On Christian Hypocrites

Anyone who’s familiar with Christianity knows that, in the last few decades alone, the Christian church has seen an astounding number of its powerful preachers exposed as blatant hypocrites. The most famous example, of course, is Ted Haggard, former president of the National Association of Evangelicals and a fervent opponent of gay marriage, who fell spectacularly from grace after revelations of a three-year sexual relationship with a male prostitute.

But he’s not the only one. There’s Jim Bakker, a once-powerful televangelist who was found guilty of fraud for running a phony investment scheme, and Jimmy Swaggart, who exposed the sexual indiscretions of several powerful preachers and was later caught patronizing a prostitute himself. The list could further be extended to include Peter Popoff, a faith healer whose “miraculous” knowledge of audience members’ illnesses came through a covert radio receiver in his ear; Richard Roberts, who resigned as president of the college founded by his father Oral Roberts after a lawsuit alleging misuse of school funds; Randall Terry, the anti-abortion activist who was censured by his own church for adultery; the secret anti-Semite Billy Graham; the turbulent and violent life of Francis Schaeffer; recent revelations about Todd Bentley; and many, many more.

The charge of hypocrisy in the church has become so pervasive that even Christian apologist sites feel obligated to address it. In this post, I’ll address the common apologist replies and show how they unintentionally illuminate the depth of the problem, as well as discussing what it does and does not prove.

To start off, it’s quite true what most apologists say: that the existence of hypocrites within the church does not prove that Christianity’s claims about the existence of God are false. There is no logical connection between those two propositions. But all these hypocrites, I think, do undermine a different supernatural claim: the alleged ability of Christian belief to transform people’s lives in a uniquely effective and beneficial way.

The apologist site ChristianAnswers.net unintentionally points this out when it insists that many Christians have unequivocally condemned hypocrisy:

Addressing 10,000 itinerant preachers and evangelists in Amsterdam in the summer of 2000, Dr. [Ravi] Zacharias then went on to challenge his listeners with these words: “Why is it that a community that talks so much about supernatural transformation shows so little of that transformation?

Why indeed? Zacharias’ point is a good one, although that probably isn’t the message he intended to convey. For a religion that so frequently touts its life-changing powers, it seems Christianity has more than its fair share of frauds who gleefully engage in the private acts that they loudly condemn in public. And this hypocrisy occurs not just in lay believers, but among the very leaders of the church: the ones who were believed to be godly and virtuous by millions of followers, the ones who had by far the most to lose if they were caught. If Christianity can’t change the hearts of these people, shouldn’t we take that as an indication of how well it will work for the rest of us?

And where would you go anyway? With what faith would you ever align yourself? Certainly there are also hypocritical Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists. Even atheists.

No doubt of that. Then again, atheists, unlike Christians, don’t claim to have privileged access to the sole font of moral virtue. On the contrary, we believe that every sect will have both good and bad people among its membership. Nor do we claim to enjoy supernatural protection from temptation, as Christians do.

But what’s interesting about this excerpt is that it’s essentially admitting that Christians are no different from everyone else! This defense of “well, everyone else does it too” is a tacit concession that Christians as a whole display no special virtue that sets them apart from everyone else. If that were the case, this apologist site could argue that, despite occasional hypocrisy, Christians as a whole are still morally superior to other faiths. It’s notable that they make no attempt to claim this.

No one can escape the charge of “hypocrite” — no one except Jesus Himself.

And here’s the crux of the matter: the claim that human beings may be fallible, but God is not. But what evidence do they offer to support this? There is no God manifesting himself in the world and displaying his moral perfection. (And the Bible and other texts supposedly dictated by this being contain many verses of highly dubious morality.) If Christians could point to a morally perfect deity giving them instructions, that would be one thing. But they can’t: they ask us to take his existence on faith. And when they concede that, morally speaking, they are as a whole no better than the rest of us, this does suggest that they have no privileged link to such a being.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • mikespeir

    Hypocrisy isn’t the reason I left the Christian faith, but it’s probably among the main reasons I could never return to it. This isn’t judgmentalism. I was sometimes a hypocrite as a Christian and probably am now sometimes as an atheist. Hypocrisy is a human, not just a religious, problem.

    But your main point is key, Ebon: there really doesn’t seem to be any supernatural “unction” in Christianity to impel one toward a more moral life. In any congregation there will always be a small core of people who really do seem to have their Christian act together. In the great middle are others who are generally hit-or-miss. Then there’s the bottom ten percent who take up 50 percent of the pastor’s counseling time. These people will likely never get it together, although they’re afraid to quit trying. Put bluntly, Christianity isn’t working for them.

    But there are many more yet who sat in the pews at one time and no longer do. Some of these came in desperate and in need, grasping at anything that might keep them afloat. Christianity failed them. Believers can protest all day long that they didn’t hold their mouths right or something, but it remains that, whatever it was these people needed, they didn’t find it in Christianity. So they’re gone now. And that’s convenient for Christians. It’s convenient because the now out-of-sight, out-of-mind apostates aren’t a constant, grating reminder of just how poorly Christianity works for many people.

  • http://superstitionfree.blogspot.com Robert Madewell

    Christians have it even worse. If there’s some kind of fetish that a christian has that’s a sin to his dogma, he is compelled to hide it from others. Haggard is a prime example of this. Of course, the christian is urged to confess his sins to God (sometimes also to a minister) But, who would want to do that? For a minister like Haggard it would have meant airing some dirty laundry, and running the risk of being seen as unfit to lead his church (of something like 10,000 members in Haggards case) and losing his comfortable lifestyle. Better to just hide it until you get caught.

  • Arch

    A Christian who fails to represent the faith does not corrupt the truth of God. Do you feel that a politician who commits an evil act makes America an invalid country? Christians are called to be holy and the path of holiness is a journey, not a static state. Everyone is in need of forgiveness, reconciliation, and conversion.
    And if you are going to throw punches at Christianity by focusing on public people who are not strong examples of the Gospel, then you are narrowing your vision to meet your own bias. If you were fair you would recognize that there are numerous holy Christians, including today, both named and not.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Arch said,

    A Christian who fails to represent the faith does not corrupt the truth of God.

    Thus, he indicated that he didn’t actually read the OP:

    To start off, it’s quite true what most apologists say: that the existence of hypocrites within the church does not prove that Christianity’s claims about the existence of God are false. There is no logical connection between those two propositions.

    Perhaps you should actually read the post that you are responding to Arch.

  • http://superstitionfree.blogspot.com Robert Madewell

    Arch said,

    A Christian who fails to represent the faith does not corrupt the truth of God. Do you feel that a politician who commits an evil act makes America an invalid country?

    As far as I can tell Ebonmuse didn’t say that at all. He just pointed out that christianity make claims about a lifestyle change after “being saved”, and that there is little evidence for it.

    I tend to agree with him. I’m a ministers son and I’ve seen more corrupt “born againers” than not corrupt. It’s not that the faith is wrong, it’s just that the claim of a “new heart” appears to be false.

  • Arch

    The original post states:

    “If Christianity can’t change the hearts of these people” (who have been hypocritical), “shouldn’t we take that as an indication of how well it will work for the rest of us?”

    It is clearly trying to say that hypocrisy is a reason to denounce Christianity, which is the point I replied to.

  • mikespeir

    A Christian who fails to represent the faith does not corrupt the truth of God.

    Supposing there really is any “truth of God,” which hasn’t been established. What it does, though, is give evidence to the contrary, despite your assertion that there’s no logical connection between those two propositions.” When people to claim a special, divine empowerment to live moral lives (by their lights, anyway) and they don’t, how is that not evidence against? No, it doesn’t prove God doesn’t exist. What it does is deprive one of the purported evidences for God’s existence of its force.

  • heliobates

    Christian who fails to represent the faith does not corrupt the truth of God.

    I’m starting to see what your problem is. You seem to be completely unable to understand an argument in context. Don’t you feel at least a little embarrassed that Adam acknowledged this objection as part of his argument?

    From the OP (I’ve bolded the important stuff):

    But all these hypocrites, I think, do undermine a different supernatural claim: the alleged ability of Christian belief to transform people’s lives in a uniquely effective and beneficial way.

    On which Adam expands in order to get to this:

    If Christianity can’t change the hearts of these people, shouldn’t we take that as an indication of how well it will work for the rest of us?

    … and most importantly, this:

    If Christians could point to a morally perfect deity giving them instructions, that would be one thing. But they can’t: they ask us to take his existence on faith. And when they concede that, morally speaking, they are as a whole no better than the rest of us, this does suggest that they have no privileged link to such a being.

    Reading comprehenshun. Yr still doin it rong.

  • Arch

    When people to claim a special, divine empowerment to live moral lives (by their lights, anyway) and they don’t, how is that not evidence against? No, it doesn’t prove God doesn’t exist. What it does is deprive one of the purported evidences for God’s existence of its force.

    Your statement here does not take free will into account. God does not force us to be holy or to love. Love must entail the choice of an individual.

    And why do you not acknowledge the many holy Christians that have lived and are living? They are all around us.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Arch,
    Free will has nothing to do with this, and you can’t simply use free will as a shielf against all criticisms. The claim made by Xians is that their hearts are changed and they become better people regardless of their free wills! This is obviously not the case.

    And why do you not acknowledge the many holy Christians that have lived and are living? They are all around us.

    I don’t know about “holy” but I will gladly say that there are good Xians and bad Xians, just as there are good and bad people in any group. What’s your point? This does nothing to counteract the argument at hand. As Heliobates said (in different words) you need to work on your reading comprehension.

  • javaman

    Arch,
    If Christians are claiming they have the only pipeline to God and they are receiving the most perfect moral instructions, in my opinion they should be held to a higher degree of moral behavior in society. Yes, they are humans just like all of us, and they have the same failings, but they are receiving guidance from God. Shouldn’t that put them in a higher moral mode of behavior? And BTW, how come the Christian congregation where Ted Haggard was the minister wasn’t stoned to death, as per instructions in the Bible! This man had lunch with the President of the United States on an ongoing basis, was married with children, got high on crystal meth and went to a male prostitute. If that doesn’t deserve stoning, I don’t know what does. He betrayed the faith of thousands, held himself up as a moral example of how others should behave, broke his wedding vows to his wife and disgraced his children and his god. Surely he should be put to death.

  • http://atheistagogo.wordpress.com/ Gregory

    The idea that Christianity radically changes people — for the better — has always bugged me. It was certainly the message I heard back when I had a brush with Evangelical Christianity. Jesus would come into my life, I was told, and everything would be different. I would be a better person. These were people who used “Christian” as synonymous with “Good.”

    I never saw it. I never see any of the supposed transformation. I blogged about one example a while ago — Christians, who supposedly have a strong faith in Heaven, react to death pretty much the same way any of us do. I find that telling, to say the least.

  • javaman

    Addendum to previous message: I meant that Ted Haggard should be stoned to death, not his congregation.

  • mikespeir

    Your statement here does not take free will into account. God does not force us to be holy or to love. Love must entail the choice of an individual.

    Your objection is a cop-out. What you’re doing is classic: telling us that every any Christian who lives a “holy” life is evidence for the truth of your faith, but that any who doesn’t isn’t evidence against. Why not? Exactly what would it take to invalidate your argument? Once again, you’re trying to push your religion past the pale of empirical testing. What you’re doing is starting out with the assertion that Christians are good people. Any who prove not to be good people are, voila, not Christians. Ergo, Christians are good people and, hence, proof that there’s something magical to the Christian faith. What kind of reasoning is that?

    And why do you not acknowledge the many holy Christians that have lived and are living? They are all around us.

    I have no trouble acknowledging that. I know many Christians who are good people. So what? There are good people within most faiths, and many good people without any faith at all. Clearly, a certain set of beliefs isn’t needed in order to be a good person.

  • heliobates

    Arch,

    I don’t know what is so hard to understand about this: non-Christians don’t presuppose the truth of the Christian revelation and then act in contradiction to that presupposition. You still have things exactly bass-ackwards.

    As atheists who do not presuppose the truth of Christianity, we scrutinize its claims and, not surpisingly, find them unsupported. The existence of “free will”, whether of the strict libertarian or of the compatabilist variety, is orthagonal to most of the truth claims of Christianity.

    Adam, in this article, examined one frequently-trumpeted claim: “Christianity is transformative.” That is, it has a positive effect on people who participate in it. Based on the evidence Adam presented, this claim is false.

    If you want to argue successfully against Adam’s post, then you need to demonstrate how and why Christianity is trustworthy when its prominent believers have conceded that they are no more moral, or no less immoral, than unbelievers.

    How does “take free will into account” answer Dr. Zacharias’ question: “Why is it that a community that talks so much about supernatural transformation shows so little of that transformation”?

    Also, saying “but there are lots of good Christians” is another red herring. Christianity does not, in Adam’s words “transform people’s lives in a uniquely effective and beneficial way”. If Christians are not demonstrably more moral, as a group, then you cannot correlate moral character with Christianity. Put another way, your argument faceplants when someone asks “so? There are lots of ‘holy’ [followers of religion X] who live and have lived. What’s that got to do with the price of tea in China?”

    So if, contrary to its evangelical claims, Christianity does not have the demonstrated ability to transform the lives of believers for the better, then what else are Christians wrong about?

    If Jesus is “the Way”, then why do so few of you arrive?

  • Polly

    @Arch,

    Your statement here does not take free will into account. God does not force us to be holy or to love. Love must entail the choice of an individual.

    In Heaven, will there be sin or not? What about free-will then? If god can wipe sin out of believers’ hearts in the future why not in the present – when it’s much more sorely needed and would result in many more conversions through sheer works of goodness and selflessness?

  • Polly

    Arch,

    One other thing. Doesn’t a convert already express his desire to change? And, isn’t a lost person described as a “slave” to sin? So, wouldn’t removing the tendency to sin actually be an act of liberation not an act against free-will?

    If you are compelled to sin after making a decision to follow Christ, then where’s the free-will in that? For god to SUPPORT free-will, it would be incumbant on him to remove the “addiction” to sin so that a believer can live according to their decision and not according to worldly desires.

  • http://collapsingwaves.wordpress.com Brad

    And if you are going to throw punches at Christianity by focusing on public people who are not strong examples of the Gospel, then you are narrowing your vision to meet your own bias. If you were fair you would recognize that there are numerous holy Christians, including today, both named and not.

    I’ve just attended a mandatory mass of the holy spirit today at my Catholic high school. The idea of the Holy Spirit is that he’s supposed to influence us, and give us the power to do great things in the name of God. The very fact that there are “not strong examples of the Gospel” exactly where the holy spirit is supposed to be found most is evidence against the supposed influence of the holy spirit. The existence of “numerous holy Christians” does not cancel out this argument, or weaken it.

    And if being “holy” is indeed purely a matter of free will, without reliable or verifiable influence from otherworldy spirits – well, then we need not even dabble in Ebonmuse’s argument: the assumption of no influence already puts the efficacy of the holy spirit to rest.

    Either way, the phenomenon of supernatural transformation is put into doubt.

  • Arch

    The claim made by Xians is that their hearts are changed and they become better people regardless of their free wills!

    This is not a true representation of Christian teaching. Christians uphold that God gratuitously bestows grace upon us, but does not force us to receive his grace–individuals are not “automatically” transformed at a certain moment apart from their will. One must make an assent of their will to follow God in the first place and also has freedom to strive for holiness or to do evil, just like everyone. Christ never forced and never forces anyone to follow him.

    So if, contrary to its evangelical claims, Christianity does not have the demonstrated ability to transform the lives of believers for the better, then what else are Christians wrong about?

    A hermeneutic of doubt is noted in your post, heliobates. I am sorry that you are upset with the fact that there are people who call themselves Christians but do not fully strive to live like Christ. I apologize for the wrongs you have witnessed and find that upseting as well. While I wish that were not the case, I also recognize that everyone is called to the path of holiness, and as I said before, holiness is a journey, not a static state. Your claim that Christ and the Christian faith are untrue because there are Christians who do immoral acts is like calling a school’s mission fallen and corrupt because there are students who get detentions and do not abide by the mission. Also, there are multitudes of Christians (past and present) who have had their lives transformed because of life lived in and through Christ. But ultimately the goodness and truth of Christianity is not based on one person’s actions, but rather on who Christ is, what he did, and what he calls us to.

  • heliobates

    Your claim that Christ and the Christian faith are untrue because there are Christians who do immoral acts is like calling a school’s mission fallen and corrupt because there are students who get detentions and do not abide by the mission.

    Uh, no. My claim that “Christ and the Christian faith are untrue…” is like calling a school’s mission fallen and corrupt because the students are dealing drugs on the playground while the administration is using the school board’s expense accounts to have inground pools installed at home and appropriating student bursury money to take lavish South Pacific vacations. And while this is going on, teachers are having affairs with one another and the PTA treasurer has absconded with this year’s fundraising proceeds.

    Now, it’s supposed to mean something that the “Mission Statement and Code of Conduct” were apparently dictated directly by God through ingenious supernatural control of Kinkos digital copy equipment, but at this point, I’m doubting even that.

    Whether or not the “school’s mission” is fallen and corrupt, the people responsible for embodying it certainly are. I may find it in my heart to forgive them and understand them, but when their canvassers telephone, I screen my calls.

    Remember: the school promised, through the truth and power of its Mission, to transform the life of my child. And I just received a call from the “New Reformed Academy of …” promising a true transformation of my daughter through it’s divinely-inspired Mission and Core Values.

    I hung up. My kid is already registered in the public school down the street; apparently it has the same percentage of Grade 12 students accepted into the college of their choice.

  • Arch

    Polly,

    If god can wipe sin out of believers’ hearts in the future why not in the present – when it’s much more sorely needed and would result in many more conversions through sheer works of goodness and selflessness?

    While we have the capacity to sin, we also have a capacity and a natural desire for goodness. One of these cannot be without the other. If we did not have the capacity to do evil, neither would we have the capacity for love. Having freedom is therefore a gift and a great thing. Just as if humans lived in a pitch dark world without any sources of light, we would only know darkness… if we did not have freedom to choose both good and evil, we would not know what love is.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Heliobates,
    Your last post was magnificent.

    Arch,

    This is not a true representation of Christian teaching.

    Again with the sweeping generalizations…do you speak for all Xians? No? Then stop trying to do so here. The fact is that some Xians DO make this argument. If you disagree with the argument, why are you so vehemently arguing about it here?

    Your claim that Christ and the Christian faith are untrue because there are Christians who do immoral acts is like calling a school’s mission fallen and corrupt because there are students who get detentions and do not abide by the mission.

    Once again, your reading comprehension is as impeccably wrong as always.

    While we have the capacity to sin, we also have a capacity and a natural desire for goodness.

    Again, this is not a typical Xian argument, in that most Xians say that we have a natural desire to commit sin, hence the reason we need salvation (that and god holding us to impossible standards).

    One of these cannot be without the other. If we did not have the capacity to do evil, neither would we have the capacity for love.

    Really? Have you ever eaten dirt? If not, how can you have the capacity to enjoy good food?

  • Arch

    heliobates,

    I don’t think we are talking about the same things… you are obviously very upset by the actions of some individuals and I hope that you can separate those actions from who Christ truly is and what he calls us to. I also hope that you will be able to witness and know many great examples of people living out authentic and fruitful Christian lives.

    Peace be with all.

  • Arch

    I actually have eaten dirt while playing baseball…

    But again, if we only had the capacity to live in darkness, we would not know light. Thankfully, though, our capacity for evil allows us to know and choose love.

  • Polly

    But Arch,

    What about freedom in Heaven, the destination of all believers? If knowing good and evil are prerequisites for freedom and love, what happens in Heaven? And, if there’s a resolution to that in Heaven why not here on Earth?

    I think many here, like me, are familiar with a certain set of Christian doctrines. So for clarity’s sake…
    Do you believe in the Holy Spirit and his/its power to work change in a believer’s life – it’s called “sanctification” in most xian circles. It’s described as a process wherein a believer becomes empowered to reject sin beyond what he/she could accomplish on his/her own in the “strength of the flesh.” This is a supernatural process deep in the spirit, not a natural one.

    I realize that you are here to testify not to argue the faith. But, your testimony would be more effective if you dealt with the reason-based objection in the OP – Why is there no difference overall between the goodness of those purported to have divine assistance in overcoming sin and those without that assistance?

    Non-believers are like the control group for the drug: god. This drug is to cure the malady: sin. So far, the drug seems not to be helping in Lab(Earth) trials. Those taking the drug and those not taking the drug seem to be doing equally well(or poorly).

  • heliobates

    I also hope that you will be able to witness and know many great examples of people living out authentic and fruitful Christian lives.

    At the beginning of summer, my daughter and I were walking home from her daycare and I was approached on the street by a couple of Mormon missionaries, neither of them older than 18. I think they both got a little excited when I acknowledged that I’m an atheist. So, they did their best Human PowerPoint presentation (“Witnessing_to_Atheists.ppt”) and went screen by screen. They started by “chatting me up” by inquiring about my daughter* and then almost immediatly flipped to “Slide #2: What is the meaning and purpose of life?”, remembering to employ the techniques of active listening and ask open-ended questions. They then wanted 20 minutes of my time to discuss God with me.

    I’ve been an atheist since my mid-teens.** I’m 38 years old and I have a 5 year-old daughter. Of course I’m gonna be transformed by discussing Ultimate Meaning with an 18 year-old.

    We do agree on one thing, Arch. I don’t think we’re talking about the same things, either.

    * One of them actually said “Kids are really life-changing, aren’t they?”. Creeepy!
    ** Since Catholic High School, oddly enough.

  • heliobates

    Non-believers are like the control group for the drug: god. This drug is to cure the malady: sin. So far, the drug seems not to be helping in Lab(Earth) trials. Those taking the drug and those not taking the drug seem to be doing equally well(or poorly).

    Keyboard kill.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Arch,

    I actually have eaten dirt while playing baseball…
    But again, if we only had the capacity to live in darkness, we would not know light. Thankfully, though, our capacity for evil allows us to know and choose love.

    When in doubt, simply repeat your argument ad nauseum, right?

    So, since you have eaten dirt, was it a prerequisite for you liking other types of food? I would assume not, so why would you continue to assert that we can only know good through evil? Polly’s question about hell puts a serious chink in your assertions, as does this: how does god know what good is? Why doesn’t god also have to experience evil to know what good is? Also, do you believe that god is omni-max? If so, why would he create a system for us where we have to experience evil in order to experience good, when he could have created a system where this was not the case? I know you won’t actually answer any of these questions….

  • prase

    Arch,

    I don’t think we are talking about the same things… you are obviously very upset by the actions of some individuals and I hope that you can separate those actions from who Christ truly is and what he calls us to.

    you and heliobates are indeed not talking abou the same thing, but at least heliobates is talking about the subject of this post. Also, the people here are generally upset by the actions of not some individuals, but rather a substantial part of Christian activists and clergy. If you accept being called a Christian, you accept a sort of group identity together with other people who call themselves Christians – the only reliable way out is to use different name for your faith. Otherwise you should understand that other people have no grounds on which to decide who is the true follower of Christ, whether the one you consider holy, or the corrupt fake faith healer from TV show. For an atheist who himself doesn’t believe in existence of any inspired divine truth your definition of a Christian as anyone who “truly follows Christ” is clearly useless; instead there are probably only two ways how to give a meaning to “Christian”:

    1. self-designation; the set of all Christians contains everybody who considers himself a Christian

    2. comparison of ideas with statistical average: a Christian is anybody, whose views do not differ much from the most common opinions within the group of self-proclaimed Christians; averaging may be done over time also to raflect historical evolution of faith.

    Most of the mentioned cases of corrupt individuals fall into both mentioned definitions of Christianity.

    One must make an assent of their will to follow God in the first place and also has freedom to strive for holiness or to do evil, just like everyone.

    Do I understand correctly that you say Christianity is in no way fundamentally different from any other teaching, in that it’s fully your decision whether you follow it or not, no magical transformation involved? If so, I would agree, but that’s not what evangelicals say. Jack Chick is perhaps not the best authority, but on the other hand, he is quite clear on this. Say “I accept Christ into my heart” and your life changes in a moment.

    Christ never forced and never forces anyone to follow him.

    Except threatening with hell those who do not.

  • lpetrich

    But according to the Gospels, Jesus Christ did not exactly practice what he preached. He commanded loving one’s enemies and he forbade name-calling, yet he foamed at the mouth at those scribes and Pharisees, among others, and he did such name-calling as “blind guides” and “snakes and brood of vipers” and “whitewashed tombs” and even “fool”.

  • Alex Weaver

    A Christian who fails to represent the faith does not corrupt the truth of God.

    -Arch

    To start off, it’s quite true what most apologists say: that the existence of hypocrites within the church does not prove that Christianity’s claims about the existence of God are false. There is no logical connection between those two propositions. But all these hypocrites, I think, do undermine a different supernatural claim: the alleged ability of Christian belief to transform people’s lives in a uniquely effective and beneficial way.

    -Ebon

    Reading comprehension. You’re doing it wrong.

  • mikespeir

    If we did not have the capacity to do evil, neither would we have the capacity for love.

    Arch:

    I’ll put it differently. Without evil there would be no need for what we call love. Love is a response to our need for security, and that need arises from “evil,” or put better, from the fact of our fragility and all the things that can harm us. We think of love as wonderful because it binds us together and thus provides a kind of surety against evil. If feels good because it makes us feel secure. But if evil didn’t exist, there would be no need for love–and we wouldn’t miss it. In fact, we would be far better off.

  • Christopher

    Arch,

    “Your statement here does not take free will into account.”

    It doesn’t have to – there’s no “free will” to account for!

  • http://www.BlueNine.info Blue Nine

    In the future, we should place bets to see how long it takes until the same tired arguments come up: “Not a real Christian”, “Free Will”, etc. If the term “Apologist Bingo” is taken, think of another.

    Double points for asking us if we have ever read the Bible or been to church.

  • heliobates
  • John

    “this does suggest that they have no privileged link to such a being.”

    EXACTLY. Does this mean the link doesn’t exist? Either the “link” exists or it doesn’t. If the link exists, the only explanation for this hypocrisy would be that Christians do not yet know how it works, even if they say they know.

    Hypocrisy is widely prevalent in all of society. You don’t have to look farther than within families. A child learns at a very young age by observing and listening to his parents. Hypocrisy is another word for lie.

    I consider myself a strong Christian, but I have many failings.

    John

  • http://superstitionfree.blogspot.com Robert Madewell

    The ol’ freewill argument. *sigh*

    Evangelical christianity makes an extraordinary claim. That you will have Jesus come into your life and you will be a changed man/woman. To use the freewill argument with that claim undermines it. It brings up the question. Does Jesus save everyone that asks for salvation? Isn’t the act of repentence an act of freewill? Maybe sometimes repentence doesn’t work because the repenter had enough freewill that Jesus couldn’t come into his heart when asked to? Maybe it doesn’t “take” every time? When someone makes the extraordinary claim of a changed life, wouldn’t you want to see that life changed as evidence?

    This is what Ebonmuse was talking about. When a christian claims to be changed, you expect to see a changed person. Sadly, I have seen few people who I could say changed so dramatically after being saved. People can change. I have changed, but it was hard work. There was no magic words for me. I tend to believe that the magic words don’t actually work. However, maybe sometimes a person will say the magic words then work on changing his life for the better. It’s not the magic words that worked, but the determination of that person that worked.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    As usual, Arch is doing his best to misunderstand the point – none so blind as those who will not see, and all that. Thanks to everyone who’s tried to turn the argument various ways to fit it into his head. I especially liked Heliobates’ brilliant private school analogy. I have a few other observations:

    I am sorry that you are upset with the fact that there are people who call themselves Christians but do not fully strive to live like Christ. I apologize for the wrongs you have witnessed and find that upseting as well.

    It’s a well-worn page out of the apologist playbook to “apologize” on behalf of hypocritical Christians, as though one person could meaningfully express contrition for the acts of another. In reality, though, Arch is aiming at the wrong target. I’m not upset at the Christian hypocrites; at most, they make me feel amusement, and occasionally pity. The people who anger and disturb me far more are the sincere fundamentalists, the ones who genuinely believe they have the right to impose their way of life on nonbelievers. Those people are truly dangerous, and I’d take a con artist who’s only in the business of Christianity for his own profit any day over one of them.

    Your statement here does not take free will into account. God does not force us to be holy or to love. Love must entail the choice of an individual.

    I think it was on Usenet, a long time ago, that I saw this claim referred to as the Principle of Apologetic Accountancy. Anything good that Christians do is attributed to God. Anything bad that Christians do is attributed to the sinful nature of humanity. You can’t lose with a double standard like that.

    However, what Arch apparently doesn’t realize is that this defense concedes the central point of my article: that Christians, as a whole, are no better morally than anyone else. You can use this argument to explain why that is, but then, as I argued, you have to give up the claim that Christians as a whole possess any special or superior moral virtue as compared to any other group of people, or that Christianity has a uniquely transformative power on believers’ lives.

  • http://collapsingwaves.wordpress.com Brad

    But again, if we only had the capacity to live in darkness, we would not know light. Thankfully, though, our capacity for evil allows us to know and choose love.

    Nobody is suggesting God should have given us the capacity to only live in darkness. Skeptics do suggest, however, that God should have given us the capacity to only live in light. In such a world of only the capacity for good, following your logic, we would only know light. Why would do need to know darkness? However, we observe a world of both good and bad, and I have seen no sound theological explanation of this.

    And as we’ve all been saying this entire time: either there is something in Christianity with transformative power, or there isn’t. Accepting the assumption that following Christianity is a purely free choice, then it would follow that there is no influencing power. However, in this essay Ebonmuse didn’t work under that assumption, he started from real-world observation in order to come to the conclusion that there is no such transforming spirit.

    Suggesting that grace, or a transforming spirit, is only bestowed out of someone’s will to have it done, is self-inconsistent and still contradicts real-world observation. Grace either changes a person’s will or grace doesn’t. If it does, then wills can be interfered with and so why need there be a freely chosen request for it? If it doesn’t, then it is not really a transforming spirit. And in the real world there are so many people who sincerely and legitimately want to have the grace of God upon them, and yet who get nothing but emptiness and silence. Why do so many people turn to the church and still slide back into sinful ways?

    Why are there, in the most important positions for Christianity of all places, Christian hypocrites?

  • John

    Ebon,

    “that Christians, as a whole, are no better morally than anyone else. You can use this argument to explain why that is, but then, as I argued, you have to give up the claim that Christians as a whole possess any special or superior moral virtue as compared to any other group of people”

    Whose morals? Aren’t your’s relative?

    The quote above is simply wrong. “Christians as a whole” do more to aid the impoversished than atheists and agnostics. More volunteerism and financial aid by far.

    http://oproject.wordpress.com/2007/06/13/american-atheists-appear-to-be-less-likely-to-vote-and-volunteer-and-give-less-to-charity

    John

  • Alex Weaver

    Whose morals? Aren’t your’s relative?

    No. I suggest you read here, here, and here.

  • heliobates

    Whose morals? Aren’t your’s relative?

    Well sure, in the strictest sense (i.e. no intrinsic value, etc.).

    But then, so are yours (Christians). Or will you try to argue that the Christian moral code has remained unchanged for 2,000 years?

    We don’t fall for the “banana in the tailpipe”. I suggest you don’t either.

  • http://collapsingwaves.wordpress.com Brad

    John: If morals aren’t relative, as Ebonmuse believes, then it doesn’t make sense to ask “Whose morals?” I would, however, like to see someone take on your other claim of Christians’ moral superiority.

  • mikespeir

    “Christians as a whole” do more to aid the impoversished than atheists and agnostics. More volunteerism and financial aid by far.

    The study you reference is old news, but significant, nonetheless. To the degree it reflects reality, we atheists ought to be ashamed.

    However, some considerations apply. For one, while it may be true that unbelievers as a whole are less charitable (we could debate whether voting is a moral issue, but I won’t), it isn’t necessarily true from one to the next.

    This article compares Christians to people of no faith; but, if I recall correctly, the original finding was that people of any faith gave more and more consistently. That suggests that, whatever motivates giving, it isn’t peculiar to the Christian faith.

    Then, it’s a sad fact that atheists often tend in the direction of being loners. Some of that is a consequence of being such a despised minority in our culture. But it’s also that we’re freethinkers and don’t always agree amongst ourselves about important issues. It’s clear we aren’t as cohesive a bunch as are, say, Christians. Consequently, peer pressure often doesn’t have the same effect on us as it does on Christians. We don’t meet from week to week and have preachers exhort us to good works. We usually don’t rub shoulders with other nonbelievers on so frequent a basis who will look down on us if we don’t rise to a certain level of charitable giving. In short, I believe a lot of the impetus of Christians to give comes of expectations of other Christians and not at all from some purported numinous afterglow.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Does that study also count as charitable giving when Xians give to proselytizing organizations? If so, that can skew the results quite a bit.

  • heliobates

    Does that study also count as charitable giving when Xians give to proselytizing organizations? If so, that can skew the results quite a bit.

    The study is a telephone survey of 1003 participants. It doesn’t include any information about gender, median income or age. Church contributions are included in the total of “charitable contributions”. And the survey does not attempt to correct for errors such as the tendency of Christians to over-represent the amounts of their giving and their church attendance.

    What I find more amusing is that, by refusing to address Adam’s point, John essentially “walks into Adam’s fist”. His argument reduces morality to “charitable giving” and is especially foolish since the same organization concluded from another study that Christians were more likely than atheists and agnostics to get divorced.

    So, John, if helping the poor is the benchmark for morality, why do Christians bother talking about gay marriage or railing against the secularization of societal values and ethics?

  • http://collapsingwaves.wordpress.com Brad

    This article compares Christians to people of no faith; but, if I recall correctly, the original finding was that people of any faith gave more and more consistently. That suggests that, whatever motivates giving, it isn’t peculiar to the Christian faith.

    Awesome point.

    It’s clear we aren’t as cohesive a bunch as are, say, Christians.

    I think you’re going overboard with your apologetic concessions here, mikespeir. There are a considerable number of denominations and belief systems that Christians hold. At least enough to match that of nonbelievers, given that there are so many more Christians than atheists.

    His argument reduces morality to “charitable giving” and is especially foolish since the same organization concluded from another study that Christians were more likely than atheists and agnostics to get divorced.

    Not to mention that atheists are disproportionately less in prisons than people of Judeo-Christian faiths. This, coupled with the fact that atheists are less charitable, seems to support the idea that we are less engaged in society. (I wonder why …?)

  • John

    Go ahead and spin it anyway you want. Next time I’m in Africa, Bangladesh, or some other place of suffering, I’ll ask the volunteers that are atheist to please raise their hands.

    By the way, the front page of a recent Sunday Chicago Tribune read “Jesus Rising in China.” Your miniscule gains in the U.S. are overshadowed by gains elsewhere.

  • Mrnaglfar

    John,

    Remind me of all the problems that these religious charities do fix. And I mean fix; I recall a certain saying about giving a man a fish versus teaching him to fish. How have those charities been doing when it comes to stopping the HIV virus from spreading? How about through improving the local economy? Surely, these people must have been pulled out of poverty by the generous giving and policy of the religious.

    Charities are nice ideas to temporarily stem certain problems, but they are not a fix. That, and simply giving money to others doesn’t reflect morality, spin it however you want.

  • John

    and finally, Polly

    “What about freedom in Heaven, the destination of all believers? If knowing good and evil are prerequisites for freedom and love, what happens in Heaven? And, if there’s a resolution to that in Heaven why not here on Earth?”

    It will happen on earth – not in our lifetime to be sure. The destination of all, nonbelievers as well as believers, will be heaven untill God is the “all in all.”
    The sole purpose of the universe’s existence is to know good and evil, in fact, it already has happened, because there is no such thing as time(see Einstein)

    “Ecc 1:9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”

    I know this is off topic, but I am trying to answer your question.

    My other more direct replies regarding this article are above. Read the replies and see for yourself, behold the human mind.(Golgotha)

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Next time I’m in Africa, Bangladesh, or some other place of suffering, I’ll ask the volunteers that are atheist to please raise their hands.

    And then please ask the missionaries what good they are doing by giving out Bibles instead of using it to help build schools or teach about prophylactics, etc.

    It will happen on earth – not in our lifetime to be sure. The destination of all, nonbelievers as well as believers, will be heaven untill God is the “all in all.”

    Thanks for completely avoiding the point of the question. His question was why we need to have evil in order to have freedom and love. You seem to be saying that we will all become slaves at some point in the future?

    The sole purpose of the universe’s existence is to know good and evil, in fact, it already has happened, because there is no such thing as time(see Einstein)

    Why am I not surprised that you are misapplying Einstein? He did not say that there is no such thing as time. Where in the world did you get such an absurd notion? Additionally, please tell us how you know that the “sole purpose of the universe’s existence is to know good and evil.” K Thx.

  • mikespeir

    I think you’re going overboard with your apologetic concessions here, mikespeir. There are a considerable number of denominations and belief systems that Christians hold. At least enough to match that of nonbelievers, given that there are so many more Christians than atheists.

    Actually, Brad, I anticipated a response like this but it would have led me on a tangent to address it. While it’s true that Christianity is fractured, it’s nowhere nearly so granular as atheism. It exists in clumps of varying sizes, within each of which is a considerable degree of consensus.

    I don’t see that atheism is anything like that. Again, I think it comes back to the whole idea of freethinking. Christianity encourages group-thought, even if only within the “clumps.” We, on the other hand, question everything. And, as the comments of this site are enough to show, we often don’t agree. I’m convinced we start out with a common value, i.e., that reason is the way to truth. We don’t all have the same facts and life experiences, though. For that matter, we don’t all have the same capacity to make critical evaluations. And because we value independent thought so much, this leads inevitably to the kind of granularity I mentioned. Consequently, peer pressure doesn’t work on us so well, because when it’s foisted on us our response is not to automatically conform, but to question; to weigh the merits of what’s being asked of us. This is our strength, but also our weakness.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    Christians as a whole” do more to aid the impoversished than atheists and agnostics. More volunteerism and financial aid by far.

    I don’t buy this for a minute. I guess the survey is of U.S citizens where the church attendance of christians and citizens generally is very high. In a more secular Northern European context I doubt you would replicate this statistic. Besides what most xians consider “good works” a lot of people commenting here would see as proseletyzing or a cover for same.

  • John

    OMGF,

    Einstein proved that time is relative and not absolute.

    “…for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.”

    A quote from a letter Einstein wrote to the Besso family after the death of his friend.

  • John

    “And then please ask the missionaries what good they are doing by giving out Bibles instead of using it to help build schools or teach about prophylactics, etc.”

    Huh? You are saying they don’t build houses, schools and hospitals? Your knowledge(or is it denial) of Christian missionaries is as bad as your knowledge of Einstein’s theories and thought on time.

    no comment on your point two, you couldn’t begin to comprehend.

    I suggest you do a little more reading on Einstein, then follow up with Hawkins, Fehman, and others. The Universe is timeless. Time is an illusion.

    No need to comment further, I can see quite plainly how “freethinkers” think.

    Wishing you all the best

    adieu, John

  • prase

    “…for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.”

    …means that the notions of future and past are observer-dependent, i.e. relative. Doesn’t mean that time does not exist.

    I suggest you do a little more reading on Einstein, then follow up with Hawkins, Fehman, and others. The Universe is timeless. Time is an illusion.

    Did you mean Hawking and Feynman?

    Your knowledge(or is it denial) of Christian missionaries is as bad as your knowledge of Einstein’s theories and thought on time.

    I don’t know much about missionaries, but I have a rather good idea about theory of relativity, and it seems to me that you are the man who should read some physics textbook. You would much better understand what Einstein thought about time after learning the theories themselves. Reading Einstein’s quotes and popular books about cosmology is usually the best way to misunderstanding.

  • heliobates

    Way to deliberately avoid my points there, John.

    Thanks for the drive-by. It’s been fun.

  • heliobates

    Next time I’m in Africa, Bangladesh, or some other place of suffering, I’ll ask the volunteers that are atheist to please raise their hands.

    Does anyone else throw up in their mouth a little when a Christian uses charitable works as a means to keep score?

  • MS Quixote

    Nicely put, EM, and you are right to criticize. I wouldn’t mind if atheists pointed this hypocrisy out every day. Any organization that makes the claims the Christian church does should be held accountable. The NT, after all, suggests that people should observe the behavior of believers as an evidence of the faith. Ravi’s statement is startling, isn’t it?

    With respect to many of the comments, commenting fairly in my opinion, I will offer what I believe is an uncommon apology: An unsettling observation for the believer would be the lack of hypocrites in the church, not their existence. Jesus and the NT writers often predicted that the church would be full of such behavior, especially with regard to the leadership, and increasingly as time progressed. I have to admit then, if there were none, I would be worried about the accuracy of the NT.

    A couple of side notes: the Christian church may be the only organization whose charter requires self-admitted rottenness as a prerequisite for membership. It is not unreasonable to expect this rottenness to spill over from time to time. The sanctifying claims of Christianity are not an overnight process, and even after a lifetime of “life-changing power” the old nature still rises up.

    Lastly, the church pretty much will accept anyone. The sheer number of targets for your post is staggering. For instance, even Jesus’s core group of twelve had one hypocrite (yes, I realize y’all probably think it was twelve for twelve). Let’s say there are 230,000,000 professing Christians in America alone; feel free to pick your own number. If one twelfth—feel free to pick your own percentage–of these lead lives not in accordance with what the church teaches, it’s a phenomenal number, one that would definitely register on your original post. If even a tiny fraction of these are only professing Christians, and it would be difficult to see how a tiny fraction would not be, there would be no shortage of “no true Christians.”

    And no, I don’t believe the life changing power of the Gospel is efficacious for everyone that steps foot in a church, or even attends it for their entire lifetime.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Next time I’m in Africa, Bangladesh, or some other place of suffering, I’ll ask the volunteers that are atheist to please raise their hands.

    Go right ahead. You seem to be assuming what answer you’ll get before you’ve even done the experiment.

  • Christopher

    John,

    “Go ahead and spin it anyway you want. Next time I’m in Africa, Bangladesh, or some other place of suffering, I’ll ask the volunteers that are atheist to please raise their hands.”

    And this matters… Why? All charity work does is increase the dependence of the weak upon other people – essentially producing a class of non-producers whos only real skill is begging for handouts!

    I say that we stay out of these places and let nature take its course…

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Well John, Prase already answered your problems on time and relativity, so I won’t go into further detail, except to say that you might want to check your bravado at the door next time before you stick your foot that far in your mouth.

    no comment on your point two, you couldn’t begin to comprehend.

    IOW, you don’t have a good answer, so you are tucking tail and running – typical apologetics.

    No need to comment further, I can see quite plainly how “freethinkers” think.

    Using reason and logic; you should try it sometime.

  • mikespeir

    MS Quixote,

    Don’t you see you’re just trying to define the problem out of existence? Those within the Church who are moral are “real Christians.” Those who aren’t moral aren’t. Works every time. How convenient.

    What if I were to hypothesize that all “real cows” are brown. What if then I were to go through all the animals on the planet reputed to be cows and eliminated any that weren’t brown on the basis of my hypothesis: that all real cows are brown? Would the fact that only brown cows remained prove that real cows are brown? Of course not. In the end all I’m doing is insisting all real cows are brown and that similar animals of other colors aren’t really cows. Do you see how silly this kind of argument sounds to those of us who don’t allow belief to dictate how we think?

    Now, it’s not that you couldn’t be right. It could be that there really is a God and that this God gives certain true believers a supernatural ability to live moral lives. But unless we start out assuming that’s true, the argument you’ve handed us won’t lead us there. We’re not going to make that assumption. You’re going to have to demonstrate first that these select Christians live at a moral level that can’t be achieved by persons of other faiths or of no faith at all. Then you’ll need to show that this superior moral capacity is the gift of the God you believe in. Unless you’re somehow head and shoulders above every other apologist I’ve encountered, you won’t be able to do that.

  • MS Quixote

    Don’t you see you’re just trying to define the problem out of existence?

    Honestly, no. I see it as embracing the problem. They’re there; we all know it. Actually, I feel like one most of the time when I look at my own life :)

    Do you see how silly this kind of argument sounds to those of us who don’t allow belief to dictate how we think?

    This is, itself, a statement of pure belief on your part.

    You’re going to have to demonstrate first that these select Christians live at a moral level that can’t be achieved by persons of other faiths or of no faith at all.

    I’ve never made this claim, Mike, nor would I.

  • mikespeir

    MS Quixote:

    This is, itself, a statement of pure belief on your part.

    That’s an amazing thing to say. How so?

    I’ve never made this claim, Mike, nor would I.

    Then what, exactly, is your point? What claim are you making? If you’re not defending the position that Christianity confers some real moral advantage springing from the Divine, something that might give evidence for the God you believe in, how does your comment advance the discussion in light of the OP?

  • Erika

    John, you say

    The quote above is simply wrong. “Christians as a whole” do more to aid the impoversished than atheists and agnostics. More volunteerism and financial aid by far.

    There are some older statistics from Canada (here) that slice the data up differently and show that the significant factor is more likely to be active involvement in a community organization such as a church, not religion.

    Particularly of note is the section titled “The stronger the religious affiliation, the more likely an individual donated or volunteered”. This section indicates that your observations that there are more religious volunteers than atheist/agnostic volunteers is correct but also something of a red herring. Here is the key point:

    One-third (33%) of people with a religious affiliation did volunteer work, a slightly higher rate than those with no religious affiliation (28%). Similarly, 46% of those who attended religious services at least once a week did volunteer work, compared with 28% of those who did not attend services weekly.

    The rate of volunteer work for those Christians who did not attend church is the same as for those who are not religious.

  • MS Quixote

    That’s an amazing thing to say. How so?

    Are you really convinced that your, and those you were speaking for, reasoning is completely free from belief and a touch of irrationality? If so, that’s a strong statement of belief.

    how does your comment advance the discussion in light of the OP?

    Go back and reread it…

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    MS, are you saying that Mikespeir is under the belief that we find the argument silly or he is utilizing beliefs in order to say that your assertions are unfounded? Please clarify.

  • MS Quixote

    Neither, athough I’m certain y’all find that argument silly. I am saying that no one is free from belief and irrationality in their reasoning.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    MS,
    Reasoning about what? If it is reasoning about god, I doubt that you’ll be able to point to a belief or irrationality I hold. Remember that not accepting your belief does not entail a positive belief on my part.

  • MS Quixote

    OMGF,

    I had all reasoning in mind, not specifically about God. I am not claiming you have a specific belief or irrationality about God, though you may. I am stating that in your reasoning about God, there is some belief or irrationality involved as constituent parts, unless all you ever say is “I don’t know.”

    Remember that not accepting your belief does not entail a positive belief on my part.

    Agreed, until you make the positive claim that Quixote has a false belief.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    If you agree with me, then why is it incumbent upon me to say, “I don’t know,” to everything. There is no irrationality in saying that because theists can not meet their burden of proof that I do not believe in god. This requires no extra belief or irrationality.

  • MS Quixote

    OMGF,

    You’re conflating my two lines. I agreed that your not accepting my belief does not entail a positive belief on your part; however, if you continue and make positive claims, for example, that Luke did not write the book of Acts, that it is impossible logically for the Christian God to exist, or a thousand like claims, you have set forth a positive claim that requires defense.

    None of which has anything to do with whether you employ belief or irrationality in your reasoning.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    That’s why I asked for clarification, thank you.

    So, to get back to mikespier’s comment, what part of that requires belief? He stated that he doesn’t accept your explanation for Xians’ morality and likened it to a No True Scotsman fallacy and begging the question. If you are begging the question and he calls you on it or simply doesn’t accept the initial assertion, how is he utilizing belief or irrationality?

  • MS Quixote

    No problem, and let me state that I like Mike’s posts.

    It was the very statement itself that “those of us who don’t allow belief to dictate how we think”, not his criticism of my comment, I was commenting on.

    I expected a response along the lines of: “Sure, reason as utilized by humans is not totally free of belief and irrationality, but we don’t let it DICTATE what we think,” which is indeed very close to what he originally wrote.

    He stated that he doesn’t accept your explanation for Xians’ morality and likened it to a No True Scotsman fallacy and begging the question. If you are begging the question and he calls you on it or simply doesn’t accept the initial assertion, how is he utilizing belief or irrationality?

    I didn’t give an explanation for Christian morality. My apology stated that christians should be worried if there were no hypocrites in the church, given the NT’s insistence that there would be. The points he was criticizing were related comments in which I acknowledged the “no true christian” element in my own post. You’re not contending that the staggering number of folks associated with the church would create “no true Christians,” are you?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    MS,

    It was the very statement itself that “those of us who don’t allow belief to dictate how we think”, not his criticism of my comment, I was commenting on.

    Not to speak for him, but I think we can safely assume that he didn’t mean every thought he’s ever had is completely belief-free. It seems like you are picking a nit that doesn’t need to be picked.

    You’re not contending that the staggering number of folks associated with the church would create “no true Christians,” are you?

    I was just trying to sum up the arguments in question. I could make the argument that most people today aren’t bloodthirsty enough to be true Xians, but for the purposes of this discussion I’m not arguing that today.

  • MS Quixote

    It seems like you are picking a nit that doesn’t need to be picked.

    Except that in the statement, he’s implying that I allow belief to dictate how I think. It’s a common atheist ploy, but then again, I can’t say I blame you based on my own experience with many believers…

    I could make the argument that most people today aren’t bloodthirsty enough to be true Xians

    You’re a real scream. Weren’t we just on the subject of belief and irrationality? :)

  • mikespeir

    Are you really convinced that your, and those you were speaking for, reasoning is completely free from belief and a touch of irrationality? If so, that’s a strong statement of belief.

    I had a long, boring response to this, but then I went back and read OMGF’s comments. He’s already said it better, anyway.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    MS,
    When it comes to god and religion, how can you come up with anything that isn’t dictated by belief?

    And, yes, I could make an argument that would be based on the Bible and how it tells Xians to act, but like I said, I’m not arguing that today (it’s way off topic).

  • MS Quixote

    When it comes to god and religion, how can you come up with anything that isn’t dictated by belief?

    The following from my OP meets your rigorous standards, and I mean that in a complimentary fashion, my friend: “Jesus and the NT writers often predicted that the church would be full of such behavior, especially with regard to the leadership, and increasingly as time progressed.”

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Ah, but you take it on belief that what is recorded in the Bible is an accurate representation of Jesus, his followers, and what they said. BTW, got any cites for those?

  • MS Quixote

    OMGF,

    It does not matter a bit for our purposes here whether it is accurate or not; it’s the charter the church operates by. The text is there for anyone to examine–it says what it says. Jesus and the NT writers, as given in the NT, predicted these things, despite one’s view on how the NT was composed and by whom.

    I’m not in the habit of quoting the Bible here, but since you asked: Jude 4, 2 Pet 2, 2 Tim 4:3-4, 1 Tim 1: 1-6 & 4:1-6, 2 Cor 11: 1-15, Matt 24:24, John 16: 1-4. It’s a quick list and the last two are of limited application, but it should be enough to demonstrate that it is a common theme.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    You mean that the NT writers predicted this? Including Jesus is certainly done by faith. Even the words of the NT writers can’t necessarily be taken as written, due to the problems with copying errors, etc. Still, they seem to be saying the same things that can be found in the OT, that false prophets will appear. Are we considering Ted Haggard to be a false prophet?

  • MS Quixote

    Even the words of the NT writers can’t necessarily be taken as written, due to the problems with copying errors, etc.

    Which words specifically did you have a problem with in the verses I provided?

    I can’t cite any false prophecies that Ted Haggard has made, but as you know from previous discussions I oppose any Christian leaders and churches that are involved in politics.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Does one specifically have to “prophecize” in order to be considered a “prophet?” I ask because it seems sometimes in the Bible that “prophets” are simply leaders.

    As for the passages, Jude 4 seems to be speaking of people…well, like me. People who deny god and Jesus. 2 Tim 4 seems to be saying the not everyone will believe. Specifically Matt 24 talks about false prophets and false Christs (which is probably because they knew about the previous mythologies and religions that had similar stories to the one they were telling about Jesus). Things like that. I don’t see those verses saying anything about Xians or believers.

  • MS Quixote

    Does one specifically have to “prophecize” in order to be considered a “prophet?” I ask because it seems sometimes in the Bible that “prophets” are simply leaders.

    Good question. Prophecy includes foretelling, forthtelling, and statements of woe, judgment, and salvation, so someone could be a prophet even though they were not relaying a vision of the future. In the OT, anyone ordained by God to directly receive and speak his word would be considered a prophet. In the NT, the meaning changes some, and those who prophesy are not necessarily prophets in the OT sense. The equivalent to the OT sense would be Christ & the apostles. For our purposes here, anyone who says “Thus sayeth the Lord” and lies would be a false prophet, or anyone who teaches false doctrine in the church.

    Jude 4 seems to be speaking of people…well, like me.

    Nothing beats a good sense of humor :) Jude 4 does say that they “have secretly slipped in among you,” meaning of course believers. I haven’t seen you around church lately, but you are welcome any time. Oh yeah, and I won’t introduce you as the host of “Why I Hate Jesus” or anything :)

    The 2 Tim passage mentions folks within the faith who gather around themselves teachers who say what they want to hear. The same thing is going on in Titus 1. I’ll give you Matt 24–they were of limited application toward this anyway. Regardless, I didn’t want to conduct a Bible study, so I limited the texts to just a few. The NT is replete with this stuff…could give pages of examples and discussion.

    As always, my friend, a pleasure…

  • Eric

    Hi everyone,

    Just a couple quick notes. First, my busy season is winding down and that is why I have been absent for a few months. As a professional guide in Alaska, summer is busy time! (and I am deeply ashamed that our idiot governor has been appointed VP candidate – but that is another story all in itself)

    My cross issue in Skagway is still taking place, but I have relocated to another town as the heat I received from “christian” folk in my old hometown was too much to take and the pressure I was given by the chief of police (a born again southern baptist) was getting very uncomfortable, so yes, I moved.

    Also, my father who is a regular contributor and poster here – Jim Coufal – is in ICU. He underwent a routine rectal biopsy and within 24hrs went into septic shock. He is touch and go right now and I know he would rather be here posting but he is having a rough fight right now. He has been stabilized but is having to have dialysis and we are not sure if he is going to make it. BUT, the prognosis currently is good. So, well wishes to my father, and regular contributor here.

    Anyway, it is nice having a few moments to check back in and see that you are all still putting forth good thoughts and fighting the good fighht. When fall and winter kick in I will have more time to contribute and upadate you on the cross issue. And I know that when my father heals, he will be back as well.

    Good thoughts for my pops please!

  • Eric

    Oh yes, to any othe the “christian” or religious posters here, do NOT insult me or my father by saying “he is in our prayers”. That disrepects me and him and my family.

  • Eric

    Here is one of the pieces Jim contributed. Let’s all hope he pulls out of his medical emergency!

    http://www.daylightatheism.org/symposium/submissions/one-weak-atheists-source-of-morals

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Yikes, Eric. I hadn’t realized that Jim was your father, and it’s a shock to learn about this health crisis. I feel as though I just saw him around here. I won’t be praying, but you can be assured he’ll be in my thoughts and best wishes. If there’s anything we can do to help, please let me know.

  • mikespeir

    Eric, if I thought prayer had one chance in 10,000 of doing any good, I’d be on my knees right now. Even so, you can believe that I, like everyone here, am pulling for your dad.

  • Nes

    I hope Jim gets well, Eric. His is one of the relatively few names that I recognize online, which is generally a good thing considering my terrible memory for names and faces.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Eric,
    I too hope the best for you and your family.

  • Mr. Bill

    Hypocrisy is a difficult problem with which all Christians must understand but not dismiss.For example, I have been working for a Christian software company for a year now and hypocrisy is rampant. Clients are lied to about time lines/deadlines and have to some extent been given the bait and switch.Does it upset me? Yes, it upsets me very much but what I keep reminding myself is that I am responsible for my own life and although I can help others to see their hypocrisy, in the end I can do nothing if they do not want to change.When I feel myself getting bitter I try to immediatly go to scripture and prayer. Remember in the end, the fact that Joe Bloe was a hypocrit does not dismiss my actions and how I conduct myself for Christ.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Remember in the end, the fact that Joe Bloe was a hypocrit does not dismiss my actions and how I conduct myself for Christ.

    No, it doesn’t, and no one is saying that it does. In fact, Ebon touched on that in the OP. (Did you read it?) The argument is against the tenet held forth by some Xians that being a Xian gives one a link to a perfectly moral being or that Xians are inherently more moral by virtue of believing in the true god. Your comment is further evidence that this simply is not so.

  • Adam

    MS,

    Your arguments and posts are wonderful. I enjoy reading them, thanks.

    Adam

  • TommyP

    @John,

    Why is it so hard to honestly answer a question, or respond to a point? I’m just amazed at the continual avoidance.

  • http://yahoo steve jaubert

    I’ve met a lot of christian people at church and generally its a nice congregation of potential that seems to always fall way short of the stated goals. I guess people
    want to feel like there is more to life and of course there is but then you get all
    this play acting and manipulation and it all goes downhill. I’ve met a couple of ex relationships at the house of god and talk about problems. I will never take any help from anyone in any church again. I’ve found that when i did they wanted to control me rather than let me freely find out things on my own and that type of help is really doomed from the start. Sometimes when you find out where they are coming from they don’t like it and rather than face the facts they see you as someone who was evil and out to do them harm. When i go to church its by myself to pray to god but most of the time its by myself in a quiet peaceful place like at home listening to music. Who needs a cathedral or a mosque or a tent? God is around if you want to be part of god. Steve Jaubert


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X