From: Brian Holtz []
Sent: Sunday, September 28, 2003 10:39 AM
To: 'Kris Key'
Subject: RE: I am an ex-atheist
I found your website requesting ex-atheist. I figured I should write you, seeing that is what you are looking for.  Let me delurk myself. I am 24 years old, soon to be 25. I became an atheist at the age of 19, primarily because of my studies of history and I came the conclusion that christianity did more damage then it did good.

I spent the next few years vigorious studying all the arguments against the bible and in particular against the resurection of Christ. Among my reading list were
a.) Both books by Randel Helms
b.) Joseph Wheless
c.) Burton L Mack
d.) various articles by authors such as Dennis Mckinsey, Farrell Till, and literally hundreds of articles alleging contradictions.

Interesting. Did you know much philosophy at the time -- naturalism, epistemology, philosophy of science?  Also, do you have anything you may have written at the time on atheism vs. theism?
By the age of 22 I had joined Atlanta Freethought(this was after Z. Jordans time) and began to know the skeptical community on a whole. I certainly did like some of the people, but truly they struck me as little different then the fundamentalist they loved to critize and every bit as dogmatic.
Did you reason that because some (or most) atheists are dogmatic, atheism is necessarily dogmatic?
I meet an associate of William Lane Craigs, Dr Paul Copan when he came to speak to the campus BSU. I had heard he was knowledgable so I figured I should come over. He was simply a wonderful speaker. He had an authority in his voice and when he said "the overwheleming evidence for the resurection of Christ" though I disagreed with him I could not deny his absolute conviction.
You don't mention him citing any evidence or arguments that you hadn't heard before. If he had new evidence or arguments, why hadn't you heard of them before?  If he didn't, why did his "absolute conviction" and the "authority in his voice" have any influence on you?
By the end of the summer of that year that woman and I had severally shaken each other. I could no longer despise Christianity, if someone I cared for so much cared for it.
It sounds like you had been confused between the truth of Christianity and the character of Christians.
From that experience I made two conclusions.
a.) it is a cruel thing to "culture drive theistic memes"
I don't understand. Did you mean to say "atheistic"? In general, is it ever "cruel" to argue rationally and honestly for what you believe to be the truth?
b) my days as a evangelical atheist were over. I had lost all my heart for it.
Again, I fear you cared more about besting Christians you didn't like than about helping people evaluate the truth or falsity of Christianity. I would think that Christians you liked would have been the ones most worth educating.
My road to theism and Christ began this in August of 2002. One of my favorite subjects has always been the Near Death Experience (aka NDE).
I haven't researched NDE, but I know that the scientific community remains unpersuaded that it constitutes evidence for anything supernatural -- let alone evidence that a carpenter from Palestine ever rose from the dead.
I found [G.Z. Jordan's] claims that skeptics try to explain away the empty tomb as mass hallucination to be particularly interesting, because I found that position to be laughable at best (I will say now that I know you hold that view or a varition on it. I simply find it to be absolutely idiotic nonsense)
I've indeed said that a few key individual hallucinations may have been involved in the rise of Christianity, but I've never claimed that (even two-person) shared hallucinations were required. If you "know" that I hold a thesis involving even a "variation on" mass hallucination, then it casts serious doubt on your claims to have understood and evaluated the arguments of other atheists.
By this time I had begun to realize that my atheism was not all together the reasonable view I had once believed it was. In order to be an atheist I had to accept.
) mass hallucinations for the empty tomb
) super ESP for the NDE
This was not the atheism I had signed up for.
You should have signed up for an atheism that questions the alleged phenomena (multi-person resurrection appearances, supernatural NDEs) instead of positing weak explanations (mass hallucination, "super ESP"). :-)
there was not enough time for a legend to develop
A problem for Christ-mythers, but not for the rest of us. No need for "legend creation" from whole cloth here; we need only tall tales, exaggeration, hallucination, and revelatory one-upsmanship. There was more than enough time for the relevant false beliefs to arise; see Kooks and Quacks of the Roman Empire.
b.) It claims to be historicial
c.) It was qouted as historicial by Christians.
d.) It was qouted as historicial by Hereticial Groups
e.) It was qouted as historicial by Pagan critics
f.) It dealt with historicial people, historicial
events and historicial places.
g.) many of these places have been verified by
archaeology and other events have been verified by
other historicial works( such as Josephus)
You're confusing core narrative historicity with inerrancy about supernatural claims.
Thus the burden is upon liberal scholars to explain why it is not historicial, not the other way around.
No, the burden is on fundamentalists to explain why it is inerrant in its supernatural claims.
This is especially true in light of the historicial rule about documents, innocent until proven guilty.
In light of all the available evidence for naturalism and all the failed claims of supernaturalism, no document's supernatural claims are considered by professional historians to be "innocent until proven guilty".
at least two of their deaths (Peter and Paul) were martyrdoms for an event that they would have known to be a lie. I reject the idea a man would allow him to be persecuted  for something he knew to be false
Peter and James (not Paul) are the only resurrection witnesses who the New Testament names (John 21:18,19, Acts 12:2) as martyrs, but there is no evidence that recanting their presumed belief in physical resurrection could have saved them. All other Christian martyrs died for what they were told and not for what they witnessed of the Gospel events.

There are (at least) three theses on the table:

  1. The martyred Peter knew the empty tomb had been faked.
  2. The martyred Peter was duped by the empty tomb, never witnessed a physical resurrection appearance, but had ecstatic experiences that he interpreted as a spiritual resurrection vindicating Jesus' ministry.
  3. The martyred Peter witnessed a risen dead man's wounds being skeptically examined, and other unmistakable miracles.
It's fallacious to argue that the unlikelihood of (1) makes (3) more likely than (2).
[..] robbed the tomb. This begs the question of why?
The most likely explanation is as follows. First, out of zeal for the cause and ministry of their charismatic and righteous martyr, some disciple(s) of Jesus arranged to have his body stolen, as in the rumor reported in Mt 28. Possible conspirators were Joseph of Arimathea and Mary Magdalene, a longtime disciple [Lk 8:2] "out of whom [Jesus] had driven seven demons" [Mk 16:9, Lk 8:2] and who (unlike any apostle) attended both the crucifixion and entombment. She was the first to visit the tomb on Easter [Mt 28:1, Jn 20:1], and the possibility of removal [Jn 20:2,14,15] was not unimaginable to her. She weepingly and suspiciously lingered [Jn 20:11] after the apostles left the empty tomb, and thereupon was the first [Mk 16:9, Mt 28:9, Jn 20:14] to claim seeing an appearance. Mary or some other (possibly non-conspiring) disciple could have exaggerated a feeling or vision of a morally triumphant and spiritually resurrected Jesus, a vision which other core disciples soon unconsciously induced in themselves (and elaborated on). As the story spread throughout the movement over the ensuing years by repeated retelling with inevitable exaggeration and one-upsmanship, the story grew from Paul's spiritual resurrection to the tales of physical appearances that we see develop in the gospels from earliest to latest.
Especially in light of the Nazareth decree which punished grave robbing by death.
The conspirators' lives had already been rendered apparently meaningless by the death of their leader. The movement was worth saving and needed to be saved. Emptying the tomb in the dead of night may not have been as risky as accompanying Jesus in some of his confrontations with the authorities.
Also does not explain the conversion of Saul.
Guilt + seizure = conversion.
They all suffer from the problem of not explaining the conversion of Saul. He is the wild card that all naturalistic explantions most reasonably explain.
Paul's conversion is nowhere near Christianity's best evidence. The best evidence is the vividness of the resurrection accounts and Paul's alleged endorsement of them within two decades of the events. Random ecstatic conversions over the subsequent two millennia are pretty weak evidence.
So I found myself in a situation where my naturalistic/atheist apologetics utterly failed me.
Given the weakness of your stated arguments for converting, it seems that your atheist apologetics weren't quite state-of-the-art.  :-)
Now days I am work closely with Paul Copan. I plan on meeting William Lane Craig in November. I hope to grow as both a Christian and as a scholar.
You might want to investigate the philosophical scholarship concerning naturalism vs. supernaturalism.
I am also currently studying the philosophy of science and I am asking myself how much of evolution is based on philosophy and how much is based on fact (I am alternating between Intelligent Design or Fine Tuning views of the proponents of the anthromorphic argument) But as I am not a scientist this is nothing but a labor of the passing.
Being a scientist might be necessary for contributing to the best arguments for and against evolution, but it's not necessary for evaluating those arguments.
All the philosophy in the world does not bind wounds, heal the sick etc.
Anything you believe, and any motivating principle you hold, is from some school of philosophy, whether you know it or not. Meanwhile, note that all the prayer in the world can't budge a single atom from the path that physics sets for it.