Welcome to Church… No Questions Allowed

David Hayward takes us on a visit to a Christian church:

My own experience is that questions aren’t welcomed and are actually considered dangerous. It’s okay to have questions, as long as you keep them to yourself. Once they escape your keyboard, your pen or your mouth, all havoc breaks loose. You will pay the consequences.

I think a lot of atheists have had similar experiences and that’s ultimately why they left their church. They got unsatisfactory answers or — even worse — no answers.

One commenter on the site quotes a Christian friend of his:

“Questioning is fine, as long as it doesn’t lead you to change what you believe.”

Did any of you go to a church that actually welcomed critical questions (about what the pastor said, what the Bible says, etc)?

How did they answer them?

(via nakedpastor)

  • Aaron

    I have seen people have some heated arguments about how to interpret or apply what the bible said, but no questions that might threaten the status quo.

  • Kyle

    What’s really fun is that if you are a member of a Mormon church and ask too many questions, they will begin to “Investigate” you. I’m not sure what that entails exactly, as I’ve never witnessed this myself, but I suspect that it means being interviewed by a host of the hierarchy (bishop then stake leader.) I’m sure if you persist or demand answers, then you might ultimately be facing excommunication. Just for asking questions.

  • Angela

    I asked and was made to feel stupid or wrong for asking … I was considered without faith when I persisted; which ironically I was as I got older. Often unanswered or made to feel like I was ‘nit-picking.’

  • Mel

    I have to steal this one, it’s amazing! And it’s been my personal experience that questions are not welcome, and people get very defensive when their faith is put under the microscope (big surprise there). I’m not one to tiptoe around it, I ask away ;)

  • AC

    I can only speak from my past experience (Reform Jewish Temple) – questions were encouraged and blind adherence was not valued as much as studied and interpreted personal faith. Doesn’t mean it isn’t all BS anyway! :)

  • MaleficVTwin

    Did any of you go to a church that actually welcomed critical questions (about what the pastor said, what the Bible says, etc)?

    I had questions at a pretty young age, like six or seven. I asked them, and was told that I was on a dangerous path that led to Hell. This of course scared the crap out of me, as it would anyone of that age. The adults were perfectly fine with that.

  • Hybrid

    If you’re already questioning, you’re as good as “out”. Questions are for people who doubt, not for people who have faith.

  • http://www.atheistvolunteers.org/austin Joe Zamecki

    In my old Catholic church/school, we weren’t allowed enough freedom to speak freely on religion. We weren’t allowed to agitate anything. Fear kept us in line, and I was smart so I waited to ask my questions. And I STILL got paddled!

    Now I ask questions and since I’m no longer a Catholic, they have that as a reason to ignore me. I’m glad I’m not the only questioner.

  • Kim

    I related very much to Julia Sweeney’s recounting of her back-and-forth with Father Whatshisname when she first did the bible study. The degree of openness to “questioning” may be relative, but here’s the thing. Even the most progressive churches, clerics, or religious teachers I’ve ever known- the ones who are ostensibly supportive of critical thinking in theory- would eventually shut down the conversation if their “answers” weren’t sufficient for you. That’s usually about the point where, for all the grand claims to explanations and revelations that’ll blow your mind, when it’s still obvious the Emperor is ass-nekkid as ever, the “well, you just gotta have faith” trope gets trotted out in contemptuous exasperation.

  • http://www.frommormontoatheist.blogspot.com Leilani

    Questions are for doubters and those who have weak faith… and that was a bad thing. I was often told, if I asked a question of doubt, to ‘borrow’ the light from other members testimony… in other words, just take other peoples word for it. As though their personal experiences were as good as facts and evidence.

    I eventually got to a point where taking other peoples word for it just wasn’t cutting it and I went to church less and less.

    I have never been to a religious church that promoted freethought and questions. The UU church (not Christian) I go to rocks, but I don’t know if they all do. Before I even showed up I emailed the Reverend a long list of questions. He answered them all and was really awesome about it.

    Mormonism isn’t Christianity, but it’s the religion I was brought up in, and questions are taboo.

  • Penn

    I grew up Quaker, the Society of Friends. They are very open to questions, to the point where you no longer need to be Christian.
    This excludes, of course Evangelical Friends. They, in my opinion, miss the point of it being a personal religion.
    I now consider myself an Atheist Quaker. I like the moral background, just not the religious part.

  • Aj

    Hybrid,

    If you’re already questioning, you’re as good as “out”. Questions are for people who doubt, not for people who have faith.

    True. You can’t reason your way out of something you didn’t reason your way into. Faith requires no questioning, it’s a lack of questioning, a lack of logical and skeptical consideration.

  • plutosdad

    In the beginning some people welcome questions. But it breaks down once your questions go beyond what was good enough for them. In fact they seem personally offended that you are asking questions.

    I had a pastor into apologetics, he was one of the few who would talk to me or recommend books. Everyone else just told me I didn’t have enough faith, or worse, “people don’t need to know that”. Christians have very little regard for pure science and learning about the universe. If it’s not directly saving souls then it’s a distraction from the important stuff.

  • Tricia

    I clearly recall a sermon the minister gave at my Presbyterian church about Doubting Thomas. He was firmly on Thomas’ side. He said, “You would have to be a fool not to doubt the story Thomas was told,” or something to that effect. He also said God would not have given us the capacity for reason if he did not expect us to use it. He was quite a remarkable minister, in many ways.

  • Stagamancer

    I grew up in the Episcopal church, in what I felt was a very loving, open community that tolerated difference and questions better than a lot of other churches I’d had experience with (I went to Catholic school for 9 years as well). I was never taught that the Bible was to be taken completely literally, and my love and pursuit of science was encouraged. In fact, I still feel more comfortable talking to Episcopal priests, even if I’ve just met them, about my studies in evolutionary biology than people I meet in my home town, because I’m not afraid of getting into an argument I don’t feel like having. Because of the non-literal interpretation of the bible, open discussion about the meaning of the scripture and of the arguments of theologians was something I experienced regularly. Despite this overall good experience with the church (there were of course bad things as well), it got to the point where the answers to the really big questions were just not good enough. For me, there is no logical reason to believe in a god, or in Jesus as the messiah or anything supernatural at all. Oddly enough, I think part of the reason it took me so long to really define myself as an atheist was because I wasn’t pressured by my church community to stop questioning. I was allowed to call myself christian even without just accepting dogma. Either way though, I did end up losing faith.

  • TrogloDyke

    In my old Catholic church/school, we weren’t allowed enough freedom to speak freely on religion. We weren’t allowed to agitate anything. Fear kept us in line, and I was smart so I waited to ask my questions. And I STILL got paddled!

    Yup. I didn’t get paddled, but I got shut down quickly and treated like an imbecile. Of course, I was only 12, so of course I could be treated like a moron.

    AFter too many questions and not enough answers, I quit. At 14 I told my mom I wasn’t going to church anymore. She had no problem with it.

    This subject is why the bumpersticker “Don’t pray in my school and I won’t think in your church” is valid (except praying IS allowed in school, of course).

  • TrogloDyke

    Oddly enough, I think part of the reason it took me so long to really define myself as an atheist was because I wasn’t pressured by my church community to stop questioning. I was allowed to call myself christian even without just accepting dogma.

    I think this is an interesting statement, and it makes you even more respectable, as far as I’m concerned. A lot of atheists end up here out of anger and/or resentment at the dead-ends they keep getting, and it’s easy (sort of) to just wash your hands of the whole thing in disgust. But leaving even when no one is really being disgusting to you is harder. So, kudos.

  • David

    I started asking questions in synagogue around age eight. I received no answers, only repeated invitations to Rabbi Gold’s office to discuss my behavior. Confirmed atheist by age ten. It’s been my experience in life, that when people decline to answer simple questions, they are usually full of crap.

  • BillC

    As a young adult, chasing a girl led to a long involvement in a United Methodist church. One of the pastors that came through (they rotate every few years) was a remarkable woman. I had always been open about my lack of faith, but not challenging, and I enjoyed the singing and group inclusion. She saw an opportunity to use my unique (for that group) point of view and would beg me to come to the bible study sessions. When asked why, she said that I was the perfect devil’s advocate that might offer some real challenges to their faith. In her opinion, if you can’t defend it, you had no right to believe it. I could never get past their rationalizations, but she is one of the very few christians I’ve ever met who I actually respect, and still do.

    And it’s that mindset I’ve tried to instill in my own daughter, who, I am quite proud to say, has recently come out as an atheist herself at age 18, despite being raised in the church by my christian wife.

  • muggle

    Not at church but at synagogue, yes.

    The pastors in churches I grew up in (3 all told) well, you wouldn’t even think of speaking up and asking questions. Not even aside in private to the minister and certainly never, ever interrupt a sermon to ask a question. (Or any other reason, for that matter.)

    En route to disbelief, I first stopped believing Jesus was the Messiah and very nearly converted to Judaism. For six months before giving that up, I attended a Conservative temple. The biggest (and most delightful) shock I got my first Sabbath there was when someone interrupted the sermon with a quiet, “But, Rabbi…” He ate it up too. He just loved being interrupted for questions. Guess he appreciated that they were not only listening but were paying close attention to what he said.

    The first time witnessing that, though, I just kept waiting for lightning to strike the respectful gentleman who cleared his throat and had the chutzpah to cut him off with that quiet, “But, Rabbi…”

  • http://atheistreadsbible.blogspot.com/ Jude

    In the church I grew up in, we were encouraged to ask questions. Even though I would consider it a fundamentalist church, when I went back as an adult and asked if I could lead Sunday School singing even though I’m an atheist, the minister said, “Sure.” Here’s the Wikipedia article about this denomination:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_Christian_Churches/Churches_of_Christ
    If you look at the list of what the article labels “slogans” you will perhaps get a feeling for why questions are encouraged.

  • mama

    I went to a Jewish school where questions were encouraged. The answers were the same apologetic bull you hear now.

  • http://secularshawshank.wordpress.com Andy

    Questioning is the beginning of science, the seed of rationality. Of course it’s not welcome in religion.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ WMDKitty

    Questioning is welcome in Satanism. Notsomuch in other religions, though.

  • sarah

    I was afraid to ask questions in my catholic school but I never stopped asking questions about religion to myself. Nobody asked questions in class. If people did, the answer usually was “you gotta have faith.” If someone asked about sins, the response would be “well, that person will go to hell then.”

    I sometimes wish I had enough courage to question my religion teachers in school but I guess that was just as well. People already didn’t like me in my catholic grade school.

  • jcm

    Occasionally, usually on weekends Jehovah’s Witness and Mormons come knocking on the door trying to convert me to their particular brand of Christianity. However, when I ask (simple) questions I never satisfactory answers.

  • http://supersonicfreedom.net Sonicsuns

    I wouldn’t say that my church (and various other religious groups) actively encouraged questioning, but I will note that, when I decided to convert to Humanism, my Christian friends were remarkably understanding. We had long talks and they tried to bring me back, but never in a threatening way, and at the end of it all I was still friends with everybody. The only person who got mad at me was some guy on the internet.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    How can you understand something without questioning it? It just doesn’t make sense. How does a believer arrive at their position of belief without being taught about the beliefs themselves and coming to understand them? How can a believer understand their beliefs without questioning them? If they don’t question then aren’t they just parroting someone else and avoiding all independent thought on the subject?

    I’m genuinely surprised at this. I’ve never had a faith but I assumed that the faithful obtained their faith in the same way that the rest of us obtain our beliefs. Sometimes we hold false beliefs through error in judgment or understanding. I thought that was the position that the religious were in. I had no idea that they didn’t even arrive at their position by seeking to understand it but instead accept it without question.

    That’s really weird.

  • David

    When I was a pastor (yes, in a Christian church), I took every opportunity I could to question, from the pulpit and in smaller discussions, traditional understandings of scripture. Most of my parishioners found it refreshing and challenging, and it helped them craft faith statements that actually helped them live their lives, rather than hiding behind a curtain of “make-believe.”

    But uncertainty is scary. Just as some atheists react with anger, mockery, and other defensive gestures when asked if there might be some transcendent “something” in the universe that’s outside human comprehension, some theists react similarly when asked if there might NOT be.

    The bottom line is that we don’t–in fact, by definition, CAN’T–know definitively about things that are beyond our biological capability for understanding. Admitting we don’t know is a sign of maturity, not of weakness.

    But you don’t have to be a theist to be closed-minded about your beliefs.

  • Ed

    “How can you understand something without questioning it? It just doesn’t make sense.”

    This assumes the only way to understand something is through thought, but understanding can be a result of direct experience, rather than thought. I understand what “red” is because I have seen it, not because I know it has a wave length of 650 nm. Many of the faithful will tell you they have directly felt God or Jesus, they know he is real in the same way they know red is real. For many this feeling, this knowing or personal relationship/experience is enough and they choose not to reflect on their experience further thus avoiding tricky unresolved questions of qualia, perception and reality. I think to gain a full picture of something you often need direct experience as well as reflection and examination of that experience, which is where the faith based understanding often breaks down.

  • Flah the Heretic Methodist

    I’m pretty sure my pastor knows I’m apostate at this point but made a point of telling my family that we were very much considered a part of the church family — and not in a “come in, bring $$s” way. In a way that said, you’re welcome regardless of what you’re struggling with.

    My problem is finding anyone to field questions who doesn’t fall back on the same old same old I’ve heard since I was three.

  • d

    I remember being at church when I was a little kid and being full of questions most of which were ignored. I once asked “Who wrote the first Bible?” The Sunday school teacher then proceeded to pretend I wasn’t in the room. Another question that caused quite an uproar in my family was “What happens to babies when they die?” This question seemed particularly urgent at the time among my cousins and I since our aunt just lost a child to SIDS. None of us could get an answer from the pastors and teachers at the church so we proceeded to work it out based on what we’d already been told. The only way to heaven is through confession and asking Jesus into your heart. Well obviously babies can’t do that. So, babies must go to hell right? My cousin told that to his parents and the rightly freaked out. The people at church had a fun time explaining where we learned that. Experiences like these were a small part of my escape from religion.

  • http://spatialdistortion.com/ Jim

    I was raised atheist by my parents and was very happy knowing that I wasn’t forced to believe anything for fear of punishment. I was often approached by students in grade school and high school asking if I’d join them in their “youth groups”. So, I’d go with a plethora of questions to ask (nothing particularly negative, I was honestly curious about the answers I’d receive). But, I was instead thrown out. Literally THROWN OUT of most of the churches. Why? Because I’d ask questions. It really helped solidify, in my mind, that these belief systems don’t “hold water”. If they can’t answer these questions, why do they believe in it?
    “THE EARTH IS FLAT!!”

  • Aj

    hoverfrog,

    No, they don’t have to question to understand their beliefs. If they do think about God, it’s a projection of parts of themselves, think of it as an imaginary friend. Human intellect, desires, and intentions, these they can comprehend having, and we know that humans can project these anywhere. Children hold many beliefs because they’ve been told to, they’re sponges that way.

    David,

    I haven’t met an atheist who would mock or get angry for someone suggesting that there might be “something” outside of ordinary human experience and comprehension. Theists don’t suggest there might be, but suggest there is and they have access to its intentions and desires. That probably would get mocked. “Something” suggests they don’t know what that thing is, and atheists don’t have a problem with that something possibly existing. The vast majority of atheists I’ve met are agnostics.

  • Amber

    A Christian church that accepted questions? No. Whenever I asked questions as a child in the Nazarene church, the Sunday School teacher would roll her eyes and send me to the “adult” sermon to sit with my parents.

    I attended a Unitarian Universalist Congregation not long ago, and one entire service–which was held in the forest, I might add–was about questioning a sermon from a few weeks before. The leaders said they had received a lot of questions about the ethical implications of a particular fable they had used and wanted to open the discussion to the members. We were broken into groups and asked to answer some of the more popular questions. Every viewpoint was respected.

  • Chris

    I was catholic and my confirmation sponsor was a big reason why I’m Atheist now – we had to have meetings every once in a while to discuss faith and all that. Anyways, I don’t even remember what question I asked, but he told me that it was really good/healthy to question things, and for some reason it stuck with me. He probably didn’t realize the conclusions that I’d come to.

  • http://logofveritas.blogspot.com Veritas

    Interestingly enough, the article’s account has been suspended. I wonder what neighbour-loving Constitution-boffing Christian filed a complaint.

  • Gwenny

    Just for the record, some atheists are just as bad. I was told in a discussion with one of the angry atheist dudes to “shut the fuck up” and when I decided it wasn’t worth my effort, I unfriended him, he called me a “stupid fuck” and one of his minions claimed I was “spamming her inbox” and called me a “gay asshole”. I then received an email from the angry atheist dude telling me:

    “I would like to ask you to please leave the atheist community, or at least shut up about being part of it, because you are a very bad example of a human being and we have enough trouble as it is convincing people that we are not unmitigated assholes.”

    :rolls eyes:

  • Jenn

    When I actually went to church, and had to take confirmation classes, I would ask the pastor a lot of questions, if only just to piss him off. Some were stupid and made some other students yell at me to shut up for once, but some were logical and not intended to cause a scene or anything. I expected the pastor to kick me out (my goal) or to tape my mouth or something. After we all finally graduated, I got a thank you card in the mail from him, saying that he ‘appreciated my questions and liked to see someone like me thinking and digging into what they believe.’ I still have that card.

  • Troglodyke

    “I would like to ask you to please leave the atheist community, or at least shut up about being part of it, because you are a very bad example of a human being and we have enough trouble as it is convincing people that we are not unmitigated assholes.”

    REALLY?! I wonder why…

  • TychaBrahe

    I remember the Rabbi who led my B’nai Mitzvah class say that no prayer was real unless it came from the heart. And then not ten minute later, we were told our homework was to memorize the Birchot HaShachar, a list of sixteen prayers that include thanking God for providing for our needs, for giving us wisdom, for crowning Israel with glory.

    Of particular interest to me was one that thanks God for not making the petitioner a woman. (Women say one that thanks God for making her according to His will.) Now the explanation is that men are inherently more sinful than women (which is why women historically need to be Bat Mitzvahed) and need to meet special obligations to keep themselves right with God. Men were thanking God that they were created able to fulfill these obligations. Even at 11, I knew that 1) this explanation was complete BS–Judaism has its origins in times of misogyny (that it was less misogynistic than the religions at the time is immaterial), and 2) if the only real prayer comes from the heart, then why the heck are we memorizing prayers?

    I was Bat Mitzvahed because I didn’t have the heart to upset my mother, and didn’t go back to Sunday School afterward.

  • muggle

    Gwenny, I can relate!

    I was recently removed from the local Atheist and Agnostic meet-up group because I dared criticize: a) their bashing of a local blogger coming out as Atheist because they didn’t like his wording (he said one reason he was timid about calling himself Atheist was because some were such assholes about it) and b) Richard Dawkins, who is apparently god but someone forgot to inform/failed to convince me.

    Ironically, they started out criticizing the local blogger then proceeded to prove him right.

  • Aj

    muggle,

    Are you talking about Kevin Marshall?

    Why I Am (not telling many people I’m) an Atheist By Kevin Marshall

    He makes a bunch of wild accusations about “many” atheists. Things like they are hostile to all believers, they think faith is always discriminative and hateful, or it’s the root of all societies ills and conflicts. I read a lot of opinions from atheists, I don’t come across this, and I wouldn’t expect to because it’s incredibly stupid nonsense. He emphatically embraced all the negative qualities he was accusing this fictional hoard of “anti-theist” straw atheists. He also called this nameless fictional group of atheists equivalent to fundamentalists, which really pisses me off. When he mentions that atheists are atheists because they “hate God” or “want to feel superior” I thought the post might be prank. Atheists hating gods they don’t believe in? Someone gleefully building a horrendous strawman to feel superior accusing others of that sort of thing.

    The only reason he is being such a douchebag is because he believes in belief as a matter of dogma. Marshall can’t accept that some people disagree. He thinks that people use religion just as an excuse to do what they want when they’re doing bad things. Yet in the next comment says they’re motivated to do many good things because of their faith. Basically he is saying that people are inherently bad, will find excuses to do bad things, and that they need faith to be motivated to do good. Denying psychology, the evolutionary roots of morality. Denying history, the fanatical adherence to scriptures moral commandments, and the hostility towards science throughout the ages.

    Fuck that dishonest, arrogant, hypocritical prick.

  • Aj

    muggle,

    Richard Dawkins, who is apparently god but someone forgot to inform/failed to convince me.

    Did they say words to that effect? Must have been something “you can’t criticize Dawkins he’s Dawkins“.

    Perhaps it was like the many times on this site people have misrepresented Dawkins with the same refuted bullshit like “he is calling believers mentally ill because delusion is in the title” or “he thinks religion causes all problem because he was in a documentary called ‘The Root of All Evil”. When this is refuted with facts and evidence, these people can’t accept that they were wrong, they start this “Dawkins is your god” bullshit because they’re dishonest and childish. I’ve never witnessed someone saying you can’t criticise Dawkins. Just don’t fucking lie about him.

    I only mention this because Kevin Marshall brought up the “deifying Dawkins” and “you can’t criticize Dawkins” but we’ve already established he’s a dishonest fuck that will say just about anything.

  • Fundie Troll

    Hoverfrog -

    I had no idea that they didn’t even arrive at their position by seeking to understand it but instead accept it without question.

    Of course we seek to understand. Why do atheists assume that those of faith “blindly” believe/accept doctrine and are not capable of critical thought? (I’m speaking of Christianity, I cannot speak for any other faith). Of course we question, and we wrestle with the same questions that atheists do. The difference is we believe that God is the ultimate authority, not man.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Thanks Ed.

    This assumes the only way to understand something is through thought, but understanding can be a result of direct experience, rather than thought.

    Isn’t experience also a cognitive process. ‘Red’ can be measured and explained in a variety of ways. If you are blind to red as some people are then the experience is denied to you but the concept can still be explained. Any questions you have about it can be answered. Indeed someone who is blind to red should question it. How do they know ‘red’ exists at all if they can’t perceive it? Why can’t they perceive it when others can?

    I think that you are suggesting that some people experience a connection to their deity and so have no need to question. At least they believe that they have this experience. That makes sense and would explain why some believers are so entrenched in their views. It would also explain why the idea is so alien to me.

  • Tom

    Oh sure, my Catholic Church welcomed questions. All throughout the confirmation classes I had to take they made a point to ask if we had questions.

    They didn’t like it much when I told them their answers weren’t answers. “Faith” answers nothing, but apparently it is the answer to every question about Catholoc dogma.

  • plutosdad

    Why do atheists assume that those of faith “blindly” believe/accept doctrine and are not capable of critical thought

    Certainly it’s bad to make assumptions about everyone. Reading the above comments I think those of us who grew up in faiths grew frustrated that the average christian and even pastors did not welcome questions and seemed to NOT want to think about bigger issues. In fact quite a few times church leaders would tell me (when I talked about middle eastern archaeology, how the bible was put together, or the fine tuning argument in cosmology) that “people don’t need to know that.” They did not merely not have answers but they were against questioning in the first place. Maybe my questions just made them feel threatened and it was a defensive reaction and later they went back and thought about it, but I don’t think so, since no one else changed or started reading apologetics texts like I was.

    I heard that kind of stuff so many times, from christians and pastors of so many different denominations and non denominational (I got around :) ) that it’s my general feeling that’s the way normal people think. e.g. Just tell me what to think and I’ll leave the thinking to the experts. Only I think pastors should be more expert or at least point you to an expert (like one pastor I had did who also was interested in apologetics – the only one out of every church I went to). But even the ones who say they are open minded often are just pretending to be – looking for an opportunity to convert someone, instead of truly questioning. Since those of us who question don’t seek out people we disagree with to argue with, we read and we sought out people we looked up to to ask questions of.

    But I don’t think that attitude is limited to christians or any faith. It seems to be how people are. More likely to rely on anecdotes and pattern matching in our short lives and small experience, than to do research and follow logic and believe in where that points even when it goes against our experience.

    Of course that doesn’t mean it’s true since it is ALSO only my experience and therefore anecdotal. What a conundrum!

  • Aj

    Fundie Troll,

    Of course we seek to understand. Why do atheists assume that those of faith “blindly” believe/accept doctrine and are not capable of critical thought? (I’m speaking of Christianity, I cannot speak for any other faith). Of course we question, and we wrestle with the same questions that atheists do. The difference is we believe that God is the ultimate authority, not man.

    Arguments for God revolve around arguments from ignorance like the fine-tuned universe or the teleological argument. I easily accept that people honestly accept these obviously fallacious arguments. That only gets you so far as a theistic god at most. So perhaps there’s cases where people are persuaded to be theists by logic in this way, even if it is fallacious. Saying there’s a theistic god doesn’t make a religion, it actually doesn’t say anything useful at all. Accepting a theistic god, no thoughts, intentions, or actions (apart from those believed to be designed) of that god follow from accepting that belief. You could only say “this god created the universe or life”, you can’t even say whether the god actually cares how it turns out.

    Other arguments from ignorance like the intelligent design argument deny evidence. These people have shown that they are denialists, they don’t honestly come to their beliefs on the matter. They freely admit that they are more concerned with the moral consequences than the truth. They have already committed themselves to the doctrine that the Bible is literally true.

    Atheists assume religious people blindly believe because they do. There’s no attempt at logic or gathering evidence behind the beliefs of Christianity. Christians don’t just believe in a deistic or theistic god, they believe a lot more. What are the arguments for the belief that the Bible contains the words of genuine prophets? The only people trying to justify Christian beliefs are Christians who have already accepted the authority of the Bible, therefore use circular arguments. Does anyone who is not a Christian suspect for a minute that the Bible stands up to the briefest of critical thought?

  • Keeley

    Yeah, there’s a lot of trouble with kids who ask quesitons in Sunday school…

    My mother taught Sunday school when I was growing ,up and as she was actually a teacher as well she had a reputation for being good at maintianing discipline, and thus was always assigned “problem” students with discipline issues when they reached Grade 6, which she taught.

    Invariably, they were kids who asked questions, and invariably she was impressed by their intelligence and really enjoyed having them in her classroom…

  • JimG

    I grew up being dragged to various Southern Baptist Sunday schools, but this was before the right-wing crazies took over, and the teachers and preachers were all pretty mild. They didn’t mind questions from kids, but they never had any answers either. This didn’t make them mad, but the baffled expressions on their faces gave me the first hint that something there was fundamentally (heh) wrong.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Fundie Troll

    Of course we seek to understand. Why do atheists assume that those of faith “blindly” believe/accept doctrine and are not capable of critical thought? (I’m speaking of Christianity, I cannot speak for any other faith). Of course we question, and we wrestle with the same questions that atheists do. The difference is we believe that God is the ultimate authority, not man.

    Thanks Fundie Troll. Phew, that’s good to hear. Why do we atheists assume that many Christians accept their faith blindly? Good question. I haven’t made that assumption which was why I asked the question. I do think that Christians take as a priori the claim that there is a god of some kind and then apply their own doctrinal views on top of that. I think that the questions that Christians apply are those that apply to Christianity and not the the a priori claim of deities. For an atheist like me the Christian claims are moot to begin with because the entire claim of a supernatural or even unknown but natural deity remains undemonstrated.

    For example a Christian may well question the global flood myth or the Garden of Eden myth. She may even question the historicity of Jesus. The assumption that “God exists” remains though.

    Of course Christians make up a huge and diverse group so my generalisation clearly won’t apply to everyone.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    There’s a church near me that hangs out a big banner that says “Doubters Welcome!” Knowing what kind of church it is, I’m skeptical of how open they are to actual questioning of their assertions.

    Of course we question, and we wrestle with the same questions that atheists do. The difference is we believe that God is the ultimate authority, not man.

    Huh. That suggests to me that we’re not wrestling with the same questions. If your answers involve the assumption of a specific deity, then we’re not asking the same questions at all.

  • http://snowbrush.blogspot.com/ Snowbrush

    I got nowhere asking questions that gave me the appearance of doubting the accepted dogma of the church that I grew up in. I think that, once a person starts asking such questions (in most churches anyway), he or she probably won’t be attending for much longer.


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