Open Thread: What Do You Admire About Christians?

Per reader suggestion (Thanks Bjorn!), here’s an open thread to serve as a follow-up for the Questions for Atheists and Questions for Christians discussions.

What do you admire about Christians?

If you’d like to respond to what you admire about atheists, go to this thread.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Christian, Christianity[/tags]

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  • The Unbrainwashed

    That they’re able to dismiss all notions of logic and reality and delude themselves by putting their faith into an encouraging and calming story.

    Sorry. I know this wasn’t the intention of the question but if i had a choice, I’d choose to be a Christian instead of an atheist.

  • http://mytensmakt.blogspot.com/ BryanJ

    I admire the fact that most Christians are better than their religion.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    I admire that Christians think big. Eternal life is big. Being one with God is big. Having a story line that explains everything is big.

    But… I’ll pull my punches for now…

  • Claire

    Now, if you had said envy instead of admire, this would be a really long post.

    Not to be churlish by not posting about something I admire, but really, christians are such a varied lot, I can’t think of any characteristic, admirable or other, that they all share, so it’s kind of a moot point.

  • http://groundedinreality.blogspot.com Bruce

    What do I admire about Christians??? I don’t know, which Christian are we talking about? I’ve known many Christians that are very decent kind people and others that are complete a-holes. Same with Jews. Same with Muslims. Same with atheists.

    I don’t ascribe to anyone qualities based merely upon their faith or lack thereof. How many times have we heard “That’s not very Christian of you”? What the hell does that mean. Are they supposed to be somehow superior to the rest of us.

    Now, if you mean “What do I admire about Christianity?”, well, I don’t really know if I “admire” anything about it. I guess if you are the type of person that needs someone else to tell you what to do then it might make you feel better. Since there are many people who seem to need that in their lives, then I guess I “admire” the fact that Christianity can give the people who need it the type of dogmatic structure that they crave. Of course there are many other institutions that can fullfill this function as well, so Christianity doesn’t stand out in this regard.

  • Rik

    What I admire about Christians, or any person of faith, is their ability to keep it to themselves and not feel the need to testify to me or interject “god” into every other sentence. There aren’t many who have the ability to do this, but those who do have my respect.

  • Adam Hall

    If I admire anything about the seemingly intelligent individuals, its the potential they could have had if they had not been mixed up in that life limiting cult in the first place. Everything else is just really sad.

  • valhar2000

    What Do You Admire About Christians?

    Absolutely nothing. Not at all. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

    I admire people who are deserving of such adminration, and who, quite unrelatedly, happen to be Christian.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    There are some Christians in my life that I admire greatly, but there’s nothing that I admire about them that is caused by their Christianity.

    Frankly, most of the things that Christianity considers virtues, I do not find virtuous. Faith being first and foremost. I also can’t stand the fact that they consistently belittle human goodness by giving God the credit for all the good things that people do.

    I won’t list more because this questions isn’t about what we dislike.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    What I admire about Christians, or any person of faith, is their ability to keep it to themselves and not feel the need to testify to me or interject “god” into every other sentence. There aren’t many who have the ability to do this, but those who do have my respect.

    Hmm… so what’s my limit? every three sentences? every five sentences? I’m just teasing! ;-)

  • Linda Lindsey

    First of all, I have to agree with BryanJ. I know a few like that and wish I knew more. In their presence, I can forget that we have different beliefs and just concentrate on the values we share.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Okay, I’m a Christian but can I tell you what I admire most about other Christians?

    That most of them are not afraid to say “I love you.” It’s just my own observation, but atheists don’t seem to love as freely (or maybe they just don’t like to say the word). Or is it just me? (Oh God! I feel the attacks coming…)

    Would it help if I said I love you? and I do! :-)

  • Arlen

    Wow… the friendliness is palpable in here.

    I admire Christians because they are committed to take a stance in the world for love and for justice even when it doesn’t make “logical” sense. I admire Christians because they do their best to follow the profoundly loving way of life described and demonstrated by a man who lived so long ago that it is impossible to prove whether or not he even existed. I admire Christians for their dedication to forming communities, and bringing folks together in a spirit of hope and thanksgiving.

  • stogoe

    I admire the fact that Christians can be good people working for positive change in this world despite the embarrassingly violent and misogynistic religion they’re saddled with.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    I’ll admit it. I used to say “I love you” a lot more when I was a Chrstian. But what I meant was “I love you with the love of the Lord” which I now see as pretty lame. I also found that many Chrsitans said they loved everyone unconditinoally just so they could get people to convert; then they showed a different face once you were part of the in-group and you had to obey the rules to keep that “love.” That’s not really love in my book. It’s manipulation.

    The idea that you can love everyone or love strangers, I now see as absurd. I certainly now have even more empathy and symathy for strangers than I did when I was a Christian because I want to do what I can to alleviate suffering in this world since I don’t believe in an afterlife. But I don’t love very many people: only my family and a very few close friends.

    I don’t really like the way Christians define love. I find it sort of dishonest in retrospect. And the excuse that there are different kinds of love–eros, agape, etc.–doesn’t really do much to make me feel better about the way I misused the word love when I was a Christian.

  • Mriana

    I’m still searching for an answer, because again this is a question that causes me to define which group I can appreciate. The liberal and progressive Christians are the ones I can find traits I can admire. They are less dogmatic in their approach to life as opposed to those who are fundies. I cannot admire the extremists, but the more liberal and progressive ones I can in that they are more often than not less dogmatic and more forgiving of people’s mistakes without being as condemning. They are less judgemental than their counter parts and more open-minded to those who do not necessarily agree with them.

  • Aran

    Nothing, really. I admire some things about some people who happen to be Christians, but I’ve never found those qualities to be exclusive to Christians, so I can’t give their Christianity credit for my admiration.

  • http://butchbailey.com/ Butch

    It’s a tough question because when I think of my Christian friends and the things I admire about them, nothing comes to mind that is exclusive to their, or any other, religion. In other words, while almost all of them are good and decent people, it’s because they are good and decent people who happen to be Christian, not the other way around.

    I will say that although I distrust the motives, it is a fact that religious people give more time and money to charities (as long as you count the religion as a charity, and in their minds it is so I count it) than secular types.

    I also admire the fact that many of them are trying to make the world a better place (although I think they are actually doing the opposite). Their “heart” is in the right place.

    I’d also like to say one thing I’m envious of Christians about. The built-in social network they have. They can move to any town and have dozens of people welcome them with open arms as soon as they go to church. It’s like joining a fraternity as a college freshman. While the rest of us are feeling around trying to make friends and learn the ropes, they have all these people around helping them out.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Hmm, I’m a little reluctant to bring this up, but…

    I’d say on average groups of Christians seem to be better groomed than groups of atheists. (Yes of course there are exceptions, and I’m just talking about a general tendency.) Note to my fellow atheists, please take a shower at least a couple of days before coming to a meeting.

    On the other hand I haven’t been to many Christian gatherings or meetups, so maybe they do have the same problem with personal hygiene. It’s just my completely unscientific anecdotal observation that many atheist gatherings have that star trek/D&D convention funk about them.

    (BTW, I am a Star Trek fan and I used to play D&D in my youth so don’t get all defensive on me. C’mon if you’ve been to those conventions, you know it is true!)

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    NYCatheist,

    You’re funny! There are Christian slobs too. Although it is possible that they generally care much more about what others will think of them, so they tend to take more showers, etc.

    I was a little bit turned off by Christopher Hitchens on that video that I still have yet to finish watching — you know, the four horsemen thing. I’m just being honest here… That’s the first time I’ve actually seen him, and I didn’t get a good impression. He looked like a slob to me.

    But then again, there are many Christians that make me cringe when I watch them or listen to them, so there you go.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    writerdd,

    Yes, I guess I agree with what you said about love and Christians. I’d like to think there are Christians out there who are different, though. I’d like to think my love is genuine. I’m constantly checking and re-checking myself to see if it is.

    The idea that you can love everyone or love strangers, I now see as absurd.

    I’d like to think that it’s possible. But then again, maybe different people have different capacity for love. Like lung capacity. We’re all different.

  • Karen

    I’ll second Linda’s observation that there are as many ill-groomed Christians as atheists. I attend Skeptics Society meetings and have never noticed any unwashed slobs. And a lot of the attenders are Caltech students, so that’s quite a statement! :-)

    The Christians I used to hang out with had a lot of admirable qualities, chief among them a willingness to spend loads of time and money volunteering at church, working for charitable organizations and even spending their vacation time in third world countries so they could do short-term missions work. No question that much of that work was evangelizing, but along with that they did “good works” like building houses for the poor. Self-sacrifice, self-denial are both hugely admirable traits for these folks, and many of them (not all) are really doing what they say, not just talking about it.

    The other thing to admire is their sense of friendship and community. You join one of these groups and you’re accepted as “one of the family,” no matter how weird or unwashed or whatever you are. You get meals delivered to your house after you have a baby or if you have a sick family member or a death in the family. You get calls from the “prayer chain” asking how they can pray for or help you. You get visits in the hospital if you’re sick. Those who are short on money can even get help paying bills from many churches, whether they are members or not.

    I’m not saying their beliefs are correct because they’re admirable people – I don’t think that at all. But the belief system does engender a lot of admirable behavior, if only by providing a context for that behavior and providing strong peer pressure to conform to that admirable model.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Linda,

    Yeah, Hitchens seems a bit slobish. Maybe the 4-horsemen video was shot before his makeover. Check it out:

    http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2007/12/hitchens200712

    The above is Part II, the Part I link is at the top of the article. Warning, don’t look at the photos while eating!

    On the other hand, Sam Harris is squeaky clean. Was he drinking Perrier during the 4-horsemen discussion? I bet he’s an ivory soap user like me. ;-)

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    NYCatheist,

    Good ‘ol Sam! Sam for president! He can be the new Uncle Sam. :) He’ll have to learn to play nice with the Christians, though.

  • anti-nonsense

    I don’t really admire anything about Christians that’s specific to Christians. I guess the most I can say is that I admire anybody, Christian or otherwise that sticks to their beliefs, even if I disagree very strongly with their beliefs, if you have the courage to stand up and speak out for what you believe in then I admire that, even if it’s grudgingly.

  • Gadren

    I’m not quite sure if it answers the question, but I do admire/envy how many Christians are able to have such a strong social community within their faith. I felt negative effects of having the LDS Church be my entire life, but I can also see the comfort in having that support structure.

  • http://scientianatura.blogspot.com Shalini

    Nothing. Delusion is not a virtue.

  • Siamang

    I admire something I’m going to call radicalism. It’s the “here’s the job we’re doing, let’s bang on it and fix it.”

    I just went to this website for a local church. Skim past the part about “lord bless you” and God this and Jesus that…

    Look at what I read there:

    In place of flowers, the Viana’s would love to have people make a donation to a Mozambican orphanage run by some friends we made while there

    One other reminder as well – this Sunday is the last day to bring shoes to donate to the kids at Door of Faith orphanage in Mexico. Please put your donations in the “trashcan can make a difference” can as you come in the door.

    Along those same lines, I was so proud to see how many of you turned out last week for our first neighbor-to-neighbor dinner for the homeless.

    This weekend a team from Life will be heading down to Door of Faith orphanage in Baja. This is one of the best things we do all year – this amazing ministry provides a truly wonderful home for over 100 orphaned children, and we are privileged to be in our fourth year of partnership with them.

    That’s the spirit of radicalism I admire. Damn. I wish to hell they didn’t spend the rest of the time talking about Jesus… I’d be inclined to join them! ;-)

  • Brandon

    Having read through practically all above, I agree admiration is primarily due to the individual. But speakly solely of Christianity, I admire the unity, which atheists also have, though less in number.

    Oh, I almost forgot, I admire the older architecture of churches, mosques, temples and the like.

  • http://ecstathy.blogspot.com Efrique

    I admire many Christians. I doubt that the qualities I admire have anything to do with them being Christian. The ones who are really decent people, I expect would be just as decent were they not Christian. There doesn’t seem to be any admirable characteristic they possess that they would lose if they ceased being Christian.

    I admire many people of non-Christian religions as well, but I would make the same point.

    Is there single admirable characteristic of people of religion that I would say is exclusive to them, or even held in a signficantly higher proportion than non-religious people, were the opportunities otherwise the same?

    I’m not sure. Possibly. It’s not coming to me.

  • Austin

    I am a Christian and I am trying to understand your faith (atheism). I refer to atheism as a faith because you can no more prove God doesn’t exist – than I can prove that he does. I know a couple of atheists and I admire certain qualities about them, but when I ask them why they believe there is no God, they have very poor answers. Answers that lead me to believe that they really hadn’t though about their belief and only adopted it for self serving reasons. So many questions! If there is no God then what is the point of life? Is there one? When you say something is good – what is your objective standard for judgement? How would you descibe the heart of mankind – especially after the violence and evil of the past 100 years (overwelmingly perpetrated by atheistic groups of people, Hitler, Stalin, Pol-Pot, etc.) I am honestly courious – I know that if most atheists took the time to truely understand the Bible then some of you would understand Christianity. However, when I try to take the time to understand atheism I run into 100 different versions that make no sense (and very frustrated people). Help!

  • Austin

    BTW – I have read Richard Dawkins and a couple other atheistic authors and found their arguements to be very weak and unsatisfying. I have tremedious respect for Dawkin’s scientific mind and gentile way of defending his assertions, but some of his arguements are logically flawed – others don’t prove anything at all other than the fact that Dawkins really wouldn’t like God if He were real.

  • Terrence

    I admire the fact they are organized enough to go to group meetings every week. They always seem to have a speaker too.

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Austin, I appreciate your honest curiosity and I will do my best to honor it with an honest reply.

    Firstly everything I say about atheists is my own opinion and there will always be other atheists who differ on various points. Nevertheless I have answered questions such as yours many times and I think I can give a fair general representation. I will be blockquoting some of your statements so your questions can be answered and so that some inaccurate assumptions can be corrected:

    I refer to atheism as a faith because you can no more prove God doesn’t exist – than I can prove that he does.

    The proving of the existence or non existence of God is not involved here, and not a part of what most atheists concern themselves with. Very few atheists say “I believe there is no God.” The vast majority of atheists say “I have no belief in God.” At first to a person who believes in God this distinction can seem indistinguishable but there is a very important difference. If a person does not have a belief in a thing, that does not necessarily require that he actively holds a belief in that thing’s nonexistence.

    Most atheists are generally skeptical people who withhold belief in all sorts of things unless and until there is convincing evidence to support the credibility of those things. (By the way sometimes skepticism is confused with cynicism. This is not correct. The word skeptic comes from the Greek, meaning “he who looks.” Skepticism does not mean refusal to believe. It means to insist on seeing before believing.)

    It is a generally accepted principle in disputes that the person making a claim is the one carrying the burden of proof for that claim. To imply that not being able to disprove the existence of God is somehow a significant failure on the part of atheists is to try to shirk the responsibility of proving the claim that God does exist. Atheists generally just mind their own business and Christians come to them and make their claim. So atheists say okay, please get back to us when you have your proof.

    I know a couple of atheists and I admire certain qualities about them, but when I ask them why they believe there is no God, they have very poor answers.

    If you ask your friends “Why do you believe there is no God?” then if they try to strictly answer your question of course they will have poor answers because you are not asking the question that is appropriate for their viewpoint. If you ask them “Why do you not have a belief in God?” then their most likely answer will be that they see no convincing evidence.

    So atheism is not a faith because it does not require faith to have no faith. It is simply a stance that belief comes after convincing evidence, not before.

    Answers that lead me to believe that they really hadn’t though about their belief and only adopted it for self serving reasons.

    I cannot speak to the depth of character of your two friends, but the atheists whom I know and many of those whom you may meet here have been through extremely difficult, painful and carefully thought out processes to have eventually come to be atheists. Several know Biblical scripture far better than the average Christian. If by “self serving reasons” you are referring to the idea that atheists just want to indulge in sin without hindrance, that is a myth perpetuated by a minority of religionists who have not bothered to get to know a fair number of atheists well. It is a bigotry and to repeat it without checking it out first is to bear false witness.

    So many questions!

    Yes, and I commend you for actually asking them of us rather than telling us about ourselves, as too many self-assured Christians do.

    If there is no God then what is the point of life? Is there one?

    The answer to this one is very much dependent on the individual. In my view, “life” in general has no meaning, purpose or point outside of itself. My life on the other hand has the very clear and identifiable meaning, purpose or point that I choose for it: To do my best to make living better for my family, my friends, my community, my species and all my cousins, living things. I derive great joy out of this that well compensates for the difficulties of living. Others here may have much more involved or much simpler answers to this question. \

    When you say something is good – what is your objective standard for judgement?

    I’m assuming you’re referring to morals and ethics. Again this is quite individual but I think that there is no “objective standard,” only the consensus of the regional culture and the time in which we find ourselves. There are generally shared values, but many groups who claim to hold the ultimate objective standard for morals or ethics do not have matching lists of principles and rules. They are very much determined by the culture and the point in history. Personally I adhere to a handful of simple principles that I have found to be basically acceptable in societies most anywhere: 1. Respect for persons, 2. commitment to honesty, 3. practice of compassion, and 4. maximization of freedom. These interact and even conflict in given life situations and so personal judgment and responsibility must come in to find the balance. I cannot and will not rely on a divine authority to fall back on to make my decisions for me. I must accept the consequences of my best efforts to make the best decision in each case.

    How would you descibe the heart of mankind – especially after the violence and evil of the past 100 years (overwelmingly perpetrated by atheistic groups of people, Hitler, Stalin, Pol-Pot, etc.)

    Austin, you have a distorted view of history. Firstly I don’t think it is a valid argument to point at the misbehaviors of individuals who belong to a school of thought and try to attribute their villainy to that point of view. But since you brought it up, one myth that seems to never lose steam among Christians is that Hitler was an atheist. No, he was a Christian, in at least he officially said so many times and his Nazi party officially identified itself as Christian. Stalin, Pol Pot and a few other “officially atheist” despots were not doing their atrocities because of their atheism any more than Hitler was doing his because of his Christianity. They wanted power and any method was acceptable. If you are going to attribute the evil of history to one group then don’t just select the “last 100” years but be more honest and include the last two millennia with the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the bloody wars of the Reformation.

    Better to not even try the argument that atheism or theism have to answer for their more nasty members. It’s a fallacious argument and it can backfire.

    As for the “heart of mankind?” I tend to assume the best of people until and unless they prove me wrong. I find it sad and puzzling that at least some sub groups of Christianity seem to insist that people in general are no goddamn good, and that condemnation must include themselves, and only the undeserved grace of a supreme being (the same one who made us this way in the first place) can fix our ticket for us. Sorry, I just cant find that kind of disdain for people in me, and I also can’t reconcile the logical incongruity. Some people behave like saints, some like demons, but in general most are somewhere in the middle and are just trying to get through life.

    I know that if most atheists took the time to truely understand the Bible then some of you would understand Christianity.

    As I said earlier, many of the atheists who comment here really know their Bibles. In fact some say that actually reading and understanding the Bible was one of the most important causes of their rejecting Christianity.

    Austin, I understand that the variety of points of view that you’ll find in atheists can be bewildering, but I think I have accurately represented most of them in general ways here. We tend to be a very independent lot. Please stick around and keep asking your honestly curious questions, and you will at least come to understand a few individuals here and perhaps make some new friends. Some of us are gentle and some of us are sharp-edged. Don’t be discouraged, just keep your heart and your mind open.

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

    Richard Wade,

    Thank you, once again, for such a well thought out and articulate comment. May I use it to start a discussion with my people?

    You said:

    Personally I adhere to a handful of simple principles that I have found to be basically acceptable in societies most anywhere: 1. Respect for persons, 2. commitment to honesty, 3. practice of compassion, and 4. maximization of freedom.

    That sounds a lot like my take on Christianity. Except I would add one thing and put them in a different order:

    1. Maximization of freedom, 2. love and pasion for life, 3. commitment to honesty… well, then the rest automatically follow.

  • Richard Wade

    Linda, sure use what you wish. I have no claim to this. I learned it from my ethics teacher long ago, and I’ve never been able to track him down to thank him or find out where he got it. I should have included another one, Equity, as in equal fair treatment. They go in no particular sequential order, except that Respect for persons could be seen as the primary principle and the other four are ways to express and execute that respect.

    Your versions sound great. I hope your group discussion goes well.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    I am honestly courious – I know that if most atheists took the time to truely understand the Bible then some of you would understand Christianity.

    I was a born-again Chrsitian for over 20 years. Believe me, I certainly understand Christiainty. I didn’t stop believing in god for self serving reasons. That’s such a cliche Christian excuse for writing off unbelief, I hardly think you can take it seriously.

    I stopped believing in god when I stopped brainwashing myself by going to church 3 times a week and reading the Bible every day to the exclusion of almost all other reading materials. When I started reading widely — everything and anything — I slowly stopped beleiving, first in my specific flavor of Christianity, then in the literal truth of the Bible, then in the divinity of Jesus and the virgin birth, then in the concept of a diety entirely.

    There were many things that I learned that led me down this bath, and none of the steps were taken glibly. It was an emotionally and psychologically painful experience but one that I could not stop just because I would have been more comfortable continuing in my belief.

    In the end, I’m much happier and peaceful now than I was as a Christian, but the transition period was anything but. Ultimately, I had to be honest with myself and admit that I no longer believed. And that day a great weight fell off me and I felt freedom and peace that I never experienced as a believer.

    Donna

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Okay, I just read through this thread and the other one (about admiration for athiests) and, not to be snarky or anything, but in comparing the two I guess what I’d have to say I admire about Christians is that at least a few of them can give a straight answer to the question without turning it into a backhanded compliment or outright slam. (My apologies to the few of you here – Karen, Siamang, etc. – who did make a genuine effort to answer the question in the friendly spirit in which it was asked.)

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Mike C.

    I noticed that also but didn’t want to say anything. I’m glad you did, though. But then again, we are the Christians who came here, not the other way around. If the roles were reversed, I’d have to guess that it may have been the opposite.

  • http://lifebeforedeath.blogsome.com Felicia Gilljam

    Mike and Linda, I noticed it too and wrote a post about it on my own blog, which seems to have trackbacked fine to the other topic but not this one (may be a matter of time). Unfortunately as I write in my own post I think it’s simply the case that atheists actually don’t admire christians for anything in particular – but that certainly is no excuse to contribute veiled insults when the topic specifically asked for compliments.

  • http://saliental.blogspot.com/ salient

    1. Christians are not fundamentalist Muslims
    2. Christians are not Hassidim or Orthodox Zionists
    3. My other positive remarks about Christians concerns that subset of “christian” Christians who rise above Biblical exhortations to hatreds and/or creationist exhortations to illogic and anti-science, and who *do* practice love and tolerance as suggested by the scattered humanist moral allegories in the Bible.

    If you read between my lines, you will see that I consider *fundamentalisms* to be the problem, because they attract and amplify dysfunctional human psychology. Those Christians who behave in a christian manner are good people, just as Muslims or Jews who practice the humane side of their religions are good people, just as secualar humanist atheists are good people.

  • Mriana

    Yes, even I have noticed such things on both threads. It made me cringe when I read the words, “Absolutely nothing”, “Not a damn thing”, etc etc. Then the commenters would turn around and say something that negated the label as they went on to explain. That wasn’t the question though.

    I have difficulties lumping everyone in X group as a whole and I said so, in a nice way or as nice as I could in both threads. Others seemed to have strictly stereo-typed the word. Somehow that seems about as fair as lumping everyone of one skin colour or one sex together and saying they are all alike. Truth is, nobody in any single group is alike. Not all women are bitchy. Not all gays are whatever the current stereo-type is. Not all men are assholes. Not all atheists are hateful. Not all theists are hateful. The word “all” is a misnomer, IMO, and I feel sorry for those who say or think all in a particular group are this or that.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    But then again, we are the Christians who came here, not the other way around. If the roles were reversed, I’d have to guess that it may have been the opposite.

    Yes, you’re probably right… but it depends on the site too. There are some friendly Christians sites where atheists would be welcome, but a lot of nasty ones too of course.

  • Karen

    It made me cringe when I read the words, “Absolutely nothing”, “Not a damn thing”, etc etc.

    I can only imagine that people who can find nothing to admire about Christians really don’t know any.

  • http://lifebeforedeath.blogsome.com Felicia Gilljam

    Karen, it’s entirely possible for me to find something admirable about an individual christian. I know at least one personally who is a very caring, loyal and sensitive friend. But I don’t admire him as a christian, I admire him as a person. When we’re asked “what do you admire about christians?”, we have to think of what it is about being christian that we admire – are there any specific personality traits that leads one to embrace christianity, for instance? -, and we end up realising that, well, there isn’t anything. Sorry.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Karen, it’s entirely possible for me to find something admirable about an individual christian. I know at least one personally who is a very caring, loyal and sensitive friend. But I don’t admire him as a christian, I admire him as a person. When we’re asked “what do you admire about christians?”, we have to think of what it is about being christian that we admire – are there any specific personality traits that leads one to embrace christianity, for instance? -, and we end up realising that, well, there isn’t anything. Sorry.

    Felicia, your comment (and similar ones made by several others here) has got me thinking that I wish there were more existentialist atheists. You seem to be making a pretty sharp divide between a person’s Christianity and their personality, as if you think you can separate out what person believes from who they are or what they do. Almost as if you believed in some essential “soul” of a person that can be separated out from all the particulars that actually go into making them who they are.

    Personally though, in my experience, human are far more holistic and integrated beings than that. My beliefs and my personality and my actions are all wrapped up together, each influencing the other in turn. I couldn’t separate one out from the others even if I wanted to.

    So I guess what I’m saying is that if you know individual Christians that you find admirable, then it’s not fair nor accurate to simply try to isolate their admirable traits from their Christian beliefs as if they were two separate things. Is it not possible that that person actually has some of those traits because they are a Christian? After all, the whole idea of “spiritual transformation” (i.e. becoming a better, more “admirable” person) is one of the central goals of Christian belief and practice and has been for millenia.

    And before you say it: it doesn’t matter if these same traits can be found in other people who are not Christians. The fact that these same traits can be produced by other means does not mean that, in the case of your friend, they could not have been produced by Christianity as well. There are many ways to produce good, admirable people in the world, and if Christianity is sometimes one of those ways, then give credit where credit is due.

  • Karen

    When we’re asked “what do you admire about christians?”, we have to think of what it is about being christian that we admire – are there any specific personality traits that leads one to embrace christianity, for instance? -, and we end up realising that, well, there isn’t anything. Sorry.

    I don’t think the question was meant to look at specific personality traits, honestly. There are asshole Christians and wonderful, merciful, generous atheists, as far as that goes.

    What I was answering is what general things about Christianity are admirable: In other words, what does the religion motivate in people that is worthy of admiration? Surely the things I mentioned – self-sacrifice and community support – can be espoused by atheists and by atheist groups. But I found them to be much more a priority in Christian groups than I do in atheist groups. Just as many people who commented in the “admirable atheist” thread mentioned things like independent thinking and willingness to question and dedication to honesty and truth – which are all traits much more nurtured by the atheistic world view than by the religious world view (in my experience anyway).

    To say there’s absolutely nothing to admire about Christians or Christianity comes off as stingy, to my eyes.

  • Mriana

    Karen said,

    December 21, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    It made me cringe when I read the words, “Absolutely nothing”, “Not a damn thing”, etc etc.

    I can only imagine that people who can find nothing to admire about Christians really don’t know any.

    Or maybe they do know some and they are the Religious Reich type. Who knows.

    To say there’s absolutely nothing to admire about Christians or Christianity comes off as stingy, to my eyes.

    That’s why I cringed and the same thing works the other way around when people said the same thing about atheists.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    I couldn’t think of anything but then I remembered that it’s Sunday tomorrow and I really admire the way that Christians have the discipline to get up early on what is supposed to be a day of rest. I’m going to sleep till noon.

  • Richard Wade

    Where did Austin go?

  • ash

    Mike et al – ok, fair point, you claim that your faith influences you to act in particular ways and to be a better person and i’m happy to trust to that. i also agree that some people took this opportunity to espouse values inherent in some forms of christianity that are exceedingly negative rather than focus on the question. which sux.

    however, to defend the point that individuals can be admired seperatly from their beliefs, i would again argue that if you were to find definitive proof tomorrow for the lack of your god, you would not cease to be the compassionate reasonable people you are now. if you were already so inclined, perhaps you would lack the framework for, e.g., mass acts of charity, but i do believe you’d replace it with a secular framework, or at least still help the lil old lady that fell over in the street. i don’t believe that faith, or abandoning one, leads to the desecration of already held values and priorities, but i can accept you’d go about them in a different manner.

  • Karen

    ash:

    i would again argue that if you were to find definitive proof tomorrow for the lack of your god, you would not cease to be the compassionate reasonable people you are now. if you were already so inclined, perhaps you would lack the framework for, e.g., mass acts of charity, but i do believe you’d replace it with a secular framework, or at least still help the lil old lady that fell over in the street. i don’t believe that faith, or abandoning one, leads to the desecration of already held values and priorities, but i can accept you’d go about them in a different manner.

    I agree with you on this, ash, and I have some pretty good anecdotal evidence that we’re on the right track. I help moderate a support group for ex-fundamentalists and I blog over at de-conversion. Both groups include a lot of formerly religious people (mostly Christian, but not all) like me.

    None of the ex-religious people I’ve associated with in either place has had their values substantially changed after losing faith in religion. (Either that or they won’t fess up to it!) In fact, most people are quite surprised that they still have the same charitable impulses, moral framework, etc. as they did when religious. All they’ve lost is the god-belief. Some still go to church to appease their families, in fact.

    For some there is a loss of places to do good and opportunities to donate money. But it seems like most of us find acceptable secular alternatives to channel our good impulses in the long run.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    I admire something the pastor told the congregation today at church. (Yes, I’m that atheist that regularly goes to church…)

    As a pastor he frequently talks to people who have little faith or are skeptical about joining organized religion. As part of his sermon, he disclosed the following: I paraphrase:

    Often when people tell me that they don’t believe in God, I ask them to describe the God they don’t believe in. After listening to to the description, I usually tell them I don’t believe in that God either…. Most people end up creating a concept of God that is convenient for them. They “create God” in their own image. I then tell tell them about the true meaning of God.
    Jesus… dying for sins…. resurrection…. only way to heaven… yada yada yada…

    I was impressed with his understanding that people mostly “create God” in their own image… The only thing he can’t see is that the original Christians did the same thing… All God concepts are man-made. Not just all non-Christian God concepts. He is most of the way to enlightenment.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    i would again argue that if you were to find definitive proof tomorrow for the lack of your god, you would not cease to be the compassionate reasonable people you are now. if you were already so inclined, perhaps you would lack the framework for, e.g., mass acts of charity, but i do believe you’d replace it with a secular framework, or at least still help the lil old lady that fell over in the street. i don’t believe that faith, or abandoning one, leads to the desecration of already held values and priorities, but i can accept you’d go about them in a different manner.

    Maybe, maybe not. I suppose it would depend on what kind of worldview ended up replacing my Christianity. I can’t say for sure what that would be (especially since this is all hypothetical anyway), but I do know that I can tend to be pretty cynical, and I’m not sure some of my ideals for how the world could be would survive the loss of faith. Right now it takes me quite a bit of faith to believe that the world is not simply headed for inevitable ecological/economic/societal disintegration, and that fighting against these trends is actually a worthwhile and potentially successful endeavor. But like I said, I’m a cynic at heart.

    But at any rate, Karen is quite right that many people do hang onto their values and ethics after losing faith in God – I’ve known several people like that myself. However, I can also provide anecdotal evidence of the opposite result as well. I do know people who have walked away from God and “gone off the deep end” as it were. I can’t speculate about what the difference was for these people, but I would say that in general their lack of belief in God didn’t end up being replaced by anything positive – without the meaning in life outside of themselves that belief in God provided, their meaning in life simply became “themselves”, i.e. their own narcissistic desires or nihilistic despair.

    Please understand, I’m not saying that is a natural or even the usual result of atheism, but it can be for some if the “meaning in life” supplied by religion is not replaced by a “meaning in life” from some other source.

  • JPA

    The thing I admire the most is their potential source of nutrition for lions.