Five Questions for Joan Ball

Joan Ball spent more than fifteen years in the public relations business before making the transition from the boardroom to the classroom in 2007. She currently teaches marketing at St. John's University in New York City.

In Flirting With Faith: My Spiritual Journey from Atheism to a Faith-Filled Life (Simon & Schuster), Joan shares with bold candor how she allowed her career and the money, prestige, and possessions that came with it to overshadow the things that were most important in life. As her friend Makoto Fujimura says, "She dances with both faith and doubt, while being unflinchingly honest each step of the way.  Her authentic wrestling will confound skeptics, challenge believers and comfort those who mourn." Anne Jackson adds, "With each word, Joan Ball invites us to take a step into her heart where we see the beauty of transformation and the freedom of grace."

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Why Won't God Heal Amputees?

“Why won’t God heal amputees?”  The question caught me by surprise.

I had just finished my “Why I Am a Christian” talk at Calvary Chapel Chino Valley’s youth conference in April.  After talking with a few students and leaders, a young man approached.  He challenged me with this question, explaining his atheist friend had asked it earlier in the week. And he had no answer for his friend.

Apparently, it’s a question atheists make a big deal about. There is even an entire website dedicated to it (www.whywontgodhealamputees.com).  The website claims “this is one of the most important questions we can ask about God.”  Sometime, somewhere I had heard the objection but had never given it much attention.  Now it was staring me right in the face.  Immediate attention was required.

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Live Debate With Sean McDowell and James Corbett

Here is Part 1 of the debate between Sean McDowell and James Corbett on the question, "Is God the Best Explanation for Moral Values?" To view Part 2, click on "continue reading."

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an interview--part one

Recently a magazine sent me excellent questions for an interview. Below are some of their inquiries and my responses.

Q1. There's so much to talk about, but first let's start with how you encountered Christ. You say that He 'interrupted your existence'. Can you tell us a bit about what your life was like then and how He stopped you in your tracks?

Alicia: Truth for me was dead. God had never lived. Life was filled with pain. Death was the end of life. These four beliefs formed my worldview. I sincerely believed that there was no God.

The day of the encounter, I was neither seeking God nor on a noble truth pilgrimage. I was neither high nor drunk nor in the pit of despair. 

Q2. Were you an atheist by choice or simply because no one had ever told you the gospel?

Alicia: Atheism was a distinct decision. My parents tease me that the first word out of my mouth wasn’t “Ma” or “Da” but “WHY?” Evidently I’ve been asking questions since I could speak. Unanswerable questions led me to the belief that there was no God. Over the years I encountered several streams of Christianity and also Spiritualism, Hinduism, and Buddhist thought. Faith seemed a construct of mankind to stuff in the gaps and calm fears or explain the unexplainable. As a young Atheist, I considered myself a realist who preferred unanswered questions over fairy tales.

Q3. Why do you think so many Christians are afraid of speaking with those who say they don't believe?

Alicia: Reasons abound, but perhaps almost all of the reasons are rooted in either fear or deception. Some fear rejection or embarrassment. Some fear not knowing what to say. And perhaps some privately fear that their faith isn’t sound enough to withstand critique.

Fear married to deception keeps the Church caged. In our day, “one way—Jesus” is cultural blasphemy. The world’s deceptive message is deafening: “Move beyond the narrow elitism of one-way and enter into the enlightened inclusion of all ways. Affirm equally everyone’s respective truth or keep your mouth shut.”

Q4. Do you think modern Christian culture has in some ways made it more difficult for atheists to come to the church?

Alicia: Perhaps it’s our lack of sharing life shoulder-to-shoulder outside of church that makes it difficult for people (Atheist or otherwise) to want to come inside a church. We give our gifts (money, talent) gladly but our lives (time, touch) little. Our lives are so full. Yet it would be life-giving, if we said “no” to one time-eater in order to say “yes” to some consistent activity (city league ball, PTA…) that would place us in proximity with others who wrote mental resignation letters to the church long ago.

(to be continued)

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why I respect Atheists

Radio interviews are almost always enjoyable, especially when the host permits call-ins. I love the raw nature of a live q&a; it's energizing.

But one call-in this year caught me off-guard. Frankly, I was stunned and couldn't fill the space fast enough for air time, so the comment went unanswered except by the host who thanked the caller for taking the time...

The interview was on my book, Finding an Unseen God: Reflections of a Former Atheist. Many have commented on how I treat Atheists and their belief system with respect throughout the book. I thought the reasons were obvious--but that is my error.

In response to the interview, the sincere, non-belligerent, concerned caller said, "You should not honor the Atheist, because the Bible says that, "the fool says in his heart that there is no God.'" Then he went on to make another point...which I honestly don't remember because I was a bit dazed.

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Why I am Abandoning the Term ‘Mystic’ (and Most Terminology)

I had a conversation with a friend today that caused me to rethink my approach, positions, and even my writing style. I realized from this conversation that although my stance may not be one of pointing fingers, calling people morons, and generally telling the world why my view is better than someone else’s, I may (at times) come across that way.

If you have been a commenter or lurker on “The Infinite in Everything” for a while, you have likely heard me rant about fundamentalism, atheism, liberalism, biblical scholarship, calvinism, and most recently mysticism. I love talking about these subjects, but recently it has come to my attention that my snarky attitude (as funny as I may think it is) can really be quite unhelpful. This blog is my playground, so I conduct my theological experiments here in wanna-be-Albert-Einstein-esk ways. Sometimes it works, but like all experiments, it fails at times too. So, maybe it is time for a little self- and blog-evaluation.

What if my approach has been entirely wrong? What if I need to abandon the terminology I use to articulate my views on faith in favor of something that is more helpful? Here’s an example. I thought my story about the guy who wrote me off because I was a mystic was funny, but a commenter, who went by Paulos, was quick to correct me, when he said:

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the spiritual peace my atheism provided...

After all these years it shouldn't surprise me--but it still does.  I'm honestly still a little perplexed by the image Theists sometimes have of Atheists as mentally-anquished individuals. Often I've been asked, "How could you live without believing there was a God? What was your purpose? What got you up each morning...?" 

So, it's been on my mind to try to convey the type of mental peace that Atheism as a belief system can create for socially-concerned question-askers. These musings are excerpted directly from chapter 43 of my book, Finding an Unseen God.

(Dear Publisher, hope that's okay...)

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Tribes at War: Fundamentalism, Liberalism, Atheism and Biblical Scholarship

I hate fundamentalism, liberalism, atheism, and biblical scholarship alike. But I love the people from those tribes. I have watched the patriarchs from these clans pillage the weak minds and faith of those camped on the outskirts of a rival camp. I have been horrified as supposedly strong men and women became bounty. I have seen intellectual war and fought in the bloody battles—I have been victor and captive. All the while, all the tribes left me unsatisfied and sad because their rogue leaders and followers are hurting inside as much as the rest of us.

So, why do I love them? Simple answer: They are people (Matt 22:34–40). Complicated answer: Because I have been in their sandals. (Well, at least in some of their sandals. And man, some of them have big feet and big egos. Others wear uncomfortable shoes for the sake of fashion or because their buddies called them trendy.)
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26 years ago today...

26 years ago today...

My atheistic worldview was interrupted by the God who pursues even those who deny him. 

I was confident that God(s) didn't exist, that he/she/they were constructs of individuals and cultures to stuff in the gaps and calm fears. I considered myself a realist who preferred unanswered questions over fairy tales...

Today, I look back and remember the moment my existence was interrupted. My eyes still burn. 

Today, to deny God's existence, I'd have to first deny my very own.

Today, I still have questions, but now my mind has a Mentor.

Today, I'm savoring the truth that the goal of believing isn't avoiding pain. The goal of all living things is to grow (and multiply). The goal of faith isn't answers. The goal of faith is intimacy. 

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Advice for Atheists Who Want to Engage Theists

Atheists recognize that taking a strong position--absolutely, positively, there is no god--comes across as dogmatic and intolerant.  Although many atheists espouse the strong position, the leaders of the atheism movement prefer the weak definition--there is no credible evidence showing that God exists--not only  because the strong position appears intolerant, but also because "it does sound rather untenable."  They acknowledge that the most persistent objection to the strong position of atheism is that it sounds dogmatic and unscientific.  Advancing the strong position in public debate forces all atheists (both strong-position and weak-position) to prove the nonexistence of God, invoking the burden of proof. 

Atheists are quick to acknowledge that the strong position has disadvantages in public discussions at the popular level because it is easy to portray as dogmatic, unreasonable, and thus unscientific. To avoid public relations and marketing embarrassments, the atheism movement tries to show that the strong position of atheism, far from being the only form of atheism, is the rarest among atheistic positions.  Instead, they advance the weak position of atheism.  From this perspective, they shift the burden of proof to the theists.  Here is how Positive Atheism magazine describes the ideal sequence when an atheist talks to a theist about the existence of God.

  • It must be realized that we are dealing entirely with claims -- claims that various deities exist.
  • In discussing such claims, it is always the person making the claim [the theist] who is responsible for providing evidence and strong argument. 
  • The person listening to the claim [the atheist] need not make any argument at all. 
  • The listener [the atheist] does not need to disprove a claim in order to reject it. 
  • If the person making the claim [the theist] fails to make a convincing case, the listener rightly rejects the claim as falsehood (or suspends judgment, based upon the strength of the claim).   In either event, the listener ends up lacking a belief in the object of the claim.
  • It is never the negative [weak-position] atheist's responsibility to prove or disprove anything. That job belongs to the person making the claim, which is the theist.
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