Answers to “Just Curious”

Nan posted the following questions at her blog (, and I thought I’d also put them here as a mini-FAQ.

If you were once a believer but are now a non-believer/atheist/agnostic/deist — what denomination did you leave?

I was a Baptist (Evangelical) for 40 years. And not nominal; I’m the son and grandson of people whose faith is the central defining element of their identity, who regularly attend church not as a duty but because it’s who they are.

What was the FIRST inclination you had that things were not as they seemed? I realize that once you leave religion, you discover many things that were “off,” but if you can remember, what was that one thing that triggered your move in the “other” direction?

I don’t remember what the first issue was, and I really wish now I had taken better notes (I had no idea where the path was going to take me). All I remember is that I was reading a blog article written by a non-Christian, and I thought to myself: “Huh! That’s a good point; how would I answer that?” It turned out to be the first thread I pulled that ultimately led to the whole sweater unravelling. The first issue led to others, and I started to take notes to organize them all, and about two years later I was reading another article and I was suddenly struck by the realization: “I’m not a Christian any more. I no longer believe this is true.”

So if you’re a blogger or writer, never doubt that words have an effect! Many people are reading what you write, some are believers that lurk or use a pseudonym, and a few of them are starting to think seriously about what they believe. Some will deconvert.

Is there anything you miss about being a believer? Perhaps the regular get-togethers with people of like-mind? Singing in the choir? Getting up early on Sunday morning?

The music is a big one; I was very involved in music at church. Now I have this weird dualism: I love the music but completely disagree with the words.

The other one is being on the same page with my wife, kids, and virtually everyone in my life (who remain Christians). We’ve achieved a reasonable détente (mainly by not talking about the elephant) and everyone is friendly, no one is harassing or proselytizing obnoxiously. But the boundary is there, and it gets awkward and wearying at times.

Is there ANY event/circumstance/happening that might cause you to return (or consider returning) to your faith?

Yes, and this is a question every ex-believer should be prepared to answer. (1a) If God actually showed up; was seen by everyone, answered questions, demonstrated knowledge and power, and made it clear that Yahweh/JC/HS really is One True God. Or (1b) If I saw evidence and reasons sufficient to convince me that I’m wrong, and such a God really does exist.

That would be “necessary but not sufficient” however. Also required is (2) If I was convinced God was just and loving and worthy of worship and being followed. God’s hiddenness is a big obstacle, but also the Problem of Evil and many things in the Bible that contradict the notion of a perfectly just, perfectly loving God.

So I continue to read what Christians write (though I see fewer and fewer new arguments as time goes on). And I continue to keep an open mind (all knowledge/belief is provisional; we may be 99.999% certain but never 100% certain). But I’m not holding my breath; I’m living according to my current beliefs.


25 “Getting to Know You” Questions

I guess this is a thing going around, and it looked like fun!

  1. Who are you named after? ⟶ My first name is just because my parents liked the name “Brent.” I’m the only Brent in my family tree, as far as I’ve researched it to date (about 1,200 people).But: I’m quite proud that my middle name is my father’s first name. In fact, all my male-line ancestors have that same name as a first or middle name, going back 4 generations above me (that’s as far as I’ve traced so far)… and we gave our son that middle name. I usually add my middle initial when I write my name.
  2. Do you like your handwriting? ⟶ No; actually I don’t like using paper in general. I type whenever I possibly can, I print when I’m forced to use paper, and I only use cursive on birthday cards (and I have to go slow and concentrate, and often mess it up). My signature is a cursive “B” followed by a few scribbly undulations; have you noticed that no one checks or cares?
  3. What is your favorite lunch meat? ⟶ Corned beef or pastrami. (Although I don’t like sauerkraut, so “corned beef sandwich” not “Reuben,” thank you!)
  4. Longest relationship? ⟶ I met my wonderful wife over 30 years ago; we’ve been married for 28 years now.
  5. Do you still have your tonsils? ⟶ Yes.
  6. Would you bungee jump? ⟶ NO! Nor would I skydive. I have no problem with heights, but I have always hated free-fall… like roller coasters and other rides that go plunging straight down from a great height. Give me the spinny kind, thanks.
  7. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? ⟶ Not sneakers anyway; I’m lazy and treat them as slip-ons by leaving them laced most of the time. You can’t do that with dressy shoes, but I don’t have occasion to dress up much.
  8. Favorite ice cream? ⟶ Mint chocolate chip — and Breyer’s has the best kind. Growing up I liked a double scoop with mint chocolate chip on the bottom, and chocolate peanut butter on the top.
  9. What is the first thing you notice about people? ⟶ That’s a tough one to generalize. I guess the first thing I notice is going to be something physical, but it would be whatever stands out about them, and therefore different for different people.I’ll just add that the longer I live, the more of my own hidden prejudices and stereotypes get revealed, and the more I realize that I (like everyone) too often judge people by things like “the color of their skin, [rather than] by the content of their character.” So I work at it, as we all need to do… but I still have a long way to go.
  10. Football or baseball? ⟶ Neither, if at all possible… I really am not a sports person. I guess if I had to attend one, I’d rather go to a baseball game.
  11. What color pants are you wearing? ⟶ Blue jeans, almost always.
  12. Last thing you ate? ⟶ My standard breakfast is peanuts, a cheese stick, an orange, and some yogurt… that’s what I had this morning.
  13. If you were a crayon what color would you be? ⟶ Green-blue, which the Crayola FAQ says “is really blue with a touch of green” (“while blue-green is really green with some blue pigment in the crayon”). The More You Know!™
  14. Favorite smell? ⟶ Sea air. I grew up on the coast of southern California, and that smell on a sunny day always brings back fond memories. (I am very happy in the Midwest, and would not want to live in southern California today… but it’s very, very nice to visit along about February!)
  15. Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone? ⟶ My mom, whom I do not call often enough! (Makes a note to call her later.)
  16. Hair color? ⟶ Blonde, which has darkened somewhat to brown as I’ve aged. My dad’s was blonde which darkened almost to black. My mom’s is red… and so I have a reddish beard.My mom used to run her fingers through my thick hair growing up, and say “I think you’re going to have hair like my side of the family, thick like your grandpa’s.” NOPE. I’m balding like my dad, and his dad.
    One day when we were all at the table, one of my daughters (about 4 years old then) paused her contemplative chewing and said, “Daddy? Where’s the rest of your hair?” (We all laughed; I’ve never been the least bit sensitive about it.)
  17. Eye color? ⟶ Blue.
  18. Favorite foods to eat? ⟶ All the ones that are bad for me… fast food, junk food, red meat, etc.If I had to identify just one seductive food nemesis, it would be the donut. Mmmm… donuts!
    When I was a teenager I could eat it all and was still skinny. Sadly, that is not the case any more… now I have to try to be disciplined.
  19. Scary movies or happy endings? ⟶ I don’t like the Horror genre, or movies where the whole point is to frighten you out of your wits. But (unlike my wife), I don’t need movies to always have a happy ending either. For me it’s all about the characters; I want to be moved by a story. So “Phenomenon” and “Cast Away” and “Dead Poets Society” — I love, she doesn’t.
  20. Last movie you watched? ⟶ My wife and I saw “La La Land” on a date last week. It had its fun and funny moments (the opening dance number on the freeway overpass was great), but overall, not one of my favorites; I had trouble relating to the characters.The last movie I saw solo in a theater was “Arrival”; I love real sci-fi, and this was it. Amy Adams gave a stunningly good performance, and when all the pieces came together at the end and I realized what was going on… honestly I don’t remember the last time I was that emotionally moved. It was profoundly affecting.
  21. Favorite holiday? ⟶ I guess I’ll go with Christmas. For me the importance of holidays is family time and relaxing at home. I’m not usually excited about “going out and doing something” on holidays.
  22. Beer or wine? ⟶ I actually don’t drink. It started from my Baptist family upbringing, but even post-deconversion (and as many of my Christian friends and family now drink in moderation): (a) I’ve never felt the negatives (and potential huge negatives) outweighed the positives, and (b) I’ve never liked the idea of using anything that would alter my judgment, impair my thinking, loosen my self-control, etc.
  23. Night owl or early bird? ⟶ Up through college I was a total night owl… loved to stay up until 1-2 a.m. and sleep as late as possible. Going into the Air Force post-graduation completely cured me of that; I’ve been an early bird ever since. Now I get up around 5:30 a.m., do my best and most creative thinking first thing in the morning, and by 9 p.m. I’m starting to fade.
  24. Favorite day of the week? ⟶ Saturday.
  25. Which three of your favorite bloggers do you want to know more about? ⟶ This is like the “which three albums/books on a desert island” question… I can’t even.Some of my favorite bloggers that I think are good writers and very interesting people: Adam Lee (“Daylight Atheism”), David Malki! (“Wondermark”), Derek Sivers, Joel Spolsky, Libby Anne (“Love, Joy, Feminism”), Matt Dillahunty (“The Atheist Experience” show), Mike Peterson (“Comic Strip of the Day”), Neil Carter (“Godless in Dixie”), Randall Munroe (“xkcd” and “What If?”), Tim Bray, Tim Urban (“Wait But Why”), Valerie Tarico.
    Also, some interesting and talented people I follow on Twitter: Ben Brockert (commercial space vehicle engineer), Paul Salopek (National Geographic “Out of Eden” walk), Peter Sagal (“Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”), Steve Inskeep (NPR)