From Fundamentalist Christian to Fundamentalist Atheist, the Deconversion of Valerie Tarico

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and former fundamentalist Christian turned fundamentalist atheist. She speaks about her deconversion from faith to atheism in her Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light (2010). She likes to speak on various topics, which include recovery from fundamentalism, religious intolerance, the psychology of belief, raising children without God, and other topics.

Tarico raises several issues that led her to abandon her faith. One major issue was the Bible and its alleged inerrancy. Tarico could not accept that the Bible was the inerrant, inspired word of God because of its errors and contradictions, as well as its incredible violence. She says that “it is easy to find quotes from the Bible that are either scientifically absurd or morally repugnant.” This sowed seeds of doubt,

“The gradual realization that my religion was laced with moral and rational contradictions and provably false claims ultimately made belief impossible for me. But that final break came only after years spent searching the scripture to bolster faith, witnessing to others, and even teaching Sunday school. Doubts and depression alternated with a sweet sense of God’s presence during worship. So, the implosion of faith left a profound sense of my own ability to be mistaken—an awe of how real things can feel when they are not. It left me permanently suspicious of simple answers and wary of groupthink. It tattooed a question onto the edge of my consciousness that never quite fades, no matter how bold my proclamations may sound: What if I’m wrong?”

Further, Tarico takes to task sexism. The irony she notices is that many Christians, including leaders, are blatantly sexist even though women make up most adherents of the faith: “Women are the church’s base constituency, but fortunately for atheists, this fact hasn’t caused conservative Christians to back off of sexism that is justified by – you got it – prooftexting from the Old and New Testaments.” 

Then there is the hypocrisy of Christians as “those who call themselves the “righteous” means that believers also are prone to hiding, pretending, posing, and turning a blind eye to their own very human, very normal faults and flaws.” Yet Christians often engage in “disgusting and immoral behavior”, especially priest abuse scandals that have done more to serve atheism than atheists themselves. She now sees religious belief as harmful: “If the Catholic bishops, their conservative Protestant allies, and other right-wing fundamentalists had the sole objective of decimating religious belief, they couldn’t be doing a better job of it”.

Finally, science is better than religious belief. Not only does Tarico claim to have respect for the scientific method, but she also notices the blatant “nonsense” anti-scientific views of religious believers,

“One of my former youth group friends had his faith done in by a conversation with a Bible study leader who explained that dinosaur skeletons actually are the bones of the giants described in early books of the Bible. Uh huh. Christians have come up with dozens of squishier, less falsifiable ways to explain the geological record: The “days” in Genesis 1 were really “ages.” Or God created the world with the fossils already in place to test our faith. Or the biblical creation story is really sacred metaphor. But young-earth creationists who believe the world appeared in its present form 6,000-10,000 years ago are stuck. And since almost half of the American public believes some version of this young-earth story, there are ample opportunities for inquiring minds to trip across proto-scientific nonsense. “

Considerations of Tarico’s Deconversion 

There is much one could say about Tarico’s deconversion.

What is a problem regarding the Bible for Tarico and that led her away from faith is not necessarily an issue for many informed believers who take their faith seriously. As we saw with the apologist Matt Slick’s daughter’s similar deconversion to atheism, inerrancy is a motivating factor and a cause of doubt. What inerrancy often results in is the decimation of faith because it produces a scenario in which if just one error is discovered in the Bible (historical, scientific, or ethical), then the whole edifice collapses into a smoldering heap. In reality, among Christians, the doctrine of inerrancy is controversial, much debated, and not accepted by all Christian apologists and theologians. A Christian might criticize Tarico for producing a false dichotomy: an inerrant Bible or the Bible is not the Word of God. There are many other options on the table (1).

Elsewhere it is difficult to put much weight on Tarico’s views on religion, which have been severely distorted by her fundamentalist atheism. For example, Tarico has beelined straight off the edge into the atheist conspiracy camp claiming Jesus did not exist as a historical figure. Me having read her argument for Jesus’ non-existence in the course of my research for this post, Tarico’s grasp of basic history and New Testament scholarship would fail any introductory course on the topic. If such an essay was produced by one of my students in my Religion Studies class, I would fail it for its inadequate research and engagement with scholarly views, false statements, and lack of familiarity with the topic the author is speaking about.

Such a radical position held by Tarico leads one to suspect that the trauma Christians caused her must run deep, as she seems to imply when she writes that “People who leave Evangelical Christianity often carry scars, either from their time in the walled community of believers or from their struggle to break free.”

There is a noticeable tendency for fundamentalist Christians who lose their faith to jump straight into fundamentalist atheism, as if no other worldview options exist. Tarico is an example of this, as is are other atheists like John Loftus, Dan Barker, Rachael Slick, and others. The pattern is often the same: the more staunch the former Christian was in his or her former faith, the more staunch the same individual will be when he or she converts to atheism. 

Beyond these problems, Tarico’s deconversion testimony does invite important discussion. For example, many women feel alienated from their faith when they are excluded from positions of leadership in the Church. There is a large list of problems women have experienced in the Church ranging from blatant sexism to women’s subordination and oppression, to how this impacts the woman’s self-esteem and her relationship with God, and more. Tarico’s criticism of the Christian faith on this level should underscore the importance of the faithful needing to engage these topics.

Further, Tarico’s doubts about the Bible should urge more Christians to take seriously the topic of inerrancy. Christians need to be informed of views of the Bible that do not embrace inerrancy, especially since inerrancy has become such an obstacle for belief for so many.

References

  1. Merrick, J. et al. 2013. Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy.‎ Zondervan Academic.

Center for Inquiry. n.d. Valerie Tarico. Available.

Tarico, Valerie. 2012. 8 Ways Christian Fundamentalists Make People Convert to Agnosticism or Atheism. Available.

Tarico, Valerie. 2018. Why I’m Grateful to be a Former Evangelical. Available.

22 comments

  1. Greetings – To be clear, although I have interviewed mythicist David Fitzgerald and written about his thinking, I myself don’t hold a mythicist position. At my website, my first article with Fitzgerald carries the following disclaimer, which unfortunately doesn’t follow the article across the web: Author’s note: Not being an insider to this debate, my own inclination is to defer to the preponderance of relevant experts while keeping in mind that paradigm shifts do occur. This means that until either the paradigm shift happens or I become a relevant expert myself, I shall assume that the Jesus stories probably had some historical kernel. That said, I find the debate fascinating for several reasons: For one, it offers a glimpse of the methods scholars use to analyze ancient texts. Also, despite the heated back and forth between mythicists and historicists, their points of agreement may be more significant than the difference between historicized mythology and mythologized history. The presence of mythic tropes or legendary elements in the gospel stories has been broadly accepted and documented, while the imprint of any actual man who may have provided a historical kernel–how he may have lived, what he may have said, and how he died–is more hazy than most people dream.

    • The gospels are eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life.
      Jesus came, in his own words, “…to fulfill the law.” Hundreds of prophecies about the Messiah, written 1000s of years before Jesus birth, have been fulfilled in Jesus.

  2. I saw this article in my inbox and thought it was fascinating, as I have attempted in the past to engage in a reasonable dialog with Valerie regarding her conflation of physicalist dogma with science.

    Now having come here, I’m delighted to see that she has added a comment and perhaps she might be willing to engage in a conversation rather than just insist on fundamaterialist beliefs.

    I know, as a clinical psychologist, that among all scientists, psychologists are often the most vehement with regard to physicalist views, so I understand that (speaking now to you directly, Valerie) your training most likely was so permeated with implicit physicalist views that it may be difficult to distinguish that actual science from non-scientific, non-empirical beliefs.

    James Bishop’s observation that fundamentalists (as, if i remember correctly, you were as a child) often end up bringing the same kind of black-and-white thinking to their fundamaterialist conversion. And since physicalism, though it’s been challenged in the last 10 years in a way it hasn’t since the quantum revolution of the early 20th century, remains the predominant philosophic belief of scientists who – including people like Tyson, Hawking, Weinberg, Coyne, Dawkins and many others) have little or no understanding of the philosophic foundations of science.

    I am equally concerned about people mis-using science – most often quantum physics, but findings in evolutionary biology regarding epigenetics or neuroscience related to certain anomalies of consciousness – to support Buddhist or Vedantic or New age mystical beliefs.

    Science as a method, properly understood, is thoroughly agnostic with regard to ontology. Though there is no “single scientific method,” there is a common underlying epistemological process:

    1. Examine conscious experience. As noted atheist Sam Harris acknowledges correctly at about 18′ in this interview with Rupert Spira, there is absolutely nothing about scientific research that gets us one step closer to the ontological Reality” which is the unknown “X” which stimulates the brain to create the images we naively take to be the purely “objective” physical universe. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dpr6WhJEnIs&t=428s

    2. Ignore all qualitative aspects of conscious experience and abstract from that solely measurable quantities. It was this step Sir Arthur Eddington identified in his still-relevant exploration of the process of science. The student sees a physics problem regarding a “2 ton elephant sliding down the hill.” The “experienced candidate,” as Eddington refers to him, knows that the elephant and the hill AS WE EXPERIENCE THEM are irrelevant, and the sooner he can reduce it all to measurements and equations, the better.

    3. The numbers are studied, variables are manipulated to see how the numerical relationships are affected, and the result is a purely quantitative set of equations which describe the behavior of the unknown “X” which is represented by the images constructed by our brains. Note the word “describes” rather than “explains.” Steven Weinberg won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1977. You would think a Nobel winner would understand the nature of science. Yet over 20 years later, when a good friend said to him, “You know, science doesn’t explain anything, it only describes,” he was so horrified he set out to write an essay refuting it. His essay was published in 2003 in the New York Review of Books, and he in fact came to the conclusion his friend was correct. Like any good fundamaterialist, he solved his problem by saying, more or less, “I really don’t care how the word “explanation” has been used by other scientists or by other human beings for thousands of years. we scientists can explain it any way we want, and according to ME, we DO explain everything.”

    Rupert Sheldrake was not being a fool when he said, “Physicalists say, ‘Give me one free miracle’ and I’ll explain the rest.'” That free miracle is the laws of nature. Of course, Sheldrake is only minimally correct – the laws of nature, which are inexplicable in the physicalist worldview, do not explain ANYTHING about conscious experience, which is the only way we know anything. Since physicalist science, sticking to a purely objectivist approach, has no means of even detecting the experiential existence of consciousness, and experiential awareness is the only direct evidence of the existence of anything – strictly speaking, modern physicalist science cannot even give us evidence of the existence of the universe.

    It is good to pause a bit and realize how similar this physicalist belief system is to any form of fundamentalist religion. it is utterly irrational giving no rationale for the emergence of sentience or consciousness or intelligence of any kind. it has absolutely no rationale for the emergence of laws of nature some trillionths of a second after the big bang. It cannot account for qualia, which are the most basic aspect of all human and all living experience.

    ******

    If the above is not clear, Bernardo Kastrup does a marvelous job of deconstructing what he refers to as the utter incoherence of physicalism. I told him back in 2013 that he should focus on this and NOT try to develop an alternative philosophy. If you look at his videos, I would strongly suggest ignoring his idealist alternative (there are MUCH better alternatives – to name one, Michel Bitbol, physicist and philosopher of science, in his online essay “Is Consciousness Primary” does a beautiful, elegant job of laying out a potential alternative in a way that fully respects the depth and beauty of mainstream science). Bernardo’s videos laying out his critique are here:

    Here is part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDbCTxm6_Ps (I don’t find the first 15 minutes compelling at all; so if you want to jump ahead you’ll get to the heart of it, where he compares our phenomenal experience to the dials of a dashboard on a plane).

    Here’s part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbnfnveWUh0&t=1184s

    Finally, a frequent comment from physicist Wolfgang Pauli is nice to keep in mind when you start grasping the astonishing incoherence of physicalist dogma. When a student asked a question that was so confused there was no way to provide a rational answer, Pauli would say, “You’re not even wrong.”

  3. A few notes: Bernardo is really not adding anything essential to Kant’s critique of pure reason – namely, that all science does is examine our phenomenal experience by abstracting measurable data and ignoring the rest. None of this examination gets us even slightly closer to the “noumena” underlying phenomena.

    What contemplative traditions have aimed at, if you set aside all the superstitious nonsense – traditions East, West, North and South – is a strenuous inner discipline that – they claim – reveals, with a direct knowledge by identity – the noumena.

    Now, I have been VERY careful in my conversations wtih physicalists/naturalists/atheists/materialists/positivists (despite their claims, they are all utilizing essentially the same psychological mode of apprehending the world and themselves) to NOT claim they are wrong. For the purposes of this conversation, I’m happy to stipulate the the view of physicalists may be correct (if it can be formulated in a way which is not entirely incoherent). I’m also happy to stimulate that the contemplatives, as Sam Harris claims, do not apprehend the noumena or Reality at all but merely their own personal subjective experience.

    My ONLY interest in this conversation is to defend science as science. My understanding, having explored this now for approximately 50 years, is the single greatest obstacle to science is for it to lose its agnostic stance and be identified with ANY philosophic view – physicalist, dualist, idealist, non dual, panentheist, theist, madhyamika (well, actually the latter is not a view at all).

    Regarding the psychological mode I referred to which is at the heart of atheism, physicalism, Iain McGilchrist spent the last 10 years completing his 2nd work of genius, “The Matter With Things,” He states that the belief in a dead, non conscious purely abstract, “physical” reality is the SINGLE GREATEST PROBLEM FACING HUMANITY! (so it’s not just me writing about this in a little corner of the net). He identifies a certain kind of abstract thinking which – quite interestingly, is at least a minor feature of autism AND schizophrenia – though not a “mental illness” in itself – underlies the physicalist mindset. It’s like scientists have created the most extraordinary quantitative map of the cosmos, and since the map itself is unconscious and insentient, the physicists have taken the map itself to be the underlying reality of the universe.

    I know, it sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

    • Just thought of one more thing, sorry. There’s a religious and political conservative, Cathy Gunter Brown, whose critique of mindfulness sounds almost exactly the same as Valeries critique of fundamentalism.

      Cathy is on a crusade to get mindfulness banned from schools on the basis of it being Buddhist indoctrination.

      I wrote her and said, “If I was teaching at a public school, never mentioned the word “mindfulness,” drew entirely from recent neurological and psychological literature on attention, and simply taught students practices for which there are over 1000 studies, some with quite large effect sizes and well-replicated, and you saw that these practices are similar to some in various contemplative traditions (not just Buddhist but Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Vedantic and many more) would you object?”

      She said she would, and despite repeated attempts, gave no rationale other than to repeat her initial objections. Fundamentalism and fundamaterialism – two sides of the same black and white coin.

  4. As a de-converted Evangelical myself, I’d say there is “much one could say about” your take on “Tarico’s deconversion”. You label her a “fundamentalist atheist” without, at the very least, providing any kind of coherent definition of what the term means. Is it Dr. Tarico’s embrace of Mythicism? That would appear to be a key indicator for you since you went there first after using this label. Yes, Mythicism is a small minority position within scholarship, but to dismiss it as an atheist conspiracy theory only speaks of your inadequate grasp of NT scholarship. Ironically, on the very day you posted this piece, one of the foremost Mythicist scholars, Columbia University trained historian, Dr. Carrier, presented a paper, “Field Update on the Case Against the Historicity of Jesus: Recent Peer-Reviewed Publications For and Against” at a regional conference of the Society of Biblical Literature, perhaps the most prestigious organization for biblical scholarship in the world. For the record, I am not a mythicist myself, but Dr. Tarico may not be the only one suffering from “inadequate engagement with scholarly views”. I suspect that if you were to try and engage Dr. Carrier on the subject you might also find yourself open to the charge of “lack of familiarity with the topic the author is speaking about”.

    Your next step after playing the “fundamentalist atheist” card is to try and psychoanalyze Dr. Tarico, a veteran psychologist, and turn her valuable insights about religious traumatization against her, a transparent ad hominem. As someone who spent 20 years in Evangelical Christianity, including time in the ministry, I can assure you that Dr. Tarico has done a great service to many hurting people by using her expertise to highlight some of the toxic aspects of biblical Christianity.

    Finally, you assert a “noticeable tendency for fundamentalist Christians who lose their faith to jump straight into fundamentalist atheism”. Care to share the data to support this “tendency” other than name three other people? Perhaps Loftus and Barker make your list because they now publicly challenge the Christian faith? So is that another one of your defining characteristics of a “fundamentalist atheist”?

    You deserve some credit for acknowledging the exclusion of women from Church leadership, and the “large list of problems women have experienced in the Church ranging from blatant sexism to women’s subordination and oppression”. Indeed that list is large and, I might add, ugly. But the faithful certainly don’t need to look far to “engage these topics” however, because the source of this “subordination and oppression” is clearly, consistently, and repeatedly taught in the New Testament.

    In the following two passages, note how much emphasis is placed on women keeping quiet and in their place, so much in fact that it has to be driven home with excessive repetition: Remain silent, not allowed to speak, be in full submission, ask at home, disgraceful to speak in church, learn in quietness, not permitted to teach, must be quiet.

    “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” (1Cor. 14:34-35)

    “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” (1Tim. 2:11-14) In other words, everyone knows what happens when a woman does assume the role of teacher. She is easily duped by the Devil and leads the man astray.

    Even a casual reading of these texts will put to rest the apologist’s argument that these archaic strictures are culturally based or targeted at local problems, and therefore need not be universally applied or followed today. No, these unequivocal apostolic commands are anchored in revelatory bedrock: the creation, the fall, and the law. Unfortunately for the modern who’d desperately love to wriggle out of the grasp of these cringe-worthy statements, the apostolic writers placed no restrictions on their application, no caveats to ease their impact.

    And according to clear apostolic command, the submission of women to their husbands is absolute:

    “Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.” (Eph. 5:22-24)

    Modern-day believers and apologists, not surprisingly uncomfortable with such archaic admonitions, like to point to the proceeding verse as context which somehow softens the extremely submissive role of a wife (vs. 21: “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ”). But notice: Verse 21 does not say “be subject to one another as you are to the Lord, in everything” for the obvious reason that submission to one another is not expected to mirror one’s relationship to God. But the verses 22-24 do say – and repeat and elaborate in case you missed the point – that wives are to submit to their husbands in the same way as they are submissive to God. Absolute submission – that is the wife’s role and proper place.

    When listening to the following NT admonitions targeting the character and speech of women, one cannot help but think of the most disdainful stereotypes that have all too often been applied:

    “Women must also be serious. They must not gossip…. As for younger widows… they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to.” (1Tim 3:11; 5:11, 13)

    “Have nothing to do with profane myths and old wives’ tales.” (1Tim. 4:7)

    “For among them [godless men] are those who make their way into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and swayed by various impulses, who will listen to anybody and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim. 3:6-7)

    Even in the more diplomatic statement, that a woman’s beauty “should be that of…a gentle and quiet spirit…” (1Peter 3:4), the combined message of the New Testament comes through loud and clear: Women: Shut Up and submit!

    Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and the crusade she led for women’s rights, serve as just one example of the very real harm done by Christianity. She was an American suffragist, social activist, abolitionist, and leading figure of the early women’s rights movement. Her Declaration of Sentiments, presented at the Seneca Falls Convention held in 1848, is often credited with initiating the first organized women’s rights and women’s suffrage movements in the United States. In that Declaration, Stanton wrote:

    “The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her….He [man] allows her in Church as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion…”

    Elsewhere she stated:

    “When, in the early part of the Nineteenth Century, women began to protest against their civil and political degradation, they were referred to the Bible for an answer. When they protested against their unequal position in the church, they were referred to the Bible for an answer…. So long as woman accepts the position that they assign her, her emancipation is impossible.”

    To the women of her day she asserted:

    “…your political and social degradation are but an outgrowth of your status in the Bible….” and “The Bible teaches that woman brought sin and death into the world, that she precipitated the fall of the race, that she was arraigned before the judgment seat of Heaven, tried, condemned and sentenced. Marriage for her was to be a condition of bondage, maternity a period of suffering and anguish, and in silence and subjection, she was to play the role of a dependent on man’s bounty for all her material wants, and for all the information she might desire on the vital questions of the hour, she was commanded to ask her husband at home. Here is the Bible position of woman briefly summed up.”

    The experience of numerous courageous women who tried to emancipate themselves from these biblically-inspired shackles demonstrates that this was not just the opinion of one famous activist. Sarah and Angelina Grimké, known as the Grimké Sisters, were 19th-century Southern American writers, orators, and educators who were the first American women advocates of abolition and women’s rights. Due to their very public advocacy, a group of ministers cited the Bible in an open letter reprimanding the sisters for stepping out of “woman’s proper sphere” of silence and subordination. Thankfully for both causes, the Grimke Sisters refused to be reined in. This biblically-inspired tyranny over women extended even to the highest court in the land. For example, the 1873 Supreme Court case, Bradwell v. Illinois, specifically cited biblical reasons to deny women equal rights, in this case, the right to practice law.

    The biblical directives, and the denigration they have inspired ever since, are unmistakable testimony to bias on the part of these all-male authors. Bias of this sort is inconsistent with the idea of divinely inspired scripture, but is exactly what one would expect from male religious leaders in the ancient world. On this score even Mao was a vast improvement: “Women hold up half the sky,” he said. Holding half of the race down, leaving undeveloped half of our talent, is a crime against humanity for which Christianity is guilty.

    • Perhaps I misunderstood your comment, but at least part of it seems to involve your doubt that Valerie Tarico is a fundamentalist atheist.

      In my correspondence with her, as best as I could determine (she was quite evasive) she made it quite clear that she shares the same semi-religious faith that most of our fellow clinical psychologists imbibed mindlessly in our doctoral training – that of physicalism.

      Physicalism is a fundamaterialist religion which masquerades as science, and it is in some ways MORE rigid, dogmatic, superstitious and dependent on non-evidentiary blind belief in a transcendent, non observable reality than any conventional religion.

      As far as Mao, he, along with Stalin (though, interestingly, not Hitler) believed in this nihilistic faith. One might be wiling to see that on the altar of this superstitious belief system, they committed a few crimes against humanity themselves.

  5. At least your comments come closer to some kind of coherent definition of fundamentalist thinking, the main thrust of my criticism of James’ post. I appreciate James, his work and the forum he’s provided, but his comments in this article strike me as little more than a quickly-written, poorly-reasoned cheap shot against a theological opponent. And then the gratuitous fail-her-essay-if-she-were-my-student routine – cringeworthy.

    Agreed – Mao was a mass-murderer of historic proportion. And precisely my point: EVEN HE had a far more enlightened view of women than is found in the New Testament, the supposed revelation from an omniscient mind, the Creator of the universe.

  6. Because I think Dr. Tarico was unfairly caricatured by this post as a damaged, reactionary “fundamentalist atheist” given to crazy atheist conspiracy theories, I present her personal “10 Commandments” as a corrective, a truer picture of this amazing woman:

    1) Do unto others as you would have them do to you
    2) Give more than you take
    3) Always keep in mind that you may be wrong
    4) Strive to value the suffering and joy of other beings like you value your own
    5) Care more about seeking truth than you care about being right
    6) Practice random acts of kindness
    7) Protect the sacred web of life so that future generations can delight in the beauty and complexity into which
    you were born
    8) Take time to celebrate the gifts of life, love and beauty
    9) Ask for help when you need it
    10) Live in love

    • Tom, let’s say a “fundamentalist atheist” is one who promotes a nihilistic view of physicalism. Iain McGilchrist has spent 30 years researching the connection between brain functioning, attention, and physicalism. In his latest book, “The Matter With Things,” McGilchrist states – and I fully agree – that the #1 problem in the world today is NOT growing authoritarian and totalitarian rule, NOT vulture capitalism, NOT climate change and impending environmental catastrophe.

      No, the #1 problem is physicalism.

      Wherever you look, racism, sexism, Putin invading Ukraine, insanity pervading social media amidst psychotic conspiracy theories, the nihilistic view of physicalism is at its root. Physicalism is essentially the same as fundamentalist atheism, or as I like to call it (thanks Neal Grossman), “Fundamaterialism.”

      Valerie never denied having this view when I wrote to her.

      So let’s look at your ‘commandments” in this light:

      1) Do unto others as you would have them do to you

      In her efforts to attack fundamentalist religious beliefs (which are ridiculous and harmful, no doubt) by promoting physicalism, she is literally inviting the kind of appropriate commentary that James has provided.

      2) Give more than you take

      Dr. Tarico takes away fundamentalist beliefs by giving philosophic poison.

      3) Always keep in mind that you may be wrong

      Never in any writings or in any of our communications did Dr. Tarico give even the slightest hint that one scintilla, one aspect of her new faith could be even infinitesimally wrong.

      4) Strive to value the suffering and joy of other beings like you value your own

      By inflicting suffering and pain via the absurd, fundamentalist, irrationalist superstitious faith of physicalism, she neither values others nor ultimately, herself.

      I”ll let you complete the rest. For what it’s worth, to my mind, James did not being to uncover the depths of suffering which is rooted in the doctrine which Dr. Tarico promotes.

      For more, see Iain McChrist’s overview of his research: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFs9WO2B8uI

      5) Care more about seeking truth than you care about being right
      6) Practice random acts of kindness
      7) Protect the sacred web of life so that future generations can delight in the beauty and complexity into which
      you were born
      8) Take time to celebrate the gifts of life, love and beauty
      9) Ask for help when you need it
      10) Live in love

      • Come to think of it, the rest of your commandments, in the light of physicalism, are of course, completely absurd and meaningless

        Truth: physicalist science cannot provide “Truth” – it only provides measurements of limited aspects of conscious experience. Try asking any physicalist what the word “physical” means in the philosophic sense – they have no idea.

        Kindness, beauty, love – Atheist Sam Harris has an unintentionally hilarious project to refute David Hume’s claim that you “can’t get ought from is.” Harris appears to believe that neuroscience alone, where millennia of philosophy allegedly have failed, can provide us with a complete moral philosophy. Spoiler alert: it can’t.

        sacred web of life – I”m sorry, don’t you know the scientists have discovered that, as one Nobel Prize winner put it, the more we learn about the universe, the more we learn it is pointless, meaningless?

      • “Come to think of it, the rest of your commandments, in the light of physicalism, are of course, completely absurd and meaningless”

        Or, door #2: Dr. Tarico is not the devotee of a nihilistic faith.

        We really don’t need to guess about this, or run with “Valerie never denied having this view” or “as best as I could determine”. She settled the question of her “faith” in her personal “10 Commandments” statement. And this statement is teeming with morals, values and meaning, the exact opposite of nihilism. Hint: It’s door #2.

        • TOM WROTE: We really don’t need to guess about this, or run with “Valerie never denied having this view” or “as best as I could determine”.

          Tom, Tom, Tom, You’re correct. We don’t need to guess. And you don’t need to misread my words. When I said “as best as I could determine,” I was referring to saying things like, “Valerie, what you’re describing is a physicalist view. Is what I described here what you believe?” And after a brief answer like “yes,” she would occasionally say something that was essentially a non sequitur of the kind Trump would often use so when he made fun of a disabled reporter he could say “I didn’t mean that at all,” when everyone around him knew exactly what he meant.

          That’s what I meant by being “evasive.”

          Let me be more precise: In my exchanges with Valerie, if you don’t go by Donald Trump terms, she not only made it clear her views were physicalist, she was clearly (sorry, I can’t give you an EXACT quote if you want to play this silly game again) proud of it.

          Since physicalism is nihilistic poison – what Iain McGilchrist sees as the root of all problems in the world today – and Valerie quite proudly expresses her physicalist beliefs, then I say once again, James is being kind and understating the problem when he calls her merely a fundamentalist atheist.

          But you don’t need me to tell you that.

          I’ll tell you what, here’s a challenge for you. You know how atheists like to say, “I’m not declaring what I DO believe. I’m simply telling you I don’t believe in something that’s as likely to exist as a teacup sailing around Jupiter or the flying spaghetti monster” (if you haven’t heard these then you haven’t talked to many atheists.”

          They tell you they’re rational people with open minds, and then you ask a few questions and find out (a) they’re physicalists with dogmatic beliefs; and (b) they wrongly think science supports physicalism.

          So here’s your challenge: Find me just ONE atheist who is not a physicalist. When you fail to do so, you’ll see that Valerie most certainly is, without a shadow of a doubt, a physicalist.

          Now, I’m not sure why that should bother you. Physicalists are nice people and certainly can do all the wonderful things you ascribe to Valerie.

          I look forward to hearing evidence from you that you know of atheists who are not physicalists. (and don’t tell me about people who call themselves naturalists – Tom Clark, one of the most famous naturalists, in the VERY SAME response to me denying he was a physicalist laid out the tenets of physicalism)

          • If you are correct that Dr. Tarico adheres to philosophical physicalism, then she is a living demonstration that physicalism is not necessarily nihilistic poison.

            • 1. Do you know what philosophical physicalism is?

              2. Your main point is that James Bishop is incorrect in stating that Valerie Tarico is a fundamentalist atheist. Since you have now, for the first time, accepted that Valerie Tarico IS a physicalist, then you are implicitly acknowledging that she is a fundamentalist atheist, unless you can show any reasonable way of understanding physicalism as anything other than fundamaterailist dogma.

              3. Your comment, “Physicalism is not NECESSARILY nihilistic poison,” is not even remotely relevant to my point.

              I don’t think that Valerie, or Francis Crick (one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century), or Steven Weinberg (Nobel Prize winning physicist), or Stephen Hawking, are consciously promoting nihilistic poison. In fact, I don’t think Valerie, or any of the other scientists I mentioned, understand the foundations of the physicalist view they’re promoting.

              You’re taking a basically black-and-white, fundamentalist position. Nobody seriously ever thinks that someone must be utterly evil if they’re promoting nihilism.

              If you want to actually have a nuanced conversation, let me know. If you simply want to keep forcing a point that has no relevance to what I’m saying, at least be honest about it.

  7. Is it not the almost endless hypocrisy and sheer incorrectness of nearly all Christianity that has pushed most formerly believing atheists into unbelief?
    As a dedicated Christian myself, I testify that in my mind the only way to be a Christian in this 21st century is to either remain ignorant to the fact that Christianity has been greatly corrupted or accept that most Christians, including nearly all Christians with a strong voice in the media, are very incorrect concerning what they claim as facts.
    If all Tarico knew of Christianity was the corrupted parts of it, I can see why she decided that Christianity is not legit and God doesn’t exist.
    (Upon request, I can describe the unique and trivial Christian environment of which I am a part.)

    God respects our decisions to the extent that He allows us to effectively avoid Him if we choose. He has concealed His reality in such a way that if we are not open to the idea of His existence, we will not find Him. And rather than openly punishing us as soon as we step out of line, has God not given us the privilege of believing what we want to believe and living the way we choose to live?
    Dallas Willard said, “It’s the person who wants to know God that God reveals himself to. And if a person doesn’t want to know God—well, God has created the world and the human mind in such a way that he doesn’t have to.” He went on to say, “God ordained that people should be governed in the end by what they want.” 2 Thessalonians states, “Because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false,” (2:9–11).

    There are scores of logical facts that point to the evidence of a young earth and a supernatural creator. But they are not popular, for it is not what folks desire to hear; and when it comes down to it, these truths can only be understood by those who are wholly dedicated to truth – no matter how scary it is. In this modern age, does one not need a measure of humility to grasp the ins and outs of submitting to the creation story and still believe it? And it is no secret that any amount of humility is unintentional for much of the human population. It is no wonder that the self-centered society of today chooses the supposed freedom of atheism over the supposed bondage of having to submit to a higher power.

  8. I am an Anabaptist, an Old Older Mennonite of the Weaverland Conference strain.
    We take much of the Bibles teachings literal, and will not serve in the military, or get involved in our countries politics, in obedience to biblical commands. (Some of us vote at public elections though many of us refuse to.)
    Among us Anabaptists, there are many large families, I would say an average of about six children and a maximum of about fifteen. (Yes, all with the same birth parents.) There are some grandparents with over one hundred grandchildren, and some of these grandparents are part of someone else’s one hundred grandchildren. Many of these older people can count on one hand how many divorce cases are among their relatives. For myself, I have thirty uncles and aunts (15 couples), six married siblings, and over eighty married cousins. Of these one hundred couples, there are three divorce cases.
    Of my relatives mentioned above, we all enjoy visiting with each other when we get a chance. In other words, we are all friends and are largely unaffected by the “family competition” that is common in society. (Out of all honesty, there is one exception to this in my family, due to an in-law with secular motives that is giving our family a taste of what is commonplace in society.) The situation, of peace and friendship, is common among us, although there are more and more exceptions.
    Anabaptists are also very hospitable. Many would gladly give a bed and meal to almost anyone that happens to stop in.
    We do not have TVs. The only movies that many of us have seen were planetarium shows at science museums, other than seeing glimpses off of other people’s TV screens here and there. This is not only because the church requests it, but because that is how we prefer it. We oppose the violence and non-truth that abounds in many movies. In the more conservative half of Anabaptists, of which I am a part, computer games and social media are also not tolerated, due to their ease of addiction and subtle mind-altering effect. We view interacting with family and friends—by playing conventional games and singing together, or just casual visiting—as a much better way to spend our free time.
    (The most liberal Mennonites are hardly distinguishable from main-stream protestants.)
    In many of our homes, one can sense an out-of-this-world serenity, and love for each other, which is foreign to most of the world’s population.
    But yes, there are problems among us as well, that are slowly destroying our integrity. Overall, my people are slowly becoming more and more self-centered, and progressing toward mainstream society in every aspect. We are losing our Christ-likeliness with each new generation. I see a dire need for revival, which is one of the main writing subjects, and I intend to be instrumental in it if possible.
    Another thing that bothers me about my people is the numerous church divisions that have split us into many groups over surprisingly trivial differences, such as what language to speak and what technology to tolerate. Does the Bible not command us to live in unity, and that there should be no divisions among us? But some how we have either “forgotten” or chose not to care.

    • Is there any attempt to engage in contemplative prayer, to actively put aside the false self and “Put on the mind of Christ?” It sounds like your group is trying strictly behavioral approaches.

      Ironically, it’s the same externalist mindset that Valerie (and many of my colleagues in the psychological profession) has.

      There’s a kind of literalist, physicalist mindset in both fundamentalist religion and fundamentalist science. In a way, Valerie hasn’t changed anything in the way she approaches the world.

      The only way to overcome division and disharmony is by direct realization of the kingdom of heaven right here, right now, not be behavior or even by changing attitudes.

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