The Christian Church Won’t Become More Inclusive… and That’s Good for All of Us

Dannika Nash is the college student who wrote the very-viral “open letter to the church from my generation.” She basically said that the Christian church was pushing young people away because of how the institution treats gay people.

It was such a powerful and controversial piece that the Christian summer camp she was scheduled to work at fired her.

Dannika Nash (Jay Pickthorn – Argus Leader)

More recently, I posted a response from Dannika to a conservative Christian’s attempted takedown of her arguments. (Spoiler: He lost that battle.)

Anyway, a lot has happened to Dannika over the past couple of months. She’s still a Christian and she still supports LGBT equality, but she’s learned four very important lessons:

  1. The Church must make room for progressive thinking.
  2. We cannot keep treating other religions the way we do.
  3. There are an astounding amount of Christians who are changing things.
  4. We have to stick it out.

Read her post because she goes into more depth for each item. I think she makes a lot of sense with all her points… but I have a bit of a quibble with that first one.

Dannika writes:

Conservative Christianity has become an exclusive club that treats its progressive sisters and brothers as wild-eyed hippies, and outcasts them. Don’t believe me? Mention Rob Bell’s name in any midwestern after-service coffee conversation and watch the reactions. If the church wishes to include my generation at large in the future, it must learn to make room for the different kind of thinking that is already thriving on the fringes.

She’s right — Christianity is going to implode very soon. If it wants to survive a much larger fallout, it’s going to have to make room for moderate Republicans, the Religious Left, people who think abortion is wrong but think women should make their own decisions about it, LGBT individuals and allies who believe in Jesus, and pretty much everyone under the age of 20.

But this is where my evil side kicks in and I confess that I hope Dannika’s wish doesn’t come true.

Because I don’t think the Christian Church (especially the powerful evangelical wing) is capable of expanding its tent. I’m counting on the current leaders’ bigotry and stubbornness to remain strong and steady for decades to come. While younger Christians may be more progressive, I don’t think they’re going to take over the brand anytime soon. But that’s a great thing. They’ll have to create their own churches and find their own leaders. Meanwhile, conservative Christians will still be around, but their numbers will dwindle.

That’s when we’ll finally be able to get shit done.

(True story that somewhat relates to this: When I ran for Class President in high school my junior year, I was up against a football player. Not good. But then a cheerleader jumped in the race, the two of them split all the popular kids’ votes, and I won. YEAH!)

I want to see a fractured Christian church. I dream of seeing a fractured Christian church. A thousand Christian voices going in all different directions means there’s no reliable voting bloc capable of pushing bad Biblically-based ideas into law (which happens far too often right now).

It also means our community (atheists, Humanists, etc) will have to get over our own prejudices and do some interfaith outreach, reaching out to progressive Christians on major social issues since they’re far closer to us than they are with their conservative counterparts. By doing that, we’ll be able to pass more meaningful legislation without getting bogged down by the conservatives who think the Bible should trump the Constitution in our democracy.

So my message to Dannika would be this: Forget trying to make the current Christian Church more inclusive. The current leaders don’t want that and the next generation of leaders would be better off doing their own thing, anyway. In a decade or so, the balance of power will shift.

While I’d love to see people leave Christianity entirely, let’s face it, that’s not gonna happen. Having a more powerful progressive Christian community, though, would be a very welcome sight.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • ggsillars

    In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith wrote about the desirability of having many different religious sects. His reasoning was that then, no one of them would be likely to be strong enough to impose its views on others.
    Also, during the Cold War, a French Minister of Culture wrote: “I love Germany so much, I’m glad there are two.”

  • busterggi

    Cheez-Whiz Hermant! There are already more than 20,000 various Christian sects and that doesn’t count Voodoo or Mormonism – splitting up has never stopped Christianity, or any other Abrahamic religion, from being a force for oppression and bigotry.

    • SecularPatriot

      I remember when Catholics and Mormons came together to fund Proposition 8 campaigns in California.

      What brings Christians to overcome their mutual skepticism of the other versions of Christianity? The icky icky gay people.

      • doug105

        I think they started calling themselves Christian’s en mass over abortion after a long history of hating each other, I can still remember as kid being preached too about the Mormon’s, Catholic’s, and any other non-Baptist going to hell.

    • Pseudonym

      There are already more than 20,000 various Christian sects and that doesn’t count Voodoo or Mormonism [...]

      I think you’ve just disproven Hemant’s point by showing that “The Chrisitan Church” changes all the time.

      Unless, of course, you define “The Christian Church” as US fundamentalist evangelical protestantism. US fundamentalist evangelical protestants would probably agree with you there.

  • JET

    I could not possibly agree more.
    Not a day goes by without some Christian supremacist making a complete and utter fool of him/herself. The more publicity their shenanigans get, the more people will see them as the fools they are. The Tea Party’s goal was to take over the Republican party, but instead, they are destroying it from within by alienating most of their potential voters.
    Their days are numbered. All we need to do is continue giving them the negative publicity they so richly deserve. (And a lawsuit or two when they cross over the line.) Then just sit back and watch. Please pass the popcorn…

  • GCT

    It also means our community (atheists, Humanists, etc) will have to get over our own prejudices and do some interfaith outreach, reaching out to progressive Christians on major social issues since they’re far closer to us than they are with their conservative counterparts.

    What prejudices?

    And, doesn’t this already happen? And, when it does, aren’t we routinely slapped down by these so-called progressive Xians?

    • ortcutt

      Aren’t there enough secular progressive groups (Civil Rights groups, Women’s Rights groups, Gay Rights groups, Economic Justice groups, Labor organizations, the Democratic Party, etc…) already? Why wouldn’t I reach out to progressives as progressives rather than as progressive Christians? Why do people always want to make religion or the lack thereof someone’s defining characteristic.

      • GCT

        It seems like you’re agreeing with me? Atheists don’t seem to be the ones making an issue of the religion of others. Theists are the ones who either tend to refuse to work with atheists, ignore us, downplay our involvement, and/or take all the credit.

        • ortcutt

          I’m somewhat agreeing. I don’t think progressive Christians are always disdainful of the non-religious (some are, some aren’t), but I don’t see why Hemant wants to frame social issues through a religious lens at all.

          • GCT

            Just to clarify, I wasn’t saying that all progressive Xians are always this or that.

            I think what Hemant is getting at is instances like the Boston Marathon remembrance service that was supposed to be interfaith, but explicitly excluded atheists. He may think that progressive Xians will turn the tide and start to include us more, but I disagree.

            • ortcutt

              The Boston Remembrance thing irritates me slightly, but only because I think these things should be civic events and not “interfaith”. We’ve lost a sense of the civic in this country. As for progressive churches, like the UUs, UCC, Episcopalians, etc…, I’m benignly indifferent. They do some positive things for the community. I generally think of them as harmless social clubs that I happen to not belong to, not significantly different from the Elks or the Rotary.

              • GCT

                We’re mostly in agreement. I would only point out that the UUs do have an anti-atheist streak in their hierarchy.

  • Sven2547

    There is certainly a degree of schadenfreude watching Christian infighting at a high level, but when it gets personal, and people lose jobs or friends or family, it is an ugly thing.

    Friction between different Christian denominations is the elephant in the room when blustery conservatives claim that America is a “Christian nation” and our laws should be based on Christian traditions. Even if you accept that (deeply, deeply flawed) claim, you must reconcile the fact that there are a heck of a lot of different Christian moral traditions.

    For example: most Americans who oppose marriage equality are Christians. Most people who support marriage equality are also Christians. Most Americans who oppose women’s reproductive choices are Christians, and most Americans who support women’s choices are also Christians. Same for the death penalty and immigration reform and dozens of other issues. Yet these evangelical idiots have fooled themselves into thinking there’s only one “Christian” approach to governance.

    • GCT

      Although this is true, Xians are much more likely to oppose equality than atheists.

      Additionally, although I agree with the idea that it’s impossible to discern who really has god’s interpretation on any issue, I find it very difficult to defend marriage equality using the Xian scriptures. It’s true that some Xians have picked and chosen specific verses that they can try to read out of context to support the contention that it’s OK to be gay, but the Bible clearly is not pro-gay.

      • Sven2547

        Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that the most-literal most-fundamentalist flavor of a religion is the “truest” form of that religion.

        • GCT

          Like I said, how does one discern what god’s interpretation is? But, you can’t deny that the Bible is anti-equality. In a lot of ways, I think that the fundamentalist flavor is certainly more Biblical than other flavors.

        • Anna

          I don’t think one form is “truer” than any other, but I honestly don’t think the pro-gay Christians have a leg to stand on when it comes to the Bible. Why on earth would anyone assume that the men who wrote those scriptures (coming out of that time and that culture) would have supported marriage equality? Everything they had to say on the matter of sex was backwards and regressive. I can’t imagine why homosexuality would be any different.

          If Christians support marriage equality, it shouldn’t be because they think the Bible supports marriage equality. It should be because they realize that the homophobia of the Bible is unacceptable, much as they have realized that the sexist and pro-slavery verses are unacceptable.

          • JET

            I think many young progressives that still identify as Christians have never even read the Bible. They go to church because it is tradition in their families and they like the socialization, or they don’t even bother to go to church. At least in my (admittedly very liberal) part of the U.S., young Christians have gay friends, live together before marriage, use birth control and snicker at fundamentalist anything. Perhaps they are not “true Christians”, but I’m willing to accept progress wherever I can find it.

            • Anna

              I would count those people more as cultural Christians. Plenty of children are raised with a loose affiliation with a denomination. Those people may not be religious and only identify as Methodist, Presbyterian, etc. because it’s their family’s tradition. They’re not the type to read the Bible or be concerned about what’s in it, and they support their gay friends for entirely secular reasons.

              These people are a far cry from the young evangelicals (like Dannika) wrestling with this issue. The Christians who are actually concerned with the Bible are the ones we need to try to win over to our side.

            • Pseudonym

              By using the phrase “true Christians”, even in scare quotes, you are expressing an opinion that some forms of Christianity are more “true” than others.

              • Space Cadet

                “True Christian” stems from the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. It’s used so often by Christians, literally using the phrase True Christian, that it has become a meme. “Person X must not be a True Christian, because a True Christian wouldn’t do such a thing.” When used by the non-religious it’s to mock the notion that there is such a thing as True Christianity. I believe that was the context in which JET used the phrase.

                • Pseudonym

                  I thought JET may have meant it that way, but there was an apparent comparison with “progressives that still identify as Christians”, which seemed to indicate a partial agreement with the idea that there is such a thing as “true Christian”.

          • Art_Vandelay

            Here’s the problem though…if you’re rational enough to determine that the homophobia, sexism, and pro-slavery verses are unacceptable; you’re rational enough to determine that child sacrifice is not a gift but an act as morally reprehensible as anything else you condemn in that book. The problem is, then they couldn’t call themselves Christian and reap all of the social advantages that come with being in a large majority. They’ve eschewed religious doctrine for humanist values only where it’s convenient and meanwhile they serve as ammunition for the true oppressors. There’s nothing rebellious or even honest about progressive Christians. It’s not truth that they seek…it’s affirmation.

            • Anna

              I don’t know. The liberal Christians seem to be doing a pretty good job of lauding child sacrifice while still saying they’re firmly against sexism and homophobia. I can’t figure out their compartmentalization process. Some things (in their eyes) are obviously wrong or mythical, and other things aren’t, and they’ve somehow determined which is which by…er… how exactly?

            • kaydenpat

              What child sacrifice are you referring to?

              • Anna

                I’m not Art, but presumably he means Jesus.

                Of course, there’s also Abraham and Isaac as another reprehensible example of child sacrifice. Are any of these moderate and liberal Christians condemning that story?

              • Art_Vandelay

                Jesus?

          • Pseudonym

            I don’t think one form is “truer” than any other, but I honestly don’t think the pro-gay Christians have a leg to stand on when it comes to the Bible.

            If you don’t think that one form is “truer” than any other, why is the fundamentalist approach to the Bible is the only one that a Christian can reasonably take?

            You don’t believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of a classical monotheistic deity. Why insist that Christians do the same?

            • Anna

              Again? You post this constantly, and I’ve answered before. I don’t think the fundamentalist approach to the Bible is the only one that a Christian can reasonably take, nor do I think that it’s the moral one to take.

              I simply don’t understand why anyone thinks the men who wrote the Bible would have approved of same-sex marriage. We know they were incredibly misogynistic. We know they took a dim view of sex in general. Why on earth would Christians believe they would have approved of men marrying men and women marrying women?

              If Christians support same-sex marriage it should be because they realize the Bible gets a lot of things wrong when it comes to human sexuality, just the Bible got things wrong regarding the role of women, slavery, etc.

              • Pseudonym

                I wouldn’t keep mentioning it if it didn’t keep being repeated.

                I simply don’t understand why anyone would think the men who wrote the Bible would have approved of same-sex marriage.

                Of course they wouldn’t. They lived 2000-3000 years ago. Apart from one possible example in Zhou Dynasty China, there has not been any nation which had a legally for same-sex unions.

                While we’re on the topic, the men who wrote the US Constitution wouldn’t have approved of women voting, either.

                If Christians support same-sex marriage it should be because they realize the Bible gets a lot of things wrong when it comes to human sexuality is wrong, just the Bible got things wrong regarding the role of women, slavery, etc.

                Oh, it looks like we had a misunderstanding. It seems like we actually agree.

                • Anna

                  Well, good, then we’re on the same page. It’s only the people who claim the Bible is pro-gay that confuse me. I understand the Christians who acknowledge that parts of the Bible are wrong or outdated.

                • Pseudonym

                  It’s only the people who claim the Bible is pro-gay that confuse me.

                  Right. That’s just as wrong as the claim that the Bible says that marriage is between one man and one woman.

                  In reality, the Bible doesn’t speak with one voice on many topics of modern interest. In particular, it is neither pro-gay nor anti-gay, since the concept of sexual orientation is a concept that was developed long after it was written.

                  Some biblical authors were against certain sexual practices. Most of those actually have understandable explanations (e.g. the injunctions in Leviticus appear to be specifically targeted at religious practices). However, it’s also true that no biblical author had anything nice to say about intimate same-sex relationships.

                • Anna

                  Well, considering the time period and the culture, I would indeed be surprised if the authors had anything nice to say about same-sex relationships. I’d say they seemed to have a problem with lots of different aspects of human sexuality, not just homosexuality.

                  I think one could safely assume that the writers had a problem with sex between men and (to a lesser extent) sex between women. Just the same as they had a problem with men and women having sex outside the strict boundaries of the society in which they lived. There wouldn’t be anything surprising about that. It really only becomes a problem when people assume the Bible has anything important to say about the sexual and romantic lives of modern people.

                • Pseudonym

                  You think? I would think that the Bible has a lot that’s important to say about modern sexual and romantic lives, just like Heliodorus of Emesa, Charlotte Turner Smith, or William Shakespeare.

                • Anna

                  I can’t imagine using the Bible as a guide for sexual morality. There’s certainly some nice love poetry in there, as there is in Shakespeare, but I don’t think people should be deciding when/how/with whom they have sex based on what they read in the Bible (or Shakespeare, or any other book).

            • Art_Vandelay

              What’s the least amount of things someone can believe about the bible and still be considered a Christian? If you think the “word of God” is full of errors, how do you determine what’s true and what is not?

              • Pseudonym

                You’ve asked a few questions here, and nothing short of an essay would do it justice. Here’s the short version:

                1. What’s the least amount of things someone can believe about the bible and still be considered a Christian?

                If I’m parsing the subtext of the question correctly, I think you might have it exactly backwards. The more you know about some topic, the more there is to have an opinion on. So someone who believes the least possible number of things about some topic is, by definition, the most ignorant about it.

                So if you want to find someone who is generally considered “Christian” but believes the least about the Bible, I’d be looking at the most ignorant Christians you can find. Fundamentalists would seem to fit the bill here.

                2. If you think the “word of God” is full of errors, how do you determine what’s true and what is not?

                I assuming you’re using the phrase “word of God” to refer to the Bible. This is something that the Bible itself does not do. In some parts of the Bible (e.g. a few places in the letters of Paul) the author explicitly denied that they are “word of God”, or even inerrant.

                As for how you determine what’s true and what is not, the short answer is “research”. In fact, most of the tools used by modern scholars on analysing ancient texts were developed by theologians to study the biblical texts.

    • Jason Hinchliffe

      I think his point is seeing Christians fractured along exclusive lines. Yes we have a 1000 denominations, but they almost all agree gay marriage is bad. If you had a larger population that identified as progressive that held incompatible beliefs with conservative Christians they would likely sweep up much of the younger generation. Also, it would be that much more difficult for the conservative voice to represent itself as the authoritative voice of the theistic community without serious push-back from within.

  • ortcutt

    “I want to see a fractured Christian church. I dream of seeing a fractured Christian church.”

    I don’t really understand this statement. The one thing that Christianity in the United States can never be described as is united, doctrinally, organizationally, anything. There are THOUSANDS of denominations, forming a nearly continuous spectrum of opinions, worship styles, etc…. What she’s really talking about in this article is conservative (mainly Evangelical) Christianity. Will conservative Christianity moderate or will it lose a significant percentage of young people? I don’t think they will moderate because the true believers see themselves as warriors against “The Culture”. OK, fine. Ms. Nash will probably start attending a more progressive church, either a Mainline one or a more progressive evangelical-style one like Rob Bell’s. Good for her. I think these progressive churches are just as factually wrong as the conservative ones, but they are significantly less harmful to people’s lives.

    • Autumn Treadwell

      Well said! Geesh, who *doesn’t* know that there is no such thing as “The Christian Church” – and that there NEVER has been?

      • Pseudonym

        Actually, there kind of is. Christianity, the major world religion, is actually a network of ecumenical organisations and communions. Specific traditions have their own organisation, such as the Anglican Communion, the Baptist World Alliance, the World Methodist Council and so on. Most countries which have a critical mass of Christians have a local organisation (e.g. the National Council of Churches in the US), and these usually have membership in the World Council of Churches.

        The reason why I bring this up is that the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest church in the US and probably the most notable example of the kind of fundamentalist we’re talking about (and has been for almost 40 years now), is not a member of any of these organisations. It withdrew from the last one, the Baptist World Alliance, in 2004.

        So to the extent that there is such a thing as “The Christian Church”, US fundamentalist protestantism seems to be voluntarily withdrawing from it. I appreciate the honesty of this.

  • Frank

    Meanwhile Christianity is growing and growing much to the chagrin of those that reject it. Can’t stop it but certainly feel free to waste time, money and energy trying.

    • JET

      I don’t think Christianity is growing at all. A number of polls show that it actually is not. It’s just that the fundamentalist Christians are getting louder and louder. I think that Hemant’s point (at least as I read it) is that the more progressive Christians are secular. Since we’re never going to be able to eliminate religion entirely, secular is good.

      • baal

        “so it’s not such a big deal.”
        Tell that to the panicking religionists in the U.S.

    • DavidMHart

      Firstly, you don’t know that we can’t stop the growth of Christianity. It’s certainly worth a go, just like stopping the growth of Islam, or Scientology, or free-market fundamentalism or any other reality-deficient utopian ideology is worth a go.

      Secondly, Christianity is emphatically not growing in the industrialised West. It’s already a marginal concern in large parts of Europe, and indeed in significant chunks of North America too. If Christianity is growing globally, it is doing so by

      a) swallowing up smaller, local superstitions, and

      b) coming in to fill the void in places like China or Russia where there was, or still is, a government-sponsored rival reality-deficient utopian ideology in place (and where the stats on who claims to be a Christian are likely to be skewed, or to have been skewed, by the likelihood of state repression for being an ‘out’ member of any reality-deficient utopian ideology other than the government-sponsored one).

      However, consistently we find that as people’s material condition improves, and as their level of education improves, religion becomes less important in their lives, and less plausible. You name me one country in the world where the population have largely become secularized through the spread of education and secular though where Christianity is making significant increases (as opposed to a country where people have become secularized by government fiat).

      On average, the better-educated someone is, the lower their probability of being a Christian (or a member of any other religion). Sure, we probably won’t ever see a world completely free of Christianity – we haven’t even been able to achieve a world free of belief in astrology, or witchcraft, or Zeus worship. But all of those are marginal concerns in the West, and we can relegate Christianity to the same status, eventually, by spreading education with a strong component of critical thinking around the world, and by designing our social and economic systems so that as many people as possible have good cause to expect to live a well-educated, long, healthy, happy and fulfilling life in this world. This is a challenge, to be sure, but one that is definitely worth wasting our time, money and energy trying.

      • Frank

        As I said good luck with that. You’ll need it.

        • DavidMHart

          Yes, we will. But I really don’t understand why you seem to think it is futile to even try to work towards a less superstition-riddled, more informed, more compasionate world.

          • Baby_Raptor

            Because that’s the exact opposite of what he wants. He wants everyone worshiping his sky daddy.

            • DavidMHart

              Naturally. But I’m still curious as to what his evidence is that a broad, sustained campaign to reduce the importance of Christianity to something like the current status of witchcraft-belief or astrology is a priori doomed to failure. It happened to Zeus, it happened to Wotan, it happened to Ahura Mazda; why should we presuppose it couldn’t happen to Biblegod too?

        • cipher

          Don’t worry, Frank. Life is short, and soon we’ll all be in hell, tortured mercilessly for all eternity, while you, Jesus and Dubya will watch from a balcony in heaven and laugh and laugh… .

          Just think of all the pleasure it will give you.

        • Matt D

          Now that the internet keeps fanatics from torturing and murdering dissenters, or even knowing who they are anymore….luck is unecessary.

    • Sven2547

      Unsurprisingly, it’s growing fastest in the places with the least access to information. “Ignorance is strength” indeed.
      Make perfect sense when your religion’s “original sin” is attaining wisdom.

    • Baby_Raptor

      You’re sort of right…*Catholicism* is growing in highly uneducated nations.

      I think that says all that really needs to be said there.

      Either way, Christianity is on it’s way out in America. More and more people are leaving the church in the dust each generation. You can either pretend what we’re telling you isn’t true, or you can address the issues and stop the bleeding. Christianity’s choice.

    • RobMcCune

      Most of these new christians are newborns, once they grow up quite a few of them see the benefit of secular progressive ideas. Look what happened to the U.S. and Europe over a few generations. Your ideal christians won’t stay infants forever, no matter how hard you try.

    • sk3ptik0n

      If it’s doing so well, why are you here pissing against the wind?

    • Carmelita Spats

      Hahahaha! Yes, Christianity is “holding steady” in the poverty ridden Third World but it is also being transformed by delightful cults such as the Santa Muerte phenomenon in Mexico…You might not think that “Santa Muerte” is TRUE Christianity, but that is YOUR problem. Devotees are perfectly happy worshiping Jesus and the Santa Muerte. They are fabulously eclectic to the point of incorporating the Catholic liturgy and they are building a cathedral in Los Angeles. Hell, imitation is the best form of flattery. Besides, don’t you just LOVE Christianity when it’s represented with glorious, Dollar-Store-Meets-Roadside-Taco-Stand iconography? You know…Jesus in a snug tank top, Hugo Boss motorcycle boots and Diesel jeans? A creepy Baby Jesus…This ain’t your momma’s Christinsanity back in podunk, pisswater, Mayberry, U.S.A…

      http://www.jesusoftheweek.com/jesii/464/index.html

  • Gideon

    Last time I saw the stats, the membership of relatively-progressive churches was in steeper decline than the rest. Whether or not voices like Dannika can convince Christian groups to rejig their biblical interpretations for the umpteenth time, greater proportions of her age group have already ceased altogether to believe or follow Christianity. (Though they may identify themselves as cultural “Christians”.)

    • Pseudonym

      The largest and fastest-growing religious group in the English speaking world is people who self-identify as some kind of Christian, but who don’t regularly attend a place of worship. Interestingly, the progressive churches are losing young people but gaining older people, which suggests that they are the places where “spiritual but not religious” types go to retire.

      You can put “Christians” in scare quotes, but I’m inclined to believe them. If they are not Christians, then neither is anyone else who adheres to all of the forms of Christianity that popped up over the centuries.

  • Art_Vandelay

    I don’t get moderate Christians, man. As early as kids can talk, you give them this book and you tell them it’s the divine word of the creator of everything. That you’re in debt to him (that’s right…small ‘h’, mofo) for sacrificing himself for you so that he could forgive you (or something). You’re a depraved sinner, in need of salvation and this book will get you there. It’s the greatest moral guide in the universe and if you adhere to it, it will make you immortal. So then some of them grow up believing that Leviticus 18:22 is not only accurate but divinely inspired and we call them fundamentalist bigots. The moderate Christians frown upon them simply for doing what they were led to believe. People can’t control what they believe. You have a set of cognitive faculties and a collection of experiences that lead you there. Instead of mocking them for not practicing “your” version of Christianity, perhaps you should look into all the crazy shit that you believe first. People like Dannika make me sad. Good people no doubt…no worse than me, but if they’d only start looking more closely at their own beliefs, the fundies would turn into such a minority that they wouldn’t even have a forum. They’d be relegated to the sidelines.

    • Pseudonym

      As early as kids can talk, you give them this book and you tell them it’s the divine word of the creator of everything.

      I wouldn’t call that “moderate”. To me, the “moderate” position is that the Bible was written by people, not divinely dictated. An example is the official position of the Roman Catholic Church, which is that the Bible was produced (and even partly written by) the church.

      • Willy Occam

        I think Art was referring to people who grow up to be “moderate” Christians, not that their parents and family members who brainwashed them as children (and who were also the victims of brainwashing when they were young) were themselves moderate.

        • Pseudonym

          Oh… I get it.

          I should point out that plenty of regularly-attending Christians hold different beliefs from the denominations of which they are members. Sometimes their beliefs are more progressive, and sometimes they are more conservative. Life is complicated like that.

          • Art_Vandelay

            Wow…it’s almost as if they form their own worldview completely independent from their holy book and then call themselves Christians just to reap the social advantages of being part of a large majority.

            • Pseudonym

              Did you know that by using the phrase “holy book” (presumably in reference to the Bible), you’re taking a side in a controversial theological debate which has been hotly debated for over 500 years? Well, now you do!

  • JET

    It’s not going to happen overnight. I think many young Christians support civil rights, women’s ownership of their own bodies, science education, and the separation of church and state. They still believe in their interpretation of the Christian dogma, but don’t feel a need to force it upon others.

    • Monika Jankun-Kelly

      Atheists and liberals made up the establishment clause of the Constitution?

      • GCT

        The Constitution was derided as an atheist document at the time it was drafted…which also puts the lie to the idea that this is a Xian nation with Xian laws, etc.

        • GCT
          • GCT

            Except that it provides detailed accounts of people doing just what I said they did, which is deriding the Constitution as an atheist document. And, those are only a sampling. But, keep burying your head in the sand and pretending that reality isn’t real.

            • GCT

              You’re an extreme moron with low self esteem who has no idea what he’s talking about.

              OK…only I have support for my position. Where is your support?

              The Constitution is not an atheist document, anymore than it’s a religious document, embicile.

              Apparently you need to work on your reading comprehension skills. The Constitution is a secular document, on that we agree. What I said was that the Constitution was derided as an atheist document at the time…because it was secular. There was a huge uproar about it from the religious leaders of the time because it was not a Xian document, in that it gave no reference to Jesus or the Xian god. It puts the lie to your arguments that separation of church and state is completely made up – which is universally followed by an argument that this is a Xian nation. Perhaps you aren’t going there, but then why make the erroneous claim that separation of church and state doesn’t exist?

              The first amendment protects religious freedom, and prevents the gov’t from creating a law to establish a religion. That’s it. What’s so hard to understand?

              Or violate the free exercise of….There are numerous clauses to contend with, and you seem to not be able to do so. As has been repeatedly explained to you, the framers of the amendment have specifically stated that the purpose was to build a wall of separation between church and state. Further, the courts have ruled on what that means, and they’ve interpreted it (along with the 14th Amendment) to mean that government may not endorse specific religions, and increasingly that the government may not endorse religion over non-religion.

              It’s not hard to understand…so why are you having so much trouble with this concept?

    • JET

      I agree that your statements are exactly what the fundamentalists believe. But I also feel that younger Christians are becoming less fundamentalist as they become more educated and exposed to views other than their own. As much as I would like to wipe all religions and all beliefs in the supernatural from the face of the earth, I have to accept that as impossible. Progressive Christians may not be the ideal, but they are certainly a step in the right direction.

    • GCT

      1) The Church does not oppose civil rights

      Bullshit. The church is opposed to gay marriage rights, atheist rights, women’s rights, etc.

      2) The Church recognizes every human life as precious, sacred, and having the right to live (you’re on the losing end here since you’re pro-murder)

      The church recognizes the fetus as a precious, sacred thing, but to hell with the rights of the mother. For instance, the RCC would rather see both the mother and the fetus die than allow an abortion to get rid of an already doomed fetus that is killing the mother. Yeah, that’s really “pro-life” there.

      3) The Church supports science – Catholic Universities are some of the best in the world

      Which is why creationism is rampant among Xians, global-warming denialism, the idea that being gay is a choice, etc, right? This claim is laughable. Faith is about as anti-science as you can get.

      4) Separation of church and state doesn’t exist – it’s something atheists and liberals have made up.

      It’s only in the very first amendment of the Bill of Rights. Oops.

      • WallofSleep

        “3) Global warming is a hoax and you’re a sucker.”

        Holy shit. You’re a goddamned conspiracy theorist. Ya know, you gotta be dumber than a 9/11 truther to believe there is a world-wide conspiracy bent on perpetrating such a “hoax”. We’re talking weapons grade stupidity here. Good day.

        • WallofSleep

          Take your dumb ass on over to InfoWars or WND where your conspiracy theory bullshit is more likely to be accepted, you munted POS.

          Seriously, a hoax? Perpetrated by how many millions of people all over the globe, without a single one of them blowing their cover? That is the dumbest fucking thing I’ve heard all day. People like you are despicable. That’s not only a mental abomination, not only intellectual filth, but a goddamned pernicious load of bullshit that holds back humanity. You should be ashamed of yourself.

          • Carmelita Spats

            Have you swallowed a mouthful of Savior today? The only MOFO is rascal Jesus who impregnated his own mother, the not-really-a-virgin Mary, with Himself so that He could sacrifice Himself to Himself. If you think about it, Jesus was his own Father which makes your God the quintessential MOFO. Since the Father and Son are ONE, Jesus impregnated Mary. Hence, the Trinity proves Jesus to be a MOFO. And to enlighten you further, atheism has nothing to do with being “liberal”. I am an atheist and a LIBERTARIAN. I LOATHE BIG GOVERNMENT intrusion in my private parts via a STATE mandated sonogram, STATE mandated “counseling” and STATE intervention if I choose to access abortion. When the STATE determines that I have to undergo a medically UNNECESSARY procedure, when the LEGISLATURE decides to shove a wand up my vagina just to placate grotesque Christian voyeurism, then it is time to discuss authoritarianism. I run a business where I sell blasphemous Jesus junk which makes me an atheist and a CAPITALIST. Wall of Sleep is right…you need an education.

            • WallofSleep

              The mask slips and reveals… nothing more than a common internet troll. I should have known, no one could possibly be as dumb as you’re pretending to be.

          • RobMcCune

            You don’t believe in thermodynamics, and you think the church will win because of science? Good luck with that.

          • kaydenpat

            Such Christ-like language there BamaJack.

        • John (not McCain)

          As someone who pretty much hates humanity and doesn’t give a damn whether or not it survives, I’m so happy that you morons are unwilling to lift a finger to do anything to ensure that your descendants have a planet to live on. Keep up the good work!

      • Space Cadet

        The anti-abortion crowd is Pro-Death, not Pro-Life. Making abortions illegal won’t stop them, it will only force them into the “back alley”, which is dangerous.

        ***possible trigger warning***
        http://drjengunter.wordpress.com/2012/02/11/anatomy-of-an-unsafe-abortion/

        The only way to reduce the number of abortions is to provide comprehensive sex-education for kids and make birth control available to those who want it. The sooner conservatives realize this, the sooner we can end this silly debate.

        • GCT

          Oh, they’re aware of it, but they don’t care. They don’t want to do those things because it’s not about reducing abortions or saving lives. It’s about control of women.

        • cary_w

          So when the developing fetus kills its mother, can we charge it with murder? How do you punish someone who’s already dead?

      • Pseudonym

        I need to correct you on one thing: conservatives in the US are almost all not pro-life. They are typically pro-war, pro-military industrial complex, pro-capital punishment, anti-health care, and anti-just about anything which would improve the life, health and wellbeing of the poor.

        Calling US conservatives “pro-life” isn’t just wrong, it’s an insult.

        • Pseudonym

          Of course I meant it in the same spirit as you meant the phrase “Atheists / Liberals are pro-murder”.

        • Willy Occam

          Don’t forget pro-guns, with no background checks to keep the kooks from getting them legally.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        1) The Church, in fact, does oppose gay civil unions. Every time the issue’s come up, the RCC has been at the forefront of the antis. But hey, repeat a lie often enough and people might believe it, right?

        2) I’m anti-death penalty, anti-war, and anti-slavery. I’m all for saving women’s lives, sanity, and dignity by letting them control their own selves. Clearly I’m all for murdering random people for funsies.

        3) I doubt 98% of climate scientists are all wrong and/or part of a global hoax. When even the American Society of Petroleum Engineers says global warming is real and probably anthropogenic (human-caused), you’ve lost.

        4) You’re missing a bit. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or …” This was then incorporated to the states by the 14th Amendment. Later Supreme Court jurisprudence has interpreted that to mean the state (at any level) must not in any way, shape, or form favor one religion over another or religion over nonreligion. The Supreme Court, not BamaJack, is in fact the arbiter of what the constitution means.

      • GCT

        1) The Church does not oppose gay civil unions.

        Except that they do. Xianity is anti-gay through and through, whether it’s claiming that gays can become ex-gays, claiming it’s a choice, or putting up massive efforts to stop legalization of same-sex marriage equality, the church really does hate gays.

        The left/atheists’s answer to everything is the STATE, because Christianity does not even recognize “gay marriage” – it doesn’t exist. Hence, this is also why liberals / atheists are socialistic by nature – they MUST use the State (via force) to push their ideals.

        Except for all those libertarian atheists, right? This is nothing more than a straw man that shows that you have no interest or ability to actually argue the ideas.

        2) Atheists / Liberals are pro-murder , conservatives are pro life… enough said.

        Except I’ve already disabused you of that notion. Simply repeating yourself won’t make the facts go away. I can add more facts too, like conservatives are typically pro death penalty. Or, conservatives are against the social safety nets that actually help people live. Apparently, once you’re born then they stop caring about your rights to life and all that.

        3) Global warming is a hoax and you’re a sucker.

        Sigh. Yes, the vast majority of scientists are lying to you for some strange reason that none of us can fathom, right? SMH.

        4) The language is very clear – Congress shall make no LAW respecting any religion.

        Or the establishment of one. You can’t even read the whole thing. Also, we don’t have to guess at the meaning, since the authors came out and told us that it was meant to build a wall of separation between church and state. We also have centuries of case law defining it that way. Sorry (not really), but you lose.

    • DavidMHart

      “The Church recognizes every human life as precious, sacred, and having
      the right to live (you’re on the losing end here since you’re pro-murder”

      Ahem

      Assuming you’re talking about the Catholic Church (which I assume by the capital ‘C’), no. Nice try, but what they do is oppose abortion even when abortion is the proceedure likely to save the most lives. Beatriz was lucky that the Salvadorean health minister was able to provide a legal loop-hole in the form of an ‘emergency caesarian’. But the Supreme Court, acting on the law based entirely on Catholic Dogma, when faced with what by the Church’s own definition would have counted as two lives, and choices were to save either one or zero, chose zero. And by any non-deranged definition, there was only one human life at stake, since a foetus lacking a brain cannot experience its own existence, and is only ‘human’ in the absolutely minimal sense of having a human genome.

      “Separation of church and state doesn’t exist – it’s something atheists and liberals have made up.”

      What, are you for real? In many countries in the world, the Church is of essentially no relevance to the state, but only by default, through having dwindled in importance. However, in the USA, the 1st Amendment has been explicitly described as separating Church from State by Thomas Jefferson, one of the main Founding Fathers pushing for the Bill of Rights in the first place, and has been consistently interpreted by the Supreme Court as doing just that – prohibiting the government from either promoting or discouraging religion in general or any particular religion, i.e. separating church from state.

      I guess you could say that James Madison, who drafted it, ‘made it up’ in that sense, and you could call him a liberal, and someone who, if he lived in our own time, would almost certainly have been an atheist. but it’s a bit of a stretch.

      • WallofSleep

        “Separation of church and state is a complete and total farce made up by the left/atheists.”

        I just showed you historical evidence that puts the lie to that statement. Why do you persist in spreading such deception?

      • DavidMHart

        If you’re going to quote the first amendment, you could at least do us all the courtesy of quoting it correctly:

        “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

        That means, and has been long interpreted by the courts to mean, that the government cannot establish any religion as the official government-backed religion (or penalize any religion as an officially government-disapproved religion). That is the only thing that ‘separation of church and state’ could realistically mean. I don’t understand what there is to not understand about that.

        Even if the establishment clause was intended by the Founding Fathers to mean something totally alien from what it looks like it means, the fact that is has been used, successfully, on many occasions, to disentangle church from state where someone was promoting a particular religion in their role as a government employee, means that, however ‘made-up by atheists’ you think it is, it certainly isn’t a total farce; it is in fact a very effective legal remedy for those who are concerned about the long-term dangers of government-backed religion. But what evidence do you have that was ‘made up by atheists’? What possible evidence can you bring to bear that the part of the Constitution that was explicitly intended to separate church from state in Thomas Jefferson’s own words, was in fact not?

    • Spuddie

      In other words, they will lie through their teeth and fling insults. Not one thing you said was correct.

      When have you stopped lying for Christ?

    • RobMcCune

      You’ve lost a lot of money gambling haven’t you? BTW, 1 and 3 are not conservative, it’s not doubling down to hedge your bet on progress.

    • sk3ptik0n

      1) Some rights but not others. It is against divorce, but provides annulments. The Church is hypocritical.

      2) The church is against abortion but it does very little of use for those mothers and their children that choose not to have abortions. I don’t like abortion and it would be the last choice for me aside from very grave medical emergencies, but given how the religious and the conservatives in general treat those that choose not to have an abortion, I have to side with choice. And don’t get me started on the scandals with single mothers in Ireland, Spain, etc. Disgusting. You should be ashamed of yourself for implicitly support such barbarism.

      3) Yes, Catholic universities are by and large very good. So what?They are not run by the conservative wing of the church and teach secular curricula. They teach evolution and Astrophysics. In fact, the big bang was actually theorized by a priest.

      4) Please! At the time the constitution was drafted, being a catholic in America was akin to admitting to worship Satan. You would have loved the 1st amendment back then because it would have protected the catholic minority against the protestant, and very overbearing, majority. And this was the case until very recently. The fact that conservative catholic and conservative protestants have recently found common ground in their bigotry doesn’t change the fact that each group think the other is on an expressway to hell.

      5) How’s that sin of pride going?

    • WallofSleep

      “Separation of church and state doesn’t exist – it’s something atheists and liberals have made up.”

      Oh?

      “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

      - Atheist, Liberal, and Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson

      • WallofSleep

        Oh snap. Did I just prove that the United States of America was founded as an atheist/liberal nation? I think I did.

      • GCT

        TJ wasn’t an atheist. He was a deist.

        • WallofSleep

          I was being a smart ass.

      • baal

        I invite you to do some history BamaJack. The original colonies were ‘established’ and it all but lead to war between them. The founding fathers were wise enough to see that and the history of religious war in Europe (really, it was bad) and see that the U.S needed to be a secular government. That’s the context for the words – btw you left off ‘establishment’. You don’t get to take one word, put it in caps and say you’re done.

        • Matt D

          “Christian services were held in congressional chambers”
          What’s your point with this statement?

        • baal

          You’ve been reading Barton’s lies again haven’t you Bamajack? I thought rehab was going to take this time but there you are again. I inivite you to check out Chris Rodda. She has demolished your (bartons?) lies.

    • kaydenpat

      Your views are exactly why Christianity is losing young people in the US. Well said.

  • Autumn Treadwell

    I just do not think in terms of “the Christian Church.” Take the United Church of Christ (congregationalists) – open and affirming, ordains gay people, works for social justice issues for ALL people, avowedly feminist… hardly anything like, say, the Southern Baptists. So what’s with all the talk of “the Christian Church” as being this fully unified body? It’s not, and never has been.

  • Todeskäfer

    I actually think the Rick Santorums and Michele Bachmanns of the world do more to promote progressive ways of thinking than any Occupy movement, just by being walking caricatures of everything that’s wrong with religious conservatism. Same-sex marriage was recently signed into law in Bachmann’s home state of Minnesota. Now how’s that for poetic justice?

  • Tobias2772

    I think that it is very difficult for the church to be progressive when their most basic premise is that all of the answers to all of the questions are to be found in a book that is thousands of years old. That sort of sucks all of the progress out of it.

  • rustygh

    My evil side says, ditto. :)

  • Heathen Mike

    Getting back to Hermant’s central point, as I understood him…

    That declaring all-out war on anything and anyone identifying as Christian is counter-productive; that we need to encourage progressive Christians in questioning and refuting their traditional Christian peers even more.

    This seems to be one of the main points of contention among atheists on this blog; perhaps among atheists as a whole. On the one side we have people like Hermant (and I agree with him) who say, essentially, it would be nice for Christians to simply abandon their faith and become non-”believers” but it is a pipe dream to believe that is going to happen en masse quickly and directly just because Atheists mock them and pick apart their belief system. That in the meantime there are too many important social issues that really affect peoples’ lives for better or worse with which we atheists could use help from progressive Christians.

    Then there are the atheists on the other side of the argument saying essentially, Christianity is always going to be a force of oppression and a force against rational thought, and to show respect for “progressive” Christians just encourages a continued societal embrace of this destructive fairy tale; it gives the horribly destructive fundies cover they don’t deserve by painting a happy face on their barbaric belief system.

    Busterggi put that viewpoint rather succinctly in the 2nd response on this thread: • 2 days ago
    “Cheez-Whiz Hermant! There are already more than 20,000 various Christian sects and that doesn’t count Voodoo or Mormonism – splitting up has never stopped Christianity, or any other Abrahamic religion, from being a force for oppression and bigotry.”

    My contention is that Busterggi is wrong. Splitting up Christian groups along different doctrinal points has not stopped the various groups from continuing to try to impose their world view on others, but it certainly HAS DIMINISHED THEIR POWER. Case in point: Before the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic church had near-total control over European life. Even monarchs were cowed by the church. With the Reformation for the first time we had the Church fighting with itself. Yes, the Enlightenment was a huge factor in the decline of their power, but the Reformation aided the Enlightenment, even though the Protestants back then could be just as rigid and ignorant as their Catholic counterparts.

    Second case in point: The Puritans forming colonies here in America were as draconian as anyone–remember the witch hunts. But it was the reality of the multitude of competing sects that led to the founding fathers even considering the principle of separation of church and state. Non-believers otherwise would never even have been extended a legal right to not believe had the church not fractured. We were, I hate to say it, an afterthought in the obvious need for religious freedom. The ongoing fracturing of the church has been one of the biggest and obvious proofs that “the Church” is fallible and therefore to be questioned. That is hugely important.

  • Heathen Mike

    All of us secularists on this blog, I think it is safe to say, are in agreement that we want to see Christianity diminish and rational thought become the standard, but the great majority of religious people will never throw out their belief system just because some atheists have pointed out that that their beliefs are stupid. Personal sense of identity and self-respect are wrapped up in one’s belief system, and people generally change those beliefs in stages.

    For me, in my late teens, I just recognized that the church had a lot of hypocrites in it and some mean people and that I didn’t like that. That led to me rejecting the idea of organized church actually speaking for God. Next, I was helped to realize that scriptures were flawed, that they after all, were written by humans, not God. Therefore, rejecting the Bible as infallible did not mean I was rebelling against God; just that the human authors had made mistakes. Finally, that understanding gave me the safe space I needed to consider the important question: If God, as I understood God–a distinct entity with human-like personality, supposedly simultaneously all-loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing, and at the same time wrathful and willing to condemn for eternity billions of his (God was male, after all) children for failing to understand him after he had created them flawed and ignorant….if all that was supposed to be true, then Christian society’s concept of God is fundamentally a ridiculous fabrication, and there is no rational reason to hold out a belief in the existence of such a god.

    Presto-change-o, I became a non-believer. But this process, for me, took a few years. I suspect that is similarly true for many many people. We have to be respectful of those Christians who show the ability to think and question their indoctrination. If we slam them for not instantly making the leap from devout mono-theist to atheist, we are more likely to provoke a defensive reaction in Christians. If we show respect for progressive Christians’ willingness to stick their heads out of their theological shells just a bit, then we have a chance to continue some thoughtful dialogue that can afford them the space they need to continue questioning the various elements of their belief system.

    I agree with Hermant Mehta: Our humanist social interests are better served by respectfully working with progressive Christians. Here’s how I manage to respect progressive Christianity without subscribing to it.

    I believe religion is what you make of it. Yes it has been used as a weapon to control and subjugate people and ostracize other people. But it can also be more like a philosophy, with the idea of God being more of a metaphor standing for affirming, constructive principles we like, such as love and grace and forgiveness, doing unto others…, etc. None of that threatens my interests in any way. It’s ok. For me to call such people stupid just reveals a level of arrogance that understandably would tend to provoke defensiveness and disrespect in return from those I’d be insulting.

    And the Fred Phelps-es of the world? Those “Christians” obviously getting off on hate, we’ll never convince them of anything. They deserve all the ridicule and condemnation they can get. But guess what, Ol’ Fred has been one of the most powerful assets to growing respect and empathy for LGBT that anyone could imagine. He has caused countless middle-of-the-road American Christians to realize that his hate and vitriol toward gays is something they should care about and fight against. Yea!

    • kaydenpat

      Your second-to-last paragraph is well put. Obviously most Christians see God in a very positive light and not as the evil being that atheists depict God to be, i.e., Hitchens in “God Is Not Great”.

  • Midge

    Dannika is still a Christian because, I guess, she believes in Christianity. I skimmed her blog post and she says she has joined another congregation that suits her views. Obviously there is no “the church” when you’re talking Christianity.

    Good for her if she is in a new church that she likes better because that seems to have been her point all along: She WANTS to be in a church; she is religious, not an atheist or agnostic.

    Personally, I am agnostic but see no point in wanting to convert anyone to being agnostic.

    Regarding “LGBT” issues, the particular church that Dannika used to belong to might view homosexuality as part of the larger “unnatural/non-procreative/shedding seed” issue that they also have with contraception. Theres very little contradiction to estimates of a majority of Catholic clergy being homosexual. The Catholic Church clergy and hierarchy would no doubt like to lift the prohibitions against homosexual sex. We know the Catholic Church did very little to hold any of their clergy accountable in the child molestation scandals. But if they drop the prohibition against homosexual sex, how do they keep the prohibition against use of birth control pills and devices by heterosexual couples?

    They’re in a bind on that. They’re not going to want to give up lecturing and humiliating heterosexual married couples.

  • cary_w

    It’s always so fun reading these from the Utahn perspective, because in Utah, whenever anyone says “The Church” they are referring to the Mormons, and then it sounds really strange when you talk about the Church’s university and it’s a Catholic school instead of BYU. So I have to ask, which Church are you referring to? Because all that stuff you’re saying doesn’t quite match the Mormons.

    Oh… You must be referring to the official state-sanctioned Church of the U.S.A.,….Oh, wait, that doesn’t exist….


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