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Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light (Englisch) Taschenbuch – September 2010

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An Admirable Book 7. Oktober 2010
Von John W. Loftus - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
This is a revised version of Dr. Tarico's self-published book, "The Dark Side: How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love and Truth."

As a former Christian with a Ph.D in Psychology this is an admirable book for her intended audience. It is not written for Christian apologists or scholars, knowledgeable skeptics or people well versed in their faith, although I myself learned a few things from it. It doesn't deal with the arguments for the existence of God, the problems with an incarnate God, or the resurrection of Jesus, which would've made this a much better book. Its focus is mainly on the Biblical teachings themselves and how they "counter both reason and morality." I liked the fact that she doesn't make any exaggerated claims about her book.

Her book is written in an easy to read conversational style and respectful tone from a unique female Psychologist's perspective that is rare among debunkers. It would be potentially doubt-producing if placed into the hands of the average Christian sitting in the pew. It's probably intended to be a resource for people who were teetering on the edge of Evangelicalism (either on their way in or way out) and who hadn't thought a whole lot the moral and rational implications about what evangelicals teach. As such, her book may be more dangerous to the Christian faith than many other books in the same genre, since she targets her audience so well.

She tells her personal story of her deconversion (which can be read over at debunbkingchristianity dot blogspot dot com), and which is similar in kind to our other stories there. She describes how she moved from "certainties to questions," which is a story similar in kind to many of us. She briefly describes what evangelicals believe and how they inherited their beliefs (via Catholicism and Protestantism) in their attempt to reform Protestantism. But the distinguishing difference is that Evangelicalism is derived from "the extraordinary status given to the Bible by Evangelicals." Turning to the Bible she tells how the Old Testament and New Testament came to be, and how scholars study the Bible, which might be eye-opening to many Christian people. She provides evidence showing how the Bible "contradicts science," how Biblical commands "oppose each other," how images of God "conflict with each other," how the Bible stories themselves "contradict each other," and argues that the Biblical prophecies and promises "don't stand up" to scrutiny.

Without going into detail in arguing for these claims of hers, she turns instead to how Christians argue against them. She writes, "a whole industry has sprung up to convince believers and non-believers alike that these difficulties are inconsequential." She quotes from Gleason Archer's New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, where he tells his readers that when looking at the Bible one must first assume God inspired the authors and preserved them from error or mistake. Then she writes, "Archer says, essentially that the reader must start the process of inquiry by assuming a certain outcome. Don't look for the most likely hypothesis suggested by the evidence, he says, nor the one that is most likely straightforward or reasonable. Start by believing that a certain conclusion is already true...Examine the evidence through the lens of that conclusion...Ask yourself, `What explanations or interpretations can I come up with that would allow me to maintain my belief that these texts are not contradictory?' If you can find any at all, then you have succeeded in your task. By implication, if you cannot, the problem lies with you, not the text. Archer's approach, in almost any other field of inquiry, would be considered preposterous." I wholeheartedly agree.

Tarico offers up some hard questions for those Evangelicals who believe the Bible. She does this with regard to science and the Bible, the Adam and Eve story, human and animal suffering, the blood sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the Christian belief in heaven and hell, and the problem of those who have never heard the gospel. I don't believe these questions, upon deeper investigation, can be satisfactorily answered by Evangelicals.

Tarico devotes one section to the hypocrisies and injustices done in the name of the Christian faith by professing Christians. She mentions the Crusades, the Inquisition, Slavery, the witch hunts, the slaughter of American Natives, and something so simple as the selfish prayers of the saints. She critically examines the excuses Christians offer in response and argues this violence is not just a thing of the past, as can be seen in America's previous "cold war" against "godless communism," and the Iraqi war. She also argues against the idea that our morals come from the Bible, since "all societies produce guidelines they treat as moral absolutes whether they attribute these to one god, to many gods, or to none."

In my opinion she is at her best when writing about the morality and the psychology of religious belief. She describes how irrational and external factors affect what people believe, like when and where a person is born, which she calls, "the luck of the draw." She argues this is contrary to justice, since God supposedly sends people to hell because of what people believe. She describes why wrong beliefs survive, why smart people defend them, and why Evangelical beliefs are hard to shake. She argues there are methods by which people can protect against such biases, based on evidence and science.

When it comes to false superstitious and religious beliefs, Tarico claims "it doesn't take very many false assumptions to send us on a long goose chase." To illustrate this she tells us about the mental world of a paranoid schizophrenic. To such a person the perceived persecution by others sounds real. "You can sit, as a psychiatrist, with a diagnostic manual next to you, and think: as bizarre as it sounds, the CIA really is bugging this guy. The arguments are tight, the logic persuasive, the evidence organized into neat files. All that is needed to build such an impressive house of illusion is a clear, well-organized mind and a few false assumptions. Paranoid individuals can be very credible." This is what Christians do, and this is why it's hard to shake the Evangelical faith, in her informed opinion.

Tarico ends her book by describing herself as "Coming home," where she is "content living in a universe with no gods, content trusting that the forces of nature and of the human spirit are what our best experience and reason reveal themselves to be."

Reflecting on her case she reasonably concludes that "much of what is wrong with Evangelicalism is not mere hypocricy or distortion of Christian doctrine. The evils Evangelicalism promotes are as much a part of the Bible and Christian history as are goodness and love. The problems lie in the traditional teachings themselves and refusal of church authorities to question them."

She continues: "Virtually all of the harm that Christianity has perpetrated and continues to perpetrate comes from one crucial problem: a failure to understand the Bible itself: the historical context in which its manuscripts were penned, the ways they relate to earlier religious writings, and the very human decisions that compiled them into a book that many now call the Word of God. Without this understanding, the Bible can be seen as timeless and perfect, and rigid adherence to its commands can provide a substitute for nuanced moral judgment." Again, she's right on target.

I liked this book. I could only wish more people would buy it, read it and give copies away for others to read.


I'm the author of "Why I Became an Atheist," and the edited book, "The Christian Delusion."
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The seduction / repulsion of Christian fundamentalism 7. Oktober 2010
Von Dick_Burkhart - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
Valerie Tarico's courageous book is both wrenching personal story and insightful analysis of the seduction / repulsion of Christian fundamentalism. Having heard her speak in person, I can attest to the eloquent inspiration of her unique combination of passion, compassion, maturity, and scholarship.

Those of us who grew up as skeptics outside the sphere of born-again Christianity are only too aware of the public face of right wing Christian fundamentalism. This is the "dark side" that trains the foot soldiers of imperial warfare and propaganda, that goes bananas over abortion and homosexuality, that retreats from scientific insights into "creationist" thickets of irrationality, that seeks influence by theocracy and corrupting alliance with wealthy elites rather than by democracy and social and economic justice. Yet Valerie also shows us the deep emotional responses that are given to those who can suspend their critical faculties to stay within the fold - responses like the promise of heaven, the threat of hell, the joy of devotion, and the security of simple rules and of forgiveness for their transgression.

The basic problem with Biblical literalism is that the Bible is full of contradictions, exemplified by Jesus' admonition to turn of the other cheek contrasted with the fury of Moses' genocidal massacre of the Canaanites. In fact, as Valerie testifies, it is the cognitive dissonance from reading the Bible that leads many fundamentalists to leave the fold. Those who stay end up favoring certain passages over others. Some find the universal values of the saints, while for others it is the power, blood, and greed of empire. The latter certainly contradicts what Jesus taught, but for fundamentalists it is belief, not right action, that leads to salvation. Bad actions can be forgiven, or attributed to Satan, or failure to believe.

Ironically, the "hunger and thirst after righteousness" that was the essence of the Kingdom of God to Jesus, can be found in people of many religious faiths, or no faith. Combine this with the evil perpetuated by so many believers, and you can see why many have left fundamentalism. Yet this is often more difficult than a nasty divorce, so how do we help others to graduate from the primitive, but dangerous, satisfactions of fundamentalism to the earth community envisioned by more mature faith traditions?
16 von 18 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
I am a Christian - And This Book is Dynamite 3. September 2014
Von Js - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
I preface this review by saying I am a Christian (albeit a Liberal one). However that fact is completely independent of the fact that this book is dynamite.

Having being a lifelong Christian, I came upon this book several months ago (and wish I wrote this review sooner as my critique is no longer as 'fresh') when I was on teetering on the edge of unbelief and looking for that final push to over the cliff. Dr Tarico is brutally honest and her perspective as a former evangelical gives her the great advantage of presenting arguments from both sides, the counter, and the counter to the counter. I found the arguments mostly balanced (because you can almost never eliminate bias), well articulated and presented in a very consumable form - this is not a textbook for sure. I found myself pausing many times to take in the implications of previously held beliefs and seeing it from a different, social and more humanistic perspective. This book stirred up all kinds of emotions in me and I still find myself as I journey along thinking about many of the points she made, points I suspect will always ring in my head.

So why is a christian giving this book 5 stars? because it is a fantastic book that presents a compelling and thought-provoking case against christianity. Why is this christian still a christian after reading this book? because while she did a phenomenal job, I found her answers simply unsatisfactory, not enough to push me to the other side of the aisle. As a scientist myself I appreciate her systematic approach but I also know first hand the shortcomings. There is only so much you can explain away or attribute to 'brain activity' or 'latest-research' or 'inherent curiosity' etc. which she seemed to use as an explanation several times. I also wished she bit into the 'miracle' bone a bit deeper, I found her section on it (and a few others) lacking in offering tangible alternatives (not as if accepting things on 'faith' is any more 'tangible' :) )...but you get my point, if you're going to offer a scientific response, you need to have it bolstered and fortified with real substance - or else you're simply no different from the believer asking us to take it by faith.

All in all, she does a really great job - and there are a few jabs in there at christianity which made it hard for me personally to read atimes, but like I said earlier, I think it is unrealistic to expect authorship on a subject matter like this to be entirely subjective. I think it is very important no matter which side you're on to see what the 'opposition' is saying and acknowledge the merit (or lack of) of the arguments. That way whichever way you come out on, you will be a more informed believer or unbeliever - which is why I will be reading this book again once I'm done with my current playlist - It is that good.
22 von 26 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Excellent book for Christian or atheist 25. Dezember 2010
Von Charly0 - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
I feel this book should be read by all Christians. I also think that atheists, of which I am one, should read it just to know a little bit of 'how the religious side' thinks.
Neither side likes to read outside of their interest but this should be their exception.
It is well written and non-polemical.
17 von 21 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Glad it's being re-released 25. März 2011
Von Brian Earp - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
I spent my youth before college in an evangelical church, with a loving, intelligent, and fundamentalist-minded mother (and acquiescing father) -- and can identify, strongly, with the author's experiences growing up. On my personal and academic journey I've been reading many of the same books Dr. Tarico has (from Bart Ehrman to Robert Wright and others), and have been wrestling with many of the same tensions and contradictions that drove her to reconsider, and ultimately reject, the web of beliefs comprising evangelical Christianity. Dr. Tarico's book really hits at the gut as much as it stimulates the mind -- I was "with her" every step of the way. She contributes an even-handed, clearly-written, thoughtful and compassionate critique of evangelicalism to a discourse that's too crowded with caustic or dogmatic writing from all corners. She has the great virtue as a writer of being trustworthy -- she don't force conclusions down anyone's throat, but urges, firmly and lovingly, rigorous thinking about the key issues. An excellent, and timely, book.
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