Christians Hurting Christianity

Have any of you (Christian or atheist or otherwise) had encounters with Christians who were well-meaning about sharing their faith, but actually ended up pushing you further away from Christianity?

I imagine this happens more frequently that we think.

I’m not talking about Fred Phelps or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell or other “fringe” types. I mean normal, everyday people.

At a church. During college. Maybe a neighbor.

Is there someone who intended on helping you find God (or in the case of Christians, worship in a better way, perhaps), but did it in a way that just backfired completely?

What happened? Why didn’t their “tactic” work? What were you thinking/feeling?

I’d love to hear those stories.

(By the way, I’m aware there are atheists who do similar things and push people away from atheism. But let’s keep this thread limited to Christians. We’ll talk about atheists-gone-bad in another post soon.)

  • http://www.katsscratch.blogspot.com Kat

    A friend said, “Let’s see… how do I explain this to a secular person…” which wasn’t a great start. I was a Christian before I was not, so my position isn’t one of ignorance. That wasn’t the real problem, though. After she went on to explain her version of Christianity to me (her father is a Lutheran minister) she told me it was her responsibility as a Christian to try to offer me guidance. That was the part that put me off. I’m a 41 year old woman. If anyone is responsible for my outlook on anything it’s me.

    There’s also a woman I work with who I do generally like, but when she has a problem she says “I prayed about it then gave it up to Jesus” and kind of throws her hands in the air. Of course this doesn’t hurt or offend me personally but I do find it silly.

  • Kim G

    While I don’t have a direct experience, check out Julia Sweeney’s “Letting Go of God” for a wonderful example.

  • http://www.matsonwaggs.wordpress.com Kelly

    I’ll throw in two comments from my father in law. To begin-he is a conservative, Evangelical, and a very successful and bright man. He is very involved in men’s ministry stuff at his church, big on the “men should lead the family” line of thinking. You would think someone like this would be big on encouraging more young people, especially married couples and families, to embrace Christianity.
    Back when my husband was young, he (his dad) had an affair. He and his wife had a rough time, and I think this was when he turned to the church more seriously. A few years ago, my husband and I were having a rough period (not involving an affair). My husband went to his dad for advice, as many men would. The first-the ONLY-thing that my FIL said to him was that he didn’t think our marriage would survive, because marriages without Christ are doomed. That was it. No personal experience, no practical advice at all. My husband was livid, and does not go to him for advice on personal matters any longer. We are happy to say that we have totally proven him wrong, in fact my husbands “deconversion” from Christianity has truly improved our relationship (although our difference of opinion on religion wasn’t the problem to begin with).
    Secondly, my FIL has also told my husband more than once that he doesn’t really care about him leaving behind his faith, but we are dooming our children to hell for raising them without the church.
    Nice, huh?

  • Maria

    Hemant, thank you very much for asking this question and for including other Christians in it. I really do appreciate that. It has happened to me many times. Sometimes they want to reach out to me even more passionately than to an atheist (or so I’ve been told by some, I realize atheists get it pretty bad) b/c I’m just “missing one or two things”, if they can just “tweak” them, I’ll be “saved”. Whatever. To me, that whole witnessing saved thing is foreign b/c although I grew up in a Christian religion, that wasn’t how we practiced or expressed out faith. I didn’t have the typical US religious upbringing. Things like helping the poor and being a good person were what was emphasized, not forcing your beliefs down someone’s throat. Anyways, I went to a huge public university, and these witnessing groups were everywhere, and I mean everywhere. They got in everyone’s faces. Telling them you were a Christian, you just didn’t do what they did and you didn’t agree with their approach cut no dice. They didn’t hear the first part, they only heard the second. I was told I must be a “devil worshipper”. Whatever. There were stupid enough to ask some of my views and got them. That didn’t help either. It got to the point that my friends and I would just avoid certain places on campus b/c of them. Having some friends who were agnostics didn’t exactly endear me to these witnessing groups either. I finally started telling them I was an atheist just to get them to leave me alone. They didn’t, so after I gave up and just avoided them. While they didn’t turn me off to my faith as a whole, they turned me off to them, they made me feel embarrased, and they really made me thing “is this what this country is coming to?” I am first generation American, so I wondered if I should move back to the country my parents came from; this kind of thing doesn’t happen like that over there. Whenever someone starts to “witness” to me now, I cut them off. I say “look, I have my faith, I’m happy with it, and I don’t want to hear it. Leave me and others alone. You’re just driving people away”. Then I walk away. It’s just not worth it. Oh, and I live in a big city, so luckily we have every culture and view point here, so I’m not surrounded by any one particular group. That helps a lot.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Kim G, are you talking about Julia Sweeney’s encounter with the mormon missionaries?

    I love her show.

  • http://stayathomemotherdom.clubmom.com stayathomemotherdom

    As an alcoholic in recovery who is now a Christian, I remember very well my days of alcoholism and not understanding “well intentioned” Christians. I remember seeing many as judgmental and hurtful.

    It is hard to explain the change I went through, especially to an atheist/agnostic now, because I have been in the agnostic position before. Unless you have truly experienced the spiritual transformation/awakening of Christianity, it is hard to put it into words. However, in my opinion, if you truly have the Holy Spirit indwelling and are listening to Him, you should be living a life as Jesus….loving others. Some, in my opinion, who claim to be Christians (and memorize verses, rally, judge) have not had the psychic change that God gives upon surrender. Others, I believe, get so caught up in “being” God, they forget that they are still sinful in nature.

    Sure, my views have become what I used to consider “conservative” in many ways, but the difference is I live my OWN life under those “conservative” guidelines as the Holy Spirit guides ME. I will love others and live a peaceful life. My Christianity should demonstrate to others what I have…and should prompt them to ask questions if they feel moved to seek what I have. Christianity should be spread through living and demonstrating…not judging and condemning.

  • UnboundSet

    In Grade School I was a really shy kid and a girl at my school invited me to her house for an overnight. Her family were devout Catholics. I thought she wanted to be friends but as soon as I arrived she backed away and her parents began challenging my atheism and talking to me about God and Hell. It was a setup. I was really afraid of the fall out with the girl and ultimately with the other kids at school if there was a scene so I never told them what happened, but it was incredibly hurtful.

    I also had a Born Again friend try to convert me. The two of us Debated the Bible for two and a half years and also became good friends, frequently calling etc. It was not romantic, but we were tight. Then one day he correctly came to the conclusion that I was not going to ever believe in God and that was it no more conversations ever. Also very hurtful.

    Reflecting over these events as an adult, I have come to the conclusion that deeply religious people are similar to individuals with personality disorders in that they simply cannot attach. They have learned to mimic the motions of normal human behavior but the hamster has left the wheel.

  • miller

    Can’t say that anything like this has ever happened to me. I imagine that such stuff is actually less frequent than it seems, due to selective bias. But then, atheism is a topic that never comes up off-line for me.

  • Jen

    Hmm, some random events…

    Back when I was a Christian, I remember a friend telling me that I had to be baptized, that people who weren’t baptized but were Christians weren’t… as special, and wouldn’t get to be in the “good” part of heaven, or some shit like that. It seemed terrible to me, and I was annoyed. What the hell is the difference between me and her- just a handful of water?

    My mother constantly turns me against her god with her annoying Republicanism, as it relates to religion. She is, weirdly, still prochoice, but she follows the party line about the gays and their “wanting special rights” and “forcing their gayness on others” and “having an agenda.”

    College also helped, because I was surrounded by Saturday partiers/ Sunday Catholics. No, I don’t expect Christians to be perfect, but I would like to see that they act better than me, because they have Jesus and I have Darwinism (or whatever they would tell me).

  • Mriana

    All the time, Hemant. My mother and aunt are the worst and they are Fundamentalist, now in their 60s. My great uncle (a hellfire and damnation FM minister), grandmother and grandfather (Church of God) were the first to scare me away- and I do mean scare.

    What happened? Who should I start with? This is a life long story, so this could end up in the spam box again.

    When I was a baby until I was 14 we didn’t go to church, unless we visited my mother’s family. When we went to my great uncle’s church he’d scared me with his forever long alter calls- the screaming and demanding for people to go to his alter and “REPENT AND BE SAVED!” I wanted to run the other way, but as a child I could not, so I frozed. I knew it was the humans who were scaring me- esp my great uncle. Guilt and shame was his tactics.

    At the dinner table, this man who was a monster in church would talk poorly about the members of his congregation and how sinful they were. That and he would wonder why I never went up to be save. :roll: I could not speak.

    Now this was a man who had an affair in seminary resulting in an out of wedlock child that nearly cost him his career. Some congregations wanted him and some didn’t because of it. He didn’t marry her. He married his cousin’s (my grandfather) wife’s sister- in other words, two cousins married two sisters, so he was my third cousin and my great uncle.

    My grandparents nailed into my mother how much of a sin divorce was while I was being abused by my bio-father (an atheist). Then when they FINALLY understood what was happening, I was 14 (after my mother got “saved” at my great uncle’s alter) she divorced him with their blessing, but they would not allow me to throw the man behind bars, saying “God will take care of him. It’s enough we have you away from him”. He went on to molest other little girls. :( I know this because they eventually came to me for help, BUT religion kept them from putting him away, so I could not help them.

    I was baptisted in a river by my great uncle at 14- scared to death. Nothing changed, but I got swimmer’s ear. I found out my mentor, Gene Roddenberry was a Humanist, so I got some info on Humanism. My mother caught me reading it in my room and took it away from me saying, “This is NOT Christian!” I never saw it again, but I was well on my way to becoming a Humanist, but I was sort of raised on Humanism given that I saw Trek from 4 months until even now. That and she raised me on Dr. Spock (not to be confused with Mr. Spock, the Vulcan).

    They all got upset because I studied Psychology for my first degree, saying “Psychologist are of the devil and you’ll lose your soul if you study Humanism.” They climbed the walls because I studied religion at a secular university too. I refuse to go to a Christian college on the grounds of anti-intellectualism (long story there). So we’ve gone around about that too.

    My grandfather at 75 basically committed suicide. He had 4 heart attacks already and was on all sorts of medications. He was suffering depression, but refused psychological help on the grounds that they were of the devil and would steal his soul. HE decided that the doctors were playing God by keeping him alive on medication, so he quit taking his medications. He died within 3 days. :( So, he committed suicide from religious beliefs, BUT I’m not allowed to talk about it being suicide. Once I started saying that and my justifications of my thoughts, my aunt and my mother told me not to ever talk such things or to even suggest such a thing about my grandfather. It’s true though and I know it. :(

    Now, my aunt drills into me that scientist are wrong and the Bible is the inerrant word of God and when I tried to talk to my mother about my beliefs, she cried saying, “You’re hurting me!” Then she pinned me down demanding to know what I REALLY believed. To protect myself from verbal abuse, I hid behind the adjective “Christian” in front of the word Humanist, by saying, “I’m a Christian Humanist” then proceeded to tell her what SHE wanted to hear, but I wasn’t completely up front and actually liked about my true beliefs.

    Bishop Spong and others like him in the Episcopal Church showed me the way towards Religious Humanism, but I eventually departed from that too, into Spiritual Humanism or Humanism without an adjective, but I have never told anyone in my family, but my older son- the Tao Buddhist, who my mother climbs the walls about.

    So you see why I got upset about Wine saying what he did at the Humanist Conference this morning. I’m the black sheep of the family and have to distance myself from their insanity just so I can live my life without misery. I have always thought religion is the source of misery. I could go on and on about the abuses in the more extreme religious churches, but you get the idea. It’s not pretty.

    I have found more love, compassion, and comfort among Humanists, than I have ever found among religious extremists. I have found peace among Humanists too.

    There is no peace among the religious, IMO, except dogma, control, emotional abuse, indignation to the human, and alike. I found non-theistic Christians like Spong, as well as liberal and progressive Christians peaceful to be around, but I have learned more about the history of religion, the history of the Bible, and alike in the Episcopal Church and outside the Episcopal Church on my own, than I care to know and don’t want much to do with it.

    However, the Episcopal Church is not perfect. The Conservative Episcopalians are horrid too with their treatment of people. :( One more thing, I had a good influence from another great uncle who was a WWII medic who became an atheist in a foxhole during that time. So, I can tell the good and bad about that too. More about that one later if I can fit in some how. It’s always been the humans though who have made life heaven or hell or both. Not some unseen deity.

  • Susan

    When I was about fifteen or sixteen I was going to see a play with a neighbor with whom I was quite friendly, although she was a generation older. I knew she was a devout Christian and she “knew” that I was a Jew (I was already an atheist at that point, but I knew how opinionated she was on the topic and so had let her continue to believe I was Jewish in the interest of avoiding debate). Anyway, at some point she brought up the conflicts in Israel and commented that the Muslims and everyone else should get out and leave it to the Jews, since after all the Jews were God’s chosen people and they had been promised this land. When I somewhat weakly protested that it wasn’t as simple as that, she said, “But you’re a Jew; you should feel the same way! Aren’t you proud to be one of God’s chosen people? Even us Christians know that!” I bit my tongue because I knew letting her know how I really felt would only get us into an ugly debate. She’s a very nice person, as long as you don’t disagree with something she knows to be true (and I don’t think she even sees how closed-minded she is).

  • http://uncrediblehallq.blogspot.com/ Chris Hallquist

    My answer: Yes. C. S. Lewis and Thomas V. Morris. Because they told me I could think rationally about religion.

  • Mriana

    That was suppose to be studying psychology, not studying Humanism in the college part of my post.

    Sigh. I have a headache now. :( But I guess you have an idea why I react the way I do sometimes- like wait and see how a minister acts or get upset about dogmatic controlling behaviours.

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  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ John P

    When my mother was on her deathbed (from ALS, a long, lingering, dehumanizing disease) and I was visiting her in the hospital, a parish priest happened to visit while I was there. He was aware that I was not a church goer anymore, though my parents were devout Catholics. He asked me to talk to him outside in the hall during this visit, and proceeded to ask me what it would take to get me back to church, telling me that it would make my parents happy to see it, especially my mother before she died. Pulled out the old Catholic guilt. I rebuffed him, graciously, but really resented his bald attempt to use my mother’s impending death to get me back to church. I resolved that it would never happen, and it wasn’t long after that that I started looking into atheism full time.

  • Bia

    When I was questioning my Catholic faith in high school, specifically questioning the Bible, my best friend and faith fanatic decided to completely attack me, telling me I was going to hell and all sorts of other things that were wrong with me. She attacked a gay friend of both of ours, telling him he was going to hell for being gay and protestant. She also became a spiteful bitch, deciding to ruin our other best friend’s surprise birthday party by telling her about it. From then on, she was never a friend of mine, and the whole ordeal pushed me sooo much closer to admitting to myself that I was holding onto a faith that I didn’t believe in anymore. It was really an instrumental event in my life that led to me coming out of the atheist closet.

  • Bia

    PS. The kicker is that she really thought she was doing what god wanted her to do by being passionate about her beliefs and that through her strong faith, we would all see that she was right about god and believing. She really, honestly thought she was saving us all by being so adamant.

  • Ash

    oooooooooo, many times. i’ve been agnostic since i could think for myself (about 9/10), atheist once i realised i was only claiming agnosticism so as not to offend anyone. although my mother is christian, i’m glad she gave me that opportunity. my most relevant story is about my neighbour, D-. lovely woman, bit crazy (she used to have her whole christian group round for tambourine sessions – mortified her 11yr old son, lol). she used to tell me she’d pray for me on a regular basis *shrugs*, whatever…
    one day we had a conversation about the narnia books, and i mentioned i liked the idea in the last book about the calomarine being accepted into ‘heaven’ because everything he had done that was good in his life, aslan (‘god’) took as worship to him. D- “no, that isn’t the way it works at all. you’re going to hell.” we didn’t speak much after that, but i imagine she prayed harder for me…

    in college we had a play banned by the christian group. we were doing an ‘alternative’ nativity, meant as a joke, never read by the christians, and into which we’d already put 6 weeks of work. the reason it got banned? the tag line (something about about it being a comedy, please don’t take offence) was written backwards to make people notice it. apparently, that made all of us devil worshippers. and we weren’t allowed to just change the posters, the whole thing, and all our efforts were scrapped. petty christian authoritarianism at it’s best.
    on a lighter note (yeah right!), i found my mother’s faith highly interesting. i’m mentally ill (don’t hold it against me). i found out at 18 that my mum was aware of some of my problems – my school had talked to her, the CO of a group i was in, college officials etc…but she’d chosen to ignore it, til i had a huge breakdown, and she had to acknowledge it. her advice? huge pause, followed by ‘have you tried god?’. i laughed til i cried…

  • http://everydayatheism.wordpress.com Everyday Atheist

    One thing that really sticks out in my mind were two websites created by some of the kids I went to high school with. I had transfered to a non-denominational school and got exposed to fundamentalism for the first time.

    One of the sites had a background of flames and a list of reasons why basically everyone who was not a fundamentalist was going to hell, with gleeful descriptions of the torture they would experience there. He said he was trying to convince people to convert by scaring them with the truth.

    The other site had an article that basically said that Jews were no better off than an abortion doctor, and they were all going to burn in hell. That got to me because it was sooo exclusionary. I never believed in a God that was that much of an ass.

  • William Birch

    Being a Christian isn’t easy either. It’s pretty bad when your Christian “brothers and sisters” get on your last nerve! Oh I swear- sometimes, they make me want to scream. The way Christians try to imitate what they see on Mtv or at the theatre, or even the music they hear on the radio . . . Let’s face it- Christian television, Christian movies, and Christian music just doesn’t have the same quality as the non-Christian market. And when Christians try, they just look silly. I especially love (sarcastic) those t.v. preachers who try to be cool, using street lingo to appeal to young kids. Ha! That is almost worth the price of admission- I mean the offering plate.

    But, let’s face it. I am called to love them regardless; and so is everyone else. We all want love regardless of beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc. Christians are no different. Sure, many are so ignorant that it makes you want to cuss! But they are no different from any other ignorant group of people. Redneck America and the Gangsta Culture are just as ignorant and turn me off to their point of view as well.

    Christians, listen up: If you truly believe that it is God who must change the heart, then stop trying to do it yourself to others. You are not Him. He knows what He is doing. And get off the Atheist’s back. You are only keeping them from what you want them to receive.

    Atheists, remember something: Christians sometimes get frustrated because they want you to experience something incredible as they have. Sure, they go about in the wrong way at times, but they certainly do not mean to (well, not all of them- some find satisfaction in feeling that they are “right” and you are “wrong”). But haven’t you, as an Atheist, ever wanted to go up to a Christian and shake them, screaming, “Wake up, you idiot! You are deluding yourself”? Do you not feel the same the frustration at their seeming ignorance? Then you know how they feel. Nevertheless, I do empathize with you.

  • Mriana

    But haven’t you, as an Atheist, ever wanted to go up to a Christian and shake them, screaming, “Wake up, you idiot! You are deluding yourself”? Do you not feel the same the frustration at their seeming ignorance?

    Actually, no. Christians like you and Mike, I can deal with. It is the abusive and forcefully imposing ones that raise my blood pressure and want to go on the defensive. I’m sure you have ran into that lot before too. They are a disgrace to my Christians friends even. My Church of Christ friend just hates seeing how my mother treats me religiously and she wishes there was a way she could put an end to it also. It repulses even her to see such behaviours. My dear friend can delude herself all she wants about God as long as she doesn’t go acting like “bad” Christians I’ve known over the years. She has some sanity in her belief at least.

  • http://blog.dmcleish.id.au Shishberg

    Two instances that I can remember.

    One was someone I’ve known for a while; I went to school with him, lost touch for a few years, then he started coming to my church. A few years later, when I was starting to have doubts, I talked to him, and he invited me to a talk being held at his girlfriend’s church. He didn’t know much about it, but he’d heard it would be good.

    Turns out it was a guest creationist speaker from Answers in Genesis. The funny thing was that I was reading The Selfish Gene at the time, and Dawkins’ style was fresh in my mind. The contrast was… enlightening. I usually point to that as the time when I started taking atheism seriously.

    The second was a Christian colleague. I’d also mentioned to him when I was questioning my faith, so he decided to help me by organising bible discussions with another colleague at lunchtime.

    I think they must have thought that any random exposure to God’s Word would have a positive effect on me, because they didn’t seem to plan what we were going to read or anything; they more or less picked some chapters at random. What made it more amusing was that they didn’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues of doctrine, so more than one lunchtime turned into them debating some point while I sat there and watched. Nice showcase of the Spirit’s inability to help clarify anything.

    Later, when I made the transition to atheism, I avoided telling him about it for a while, because I thought he’d make some lame effort to talk me out of it. When I finally told him, he generally seemed to have a fairly accepting attitude; I must admit I was surprised.

    Then a couple of days later he lent me an apologetics book. Sigh.

    (For those playing at home, the book was 20 Compelling Evidences That God Exists. “20 Apologetic Clichés” might be a better title. I read it on the plane on a business trip, made copious notes, and learnt a lot about how not to make a compelling argument.)

  • http://Skepticsanctuary.com Tom

    Mriana. That was a truly heartbreaking story.

  • Mriana

    I have been encouraged by many to write my story. It could be an advantage and disadvantage to Christians. Advantage in that they learn what not to do and a disadvantage because it gives Dawkins and Harris more power. However, it is because of this that I do agree with Dawkins and Harris. Religion can be abusive and damaging to people. It can lead to self-loathing, self-hatred, and self-harm. It can lead to others being harmed too.

    Even so, it is NOT the religion or God that does it, but rather the people who do it to themselves and each other in the name of religion or God.

    I was even told that God put me through all of that for a reason. :roll: No, humans did, but there was no rational reason for it, except maybe they were suffering varying degrees of untreated depression, low self-esteem, psychosis, need for control, or alike.

    I have learned one thing by observation and my studies in psychology- Religion is not necessrily insanity, but it can be the manifestation of something seriously emotionally wrong with a person. Like overeating is not necessarily the issue, but rather a sign that something is wrong with the person.

    I am thankful for the influences of Gene and my other great uncle who served in WWII as medic and became an atheist during that time. In some ways, I think they were my strong hold to sanity. One was indirectly and the other was directly, but then again, I was never afraid of psychology either.

    So, both Gene Roddenberry (a Humanist), the atheist uncle, and psychology all helped. That and people like Spong helped too. In effect, it was atheism, Humanism, non-theism, and psychology that saved me. So, non-religious views are not all bad and can be very helpful to people, contrary to some people’s beliefs. This is not to say religion can’t help people, but in some cases, the opposite is more helpful.

  • http://trinitydigitalmedia.com Paul Clifford

    I’m sorry for all the ways that you’ve all been hurt. If I believe in a God who is all-knowing, loving, and communicative, but don’t listen to Him in how to interact with people, I’m going to do more harm than good. I’ve heard people say just the wrong thing, but I’ve also been there when just the right thing was said. The latter is better and what God desires, not the former.

    Paul

  • Mike J.C.

    Um, about two Southern Baptist churches full of christians and a large number of students at a christian college did a good job of pushing me further away from christianity. I know that sounds like sarcasm or a gross exaggeration but it’s not. The levels of hypocrisy, pride, arrogance and bigotry that I encountered are what convinced me that my doubts and misgivings about god and religion were probably accurate.

  • http://acosmopolitan.blogspot.com Anatoly

    Well, I got a pretty good and short one, I think. It was during my first week at university (the orientation week) that a friend of mine invited me to a neighboring dorm building where he was with some girls were who, he said, didnt drink. Now I’m a teetotaler in Canada and girls who dont drink (or just people) is a very rare thing about here. So I rushed over there within minutes.

    And my first was right, they were nice and talkative and friendly, but after some time passed one of the girls came out and asked me “What my view on life was?” Shuffling around such an abtuse question I admitted that I am an atheist and that resulted from a rather lengthy and (according to my friend) uncomfortable conversation. I dont remember many of the specifics but in the break of the conversation I asked one of the girls whether she believed if I and my friend (who was also an atheist) were going to hell after we die. Her response:

    “Yes, but I dont say that when I’m witnessing.”

    It was a classic “WTF?” moment. Killed the conversation right there and ruined my friend’s hopes of being anything more than a friend to those two. We lingered around talking about other things for a little bit more and then headed back to our dorm where, outside, I ranted to my friend on just how damn emotionally bankrupt that was. If there’s anything more that turns me away from Christianity is the claim that at least four billion people living right now are going to hell. But in that context… the message was just golden.

  • J. Byas

    There is actually a new book all about this topic of how Christians come across to non-Christians. It is by a Christian named Dan Kimball and is called They like Jesus but not the Church.

  • Joseph R.

    I was indoctrinated into religion at a young age(my parents are both Southern Baptist). When I was about 10 years of age I decided to accept Jesus as my savior an become a “born-again-cristian.” My parents were very happy about this, in fact that is what they had expected of me and my sibling all along. The preacher at our church was invited over to my family’s home to explain to me how to become a “born-again-christian”. When the preacher told me that all I had to do was repeat after him to become a christian, I was surprised that is could be so easy. I repeated, “I accept Jesus Christ as my savior, and that he died on the cross for my sins.” I lived my childhood and teenage years as a christian(attending church/bible study and believing). It was that experience with the preacher that actually put a seed of doubt in my head. How could I be a christian just by repeating after someone else? Since that time I have done some research, bible reading, self reflection, and self discovery. I am now 32 years old. I have been a closet atheist for quite a few years, yet I feel very confortable with my own views despite the fact that none of my family knows, not even my wife. For me, it didn’t take a bad experience, just some rational thought.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    I stopped going to church in large part because of the birth of the religious right and finding that evangelical churches were in bed with reactionary right-wing politics and racism in the South, where I lived during the 1980s. I was brought up to believe that “Christians are in the world, not of it” and “render unto Ceasar what is Ceaser’s and unto God what is God’s,” which always seemed to be a clear separation of church and state to me. So any Christian who has a Jesus fish and a W sticker on their car, drives me away from Christianity, even if they never speak to me.

  • Bartlett

    Two mates from college tried arguing the case for the Bible with me one night in the pub. It nearly turned into a very one-sided brawl, I was the only atheist in the crowd. Every carefully worded, painstakingly constructed argument I put forth was dismissed almost out of hand, even qouting the famous arguments of greater minds did nothing. They said that I can’t prove that god doesn’t exist, so they must be right, a kind of weak version of Pascals Wager. In the end they came down to saying that if my arguments were correct by logic, then logic itself must be wrong. How can you possibly refute such a bizarre, incredibly arrogant statement? And the people I was arguing with are studying to be civil engineers! At this point they made the argument a popularity contest by asking every passer-by if they believed in God. I tried pointing out that everyone used to believe that the earth was flat too, but they had already dismissed logical arguments in their entirety so it was pointless. This one demonstration of pigheadedness has probably made me immune to conversion.

  • Kim G

    Siamang, yes, that’s the one. Sweeney is hilarious!

  • Desert Son

    Mriana,

    Marred by cruelty as your path has been, I wish for you better days, and see in your own resilience the means to make it so. Cor agere.

    No kings,

    Robert

  • Mriana

    Thanks Robert. There was one thing I learned from the atheist great uncle as I watched him. (Note: I make this distinction only because there were two great uncles involved- 1. the FM minister and 2 the atheist.) Yes, he would get very angry when my grandfather (his brother) pounded him with the idea that life is far better “with God in it”, but I also noticed that he too had seen hell on earth created by humans via WWII as a medic. It was the one thing we could shared in common.

    He loved children. He always gave me the warmest smiled when I saw him and was one of the most compassionate men I’ve ever met. He made his own heaven on earth by becoming a teacher after he served his time in the war. He believed in education strongly, but he never once pushed his views on anyone, not even my grandfather when he tried so hard to convert my great uncle. He would only begged to differ with my grandfather’s strong, even extreme, religious views and differ about there being a god.

    My extremely religious grandfather died of suicide, but my his atheist brother died of natural causes at the age of 80. Which goes to show that atheism and suicide have nothing to do with each other like some tried to insist (albeit VERY cruelly and incompassionately) on another thread. The only comorbidity that can be justified (scientifically) is depression (or other mental illness) and suicide. Religion or lack of it, has no comorbidity with suicide, although a study found that the religious have a higher rate of depression. The problem with the study (one of many) though was that the number of people studied was not the same for each group, so it lacked validity. The other was that it has not been repeated yet.

    The thing is, that study is not what I wish people would learn as I watch the Religious Reich with their Jesus Camps, their hand in government, and alike. What I would like to see happen is that people learn just how damaging the things people do with religion can be to themselves and others. I don’t expect it go away, unlike Harris and Dawkin’s, but I do want to see people be more humanistic with their religious beliefs, which is hard for some to cope with because it deals with more focus on the human and less on the supernatural.

    This is why I have respect for Spong and others like him. He focuses more on the human. He is my definition of a Christian (Religious) Humanist. It is non-theistic, yet focuses on the human, as well as keep some aspects of religion. I wish more religious people would listen to the Religious Humanists since they are the “bridge” that unites us, IMO, even IF I disagree with some of the things they say. I can say the same for Epstein too, even if I’m not so sure I agree with his Cultural Humanism- he is still the bridge that unites us.

    They all can show us a way to a mutual more humanistic approach to life without giving up everything by way of spiritualism. Giving up a belief in the supernatural as they focus more on the human is the one thing the extremely religious seem to have a serious issue with though. They can’t see how it is a viable alternative and can contribute to growth.

  • Tina B.

    I have just a short comment. When I would hear my mom and sisters speak of speaking in tongues, and watching my niece roll around the church floor “acting” like she was speaking in tongues. But alas! When the preacher got tired of the interruptions and couldn’t be heard over all the commotion, she and about 12 other kids suddenly didn’t have that holy spirit enter them ever again! Amazing, huh? My mom told me that speaking in tongues is god speaking through you and you can’t just do it at will…..well, those kids did. It’s hogwash to me!

  • Maria

    This is why I have respect for Spong and others like him. He focuses more on the human. He is my definition of a Christian (Religious) Humanist. It is non-theistic, yet focuses on the human, as well as keep some aspects of religion. I wish more religious people would listen to the Religious Humanists since they are the “bridge” that unites us, IMO, even IF I disagree with some of the things they say. I can say the same for Epstein too, even if I’m not so sure I agree with his Cultural Humanism- he is still the bridge that unites us.

    Mriana, could you tell me more about this? I would like very much to learn more about it. Feel free to email me bluefireiceeyes@aol.com

  • Mriana

    Maria, I’ll be glad too. You should have an email in your box. If you have more questions I’ll be glad to answer them for you.

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  • Mriana

    Um… Maria, it says it did not go through because you aren’t receiving emails from those not on your list. :( Maybe Hemant can send you my addy.

  • Maria

    oh geesh, I’m sorry. that’s the default setting for aol and I didn’t even realize I had it. Well, I set it to recieve all mail now, so please try again…….thanks

  • Mriana

    OK just tried it again. :)

  • Robin

    I will try to make this as short as I can. When I was 16, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She died a couple weeks after my 18th birthday. That year and a half or so, was of course very difficult for my whole family. I missed a lot of school, fell asleep alot in school for various reasons. I attended a Catholic High School filled to the brim with all kinds of religious people, Fathers, Mothers, Sisters etc. Not one time and I swear it not one time did any one of any of them ever come to me and ask how my mother was doing? How I was doing? Never asked or offered that if I needed to talk to anyone that they would be there. No kind of interest at all in my situation.

    Well one day I was late for school. When I got there I was told I was to see Sister so and so. I go to her room and she wants to know what my problem is? Wants to know why my grades are slipping? Why I am falling asleep in my classrooms? Why I tend to take off too many days here and there? I said, Sister you know my mother has cancer and she has been getting worse. Its very hard for me right now because I don’t think she has much longer. I am not sleeping well and I just can’t think well most of the time. Her reply back, mind you in a very irritated voice……Don’t use your mothers illness as an excuse for your poor performance in school!!! You know what you have to do here and you need to find the balance between the two or you will not graduate!!!!!! At first I stood there dumbfounded. And then I got pissed and said something I will not repeat, left her room, went to the girls room, cried my eyes out and then promptly walked to the disciplinarians office to tell him what happened and what I said to her because I figured I was gonna get expelled. He being a lay person, told me to calm down, go home, relax and come back the next day. I told him then that if coming back meant I had to apologize then I wasn’t coming back. He said no, I didn’t have to, and I would be transferred out of her class for the rest of the year. Which was only one month as this happened somewhere in April, my mother died in May and graduation was in May. So….that was pretty much it for me when it came to religion and the religious.

  • Robin

    P.S.

    2 days later after my mothers funeral. My next door neighbor brings me an envelope. It contained my diploma. I guess they figured I wasn’t gonna make it to the graduation ceremony. Which was like one week away. No note with it, no sympathy card or note about her death. Just the diploma. Nice people of God wouldn’t you say?

  • Mriana

    Robin, I’m so sorry that happened to you. It does seem like the coldest people on earth are the religious. Did you go to graduation with your head held high?

  • Bill Jakeway

    Okay … I read with interest most of the comments on this thread. Some of the comments were highly informative. I guess I never realized how I could come across. I suppose I recognized myself as a youth in some of the posts.

    I saw that many of the comments were judging of people being accused of judging. Just found that humorous.

    I saw a comment that stated “all” conservatives were a certain way. Hmmmm …

    I saw another comment that pretty much condemned all of Christianity because of what happened at a parochial school.

    What really triggered me to post was the one that said they had “come to the conclusion that deeply religious people are similar to individuals with personality disorders.”

    Kinda gives meaning to the “judge not lest you be judged.”

    Can’t wait for the “Atheists Hursting Atheism” thread.

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  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    Kinda gives meaning to the “judge not lest you be judged.”

    The thing that turns me off the most is when Christians quote scripture at me.

    The Bible is full of contradictions regarding “judging”…. in fact, later verses in Matthew chapter 7, the same chapter being quoted above, say this:

    15 ¶ Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
    16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
    17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
    18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
    19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
    20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

    So, which is it? Even Jesus, apparently, could not make up his mind. Both little sermonettes sound nice, don’t they? But they contradict each other plainly.

  • Robin

    Bill Jakeway,

    I did not condemn all religious people. I was judging the people I had the experience with in that parochial school. There are many good people and I could tell a beautiful story about a woman that was close to our family. She also was Catholic if that point matters at all. She sat by my mothers side *every day* that my mother was in the hospital for one and I could tell much more about that wonderful women and what she did for my family and others she crossed paths with. And there are many others that are fine people. But that was not what this thread was about.

    I think making judgements about people is important. All the time. Its a way to protect yourself. Sometimes its a necessity in life. Every one has good and bad points about them. Its what we do with either of those things that speak about us. IMO

  • Robin

    Mriana,

    No, I didn’t go to graduation. Unfortunately, I did not have enough self confidence in those days. It also was a very difficult time.

  • Karen

    I’m so sorry to hear about that hurt in your life, Robin. That’s terrible.

    My husband and I were members of a bible study group for several years. My father-in-law had a long, debilitating illness during that time and eventually died. Not one member of that “close” home fellowship sent us a sympathy card, called to see how we were, or inquired about attending the memorial service, which was only 40 minutes away from our area.

    That really hurt my husband’s feelings, though it didn’t turn him off to Christianity. I was already questioning at that point, and that incident was one of many that made me start to wonder what was the benefit of devoting so much time to religion.

  • Brendon Lake

    I must admit I was avoiding this thread, but I will agree, that often the Church is guilty of being it’s own worst enemy.
    Mriana: I can see you’ve had a really tough time (to put it lightly) well done for not becoming a bitter and resentfull person.

    When I was in Grade 7, we had an RE teacher whom I believe was totally wrong in what she was teaching us. She focused a lot on the book of Revelation, which at that age made me want to go hide in a cave somewhere.
    She also showed us videos about Satanic Rock bands which also totally freaked me out, I couldnt face the whole video and I left our school hall crying it so disturbed me.

    I could have been totally put off by this woman and her insensitivity, but I never allowed this to prevent me from discovering all that is good and encouraging in the Christian community.

    Metal is my favourite kind of music so she failed in that department too :)

  • Bill Jakeway

    Typical (or is that too judgmental?).

    Judgmental people look for contradictions (and seemingly have a LONG list in their minds in case they have to do battle).

    Judgmental people figure out a “reason” why their judgment is justified.

    Judgmental peole seem prone to leap onto *apparent contradictory statements within scripture, which they completely don’t understand the context (nor do they care to).

    But that isn’t what this thread is about.

    This thread is about people that don’t believe in scriptures that have been turned off by those who do.

    This is about individuals who choose to nurse their hurts and grasp their offenses to justify their hatred in some way.

    This is about people that condemn the forgiven by refusing to offer forgiveness to less than perfect.

    This thread is about venting, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – because with proper venting comes healing.

    So I’m fine with what you believe. Just don’t place me in a box and say that because I choose to have faith in the unseen that I must have a mental defect … that because I trust in a hope that I am too narrow minded to understand your hurts … that my conservativeness makes me somehow ignorant …

    But then, this is my opinion. Don’t hate me for it. I haven’t obtained perfection yet.

  • Mriana

    Bill, religious extremism is the my issue. I don’t hate you for what you believe, but if you were to act like some extremist I have known, then I would not like your behviour.

    I don’t even know you to put you in a box. Scriptures have nothing to do with it, unless you want to talk about divorce and alike being a sin, that is in the scriptures. However, I made quite clear that it was humans not religion or scriptures that was the real problem. I have no problem with religion/scriptures, it’s what people do with it that I have a problem with.

    You did get one thing right though:

    This thread is about venting, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – because with proper venting comes healing.

    I won’t disagree with you on that.

  • Robin

    Bill,

    When I read your last post you seem very angry. Maybe I read it wrong. I am not nor do I ever put anyone in a box. I do however put organized religion in a box. In my mind it can be a dangerous thing in the hands of the wrong people.

    I don’t recall anyone on this thread saying you had a mental defect.

    You said….

    So I’m fine with what you believe. Just don’t place me in a box and say that because I choose to have faith in the unseen that I must have a mental defect … that because I trust in a hope that I am too narrow minded to understand your hurts … that my conservativeness makes me somehow ignorant …

    I am not telling you or anyone else not to believe. That is your right and perogative. And I personally don’t think less of you or anyone else for that matter that does believe. I may not understand why you do, but that truly is none of my business. I think maybe you might be the one putting atheists in a box. We are not all alike just like all religious people are not alike.

    Just one last thought turned into a question….when was the last time an atheist knocked on your door to share the truth with you?

    Take care.

  • Robin

    Karen,

    Thank you for your thoughts. I feel for your husband as well.

    And to partially quote you from the other thread if I may? Very nicely said.

    Religion claims to have guiding principles and supernatural help that theoretically should instill a tendency to certain positive behaviors in its adherents. When those positive behaviors are not manifested, it’s a strike against the efficacy and truth of that religion.

    Bill you said…

    This is about individuals who choose to nurse their hurts and grasp their offenses to justify their hatred in some way.

    I am 50 now, I was 17 when that happened. I have long been over the hurt. And I never felt hate towards the people from that situation. Hurt, anger, confusion, questions, but never hate.

  • Bill Jakeway

    No, Robin, I am not angry. Far from it. I just get confused when people come against something using the very methods they say they detest.

    For example, you said …

    I do however put organized religion in a box. In my mind it can be a dangerous thing in the hands of the wrong people.

    Not all organized religion is the same. Are there extremes that go too far? Yes. I am certain there are the extreme atheists that sicken you. But am I somehow an extremist for believing in absolutes? I don’t think so. Not everything is black and white, but that doesn’t mean black and white don’t exist.

    You went on to say,

    I don’t recall anyone on this thread saying you had a mental defect.

    If I could quote Mriana …

    Religion … can be the manifestation of something seriously emotionally wrong with a person.

    And then a quote from Hemant’s blog:

    … I have come to the conclusion that deeply religious people are similar to individuals with personality disorders …

    I may be incorrect, but these comments come across as classifying the religious as having mental defects.

    And that doesn’t even include those like “writerdd” who feign understanding of scripture, yet argue with scripture.

    It boils down to this. I do base my entire life on Scripture. Atheists don’t. It was never my intention to come across as hateful or as angry, but I was confused by what I read. I’m actually very happy with my life.

    As far as your question … I can’t even remember the last time I knocked on a door myself to share truth. I guess it just isn’t my style.

    My life is my witness. If you want what I have, you’ll ask. And then I’ll share.

    I personnally don’t condemn anyone, because I was never appointed to be the judge. I am a chaser … a seeker. I feel confident in my quest yet find myself a sinner daily.

  • Mriana

    If I could quote Mriana …

    Religion … can be the manifestation
    of something seriously emotionally wrong with a
    person.

    And then a quote from Hemant’s blog:

    … I have come to the conclusion
    that deeply religious people are similar to
    individuals with personality disorders …

    I may be incorrect, but these comments come
    across as classifying the religious as having mental
    defects.

    No dear, I said it “can be”. I also made the example of overeating along with that. To put it more clearly, if a person with Schizophrenia is going around saying, “The devil is telling me to hurt people.” Wouldn’t you attribute that to their disorder or rather a symptom of their Dx, and not to the religion? That’s is basically what I’m saying, but it could also apply to a depressive psychosis, a personality disorder, or any other mental illness. Hemant and I are talking about the extremes, but using different words to express it. A person can be moderately religious and still be a rational human being, even if we do not agree with them.

  • Bill Jakeway

    So you would be equally saying that atheism “can be” the manifestation of something seriously emotionally wrong with a person? I guess I don’t get your correlation.

    Should I correct my post to say, “I may be incorrect, but these comments ‘may’ come across as classifying the religious as having mental defects”? Either way, you and Hemant *did* come across that way to me …

    Extremism is not inheritantly wrong, because what is, and is not, extremism is an opinion. You probably would classify me as an extremist in some (if not all) of my beliefs, but that would not be result of something seriously wrong with me, nor should I be deemed to possess a personality disorder.

    Just because I am more than “moderately religious” (another subjective term), from your point of view, does not make me unrational (unless, of course, the term “rational” and “unrational” are also subjective terms).

    Would you agree that truth is eternal? Or can truth change? Will not 2+2 always equal 4 when personality disorders are present or not?

    But, I guess we are actually FAR away from the intent of this thread.

    IMO, your comments are interesting. I disagree with them … I might even consider you extreme … but you come across as interesting nonetheless.

  • Pathfinder

    For a long time before I came out as an atheist to my close family I never got accosted by Christians (I used to live in Nebraska, so this was quite the exeption). But when I finally “came out of the closet” I sparked a rather heated reaction. Here is my story.

    I have been an atheist since I was pretty young, although I didn’t discover the vast amount of atheistic content on the internet until about a year ago. Some months later, my mother found out about my beliefs. She said that she would have a serious discussion with me later (she had to run an errand, which gave me some time to prepare a rather broad range of arguments and facts to respond to her with – almost all of which went to waste).

    Her only addition to an a priori assumption that atheism was wrong was her equally unfounded belief that the fact that she was older than me had anything to do with the truth of our assertions (I was seventeen at the time, and I revealed to her during our discussion that I had been thinking of myself as an atheist/humanist since twelve).

    We “debated” back and forth for about thirty minutes; me bringing up various facts, atrocities, and arguments about religion, and she attempting to debunk (or ignore) as much of what I said as she could. She wasn’t particularly successful in that regard, and so she closed the argument by stating that she didn’t “know enough about God to talk to you about this.”

    I think it was to her advantage that she closed the argument without admitting she was wrong, at least in the parent-child relationship that we had. Although at a more personal level I was, and still am, simultaneously disappointed in her for being incapable of thinking past her assumptions and euphoric that it was so easy for me to prove (or at least present credibly) my philosophy and experiences.

    My father was at least a bit more tolerant when he discussed things with me, he took the time to sit and listen (or at least appear to) to what I said. Although at the end of it all he almost dogmatically told me to “keep an open mind” about things, so I don’t believe he got the entire point.

    I would also like to offer my condolences, Mriana, I was lucky enough to be raised in a (relatively) liberal family. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be in your position.

  • Pam M

    Bill Jakeway I totally agree with you when you spoke of judgemental people. However, having said that I believe Maria and Robin were not judging people but the peoples “behavior”. Two entirely different things. One has to be able to judge a persons behavior in order to determine if they are “safe” people to associate with.

    I myself have no horror stories to tell concerning religious people. I believe because I come across as a person with a strong personality people do not approach me as they would some. Becoming a non believer has been a slow process for me. I had little religious instruction as a child and while coming from a family with a Southern Baptist mother (she kept her beliefs for the most part in the closet until her death) and a for the most part absent father who was Presbtyn. Except for a short period of church and Sunday school appearances I had no religious experience as a child. I was able to grow up and form my own opinions.

    I see extremeists in both religious and non religious people. I can only speak for myself but I think we would all like to see everyone at some middle ground. I would like this world to be a place where people can feel comfortable expressing their beliefs and non beliefs and be accepted for those beliefs. After all that is what America is supposed to be about isn’t it? Unfortunately, the radicals on both side of this agruement make it difficult to be able to do that. Maybe some day if not in my life time but my childrens or grandchildrens.

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  • Mriana

    Bill Jakeway said,

    June 10, 2007 at 2:41 am

    So you would be equally saying that atheism “can be” the manifestation of something seriously emotionally wrong with a person? I guess I don’t get your correlation.

    The DSM-IV does not cover atheism as a symptom of mental illness. However, if you look up my example of Schizophrenia you will see that religious delusions and visions of granduer (ie “I’m Jesus Christ”) can be symptoms of the illness.

    Either way, you and Hemant *did* come across that way to me …

    That’s fine, but I stand by my conclusion based on my education of mental illness. Eating to live is one thing, living to eat is another.

    Extremism is not inheritantly wrong, because what is, and is not, extremism is an opinion. You probably would classify me as an extremist in some (if not all) of my beliefs, but that would not be result of something seriously wrong with me, nor should I be deemed to possess a personality disorder.

    I never said there was something wrong with you, but an extreme of anything is a bad thing. I’m sure you have heard it daid “all things in moderation”. Besides, it would be unethical for my to Dx someone over the internet and secondly, in my state one has to have a doctrit degree in psychology to give an actual Dx.

    Would you agree that truth is eternal? Or can truth change? Will not 2+2 always equal 4 when personality disorders are present or not?

    No insult intended, but you have obviously not studied psychology and have not worked in the field.

    I would also like to offer my condolences, Mriana, I was lucky enough to be raised in a (relatively) liberal family. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be in your position.

    Pathfinder? My collegue in Trek fanfic? If that’s you, “HI!” :D Glad to see you. If not, sorry, it’s easy to confuse people. To tell the truth, it’s hell on earth. My family can not see the damage they are doing to themselves and others. My aunt frets and prays so much, that she has bleeding ulcers- yes, we are suppose to turn it over to the Lord, so she says. She felt guilty for not praying for my family after nearly dying from bleeding ulcers and getting 3 rounds of blood pumped into her and a little more than two weeks in the hospital on a feedbag because she could not keep food down. She deathly pale and sicker than a dog and SHE worries about praying? GEEZE! I say take a break and get some rest! Maybe take a Zoloft for the anxiety.

    Let’s not get into my mother’s problems. :roll: She gets upset because I am involved with things she does not agree with, based on HER religious ideology, yet she relies on my for social things. My support of Obama for pres and lack of support of the Shrub is a great example. It’s un Christian not to support the pres and Obama does not meet her religious standards and therefore I should not participate in any of his campaign stuff.

    Alas, if I were to tell them I don’t believe, they would climb the walls and have a conniption. Even if I tried to soften the blow and give them a partial truth by comparing myself to Bishop Spong. They would consider him an atheist and still climb the walls. :( It would not soften the blow for them in anyway. They’d blame education at a secular college and the Episcopal Church. :roll: It has nothing to do with either.

  • Pathfinder

    Sorry, Mriana, different Pathfinder, but it seems as if he has a good friend ^.^

    I have something new to share from my visit to my grandmother’s church this morning. The pastor there preached a sermon (entitled “Rise!”) where she called upon everyone who had been “touched and healed directly by God” to stand.

    No one did.

    She tried a second time, calling upon students who had felt “the hand of God” in their coursework, if they had passed a test by “the grace of God” (It’s the sunday after high school graduations here, so the sermon was about everyone who was graduating, me included).

    No one yet again.

    She tried once more with those who had “felt the lord calling them to witness” or something like that.

    Still no one.

    She finally gave up and picked the most general characteristics possible (“if you’ve ever been touched by the lord’s grace”), and even then had to flat-out tell everyone to stand.

    The congregation was nonplussed, but I take this to be a rather encouraging event; these people showed that they did not think that “the lord our savior” was the source of all of the good things in their lives, there were only natural causes for everything that has happened to them. Be it the doctors that helped heal them, or the hard work of the people themselves as they pulled through their tough times, none of them thought to thank the invisible sky fairy for everything they did.

    And that is a wonderful thing. It is a sign that people are finally waking up from the collective delusion that has been passed down for thousands of years, a sign that people are finaly thinking. It is my fondest hope that this trend continues, and that future children will no longer be brainwashed into believing legends, fables, and lies so that the professional cons called “clergy” can make a living.

  • Mriana

    Interesting service, Pathfinder. Seems people are thinking.

    Sorry, Mriana, different Pathfinder, but it seems as if he has a good friend ^.^

    Thanks. I try to be.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com FriendlyAtheist

    Pathfinder– What an interesting service… do you know the people weren’t standing because they knew God didn’t do it? Or was there another reason? It seems really odd to me the entire congregation wouldn’t stand for any of those things the pastor mentioned. Maybe they were just waiting for someone else to stand up first… or something like that.

  • Bill Jakeway

    Mriana,

    Why would you assume that I have not studied psychology and have not worked in a related field? My 2+2 comment was philosophical, no psychological.

    But since you bring up the question, although some mental health professionals will say that there is considerable overlap between psychosis and intense religiosity, I’m sure you would agree that even more believe that religion is a legitimate cultural issue that should not be pathologized.

    According to the DSM (which you seem to enjoy quoting), “Ideas that may appear to be delusional in one culture … may be commonly held in another” (p. 306). Thus, it appears that a belief which would otherwise be considered delusional should not be considered such if it is commonly held within a particular culture.

    Perhaps in all of the debate of mental health and religion, it is just that the wrong questions have been asked. Perhaps it is the atheists that are the insane ones.

    Think about it. Here you have a belief system that presumes the non-existence of a God but also that the “mind” is nothing more than neurological impulses in physical tissue. Yet at the same time, this very organ that generates these impulses is supposed to be able to independently verify those signals. You adopt a belief system which effectively prevents them from validly separating reality from a drug dream, and then claim that you can.

    This certainly suggests a significant cognitive dissonance worthy of concern.

    Further, neurological research indicates that a particular part of the brain is connected to religious experiences. Perhaps atheists are the product of a genetic deficiency or disorder – and if so, one can only wonder what else is wrong with them. After all, most atheists seem to suffer from delusions of grandeur, convinced that they hold the keys to humanity’s march toward utopia. They are also quite happy to embrace programs to “improve” humanity to suit their own purposes – hardly a coincidence, one would have to suggest, that the most repressive regimes of recent days have all been formulated along atheistic, humanist principles.

    One can only hope that the possible link between atheism and mental illness is examined honestly before countless others suffer needlessly.

    But again, you bring up issues that are far from the intent of this thread.

  • Mriana

    Bill Jakeway said,

    June 11, 2007 at 2:04 am

    Mriana,

    Why would you assume that I have not studied psychology and have not worked in a related field?

    Because you want to take the one little section of the DSM-IV and believe that no religious delusions are part of a Dx. It’s only cultural in that it was forced into their ancestors and taken to extreme, but I won’t go into that history.

    But since you bring up the question, although some mental health professionals will say that there is considerable overlap between psychosis and intense religiosity, I’m sure you would agree that even more believe that religion is a legitimate cultural issue that should not be pathologized.

    No, I would not. I have not found that and I did my studies and my field work in the Bible Belt. The belief is insanity is the extreme of the norm. A belief in God is normal, just as a non-belief is too, but it’s the extremes of religiousity that is focused on.

    According to the DSM (which you seem to enjoy quoting), “Ideas that may appear to be delusional in one culture … may be commonly held in another” (p. 306). Thus, it appears that a belief which would otherwise be considered delusional should not be considered such if it is commonly held within a particular culture.

    You know, in all the years of study I have had and the field work, this has never been shown to me in the DSM-IV. I hardly see how the extreme is a cultural thing and not a mental illness though. A Schizophrenic who goes around talking religious insantiy is told to stop, as well as told why they need to stop and it’s not because they are imposing religion. It’s part of their delusion.

    Perhaps in all of the debate of mental health and religion, it is just that the wrong questions have been asked. Perhaps it is the atheists that are the insane ones.

    That is your belief.

    You adopt a belief system which effectively prevents them from validly separating reality from a drug dream, and then claim that you can.

    You have no idea what I adopt. In all reality, it is an external stimilus that triggers a chemical reaction in the brain. It can be anything that causes awe, wonder and the feeling transcendence- nature, a new born baby, music (including church music) art, the list goes on and on. This chemical reaction, generally located in the amygdala and frontal lobes, but other places in the brain too produce a natural opiate in the brain, causing these feelings of awe, wonder, and transcence. It has nothing to do with a deity, but rather the individual’s interpretation of those feelings.

    Further, neurological research indicates that a particular part of the brain is connected to religious experiences.

    This does not mean there is a god part of the brain. God is a human concept and nothing more. In this respect, you are talking a cultural and VERY human interpretation of these experiences caused by the parts of the brain that triggers the excess amount of chemicals that cause feelings.

    After all, most atheists seem to suffer from delusions of grandeur, convinced that they hold the keys to humanity’s march toward utopia. They are also quite happy to embrace programs to “improve” humanity to suit their own purposes – hardly a coincidence, one would have to suggest, that the most repressive regimes of recent days have all been formulated along atheistic, humanist principles.

    To me, your ideas concerning atheists and Humanists sound like nothing more than anger because they do not accept your god. Humanist ideas are not repressive or oppressive, but for the human. The focus is on the human and what they can do. I have yet to find a deity involved with what humans do with, to, and for each other. Few Christians give the human any credit in their achievements, but chalk ALL the success to an invisible and supernatural deity.

    One can only hope that the possible link between atheism and mental illness is examined honestly before countless others suffer needlessly.

    Again, I think this anger because you can not accept that humans can stand on their own two feet without a belief in the supernatural. It seems to me you rather bash Humanists/atheists for this belief that humans can do many things on their own instead of relying on the supernatural. I believe a humanistic approach to life is truly sane, more sane than sitting back, praying and doing nothing on your own to change things.

    This does not mean I condemn the Christian who prays and then gets off their butts and gets moving to make a change. I applaud them for doing something to make a change. Prayer/meditation can be very healthy IF the human gets off their butts and does something to help make that change. This is a rational Christian IMO.

    I will once again repeat the words of Bishop Spong that he sent me in a letter once:

    “Humanism is not anti-Christian or anti-God. It is through the human that we experience the Holy the Other. The Divine is the ultimate depth of the human.”

    Like Spong, I do not describe my god, I experience it through love, compassion, and reason. It is in all of us as a drive that keeps us going and gives us hope to make a change/difference. There is no gender, form, of matter to it, because it is very much like the wind. You see the wind via the trees and feel it on your skin. Love, compassion, and reason for one’s fellow human, nature, and animals, is how you see my human concept of god, which is in us all and in everything on earth. This is not supernatural, but very natural. It is also non-theistic and does not need any religious text to affirm it, but science via the Human sciences can confirm it is there and is a natural part of every human being.

    I look at what is in people’s hearts and from that, I get an idea of their disposition and how they feel about themselves and others. Those who do not love themselves are filled with hate for others. Think about it.

    I feel sorry for people who hate so much that they cannot love themselves and I pity you because I sense so much loathing from you of those who do not believe in your deity. It’s very sad. Maybe one day you will tap into the love, compassion, and reason that is inside you somewhere.

  • Pathfinder

    Pathfinder– What an interesting service… do you know the people weren’t standing because they knew God didn’t do it? Or was there another reason? It seems really odd to me the entire congregation wouldn’t stand for any of those things the pastor mentioned. Maybe they were just waiting for someone else to stand up first… or something like that.
    – Friendly Atheist

    In my case, I wasn’t standing because I knew that there was no divine intervention in my life. However, there was some circumstantial evidence pointing towards the conclusion that no one thought they had been “touched by god” in any manner.

    My grandmother’s church is intensely focused on the social aspects of Christianity – all of the members are treated as if they were extended family – so I doubt it was simply a case of shyness on their part.

    I got the impression while sitting there (I can’t really substantiate it much more than that, I wasn’t able to observe everyone very well) that most people thought it would be a bit presumptuous to claim that the creator of life, the universe, and everything – all the billions of galaxies and billions of billions of stars and billions of billions of billions of billions of atoms, quarks, gluons, and all the other fundamental particles – had stopped by and helped them pass a math test simply because they asked nicely.

    Also, not a single person spoke out or even moved drastically until the pastor exhorted everyone to stand. It seems to me that no one felt very confident that a god had any part in their lives, and they didn’t want to draw attention to that lack of confidence. It was more that they thought the whole of their lives had been “touched” in some manner, but never any specific instance.

    Perhaps I should have been more specific when I wrote my last post, they were certainly not secular in any sense of the word – they still had faith. But they had compartmentalized their faith into areas where science and logical thought could not reach it, and no one had the lack of intelligence to claim that some supreme being had helped them in a specific instance – they knew that such a claim would be easily disproven or discredited with but a few moments of thought.

  • Joann

    I think Christian cults and legitimate Christian churches that are legalistic and rule-based and spiritually abusive give Christianity a bad name. Especially when you are told that you are searching for your own truth and not God’s truth when you disagree with what you are taught to believe and try to explain what you believe is the real truth. For an example, I support masturbation, but only because it isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Bible and therefore not wrong. However, try telling this to a Christian who preaches against masturbation, and you will be interrupted just before you get your point across, told all kinds of lies and other nonsense about why masturbation is wrong (it is selfish, you are jacking off Jesus, etc), and you will be made to feel guilty, ashamed, and condemned just because you do it and they don’t. Christians seem to enjoy controlling our bodies and our way of thinking, feeling, and believing, and they even enjoy taking away everything we like to do for pleasure, or they wouldn’t do it. I also refuse to vote for and support George W. Bush (our current U.S. president) and his war in Iraq (one of our Christian brothers in Christ from our Bible Study Group will be leaving for Iraq in about a week and returning at the end of January of 2008), because I truly believe that our president is a lying, deceiving, blind-as-a-bat wacko and a war criminal who believes his own lies and has deceived many into supporting his policies. But, once again, some Christians (including the brother in Christ from our Bible group) thinks that this president of ours is not a wacko but is simply someone who has a lot on his plate and is only doing his job. And guess what? I’m the bad Christian who is condemned to Hell just for merely speaking the truth. A close friend of mine who is also a Christian once believed that Proctor & Gamble was involved in Satanism because of the Moon & Stars company logo it uses and prints on its products, until I finally straightened him out recently by e-mailing him an article that dispelled the myth once and for all. And guess what? This same friend defends Harry Potter as just a harmless story knowing that the books and movies contain a lot of magic spells and the practice of witchcraft. A double standard? You be the judge. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. My point is this: Although I love God with all my heart and have absolutely no interest whatsoever in leaving my faith, I simply wish that other Christians would stop giving Christianity a bad name by lying, deceiving, confusing, shaming, condemning, and committing double standards and just stick with speaking the truth and sharing the Gospel rather than in constantly preaching to us about sin and everything we are doing wrong. In other words, quit judging and start loving. Oh, and stop refusing to touch me, hug me, lay hands on me, hold my hands, my invitations to lunch and coming over to my house for birthday parties and visits, and lifting your e-mail and phone call bans and give me a chance to prove to you that I’ve changed, I’m not a homosexual anymore, and that you can now trust me not to develop any more homosexual desires for you and start loving you and thinking of you as my friend and sister in Christ instead of as an object of sexual lust. A friend from my church and her husband are also making me feel punished rather than helped, and as a result I am having a very hard time forgiving myself for what I did, which is hurting my relationship with God, and I can’t discuss this with them out of fear that this couple might misunderstand thinking that I’m not trusting God and moving forward like I should and I’m still dwelling on the past when I should be focused on getting or being healed. Does being shamed and misunderstood sound familiar to any of you, even though you still love your friends and you want to maintain your fellowship with them? I don’t want to leave my church or my friends. I just can’t stand it when Christians lack logic and common sense, then make me the bad guy for speaking the truth, that’s all. Sorry, God. Please forgive me for speaking my mind. I’m not being mean, okay? I’m just sharing the truth, Your truth, is all. No harm done, right? Thanks for allowing me to post this.


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