Duane Graham

Young RDGWhile many people morph into political and religious traditionalists as they age,  Duane Graham has evolved into an unapologetic skeptic of conservative thinking.

As a former evangelical Christian, and as a reformed and rueful dittohead, Mr. Graham atones for years of muddled thinking by challenging the prevailing political orthodoxy in our corner of the world, and by confronting the religious bigotry that too often invades — like a nasty virus — our local discourse.

Challenging and confronting that orthodoxy and bigotry is the purpose of The Erstwhile Conservative.

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38 Comments

  1. andy tuttle

     /  September 30, 2009

    Love the column R. Duane!

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    • Duane Graham

       /  October 1, 2009

      Andy,

      Thanks for the compliment, Andy. By the way, how have you been? I sure hope you are still winning all of your cases. If you are ever down this way, give me a call.

      Brutha Duane Randy

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  2. Sean Nicholson

     /  February 5, 2010

    Really like the blog — would love to get in touch.

    Sean
    sean [at] firedupmissouri.com

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    • Duane Graham

       /  February 5, 2010

      Thanks, Sean. Your site is essential for Missourians, particularly those of us condemned to live out our political lives in the reddest part of the state. My email address is mailto:grahamzz@sbcglobal.net I’ll be looking forward to hearing from you.

      Duane

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  3. jay turney

     /  September 1, 2010

    Trying to find john don wondersmuck and found this. Fine. Freethinker? Joplin Globe? You and wondermuck must be connected somehow. Remember the tale of Achilles and the hare?? Which means I can barely type this. The impedimenta to finding someone like two miles away have become onerous. IE, OMFG, that’s my comment. I couldn’t tell if the pool playing hotte is you, and if is you, are an atheist, con artist … freethinker i think means agnostic. So you have rejected the system because you figured out God is dead and full of delicious maggots? So did Hitler. So did hegel. What else you got, freethinker?

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  4. Jay,

    Here is the way to john don wondersmuck. Perhaps he can help you with your addiction to Zeno’s paradoxes. Having spent ten minutes trying to untie the series of linguistic knots that is your writing, I surrender. I’m going back to reading Sarah Palin’s latest book.

    Here is a suggestion on how to ask john don wondersmuck for help:

    Dear Juan,

    I met a “pool playing hotte” on another blog. What should I do?

    Jay from Jay

    Duane

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    • Duane,

      Thanks for the extra traffic. I’m tempted every now and then to post e-mails from “fans” who not only defy gravity, but Einstein’s Unified Field Theory work-in-progress. I’m glad I didn’t download the photo of me tossing lawn darts back when I was a svelte “hotte”. Exposure to such photos must trigger the Hegelian Dialect response in internet-challenged philosophers. Or maybe Jay is just cooling his heels in a vat of Keystone Lite before hitchhiking to the “Burning Man” festivities.

      juan

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    • Rawhead

       /  September 22, 2010

      That guy and Juan Don ought to get along great! They’re both into pseudo-intellectual babble but one is definitely more articulate than the other, I just can’t figure out which.

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  5. Randy

     /  June 14, 2011

    Duane, your thoughts please:

    By Matt Welch, Special to CNN
    June 11, 2011 6:12 p.m. EDT

    STORY HIGHLIGHTS
    Matt Welch says media outlets are giving huge attention to a data dump of Palin e-mail
    Meanwhile, he says, there’s scant coverage of Obama’s comments in weekly radio address
    He says media have disproportiante fascination with Palin, ignore important stories
    Welch: Press would have to hate Obama more if we expect them to cover him better
    RELATED TOPICS
    Sarah Palin
    Media
    Barack Obama
    Editor’s note: Matt Welch is Editor in Chief of Reason, and co-author of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America (PublicAffairs).

    (CNN) — On Friday afternoon the websites of the five most important newspapers in the United States — the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today — each had above their digital folds the same breaking story: It seemed the former governor of the 47th-most populous state in the union, a woman who holds no elected office now and almost assuredly will not again anytime soon, had thousands of e-mails from her 21-month tenure data-dumped onto the public.

    The New York Times responded with a rare burst of interactivity, inviting readers “to point out items of interest.” The Washington Post had video, a photo gallery, live updates, and headlines such as “Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s e-mails show a constant concern with how she is portrayed in the media, on matters big and small.”

    Transparency advocates doubtlessly breathed a sigh of satisfaction that sunlight-disinfectant was being applied to a government figure. And people with any sense of political proportion were left with an additional thought: When is this journalistic scrutiny going to be applied to politicians who wield actual power?

    For instance, one might nominate the president of the United States for such attention. On Saturday, June 4, in his weekly radio address, Barack Obama did what he has consistently done since taking the oath of office: fudged reality to make his policies sound better.

    In a premature victory lap over his controversial bailout of Detroit automakers, the president made the highly dubious assertion that not taking over Chrysler and General Motors would have “put a million people out of work,” a claim resting on the notion that “bankruptcy” equals “liquidation,” which it does not.

    He said, both presumptively and inaccurately, that “we’re making sure America can out-build, out-innovate, and out-compete the rest of the world.” And he gave the distinct — and distinctly false — impression that Chrysler has repaid every dime of what it owes American taxpayers, mostly by saying “Chrysler has repaid every dime and more of what it owes American taxpayers for their support during my presidency — and it repaid that money six years ahead of schedule.”

    Glenn Kessler, who writes “The Fact Checker” blog for the Washington Post website, described Obama’s address as “one of the most misleading collections of assertions we have seen in a short presidential speech. Virtually every claim by the president regarding the auto industry needs an asterisk.”

    A president misleading the public on one of his most crucial policies at a time when Americans are increasingly anxious about the economy sounds kind of newsworthy, no? Well, don’t tell the editors of the New York Times — they were too busy nailing down this important story:”Palin Says She Didn’t Err on Paul Revere.”

    What’s particularly odd about the media’s disproportionate fascination with Sarah Palin is that it comes coupled with a palpable journalistic fear that we’re not challenging Sarah Palin enough.

    Three weeks ago, the journalism navel-gazing community was abuzz over an academic study of more than 700 news articles and 20 network news segments from 2009 that addressed a single controversial claim of the health care reform debate.

    Was it President Obama’s oft-repeated whopper that he was nobly pushing the reform rock up the hill despite the concentrated efforts of health care”special interests?” Was it his oft-repeated promise that “If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan,” something that is getting even less true by the minute? Was it the way Obama and the Democrats brazenly gamed and misrepresented the Congressional Budget Office’s price-tag scoring of the bill?

    No. The cause for Obamacare-coverage reconsideration was not the truth-stretching claims made by a president seeking to radically reshape an important aspect of American life, but rather the Facebook commentary of … Sarah Palin. “In more than 60 percent of the cases,” the authors found, “it’s obvious that newspapers abstained from calling [Palin’s] death panels claim false.” Horrors.

    There is no shortage of politicians deserving to have their e-mails combed through, no dearth of urgent stories that could benefit from the kind of journalistic enthusiasm we saw Friday afternoon.

    Did you know that a reported dozen armed agents kicked down a guy’s door at 6 a.m. this week in Stockton, California, and handcuffed him in his boxer shorts in front of his three bawling pre-teen kids — to execute a search warrant for the Department of Education involving suspected loan fraud by his allegedly estranged wife? You wouldn’t if you get your news from the Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, or L.A. Times, California’s biggest newspapers.

    But fear not! Now we know that “The ‘First Dude’ played a particularly influential role in the administration” of a short-term, small-state governor. The lessons for Michelle Obama, then, are clear: If you want the non-Amtrak media to give you attention, they’re going to need to hate your husband a little more.

    The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Matt Welch.

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    • Randy,

      I agree that the media pays too much attention to Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich, and others. They are a waste of time, except for entertainment purposes, which explains, oddly, why they get so much attention.

      I don’t agree that the media ignores Obama’s statements or doesn’t otherwise scrutinize him.

      I, for one, am very sensitive to the treatment Obama gets in the media. It drives me crazy many days and nights. But I also recognize that I am sensitive to it because I am a supporter of his. And I recognize that journalist do and should hold him accountable for every word he utters.

      As long as they hold all politicians accountable, I have exactly zero problem with them.

      Look, Matt Welch is a libertarian, and, thus, not a fan of Obama. Some of the things he complains about I could complain about from the other side. It just matters what side you are on. If you like Obama, you think he gets too much criticism, as it was with George W. If you don’t like O or W, then you think they get or got too little.

      Duane

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  6. Randy

     /  June 21, 2011

    What you say is true – but you gotta agree that Obama get’s far more favorable coverage and far less scrutiny (by the main stream media) than Bush did or than Republicans do in general. You also gotta admit that the general publics view on wether a politician is “smart” or “dumb” is almost entirely based on how the media presents that person to us. Obama has said and done enough incredibly stupid things that if the media wanted us to think he was dumb – it would be easy to paint that picture of him. Like they did with Bush (and have done with almost every conservative leader in the past). But instead, liberals area always viewed as “intelligent” and conservatives generally viewed as something far less than that. And all based on how the media presents the person.

    Change of subject. If liberal policies are so good, how do you explain this:

    http://edition.cnn.com/2011/BUSINESS/06/19/europe.debt.explainer/index.html

    In our (conservative) view – this is one of the many negative yet natural results of liberal policies. The one thing I wish I could get from you Duane is this: I’d like for you to change your tone and attitude toward conservatives. We are not evil and we are not trying to hurt anyone or take from anyone. We honestly believe that what we believe is what is best for ALL people and will work the best at providing opportunity for all and at providing the highest standard of living for all. We do understand that poor people will always exist – because some people will always make poor life choices, and also sometimes for other reasons that are outside of individual control (and in those cases we want to help them in as equitable and as plausible fashion as possible). That’s what we believe Duane. We are not evil. Please help bring civility to our debates, rather than incite hate. Like you do. Pause. Think. Read some of the comments your readers make. Hate. I challenge you to read any CNN article and then read the comments the follow. Do it Duane. See what side of the debate is HATE FILLED and spews the most incredible meanness and negativeness. Under every political article on CNN you will find it. Tons of it. Liberals spewing actual hate and complete arrogant ignorance. You hardly will see any of that from the conservative side. I dare you to take up my challenge.

    What does this have to do with you? You are a liberal blogger. You, believe it or not, are one of the “hate inciters” because of your tone and attitude.

    You might say “Rush Limbaugh incites hate” or “Sean Hannity incites hate.” Duane, you’d be wrong. Again, I challenge you to find numerous comments form conservatives that reveal hate. I am not talking about extreme nut jobs on the fringes. I am talking about every day conservatives. Read the comments that follow the articles on CNN and on Fox news and then you tell me which side of the debate is hateful and full of strife and ignorance.

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  7. Randy

     /  June 21, 2011

    *”Again, I challenge you to find numerous comments form conservatives that reveal hate” – I mean from “every day” conservatives like me and those who post comments on CNN and Fox news, etc.

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    • Randy,

      If you think George W. Bush is as intelligent as Barack Obama, I think you are wrong. But that’s not to say that W. was a dummy. He certainly wasn’t analytical, but many people aren’t. He did have some political skills that served him well, albeit with help from the Supreme Court. As for the media projection of him, I’m afraid he did that to himself. Just look back at his extemporaneous comments. It’s really, and I mean, really, embarrassing at times.

      And I don’t think the media can “make us think” much of anything, although there certainly are some long-term and somewhat subtle effects of media coverage. (There are also a few occasions where a strong media personality can help shape public opinion, such as Cronkite onVietnam.) Most people don’t pay attention to the news media, by the way. Dancing With the Stars is far more popular than any program on cable news, for instance. And those who do pay attention likely already have a point of view that the media either reinforces or contradicts.

      As for the Europeans, surely you aren’t comparing liberals in America with socialists in Europe? Come on, Randy. Even conservatives in Europe are socialists in a sense that few Americans would be comfortable embracing. (See Germany.) But nevertheless, most Americans do embrace forms of socialism, as I have pointed out numerous times, like Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and the police and fire departments and the library and the military and so on. Americans just don’t label those things as socialistic. But they most certainly are.

      As a liberal, I am not a socialist in the classic sense of that word. I am a capitalist, but a capitalist that wants to preserve capitalism by regulating it. The way I put it is that liberals want to save capitalism from the capitalists, who would ruin it for all time if they were allowed to have their way. Capitalism is the engine of prosperity, but it is not a laissez faire style of capitalism, but a managed capitalism. For the most part, Europe has mixed economies, managed capitalist systems, just like we have. Ours, though, is obviously skewed further toward laissez faire than most of theirs.

      And by the way, the Republican Party has done more to imitate socialist Europe than the Dems, in terms of running up massive debt. Remember those Clinton budget surpluses? No, me neither. They were swallowed up in the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush tax cuts and Medicare Part D and the credit card wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

      Randy, I can agree with you that conservatives are not “evil,” in the sense that they mean to destroy people or to ruin the economy. Believe me, as an earnest conservative myself at one time, I know better than most that conservatives believe that their philosophy is the right prescription for our social and fiscal ills. I truly believed that my conservatism would solve our country’s many problems, at least as far as they were solvable.

      But there are conservatives, like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, who exploit the fears of their followers for CA$H. I put them in a completely different class. I listened to Rush Limbaugh (as a confirmed dittohead) every day he was on for more than fifteen years, and then for much of the time for another five years or so. I know the guy very well, in terms of what he does on the radio and how he demagogues issues.

      Limbaugh and Hannity and Beck are dangerous demagogues who are hurting the country, whether they intend to or not. To give you just one example: the immigration issue. Bush II had a plan, with many Democrats on board, to help solve some of our problems with illegal immigration. But Limbaugh and other talkers on the radio raised a ruckus and the damn thing was stopped dead in its tracks. That’s what I mean by how they are harming the country. Republican politicians, who knew better, were afraid of what would happen if they signed on to the immigration settlement. Thus, we are still stuck these many years later.

      As for the hate speech, I’m afraid your argument is lost on me. Not only did I listen to that kind of talk for years and years on talk radio (about 7 hours every day from 1988 to about 2004 or so), also for two and a half years as a liberal blogger in conservative country, I have been subjected to some of the nastiest hate speech, much of it coming from a fellow Joplin Globe blogger who fashions himself as some kind of Limbaugh type. Sure, there are some on the Left who do the same thing and use hate speech as a way of communicating, but there is no comparison with those on the right. No comparison, Randy. I have been on both sides and seen it from both sides and I mean to tell you that there is NO COMPARISON, in terms of quantity, if not quality.

      And, Randy, those are “everyday” conservatives I am talking about. I know, my friend. I was one of them and I still know many of them to this day. I want to pass on to you something I have never passed on to anyone, as far as I can remember. For about a week, many years ago, I was waiting on a report on a bone marrow biopsy that had been done while I was in the hospital. I was very sick and my physician thought I had Leukemia. Needless to say, I was scared out of my wits. But I continued to listen to Limbaugh every day, who had been on the air nationally for maybe a year or two at the time. During that time, he was discussing the AIDS crisis and one day he said something so stupid about that illness—which I could relate to because of my own illness—that I literally turned him off. I had never done that before. Now, you have to understand that I loved the guy and agreed with nearly everything he said. But there was something about his utter disregard for those who were sick with AIDS that I found disturbing. Very disturbing. I never forgot that feeling, even though after I found out I did not have Leukemia I returned to Limbaugh and continued to listen.

      But I never forgot how he made me feel that day, and now, as a liberal, I know in a somewhat different way how much hurt he brings to the country, all in the name of money and a weird kind of conservatism.

      Finally, as for my own “tone and attitude,” I don’t know if you have noticed, but I try to treat people with the same kind of treatment as they treat me. Anson Burlingame and I have argued in this forum for more than two years, over tens of thousands of words, and for the most part it has been a civil discussion (although he goes off on me from time to time on his blog and other places). There have been other conservatives who have passed through here and I have engaged in civil debate with them, respectfully and thoughtfully. But from time to time there are those who come in here and attack me and I guess they expect me to back off. But I won’t do it. I won’t let conservative bullies win the day, at least here on a blog I control. I treat such people with the respect they deserve.

      Yes, from time to time I engage in hyperbole and sarcasm and other tools of the trade, but if you pay attention, you will see that those things are almost always directed at those who richly merit such treatment. I have also written pieces offering some qualified praise of such figures as Ronald Reagan (who used to be one of my great heros), William F. Buckley (from whom I learned more about genteel conservatism than any other person), Joseph Sobran (whose writing style and thoughts have heavily influenced me), and others. I am still a fan of Catholic apologist G. K. Chesterton and Christian apologist C. S. Lewis (my youngest son’s middle name is Lewis Chesterton). You will never see me ridicule either one of those gentlemen, although I will attack their ideas from time to time. The same with thinkers like Milton Friedman or Hayek or von Mises or other serious people who did not engage in the kind of rhetoric that people like, say, Thomas Sowell does today. I once held George F. Will in high esteem, although he has failed to adequately criticize the boneheadedness of modern conservatism and I now rate him much lower today than I used to.

      I could go on, but the point is that I take philosophical conservatism seriously enough to write about it. I don’t think conservatism is evil. I don’t think conservatives are demonic. I don’t think they want to destroy the country. But I sometimes have to use ridicule and saracasm and other such things to, if nothing else, have a little fun at their expense.

      An awful lot of them deserve it.

      Duane

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  8. Randy

     /  July 7, 2011

    Hi Duane, I am just now finding some of these responses of yours – I guess I sometimes don’t get the email that says you replied… and finding these my way back to these strings can be kinda hard. Anyway, I appreciate what you’ve said here, but you did not take up my challenge I guess. I read CNN.com every single day for hours per day. At work it is the only web page we can access! (And my job entails sitting around bored for a few hours per day) Anyway, after every article they allow comments. Go read them. See what you think. The people from the left are radically and overwhelmingly hateful. It’s scary. Seriously scary. By and large the comments from the right are very respectful.

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  9. A very good site. Just found your site from spinny liberal’s blogroll and I must say I am impressed. I think I’ll drop in every once in a while and hear what you have to say.

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  10. Loved the “high points” pictures on your home page.

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  11. Duane, a friend of mine just told me about your blog. I can understand where you’re coming from, since I underwent my own transformation, but in early 1965, when I was 18 and didn’t know any better. It didn’t take much to reform me, since it hadn’t taken much to make me a Goldwater fan and a YAF member in the first place. Luckily I had some good counsel, and was able to join the New Left and begin a lifetime of progressive thinking. I also have a blog on WordPress. I thought you might enjoy this essay in particular, but please check out the rest of it, as I will do with your writings. It looks like we have both neglected our posts lately! But I plan to get more active as the elections approach this year. It’s very important for progressives to understand how conservatives think, because they will never be able to fight back unless they know what they’re fighting. http://writer89.wordpress.com/2011/01/08/how-conservatives-think-about-health-care/

    Brad Lang

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    • Brad,

      Thanks for the link. I certainly agree with you that many folks on the right think that if one lacks certain necessities it may be because those folks don’t “deserve” them for some reason or another. That is primarily the emotive force behind much of what the Tea Party is about, in my opinion.

      By the way, I usually post something five or six times a week, so I hope you visit often and I hope you follow through and become “more active as the elections approach,” as we need more voices like yours out there.

      Duane

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  12. Duane,

    I think that this is a hot meme you might want to help spread:

    http://www.politicususa.com/rupert-murdochs-news-corp-donated-59000-reelect-obama.html

    To me, this is a bombshell.

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    • Victor,

      I agree it is hot news, but after thinking about it, I’m not sure what to make of it, to tell you the truth.

      Is it that Fox “News” employees have sympathy for Obama, notwithstanding their day jobs? Or is it that there is a self-interest involved with keeping the devil in the White’s House?

      I will say this, though: Among the various media empires, it appears Fox employees are more sympathetic to Obama than the others, which mostly hedge their bets and give to the leadership in both parties.

      Bottom line is this: I would need to know why it is that folks who work for a 24-hour-a-day Obama-hate network are sending Obama money. If it is just crass self-interest then, well, that’s the conservative way and there is nothing to pass on. But if it is more than that, if there is genuine interest in getting Obama elected for the good of the country, then I would gladly join in the heralding of such a thing.

      Problem is that I don’t know which is which. Do you?

      Duane

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  13. writer89

     /  August 22, 2012

    Duane,

    Now that I’m on your list I see how often you are posting. Sorry for the mischaracterization! I suppose if I collected all my Facebook posts every day and stuck them on my blog, I would have a lot of blog content. But I’m a counterpuncher at heart, so some of my comments wouldn’t make sense without also reposting the stuff I’m reacting to — and I wouldn’t want to give them any more press. But I will try to get my act together. Those of us who’ve been to the dark side and returned to tell the tale owe it to the world to testify regularly.

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  14. Bret

     /  July 27, 2016

    Hi Duane,

    I see that you are an erstwhile Evangelical Christian. I am curious as to why.

    Sincerely,
    Bret

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    • Bret,

      Thanks for the inquiry. As you might imagine, to answer your question adequately would take a great deal of time and words. Through my years of blogging I have answered it the best I can in as few words as possible, although some day I want to get into more detail for those truly interested. For now, here is the short version.

      My mom, who knew nothing about science, bought me a set of science encyclopedias when I was around 9 years old (I am almost 58 now). She did so because I expressed an interest in astronomy. And from those books I learned how science works. Evidence. Evidence. Evidence.

      I was also raised as a fairly conservative Christian. My mom was a Pentecostal (Assembly of God) and my dad went to a conservative independent baptist church that didn’t believe in speaking in tongues and all that. As you can see, my experience with Christianity, when I was very young, was of the very conservative variety, either way I went.

      As I got into my early teen years, I flirted, quite temporarily, with atheism. Mostly, though, I just kind of tried, with varying degrees of success, to ignore it all. Until I was in my early twenties. At that time I started going to a “charismatic” church, which as you probably know is another form of Pentacostalism. Around that time I also started reading lots (and I mean lots) of C.S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton and, oddly, William F. Buckley and George Will, from whom I learned my political conservatism.

      And at some point I “felt like” I was destined for the ministry. I studied theology on my own, buying many, many books and devouring them. I also listened to, quite literally, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours of sermons by Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland (and others of that kind). I also devoured their books. I went to the local jail and held Bible studies and, when called upon, preached in my church.

      The entire time I retained my affection for science, which caused me a lot of problems when studying the Bible. To help with that dissonance, I bought books that tried to harmonize the Bible with science. I figured out how to explain away some of the “miracles” in the Bible by resorting to “figurative” interpretations of the harder passages, like those in the Genesis creation accounts. For other passages, like those containing obvious contradictions, I just decided to wait for God to “reveal” to me the answer.

      All the while, as I said, my love for science stayed with me. I never believed that there were six literal days of creation, for instance. I couldn’t believe it because of what I knew from science. But I desperately wanted to believe in the Bible. I wanted to believe it was, in some way, “God’s word.” Eventually, though, the doubts kept plaguing me. They never fully went away, no matter how hard I studied or how hard I prayed.

      I eventually decided to stop doubting the doubting and deal with it. I decided to, as best I could, follow the evidence wherever it would lead. I opened up my mind to the possibility that the Bible might not be error-free. It sure seemed to contain many errors, many which I could see on my own and many I could see only from reading fairly dense theology books.

      Opening up my mind—which had been saturated with conservative evangelical teaching and preaching—to a truly rational consideration of the Bible was a long process. It opened slowly at first. It took a long time to go from believing in an inerrant, inspired Bible to believing in “open” theology to believing merely in theism to becoming, essentially, an agnostic. It was also a painful thing to do. It still is. I was taught so much about hell when I was a kid, and I thought so much about it, that the anxiety still lingers in my mind. I know this sounds weird to some, but I still feel, on rarer and rarer occasions, the fear of eternal damnation that was sown in me so long ago. That’s why I endeavored not to do to my youngest son what was done to me. He was never exposed to such mental abuse, although my other two kids, especially my oldest, did have some exposure to it.

      So, there you have the short version. Blame it on science. Blame it on reason. Blame it on the demand for evidence to support claims. Whatever you want to blame it on, it happened to me and I’m glad it did. To the extent that any of us have free will (and I doubt we do), I at least feel liberated.

      Duane

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  15. Bret

     /  July 27, 2016

    Hi Duane,

    I greatly appreciate your response. It is honest, frank and transparent. I admit that I am not entirely surprised by what you said. Every former Christian I have ever talked to has one thing in common, they do not believe that the Bible is true. Your journey comes via science, but I know of nothing in the Scripture that contradicts science. To be sure it might contradict evolutionary Darwinism but that so-called science is debatable. I can think of nothing in the Bible that contradicts established scientific laws. There are paradoxes certainly, but no contradictions.

    You mention your struggle with Genesis, i.e. the six days of creation, the need to explain away miracles. though as a Lewis reader I’m surprised you need this circumvention at all, and the decision to wait for God to reveal answers to “passages…containing obvious contradictions”.

    What obvious contradictions are you referring to?

    I am not unlike you. I grew up in a conservative southern Baptist home but in my teen years and early college years I opened my mind to the idea that God’s word is entirely true and that if conflicts exist between what it teaches and what science purports to believe then perhaps either we have misunderstood one or the other but there is no reason to believe that the Bible is untrue. I do not ignore evidence. if there is evidence to the contrary I am open to considering it.

    You are clearly well read and articulate. I doubt that I can compete with you. But I can suggest that the book God inspired is in fact true, reliable and trustworthy. This might explain why your thoughts of hell, and perhaps heaven, linger in your mind. God has spoken through his word and he is not finished

    Looking forward to more interactions.

    Sincerely,
    Bret

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    • Bret,

      I will respond in the orderly way below (sorry about the length), hoping that this doesn’t turn into, before it is over, a name-calling exercise (believe me, it happens). I take you at your word that “if there is evidence to the contrary,” you are “open to considering it.” That is a good way to proceed. And by the way, you are more than capable of “competing,” if this were a competition. I don’t see it that way. I see it as an attempt, via a civil discussion, to let you know how I got to where I am and to answer your objections as best I can (don’t mistake my tone below as uncivil; I don’t mean for it to be; I just like to get to the point). I don’t want to talk anyone out of their faith. My problem is not with faith per se but with fundamentalism. I believe it is poison to the mind, dangerous to the world—as we see with jihadist freaks willing to murder innocents in the name of a perverse view of God. Okay?

      1.  You wrote, “Every former Christian I have ever talked to has one thing in common, they do not believe that the Bible is true.” Of course they have that in common! If they believed the Bible was true they’d be a Christian—if by “the Bible” you include the New Testament. As you know, Jews don’t. So they wouldn’t be Christians even if they believed every jot and tittle in the Bible was put there by God. Oh, by the way, Muslims believe much of the Old Testament is true, too. Many of them would share your absolute belief that, for instance, the Torah was divinely inspired. So, you have in common things with other true-believers, which is what I would expect. But that doesn’t get us anywhere. The question is whether the claims that Christians, Jews, and Muslims make about the Bible are true.

      2. You say the Bible “might contradict evolutionary Darwinism but that so-called science is debatable.” Evolution contradicts the Bible actually. And the reason it does is because it happens to be the best explanation for the evidence we see. And there is exactly zero “debate” going on about whether evolution is that best explanation. Zero. None. Ain’t happening. Sorry. Nearly 100% of scientists in real science associations believe life evolved. The only debate is in the various details. I have read a couple of dozen books or more on the interplay of evolution/science and religion. I have listened to (and still do) countless hours of discussion and debates involving the best living apologist for Christianity (in my opinion), William Lane Craig.  None of this makes me an expert or makes me right, of course. I’m just letting you know that I have explored lots and lots of ground on this subject. Evolution is not, my friend, “so-called science.” It is the real thing and it is the best way of understanding how we got here.

      3. “I can think of nothing in the Bible that contradicts established scientific laws,” you wrote. Of course you can. And if you can’t, there are plenty of places on the ‘net to help you. But I’m sure you don’t need help. Think about, for instance, how Genesis describes the creation of the first woman. Do you think that “rib” nonsense comports with science? Huh? By the way, God supposedly created the Earth before the Sun! You know that makes no sense. Then there is the age of the earth (I know all about the “gap” in Genesis, by the way, an interpretation that no Christian would have adopted until geological science began to reveal the Earth was much older than people thought it was); the whole Ark and Noah nonsense; Joshua’s long day; and on and on and on. Now, you can devise some convoluted explanations for all these things for sure. But those “harmonizing” explanations are, to be frank, quite ridiculous. I have laboriously been through all this myself, as a believer, and even I, with a burning desire to believe them, found them wanting, and some of them I found embarrassing (like the idea that God created starlight already on its way to Earth and planted fossils in the ground so as to make it necessary to have real “faith” in “his Word”).

      But I don’t even want to debate all the anti-science stuff in the Old Testament. Let’s go to the New. Let’s go to the resurrection of the dead. In Matthew 27 we have an account of Jesus’ death on the cross. Just after “he gave up his spirit,” we have this:

      At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

      Now, you can talk all day about the Bible not contradicting science, but this clearly does. Why? Because people long dead don’t get up and start milling around town! You can call this a miracle, of course. But that is the same as saying that God suspended physical laws to make it happen. Again, sorry.

      4. You asked, “What obvious contradictions are you referring to?” Again, there are so many places on the Internet to find the answer to that question that it boggles the mind. And I know you know that, so I suspect you are asking me to give you some examples that you can tear apart with those “convoluted explanations” I referred to above. I won’t bite on that, but I will offer you something to think about, something that as a Christian I think you might want to explain, if not to me, at least to yourself.

      John 8 contains, for me, one of the most powerful passages in the New Testament. Jesus is teaching on the Mount of Olives when hard-core Old Testament believers bring him an adulteress, caught in the act. They want her stoned, according to OT law. Cleverly, he addresses them with the famous “He that is without sin, cast the first stone.” They all walked away, of course, but Jesus said something interesting to the woman:

      Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

      Jesus in this stirring passage was essentially forgiving this woman’s sin. Now, let’s turn to Mark 2. At a crowded house in Capernaum, four good men tried to get “a paralyzed man” they were carrying in to see Jesus. Let’s pick up the narrative from there:

      Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

      Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

      Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?  But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man,  “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”  He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

      In this remarkable passage we have Jesus, clearly and openly, declaring he had the power to forgive sins right then and there. He proved his case by healing the paralyzed man. Now, here is my problem: Christians (like C.S. Lewis, for instance) teach that it was necessary for Jesus to die on the cross in order for us to be forgiven. Blood had to be shed. Thus, as John 1 indicates, Jesus was the sacrificial “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Obviously, we have a contradiction here. Jesus clearly forgave sins without shedding his blood, as in the cases cited above. And if he could do it in those cases, why did he have to die in order to “take away the sins of the world”? Why not just take them away with his word, as he did to the adulteress and the paralyzed man? Makes no sense to me. It seems to be an example of an ad hoc, Messianic theology (the Gospel of John is a theological book more than anything) that didn’t quite contemplate all the ramifications of applying it to episodes like those described above. As I said, I find all this a fairly glaring contradiction. Either Jesus can forgive sins without dying or he cannot. Either he had to die in order to forgive sins or he didn’t. Can’t have it both ways.

      5. You suggest that my “thoughts of hell, and perhaps heaven” linger in my mind because God is still working on me. Well, obviously I have no way of disproving that. It is unlikely in my opinion, but I can’t say it isn’t possible. That would be unscientific to make such a metaphysical claim!

      And just think, 1500 words and I haven’t even got to the problem of evil!

      Duane

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  16. Bret

     /  July 28, 2016

    Hi Duane,

    Your tone is perfectly acceptable. You are, if anything, a gentleman.

    I’ll to my best to respond to your points though it might take me some time. I appreciate your patience.

    Regarding item 1 about the Bible.

    I understand that Muslim, Jews, Christians and even Atheists and any number of world religions believe some things in the Bible. That is neither here nor there. Many false religions base their doctrines piecemeal from it. No, I contend that it really is systematically a trustworthy and true record of what God has inspired. If it is not then there is no reason to be a Christian, a conclusion you have clearly reached. And I think it is more than just whether the claims we make about the Bible are true. We might make false claims so these should be rejected. No, the Bible should stand on its own which I believe it does.

    Regarding item 2 about Evolution.

    I don’t disagree that Darwinian Evolution is the order of the day in both scientific and non-scientific circles. But while it is accepted as the best explanation such acceptance does not equate to truth. For example, there is no denying micro-evolution of organisms within a kind or species, but macro-evolution of one kind to another has never been observed and of course, by evolutionary standards, can never be observed because it would take millions of years to occur. Although outnumbered, there are still plenty of scientists and layman alike who are not convinced that Evolution is valid. I am one of them. Darwinian Evolution is not necessary to explain what scientists observe. Science existed long before Darwin and his theories. So I maintain that it is a so-called science because the scientific method and the conclusions drawn from it are not dependent on the validity of Darwin’s theories or other adherents to it.

    More to come.

    Bret

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    • Bret,

      I’ll try to make this shorter.

      1. You said that if the Bible is not “a trustworthy and true record of what God has inspired,” then there is “no reason to be a Christian.” There are lots of Christians who don’t believe everything in the Bible is true or God-inspired. But they do believe in the life and death of Christ and what that means, according to the parts they believe in the Bible. And there are some Christians who just like the beautiful idea of a God, loving his creatures who have gone so wrong, coming down to their level in order to rescue them. There are many varieties of Christians, my friend.

      2. We will never agree on evolution. I’m sorry about that. Every species we see today has had a distinct common ancestor and every one of those common ancestors had a distinct common ancestor and so on all the way back to the original common ancestor. That’s just a fact. For example, vestigial structures (your nipples, say) help demonstrate this, along with DNA (which shows that closely related organisms have more of their genetic code in common than more distant organisms) and so on. And just because we can’t directly observe marcoevolution, because it happened over large swaths of time, is irrelevant. It is written in our physiology and our genes.

      Thanks,

      Duane

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  17. Bret

     /  August 1, 2016

    Hi Duane,

    1. There are, indeed, many who call themselves Christians who don’t believe everything in the Bible is true or God-inspired. Ironic, since it is from the Bible that Christianity has its very definition. Undermine the Bible and you undermine Christianity.

    I contend that since the Bible is God-inspired it must be entirely true. If not, then the God who inspired it is no God at all. If one decides that some of it is false, by what authority is this decision made? Is man more intelligent that God? Is science, which God established in His creation, more authoritative than its creator? Is reason, which is made possible by an omniscient God, more reasonable than Him? One must ultimately choose an authority. Those who have chosen an authority other than “God’s word written”, as J.I. Packer describes it, will ultimately find falsehoods in the Bible when their worldview collides with it.

    Another problem with cherry-picking what is true or false from Scripture is running the risk of discrediting the whole. A salient example is the resurrection of Jesus. Many “believe in Jesus” but deny the resurrection from the dead. But the Bible does not leave this as an option. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15: 13 – 19

    “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
    Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”

    He goes on to affirm the resurrection and even mentions Adam as the source of all who are dead and Christ as the source of all who are made alive.Oddly, there are many Christians who don’t believe in the resurrection, or of Adam for that matter, yet think their Christianity is still valid.

    Disbelieve anything from Genesis to Revelation and you cause a chain of events which will undermine the whole.

    2. You are right, we will never agree about Evolution. Darwinian Evolution is incompatible if not inimical to scientific biblical Creationism. You are correct, however, that man has a common ancestor; Adam and Eve.

    Regards,
    Bret

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    • Bret,

      Regarding #1, I believe you will find C.S. Lewis in disagreement with you, especially when you say,”Disbelieve anything from Genesis to Revelation and you cause a chain of events which will undermine the whole.” And if you are willing to say Lewis was not a legitimate Christian, then I’m afraid there’s really nothing left for us to debate.

      As for your #2, there is no such thing as “scientific biblical Creationism.” By definition, creationism is not and cannot be science. If you think it can be, then you don’t understand what science is. I’m very sorry to have to be so blunt.

      Sincerely,
      Duane

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      • Bret

         /  August 2, 2016

        Hi Duane,

        C.S. Lewis was a distinguished author, writer, legitimate Christian and most excellent Christian apologist. If, however, he did not believe the Bible to be infallible then with him I will disagree.

        The history of Science is replete with men and women who believed in God, believed the Bible and its account of Creation or opposed Evolution; Pascal, Morse, Kepler, Pasteur, and Newton just to name a few. Your dismal of creationism, taught as a theory of the origin of the universe in the public school system for many decades, is unfounded and shows how much you have believed the lie of Evolution – to be blunt as well.

        Perhaps we won’t agree on these things, but having a dialogue about them or other topics germane to the culture is not without its benefits. Thanks for listening.

        Sincerely,
        Bret

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        • Bret,

          I always enjoy such exchanges. You have been gracious, which is more than I can say for a lot of people I have talked with on this subject online. Before we shut it down, though, I would tell you that Lewis did not have the same view of scripture that you do. Read “Reflections On the Psalms,” for instance. He found several Psalms disturbing and indefensible, on moral grounds. Because of his training, he also saw the creation story in Genesis as having come from prior pagan myths. He also believed that such myths and ideas were transposed into Truth, culminating in the death and resurrection of Jesus, a myth that was part of prior pagan culture. You would do well, I believe, to study his view of scripture because I think you would benefit from it. But I remind you that you said no one could be a true Christian who did not believe in the Bible, essentially, the way you believe in it. Lewis did not. That should give you pause before you count out folks who don’t see things exactly the way you do. (By the way, I meet a lot of Lewis fans who don’t know about his non-inerrantist view of scripture.)

          Finally, again I will say that evolution is not a lie and science is the best method we have of investigating and understanding the universe. If you reject evolution, you are rejecting science, whether you mean to or not. I would only ask you to step back, as best you can, and try to see how evolution forms the basis of modern biological science and how many ways it is confirmed by scientific methods, not religious dogma. When nearly 100% of scientists in the field believe something so foundational, maybe it is time to pay attention to what they are saying.

          Peace, my friend.

          Liked by 1 person

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  18. Bret

     /  August 4, 2016

    Hi Duane,

    Just a quick reply.

    You have been gracious as well, thank you.

    Your point about C.S. Lewis and the Scripture is correct (I looked it up). I would like to comment some more about this later after I have read up.

    Your final comment about Evolution VS Creation echos where much of the culture is today.If you are amenable, I would like to explore thoughts about some topics in this arena as time goes by. But this is your blog and I wan’t to be respectful of it. If you don’t want long responses taking up space let me know.

    I still owe you a couple of replies.

    Finally, in general I hope to interact with you and your readers (of whom I am now one) as time goes by.

    Regards,
    Bret

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    • I don’t mind exchanges at all, Bret. Sometimes, though, I am away from the computer and can’t always get back right away. I will be interested in reading your response to my “why did Jesus have to die on the cross if he could forgive sins without doing so” inquiry, by the way.

      Thanks, Duane

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  19. Ed Stockton

     /  August 23, 2016

    Been trying to sign up, but I cannot!

    Like

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  1. Statistical Jousting | Still Skeptical After All These Years

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