Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Phony Conversion Story

Shadow To Light has posted a video that purports to be the conversion story of a man, David Wood, who says he grew up as an atheist.  It's a rather bizarre story.  He says that at the age of five years, he was told that his dog died, and his reaction was "So what?"  He became a criminal, and he had no boundaries, no care for other people, no reason he shouldn't steal from them, destroy their property, or even kill them.  Even when his friend was killed, he said "So what?"  And this, he wants us to believe, is because of his atheism.

He says he saw the world and humanity as just matter without meaning.  Accordingly, he came to understand that there are no rules, and to "recognize that we don't have to do anything anyone tells us to do."  And then he decided that "the killing has to start closer to home.  My dad ... needed to die."  So he beat his father's head with a hammer.  He paints a picture of a meaningless world and a meaningless life with no moral rules or guidance.  And he wants us to believe that this is the reason for his horrendous behavior.  Here are a few quotes that present his philosophical reasoning:
"I can understand that most of you atheists out there live perfectly normal lives, but I can't understand why you would want to." 
"The universe couldn't care less ... so you might as well do whatever you feel like doing." 
"Young people are lining up to dance to the music of their DNA" 
"There is no blueprint here for doing what is right, because there is no right."
Now Wood might be telling the truth about his behavior, in which case, he is a sociopath.  This is a mental illness, not caused by being an atheist.  Consider that he was already exhibiting this at the age of five.  He certainly hadn't developed his nihilistic philosophy derived from atheism at that age.  So why is he trying so hard to make us believe that this philosophy caused his behavior?  On the assumption that he is being truthful about his behavior, he is obviously being dishonest about the reason for that behavior.

On the other hand, he might be exaggerating about how bad his behavior really was.  But why would he do that?  Could it be that he wants to present a distorted picture of atheism?  Either way, he's not telling the truth.

Wood goes on to tell about his conversion.  He describes meeting a Christian in jail that helped him to change his way of thinking.  He began to question his atheistic beliefs.
"I believed all of this without anything even remotely resembling a careful investigation." 
"it would become clear ... to me that many of my beliefs, when put into words, sounded really, really stupid.  Things that made perfect sense when unquestioned, made no sense at all when questioned."
And he began to see the "logic" of Christian belief.  He tells of three main things that shook his atheistic "belief system".  First, there is the design argument.  "Why did I blindly accept the extraordinary claim that life arose spontaneously ... without evidence?"  Second, there was the resurrection of Jesus, and the supposed "fact" that his apostles died for their belief in it.  "If you're willing to die for something, you have to believe it."  And third, the existence of goodness.  "I started worrying that Jesus might actually be better than me ... If there were to be something like a "best person" that would require some kind of standard of good, and that would require something like God."

Let's think about this for a moment.  He gains skepticism.  That's great.  Of course, we should all examine our beliefs.  But did he actually examine what he believed as an atheist?  No, he merely traded one set of unexamined beliefs for another.  For example, if he had actually examined his atheistic "belief system", he might have come to the conclusion that it is possible for a person to be in control of his own behavior without being directed by something external.  He might have realized that meaning and right are things that we create for ourselves.  Now, I'm not saying that these are conclusions he would necessarily have arrived at by examining his beliefs, but the point is that he never gave it any thought.  He never examined those beliefs at all.

What did he do instead?  He swallowed the cool-aid of theistic belief without ever questioning whether it makes any sense.  The design argument is quite convincing to theists because they already accept the existence of God as the designer.  But a skeptical examination of the evidence shows that there is plenty of reason to think that designer didn't do such a good job.  A critical look at the bible shows that the apostles who supposedly saw the resurrected Jesus weren't even sure it was him, and all Paul saw was a vision of Jesus, who he says was "resurrected in the spirit".  And if God really is the "standard of good", why wouldn't Wood have recognized this as an atheist?  In other words, you have to believe in God before you accept this argument.  So by all appearances, these arguments that he found to be persuasive were in reality things that he thought about only after he already believed in them.

It seems that David wood was less than honest in his conversion story.  But that's not surprising.  In answering Wood's criticisms of his book Sense and Goodness without God, Richard carrier says:
he had to fabricate false claims and then use them to build a straw man to tear down. Is this the dishonesty that Christian fanaticism all too often breeds in its adherents? -
Wood also uses disgusting deception to discredit Muslims:
Our pal, David Wood, has no regard for honesty, scholarship or responsibility and presents the material as fact and subsequently misleads thousands of Christians and non-Christians alike. Sad, but true. -
Because when David Wood found God, he found his true morality.


  1. Well then, you'll probably hate this story of a former atheist converting to Catholicism.

  2. Why would I hate that? This woman was raised as an Episcopalian, apparently toyed with atheism for a while, and then became an evangelical a decade or so ago. Now she's a Catholic. Give her another few years, and I suppose she'll convert to something else. Just another confused person who doesn't know what to believe.

  3. Oh, didn't like that one? Well, here's one more atheist who's seen the light.

    1. > I found myself testing the gospel authors the same way I tested eyewitnesses in my professional work. After about six months of diligent (my wife would say obsessive) study, I determined the Gospels were reliable in every way I could test them. (You can learn a lot more about this process in my first book"
      Now that's a joke. The gospels are not eyewitness testimony at all. They are hearsay. And as a police detective, he should be well aware that hearsay evidence is not admissible for very good reason: because it is not reliable. But what the heck - he's only plugging his book.

      > Scientists also admit the universe appears to be designed
      Some do, most don't.

      > Each answer from “inside the room” fails to provide an adequate explanation.
      Only to theists, because God isn't part of the explanation.

      > the transformation from non-living chemicals to the first, most primitive forms of life ... is still a complete mystery.
      Not to science.

      > The laws of nature inside our universe simply cannot account for the emergence of life.
      They can, and there are naturalistic accounts for it.

      > Most scientists agree biological systems “appear” to be designed.
      Wrong. Most of then say it appears not to be designed.

      > information is always the product of an intelligent agent
      Wrong again. Learn some physics.

      > But how does non-material consciousness emerge in a purely material universe?
      It doesn't, because consciousness is a physical process of the physical brain.

      > how can we explain such free agency from “inside the room” of a purely physical universe?
      There is no such thing.

      > atheists actually reject free agency as illusory. But this isn’t supported by the evidence of our daily experience.
      The evidence is why they reject free will. Let's not forget that theists base their belief on theistic assumptions that aren't supported by empirical evidence.

      > These moral vices and virtues are objective in the sense that they stand above (and apart from) all of us as humans
      They are objective only to the extent that people in our society agree on them.

      > So, where does transcendent, objective moral truth come from
      It's all in your mind.

      > we could eliminate all evil by simply changing our opinions. But we know this simply won’t do.
      Morality changes. That's an objective fact. Deal with it.

    2. Well, if there's no free agency and no free will, then there is no point in having any discussion... about anything. We're all compelled to think the way we do and believe what we believe, and have no say in the matter. No choice, no responsibility, no good, no evil, no courage, no cowardice, no honesty, no dishonesty, no praise, no blame, no purpose, no meaning, no point.

      But wait. All those things actually exist! If they didn't, we'd have no words for them. In fact, we'd never have conceived of such ideas in the first place.

      So I guess atheism must be false after all.

    3. You obviously weren't paying attention when/ I discussed these things earlier. Your view of determinism is actually extremely naive. Yes, there is physical causality in our thinking process, but that doesn't mean we don't think about our actions and make choices. So to say that we "have no say in the matter" is absurd. But you think that there is no causality in our deliberation process (because the soul is free do do what it will), which is also absurd.

      And you shouldn't go thinking that because we have words for things, they must exist. We have a word for 'unicorn', but it exists only as a concept in our brains - just like the flying spaghetti monster.

  4. And if Detective Wallace didn't do it for you, there's always this ultimate conversion story.

    1. Augustine? All he did was change labels.