Christianity for Non-Christians

There are lots of biases and assumptions about Christians out there,  many of which are founded in real-life experience. And yes, we Christians have done our share of damage when it comes to tarnishing our so-called “brand.” But there also seems to be this tendency to understand Christianity and its adherents as one generally monolithic group that can be described in simple (often negative) terms that they would never be acceptable to apply to any other group.

Part of this is because of the historic dominance of the Christian culture in the modern Western world. It’s the same reason that stereotypes of men on network sitcoms are pervasively unflattering, while the same stereotypes would cause a firestorm of negative publicity if applied to the female counterparts. Some of this is entirely warranted and  necessary in tearing down false or damaging constructs of power. But sometimes, if we’re being honest, they’re just wrong. And stupid.

These assumptions and biases against Christianity – along with the history that supports these assumptions – are in large part what I have endeavored to counteract in my own work.  And although there are many of us out there, both in the public eye and those living relatively unremarkable lives of Christlike service, people never cease to be surprised when they realize that Christianity actually can be something other than what they think it must be.

I cannot possibly count the number of times I have heard some version of the following phrase: “if Christianity actually could be more like what you described it like, I would actually be okay with being a Christian.”

Well, good news! It is. And now, I am going to offer a few ideas on how to dip our toes into the Christian waters, even if we are not sure that we ever want to be identified as “Christians.”  These are at least my top five points for now, though I may add more in the future.

1.  You do not have to believe in the supernatural in order to follow a Christlike path.  I have written articles in the past about how I believe it is possible to be both an atheist anti-Christian, at least in the sense of following the ways and teachings of Jesus. I know for many, this seems an inherent impossibility, particularly given the fact that Jesus attributed his power and ministry to – and also prayed frequently to – God. However, there are times throughout the Bible when nearly every spiritual leader or prophet  senses a gaping distance between them and the Creator.  Even Jesus, at the time of his death, quotes a psalm  about being forsaken by God’s time of greatest suffering. This psychological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance suggests that we can “act as if” even in those times our hearts and minds don’t necessarily agree. And I’m here to tell you that if any Christian ever tells you that they are certain about the existence of God 100% of the time, they are not being honest. So rather than worrying about getting a certain set of beliefs in order before understanding more about Jesus, try starting by learning more about Jesus, trusting that you will find answers to a lot of questions – including many you may not have ever considered asking – along the way.

2.  If you don’t feel comfortable praying to something or someone, then just pray on or about something.  As one who tends to reject the notion of God as some anthropomorphic sky  wizard, I also struggle with the idea of a God that needs me to pray to him, her, them or what have you. And I find that he is and when I force myself into such a practice, I get so hung up on, and distracted by, the imaginative constructs of God that I build up in my mind that I forget why I was praying in the first place. So for me, I find it much easier to contemplate a question or even an idea, such as “what does it mean to love?”  or  “What are the real priorities in my life?”  Even the Scriptures say that prayers are heard even in our groans and sighs. When words fall short, simply find space to sit, be still, reflect and even listen without any expectation of some magical voice having to answer you in order for you to be doing it right.

3.  Christianity is an ongoing practice, not a one time event.   For some, one’s confession of faith or public baptism is the culmination, or even the endgame, of Christian evangelism.  The point  is to save the soul of the nonbeliever, so that we can ensure that their soul will not be destroyed or will not endure eternal conscious suffering because of eternal damnation.  But let’s consider for a moment  that Christianity is about so much more than what happens after you die. In fact, let’s consider the possibility that Jesus was much more concerned with how we live than what happens after death.  I’m not saying one way or the other  what we should conclude about salvation or the afterlife, but in my four decades of wrestling with Christian doctrine and the damage caused all too often at the fears of hell, I propose that we take it off the table and start fresh.  Consider the Christian life as a daily practice, much like any other discipline we might place as a priority in our lives. Just like a diet is not something we do for quick results and then abandon, we cannot lean on some quick fix from Jesus to hedge our bets, just in case. Jesus was eminently concerned  with the ways of the living; we would do well to do the same.

4.  You don’t need church to be a Christian, but doing it alone is not easy.  I understand the resistance of some people to going to church. Amy and I have joked often that the reason we are church leaders is because we would struggle to find a congregation that would satisfy us otherwise. But sometimes, we use broad judgments about Christian communities as an excuse not to go deeper with our faith practices and not to be held accountable by others.  Just like working out, sometimes we someone to spot for us, or to encourage us and we just don’t think we can do anymore. Sometimes we also need a little kick in the ass when were too comfortable sitting on the couch readily getting up and doing something about our situation.  Also, my understanding of Christianity requires us to seek the image of God in other people.  As such, we get less than a complete picture of what Christian practices about it we rely too heavily on books, blogs, a walk in the woods for solitary prayer. All of these are valuable in their own way, but we need each other, like it or not.

5.  Just being a “good person” or “not hurting anyone else” isn’t enough.  Sometimes I hear people say that they don’t see the need to be a Christian because they already have it more or less figured out. Basically, don’t be a jerk, try not to hurt others and be kind. These are all fine, but they are also the same values than my preschool-age daughter  learned her first day at school.  And just like we graduate from picture books to more sophisticated volumes, or from playground recess more demanding physical exercise, we always were so to stretch further.  Further,  we have a tremendous capacity to justify that our behavior is virtuous – or at least  not harmful – if and when we want to.  But can we honestly say that the daily habits of our lives, our habits of consumption, our material priorities,  is to the betterment of others in the world?  Do we believe that, just because the harm of our lifestyles is not laid out graphically right before us, that it doesn’t exist? Can we really convince ourselves  that any phase practice established more than 2000 years ago boils down to little more than “don’t be a dick?”

Not unlike my recent blog post about Exodus International director Alan Chambers, I expect there is plenty in this article to upset both Christians and non-Christians alike. If so, then I’ve done my job.  Not only should Christians be discontent with the status quo of how we behave and are perceived in the world; those who do not identify as Christians likewise should not be content to lean on spiritual laziness and pithy excuses for not exploring our full potential for spiritual maturity.

Now, go and do it.

About Christian Piatt

Christian Piatt is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.

  • Rachel Rev

    Christian, excellent post. And overall, I do agree with the points you make. Except for #5. Not that I don’t agree with it, it’s just that I have rarely encountered an atheist/agnostic/non-believer/none who expressed their ethics in such simplistic terms. In fact, most people I know who fall into that “category” actually have more consistent, well-thought-out, and better articulated ethics than the majority of Christians I know – even us ministers. Perhaps it’s just because I hang out with academics (my partner and thus many of our friends being professors, particularly in science), who tend to think things out anyway, or because the atheist blogs I read tend to be written by exceptionally thoughtful non-believers, but that has been my experience. I simply don’t hear people around me talk about their ethics or morals in the ways you describe here.

    The other problem I have with #5 is you don’t really explain how the Christian faith is different from the school yard ethics of childhood or what it provides that is any more substantive. You did such a great job in the first four, explaining how one can hold different ideas in tension at the same time, or engage in practice without belief. But #5 just left me wanting more. If being good isn’t enough, what is?

    Anyway, just my thoughts. As always, I appreciate your words, your courage, and your willingness to engage.

  • Michael Mock

    Hm.

    “1. You do not have to believe in the supernatural in order to follow a Christlike path.”

    No, but if you believe that Jesus was only a man, however wise, then you’re free (in fact, I’d argue that you’re morally obligated) to decide for yourself which of his teaching were true. (Cafeteria Christianity, here we come!) More to the point, if you see Jesus as merely a great teacher, then odds are good that you also acknowledge him as one of many great teachers – and at that point, you’re not so much following a Christlike path as you are trying to figure out how best to act morally.

    “2. If you don’t feel comfortable praying to something or someone, then just pray on or about something.”

    Or, you know, just don’t pray. It’s not that I don’t pray because I’m uncomfortable with the practice; I don’t pray because prayer does nothing for me. And while I don’t want to get into a big semantic argument about what exactly constitutes prayer, it does seem to me that if nothing is listening, then you’re not exactly praying. You’re just thinking. Reflecting. Contemplating, maybe. Which are all good and valuable practices in their own right, so why label them with a fancier name?

    “3. Christianity is an ongoing practice, not a one time event.”

    I’m honestly not sure what to make of this. It seems like something you ought to be saying to Christians, not to non-Christians. Yes, of course Christianity is an ongoing practice – in no small part because, at least as I was raised to understand it, a huge amount of Christianity is about learning to be a good person, and being a good person is inevitably a matter of constant work, reflection, and refinement. And yes, despite what some Christians claim, as an unbeliever I shouldn’t expect Christians to be immediately redeemed into better people. And, personally, I don’t. As far as I can tell, becoming a better person is (like so much else) dependent on the amount of effort you put into trying become a better person; it doesn’t have anything to do (pro or con) with becoming a Christian per se. (Though of course, becoming a Christian can certain inspire someone to try to become a better person.)

    “4. You don’t need church to be a Christian, but doing it alone is not easy.”

    Again – and maybe I’m misreading the point of this whole list – but this seems relevant to Christians and would-be Christians, but not to non-Christians. It may be true, but as a non-believer why should I care?

    Going back to Point One, if I don’t believe in the supernatural, then there’s nothing all that special about Christianity; or, to put that another way, there’s no reason for me to aspire to a Christlike life when I can aspire to living a good life that draws on the wisdom of many great teachers. There’s no particular reason for me, as a non-believer, to want to be a Christian or be seen as a Christian.

    …That said, I would love to see more of Christianity embrace the idea of the Kingdom of Heaven as something that desperately needs to be built here on Earth – an idea, I might add, that seems to be directly supported by Scripture.

    “5. Just being a “good person” or “not hurting anyone else” isn’t enough.”

    Why not? The devil, as they say, is in the details. Sure, your daughter may have learned these principles in her first day at school (or, more likely, even before that) but learning how best to apply them (in all of life’s wide variety of situations) is the study of a lifetime. That’s true whether your idea of being a good person includes “love God”, or whether it’s only “love your neighbor as yourself”. (Yes, in fact, Jesus himself seems to have suggested that all the law and prophets are direct outgrowths of Trying Not To Be A Dick.)

    You seem to be saying that we need Christianity, or some sort of Christian belief, to help us evaluate the full effects of our actions, inactions, and behaviors. I disagree. In fact, as far as I can tell, the only way that any of us, Christians and non-Christians alike, manage that sort of evaluation – the kind that leads to moral growth – is through a combination of empathy, rigorous honesty, and intersubjectivity (which is basically a fancy way of saying “listening to each other”).

    The only reason I can see that Christianity would be required for such a process is if there is, in fact, a supernatural component to being a Christian – if the Almighty somehow explains things, or guides people to understandings that they wouldn’t otherwise get. So far, I haven’t seen anything to indicate that such is the case – and, again, that goes against the first point on your list.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Having read through this twice – once initially, and again in composing this response – I have the distinct feeling that I’m missing your point. This doesn’t seem like Christianity for Non-Christians; it seems more like some ruminations on What True Christianity Is Or Should Be… or maybe How To Be Christian If You’ve Become Uncomfortable With Christianity Or Churches (But Still Want To Be A Christian). I don’t really see how it’s Christianity for non-Christians, either in the sense of explaining things to unbelievers, or in the sense of trying to show why Christianity can/should still be inviting to non-believers.

    Am I missing something? (Besides, you know, any drive towards religious belief?) If so, what?

    • http://www.shinyphoto.co.uk/ Tim

      1) > then you’re free [...] to decide for yourself which of his teaching were true.

      Yes. I don’t have a problem with this. There’s a lot to be said for what you call Cafeteria Christianity – at least, if one is to involve some critical thinking in analysing one’s stance on various subjects.

      Take, for example, the afterlife. Contrary to an awful lot of Evangelicals’ beliefs, there is no one model of heaven & hell in the Bible. You’ve got the words `sheol’, `hades’ and `Gehenna’ – the latter of which was the name of a dump outside Jerusalem where heathens committed child-sacrifice with fire. Now, when Jesus speaks, using the word `Gehenna’, do we think he’s using supernatural insight to pronounce an eternal truth on the nature of a place called “Hell”, or invoking an image readily available to his audience?

      2) > why label them with a fancier name?

      well you’ve just come up with 3 words for similar things. It’s not 1984; we can afford multiple synonyms in the interests of variety.

      But you might like to consider: A) meditation B) intercession – defined as group-think that leads to getting off one’s butt and doing something

      3) > ought to be saying to Christians, not to non-Christians.

      Well, I think the article is targetted at a particular set of standard (atheist) arguments. The way a lot of people think is that a moment of “conversion” (ala Billy Graham) is all that matters; those who object to Christians with this attitude are right to do so, but don’t have to throw out Christianity altogether with it.

      4) > why should I care?

      Well, you might have negative experiences of a particular church in mind as offputting. Maybe they’re forever sending folks to beat on your door while you’re trying to work. I dunno, neither does the author – but there’s bound to be someone out there with that kind of problem, even if the article isn’t directly targetting you with it.

      5) > required

      I think this is the crux of the matter. Christianity as such is not required, but it exists, and it stands for some distinct things – let’s say, aspects we can deduce of Jesus’s lifestyle, such as his tendency to hang out with “undesirables” and to rate the individual over the institution. You can try and adopt these and other principles because you’re reading about Christianity or because you’re reading about Buddhism, neither’s a bad thing. But you will find particular views group together into “Christian” that can be explored all at once if you want.

      To me, this article is compatible with Gandhi’s gratious quote, “But our innermost prayer should be a Hindu should be a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, a Christian a better Christian”.

      • Michael Mock

        “There’s a lot to be said for what you call Cafeteria Christianity…”

        Actually, I agree. Partly, that’s because an awful lot of what gets dismissed as “cafeteria Christianity” is actually the result of trying to read the Bible in terms of its what we understand of its history, the full context of specific passages, etc. – an informed hermeneutic, in other words. Mainly, though, it’s because I think that picking and choosing is inevitable.

        “well you’ve just come up with 3 words for similar things. It’s not 1984; we can afford multiple synonyms in the interests of variety.”

        I’ve no objection to varying your terms to add flavor to your writing. Nor do I object to similes, metaphors, or hyperbole; “all flesh is grass” is a perfectly clear and precise image, though not literally true. But this part of the article seems to contain an implicit assumption that it’s necessary/desirable to do something called “prayer”, and anything that might sort of vaguely qualify can be used to fill that checkbox. If that’s the case, and not a misreading on my part, then I find that assumption dubious at best.

        “Well, I think the article is targetted at a particular set of standard
        (atheist) arguments.”

        Possible. If so, they aren’t anything that I’d recognize as standard atheist arguments… but that could just be the company I keep, and it would certainly explain a lot of my confusion.

        “The way a lot of people think is that a moment of ‘conversion’ (ala Billy Graham) is all that matters; those who object to Christians with this attitude are right to do so, but don’t have to throw out Christianity altogether with it.”

        …But now I’m back to being confused. I don’t know of anybody who’s rejected Christianity because some Christians think the moment of conversion is all that matters. (And even the “sinner’s prayer, turn or burn” crowd encourages you to find a church and start studying the Bible as soon as you’ve said the vital magic words.)

        “Well, you might have negative experiences of a particular church in mind as offputting. …there’s bound to be someone out there with that kind of problem, even ifthe article isn’t directly targetting you with it.”

        Again, though, you’re talking about disaffected Christians rather than (as the title of the article suggests) genuine non-believers. My brother, for example, hasn’t set foot in a church in decades, because he had some bad experiences with the church he grew up in. I doubt he’d find the argument (“You don’t need church to be a Christian, but doing it alone is not easy.”) persuasive, but it would at least make some sense to present it to him – but that’s precisely because he’s still a Christian.

        And maybe that’s the root of my confusion about this article: the way our host is using the term “non-Christian” is radically different from the way I use the term, and the way I generally see it used.

        (Edited to add: I’ve just gone back and read a response from our host, and discovered that I completely misunderstood how he meant point 4. That being the case, I think I need to step back and take another run at this later – I’m responding to what I’m reading, but apparently the points I’m responding to aren’t exactly what our host is trying to say.)

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    I think your lead-in neglects an important thing: There are very vocal Christians who are totally invested in making Christianity seem like a monolith. See those who insist that Rob Bell “left the fold” when he began to question what he had been taught about Hell. See those who insist that those who think same sex sexual relationships are not immoral have left “The True Teaching of the Church.” Heck, I know several who would look at your own first point and decry you as no better than John Shelby Spong, an all-too-common bogeyman of those who warn against “straying too far.”

    I’d say that such Christians are probably the biggest promoters of many of the damaging stereotypes about Christianity.

    • http://www.shinyphoto.co.uk/ Tim

      This is very true – and you name two of my “heroes” in whose books I recognized sense, too.

      Flipping what you say about, there seems to be a core set of beliefs that come under the same attitude of “as ardent as you can get”. Or if not ardent, then traditionalist. Or fundamentalist. Either way, it’s seeking authority as “the one true…” – whether the question is abortion or sex-before-marriage or whatever, you know there’ll be someone out there with a holier-than-everyone-else attitude.

      I think Spong doesn’t go far enough: he’s quite right in everything he slags-off the Church for, but doesn’t provide a lot of positive replacement.

      • Rafael

        The sad part of fundamentalism is that Scripture cannot support Homosexuality, premarital Sex, or Lust being sin, but actually support it not being sin, and there’s no Biblical support for Penal Substitution.

      • Rafael

        A Christian is basically one who Frees another, as Jesus Christ came to set us free(Galatians 5:1), if one feels controlled or burdened, they are not free,

        What did YHWH say? Jeremiah 29:11 – “11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – YHWH(The Father and The Son and The Holy Spirit)

        Matthew 11:28-30 – “28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”” – Jesus Christ(YHWH)

    • gimpi1

      This is very true. After saying that, in my opinion, “…there are as many variations on the theme Christian as there are individual Christians.” I was very firmly informed that many people who considered themselves Christian weren’t, and that the writer could identify the “true Christians” presumably because they agreed with her on her pet political beliefs. There’s a lot of that going around. Does anyone have any ideas on how to combat it?

      • Rafael

        Well Jesus Christ laid out what a Christian is in Matthew 7, so use that, but use this one especially,

        Matthew 22:”34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

        37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.””

        That’s what a Christian is, He loves thy neighbor as thyself and loves YHWH(The Father and The Son and The Holy Spirit) with all their Mind, soul, and heart and in gentleness and respect(1 Peter 3:15), not holding to man made laws.

        • gimpi1

          Rafael, thank you for your response, but I think you need to clarify.

          For example, I have had people say, bullying gay kids is loving because they may “turn from their sin,” Others don’t think being gay is sinful, and believe bullying is not loving. Who’s right?

          Some people think ending any governmental assistance is loving, that people helped by such assistance are actually being harmed, and taxing others to, for example, feed poor families, is a form of theft. They think the loving thing to do is leave people to their own devices, and let the weak fall by the wayside, perhaps to be given minimal help by a church, or perhaps not, if they seem “undeserving.” Some people find that cruel and selfish in the extreme, and believe Christ called on society as a whole to help everyone, and leave the judgement to divinity. Which belief is loving?

          How do you define loving your neighbor?

          • Rafael

            “I have had people say, bullying gay kids is loving because they may “turn from their sin,” ”

            And that isn’t loving, Why? #1, You should LOVE Your enemies and pray for them as Jesus Christ said, What is Love?

            1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

            1 Peter 3:15 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”

            So bullying or maltreatment isn’t love.

            and #2, because Homosexuality is not a sin, nor is anything that doesn’t harm(Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Jesus Christ(YHWH)

            and of course the proof, here,. http://savedbychrist94.blogspot.com/2013/04/homosexuality-is-not-sin-part-1.html

            ” Others don’t think being gay is sinful, and believe bullying is not loving. Who’s right?”

            Bullying according to The Bible is sin,(Matthew 22 “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself” – Jesus Christ, “Love your enemies and pray for those who prosecute you” – Jesus Christ, Matthew 5,)

            Morality isn’t Subjective, it’s objective, Justice isn’t Retributive, it is Restorative, Harm is by definition, wrong/sin. bullying not only doesn’t work, but isn’t love, you don’t bully sin out of someone, because you’re just committing a sin yourself by bullying, as Jesus Christ said, Matthew 7:3-5 ” Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Jesus Christ(YHWH)

            “Some people think ending any governmental assistance is loving, that people helped by such assistance are actually being harmed, and taxing others to, for example, feed poor families, is a form of theft.”

            It’s not, you ae required to Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself, help the poor, Theft is only if someone who has enough money uses someone elses money.

            “They think the loving thing to do is leave people to their own devices, and let the weak fall by the wayside,”

            Which is Unmercfiul and uncaring, “let the weak fall” is evil. these people you give as example are not Christians according to Bible, they are atheist, nor are they good for that reason.

            ” perhaps to be given minimal help by a church, or perhaps not, if they seem “undeserving.”

            Why aren’t they deserving? because they are poor? these people you give as example have really messed ideas and are immoral, they are secular and do no know YHWH, and they lie for claiming to be Christian.

            “Some people find that cruel and selfish in the extreme, and believe Christ called on society as a whole to help everyone, and leave the judgement to divinity. Which belief is loving?”

            Who cares what they think, or anyone else else including me, Morality is Objective, whether someone denies or not, we know right from wrong Objectively, rape is always wrong, murder is always wrong, pedophilla is always wrong.

            Define Loving your neighbor? What Jesus Christ said,

            Matthew 22: 34But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together.35One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him,36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”37And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’38“This is the great and foremost commandment.39“The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’40“On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” – Jesus Christ(YHWH)

            Luke 6: “27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

            32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” – Jesus Christ(YHWH, God of Israel, The God)

    • Rafael

      The thing is the people who do that are not Christians, Christians obey Jesus Christ and follow The Law, what is the Law? lets see,

      Matthew 22:36-40 “36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and[a]foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” – Jesus Christ(YHWH/God)

      Everyone loves Christians as Christians are genuine and nice, they are not cruel, they are Christ-Like. Truth does hurt, whoever says “Truth hurts” is a liar, false “Christians” do this to preach Unbiblical hate(Such as calling Homosexuality, Lust, Premarital Sex, a sin, when they are not) and atheist do this as well,

      Why is the statement, “The Truth Hurt false”?

      2 reasons,

      #1, What is Truth?

      “13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.”

      The Holy Spirit is The Spirit of Truth, What does The Holy Spirit produce and Give?

      Galatians 5:22-23 ” 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

      So The Holy Spirit gives truth, yet He doesn’t produce hate and harm, but Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control, so these must be attributes of The Truth, no hurt in Truth so far,

      Now the obvious is this, John 8:32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – Jesus Christ

      Notice, Jesus Christ didn’t say it will you will not like it, feel controlled, etc, but says,it will set you Free, being burdened, sadden, controlled, etc isn’t freedom, as a matter of fact Jesus Christ came to set us free, from false doctrines, evil, and burdens,

      Galatians 5:1 “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”

      Jesus Christ came to set us free, do not be yoked to man/secular burdens and false laws.

      Also to atheist who say The Bible was made to control, How? How does commanding people to Love one another as They love themselves, “mean controlling the masses?” it doesn’t, very opposite though, it’s against controlling the masses.

  • Silas

    The problem with 1. is that it’s pretty hard to seperate the real Jesus from the supernatural Jesus. Even the gospel of Mark, which as I understand the scholarly consensus is the earliest gospel, is full of miraculous healings and other supernatural events. Jesus wasn’t really an ethichist, he was a prophet; he didn’t give carefully worked-out reasons for why people should do what he told them, he claimed divine authority. If you don’t believe in God, then a lot of the new testament is basically useless, because it’s either wildly exageratted or it never happened. Even the parts which might be useful for an ethical life, like sharing what you have and being nice to the poor, are justified with supernatural reasons such as ‘be nice to people and you’ll get to paradise’ which is just fantasy to an atheist.

    There’s also parts of Jesus’ morality that I just don’t agree with. I don’t think lusting after someone in your heart is the same as commiting adultery with them. Feeling lust for someone is a momentary and often involuntary thing, adultery is breaking a promise to someone you claim to love on purpose through deliberate action. If my spouse lusted after someone in their head, it wouldn’t bother me much. If they commited adultery, I’d be hurt and betrayed and probably leave them. The two things are different by an order of magnitude, in terms of the damage done to your partner’s trust and self-esteem. So I think Jesus was simply wrong on that one.

    I don’t agree about turning the other cheek either. If someone hits me, I believe I have a right to hit them back. I’m not advocating violence generally, but in the specific circumstance where you’re being attacked, I think you should defend yourself if you can. Otherwise the person attacking you could do you serious damage and they might learn that they can just do what they want, with no-one to oppose them. I think there are people who need to be stopped with force, in order for the rest of us to live peacefully and safely.

    Jesus’ ethics can sometimes be contradictory or extremist. ‘I come not to bring peace but a sword’ vs ‘blessed are the peacemakers’ and ‘those who live by the sword die by the sword’. As for extremist, there’s the passage where he says you have to hate your family and sell all your possesions to follow him. That sounds like fun!

    The problem is that each of the figures of Jesus in each of the gospels was created by a particular writer for a particular purpose and what the man himself thought, it’s hard to be sure of. It’s difficult to be ‘Christlike’ when no-one can be sure of the authentic Christ.

    2. I don’t think Christianity has a monopoly on questions like ‘What are the real priorities in my life’. It might be useful for people to think about, but it isn’t an exclusively Christian activity.

    I don’t pray. I don’t see any point in praying if no-one is listening. I do think about things all the time, but that’s part of being human.

    as for 5. I agree that people have a tendency to see themselves as virtuous even when they’re not, but I don’t see how Christianity is going to help. Christianity seems either to lead people into thinking ‘I’m one of the saved therefore what I do is righteous’ or ‘all my good deeds are as filthy rags, I’ll never be as good as Jesus, I deserve to burn in hell forever’. I don’t really think either of those attitudes is helpful.

    • http://www.shinyphoto.co.uk/ Tim

      I *think* you’ll find “he claimed divine authority” is *least* prevalent in Mark and mostly comes to the fore in John (the latest of the canonical gospels to be written). At least, in terms of claiming it for himself, that seems to be the case.

      You can do worse than dig out a copy of `The Five Gospels’ by The Jesus Seminar – that quite simply goes through all the texts assigning colour according to likelihood of a particular phrase going back to a historical Jesus, based on a handful of fairly rigorous criteria (testimony from independent witnesses, etc). That’s quite insightful a process.

      • VorJack

        To be a prophet is to claim divine authority. A prophet speaks for God, and so his authority comes from God.

        I think Silas’s point is that Jesus did not try to lay out an ethical system the way a contemporary philosopher would have done. Nor did he try to lay out a system of Torah interpretation like a Rabbi would. He just dropped bits of ethical insight without justifying them with any system. So you accept his statements because you acknowledge Jesus’ authority, or just because you like them, but not because Jesus persuaded you with moral reasoning.

      • Rafael

        The Jesus Seminar is not insightful or critical thinking, as they carry a presupposition of naturalism, http://www.reasonablefaith.org/presuppositions-and-pretensions-of-the-jesus-seminar

    • SonjaFaithLund

      Regarding turning the other cheek:

      It’s likely that this statement wasn’t just a matter of being a doormat, but a specific image which would have been understood by the listeners at the time.

      When someone struck you on the right cheek in those days, it would have been a backhand; they’re demonstrating superiority over you. When you turn and offer your left cheek, you’re demanding that if they wish to harm you, they must hit your face with the palm, and in doing so they acknowledge that you are an equal, not a subordinate. (It’s a cultural thing.) That’s actually a very bold subversive statement. The other things in that same passage — giving your cloak to someone who sues for your shirt, going two miles when someone forces you to walk one — were examples of what would essentially be political theatre to reveal the absurd cruelty of the oppressor for all to see, and creatively getting back at them.

      I don’t want to go into detail about this, but the information is out there (probably on Patheos) and it’s fascinating.

  • smrnda

    @Silas,

    I really agree that Jesus’ stance on lust is absurd. Being that I’m not a Christian, the word ‘lust’ is just not one that I tend to use because I find it to be meaningless. Most often I think of the more neutral term ‘sexual desire’ or just ‘sexual attraction’ as it’s possible to find someone attractive, and have no desire to actually have sex with them. I think there’s a problem with treating people like sex objects, but this is more a matter of perspective, and a man can be thinking of women as nothing but sex objects if he’s a pornographer or if he’s advocating the burkha. People are sexual beings, you can’t shut it off, and the task is how to deal with those feelings in a way that respects others.

    4. I’d agree that communities help people be better people, and churches have a lot of experience being a kind of one-stop shop for both social support, service and ethical discussions, but it isn’t like there aren’t other ways to get that. I do lots of volunteer work and am involved in my local arts scene, and these have helped me be a better person by showing me what needs were there and what I should do. I experimented with attending church for a while, just to know what it was like, and I found that it was just demanding too much of my time that I was taking away from things with more tangible benefit. Churches can do some good, but building a house or helping teach some kids or visiting an old folks home is sometimes a lot more useful than other Bible study or prayer meeting, and churches can be welcoming but insular at times.

    5. I think ‘don’t be a dick’ is a pretty good moral stance. Most of the bad things people do wouldn’t pass that test. It isn’t really eloquent, but I think it deserves more credit than you gave it!

    • Tony

      I fully agree about the lust thing. There’s a whole world of difference between appreciating a woman’s good looks, and leaping into the sack with her. Silas is spot on on that one.

      Granted, many Christians may cite Jesus as using Rabinnic exaggeration – such as in the ‘Hate your family’ passage – but I can’t really see that working as an excuse for the Lust passage.

      And the tragedy is that all religions, not just Christianity, demonise sexual things and try to subdue the impulses etc. Why the preoccupation with sex? Surely that’s just as bad as the pornographer’s work, albeit from a different angle?

      Personally I think it’s all about control. Notice how the religions try to control us at our most basic impulses – sex and food. So they prohibit foods and try to control what goes on in the bedroom. As far as I am concerned, none of this is the business of religious leaders – they can keep their noses out!

      • http://www.shinyphoto.co.uk/ Tim

        Oh it’s absolutely about control. IIRC I first read that very same idea in a book by Bishop Spong; I only agree more with the assessment as time goes on.

        Then again, you’d be surprised how little of your average Sunday morning service has to do with sex. It’s largely a misfeature of church hierarchies and the media.

        • smrnda

          I agree that it’s all about control. You create a problem (lust) by telling people that all sexual thoughts and feelings are evil. Since these feelings occur without any conscious effort on our part, you get people to feel guilty about feelings they can’t help having and can’t stop. Then, when they’re full of guilt and shame, you can get them under your authority by promising to take the guilt and shame away… but only temporarily, since it isn’t like sexuality can be shut off like a light switch.

          Personally, I’d have no problem saying that Jesus had some good ideas and some bad ones. Plenty of ethical teachers made bad judgment calls at different points in their lives. I think that a lot of people had some good ideas and some bad ones.

          • Rafael

            How is “Love thy neighbor as Thyself” about control?Matthew 22:”34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

            37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”” – Jesus Christ(YHWH)

            Also, Lust, Sexual Attraction isn’t a sin, I do not know where you got this from, if you got it from Matthew 5 you are mistaken, and read a mistranslation, read,

            http://savedbychrist94.blogspot.com/2013/04/lust-is-not-sin.html

        • Rafael

          How is “Love thy neighbor as Thyself” about control?Matthew 22:”34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

          37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”” – Jesus Christ(YHWH)

          Also, Lust, Sexual Attraction isn’t a sin, I do not know where you got this from, if you got it from Matthew 5 you are mistaken, & read a mistranslation, read,

          http://savedbychrist94.blogspot.com/2013/04/lust-is-not-sin.html

      • Rafael

        How is “Love thy neighbor as Thyself” about control?Matthew 22:”34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

        37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”” – Jesus Christ(YHWH)

        Also, Lust, Sexual Attraction isn’t a sin, if you got it from Matthew 5 you are mistaken, & read a mistranslation, read,http://savedbychrist94.blogspot.com/2013/04/lust-is-not-sin.html

  • J

    I don’t want to go to church. No, I’m not interested in hearing how cool and unconventional your church is or how nice your music or great your coffee. Not. Fucking. Interested.

    • Christian Piatt

      This post has nothing to do with going to church.

      • Michael Mock

        So, to clarify, point 4 is not meant to encourage disaffected Christians to come back and give church attendance another try?

        • Christian Piatt

          correct. Intentional community can take many, many forms.

          • Michael Mock

            Ohhhhhhhhh. So it’s not, “If you’re trying to be a good Christian, attending a church is highly advantageous.” Instead, it’s more like, “If you’re trying to be a good Christian, it helps to have some sort of community or support network.”

            Thanks, that helps.

          • Barbara Falconer Newhall

            A lot of Christians (as well as people of other traditions) woulld say that they find God — the Sacred — in a community. They’re not so much trying to be “good Christians” as they are seeking to deepen their loving relationships with themselves, with others and with Whatever set all of this in motion.
            “Trying to be a good Christian” feels like a rather childlike approach.

  • tehsilentone

    “supernatural … christ like path”

    attributed his ministry to God is an understatement. He raised the dead. There is no way to believe in Jesus that ignores the supernatural entirely. You fail to define a christ-like path and later fail to say what is a better alternative to “not being a dick”.

  • Thin-ice

    Well, the only problem with your section, “Just being a “good person” or “not hurting anyone else” isn’t enough” is that there are many studies out there to verify that people calling themselves “Christian” have behavior that is no different, and sometimes more behaviorally negative, than people who claim allegiance to no religion at all. Even non-religious people can stretch themselves to became even better behaved and more generous as they continue on in this life.

    And to be fair, the christianity that any single person describes (you included) is just your particular spin on this religion. Most evangelicals (I used to be one before I became an apostate unbeliever, hallelujah!) wouldn’t even recognize your liberal, mild-mannered religion as Christianity anyway.

    • Rafael

      Actually if they are evil, they are not Christians, not by my opinion by what Christianity is from, The Bible/Jesus Christ(YHWH), read,

      1 John 2:4 – “Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.”

      Matthew 7:21 – “21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.22“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’23“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’” – Jesus Christ

      What is This Law/Command that we are to follow?

      a rather Pleasing commandment,

      Matthew 22:36-40 “36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and[a]foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” – Jesus Christ(YHWH/God)

      • Thin-ice

        And, Rafael, where do you draw the line between “sinful” (which is ALL of us, according to the NT) and “evil”???

        You can be sinful and still a Christian, but evil means you’re not a Christian? Does 200 lies qualify as evil? Or stealing something worth more than $5? Or only killing someone? When does a person cross over the line from sinful to evil? From Christian to non-Christian, according to your definition?

        Sorry, Rafael, your theology, or interpretation of theology, is impossible to define clearly. No one can ever know, can they? Your comment strikes me as absurdly illogical.

        • Rafael

          Bible doesn’t claim that Christians still sin, it says, Romans 3:23 – “23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

          Says All have Sinned(past tense) not, all are in a current state of sinning.

          Bible says, 1 John 3:5-9 “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or [a]knows Him. 7 Little children, make sure no onedeceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil [b]has sinned from the beginning. The Son of Godappeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is [c]born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is [d]born of God.”

          Also you distinguish Sin and Evil, Sin IS Evil, there’s nothing good about it and there’s nothing Law Abiding about Evil, we know that Good is YHWH(The Father and The Son and The Holy Spirit) He created us because of grace, He wants us to live and enjoy Him, evil is a Lack of Good, a Lack of Life, anything against Him/His Intent(Freedom and Life, No Harm) is Evil and is Prohibited(Thus Sin, a Transgression of Law)

          “Your comment strikes me as absurdly illogical”

          How is it absurdly illogical? I explained above.

          • Mary

            The word “sin” is an archery term, meaning “missing the mark.” Is it evil to not hit a bull’s eye 100% of the time? No, it just means that we are human and make mistakes. I would distinguish that from true “evil”, in which a person has no conscience and no regard for others, such as a murderer or rapist.

            The other thing I would point out to you is that the NT is not consistent in its position on sin since in Paul’s writings he talked a lot about his struggles with sin even though he was a Christian. When people quote bible verses to prove a point they often miss the fact that the bible was written by individuals with different points of view at different points in history and it is impossible to harmonize it, even within the NT.

          • Rafael

            “The word “sin” is an archery term, meaning “missing the mark”

            Not in The Bible, the word is meant to be error, not a mere mistake http://openoureyeslord.com/2010/12/28/is-

            The Bible defines it as, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” – 1 John 3:4

            ” Is it evil to not hit a bull’s eye 100% of the time?””

            Yes, you should never murder, rape, be violent, etc, never should harm.

            “No, it just means that we are human and make mistakes.”

            No, sinning isn’t a mistake, murder, rape, or any intentional harm is not a mistake, tripping, stepping on someones sneakers by accident is a mistake, not sin harm, not sin.

            So sin is breaking The Law, what is The Law?

            Matthew 22:34 “But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35 One of them, [a]a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and [b]foremost commandment.39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” – Jesus Christ(YHWH)

            So breaking The Law, or Sinning is basically not loving your neighbor and YHWH(The Father and The Son and The Holy Spirit)

            “since in Paul’s writings he talked a lot about his struggles with sin even though he was a Christian.”

            Where? In Romans 7 Paul is not speaking autobiographically but of a hypothetical Jew, he does the same in Romans 1, where people confuse this Hypothetical Jew(or actually someone else who says it, not Paul) for a condemnation of Homosexuality(most Anti Gay now use Romans 1 against Homosexuality when it actually CONDEMNS Anti-Gay, Paul used a hypothetical Jew against Homosexuality, to condemn this anti-gay behavior, Romans 1 is a pro gay passage)

            “When people quote bible verses to prove a point they often miss the fact that the bible was written by individuals with different points of view”

            Actually the viewpoint is consistent, pharisees(who claim to be Christian) and atheist need to stop using proven Interpolated passages to support dogma and false Anti- YHWH doctrines.

          • Mary

            Your first link is interesting but since I am not a bible scholar I would have to do more research.

            However I am confused about your second link and I am having trouble trying to figure out your point. This is the last paragraph:

            “Therefore, in Romans 7:14-25, the Apostle Paul is describing the normal Christian life. This is a struggle that every Christian will experience. The poor, struggling sinner who is erroneously told that the struggle with sin he or she is currently experiencing is a sign of defeat and that the person is not yet a Christian, or else has chosen not to take advantage of the victory offered to all those in Christ, should instead see the struggle with sin as proof that sanctification is actually taking place. The New Testament knows of only one victorious life-the life of Jesus Christ. All of those who are truly in Christ’s will go through the refiner’s fire so that when Jesus returns, he will receive a spotless and radiant bride. Far, then, from a description of Paul’s journey from a defeated Jew to a victorious Christian, in this passage, Paul is describing what every Christian will experience-a desire to do what is right and a continual struggle with indwelling sin. While final victory is assured, it will finally come when we are glorified: freed not only from sin’s guilt and tyranny, but its very presence.”

            Perhaps I have missed your point? You seemed to be saying that Christians no longer sin and yet this article supports the idea that Christians undergo a continuing sanctification until Jesus returns and makes them whole.

            “Actually the viewpoint is consistent, pharisees(who claim to be Christian) and atheist need to stop using proven Interpolated passages to support dogma and false Anti- YHWH doctrines.”

            There are thousands of denominations of Christianity who make the same argument and usually add the flourish of having the Holy Spirit as justification for their views. Everyone picks and chooses. However I do think that the two commandments as you have brought are the parts that people ought to be agreeing on and practicing in their lives.

          • Rafael

            “Perhaps I have missed your point? You seemed to be saying that Christians no longer sin and yet this article supports the idea that Christians undergo a continuing sanctification until Jesus returns and makes them whole.”

            The second link I google search for the hypothetical Jew and thought the link supported it, because google had the article say, “Paul is not speaking autobiographically but of a hypothetical Jew before conversion”

            So forget that link, the point is it was a Hypothetical Jew that Paul used.

            “There are thousands of denominations of Christianity who make the same argument and usually add the flourish of having the Holy Spirit as justification for their views.

            Anyone can do this, The Pharisees did this when they claimed God(Jesus Christ who was standing right in front of them) was on their side, when they were not, Scripture refuted them.

            ” Everyone picks and chooses. However I do think that the two commandments as you have brought are the parts that people ought to be agreeing on and practicing in their lives.”

            The two commandments aren’t a pick and choose, read again

            “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

            Basically every single Law in The Bible is based on this, Thanks to Jesus Christ/YHWH saying this we can rule out interpolations and false laws.

            Anyone not following The Two Commandments aren’t Christians, no one picks and chooses those 2 commands, those 2 commands are basically The Law, every law is based on it.

          • Mary

            I did not say that you should pick and choose on these vital points. To me those two things are the basis of morality in my view, a morality based on empathy. As far as the rest of what you have said I just consider them another viewpoint and while I respect your right to believe what you want I do not agree with them.

      • Nick Gotts

        And no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.

        • Rafael

          Actually I would commit a no true scotsman HAD they been Christian, however by definition a Christian does not sin, so no, whether I like it or not they are not Christian.

          So no, the no true scotsman wasn’t commited.

          • Nick Gotts

            “by definition a Christian does not sin”????
            By whose definition? It’s not a definition I’ve ever come across before, except perhaps among 17th-century antinomians, who claimed that they could do whatever they liked without sin. Most Christians say that they are sinful, and indeed, claim that everyone except Jesus sins. Are you claiming, Rafael, that you are Jesus? Or are you saying you are not a Christian?

  • Barbara Falconer Newhall

    I was recently appointed the person in our family of Christians, atheists and skeptics to say a prayer at our Jewish aunt’s gravesite. I came up with a version of the Kaddish that actually seemed to speak to the non-believers in our midst. I think the key is maybe to dispense with some of the outdated — medieval — language describing God and speak of God in a larger way.

    Here’s a link to my adaptation of the Kaddish: I’m hoping it’s respectful of your Jewish readers. http://barbarafalconernewhall.com/2013/06/27/an-episcopalian-says-kaddish-for-her-jewish-aunt/

  • Nemo

    It seems to me that #1 and #5 contradict each other. Number 5 seems to be refuting “salvation by works”, a dirty word in many Christian circles, Protestant especially. Yet, salvation by faith kinda depends on the supernatural in order to work.

    • Rafael

      James 2:14-26 :”14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

      18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your[a]works, and I will show you my faith by my[b] works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?[c] 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”[d] And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

      25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

      26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

  • MNb

    I’m a Dutch atheist and even never have been baptized, so here I go.
    1. I don’t like the christian path too much. Jesus was not that great. To be honest I have more admiration for Franciscus of Assisi.

    I sometimes visit churches though, but I like mosques better. Hindu services are very long and boring alas.

    2. Why should I pray at all? Last time for me was more than 35 years ago and I never noticed any difference.

    3. An ongoing practice that minimally wastes my time is worse than a one time event that wastes my time.

    4. I don’t need church to be an unbeliever either.

    “we need each other, like it or not”

    Sure, but do you know what the benefit is for an unbeliever like me? I can carefully pick the people I need badly. Some are christians, some are muslims, some are unbelievers. You don’t have such a wide choice, because your belief system prevents you.

    5. For me just being a good person is enough indeed. And I find this task hard enough.

    “But can we honestly say”

    Not me, but fortunately other people say so.

    “exploring our full potential for spiritual maturity”

    This assumes duality, which I reject. So I guess my potential is about zero, which means I am quickly done with it. That’s good news, because

    “Now, go and do it.”

    nope, I don’t have time for this. I am too busy trying to improve my little world a bit.

    Alas I have to disappoint you. I am not upset, only amused. And I disagree wholeheartedly.

    • Rafael

      “1. I don’t like the christian path too much. Jesus was not that great. To be honest I have more admiration for Franciscus of Assisi.”

      Jesus Christ Is Great, He’s the reason we exist, someone who Commands others to “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself” is Epic.

      “2. Why should I pray at all? Last time for me was more than 35 years ago and I never noticed any difference.”
      How do you know that prayer doesn’t work? from one experience? even if a Lifetime worth of prayer didn’t work, you cannot say it’s a waste of time, because you cannot prove that.

      “3. An ongoing practice that minimally wastes my time is worse than a one time event that wastes my time.”

      How does it waste your time.

      “4. I don’t need church to be an unbeliever either.

      “we need each other, like it or not”

      Sure, but do you know what the benefit is for an unbeliever like me? I can carefully pick the people I need badly. Some are christians, some are muslims, some are unbelievers. You don’t have such a wide choice, because your belief system prevents you.”

      My belief system(not a belief, but something I’ve observed Scientifically) doesn’t prevent me because I do not know who is a Christian, I do not know who is saved.

      “5. For me just being a good person is enough indeed. And I find this task hard enough.”

      And why are you a good person? because you know it’s right.

      What makes it right? Human opinion? No, if so then morality is Subjective and things like rape can be right, it is above Human opinion, as it’s objective(rape and murder will always be wrong for example)

      So humans didn’t make it, What/Who did?

      Was it a Mindless Cause? an Evolutionary Process?

      No, this is impossible, as Scientifically a Cause has equal or greater properties than it’s effect, Morality is a Conscious/Personal Property, it isn’t mindless, it requires a mind, the cause is therefore a Mind, this is who we call God(YHWH: The Father, and The Son and The Holy Spirit)

      • Mary

        “Jesus Christ Is Great, He’s the reason we exist, someone who Commands others to “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself” is Epic.”

        Hate to burst your bubble, but the Buddha said this long before Jesus and this is a feature of most religions. That doesn’t mean that Jesus didn’t have some good things to say, but they were not unique. Of course it bears repeating since most of us have trouble following it so it is a good teaching.

        And by the way I am not an atheist. I just don’t think any religion has a monopoly on the truth. I think we can learn a lot from other religions.

        • Rafael

          “Hate to burst your bubble, but the Buddha said this long before Jesus ”

          Actually Old Testament said this, long before buddha, Jesus Christ didn’t create a New Law, He just repeated the one He gave before, Leviticus 19:18 ” You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

          buddha basically copied Jesus Christ(YHWH of Old Testament, Zechariah 2) if what you claim is true(if buddha said this, then he copied Jesus Christ/YHWH)

          ” I think we can learn a lot from other religions.”

          Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself was from The Old Testament, other religions copied it. so no, we cannot learn from other religions when they basically copied The Old and New Testament, especially when those other religions divert from truth(That God is YHWH) and they have their own harmful rules(like islams kill unbelievers, whereas The Bible has Jesus Christ/YHWH saying “Love you enemies and pray for those who prosecute you” – Matthew 5, or “buddha” saying life is suffering when in Reality Life is Joyful and a Lack of it is what suffering is)

          So yes when The Father and Jesus Christ and The Holy Spirit said Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself in Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 22, it was unique, He invented it, that’s what He wants.

          • Mary

            “buddha basically copied Jesus Christ(YHWH of Old Testament, Zechariah 2) if what you claim is true(if buddha said this, then he copied Jesus Christ/YHWH)”

            You are partly right, yes the OT came first. But the Buddha was never exposed to Judaism so how could he copy it?

            “Buddha: Consider others as yourself.”

            “Jesus: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

            “Egyptian Late Period Papyrus: That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another. ”

            “Epicurus: Neither harm nor be harmed.”

            “Confucius: Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself”

            Furthermore you misinterpret the Buddha’s teachings. He didn’t teach that everything is suffering. He taught a method of equanimity which basically says to not become attached to suffering or anything that can cause suffering. Basically he was talking about addiction.

            “Every religion emphasizes human improvement, love, respect for others, sharing other people’s suffering. On these lines every religion had more or less the same viewpoint and the same goal.” -The Dalai Lama

            Now you give the example of the Muslims and I will tell you the truth. They get their theology from the OT. Ancient Judaism had the same laws of stoning people to death and commiting genocide. They either killed rape victims or forced them to marry their rapists. Not long ago a girl in a Muslim country commited suicide because she was forced to marry her rapist.
            The only difference between us and them is that we have grown up a bit.

            My opinion on religion is to take the good and leave the bad. Some factions of Islam follow the bad, even though the Koran says this:

            Mohammed: ” Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. That that you want for yourself, seek for mankind.”

            You can legimately claim that this came from the bible but I don’t care where is comes from as long as it is a good teaching.

          • Rafael

            You just proved it,

            “You are partly right, yes the OT came first. But the Buddha was never exposed to Judaism so how could he copy it?”

            you quoted “”buddha: Consider others as yourself.” from Dhammapada(which I’d argue is After 1st Century Jesus Christ)

            When “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself” has existed long before buddha said it, in Leviticus 19:18, Old Testament.

            “You are partly right, yes the OT came first. But the buddha was never exposed to Judaism so how could he copy it?”

            How do you know he was never exposed to Old Testament? Actually these verses are clear evidence that he did, not only did he know of it but copied it.

            “Furthermore you misinterpret the Buddha’s teachings. He didn’t teach that everything is suffering. He taught a method of equanimity which basically says to not become attached to suffering or anything that can cause suffering. Basically he was talking about addiction.”

            No he taught that Life is suffering and not to be attached to desire, this is one of the main teachings(4 “truths”), even nirvana(the main goal) is “A transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self,”,

            ““Every religion emphasizes human improvement, love, respect for others, sharing other people’s suffering. On these lines every religion had more or less the same viewpoint and the same goal.” -The Dalai Lama”

            This is ignorance, #1, How does he know that EVERY religion does this? lack of wisdom here, Psuedowisdom.

            #2, No, actually Islam and buddism ask to kill Unbelievers, Christianity does not such thing(Love Your Enemies, Matthew 5, YHWH(The Father and The Son and The Holy Spirit)

            “Now you give the example of the Muslims and I will tell you the truth. They get their theology from the OT”

            No they do not, keep in mind Old Testament does has interpolations and even with interpolations and Laws to Israel only NEVER was it commanded to kill people because they didn’t believe(YHWH has mercy, gives us time to repent), only self defense(If someone tries to make you unbelieve, worship another)

            “Judaism had the same laws of stoning people to death and commiting genocide.”

            Never was genocide commited in Old Testament, don’t even use interpolations, YHWH never killed innocent.

            “They either killed rape victims or forced them to marry their rapists.”

            Never in Old Testament, and before you pull up Deuteronomy 22:28-29,

            Deuteronomy 22:25-27 condemns rape, the word for rape here is, which is missing in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 and therefore a mistranslation, essentially the verse is basically Exodus, so no rape victim was killed or forced to marry rapist, this is a long old internet lie from mistranslations, instead of being logical and reading the original document, Hebrew.

            ” Not long ago a girl in a Muslim country commited suicide because she was forced to marry her rapist.The only difference between us and them is that we have grown up a bit.”

            That’s islam, never in Old or New Testament.

            “My opinion on religion is to take the good and leave the bad. Some factions of Islam follow the bad, even though the Koran says this:”

            Not with Christianity(Old and New Testament) though.

            “You can legimately claim that this came from the bible but I don’t care where is comes from as long as it is a good teaching.”

            Then that’s dishonest and you don’t look for truth, if you did you’d look for the original source, and this is Leviticus 19:18.

          • Nick Gotts

            Never was genocide commited in Old Testament, don’t even use interpolations, YHWH never killed innocent.

            What absurd nonsense. In the flood, YHWH supposedly killed everybody except for 8 people. He slaughtered the firstborn of Egypt after first taking the precaution of hardening Pharoah’s heart so he could show off. He repeatedly told Joshua to kill everyone in places he conquered.

          • Rafael

            “In the flood, YHWH supposedly killed everybody except for 8 people. ”

            Read Genesis, says whole world was evil/violent, those killed(put out of existence) were evil, that’s what text says, saying innocent were killed is adding to text. since babies and children are innocent, they were not killed in flood.

            Firstborn of egypt is interpolated, as contradicts majority of text and is rarely mentioned again

            Joshua, books like this have authenticity but also alot of interpolation like The Book of Samuel, for example scholars believe a chapter or few are interpolated in Samuel, and also now there’s 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel, when actually they were one book.

            So no, there was no genocide.

          • Nick Gotts

            What dishonest rubbish! There is nothing whatsoever to indicate that babies and children were not killed in the flood, there is no evidence that the killing of the firstborn was interpolated, nor that the genocides attributed to Joshua were interpolated. It is clear your approach is one of simply denying anything that goes against your claims, without a particle of evidence for doing so.

  • Nick Gotts

    But there also seems to be this tendency to understand Christianity and
    its adherents as one generally monolithic group that can be described in
    simple (often negative) terms that they would never be acceptable to
    apply to any other group.

    Oh come off it. This sort of whining from a position of privilege is one of the most repulsive aspects of much Christianity. Try being a Muslim in any traditionally Christian country, or an atheist in most of the USA.

  • Logos

    Who may you be to say christianity, is false! Are the Antichrist? To be a christian is be be a son God, having the promise of the inhertiance of eternal life. Jesus said,” If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth & came from God, nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. You are of your father the devil, & the desires of the father you want to do. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar & the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me” He who is of God hears God’ s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God”. John 8 v 42-47 Repent or you will perish!

  • Kris

    The reason I don’t follow Christianity, or any religion for that matter, is because I find it completely unnecessary. I don’t need a religion to guide my moral compass; it’s already pointing in a very good direction and, in fact, is much more sophisticated than “don’t be a dick.” I also don’t need a religion to be spiritually fulfilled, because, on one hand, I just don’t care that much about the “big questions” that seems to have so many people running into the comforting arms of religion, and on the other hand I feel that my spirituality transcends all of the seemingly made-up and meaningless minutia of any particular religion.

    So, if I’m a happy, successful human being who cares about his work, his family, his friends, his community, his planet, and his future, really…

    …what’s the point?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X