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Monday, February 16, 2009

The Raving Atheist has changed.

And how.


TRA's blog's original subtitle was "An Atheistic Examination of the Culture of Belief: How Religious Devotion Trivializes American Law and Politics".

Though the URL to TRA's blog is still, the title is now:
The Raving Theist
Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever
That first link above, in the title of this post, begins the explanation. I will excerpt some of his post at the bottom of this one.

My understanding is that he converted to Christianity (some reports say it's actually Catholicism) this past fall.

The Wayback Machine has links to his blog dating back to 2002, for those skeptical of the sheer enormity of this change.

Once TRA listed The Vatican as a "HATE SITE" (scroll down to the very end of this page), which he defined then as "one which explicitly attacks a person or group based upon race, gender, sexual orientation or creed."

He now simply lists it as another SITE OF INTEREST.

We became friends with TRA, as everyone called him, back in 2004, though we've never met him and we do not know his name.

He had been visiting our blog here for some time, as a result of a profanity-laced (his) rant he'd posted against a Catholic priest commenter on his own blog, for which he felt regretful afterward. Somehow he found this blog (or perhaps the priest referred him to us), and in lurking in our comboxes and perhaps due to other influences, eventually became a friend.

Of course, massive skeptic that I'd become over the years, I had first asked Emily, this blog's founder, about whether this guy, able to skewer and shred what he called "godidiots" to ribbons in a single bound, was legit in his "niceness" to us.

Was he really genuine about his newly-voiced anti-abortion opinions and about giving monetary donations to Rachel's Vineyard retreats and otherwise supporting the message we have been getting out? Or were we being trolled and set up for a big ridicule later?

After several private email exchanges and some time spent on his blog, I wrote the following. He asked my permission to post about it. With minor changes to what he wrote, I gave that permission. The resulting post, "Annie Banno is my friend", was roundly attacked and derided (and he and I along with it, although mostly me!)

Unfortunately, for some reason some of the old comments from that time were truncated or omitted, perhaps that will be remedied later but there is enough there to see the vitriolic, derisive reaction from the vast majority of TRA's then-fans.

TRA became (and remains) a staunch friend and defender of this blog and its community of commenters. A commenter attacked me personally in the comboxes to these posts, saying:
Oh yes, I saw you Annie, and some of your friends. You love life so much you allowed people with signs praising jim kopp for killing bernard slepian to march along with you. You regret your abortion or you regret the fact that more abortionists with families of their own aren't murdered? I would have taken you a lot more seriously if you werent there with people praising murderers.

...Of course you aren't interested in setting up shelters for these poor and abused women [made pregnant by husbands who force them into sex and pregnancy] but at least think of them when trying to take away the choices of others...
Jay | Email | 04.27.04 - 3:00 pm | #
(I addressed those accusations in the updated post)

But the then-Raving Atheist replied directly to Jay:
Jay - As the blackest, darkest, nastiest atheist you will ever meet, I can guarantee you that the people on this site are the kindest and most caring I have ever encountered.
The Raving Atheist | Email | Homepage | 04.28.04 - 6:12 pm

Recent Catholic-convert Dawn Eden, began inquiring of TRA in 2005 the way I had "checked him out" in 2004.

Dawn then wrote this article for the New York Daily News where she worked at the time:
BY DAWN EDEN, Sunday, September 18th 2005

Make no bones about it, Raving Atheist's credentials as a skeptic are impeccable. A Manhattan attorney (he declines to give his real name), he's famous for using his well-tooled debating skills to skewer believers' arguments. He gleefully labels inarticulate theists "Godidiots" and other terms that can't be printed in a family newspaper.

But lately, that hasn't been enough.

Slowly, RA has been inviting believers to enter his blog's dialogue, with comments and even guest posts - and a few are taking the bait.

The result is one of the blog world's most unlikely and intriguing public discussions of faith - or the lack thereof.

Theism first invaded RA's site last year, after readers in the blog's comments section savaged Annie Banno, a Christian anti-abortion blogger ( who had posted her thoughts there. RA, who is himself anti-abortion, invited her to guest-blog in response.

In introducing Banno's post, RA - with the mixture of the black humor and deadly seriousness that marks his writing - outlined why he believes in engaging opponents in dialogue.

"I admire Annie," he wrote, "because she represents a certain type of tolerance that I respect . . .

"Many people equate tolerance with the attitude that every belief is equally true,"
he went on, "and that we should all simply accept this fact and go our separate ways.

"But I view tolerance as the willingness to come together, to face one another in the same room and hack at each other with claw hammers until the truth finally trickles out from the blood and the tears."
TRA began guest-blogging at her blog, Dawn Patrol, shortly after that.

The Curt Jester writes about Dawn's vouching for TRA's conversion as well.

To say that TRA's old fans berated him for what appeared to be this coming change, is the understatement of the century. Much of it is unprintable here.

For those few of us who are believers and know TRA well enough, we know this as a miracle.

God bless, Raving Theist, and keep on truckin'.

Here, then, is The Raving THEIST, in some of his own words:
A Few Thoughts and Explanations
December 31, 2008 | 213 Comments

I had planned to shutter this blog shortly after the end of this year. The day after the election, with so many of my friends depressed by the outcome, I announced that I would be publicly declaring my conversion to Christianity. Like me, many of them could barely drag themselves out of bed, read the newspaper or turn on the television. I hoped that it would cheer them to see The Raving Atheist go out on a faith-filled note, and encourage them to rise to the challenges posed by the incoming administration. I anticipating closing the blog with a few wrap-up posts, and then returning full-steam to the pro-life efforts that eventually brought me to this good place in my life.

The blog was essentially moribund due to an abandonment of fourteen months. I expected perhaps a dozen goodbye (or good riddance) comments on the conversion post. I did not bother to remove the Basic Assumptions or other trappings of godlessness because it seemed to me that would be like rearranging the furniture on the Titanic. The accompanying picture was selected by downloading the first suitably-sized result arising from a Google Image search for “Christ + Children.” I did not screen it for historical or political correctness because I assumed that the thought behind it would count enough for the handful of readers who would see it.

The deluge of comments and e-mails has persuaded me that some purpose might be served by an extended run of The Raving Theist. I have also been convinced, particularly by Jennifer of Conversion Diary, that sharing the story of my coming to faith might serve some beneficial purpose. It will be a maudlin, rickety, hole-filled, unconvincing narrative, in that respect not much different from the lives we lead in or out of the faith. For now, however, I will address (as time permits) some of the issues that have arisen more persistently in the comments, supplying additional observations where necessary.

(1) Yes, my conversion is real and sincere and heartfelt. It is not a mean atheist hoax or prank. At first I was offended that anyone could suspect me of such monstrous cruelty, but I realize that most people don’t know me well enough to understand how my character would so absolutely preclude such a charade. And having written my share of skeptical posts about the conversion of other atheists, I understand how impossible it would be for anyone who has perused my archives to conclude that I am anything more than fraud.
Various believers have expressed concern over the nastiness and obscenities directed at me. I don’t care. I did the same for years (albeit usually with a point somewhere) and am in no position to complain. And if I wanted to, I could out-nasty and out-swear any of them. I have lost my atheism, not my vocabulary. But I don’t want to.
Here's a recent sample of how scathing the Raving Theist can be, now.

He has a very good post, on Feb. 13, 2009, about a woman who regrets her abortion, a friend who was also haunted by it, and how they found each other again on Facebook.

Cross-posted on PLB.


Commenter at PLB, Jeff W., wrote:
This smells of bait & switch, devil's advocate type of ploy. I wouldn't place any bets if I were you.
I thought about that, replied and though it worth adding to the post here:
The Apostles thought the exact same thing of Paul after he'd converted and changed from the Christian-murdering Saul.

It took about three years of Paul "walking the walk," at least one trusted person to vouch for him, Barnabas, and Paul's living the Christian disciple's life, preaching the gospel, even to the point of surviving not one but two attempts to kill him, before Peter and the Apostles finally, fully accepted his conversion as bona fide.

Folks probably had the same doubts about St. Augustine.

"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

That's what I put my trust in, Jeff.

I've been duped before in my life. Several times in fact, but mostly in the personal/romantic department. Yes, I've been fooled, in some cases by the most amazingly, unbelievably elaborate ruse, one that was even fueled by that person's use of the media for many years. It eventually was found out to be just a ruse.

As I believe all ruses eventually are.

If TRT's actions and words are a bait and switch (which as an advertising term isn't wholly apropos here, but I know what you meant), then this ruse is now going on four years, monetary donations to Rachel's Vineyard and possibly elsewhere, actual volunteer time at a CPC, and it has duped not only me, Dawn Eden, Emily Peterson, most of his old readers and all of his new ones, and the folks who run the CPC where TRT has volunteered time for several years, and God knows who else.

But, sure, Jeff, it is still possible. I know that. I suppose anything is possible.

With God, all good things are possible. And perhaps I won't "know" for certain unless I make it to heaven and bump into him, or he bumps into me.

If I'm being duped by a RA in RT's clothing, it wouldn't be the first time I was fooled. And it probably won't be the last!

If he's truly gone to all this trouble, all such expensive, elaborate, lengthy years of effort and gyrations to make fun of us (and it's already been done to me by someone, as I said), then ultimately I say, "There is only one who loses, and it isn't me and it isn't anyone helped in all such allegedly phony monetary donations or volunteer time helping people."

One could well argue that we will have to see in a decade or two where he stands. Or if he is able to withstand some sort of nonliteral, modern-equivalent of Paul's two death threats, which finally convinced the Apostles.

If TRT/TRA (or any troll, since that would be the ultimate Grand Poobah of Trolls) wants to set up an elaborate decade(s)-long ruse of pretending to be someone they're not, just to make us look like idiots, I can save him or her or them a lot of time: a few other guys have already beat ya to that!

What do I care about how I am perceived by anyone capable of such a colossal waste of time or by anyone among the "fanbase" chortling with glee over such a useless little "sting"?

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