Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Tipping Point Revisited

Here, earlier, and at an atheist blog, I exposed my own experience of going through tipping points. First was my initial clear personal decision to accept Christ at age 17. Then my decision to leave the church at 21. Later, I tipped to being an agnostic about agnosticism, but was clearly a Darwinist. Finally at age 35, I tipped back to fully embracing Christianity.

In both of these places where I exposed my own journey, I continued by offering what I imagined might tip me back to Naturalism or away from belief in God. Then I suggested self-examination by visitors with the goal that they might be able to imagine what would tip them in one direction or another. Through either failure of imagination, lack of interest in transparency, or concern about giving aid and comfort to the enemy, very few stepped up to the plate.

Here is a short list of what I believe are the primary tipping points that draw people to Jesus. Future posts will elaborate on some of these.

  1. Parents believed in God. With no big obstacles to making that belief personal, so at some age around 17, most kids brought up in the church make personal/mature decisions to believe.
  2. A major life crisis occurs and the individual is unable to find a solution to end the pain or fear or hurt. Someone suggests God or they know enough already to reach out to God.
  3. A love interest is a believer. The individual desires to know all about their lover, so goes to church, listens to preaching, empathizes with love interest, makes decision to draw close to love interest by making decision for God.
  4. An influential person in the life of the individual is a believer. The individual is sold on the benefits or the "truth" of the gospel.
  5. The individual is merely invited by friends to church or an event and through exposure to the church, makes a decision.
  6. The individual has personal interaction with a believer or observes believers who he then admires. He asks for information or they provide him with information about God.
  7. Similarly, the individual is provided with some kind of help from a Christian organization, and through this contact gains information or relationship values that create a tipping point.

In most of the above cases, it is assumed the individual has some or even a lot of knowledge about God prior to the influence which "tips" them.

Is your experience different? What might a similar list look like for tipping one out of the faith? I will post that second list in a few days, but would like to see your ideas first.

16 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

I agree for the most part. That's why I initially became a Christian. But here' the rub. If these are the reasons why someone becomes a Christian, and if someone who becomes a Christian approaches her faith with the presumption that it's true, and if the presumption she starts with when examining her faith is the one she ends with, then how can she ever truly examine her faith objectively?

I did the same thing. And even though I started with the presumption that the Christian faith is true, I came to realize that it's a delusion.

Randy Kirk said...

John,

But you leave out the most imporant and interesting part. Lots of folks have that part of the story. Why? What? Long process? Short?

Hey Skipper said...

Randy:

Your tipping in points seem to require sheep.

As for tipping out, particular revelation put paid to Christianity (and all organized religions) very, very quickly.

Later, realizing God allowed a great deal of horrible, and completely avoidable, suffering just bounced the rubble.

What avoidable suffering, you ask? Adding a couple simple admonitions amongst the Dueteronomy's otherwise useless dietary restrictions: rigorously separate human waste from drinking water, and boil drinking water before consumption, particularly for infants.

So easy, even humans can do it.

Once they have employed sufficient reason to determine the germ theory of disease, that is.

Anonymous said...

I think this idea of 'tipping points' has merit, but as a nonbeliever, I think it goes both ways. This is how I would interpet this:
people remain relatively static in their foundational beliefs until something puts them in a psychological state where those beliefs are question, at which point they may change beliefs as part of the process of 'regaining their balance.'
As a personal example, I rejected Christianity during a period where a lot of traumatic events had happened in my life. These events did not directly challenge the Christian outlook I held at the time, but they did put me in a state of mind where I was willing to reconsider my outlook on life and step outside the axiomatic system of Christianity.
-svenjamin

Anonymous said...

By the way, my word choice about "Christian axioms" was purely coincidental with the blog post below...about, of all things, the axioms of christians and atheists. I've never been on this site before.

-svenjamin

Randy Kirk said...

Hey Skipper,

I would only object to your sheep idea. We're all sheep. Some are just more easily lead than others. But unlike the very poorly spoken comment of a Democratic Presidential contender, the idea that Christians are more easily lead than scientists or humanist or objectivists or naturalists or materialists or Unitarians is nonsense.

Randy Kirk said...

That is not to say that I agree with the rest of the Hey Skipper comment, but the other comments I prefer to leave stand alone on this thread.

Hey Skipper said...

Randy:

the idea that Christians are more easily lead than scientists or humanist or objectivists or naturalists or materialists or Unitarians is nonsense.

Didn't say they were.

However, if I wanted to give that impression, then the list of tipping in points you provided would be very difficult to beat.

I think if you re-read what I said, you would find you placed upon my words meaning they don't convey.

Randy Kirk said...

I suppose that I was hoping someone would see the irony in my list. You can make a few changes and get the atheist list.

Hey Skipper,

I guess I thought the sheep comment was intended to convey that meaning.
You write with such creativity that I often have to read what you say twice. And I mean it as a compliment.

Hey Skipper said...

Randy:

Thank you very much.

Randy Kirk said...

I was sure hoping for much more in this discussion. I think what has been said is useful and valuable, but I sure was hoping for more personal stories both ways.

Hey Skipper said...

Randy:

OK.

I was brought up Episcopalian, sang in the choir, and became an acolyte.

Confirmation classes involved much more thorough Bible study than I had previously been exposed to.

The notion of geographically and temporally localized revelation was sufficient in and of itself to tip me right out.

The rest of Christian dogma served merely to gild the lily.

Since then, I have not missed it a bit. I never discuss religion outside fora such as these, or within my family.

And (family excepted; children have enquiring minds) I wouldn't bother.

Until 9/11, that is.

Randy Kirk said...

Thus, if God revealed himself to every single human alive today in a reasonable amazing way (bearded face in the sky with a big voice and trumpets before and after) that might tip you back?

Hey Skipper said...

Randy:

There would be no doubting God's objective reality at that point.

Just as there would be no doubting God's vicious immorality, or impenetrable ignorance.

So, just as I prefer to believe I wouldn't have been one of the Germans to worship Hitler, I hope not.

I know that sounds harsh, but particular revelation has been a pox upon humanity, as any Supreme Being even remotely sentient must surely have known.

That leaves an unanswerable moral case to answer.

Randy Kirk said...

We'll take the hypothesis one step further, God reveals Himself in the way suggested above, then he clearly explains why He created Hell, disease, war, predation, etc. At the end of the day, you might not agree with it, in much the same way you might agree or disagree with the death penalty or abortion. However, if He is God, and He created You, then worship of Him would be a bit different than worshipping Hitler, who was just a man.

Anonymous said...

"However, if He is God, and He created You, then worship of Him would be a bit different than worshipping Hitler, who was just a man."

It still wouldn't give me any reason to worship such a monster.

Kit