10 Things Christians and Atheists Can Agree On

Cracked has the list of ten things Christians and atheists can agree on:

1. You Can Do Terrible Things in the Name of Either One

2. Both Sides Really Do Believe What They’re Saying

3. In Everyday Life, You’re Not That Different

4. There Are Good People on Both Sides

5. Your Point of View is Legitimately Offensive to Them

6. We Tend to Exaggerate About the Other Guy

7. We Tend to Exaggerate About Ourselves, Too

8. Focusing on Negative Examples Makes You Stupid

9. Both Sides Have Brought Good to the Table

10. You’ll Never Harass the Other Side Out of Existence

I definitely agree with some and strongly disagree with others.

But I’m tired.

So you can figure out which ones fall into which categories.

Good night!


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • http://www.cashumn.org Aaron

    5. Your Point of View is Legitimately Offensive to Them
    I don’t think either should be offensive.

    9. Both Sides Have Brought Good to the Table
    I’m not sure what good things religion has brought. I guess community, but I’d say that religion grew out of communities that already existed. Though I’m not an anthropologist.

  • CJ

    Here’s no 11:

    Islam is craaaazy.

  • http://dbzer0.com db0

    In the past I saw a different version on pointlesswasteoftime but as far as I can see, they are basically the same. Back then I wrote a response so it might be relevant

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    I think I agree with all of them except #5. I should be offended because someone else doesn’t believe in God? Someone else is going to be offended because I do? I’m sorry, but that’s just stupid.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Some of the comments in that original post, expanding on those items, are pretty awful. I mean, what’s with:

    Atheists still tell their girlfriends they “love” them, and not that they simply feel a psychological artifact of a biochemical bond generated by the mating instinct.

    Why, yes. I do know that my emotions exist. That’s because I can feel them. And the nature of emotions is such that if they are felt, they exist. Seriously, does anyone disagree with that? Implying that atheists would like to — or ought to — think love is ‘just’ a psychological artifact of a biochemical bond etc is ridiculous.

  • Tim

    I take issue with (1): OK so you can do bad in the name of atheism – the recent Finnish school shooting showed this. However if that is granted, then I could profess to do bad in the name of anything.

    I essentially agree with Stephen Weinberg on this. I like to alter his famous quote as follows:

    “With or without belief in the irrational, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes belief in the irrational.”

    I think “irrational beliefs” is more accurate than “religion” – again, as the Finnish shooter shows. However, I believe that religion is the greatest source of irrational beliefs out there.

    -Tim

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Interesting post. Here are my thoughts:

    1. Absolutely.
    2. No they don’t. They just think they do. They never REALLY ask themselves. They are afraid of the REAL answers.
    3. My point exactly!
    4. Of course. If #3 is true, #4 HAS to be true.
    5. Sometimes. Especially when we don’t seriously consider what we’re saying.
    6. Oftentimes.
    7. Same as #6, although I keep getting confused as to who “us” is…
    8. Not stupid. Just normal. Human. (unless you start to think out of the box)
    9. Well… that’s a tricky one. I don’t know if religion has brought any good.
    10. Never? No one can predict the future. I think you possibly can, especially if one side has lots of nuclear weapons.

    I posted this poem on my other blog (my more personal one) which I wrote a while back, after I was rejected and dismissed by a Christian blog who claimed to be liberals. I pretty much get rejected by both sides. Hmm… go figure!

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Tim,

    “With or without belief in the irrational, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes belief in the irrational.”

    What about evil people doing good things? In my opinion, I don’t think “things” and “deeds” are a credible indicator of whether a person is good or bad.

    I have a theory that evil comes from a place of shame, which hurts the pride. My first post on my thinking blog is about this theory. I only came to this realization after I had an experience where my good intentions turned into hate and I became the face of evil. I think I will write about that experience if I can conjure up enough courage to be completely honest. I will try to do it for you.

  • PrimateInRepose

    I’m ok with everything except #2. If they really believed in an afterlife they would take jobs that were higher risk and mothers wouldn’t try to save their children from deadly illnesses.

    Their actions belie their words.

  • http://heathendad.blogspot.com/ HappyNat

    Here’s no 11:

    Islam is craaaazy.

    No doubt. :)

  • Joseph R.

    I agree or at least agree in part with everything except for #5. If you are offended because someone disagrees with you on religion or any other topic for that matter, then you need to get a life.(just my opinion)

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Words often fail me. And my grammar fails me also… The OCD in me hates that to no end. Would it help if I told you English is my second language? (not that it justifies bad grammar…)

  • Mriana

    1. You Can Do Terrible Things in the Name of Either One

    I agree. It is possible.

    2. Both Sides Really Do Believe What They’re Saying

    Sometimes I don’t know what I believe and I have to think about it. I’ve also been told that I think too much.

    3. In Everyday Life, You’re Not That Different

    Not sure what that means? The individual is the same every day or Everyone is the same? Neither is exactly true.

    4. There Are Good People on Both Sides

    I agree.

    5. Your Point of View is Legitimately Offensive to Them

    Depends. Are you hitting me over the head with it and demanding that I believe as you do? If so, yes, I’m offended. If not then no I’m not.

    6. We Tend to Exaggerate About the Other Guy

    Maybe. Sometimes people do exaggerate.

    7. We Tend to Exaggerate About Ourselves, Too

    Why of course. Some people have big egos. I try not to exaggerate, but I think we all do to some extent.

    8. Focusing on Negative Examples Makes You Stupid

    I’ve seen some pretty bad examples lately, but negative examples in themselves don’t make people look stupid. The statment maybe stupid, but the person is more likely ignorant.

    9. Both Sides Have Brought Good to the Table

    Yes they have.

    10. You’ll Never Harass the Other Side Out of Existence

    Only an education will do that, and maybe not really then, but the extremism might not be there as much.

  • Mriana

    I posted this poem on my other blog (my more personal one) which I wrote a while back, after I was rejected and dismissed by a Christian blog who claimed to be liberals. I pretty much get rejected by both sides. Hmm… go figure!

    I’ve been there, done that, Linda, and one side may yell, “You’re an atheist!” or something to that affect and the other side may say something else that pushes me the other way. It’s generally the militant ones that start pushing me back an forth like I’m a 1/2 breed or something. Sometimes you just have to look back and laugh.

    Humm… I wonder what would happen if we started of the blog personal conversation. An open and honest one. Just how much do you and I agree? I don’t think you and I would start shoving each other in directions we are not though, just by looking at your comments.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Mriana,

    Thank you. I concur.

  • Mriana

    I’m sure Hemant could arrange it, if you like. He has my permission to give you my email addy if you don’t have it already. :)

  • Stephen

    I saw this list a year or so ago. I could’ve sworn there used to be more than ten items on the list, because there seemed to be a fair number that I disagreed with. On this list, there’s only a couple.

    In my opinion, I don’t think “things” and “deeds” are a credible indicator of whether a person is good or bad.

    Huh? What else is there to determine whether a person is good or bad?

  • http://sideeffectsmayvary.wordpress.com Lily

    I also disagree with 5 “Your Point of View is Legitimately Offensive to Them.”

    I’m not offended by the Christian point of view (though I disagree with it) – beliefs do not offend me, but actions based upon those beliefs can be offensive and harmful. There is a difference, and it’s why the 1st ammendment is so important – freedom of religion concurrent with freedom from a state-established religion.

  • Aj

    How do you do anything in the name of Atheism? This article starts out terribly and gets progressively worse.

  • Siamang

    “Huh? What else is there to determine whether a person is good or bad?”

    Take the lid off and take a smell.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Stephen,

    Huh? What else is there to determine whether a person is good or bad?

    That’s just it. You cannot determine whether someone else is good or bad. Everyone knows it in their own hearts what their true intentions are. You can do good things with bad intentions and bad things with good intentions.

    We always try to fool ourselves into believing that we are better than the next; but if we dig deep enough, we find out that we’re not. If we are truly honest with ourselves, even the most selfless act turns out to be a selfish one in the end. I know it because I’ve looked inside my own heart. We are not capable of unconditional love in and of ourselves. Paul says that no one is righteous. Not even one…

    Religion is just something that we made up so we can make ourselves worthy in our own eyes. So we can judge each other and feel better about ourselves.

    As I’ve said before, truth always reveals itself in time if you wait long enough. In the meantime, though, I just keep asking questions and learning as much as I can — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes, if you look hard enough, the ugly turns out to be the most beautiful thing you could possibly imagine. I’ve seen it. More than once…

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  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Mriana,

    I am all out in the open. My e-mail address is on my profile page attached to my blog. Maybe you can be a “poster” on it . And what a beautiful poster you will be! :) I have someone else in mind, also. We can think together as we’ve never thunk before… ;-) I believe there’s no such thing as “thinking too much.” I would be honored to have you, as well as anyone else who wants to join me!

    Rule #1: There are no rules. Well, except gang rape… we can’t have any of that.

  • Vincent

    Pretty awful list.
    I just want to add that #2 may or may not be true, but in the context of things we can agree on it is obviously false. Clearly theists don’t agree that atheists really believe there is no god or we wouldn’t have phrases like “there are no atheists in foxholes” or “why are you angry at god?”.
    And atheists generally disagree also. I doubt many atheists think (christian) theists really believe the proper punishment for a child who talks back to his parents is to stone him to death.

  • Stephen

    That’s just it. You cannot determine whether someone else is good or bad. Everyone knows it in their own hearts what their true intentions are. You can do good things with bad intentions and bad things with good intentions.

    We always try to fool ourselves into believing that we are better than the next; but if we dig deep enough, we find out that we’re not. If we are truly honest with ourselves, even the most selfless act turns out to be a selfish one in the end. I know it because I’ve looked inside my own heart. We are not capable of unconditional love in and of ourselves. Paul says that no one is righteous. Not even one…

    Oh. I thought you were going to go in a different direction, like maybe spout some crap about how people are inherently good or bad.

    But I can’t argue with you here. Even if an action can be judged as good or bad, that doesn’t make the person who performed it good or bad, since the intent behind it is at least as important a factor. Or I guess that’s what you’re saying. It’s certainly close enough to how I feel about it.

  • Mriana

    Maybe you can be a “poster” on it . And what a beautiful poster you will be! I have someone else in mind, also. We can think together as we’ve never thunk before… I believe there’s no such thing as “thinking too much.” I would be honored to have you, as well as anyone else who wants to join me!

    That would be cool. :)

  • Tao Jones

    1. It’s probably cliche on here but very little is actually done in the name of atheism. When that claim is made, it is almost always false. To put it in a more accurate way that we can all agree on, “Deranged people are found in both sides.”

    2. I’m not sure I agree with this one either. I don’t have a belief there isn’t a god. I just don’t believe in god. There is a subtle but important difference. Reminds me of a discussion I had with my roommate and some neighbours. A neighbour said something like, “no one knows what happens when we die.” I said I KNEW what happened, we rot. My roommate, who is quite religious, said he KNEW what happened, we go to heaven or hell. It should come as no surprise there was a disagreement over this. No matter how strongly his convictions, what he has isn’t knowledge, it is belief. I certainly do not BELIEVE that we rot, it is a fact.

    3. I agree.

    4. Just like there are deranged people on both sides, see #1.

    5. I agree with this. But like many of you have suggested, our respective points of view do not have to be offensive. I’m not offended that someone believes in god, I’m offended when they try to force that view, or conclusions drawn from it, onto everyone else.

    6. Yeah, sometimes weak arguments are easier to present. We all get lazy sometimes.

    7. See #6.

    8. See #6.

    9. Of course. Except like #1, the good things done in the name of religion are often falsely credited to religion. Does my roommate give to charity because he’s religious, or because he’s a good person?

    10. Of course not. That’s why advocates of atheism must be more strategic in their approach. Yes the existence of god is improbably, yes there are natural explanations for what religion has claimed, yes logic is a virtue. But, unless we can understand the full power and appeal of religion, and be ready with replacement memes for all aspects that religion touches adherents’ lives, we’re never going to gain significant ground. Lets understand the stories of the bible from a historical and anthropological point of view and be able to provide a better explanation for where it all came from.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    I’m not sure what good things religion has brought.

    Well, I know of a school in Haiti that I’m going to help build next week that wouldn’t be getting built if it weren’t for my religion.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Mike C,

    I seriously doubt that religion is building the school as much as the (perceived) love in the hearts of the people who are involved. And if you’re doing it because religion tells you it’s the right thing to do, then you have to ask youself if your heart’s really in the right place.

    As I’ve said before, good things can come out of selfish intentions.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Mike C,

    I’m not trying to attack you. I’m just calling it the way I see it. Not you, in particular, but religion as a whole. Please don’t take it personally.

  • Maria

    1. You Can Do Terrible Things in the Name of Either One

    it’s possible, yes

    2. Both Sides Really Do Believe What They’re Saying

    most of the time, but not always

    3. In Everyday Life, You’re Not That Different

    uh, depends where you go

    4. There Are Good People on Both Sides

    of course, and bad people on both too

    5. Your Point of View is Legitimately Offensive to Them

    I’m going to agree with Mriana on this one: “Depends. Are you hitting me over the head with it and demanding that I believe as you do? If so, yes, I’m offended. If not then no I’m not.” I’d also add-are you trying to get your beliefs made into law? if yes then yeah, that bothers me

    6. We Tend to Exaggerate About the Other Guy

    yeah. people always exaggerate the other side.

    7. We Tend to Exaggerate About Ourselves, Too

    yeah

    8. Focusing on Negative Examples Makes You Stupid

    depends on the example, but overall, yes

    9. Both Sides Have Brought Good to the Table

    Yes they have.

    10. You’ll Never Harass the Other Side Out of Existence

    Again I agree with Mriana: “Only an education will do that, and maybe not really then, but the extremism might not be there as much.” I really wish people would realize this

  • Polly

    1. You Can Do Terrible Things in the Name of Either One

    You can do terrible things as a member of either one.

    Honestly, there’s not much motivating force for action in atheism as a bare bones stance on a question; see #9.

    However, you can, rightly or wrongly, use the Bible to do justify a lot of bad things. Though, I’d say there are things that really can’t be justified by the Bible that some people might try. Some Xians really aren’t Scottsmen. It’s not always a fallacy.

    2. Both Sides Really Do Believe What They’re Saying

    Perhaps. Usually.

    3. In Everyday Life, You’re Not That Different

    The internal world is very different. But, how and what we feel isn’t.

    4. There Are Good People on Both Sides

    No argument.

    5. Your Point of View is Legitimately Offensive to Them

    The idea that I will someday burn in Hell unless I buy into some people’s interpretation of the Bible is very offensive.

    The thought that a xian’s deepest held belief is something irrational and worthy of mocking is also very offensive.

    Yup, I agree. These POVs are legitimately offensive to each other.

    6. We Tend to Exaggerate About the Other Guy

    I don’t. But, those OTHER atheists are always blabbing. ;)

    7. We Tend to Exaggerate About Ourselves, Too

    No, again.

    8. Focusing on Negative Examples Makes You Stupid

    Yet, everbody still does it.

    9. Both Sides Have Brought Good to the Table

    Depends, are we talking about people or the concepts? Xianity motivates masses of people to cooperate in charitable giving.
    Atheism sets people’s minds free. From there it’s up to the individual atheist. Many are humanists, but that’s not atheism and nothing about atheism leads inexorably to humanism.

    10. You’ll Never Harass the Other Side Out of Existence

    But, what about all my plans? I’ve got charts and diagrams and schematics; this one will work!
    No?
    OK.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Polly,

    2. Both Sides Really Do Believe What They’re Saying

    Perhaps. Usually.

    Do you really think so? Do most Christians that you know really truly believe that what they believe is really real? I mean, REALLY real? Completely, without-one-speck-of-doubt REAL? (This is not meant sarcastically.)

    Daniel Dennett says that it is his opinion most religious people do not really believe in God; they just believe in the belief in God. And from my experience with other Christians, I agree with him.

    p.s. – may I have permission to use your Haikus in my project that I’m working on?

  • Aj

    Linda,

    Daniel Dennett says that it is his opinion most religious people do not really believe in God; they just believe in the belief in God. And from my experience with other Christians, I agree with him.

    I don’t think that’s true, I’d like a sourced quote from him saying that. Dennett has said that there are more people who believe in belief in God than who believe in God. That includes the people who genuinely believe in God, inherently they’re going to believe in belief in God.

    Hitchens said some to the effect that a lot of people who say they believe, do not. Something like, paraphrasing, “I go to the centre of towns on a sunday morning, and people aren’t in church”.

    Others have said, I think one of them on the Colbert Report, about people not believing in evolution but believing in vaccinations. There’s probably more cases where stated beliefs are ignored, or changed to fit circumstances, implying that they’re not geniune.

  • Jen

    1. You Can Do Terrible Things in the Name of Either One

    What? I disagree. You can do terrible things in the name of a god- ie: For my god, I will slay you, but you can’t do terrible things in the name of an unnameable non-existence. Of course, individual atheists, and groups of atheists (ha! Like we would form a group. But seriously) can do terrible things, but its not in the name of nothing

    5. Your Point of View is Legitimately Offensive to Them

    Yes and no. Do I think Christians think I am offensive when I refer to the Sky Fairy or laugh at the silliness of their doctrine? Some of them probably are. Am I a little offended that many of the Christians think I am going to hell? To a certain extent. Do I think all Christians are offended by the Atheist mindset and visa versa? No.

    8. Focusing on Negative Examples Makes You Stupid

    So we shouldn’t ever mention Falwell or his ilk in relationship to Christians? That doesn’t make sense to me, even though I do realize they are not the majority of Christians.

    10. You’ll Never Harass the Other Side Out of Existence

    Agreed. But I do think Christians will one day, years from now, cease to exist, as the Christian god goes out of fashion, as all gods eventually do. So I think at some point, we will win over the Christians, but I don’t think there will ever be a day when there are no religious people at all.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Aj,

    I don’t think that’s true, I’d like a sourced quote from him saying that.

    I’ll do better than that. Straight from the horse’s mouth.

  • Polly

    @Linda,

    p.s. – may I have permission to use your Haikus in my project that I’m working on?

    OK, as long as you reference me, Polly, and it’s not for some kind of anti-atheist cause, or even anti-religious cause or pro-NAZI or pro-anything non-humanistic. :) AS long as it’s for something positive, I guess, is what I’m trying to say. Geez, what a big deal I’m making out of this.

    BTW – What language do you speak, if you don’t mind me asking?

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    Mike C,

    I seriously doubt that religion is building the school as much as the (perceived) love in the hearts of the people who are involved. And if you’re doing it because religion tells you it’s the right thing to do, then you have to ask youself if your heart’s really in the right place.

    As I’ve said before, good things can come out of selfish intentions.

    Linda, do you have any personal experience as a religious person or have you always been an atheist? I ask only because your options seem a little overly simplistic – like you don’t really know what it’s like on the “inside”. It’s not simply a matter of being good, loving people; nor is it simply a matter of being “told” to do it by our religion. The question is how did we come to be good, loving people who would care enough about global poverty and injustice to go and sacrifice in these ways in the first place? Many people are good, loving people who still do not raise a finger to help those in extreme poverty. And many people are not so good or loving, and are really pretty much only concerned with their own comfort and security and that’s about it. So the question is what did it take to get people from a place of apathy and inaction to a place of compassion and service?

    And the answer in this particular case at least is in fact religion. It was not a matter of simply saying “God commands you to do this”. More fundamentally it was a process of heart transformation – of helping people go through a process of reshaping their values and passions and convictions, helping to actually become the kind of good and loving people who will actually do something to help people in need.

    And it’s also a matter of educating people about the needs, and then of giving them the opportunities to do something about them. This group I’m going with, New Life for Haiti, was created from scratch by a pastor friend of mine, and in the course of 1 year we’ve raised nearly $70,000 and sent multiple work trips to Haiti. It’s a lot of work to pull off though for only a few small partner churches. Where does that energy and passion come from? I can tell you that in this particular case it comes directly from the kind of heart transformation that was caused by our Christian faith. It comes from learning to see the world through the eyes of Christlike compassion, and seeing fellow human-beings as the beautiful, sacred, divine image-bearers that our faith tells us they are. And it comes from catching a vision of the way the world could and should be – a place of justice, compassion, generosity, peace, and love – what Jesus called the “kingdom of God”, and being inspired and empowered to actually work towards making that vision a reality.

    And the bottom line is that none of this, none of it, would have happened without the impetus of our Christian faith. No heart transformation, no New Life for Haiti, and no school. When you subtract the religion out of the equation, you’ve subtracted pretty much the whole thing. Without it, most of us would still be sitting in our McMansions out here in the suburbs watching Desperate Housewives and living lives of contented, purposeless apathy – because honestly, that’s what most of us were doing before God got a hold of us.

  • Mriana

    Linda, do you have any personal experience as a religious person or have you always been an atheist?

    Mike you aren’t keeping up with Linda. She never said she was an atheist. If I remember correctly she said she was religious and her daughter questions the existance of God or is an atheist- something like that.

  • Tao Jones

    Mike C,

    Religion might have been the catalyst for personal change for you and others involved in that group. But in the end you are doing this, presumably, because you are good people and this is a good thing to do.

    If you entire group decided suddenly that there wasn’t a god, would you really cancel the project and spend that $70,000 on fancy clothes, electronics, and drugs?

    Surely there is nothing wrong with wanting to actualize the “vision of the way the world could and should be – a place of justice, compassion, generosity, peace, and love.” There is nothing particularly religious about that either, even if – for you – that vision was inspired by Jesus.

    I wonder though if there is a catch. Does part of your budget include providing crosses or bibles for the school? Is there any sort of religious instruction to be held there? Are these people selling their souls for the education this school would provide?

    How many people in this organization are participating because of the desire to spread Jesus’ word? Are they secretly (or subconsciously) participating because they think doing this sort of thing is their ticket to heaven. In other words, are people doing this for the poor kids in Haiti, or for themselves. And yes, I know people who are “charitable” because it gives them a sense of moral/spiritual superiority.

    The last two paragraphs are examples of what this project could be like if it is being done in the name of religion. I’m not at all saying that your project is doing any of these negative things, I’m just trying to show a distinction between things being done in the name of goodness and things being done in the name of religion.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    Mike you aren’t keeping up with Linda. She never said she was an atheist. If I remember correctly she said she was religious and her daughter questions the existance of God or is an atheist- something like that.

    Oh, okay. thanks Mriana. I don’t really read every thread here – don’t have the time for it – so I miss some of those details.

  • Mriana

    I just don’t want anyone feeling insulted because they are misunderstood.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Linda, do you have any personal experience as a religious person or have you always been an atheist? I ask only because your options seem a little overly simplistic – like you don’t really know what it’s like on the “inside”.

    Me? an atheist? Why, I would be honored to be grouped with these people. But sorry, no, I’m not. I know religion all too well. It was a living hell. I almost suffocated to death until Christ, himself, set me free. I’ve been commenting non-stop for the last week or so, and if you would have taken the time to take an interest in someone else other than yourself, you would have probably figured out where I stand. If you would have read my post on my blog about freedom that I provided a link to, you would have seen what I believe.

    If you would have taken the time to read my poem about humanity, you would have known that I’m talking about what religion does to us.

    I’m proud of you and all of your accomplishments. I’m glad you’re trying to make a difference in the lives of those children. Many will pobably benefit. But don’t you think for one moment that your “deeds” makes you more righteous in His eyes.

    And the answer in this particular case at least is in fact religion. It was not a matter of simply saying “God commands you to do this”. More fundamentally it was a process of heart transformation – of helping people go through a process of reshaping their values and passions and convictions, helping to actually become the kind of good and loving people who will actually do something to help people in need.

    I thought it was the mind that goes through the transformation via the Holy Spirit. I can’t remember reading anywhere in the scripture that the transformation comes from helping people. Can you show me?

    I was of the understanding that compassion comes through experiencing the same pain that the person you’re reaching out to is experiencing. Isn’t that what the Beattitudes are about?

    You keep speaking of this heart transformation. Where does it say that?

    All through Deuteronomy, you are taught to love God with all your heart and soul. (Old Testament)

    In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus adds the mind. He says to love your Lord your God with your heart, soul, and MIND. Was that an accident? What do you think that could mean?

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need go watch my pre-recorded Desperate Housewives in my McTheater room in my McMansion. (not really.) But even if I did, I would not feel one bit guilty for doing so, because I’ve been freed from that. I refuse to do anything that comes from a place of obligation and guilt. Then there’s no true love in it. Then there’s no passion in the compassion. Only pride and boasting.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    If you entire group decided suddenly that there wasn’t a god, would you really cancel the project and spend that $70,000 on fancy clothes, electronics, and drugs?

    I don’t know Tao. That’s such an unlikely scenario that I couldn’t really speculate what would happen. However, I can guarantee that if none of us had been motivated by our religion in the first place that is exactly the kind of thing we’d be spending our money on – because that is exactly the kind of thing we we’re spending our money on before we got passionate about this thing called the kingdom of God.

    The back story here is that the church which initiated this project has recently gone from being a typical inward-focused suburban “consumer” church – i.e. come and get your personal “God-fix” every Sunday and that’s it – to being a very outward focused, service oriented church in the space of a few years. Prior to that shift most of the church members were living very self-obsessed, materialistic suburban lifestyles – like most of us out here in the Chicago ‘burbs to be honest. It wasn’t until the pastor and the elders suddenly caught a vision for this “kingdom” thing that things started to change. Many people who just wanted “consumer church” left, but the ones who stayed have been radically transformed and have done some amazing things, not just in Haiti, but in their own communities as well, especially among the Latino immigrant populations. Similar transformations have happened among my own church members as well.

    So yeah, I can’t say what would happen if they suddenly stopped believing in God, but I can say that it was a religiously inspired passion that sparked this whole thing off in the first place. We could argue all kinds of counterfactuals, but the reality in this particular case is that religion was the impetus for good things happening in the world, which really is my only point.

    I wonder though if there is a catch. Does part of your budget include providing crosses or bibles for the school? Is there any sort of religious instruction to be held there? Are these people selling their souls for the education this school would provide?

    Nope, no catch. It’s not going to be a religious school. There’s no bibles, no crosses, no sermons.

    How many people in this organization are participating because of the desire to spread Jesus’ word? Are they secretly (or subconsciously) participating because they think doing this sort of thing is their ticket to heaven. In other words, are people doing this for the poor kids in Haiti, or for themselves.

    That’s not the kind of theology our churches teach. In fact, I know very few churches anywhere that teach that you can get a “ticket to heaven” for doing good works. This is a common atheist misunderstanding in my experience. In Christian circles that kind of theology is known as “works based salvation” and is generally rejected by most churches (though there are exceptions). Most Christians believe that salvation is a free gift. No earning involved. The good works are simply the outcome of salvation, what we do because we’ve been “saved”. Or, as we put it at my church, we “transform people to transform the world” – not the other way around.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Mriana,

    Thank you for your concern. :) I’m not insulted, though. I like being challenged, especially by a believer. I just hope they aren’t insulted by me.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    I’m sorry Linda. I didn’t mean to offend. Like I told Mriana, I no longer have the time to read everything that goes on here at Hemant’s blog. You’re right, I should have familiarized myself with your story before making assumptions.

    And I certainly don’t think going to Haiti makes me “more righteous” in any way. That was not my point at all. My only point was that my faith was what brought about the transformation in my life (heart, mind, spirit, soul, all of it) that has given me the desire to even go to Haiti in the first place. The statement made in this thread, by you and by others, was that religion hasn’t brought anything good to the table. I brought up this life transformation and this project in Haiti simply as examples to the contrary.

  • Tao Jones

    Mike C,

    Again, if religion was the catalyst for this personal change then that is one thing. It is a whole other thing to say this project is being done in the name of religion.

    And again, I didn’t mean to suggest that those things (which I believe we both agree are negative) were being done by your organization. We all know full well though that those things do indeed happen.

    From everything you’ve said, especially with the back story of your church, it sounds like the pastor and the members of the congregation that stayed, were more influenced by the desire to do good.

    As for “works based salvation”.. of course it isn’t something that is actively taught. Very few people would ever admit to thinking these things, but subconsciously, many do. I you haven’t noticed that, I’d say you haven’t met enough religious people, or you haven’t bothered to understand the psychology of it all. This isn’t a realization I’ve come to as an atheist, it was one of many realizations that made me an atheist. I’m not going to spank you like Linda did, but many of us here have been at one time heavily involved in a church of some kind. We’re far from ignorant as to what it means to be religious.

    Maybe you’re lucky though, maybe you’ve found the ONE non-”consumer church” where everyone is a good, honest and true Christian. If that’s the case, then, and there is nothing in it for them, no catch, etc… then the reason why your group is building this school, is because it is a good thing to do.. and that is my point.

  • Jen

    How strange. I tried to edit my comment to say that Mike already answered my question, which I would have realized had I reloaded my page, but it marked my edit as spam and then refuse to load my comment again to be reedited. So… again, Mike, I realize you already answered my question.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    yes Tao, we are doing it out of a desire to do good… and that is a religious impulse for us. You’ve read the book of James, right? 1:27? “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.” This kind of thing is our religion. And the vision we’re working towards, this kingdom of God thing, is a religious vision. It’s all well and good to suggest that we could still do it without God, but again, that’s a counterfactual. The reality is that we are doing it because of our religion, and we weren’t beforehand. Which is enough to make my only point, which is that religion does sometimes bring good things to the table.

  • Claire

    It’s all well and good to suggest that we could still do it without God, but again, that’s a counterfactual.

    Are you saying you couldn’t have done it without god? How sad. Other people seem to manage. Here’s an example, an article about a man named Aaron Jackson who seems to have done a whole lot of good in Haiti. And look, I seen no mention of religion, either in this article or on the website for his organization, and when asked, he says he is not religious. Yet somehow, he’s making the world a better place. One of the things I admire most about him is that he didn’t just decide to go give people what he thought they needed, he saw how these kids were living and is addressing the most urgent needs first. He’s also doing it in a very efficient and cost-effective way, and not wasting any of the money that is donated, which is not all that common. When he ran out of savings and the orphanages were costing too much money, he gave up his apartment and started sleeping in a homeless shelter. Tell me again about the McMansions?

    Nope, no catch. It’s not going to be a religious school. There’s no bibles, no crosses, no sermons.

    On the website for “New Life for Haiti” I found this statement: “New Life for Haiti will be sending teams to the village of Marfranc to help the church there to complete its primary school building, and to build a secondary school building.” This makes the above statement seem a bit disingenous – if the school is owned and run by the church, it seems less than credible that it will be completely secular as you implied. Plus, the website says elsewhere that “New Life for Haiti also plans on assisting local churches, as well as starting new churches where needed”, so the organization IS spending part of the money on proselytizing rather than helping, which someone asked about but didn’t get a direct answer.

    Perhaps New Life for Haiti will actually helps some people there, maybe not, but PlantingPeace.org has already helped a whole lot of people in Haiti, out of simple human decency and kindness. Religion has no monopoly on good hearts.

  • Steven Carr

    ‘There Are Good People on Both Sides’

    Psalm 14:1 ‘The fool says in his heart there is no god’

    Apparently this was such a popular line, that it came back by special request in Psalm 53, which is a repeat of Psalm 14.

    Perhaps God had forgotten he had already inspired those words – what is nowadays called ‘doing a Flew’.

    Whatever the reason for the repetition, religion clearly teaches that atheists are fools.

    Happily, most Christians just ignore the teachings of their religion, whenever it offends their morality.

    Which goes to show that there really are good people on both sides!

  • Steven Carr

    MIKE C
    Well, I know of a school in Haiti that I’m going to help build next week that wouldn’t be getting built if it weren’t for my religion.

    CARR
    In the Bible , you will find many , many pages of instructions on how to make soft furnishings for an Ark.

    But there is nothing whatever about building a school.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Steven Carr,

    I don’t get it. That doesn’t make much sense…

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Religion has no monopoly on good hearts.

    Can I hear an “Amen?”

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Tao,

    I’m not going to spank you like Linda did

    Ha ha! Is that what I did? I’m so sorry, Mike! I’m just not very good at being diplomatic. Maybe I’ll learn someday. I still do speak truth, though, even if it doesn’t come out so pretty sometimes.

    That is not sarcasm. I really mean it. I’m not very good at sarcasm. The only time I’ve actually tried to be sarcastic on purpose since I’ve been here is when I was talking to Mr. e-i-e-i-o, or whatever his name was… And I guess I should apologize for that too. I’m only human, you know…

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Polly,

    BTW – What language do you speak, if you don’t mind me asking?

    I was going to tell you a story about how I’m always rejecetd when I reveal my true self, but you have shown me that you are not one of “them.”

    I have changed my identity at least three times in the last two months from being humiliated and shamed for being who I am. An atheist stuck with me through the whole thing and remained my friend. He’s the only reason I am here in the first place.

    So… I will trust you and show you who I am. Come and meet me on my blog later. I’ll post something there.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    It didn’t work. Hmmm… I’ll try again here.

  • Aj

    Linda,

    I’ll do better than that. Straight from the horse’s mouth.

    Daniel Dennett, Atheist Tapes,

    I think most people who say they believe in God, at- you know, most people in the West who say they believe in God actually believe in belief in God. I don’t even believe in belief in God. That is they believe that belief in God is a really good thing.

    Most people (not religious), in the West, who say they believe in God, actually believe in belief in God.

  • Mriana

    Linda said,

    November 10, 2007 at 1:28 am

    Mriana,

    Thank you for your concern. I’m not insulted, though. I like being challenged, especially by a believer. I just hope they aren’t insulted by me.

    You’re welcome. I know it’s hard sometimes, but you are right. Others could have been just as easily insulted. Let’s hope not though. :)

    Mike C said,

    November 10, 2007 at 1:32 am

    I’m sorry Linda. I didn’t mean to offend. Like I told Mriana, I no longer have the time to read everything that goes on here at Hemant’s blog.

    Yes, it does get more and more difficult to keep up with the various threads. That’s why I try not to make assumptions. There is one thread around here, that I truly do not know who is who, because they all sound like a bunch of Christians arguing over doctrine or something. It gets hard to tell sometimes unless you know the individual’s background. I have found it best not to assume anything with how confusing it gets around here. Sometimes atheists seem just as religious if not more religious than the religious and the religious seem more atheistic than the atheists. My head spins in some threads lately.

    Mike C said,

    November 10, 2007 at 2:24 am

    yes Tao, we are doing it out of a desire to do good… and that is a religious impulse for us. You’ve read the book of James, right? 1:27? “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.” This kind of thing is our religion. And the vision we’re working towards, this kingdom of God thing, is a religious vision. It’s all well and good to suggest that we could still do it without God, but again, that’s a counterfactual. The reality is that we are doing it because of our religion, and we weren’t beforehand. Which is enough to make my only point, which is that religion does sometimes bring good things to the table.

    The problem is that there are many philosophies that include this idea without a deity. The question then becomes, IF you are doing things because it is your religion, are you serving the religion or you deity? Where would you be without religion? Would you still do these things if your religion or any religion did not exist? Is it better to do things without the expectation of reward or punishiment or better to do thing with the expection of reward or punishment?

    I don’t do things because I expect to be rewarded or punished. I don’t do things because a religion or deity told me to do them. I do them from my heart. IF my heart says this is good and I should help someone then I feel good about myself. I don’t feel so good because someone told me I had to do it. So the final question is, are these acts of “love” coming from your heart or because someone or something told you you had to do it? I think it’s far better for everything to come from your heart and in the end, for me at least, that is the greatest emotional high I can have if I did it from my heart, not because I expected anything from that deed.

    In the end, I would think, if a deity were worth its salt, it would look at the person’s heart in the end, irregardless of belief or not- there is no sin in questioning IF a deity exists nor one’s concept of the deity. I don’t think the belief of eternal reward is going to get anyone anywhere, because it is not from the heart. Are you seeking the reward or are you seeking to help people out of the goodness of your heart? If you seek the reward, the act is worthless IMO. IF I were a goddess, I would look at the person’s heart to see what they were seeking with their acts of “love”. If they were seeking the reward, I’d out them. If they were doing it from their hearts, they’d be in because they did it without any expectations of their own reward or punishment.

    I think that is something everyone, esp some religious people, to think about. What if by belief they really meant as an act of love coming from the heart? It might not be enough to say, “Oh I believe and do this or that because my religion or God told me to do it.” I believe it must come from the heart, irregardless of a deity or not. “I did it because I wanted to help them. I felt driven to help them and now I feel good that I did.” That not only has it’s own reward, but I think it is far better than doing something because that is a religious impulse for us. and “This kind of thing is our religion. ” Take your religion out of it (including the idea of reward or punishment) and make it secular. IMO, if it can’t stand up to the secular and is not heart felt without religion, reward, or punishment driving you, then it is not a true desire to help someone, but your religion telling you to do it.

    Yes, that last could be argued, but IMO if it’s not really from the heart, then that drive won’t be there if you threw out the religious ideology. If you fear that drive won’t be there without religion, then it is the religion driving you, not your heart.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Yep! What she said! (****) that’s a picture of my applause!

  • Mriana

    Thank you, Linda. All of that comes from a lifetime of observing people and thinking. Both my ex’s insisted I think too much, but the things I’ve seen and ponder have led to me to what I hope is wisdom.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    It’s all well and good to suggest that we could still do it without God, but again, that’s a counterfactual.

    Are you saying you couldn’t have done it without god?

    No Claire, that’s not what I was saying. That’s not what I said. I said it was a “counterfactual”. A counterfactual is when someone posits a hypothetical situation that is not in fact what happened. So we probably could have done it without God (as you pointed out, some people do), but the fact is that we didn’t. We in fact did it because of our faith. Which again, was my only point – that good things sometimes do come from religion.

    On the website for “New Life for Haiti” I found this statement: “New Life for Haiti will be sending teams to the village of Marfranc to help the church there to complete its primary school building, and to build a secondary school building.” This makes the above statement seem a bit disingenous – if the school is owned and run by the church, it seems less than credible that it will be completely secular as you implied. Plus, the website says elsewhere that “New Life for Haiti also plans on assisting local churches, as well as starting new churches where needed”, so the organization IS spending part of the money on proselytizing rather than helping, which someone asked about but didn’t get a direct answer.

    We are partnering with local organizations over there because we want this to be a Haitian-directed project, not just outside charity. However, the reality is that in many of these regions the church is the only viable organization on the ground to work with. They are the ones building schools, and clinics, and roads, and wells. If we want to do these things, then that’s who we have to work with.

    But it’s not an exclusively religious school. It’s a school for all the children that are able to come. And none of our money is going for things like bibles or crosses. It’s going for bricks and mortar and tools and equipment. And no one on my trip is going to prosyletize.

    But yes, there is a long term goal of planting new churches, though none of our effort or money has gone towards that yet. As a church planter myself I have no problem with that. It’s not like we’re making church attendance a pre-condition for the other good things we’re doing or forcing people to listen to us preach before we’ll help them. We’re building the schools and clinics and all that regardless, because of a love for the Haitian people. And if we later want to initiate some churches who have a similar passion for this kind of active love and service towards others that our churches are engaged in, then I have no problem with that. There is nothing coercive about it. We are simply seeking to serve and love people, and then also inviting them to come help us serve and love others too. To me that’s the definition of church planting.

  • Karen

    And if we later want to initiate some churches who have a similar passion for this kind of active love and service towards others that our churches are engaged in, then I have no problem with that.

    That’s your business and the business of your church supporters, so I have no argument with that. However, someone asked if this mission was purely humanitarian, or if it involved spreading Christianity, and it seems you affirmed the first purpose when in fact both goals are being promoted. That seems disingenuous.

    Religion has no monopoly on good hearts.

    Amen, sistah! :-) I worked in the court system many years ago, and I came to truly admire the attorneys who gave up extremely lucrative careers working at corporate law firms to champion immigrants, poor people, minorities and others whose civil rights were being violated. I found it interesting, as I was a Christian at the time, that these lawyers tended to be strongly secular, non-religious people who were raised in families with a strong ethic of serving the poor and standing up for the disenfranchised because it is the right thing to do. Not because any holy book told them to.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Mike C.

    We in fact did it because of our faith. Which again, was my only point – that good things sometimes do come from religion.

    Yes, good things do come from religion. But people made that religion. And good things come from people who are made in the image of God, so I guess, yes, it is true. But even if you took religion out of it, if you should happen to convert to atheism today, you would still do that same good thing out of the goodness of your heart. Religion does not make you good. You are good already. Religion just makes you think that you have to stay within its boundaries in order to be loved by God. It’s not true. That is Egyptian thinking (Old Testament).

    I think we’re addicted to religion. No one wants to be free, because freedom is scary. We want a set of rules to go by to keep ourselves in check. We check off the boxes and compare ourselves to the next person. It’s a way to feel good about ourselves and judge others.

    Jesus came to free us from religion. Haven’t you read your Bible? But no one wants to turn away from the religion. That’s why they had to kill him. Step back and take a good look at the big picture. Insert Christianity in place of the Pharisees and the Jewish religion. Insert atheism in place of Gentiles and the Pagans. Can you see it? God is offering love and freedom to those who are open to receiving them, because the very people who he called upon have closed their eyes and ears to his true nature, which is LOVE. They shout “love” but they act out “religion.” They shout “grace” but they act out “condition.” They shout “freedom” but they act out “bondage.”

    God is not a he or a she. God is LOVE. Christ is not some phantom person running around. He is GRACE. Holy Spirit is not some supernatural hallucination. It is FREEDOM to be our creative sevles in all of our fullness. When we let go of all (everything) that holds us down, the universe is at our disposal. Religion exists in places other than just church. It permeates our lives to keep us in bondage. Have you read my post titled “Freedom in Thought?” I’d love to hear your disagreements.

    If you look away from religion, open your MIND, and read closely what is written in the scripture, you will see so much of the truth. He shows it to us in bits and pieces, but I can definitely see it. That’s why I know it’s the truth. God is the master of metaphors. The Bible was never meant to be taken literally. It makes no sense when you look at it through religion.

  • Vincent

    #

    Mike C said,

    That’s not the kind of theology our churches teach. In fact, I know very few churches anywhere that teach that you can get a “ticket to heaven” for doing good works. This is a common atheist misunderstanding in my experience. In Christian circles that kind of theology is known as “works based salvation” and is generally rejected by most churches (though there are exceptions). Most Christians believe that salvation is a free gift. No earning involved. The good works are simply the outcome of salvation, what we do because we’ve been “saved”. Or, as we put it at my church, we “transform people to transform the world” – not the other way around.

    I would like to see where you get your numbers.
    The Catholic Church is the largest Christian denomination in the world, and it clearly preaches that you must do good works in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. On the debate between Grace and Deeds, the Catholic Church said you need both.

  • Brendon

    No 5. is unsurprisingly controversial.

    The Christian faith, if it’s message is properly understood is extremely offensive. It demands we accept that we are not ‘nice people,’ but every one of us has major ‘issues’ and we’re not as ‘nice’ as we like to think.

    I, for example, am not as ‘good’ as a lot of people I know might think I am. I have my own sins that I perpetrate and it’s up to me to look to God for help. There is no other way I can face these challenges

    To accept this I have to get past my ego which seeks to reject this truth. Only in humility can one truly become a Christian, I know I personally am lacking.
    Christianity would more easily acceptable if it was just about following rules and being saved that way, the reality is it’s not about us and all about God and what he has done. It’s more about the inner person than the outward appearance.

  • http://heathendad.blogspot.com/ HappyNat

    The Christian faith, if it’s message is properly understood is extremely offensive. It demands we accept that we are not ‘nice people,’ but every one of us has major ‘issues’ and we’re not as ‘nice’ as we like to think.

    All because of that damn apple!

  • Mriana

    Yes, good things do come from religion. But people made that religion. And good things come from people who are made in the image of God, so I guess, yes, it is true.

    Linda, if I may, just what is the image of God? Something to think about, which started with Bishop Spong- God is a human concept.

    Excuse me for a minute, while I go out in left field- so to speak- of non-realism. Let’s look at it from science for a moment. We are made up of chemicals, all of them found in the earth, even the universe. I do not believe in a metaphysical or supernatural deity, esp one that is humanoid. So, what if, since we are made up of chemicals found in the earth and upon our death we are “recycled” back into the earth (remember you are dust and dust you shall return), god is really a chemical (or many chemicals) much like oxygen or part of the universe much like the wind and science has yet to discover it? Could it be theoretically possible that “ruach” is actually all the chemicals that make up the universe and we just don’t see IT for the trees?

    Cremation speeds up the process of turning us into fertilization for like say oh- roses for example. :lol: Bare with me please before you start getting excited. IF as it says in the Gospel of Thomas saying 3:

    Jesus said, “If those who lead you say, ‘See the Kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the Kingdom is inside you, and it is outside you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselvers, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that proverty.

    Sayng 77:

    Jesus said, “It is I who am the light which is above them all. It is I who am the All. From Me did the All come forth, and unto Me did the All extend. Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find Me there.”

    I won’t go into other similar philosophies, but the Tao comments on there being “something” out there in nature, but we don’t know what it is. Then Brahma is in everything, but it is not the thing. The list goes on and on.

    If you think about it, maybe god has no more form or mass then oxygen and is some sort of chemical or several chemicals, just as we are. Maybe the “kingdom of heaven” is here and within us, but we have developed a concept of god that is unreal and supernatural.

    This idea changes everything about religion. It turns it into a philosophy and also metaphor for what we are as human beings. Yes, I will agree, God is Love. I will not argue that point, IF you are throwing out everything that is within religion as complete literalism, but think of all the chemicals in the human mind that are triggered when we feel love. The stimuli that triggers these chemicals in the brain maybe as simple as a hug from a child. The chemical interations between the two forms could very well be just that- chemical interations between the “deity” within us. Think of atoms acting and reacting as they bump into each other, yet form a whole of something else.

    It may sound far fetched, esp with the use of religious words, but it is something I have pondered for years as I study various religious texts. Maybe our ancient ancestors did not know what IT was and attributed to the supernatural and we have clung to those beliefs, despite scientific discovery, that we are missing that “something”, there by attributing things to a metaphysical deity that does not exist. In which case, whatever IT is that we preceive when we feel the emotions of transcendence or nature does a number on us, may not be any god at all, but merely that which is many to create a whole. Just nature at it finest and humans have just anthropomorphasized it.

    Yes, I have an unusual thought process, but hopefully it is not too hard to follow and you can “see” what I am thinking in your mind.

  • Tao Jones

    Mike C,

    Would it be “counterfactual” for you to suggest to me that I brush my teeth because it is good hygiene if I say I do it because I’m a Pastafarian?

    Perhaps your insistence on this matter has something to do with Claire’s findings on the New Life for Haiti Web site. So there is a catch, even if a covert and subtle one. If you were really doing good, you would be giving them what they need most. If you think churches and church-run schools are the highest priorities for them, I really don’t see how you are doing good. The effect of what you are doing might be good for some Haitians, but what you are doing is for your own self interest and the interests of your church and religion.

    I wonder if the school will offer courses in Vodun or birth control or if evolution will be taught.

    It’s just so hard to be objective these days…

  • Claire

    No Claire, that’s not what I was saying. That’s not what I said. I said it was a “counterfactual”. A counterfactual is when someone posits a hypothetical situation that is not in fact what happened. So we probably could have done it without God (as you pointed out, some people do), but the fact is that we didn’t.

    Yes, I know what a counterfactual is (well, ok, I do now, although I did have to look it up when you first used it, and thank you for the new word!) but I’m not sure what the purpose of stating it as such is. I accept that that was the sequence of events for the formation of this charity, but it does not follow that the relationship was therefore necessarily cause and effect.

    From an earlier post, you said your pastor put this together from scratch in a year, but the religion was there long before that, right? It’s not uncommon for one person to get an idea and lead a lot of people to go do something they might not otherwise have done. It sounds more like the result of leadership than religion. I do think that it’s a better cause than what some religious groups spend their time and effort on, and kudos for trying to help those less fortunate, even if (required personal disclaimer here) I am skeptical of the methods and the results.

    We in fact did it because of our faith. Which again, was my only point – that good things sometimes do come from religion.

    Maybe I’m missing something, but how did this get to be a fact? The fact is that the group was formed and funded by religious people. To go from that to asserting that everyone involved was motivated by one single sole reason, rather than a whole complicated conglomeration of personal reasons, is an unjustified leap. People just aren’t that simple.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    However, someone asked if this mission was purely humanitarian, or if it involved spreading Christianity, and it seems you affirmed the first purpose when in fact both goals are being promoted. That seems disingenuous.

    I was only speaking of this particular school building project because that’s what Tao asked about. The reality is that no Bibles, crosses, or sermons are involved in the school project and it’s not an exclusively religious school. That’s what he asked, that’s what I answered. I’m sorry if you all assumed I was speaking more broadly than that. When Claire asked for more details, I clarified.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    I would like to see where you get your numbers.
    The Catholic Church is the largest Christian denomination in the world, and it clearly preaches that you must do good works in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. On the debate between Grace and Deeds, the Catholic Church said you need both.

    I’ve found that that is a common misrepresentation of Catholic theology. Even for Catholics, salvation is by grace alone. Good deeds are a product of God’s grace.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    Would it be “counterfactual” for you to suggest to me that I brush my teeth because it is good hygiene if I say I do it because I’m a Pastafarian?

    Yes, it’d be counterfactual, and really quite rude for me not to take you at your word. If you say that Pastafarianism is you reason, then as far as I know, that is in fact your reason. And if I say that my faith is part of my reason for going to Haiti, then it’s pretty rude for others to try to tell me that it’s really not, and that they somehow know my own motivations better than I do myself.

    Perhaps your insistence on this matter has something to do with Claire’s findings on the New Life for Haiti Web site. So there is a catch, even if a covert and subtle one. If you were really doing good, you would be giving them what they need most. If you think churches and church-run schools are the highest priorities for them, I really don’t see how you are doing good. The effect of what you are doing might be good for some Haitians, but what you are doing is for your own self interest and the interests of your church and religion.

    Tao, you have to realize that I don’t share your apparent assumption that religion is an inherently bad thing. To us planting new faith communities is part of how we are trying to help people. We believe in helping people holisticly – body, mind, spirit. I know that talking about “spiritual well-being” is probably meaningless to you, but to us it’s all wrapped up together. In my opinion it doesn’t taint the good things we are doing for their physical well-being if we are also concerned about their spiritual well-being. Again, it’s not like we are using our faith as precondition for the other kinds of help. People are still going to have education, clinics, clean water… and yes, eventually churches too.

    Frankly, if you think that any kind of religious element taints whatever good work is being done, then you’re not going to be able to get much good done in the world since I’d wager that a large majority of people are doing good for various kinds of religious motivations.

    But it seems you’re deliberately misrepresenting our work when you accuse us of having churches as our “highest priority”. Or did you miss the fact that our first projects are a school and a clinic? Building churches is not even on the schedule yet. (In fact, one of our upcoming projects is to convert an existing church building into a health clinic.) Truthfully, it’s a very low priority. We haven’t even begun to discuss it. We are committed first and foremost to serving the material needs of the people in that region before we worry about building churches.

    And regarding my “own self interest and the interests of your church and religion”, what are you supposing our “interests” are in the first place? If you’re assuming that our main concern is making converts, you couldn’t be further from the truth. If we are “self-interested” it is because our “interest” is in loving and serving the real needs of people in one of the poorest nations in the world. Our interest is in fulfilling the gospel call of Jesus in Luke 4 when he said

    “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to preach good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
    to release the oppressed,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

    That is our vision and yes, it is a religious vision. If that makes it suspect to you, then so be it, but at least the poor are being fed, children are being educated and the sick are being treated.

    I wonder if the school will offer courses in Vodun or birth control or if evolution will be taught.

    I haven’t seen the curriculum but I doubt any of these will be problems for our group. (Though I confess I don’t know what Vodun is.) If you haven’t figured it out yet, we’re not exactly fundamentalists.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    Ironically, at the same time that you guys are here trying to tell me that religion can’t possibly be the real motivation behind the good works that religious people do in the world, I am also reading a book by my friend Brian McLaren called “Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope” that describes exactly the opposite. He writes:

    The hard work of rebuilding community and family is essential – through community organizing, through moral instruction in local churches, through support for women and children through community centers and health clinics and schools, through micro-enterprise projects and drug rehabilitation programs to help people develop employment or become employable.

    In my travels, whether in the inner cities of the United States or in slums around the world, the vast majority of these programs are overtly or implicitly faith-based, often drawing inspiration from Jesus’ good news of the kingdom of God. For all the obvious failures of “organized religion,” in these organizations I see the power of organizing religion… people of faith organizing for something truly beautiful and good. As they promote a vision for the common good resourced by Jesus’ good news of the kingdom of God, they promote the seven components of equity: trade with integrity (both free and fair), wise aid, wise debt relief, respect for environmental limits in terms of both resource consumption and population growth, fair wages, the development of justice systems, and community and family development.

    If there is a force in the world powerful and good enough to overcome the grinding, destructive momentum of the suicide machine [his term for the corrupt and unsustainable global systems of economy, security and governance], it is to be found, not in organized religion seeking institutional self-preservation, but in religion organizing for the common good.

    This is precisely the kind of religious vision that motivates and informs our work in Haiti.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    I accept that that was the sequence of events for the formation of this charity, but it does not follow that the relationship was therefore necessarily cause and effect.

    From an earlier post, you said your pastor put this together from scratch in a year, but the religion was there long before that, right? It’s not uncommon for one person to get an idea and lead a lot of people to go do something they might not otherwise have done. It sounds more like the result of leadership than religion.

    I also described a major shift in the kind of religion practiced by that church which directly led to the initiation of this project. It was a shift in the religious vision of the church that then provided the passion and motivation to take action in this way. I can only tell you what I saw, and from what I observed, there was in fact a cause and effect relationship.

    I know that there was for sure in my life at least. I can tell you that there have been drastic changes in my lifestyle and in my career directions because of this same shift in religious vision. For me it most definitely has been a cause and effect. My faith stopped being about just getting my own butt into heaven when I die, and has become about bringing a little bit of heaven to earth here and now for those in need – and because of that I am going to Haiti. There is a direct connection.

  • Mriana

    So your religion is good works in the name of Jesus Christ/God. Well, Mike, I hope for your sake that the base doesn’t crumble. You might not be able to handle it or know what to do if it does.

    Guys (and gals), sometimes you have to let them have their beliefs because it helps them. Without it, they might not be able to handle life. Anyway, what is Mike doing that is hurting people, besides imposing/sharing or whatever word you prefer, his religion on others? Haitians have many superstitions, but many kids don’t get an education. They don’t get food, clean water, clothes, or medicine. If he is helping to get their basic needs fulfilled, why harass him about the basis of his desire to help? Why assume it is just for that reason? We can’t look into his heart, but obviously it is a very passionate subject to him. Why upset him?

    Besides, what are you doing to help the Haitian children? If it is a case that you can’t help, then why not let someone who has the means to help them?

  • Polly

    So much for atheists and Xians agreeing. :(

    @Mriana, I agree.
    As far as I can tell, Mike C. and his church are doing a hell of a lot more than I am “to bring good to the table.” If his love of his god is what awakened the humanistic tendencies in him, why is this such a problem?

    Reading the above responses, I feel like he’s answering to an inquisition. ;)

  • Mriana

    Yes, and it would seem he is pretty upset. I can’t see what he is doing wrong. He’s doing better than any of us are able to do. How many of us can’t go down there and help? Probably a lot of us. How many won’t? Probably fewer then those who can’t. So what if he’s taking Christianity down there along with food, fresh water, educational supplies, and medicine. I think it’s time to put down the stones (figurative) unless you can do better. I don’t see any horrendous crime being committed by Mike. Now if he was going down there to slaughter them because they aren’t Christian, then I would see a reason to throw stones, but there is no reason to do so here.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Mike C.,

    First of all. I know you are a loving human being. I know you are loved by your family and friends. You need people attacking and doubting your motives like you need a hole in your head. I’m sorry to sound like I’m speaking from the judgment chair. I don’t mean to sound that way.

    Like I’ve said before, I admire you for what you do. It’s all good. You have a good heart. I’m just trying to point out that even before religion, you’ve always had that same heart, because God gave it to you.

    Christianity makes us feel like we are somehow the elite, separate from the rest of the world. That somehow we “chose” salvation when the rest of the world could not. That is not true. He gave his life for ALL of mankind(Romans 5:18 and also 1 Timothy 2:6). We cannot judge others just because they hae a different name for LOVE, GRACE, or FREEDOM. You don’t need “The Book” to know God and his love. That was the promise of his new covemant (Jeremiah 31:33-34).

    I cried for you today. (maybe it’s hormones :)) It hurts to see you being attacked. I know what it feels like to stand alone against what seems like opposition and hostility from all sides. I know what it feels like to be put in a position to defend your heart and your intentions. Please know that I’m not judging you. I hate the fact that I, too, appear to you as the enemy.

    Why are you here when all you receive is grief? What drives you to continue to talk to people who oppose you? Why do you allow yourself to be abused in this manner? I wish there was a way to show you my heart… I’m sorry.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    Thanks for the moral support y’all, but really, it’s okay. I don’t feel all that attacked. Just engaging in some friendly debate. :)

    Like I’ve said before, I admire you for what you do. It’s all good. You have a good heart. I’m just trying to point out that even before religion, you’ve always had that same heart, because God gave it to you.

    Christianity makes us feel like we are somehow the elite, separate from the rest of the world. That somehow we “chose” salvation when the rest of the world could not. That is not true. He gave his life for ALL of mankind(Romans 5:18 and also 1 Timothy 2:6). We cannot judge others just because they hae a different name for LOVE, GRACE, or FREEDOM. You don’t need “The Book” to know God and his love. That was the promise of his new covemant (Jeremiah 31:33-34).

    Oh, I totally agree Linda. I hope everyone understands that I’m not saying any of this to try to present myself as better than anyone else here, or to try and say that Christians are doing “more” stuff like this than anyone else. I fully agree with the other side of #9 as well, which is that atheists bring good things to the table too. The only thing I’ve been responding to is the inference/accusation that religious people don’t bring anything good to the table, or that if we do, it’s not really connected to our faith but just because we’re generally good people.

    See for me, those two aren’t really separate categories anyway. That’s because I agree with you Linda. We all – atheist, Christian, whatever – we all have the capacity for great good. The atheists here will say that’s because we’re all just human. I will say that it’s because we’re all just humans created in the image of a good and loving God and therefore designed especially to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). Or as 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.” And here’s the great part: you don’t even have to believe any of this at all in order to actually live it out! IMHO, you are reflecting the image of this loving God even if you don’t even believe he exists!

    Anyway, I guess the only thing I felt was strange about this debate was that even though many of the atheists here are more than willing to assert that religion can motivate people to do all kinds of evil things (flying planes into buildings, etc.), for some reason many of you didn’t want to admit that it might also be capable of motivating people to occasionally do good things too. But if it has any motivational power at all, then surely that ought be able to be used in either direction?

    Why are you here when all you receive is grief? What drives you to continue to talk to people who oppose you? Why do you allow yourself to be abused in this manner?

    Oh, I don’t know, y’all aren’t so bad. ;)

  • Darryl

    Linda said:

    I’m proud of you and all of your accomplishments. I’m glad you’re trying to make a difference in the lives of those children. Many will pobably benefit. But don’t you think for one moment that your “deeds” makes you more righteous in His eyes.

    And Mike said:

    I know very few churches anywhere that teach that you can get a “ticket to heaven” for doing good works. This is a common atheist misunderstanding in my experience. In Christian circles that kind of theology is known as “works based salvation” and is generally rejected by most churches (though there are exceptions). Most Christians believe that salvation is a free gift. No earning involved. The good works are simply the outcome of salvation, what we do because we’ve been “saved”.

    As a matter of opinion on what orthodox Christianity teaches about the relation of faith, works, righteousness, salvation, etc., Linda and Mike, you are both reflecting the Protestant slant of faith over works. I myself take those passages of the New Testament at face value about the Last Judgment being a matter of judging people by their deeds. I never cease to be amused at the headstands that commenters are forced to perform when they tackle expositions of such passages.

    Regardless, look at things from the atheist perspective: if I am right, and there is no God in the universe, then your good works (and building schools in Haiti is definitely good work) are entirely of your doing and they are the only kind of righteousness that is possible for people to have—there is no other kind.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Darryl,

    both reflecting the Protestant slant of faith over works

    You mean the Jesus slant?

    I myself take those passages of the New Testament at face value about the Last Judgment being a matter of judging people by their deeds.

    You will have to be more specific for me to respond to that. I have no idea which passages you are referring to.

    headstands that commenters are forced to perform

    No, I’m not forced to perform them. I do it voluntarily. And sometimes I stand on top of a desk, or change the lighting, temperature, or just plain close my eyes. (Have you seen Dead Poets Society?)

    I highly recommend trying all of the above, and more. You would be amazed at what you can see and learn…

  • Mriana

    Linda, I volunteerily study various religions (including what everyone considers myth) because I want to. I do find them fascinating, esp when I see the similarities between them. That with the psychology I have gives me a glimpse into the human condition and psychic- both past and current. However, I have learned there are many similarities to past myths and current religious texts. A far as religion goes, humans have not changed much from their ancestors.

    When one has researched it so much you realize it’s all the same thing all over again. However, there are some valuable lessons in how to get along with others too and these things go back at least to the Code of Hammurabi. These are once again social and communial rules of any groups of humans.

  • Darryl

    Linda seems unwilling to agree with Mike that “religion made him do it:”

    I’m just trying to point out that even before religion, you’ve always had that same heart, because God gave it to you.

    Yes, Mike was probably a swell fella before he converted to his faith. But, there can be no doubt that religion is a prime motivator for people to do good works, or what they regard as ‘good works.’ I think it might also be demonstrable that, all other things being equal, without religion a lot of good work would not get done.

    Does this lend any credence to religion or justify it? No. It only points out how our species use its brain, and might show an evolutionary pattern of behavior that is beneficial (see “Breaking the Spell” et al).

    One more unrelated comment: Lynet said,

    Some of the comments in that original post, expanding on those items, are pretty awful. I mean, what’s with:

    Atheists still tell their girlfriends they “love” them, and not that they simply feel a psychological artifact of a biochemical bond generated by the mating instinct.

    Why, yes. I do know that my emotions exist. That’s because I can feel them. And the nature of emotions is such that if they are felt, they exist. Seriously, does anyone disagree with that? Implying that atheists would like to — or ought to — think love is ‘just’ a psychological artifact of a biochemical bond etc is ridiculous.

    Lynet, no one is doubting the existence of your feelings; but where do you think they come from–heaven? We humans prefer to decorate and disguise the facts about ourselves that conflict with our pre-modern image of ourselves–an image that we continue to transmit through culture. However, as moderns we accept the facts. We know that being in love is a temporary chemical imbalance in the brain that serves an evolutionary purpose. So what? That doesn’t spoil the fun any.

  • Steven Carr

    There is no doubt whatever that there are good people on both sides.

    Just look at the obvious fact that many Christians only take literally the parts of the Bible which please them.

    1 John 5:19 ‘We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.’

    Many Christians think that all people are children of God, not just Christians.

  • Claire

    Thanks for the moral support y’all, but really, it’s okay. I don’t feel all that attacked. Just engaging in some friendly debate.

    I’m glad you feel that way, that’s what I thought as well. I really like finding people who can debate without going overboard.

    If his love of his god is what awakened the humanistic tendencies in him, why is this such a problem?

    No problem with that.

    So what if he’s taking Christianity down there along with food, fresh water, educational supplies, and medicine. I think it’s time to put down the stones (figurative) unless you can do better.

    On the other hand, yes, this is a problem. It’s the same problem there is with domestic outreach to addicts and other troubled people. All these people are, pretty much by definition, vulnerable. To me, handing out the religion along with actual help seems predatory. It’s taking advantage of people in trouble. Let them get well, healthy and happy, THEN try to convert them if you like. That’s fair, the other isn’t.

    Besides, what are you doing to help the Haitian children?

    Again, plantingpeace.org – mostly because they make very good use of what little I can afford to give at the moment.

    Anyway, I guess the only thing I felt was strange about this debate was that even though many of the atheists here are more than willing to assert that religion can motivate people to do all kinds of evil things (flying planes into buildings, etc.), for some reason many of you didn’t want to admit that it might also be capable of motivating people to occasionally do good things too.

    Actually, stated like that, it does seem to be just the flip side of the christian “anything good done in god’s name, that shows how wonderful religion is, anything bad done in his name, that’s just people being misguided, don’t blame us” schtick that is so irritating to atheists, so I can see why this view would be irritating to religious people.

    So let me restate it a little differently – religion inspires people to do things, sometimes horrible things, and when it inspires people to do good things, what they consider doing good is also doing harm if, for example, they are subjecting people to religious indoctrination when they are in a vulnerable state. And don’t even get me started on what I think of religious people who campaign against condom use in places where HIV is endemic, if you want a stronger example of “doing good” that is just the opposite.

    The problem is that while we can all agree that these things are good and those are evil, there is also a very sizeable number of things that may be on your good list but my bad list. How can I possibly agree that religion does genuinely good things, when half of what is put forward a doing good seems bad to me, and it’s always mixed together?

  • Vincent

    Mike C said,

    November 10, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    I would like to see where you get your numbers.
    The Catholic Church is the largest Christian denomination in the world, and it clearly preaches that you must do good works in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. On the debate between Grace and Deeds, the Catholic Church said you need both.

    I’ve found that that is a common misrepresentation of Catholic theology. Even for Catholics, salvation is by grace alone. Good deeds are a product of God’s grace.

    No, I did not misrepresent. You are mistaken. Per Catholic teaching, grace frees us from original sin. We must do good deeds and avoid sin in order to maintain that saved status. We cannot do those deeds without grace (as you said), so in that sense it is by grace we are saved, but the deeds are still necessary.
    It’s kind of like having oxygen. You need it in order to live, but you can have all the oxygen you need and still shoot yourself in the head.

    From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

    The Council of Trent (Sess. VI, can. ix) decrees that over and above the faith which formally dwells in the intellect, other acts of predisposition, arising from the will, such as fear, hope, love, contrition, and good resolution (loc. cit., cap. vi), are necessary for the reception of the grace of justification. This definition was made by the council as against the second fundamental error of Protestantism, namely that “faith alone justifies” (sola fides justificat).

  • Mriana

    On the other hand, yes, this is a problem. It’s the same problem there is with domestic outreach to addicts and other troubled people. All these people are, pretty much by definition, vulnerable. To me, handing out the religion along with actual help seems predatory. It’s taking advantage of people in trouble. Let them get well, healthy and happy, THEN try to convert them if you like. That’s fair, the other isn’t.

    I agree with you, but you cannot control other people. The thing is, these people are vulnerable already because they are superstitious to begin with. What you end up seeing is a Voodoo Hoodoo. In otherwords, they just incorporate it with what they already believe more often than not. So, by the same token a Humanist or other atheist group that does the same thing cannot go in there and start saying “there is no god or gods” because superstition is already so intrenched in their society. Both does damage.

    Again, plantingpeace.org – mostly because they make very good use of what little I can afford to give at the moment.

    Maybe I should look into that.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    No, I did not misrepresent. You are mistaken. Per Catholic teaching, grace frees us from original sin. We must do good deeds and avoid sin in order to maintain that saved status. We cannot do those deeds without grace (as you said), so in that sense it is by grace we are saved, but the deeds are still necessary.

    Yes, that is what I said.

    We need to distinguish between faith and grace here. The conflict between Catholics and Protestants (of which I am neither, though I was raised Protestant) is not grace vs. works (as you originally stated). Both sides agree that salvation is by grace alone. The disagreement is between faith and works. Protestants say you are saved “by grace through faith alone”, and Catholics say you are saved “by grace through faith and works”. But either way, it’s all by God’s grace.

    Just speaking for my own personal beliefs on the matter, I think the clearest explanation of how it all works is in Ephesians 2:8-10 which says:

    “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

    It’s all in there, grace, faith, works. It’s all part of the total package. According to this, good works might not be the means of salvation, but they seem to be the main purpose of salvation. That’s how I look at it anyway.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    I think it might also be demonstrable that, all other things being equal, without religion a lot of good work would not get done.

    Does this lend any credence to religion or justify it? No. It only points out how our species use its brain, and might show an evolutionary pattern of behavior that is beneficial (see “Breaking the Spell” et al).

    You raise a very important point Darryl, which is that scientists are starting to suggest that a penchant for religious beliefs may in fact be evolutionarily hardwired into most of us. (Personally I’m not entirely sold on this idea, but I’ll grant that it’s a possibility.) However, if atheists agree with this, then I think they have to admit that it is unlikely that they will be able to eradicate the influence of religion anytime in the near future since it would literally be against our nature to do so.

    So if religion is here to stay then we have to ask how we can start to harness the power of religion for good rather than evil. If you can’t eliminate religion, then you could at least help make religion a positive force rather than a destructive one.

    This, incidentally, is why I disagree with Sam Harris’ assertion that moderate forms of religion are merely providing cover for the fundamentalists. Instead I see moderate and progressive forms of religion as providing a viable positive alternative to destructive forms of religion – providing the possibility that all those people who (because of their biology) cannot be persuaded away from religion altogether, might be able to be persuaded towards a better form of religion.

    I would think that if atheists agree that religion is an evolutionary trait, then this is probably the best you can hope for too.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    All these people are, pretty much by definition, vulnerable. To me, handing out the religion along with actual help seems predatory. It’s taking advantage of people in trouble. Let them get well, healthy and happy, THEN try to convert them if you like. That’s fair, the other isn’t.

    I agree. (Our church was actually just discussing the same thing this morning. We’ve deliberately gone out of our way in the past to avoid taking advantage of people’s vulnerability in the way you described.) I hope I made it clear that our Haiti project is of the latter type and not the former.

    And don’t even get me started on what I think of religious people who campaign against condom use in places where HIV is endemic, if you want a stronger example of “doing good” that is just the opposite.

    The problem is that while we can all agree that these things are good and those are evil, there is also a very sizeable number of things that may be on your good list but my bad list. How can I possibly agree that religion does genuinely good things, when half of what is put forward a doing good seems bad to me, and it’s always mixed together?

    Well, again, we’re not fundamentalists (or Catholics) so the condom thing is not at all an issue for us. And, given that we’re far more progressive than your apparent fundamentalist stereotype of Christians, I doubt that the things on which we disagree are anywhere close to half. In fact, I doubt there is very much at all (unless you’re a raging conservative – then we might have issues ;) ).

  • Darryl

    Mike, I was not particularly thinking of any hard-wiring of religiousness into our brains by my comment, just that the positive-feedback of religion might be instrumental in the process of evolution along the lines that Dennett has put forward. In my view people don’t have an innate tendency for religion; indoctrination is required.

    As to Harris’s controversial position on religious moderates, whether or not it be the emphasis of his position, he is bothered by the free pass that religion gets so as to be unmolested by criticism or scrutiny, and that moderates may provide a cover for all kinds of religion, including fundamentalist religion, to the extent that they discourage criticism of religion, religions, and faith in general.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Yes, I’m very familiar with Harris’ argument. And, as I’ve argued here many times before, I think he’s dead wrong.

  • Mriana

    Mike, I mentioned to a Christian friend of mine that I thought things would be better if we gave up religion- not necessarily a concept of God, but religion. She agreed with me, probably because she knows why I said it. There are so many religions and all of them are right- to the person who believes said religion. There have been so many wars in the name of religion and it all boils down to a game of “My God is better than your god” crap. The problem is there is the god of Christianity, the God (Allah) of Islam, YWHW of Judaism, the gods of Hinduism, the list goes on and on. None of them are the same due to different religious texts, yet they are the same mythology wise. Oh some say they are the same, but they are not when you get down to the mentality of it.

    So we have the Jews who are the chosen ones of God, Christians who say everyone who doesn’t believe in their god is going to hell, Muslims who call Christians infidels and everyone who does not claim Allah as the only god are going to hell etc etc. Obviously if one has to say there is no god but Allah, it is a different deity than the Christian god. It doesn’t take rocket science to realize that, esp when you get into their texts. Same goes with Jesus as the son of the One true god. That’s not the same ideology of the Jews. No rocket science there either.

    Throw away the ideology, theology, and dogma, things might be more peaceful. We probably wouldn’t be in a war with Iraq and the Armegeddeons wouldn’t be wanting to make Jesus return. Excuse me? I didn’t know we could make Jesus/God do anything. Not how I read the text anyway. If I read it right, they won’t like the outcome and if I’m right that that god doesn’t exist, they aren’t going to know anything after the big one is dropped. The only god that will be descending from the sky is a nuke- as in nuclear weapon.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Mriana, I agree that we’d all probably be better off if we gave up religion as we currently know it. However, I’m still all in favor of religion as James defined it in the Bible, namely as “caring for widows and orphans in their distress”.

    Anyhow, as much as I’d like to continue this discussion, I am leaving for Haiti in the morning, so I won’t be able to reply to you all for the next week. C-ya when I get back!

  • Mriana

    However, I’m still all in favor of religion as James defined it in the Bible

    You are still thinking Christianity. There is no Islamic or Jew that will go for that and there we go with another Crusade.

    “caring for widows and orphans in their distress”.

    THAT can be secular- without religion. You don’t need religion for that.

  • Vincent

    Mike,
    It was my error in bringing up the word grace.
    The original statement you made was that you don’t need to do good works to get into heaven, or that good works won’t get you into heaven.
    The Catholic view is still that you have to do good works.
    Without grace you cannot do good works, but I should never have brought up grace in the first place. In fact, if you are Christian of any bent you believe that grace has been given, so it is irrelevant to the question of whether or not you need to do good works to get into heaven.
    To the original question: do most Christians believe you have to do good deeds in order to get into heaven? I still say the Catholics would answer yes.

    Personally, as a rationalist, I just find the whole theological miasma of interpreting a couple of lines here and there (and historically killing over those interpretations) at best a moot thought experiment.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Vincent,

    I love that name, by the way…

    The Catholic view is still that you have to do good works.
    Without grace you cannot do good works

    Are you a Catholic? Or are you just arguing the difference in views? Anyway, the word GRACE basically means “freely given,” so how does works fit into that picture? It’s bit of an oxymoron.

  • Vincent

    Like I said, it was a mistake to say “grace”.
    The debate I was referring to was between faith and acts.
    Grace is the tool needed to do good works. If you don’t have grace, you can’t do good works, but God gave grace to humanity.
    For Catholics, if you don’t do good works, then you haven’t used the grace god gave you and you won’t get into heaven.

    And, no, I am not Catholic. I used to be. I was an extremely devout Catholic, and a well educated one. I was also a liberal one. I did not disparage other religions (and still don’t), but chose to stick with Catholicism. What Catholicism has going over the other branches of Christianity is tradition. It claims to be the Church as laid down by the apostles. However, I became too educated. I studied medieval and renaissance history and learned that the “traditions” of the Catholic Church aren’t actually that old, and don’t sync with first century Christianity.
    That started my road to rationalism.

  • Jason

    1. You Can Do Terrible Things in the Name of Either One
    -Seeing as how atheism has no dogma to it, no tennet other than “I don’t beleive that a god(s) exist”, I think this one is misleading. I can do terrible things in the name of yellow #2 pencils. However, Christianity can be (rather easily) interpreted to condone some pretty atrocious things.

    2. Both Sides Really Do Believe What They’re Saying
    -…usually. I’d give the benefit of the doubt that a lot of the more outspoken fundamentalist/literalists don’t really believe what they are saying, because if you say anything ridiculous and tag a “Jeeeeeezussss” on the end, you’ll have a sea of people who’ll support you.

    3. In Everyday Life, You’re Not That Different
    -Yes, I’d agree with this.

    4. There Are Good People on Both Sides
    -Well of course.

    5. Your Point of View is Legitimately Offensive to Them
    -Hmm, I’ll have to give this one chiefly to the Christian side. The mere existence of my position is pretty much saying “Interesting, I think you’re full of it.” I’m not offended by a Christian’s point of view; they are free to think whatever they want, and if they want to spend a lifetime chasing a myth, more power to them. But their point of view is completely irrelevant to my life.

    6. We Tend to Exaggerate About the Other Guy
    -Oh, yes.

    7. We Tend to Exaggerate About Ourselves, Too
    -How so?

    8. Focusing on Negative Examples Makes You Stupid
    -Well, one of the positions claims to be the stem of morality and such, and the other makes no claim on it.

    9. Both Sides Have Brought Good to the Table
    -And which one has brought bad, lots and lots of bad to the table?

    10. You’ll Never Harass the Other Side Out of Existence
    -As long as freedom of thought exists, there will be people who will chose to forfeit that.


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