I talk about my past in the Christian faith a lot, and I know that what I say can sound kind of outrageous sometimes. That’s why I want to go over a bit about what I do to ensure that I am being as honest and as truthful as possible.
First, if a date is important, I look it up. Some of the stuff that happened near the tail end of my deconversion has blurred a little over the years, while other stuff is crystal-clear about when this or that happened in relation to something else. But crystal-clear clarity does not always mean I don’t need to worry about checking it. Human memory is notoriously bad at remembering dates, and I know that. When I’m not completely sure whenabouts something happened, I say so, and if a particular date needs to be exact, then yes, I make absolutely sure that it is.
If a place is important, I double-check maps to make sure stuff is where I thought it was. If a name is important, I ensure I’m using it correctly. And if a citation would help make my case, then I cite my sources in a link.
My fact-checking has led to some entertaining personal revelations for me this past year of blogging–sometimes I’ve discovered that a memory of something didn’t quite happen the way I’d thought for years that it had. In those cases, I amend my memories rather than sticking to the ideas I’d falsely entertained. What I want to do is tell the unvarnished truth, even if it’s not very complimentary to myself or as dramatic as I’d originally thought it was.
I do want to preserve a little anonymity on my blog, so sometimes I’ll deliberately change specific details–but I’ll tell you when I do, and I promise you right now that none of those cosmetic changes will ever alter the truth of what I’m saying in any way at all (we’re talking about very personally identifying details here, nothing substantive). If I can’t tell you something without making huge substantive changes to it, then that’s a good sign that I shouldn’t be talking about it on this blog anyway.
If I turn out to be wrong about something, then I’ll say so. It hasn’t happened a whole lot so far, but I think it’s important to have the integrity to admit when one is wrong and incorporate the corrected information into the story rather than deny it.
The reason it takes me a couple of days to do most of these posts is that this research process can take a little bit of time. Also I have a scorching case of arthritis. But it’s research mostly.
When I hear a religious story or claim that seems a little out-there, I do this same process: I check dates, newspapers/news sites, debunking sites, maps even, to see if it lines up. The other day I saw a story very critical of Islam about a zealot who’d disfigured a young woman in a really ghastly way for being Christian; it was on an atheist Facebook group and they were riled up! But I began methodically searching for mainstream news sites and whatnot to see if this story held water–and strangely, not a single reputable source mentioned this horrifying story. In fact, the only places you could find the story were Facebook groups and Christianist sites (which are usually pretty anti-Muslim). So I said that before I spent my empathy and outrage on this story, I needed to know it was actually true. I’m tired of being manipulated by spectacularly outrageous stories that turn out to be false–aren’t you? Seems like any time we see something really impressive or horrible lately, it turns out to be staged or untrue in some way. At this point I know of several sites that specifically mention a caveat before repeating anything found on Daily Mail and other such disreputable sources.
So all of this is stuff I really wish that Christians themselves did with their own testimonies. A little fact-checking would go a very long way toward making Christians’ wide-eyed testimonies more believable and trustworthy. It blows my mind that so many Christians will say these things that I know–flat-out know–did not really happen that way, or pass on tales that they got told happened to a friend of a friend as if these tales were completely true ZOMG CHECKMATE ATHEISTS, and they don’t even do the most basic research to see if this stuff is true or not.
If something is true, then it should be able to withstand rigorous testing and investigating. But if something boasts a constant stream of false stories that believers cling to with all their might, that smells awfully bad to me. I really think that as more and more of these stories get debunked and exposed, Christianity itself is going to face some big challenges to survive in its current form. But that isn’t a bad thing. I’m not really impressed with a lot of its current form.
Fact-checking isn’t the only problem I see though. Next time, we’re going to talk about spin-doctoring, positioning, shoddy interpretations, and the slow dwindling death of evangelicalism. I hope you’ll join me.