I Can’t Believe Christians Are Debating These Questions

I don’t know why, but I read the articles at Christianity Today. It’s helpful to see what the conversation is on that side of the world. Often, they throw out a question to a panel of guests and post their responses. That Christians offer a diverse array of responses isn’t surprising. What stuns me is the fact that the CT folks still feel like these questions are worthy of debates:

The Lord’s Prayer? The one that begins, “Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name”? The one that appears in the Bible? We’re debating if that’s Christian?!

How could anyone suggest otherwise?

“You could consider it a prayer for multiple religions, because Jesus is considered to be a rabbi or a great teacher by many of the world’s religions. It was not originally delivered as a Christian prayer; it was simply a teacher teaching his disciples a good way to pray.”

Clayton Schmit, professor, Fuller Theological Seminary

Right… I’m sure Hindus everywhere will begin reciting it immediately.

Then there’s this question:

What?! Let same-sex parents adopt a child?! But if we let that happen, then… then… then the parents will love the child unconditionally just like all other parents.

(For what it’s worth, the issue at hand is whether a Christian adoption agency should be able to discriminate if they get taxpayer money to run their agency.)

But let’s hear how some Christians “hate the sinner and the sin”:

… Christians should not stop their adoption and foster-care programs, but neither should they comply with laws that would force them to place children with same-sex couples. Christians should continue operating their charitable organizations according to their principles, and they should continue serving the least among us until the state coercively shuts them down.

They should do this because when Jesus commanded us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and care for the widow and orphan, he meant it. He meant it when he said we should love our neighbor, but he didn’t mean that we love them according to secularist liberal values or the dictates of the state. We should love them as Christ loves them.

– Editor of online publication Public Discourse Ryan T. Anderson

Jesus said love everyone! But those damn liberals think we should love everyone. We know better. Everyone is equal. Some are just more equal than others.

Again, I know there are many Christians who are rolling their eyes as they read those passages, too, but fact remains that these are questions being debated in the Christian community as if there’s a debate to be had.

Why anyone would continue to attend a church where the pastor preaches homophobia, I don’t know. Why anyone would support a church where the pastor just avoids the topic altogether, thus silently supporting bigotry, I don’t know. But the more of them who speak out, the faster the church will weed out the bigots.

Rachel Held Evans is a Christian trying to get the bigots to see the light, by posing the argument in strategic terms:

So my question for those evangelicals leading the charge in the culture wars is this: Is it worth it?

Is a political “victory” really worth losing millions more young people to cynicism regarding the Church?

Is a political “victory” worth further alienating people who identify as LGBT?

Is a political “victory” worth perpetuating the idea that evangelical Christians are at war with gays and lesbians?

And is a political “victory” worth drowning out that quiet but persistent internal voice that asks — what if we get this wrong?

Too many Christian leaders seem to think the answer to that question is “yes,” and it’s costing them.

As much as I wish Christians would listen to her, part of me wants them to just stand stubbornly against gay rights and push all those young Christians out of the church. It’d be tough for all those gay Christians, but they’re all better off outside that insidious faith.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

     Ms. Evans could have strengthened her argument by pointing out the many times  ernest Christians had made disastrous errors in judgement — slavery, Prohibition, the Earth centered universe, supporting Nazism, etc. 

    • http://twitter.com/SkeptimusPrime Dylan Walker

      Unfortunately, Christians will never admit that this happened.  In their minds all of the did these things weren’t real Christians anyway.

    • SomethingCompletelyDifferent

      The exact same arguments against gay marriage were also used against interracial marriage and using/writing with your left hand and the Christian church changed course on those. 

      I’m really waiting to see how the church keeps handling the GLBTQ rights issue.  As I see it, it could actually be a real undoing for them.  If god created everyone is his image, and we have increasing evidence that being gay is more strongly affected by nature/genetics than nurture/choice, that means that god created gay people.  If catholic popes have spent centuries directly stating that being gay is wrong, sinful, and an abomination, and what the pope says is bound in heaven (according to Jesus to Peter in the New Testament), doesn’t that mean that the pope has been directly contradicting god, meaning he isn’t infallible?  

      I’m probably taking this too far, but for me, this is the strongest evidence of no god.  

    • Pickle77

       A lot of Christians deny any involvement of the church in Nazism to the point of saying that Hitler was an atheist. My father-in-law is one of them and no matter how much evidence you give him to the contrary, he will not believe otherwise.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger/featured GodVlogger (on YouTube)

       Yes, but even more interesting is that christianity is doing so WELL, even in SPITE of having been on the wrong side of slavery, Nazi’s, helio-centric model of the universe, witch-burning, etc.

      It is remarkable that the religion is so resilient. But maybe in the modern era of the internet, online newpaper archives, online YouTube videos, etc., giving easy access to the current bigotry against gay…. just maybe this issue will be tougher for christianity to shake when 20 years from now most christian churches will be trying to say that christianity was leading the fight for LGBT rights, loving ALL of god’s children, or however they will be trying to spin it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Reed/692599362 Paul Reed

    Regarding the first question, I agree it at first glance seems bizarre, but I think they were going for “Is it *solely* Christian?” and the response quoted actually makes some good points. Mormons and Muslims also venerate Jesus, so by extension the Lord’s Prayer could be seen as a Mormon and Muslim prayer too.
    Also, Jesus – if he existed – wasn’t a Christian, he would have been a Jew.
    Point being: people other than Christians use the Lords Prayer.
    The question could have been worded better, sure, but it’s hardly worthy of incredulity when you understand what they’re getting at.

    • http://twitter.com/jablomih Haywood

       It also doesn’t mention Christ anywhere. I’m not aware of any non-Christians using it,

      • jdm8

        What it says really narrows down to Christianity though. Jews generally don’t believe in heaven like that, nor do they follow Jesus. I doubt a Muslim would find the prayer acceptable. The idea of a single god and maybe heaven goes against what polytheists believe. Making a prayer central to Cristianity “not Christian” is really stretching plausibility. Other religions don’t have the same concept of sins.

      • Freak

        The colors red and white aren’t exclusively owned by anyone, but if there’s, say a baseball-related event, and there’s a lot of objects with that color scheme, I think most people would take it as a sign that the event was Cardinals territory.

      • Onamission5

        Except not many if any other religions use the peculiar combination of Father, Lord, and Heaven when praying to their deities the way christians do.  Nor do they necessarily believe that their deity’s kingdom will come to earth, nor are they always monotheistic as the prayer specifies. It’s a christian prayer in wording alone, never mind that it’s taken directly from the bible.

        • Onamission5

          NT at that.

    • Satia Renee

      One more point to consider is that the first time this prayer appears in the Bible is when Jesus himself is teaching his followers how to pray.  Doesn’t that mean it predates Christianity?  Yes, it is used and oft repeated by Christians but that doesn’t define it as a Christian prayer any more than their using the Old Testament defines it as a Christian text.  

    • Stev84

      A Muslim would never pray to Jesus or the Christian god though, no matter how highly regarded he is as some kind of prophet

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Reed/692599362 Paul Reed

         Replace “Our Father” with “Merciful Allah” and you’re not far off

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    Take it to Court

    Lynne Marie Kohm is a professor of family law at Regent University and author of several books and articles on family and marriage.

    Mandates requiring foster-care agencies to work with same-sex couples are unconstitutional, so rather than closing, foster-care agencies faced with such mandates should fight the requirements in court.

    Such mandates are designed to close agencies and make them recoil and plead under political pressure; they are designed to drive faith from the public square and from children. They are bad for children and un-American.

    Okay, I realize it’s Pat Robertson’s university, but how can a professor on law actually think a “keeping me from discriminating is discrimination!” defense is legally viable?

    • http://twitter.com/SkeptimusPrime Dylan Walker

       Well I suspect they would argue that this discrimination is based upon their religion and thus protected by the first amendment.

      • LifeInTraffic

        And, of course, if this is true then it is also true that if I belonged to an organization of faith that said black people weren’t human (it wasn’t that long ago that this was also a “real” belief), the adoption agency that organization ran wouldn’t have to adopt to black people. Or that people who wore mixed fabrics were sinners, we wouldn’t have to adopt to anyone who had the wrong clothing in their closet (biblical). Or, if they ate pork (biblical, and would eliminate many people who weren’t vegetarian, Jewish, or Muslim, at which point Xtians would cry to the rafters about how frickin’ unfair and bigoted that was). 

        This kind of shit makes my head hurt. Bigotry shouldn’t be protected because it’s a religious belief.  I have no idea how our first amendment has been so twisted, but it makes me deeply nauseous.

        • Tinker

          I am old enough to remember when Mormons believed black people carried the ‘Mark of Cain’. Their ‘Living Prophet’ had a ‘Revelation’ and now if you ask a Mormon, they have never heard of that. They actually deny that it ever existed.

    • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

      Such mandates are designed to close agencies and make them recoil and plead under political pressure; they are designed to drive faith from the public square and from children.

      I’ve seen this claim before, and it drives me nuts. Laws about contraception coverage and same-sex couples adopting couldn’t possibly have anything to do with evidence about women’s health or about not being discriminatory. Those aren’t considerations at all. It’s all about the Christians!

  • Pete084

    Let them carry on their downward spiral into oblivion, with the Catholic church leading the baying pack. The Vatican would make a good museum to human foolishness after the last pope hangs up his gilded hat.

  • Annette

    When I was a Christian, I used to love Christianity Today.  Now, as an atheist, I go back and try to read sometimes, or I check the Her Meneutics blog and my stomach roils.  I thought these magazines were for educated, highbrow, thoughtful Christians. I still think so, really.  But this is as far as they can get in their thinking :(  

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rocky-Morrison/100001552602936 Rocky Morrison

      Why is this blog still called The “Friendly” Atheist.

      Mehta, you have even admitted in earlier posts that the title is not accurate.

      And yet you use it still.

      It looks Willfully Dishonest at this point.

      • Atheist144

        Actually, he’s being down right friendly and nice considering what he could post about some of these stories. I sure as hell wouldn’t be able to be so nice when it comes to reporting and commenting on the endless atrocities commited in the name religion.

      • rhodent

        It’s called an artifact title.  Do you also write letters to the History channel complaining about their non-history shows, to the estate of Douglas Adams complaining about the fourth and fifth books of the Hitchhiker Trilogy, to the producers of Survivor complaining about contestants being called “castaways” even in seasons that aren’t set on islands, to Billboard magazine complaining that they abandoned the billboard-advertising industry over a century ago, to Billy DeBeck complaining that Barney Google almost never appears in “Barney Google and Snuffy Smith”, to the Big Ten Conference for having twelve teams, to GEICO (short got Government Employee Insurance COmpany) for selling to non-government employees, or to Motel 6 for charging more than six dollars a night?

        Or, as I suspect, do you single this blog out for this sort of whinging?  And if so, why?

      • Onamission5

        Friendly does not mean being a door mat.
        Friendly does not mean uncritical.
        Friendly does not mean vapid, or undiscerning, or allowing bigotry and  injustice to go unchallenged.

        If christians can claim that they love sinners but hate sins while drafting legislation to remove basic rights from an entire segment of the population, then surely an atheist can criticize certain parts of religious belief and still be a friendly person. Which is the greater offense, which is less friendly, voicing disagreement with dogma or  attempting to force the whole country to follow one set of religious beliefs?

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        s’ok, a lot of people call themselves ‘Christian’ while lots of other people who claim to be Christian claim that the other people are’t really Christian, but everybody seems to keep using the word even though a lot of them can’t agree on what means.  So, wait, where was I?

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        I read “friendly” as “civil”; you apparently read it as “obsequious”.

      • http://northierthanthou.com/ northierthanthou

         I wonder what it would take to count as friendly in your book.

      • Baby_Raptor

        Someone saying something you dislike doesn’t automatically make them unfriendly. They have to actually be rude for that, and our esteemed host has been far from rude. 

      • Lucilius

        Make you a deal, Rocky: Maybe Hemant will reconsider his title if you’ll change your screen name to “Sanctimonious Troll.”

    • Lee Miller

      Oh, me too, Annette.  I was a subscriber to CT for many years, and thought it was full of insight and intellectual stimulation (as well as inspiration).  Now as an atheist I’m finding I have what I call “vampire syndrome”–I can’t read any of it without recoiling, almost physically.  Even if I’m curious to see what CT is saying, or for example if I want to see what a passage in the Bible says, I can almost not make myself do it. 

      The thing I truly puzzle about, though, is how I so sincerely deceived myself all those years in the church. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/funnybroad Julie Watson

    “Jesus said love everyone! But those damn liberals think we should love everyone. We know better. Everyone is equal. Some are just more equal than others.”   LOL!!! Great blog post!

  • mikespeir

    Uh-huh.  And which teacher was “simply .. teaching his disciples a good way to pray”?  Christ, was it?  Of Christianity fame?  Sheesh!

  • Stev84

    Technically, Christianity is just a sect of Judaism

    • Ibis3

      That’s a bit simplistic. I’d say that it is rather a Hellenistic Neoplatonist mystery cult partially derived from a sect of Judaism and informed by Roman ritual, iconography, liturgy, and legal ideology, with a top coat of Germanic feudalism and Christmas trees.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001627228091 Alexander Ryan

        Yeah, don’t forget the Christmas Trees. Because “Holiday Tree” is offensive and an affront to their religion and something that totally justifies public outrage.

      • Sindigo

        I’m quoting you on this one. I may change “mystery cult” to “death cult” though. ;)

  • SomethingCompletelyDifferent

    I, too, read the “other side.”  I am a pro-choice, pro-gay, atheistic, liberal Democrat, but I get news feeds from Fox politics and the Drudge report. I’m usually blind with rage by the time I’m done reading, but I want to know what they think.  It’s only fair to know both sides before disagreeing. 

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    This reflects the empty heritage of Christianity (and many other religions as well). Christians have been arguing over angels and pinheads for centuries. In the absence of any real substance, what else is there to do? And the arguments have always been silly. Even the great “thinkers” like Thomas Aquinas, seen by Catholics as their greatest philosopher, were basically just eloquent idiots, unable to justify any of their ideas with reason.

    It’s sad, really, the vast wasteland of human intellect that has been created, and continues to be created, by these churches.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      To play God’s advocate for a sec, “the True(tm) definition of ‘atheist’” is likely to generate a lot more flame than angels on the head of  a pin these days.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1078695333 David Kopp

        Really? I’m not aware of any atheists that think atheism is anything other than lacking belief in a deity. There are often a lot of other beliefs and such that ride along, but those don’t define you as an atheist. Maybe as a humanist or a decent person, but not an atheist. Atheism is simply the lack of belief in gods, and that’s not really controversial.

    • http://etratio.blogspot.com/ linford86

       In point of fact, there is no historical evidence that there ever was a theological or philosophical debate over how many angels fit on the head of a pin. This appears to have simply been a later, libellous attack on medieval scholasticism.

      Furthermore, Aquinas did use the argumentative standards of his day, inherited from Aristotle. To this end, he certainly did use reason. The idea that he was “basically just [an] eloquent idiot” is rather poor scholarship. He was a woefully ill-informed genius working to the best of his ability with the information then available. Unfortunately, he was also simply wrong about a great number of things.

      So that I am not mistaken for a theist troll, I want to mention that I am, indeed, an atheist.

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        I realize that the “angels on pinheads” example is an attack on religious scholasticism. That’s how I was using it! (And I fail to see what makes it libelous.)

        Aquinas did use some arguments and argument styles of Aristotle. But not all, and he certainly did not make use of all the argument styles that were in use by 13th century philosophers.

        He may have had the equipment of a genius, but he was hobbled by his theology- the same sort of hobbling that I see ruining minds all over the world to this day. Aquinas generated virtually nothing of intellectual value. Who knows what he might have achieved had he been born today where he could have easily been an atheist, or even had he been born into the Arab world of his day, which had not yet allowed religious dogmatism to seriously hinder intellectual inquiry?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000434302335 Michael Connor

      Exactly.  But most older branches of christianity, esp. catholicism, consider these arguments as settled and those on the opposing side as heretics.  In the past, non-conformity on these issues could be quickly and perhaps violently corrected.  That option no longer exists and the arguments didn’t just go away.
      Since they never satisfactorily settled their internal problems, they are destined to repeat them.  Without the ability to purge and censure there will be schism and apostasy.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger/featured GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    Re: The LGBTQ community…. they are bearing the brunt of LOTS of religion-based (myth-based) bias against them. But secular ethics of fairness and treating others well is a tide that will leave the religious bigots in the dust, albeit not soon enough.

    In most ways of course I hate to see LGBTQ folks bearing the brunt of this bigotry. But if I momentarily ignore the immorality of such anti-LGBTQ bigotry, I must admit that such bigotry is no doubt helping many casual believers to realize that their religions are just dead wrong on this topic, and thus probably wrong on many others, and not worthy of unwavering support, and there starts the loosening of religions’ grip on the sheep.

    As a straight, married guy, I don’t directly suffer from anti-LGBT bigotry. The burden they bear helps advance the pro-reason, pro-secular causes that I support. It’s SYMBIOTIC, really, since secular morality helps advance LGBT rights, and seeing the sufferings of LGBT folks helps more people (including heterosexuals) to embrace secular (rather than religious) world views.

  • Ken

    I like it a lot when they begin discussing the exact nature of the trinity: three in one, three separate in one, one divided into three parts, one not divided but somehow really three, etc.  It keeps them busy.

  • http://northierthanthou.com/ northierthanthou

    “We should love them as Christ loves them.” …i.e. not at all!

    • Coyotenose

       Not at all, because he’s dead?

  • http://myatheistlife.wordpress.com/ myatheistlife

    RHE seems only to be asking if it is worth sticking to the Christian dogma when so many people have seen through to the truth. Can’t we all just create a new softer Christianity, rewrite the Bible thing, and actually really be kind and compassionate to other people?

    This is what it sounds like when religion dies ……

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Margaret-Whitestone/100001682409207 Margaret Whitestone

    “Jesus said love everyone! But those damn liberals think we should love everyone. We know better. Everyone is equal. Some are just more equal than others.”

    There’s a special chapter found only in Fundie Bibles.  It tells them which people Jesus said weren’t included in “everyone”. 

  • banana slug

    I thought I remembered seeing an Egyptian version of the lord’s prayer that predated jesus (so not just a translation).  It wasn’t exactly the same, but had a similar structure, wording,  and sentiments.  Anyone else seen this or know what I’m thinking of?

  • DG

    Yeah, I can’t believe that Christians ask such things, when they can just think the way all freethinkers apparently think and be done with it. 

  • Sindigo

    Of course they have to debate these trivialities (at least the first one about the Lord’s prayer). It distracts them from having the debate that is at the very centre of their world-view; i.e: is any of this actually true? 
    Theology and the interpretation of religious texts has developed around this idea of distracting us from questioning the most basic tenet of religion.

    To me, these sort of debates seem like a perfect example of the kind of displacement activity that we have all engaged in at one time or another. From surfing the internet when our mid-term paper is due to the “one last go” at  Angry birds when we should really be heading to bed.

    How can the religious even study Theology anyway? How often are we told that we shouldn’t “question the mind of God”? The implication being that his ways are just too mysterious for us to understand anyway. Surely Theology is doing just that.

  • Natalyusha

    Dearest Hemant, it is very interesting to read like you said “the conversation on that side of the world”! Your post is exactly that for me. Thank you so much for sharing your point of view. I find it it is very intersting that you read christian sources because most atheists I know read only atheist books. However, I believe that to know the true side of “that side of the world” you need to go to the true source which is the Bible. If that’s what you are trying to discredit, at least you need to refer to it! :)  I believe there are no perfect people (even among christians). Church is “a hospital for broken souls” and not a place that is full of perfect people. Therefore you can’t judge what christianity is all about by seeing few chirstians or reading some of their posts.

    P.S. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

  • Lauraccc

    As a lesbian Catholic I can say you have it all wrong.  Christianity is not about hating gays, its not even about loving the sinner but hating the sin.  The people you saw who want to condemn lesbians are the same ones who three hundred years ago (or less) were burning down black folks houses just because they could.  Judge them on their actions, not on their acclaimed religion.  Because they are NOT what Christianity is about.  They are the ones who are despised far more than any lesbian or gay man.  Do not think that just because they shout the loudest means they’re the only voice out there.  The rest of us are just too educated and mature to care whether or not a person is gay so have nothing to say either way because it matters so little.


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