When I was a religious extremist, I embraced every teaching of the Bible as if it could be none other than directly from the mind of a loving God to his lost children. One year of college, then one year of missionary service, only made me more extreme. Meeting and marrying my wife, having our first child, returning to the mission field, and then returning to college to complete my teaching degree were all life events which eroded away my extremism. By the time I was a seasoned teacher, I was religiously and politically liberal. I had become a moderate.
My definition of a religious moderate is one who ignores the bad ideas in their scriptures; extremists embrace the bad ideas. Some extremists move away from the bad ideas, and toward moderation like I did. This phenomenon is healthy for open discussion across political and religious boundaries and results in progress for international and ecumenical relations.
Daniel 2 Doubts Wrapped Up in Daniel Book/Doctrine Doubts
The relevance of the second chapter of the book of Daniel to a believer in Seventh-day Adventist doctrine is entirely dependent upon the church’s twin doctrines, “The Sanctuary” and “The Investigative Judgment”.
Both of those doctrines depend heavily upon a view of the whole book of Daniel which has largely been abandoned by modern liberal scholarship, as noted below. Both of these doctrines build upon that abandoned interpretation of Daniel 2 which relied upon it as prophecy written before the events it predicted rather than as history written after the events it pretends to predict (the modern view). Both of those doctrines are unique to a single denomination within Christianity, the Seventh-day Adventist Church; but even within that church, there is no agreement as to the reliability of those very doctrines! The best summary of the controversy over those twin doctrines is found in three parts:
For whatever reason (I’m not sure I’m willing to guess), in the few years since I’ve come out atheist, I have experienced a motivation to behave ethically and morally far beyond that which two and a half decades of Christianity ever provided.
My denomination was the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I was not your average pew-warmer, either. Within 18 months of my baptism at the tender age of 20, I had embarked on a year-long foreign missionary teaching assignment, been ordained a local elder in that mission’s church (at the ordination ceremony, when the pastor read to his church the biblical requirements of an elder, he literally skipped over the verse in 1 Timothy 3 which states that the elder must not be a recent convert; I swallowed hard and kept smiling), and had preached sermons and taught lessons more than many elderly members who had been Seventh-day Adventists all their lives.
I remember being convinced that the Seventh-day Adventist worldview was the only correct lens through which to judge all incoming information, including political information used to make voting decisions. For decades I perceived everything I read, heard, observed, learned, and discovered through that very narrow lens, also known as The Great Controversy:
These past few months, I’ve become more interested in how I know, than what I know. While facts play a big role in the formation of my values and beliefs, the primary concern is summed up in my title, How Do I Know?
How did I decide that my favorite set of values are ‘right,’ as opposed to all those ‘wrong’ values? How did I settle on my particular list of ‘good to know’ facts, and how do I test and retest their reliability in the real world?
Religion is a gateway drug. Well, drug, in the metaphorical sense, as in an anesthetic for critical, rational, logical, skeptical thinking. But it is a gateway also, in the sense that when you assent to the claims of a religion, you thereby make it much easier to assent to other dubious claims. Claims against which, if you hadn’t tied up your critical thinking and thrown it down in the basement, you would have had some defenses.