays are evil. She's managed to indoctrinate my oldest more or less, and my little resistance ploy of doing holidays with the kids anyway has failed because he now refuses to participate.

In other words, all my fears have come true.

So I find myself in the extremely odd position as the only Atheist in the house of being the one defending Christmas because I think it's a lot of fun for kids. The irony...

Religion: screwing up childhood for thousands of years and counting.

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Comment by 1311 on December 21, 2010 at 4:06pm
Dr. Cowboy,

I really liked the link. Don't you just love hell? LOL!!!
Comment by Dr. Cowboy on December 21, 2010 at 2:08pm

I hadn't heard the ones about the 666 under his hat yet, but it's hardly a stretch.  My wife doesn't appear to have bought into the movies one yet either.  She was okay with me taking the 9yo to a movie the other day.  On the other hand, it was Voyage of the Dawn Treader, so maybe I should take that one with a grain of salt.


I actually feel kind of bad for her.  Her mother is Catholic, and she tried to "talk" to her one day about the Catholic church.  It didn't go well.  I know several Catholics and they all seem pretty nice people to me as well.  I have a few gripes about the Catholic church as well, but these are things I would apply to anybody, like covering up child rape.


Most religions do indeed tend to think they're the only right one.  The cult 10 years ago believed the same, and I believe it was in large part this that allowed me to leave.  I just couldn't imagine my dead grandparents, the two sweetest, nicest people who ever walked the earth in Hell.  That's not justice by any stretch of the imagination.  I suppose in a way they saved me from religion from beyond the grave.  Pretty good for theists.


The "everybody else is wrong and going to hell" position amuses me.  The first thing it makes me think of the the joke science paper that uses a logical proof to show that since everybody thinks everybody else is going to hell, everybody is going to hell.  You It's worded better than I remember it, but it's funny.  http://www.theblackadder.co.uk/jokes/JokeHellEndothermicExothermic....

I did it once myself using set theory.  Take any two religions A and B where A and B believe they are the only true religion, and intersect them to see who's going to Heaven.  The answer is { } (the null set).  that's the short version anyway :)


The second thing it makes me think of is the South Park movie, when the world is ending and all the Christians (except the Mormons) show up in Hell.  They start asking "what did we do wrong?" and a man addresses them and says "Sorry, the correct answer was Mormon."  They do a pretty good job of illustrating the absurd.

Comment by 1311 on December 20, 2010 at 9:40am
I hear you very well on what you said about "The Catholics are evil and taking over the world." LOL. I laugh because my parents were taught to believe in a whole bunch of crap like that such as:

The pope is the antichrist.

The pope has the number 666 etched under his hat.

All the Catholics are evil and are all going to hell.

All those who aren't Seventh Day Adventist are immoral, infidels and pagans.

You're not allowed to go to the movies because it is a place of sin.

They frown upon the women beautifying themselves with makeup because makeup is what the immoral use to sin.

You can't do anything from Friday sundown till Saturday sundown because it's the Sabbath day. So since you can't do anything you might as well just stay in church all day....
And on and on and on...

Last time I checked there are some pretty nice Catholic people out there in this world. A lot of them help the poor, visit the sick and frail, and try to make this world a better place. Too bad they're all going to burn in hell!

My parents believe that their religion is the only right religion. Isn't that what most religions think of their religion? So who's right and who's wrong?

I totally get what you said about the links being a little too rough. Sometimes sugar coating it a little works for some people. And other times you just have to give it to them cold turkey. Either way, hopefully they will start asking questions and seeing the light of reason!
Comment by Dr. Cowboy on December 20, 2010 at 12:18am

@Cliff: Actually I said *cults* suppress critical thinking skills, but I believe it's true of religion in general as well (I don't consider all churches to be cults).  The basis of religion is faith, faith being defined as belief in something as real with no evidence supporting it, which is the antithesis of critical thinking.  Cults do not actually need to be based on religion, but it's usually the easiest way to get one going.  Google Robert Lifton's eight criteria for though reform and commit it to memory.  It's the best way to know when you're getting into something bad, religious or not.  

@John: You kinda made my head hurt a little :)  I see your point about the fallacy of Atheists; we BELIEVE there is no God.  It's a fair point, but my take on it is more like this.  I have strong opinions, weakly held.  I don't hold absolutely that there is no God as a point of faith, but rather I've examined the evidence (or lack thereof), and found there to be no proof, so all I have to go by is Occam's Razor.  God fails that test, so while my lack of faith is not absolute, it's absolute in the same way that I claim evolution is true.  It's pretty solid within a reasonable margin.  If Jesus came back and appeared before me today, I'd accept that as proof (after some reasonable tests to make sure I'm not being had) and change my views.  Weakly held.  It's a carryover from my software engineering career.  

@1311: Thanks for the links.  I'm not sure I'll be able to get her to read them, but It's certainly worth a try.  My first impression was that these seemed a little rough for the religious mind to take, but then I realized that it had pretty much the same tone as some of the links she's sent me (Catholics are evil and taking over the world, etc).  So it's kindof right up her alley ;)  I'm not saying these pages aren't correct, just a little rough about it ;).  I appreciate your story.  It's a little eerie to hear some of what I'm going through echoed in your childhood.  Makes me cringe just a little.  And your fuckin language doesn't bother me at all :D


Thanks for the comments :)

Comment by 1311 on December 19, 2010 at 9:05pm
Dr. Cowboy,

I completely know what you're going through. My parents have always been extreme fundamental Seventh Day Adventists. I grew up with this cult so I know exactly what you're talking about. Every time I would question my parents about some idiotic hypocritical statement found in the bible I would get the following: "You should never EVER question God. God has a reason for what he does. Go pray and ask the Lord for forgiveness for having the audacity to question the Lord your God." And I would answer with a "Yeah, ok...whatever." And then they would take out the belt or whatever was laying around (yeah, even a shoe) and Wham!!! Good times...good times!

I actually paved the way for my other brothers and sister to think for themselves. My own mother used to call me the black sheep of the family. Even today she prays for my soul to be saved! As if it needs saving! :)

But there's one thing that I am thankful for growing up in this cult. The fact that it was mandatory to read and learn the entire bible. Reading the bible really opened up my eyes to the truth. There's no way in hell that I would ever worship the God in the bible. He's one messed-up son of a bitch! Excuse my french.

He was a huge proponent of slavery, and one of his favorite things to do was kill little innocent women, children, and babies, even going so far as to ripping them open from their mother's belly. All because they didn't believe in the Lord your God. Glory be his name!

And whenever I would bring up to my parents the horrendous violent acts committed by their God they would always rationalize it by saying something like, "God is love and just. He always has a very good reason for the things he does. Nobody can understand the mind of God so stop trying. Trying to do that is a sin."

And the pastors on the pulpit are notorious for brainwashing their flock. It's like the people in the congregation have a blindfold on and they can't take it off because their hands are tied behind their backs! They don't want to hear or see the truth, even if the truth is staring them right in the face. I know. I've tried many, many times!

Hopefully your wife isn't so brainwashed that it will be impossible to see the truth. I've given up on my folks long ago! I want to give you 4 links that might just open up your wife's eyes. They're some of my favorite. Make sure that you're there when she sees it so she doesn't skim through it. She needs to really digest it, know what I mean?

Here they are:




Comment by John Camilli on December 19, 2010 at 6:48pm

Interresting background for your story. My first impression of you was that you were never lacking critical reasoning skills, but that you did need to brush up on the logic. I'm glad you took that class - it was one of my favorites in college. I happened to meet a pretty Indian girl while taking philosophy, and had a wonderful relationship with her for five years, which ingrained a vicarious love of philosophy in me.

The reason I say you didn't lack critical reasoning is because you seemed to always have self-doubt, which is what that is. Logic can help us build on our doubt because human reasoning by itself is not very reasonable. Rationality is as good as "common sense;" it is entirely subjective. Only logic has any hope at being absolute, although to be fair logicians haven't really made any progress since DesCartes "cogito ergo sum" - I think, therefore I am, which is the only logical statement that cannot be doubted, so does not require assumptions.

I also get that little alarm bell when I hear to religious teachings. I still force myself to read them and listen to them a lot because I want to understand the illogic being taught, so that I can counter it. It is unfeasible to counter illogic with logic unless you know where the illogic started going wrong (i.e. where it started making conclusions based on assumptions that cant be proven)


It's not enough to have a few chosen one-liners (no offense cliff) unless you're only interrested in defending your own position. If you want to affect the reasoning of others, you have to first understand the sense that is common to them. Everbody's common sense is a path that has arrived at its conclusion from somewhere. If you can find their starting point, you can show them that there are other paths.

However, I would caution, if I may, to never let your logic overwhelm your critical reasoning; your self-doubt. Until, or unless, logic can come up with moral absolutes, our own opinions remain our own. We cannot assert that our reality is reality to someone else, nor that our morality is either. Consider the virtual reality conundrum: what if you were in virtual program that was designed to feel exactly like reality does, right now? How could you ever prove, even to yourself, that you were not in such a state? You couldn't, in which case you could never be sure that any conclusion based on observation was accurate. This conundrum existed in ancient times as well, with the idea of dreaming instead of virtual reality, and it has never been resolved. Its the problem that caused the debate about a priori and a posteriori reasoning. Reasoning based on observation was considered to be flawed, so many philosophers (notably, Kant) have attempted to explain a foundation for a posteriori reasoning; reasoning that did not require observation to be known. But no one has gotten anywhere. Kant failed. DesCartes failed after the success of his memorable one-liner. And no one else has gotten anywhere since (I.m still trying, lol).


The point is that without a foundation that requires no assumptions, any logic is actually illogic, and any conclusions about reality are similarly flawed. Even the position of an atheist is a logically flawed conclusion because, with lack of proof, atheists decide that God does not exist It's just as illogical as a theist concluding that he does exist. Only an agnostic is logically safe, so far. Yet, life requires decisions, which requires judgements, which are based on insufficient proof, so we are all believers really, if we stay alive by our own choices.

It is important to never allow oneself to feel correct, even if one has to make decisions, because then we have automatically concluded that others are incorrect, and have become as illogical as they are. Doubt is a human's only certainty so far, unfortunately. Or maybe it's fortunate. I can't be sure.



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