About Page: First Draft

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A while back, a commenter wrote me asking for a basic outline of my support for what I believe. I replied that my index page was basically it. Recently, a few commenters asked if I had an “about” page that outlined some of my basic beliefs. I promised that I would get one out in “a week or so,” but here we are several weeks later. Eh, well… nobody’s perfect. Nonetheless, my first draft is below the fold, and I welcome your feedback. Though a good start, and a piece I enjoyed writing, I don’t think it’s sufficient, and probably too long, so I’m asking you, dear reader, to tell me what you would find most helpful in a page like this.

On one hand, I think people might enjoy the history and the “why I detest labels” digression, but on the other, I think people might be looking for something more like an “at-a-glance,” abbreviated type of list. I suspect it might be very worthwhile to have a list of various philosophical arguments, and–if not concise statements of my positions on them–at least some links to them.

At any rate, my questions:

Would something like an argument tree help?

What do people think of the index page? Has it been at all useful to anybody?

What would you like to see more of in an index / about page? Less of?

Did the draft supply a good general view of what I believe?

Can you point me to any examples of an outstanding “about” page?

What was missing from the first draft that you would like to see in the final?

Answers to these questions will be greatly appreciated and taken into consideration. Since I’m going to be using this material for the book as well, I want to fine-tune it as much as possible. Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

I suppose the most logical starting point would be the fact that I’m not an atheist, but you probably had that much figured out by now.

It’s not because I think atheists can’t be moral, or because I think that atheists can’t lead happy, fulfilled, meaningful lives. It’s not because I think atheists secretly believe in God and are just lying to themselves, or because I think atheists are just mad at God. It’s not because I think atheism is un-American, or because I think all atheists are liberal commies, or because I’ve got axes to grind with science and evolution. It’s not because I was raised religious. It’s not because I was persuaded by intelligent design or Kalam or the ontological argument. These are all reasons I’ve actually heard people offer for their denial of atheism, and–excepting persuasion by argument–I would consider each of them wrong reasons.

No single word can accurately summarize my belief system, so I apologize to those who feel more comfortable with labels. Somebody might object: “But cl, if we don’t know what the other person believes, it’s easy to make all sorts of faulty assumptions!” I agree! That’s why I discourage assumptions, generally. It’s not the other person’s responsibility to explain each and every nuance of their particular belief system so we don’t mess up; it’s our responsibility to avoid making assumptions and ask the other person if they actually believe what we think they believe before judging them accordingly. Sure, the rational path requires more effort, but do we want to talk past each other indefinitely, or achieve some kind of common ground? Besides, even if somebody labels themselves Christian or Catholic or Buddhist or Sikh or Mormon or Atheist or Aquarian or whatever, so what? Faulty assumptions can be made just as easily with any, all, or none of those labels. That’s the primary reason I try to avoid them, but there are other reasons, too.

What if no single label fits a person squarely? What if somebody isn’t exactly sure what they believe, or if their belief system borrows from a range of religious, philosophical, and scientific ideas? Don’t get me wrong: labeling and classification are great for enabling categorical comparisons, but for me, the whole point of freethought is to think beyond categories.

Consider your average internet (a)theist discussion: Believer A shows up on atheist website B and leaves some comment C that falls anywhere between Cro-magnon man and Stephen Hawking on the intelligence scale. Atheist commenters D – Z then proceed to accost believer A anywhere from Bill Cosby to Sam Kinison on the respect scale, each according to their own ideas of what A’s belief system logically entails. The problem is, say we have at minimum an atheist who’s been sexually abused by a priest, an atheist who was once a passionate believer, and an 18-year-old atheist who argues like he’s reading The God Delusion for his first time while taking bong rips and watching South Park. Each of these three atheists are almost certain to have different interpretations of believer A’s position, not to mention different motivations for engaging believer A in the first place. How is this not a recipe for disaster?

I realize that explaining my distaste for labels doesn’t help the reader understand what I believe, so, what exactly do I believe?

Like the Theosophist, I believe that no religion is higher than truth. I believe there is an important difference between belief and knowledge, so you could say that agnosticism also has its place in my belief system. I agree with deists that the divine qualities are deducible from the world. I believe there is a most-high God ala the Bible, so in that sense, you might consider me a monotheist. Though I do not consider them worthy of worship, I also believe that an entire pantheon of lesser spiritual entities exists, which starts to sound something like polytheism, or more accurately, henotheism. Like many Buddhists, I believe that humans would generally do well to eliminate tanha, and I affirm the wisdom of the Holy Eightfold Path. I believe in an afterlife, and I believe that consciousness can exist without a material body. I believe in libertarian free will and that we can be held ultimately morally responsible for our choices. I reject the philosophies of materialism and epiphenomenalism. I believe that the Bible contains divine revelation, I believe that what the Bible describes as sin is real, and I believe in Jesus Christ crucified and risen by the power of God. I believe that salvation is a gift from God, attained only by grace. These last few affirmations are obviously basic Christian tenets. However, this is where I would echo my concern about labels.

Unlike most Christians, I believe the Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death, not eternal torment. Unlike many Christians, I do not believe that those who’ve never heard of Jesus automatically go to hell. Unlike some Christians, I do not believe that everybody receives eternal life. Unlike many Christians, I accept the truths of many other religions and do not reject them categorically. Unlike many Christians, I am enthusiastic about and respectful of science. Unlike many Christians, I believe the church is guilty of a colossal failure with respect to its treatment of homosexuals. Unlike many Christians, I do not align myself with any political party. Hopefully now you understand why I’m hesitant to label myself a Christian.

Now that I’ve shared a bit of what I believe, I’d like to shift the focus to how I got there.

In my experience, most people acquire their religious beliefs from their parents or their culture, but neither my parents nor the culture I grew up in were religious. I recall that my grandmother attended an informal Bible study when I was young, but nobody in the family attended “Sunday church,” if you know what I mean. As far as I recall, my first visit to that kind of church came at the behest of a former girlfriend, and I’m really not sure why I went at all.

Her family attended what’s called a “Foursquare” church, and it all started one day when she invited me to check out the youth group. At the time, we were freshman in high school, and I had already developed that sense of independence typical of the age. Needless to say, I wasn’t particularly impressed with certain aspects of youth group! Still, as the “youth pastor” spoke, I couldn’t deny that some of what he said required no explaining and contained the ring of truth. There was no denying that despite great joys, ours is indeed a fallen world, and that each of us contribute to this condition through types of behavior the Bible denotes as sin.

I attended youth group with my girlfriend a few more times, but quickly tired. To me, the various side activities were distractions from the search for truth. I didn’t see the use in spending the night with 20 other kids whom I didn’t really know, wasting time on G-rated recreational activities just because we were all ostensibly of the same ideological creed. On the one hand, I knew I believed in some of what the youth pastor was telling me, but on the other, much of what I saw in church seemed to bear little import to life’s real questions. I didn’t want slumber parties locked in church with doughnuts and games; I wanted to know who I was, how I got here, and where I was going–and I wanted the answers to make sense.

After I expressed to my girlfriend that I had no further interest in youth group, she suggested that we start attending the regular Sunday service for adults. I agreed. At first glance, I liked “Sunday church” better, if nothing else because the “adult pastor” didn’t dumb down his messages. Don’t get me wrong, “adult” church has its own distractions like the revivals and the getaways and all that stuff, but in my experience, the conversation in grown-up church makes better effort at addressing life’s questions.

So, after a few months of procrastination, one Sunday morning, I ended up believing. By believing I mean used my volition to acknowledge and accept the fact that I was a sinner, and that nothing other than the grace of God could ever possibly hope to address that. I then used my volition to consciously acknowledge a need to accept Christ’s provision and conform to God’s will the best I knew how. Nothing happened. I didn’t feel any different. I didn’t fall backwards on the floor and start speaking in tongues. The next day, life was pretty normal.

And here we are.


  1. Christopher


    Thanks cl. That clears it up for me. I’m not sure if I am the one you were referring to, but thanks! This helps me better understand where you are coming from and your conversations.

  2. Ana


    An enjoyable read!

    I was wondering, what was your first major (in the sense that it made an impact on you / caused you to reflect on or doubt your beliefs / is what got you interested in further interaction with non-Christians, namely atheist skeptics) encounter with atheist objections to theism and Christianity ? (mine was in a chatroom)

  3. Matt


    I think the autobiography is a nice touch, especially when you have trouble finding labels for yourself. It gives your site a “this is how I got to this part of my journey” rather than a “I am a dispensationalist, arminian, crypto-Methodist trans-tribulationist Anglican and everyone who believes otherwise is either lying or stupid!” Though I’d imagine people who want to debate you would like something like an argument tree. I guess there are two ways you could go about a site like this. There’s a “this is how I see things at this point’ approach and a “I believe this, this and this, for these reasons.” You seem to have a little bit of both.

  4. dguller


    Thanks for this.

  5. Ana



    Do you mind if I send you an email?

  6. cl


    Hey all. Thanks for the input, although, I wish I’d gotten some more.


    In my experience, most atheists make piss-poor arguments. If anything, it’s the very little things often said as “asides” that have caused me any sort of doubt whatsoever. While I can’t answer your question with any single instance, here are a few that I recall. All of these things took place around 15 years ago:

    One of the first arguments I remember responding to was from a guy named Ted Drange. The argument itself was so ridiculous that I wondered why people took it seriously. It took this form: “In the Bible, God said Adam and Eve would surely die if they ate the fruit. Yet, after they ate the fruit, they lived for hundreds of years, ergo a contradiction ergo the Bible is false.” Okay, but after they lived hundreds of years, then what happened? They died. No contradiction, whatsoever. When it gets down to it, almost all alleged Bible contradictions can be resolved this way.

    I think the first “formal” response I ever made was in the form of a letter to the editor of some book called, You Are Being Lied To. There was an essay in there from an apostate preacher, M.M. Mangasarian. If I can find my response, perhaps I’ll post it here. It would be interesting to compare my style of argumentation then to now. Nonetheless, I never heard back from the editor.

    Another time, I was in an office waiting for an appointment of some sort, where I overheard a cocksure Darwinist spouting off about how the Bible was wrong and Christians were basically a bunch of idiots. His self-assurance and arrogance really got to me. Now, I have no idea how he was actually perceived by the lady he was talking to, but still, it irked me. It came across as dogmatic preaching in reverse, and something just welled up inside of me to oppose it.

    Lastly–and this would be humorously embarrassing if I was one of those proud types–I once regurgitated a bunch of Josh McDowell to someone on the internet and got called out, bad. The experience served both as a wake-up call, and an inspiration to come up with original arguments, or at least, to rephrase existing arguments in my own style. As a result, I rarely champion the arguments of others anymore, Aristotle’s argument from kinesis being a notable exception.

    Oh, lastly, thanks for the humorous image in your email. I would certainly not object if you wished to post it here…. ;)

  7. Hendy


    Cool. Thanks for the post! I’ve not seen many of those argument trees, and thus don’t know if that’s exactly what I had in mind, but they would, indeed, be cool.

    For example, I’d be interested in seeing some of your argument trees concerning moral systems, consciousness, and libertarian free-will, in particular.

    I’ve been unsatisfied with most of the discussion around these areas as they seem to rest on the “hasn’t-been-explained-yet-therefore-god” category. I’m curious about the route you take to such conclusions.

    Also, a list of predictions rendered by various theological hypotheses/beliefs would be fantastic. I’m quite interested in the approach, “I believe X, and if X is true, I predict that Y will be the case.” In other words, making beliefs pay rent. I’ve seen many theists shy away from this as well, or more or less post-facto explain something with their hypothesis rather than putting such beliefs on the line about future predictions.

    Lastly, I’d love to hear more about actual conversion. Not to be harsh, but I found spending only a couple paragraphs on that a bit disappointing :) Conversion/de-conversion is of high interest to me, and it seemed like quite a leap to go from “I had some intuitions about various phrases about a ‘fallen world’ and ‘joy'” to “I believed that I was a sinner in need of redemption through the one true god, Jesus Christ.”

    Does that last bit make sense? There seem to be quite a lot of other necessary pillars that need to be established to come to that last conclusion.

    Great start — perhaps break it down into separate sections? To put myself out there, here’s my own work in progress to try to do something similar: LINK

    It’s far from finished, but I started with a long drawn out story so everyone would understand my process in conversion as well as what led up to my deconversion. Then I’ll be filling out various reasons for why I still don’t believe.

    Thanks for doing this! I look forward to seeing further drafts!

  8. Ana


    As to the charge of contradiction at Gen 2:17, I think that’s because of the portion “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”. Some translations have ” for when you eat of it you shall surely die” .

    Since Adam and Eve did not physically die the very same day they ate of the fruit, Gen 3 is viewed as being at odds with Gen 2:17.

    But there are are some important things skeptics need to keep in mind: the importance of referencing the Hebrew, discerning what the word “die” means in light of context rather than isolating a verse and imposing intuitive meaning onto it, and … to not swiftly and arrogantly underestimate the ancients.

    The latter point is an allusion to how, a person who believes Gen 2 contradicts Gen 3, has to believe the author was so stupid and dense that he didn’t realize he was contradicting himself within the span of one chapter.

    Months ago on this thread at Debunking Christianity, a person, Solipsister, that I was in a discussion with brought up the issue of biblical contradictions, to which I responded by saying:

    – you declare there to be scriptural contradictions. Therefore, it does not matter what explanation a Christian gives. What will happen when a Christian gives an explanation, is the atheists will say the Christian is making “excuses” for the incompetence of their God to get it right “the first time”.
    (I’ve interacted with enough online atheists to see know the drill goes)

    General truth: People [tend] to interpret things in a way that aligns with a pre-existing view.

    Christians view the original scriptures, as having been inspired by God. We don’t expect there to NOT be difficulties, because, of course, the texts that we (today) call “the bibe” were not always under one cover. They were once independent documents. They had different authors, with different perspectives, and different points of emphasis. I AM GLAD, there are difficulties in the scriptures — including the New Testament — that appear as discrepancies, because that way, people can’t reasonably claim “COLLUSION!” when it comes to the texts.

    Connecting this back to the general truth I cited above : Christians’ pre-existing view is that God inspired the original scriptures. Hence, Christians will interpret verses in such a way as to try and reconcile verses that appear to be at odds with one another, assuming that the problem is more likely to be with us the readers, misunderstanding, than with the text.

    Atheists do not view scripture, as having ultimately come from God. Therefore, when they interpret verses, it is more consistent of them to interpret a verse in such a way that reinforces their view that the texts of the bible had no divine involvement — that they were purely the product of fallible human beings.

    Connecting this back to the general truth I cited: Atheists will interpret verses in such a way as to maintain the initial impression of contradiction. I.e. “If it looks like a contradiction, IT IS ONE. PERIOD. No if, ands, or buts.”

  9. Hendy


    @Ana: Regardless of the content of your post and biblical contradictions, for someone as open as cl, and on the very post where he clearly states how open/non-label-based he is, I find it odd that you would post a picture like that.

    It strikes me as essentially saying, “Look, atheists are idiots — cheer if you agree!”

    Anyone could edit the picture, erase the “A” and re-post it as a blanket insult to theists. Both pictures would be equally pointless.

  10. Ana


    Hi Hendy,

    The image itself was brought to my attention by a friend of mine, and it was not my original intention to post it publicly here. That is why I sent it via email. When I did so, I had particularly in mind, the atmosphere of the blog “Debunking Christianity” — which is one both cl and I have participated in, in the past.

    And yes, the image can be modified, so as to make fun of theists. Moreover, there are plenty of demotivational posters making fun of theists, on the internet.

    But in the interest of preventing further controversy — cl, would you please edit my comment so as to remove the link I posted?

    It’s provocative and could prompt debate that would be far more worth spent on other topics.

  11. cl



    Thanks for stopping by. I just finished reading all four parts of your story. At times you worry that they are long, but when people like to read about other people, they don’t mind. I didn’t mind. Now, I feel like I actually know you, or at least, some relevant information about you. So often, people get into these blog debates, and it’s really easy to just see words on a screen and forget about the human element. Your story has inspired me to share more of mine, in a major way. Great stuff.

    For example, I’d be interested in seeing some of your argument trees concerning moral systems, consciousness, and libertarian free-will, in particular.

    I suspected. Thanks for the confirmation. I will get to work on this.

    Also, a list of predictions rendered by various theological hypotheses/beliefs would be fantastic. I’m quite interested in the approach, “I believe X, and if X is true, I predict that Y will be the case.” In other words, making beliefs pay rent. I’ve seen many theists shy away from this as well, or more or less post-facto explain something with their hypothesis rather than putting such beliefs on the line about future predictions.

    Lastly, I’d love to hear more about actual conversion. Not to be harsh, but I found spending only a couple paragraphs on that a bit disappointing :)

    Again, great suggestions. Not harsh at all. I prefer straight shooters…

    Oh, if I might say something about the image Ana linked to, I actually encouraged her to post it in the thread. Sure, I’m open, but that doesn’t mean most internet atheists strike me as freethinking individuals. There’s an atheist flock just like anything else. This applies not just to (a)theists, but people in general. The masses are always louder and more than the iconoclasts. As Ana noted, the image is [in part] an inside joke about the herd mentality at sites like Debunking Christianity, or CSA [to a far less extent]. I pulled her link only because she asked me to, but I stand behind that image as a valid criticism of internet atheism. Of course, it should go without saying that I don’t lump all atheists in that category. I’ve been fortunate to have such a high number of “non-cookie-cutter” commenters here.

    While I certainly value “serious” debate, I think it can be productive to rock the boat once in a while. At any rate, cheers. Gotta run.

  12. Hendy


    @Ana: thanks for the clarification.

    @cl: glad you liked the story! I hope to trim it a bit, or perhaps just make it more organized. I didn’t really draft-edit-draft-edit-publish those… I will do so when I publish the “final cut.”

    Makes sense re. Debunking Christianity. I actually “un-followed” his blog via Google Reader and it amazingly re-appeared. I didn’t re-remove it, but would say that if I was going to prune my list, that site would be quite early to go. I still find links here and there that are interesting, but don’t read the posts/comments hardly ever.

    People at large, indeed, fall under the umbrella-description of that picture. I actually suspect that “commenter-herds” start taking on the tone/mannerisms of the site host sometimes. Cant’ validate that, but I’ve thought it before and even noticed myself wanting to speak more “flagrantly” when surrounded by others who are that way as well as more intelligently/precisely/etc. when the “herd” is like that :)

  13. Gabe Ruth


    I think it’s a little funny to turn to Theosophy for the principle that no religion is higher than Truth, but other than that this was an inspiring manifesto. Found my way here from a comment you left at Dr. Charlton’s blog, and I’ll be sticking around.

  14. cl


    Thanks Gabe. Nice moniker!

    I think it’s a little funny to turn to Theosophy for the principle that no religion is higher than Truth…

    Why do you say that? Were you aware that “there is no religion higher than truth” is a central mantra of Theosophy? Basically, it was a pun on their own mantra.

  15. Gabe Ruth


    I did not know that, makes a little more sense to me than before.

    However, the snide suggestion of their mantra (“and we have the Truth, which your religion seeks to hide from you”) makes me like Theosophy even less.

  16. cl


    I was a fan of Theosophy for a while, but, Alice Bailey is evil personified (whether she knew it or not is a different story). But, taken at face value, the mantra is awesome: there is no religion higher than truth. You’re right, I think they saw that as an endorsement of their own truth, but I think it speaks equally well to Jesus: truth is truth, and no “religion” can surpass that. I fully agree with that, the difference being that I think Jesus is the truth, where they would probably categorize Jesus as “religion.”

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