What Non-Christians Want Christians To Hear

By way of researching a book of mine (I’m OK – You’re Not: The Message We’re Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop), I posted a notice on Craigslist sites all over the country asking non-Christians to send me any short, personal statement they would like Christians to read.

“Specifically,” I wrote, “I’d like to hear how you feel about being on the receiving end of the efforts of Christian evangelicals to convert you. I want to be very clear that this is not a Christian-bashing book; it’s coming from a place that only means well for everyone. Thanks.”

Within three days I had in my inbox over 300 emails from non-Christians across the country. Reading them was one of the more depressing experiences of my life. I had expected their cumulative sentiment to be one of mostly anger. But if you boiled down to one feeling what was most often expressed in the nonbelievers’ statements, it would be Why do Christians hate us so much?

Below is a pretty random sample of the statements non-Christians sent me (each of which I used in I’m OK). If you’re a Christian, they make for a mighty saddening read. Or they certainly should, anyway.

“The main thing that baffles and angers me about Christians is how they can understand so little about human nature that when, in their fervor to convert another person, they tell that person (as they inevitably do, in one way or another), ‘You’re bad, and wrong, and evil,’ they actually expect that person to agree with them. It pretty much guarantees that virtually the only people Christians can ever realistically hope to convert are those with tragically low self-esteem.”– E.S., Denver

“I feel that Christians have got it all wrong; it seems to me that they’ve created the very thing Jesus was against: Separatism.”– T. O., Denver

“I am often distressed at the way some Christians take as a given that Christians and Christianity define goodness. Many of we non-Christians make a practice of doing good; we, too, have a well-developed ethical system, and are devoted to making the world a better place. Christians hardly have a monopoly on what’s right, or good, or just.”– C.R., Seattle

“Christians seem to have lost their focus on Jesus’ core message: ‘Love the Lord your god with all your heart and with all your soul, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.’”– R.M., Tacoma

“I have no problem whatsoever with God or Jesus – only Christians. It’s been my experience that most Christians are belligerent, disdainful and pushy.” — D.B., Atlanta

“Whenever I’m approached by an evangelist – by a Christian missionary – I know I’m up against someone so obsessed and narrowly focused that it will do me absolutely no good to try and explain or share my own value system. I never want to be rude to them, of course, but never have any idea how to respond to their attempts to convert me; in short order, I inevitably find myself simply feeling embarrassed–first for them, and then for us both. I’m always grateful when such encounters conclude.”– K.C., Fresno

“I don’t know whether or not most of the Christians I come across think they’re acting and being like Jesus was – but if they do, they need to go back to their Bibles, and take a closer look at Jesus.” — L.B., Phoenix

“I grew up Jewish in a Southern Baptist town, where I was constantly being told that I killed Christ, ate Christian babies, and was going to hell. So I learned early that many Christians have – or sure seem to have – no love in their hearts at all. It also seems so odd to me that Christians think that if I don’t accept their message my ears and heart are closed, because it seems to me like they have excessively closed ears and hearts to anyone else’s spiritual message and experience. They seem to have no sense of the many ways in which God reaches out to everyone. As far as I’ve ever known, Christians are narrow in their sense of God, fairly fascistic in their thinking, and extremely egotistical in thinking God only approves of them.”– B.P., Houston

“I wish Christians would resist their aggressive impulses to morph others into Christians. Didn’t Jesus preach that we should all love one another?”– M.G., Shoreline, WA

“I’m frequently approached by Christians of many denominations who ask whether I’ve accepted Christ as my savior. When I have the patience, I politely tell them that I’m Jewish. This only makes them more aggressive; they then treat me like some poor lost waif in need of their particular brand of salvation. They almost act like salespeople working on commission: If they can save my soul, then they’re one rung closer to heaven. It’s demeaning. I always remain polite, but encounters like these only show disrespect and sometimes outright intolerance for my beliefs and my culture. In Judaism, we do not seek to convert people. That is because we accept that there are many paths to God, and believe that no one religion can lay sole claim to the truth or to God’s favor. Each person is free to find his or her own way. To Christians I would say: Practice your religion as you wish. There is no need to try and influence others. If your religion is a true one, people will come to it on their own.”– M.S., Honolulu

“When did it become that being a Christian meant being an intolerant, hateful bigot? I grew up learning the positive message of Christ: Do well and treat others with respect, and your reward will be in heaven. Somehow, for a seemingly large group of Christians, that notion has gone lost: It has turned into the thunders and lights of the wrath of God, and into condemning everyone who disagrees with them to burning in the flames of hell. Somehow, present-day Christians forgot about turning the other cheek, abandoned the notion of treating others like they would like to be treated themselves; they’ve become bent on preaching, judging, and selfishly attempting to save the souls of others by condemning them. What happen to love? To tolerance? To respect?” — S.P., Nashville

“There are about a million things I’d like to say to Christians, but here’s the first few that come to mind: Please respect my right to be the person I’ve chosen to become. Worship, pray and praise your God all you want–but please leave me, and my laws, and my city, and my school alone. Stop trying to make me, or my children, worship your god. Why do we all have to be Christians? Respect my beliefs; I guarantee they’re every bit as strong as yours. Mostly, please respect my free will. Let me choose if I want to marry someone of my own sex. Let me choose if I want to have an abortion or not. Let me choose to go to hell if that’s where you believe I’m going. I can honestly say that I’d rather go to hell than live the hypocritical life I see so many Christians living.”– D.B., Seattle

“I had a friend who was, as they say, reborn. During my breaks from college she invited me to her church, and I did go a couple of times. In a matter of a month, at least ten people at her church told me that I was going to hell. The ironic thing is that I do believe in God; I’ve just never found a church where I felt at ease. However, in their eyes, I was nothing but a sinner who needed to be saved. I stopped going to that church (which in the past four years has grown from a small to a mega-church), but in time, through my friend, have seen some of these people again. None of them ever fails to treat me exactly as they did four years ago. All I can say is this: Constantly telling someone they’re going to hell is not a good way to convert them.”– A.S., Chicago

“I am a former ‘born again’ Christian. It’s been my personal experience that Christians treat the poor poorly–much like the Pharisees did in the parable of the old woman with the two coins. I found the church to be political to a fault, and its individual members all too happy to judge and look down on others. As a Christian, my own fervor to witness was beyond healthy. My friends would come to me to vent and express emotions, and all I would do is preach to them. I was of no real comfort to them. I never tried to see anything from their perspective.”– J.S.W, Philadelphia

“Once Christians know I’m gay, the conversion talk usually stops. Instead, I become this sympathetic character who apparently isn’t worthy of the gift of Christ. From my childhood in a Baptist church, I recall the ‘loathe the sin, love the sinner’ talk, but as an adult I can’t say I’ve often found Christians practicing that attitude. Deep down, I’m always relieved to avoid disturbing “conversion” conversations with Christians; discussing one’s most intimate thoughts and personal beliefs isn’t something I enjoy doing with random strangers. But at the same time, I feel as though Christians make a value judgment about my soul on the spot, simply because I am gay. I don’t pretend to know the worth of a soul, nor the coming gifts to those who convert the masses, but I would guess converting the sinful homosexuals would merit a few brownie points. But I get the feeling that most Christians don’t think we’re worth the hassle.”– R.M., Houston

“Religion always seemed too personal for me to take advice about it from people I don’t know.”– D.P., Denver

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • http://www.jacobperez.org Jacob Perez

    Wow… very sobering. Thank you for sharing. I’m starting a church in the Bay Area to help counter these stereotypes and my only prayer is that it works. God bless.

  • http://www.jacobperez.org Jacob Perez

    Wow… very sobering. Thank you for sharing. I’m starting a church in the Bay Area to help counter these stereotypes and my only prayer is that it works. God bless.

    • Anonymous

      Praying for your success, Jacob. Godspeed and God’s love.

    • serena

      It IS very sobering. But, I can understand. Whenever there is a “group” of any kind, there will be those outside of the group. Even though they are welcome and encouraged to join the group, it’s still a group (which is seen as separate). Once the group grows, so does it’s identity….and that seems to be the problem. Love all. Respect all. Jesus did just that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1554973255 Erika Beseda-Allen

    i just read outloud everyone of these to the hubz. i want to say:
    YES! THIS!
    most of these very articulate people have said what i wish i could say, being an ex-xian myself. i can only say again,
    YES! THIS!

  • Lvgwoman

    Maybe you can show me in Scripture where it says Christians are supposed to be concerned with what non-believers (John 9:30-33) wants to hear. The fact is, as Scripture makes clear to those who have read it and care, non-believers are converted by hearing the word. If God opens their ears to hear then they will hear and believe. If he doesn’t, they will not (Romans 9:16; 1 Corinthians 2:14).

    And there is no such thing as an ex-Christian. In spite of what Shore (Matthew 7:21-23), who rarely, if ever, supports anything he says with Scripture, wants you to believe, being a Christian is NOT the same as being a member of a club like the Elks (Ephesians 1:4-14).

    • Emma

      At the risk of starting a flame war: it is completely possible to be an “ex-Christian”.

      Just as it is possible to leave a faith and convert to another, it is therefore possible to leave the faith of Christianity and convert to another– whether that one is Atheism, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism or Neo-Paganism– the conversion takes place, causing the beliefs to change, and entering the person into a completely different relationship with the Divine or not (as the case may be).

      While you are correct, being a Christian is not the same as being a member of a club like the Elks, many of today’s Christians find it to be so. Nearly every weekend I am accosted by Christians from the various denominations who want nothing more than to save me from myself and get my in their pews. When I demonstrate a knowledge of their faith, that surpasses their own they are amazed that I would have chosen to leave.

      Once Christians choose that their membership into this afterlife doesn’t mean they can/should be cruel, nasty or rude, should not beat anyone over the head wit their version of the Bible, then perhaps it would cease to be a club. Until then, I liken churches to country clubs: I’m not rich enough to join and think too much to want to.

      • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

        Emma asserts that it is therefore possible to leave the faith of Christianity and convert to another– whether that one is Atheism, […}

        I don’t mean to take away from your legitimate point made in your comment (I love the last bit!) but I really must quibble a bit here with this one part.

        Just to be clear, atheism is not a faith nor a different kind of faith. It is non belief. It is the absence of faith in the reality of some supernatural interventionist divine agency.

        Phew! That feels so much better.

        • Suz

          Beg to differ, ever so slightly. I think atheism is a matter of faith. Isn’t “Faith” what you choose to believe in the absence of proof? There is no conclusive evidence that God does or does not exist. That leaves three choices – “God exists,” “God doesn’t exist,” and “I’ll decide when there’s proof, even if I die first.” Atheism is the belief (faith) that God doesn’t exist.

          • Ace

            Suz – Might want to look up the difference between “positive atheism” and “negative atheism” to clarify things.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Well, try substituting something you don’t believe in and see if that works for you: perhaps several thousand gods you don’t believe in, for example. Do you have a single faith that all of these are not true? If so, upon what is this faith in the absence of something based? Do you actually have proof that none of these other gods exist? If so, I would be fascinated to know what constitutes this evidence.

            No, Suz. What you are suggesting makes no sense if you want to maintain the current and mutually acceptable meaning of the word faith as you use to describe your own; it is a position of trust in what is true without any means to test its veracity. Non belief has the benefit of being the default position on all truth claims unless and until some evidence supports that belief. Just try proving that an invisible pink elephant doesn’t live in your left nostril and you’ll begin to appreciate why we don’t call for proof to substantiate a negative (rarely, anyway).

          • Suz

            Making a choice with a lack of evidence is my point. Non-belief IS the third choice. You have presented me with the concept of an elephant in my nose. I considered the idea (briefly,) and concluded that it’s existence is highly unlikely, and is of no consequence to me, and I dismissed the entire issue. I made a choice not to seek evidence of either a positive or a negative (its existence 0r non-existence,) and not to have an opinion on the subject. “I’ll decide when there’s proof,” doesn’t mean I’ll seek proof or stew about it until I die. It simply means that if proof appears sometime in the future, I’ll revisit the issue. As of this moment, I believe there is no elephant in my nose, and I feel no need whatsoever to prove it. Question your assumptions (and everybody else’s) until you understand the source of those assumptions. In the absence of evidence, ANYTHING you believe is faith, and you choose your faith.

        • kellygreen

          Actually it is a belief. It is a belief in the NON-EXISTENCE of an entity that you can neither (in reality) prove the existence of, nor disprove the existence of.

          Which is precisely why many atheists are just as dogmatic in their non-belief as many religious fundamentalists are in their belief.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            This is just muddled thinking.

            How exactly does one believe in the non existence of something? What does that even mean?

            And ‘dogmatic’ is a religious term. There is simply no ‘dogma’ of non belief. As is ‘fundamentalist’.

            This entire comment is incoherent and is nothing more than attempting to smear those with the very terms that define religious adherents. Non belief is not just a different kind of belief any more than a woman is a different kind of man. It’s an abuse of language.

          • Mindy

            People who have been raised in religion and continue to not only believe but actively participate in religious activities want to attribute a religious framework to atheism. They don’t know any other way of thinking. They view atheism as a religion, and therefore insist that rather than the absence of belief in a deity, atheism is a belief structure of its very own. And thus attribute concepts like “dogma” to it.

            Atheism is completely simple. It is the absence of belief in a supernatural being(s) to be worshipped and/or feared. They just don’t buy it. Period, end of discussion, move on. They are as moral and ethical and lovely – or as mean and lazy and obnoxious – as the wide range of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and so forth and on and on.

            Atheism is not “anti-God” so much as it is “what God?” I don’t believe in Santa, but I am totally not anti-Santa. I think Santa serves a wonderful purpose in childhood, and I can also see that in many instances, teaching children to believe in a magical gift-giving dude can be problematic. But I’m not anti-Santa.

            I’ve been wondering for awhile now what to call what I believe. I call myself agnostic, but that isn’t exactly right. I believe *something* greater than us is out there. I believe it resides in our souls and in our connections to each other. But I don’t believe it requires being worshipped. I don’t believe it judges. It is us, and we are the result of it – for better or worse. But I don’t believe it is omniscient so much as just highly aware on a completely different level than us mere humans. And I believe that innate goodness is its core, even as we must find that on our own.

            I’m rambling, sorry. Just lots of this stuff on my mind lately . . .

          • kellygreen

            No, Atheism is not an absence of belief…it is itself a belief in a negative condition.

            It is the belief that God does not exist. That is not the same as failing to be persuaded by the arguments for the existence of God. Agnostics are not persuaded by those arguments either. Which is why they say “I don’t know”.

            Nor is atheism merely the rejection of a particular VISION of the nature of God. It is the rejection of the existence of ANY God…and is the opposite end of the polarity that is the belief in the existence of God.

            You cannot have a coin with only one side. Every concept has its opposite.

            …and no, Atheism is not the question of “What is God?” In fact THAT question is the question that is asked by every true spiritual seeker throughout recorded history…and probably even before that.

            In short, atheism sets up an “either-or” situation that neither side of the duality can prove their case. But what I find somewhat annoying is that only the religious tend to be honest with themselves about believing in something whose reality cannot be objectively proven. Atheists often deceive themselves in this regard.

            Based on what you have described, I would say your belief is in a non-personal, formless “God”. God as “Ground of Being” or Fundamental Consciousness. This conception of the Divine is very common in many of the Eastern religions/wisdom traditions. It is is vision of God that, imo, is a very evolved one….but has been lost to the traditional Western Religions. Which is why, in my experience, those people to whom this vision of God speaks to them eventually wind up either wandering away from organized (Western) religion…or never coming to it in the first place.

            So I would hardly accuse you of rambling.

            If you want to read something that can help you better understand how your own beliefs fit into the grand scheme of things, I reccommend Ken Wilber’s “The One, Two, Three of God.”

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Ah, so much is just words and how we define them, huh? Worship, should be simple enough, right? The OED has the definitions religious rites or ceremonies, constituting a formal expression of reverence and great admiration or devotion shown towards a person or principle. And I can understand how one might be unwilling (or not feel the need to) perform either of this towards the divine. But the the OED also defines worship as the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration. That something that resides in our souls and connects us to each other and the world, doesn’t that all by itself, by simply experiencing it, invoke that last form of worship. Isn’t there something within the soul that honesty requires to worship?
            Though of course that again depends on what exactly one means by require, or honesty. And on it goes. It is little wonder that there are so many futile debates going nowhere, all of us divided by a common language? ^_^
            One solution might be, trimming down the myriard nuances, agreeing on clear, almost mathermatical definitions before every exchange. Though, one has to wonder what will be lost, not just in expressive capability, but also in the ability to achieve a nuanced understanding of the world.
            Maybe trying to see possible common meanings before focusing on possible different inetntions might defuse many situations. Of course, then one has to watch out that meaning does not drown in harmony.
            Bit of both, maybe?
            Maybe talking about faith should be less about conveying the faith itself and more about establishing lines of empathy and understanding?
            *Sigh*

          • Diana A.

            “Maybe talking about faith should be less about conveying the faith itself and more about establishing lines of empathy and understanding?”

            Maybe. (Seriously, I’m in total agreement with you on this.)

          • DanCohenour

            “Thou art God”! Reference “Stranger In A Strange Land” by Robert A. Heinlein. Read it and you will gain some understanding of what you are talking about.

          • Diana A.

            Re: “Stranger in a Strange Land”–definitely well worth reading if you haven’t yet done so. I should probably read it again myself.

          • Anonymous

            Hola Tildeb,

            That’s an interesting point.

            I just accused some of John’s critics at HuffPo (who, I’ve been told, are not so much criticizing his article as reacting to a general disdain towards Christianity) as fundamentalists because while they assert their open-mindedness, they actually seem to be serving up old, irrelevant arguments. (NOTE: I admit this is a sweeping generalization.)

            Their behavior, however, did seem reminiscent of some fundamentalists who’ve traveled through this blog.

            As to “belief” – is this just a matter of semantics? I mean, you believe there is no God, because there is nothing to indicate such an existence…perhaps that is a stretch, but I’m curious as to why this is so offensive?

            Something I’ve been thinking about…

            I’ve never known an athiest who didn’t possess higher than “above average” intelligence, but I’ve known plenty o’ dim-witted religious folk.

            Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve paid particular attention to athiest voices in this blog and searched them out elsewhere. I’ve detected, with significant consistency, an air of superiority and wondered if it stems from a combination of the intelligence quotient and ego/pride of certainty. (Or I could be flat out wrong.)

            Then I tried *athiesm* on for size. If I viewed “belief in god” as a silly, illogical myth, I’d likely feel 1) sad for those who were unable, b/c of a lack of intelligence, or surplus of fear, to see the truth 2) anger for religion being imposed in various aspects of my life and 3) well, slightly superior-ish.

            Is this how you feel? And if not, why not? (I mean no disrespect.)

            —Sorry for jumping all over the place in this comment.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Don’t apologize Susan for asking a hard question. It’s important to understand why the notion of belief in the religious sense applied to atheism is antithetical to what it is that drives the atheist to publicly criticize religion: that far too many people simply don’t value the principle of reasoning when it comes to believing in their religious viewpoints and how that belief adversely affects their society. This is no small matter.

            Faith as an intellectual condition is, as Harris accurately describes, conviction without sufficient reason, hope mistaken for knowledge, bad ideas protected from good ones, good ideas obscured by bad ones, wishful thinking elevated to a principle of salvation, and so on. The response to this criticism when pointed out in unreasonable specifics is almost always along the lines of “Well, that’s not MY religious faith…,” yet 57% of Americans believe that one must believe in god to have good values and be moral agents, 69% want a president who is guided by strong religious beliefs, 81% believe in heaven, 78% in angels, 70% in Satan, and 70% in hell. Yet on almost every measure of societal health, the less religious it is the better off its members are: life expectancy, infant mortality, crime, literacy, GDP, child welfare, economic equality, economic competitiveness, gender equality, health care, investments in education, rates of university enrollment, internet access, environmental protection, lack of corruption, political stability, charity to poorer nations, and so. These levels are all negatively correlated to the rate of religious belief in the society. In addition, the bonus feature of religious commitment in the US is highly correlated with racism. Where’s the discussion about how to change all of this in the forums and blogs of the religious, how to reduce this negative influence? What we see are popular religious sites that make no such attempt to reduce this religious influence in the public domain in the service of their fellow citizens but actively work to support its promotion and influence and continuation.

            These hard facts speak out loudly against the claim that religious belief is associated with better societal health, that religious belief is a force for good. Yet when people do speak out against the assumption that religious belief is good, that it is beneficial, that it offers more solutions than it does problems, they are marginalized and criticized for their ‘militancy’ and ‘stridency’ and ‘arrogance’ and ‘fundamentalism’ to the ‘dogma’ of atheistic human secularism. When reasonable folk raise the uncomfortable fact that religious belief is a negative correlate in so much of what makes society beneficial to its members, they are criticized for their alleged incivility, bias, and ignorance how ‘sophisticated’ believers practice their faith.

            So where are all these ‘sophisticates’ and why isn’t their influence mitigating the religious adverse affects? They certainly are not the majority of religious believers. Yet the sophisticates play a central role in defending religious belief from legitimate criticism, from religious believers having an honest dialogue about the overwhelming negative effects religious belief correlates to people’s well-being as a society and make it next to impossible to come up with a strategy to implement necessary change to get religious influence out of the public domain where it continues to be a root correlate of societal harm.

            Beliefs have consequences. How we arrive at them matters a great deal. It is possible to arrive at them poorly. It is possible to be wrong and not know it. We call that ignorance. It is possible to be wrong and to know it but be reluctance to admit that we do so to avoid the social stigma of not going along with the majority. We call this hypocrisy. It is possible to dimly glimpse that we may be wrong in our beliefs but allow the fear of being wrong to drive our urge to increase our commitment to the belief set. We call this self-deception. These are not unusual thinking tools used in the service of religious belief. And there is a growing epidemic of scientific illiteracy and ignorance and anti-intellectualism in much of the world that fails to appreciate that few scientific truths are self-evident and many are counter-intuitive. It is intellectual work and effort and discipline of method to come to understand how and why empty space is structured, that we share a common ancestor with fruit flies and carrots. And few things make thinking like a scientist and understanding the world as it really is more difficult than a deep attachment to religious beliefs that offer simple answers regardless if they are true. What some might perceive to be “superior-ish” disrespect for those who think themselves justified to maintain religious beliefs in the face of contrary knowledge, I think is a sense of disdain for those who are unwilling to do this work, to respect the principle of reason, that the product of good reasoning reveals what’s knowable and what’s true, and that what’s true matters more than what one simply wishes to believe.

            To then be accused of substituting a simplistic set of answers based on wishful thinking for another such set reveals the depth of just how wide is the gulf between those who respect the principle and product of good reasoning and those who choose to know far too little about it in the service of their religious beliefs.

          • Mindy

            Tildeb, this is outstanding. I particularly like your point about the consequences of beliefs, and that how we arrive at them matters a great deal.

            This is one of the reasons I have a hard time with the indoctrination of children. I understand the concept the of wanting a church community in which to raise your children, but at the same time, believing something solely because it’s all you’ve known since before you were old enough to reason is not a concept with which I am comfortable.

            My children knew the Catholic church when they were young, because their father was Catholic. I was not. We attended Mass, but I did not participate in the standing and kneeling, and I did not take Communion. When they became old enough to ask, I simply told them that people have all different ways of honoring what they believe in, and this was Daddy’s way. As they got older, we discussed it in more detail, based on the questions they asked.

            I came to my own beliefs through my own personal experience – I discarded what I learned as a child, because it always, always felt disingenuous, for as long as I can remember. I spent several years fairly certain that nothing resembling God existed. I still don’t believe it is as religion teaches, but I came to my beliefs only after witnessing a sufficient amount of evidence to convince me that something greater than our understanding does, indeed, exist.

            I believe it with my whole heart, even as I cannot define it. It awes me, and in it, I find peace. I would not, though, ever expect anyone else to believe it without their own experience giving them their own truth. It is a private matter, to me, and while it guides me, it does not define me. Of the few friends with whom I’ve discussed it, many of them have the same sense of “something,” even they don’t follow a particular religion or established spiritual path.

            All we have in this life is our humanity, which is defined by our connections to others. When we make the most of that, and leave the world a better place than we found it, we’ve honored everyone’s version of God.

          • Anonymous

            believing something solely because it’s all you’ve known since before you were old enough to reason is not a concept with which I am comfortable

            Indeed. There is a huge difference between introducing and indoctrinating, with the latter having signigicant potential to cause emotional damage. Like many core beliefs developed in childhood, they are hard to let go even when doing so is precisely what will bring about emotional health.

            ty, Mindy

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Thanks, Mindy, for taking the time to read and understand what I’m saying here and I’m glad it offers you some ‘think time’ for the investment!

            When it comes to the issue of exposing children to parent’s religious beliefs and activities, we have a fairly wide range of opinion about the benefit to cost ratio. Is such exposure harmful or helpful?

            There is some fascinating neuroscientific research results about how we come to incorporate our biases in our thinking. For example, when you come across a religious truth claim about belief you agree with, your brain incorporates the statement as true which in turn activates other specific parts of the brain known to be involved with other factual statements like ‘Ohio is part of the United States’. This process is very fast (and it’s also interesting that acceptance of the claim occurs before any other brain activity – what is commonly referred to as ‘higher’ cognitive function – occurs.) Specifically, an area of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex that is associated with self-representation and emotional reward lights up with belief statements held to be true.

            In stark contrast, disbelief requires a much longer process of rejection and involves different parts of the brain without the same easy access to reward feelings and identity. (Of interest is how disbelief is associated with an area of the brain that deals with feelings of disgust!) In other words, we are biologically prepared to accept religious belief claims and enjoy immediate emotional benefit than we are to intentionally insert skepticism between our natural inclination to believe something to be true and then have to do work without any fast reward to deal with why the claim may or may not be true. This is called a ‘truth’ bias. It’s easier to believe something to be true and feels better.

            Okay, what does this have to do with kids?

            Because people tend to seek evidence that confirms an hypothesis rather than evidence that refutes it for brain-based reasons, we understand that children will not be exempt from exactly this same tendency for bias. But we also know that young children come with the desire to please their parents. Why wouldn’t most children so exposed to parental religious preferences be more willing to accept the parent’s beliefs as true when the additional effort required to apply skepticism not only provides no benefits for the child in terms of emotional rewards inside the head but stands in contrast to the child’s urge to please? We come ready, willing, and able to be biased in favour of accepting our parent’s beliefs as our own ‘truth’ claims.

            It is also well established that Our bias toward belief may also explain the “illusory-truth effect,” where mere exposure to a proposition, even when it was revealed to be false or attributed to an unreliable source, increases the likelihood that it will later be remembered as being true (Begg, Robertson et al, The Illusory-knowledge Effect, Journal of Memory and Language, 1996, p 35)

            This knowledge now raises a rather important question: Are we doing our children a service (presumably on behalf of exposing them to what’s true) by introducing them to our religious preferences and beliefs? Or are we doing ourselves a favour (arguably to influence our children to accept our beliefs as true on merits other than the truth value of our belief claims themselves)?

            If we, as parents, value and wish to facilitate our children’s quest to learn how to learn what’s true and be skeptical consumers of other people’s ideas promoted for reasons other than what’s true, then where does our parental duty lie? Said in a slightly more critical fashion, are we parenting well if our children’s best interests to be critical thinkers and skeptical consumers are intentionally made secondary to our own desire to feel good because of our own belief biases?

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Apparently there can be more than the bias towards belief in God, at least according to Paul C. Vitz, Professor of Psychology at New York University. Or is that a crackpot college? Don’t know my way around the American educational system.

            I would be very curious what you think motivates your own rather passionate fight for, um, can we agree to call it the quest for objective and unambiguous truth? (And please don’t make me discount you as self-delusional by giving some noble, altruistic reason as improving the world and the lot of humanity per se. You are much to involved not to have a personal stake in this.)

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            I think NYU is a good school but my opinion is based only on not hearing any differently.

            As for Vitz, is this the same psychologist Vitz of ad hominem fame who attributes atheism to fatherly conditioning and the cult of self-worship?

            Feh.

            My motivation? Here’s a sonnet I wrote that may explain:

            Choose

            Go stand before the earthly gates of Hell
            And read the iron lie “Work Makes One Free”.
            The countless dead that breathed the Zyklon-B
            Speak silently to you who listen well.
            Accused of vice, and robbed of voice, in vain
            They die to douse the judge’s flaming cackle
            That burns renewed with every witch’s crackle.
            In place of Truth, the light reveals the stain:
            Bless biased ignorance and spiteful hearts,
            Give praise and raise one’s tribe above the rest,
            To break the bond of reason’s sacrament.
            Seduce you soul with us-and-them; it starts
            Your temporal fall from Grace. Can you contest
            Fear’s epitaph, Last Will and Testament?

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Alas. You really do claim you do it in the name of “all those countless dead”. And you even do it by reductio ad hitlerum and using both theological vocabulary and teleological argument. Reason’s sacrament? Soul? Grace? Truth a choice based on moral merit – moral merit by association, to boot? That’s either circular or dishonest or both.

            How come your default position on the quality of universities is that they are good schools? As for Vitz, he may be a crackpot. He did seem to credit a disturbed relationship with the rents as one cause of atheism, so it’s really more an anti-conditioning, a rebelliousness projected on God. I didn’t see anything ad hominem in that, though. Unless you count any doubt on the purity of atheist reason as a personal attack. The “cult of self-worship” accusation appeared to be rather directed at the way the discipline of psychology itself was being handled, and less at atheism. But I only read a few online reviews and one speech, so, who knows.

          • http://mindyscurls.wordpress.com/ Mindy

            I may come off sounding incredibly naive, or ignorant, or maybe even both – but what is wrong with “truth a choice based on moral merit” ??

            Are you saying that tildeb *must” have some secret, passionate motivation beyond a passionate caring that religion as weapon be de-cloaked to continue articulating the point?

            Is it not possible to just feel horrible inside about an atrocity, or a series of atrocities, even without personal experience with such, and be motivated by that feeling to understand the reasons behind them? And to then share those reasons?

            I ask for two reasons. First, because I share that feeling. Second, because s/he remains willing to explain, again and again, with greater detail or more salient examples, in order to get the point across. It can be exhausting to read sometimes, I’ll admit – but it makes sense and seems to be written with great passion tempered with great patience.

            Even as I don’t fully agree, I learn from the reading and I don’t sense some underlying, perhaps sinister, motivation, as you seem to be trying to attribute.

            If I’ve missed pieces of the discussion, please forgive me – I know I haven’t managed to read every single comment here.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Thank you Mindy; you area allowed to disagree!

            I dare people to go to Auswitzche, stand before that gate, and not be appalled by the power of unjustified belief. I did when I was eight years old and made my commitment then, only to hear every Remembrance Day: Never. Again.

            We can do better than stand silently one or two minutes a year and think war is the cause. War is just another symptom of a much deeper problem. Each and every one of us needs to choose, each according to one’s abilities. For me, writing one word at a time. Unjustified belief is our common enemy no matter where it takes root, and our primary tool in our defensive arsenal against its insidiousness is reason.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            I have some beef with this sonnet, yes. To start, I have been at Auschwitz, and quite a bit more recent than when I was 8. As mentioned, I lived in Germany for most of my life, and I had a grandfather whose hands are red with blood. Perhaps being queer has added a tiny bit of extra compassion, given the victims of the pink triangle, and the certainty that I wouldn’t have had a place to live in their world. I also spent some time with a family of gypsies and count them amongst my closest personal friends. So please believe me when I feel quite horrible about those atrocities, both abstract and also very, very personally. Which is why I am not amused when Tildeb equates my religious experiences – without having taken to bother to find out what they are – with the hatred that fueled those camps.I have absolutely no problem with anyone who passionately cares about making visible the use as weapon of any ideology. And I certainly do not want to defend the horrors organized religion or non-religious ideology has perpetrated in the past is still perpetrating all over the world.I take offence at Tildebs claim that any religious feeling that attributes real existance to the divine or transcendent must be faulty and dangerous. I take offence that he bolsters his outrage at the holocaust in religious terminology, using their emotional power for the very argument meant to negate their validity. I take offence that someone so dedictated to the scientific method claims that something is less true because it is horrible or dangerous. I take offence that he creates a demagogic guilt by association when he declares all non-rational experiences as being the same as wich-burnings and concentration camps.As to the question of motivation: There are a lot of horrors in this world, and a lot of causes. Self-serving capitalism, ecological havoc and warfare for resources in the name of maximizing profit, and the purely rational “following orders” banality of evil of the Eichmanns of this world show that a lot more must be done to deliver humanity from self-inflicted suffering than fighting for atheism. And yet, that is practically all Tildeb does, at least on this forum as well as on his own blog. If it were only the “never again”, there would have to be more. Since there isn’t, I must assume that this one particular facet of evil holds a personal meaning for him. And he hides it by playing the Nazi card.Lastly, you stress his willingness to continually explain his position. I see that too. What I fail to see is his willingness to listen, not just to jump at the chance to win another argumentative round, but to actually comprehend the position of others. Someone so hell-bent on defending the world from intolerance maybe would be more credible were he less intolerant.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            I take offence at Tildebs claim that any religious feeling that attributes real existance to the divine or transcendent must be faulty and dangerous. I take offence…

            You are allowed to believe whatever you want but if you make an assertion that a particular faith claim is true then it is no longer a matter of faith. It is a matter of fact. And you are not allowed to make up your own facts without causing offense to respecting what’s true. When you argue that what’s true is a merely a matter of nebulous semantics and open to your new definitions for common words, then the offense caused is against our common language. Beliefs have consequences. To be offended that someone points this out to you is rather rich because if you don’t care more about what’s true that what you wish to believe is true, then you have already cut off the very leg you now wish to stand on.

            That you find offense at my language is exactly the intention of the sonnet: when matters of faith are held in higher esteem and acted upon as if they were true, then great offense is caused to one’s fellow creatures. And we’re talking about far more than just religious faith here; we’re talking about the same root that nourishes misogyny, bigotry, racism, pseudoscience, superstition, etc..

            Hopefully, you will choose not to succumb to the temptation of ever acting on your faith, but act on the best reasons based on what’s true.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            I succumbed to it when last night I didn’t take my break with my boss and my co-worker downstairs as they were having a fag, but went to the roof instead to look for pre-dawn draw a fine line across the horizon seperating the silhouette of the mountains from the expense of the sky, and to worship the arrival of a new day. I succumb to it every time I remind myself of my Shaman and how she performed CPR on me and I imagine the breath in me as something sacred, like Olympic fire, passed from her to me and charging me with the obligation to treasure this life and to never be casual with it – even though I do know that chances are that no actual molecule of her breath remains in my lungs. I succumbed to it when I chose to stand by a pregnant girl and become her child’s father. I succumb to it every time I make myself not say “no” but say “yes” to this world and this life, in all their weird, fucked-up, painful glory.Oh, I bloody know that beliefs have real consequences. They wouldn’t be worth shit if they hadn’t, would they? This isn’t nebulous semantics. It is my life, mate.I do take offence when you accuse me of being a Nazi and a Witchburner because you think you see some parallel in the mechanics of my reasoning and theirs. Believe me, I see some parallels between your approach and theirs, too. But I know that that alone doesn’t make you akin to mass-murderers. It annoys me that you dare to misuse something on so many levels so profoundly horrible as the holocaust in such a sophomoric attempt to hide your personal motivations. It annoys me that someone who puts such importance on understanding appears to be so completely unaware of his motivations. And that is exactly why I mistrust you. A real scientist would be able to point the same power of observation at himself. It is you who lets his fear of emotions blind himself to the truth.I dare you to find mysogyny or racism or bigotry in what I have written on this or on your blog’s comments. I would dare you to find them in my bleeding life. I can see it in yours.

          • Infinitemoment

            Beliefs are how we define our identity and experience and confronting them can be frightening – and sometimes one may confront them to no good end. I completely agree that those who promote the idea that we can perceive any kind of truth often have their own assumptions ( *ahem beliefs) in terms of what is meaningful and in what way we can know what is meaningful.

            But unless I’ve missed something, no one has accused you personally of any crime implicit through faith or belief.

            Intellectuals are sometimes afraid of their emotions, but not all of them are.
            It’s often the case that “intellectuals”, if we may presume to discuss people defineable as such, want to ensure their emotions are appropriate. To some extent we can control and mitigate our emotions. And just because we feel something, doesn’t mean we should feel it.

            A feeling, an absolute total feeling bearing you up on it’s crest like the wave pulled through a boundless ocean….
            is no more real than
            oblivion
            or change

            memories
            things forgotten
            a person you forgot you ever were

            we are always new
            though we may think we are the same

            and there is not pride in feeling something
            there is just feeling something

          • infinitemoment

            By whichI don’t mean feelings are “bad”, so much as a matter of self-definition. We choose certain feelings, sometimes. There are others we do not choose. We generally choose feelings that serve our selves. Presuming to fix the human problem of the human race is an endless and strange pursuit, and those who hurt the most often seek to bury their pain in others – whether benevolently or malevolently or unconciously frankly – absorption and association. Defining the world through other’s experiences, by controlling externalized pain. Sometimes the worst of pain is the meaning we see in it. Anxiety complicates it. Fear of mutilation complicates it. Fear of losing control complicates it. Surrendering to god or to someone else sometimes allows us to let go of that fear of losing control. Control is paradoxical. We never have it, but we always have it. Most things that matter are paradoxical.
            I think it keeps life immensely interesting.

          • Infinitemoment

            We can only be what we are, not what we say, or even what we believe we are. But it’s nice to get it so it all more or less fits together.

          • Infinitemoment

            Aha! A sharp turn in the direction of hackneyed personal attack! In more ways than one.

            In arguments it usually makes people look a little silly. What was your point?

            Anyway, I strongly believe people should study both mystical and secular philosophy such as Nietsche, Gudjieff, Kant… and rhetoric. God, we surely could use more rhetoric. By which I mean it’s original meaning – knowledge of effective argumentative styles – rather than it’s subsequent abuses. Was that intended to be a form of pathos?

            Pardon me, I feel so naked without my language. And uh, I know my belief system looks really small, but uh, it’s really cold in here, you see…

          • Anonymous

            Tildeb,

            This is… amazing. And I’m not just referring to the content, but the spirit of your response.

            You’re willingness to compose such a thoughtful response – offering the depth of your perspective in a manner I can comprehend, and doing so with kindness – it means so much to me and says a lot about you.

            I’ve read it once, but have printed it out to better digest it when I’m home, glass of wine in hand.

            Thank you.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Thank you so much, Susan for the compliment. And it seems to have been made before the glass of wine was in hand, too! I think it’s solid advice to always read my comments armed at the very least with a glass of wine so as to insure a ‘spirited’ response!

          • Suz

            Absolutely OUTSTANDING statement on religion!!! My primary complaint with religion is that is negates itself, from the word “go.” It is based on belief in divinity, which in and of itself, is not irrational. Divinity is by definition beyond the capacity of man to comprehend, supposedly greater than everything physical. Yet the very first thing every religion on earth does, is claim to understand “God’s will,” and tell us exactly what it is. THAT is irrational.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Thanks, Suz. You raise a central point that tends to cause a lot of unnecessary confusion: if something is unknowable, then there is no firm epistemological ground upon which to base further reasoning about the nature, intentions, purpose, will, desires, and so on of this unknowable beastie. By default we can presume ANY claims – no matter how marvelous or eloquent or beautiful they may seem – about the unknowable have no better than a .5 probability of being true… that these claims may or may not be true but we have no direct way to determine which.

            What we CAN do – and this is the part that is often overlooked – is investigate for evidence of effect. In other words, if the claim about something that is unknowable in itself is true, then evidence of effect should be available. If this evidence is lacking, then that reduces the .5 probability near to zero. It is then reasonable to say that this absence of effect indicates that the claim itself is probably not true, probably not accurate, probably not correct.

          • Suz

            Oooh! Statistics! I love/hate them. Maybe you could toss that one at, say, the current trend of using fake science to prove “creation theory.” Or maybe I should just shut up and stay away from Christian politics.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            There are statistics and there are probabilities, usually presented in a math section or course called Statistics and Probabilities. Probabilities are our lovable friends and are just another way to express fractions, percentages, long division, and ratios. They are essential in calculating the mechanics of some quantum, which seems to work with a very high degree of accuracy so we really must make the effort to get along with them. Understanding probabilities is the first step in this long and wondrous relationship.

            What this has to do with christian politics is above my pay grade. Care to elaborate?

          • Suz

            No thanks, I’d rather not. Using real science to debunk fake science (in or out of the church) would fill an interesting book (or two, or ten) but I don’t want to write it.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Yes. The transcendent by definition is unknowable. Which is exactly why it is by definition not subject to scientific inquiry. But it is experienceable. Now, science can ineed examine and learn to understand the mechanism of this experience. Neurology as well as psychology and sociology do that.
            But understanding the mechanism is not the same as the experience itself, no more than paper and ink hold the true essence of The Great Gatsby, no more than pigment and canvas hold the essence of Chagall’s Fiddler or Picasso’s Guernica – indeed, no more than then the photons and electrons transmitting these comments between your mind and mine, even though, without ink and paper, pigment, canvas, photons, electrons, and human brains there would be no experience.
            It is more than just the sheer, physical information held in those works of arts, though. For someone without both abstract knowledge and personal information of culture, history, society, in short, of life, would not be able to see more than ink on paper or pigment on canvas. It is only in the interplay of all of that, that the art does its magic, that the brain experiences meaning. Just as it is only in the interplay of all of those things with the physical universe, viewed with all the knoweldge we can gain but also with a bared and humbled soul, that reveals the perceptible emanations of God.
            And Suz, yes, we can never know God or His will. And everybody who claims to know God, who has a clear image of God, is an idolator. When you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha. Only when you stop looking for God have you truly lost Him, that goes equally for atheists and theists.
            I do not doubt that science can decipher all the details of what happens in our brains as we experience life, and God. No understanding of brain chemistry will replace or invalidate heartache, or an orgasm, or the pain and frustration of hitting your thumb with a hammer, or love, or experiencing God. Nor should it. What would life be without these things?

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            If any of these experiences are not fully explained by our biological responses, then what? If ‘beauty’ or ‘love’ or ‘awe’ is not fully explained by our biological responses, then what? You make it sound as if biological responses to the very physical ink and paper and canvas – what we call ‘making meaning’ – is considering something more that the particular organization of ink, paper, and canvas. What and where is this additional element not present in the physical ink, paper, and canvas if not in your biology?

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            *Groans* First, and for the umpteenth time, this isn’t about explanations. Science is the perfect tool for analysis and explanations. Religious belief, like appreciation of art, is about experiencing something.
            Secondly, yes there is something more to both pieces of art and the cosmos. Let’s as an example take Michelanglo’s David. You have its simple material substance, white marble. You have its concrete physical shape. But none of these alone sum up all that the statue is, do they? It depicts the biblical David, calling up associations of the underdog (Goliath), friendship (Jonathan), devotion and persecution (Saul), wisdom and kingship (King of Israel), love and faith (psalms), fatherhood (Absalom, Solomon), lust and sin (Bathsheba), and many, many others. The statue, rooted in medieval Christian faith is also a symbol for the Renaissance and the dawn of reason. It’s anatomical precision links the roman and greek antiquity with the modern age.
            There is also our own appreciation of special aspects. I think the statue is incredibly erotic. If you’re a straight man, you might not share that.
            The experience of that staue depends on all of that: It’s phyiscal poroperties, its history, its cultural meaning, and what we see in it subjectively. What you know greatly influences how you experience it. Yet neither the statue itself nor the knowledge is by itself “subjective”.
            It isn’t about subjectivity, or about objectivity. It isn’t about explain either. Of course you can track down many, maybe all of those inluences and aspects, catalogue them, understand how they work. A worthy project. But it doesn’t replace the experience. It doesn’t invalidate the experience.
            The same that happens to the appreciation (or lack thereof) of the David statue also happens in the appreciation (or lack thereof) of the cosmos and life. The one can be art. The other can be religion.
            Neither is per se unintelligent, impedes functional living, or leads automatically to the gates of Auschwitz.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            This IS all about explanations: and for many that fuzzy explanation is GOD.

            And it is also about ATTRIBUTING our experiences.

            Again, you completely avoid my point that the EXPERIENCE you have regarding, let’s say, the moving beauty of art IS a biological experience that you THEN interpret into something meaningful. We can understand and build knowledge about the nuts and bolts of this experience wholly and fully within the biological domain INCLUDING why we find it so moving and beautiful and meaningful.

            The meaningful experience is not related to anything ‘out there’ – some ‘other’ agency – some ‘other-worldly’ influence – some unknowable yet interactive ‘something’ – that can only be described as some ephemeral epistemologically unknowable entity. The meaningful experience is directly related to our neurobiology.

            As much as people may want to recoil from this fact because of a deep desire to keep the transcendental experiences a ‘mystery’ immune from temporal explanations, the truth will come out. In the same way theologians bemoaned the loss of ‘god’s mystery’ with advances in physics and cosmology and evolutionary biology (which just so happens to come with marvels of technological applications that enhances our daily lives) to name but a few, the fact is that we can gain knowledge that deepens our wonder and awe at the marvels of reality without needing to shroud what’s knowable with divinely beautified superstition. The wages of superstition do not outweigh the wages of knowledge.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Fuck You! Damnit… now I squirted orange juice through my nose and all down my shirt. Gah. That burns… jeeez… lemme catch my breath. But thanks for the laugh…

            You must be the most biased reader I have ever met.

            I avoided the fact that any experience is neurobiological in nature? I do not know how I could have state exactly that any plainer? Of course it is. My experience of you is neurobiological in nature. Since I experience everything through my senses and my brain… absofuckinglutely everything is. So what?

            Of course you can explain everything (given enough data, and processing power, which may or may not be only theoretically possible) that way. And to make use of that understanding you then group your experience of reality into defined bits with clear attributes. You call that bunch of molecules a “chair”, and they series of causes and effects “Alzheimer”, that system of entities and interactions a “bee hive”, that shared, subjective experience of hormones and cognitive processes “love”. None of these things exist as objectively seperate “things”. They are just your cultural and linguistic interpretation of the interplay of parts of reality.

            Why should explaining from a neurological POV why I am moved make me any less moved? If it doesn’t, how is that statement of any relevance?

            As for attributation, my, my. I attribute the ecosystem with needs and deeds, well aware that they are just, well, part of the system. I attribute the legal system with demands and even intelligence… not the intelligence of the system per se you may say, but that of those officers serving it and how the limits of the system enhance or limit the application of that intelligence in respect to catching me. Countries, cultures, families, epochs, all have a character that is made up by wholly natural means out of the sum of their parts. There is nothing whatsoever supernatural about it. The fact that they can all be rationally explained still does nothing to lessen their importance, or the validity of the impact they have on my life.

            If the wonder’s gone when the truth is known, there never was any wonder. (House MD)

            It is nice that you have your pet war with literalist idiots, and that that war has turned you in their mirror image literalist idiot. You are just attributing the words with the wrong meaning… No matter how much you wish you could define what God is to everybody just so you can make your little generalizing statements about it, this weird construct you keep talking about exists nowhere but in your neurobiological experience. For me – and quite a number of people – God remains the most adequat term for the subjective experience of a complex objective reality. Your explanation don’t diminish that. In fact, through my life, understanding have only enriched this experience. I still see no reason not to call it by its proper name.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Funny you should mention House. David (the writer of the show) and I went to school together and played on the same hockey team. Do you think our similar opinions were shaped by our environment? Hmm…

            I’m not denying you your faith in interpreting the experiences you have any way you wish, nor trying to reduce the importance and meaning you gain from your experiences. I am denying that your interpretation of what these experiences represent is a fact that is also true for me, that these experiences offer us evidence to that effect. My continued argument is that your interpretations of your experiences do no such thing.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Oh, I never intended for you to interpret such or similar experiences in the same way. Live and let live. And I never claimed that experience replaces evidence for anything. I don’t require you to like Haggis or blackpudding to validate my enjoyment of it. Nor does a scientific explanation of why I enjoy it diminish the experience.

            But your original argument was the my interpretation of these experiences was necessarily and invariably delusional, incompatible with science, and leads in a straight line to Auschwitz.

            And for the last part, I do actually still expect an apology.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Why do you keep avoiding my point that you are welcome to your own faith but not your own facts? When you extend your faith (that god is real) as if it were a fact and then act on it, you are duplicating the same line of reasoning that led to apartheid and pogroms, witch-burnings and the holocaust, superstition and pseudoscience. When one has no way to distinguish between what one believes is true based on FAITH and what IS true based on facts, then we’re in very deep trouble. I maintain that distinction. You, apparently, don’t think it’s important.

            Does that make you a nazi? Not to my knowledge. But it does make you susceptible to becoming a part of the problem of faith-based reasoning extended negatively into my life. You don’t have that right. But I have every right to insist that both of us respect our shared facts based on what’s true. And for that you’ll get no apology out of me.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Mate, I distinguish between what is factually true and how I interpret these facts. When have I ever given you reason to doubt that I will agree with every suffiently proven and peer-reviewed scientific discovery?
            Our problems are not that I claim any such unproven facts. Our difference is apparently purely a matter of linguistics (and what they imply.)
            There is objects I call “chairs”. I would be hard pressed to define them exactly against, say, a couch, or a stool. They are made of the most diverse materials, have the most diverse shapes, and are probably mainly united by what I percieve to be their function: To sit on them. I’m okay that I don’t know where exactly a chair ends and some other piece of furniture begins (linguistically), because in practical life, it doesn’t matter. Other words are not as easy or innocent. What is a weapon and under what circumstances can I allow what weapons near me, or, say, in a school, or on a plane. What is love. Where exactly does it cross into infatuation, narcisicm, exploitation or abuse?
            I am aware that defining words like God or the soul and what attributes I associate with them isn’t risk-free. But so is corssing the street. You claim the use of the words never justifies the associated risks. That is a positive claim, and you have to prove it.
            I think that properly applied these terms help make sense of the world and how to live in it. Not by inventing facts, not to contradict science, but to group and interpret the facts that we face.
            Two years ago I tried to frame my belief in the sweet hereafter in words. I probably would phrase some things differently, but the basic principle I still believe. Mostly because I haven’t encountered any facts or experiences that would require me to change my belief. [Caveat Lector: The link is kinda soppy but mostly inoffensive except for die-hard theists and atheists. Some other posts on that blog are offensive to pretty much everyone. So, don't look beyond the linked post if you want to hold on to your lunch.]
            Unfortunately God is such a vast topic that it is impossible for me to give you even an introduction to my beliefs in the space of these comments.
            Maybe one small aspect: As I mentioned before, one of the more general commandemnts I believe that-which-I-call-God has for humans, is to say yes to life in all its pain, joy, horror and glory. That the worst sin anyone can commit is to say no to the game of life, to withdraw from the rapture of existance, by false self-denial and hermeticism, by over-intellectualizing, by prudery, by tribalism, by fear of risk or pain or disappointment. Pessimism (often in the guise of self-pitying “realism”), Cowardice, Despair, Possessiveness, and many other sins follow from that one.
            Before you start choking spittle all over the place and erupt again, no, I do not think that there is some bearded old chap somewhere in teh clouds who pulled this rule from his hat. I am quite convinced that the “rule” is only a result of a number of wholly natural factors: That life is only valued by those who live it fully and without fear. (And, please, I do know the difference between fear and prudence, between being open to risk and being foolhardy, even though as so foten in real life these distinctions are often very hard to make out; anyway, I don’t want to propagate some jackass hedonism. Just the fully aware and responsible enjoyment of life in spite of the pain it inevitable – and mostly unfairly – brings.) Fear is more often than not the base of most other forms of evil and conflict. Going through life with a feeling of being unfulfilled is one of the most common causes of trying to worsen the lot of others. And finally, the simple logic, that if this short span of life is all we have for certain (and I see no reason whatsoever except wishfull thinking to believe in a literal next world), and an eternity of nothing preceeding and following it, it must be better to accumulate as many positive experiences even at the cost of a bunch of negative ones, than to deny myself so I can be more pain-free. Being dead is the ultimate state of being pain-free, and that comes soon enough.
            Saying yes includes accepting others, even if they say no. It can anger me, I can think it wise or beneficial to try to make them see my POV, but they are part of this whole glorious mess, and I better learn how to live with them – even annoying know-it-all atheist wildebeests.
            Why do I call it the Will of God? Why not, well, what would you have me call it? I call it that because it has the shape and feel of a commandment. Of purpose and intention. And because it is given to me not by another person but by life itself. By a very complicated web of personal experiences, some knowledge of human psychology and sociology and the causes and effects of behaviour, a shitload of cultural tradition, the neuological pay-off I get from following it, and a lot more. It also ties into quite a lot of different religious ideas, including Mr. Shore’s beloved “Great Commandment”, and some Buddhism, though I doubt you can reduce it to any one faith or denomination. So, for all intents and purposes I got this “commandement” by the cosmos. By that interplay of everything, that to me is correctly termed “God”.
            God has no more or less existance than a Chair has. No more. But no less.
            Now, I am quite aware that it is *I* trying to understand the will and purpose of existance, and that being human I am capable of making mistakes. And if I find evidence that I have misunderstood the world, well, I am quite willing to change my mind. Believing in chairs doesn’t make me any more or less irrational either.
            So, please, enlighten me. How does this approach make me susceptible to becoming a Nazi. What facts do I claim that you know to be not true?
            And while we are at it, how do you come by the principles by which you live your life, like your apparent desire to keep new Auschwitzes from being opened by queer, gnostic baker-apprentices? Seriously. I share your desire. I know why I do. What except your gut feeling is telling you that is is wrong and evil to go about murdering peeps?

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Hah, now I know what this conversation keeps reminding me of:Once a zen student and his master were sitting on a mountain meadow, meditating. Suddenly the student jumps up and excitedly shouts: “Master, master. That rock there… it is in my head!” The Master smiles and says: “You must have a mighty big head, then.”To the ignorant, a mountain is a mountain. To the student, a mountain is not a mountain. To the master, a mountain is a mountain.
            So… keep struggling, grasshopper… ^_^

          • kellygreen

            This conversation reminds me of the zen story where a professor goes to visit a zen master..and procedes to tell the master of all his ideas of what Zen is, and what it isn’t.

            The master listens for a few minutes, then invites the professor to share some tea with him. All the while the professor keeps talking. The zen master then begins to pour tea into the professor’s cup. He keeps pouring until it reaches the top and starts to overflow. The master keeps pouring until tea is running everywhere.

            Finally the professor stops talking long enough to notice the tea, and he says “Stop! Stop pouring! Can’t you see that the cup is full?” The master stopped pouring and looked at the professor and said, “Your mind is like this cup. So full of ideas and preconceived notions. Like this cup, I cannot put anything else into it until you empty it of what you THINK you know. Empty your cup.”

            I understand the mountain story slightly differently. To the average person, all they experience is their IDEA of what a mountain is. They do not really experience the mounatin as it really is. The student then lets go of his idea of what a mountain is, and then experiences the mountain. Then he lets go of the idea that he is seperate from the moutain. That “he” is behind his eyes looking out at a mountain “out there”. Hence the exclamation of the student that the mountain is in his head.

            The master understand that there is no self, and there is no mountain. There is no inside and there is no outside. That everything is just ripples in his own awareness. So the student’ insistence that the mountain is “in his head” is as absurd as the notion that the mountain is “out there”.

            Tildeb is like the professor…in his insistence in trying to reduce everything to biochemical machines running around…

            …and like the uninitiated in your zen story, he pays lipservice to the idea that he only experiences his own nervous system (“neurobiology”) without any sort of understanding of what that ultimately means.

            So the mountain is still a mountain “out there” somewhere.

          • Infinitemoment

            We either have the terrible burden or being ourselves or we don’t.

            Whether or not it is a terrible burden, or whether or not I am my self…
            Has very little to do with my self, except that I have to do with everything, and everything has to do with me.
            The simple and the complex live inside each other.
            The mystical and the matter-of-fact, too.

            You can call “it” religious, or you can call “it” a matter of (secular) radical ontology – but there isn’t any *need* to call “it” anything.

            That experience of connection to everything that ever has, does or will exist – validates our desire for self-expression and self-knowledge and at the same time completely humbles us.

            To sin is in it’s original meaning, merely to miss the point…
            If you want to call that point god, you can hardly have missed it, except by giving that name a meaning that separates you from it.
            Sin is more generally referred to as a state of separation from god.

            Which is open to interpretation. It certainly can be a round of interesting times to interpret things.

          • Infinitemoment

            I should note that I wasn’t responding to you specifically, more to the variant lines of discussion converging, as I saw it into a central contradiction that by association – by our very existence in a larger system of any kind – we are involved, on a physical level with everything, and so is everything with us.
            and
            This very ordinary sensible realization can often provoke a somewhat “religious” experience. Perhaps I should say a transcendent experience: to some people they are the same thing, to others, not so much. It all depends on your semantics.

            Personally, I’m not religious, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in god.

            I’ll stop loving the sound of my own voice now.

            You bring up an interesting point with understanding and experience – they are indeed different, again a matter of semantics… but I might understand.

            Sorry I just could not resist that one.

            I mean absolutely no disrespect, I’m not sure if anyone’s sense of humor is intact (including mine).

            But how about this:
            Do you understand your experience?

            Ah? Ah? Okay… you were talking about how “intellectuals” totally miss the point of life by dealing in the measurable and perhaps um, disregarding the immeasurable?

            And perhaps there is no way to “intellectually experience” the immeasurable?

            The world of higher mathematics can actually be quite mystical.

            Yes, it still comes down to personal experience.

          • Infinitemoment

            Not to suggest that people “should” even BE “intellectual” – I only want to point out that whoever experiences the infinite has often done so in part to a very careful examination of the limits of the finite.

            Honestly, I could care to examine the limits of the finite more most days… anyway, la la. Hope you had as much fun reading this as I did writing it.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            I sill don’t understand how you as someone so publically fixated on clear reasoning can constantly mix your line of attack: Either you argue that certain things are provable true or false, and that what we want them to be does not matter for their truth or lack thereof… then you have to content with all the sceptical, epistomological arguments that raises… OR you argue that certain beliefs should be avoided regardless of their truth or falsehood because of the effect they have… but then you have to face all the possible counter-attacks on the effects of modern, technological life, ecological damages, new diseases, alienation and whatnot… but you cannot protect yourself from attacks on the quality of technological life by pointing to the truth, and avoid the sceptics
            argument by pointing to the effect. Which is it? (And if you say both, then at least be so honest in your rhetoric to keep them seperated.)

          • Anonymous

            Tildeb,

            IMO, the results of our most recent election here in the US of A validate your assertion that religion, as part of public policy, is contrary to what is best for a society, however, even prior to this election I would agree with your claim. Religion has been used, or abused, for personal gain and various agendas which are not, simply put, “good.” Public policy aside, religion is also applied by individuals and groups of individuals in manners which are dangerous, harmful, long-lasting and hurtful.

            I am not among those who believe that a person lacks the ability to be moral or an agent of good without God. While I suppose I actually would prefer that my president have a spiritual nature, it is because I’d want someone in office who appreciates people with a spiritual life and doesn’t view them as unreasoning individuals. A Christian in office is kind of a catch 22. Would I rather someone be in office who is a Christian and can count on forgiveness, thereby potentially NOT being as responsible as someone who would feel the burden of their country’s well-being on their shoulders 24-7?

            Often, religion can be a cloak that hides the character of a person. If an atheist is good, moral, kind, etc. it is more likely a representation of who they are since many religious do “good” in the name of their religion, fear of punishment…

            The intellectual pursuit of atheists is one I have tremendous respect for, and so often I learn from them as I have you. Really, I can’t argue with your reasoning, Tildeb. It is, well…logical.

            But neither can I argue with “faith” when it results in good. I’ve mentioned 12-step programs which require faith of a “God of your own understanding” to guide someone in his or her path to healing. Perhaps that faith is misplaced ability to trust one’s self, I don’t know. But if someone doesn’t have the ability to trust in one’s self to overcome an addiction, suffering, life in general, then I’m in favor of that faith if it helps them.

            Certainly, I could try and explain why I believe what I believe, but it would fail scientific testing, except for the fact it is helping me accept myself and others more. It is opening my eyes to truths in my life that ultimately make me a better person, even in the eyes of others who are non-believers.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            I understand what you’re saying here, Susan. What I am not hearing you say is that this higher power is actually as true for me as it is for you. And that’s a really important qualifier. Your beliefs in this regard are private and you don’t presume to extend them into the world as if it they were true publicly. For that, as I’ve written before, I thank you.

            You have every right to your personal beliefs and I am relieved to see you write that they belong to this category of your faith, which is something meaningful that you believe in that does not require you to defend because you are not attempting to pretend that they are facts. I know that the quibble here sounds somewhat trivial and may be overlooked by other readers but the difference is enormous: you have your own reasons for the faith you hold and to you they are good reasons… particularly because you find them meaningful and useful. And I see no evidence that your beliefs cause you any cognitive dissonance with knowledge. Should that occur, I suspect your beliefs will evolve appropriately.

            But you know perfectly well that if you try to present your faith as facts, then we’re in a world of trouble, not least of which is that I shall feel obligated to have to argue with you!

          • Anonymous

            That goes without saying!

            And if I ever try to convince you with scripture, you have permission tovirtually kick my butt.

            BTW, what do your fellow Canadians think of the outcome of our most recent election here in the states?

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            I think that a great number of Canadians think the US electorate is nuts, that they are easily swayed for the worst reasons, that they are (generally) poorly educated yet arrogant but gullible, that they are far more motivated by fear and anger of the Other than supportive of common (and positive) changes, that the transparent piousness put on display is belied by the unwillingness to be open to cohesive social reform no matter how glaringly obvious such reform is needed.

            The inability to deal appropriately with fundamental and necessary issues like global warming, responsible regulation, debt reduction, taxation, and policy reforms for the poor, aged, and the infirm reveals just how self-centered it seems the typical voting American remains. What we see is a once great nation descending into a morass of partisanship bickering while the bones of civil society are either sacrificed or left to rot. In short, we see the US people engaged in a race to the bottom – where achieving the lowest common denominator is seen to be a political virtue (and personally enriching) by the talking heads of network Stupid-Is-As-Stupid-Does enter-info-tainment ‘news’ and ‘political commentary’. We see the US becoming a third world country in many of our border states where roads fall into disrepair, public schooling is grossly underfunded and teachers badly paid, basic emergency services are inadequate, and social infrastructure is allowed to decay while there is a widespread agreement that outspending most other countries to be armed to the teeth is somehow more patriotic than the socialistic evils of providing basic medical coverage to all.

            We see a country in turmoil and trouble.

            I think it will be good for the country to have the Republicans actually responsible for the House so that the electorate can see them in action. They can’t continue to be the party of No and expect to gain converts from the independents when they actually have to DO something. It’s always easy to say no: all you need is a single disagreement to feel justified and attract millions of elderly white American voters to agree with your ‘hard’ stance, whereas to DO something and support it requires much more work and willingness to find compromise and, hopefully, consensus… none of which seems to come easily (if at all) to those who identify with today’s version of the American Right. And with Palin on the horizon, youbetcha that things are only going to get worse.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            What a strange feeling… reading a post of yours and agreeing with basically everything… maybe there is hope after all… (for me, I meant, of course. ;-)

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Ha!

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Maybe you need to feel superiour to my religious delusion, and I need to feel superiour to your rationalist simplicity, but at least we can together feel superiour to the majority of the American electorate – and without a doubt they would feel superiour to each of our heathen, satanist ways.(Did I shout “Yay, tribalism!” today already?)

            [...and thanks xkcd, of course ;)]

          • Anonymous

            Sadly, you’ve a good handle on the overarching issues of the country. Sadly, your understanding is greater than the majority of voters, perhaps it is even better than the majority of those in office.

            Politics is the new religion. Power is its god. The chosen ones are in office.

            And sometimes I’m scared sh@tless of the consequences yet to come.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Well, not all is lost! America is the land of hope, after all. The secular bones of the country are solid and Americans have a long history of rising to the occasion after all else fails and when required to do so. There is a core constituency of (relatively) young scientifically literate and business oriented people of savvy influence who will sway the younger electorate directly when (not if) some major crisis demands a unified and intelligent response.

            By the way, here in Canada a mayor was elected in Toronto who very much represents the same kind of voter anger as south of the border. Out with the progressives and in with the reactionaries! Yet out in Calgary, a young muslim was elected mayor of Redneck Cow Town!

            We live in interesting times.

          • Anonymous

            WTF, Toronto…and Rock on Redneck Cow Town!

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            I know!

            It’s the end of the world as we know it! (And I feel fine)*

            * to borrow a phrase from (and make a plug for) Great Big Sea

          • kellygreen

            It is not muddled thinking. It is pointing out something that you want to coveniently overlook. At the end of the day, one can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God by rational means.

            So the only intellectually honest position is one of AGNOSTICISM….I don’t know. Since the matter can neither be confirmed nor denied.

            But atheism is an affirmative statement on the non-existence of an entity whose non-existence cannot be proven. As such it is just as much a non-rational statement of belief as that made by any religious believer. Because both are based upon postulates whose validity can neither be proven nor disproven.

            Which is why so many atheists are almost impossible to distinguish from the religious fundamentalists they spend so much time and energy doing battle with.

          • Mindy

            Kelly, I tend to agree with you, in that even when I seriously doubted the existence of God or anything like it, I was never certain enough to say “absolutely not.”

            BUT – I understand the atheist position, altho’ I’m sure tildeb can/has described it far more eloquently than I. When something cannot be proven, however, the default position is that it is not.

          • Suz

            The truly intelligent default position is uncertainty, something most intelligent people fear.

          • Anonymous

            I don’t know why you say that.

            GET IT? GET IT??? Okay, everyone carry on. Sorry.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Thanks, John. I needed that.

          • kellygreen

            Oh I understand the atheist position as well…which is why I can call attention to its fundamental problems.

            Though I would disagree with your argument that the default position is to reject something that cannot be proven.

            At the risk of being a curmudgeon, one can only legitimately do that if one is dealing with a strict “either-or” question, AND one has conclusively proven that one side of that polarity has been disproven. For example, one can (imo) safely conclude that intelligent life does not exist on Mars, because we have demonstrated conditions on the planet are not conduive to supporting any complex life forms that we are familiar with.

            The problem is that discussions of the existence of God never reach that level. Believers cannot prove God existence…but then non-believers cannot prove that God does not exist either. You cannot use the laws of the physical universe to disprove the existence of a being who—by definition—has the power to manipulate those very laws as He or She sees fit.

            The non-believer cannot prove that God is not deliberately concealing His existence from that kind of investigation. He can argue—legitimately—that such an explanation defies Occam’s Razor. But that is not the same as proof.

            So, at the end of the day…both the believer and the atheist stake out positions that are essentially assertions. The only position that is rationally defensible is that of the agnostic.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            But again, Kelly, you cannot prove an infinite number of things that don’t exist. Abusing the word ‘proof’ in this sense is not a strength in your argument.

            The argument you present is a closed loop made intentionally impervious to any conclusive inquiry to establish exactly the kind of proof you equate with certainty. Of COURSE with such a definition that insists either on conclusive proof for OR conclusive proof against god’s existence – neither of which you admit is possible – the reasonable conclusion is ‘I don’t know and you don’t either.’ Quelle surprise! But that’s because of how you have constructed your premises and relied on the what you mean by ‘proof ‘to back it up. Your argument is not representative of any way we can come to know about any hypothesis of how the universe works and what makes it up.

            If you asked Dawkins himself if the god hypothesis is true, he will tell you on a scale of 1-7, with 1 being certainly true and 7 being certainly not true, he falls on about a 6. You pretend that if an atheist isn’t a 7 then they are agnostic. Unless you consider atheists like Dawkins closet agnostics, then your argument has a significant problem.

            Imagine if all scientists followed your lead and proclaimed the kind of agnosticism towards science that you think is more intellectually honest: every doctor would legitimately diagnose you with “I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not, could be, who can say for sure unless I can first prove to you (with your complaints of a painfully bent finger) that you do not have enteric fever. ” You apparently think such honesty is somehow helpful. Every engineer and mechanic would shrug at your mechanical difficulties and say, “Gee, I can’t say for certain until I first prove if measurement actually causes wave functions in quantum mechanics to collapse” Another happy customer! And so on.

            Agnosticism is an honest “I don’t know BECAUSE there are as many reasons FOR something as there is AGAINST something.” But that condition of UNcertainty can be tilted by the collection of knowledge and information that either increases or decrease the probability of something being true. That why diagnosing is a PROCESS, why mechanical repair is a PROCESS. Active inquiry is a PROCESS of reducing or increasing (not eliminating) likelihood and that has to be based on something more than “Because I have FAITH it is so” to be considered a better reason. Arriving at conclusions based on these likelihoods is what honest inquiry is all about. The goal is to come to know in a reasonable fashion and not to reach certainty in an unreasonable fashion.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Think of it this way, Kelly: without any specific evidence or affective reasons to think that within your nose grows capaloones that are a special kind of invisible mushroom seeded from intergalactic travelers to spy on your brain while conspiring to take over the world one nostril at a time, why hold the claim to be potentially plausible?

            The default position for this kind of non-evidential, non-reasonable claim is non belief because you have absolutely no reason or affect to think it might be true.

            Then along comes someone who insists that you are a fundamentalist about nose mushrooms in general and dogmatic in your refusal to consider capaloones in particular to be true. Your non-conspiracy position is your way to over-look the absence of evidence and as well as the absence of non-evidence! Further, you are assured that an agnostic position is really the only sensible thing to do.

            Really? Have you no rational recourse to be able to say that you do not believe such claims because you have no REASON to do so. You therefore deny that the claim merits serious plausibility. Others insist your refusal to believe the claim or to grant it plausibility represents your closed mind, your unwillingness to accept the possibility that such things are indeed possible, and you respond again that your beliefs are based on good reasons, on good evidence, on good explanations of effect, all of which are lacking in the case of nasal capaloones. Does that reasonable refusal to believe make you the same kind of conspiracy believer as a holocaust deniers or 9/11 Truthers but this time aimed at belief in non-conspiracy? That comparison is ridiculous as it is absurd in the extreme. There are an infinite number of absurdities you don’t believe in. That’s not a fault of your poor reasoning but quite the opposite: non belief is a reasonable position based on a lack of merit that comes with any absurd belief that has nothing to back it up.

            Is your atheism about invisible nose mushrooms that spy on your brain on behalf of aliens really a ‘positive’ statement, the kind of non belief that equates with a conspiracy theorist? Come on. Your non belief is rational and reasonable. If belief in the claim about capaloones is the arrival destination at crazy town, then surely capaloone agnosticism is half way there.

          • Suz

            There is plenty of specific evidence, though it’s not conclusive, of the existence of something supernatural. (“Supernatural” in the truest sense of the word – outside of the known laws of the physical world) Neuroscience has yet to explain NDE’s, for one example. It is as reasonable to attribute such phenomena to divinity (due to the nature of the experiences) as it is to assume that science will someday explain it. Dismiss it if you want, but read the studies first. There are no concrete answers. Three choices – “God” exists, “God” doesn’t exist, and “I don’t know.” The possible existence of divinity should not be compared to the possible existence of nose mushrooms – as there is some evidence for one, but not the other.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Keep going Suz. Follow this line of reasoning and explain how near death experiences that we know affects the brain provide s evidence not just for some divine presence but to the extent YOU take your theology: is it evidence for Ju Ju of the ocean, Muk Muk of the Volcano, Isis, Thor, Zeus? Even if it WERE evidence of the supernatural (you need to show why the experience is not simply a contained brain experience but represents something beyond the natural world) then how does this experience add anything to our supposed knowledge of the reality of the divine that YOU ascribe to?

            It seems to me that NDEs if taken to be evidence of the supernatural (funny how christians report Jesus, muslims report Mohamed, hindus report several different gods, and so on, it should convince not me but YOU to take a firmer stand towards affirming agnosticism (if such a move can be termed ‘firm’!).

          • Suz

            You haven’t read the studies, have you? Even as the details are perceived by the individuals within the context of their religious beliefs, there is amazing consistency in the accounts. Most of these people experienced SOMETHING not physically explainable, that is unifying. Maybe it’s nothing more than some sort of instinct, in the biology of the brain; I find it intriguing that such an “instinct,” (likely universal in humans) is not related to survival of the species in the physical world, like previously defined instincts.

            And you have completely missed my point. I’m not spouting supposed knowledge of the reality of the divine. I’m saying that ALL “knowledge” of the divine is based on assumptions and prejudice, but that the belief that divinity exists is reasonable. I’m still questioning my assumptions, and claim NO knowledge whatsoever. You, however, seem rather comfortable with your assumptions, in that you seem to assume I have a theology.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Perhaps my confusion is understandable when you write Most of these people experienced SOMETHING not physically explainable, that is unifying and then follow this up with a incompatible opinion that (m)aybe it’s nothing more than some sort of instinct, in the biology of the brain. To compound my confusion is your later statement that I’m still questioning my assumptions, and claim NO knowledge whatsoever.

            What is it then that you ARE suggesting when you write that there is plenty of specific evidence, though it’s not conclusive, of the existence of something supernatural?

            That these experience offer us evidence of something is not in question. What IS in question is whether or not these experiences have anything at all to do with evidence for the supernatural. You think it does. But until we can safely rule out that the experience is strictly a brain-based experience that accompanies the death of c ells in the brain, your ‘evidence’ about the supernatural is highly doubtful. In fact, reports from many stroke victims who have since recovered mirrors many of the most profound aspects of the transcendental experience. My Stroke of Insight by neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor is an excellent example of this. In contrast to your conclusion that belief that divinity exists is reasonable, this kind of data of NDEs does not lead us away from the physical explanation but towards it.

          • Suz

            You’re making this hard on yourself; you’re following tangents away from the point, and assuming that I’m defending my personal theology. My personal beliefs are not part of this discussion.

            It is AS logical to believe in the existence of a god, as it is to believe int the non-existence of a god. It is NOT a logical comparison to say that believing in God is similar to believing in “nose-mushrooms,” because there is evidence (not the same thing as conclusive proof) suggesting that God MAY exist, and there is NO evidence (that I’ve ever heard of, please correct me if I’m wrong) that nose-mushrooms exist. Apples and oranges. Atheism and theism are both reasonable beliefs, since there is evidence supporting both, and proof of neither. Sorry if I haven’t been clear up to this point.

          • kellygreen

            With all due respect, you are engaging in a logical fallacy.

            Absence of proof, is not the same as proof of absence.

            The agnostic—I have not been convinced of the existence of God, but have also not been convinced that He does not exist—IS a rationally defensible position.

            Atheism, OTOH, is not…and the only way you can get there is to engage in a logical fallacy. By taking the absence of proof, and construe it as proof of absence.

            You cannot—with intellectual integrity–do that in this case for the simple reason that you are not accounting for the possibility that the tools by which one is trying to go about “proving” that God exists may not be appropriate to the task.

            IOW, unless one can prove (violation of Occam’s Razor not withstanding) that God is not using His supernatural powers to confound your attempts to prove His existence (or non-existence) through the physical laws of the universe, atheism is as intellectually indefensible as Faith is.

            It is analogous to insisting that X-rays didn’t exist prior to the 19th Century, because we lacked the technology to detect them until them….then once we did, they magically sprang into existence.

            Until evidence exists to defintively push one to one side or the other…the only rationally defensible postion is agnosticism.

            Can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a being not beholden to the laws of this physical universe.

          • kellygreen

            You keep committing the same logical fallacy…and as a result you keep arguing in the sophistic circle.

            IOW, with all due respect….nonsense on stilts.

            First off, I don’t have to prove ANYTHING. I just have to demonstrate the flaw in YOUR argument to demonstrate that YOUR argument is not tenable. I am neither arguing for, nor am I arguing against the existence of God. I am arguing for intellectual honesty, and discipline.

            I cannot prove that there is intelligent life on the third planet orbiting Proxima Centuari…nor can I prove that there isn’t intelligent life there. So I take NO POSITION on the question. When asked if there is extra-terrestrial intelligence out there somewhere in the Universe, I say “I don’t know”.

            What you are doing on the other hand is analogous to what Creationists do. Thinking that—if they can just shoot Evolution Theory full of holes—then Genesis MUST be true.

            It doesn’t work that way. For Genesis to be true, then it has to be able to stand up on its own merits.

            Likewise, if you are going to argue that God DOES NOT EXIST…then you must be able to demonstrate that there is no situation in which a being that meets the description of God can exist. You can’t do that…you know you can’t do that…which is why you keep trying to wriggle free of that burden of proof.

            You cannot just shoot one religious tradition’s (in this case Christianity’s) vision of God full of holes…and then insist by fiat that therefore ALL potential Gods therefore do not exist. That is not a logically sustainable, or intellectually honest argument.

            Now if you wish to believe that there is no God..then by all means…do so. But be honest about the fact that you are choosing to believe in something that you cannot prove the truth of.

            …and that atheistic Rational Materialism is itself a philosophy that is based upon unprovable postulates.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            But as I have explained repeatably, you are the one insisting that I claim atheism means stating a belief that god is not real. On the contrary, I am the one insisting that atheism simply means non belief as the default all of us hold for all claims unless and until we have reason to alter it. You are the one defining that to be a positive belief affirmation, which I repeatably call you on. Again, THERE ARE AN INFINITE NUMBER OF NON BELIEFS YOU HOLD. And as I have already written, such an assertion reveals the incoherence of your premise. This premise is incoherent because the belief you are defining DOES NOT – CANNOT – EXIST in such a way to render the call for proof legitimate. You can no more describe this infinite list of what constitutes your non belief as a belief itself than you can provide render proof why you hold each non belief. “I don’t know” is not the default position that avoids belief in non belief; “I don’t know” is a fine starting position about a truth claim but must not an end point if your goal is to find out what’s true. If your agnostic stance is not subject to change as more information becomes available during the course of your rational inquiry, then of what practical use is it? To insist that we hold fast to this starting observation always and forever is not intellectual honesty once the inquiry is underway: that’s intellectual cowardice hiding behind an abuse of philosophy that passes responsibility for one’s catatonic mental state to what may appear reasonable to the gullible. It is neither reasonable nor practical nor legitimate to claim that non belief is itself a belief subject to proof.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            It seems to me…

            The agnostic knows no coherent concept of a god.

            The atheist recognizes some concept(s) of deity, the reality of which he or she doesn’t believe, whether perceiving an absence of evidence to support this notion of divinity or actual evidence of the absence of such a thing they’d see fit to acknowledge as being God.

            The theist acknowledges some god(s) which he or she finds to be referring to something real, understanding under such a name some existing reality of the universe, or something they themselves project onto it, or—perhaps most commonly—some combination/interfacing of the two.

          • kellygreen

            Not exactly.

            Both the atheist and the agnostic recognize the concept of God.

            The agnostic believes that there is not sufficient evidence to settle the question of whether God exists. So she/he says “I don’t know”…and refrains from drawing a conclusion either way. I neither believe…nor do I disbelieve.

            The atheist on the other hand, takes a specific position on the matter. I do not believe in the existence of God. It is not just a matter of not-believing…as tildeb is trying to argue…but is is a matter of actually DIS-believing.

            IOW, in the mind of the Agnostic, the matter is still open for debate…and his mind is still open. I do not believe for now…but if circumstances change I could be persuaded.

            In the mind of the Atheist…the matter is closed and settled. God does not exist, so therefore I do not believe.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            “Both the atheist and the agnostic recognize the concept of God.

            “The agnostic believes that there is not sufficient evidence to settle the question of whether God exists.”

            Yet if you have a coherent concept of God, grounded in some sort of reality, why not proceed to seek evidence of such a thing, until sufficient evidence be found or sufficient grounds to induce that sufficient evidence never shall be, so we can reject that idea and move on to more productive quests?

            “It is not just a matter of not-believing…as tildeb is trying to argue…but is is a matter of actually DIS-believing.”

            While that’s true, a state of disbelief results from having been introduced to some notion and rejecting it as unbelievable, whether by reason or for practical purposes in absence of evidence.

            “In the mind of the Atheist…the matter is closed and settled.”

            This neither accords with much of the testimony of atheists regarding the state of their own minds, nor appears compatible with the fact that there are many who once considered themselves atheists who no longer are, nor does it follow from the definition of atheism.

          • Anonymous

            I acknowledge the concept of God, but disagree with it.

            There is no single entity in charge of everything.

            Everything and everything is connected by a force. Everything we think, do and say affects everyone and everything.

            But, there is NO single, intelligent being behind it. WE are in charge.

            Does that make me an agnostic or atheist?

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Atheist

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Atheist.

          • kellygreen

            Atheist to the concept of God as an seperate, anthropomorphic essence…as in the tendency to view God in the Western (Abrahamic) religious tradition.

            It makes you a BELIEVER in God as Ground of Being…or Fundamental Consciousness.

            You have basically stated—in your own words—the Myth of Indra’s Net.

            Which is why I’m belaboring the point with tildeb about the indefensibility of categorical atheism. One, because there are so many different conceptions of God out there…and it is big burden of proof to say that NONE of them are real.

          • Suz

            I’m glad you brought this up. I’m not looking for a debate or stating an opinion, simply asking a question I myself have considered: Assuming that God is divine, and therefore beyond human understanding, is it possible that “He” is not a single entity, but rather that force that connects us? Is defining a divine God as “a being,” putting limitations on the concept of divinity?

            OK, this is more like an opinion: For years I’ve been searching for the “Church of Suzy,” because I’m not comfortable with ANY definition of God that I have yet heard. I wonder if it’s some sort of cop-out or a way to fence-sit, to believe in a divine force without defining it.

            Any thoughts? Anybody?

          • Diana A.

            I actually like this. This may be the least “idol-worshiping” version of God to which I’ve ever been introduced. I don’t consider this fence-sitting. I think it’s a reasonable position.

          • kellygreen

            Is it possible? Absolutely.

            That is—once again—God as Ground of Being/Fundamental Consciousness/Absolute Reality. It is a very common conception of God/The Divine in the spiritual traditions of the East.

            In the Hindu/Vedic tradition this concept of the Divine carries a slight taste of the “personal”…

            But in Buddhism and Taoism it is utterly formless and utterly impersonal. But when you compare the writings of the sages of these various traditions, it is clear that they are describing the same Ultimate Reality….just from slightly different points of view.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            You may not realize this, but we must assume God as a being—as something that is—in assuming that God is divine.

            And why not define it, at least to the extent of recognizing what it is not?

            Other than that, sounds to me a lot like a proper understanding of Supreme Being for any of the Abrahamic or Dharmic faiths.

            Now all there is to do is to follow such thoughts to their conclusion—which, depending on how you then further refine the definition in the process, may yield a single God with angels, a Supreme Being with other gods/goddesses under and/or within Him/Her/It, what I consider to be the simplest understanding of real truth not requiring more than minimal necessary definition, part of which includes a definition of God: a Triune Godhead, or no knowable, meaningful god at all.

            Then, from your understanding of the world, you may take note of what that is not.

            Then when you find that It is (and in what manner It is) good—having realized that for it to be bad would simply swap the definitions of bad and good and that for it to be both not good and not bad would render meaningless these categories—you can begin to look to the universe in which this Being (or lack thereof) is in Its way Supreme and see what is revealed.

            And then we might find its presence in/with/among us lowly beings, and, relating this to all the rest, begin to understand (in what way we can) the reality of it all.

          • Suz

            “You may not realize this, but we must assume God as a being—as something that is—in assuming that God is divine. ” Thank you for considering my question. Is there a reason why we must assume God is a being, “something?” Divinity is a concept, a state. If it were a state of mind, I would understand the need for a being with a mind. But divinity is beyond (rational and probably unconscious) thought; isn’t that what makes it greater than the physical? I’m not sure that any further definition is necessary. And again, doesn’t any comprehensible definition negate the nature of divinity? Good and bad are not rendered meaningless in the absence of divinity. Theists and atheists alike tend to measure good and bad (at the roots, at least) according to the causing/ promoting or preventing/ending of suffering and destruction, and according to simple justice and fairness. It’s possible to feel the presence of divinity without understanding its meaning, but does that make it meaningless. And what of evil? Is all divinity even good? I’m trying to examine every possible human assumption about the most basic nature of God, choosing to be certain ONLY that God-as-divinity does exist. It feels rather risky; my religious friends would think it’s blasphemy, and my atheist friends would wonder why I care…

          • Matthew Tweedell

            “I’m trying to examine every possible human assumption about the most basic nature of God…”

            A most commendable pursuit!

            “Is there a reason why we must assume God is a being, ‘something?’”

            In general, not really; only when considering any propositions involving “God is” (unmodified by any adverb, such as “not”) we must associate some being with God—a being is an occurrence of something being, and whatever is must be something (where something is just whatever it is—if it is at all).

            “…isn’t that what makes it greater than the physical?”

            I cannot answer unless I know, what do we mean by “greater”?

            “And again, doesn’t any comprehensible definition negate the nature of divinity?”

            Not at all!

            “Good and bad are not rendered meaningless in the absence of divinity.”

            I never said they were, though—depending on what you mean by “in the absence of divinity” (which depends on what the presence of divinity would mean, which you appear to refuse comprehensible definition of)—that may or may not be a valid conclusion, depending, furthermore, on what we consider to have meaning. (All in all, however, I see such a claim as itself unreflective of any meaningful reality.)

            “Theists and atheists alike tend to measure good and bad (at the roots, at least) according to the causing/ promoting or preventing/ending of suffering and destruction, and according to simple justice and fairness.”

            I’m not exactly sure what that has to do with anything. But I would say there’s no such thing as simple justice and fairness, but then again, I believe in God.

            “It’s possible to feel the presence of divinity without understanding its meaning, but does that make it meaningless.”

            (Assuming that was meant as a question) that’s up to us to decide.

            “And what of evil? Is all divinity even good?”

            Excellent questions! If divinity is good, it is all good, by divine simplicity, by which I mean, if it were only partly good, that would mean that categories of good an bad somehow transcend it (so as divinity may be subject to their judgment)—if it is the Supreme, Most High, Being, then to say that it is good is not only to describe it, but to define what’s “good”. Of course, this is not however what we do in practice: we find the categories of good and evil before finding divinity. Both of these categories are attributed—projected—by human (and potentially non-human) subjectivity—they are value judgments emerging from the organisms’ conditions. So rather than define the good through the divine, we realize that God is in no way malevolent (which, as a matter of fact, is true even if God does not have being) and hold that there is no evil in divinity. You see, we’ve a choice to make: to see the basis of reality as ultimately good, or not. As we see that it is good, we relegate evil to having merely a secondary reality; it’s somewhat less real than what is good. Yet what is evil is for our biological organism more plain to tell: the destruction of its world (the world as it knows it—that of which it has constructed mental models by which our the reasons). This, however, makes it ultimately subjective and cultural. Furthermore, ultimately, it is good! The function it serves it does serve well. (It is like unto how pain is good in that it can keep us from doing things that it would be better we not do.) And this—that evil exists is good—puts good on a whole other level. What is good is where love is. But if we didn’t deem there to be evils, we’d know not love: we love because we could do such evil things to one another, and yet we choose not to! It’s spirit that truly we love since the physical cannot be evil. It can hurt you, but that’s not evil—it’s just doing that as an inevitable consequence of something else (Thus it’s irrational to be mad at a chair that breaks under your weight but completely reasonable to be upset at a person whom you trusted to hold you letting you fall, when it was somehow avoidable on their part, which for the chair it obviously couldn’t have been).

          • Suz

            Thank you! The subjective nature of these issues, is a lot to ponder, hopefully without prejudice and assumptions…

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Thanks, Suz.

            The subjective is really relevant only inasmuch as due to its application we might have concepts of good and evil to relate to God. Ultimately, though, to consider God not to be good alters the understanding of good, not of God: good is defined in identification with truth, love, etc.—in other words, what God is.

          • kellygreen

            1. You are assuming that such a proof is possible. It may not be. What most people fail to realize is that our window on Reality is very, very narrow. If it does not fit into our Five Senses…or can be brought into the reach of our senses by technology…God could literally be standing right in front of you, and you wouldn’t know it. Whole Universes could be millimeters away, but entirely out of reach.

            2. Yes…but that is still taking a position on the issue. Which…if you are going to is fine. Just own up to the fact that you have done so.

            3. Then they have mislabelled themselves. They were/were in fact agnostics, while calling themselves atheists. Or misunderstand the fact that there are multiple conceptions of God out there. So that they were “atheists” with respect to one particular conception of God…while “agnostic” towards others.

            http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/atheist

            http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/agnostic

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            And there is the failure of common usage (consciously promoted by the believing communityIMO). Just break of the word down…it means, quite literally and quite obviously, ‘not a theist’. Just consider the words ‘atypical’, ‘asymmetric’. They do not describe anything as to how not-typical or not-symmetrical something.

            If you want to know what an atheist is, then figure out what a theist is (not necessarily easy). http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/theist We are simply NOT a theist…period.

          • Diana A.

            “Just break of the word down…it means, quite literally and quite obviously, ‘not a theist’. Just consider the words ‘atypical’, ‘asymmetric’. They do not describe anything as to how not-typical or not-symmetrical something might be. ”

            Okay. This makes sense. Thanks for your clarification.

          • kellygreen

            Sorry, that won’t fly. It is not a failure of common usage, but rather an attempt on the part of some to create a personalized word definition.

            The prefix “a-” is derived from the Latin prefix “ab”….which means “away from”…implying that someone is actively moving away the object or quality in question. Therefore it carries a strong connotation of anatagonism.

            So if we drill all way down to the Classical roots of the word “atheist” you get “ab-theos” or “a-theos”….”(to move) away from God”. It is not a neutral “default”…but an active rejection.”

            Whereas the classical roots of “agnostic” or “agnosticism” is “a-gnosis”…….”away from knowledge”, “away from knowing” or “away from recognizing”….

            In this case…the existence of God.

            As I keep telling tildeb, the world is not divided in to theists…and therefore everyone who is not a theist is an atheist. The situation is NOT that simple. First off you have to define what God concept you are talking about. A person may be a believer of one concept…and a non-believer in of another.

            After you’ve gotten that (sizable) problem straightened out….you still have to sort out the atheists from the agnostics. The agnostics are simply do not “recognize” that God exists, but do not actively reject the idea that God might exist. True atheists, however, not only are not persuaded that God exist…they actively reject “ab-theos” the notion.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Sorry Kelly…not convincing. Even if I were to cede the point on etymology (I don’t), it is you you who oversteps the implications. To ‘move away from’ is different than ‘moving toward’. I am moving away from a truth claim…not toward another truth claim. To say ‘I am leaving the shopping mall’ is not the same as saying ‘I am going home from the shopping mall’. I have moved away from theism and I have moved away from claimed knowledge [of God]. I am an atheist and an agnostic. [Am I the only one that thinks the different interpretations of 'a-' that Kelly applies between a-theist and a-gnostic is pretty loosey-goosey ...if not disingenuous?]I am perfectly happy to accept that a God might exist if you might provide the teeeeeniest bit of compelling evidence.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            I give plenty of evidence for plenty of concepts of God, Mike, and you simply reject those. But you have a good point about the meaning of agnostic—as Kelly understands it, it isn’t neutral either but is a rejection of knowledge, or, as I’ve heard the word was originally understood, one who willfully subscribes to ignorance. Yet isn’t it interesting that while no one’s suggesting that everyone who isn’t an agnostic is a gnostic, some continue to stipulate that one’s either a theist or an atheist?

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            At risk of going down a long dead-end road…

            Do you have evidence other than personal experience? If not, is that

            personal experience entirely consistent amongst those that have those

            experiences? Does your evidence show effects in the natural world that are

            statisically significant when compared to random chance or placebo? If

            not, then I rightly discard your evidence.

          • Anonymous

            It’s that “rightly” that … soooooo reminds me of why I can’t see reading my comment threads when you’re involved in them, Mike. Your smug, passive-aggressive arrogance is more than I can stomach. But many of my readers are a good deal more patient than I. (Mike: do not—and listen to me now—respond, directly or otherwise, to this comment. Continue on as if you’d never read it. If you so much as NOD toward it, I’ll block you off this site so fast you’ll wonder about your breath. And Disqus, the comment management system I’m now using, doesn’t do “moderate”; it only does complete obliterations. Thanks for understanding. )

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Mike Burns’ Last Post and Testament

            “Smug”, “Passive-Aggress”, “Arrogant”. Mr. Shore has called me all these things and more….Most recently as a result my saying I would “rightly” disregard the purported evidence of God if it were comprised only of subjective/revelatory experience or if that experience was not fundamentally consistent amongst those having the experience. In the case of religious truth claims; this evidence must also distinguish itself by being observably different than what they would look like if there were no god.

            Hmmmm…..
            I guess he is right. After discussing the societal implications of religion for some years, I have developed zero tolerance for shitty arguments and I find no reason to feign respect for such. My standards for evidence that I related above are minimum standards for the real pursuit of knowledge. I, for one, revere the proper pursuit of truth above most things. Mr. Shore recently said that he wants truth no matter how ugly or uncomfortable that truth might be… but it seems to be lip service only. (Look up his take [and defense] of a well timed earthquake elsewhere on this blog).

            You see; proper inquiry is not something you can use selectively. If you can understand how the FDA determines whether a drug is safe and effective (blind studies, control groups, statistics), then you basically understand the proper method of inquiry. To my mind; if you know and appreciate that process then you are being disingenuous or self-delusional to not apply it to everything of import in your life. If you cannot appreciated the minimum standards of inquiry; then you are doomed to consume snake-oil. If you are planning on following a religious tradition that explicitly demonizes, isolates or subjugates large groups of people, then you have an obligation to be f**king sure that it is right. Not doing so is warrant for others to challenge and ridicule you if you don’t mount a defense of at least some minimum standard as described earlier.

            I have had a good run here. My smug, passive-aggressive, arrogant method is my way of cutting through the fluff and just pushing hard, uncomfortable facts in front people who have never really considered them (or may not be aware of them). I certainly wouldn’t expect to see deconversions in real-time but, as someone who has deconverted; I know that it can take years and years. If some uncomfortable facts fester in the back of your believing minds long enough, they might motivate you to actually start looking at the hard evidence regarding your religious narrative. At which point I have accomplished something. If you really wish to seek truth; seek truth properly. If you appreciate that your cholesterol medicine actually does what it is supposed to, then you need to use the same methods to determine if god-worship is energy well used.

            That said; I like John and his humor and his ability discard a good deal of the bullshit that is part and parcel with [in this case] Christianity. Maybe I will stop back some time in the future. I will be unsubscribing from his blog and blocking Johnshore.com in my Internet router (so as not to be tempted…though I do have a smartphone). In keeping with your promise John; you may now block me from your blog.

            So …. CHOW!! …and keep high standards.

          • Kellygt

            Feel free to believe what you like. I’m just sticking to common usage…and I wasted four years of my life studying Latin, so I’m pretty comfortable with the denotative and connotative implications of the prefixes we are discussing.

            The bottomline is that you are trying to personalize the definitions of these words. If you want to do that…fine. Who am I to stop you. But you are going to run into problems when you encounter people like myself who will use the terms in question with precision.

            …and your analogy with the shopping mall…off point. Way off point. What you are trying to argue is more analogous to saying “I’m leaving the shopping mall…but I’m not actually moving away from it.” Which, of course, is an absurdity. The very fact that you are leaving it, clearly implies that you are moving AWAY from it, in an opposing direction from it.

            ..and as for your last paragraph…as I said before, it makes you an AGNOSTIC. Who for some reason wants to characterize himself as an atheist.

            Why? Only you can answer that.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            1. You cannot form a coherent concept of that which you cannot in any way perceive.

            2. I believe atheists do, simply in labeling themselves as such, own up to the fact that their position in regards to theistic beliefs is that of not having any.

            3. While I understand your point—as I myself am a theist as regards any notions of divinity I can correspond to some reality, an atheist in regards to any concept of deity such that it doesn’t really exist, and agnostic towards all that I do not adequately know about—labels may be offered for people to choose from, on the basis of a social norm we call definition, but I’m not particularly comfortable with forcibly assigning them (other than in due process of law). Also, what you seem to imply is that there aren’t really atheists then at all (or at least not rational and intellectually honest ones). While you won’t say that there aren’t any gods to keep open the possibilities of many various conceptions of such a notion, you demand rigid definition in the concept of atheist to render proof of their reality practically impossible, it seems. Perhaps we should call you an aatheistist :) (Of course, this also demonstrates a really good point against the atheists: if they cannot prove they are atheists to one who simply defines the term so as to exclude them, how would something that is God prove to them that that’s what He/She/It is if they just refuse to admit such a concept of God?)

            No need to cite scripture to me (I mean the dictionary (: ). I’ve had argument this against atheists several times already, at least one of which Mr. Burns ought to recollect and recognize his plain confusion of negation by nullification and inversion, as I quoted the support of many more versions that just the Random House to which you’ve linked and pointed out how the exact examples he now gives actually point to my—which is most English speakers’—which is the etymological—understanding of atheism (which I further elaborated on in beginning this dialogue in an attempt to find a common language for productive discourse).

          • kellygreen

            1. Yes you can form a coherent concept of things you cannot percieve (directly). Religion does it all the time…as do scientific models of phenomena at the extremes of reality. No one has ever seen a black hole, or an atom directly…but nevertheless, we have constructed consisten models based upon indirect evidence.

            2. Not having something is not the same as rejecting something. Agnostics do not have any theistic beliefs either, but have not rejected the existence of God out right. It is that rejection that is the distinguishing characteristic between the two. Frankly, I don’t care what someone wants to call themselves…but when you start trying to argue that atheism is the rational “default” position…you have fallen into an intellectually dishonest position.

            One that tries to avoid the impossible burdent of proof that goes along with a rational defense of the notion that God does not exist….through intellectual sleight-of-hand.

            3. I’m a Zen Buddhist, so I have NO dog in the fight as to whether God exists or doesn’t exist. As one Zen Master once succinctly put it, “Buddhists do not reject the existence of God…we just have no use for the concept of God.” That, is the heart of my point. That this situation is far more complex and nuanced than tildeb and others keep trying to cast it. As if the Western concept of God was the be-all and end all.

            So…in essence I am a “non-theist” who is not an “atheist”. Because Buddhism is about forging a direct relationship with Ultimate Reality…whithout having to force it into the straithjacket of a conceptual framework. Without having to give it a name, rank, and a personal history. So I can be considered an atheist, an agnostic, or even a believer depending on the point of view one comes at this question with.

            My overall point with regards to atheism is that it is a PHILOSOPHICAL position…and AFFIRMATIVE stance…not an “abscence”. One that is–at the end of the day–based upon fundamentally UNPROVABLE postulates as to the nature of Ultimate Reality. If someone wants to take that position…fine. But when someone claims that it is a rational position, then we have a problem. Especially when someone is try side-step the fact that the truth of those postulates cannot be proven in any intellectually honest fashion.

            Agnosticism can be rationally defended. Atheism cannot.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            1. I specified “in any way”—you wrote, “perceive (directly)”.

            Only to the extent that we do perceive the real presence or potential of black holes and atoms do we have a coherent concept of them. Even Stephen Hawking’s concept of a black hole is a bit fuzzy (actually, hairy, at least at present), and to conceive of an atom’s electron orbitals by analogy to planetary orbit or of the nucleus as some clump of sticky balls can useful and yet gravely mistaken. Sure, everyone knows what an atom is, but few understand well, more importantly, what it is not. In any case, we perceive at least their existence, even if unseen (though a transmission electron microscope can indeed give us an image to which we might point and say, in truth, “this is an atom”).

            2. You start out pretty much preaching to the choir on this point, but I can’t agree with your last sentence there (that is, the second paragraph under this point). (However, I won’t bother to try to convince you otherwise, as there’s been enough of that already to conclude such a quest to be unfruitful.)

            3. No argument here.

            But then we get to your overall point, and while atheism is not merely an absence, neither is it an affirmative stance but a negative stance. I’m not sure what you mean when you say that it is based on unprovable postulates but sense that that assertion is, in fact, based on unprovable postulates.

          • kellygreen

            1. I think you are saying something that you are not intending to say. There are many things that we cannot perceive, whose presence we can detect. Human beings cannot see in the infra-red or ultra-violet frequency ranges…but with help of technology we can tranform them into things we can percieve. So what you are saying is not technically correct. But if you are saying that we cannot conceive of things whose presence we cannot detect in any fashion..then yes you are right. But that is–at the end of the day a bit of a tautological statement.

            2. You’re right…the quest would not be fruitful. Atheism—like Rational Materialism—is a philosophical belief system. All belief systems have their postulates. That is, ideas that must be accepted (without evidence) as being true in order for that system of thought to hold together in an internally consistent manner. If these postulates are not accepted, the system unravels like a baseball without its cover.

            Theists are honest about the postulates (articles of faith) that underpin their system of belief. My experience with atheists are that they are not.

            3. My bottom line is this. Tildeb and Mike burns keep trying to argue that atheism is a “default” position..and therefore rationally defensible. That is “There is not sufficient evidence for God’s existence…therefore I do not believe in the existence of God.” The problem is that is NOT the position of an atheist.

            Because that position carries the clear implication that if one were to produce such evidence, that the atheist would potentially change his or her mind. That position is the position of the agnostic. Who either believes that the answer to the question is ultimately unknowable by rational means…or that insufficient evidence exists to draw a conclusion on the matter.

            The true atheist, however goes a step farther…concluding not that I don’t affirmatively believe in God (which is true of any non-theist…including this Zen Buddhist)…but that I believe God does NOT exist. Ala’ Freud’s “Religion is the opiate of the masses”. THAT is an expression of true atheism.

            The problem with that position is that—rationally—the notion that God does not exist is no more provable than the idea that God DOES exist. Both positions on the issue require the belief in an idea that cannot be rationally proven…and therefore represents a foundational postulate in a system of belief.

            Which–at the end of the day–is fine. Just be honest about it.

            I believe what I encounter on the meditation cushion each day in the inner silence that exists when the mind is stilled is Absolute Reality, as viewed from a human perspective.

            Can I prove that it is? No. But then I’m also quite honest about the fact that this is one of the underlying postulates of Zen…which prides itself on its freedom from concepts. Even Zen cannot escape its postulates when viewed from a rational perspective.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Human bodies cannot see in infra-red or ultra-violet frequencies; human beings can. What I’m saying is technically correct, and we cannot detect in any fashion what doesn’t reveal itself in data channeled through human perceptions, though with the help of technology we can construct new data channels.

            Now how is it that you decide which ideas cannot be rationally proven?

            By the way, I believe one might only rationally take pride in freedom from concepts if pursuing encounter not with Absolute Reality but really with Absolutely Nothing.

            (Also, BTW,”…the opiate of the masses” is (at least originally) from Karl Marx actually.)

          • kellygreen

            I stand corrected on the mis-atribution of the quote. Thanks for the correction. Mixing up my atheists. ;-)

            As for the issue of perception, it seems we are saying essentially the same thing, just conceptualizing it differntly. No problem.

            You are right in noting the contradiction that is implicit within Zen. It IS there. Which is why the true masters of it insist that to truly achieve enlightenment, one must ultimately transcend Zen itself. Because there are still concepts (and postulates) that are necessary to hold it together…and as long as you hold onto them, you are not truly free. In fact one must even let go of the concept of Enlightenment itself.

            But the experience of Zen wants to call Absolute Reality is felt as Absolute No-thingness. That is, awareness/consciousness before it either precieves form or identifies with form.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Sorry for making comments so thin! (Cut-and-paste to read more easily.)

            Now, that is intriguing! And could it be awareness/consciousness not before it perceives or identifies with form but after it does so no longer?

          • kellygree

            Matt.

            No problem reading the thin post…but your reply button disappeared, so I have to post this in reply to my own post.

            In short…they are one-and-the-same phenomenon. Formless awareness BEFORE it identifies with form IS Formless awareness AFTER it no longer identifies with form. It is Fundamental Reality (from a human point of view). It all depends on what point of view you take.

            It is “before” if you look at as it emerges. It is “after” if you look at it from the standpoint of increasing spiritual maturity, and one relinquishes identification with form.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Kelly,

            Thanks!

            (I’ll reply here in the interests of efficient utilization of space.)

            I figured as much; as I commented to tildeb the other day on “Agnosticism…”, regarding why people give more thought to their afterlife state than to their nonexistence prior to coming into being: “Of course the highest heaven is before and after the before and the after, but here and now, we affect what is to come, rather than what came before. So it is in this direction we set our sights.”

            What I was getting at with my question to you was simply that such a state then would also be one into which we go upon death; if one is relinquishing identification with form while at peace within oneself, rather than fearfully resisting it, one is in a place outside of place and in every place, where time is irrelevant, eternal and non-existent.

            It seems to me, that Zen tries to escape from this world, absolving altogether constructs of reincarnation, incarnation, resurrection, etc. However, the formal systems and constructs, words and pictures, modes and models of thought, have purpose in conceiving reality, and as such they too should be drawn closer unto the Absolute.

            There’s no true thought without not only the thinking one but also the one that is thought. And so it is, the Absolute Realizes Absolute Reality—that One (or three, or whatever number label you want to apply) is the Absolute, is the Reality, and is the Realization. (And here we have the concept known to Christians as the Trinity.)

            And nowhere are there not all three. The world is not something to escape but something to wonder at and to long for. A place with suffering though it is, then too a place of immense inherent goodness, anywhere you might look, and we find purpose to our contemplative being, to meditation, to thought and consciousness, in reducing the suffering and increasing the good. Life is good, and we want to get out there and live it and then live it again—unto eternity—making it better along the way. Life is not a punishment, nor is the body or any other real and natural construct a prison—rather it’s death that strikes us as payback for some of the things human beings do (not the least of which was to taste the fruit of knowledge of good and evil in the first place, thus giving us a self like the Absolute, except that it would perish, and allowing us to count that mortality an evil (which, actually, allows us the benefit of salvation)).

          • kellygreen

            I’ll have to take your points one at a time to do them justice.

            1. From my point of view people focus on the afterlife moreso than the nature of things prior to their birth for a couple of reasons. One is culture. We live in a society where the prevailing assumption is One-and-Done. We either come into existence from “nothing”..and go back to it forever. Or we are created by a Supreme Entity..and return to that entity. Second, is that the Ego is a surival machine. So it bats around trying to find ways to assure its own continuance. Even if it means projecting it into a non-corporeal “eternity.” I remember watching the Robin Williams movie “What Dreams May Come”…and thinking to myself that the isolated, eternal fantasy world that they depicted Heaven to be was more akin to a eternal drug trip…and closer to my idea of Hell.

            2. Yes.

            3. No. Zen doesn’t seek to destroy or absolve anything. What Zen—and Buddhism in general seeks to do is WAKE YOU UP to the reality that these concepts ARE JUST THAT. Concepts. Mental constructs that have no reality outside of your own mind…and only have the power with which you imbue them by reifying them.

            What you have to realize is that Buddhism is not a set of beliefs…but is instead a PRESCRIPTION that was designed to correct how people are (biologically and culturally) conditioned to mispercieve reailty. What I was alluding to in my earlier post is that for one to ultimately be free one must allow the prescription to self-destruct..and relinquish ones attachment to the concepts and ideas out of which it was contructed. Like a course of anti-biotics…once you you have taken the all the pills and the infection is gone…you stop taking them. You don’t go on taking the pills forever, because the pills will go on to make you sick in their own way.

            Also there is a fundamental difference between Hiniyana/Theravadan Buddhism…and Mahayana Buddhism. Mahayana (which is the sect from which Zen and Tibetan Buddhism springs) appeared some 500 years after Hiniyana, and probably is the more profound realization (Mahayana=”Greater Vehicle”).

            Hiniyana Buddhism sees things as you suggest. That the world of form (Samsara) is defiled, illusory, and a place of suffering…and that the goal the Arhat is to wake up to this fact, get off the Wheel of Cyclic Existence and get back to Nirvana. Everything else is just a distraction.

            Mahayan Buddhism sees things differently. One of its central tenents is that “Samsara is not different from Nirvana”. IOW, Nirvana is not some seperate plane of existence to be sought, but is instead a seperate state of AWARENESS. That suffering is not the nature of the World of Form, but is simply the result of our misperception of it..and our determined clinging to the desire for it to be other than what it is. Thus Nirvana is not freedom from form..but simply the relinquishing of identification with form.

            Also central to Mahayana is the Bodhisattva Ideal with is the ultimate expression of this reliquishing of individual identity. The Bodhisattva vows to forestall his own Parinirava until all sentient beings have been brought to Awakening.

            4. With this point, I sense you are reaching for something fundamental but missed the mark slightly because the Western spiritual tradition doesn’t really give one the vocabulary to express it without heaping lots of concepts upon it. Which inevitably leads one away from the direct experience of what is being reached for.

            Buddhism has a simpler way of putting it, and it is closely related to Mahayana realization of my earlier point. Remember Buddhism is not a set of beliefs…but is a prescription. Since most people believe seperation is real…it emphasizes oneness. Since most people think that individual identity is real…it emphasizes “no-self”. Since most people believe that form is real…it emphasizes formlessness, etc.

            Its like if someone has fallen off the road by going too far to the left…the onlyway to get them back up on the road is to get them going in the other direction. But eventually one has to stop…otherwise you go off the road in the other direction.

            True realization—Ultimate Reality is neither seperation nor oneness. It is neitehr form nor formless. It is neither self, nor no-self. True realization is being able to be aware of the ultimate truth of formlessness, no-self, and oneness—The Absolute—WHILE AT THE SAME TIME REMAINING GROUNDED IN THE EXPERIENCE OF FORM, SELF, AND SEPERATENESS: The Relative. While the Relative IS transient and illusory…the experience of it is not.

            So one must keep the to in a dynamic balance in ones mind. Which is what the Enlightened Concsiousness ultimately does. Without awareness of the Absolute…one is mired in suffering, selfishness, fear and grasping. Without awareness of the Relative one is ungrounded, and cannot manifest the necessary COMPASSION for those who are still trapped in idenfitication with it…and the necessary CARE that is required to move in the world of Form in a healthy manner.

            I recommend reading a good translation of The Heart Sutra. This Buddhist scripture is as close to a “common-sense” expression of how an Enlightened Mind experiences Reality as can be put into words. That the Awakened Mind walks in the world with joy not because Samsara has changed. But because he has freed himself from the notion that the thoughts, ideas, concepts, desires and emotions that his mind endlessly churns out define Reality in any way.

            “The Way is not hard for the one who ceases to cherish his opinions.”

            But you can only get there—by a letting go—not a rejection. Which is just the flipside of clinging.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Wow, so many thoughts at such a deep, deep level there!

            I understand now, by the way, exactly why you’re agnostic, and I better understand your objection to “rational” atheism (Good luck helping them to understand that though). I believe I understood it once upon a time but have gotten so mired in the analytical thinking of the World of Forms, even though that’s a world I’m learning not to feel so attached to.

            There was a time when I was very nearly, for all practical purposes, an atheist (as in many ways I remain, though I now, just often enough to make me feel comfortable in my Christian identity, attend some Church services and do know a fair bit on theology and Scripture) but couldn’t commit philosophically: I realized that the way people use that word “God” did in fact convey meaningful information for this World of Forms; that “God” described something that, although I didn’t have any particular clinginess to it, was as real as any other “self” or “being”; that, just as I had observed and learned what words like “truth” and “compassion” were meant to mean, so too did I find myself knowing of such a thing as God, and, the more it’s investigated, the more clear that understanding becomes.

            So when I identify in a world of forms, I say I am a theist—for why not to cling to what is eternal (the Absolute)–not to the concept or to the Name of it of course but to the Reality, as best one knows the Way? And the names then—the vocabulary of the Western spiritual tradition—are useful in sharing understanding. The ultimate reality underlying it and Buddhism seems one and the same (not to say that that truly possesses oneness), although much of the Western vocabulary consists of some now heavily loaded words, which even we’re beginning to make of terms acquired from the East. (Indeed it seems a prescription wouldn’t be uncalled for!)

            Thanks again, Kelly!

          • kellygreen

            I’ll have to take your points one at a time to do them justice.

            1. From my point of view people focus on the afterlife moreso than the nature of things prior to their birth for a couple of reasons. One is culture. We live in a society where the prevailing assumption is One-and-Done. We either come into existence from “nothing”..and go back to it forever. Or we are created by a Supreme Entity..and return to that entity. Second, is that the Ego is a surival machine. So it bats around trying to find ways to assure its own continuance. Even if it means projecting it into a non-corporeal “eternity.” I remember watching the Robin Williams movie “What Dreams May Come”…and thinking to myself that the isolated, eternal fantasy world that they depicted Heaven to be was more akin to a eternal drug trip…and closer to my idea of Hell.

            2. Yes.

            3. No. Zen doesn’t seek to destroy or absolve anything. What Zen—and Buddhism in general seeks to do is WAKE YOU UP to the reality that these concepts ARE JUST THAT. Concepts. Mental constructs that have no reality outside of your own mind…and only have the power with which you imbue them by reifying them.

            What you have to realize is that Buddhism is not a set of beliefs…but is instead a PRESCRIPTION that was designed to correct how people are (biologically and culturally) conditioned to mispercieve reailty. What I was alluding to in my earlier post is that for one to ultimately be free one must allow the prescription to self-destruct..and relinquish ones attachment to the concepts and ideas out of which it was contructed. Like a course of anti-biotics…once you you have taken the all the pills and the infection is gone…you stop taking them. You don’t go on taking the pills forever, because the pills will go on to make you sick in their own way.

            Also there is a fundamental difference between Hiniyana/Theravadan Buddhism…and Mahayana Buddhism. Mahayana (which is the sect from which Zen and Tibetan Buddhism springs) appeared some 500 years after Hiniyana, and probably is the more profound realization (Mahayana=”Greater Vehicle”).

            Hiniyana Buddhism sees things as you suggest. That the world of form (Samsara) is defiled, illusory, and a place of suffering…and that the goal the Arhat is to wake up to this fact, get off the Wheel of Cyclic Existence and get back to Nirvana. Everything else is just a distraction.

            Mahayan Buddhism sees things differently. One of its central tenents is that “Samsara is not different from Nirvana”. IOW, Nirvana is not some seperate plane of existence to be sought, but is instead a seperate state of AWARENESS. That suffering is not the nature of the World of Form, but is simply the result of our misperception of it..and our determined clinging to the desire for it to be other than what it is. Thus Nirvana is not freedom from form..but simply the relinquishing of identification with form.

            Also central to Mahayana is the Bodhisattva Ideal with is the ultimate expression of this reliquishing of individual identity. The Bodhisattva vows to forestall his own Parinirava until all sentient beings have been brought to Awakening.

            4. With this point, I sense you are reaching for something fundamental but missed the mark slightly because the Western spiritual tradition doesn’t really give one the vocabulary to express it without heaping lots of concepts upon it. Which inevitably leads one away from the direct experience of what is being reached for.

            Buddhism has a simpler way of putting it, and it is closely related to Mahayana realization of my earlier point. Remember Buddhism is not a set of beliefs…but is a prescription. Since most people believe seperation is real…it emphasizes oneness. Since most people think that individual identity is real…it emphasizes “no-self”. Since most people believe that form is real…it emphasizes formlessness, etc.

            Its like if someone has fallen off the road by going too far to the left…the onlyway to get them back up on the road is to get them going in the other direction. But eventually one has to stop…otherwise you go off the road in the other direction.

            True realization—Ultimate Reality is neither seperation nor oneness. It is neitehr form nor formless. It is neither self, nor no-self. True realization is being able to be aware of the ultimate truth of formlessness, no-self, and oneness—The Absolute—WHILE AT THE SAME TIME REMAINING GROUNDED IN THE EXPERIENCE OF FORM, SELF, AND SEPERATENESS: The Relative. While the Relative IS transient and illusory…the experience of it is not.

            So one must keep the to in a dynamic balance in ones mind. Which is what the Enlightened Concsiousness ultimately does. Without awareness of the Absolute…one is mired in suffering, selfishness, fear and grasping. Without awareness of the Relative one is ungrounded, and cannot manifest the necessary COMPASSION for those who are still trapped in idenfitication with it…and the necessary CARE that is required to move in the world of Form in a healthy manner.

            I recommend reading a good translation of The Heart Sutra. This Buddhist scripture is as close to a “common-sense” expression of how an Enlightened Mind experiences Reality as can be put into words. That the Awakened Mind walks in the world with joy not because Samsara has changed. But because he has freed himself from the notion that the thoughts, ideas, concepts, desires and emotions that his mind endlessly churns out define Reality in any way.

            “The Way is not hard for the one who ceases to cherish his opinions.”

            But you can only get there—by a letting go—not a rejection. Which is just the flipside of clinging.

          • kellygreen

            I am aware of what your argument is.

            It is a variation of the null hypothesis in statistics analysis: Unless I reach a certain threshold of evidence (the confidence interval) that corroborates a certain situation being true, then I must assume the opposite is true. Unless I can show there is a difference that cannot be attributed to random chance, I must assume that all variation is due to randomness.

            The problem is that you CAN”T DO THAT in this setting….with this type of situation. The situation is not as simple as “God exists” or “God doesnt exist”…so unless someone proves God exists, I must therefore assume that God does not.

            You can’t do that because you are ARBITRARILY disregarding (the potentially very real) possibility that God does exist…but that we simply cannot prove or disprove that existence by the means we are currently employing. Not to mention that there are about 27 different conceptions of what “God” is. Depending upon whom you talk to, what tradition you are dealing with…and the spirtual maturity of the perspective in question.

            You cannot set atheism as a “default” position because it is NOT a neutral postion on the issue….and it is not a question that neatly falls in the pigeon-hole you are trying to cram it into.

            Atheism is taking the position that God DOES NOT EXIST. Which is stating that I HAVE BEEN persuaded by the evidence that God does NOT exist, and I HAVE REACHED A CONCLUSION ON THE MATTER. …so unless you can produce that evidence to refute EACH of the 27 different conceptions of God out there, beyond a reasonable doubt….

            …Your position is ARBITRARY, and therefore intellectually and rationally indefensible. No matter how many times you repeat it, or what intellectual sleight-0f–hand you engage in trying to rationalize it.

            ..and I’m keeping your feet to the fire on this because you KNOW that you cannot produce that proof..so you are trying to argue that you should be required to provide it.

            That is dishonest…every bit as dishonest as any of hte games religious believers engage in….and I am calling you on it.

            If you want to believe that there is no God…that’s fine. Take a stand. Who am I to tell you that you are wrong for what you believe.

            But don’t argue that it is the only rational position take on the issue—and assume that I not sophisticated enough to recognize that you have committed the intellectual equivalent of dividing-by-zero in getting there.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            I think I see the problem here: you insist that my non belief is a belief. That’s a really strange kind of belief. If I didn’t know any better, I would think you are trying to argue that ‘up’ is another kind of down, that an abuse of clear language is another kind of clarification.

            No matter what object follows this assertion that non belief is a belief – no matter what the actual condition of that object is, whether we’re talking about the veracity of god, bigfoot, fairies, mythological critters, alien visitors, whatever – what we are talking about is non belief as a belief. That is the ACTUAL subject I am addressing with you and trying my best to show you why your assertion is incoherent, whereas you are addressing non belief as a belief that is a positive claim and in need of evidence. You are rooted to this misconception and think yourself holding me to account for your misconception. And that is why your argument is wrong.

            The agnostic suspends belief… often with such a desire to keep an ‘open’ mind about claims that the brain ceases to function altogether (which is why I called it a catatonic mental state).

            The feet you are holding to the fire are not mine. My non belief is the same default position you hold for an infinite number of claims. If someone told you your car was being towed, your first impulse would not be maintain an idyllic “I don’t know if that claim is true so I’d best just sit here and congratulate my adherence to this worthy philosophy because what is a car? Does it exist? Can I know it exists? For what ultimate purpose is existence?” I’m sorry if I hold that philosophy in contempt, but I do. Your first impulse about hearing the claim that your car is being towed to verify the claim because you don’t believe it until you have evidence. If someone told you that you just won the lottery, the first thing you’d do is verify the claim because you don’t believe it until you have evidence. Your weak philosophical position about holding fast to agnosticism because it is intellectually honest is farcical in real life. If you needed the keys to your car borrowed by your daughter earlier in the day, and asked for them back only to be told that she didn’t know where they were and she was going to hold fast to that position, you would not be satisfied to maintain and support her so-called agnosticism because you honestly think it’s intellectually honest; you want your damn keys back and her job to go find them.

            So don’t pretend that holding fast to agnosticism is somehow the higher path in philosophical reasoning about claims in the supernatural when you yourself refuse to maintain it in every other aspect of your life. That’s intellectually dishonest.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            I think I see the problem here: you insist that my non belief is a belief. That’s a really strange kind of belief. If I didn’t know any better, I would think you are trying to argue that ‘up’ is another kind of down, that an abuse of clear language is another kind of clarification.

            No matter what object follows this assertion that non belief is a belief – no matter what the actual condition of that object is, whether we’re talking about the veracity of god, bigfoot, fairies, mythological critters, alien visitors, whatever – what we are talking about is non belief as a belief. That is the ACTUAL subject I am addressing with you and trying my best to show you why your assertion is incoherent, whereas you are addressing non belief as a belief that is a positive claim and in need of evidence. You are rooted to this misconception and think yourself holding me to account for your misconception. And that is why your argument is wrong.

            The agnostic suspends belief… often with such a desire to keep an ‘open’ mind about claims that the brain ceases to function altogether (which is why I called it a catatonic mental state).

            The feet you are holding to the fire are not mine. My non belief is the same default position you hold for an infinite number of claims. If someone told you your car was being towed, your first impulse would not be maintain an idyllic “I don’t know if that claim is true so I’d best just sit here and congratulate my adherence to this worthy philosophy because what is a car? Does it exist? Can I know it exists? For what ultimate purpose is existence?” I’m sorry if I hold that philosophy in contempt, but I do. Your first impulse about hearing the claim that your car is being towed to verify the claim because you don’t believe it until you have evidence. If someone told you that you just won the lottery, the first thing you’d do is verify the claim because you don’t believe it until you have evidence. Your weak philosophical position about holding fast to agnosticism because it is intellectually honest is farcical in real life. If you needed the keys to your car borrowed by your daughter earlier in the day, and asked for them back only to be told that she didn’t know where they were and she was going to hold fast to that position, you would not be satisfied to maintain and support her so-called agnosticism because you honestly think it’s intellectually honest; you want your damn keys back and her job to go find them.

            So don’t pretend that holding fast to agnosticism is somehow the higher path in philosophical reasoning about claims in the supernatural when you yourself refuse to maintain it in every other aspect of your life. That’s intellectually dishonest.

          • kellygreen

            No the problem is that you are trying to conflate “non-belief” with atheism…which it is not.

            Non-belief encompasses BOTH atheism, and agnosticism. What distinguishes the two positions is that atheism goes farther and takes a position that God does not exist.

            …and you keep trying to argue your way out of that fact, and you can’t.

            Because that is the fundamental distinction between agnosticism and atheism. No matter how vigorously you try to argue around it.

            Now, if you want to argue that agnosticism is a “default” position, that is a rationally defensible position. Otherwise, I’ve got you dead to rights…you just don’t realize it yet.

            I’m holding all the keys…and I’m guarding all the exits.

          • Anonymous

            You’re just so, so good at this, Kelly. I love it. You have to promise to never, ever leave my blog.

          • kellygreen

            It is not muddled thinking. You are engaging in intellectual sleight-of-hand, so that you can convince yourself that you are not doing something which you actually are….and that you do not have to confront the fact that your position has the same limitations as the one you are criticizing.

            You are not saying “I have not been convinced of the existence of God”. That is an intellectually defensible position, that atheists share with agnostics.

            But you are going even farther in saying “God does not exist”….and therefore shutting out the possiblity that in formation may become available that would change your mind.

            The problem with that position is that it has the same inherent problems what the religious believer has. NEITHER of you can prove the truth of your position in a rational fashion.

            The believer—in most cases—is willing to be honest about this, and invokes Faith.

            The typical atheist—on the other—is not, and is engaging in self-deception around the limitations of their own viewpoint.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Inherent in rational thinking is the notion of basing conclusions on what is considered to be the best reasons available. Should better reasons come along that indicate belief in god is reasonable, then I’m quite willing to change my mind. You assume that my conclusion today based on an absence of what I consider good reasons is set for all time, that is based on some certainty equivalent in some way to the certainty of the religious believer through an acceptance of faith that the belief is true. This is not a true representation of me or those those who put merit in methodological naturalism.

            Should evidence of phenomena or effect come along that indicates that divine intervention is a reasonable explanation – a better explanation than one that incorporates natural phenomena to arrive at a conclusion that works consistently well and yields practical reliable results – then you’ll see most atheists lining up to agree with that conclusion. If a seven hundred foot Jesus walked across North America proclaiming himself to be the son of god while dosing the land and its people with miraculous examples of his omnipotence, I cannot imagine too many atheists sticking to their intellectual guns that there is no corroborating evidence for belief in the divinity of Jesus. Self-deception is exactly what most atheists are trying very hard to avoid.

          • http://mindyscurls.wordpress.com/ Mindy

            This is what I am talking about, Kelly – what tildeb says here. Based on WHAT WE KNOW NOW, for an atheist, the nonexistence of God is the default.

            I *am* an agnostic, and I make no apologies for it. But I can certainly see why, without evidence to show otherwise, that default position does make sense. The only “evidence” I have pointing toward something larger is personal experience. I’ve read much anecdotal evidence from other people – evidence they use to validate their own faith – that could easily fit within my beliefs as well. But until I experienced it for myself, that wouldn’t have been enough for me. And I don’t expect my experiences to be enough for anyone else. Without those experiences, I’ d probably believe exactly as tildeb does, call myself an atheist and still acknowledge that should our knowledge change, my mind would as well.

          • kellygreen

            The default position “make sense” at a gut level.

            It is not, however, an intellectually defensible position. Because is postulates an “either-or” character to a reality that is not limited in that fashion.

            In short, the reality is not defined by the limitations by which tildeb is most comfortable thinking about the matter.

          • kellygreen

            And I don’t expect my experiences to be enough for anyone else. Without those experiences, I’ d probably believe exactly as tildeb does, call myself an atheist

            —————————————————————————————————

            Which is why I’m belaboring the point with tildeb.

            At the end of the day “God” is just a concept…one that is defined differently depending on what tradition you are talking about…and what time in our history. Philsopher Ken Wilber has highlighed some 27 different conceptions of the Nature of God….depending on the point of view in question.

            So if you are going to insist that you are an atheist…then you better be prepared to present a reasonable case against ALL 27 CONCEPTIONS. It is a massive burden of proof, if one is going to be intellectually honest and disciplined about it.

            But at the end of the day—as you are alluding to—we are dealing with something that is fundamentally non-rational and experiential. So trying to “prove” or “disprove” it on a rational basis makes about as much sense—and is about as effective—as getting into a debate over the marital status of the Number 5.

            It is an absurdity. That only makes sense if one’s experience of the Divine is limited only to concepts and beliefs. Once one has had personal experience…it is a pointless exercise.

            Nothing you can say can prove the truth of that experience to someone who has not had it.

            Nothing you can say is necessary to prove the truth of that experience to someone who has.

            So why bother?

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Maybe god is “just a concept” at the end of YOUR day, but it sure isn’t true for most religious people. If you want to alter your definition about god to look and behave exactly like the universe as it is, then who are you arguing against? I maintain my non belief in god because there are no good reasons to alter my default position of non belief. Just because you want to redefine a notion of god into that which already exists doesn’t affect my non belief in god; it alters the definition of what god is purported to be.

          • Diana A.

            “Maybe god is ‘just a concept’ at the end of YOUR day, but it sure isn’t true for most religious people.”

            How do you know? Do you read minds or something?

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Because 57% of Americans believe that one must believe in god to have good values and be moral agents, 69% want a president who is guided by strong religious beliefs, 81% believe in heaven, 78% in angels, 70% in Satan, and 70% in hell. These majorities are based on god being much more than “just a concept”.

          • Diana A.

            Okay. I’ll accept your reasoning here.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            concept (con|cept) Pronunciation:/ˈkɒnsɛpt/ noun; an abstract idea; a plan or intention; an idea or invention to help sell or publicize a commodity; [as modifier] (of a car or other vehicle) produced as an experimental model to test the viability of innovative design features; Philosophy an idea or mental image which corresponds to some distinct entity or class of entities, or to its essential features, or determines the application of a term (especially a predicate), and thus plays a part in the use of reason or language – Origin: mid 16th century (in the sense ‘thought, imagination’): from Latin conceptum ‘something conceived’, from Latin concept- ‘conceived’, from concipere (see conceive)Once more your limited one-track approach to language allows you to find offence where none exists. The fact that the concept of God for many (admittedly nutty) Americans involves morals, political guidance, heaven, messengers, and an antagonist with his own abode doesn’t make it any less a concept. “Truth” is a concept. While you’re at it, so is “chair”.And while many Americans (who in spite of what they think of themselves are not the centre of the universe and whose opinion matters surprisingly little other than that they sit on lots of weapons) may share one concept of God, doesn’t make countering that a general truth about all concepts.

          • kellygreen

            My argument with you is not about what religious people do or do not beleive.

            My argument is what you can and cannot prove with regards to whether God exists or not.

            Like my example. Just because Creationists try to shoot Evolution Theory full of holes, doesn’t make Genesis true by default.

            Likewise you cannot assume definitively God (in one of its myriad conceptions) does not exist, simply because you are not persuaded by the currently available evidence.

            If you are not persuaded…then you can rationally defend agnosticism.

            But you and I both know that you cannot prove that God does not exist, any more that believers can rationally prove that he does. Only the believers are willing to own up to it…and you won’t.

          • Anonymous

            Oh my God. I have a brain crush on you.

          • kellygreen

            Easy now…. :)

          • kellygreen

            No.

            The essence of Reason is that one adopts the position THAT THE AVAILABLE EVIDENCE WILL SUPPORT.

            If you want to argue that the evidence does not support the existence of God—as envisioned by a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible—then you will get no argument from me. That is a rational, intellectually defensible position…but is a far more LIMITED one than you are trying to take.

            Because you cannot make the same argument if the definition of God is extended to the Hindu tradition. Hindu belief states that the Universe was not created BY Godhead, but is the Universe is God Himself (Brahman). In other words, that the Universe is comprised of different manifestations of the same fundamental “substance”.

            Now, arguing against the existence of God (defined this way) gets a LOT stickier. Because Relativity Theory has made it clear that the entire Universe is nothing but different manifestations of Energy…and Super-String Theory/M-Theory offers a potentially viable “Unification Theory”. A single theory that describes the behavior of all the fundamental forces of the Universe, and behavior of all levels of matter from the sub-atomic to the cosmologic.

            Then when you consider that the Copenhagen school of Quantum Mechanics theorizes that an observing consciousness may be required to collapse the probability function so that sub-atomic particles behave like point particle….

            Now try to argue that God (as defined as the Ground of Being itself) does not exist. Particularly now that we are in a realm where science can no longer seperate any observed phenomenon from the observing consciousness…yet can mathematically demonstrate that all physical reality is just different manifestations of a single underlying reality.

            Stephen Hawking in his most recent book nailed the matter perfectly. What Science does is that it creates a model of the Universe what a “God” is not necessary to explain how the Universe came into being. But even he acknowledges that this is NOT the same as proving that a God does not exist, or that a God was not involved in the process in some fashion.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            And Hawking also says that science and religious belief are incompatible ways of knowing and that in the ongoing struggle between their methodologies, science will win because it works.You reveal your mindset when you suggest Hawking ‘admits’ that one cannot prove god does not exist. That’s not an admission as if it were some lack, some hole, some puzzling problem. A first year philosophy student quickly learns that proving a negative is a very tall order. One does not need a large brain and stellar expertise in astrophysics (Ha!) to understand the difficulties of such an undertaking. Even I with my small little pile of gray cells understands that difficulty perfectly well and I would be insulted to be taken as a fool if you honestly thought I could provide any such proof against such a nebulous concept as god.As for quantum mechanics, don’t even pretend that you understand why it works. By the way, it’s the wave function that collapses upon measurement – but that always seemed to me to be one of the more obvious points… just like when you clock me driving at a certain speed, at that moment of measurement you are either measuring my location or my speed but cannot do both. At least, that’s my understanding of the collapsing wave function… and my understanding is poor I’ll freely admit. You make it sound as if there’s some element of oogity boogity exerted by the observing consciousness that sends out woo-laden rays to cause bizarre particle activities: we’ve known for a hundred years that photons behave (show properties) as both particles and a wave. And yes, it’s weird, but that doesn’t mean there is some kind of Vulcan mind meld going on between observer and photons. It means we need to better understand what it is we’re observing and stop assuming that a particle necessarily is one thing only. That’s not mysticism; it’s science and my belief is that we come equipped to eventually understand more and more of our universe. But that’s a different topic…

          • kellygreen

            With all due respect, Mr. Hawking is wrong on this point. One scientist to another. Religion and science are not imcompatible…they are complimentary. Science seeks to understand by means of rationality, logic and evidence. “Religion” seeks to understand by means of our non-rational faculties.

            Both are valid. Both have their strengths…and their weaknesses.

            Yes, proving a negative IS a tall order…which is why you are bobbing-and-weaving like a prize fighter trying to get out of having to do it. But that is PRECISELY what an atheist calls down upon himself when he claims that God does not exist.

            Which is why I keep saying—if you choose to believe there is no God, I have no quarrel with you. What I have a SERIOUS problem with is your attempt to characterize it as the only rational position to take on the matter.

            That is wrong. It is intellectually dishonest…and I’m not going to let you get away with it. No matter how many times you try to rationalize it away.

            You are taking a PHILOSOPHICAL position on the matter, not a scientific one. One that reflects your values…and your preferred way of seeing the Universe…not one that can be definitively proven.

            As for Quantum Mechanics I am describing the Copenahagen Interpretation that argues that it is the act of measurement that collapses the wave function.

            …and WHO IS IT—at the end of the day—that makes the measurement…and decides HOW that measurement is made. Therefore biasing it towards wave…or particle.

            The mind of the scientist engaging in the experiment.

            You cannot seperate the observer from the observation.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            From another scientist; I would quibble with kellygreen. I, as a non-theist, do NOT claim that there is no god …merely that there is no reason to believe in one given the dearth of evidence. Similarly; I do not say that there are no trolls living under bridges or unicorns roaming about the forests unseen. It is an infinitesimal minority who make the positive truth claim about the non-existence of a god or gods or any other higher power…and most of those do so out of lack of rhetorical skill. Even Dawkins says he is, technically, agnostic.

            As far as science/religion compatibility….
            I would argue for incompatibility. I would argue that there are good ways and bad ways to achieve real knowledge, and the scientific method is the non-subjective [or only] way of gaining that real knowledge. In the absence of objective measures, we might give some latitude to philosophy or religion to help us make some sense of things. When the scientific method does have something to say about something, then religion must necessarily lay prostrate before that.

          • kellygreen

            1. Then you are an agnostic…not an atheist. As I’ve stated repeatedly to tildeb, agnosticism IS a rationally defensible position. It is one thing to say I have not been convinced of the existence of God..and that there IS no God. So perhaps the issue is a lack of precision in the use of the two terms.

            2. You’ve argued yourself in a bit of a circle. You’ve established the paradigm by which Science excels..and then used that to evaluate the validity of religion. If one wants to come to understand the world of the EXTERIOR and the physical universe….no question Science and the Scientific method is vastly superior.

            But when it comes to understanding the realm of the interior and the phenomenological…Science starts to flounder….and when it comes to defining any sort of meaning to any of this vast Universe, Science falls flat on its face. Contemporary science is struck mute.

            So, at the end of the day, which is the “real” knowledge? Depends upon your point of view.

            Which is why I said that the two are complimentary…and there is room for both at the table of knowledge…as long as they respect proper boundaries.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            They are not mutually exclusive. I am agnostic (I doubt most things until import until I have compelling evidence) and I am an atheist because I do not [any longer] subscribe to any theistic beliefs/narratives.

            What genuine, useful knowledge has religion bestowed on humanity in the last 100 years? You fail by starting with a presupposition that there must be a ‘why’ to the universe and then structuring a mode of thought around that question. Moreover truth claims that ooze from religious narratives have failed and failed spectacularly when they are foolish enough to stick their toe in the natural world.

            As Tildeb has rightly said; how one seeks knowledge matters.

          • http://mindyscurls.wordpress.com/ Mindy

            I’m confused. And yes, that *is* my default position. :) If being an atheist simply means “not a theist,” why is Kelly having such a hard time accepting this? The philosophical discussion is interesting, but it seems that

            An agnostic says “It could be true, I”m just not sure. I’ll get back to you.”

            An atheist simply says, “Nothing has proven to me that God exists, so I don’t believe s/he/it does. And now, I shall go about my day.” There exists no requirement to prove the negative, as Kelly seems to think there does. Just because an atheist acknowledges that should proof become available someday she would change her mind doesn’t make her an agnostic.

            But, like I said, I’m confused. And I’m not a scientist.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            IMO, the believing community from long ago (and maintained to this day) improperly foisted self-serving and invalid meaning on the word in an attempt to make the atheism appear intellectually dim. If the believing community accepts that atheism just means that they are not them, then there is not really anything to argue against without looking like total douches.

          • Diana A.

            “IMO, the believing community from long ago (and maintained to this day) improperly foisted self-serving and invalid meaning on the word in an attempt to make atheism appear intellectually dim. ”

            This sounds a bit paranoid to me. Then again, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean the believers aren’t out to get you.

            This particular theist is more than willing to agree to disagree and doesn’t see atheists as being intellectually dim.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            It may be unfair on my part to claim that the masses consciously maintain a self-serving [and inaccurate] definition of the word. Probably long long ago this happened and it was spread from the pulpit, and it just assumed a different meaning through common usage…sometimes even making it into dictionaries. I think the masses really give no thought whatsoever to the proper [and obvious] construction of the word. I guess I just resent that people [and history] misuse a [really really simple] word in a way that negatively affects me. I do NOT possess the characteristic of ‘atheism’; I merely lack the characteristic of ‘theism’. I know it is a losing battle. Maybe I will start using the term non-theist again…but I feel I shouldn’t have to.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            “Well your claims are no different than our claims!”

            And what if they are no different?

            Well, ok, I’ll admit that–at least in the modern Western world–the average person with a theistic worldview makes claims conveying a significantly lower level of intelligence (and intelligibility) than the typical possessor of an atheistic worldview.

            But what about those claims that are well-reasoned and meaningful? I would say they are much the same and in fact vary from person to person as much within religious circles as anywhere else.

            Ultimately, our truth claims result from empirical observations–both of the world we find ourselves in and of our own being that finds itself in the world–related, processed, abstracted and organized by the human brain we possess (which is to say, the one which for our case (the case of that from which the considered truth claims proceed) receives itself unto its self).

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Sorry MT. I can’t engage such ill formed and torturous reasoning offered by a Scotsman such as yourself. Suffice it to day that we have tooootaly different understandings of ‘well reasoned’ and ‘evidence’ and ‘empirical’.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Ultimately, our truth claims result from empirical observations…

            I wish!

            Our ‘empirical observations’ reveal with a very high degree of accuracy that the global atmospheric carbon load is increasing in tandem with global average temperatures yet a significant portion of the population chooses to believe that this causal relationship is not related to our increasing carbon emissions. That very dangerous truth claim stands in stark contrast to the empirical observations we have amassed. How can this be if we base our truth claims on our empirical observations as you claim?

            It can be because we as a species have a tendency to base our truth claims on our biases first and then look to empiricism to back them up.

            We are a mid-level sized creature with mid-level senses that are attenuated to operate at mid-level speed. Take the visible ‘rainbow’ spectrum. That’s the frequency of light we see, what we observe. But that’s not all there is in the light spectrum: beyond red we have infrared, microwave, and radio. Beyond violet we have ultraviolet, x-rays, and gamma. Because we have developed a method of inquiry that makes observations for our sensory inadequacies possible, we can ‘see’ the invisible spectrum, we can see the very small and the very large, the very close and the very far. And we can apply this expansion of our sensory abilities in technologies that consistently work reliably well.

            Yet when this same method of inquiry supplies us with data that conflicts with our biases, consider carefully what it means that more than two-thirds of Americans say that they will stick to their biases, thank you very much… if it involves contrary evidence to their religious beliefs.

            So this raises the question, MT: what exactly are we basing this ‘organization’ of our truth claims on? More importantly, what should we base our truth claims on?

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Yikes!

            These responses are getting very…

            thin.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            You can read them on Disqus directly. They are not threaded and indented there.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            First, do not confuse the collective experience of man with men’s and women’s individual experience. There can be a very real and critical difference between “our” and “their” observations in life. Others haven’t necessarily received the data you or I have. Second, I didn’t say truth claims are a result merely of empirical observations but of such “related, processed, abstracted and organized by the human brain”. This, as you rightly note, is where biasing enters in, but where does it come from? Some of it—from the nature of the human mind itself, and some—as a result of previous experience, which might have taught us such things as whom to trust and so on. And those are questions that must be addressed, but the matter of what we should base truth claims on is somewhat silly: there’s really on one thing we can. (When we transcend the ego, there’s no need of distinguishing what is and what ought to be.)

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            English isn’t my first language. So I consulted the online Oxford Dictionary, on the assumption that if there is any authority on what means what in English, that is the place to go. No idea if that reasoning was somehow wrong, or where else to go instead.atheism(athe|ism) Pronunciation:/ˈeɪθɪɪz(ə)m/ noun disbelief in the existence of God or gods Origin: late 16th century: from French athéisme, from Greek atheos, from a- ‘without’ + theos ‘god’Okay, I wasn’t certain whether disbelief meant simply absence of belief or belief of absence, so I checked that word, too:disbelief (dis|be¦lief) Pronunciation:/dɪsbɪˈliːf/ noun inability or refusal to accept that something is true or real: Laura shook her head in disbelief; lack of faith:I’ll burn in hell for disbeliefBoth “lack of” and “refusal to” believe. It seems that the English language is not precise enough to answer the question: Atheism appears to descibe both the belief of absence and the absence of belief in any deity. It is not just a not-theist, nor is it only someone who is convinced of a godless universe.Oh, and if I read it right, according to OED agnosticism isn’t really an ideal candidate for a default position either.(I still see no reason for a no-reason-to-believe atheist – as opposed to a there-cannot-be-a-god atheist – to call the belief in God per se, even if unaccompanied by specific challenges to curent scientific theory, delusional and unintelligent, but then, that’s just me. Probably using my non-rational dolphin-crystal-voodoo-doll-i-ching…)(PPS: QC informed me recently that male dolphins forcibly keep females that don’t want to mate away from food sources until they consent. Dolphins are rapists! *I KNEW IT* the creepy bastards. Proved me right in having eaten all that canned tuna. :D)

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Ha! Thanks for that, FF. Your sense of humour is a treasure.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Do you like tuna, too? ^_^

          • kellygreen

            They are mutually exclusive.

            In short…you are an agnostic who wants to try to call himself an atheist…by trying to re-define what the word “atheism” means, and substituting a personal definition.

            Yes, how one seeks knowledge DOES matter…and the frame of reference one adopts—a’priori—not only impacts the answers you get. But can determine what questions even make any sense to entertain. Which why you can quickly wander off into the weeds, and become a prisoner of one’s own device if one is UNAWARE of the underlying assumptions that shape one one goes about seeking knowledge.

            First off your question in your previous post assumes that the sort of knowledge that science provides is the ultimate good..and the only knowledge of real value. Yes, religion s*cks at that kind of knowledge. If you are turning to religion to understand the external universe….you are going to be in for a disaapointment.

            The real value of SPIRITUALITY (religion is formalized sprituality) is that gives us insight into who WE are, and how WE relate to the human experience of living in this Universe. Spirituality is a powerful tool for exploring the INTERIORITY of humanity. The INNER universe. Which can be just as rich, and just as interesting as any exploration of the physical universe.

            …and Science—to this point—not only s*cks at garnering this kind of knowledge..it has for the better part of 300 years outright disrespected this kind of knowledge. Though, to its credit, the human behavioral sciences are starting to realize its fundamental error and is begining to see the value in insights into human nature and human awareness that have been garnered by the worlds contemplative traditions.

            The Abhidharma—Buddhist psychology—is every bit as sophisticated and reproducible as the best modern cognitive-behavioral psychology.

            So yes, how you go about seeking knowledge matters…and what knowledge you arbitrarily define as “genuine” and “useful” does matter.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Understanding by non rational faculties, eh? So that’s why you think you make understandable sense whereas I’m just not using my non rational faculties properly. I’m such a duh.

            I’ll get back to you when they are up and running properly after some exercising. Now where did I put my divination/healing crystals… next to my dowsing stick I think, but where, I don’t know… I’ll use my Force Sense and feel my way to where they are… maybe on top of my science texts books… wait…. I’m being channeled here…

            Compatible? Good grief.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            You really, really think that your reationality is the only thing that makes you functional? You really think that human life is designed (or evolved, no plug for Creationism intended, good grief) to be lead without major motivation by emotion, intuition, passion? Anasını satayım, have you never watched Star Trek? Do you really think Spock won all those arguments with Kirk or Bones?

            What possible rational reason can you even have to still engage in these sorts of headbanging comment conversations?

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            But your emotion, intuition, passion, drive are all part of what makes up your rationality! Emotion is not irrational; how we act on that emotion can be. Without passion, one cannot embrace compassion. You assume that rationality equals logic, whereas I understand that logic is only one part of rationality. Rationality is about respecting the role of reason to bring about understanding. I can understand what anger is because I am rational; with that understanding comes knowledge about how to appropriately express it. Without any knowledge about the emotion we call anger, how can you hope to use it appropriately and effectively?

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            rational (ra|tion¦al) Pronunciation:/ˈraʃ(ə)n(ə)l/ adjective 1 based on or in accordance with reason or logic:I‘m sure there’s a perfectly rational explanation; able to think sensibly or logically:Ursula‘s upset — she’s not being very rational; endowed with the capacity to reason

            reason (rea¦son) Pronunciation:/ˈriːz(ə)n/ noun 2 the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgements logically:there is a close connection between reason and emotion; what is right, practical, or possible; common sense:people are willing, within reason, to pay for schooling; (one’s reason) one’s sanity:she is in danger of losing her reason

            So, after consulting the OED once more, yeah, I understand the word rational to mean the logical, unemotional part of understanding and judgement, and emotion, intuition, passion, and yes, compassion as exactly the non-rational part that you so expressively scorned. And of course one should use reason to temper, well, the temper – just as one should grant emotion and intuition its place and meaning.

            Why is it always black and white with you? You redefine the English language intp those narrow, single-minded definitioons of yours, not only cutting away all nuance, but accusing others of falacy or dishonesty when they happen to have a more varied (and commonplace) understanding of these words. You are accusing those not of your mind as irrational, delusional, and unintelligent. You try to claim what forms of understanding are permissible and what are barbaric – and apparently automatically place one in the same league as Witchburners and the Nazis at Auschwitz. As someone raised in Germany, I do not take such accusations lightly, mate.

            Where have I ever given any sign of not respecting the role of reason? But I also respect the roles of intuition, of anguish and relish, of worship and submission to the transcendent, of awe.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Okay, fair enough criticism. When I narrow down a point, I really do tend to try to express it as a black and white point. In all fairness, however, this is exactly what needs to be done at the level of fine detail to establish what is true. For example, the detail of what is going on in the brain associated with our emotions simply is not “irrational.” It is understandable, and it was in this sense of the word that I used “rational” and “reasonable”. IOW, there is nothing irrational about our emotions. But I understand that you meant the term as non-logical regarding the experience of feeling emotion. And that’s why many have accused me of assuming that only the logical has value. And I know that’s simply not true; I highly value all the things you list, like intuition and anguish and awe and so on. I just see no reason to attribute these feelings to some agency other than our non-supernatural, exquisitely mysterious brain. I would no more ‘worship’ love as I would hate, but rather understand both in terms of biology – intense emotional experiences over which we do have a great deal of control how to exhibit these feelings. And they are highly meaningful.

            For example, when your little one exhibits behaviour that draws your attention, think to yourself what does the behaviour reveal as an emotion? Kids are transparently and primarily emotional beings and parenting is made much easier when we view it this way: their behaviour reveals exactly what they are feeling, which allows you as a loving parent to teach them more appropriate ways of showing these perfectly natural emotions without negating or manipulating why they feel as they do.

            But if you believe (have faith that) the child is possessed by a demon intent on doing evil and causing mischief, then we are no longer speaking reasonably or rationally. The role of faith in understanding ALL human behaviour stands in conflict with the method of understanding human behavior as a rational undertaking. And that remains my point.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            I know your point. And I am not arguing with you to make you believe in my way of seeing things. I am arguing only that your sweeping, generalizing claim that all religion is false and evil is, well, false and evil. ^_^About rationality and irrationality: At the lowest denominator we can clearly agree that everything happens as the consequence of some cause, and that this system of cause and effect to all practical knowledge only happens within the matrix of the physical world, governed by natural laws. That includes all human behaviour.I have found that the terms rational and irrational in terms of human behaviour are, hm, shall we say, impractical. I think that the two categories of aware/unaware and functional/disfunctional are better suited. We have a reason for any deed. We are often not aware of that reason. We always pursue some goal. Our actions need not actually help us achieve that goal.There was probably a lot of factors that made it seem worthwhile for me to steal. But there are three I want to point out in this context. For one, I think, the covert, manipulative and skillful nature of picking pocketsgave me a sense of control that I lacked in the rest of my life. Secondly, at the time I felt the world owed me big time, the loss of my sister, being deserted by my father, neglected my my mum who had to work 2 jobs, and forbidden by society to stand by my queer desires, I wanted payback. Taking money from people gave me a sense of that payback. Lastly, at the time I was in need of an identity. I was no longer my sister’s brother, nor my rents’ son, unable to be queer, and because of being secretly queer I felt no longer fully as a member of my circle of mates. With all the anger in my I didn’t want to be somebody who fits in, I didn’t want to be a good pupil, for example. Being a thief – especially after being found out and persecuted – suited me perfectly. It was a role I could fill with my head held high in fool’s pride.Was I aware of any of that at the time? Hardly. Was it functional. To an extend, yes, but in the long term of course it was deeply destructive. But was it irrational? Pff… whatever would that even mean?What it was was a way to withdraw myself from immediate human contact and from my own feelings. To me that was my sin in the religious sense: It was a way to say “no” to the world, because it hurt me too much, instead of finding a way to say “yes”.It has helped to make myself aware of all of that. Knowledge, Science, Understanding are all good, essential even. But for real life they do not suffice.It is not enough for my little boy that I understand him, even though that is good when I do and always worth the honest attempt. But I must also love him and show him that love, regardless of whether I understand him at a moment. I do not only have to teach him by example to understand the world and react appropriately in a rational way, but also how to deal with conflicts and emotions when they are not understood.Example: Even at a mere year he is prone to fits of rage. I don’t know his biological father, his mother certainly isn’t. I used to be, too, though a lot less these days. Is it genetics? Have I somehow passed this temper on to him? I don’t know. But I know that I have to be able to simply weather his tantrums and give him the feeling that they are neither the end of the world, nor do they help him accomplish anything. It is my purely emotional response to them, that complex mix of recognizing him for what he is, showing him that I love him regardless of what he does, and yet teaching him the boundaries of both acceptable and disfunctional behaviour that I hope will help him stay true to himself and yet remain functional in a bizarrely complex world.(By the way, I don’t know if you have kids, or if I understood you corretly, but unfortunately even very little kids are far from transparent and it is often very, very hard to find out what they are feeling or why. To my own astonishment I found out that practically from day one they are very complex personalities, in no way less complicated than any grown-up.)In regards to religion or to God, the “non-rational” response has nothing to do with the supernatural or the scientifically inexplicable. In the words of Joseph Campbell, the experience of God has to do with the rapture of being alive, as an individual, as a member of society, of humanity, and as a part of this world.That is what I mean when I said that understanding did not suffice. It has helped me see that I needed to embrace life, to say yes to life, and accept that doing so would expose me to more heartache. It was necessary. But it is only the penultimate step. I still had to do it. I still had to gather the courage, the humility, the spiritual strength to hurl myself back into this life, and to open my heart to this rapture.To me, doing that is an act of religious worship.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Ah, apollonian Tildeb, if only you knew who it is you are killing… ^_^

            I saw a staring virgin stand
            Where holy Dionysus died,
            And tear the heart out of his side,
            And lay the heart upon her hand
            And bear that beating heart away;
            And then did all the Muses sing
            Of Magnus Annus at the spring,
            As though God’s death were but a play.

            Another Troy must rise and set,
            Another lineage feed the crow,
            Another Argo’s painted prow
            Drive to a flashier bauble yet.
            The Roman Empire stood appalled:
            It dropped the reins of peace and war
            When that fierce virgin and her Star
            Out of the fabulous darkness called.

            (W.B. Yeats)

          • kellygreen

            Let me ask you a question.

            How do you think an architect goes about designing a building…or an engineer go about designing a car or an airplane? Do you think that is a completely “rational” process?

            Or do you think it is both a rational and non-rational process. One where the boundaries are set by the laws of physics—-statics, dynamics, material properties—so that the object functions properly.

            But within those boundaries, creativity takes over. So that you can get a wooden shotgun shack on one end….and the Taj Mahal on the other. The beauty of the Taj Mahal is as much the result of the non-rational human faculties of creativity and aesthetics…as it is of the laws of physics, architecture and mechanical engineering. Same with the sensual lines of a Ferrari or a Maserati.

            Likewise, how do you know that someone is in love with you? Do you take out a laptop and run mathematical calculations….run people through medical scanners…or draw blood to measure hormone values?

            …or is it based upon an intuitive knowing.

            Or how do you know someone is singing “in key” or not. Even though there is clear mathematical component to it…why do we find someone violating that relationship GRATING in one situation…

            ..yet jaw droppingly beautiful when it a master jazz musician does it.

            ..and what is the basis of that difference. Such that we can almost instantly recognize the difference between the two?

            You might want to reflect more deeply on something before mocking it.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            I could go into detail of my answers to each of your questions, but because you have already found a satisfactory answer you think I’d make that involves mocking, I’ll have to stick to your theme:

            the answer oogity boogity is not what I would call the result of deep reflection but an indication of its absence.

          • kellygreen

            As I said you might want to reflect.

            There is no “oogity boogity” involved. Just the direct experience of participating in many activities that require the use both “sides” of the brain. Disciplined creativity. Whether it is improvising or composing music, or other pursuits that require the creative application of scientific principles. To generate something that is new.

            So I’m afraid that I’m not the least bit cowed by your resorting to sarcasm. You are just someone who has made a mental idol out of rationality. Which, at the end of the day is your choice. But in doing so you have chosen to cut yourself off from a great deal of life.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            You keep assigning to me that which has been improperly assigned. For example, your notion of what I consider rational is not anti-emotional whatsoever. As I have written to FF, I see emotion as a part of rationality, meaning that it is understandable based on physiology and neurology. This position of mine does not negate the power and meaning of feelings and transcendental experiences whatsoever – let’s say of love, hate, awe, beauty, and so on; this position of mine merely assigns emotions to understandable biology – of knowable cause, effect, and mechanism. My issue is that to attribute emotions to some other agency, or some other cause for which we have no evidence , is irrational, meaning that it is not understandable because knowing anything about this agency itself is highly suspect. By claiming that such experiences are evidence for another agency is an a priori argument.

            You then try to pretend that creativity is both brain-based (the other “side” of the brain, you write) yet experientially relevant evidence for this ‘other’ agency. So which is it: brain or supernatural agency? If you accept that it can be both, then as long as you assign that which is reasonably understandable in strictly biological terms to also be evidence for some irrational outside agency, then I can’t imagine anything you COULDN’T use as similar evidence for this other agency! In other words, everything about anything is evidence for supernatural agency.

            You presume that I have not reflected enough because I have not reached your conclusions. This smacks of towering arrogance. I am well traveled and reasonably educated and have done (in my opinion) a reasonable amount of reflection. I am quite familiar with my own creative abilities and have achieved some measure of success and meaning from my ongoing participation in the arts. You know nothing of me and my reflective practices, my history and qualifications particularly in the arts, yet feel well qualified to find them lacking. I assume you believe that you have more than enough faith that it must be so.

            I resorted to sarcasm because you assumed my comments mock faith. That is not true. I am a strong advocate for people to enjoy their freedom to believe whatever they want and am just as strong an advocate against those who translate their personal faith into the public domain. I am not questioning anybody’s faith; I am questioning any use of faith to inform facts, inform truth claims about what is real, inform assertions and assumptions of what is true by means of faith. I am a proponent of reason and rationality to help us arrive at a reliable method to accomplish these goals without turning to the method of faith-based answers that I think turn poor reasoning into a virtue as long as the right answer is achieved.

            A case in point is your assertion that my non belief in any kind of supernatural agency is a different kind of belief. You know my opinion about this: such a non belief belief is an abuse of the language and an abuse of good reasoning. Your position is that it’s the only intellectually honest one to hold… based on what you consider are better reasons. We disagree. C’est la vie.

            But I hereby give you permission with no strings attached to stop calling me names, stop assuming that you correctly describe me, and to kindly stop being so bloody arrogant. It’s unbecoming and unnecessary to someone who can offer a well-reasoned counterpoint and whose opinion can be valuable for consideration.

          • kellygreen

            What is going on here is that you are like someone who plays tennis for fun with his buddies on the weekends. You don’t pay attention to the rules, you hit the ball wherever you want…and you keep score however you choose.

            I might not think much of your tennis game…but as long as you are playing for fun…and having fun…who the hell am I to tell you that you need to be doing anything different? Go have fun.

            But it is a different matter when you show up for a TOURNAMENT match…and want to do the same thing. Now that you are competing against people—for trophies or for prizes—people are going to expect you to play by the rules.

            ..and they aren’t going to want a hear a litany of reasons as why you shouldn’t have to play by those rules.

            If you want to consider yourself an atheist…and like Mike Burns…do so with your own personal definition….Hey, more power to you.

            But the moment you start invoking science, logic and reason to support those positions in a manner in which these disciplines cannot legitimately do…then like the players at that tennis tournament, I’m going to hold you to the rules of the game.

            I have not called you names, I have simply described what you are doing for what it is. I’m sure that you are a very nice guy. But you are playing fast-and-loose with the rules of reason, and insisting that I ignore that fact that you are doing so.

            The realm of non-belief in (various) God (concepts) is a far more complex phenomenon with dozens more potential perspectives than the simple either-or, binary situation you are trying to shoehorn it into. Atheism is a particular, definitive perspective within that continuum. As a Zen Buddhist, I am also a “non-believer” in a personal, interventionist Deity. But I am not an atheist. Like the agnostic and the Buddha…I have no opinion.

            But also like the agnostic my “non-belief” in the existence of a pesonal, interventionist is itself a belief. A belief that is—in part—defined by what it actively EXCLUDES.

          • http://mindyscurls.wordpress.com/ Mindy

            Kelly, the more condescending you get, the less likely you are to convince anyone of anything. We know you are a scientist and thus inordinately qualified to talk down to us mere mortals, but it gets hard to listen when it is couched in this particular tone. When one uses that tone, one asks to be mocked.

          • kellygreen

            I’m sorry that you feel that you are being condescended to.

            Like I said with one of my very first posts. People are free to believe what they wish. Believe in God…do not believe in God…that is a personal choice. It would be condenscending of me to dare to tell someone else what they should or should not believe. Or whether they were right or wrong for believing it.

            But when people start invoking science, logic and reason to support what they choose to believe there are rules that need to be followed. It is no longer a matter of personal choice and individual perception. Fail to follow those rules..and you might as well go right back to using religious doctrine and myths as a means of exploring the world around us.

            Because it is following those those rules that control our very human tendency for our emotions to get in the way and color our perceptions…so that we see what we wish to see.

            ..and fail to see, what we do not wish to accept.

            A trap that even Einstein himself fell into late in his life, when the results of reasearch into subatomic particles contradicted the picture of the orderly, predictable universe he wanted to believe in.

          • Mindy

            Well, since you weren’t replying to me directly, I fail to see how I was being condescended to – I was simply pointing out your tone.

            I am believer in the ilk of Suz, who described her belief in something more like a force than an being. So I’m not one of those you seem adamant to “convert.” What I am is a lover and student of words and language, and as such, I merely diagnosed the tone of yours.

          • kellygreen

            I’m not seeking to convert anyone…and my tone is the result of seeing a vital principle being abused.

            Like I said…at the end of the day…it really doesn’t matter to me what anyone does, or does not believe in. As a Zen Buddhist I really have no use for the concept of God..and have no dog in any fight over the truth of various God-concepts.

            What I do have a problem with is when someone starts abusing the rules of logic, reason, and science in their determination to “prove” their particular concept….or lack thereof…in a manner in which those disciplines cannot legitimately support.

            As I alluded to earlier, it is as if someone keeps saying “2+2=5″. At that point we are no longer dealing with mystery or personal choice or belief. There are rules to mathematics, and if you are going to invoke that discipline then you must play by those rules.

            So “2+2=4″ No matter how vehemently someone choose to argue to the contrary…and clearly pointing out why it is “4″ and not “5″ is not condescecion. Plus I think it is simply human nature to get annoyed with someone who continues to argue that 2+2=5…and then chooses to mock someone who is trying help him see where he has wandered off into the weeds with respect to mathematics.

            If tildeb wants to declare himself an atheist…I have no quarrel. But when he abuses rational disciplines in an effort to substantiate what is ultimately a non-rational belief…I’m not going to stand around and pretend not to notice the sleight-of-hand. No matter how irritated he gets.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Well, I am certainly questioning your insistence that non belief is another kind of belief. I didn’t realize my math was so bad that I thought a non car wasn’t a car, yet you insist it’s another kind of car. But with such ‘rules’ as this that you seem so dedicated to, it’s no wonder you’re wandering off on your own path of logic here. I don’t care to follow you.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            From another earlier post, I wrote

            And that’s why atheism defined as non belief in deities rather than belief in no deities is a quibble but an important one. As soon as one begins to define non belief as a belief of any kind, we’re into a linguistic quagmire where up means down, black means white, and atheism is deemed split into positive and negative beliefs, which is simply nonsensical.

            I think I am staying quite within the lines of a consistent and rational description of atheism.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Few people in science that I know, Mindy, would make the kind of arguments our friend KG makes and even fewer use such a tone. Most scientists want to draw you into the wondrous world we live in, whereas KG feels unapologetically qualified to criticize both Hawking and Einstein. One must start from a very high platform indeed to justifiably attempt as much. I don’t think the rest of small-brained people need worry that such a platform is part of KG’s curriculum vitae.

          • kellygreen

            Snideness doesn’t make your arguments any more rationally defensible.

            Hawking is an expert in cosmology and black holes. He is not an expert in creativity, asthetics, philosophy and dozens of other non-rational faculties and disciplines. While I would not dare to impeach him on matters pertaining to his area of expertise, I am quite qualified to impeach him when he strays out of it. In fact, I can line up many experts and master practioners in these non-rational disciplines that would also unequivocally state that Mr. Hawking is incorrect on this particular point.

            While Science and the non-rational are not compatible if one’s sole aim is to categorize the physical universe…that is not all there is to live. Science and the non-rational are quite complimentary if one’s goal is to LIVE a rich human life IN that physical universe. People combine them–quite masterfully—on a daily basis.

            Einstein rejected the inability to fully characterize the nature of the universe at the sub-atomic level that is implicit within quantum mechanics. Despite the fact that some of his own very early research on the photo-electric effect was instrumental in the development of quantum theory. He so vehement rejected this uncertainty that he once exclaimed “God does not play dice with the Universe”.

            As a result, he spent the last decades of his life trying to develop a theory that united electromagnetism with gravity…while arbitrarily excluding quantum mechanics. An effort that was doomed to failure before it ever began. Because, after nearly 100 years, every testable prediction made by quantum theory has been experimentally confirmed. Other Nobel laureate physicists have gone on the record that this was a fatal error on the part of Einstein…and that he let his emotions and his preferred way of looking at the Universe get in the way of his judgement.

            I would love nothing more than to “draw you into the wonder”. But I cannot do that if you keep insisting that 2+2=5…and keep getting angry when I tell you that it is not equal to 5, but it is equal to 4. Calling me everything but a Child of God, because I won’t confirm you desire to believe it is equal to 5.

            If you want to believe that 2+2=5…go ahead. Just don’t expect me to stand by and watch you call it mathematics.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            I’d like to see you make that same point against Suz’ “Making a choice…” post (one up), since I think she argued the counter position pretty well.

            BTW, since you are so hot on the right or wrong use and abuse of language, wikipedia, while stating the original and primarily theological connotation of fundamentalism has also this to say: “The term [fundametalism] has since been generalized to mean strong adherence to any set of beliefs in the face of criticism or unpopularity.” That definitely covers you, mate.

            As for dogma, you’re shit out of luck: “Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, ideology or any kind of organization: it is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practioner or believers.” That means that Gnu-Athists as a group can very well hold their non-belief as a dogma, irrelevant of whether non-belief constitutes it’s own faith or is a defandable default position.

      • Lilstrega7777

        I agree with everything you have said and have no problems with any of it. Concerning this entire blog in general. It think we are making a mistake by lumping all Christians into one category. It is like comparing apples and oranges. Born Agains, The Religious Right, and Evangelicals are in a category completely unto themselves. …..and I am sure that there are many differences among the 3 groups just mentioned. Most of the Christians I know, believe in the philosophies of Jesus but they also believe that there are many paths to the Divine. Culture, geography, history and fate has led them to this particular path. God speaks differently to the Pygmies in the jungle than to a person in Japan or Ireland etc. When are we going to realize that it is all the same thing. When my son was 10 years of age, he presented me with a bumper sticker which he felt summed up the differences in Spiritual practice. It said……”God is way too big for any one religion.”

        • kellygreen

          That kid was way too smart for 10. ;-)

      • Sharp3

        A Christian is someone who has been saved from his sin by the blood of Christ. In Bible terms, he has been born again. To be born again–born of the Spirit–a person must place his trust in Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Jesus Christ actually comes to dwell within the new Christian, giving newness of life–His life.

        In sum, Christ makes a Christian a Christian. Going to church does not make a person a Christian. A special ceremony can’t do it. And nobody can be a Christian by trying to be a good person. Only Jesus Christ can make a person a Christian:

        John 1:12,13 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

        God does not save someone and then unsave him. That would be like a man jumping into a river to save a drowning child and them throwing the child back in.

    • Anonymous

      I promise that here on my blog (not to mention in my books) I’ve quoted enough Scripture to please even you. But it’s also true that I tend not to not often rely upon Scripture as “proof” of points I make, because, as everybody knows, anyone can use anything they want in Scripture to support just about any point they want to make–as you have here, for instance. When you’re REALLY speaking the truth, you don’t need Scripture to back you up, or validate what you’re saying. You use the word of God like a weapon, as a bully does a stick. Take it elsewhere.

      • Gksafford

        I would love to use the last couple sentences over and over again on folks who quote Scripture at me as if it were an argument. Thanks, as always, John. Among your many virtues – eminently quotable.

        • Anonymous

          Thanks, Gksafford!

        • Anonymous

          Thanks, Gksafford!

      • Diana A.

        “You use the word of God like a weapon, as a bully does a stick.”

        Ooh! Cold! (Not that you’re wrong!)

      • Diana A.

        “You use the word of God like a weapon, as a bully does a stick.”

        Ooh! Cold! (Not that you’re wrong!)

      • jes

        “You use the word of God like a weapon, as a bully does a stick. Take it elsewhere. ”

        This exactly. I believe I may have to quote you the next time someone comes along to tell me which version of Hell I’m bound for this month.

      • E.Jariv

        Have you tried the blogging about what otherworld religions say on homosexuality? Is Christianity the only one that condems homosexuality? What does other world religions like the Koran, Buddism, Hinduism, Confusianism, Bahais …or any others say about homosexual relationships? Is there a common ground as to how they perceive the male-male or female-female homosexuality? How do they deal with it? I heard in some places homosexuals are punished with the death penalty or imprisonment.

    • CD

      Using the bible to defend hostile attitudes towards non-believers, gays, women, as a defense for slavery, etc. is reasonable. I wanted to say something unkind about Lvgwoman but it occured to me that she is being fair to the text. You might just as well say other things too, but I don’t think she is out of line if you view the bible as the primary source of truth. No more wrong than Paul.

      • Mindy

        “Using the Bible to defend hostile attitudes toward nonbelievers, …, etc. is reasonable.”

        Wow.

        Just . . . wow.

        • Anonymous

          Yeah, Max. What Mindy said. Bitch.

          (sorry. couldn’t resist. in mood, apparently)

      • kellygreen

        The text of the Bible also condones slavery.

        Shall we also retrieve that from the trash heap of history…or decide that we have evolved past that now?

    • Don Whitt

      @Lvgwoman,

      Please explain what you mean by, “And there is no such thing as an ex-Christian. ”

      • Ace

        Maybe Lvgwoman’s church is more like the Mafia?

        • Don Whitt

          I’m going to give you a christening you can’t refuse…

      • Jodi

        She’s done being a Christian and who can blame her. We are the only army that shoots its own wounded.

      • Lvgwoman

        A Christian is someone who has been saved from his sin by the blood of Christ. In Bible terms, he has been born again. To be born again–born of the Spirit–a person must place his trust in Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Jesus Christ actually comes to dwell within the new Christian, giving newness of life–His life.

        In sum, Christ makes a Christian a Christian. Going to church does not make a person a Christian. A special ceremony can’t do it. And nobody can be a Christian by trying to be a good person. Only Jesus Christ can make a person a Christian:

        John 1:12,13 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

        God does not save someone and then unsave him. That would be like a man jumping into a river to save a drowning child and them throwing the child back in.

        • Anonymous

          Because “Lvgwoman” pasted this same comment in this thread under different names, I’ve blocked her/he off the site.

    • Don Whitt

      @Lvgwoman,

      Please explain what you mean by, “And there is no such thing as an ex-Christian. ”

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Veritas/614492671 Nick Veritas

      As an ex-Christian, I can attest to the fact that it does happen. Over many years of attending church, observing church goers and reading the Scriptures for myself, I came to the conclusion that 99% of “Christians” are going to hell. I didn’t want to be with them so I started reading and praying without their influence. I now call myself a “member” of the Way, have no church building to support, don’t believe the tithe is for today (giving is) and my beliefs don’t clash with reality any more. When the judgment of Yahweh does start, it will begin with “the church”. American Churchianity is so out of touch with the Scriptures, its no wonder our country is now almost universally hated and is broke.

      • jes

        “American Churchianity”

        AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAHAHA! excellent. It’s a good thing I wasn’t taking a drink, I’d have choked. Thank you!

    • Anonymous

      How about just being concerned? Scripture isn’t always clear to me, and I’ve been working in a church as a minister for nearly 20 years. Faith comes by hearing the gospel. But the ground where the seed is sown, needs to be prepared with the love and grace that preceded Jesus when He moved among the non-believers. IOW, live out the gospel in action before preaching it in word. Walk the walk before talking the talk. I’m weary of God talkers who think being a Christian is memorizing Scripture and using all the right buzz words As per your initial request, I think Paul’s notion of being all things to all men that by all possible means, some would be saved (1Cor.9:19-23) sort of fits. I don’t really see how that can be done WITHOUT concerning oneself with what others want or don’t want to hear.

      • Diana A.

        I don’t just like this. I love it.

    • jes

      “And there is no such thing as an ex-Christian.”

      It is to laugh. Do please explain how you can possibly have come to such an absolutely sweeping conclusion?

      I’m siding with Emma on this one. Grew up in Lutheran church, switched to Presbyterian later, and then left all together. Too many overbearing, hypocritical, nosy, know-it-alls who couldn’t think for themselves or allow me to be myself in every church I’ve tried attending since I got old enough to really think for myself. If I consider myself an ex-Christian, just who do you think you are to tell me differently? What if I’d converted to Buddhism along the way? Would you protest that I was merely pretending to be Buddhist but underneath was still a closet-Christian?

      Really–please explain the logic behind your statement, as I cannot begin to fathom it without some clues.

      • Martin L.

        A Christian is someone who has been saved from his sin by the blood of Christ. In Bible terms, he has been born again. Going to church, calling yourself a Christian, etc. do not mean anything other than that you go to church and call yourself a Christian. Furthermore, God does not save someone and then unsave him. That would be like a man jumping into a river to save a drowning child and them throwing the child back in.

      • Martin L.

        A Christian is someone who has been saved from his sin by the blood of Christ. In Bible terms, he has been born again. Going to church, calling yourself a Christian, etc. do not mean anything other than that you go to church and call yourself a Christian. Furthermore, God does not save someone and then unsave him. That would be like a man jumping into a river to save a drowning child and them throwing the child back in.

        • Anonymous

          FYI, all: “Snakedriver” is the same person as “Lvgwoman,” is the same person as “Martin L.” Another fundamentalist takes a bold stand for honesty and moral integrity.

        • Diana A.

          “Furthermore, God does not save someone and then unsave him. That would be like a man jumping into a river to save a drowning child and them throwing the child back in. ”

          But God does stand on the shore of the river and refuse to save the drowning child because the child addresses him by the wrong name or does not see him standing there and therefore fails to call for help at all–correct?

    • DR

      Here is what will happen.

      You’re going to get countered quite aggressively for your rather obvious implication that John isn’t a “real” Christian. If you dare to come back and address anything, you’ll pull out the victim card for being spoken to so “harshly” while not even realizing that it is actually *you* who threw the first punch. And you’ll never, ever see it because you’re so mired in your need to be in control.

      I waver from being furious with people like you, to terrified that you are speaking on behalf of my Savior to other people who are really wonderful people who deserve to actually know who Jesus really is but unfortunately have you as a spokesperson. But then I finally move to being sad, for how tragically closed you are, dipped twice in darkness; one dip, you’re trapped in your need to be right and control your surroundings and the world around you which means you’re probably pretty terrified. And second dip, you believe you (and others like you until they disagree) and God are the only ones in the “Truth” corner. So you’ll never see the damage you do.

      God have mercy on you.

    • Anonymous

      It is the holy spirit, according to the Bible, that brings people to Christ…you can’t limit how that spirit works, whether it’s through the Bible, sermons, circumstances, preachers or real people like John Shore. Interestingly enough, this man has played a signigicant part in my journey of faith.

      If you are going to call into question Mr. Shore’s faith or intentions, why don’t you do so with a real name and face? How many times have you come here with different aliases to push your silly little agenda? Aaaaah….deceit…what does the Bible say about that?

    • Lilstrega7777

      You are assuming that everyone believes that the Bible is the Word of God. It is a big world out there and there are many holy books. So, your quoting the bible has no effect on someone who doesn’t accept it as being a revelation that has come from the Divine . Even if one is to believe that the Bible is the Word of God, do you realize how many times it has been translated and re-translated by fallible men? Ever play the game of telephone when you were a kid? One kid tells a story privately to another, who tells the story to yet another etc. By the time you get to the last person in this game, the story is completely different. Secondly, there were so many gospels that were written after Jesus’ death. The ones that were chosen for the new testament were picked by a few fallible men who had their own agendas. Fourthly, there are major discrepancies in the four gospels. ……………And last but not least, if you search long enough, you can find a passage in the bible to support any point you wish to make.

      • Jeanine

        These are pretty common arguements against the Bible as God’s word. You may have already researched them yourself and believe these things to be true.

        But, for anyone else who may be still questioning, there is a very good book by Lee Strobel called The Case for the Real Jesus that is a very interesting read. He looks at each one of these claims historically and gives many references to other historians (some non Christians in fact) who have done the same and written about these claims.

        I admit, they sound credible on the surface; but please take some time if you are so inclined to crack them open a little bit.

    • kellygreen

      Perhaps the word of God is simply LOVE.

      I’ve seen honest love-and-caring change the life of many a human being. I’ve yet to see Fear and Judgement have any beneficial effect on anyone.

      That is the point being made by this blog. That people who profess to follow the teachings of Jesus….who embodied Unconditional Love…are subjecting their fellow human beings to a steady diet of Fear, Judgement, contempt, and self-righteousness.

      IOW. Behavior more like that of the Pharisees than that of Jesus. Who forgave the adulteress, rather than stoning her and telling her she was going to go to Hell.

  • Lvgwoman

    with what non-believers (John 9:30-33) want…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1223548251 Don Collett

    Re: Matthew 7:23…

    Are you taking the position that John isn’t saved? How do you know for certain? Isn’t that God’s decision?

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Don. But, sadly, you’re wasting your time. People like that live to crow about who is and isn’t saved. They go through life confident that, in God’s stead, they’ll do just fine.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Don. But, sadly, you’re wasting your time. People like that live to crow about who is and isn’t saved. They go through life confident that, in God’s stead, they’ll do just fine.

      • Don Collett

        You’re right, John. I guess I just had a “button” pushed by that remark. I remember being told by several people, including my then-wife’s relatives, that I was going to hell simply because I worked at a radio station that played that “devil-worshipping rock music”. These people barely knew me, if they knew me at all, and decided to take God’s job and condemn me. Maybe they thought he was busy elsewhere and needed the help.

  • Lvgwoman

    (“When you’re REALLY speaking the truth, you don’t need Scripture to back you up, or validate what you’re saying.You use the word of God like a weapon, as a bully does a stick.”)

    This is a perfect example of what I meant. Yes, people MIS-use scripture to support what they are saying. But that does not negate the fact that we are instructed to test everyting against Scripture for truthfulness (1 Thessalonians 5:21) And, Scripture often compares the Word of God to a sword. When the Lord Jesus was in the wilderness, Satan tempted Him to take the route of fame and glory rather than the way of suffering that lay before Him. But He countered his spiritual attack with thrusts from the Sword of the Spirit, quoting from the written Word of God. This exposed Satan’s temptation for what it was, and he was defeated (Matthew chapter 4). On the other hand, Eve allowed Satan to persuade her that what God had said wasn’t quite true. Consequently, we now live in a fallen, suffering world. (Genesis chapter 3).

    Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged SWORD, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

    Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the SWORD of the Spirit, which is the word of God.(Ephesians 6:11-17, KJV)

    The Bible is the perfect standard of truth by which we can judge or test all spiritual teaching. Jesus said, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). When Paul first preached Christ to the Jews at Berea, they tested everything he said against the scriptures. Because Christ’s life and all that had happened to Him was exactly as had been prophesied by the Old Testament prophets, Paul’s preaching passed the test, and many of those folk came to salvation. (Acts 17:10-12).

    • Anonymous

      Gee, what a surprise that for thou text thy depndeth upon ye oldye King James translation of Bible. Growth ye uppeth already.

    • Anonymous

      Gee, what a surprise that for thou text thy depndeth upon ye oldye King James translation of Bible. Growth ye uppeth already.

      • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

        But it sounds so beautifully Shakespearean… makes even dull passages glow with the sheen of holiness. Like Catholic mass…

        • Shadsie

          I keep a copy of the KJV around as a writer’s reference. (I don’t depend upon it for accuracy) – it’s just, if I need to reference a scripture for a story, Ye Olde English is poetic. Pretty, pretty.

          • Anonymous

            Oh, yeah. It’s sublime. It’s just … endlessly breathtaking.

      • LM

        Hmm. Who’s the one not open to the ideas of others again?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          And what “idea” do you think it is that I’m closed to, LM?

        • Anonymous

          And what “ideas” do you think it is to which I’m closed, LM?

        • DR

          As usual, only selective responses that don’t ever address the actual counters that people have put up. It’s so typical I should stop being disappointed. I need to start lowering my expectations of the quality of dialogue I can expect from my fellow christians who are evangelical in nature and believe that their intent outrules their impact and their ends justify their means (without ever really listening to the impact anyway).

      • max

        You’re really quite obnoxious and arrogant aren’t you?

        • Mindy

          Actually, max, no, he isn’t. But you’re really all about name-calling, aren’t you?

      • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.morphewussery Sarah Morphew-Ussery

        I think maybe you are the one who needs to grow up! Can’t believe that is your best reply to that. Think you need to think about how you reply to ppl if you want others to really listen to you.

        • DR

          John’s blog is one of the most popular blogs around. That he gets in your face a little bit and encourages others to stand up for what we believe and start taking our church back from the ilk that’s taken it over is a good thing. A great thing, even. Grow up a little bit and realize that you choose what you listen to – even if it’s hostile. Not everyone is going to cater to your feelings. Sometimes that’s the very best gift you can be given. Pay attention to what’s going on here or not, just stay injured and attacked and refuse to listen. That’s your call. The heart of the stubborn refuse to find rest.

      • Lvgwoman

        Just different ways of saying the same thing. Is that your only/best argument?

        1 Thessalonians 5:21 (New International Version)

        21 but test them all; hold on to what is good,

        Hebrews 4:12 (New International Version)

        12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

        Ephesians 6:11-17 (New International Version)

        11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

        John 17:17 (New International Version)

        17 Sanctify them by[a] the truth; your word is truth.

        Acts 17:10-12 (New International Version)

        In Berea

        10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

        • Anonymous

          FYI, all: “Snakedriver” is the same person as “Lvgwoman,” is the same person as “Martin L.” Another fundamentalist takes a bold stand for honesty and moral integrity.

    • Revmlt54

      So your point is that it’s ok for Christians to use the Bible as a sword to bully others into submission?

    • StraightGrandmother

      Lvgwoman said,

      Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. orld, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this wof the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the SWORD of the Spirit, which is the word of God.(Ephesians 6:11-17, KJV)

      See there you go again, what you choose to quote from your Holy Book, is that you should dress up and play warror for Christ. Think of all the nice Bible passages you could have picked, but nope, you picked this one. What chilled me to my core was this line,

      “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”

      See this is the part where you take your religion into the public square and insist our civil laws conform to your religion, “spiritual wickedness in high places” and you truly to become a narrow minded warrior for Christ. I am very very very concerned about the Christians trying to literally take over our government. Look that idiot Lou Engles and his buddies went to Uganda and held these revivile meetings with their rythmic body bobbing and had people fast for 40 days in order to brainwash the President and leaders in their government. The Evangelists (if you can call them that) are in Africa and South America wheedling into goverment people their special form of Christianity which is primarily to kill all gays, these are American Evangelicals doing this, and it is working! Uganda came thisclose to passing a law making death the punishment for being gay. Death!!! Seriously. Just google “Gay Uganda” in the News section of Google. It works in these 3rd world countries their special brand of hateful Christianity, and you Lvgwoman and others like you project to me that if you had your way you would LOVE for the same thing to happen in our country. Look this was an open forum and what verses did you choose to quote? Warrior verses, that is what. When you start whipping out your Bible verses I s-l-o-w-l-y back away from you, like I do when I encounter a unleashed vicious dog growling at me. I honestly think you are all under the spell of these charismatic leaders, I really do. I think they have got you “bewitched.” You scare the hell out of me. I would never ever ever ever be attracted to you or your religion with your appoach. Have you ever seen any video of Lou Engels when he tells the young people they have to fast, and then he keeps them on thier feet for hours on end with his bobbing from the waist, it is mind control, brain washing. This isn’t Christianity, this is a cult. When you speak as you did on this website I back away from you and my mind is racing that I have come in contact with a cult groupie. You people are dangerous and want to take over our government, and every year you seem to get a little bit more control than the previous year. You are not trying to save souls and bring people to Christ, you are trying to crush anyone who is not in your cult.

  • Cobradriver

    And don’t forget:

    Matthew 10:34: Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

  • Tracy Pace

    The most important commandment: love God above all things, your neighbour as yourself ( Jesus )

    Starts and ends there. Anything else is just religion, theology, interpretation, tradition etc. Anything that moves away from that is following something/someone else, not Jesus.

    • Anonymous

      Amen to that.

    • Jeanine

      Nevertheless, this is still just obeying the LAW.

      You yourself have called ‘love your brother’ a ‘commandment’. The Bible calls it a commandment as well. The Pharasee’s believed that they were justified because they kept the commandments. Many Christians today believe they are justified by keeping this commandment to love. These are still in bondage to the law.

      I cannot love my brother perfectly. Thank God for Jesus! He knows I am absolutely not capable of keeping this commandement. He knows that I need forgiveness and redemption. He offers me freedom from even this commandment as I trust Him and step out to be his disciple in obedience and faith.

      • Anonymous

        This may be a little off topic, but it’s something that I’m curious about.

        I know that you (Jeanine) believe the Bible is divinely inspired and ineffable. Proverbs 30: 5-6 is just one scripture that states this: “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

        However, Paul offers God’s command, then his (Paul’s) personal advice/directive in 1 Corinthians 7:10 – 12:

        “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

        “ “To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.”

        How can you reconcile scripture that says nothing should be added to “God’s word” yet Paul opines more than once?

        If the Bible is the inspired word of God and all of its writers were conveying what God wanted in His book, why does Paul (1) add his perspective at all and (2) feel the need to distinguish that it is not of the Lord (3) If it’s not of the Lord, why is it then included in the Bible? (4)How can anyone assume that other personal/cultural perspectives that didn’t necessarily reflect God’s view are not also part of the Good Book?

        • Jeanine

          The first verse you mentioned was one where Paul was directly quoting Jesus’ own words. You can find them in verses like Mark 10: 11-12. And as you said, the second was an instance where Paul is commenting on an issue that Jesus did not specifically speak about.

          1 Corinthians was a letter written to the early Corinthian church which was struggling to survive in a very pagan culture and was quarrelling amongst themselves about spiritual matters.

          People were being saved and were looking for guidance about how they should live as newly converted Christians. The Old Testament scriptures were full of teachings where God’s people were forbidden to marry foreigners lest they be led away to follow false idols. New Christians were debating as to whether they should remain married to an unbeliever or seperate from them to align themselves with these scriptures. I think Paul was merely helping them to understand how to behave as a new believer; qualifying that Jesus was not specific on that issue.

          I think it is also important to distinguish that Paul was specifically called by the Lord Jesus Christ to be an apostle as seen in Acts 9:15 ‘a chosen vessel of Mine’. Paul was a man who was radically transformed by his encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. He did a 180 degree change from persecuting and killing Christians to living a life of obedience in sharing the gospel with the Gentiles, playing an integral role in the formation of the early church among the Gentiles.

          This specific call on his life by Jesus is critical. It roots his opinions, as you call them, in this call to spread the gospel and make disciples of all nations. I think it was included in the Bible because it was of the Lord.

          Interestingly, scripture does point out when an early apostles ‘opinion’ was contrary to the will of Jesus. For example, in Acts 10: 9-17, we see the Lord correct Peter regarding his stance on eating unclean things. Peter had a wrong belief and the Lord corrected it.

          • Anonymous

            I don’t think I’m making my point clear. If Paul was in fact stating something that God favored, why wouldn’t it just be attributed to God’s truth? Why would God choose to have one of his truths be described as a personal perspective that is “not of the Lord?”

          • Jeanine

            Because the truth of God ‘IS’ the Lord Jesus Christ. Every particular of the law, every good and right thing is embodied in the person of Jesus Christ. Knowing the law is nothing unless you first know him.

            Remember, Paul was a Pharasee; his whole life was dedicated to ‘keeping the law’ and teaching others to keep the law. He was in fact a perfect example of a hard core Pharasee. He knew the scriptures inside and out. He knew the law, lived the law and breathed the law. Everything he did was in being zealouse to the law.

            However, on the road to Damascus, Paul met the Lord Jesus and came to understand that he was a sinner; no better than anyone else. He calls himself the ‘chief of sinners’. Being a new creature, his loyalty is no longer with the law; it is with the person of Jesus Christ.

            In talking with believers in his letters, Paul is always careful to point them to Christ – the law giver; instead of the law. This is a radical departure from who he used to be. In his letters, he uses the scripture to show who Jesus is and how the law points to the Lord. He knows that Jesus is the High Priest who sits in judgement; not the sons of Aaron – not him as a Pharasee who knows the law.

            This is one of the awsome things about the Bible. It is written in such a way that we can see the true nature of humanity in the people God chooses to serve him. The Lord did not hold up his people as perfect and flawless and good. He allows them to be seen in His word for the people they were, filled with faults and blemishes. This gives us hope for ourselves today.

            This change of attitude in Paul, seen in these verses you mention, shows he is a man transformed. His old self would have just spoken for the law. Now he is extremely careful to point people to the Lord and the Lord’s righteousness. I think God allows his ‘opinion’ to show us that he is a man converted.

            But I also think that this must be God’s truth as well, because he allowed it in his word and did not challenge it as he done to Peter on several occassions.

  • John

    Great subject. I read a lot of christian sites trying to ….understand? More, I guess.

    Some of those comments said it better then I can but it seems like a lot of christians see things in black and white. I’m good and youre evil.
    I also never understood the idea of them going down a list of what a terrible person God thinks you are and I’m supposed to just agree with them thank them and ask how I can learn more?

  • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

    Maybe the problem to the “How Is ‘Convert, You!’ Loving Others?” problem is this: Most people who try to spread the message of Jesus do not actually bother with truly understanding that message. I’m not all that hot on Jesus and the whole “died for our sins” stuff, but even I think that if you really took his message to heart and acted accordingly, suddenly there wouldn’t really be any discrepancy between spreading the word and loving those you try to convince.
    Sadly, there are next to no self- (or church-)appointed Christians who ever got there.

  • Murf

    Where to start here, John?
    1. The fact that some Christians are nitwits in evangelism is no reason to disregard Christ’s direct command. It just means that some Christians are nitwits in evangelism.
    2. If you are waiting around until people WANT to be told that we are all sinners before presenting them with Christ’s claims, you are going to be waiting a long, long time.
    3. The Christian message is not “I’m okay, you’re not.” The Christian message is “I’m not okay, and you are not okay (and we both know it – Does anyone claim that they are without sin?) and there is something that Christ did about this.”
    4. It is a sad fact that many Christians are all that the quoted unbelievers claim them to be. This should humble us; it should help us recognize our own spiritual poverty; it should not stop us from proclaiming Christ’s message of – yes, salvation – to anyone who will listen.

    • Berkshire

      For what it’s worth, I prefer “non-Christian” to “unbeliever” as a matter of respect. . . . which is never a bad place to start if you want someone to even consider listening to what you have to say. That is, I *am* a believer. It just happens that those beliefs don’t involve Jesus Christ as my personal savior. I could just as easily call you an “unbeliever” because you don’t believe in the things that I believe in. But I wouldn’t do that. That wouldn’t be showing you the most basic respect that anyone deserves, and would be saying inherently that you are empty or devoid of belief–something you might feel is absolutely incorrect, just as I do.

      • Karen

        Hi Birkshire, Thank you! I am glad you pointed out the difference between “non-Christians” and “unbelievers.” Many people believe in God, but not in the same, identical way that “Christians” believe and I think it is important to understand that fact before trying to evangelize others. Like you said, it is disrespectful to assume otherwise. Even though the foundation of my belief system is in Christianity, it is not the sole influence of my belief system. Because of this, other Christians have tried to save me from myself and my wrong-belief. “But I do believe,” I say. “But not the right way, so I have to save you,” they say.

      • Baryl

        Thank you!

      • Mindy

        Love this. And feel exactly the same way.

    • Don Whitt

      Onward Christian soldier…just please keep the muzzle pointed down range and your finger away from my trigger.

  • denver

    You’re back to trying a new comment format! I remember the old thread of this was MILES long. XD I still appreciate this post! :)

  • a new southerner

    I’m a Jew who moved to the Bible Belt about the same time a mega church moved into town. People are moving here to be closer to the church. I don’t usually say anything but if people talk about how wonderful it is to live in a town inhabited by “good Christians,” I will say that I’m Jewish. I finally know what’s it’s like to admit to being Gay or being a pedophile as conversation will stop and they will get a look on their face that at first I felt ashamed to bring about–all because I’m a different religion.

    • StraightGrandmother

      I can totally relate to your comments. These mega churches are frightning, it reminds me of “church entertainment” and apparently they are very entertaining indeed. That is way to many congegants in one charismatic ministers hands, way to many. Power corrupts, better believe it.

    • Mindy

      I’m so sorry you have to deal with that – how much ignorance there must be in your neck of the woods. And the more christians seclude themselves inside their megachurch social circles, the further they get from the rest of us and the more out of touch they become. They can’t react to you because they don’t know how to react to you – and how sad is that?!

  • Mrhackman

    I moved to SLC from Detroit about 6 years ago. What a wonderful education it has been to be in a religious minority. Though most of my relationships with the LDS have been wonderful, they have plenty of the Mormon version of “lvgwoman”. But whether it is the bull-in-a-china-shop approach of lvgwoman, or the more gracious approaches of some of my friends, being evangelized feels icky. The “I’m OK, your’e NOT” factor exists regardless of how politely it is presented. One of these days I am going to write a blog “How being evangelized by Mormons led me out of Evangelical Christianity.”

    Thanks John!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=542205116 Heidi L. Nordberg

    This is a serious and level-minded attempt by a rather bright Christian to listen – and to understand – why fundamentalist/evangelical Christians (what I call “pseudo-Christians”) have the image that they do among other Americans. As a former Jehovah’s Witness, I note the similarities… Sharing. I am impressed by your caring heart and the insights you are following. I have a very short list of people that I consider to be Christians – you’re on it (so far – grin).

    Oh, and of course you can be an ex-Christian, and a lukewarm kinda Christian, and a horrible arrogant anti-Christian whatever you call yourself. Back to the basics – love and kindness open the heart and spirit to truth.

    • Lvgwoman

      A Christian is someone who has been saved from his sin by the blood of Christ. In Bible terms, he has been born again. To be born again–born of the Spirit–a person must place his trust in Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Jesus Christ actually comes to dwell within the new Christian, giving newness of life–His life.

      In sum, Christ makes a Christian a Christian. Going to church does not make a person a Christian. A special ceremony can’t do it. And nobody can be a Christian by trying to be a good person. Only Jesus Christ can make a person a Christian:

      John 1:12,13 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

      God does not save someone and then unsave him. That would be like a man jumping into a river to save a drowning child and them throwing the child back in.

  • The Other

    Hell, sometimes just saying you’re from California is enough to get “that look”

    In my experience, it always has been White American Christians who’ve have done their best to reinforce the negative stereotype the many, many “non-belivers” have come to know and loath so well.

    Christianity is the cover for a love of ignorance and fear of the Other in this country. When I was a child, I was thoroughly exposed to the Midwestern Evangelical mind set: “Don’t listen to Them. It is Satan talking through them.” Science is Satan. Islam is Satan. Chinese Food is Satan. Your Neighbor is Satan. That bronze Bhudda is Satan.

    Why must we always live in Fear Of the Different to be a good Christian? Who did Jesus fear?

    Fear leads to Violence. Christian violence reverberates through history, yet American Christians appear to either live in denial of this on going history or have some sort of smug,sick satisfaction with it. Ask a scripture quoter, “Who would Jesus bomb?” and watch the response. Ask them if spending billions on bombing third world poverty or appeasing Wall Street is counter to their belief system and watch them on some level shut their ears and whisper, “That’s Satan.” Then they wash their hands of you.

    • Karen

      I hear what you’re saying The Other. When I first moved to my current location, I attempted to find a church home. As I mentioned in a post above, my personal belief system has been influenced by Christianity as well as other belief systems. At a time when I was reading a book by the Dalai Lama called The Art of Happiness I thought I would check out the little church down the street. I was shocked to hear the preacher slam the Dalai Lama as being someone to watch out for as he was doing the devils work. How could someone so caring and peaceful be doing the devils work?

      Then I met my husband’s family. We were discussing illegal immigration and what should be done about it. My father-in-law, trying to prove his point asked “What would Jesus do? Wouldn’t he stand on the border and shoot ‘em all before they crossed?” (Hand smacks against forehead as a look of pure disbelief crosses my face.) What? No! Where ever did you get the that idea? Jesus LOVES people! And so from that day forward, they have been trying to save me from my crazy self. Sigh….

      • Diana A.

        “What would Jesus do? Wouldn’t he stand on the border and shoot ‘em all before they crossed?” Wow! Wonder what Bible your father-in-law was reading? I thought the most violent thing Jesus did was to overturn the money changers tables and drive the sacrificial animals out of the temple. Scary.

        • Karen

          Sadly, he does not read the Bible. He learns it all from his preacher. :-(

          • Diana A.

            You’re right. That is sad. Yet it seems to be all too common among some of us who call ourselves “Christians.”

      • Ace

        “What would Jesus do? Wouldn’t he stand on the border and shoot ‘em all before they crossed?”

        What the holy cow is that? Unless he was being sarcastic, that is a horribly frightening for somebody to say and believe.

        I’d tell him to spend less time listening to politicians and Fox news and more time actually reading the Gospel because he clearly missed the point…

        • Karen

          No kidding about spending more time reading the Gospel and less listening to Fox News. He is absolutely obsessed with that station and hangs on every word. It seems to me that the way of the Fox and his religious leanings are becoming one and the same and if he’s not the only one evangelizing this type of thinking, then its no wonder why anybody, Christiand and non-Christians alike, would have a hard time being evangelized to.

      • The Other

        My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.

        –Dalai Lama

        • Karen

          That is such a wonderful quote. :-D

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1554973255 Erika Beseda-Allen

        “What would Jesus do? Wouldn’t he stand on the border and shoot ‘em all before they crossed?”

        please tell me he was speaking in hyperbole.

        • Karen

          Sadly, I believe he was serious. (And I was promptly accused of being a bleeding heart liberal as if that’s a bad thing.)

          • jes

            Personally, I think Jesus would side with the bleeding-hearts. He always seemed more like the “invite the bum on the corner to lunch” type than the “strike them down” type.

          • Another Susan

            Totally.

      • jes

        “What would Jesus do? Wouldn’t he stand on the border and shoot ‘em all before they crossed?”

        Talk about entirely missing the basic message. Maybe you could get him the New Testament Abridged for Christmas, or something?

    • Anonymous

      And my personal favorite…”Burn those Rock’n’Roll LPs. Satan inhabits the very grooves in that vinyl record!” As a teenager, my sister-in-law brought all of her records for one of those bon-fires. Instead of looking for satan everywhere, if they started looking for God instead…even in the life of a non-Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, an Atheist, a tree-hugging sun worshipper… they…hell, WE may see something we CAN’T believe. I believe Jesus loves and died for ALL —not just the ones who talk, walk and look like us.

      • http://rdmlorisgoretownhorrycoscusaearth.blogspot.com/ Robert Meek

        Don’t forget about what did they call it, back…something? Playing records “backwards” and “hearing hidden satanic messages”! Sure enough, ONE LP SEEMS to say “my lord satan” in a quivering voice and I heard it on a TV program but one always has to wonder about the authenticity of such a thing. Beside, do they actually think subliminal messages would be limited to backwards playing on rock LP records? Uh, wait. I forgot. Having been one myself, not proud of my past in that I should add, I can say such a mentality is not rational.

      • StraightGrandmother

        Oh and don’t forget the Telly Tubbies. Remeber that kids cartoon show? I believe it was Jerry Farwell who lead a crusade saying the purple one was gay. Remeber that crusade as well?

  • Budcny

    I think for me it’s always been about allowing God to be the one to reach those who don’t have a relationship with him. I can only be used by allowing myself to surrender and fall under His authority, not to let what I think needs to be said or how I think others should act or behave. Thanks for the reminder John even though I’m new to your blog whenever I read it it brings me back to my relationship with God and how and if He wants to use me on a new way not what I need to be sure others need to change in themselves. It’s my job to be sure I’m where I need to be and Gods job to change someone else.

  • sixteen

    As a firm Athiest, I find it ridiculous and irritating when people come at me touting their religion as I would a new handbag. I am perfectly happy as I am; and I don’t like being told by complete strangers that I am going to hell. I’m a 16 year old girl and every time I’m approached by these people they seen to think that I’m an easy target, and treat me as I would a three year old. It gets aggravating, especially when they do it in public and I have to catch a bus and they won’t leave me alone. It’s gotten to the point where I am downright rude to any evangelist just so that I don’t get an hour long lecture on how I’m a sinner, and that unless I accept “Him” as my “one true God” I’ll spend my entire afterlife roasting in the pits of hell. I’m happy with accepting science to be true. I’m also a happier person in general when I don’t have to fend off converters.

    • Anonymous

      I respect your position, sixteen. FWIW, I’ll pray that God will deliver you from the converters.

      • StraightGrandmother

        Rin_Tin_Tim

        I hit the “Like” button regording your post but for some reason instead of getting a “like” it instead flagged your comment? So I clicked on the “Flag” link and tried to cancel it but it won’t let me. Rest assured I really do “Like” your comment.

  • Lee_padden

    Wow, that really is quite depressing. I live in the United Kingdom where we are largely a secular society anyway, and I consider myself an atheist. I have on occasion had discussions with religious persons who tell me that because I refuse to believe in God that I am going to Hell. I always say to these people that if the bible is true then God is meant to be perfect and, as such, a perfect entity would have no need to have such low self-esteem that my disbelief would trouble them. This seems to stop any further conversation, of which I am very glad.

  • http://twitter.com/mycultlife MY CULT LIFE

    Wow. What a great way to get real insight into what people are really thinking!

  • http://www.facebook.com/aaron.craig Aaron K. Craig

    Thanks for posting this Mr. Shore. I’m an atheist myself, and it’s good to see this conversation go on without rancor for the most part. I grew up in Christianity and was a Christian myself (unless you’re Calvinist/Reformed of course) and I get so tired of hearing and seeing the same tactics attempted that I’ve seen ad nauseum since I was a wee tyke.

    It warms my heart to see that we can talk to each other, instead of over each other.

  • http://twitter.com/caritasetluce Meg

    Perhaps those who have left the Christian Church could say they’re ex-churchians and that would end the debate about whether ex-christian is possible or not. I was an ex-churchian for a few years and only recently decided to add church back into my faith life. I have always been a Christ follower though, even when I wasn’t attending church.

    It could also solve the debate if people were to say “I’m a buddhist/whatever.”

    Not trying to get in anyone’s face, but it seems some christians just can’t help themselves and fly in the face of anyone who admits to turning away from Christianity and I for one prefer to avoid that kind of attack.

    Just my thoughts. :)

    • Another Susan

      Thanks, Meg, I really like “ex-churchian.” I recently left my church, after a long period of discernment, in disgust with its hardball internal politics at the clerical level and gossipy cliques that rule the laity. Jesus and our father God remain as real to me as ever. When I encounter people who attend this church, they always want to know where I’m going now. One very active church member even asked where I’m worshiping now. What an odd question. The answer is: same place from which I’ve always worshiped — my heart. I try to tell them: God is everywhere; you cannot capture him in a building, nor in a doctrine. God is bigger than us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1258495613 Jessica Furbee Bailey

    Where are all these Christians that are “constantly” asking people if they know and love Jesus? I am always reading comments and excerpts from people that say they are always being confronted by Christians about there faith. I have never in my life been asked about my religion by someone I don’t know. It comes up in conversation with friends from time to time but no one has ever come up to me on the street to chat about Jesus. Is it because I live in the state with the highest percentage of 2nd generation un-churched people? Hmmm.

    • jes

      They stand in a line on the sidewalks at universities, accosting people walking past and thrusting copies of bibles, or even just new testament prints into hands, faces, pockets, and bags. I’ve seen this on 2 University campuses personally, and heard about it from others. I’ve had people of several denominations and/or sects or whatever knock on my door in various cities (often obnoxiously early in the morning) with pamphlets trying to convert me (Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are the most famous for this, but I’ve gotten hit up by a couple different folks from a local church–don’t recall what denomination, but it was not the Watchtower they were handing out).

      I’ve no explanation for why you haven’t experienced this, but lucky you. I assure you that it does happen.

      At the same universities, I’ve also had the lovely experience of “preachers” standing in the student union areas screaming for all to hear about how gays and the unsaved and anyone who drinks alcohol are all bound for Hell.

      These are not experiences likely to convince me (or anyone else I know) to attend these peoples’ churches, and certainly don’t lead to good will towards churches and Christianity in general.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1258495613 Jessica Furbee Bailey

        Wow, I wonder what it is they expect from people. I generally am not too open to things that people are screaming at me.

        What a shame.

        • jes

          Indeed. They drive people away from religion entirely because they’re the vocal/visible ones. Why would anybody who’d been accosted by this crap have any interest or curiosity in any religion, let alone anything associated with the obviously crazy a$$hats? And yet these people seem to think they’re helping somehow. Most positive assumption I can make is that they’re delusional and don’t realize how overbearing and idiotic they are being.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1258495613 Jessica Furbee Bailey

    Maybe next time you could put out a call for people to write in and tell you about good and positive encounters they have had with Christians. For me, the worst part about reading this is that not all Christians are like this. Some of us walk around like normal functioning people and keep our religion as the deeply personal thing it is. Some of us don’t sell religion like vacuums and tools and some of us don’t think it’s our business what you do on Sunday morning.

    • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

      Jessica writes Some of us walk around like normal functioning people and keep our religion as the deeply personal thing it is.

      That is a very hopeful state. If more people would do that, think of how much better the world would be when we treat each other as people first who may hold varying religious beliefs second.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1258495613 Jessica Furbee Bailey

        That’s just the thing. I have never see a person walk up to another person and tell them that they are going to hell. The way people here describe it I imagine the conversation going something like this:Christian: Hi, do you love Jesus?Other person: No, I don’t. I am a(n) _______.Christian: Oh, well then. You will be going to hell.? Am I wrong? I am just curious about the context in which all these hundreds of people are “constantly” being told that they are doomed to burn.

        • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

          Well, at some point in getting to know others, the discussion about religious beliefs inevitably comes up and it is here where the notion that one is doomed in some after-life if one does not follow the central tenets of a particular faith is put forth.Then there are the colossally arrogant door-knocking ‘witnesses’ who ask straight up if they can be of service in saving you from eternal damnation. How quaint. Let us not forget the various denominational schools who teach that not believing has consequences… all of which just so happen to be negative. TV shows, political ads, news reporting, all help spread the message that not believing has negative consequences, and are often implied to mean that non belief itself is more like a moral affliction as well as a character flaw in those who dare admit as much. And the proof of this assertion lies just beyond reach in the realm of some hereafter where such punishments and suffering can range from discomfort to some really grotesque torture. If familiarity breeds contempt, imagine spending eternity with anybody and you soon begin to figure out that the very notion of life everlasting is itself can be (construed to be) a hell!

        • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

          Well, at some point in getting to know others, the discussion about religious beliefs inevitably comes up and it is here where the notion that one is doomed in some after-life if one does not follow the central tenets of a particular faith is put forth.Then there are the colossally arrogant door-knocking ‘witnesses’ who ask straight up if they can be of service in saving you from eternal damnation. How quaint. Let us not forget the various denominational schools who teach that not believing has consequences… all of which just so happen to be negative. TV shows, political ads, news reporting, all help spread the message that not believing has negative consequences, and are often implied to mean that non belief itself is more like a moral affliction as well as a character flaw in those who dare admit as much. And the proof of this assertion lies just beyond reach in the realm of some hereafter where such punishments and suffering can range from discomfort to some really grotesque torture. If familiarity breeds contempt, imagine spending eternity with anybody and you soon begin to figure out that the very notion of life everlasting is itself can be (construed to be) a hell!

        • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

          Well, at some point in getting to know others, the discussion about religious beliefs inevitably comes up and it is here where the notion that one is doomed in some after-life if one does not follow the central tenets of a particular faith is put forth.Then there are the colossally arrogant door-knocking ‘witnesses’ who ask straight up if they can be of service in saving you from eternal damnation. How quaint. Let us not forget the various denominational schools who teach that not believing has consequences… all of which just so happen to be negative. TV shows, political ads, news reporting, all help spread the message that not believing has negative consequences, and are often implied to mean that non belief itself is more like a moral affliction as well as a character flaw in those who dare admit as much. And the proof of this assertion lies just beyond reach in the realm of some hereafter where such punishments and suffering can range from discomfort to some really grotesque torture. If familiarity breeds contempt, imagine spending eternity with anybody and you soon begin to figure out that the very notion of life everlasting is itself can be (construed to be) a hell!

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            “Well, at some point in getting to know others, the discussion about religious beliefs inevitably comes up and it is here where the notion that one is doomed in some after-life if one does not follow the central tenets of a particular faith is put forth.”In getting to know the boy that I love and share my life with, the discussion about religious beliefs (or lack thereof) only came up as anecdotal side-aspect about some family stories. Our views, though for both of us importent in how me make our decisions, certainly aren’t the same. None of us feels that the particular Weltanschauung of the other has any binding moral effect on occurances after brain death other than in the effects we leave on the world we leave behind.As for “not believing has consequences… all of which just so happen to be negative”, even when you take only the literalist nutcases, by your own definition of positive and negative belief this is nonsensical: For devout Catholics not-belief in heathen Gods has a positive effect. For Lutherans belief in the infallibility of the pope has a negative effect. To the best of knowledge for legalist Jews belief doesn’t matter at all, only action. And Buddhism doesn’t even have a set of binding factualbeliefs, but only of how to deal with whatever beliefs and desires one has.And again your hasty generalizations marr your statements to the point of meaninglessness.

          • NotCinderell

            Legalist Jew here. I know I’m late to the party.

            I wouldn’t say that belief doesn’t matter in Judaism, but it’s not prioritized over action. I mean, if one doesn’t believe in the authority of G-d, then there is little reason to observe the law, espeically in a modern society like ours where making a break with the traditions of your parents is pretty easy compared to what it would have been like hundreds or thousands of years ago. It’s a choice whether or not one observes Jewish law, and belief governs that choice.

            But you are right, there is no weekly requirement, as there is in the Catholic Mass, to affirm one’s faith in our religion. The only people of whom a statement of belief is required are converts. However, unlike converts to Christianity, it is at the point where the person is willing and able to do the commandments when one is converted, not at the moment when one is first willing to proclaim one’s belief in Judaism.

          • NotCinderell

            Also, in Judaism, one is born into the faith as a matter of heritage. If you are completely unobservant in Jewish law, you are still considered a Jew by other Jews. It’s not like Christianity where one can simply say, “Well my parents are Christian, but I don’t believe in it, so I’m not.”

        • Karen

          Hi Jessica,

          I have had a ‘witness’ walk up to me and try and save me. They (there were several of them) carried those little pamphlets they call tracts. One walked up with a giant, “I’m going to eat you” grin and said something like this:

          Christian: Have you been saved? Have you accepted the Lord Jesus as your savior who died on the cross for your sins?

          Me: I, ah…

          Christian: (Grabs my hands… still holding tract) Let me pray for you. Dear Lord, I come to you today with a sinner who is ready to accept your gift of eternal life….. etc etc.

          Okay, that was one time and it scared me – especially since I had already been ‘saved.’

          From my experience, most of the condemming comes from people I already know. My coworker, an avid ‘saver of condemmed souls’ somehow feels compelled to save those who do not show the right outward Christian actions. For example, our local hot dog vendor was dying of cancer. My coworker was under the impression that he was not ‘saved’ and went to his deathbed to pray with him and offer him the chance of salvation before he died. His wife was rather offended by my coworker’s presumption. My coworker has also presumed that most of my coworkers will probably go to hell because they’re not living according to whatever set of rules she lives by. (ie: one coworker is living in sin, most of us do not attend church regularly, one did not use a preacher at her son’s funeral, and most of us do not hate gay people) I’m sure she thinks that I am also heading in that direction, but our conversations usually end with a gentle reminder that we shouldn’t judge.

          • Another Susan

            Hi, Guest. In the past, I’ve dealt with this type of obnoxious, presumptive “Christian” aggression-bordering-on-bullying by launching into an exhaustive polemic about what Christ (whom I love) was trying to tell us, citing verses from the Sermon on the Mount until the individual backs off. But it’s actually a lot of work doing this.

            In the future, I think I’ll just look them in the eye and say, “Yes, I have,” and then go about my business. If they repeat the intrusion, I’ll repeat the “Yes I have” with an added, “now bug off.” and repeat “Bug off” — with a smile, of course — until they do. Maybe it’ll work.

          • Guest

            Hi Another Susan, :-D I’ll admit, this young fellow was so exuberant about his mission that he did not take the time to listen to those he was evangelizing to. Even though he was scary pushy, I didn’t have the heart to tell him “been there, done that.” Should I be accosted again, I’ll have to try your suggestion.

    • Mindy

      No doubt, Jessica – and that is a very good thing. I believe that you are representative of the majority of Christians – but *your* religion has been hijacked by the judgmental meanies of whom many of speak. At least publicly hijacked.

      I am a non-Christian, a spiritual believer. My sister is an serious Christian who has, in all the years she’s been in her church, only crossed the line with me once. She lives as you do for the most part, and I respect that. She respects me.

      You have to understand that for many of us, the “bashing” you feel is not about Christianity as a whole, but Christianity used as tool to separate and vilify.

      I have good and positive encounters with Christians every day, I presume. Because I have interactions with a variety of people every day, who smile warmly, share a chat, make me laugh, leave me thinking – and I just assume that many of them are Christian. Just because our interactions aren’t necessarily about religion doesn’t mean that they aren’t positively representing their faith – simply by being good to their fellow human beings, they are living their faith and are appreciated for it.

      My daughter asked me, in the car the other day, why so often all the news is “bad.” I told her that fortunately, the news is bad because “good” or “OK” is normal. If the news had to report the good stuff, that would mean the bad stuff is the norm.

      This is kind of the same thing. What needs to be discussed are the problems – so that solutions can be found, the negatives can be turned around.

  • OlyEm

    I have found it fairly easy to duck the usual Christian selling spiel when they come knocking on my door by mentioning that our family is Quaker (technically I’m not, but my husband is and we’re raising our kids to be). No one seems to know what to think and generally no one has bad things to say about Quakers. Could be the influence of the oatmeal box. At any rate, all of the emailed comments you received, John, are spot on. The hubris in assuming that because someone doesn’t go to your church that they have no moral compass is extremely off-putting. And demonstrates a narrow life focus. There are many ways in which one may find God and seek a spiritual path, but those who try to convert can be really annoying, self-satisfied individuals. And this is not strictly limited to Christians. My mom “found” Buddhism during a really trying period in her life (my father had been killed in a motorcycle accident). The teachings just resonated with her and did good things for her spiritually. I was happy until she tried to convert her daughter. Then I couldn’t stand to talk to her for more than 10 minutes. She just couldn’t see that the void she’d been feeling that had been filled by Buddhist teachings was not a void that I felt myself. The crazy thing about the accident is that my own spiritual beliefs had held up fairly well during the ordeal of hospital, DNR decisions, and funeral. I’d thought that they’d go to pieces, but they held up. One of the images that I carried with me was something that my father had written in a short story, where he’d compared dying to being like a raindrop falling into a lake — the substance and qualities that had made up the raindrop were still there, but the surface tension that separated it from the rest of creation was gone. And I held onto this image and it gave me comfort. But I digress. At any rate, it is wrong to assume that those who do not attend church are devoid of belief, spirituality, and moral sensibilities. And in some ways, the very fact that we are not up in your grill with our belief systems makes us nicer, politer, and generally more pleasant human beings to be around — even if ultimately we may be headed to hell. But somehow I don’t think so.

    • StraightGrandmother

      OlyEm, You did something when you wrote about the Quakers, you caused me to search as I didn’t really know much about them. I went to their website and it REALLY resonated with me. I think I would like to learn more about this religion, it feels right to me. Thank you so much. Just this offhand comment you made, it has made a difference, I think I will feel at “home” at a Quaker meeting, thank you so much.

    • Another Susan

      OlyEm, thanks for this. I find myself wondering if your dad might be John Gardner, a wonderful writer who died too young in a motorcycle accident. Whoever your dad was, I share, and find comfort in, his view of the afterlife. If the core of one’s being loves all-that-is, God, then to let go of the surface tension and gently merge with all of creation sounds…perfect. Who could ask for anything else?

  • http://joechianakas.wordpress.com Joe Chianakas

    “When you’re REALLY speaking the truth, you don’t need Scripture to back you up, or validate what you’re saying. You use the word of God like a weapon, as a bully does a stick. Take it elsewhere.”

    John Shore: You are my hero. Why do other Christians NOT think like this?

    • Anonymous

      Thank, Joe. U da man.

  • One of the Susans

    I think T.O. from Denver has got it.

    The question “Why do Christians hate us so much?” reminds me of the opening quote from a brilliant article that will probably upset about 90% of the people who read this blog: The Psychology of Christian Fundamentalism” by Walter A. Davis.

    The quote is by Kenneth Burke: “I know you’re a Christian, but who are you a Christian against?” So well said.

    • Anonymous

      You must be new to this blog, Susan. (And welcome, by the way!)

      • Another Susan

        Thanks, John. I’m not THAT new; I commented a few times as “Susan” under the old software that had the little quilting design thing to differentiate commenters who shared common names.

        Perhaps I got a wrong impression about your blog’s readership. You’re doing a good thing here. That a religion based on Jesus should have become exclusive and judgmental is incredibly sad. Hopefully, we’ll find our way back to Him.

        • Susan in NY

          Just so I am not left out…I am Susan in NY.

          : )

    • Diana A.

      Thanks for providing the link to this article. Sobering and scary reading.

      • Another Susan

        Hi Diana. The author is clearly anti-religion, period, but I think he did a good job of analyzing the Christian Right, which, despite all the noise they make here in the States, are a mere subset of Christianity.

        • jes

          I’m a little confused here. On what are you basing your statement that the “author is clearly anti-religion, period”? Could you clarify that?

          Actually, I think I figured it out–were you talking about John Shore (author of the blog), or Walter A. Davis (author of an article linked in someone above’s comment)?

          • Another Susan

            Jes, I was referring to Walter A. Davis, who wrote the very insightful article on the Psychology of Christian Fundamentalism.

          • jes

            That makes SOOO much more sense than the way I read your other comment the first time. :)

  • HNM

    I’ll add my small comment as an up and coming Christian in a modern world. One of the saddest aspects of my life has been the number of non-Christians who have turned their back on me as soon as they heard I was a Christian. (Let me note here that this is not going to be a bash the non-Christians post, just in case you were wondering.) They didn’t turn on me because of anything I had done, or because they had an issue with my God, but because of what other Christians had done to them. They didn’t want another lecture from another pious bigot. I admit that initially that’s what I was, but I have changed. I now only witness to those who ask, and I try to simply love those who have not asked. It’s not my place to say whether they’re going to Heaven or Hell, how would I know? I now find myself reluctant to even tell people I’m a Christian until after they get to know me, for fear they will turn on me or treat me differently afterward. I wish the other Christians would stop ruining it for the rest of us.

    Thank you, John Shore, for bringing these issues to light. Maybe people will listen to you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=684649205 Brett Nelms

    15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,

    23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

    • jes

      Alright. So you can copy and paste from a bible site. That’s great, but I’m pretty sure everyone here is capable of reading these things on their own. What point, exactly, are you trying to make here? How about putting in a few words of your own to demonstrate the thoughts behind why you feel the need to drop these particular passages apparently randomly into the conversation?

  • http://www.vastvariety.net/ Amradorn

    “You use the word of God like a weapon, as a bully does a stick”

    That statement sums up nearly 100% of the interaction I have with Christians who seem to feel that since I’m gay I’m not worthy of even being human.

  • http://thetameone.blogspot.com Megandevito

    WONDERFUL! I think this is dead on and exactly what Christians around the world need to understand. Forcing yourself down someone’s throat, calling names, judging, etc. does not work. It only makes it harder for a Christians to regain any sort of standing with that non-Christian thus pushing them further away from their original “mission”.

  • Ednel

    The most depressing and revealing thing about this post aren’t the quotations in the blog, but the judgmental, snide, sarcastic, hurtful, closed-minded, and simplistic comments that punctuate all sides of the ensuing conversations amongst people who see themselves, I take it, to be Christians. I came here to learn something, and I did. Thanks for sharing.

    • jes

      Oh, not everyone here is Christian. There are Christians, and atheists, and agnostics, and non-church-going followers of Christ, and a few Jews, and I’m sure others that I haven’t heard self-identify. At least one who was wondering on a different post what to consider himself.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1258495613 Jessica Furbee Bailey

    Sometimes when I read this blog it feels just like a place for people to go to bash Christians.

    • Another Susan

      But not Christ. They’re not bashing Jesus. That should tell us something.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1258495613 Jessica Furbee Bailey

        That’s true. However, as a people we should try not to judge a whole group based on a few and often I feel that is exactly what is happening here.

        • jes

          The problem, Jessica, is that those few are exceedingly vocal and visible and because any push back by other, more moderate, Christians telling them to sit down and knock it off is essentially invisible to the general public, those few are dictating the general perception of the entire group. Until moderate and liberal Christians stand up and make as much noise about love and acceptance as the conservative extreme make about hate and intolerance, that’s the image the whole religion is saddled with. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1258495613 Jessica Furbee Bailey

            Jes:

            There ARE loving and tolerant Christians out there that are just as loud as the hateful ones but we could be ten times as loud as them and I am sure it wouldn’t matter. If there was one loud, vengeful Christian preaching Hell and sin to every twenty just as loud Christians preaching love and acceptance people would still only remember the bad one. It is clear that is the case here. For every Christian that has prayed with them or handed them a tract or told them they are going to Hell there has been hundreds who haven’t. They just don’t know it because the good ones don’t walk around with a megaphone yelling “I love Jesus and I am NOT going to tell you that you are going to Hell.” It’s just not how it works.

          • jes

            I know there are loving and tolerant Christians around; I’m related to quite a few. But they are NOT as loud as the hateful and intolerant (I’m related to a few of them, too). The problem is exactly as you say: “For every Christian that has prayed with them or handed them a tract or told them they are going to Hell there has been hundreds who haven’t.” The hundreds who haven’t also haven’t done anything to draw attention to any good they’ve done to counter the megaphone wielding hater.. They’re quiet, and easy to miss, because they don’t have that megaphone. The loving and tolerant need to get up and be louder and more active on the issues they disagree about if they expect there to be any perception of their side of things, that’s just how it works.

            If one of my intolerant relatives goes off on something, and her more tolerant but less outspoken spouse says nothing, just sits there, do you think the people she’s on at are going to assume that he agrees or disagrees with her? The default assumption is that he’s with her, so he agrees with her. Same applies to Christians as a larger group. Until there are, for example, as many pro-gay projects funded openly by Christian sources as there are convert-a-gay-to-straight and anti-gay initiatives openly funded by Christian sources, the quiet and tolerant Christians don’t have any ground to stand on in saying the church doesn’t hate gays.

            Until the love is as open and obvious and out there as the hate is, the hate is what people will associate with the word “Christian”.

          • Diana A.

            This is true and the more loving and tolerant Christians are slowly (“as in ‘Slowly, the ice ended”” to borrow a phrase from Rita Mae Brown) beginning to fight back against the hateful and intolerant Christians. It’s about bloody time. John Shore’s blog, books, etc. are a major part of this effort.

          • Diana A.

            There’s a lot of truth to this–and not just when it comes to negative vs. positive Christianity either. In general, human beings tend to pay a lot more attention to the negative than the positive. I think it was Daniel Goleman (author of: Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ) who said that it takes 5 positive encounters to neutralize the effect of one negative encounter. I think it’s a survival mechanism. It’s like Martha Beck wrote in her book “Finding Your Own North Star”–”If you’re sitting in a room full of ten darling, harmless little puppies and one big, deadly king cobra, you’re not going to ignore the snake and just lose yourself in frolicking with the puppies, right?”

  • Jodi

    Hope you don’t mind my “butting in”. I’m a Christian and very sad about what I’ve read. I haven’t even looked at them all. Wow! All I know is that I was one of “those” people before my “unsaved” friend who is Jewish, got a hold of me. I never preached, I really did just try to love her “into the kingdom”, if that was a possibility for her. I just accepted her right where she was at and she, me (although she would have loved for me to become Jewish) no pushing, no preaching. Seems I’m on the right track. Thank you all for your honesty. I for one would like to apologize, first of all for my own behaviors and on behalf of my “fellow Christians”.

    • StraightGrandmother

      Allright then, go and sin no more ….

  • Lilstrega7777

    I AM SO SICK OF SO CALLED CHRISTIANS WHO SAY THIS OR THAT ONE IS GOING TO HELL OR THAT GOD DOESN’T LIKE GAYS. THEY CARRY ON WITH SUCH COLOSSAL EGOS AND SPEAK AS IF THEY KNOW THE MIND OF GOD. THE MIND OF THE DIVINE IS SO VAST THAT IT IS ARROGANT, NOT TO MENTION BLASPHEMOUS, TO ACT AS IF ONE IS THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE DIVINE. SECONDLY, FUNDAMENTALISTS DO SUCH A DIS-SERVICE TO GOD. THEY REDUCE DEITY TO A VINDICTIVE, SMALL MINDED,JEALOUS, ANGRY, JUDGMENTAL BEING WHO IS READY TO PUNISH, PUNISH, PUNISH….

    • KazTaylor

      Yeah, I’ve been scorned all my life by so-called Christians who want me to believe that I will spend eternity in torture despite having been the best person I could be, because of my humanist beliefs. Well, I find myself at 46 disabled by a brain tumor, unable to work, in foreclosure, and raising an autistic child.My financial situation is dire; we have barely enough money to feed our children , but not once has a Christian shown up at my door saying,”Jesus commanded that I sell my belongings and give the proceeds to the poor, so here’s a check.” I’m not holding my breath.

      I do, however, see Christians preaching hate, denying gays and other groups their basic human rights, and generally considering themselves to be everyone else’s moral superior, regardless of their behavior. So there is a culture war–they assume we’re evil, and we think of them as gullible and hypocritical.

      Oh, and true believers? I’m still waiting for your check, Or PayPal me at karenhatchtaylor@yahoo.com. Please hurry; it’s really cold and we’re out of oil.

    • KazTaylor

      Yeah, it’s like they read the book!

  • Stevo

    I think everyone should turn some cheek here. Christians arguing with Christians in a mean spirited way about tactics tends to weaken our witness. Take the high road. Jesus did.

    • Mindy

      But Stevo, this is an enormously necessary conversation. Turning the other cheek, by the kind and loving Christian majority, has resulted in the loud, bigoted, abrasive and judgmental fundamental far-right christians (who don’t deserve the uppercase “C”) hijacking the face Christianity presents to the world.

      They are the ones who leave gay kids believing they are better off dead. They are ones who shriek Islamophobically into the public square. They are the ones who want religion inserted into our laws. They are ones who want everyone else to become Christian – or else.

      All the kindness, compassion and cheek-turning in the world doesn’t seem to shut them up – so the rest of Christianity MUST speak up – loudly and firmly, at the very least – and take their religion back from the clutches of those who have turned it into hate-mongering and the very antithesis of everything Jesus taught.

      • Stevo

        Mindy you’re right it is necessary. But all too quickly Christians of any persuasion abandon the most important witness we have – demonstrating Christ’s love – to prove a point or win an argument; neither of which does much to positively present the Gospel in a good light. Whatever we do as Christians must always be preceded and accompanied by a Christlike willingness to let whoever we’re talking to get whatever they have that’s in their heart and on their mind out in the open. There doesn’t seem to be much room for compromise in our society anymore. Not sure whatever happened to “agree to disagree” and move on to another point. There’s a lot to talk about. Let’s start with something we can have a chance to see eye to eye on. Until 2 sides agree about something, they’ll argue about everything.

  • http://discorax.myopenid.com/ Ryan

    share your beliefs with me, not your religion.

  • WriterJamie

    I keep being struck, as I read, by the sense that many of the more fundamentalist Christians may harbor secret doubts about being right. If they know that their religious views are correct, then those truths must be evident to others. But if others doubt their positions, then it must mean that someone is wrong. So… in the secret recess of their minds, they realize it might… just MIGHT… be them. And if they are wrong, then their entire life crumbles. (Note that this is not a problem for an agnostic. If some god exists, fine. I may or not “worship” him/her/it. If no “god”, as commonly defined, exists, no prob. My life values and morals continue unperturbed. And I’m pretty satisfied that they are good.) So what is the solution of this problem for the “true believer”? Grab someone and browbeat them until they say “Yeah, yeah, you’re right. I agree. Jesus created the heavens and the earth and the wholly ghost came down to earth and suffered under Pontius Pilates. Now, excuse me, I have to go find someone else to talk to about… about something else.” And, “Yeah, sure, you can pray for me. That’s cool.” And the Christian finds his faith validated because he has convinced another sinner to believe, and the agnostic says to himself, without conscious irony “Oh, Kee-reist, deliver me from these nutcakes!”

    Meanwhile, on Wall Street, one of the megamillionaire bankers says he is “Doing God’s work,” by screwing a lot of trusting people out of everything they own. And the organized Christian church says nothing.

    In the days of the OT minor prophets, someone might have stepped forward out of obscurity and spoken in unmistakeable terms of the vast evil that is done under cover of their god. “For three transgressions of Israel and for four, I will not revoke the punishment. Because they sell the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of shoes…” But no. It’s easier to hammer gays than to offend the big contributors, isn’t it?

    And that’s why, among other reasons, I’m an agnostic, as far as the christian god is concerned.

    • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

      WJ, you’re about as agnostic as any typical atheist; someday I hope you’ll have the intellectual courage to admit it.

      • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

        “you’re about as agnostic as any typical atheist”Without meaning to say that you couldn’t be right, but, purely out of, uh, scientific curiosity, Tildeb, how exactly did you arrive at that conclusion? Seriously. I tried to replicate the deduction and couldn’t find enough clues to lead me to this result with any certainty. (I’d prob need your definition of Agnostic and Atheist, too, bc I sometimes have the sneaking suspicion that what you call an Atheist is actually what I would call Agnostic, and vice versa…)”someday I hope you’ll have the intellectual courage to admit it”And on what ground exactly are you constructing the positive value of such “courage”?(Never fear, I am under no illusion that God is needed for such a value. I just don’t see a scientific way to arrive there – unless you take the Harris route of comparing it to the sceptic’s problem in physical science. My beef with that is that we base physical science on the simple “faith” (axiom?) that there is some observable objective reality and simply start from repeatable, shared sensory input, relying on the unprovable yet likely assumption that this is a good indicator of actual truth. I wonder what the “moral” equivalent is for you in regard to the values of courage and truth. I always found Jack Sparrow’s code [lie through your teeth and avoid any fair fight] the rather more easily defendable position in respect to evolution, survival, etc.)

  • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

    Try inductive reasoning, FF, for the atheist bit and then use deductive for the courage bit.

    Because there is nothing expressed by WJ to show support for agnosticism – the kind that allows for a maybe-this/maybe-that conclusion – the default is non belief. It just takes some people longer than others to accept that default and it’s usually done when one finds what’s honest and true to be more courageous to hold than this false sense of “Gosh, gee, I’m really not so sure one way or the other, I mean, it could be but there’s nothing on that side of the issue to back up that conclusion, but then it may not be and there’s nothing BUT evidence to back this side of the default conclusion, so, I’ll prevaricate and not take any stand at all because, well, you know, I don’t want to be one of those atheists who actually think what’s true matters more than the wishful thinking of others….” kind of unsaid stuff.

    • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

      “Atheism, in a broad sense, is the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.” / “Agnosticism is the view that the truth value of certain claims—especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, but also other religious and metaphysical claims—is unknown or unknowable.” (Wikipedia)

      To me this seems to mean that atheists are convinced that there is no God (if only because they are for whatever reason by default convinced of the non-existance of everything that is not positively proven or at least strongly supported by hard evidence), while agnostics claim not to know either way. Do you define these terms differently? (Just to prevent misunderstandings in the future.) ^_^

      • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

        Yeah, atheism is a funny word because it’s unnecessary. I mean, you don’t have a word for not believing in unicorns, nor any need to have an identifier that separates you from those who are willing to believe anything about anything.

        At its root, atheism simply means non belief and usually in reference to deities. And this is based on an absence. People believe all kinds of stuff but when asked, usually provide some kind of reason backed by evidence for holding those beliefs. Those beliefs are deemed to be true because of the evidence that supports them. Belief in deities seems to be rather different in this regard; of the monotheistic faiths, people believe in a god but rarely have anything more to go on than some desire to believe it to be true. As I’ve written before, geography seems to be about the most important element when it comes to believing specific religious truth claims.

        When you ask someone if an invisible rabbit lives in their toilet tank, you are usually met by a strange look. Never have I been met with an answer of “Gee, I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. I really can’t say one way or the other.” When it comes to factual claims, those of us brave agnostics seem quite willing to abandon our uncertainty in pursuit of the truth. If in doubt, one can look in the toilet tank and try to find some evidence to back up the claim. But here’s the point: in the absence of evidence, of what use is maintaining the fiction that such a possibility is still legitimate? This is the position of agnostics: sure, perhaps there may be deities out and about, but they are going to maintain that no evidence for the proposition is equivalent to the possibility that there may be some as yet undiscovered. Alone, that may be reasonable, but when faced with specific religious truth claims, agnosticism is the cowardly atheist’s way to avoid having to deal with the claims. Agnosticism is an avoidance technique and not a reasonable alternative to either belief or non belief.

        Consider: George Washington was the first President of the US. Truth claim. Was he? Do you believe he was? Why or why not? Is the answer “Gee, I’m not sure.” any kind of alternative answer? Truth claims have answers in principle even if we can’t answer them in practice. Agnosticism attempts to undermine the principle itself under the guise of some reasonable alternative. It isn’t. It’s intellectual cowardice.

        • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

          See, that is why I suspect you of actual ideological (if not fundamentalist) atheism, mate.

          You are fixated on your conviction that there is no God, and your one indictation, namely, no microscope or telescope has ever shown Him, that you refuse to even entertain the possibility.

          A lot of scientific discovery began not as the empirical discovery of the thing in fact, but only as the discovery of some strange pattern that hinted at the existance of something else. To drag my poor, often drafted example of love kicking and screaming from that place where metaphors sleep, the subjective yet widely shared experience of love hinted to neurologists that such a thing might truly exist. They sliced and diced some brains, and lo! found hormones and neuronal activity that occurred in all cases of subjective love. “It lives!”

          There is this region in the temporal lobe, I understand, that is always active when peeps experience the presence of the transcendent (no matter if it is Jehova, some angels, Athena, Tatonka, possession by a loa, or space aliens). You can even by electrically stimulating that region of the brain re-created a rough approximation (though apparenty mostly an unpleasant, paranoid, scary version of it) of that experience.

          Yep, our subjective experience of the divine is founded in a neurobiological function, like all experiences. And yes, there is misunderstood, even sick versions of it – the stalker or violently jealous person to our genuine lover. And yes, since people are people they tend to personify and objectify the cause of that experience in very simple and ulturally biased metaphors. (Hence the Jewish, Islamic, and Buddhist commandements to not try to imagine God in a single form, that, of course, is misunderstood by most adherents again.) But can’t you at least enterain the idea first that since it is hardwired into our brains, like love, it might have to do with a genuine, valid, and necessary human experience.

          Like love it can be a dangerous motivator (think Troy), but certainly you must agree that danger is no indicator of truth.

          The reason why we have no term for the disbelief in unicorns (though, I for one, believe in unicorns, but again, not in an altogether naive, literal sense), is that the experience of unicorns is only shared by very few peeps. The experience of a divine presence is shared by almost all people all over the world and through all ages. “Atheists” are the distinct minority. That makes a name for them a societal necessity.

          That doesn’t make them automatically wrong, of course, but it is a rather large scientific inicator that agnosticism (a-gnosis, ie. not knowing) might be the better default position than outright atheism (a-theos, ie. no god).

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            At what point does one come to the conclusion that there is no rabbit in the toilet tank? At what point can someone be of the opinion that there is no invisible rabbit, there is no rabbit both outside and separate from, yet an integral part of, the toilet tank itself. After one looks for both solid evidence (physical presence, physical evidence) and finds none and looks for effect (unexplainable water level differential, rabbit sounds, dysfunction of the mechanisms) and finds none, then at what point does the conclusion there is no reason to believe that a rabbit of any kind is living in the toilet tank become the default? Should we continue to ‘keep an open mind’ because someone else insists that such a belief brings them comfort, that a veritable host of people insist that in spite of this lack of any kind of evidence they still believe there is such a beastie lives in their toilet tanks? At what point does such a reasonable non belief become an ideology, another kind of conviction similar to an unshakable belief in the toilet tank rabbit, a fundamentalist anti-belief belief?I’ll tell you: when evidence for the belief plays no part, when evidence for the belief is not considered.Science as a method of inquiry is not unwilling to entertain such evidence. It thrives on the unknown. Science is no more anti-theism than it is anti-rabbit. But it does has standards that must be met: there must be some evidence to go by. There must be some effect to go by. There must be something to work with. The absolute dearth of available evidence and effect of some supernatural agency is the problem here and not some kind of preset bias. For every factual truth claim that religious belief makes, science has yielded other better naturalistic explanations. That’s not a weakness in the methodology of science. It’s a lack inherent in religious belief. Religious belief in a supernatural deity has all the hallmarks of our toilet tank rabbit: it isn’t there. And that’s a legitimate conclusion of an open-mined intellectually honest person.As for the various brain experiments that duplicate many kinds of religious experiences, we can build on this knowledge to better understand what is going on at the level of the brain. Is it like a receptor tuned to a frequency being broadcast by a supernatural deity? We can test for that. Is such belief a brain process that has natural and understandable cause and effect by the mechanism of neurotransmitters? We can test for that. We can finally begin to find answers to what’s going on when people undergo religious transcendental experiences and we can compare and contrast what we know is going on at a cellular level with what people attribute is going on.Religion is not ‘hardwired’ into human brains. Patterning is. Assigning agency to these patterns is a natural fallacy with evolutionary benefits. Our languages are filled with such metaphorical terminology (‘angry’ sky, ‘happy’ music, ‘sad’ yield, ‘fun’ math, etc.). But such terminology and patterning biases do nothing to establish evidence for external agency somehow present in our perceptions. To overcome and compensate our assumed biases, we need to discipline how we think. That’s why superstition inversely correlates with education level, why some 93% of our best and brightest scientists do not ascribe to religious beliefs. By training our minds how to think by accounting for and avoiding our biases – especially our tendency to substitute agency where none exists – we can advance our knowledge and better inform our applications of it.Post script: you wouldn’t believe what your dopamine levels are like when you ‘fall in love’. Believe in Eros as the responsible agency if you want, but if you want to better understand heroin addiction, look to how the drug induces very similar dopamine surges. But as for the agency of Eros, it magically morphs into some kind of demon in the meantime. Funny, that.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Funny? Not really. All Gods I know of have their dark sides. Eros most certainly has. Psyche got to regret ever meeting him. And Eros’ Hindu counterpart Kamadeva has such charming nicknames as “churner of hearts” and, indeed, “intoxicating”. When Tristan drank the love potion intended for Isolde’s husband, King Mark, the servant who saw him, told him (in the 12th century) “You have drunk your death.” To which he answers blithely “That I accept.” We hardly needed to wait for neuoscience to tell us of the relationship between love and drugs. But yeah, I’m certain that science has a lot to teach us about many details of all experiences, including the transcendent. Until it does, it is moot to speculate whether it will prove or disprove its existance.

            Until you stop listening to the peeps at the kiddie table and their naive stories of the supernatural god that seem to rob your peace of mind, and as long as you keep insisting on such a limited understanding of the nuanced way in which language can describe the experiences of the real world, well, I’m at a loss what else to tell you.

            Except that in all our exchanges you haven’t told me any scientific fact that I have any problem with. I do not disagree at all with your call for a secular, even laicist state – as long as freedom of expression for everyone remains untouched (and I hope we do agree on that as well.) And still I “see”, “hear”, “feel”, and even “taste and smell” God, with every breath that I take. The empirical evidence for His existance and willfull activity in my life is overwhelming. He seems to be invisible only to you.

      • free thinker

        Atheism is too often defined as the belief that there is no god. We (atheists) are actually quite open to the idea, we just havent seen any evidence yet. Just as we don’t believe in aliens yet, because we don’t have evidence yet. If a spaceship were to crash on this earth with dead alien bodies inside, we would all be convinced. We are very open to almost anything existing with proper evidence. It certainly would be dogmatic to say that life on other planets in the universe does not exist, just as it would be to say that it does exist. We simply don’t know.(agnostic). But imagine someone claimed to have found an an alien in their bedroom who had ten legs, elephant head, and spoke Japanese, but refused to show it people. I think we could be fairly confident that that particular alien did not exist, because it had been defined too far without showing evidence. Back to god. We are not certain that NO god exists, (cause what if one shows up someday?) But we are certain that YOUR god does not exist. We know this because of the fantastically claims that been made about him without evidence.

        • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

          *Yawn*

          What do you think you know about my God?

          • free thinker

            Born of a virgin, died for our “sins,” ordered the killing of Amalekite children, hates homosexuals, etc… It’s this god I know doesn’t exist. If you do not claim this god, good for you. But most Christians do.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            LMAO…

            I could try to explain to you why I believe in a God who actually did all that (except for the dying for anyone’s sins part, that’s widely misunderstood, he actually died for his sins and was trying to lead by example, but that’s an aside)… and why I’m still not a Christian… but since all you really mean is that there was dinosaurs 60+ million years before there was humans, and that giving money to televangelists doesn’t cure cancer, and that not eating shellfish cuz someone wrote that a couple of millennia ago is stupid, and that antibiotics work, and there is no supernatural heaven above the clouds where we go after death to play harp… I’ll just say that I agree with you, so you can go back and graze with the other free thinkers.

          • Diana A.

            “I’ll just say that I agree with you, so you can go back and graze with the other free thinkers.”

            Wow. Harsh.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Well, it took me a while, but I finally understood that most of this debate about religion takes place in front of an American cultural background, a country where a senatorial canditate campaigns by promissing their constituents she’s not a witch, or where people seriously discuss teaching in school that the world is 6000 years old (centuries or even millennia younger than early high cultures of India, Mesopotemia, and Egypt). To me that sounds, well, frankly, that sounds insane. I can even understand peeps taking a fundamentalist atheist position in a country where such literalist-Flat-Earther ideas are being held by people in the government. So, in that sense, I truly do agree with “free thinker”. Only, it seems to me that he isn’t at all free. From my perspective he reminds me a bit of a resistance fighter. They may be correct in the context of their fight, but because of the emotional commitment, they see things way too black & white. So, what I think about God and eternal life and sin and divine will doesn’t really have place in such a context.
            (I doubt that resistance fighters on either side will do much to end the conflict, but that’s because I think the whole battle is only fought – by both sides – to distract from more pressing issues in American society.)
            If free thinker was interested in my real position on religion he could look up my last posts on disqus. But if he was actually interested in more than venting on literalist Christians he would have done so before unaskedly lumping me in with them. So I must assume that he wouldn’t listen to me, if I repeated all that stuff to him anyway.

          • free thinker

            I am very interested in listening to you. And I’m sorry for lumping you in with the literalists (although you did say that your god “actually did all that”). And I’m not free because I see things black and white? So conversely then Christians are able to reasonably sort out the subtleties of life? (LOL!) There are some things that deserve and black and white approach (the doctrine of hell and bigotry towards gays are morally offensive). Yet there are other profound mysteries in our world that deserve nothing more than open-minded respect. Atheism is nothing more than helping us tell and value the difference between these two approaches.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox
          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            I posted a bunch of links to my previous comments concerned with faith, religion, science and all that, but because of the many links it’s now “under moderation”, a state that in my experience rarely changes on this blog. So, you may have to either go dig for yourself (easiest on my Disqus profile) or ask me specific questions.

  • Gaylee1949

    My sister and her husband are fundamentalists and they became so offensive in their attempts to convert me that I had to sever the relationship–twice. I finally tried to forgive and be friends again, only to again become worn out. I now follow Unity and love it! We believe in letting others be to make their own choices, live your life in love and gratitude, and don’t preach! I asked my sister one time if God didn’t make us all individuals with free choice–she didn’t answer. Of course not! It was logical!

  • Gaylee1949

    My sister and her husband are fundamentalists and they became so offensive in their attempts to convert me that I had to sever the relationship–twice. I finally tried to forgive and be friends again, only to again become worn out. I now follow Unity and love it! We believe in letting others be to make their own choices, live your life in love and gratitude, and don’t preach! I asked my sister one time if God didn’t make us all individuals with free choice–she didn’t answer. Of course not! It was logical!

  • Snakedriver

    All my versions say the same thing: John Shore is a fraud.

    • http://mindyscurls.wordpress.com/ Mindy

      Damn – I hit “like” when I meant to hit “reply” – I DON’T like.

      All your versions of what, SD? And he is a fraud in what way?

      • http://allegro63.blogspot.com/ allegro63

        curious about that myself Mindy? I can think of a lot of versions of different things that John could be defrauding….like….ok, I’m really tired, have serious head congestion and the only thing I could think of John being fraudulent as is him trying to pass as a Hooter’s waitress….then I imagine the outfit and give myself giggles.My fault for trying to study while checking in here now and then

    • Anonymous

      FYI, all: “Snakedriver” is the same person as “Lvgwoman,” is the same person as “Martin L.” Another fundamentalist takes a bold stand for honesty and moral integrity.

      • http://mindyscurls.wordpress.com/ Mindy

        LOL!! Classy, very classy, Snake.

  • http://mindyscurls.wordpress.com/ Mindy

    Hey Sharp3 – Do you realize that you posted the very same thing three times, once under a different name? So now we know that Lvgwoman, Martin L., Snakedriver AND Sharp3 are all the same person, someone who hates John for not being Christian enough. But apparently it is OK to lie about who you are in order to ram *your* beliefs down someone’s throat.

    And you wonder why people get cranky at you uber-saved Christians??? (where’s the umlaut when you need it?!)

  • Anonymous
  • Mike

    As a non-christian, I agree with many of the sent-in replies as is, and would add “Why should I take these people seriously when 99% of them know NOTHING whatsoever of how The Bible was compiled and came to be, can’t differentiate between the sayings of Jesus and those of Paul, and can’t even tell you who Theodosius I was, let alone Constantine”. The ability to parrot whatever the preacher and their political party says seems to be something most outspoken Christians are champions of, yet they actually know next to nothing about the history of their own religion or revered religious figures. It’s sad.

  • Ladyofleisuredc

    You know what I’ve always believed and said in my heart? If all the poor, harassed, low in spirit, lonely, hurt and (insert other oppressed group) go to hell simply because they’re not “christians” then I truly want to be right there with them. Why? Because I will have nothing in common with the “Christians” gloating in heaven that these oppressed groups are “finally where they belong.”

    • krowlett*tx

      Ladyofleisuredc, I am totally humbled by your post. It makes me want to be a better Buddhist. John Shore, thank you for this site. Reading *all* of these posts so far has gotten my mental gears turning and my heart thumping too. I am impressed and inspired.

  • Chewa_11

    This past summer, I went to Mississauga Ontario (Canada) to intern as a “church planter”. I arrived as the only Canadian in a group of American girls (4 of the 5 were from the Bible Belt). The girls from the Bible Belt were totally dismayed that people didn’t open right up to them when they tried to strike up a conversation about Jesus or when they tried to get them to talk about their spiritual lives. They had done this before down in the South, and people had always responded well to them. I’m sure if they had pressed on with this approach, it would have made people want to send in responses similar to the ones John received.

    In Canada – or at least in every church/ Christian organization I’ve been a part of (in Edmonton, Alberta), Evangelism is not about getting people into pews. We understand that Church is not a PLACE, but a community. So getting real, being honest and transparent with your life in the hopes that they will do the same is as much a part of Evangelism as sharing the Gospel or sitting with them in a pew.

    I am truly sorry for all the harm that Christians have done in the name of God. I’m sorry for the glaring hypocrisy that’s in the lives of many self-proclaimed Christians. I’ve probably done my fair share of it myself. We WANT to be the bearers of God’s Kingdom in this world, the harbingers of truth, mercy and justice. But we are still people, with our own selfish inclinations and agendas. We have such high ideals, but we fall woefully short. And that’s why we need God. We recognize that we need something bigger than ourselves to help us overcome the baser aspects of our natures.

    It’s in this spirit that we evangelize. To those who are brave enough to look into their heart of hearts and see the good AND the bad and wish to be better, we welcome you to join us in becoming more fully the person God made you to be. And in the process, bring more of God’s love into an unfriendly world. To those who say “I’m fine; thanks, but no thanks”, we say that we wish the best for you anyway. And that if you ever find yourself confounded by the state of yourself, by the hatefulness of the world…by the hatefulness of those that call themselves Christians, even; we invite you to honestly bring that maelstrom to God. And then be on the lookout for a truly faithful Christian (a person who walks the walk and talks the talk, who walks humbly and faithfully with God) to come to you and have a heart-to-heart. You may be surprised at the intelligence and the faithfulness of some Christians out there. They’re often not the ones that get in the news, they probably don’t have their own tv station, but they’re around.

  • compassionatenonbeliever

    Wow. Came here from a facebook link. First let me say I LOVE your tagline.
    Secondly, I don’t consider myself Christian and I have to say many of the views you’ve posted echo my own. Although I tend to distinguish between two broad categories of Christians- those who are sincere and loving in their belief and can love and accept you even if you do not share that belief and who study most devotedly not only scripture but many varying opinions on what those scriptures mean so that they can form a more depthful and comprehensive understanding. And those who are essentially on an ego trip, following the letter but not the spirit of the word in order to play some bizarre game of one-upmanship. The second group is a major reason I will not commit to joining a church or any organized Christian community. And @ Serena- it matters what non-believers think because you are representing your entire religious community and your God when you speak.
    Thank you for even asking this question JohnShore. I genuinely admire those who ask the tough questions (in any arena) and then actually listen to the answers.

    • Anonymous

      Type your reply…

    • Anonymous

      Thank you, Compassion. That was lovely.

  • lauren

    not to be rude or disrespectful, but it sounds to me like you heard all these rebukes to Christianity and then decided to create a watered down version of Christianity to make everyone happy…aka thruway Christians… this article is great and i love it..i just have some concerns..

    • berkshire

      He’s not making everyone happy by a long shot–see his post about Frothing Fundies.

      Also, how is it watered down? As far as I can tell, he takes a strong and decisive stand on some crucial issues (which he backs up there and in many of his posts here on this blog with theologically sound reasoning). . . which is why a lot of people are not happy, and why a whole lot of other people are.

      • lauren

        Well I guess we will just agree to disagree, when you read the doctrine of the thruway Christians its is stated that “The only way to think being gay is a sin is to never actually know any gay people” now let me be clear i have nothing against gays, many of my closest friends are, but the bible is very clear homosexuality is a sin along with (not worse than) a list of other sexual sins such as adultery and sex before marriage.

        It is also stated that ‘“No one comes to the Father except through me” does not mean that in the afterlife only Christians can get into heaven. It means that Jesus/God decides who does and doesn’t make it in.’ if you look at the core values of Christianity, you much except Christ as your savior to go to heaven, with out this you cannot call yourself a true christian, because thats what being a christian is.

        Now Mr. Shore writes some amazing articles, that i wont deny, because this article is awesome and i shared it with many friends. however, his views on Christianity, whether good or not, are not biblical. Im not saying his reasoning is off im just saying it is not biblical.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          I don’t think your reasoning (such as it is) is Biblical. All we can do is make our best assumptions. But you have no more natural claim on the truth than anyone else does. I think you read the Bible in a way that strips it of its true meaning. Which, to me, makes you a Pharisee. So. There we are.

          • lauren

            And I respect your views. Thank you for the chance to debate. I will now respectfully bow out if this conversation because I had said my peace.

            God Bless

          • DR

            This is what gets frustrating, Lauren. I call it drive-by evangelism. If you’re going to wade into the waters where you proactively throw out a punch – actually suggesting that someone’s Christianity “is not Biblical”, then stay here and deal with the fall out. You actually didn’t debate anything, you just waded in, took a shot and then you left. Have the courage of your convictions and actually prove your point. You do a lot of damage when you just decide to dip your toe in and then take off.

        • Diana A.

          “…now let me be clear i have nothing against gays, many of my closest friends are…”

          I am simply fascinated by all these fundamentalist Christians who claim to have close friendships with not just one or two gay people but “many” gay people. Really, how close could the friendship be if you fundamentally disapprove of gay people and their “lifestyle?” I would be very interested to hear from these so-called gay friends of yours. How would they characterize your relationship with them? Do they regard you as a friend? Or would they characterize you as an aquaintance? Maybe even a frenemy? Unfortunately, I doubt we’ll ever hear the truth about that.

    • DR

      Why in the world would you call someone’s version of Christianity “watered down” while at the same time, compliment their site? The unconsciousness of those of you who wander on here, get concerned with what you read and communicate it so aggressively while trying to maintain a “loving style” is so shocking to me. It’s not shocking that you do it, I’m not surprised by it anymore – I’m just always so shocked that you don’t see the duality of doing so.

  • Backing_up_Free_thinker

    You know, I don’t understand why people get so angry at us (athiests). You say that there is proof of your religion; and yet there is proof of others too, and it is all so patchy that we find it easier to believe in none, than choose a singular one. Like free thinker, I don’t believe in Aliens. And yet, if someone showed me, and the world, a scientifically proven alien and how it got here, I would be convinced. As it is; it could be possible, but I doubt it.

    When using this as a metaphor I cannot help but compare alien enthusiasts with Christians; it’s all very well having said belief, but I don’t believe in aliens, there is not sufficient proof of aliens, and I really don’t give a flying feather about aliens. So, please, stop trying to convert me..

    • DR

      I think the point of this is what you’ve just said here.

  • Gary Leiter

    I stumbled upon this site and it made me very sad. I am a Christian and try my best to love God and love others. I screw up a lot. I guess the sadness comes from the fact that more times than not, we push people away from God rather than encourage them to seek him. I want to say that I am so sorry for my own wrong doing in this matter. My job as a Christian is to love people for who they are, where they are, and in spite of whether I agree with their theology…or lack thereof. That is my only job. The rest is up to them and I must be OK with the choices they make. Whether they accept or reject my God is between them and God. I am not a part of the equation, except to love them regardless of what they do with my God.

    In the New Testament, Jesus ran into a young wealthy man who said he wanted to be a follower of Jesus. Jesus told him he needed to commit his life to God. The man said, “no” and turned away. Jesus let this man walk away without God in his life. He didn’t chase after him, He didn’t threaten him with Hell, he didn’t hate the young man for his decision, Jesus just let the man make his decision and deal with the results. I wish I was more like Jesus. Basically, we Christians, many times, “keep people away from God” because we are so freakin’ stupid with our faith.

    Thanks for the article and the posts. They were a good “kick in the head” reminder.

    • Roger3

      Gary Leiter said :

      “I stumbled upon this site and it made me very sad. I am a Christian and try my best to love God and love others. I screw up a lot.”

      Read that again. Read that last sentence. “I screw up a lot.”

      Read it one more time. I’ll wait. “I screw up a lot.”

      THAT phrase right there, is what drives the pushy, belligerent behaviour of the worst Christians. “I screw up a lot.” Christians are taught from day one that they’re awful people, that their souls are tainted with barely forgivable sin, that they have to push and push HARD to become good enough for God.

      Just like E.S. from Denver (the first quote in the post) said, Christians think NOTHING of calling other people bad, misled, wrong or evil because that’s exactly what they’ve been taught to think about themselves. That’s who they are: Evil, Bad and Wrong. It’s very natural for a Christian to think of themselves as imperfect, as wrong, as one step away from evil in the worst cases.

      “I screw up a lot.”

      Want to start fixing Christianity? Fix THAT. When you believe that you’re worth-less, it’s easy to believe that others are too.

      • Chewa11

        But who HASN’T screwed up? Just because you know that you’ve screwed up doesn’t mean that you think you’re worthless. It should be the opposite, the screw ups (in the grand scheme of things) don’t matter. God looks past them and sees YOU. The wonderful, beautiful, human, you.

        • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

          This isn’t a given that the God you describe is the one who is taught to us in Sunday School and at home. On the contrary, as Roger 3 says, different church environments teach an entirely different God who cannot tolerate sin and screw ups, a God who sees all of our good works as filthy rags, that no one deserves this God’s love and there is nothing we can do to ever deserve it….and our job, in order to please this God, is to try to be as sinless as possible, which IS impossible and so we fail, and so we fail God, and these churches tell us maybe if your faith was stronger you wouldn’t screw up so much, if you really loved God like you say you do then you would try harder to please him, so maybe you aren’t really a Christian after all, which creates this huge painful space of doubt, which is taught is of the devil and so we must not be the Christians that we thought we were…..So, we should pray harder for forgiveness and REALLY mean it this time…..

          See, it’s not the same as teaching someone that there is a God who looks past all that to see “The wonderful, beautiful, human, you.”

      • Chewa11

        I think the core of the Gospel isn’t that we’re worthless, disgusting creatures, but that whatever state of ‘screw-up’ we’re in, God will never give up on us. Not because of how good or bad we are, but because of how incredibly loving God is.

        • Chewa11

          I should be clear that the state of screw up ranges from “not screwed up at all” to “totally f**ed up”.

  • http://www.godsloveislike.com Dave

    This was a very insightful read from both camps. As a Christian, I am sometimes dismayed at how many interpret the Bible and how they are supposed to share the word. As it was stated in one of the posts, Jesus gave us two commandments, Love God and Love others. I know for me, it is those that act like Christ not those that preach about Christ, Salvation, fire and brimstone, etc. that brought me to my relationship with God.

    I assume that there are many of my Christian brothers and sisters that will condemn me for my views but that isn’t important. What is important is my relationship with God. If one choses another path for themselves, May they find much happiness.

    • Madeline

      Well if others of your faith condemn you, I feel sorry for them and hope that they see the er of their ways. Love is not something confined to just one walk of faith. I’ve always seen it that my relationship with my particular deities is my business and no one else. I also wish that you find much happiness in your life and walk of faith.

  • Debbie

    I am often amazed at how both christians and non-christians (is that even a word?) think the Gospel is Love God and Love one another. They may be the commands He gave yet they are not The Gospel. Break either one of those commands and you are gonna need The Gospel :) Just sayin…

    • Diana A.

      Correct. The gospel (good news) is that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. All of us, sugar. Including those of whom you personally disapprove. So quit putting yourself on an equal level with God by judging the rest of us.

      • kimberly

        word…..

      • Chewa11

        I didn’t realize she had judged anyone. Isn’t it a given that we’ve all at one point or another in our lives have acted in an unloving way towards God or our neighbor? Why would someone take offence at that being pointed out?

  • Kristy

    Coming late to the game, and still throwing in my two cents.

    I don’t hate Christian evangelists. I understand why they feel they have to do what they do. I am willing to treat them with respect and courtesy, but I expect the same in return. I had a very good conversation once with a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses at my door one Saturday morning; I explained to them what I, as a Pagan, believed, and I explained why I couldn’t believe in their religion – even though I respected that they did. And to their credit, they were courteous about it, and even thanked me for explaining more about Paganism than they had known before. No one converted anyone, and no one had to, but we all walked away knowing more than we did beforehand, so I count it as a success.

    In contrast, the conversation I had with a man on the bus who kept insisting I was an atheist and took it as a “given” that the Bible was literal, historical truth… not such a good conversation. Near the end, I had to get nasty with him to stop him from pestering me, and I dislike having to get nasty with anyone.

    So here’s what I’d tell evangelical Christians, if I could:

    1) Not all non-Christians are atheists, and it’s very insulting to us when you assume we are.

    2) Not all non-Christians are Satan-worshippers. See above.

    3) Just about everyone in America has heard of Christianity. We’ve heard the story of Jesus. You’re not going to blow our minds by telling us about it. Every single person who has chosen not to be a Christian has done so for highly personal reasons, which they have probably thought about a lot. If you want to discuss this with us, you need to have given at least as much thought as we have to the matter. Just saying “Good news! Jesus loves you!” ain’t gonna cut it.

    4) A lot of non-Christians see Christianity as actively evil. Going into all the reasons why would fill a book, so I will not do so here. Still, if you’re trying to convert a non-Christian, make sure you don’t come off as evil. If you’re acting hateful or intolerant, we’re probably going to avoid you. If I ever came back to Christianity ( which is highly unlikely, so don’t hold your breath), it would be because of people like Fred Clark, and the author of this blog, who give me hope that not all Christians are the intolerant and intolerable, immoral jerks that I’ve often seen them to be.

    5) Please, please please, try to understand that your holy book is not our holy book. Saying “the Bible says so!” is not very convincing to people who don’t believe that the Bible is true. Find some other sources for your facts, because having to repeat over and over again that I don’t consider the Bible a definitive source is tiresome.

    6) While we’re on the subject of circular logic (“the Bible is true because the Bible says so!”), please take a course on basic logic at your local community college. Arguing with people who do not have a grasp of this subject gives me a brainache.

    7) Although following the above steps may win you some converts and certainly will stave off some fights, be prepared to accept that some people will simply not agree with you. No matter what you say or how you try to convince them, some people will honestly, of their own free will and with no malice, think that you are wrong. When that happens, please understand that we are not rejecting you. You have done nothing wrong. But we have heard your arguments, we have followed your logic, and we have not reached the same conclusions.

    And don’t be afraid. If you profess to trust in your God, then trust Him. Trust Him with the souls of your loved ones, trust that just because they’re walking a path you don’t recognize doesn’t mean that He’s forsaken them. Don’t expect Him to tell you all of His plans.

    8) and for the love of all that is holy, recognize that there is a time to STOP PUSHING! You cannot NAG someone to Christ, and really, how much would it be worth if you did?

    • Kristy

      …also, apparently if you type the number 8 and then follow it up with the symbol ) – it transforms into a smiley-face with sunglasses. Who knew?

    • http://www.summerland.org Chris Clement

      I’d say there’s a very important 9th point you missed.

      9) Contrary to what the media and advertisers would have you believe, FEAR does not sell! If you are trying to convert me to follow your loving God by convincing me I should FEAR his WRATH and FEAR my ultimate fate of burning in hell for all eternity if I don’t accept Christ….You are full of FAIL. Your message is supposed to be about LOVE NOT FEAR. If you are a “Real” follower of Christ, get with the program already. In true and perfect love, there is no room for fear.

    • CJ

      Wow! This is awesome and just what I needed to read. I’ve always had a hard time with the hard sell approach to evangelizing. I know building authentic relationships is most important in life and when I reflect on why I became a true Christ follower, it certainly didn’t happen after being forced or berated. It was a personal choice and experience with the Almighty that changed and continues to change me daily. Again, thanks for this well thought out advice!

  • Leia

    I would like to tell a couple of stories…

    When I was a child I went to a Christian Kindergarten – at the time this school was very small, and the church which ran it was also a very small organization. I loved God, and Jesus, and knew without a doubt in my head that they loved me.

    At 5 years old, in December, we were ushered into the music room for a very special message. Said the music teacher to the large class of preschoolers and kindergartners, “Do you know who Santa Clause really is?”

    I had suspected for some time, mostly on account of an older cousin telling me. I thought he was lying. The music teacher explained that my suspicion was correct; Santa was a figment of our 4-5 year old imaginations, and Jesus was the real reason for the season. We weren’t bad for having believed in Santa, but Jesus would be sad if we continued. Later in life, I realized how cruel that was of them to do to such young children; taking away one of those small, wonderful things without even telling the parents what they were doing. I told my parents years later; they were livid.

    That same church and school has gone on to become the most disgusting example of a corporation I have ever witnessed. They run commercials on TV, have giant advertisements around town, and a fleet of PT Cruisers emblazoned with their logo that go here and there. I’m told their minister often rides up to the podium on a motorcycle, or a race car, with smoke machines and live rock music. I hear nothing of them donating any of this excess money to the poor, or charity, or doing any community work around the city. It is appalling that such a rich non-profit gives nothing back.

    Another church I had visited as a child instilled me with fear. We were there to watch a puppet show, and after the puppet show they asked us to raise our hands if we had not been baptized. I raised mine and was taken to a back room with a woman I had never seen before, who told me that if I died right then I would go to hell. She then held my hands and said “we are going to pray really, really hard to God, that if you die on the bus on your way home you will be given a second chance.” I rode home on the bus terrified.

    Some Christians take their fervor all too seriously, taking it upon themselves to save those who don’t even need the saving. I no longer consider myself a Christian so much as spiritual because organized religion has just left such a poor taste in my mouth. When I tell someone that, they still find they need to save me, just because I don’t go to church. Please, Christians, think before you say something to a little kid about them going to hell or that the mythical person they believe in doesn’t exist, just because you feel God isn’t getting enough attention. You may be turning a Christian away just through fervor.

    That said, I have met many Christians who are good examples of what a stereotypical good Christian should be; gentle, tolerant, and loving of others despite their differences. These are some of the people I admire most, not because of their faith, but because they are just good people. I believe that good people will go to heaven, not just Christians, and not just because they are baptized and don’t believe in Santa Clause.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      What a very powerful story. Thanks for this. Leia. I’m going to share this on my fan page wall.

    • http://www.paradiserecovered.com Andie Redwine

      Because that is why Jesus came — to scare little kids.

      John, thanks for sharing this. And thank you for all that you do.

    • Christy

      I have an atheist friend whose children were invited to a local VBS by a young cousin of theirs. The cousin was relentless in her invitation for my friend’s children to come. Eventually, it became clear that the cousin was really only insistent on the children coming with her on the FIRST day of VBS. When my friend, the child’s aunt, pressed her why this was, she innocently told the fullness of truth:

      “For every person that I bring on the first day of Bible School who doesn’t know Jesus, we get a giant chocolate bar.”

      And so it goes….

      This is what a great commission focussed reward system of bejeweled gold crowns in heaven leads to: kids with quotas and commissions.

      Evangelicals: YOU ARE NOT A SALES TEAM. The good news involves building **relationships** with people, not balance sheets and herding people into stadiums to make sure they’ve HEARD about Jesus. It’s about TREATING people like Jesus taught us. When you get that figured out you will have done far more to advance the kingdom.

      • Kevin

        Well put!

  • Nate Meharg

    I guess you could say Im a christian but honestly I believe myself to be a follower of Jesus rather than a christian. Christian literally means christ like and I’m not. I try to be but Im only human. For the all the “non-christians” out there don’t let a couple of hyped up egotistical “Christians” get in your way of discovering the truth for yourself. The fact of the matters christians are people too. Also just because someone says they are a christian doesn’t mean they necessarily are, but I would encourage all you “non-christians” not to lump us all into one category. Its like me saying all non-christians are satan worshipers you are in fact saying we are all intolerant bigots. All the christians out there remember everyone has a choice. You job is to let people know of christ and jesus but not force them to choice, because if you force them to choice they are in fact not choicing they are getting bullied into it and you are doing them and yourself no favors and don’t judge them. Its not in our understanding to judge people for doing wrong or not choicing Christ. A lot of you say your sad as you read this post but we have osterized ourselves from the world so much no one wants to listen to us. So I guess what I am trying to say is it comes down to choice. The human flaw everyone would agree or gift depending on how you look at it. What sets us apart from other species. For us “christians” God gave us a choice don’t judge someone because they chose for themselves. I like to believe God has many names. And for the non christians I encourage you to read the bible and do some research yourself if you already haven’t don’t judge Christianity on the word of a few “Christians who probably don’t read the bible or study like they are suppose. Its sickening that people of other religions and beliefs collectiveally know the bible better than Christians do.

    • Madeline

      I know more non-Christians who are more Christ like than most Christians I’ve met. In fact I have only met 2 Christ like Christians. One of them is a dear friend of mine and the other is my step dad.

      I was raised in the church and my father is an Episcopal Priest and my step dad is a minister of the UCC. It was my step dad who encouraged my spiritual growth even though it led me “away” from his God and closer to my own. He still encourages me to grow and learn as much as I can about all walks of faith. He understands that not every one will find the “light” but every one deserves to be accepted and loved regardless of where they are on life’s journey. This is something I wish the rest of the world could learn and embrace, not just the Christians and members of the church (although there is still a good amount of Christians who need it too.)

  • Katherine Sinclair

    I just graduated from ACU in Abilene, TX and one of the greatest gifts from going to that school was the ability to hear Randy Harris preach/teach at least once a week, if not more (if you’ve never heard of him, he’s known as the only Church of Christ monk). One of the most important lessons I ever learned from him was this, “If you are not fully committed to the possibility of being converted yourself to another person’s belief system, then you should not try to convert them, because the scene at home with your parents when you tell them you are suddenly a Muslim (or whatever) is the same thing you are asking that other person to endure when they go home.” I paraphrase, but that’s the jist. He also believes in knowing and trusting someone, and vice versa, for a long long time before broaching that kind of subject. It IS very personal and I hope to be the kind of person who learns as much about other religions as I can, loves everyone, and doesn’t broach that subject (often) unless asked, or if I feel it would be okay with the other person. 21st century evangelism is not 1st century evangelism and I think people (i.e. fanatical evangelicals) need to realize that.

  • Lucas

    I myself am a Christian and it honestly hurts me to know that so many people have negative experiences with Christians. I am completely aware of the hypocrisy, judgement, and persecution within the Church, and it is heartbreaking. I really wish, and pray, that my fellow Christians would be more mindful of not just what they say and how they say it, but also of other people’s beliefs. They really need to put themselves in the other person’s shoes. But at the same time many nonbelievers don’t completely understand where Christians are coming from, and why exactly they are trying to convert them (and sadly some Christians don’t even know exactly why they are trying to convert). A lot of these negative experiences occur because the Christian isn’t even fully knowledgeable of what the heck they are saying! People in general just need to be more mindful and respectful -_-

    • DR

      Do more than wish and pray, Lucas. Start confronting it so non- Christians are protected from it.

      • Madeline

        Thank you.

    • DR

      And it’s not the non-Christians who need to understand why we are doing anything. We as Christians need to stop focusing on everyone understanding our intent and much more on changing our behavior in the world.

  • Marlene Lund

    I am a member of a large Presbyterian church on Seattle’s Eastside and have grown up as a Christian in a family that moved around a lot. The upshot of that is that I have attended many different kinds of churches, some with an evangelical fervor that completely turned me off, others that operated more from the perspective that God calls us to love one another. An example of the former was a youth group that had only one kind of “fun” activity–going to the mall or beach to “witness” to strangers. I was very uncomfortable with that, and was basically written off by the youth pastor, who saw me as not being willing to be part of the group. An example of the latter is the church I currently attend. Our pastor has preached several times from the pulpit that the way we should share our faith is by living and loving those around us. Then, if the subject of faith comes up, we ask questions and tell stories. Ask questions to understand the other person’s experiences and view point. And really listen!! If it seems appropriate to share at times, we can tell stories of times in our lives when we experienced God’s love and the reality of Christ. That’s it: no list of “souls saved,” no condemnation of others, no attempting to scare people into Heaven. It’s not our job to save souls. That’s God’s department if the person is seeking. It’s our job to be ambassadors of what the Bible has taught us Jesus wants us to do, and be willing to share our story if asked. Period.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Beautiful.

  • Madeline

    When I was thirteen I discovered the Dalai Lama, and from that point on (although not budist my self) I have tried to hold compassion for every living being on this planet. That includes bugs, people, plants, all life ( the only thing i exclude is bacteria that could hurt or kill me). I have learned first hand of the deep seeded hatred that dwells in some Christians hearts. My step mother is one of them. I was raised Christian and later found a path better suited for me. I don’t like to tell people I’m bi-sexual and pagan until after they got to know ME. That way the only person who changed, was them.

    I wish everyone of every walk of faith peace and love. I hope they find compassion and can display it to every single life form on this planet (and other’s if your so inclined). I hope that the human race can stop running from things like love, hope, and joy and start embracing them. What does it matter who I love or to whom I worship, when I try to be the best person I can be?

    • Rev, John Brown

      What does the Bible say about homosexuality? Does it condemn it as many of us have been led to believe? As a Christian pastor and Bible teacher for over forty years I have struggled with those two questions. Although raised in the Congregational faith I later became a member of the Church of Christ denomination, then became Pentecostal and finally about seven years ago an Episcopalian/Cathoolic which I still am today. I have known since I was twelve or there about that I was different and gay. Coming from a very strict evangelical conservative background homosexuality was not allowed. That was especially true for preachers. It was seen as the unpardonable sin, which could cause you to burn forever in hell. Therefore, I remained firmly in the closet. Believing homosexuality was wrong I did the traditional things dating women and becoming engaged to be married four times but never going through with it. In my first church where I was an associate pastor, I was fired and asked to leave upon suspicion I might be gay.

      Through the succeeding years I had a couple of gay relationships, which were broken up when the church learned about them. I had hands laid on me to cast out the “demon of homosexuality” and even was turned over a pastor’s knee to have the demon spanked out of me. Also had a belt used on me to drive the demon out. I fasted, prayed for deliverance and for God to change me, all to no avail. I even joined two different religious communities. I thought if I could be in a place where people loved God, wanted to serve Him and their fellow man, pray and study the Word that could be my path to freedom. That had mixed results. I couldn’t try anything within the community as that would have provoked uproar and got me kicked out. It didn’t however change my desires and I had a friend from outside the community I would see periodically for sex. I even underwent counseling to try and convince me I was not gay but a normal “guy” whatever that means. By this point my life was filled with guilt, and condemnation for not being what I thought God wanted me to be. I questioned why God apparently wasn’t hearing my prayers and answering them. I was trying to be something I was not because I knew no other way. I wanted to serve God more than anything else in the world and love Him with everything I had. Yet in this one area it seemed I was defeated over and over again. Satan had a strangle hold on me and wasn’t about to let go no matter what I did. Was Satan more powerful than God? It seemed that way. After all I had done everything my church said I needed to do to be free from this “sin” and hadn’t succeeded. I was told instead I was weak, immature, needed to love God more and read the Word and memorize it. I was told if I would just quote the Word to the devil verbatim whenever tempted, pray more for “deliverance”, have more faith, claim my deliverance and stand on it, I’d be free and Satan flee. I was told to avoid all contact with gay people lest they ensnare me into their lifestyle including my brother who was gay. That turned out to be a vicious merry – go – round of trying to do and be what everyone said I should be. I’d redouble my efforts to be free of my desires to only fail over and over again. There seemed to be no relief and no escape for me.

      Finally at a point of shear desperation I put down for a second all the teachings I had had on the subject of homosexuality. That included any preconceived ideas I may have had on the subject. I began to let God speak to me and was I feel led by Him to do a study on the subject of homosexuality from a biblical perspective. I expected it to confirm my worst nightmares and fears. I felt sure it would leave me feeling even more confused and condemned. Instead I was pleasantly surprised to find it very enlightening and not at all what I expected. For the first time I felt free and at peace. I found out God was not mad at me nor did he hate me for being gay. In fact, He had made me the way I am. God wasn’t condemning me but wanted to receive me with open arms into His family. He loved me even though I was gay. God also wanted to use me in ministry for His glory in spite of my being gay. In closing let me say Jesus loved everyone and rejected no one. His ministry was inclusve of all and I believe His church church today. Most importantly take another look at the scriptures and let God speak to you. Be opened minded to see another side of the issue.

      God Bless You

      Rev. John W. Brown

      • Craig

        It is wonderful to hear that you have come to peace with who you are. It is unfortunate that you had to go through all of the things that the church put you through merely for who you are. I am amazed that anybody can remain a member of an organization that would do that to them. I see gay evangelicals (and gay Republicans) and think that these people are deluded. There is no way that the groups to which they belong will ever fully accept them.

        Personally, I have never found any value in or need for religious superstition. I find no personal value to come from any god beliefs. Morality must be independent of religion in that in order for any of the major religions to be considered moral today one must ignore many of the writings in their big book of myths (the bible), such as stoning for adultery, or condoning of slavery just to name a couple.

        • DR

          Craig everyone decides the narratives they put weight down upon and invest in in order to move through life meaningfully. While I completely agree that Christians could learn a ton about morality with no eternal payoff attached from atheists, you reframing said faith as “superstition” doesn’t do anything but make your very valid points offered as punitive and argumentative . Don’t impose your beliefs about religion on someone else.

          • Diana A.

            Thank you, DR!

  • Kristen

    I’m a 21 year old bisexual Christian (and I use that word loosely) going to college and living with my parents. My dad told me to “Ignore your attractions to girls and focus on boys” and my sister went on to say “Being bisexual is not God’s plan for you! Do you know how much this hurts your family when you say you’re bisexual?!?!” and on and on. My mom has just stayed silent on the issue. In order for me to continue living with my family and for my parents to continue paying for my college, I am required to go to church every Sunday.

    I grew up in a fairly moderate Baptist church. To their credit, they were socially conscious in that one of their passions was sex slavery/trafficking, but they were still very conservative when it comes to evangelism – knocking on doors, VBS, etc. I was still very closeted while I was in the youth ministry there. They believe that LGBTQ people should be celibate, and, because I wanted to be a good Christian, I believed them too. I became very homophobic. I have a gay friend, and I would bring him to church with me in hopes that I could turn him straight.

    Most churches/Christians are well intentioned, but I wish they would know how much hurt and pain they cause.

    I hope all that made sense.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Sadly, it really, really did/does make sense. Thank you for sharing it.

      • Kristen

        Thanks, John. I have ADD/Asperger’s so sometimes I can’t organize my thoughts very well.

        • Mariah

          Kristen! My heart goes out to you. I understand, as a parent, that your parents are only going to pay for the roof over your head and your education if you follow the rules of their house, but also as a parent, I cannot imagine telling my children to ignore parts of themselves, to concentrate on the opposite gender (Shouldn’t Dad be encouraging you to concentrate primarily on your studies, not chasing relationships?), etc. Also, my son is also on the spectrum, also. He has PDD-NOS, with many Aspergers-like qualities, so you definitely struck a heart string for me.

          Oh, and how can any of us know for sure what is in God’s plan for us?! Does your sister fancy herself a prophet?

          I am glad to hear your family is doing good in the world, but I am sorry they are also doing you such a disservice. When I say I am praying for you & your family, it is so that you can all find harmony with you not having to deny who you are, and being comfortable with yourself and whomever you love.

  • Charlene

    What I would say to Christians (especially the type that try to convert everyone) is this: I have studied the Bible. I probably know more about what it says than you do (having graduated from a Baptist college and dated a Bible major). So my unbelief is not out of ignorance; it is an informed decision. Please respect it as such. Pray for me if you want, but don’t tell me about it. And I’ll do the same for you.

  • BiLLD Dishongh

    @Rev John W Brown. I am so moved by your story, and I have had to go get tissues to reply.

    I faced different challenges growing up in the 50′s in Arkansas. You see, I believed my Sunday School lessions. Imagine the conflict,

    * when Little Rock school district intergrated, and SBC opposed because the bible taught otherwise. *When the SBC leadership said that Kennedy was evil because he was catholic and not to vote for him. *When Dr King and thousands( including people of fatih) marched for justice in the 60′s and the SBC opposed all he stood for. Which meant they dismissed not only King, but Ghandi, Thoreau, and Jesus! *Now we come to Obama’s time and gender equality, Health care reform, and justice for immigrant familes, and freedom to worship and live without bigotry and hate for Muslim familes.

    I have given up on Christians looking to Jesus for leadership. I do not believe that they believe the sermon on the mount or that the the Beatitudes mean any thing to them. Thier witness does not indicate they even come close to understanding. If Jesus came back to earth today, he would not fellowship with Christians.

    I do not know where you have found your spiritual home, I trust your judgment. But if you find you need to search, may I suggest the Unitarian Universalists (my spiritual home) or the United Church of Christ. We are alike except for one thing, the diety of Jesus, I am sure you knew that. We both beilieve in the worth and dignity of each person and that we are all connected to the universsal web of existence. We welcome GLBT’s to worship and we also perform marriages, and we also have GLBT’s who wear the cloak and stole of ministry.

    Keep the faith, the real christians will win the day. The real christians are the ones that follow Jesus’ teachings. The fundamentalist, the literests, and the legalists do not follow the teachings of the greatest teacher, Jesus.

  • Nena

    I worked at a start up insurance company that was founded by Lutherans. At first they were nice and everything was pleasant. When they invited me to church and I declined telling them I was a Baha’i, they started to become very mean and vindictive. They would exclude me from everything. Eventually they fired me because of my faith. I was Christian at one point, but I was horridly abused at this Christian school I attended. I still have horrific flashbacks and PTSD moments if I ever step foot inside of a church or attend any Christian event. I still have nightmares from the abuse at that school and am very much afraid of most Christians.

    • Diana A.

      Wow. Discriminating against someone in the workplace because of her religion. That is seriously uncool. I’m sorry to hear that happened to you–not to mention the abuse at the Christian school you attended. Somehow, I don’t think Jesus approves of either of these abusive actions.

    • DR

      This isn’t legal (if you live in the USA). You could due them for this and you should.

    • Mariah

      I am so, so sorry this happened to you. I attend a Lutheran church (although it’s because I like my church, not because I define myself as any certain “kind” of Christian, other than perhaps a “liberal” one), and I am embarrassed to hear such a thing. It is, as someone else said, illegal to discriminate based on religious views. I just want to tell you how sorry I am this happened to you.

    • Lisa

      I have been in your position. I’ve been evicted, fired, and assaulted for not having the right belief structure. And I can honestly say I’m scared of most christians. I’ve extensively studied the book in question, and its clear that most of those preaching the loudest have never even looked sideways at it.

      • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

        Ugh this is so awful. I’m so sorry this happened, it’s crazy and it makes perfect sense that people are afraid (particularly in certain areas of the country).

  • Lois

    Having grown up in a conservative Baptist family, I still had the blessing of a father who was willing to question God and learned that it is by “their fruits” that we know others… Those who do good are good, those who do evil are evil.

    Fast forward to a long and happy (heterosexual) marriage to a former Bible major with a Master of ARts in Theological Studies — who saw the illogicity and down-right evil and misinformation coming out of traditional Christianity. Now unchurched (sort of) and after much soul searching, my personal conclusion about all of this is –

    all that we can know (in our finite minds) of the deity is that the defining characteristic is Love. Who loves not, knows not God. Any act of love is from the heart of God (or Goddess, I’m not particular -we are talking about something undefinable here). Any act that is NOT loving is SIN because it separates us from the divine.

    Love. that’s it. Not easy, but divine.

    • Diana A.

      Yes indeed!

    • Linda

      Amen!

    • Tiffany

      I totally agree. I, personally, am a former Southern Baptist “Christian” (I use that term loosely, because looking back at my life as that, I now see that my behavior of trying to convert non believers, being judgmental, and condemning people who didn’t believe in the same way I did was anything but Christ like), now converted Pagan/Wiccan. Since converting, my eyes have been opened to the beauty of all people and their ideals, rather than having my old tunnel vision. It is my personal belief that God/dess is nothing but PURE PERFECT LOVE….and that same deity should not have any characteristics of human nature, such as vengeance, wrath, hate, etc. It is from that Perfect Love that all things emerged…from the trees and rivers, to humanity itself (yes, even that horrible felon that is serving his time in jail is included in this…as are gays, lesbians, pro choicer’s, transgenders, child molesters, murderers, prostitutes, etc) and each has a purpose here on this plane of existence that only God/dess and or the individual knows…therefore, it is my conclusion that we should not judge others for we know not what their purpose here is…and it is also my conclusion that all will go back to the place from whence we came…no matter the choices we make in life, because in my faith (and my bf is a Gnostic Christian, so even in his faith) God/dess doesn’t create mistakes…

  • MindWarp

    I would seriously like to know what you all think of Romans 1:21- 27. In all simplicty and fairness, it does not sound like God “approves” of homosexuality. I am not being mean, I just wonder how you all see this. Why doesn’t anyone talk about this part of the Bible? What does it mean?

    • DR

      Who doesn’t talk about this part of the Bible? It’s all the rage within the Fundamentalist community.

      • MindWarp

        I don’t go to church any more, and I cannot stand religious talk, so I am not talking about that aspect. I mean, how do gays take that part of the Bible? Ignore it?

        • Amy

          A fair few liberal Christians do ignore much of what Paul says in his letters, because it’s difficult to know what does come from God and what is his own opinion. Personally, as a lesbian Christian, I read the ‘natural/unnatural’ relationships bit as an encouragement to be true to what I am. A relationship with a man would not be natural to me, and so I should not pursue one. There is another reading that says the passage describes pagan, orgiastic behaviour, not homosexuality in of itself.

          And ultimately, however you read it, that passage is then followed by an instruction not to condemn others on any grounds, so gay-bashers who base their arguments on it really don’t have a leg to stand on.

          • Dominic

            I’m not trying to be hateful here but I think you’re taking the Bible as more of a “Interpret it however you like” book which isn’t what most of it is. Gay bashers are indeed wrong but I still don’t think the Bible can be interpreted as saying do what you feel is natural. In that case the whole sin aspect would be completely useless and Jesus would’ve died for nothing. Sin feels totally natural, its what we want to do as humans. So saying that unnatural /natural is whatever feels right to you is right then just throw the Bible away.

          • Erica

            That’s not what she said. She said as a gay woman it would not be natural for her to have a sexual relationship with a man.

            I’ve seen some scholarship on that passage that looks at the Greek and comes to the same conclusion as Amy. I’ve read a lot of stuff on the Bible and homosexuality, and so much of it concludes ‘translations, basically, are wrong. An accurate translation of the NT should never use the word ‘homosexual’ because e concept as we know it now did not exist. Mostly Paul is talking about lasciviousness and no unconsentual sex.’ in a nut shell.

          • Diana A.

            This is true.

    • JT

      I’ve studied the Bible theologically and academically. I (not being a fundamentalist) see no problem in this. Romans was written by Paul, who authored a great deal of the New Testament, and I think a lot of his God-inspired message got confused with his cultural climate – which would have regarded homosexuality as an abomination. Paul also says a number of sexist things – like that women are made in the image of man (not the image of God) and he even calls women lesser than their male counterparts. But logically, Paul was a human. An imperfect human being like everyone else on this planet. No matter how inspired he was, he was bound to get some things wrong. Jesus never condemns homosexuality. He never even mentions it. He condemns lust, which homosexuals and heterosexuals are equally as likely to fall into.

      Hope this helps. :)

      • Jeff Neuman-Lee

        JT, I agree. A hard thing for us to learn is to look at other persons perspectives, to view how they are on their path and to love them for that. You have done this for Paul. In my estimation, it is the way we need to treat everyone, including the authors of the Bible. This means we also need to treat fundamentalists like this. It is hard for me to do that work, but it is the only way I understand Jesus’ universal love.

        I also know that some can’t understand what I just said and that some even hate me for it. But it is what I have to do, and how I read the Biblical message of Jesus.

    • Hannah

      If one reads the context surrounding the verses, Paul is condemning ritual sex performed for Pagan God’s and goddesses. Given that most non-progressive Christians see Paganism as a sinful path (worshipping false God’s and all that), of course Paul would see what these men and women were doing as a sin!

      They’re committing the sin of idolatry.

      (Disclaimer: I see all paths to the Divine as viable. I respect all religions.)

  • BC

    As one of Two Atheists in a small West Texas town, I have to be careful. If it gets out that I’m an Atheist I could be run out of town on a rail. However the Christians in this town feel it necessary to tell everyone in this town how pious and holy they are. On the side of one building there’s a sign that says “In God We Trust” Which was paid for by a local women’s group. I mean it’s their right to spend their money on what they want, but isn’t there a better use for that money then a divisive sign? How many hungry kids could have been fed? How many coats or pairs of shoes or bags of school supplies could have been bought? If I could tell Christians anything I wanted, I’d tell them that my rights to live on this earth are just as important as theirs and I would demand to be treated with the dignity and respect I deserve as a human being. But like I said, if I tried to demand my rights, that would be the surest way to have them trampled upon. If I could tell Christians anything I’d tell them that though they may think they own the earth, we all have to live here and try to get along. Trouble is, they don’t seem to want to get along with anybody. They only seem interested in getting their way.

  • Wendy

    I used to be an evangelical Christian, and I can tell you from experience that the emails above are spot on. Thank God I never behaved in the ways described, but I paid dearly for it. As hateful and mean (under the guise of trying to “save” people) as Christians can be towards non believers, they are much worse towards their own.

    • Hadrian

      yep.

  • Robert

    I was raised Catholic and as I matured I had less and less to do with the Church and then later on, with religion at all. To me the whole concept of belief in an invisible man in the sky who will punish us for behavior which He supposedly created us with. Then we go on to the entire Jesus myth which is nothing more than recycled stories of previous savior gods such as Woton; Dionysis and others from antiquity.

    If “GOD” has a message for the world then being “GOD” He should make one grand announcement that every ear will hear at the same time, in their own language leaving no room for interpretation, translation errors or other errors. I want NO human telling me what I need to do to live. I was born with reason and logic and as I said if “GOD” wants to “save me” then it will be “GOD” alone that will give me the message, NOT some human who is as “lost” as I am.

  • Cindy

    It’s not just non-Christians who get this kinds of treatment. If you’re not the right brand of Christian, Evangelicals can be just as eager to convert you.

    • Mariah

      Agreed!

    • Diana A.

      So true.

  • May

    I am a native from Fance but moved in Kansas about 2 years ago. I have to say that the biggest cultural shock I have felt comes from religion. In France, religion is considered as a very private matter. Nobody assumes that everybody has the same beliefs and we respect that. We never talk about it, it is just private. Once in Wichita, I was at the grocerie store. I was in the bread alley and a guy started to talk to me as he picked the same bread as I did. He was just telling a story that his wife liked that bread but he did not, etc. Just small talk. In the middle of nowhere, after 1 minute of talking about bread, he told me “hey, you should come to my church”. He was a pastor and had recently “opened” a church (funny concept to me to open a Church just like you open a store), that I would love his wife, and blablabla. What really bothered me that day was that 1. he assumed I was religious (which, I am not, I am atheist), 2. I was Christian, and from his denomination. 3. that I did not already have a church.

    It was just so random and ignorant of him to think that you can ask whatever stranger at the grocerie store to come to your church. I just hate how he assumed that I had to think and believe the same way he did.

    Now, I have met a lot of wonderful Christians, and we talk a lot about religion and beliefs. We confront all the things that make some people “hypochristians” and I have learned so much. It won’t change my beliefs, but, at least, I am aware of how different things are in the US and especially in the Bible Belt.

    People are so intense about religion that I am always really scared to tell them that I am atheist. I accept different beliefs and different ways of thinking, I wish some Christians were more open minded, especially when they preach acceptance at Church every Sunday…..

  • Christina

    My thoughts on religion were, as are many peoples, shaped by my environment as a child. I was the child of a career diplomat and was raised in different cultures. This gave me a broad view of ‘faith’

    As I’ve grown, these views have evolved.

    I have learned among other things, that in this western culture, particularly American, there is an level of social immaturity that is at about the adolescent stage.

    Many who call themselves Christian are simply not.

    The Bible of Christianity is an amorphous conglomeration of writings from different cultures and societies roughly stitched together in a rather self contradictory mess.

    The OT is a priest guide for a bronze age warrior tribe that written very specifically for their culture. The current versions don’t even contain the original mythologies they were derived from.

    The NT is the work of later men fr

    om completely different cultures trying to establish their own interpretations of something they simply couldn’t comprehend. Paul simply made up just own.

    In the end, I find it a meaningless book from a spiritual standpoint.

    Hence I find the efforts of many to use it as a validation for their arrogance and prejudice to loathsome.

    By and large.. my impression of many Christians is that they are more lost now then before.

    On the other hand. There are many who do indeed seek to find God in Love..as opposed to the prejudice and divisiveness seen in douches of the faith. I am in love with one such loving woman.

    • Christina

      I should add that I am not atheist. In modern interpretation I a pagan in that I do not subscribe to one if the five mainstream religions.

      I di however, believe that there’s is far more to the universe then we see..measure..or label. Because of this I do nit dismiss outright the idea if an entity far beyond our comprehension.

      Yet if this being exists..in what possible manner of arrogance can we..one lone race on one small planet I’m a sea of stars so vast as to be unfathomable..possibly believe that we are the singular creation of this being?

  • Linnea

    A couple of thoughts. One, I’d like to address the issue of that passage from Romans. If you go back about half a dozen verses or so and read from there, you’ll find that Paul is saying something very different. He’s actually saying that God makes people gay as punishment for not worshipping properly! I don’t think any of us would hold that as true for a minute.

    Number two, I’ve also faced my share of attempts to convert me, because I’m a liberal Christian and I don’t buy into the whole “you must believe that Christ died to save you from your sins” thing. I think it’s a pretty sick God that would send his son to be abused and murdered in order to “save” people. To quote a theologian I once heard, “Jesus died because of the sins of the world, not for the sins of the world.” There’s a big difference there! I get accused of “not really being a Christian” because of that. For the most part, I shrug it off.

    I experienced some abusive religion in high school and college, at the hands of other self-proclaimed Christians, and that’s why I’m now a very liberal Christian. As soon as I get even a whiff of that evangelical, fundamentalist crap, I want to run the other way.

    • Diana A.

      Me too!

  • http://awakeanddreaming.org Roshan

    It has been my experience that the more orthodox & obsessed a Christian, the more deceitful, hateful & out-right antagonistic he or she is. And that goes for Hindus & Muslims as well. Everytime one of the them finds out I am an atheist, it’s like Conversion Fest and I feel like I’m walking with a target on myself. The moderates are a much calmer and sensible people.

    • Diana A.

      Yes, this is true.

      • Audrey B.

        Absolutely true. I fall into the moderate category, and Fundamentalists out and out scare me…

  • i just wonder

    For those of you pondering Romans 1:21- 27 and how homosexuals view it – frankly, we view it as quaint. The Bible was written by men. Men who were trying to create and maintain health laws and did so in the guise of ‘the word of god’ because that’s what people did back then. They made it a law of god: Leviticus 18:1-30

    And the Lord spoke…

    It is as meaningless in this day and age as the laws against eating pork and shellfish, which are also in the bible: Leviticus 11:1-47

    Then there’s good old Timothy, the fashion police, forbidding women to braid their hair! 1 Timothy 2:9

    And the rules on farming are just plain silly: Leviticus 19:19

    What about all the so-called Christians who commit adultery? 1 Corinthians 6:9

    We also may as well bring back slavery because we all know that is A-OK with god… Leviticus 25:44-45

    Good Leviticus was really the whole ‘how to be good’ font of knowledge… speaking of font, he had serious issues with menses… Leviticus 20:18

    …I could go on and on, but here is the crux of the matter – if you’re going to remember the words of Romans for anything, remember it for this:

    Romans 14:1-23 says:

    The Law of Liberty

    “1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. 2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. 4 Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.

    5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written:

    “ As I live, says the LORD,

    Every knee shall bow to Me,

    And every tongue shall confess to God.”

    12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.

    The Law of Love

    14 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.

    19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. 21 It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. 22 Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.”

    In other words, if you’re truly living the laws of the lord your god, you will stop judging others, and you will be happy in yourself for embracing the rights of others to believe as they choose. It is up to your god to deal with what he perceives as sins, not you. If you believe your bible, he bloody well said so.

    • Diana A.

      Love this! Thank you!

  • Gerrie Rousseau

    Whether you believe Jesus Christ was the son of god, or not…his words are enlightening and not at all human-like. Organized religion led by men have distorted His words for their own benefit.

  • GreenWhatElse

    Fascinating however I have to ask whether any non-Christian commented upon a serious phenomena that perhaps the author did not feel comfortable reporting.

    One of the more telling aspects of Christianity and atheists is that when it comes to the pandemic rape of children by Christians, it is nearly always the burden of atheists to motivate and instigate criminal indictments, it is exceedingly rare for Christians in any position of authority to put child rapists in prison to WANT to put them in prison, it is nearly always atheists that take up the reins and drag the pedo through the courts and off to prison.

    This is another reason why atheists and even non-Christian theists look at Christianity and recognize it as arguably the world’s worse cult. Setting aside the bloody, evil, violent history of Christianity, what the religions’ leaders and followers do today continues to be at core abjectly evil.

    The message of the Jesus mythos can be easily discarded due to the shoddy ethics, horrific morals, and abject evil of what appears from the outside to be the majority of Christians.

    Then you must look at Christianic terrorism. You have to look at Christian terrorists such as General William G. Boykin and General Petraeus who expressed their desire to murder innocent brown people around the world SOLELY predicated upon their Christianic ideologies.

    Arguably Christianic terrorism is far worse than Islamic terrorism and Israeli terrorism. When it comes to body counts across the past 100 years, Christian terrorists have managed to achieve stunning numbers of dead victims the likes of which their Islamic terrorist colleagues would love to achieve.

    It’s no mystery why people who employ critical thinking and dispense with mental compartmentalization to suspend disbelief stay as far away from ALL cults regardless of brand name since when you step back and look at theism, what it stands for, what it does, what motivates belief in the gods, at core it’s all the same, and at core it is monstrously evil.

    No offense intended to anyone however this is truth.

    • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

      You’re right. Our collective church spends more time pointing the way to those of us who are the “good christians”and doing a lot of PR instead of aggressively, proactively cleaning up our own christian tent so you don’t have to. We do a terrible job of protecting the world from those who hide in our churches who often use those churches as a means of hurting women, their kids, gay men and women. Pedophilia, financial scams. It’s always the atheists who have to start protesting, generally with a ton of rabid defensiveness from the church.

      So from my perspective, you’re absolutely right. You should hold those of us accountable who *are* reasonable, who aren’t militant and caught up in whatever catches people up to cause them to not take action and ask us to take action so you can be left alone, so your kids are safe, your tax dollars pay for the values that you care about. It’s odd to me that Christians even think that most non-Christians want a relationship with us. Most of them want to be left entirely alone.

    • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

      That being said,

      It is intellectually dishonest to suggest that those with faith can’t also deploy critical thinking. That’s a myth that atheists often project onto people of faith and it’s wrong. I can see how many arrive at that conclusion but it’s inaccurate.

  • http://www.kristaenglish.com Krista

    Right off the bat let me disclose that I am a Christian, but hopefully not in the ways that you’ve experienced (you who have been socially offended or hurt by probably well-intentioned individuals.) I love God, and have experienced the peace that comes from studying the Bible and praying and experiencing God in my day-to-day reality. The difference between my life before and after receiving Jesus as my Lord and savior is PROFOUND and miraculous. I actually have a hard time relating to many who call themselves Christians because they don’t seem to have a deep walk or experience God in their own reality having lost focus on their own hearts. There are many of us who feel this way and we don’t come down on our non-Christian friends, but we don’t hide our true selves either. Since it is exciting to see God working in my life, I might share what’s been happening and attribute it to God b/c it truly is miraculous. My non-Christian friends aren’t offended. In fact they comment regularly at wanting more of that in their lives. I think the way you’ve been treated by “christians” who have made you feel excluded, not worthy, wrong, or whatever is unfortunate and not at all effective at showing love to others. Everyone has their own journey and I encourage you to continue seeking the Truth and living authentically. I live authentically myself and do my best to get to the nitty gritty of a relationship with a living God…to love Him and love my neighbor as myself (requires some self-forgiveness and love too – which I think is part of the “christian” problem of not showing love that they are not experiencing themselves!) That non-Christians around me are attracted to my joy, my unconditional love and the power of God in my life is wonderful, but their own journey is theirs and there is no coercion. May you all experience the true peace of Christ in your hearts and come to a place of forgiveness and empathy for those who’ve wronged you.

  • NurseKat

    All that I can say is that I am so glad that I am Episcopalian! I believe in Jesus, but I don’t think it is my duty to shove my beliefs down everyone else’s throat! I finally found a church that doesn’t witness, doesn’t believe non-Christians are going to hell, women can be clergy and staunchly supports gay rights. I resisted the Episcopalian church as I thought it was a full of white, upper-middle class elitists. (Um, that would be the Presbyterian Church lol) My priest is Latina and my congregation is wonderfully mixed. My church rents out it’s century old chapel to a Korean Evangelical group. I read in our newsletter that our priest told them that our church supports the LGBT community and that this group is to act accordingly. I was super proud to be part of my congregation after reading that.

    • M. J. David

      I am a ‘cradle’ Episcopalian. I am so very glad that you have found a welcoming church home with us. But, please know that we do witness. We believe that it is our duty to follow Christ, and to work, pray, and give for the spread of His kingdom. But we don’t interpret Christian witness as a direction to harangue others. Our method is even tougher – for us. We witness in how we live our daily life, how we perform our work, how we refine our ethical responses to what life presents us and try to behave accordingly, etc. We invite. And we invite people to think.

      I have grown up and have begun growing old as a member of the Episcopal church. We know that for now we are too limited to know all of the mind of God. We believe that one day we will have the opportunity to know better. That is humbling, yet wonderful. Until recently, the church was noted for civility and tolerance, perhaps because we know we have limited understanding. I hope we can remain an inviting, tolerant, and thoughtful church. Great to have you as part of the church family.

  • http://BearDrummer.WordPress.Com Bear

    This is what I have to tell witnessing Christians:

    Make sure you follow Jesus example on how to live closer than anyone you are witnessing to, or you just make a joke of yourself.

    In the Christian Bible, when one reads only the words and actions attributed directly to Him, Jesus taught loving kindness and acceptance of ones neighbors, regardless of differences in religious beliefs or sinfulness. He also taught reaching out and helping people regardless of these differences.

    Most of the non-Christians I know follow the ideals of Jesus, as stated BY Jesus much more closely than all but a small handfull of Christians. This makes any witnessing done by these so called Christians a push AWAY from Christ. Keep that in mind when witnessing.

  • Sybil

    I’ve always been deeply moved by the message of Jesus (which is remarkably similar to the messages of Rabbi Hillel, Mohamed, the Buddha, and other great teachers), but I’ve never been able to call myself a Christian because I’ve always been able to see the difference between Jesus’ universalist message of love and radical inclusion and the words and deeds of mainline churches who are quite clear that Jesus’ grace is only available to those who believe “JUST LIKE US, DAMNIT!”

    I have always been appalled at the dishonest tactics some “Christians” use to get people into their churches. When I was in college (lo these many, many moons ago) Campus Crusade for Christ (or a very similar group) had some kind of campaign going on that had their adherents following a very specific script –you’d be somewhere on or off campus quietly minding your own business studying, or talking to a friend and someone would come up and say “hey, aren’t you in my XYZ class with professor X?” — and of course the recipient(s) of this ‘friendly overture would say that he or she wasn’t in the class, and then the crusader would say something along the lines of “oh gosh, I guess I mistook you for someone else. Sorry. But hey, you know you might be interested in coming to our church services — they’re non-denominational and they’re really *radical*” — I had the EXACT same script used on me at least three times in a single semester, and other friends experienced the same thing.

    Similarly, our local mega-church apparently sponsored an inspirational speaker at our public high school — and admittedly he was quite good. He had a second ‘performance’ which included free pizza that one had to sign up to attend, which was not during school hours. Turns out that second talk was overtly (and offensively) religious, and those of us foolish enough to sign up to attend were then additionally called at home by the mega-church the next Saturday offering rides to their Sunday services, and asking very intrusive questions if you indicated that you weren’t interested — were you going to miss your own services? would another service work better? And Gods help you if you said you didn’t go to church, because then you’re going straight to hell.

    Now why on earth would anyone want to get involved with any religious group that relies on lies and deception to gain membership? Do they really think we’re that stupid? (Apparently, yes).

    I’m also exhausted by the persecution complex among evangelical Christians. They are free to practice their religion, and free to be as bigoted as they want within the confines of their homes and churches — but the idea that because they don’t get to impose their narrow views on the rest of us 24/7/365 that they’re somehow being singled out and persecuted for being Christians, and that somehow they’re the only ones who aren’t allowed to freely practice their faith is beyond ridiculous.

    Gandhi was spot-on when he said “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” Frankly, in my experience, most don’t even *try* to emulate Christ in any way, shape, or form — which is a pity, because I think we’d all get along much better if they did.

  • Peg Murphy

    It sounds as if yo have een hurt y some Christians, ut please don Believe that these people represent all of Christianity, There are many many Christian denominations. Some people in those denominations are hate filled and self righteous, but the vast majority are not.

    Most will not even mention their faith to you unless you bring it up. I believe in God and in Christian beliefs b ut am not in a mainline Church, Be careful not to condemn all good people in this faith, What you are hearing comes from extremist.s. Don’t apply what they say to everyone= For your own happiness, get your anger under control,it will serve you poorly. Find some openly gay adults to talk with Sure there ar cruel people in the world, ut they are not the majority

  • Mandy

    That is why I will never classify myself as “Christian.” Sure, I go to church and all, but I hear Christian and immediately think “HATES EVERYONE!!!!” That certainly is not me.

  • Abigail

    I like all the responses people have. I find it difficult to tell people I have Christian beliefs without being immediately pegged as an evangelical Christian. I wish people who are Christian would not be so judgemental and people who are not Christian would not be judgemental. It takes time to know a person. Very annoying that it’s human nature to jump to conclusions about others quickly. Likewise it’s the most annoying when an evangelical Christian assumes that we share the political view and views of creation because we are both “Christian” and the only way to be a “true Christian” is to be evangelical. For petes sake.

  • Joe Tarner

    “…In Judaism, we do not seek to convert people. That is because we accept that there are many paths to God, and believe that no one religion can lay sole claim to the truth or to God’s favor. Each person is free to find his or her own way. To Christians I would say: Practice your religion as you wish. There is no need to try and influence others. If your religion is a true one, people will come to it on their own.”– M.S., Honolulu”

    This is not even remotely accurate; any claim that Judaism is more tolerant than either Islam or Christianity is disingenuous. Not only do Jews consider themselves to be “chosen”, but many of them consider themselves to be superior to all other human beings, as well. This self-ascribed superiority is incorporated into its religious texts, just as is similarly done with Islam and Christianity. It’s also the reason for Jews’ use of the term “goyim” (or “goy”) in reference to non-Jews–which roughly translates to “cattle”. Any reader with an average I.Q. can accurately infer the context.

    Someone needs to better familiarize themselves with how his/her religion views non-members. “The Big 3″, as I call them, all consider themselves to be the “one true” religion, and greater than the others; were Christianity not largely beholden to Judaism–thus allowing its members to be used as tools–those two faiths would be at war, also.

    It’s pitiful commentary on the human race that in the year 2011, its members are still starting–and justifying–wars with the oft-unspoken, juvenile mantra of “my god is better than your god”. No, actually… it’s pathetic.

    • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

      What a lovely rant. Good to see those of you anti-Semites are still alive and kicking on the internet.

      • Schelli Starbuck

        I think Joe has a valid point that is based upon factual evidence and observation. Just because something doesn’t support the Jewish culture doesn’t make it anti-Semitic.

        • Alana

          It’s not based on any facts whatsoever. The word “goyim” means “nations” (singular “goy” – is used to refer to the Jews themselves in several places).

          “Chosen,” simply means “chosen to have to obey a bunch of very specific laws.” If you envy that, feel free to convert, but Judaism explicitly states, “The righteous of all nations have a share in the world to come.”

          I don’t deny that there are Jews who think themselves better than everyone else, but that’s hardly unique to one religion; believe me, the kind of people who fee that way, would feel that way no matter what religion they were. it’s certainly not taught by the texts of Judaism which require modesty in speech and behavior.

          • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

            Exactly.

        • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

          The perception that Jews have a “self-described superiority” is the root of anti-semitism.

    • Susan

      Now, is this person a “Christian”, or just ignorant on his own? Not one statement he makes is based on fact – but each one is a perfect distillation of all the lies and slander that float around the ‘net, and the collective conscience of bigots/know-nothings.

    • Craig

      This statement “…In Judaism, we do not seek to convert people,” is completely accurate. Judaism does NOT believe in proselytizing, even though there is a group of “Lubavitchers” who violate this principle. Whether or not you believe that Jews believe they are superior to christians, Judaism does not encourage or support trying to convert people, which seems to be the main goal of christians.

      Jews in Israel are NOT fighting to try to say that their god is better than other gods. They are fighting because those Jews who were displaced in WW-II were given land by the British which the indigenous people wanted completely to themselves, so they started a war to try to push all the Jews out. They weren’t satisfied with the land that they were given and now the remaining Palestinians are being used as a pawn by the rest of the Middle Eastern countries to try to destroy Israel. In fact, Israel is the ONLY country in the Middle East that tolerates any religion, including Islam.

  • Schelli Starbuck

    I’d like to add this to the list… Believers need to start by understanding that what they read and have faith in are exactly that, beliefs, and stop presenting their beliefs as fact, and quit trying to change the laws in this country to represent their belief systems.

  • Joe K.

    My standard response to evangelizing: I’m middle-aged. I have already heard, and seriously considered, everything you want to say to me. I have reached conclusions that I am comfortable with, and it would take as much of a miracle for me to be convinced otherwise as it would take to convince you to abandon _your_ faith.

    I respect your convictions. You owe mine the same respect. Proselytizing is inherently disrespectful.

  • Mike

    “Love the sinner, hate the sin”.

    It’s one thing if you’re talking about someone’s 10 year old B&E conviction or your teenager sneaking a few beers out of the fridge- But someone’s deep seated religious beliefs, or for gods’ sake their sexual preference, is a major part of WHO THEY ARE. You can’t just split that off to tell someone that you hate a major part of their individual identity, and then say you love them anyway. It’s like telling them you love them, you just hate their skin color.

  • W.A.

    If you attack people’s way of life….which may be due to their views on God/politics….they may attack you back since it challenges their whole way of life. Are they living in the right way? I think there is much ignorance about the news/politics/misinformation and more. God…people are taught from birth sometimes…so it feels like a part of them being attacked. Few people have read the whole Bible or know what it means/What God wants…but once they establish a view in life. They don’t want it dismantled except by them as they grow older…they may replace old ideas with new ideas. God is real…but few have experience him. I have prayers answered daily. I have to be careful for what I pray/think. Politicians are human…sin…fall short. God helps me daily. People can be loyal to a politican or party…but not have good reasons…just blindly follow it.

  • abracadabra

    I empathize with non-Christians — I have always thought these “witnessing” efforts are exercises in insanity but maybe that is because I grew up Catholic (not saying we’re innocent of this, we just aren’t trained for it and our conversion process doesn’t easily lend itself to converting the person you’re seated next to on a plane).

    I recently watched the documentary “Jesus Camp” and there is this young awkward girl who walks up to an adult stranger in a bowling alley and tells her that Jesus wants her to know he loves her. I can almost imagine having this much hubris as a 8-10 year old but I can definitely imagine the embarrassment I would feel as an adult about having done this as a child or about letting my own child do this. I was appalled when instead of reining the little girl in, the father praised her.

    How absurd is it to think that an encounter with a virtual stranger (or even an acquaintance) repeating well worn bromides will prompt you to upend your entire life as Christians are called to do! This isn’t selling ShamWows!

    • Ashley C

      “not saying we’re innocent of this, we just aren’t trained for it and our conversion process doesn’t easily lend itself to converting the person you’re seated next to on a plane”

      I have to tell you that this made me laugh out loud. It’s funny because it is SOOOO true.

      I have spent several plane rides with my earphones in long after my DVD player/discman/whatever went dead because the only thing worse than having the evangelical sitting next to me trying to convert me was for me to tell him/her I WAS a Christian and then spend the next 2 hours listening to them wax poetic on all the completely nonsensical truths that it is assumed ALL Christians agree with.

  • Molly

    This is a great list. I would like to also add that Christians don’t seem to genuinely understand that non-Christians don’t believe that the Bible is divinely inspired, and that therefor quoting Bible verses at them is entirely unconvincing. What do I care if not quite two thousand years ago, a man scholars later thought to be John wrote that the only way to God is through Jesus? Why should that matter to me more than what is written by Homer, or Muhammed, or Lao Tzu, or in the Vedas, or the I Ching? To non-Christians, the Bible is just another old book, not the first or the last, or the most important. If a person can’t think for themselves, and can’t think of reasons outside of “the Bible says so” or “there are lots of other Christians who believe like I do”, then they aren’t even interesting to talk to.

  • tempus_aeterna

    Just reading this and although it’s old, I thought I would share an experience from a few weeks ago. My friend and I were on a bus. She was clearly upset and nearly crying on the bus and I was trying to comfort her. There was a man on the bus who started to evangelize asking me what I did and then telling me about this “great” radio station that had programs that talked about that topic (for the record my career is in biology and said radio station is a conservative Christian station which spreads at best cherry-picked science and at worst out right lies about science). He didn’t say anything about the fact that I kept ignoring him to comfort my friend. He didn’t even stop talking when I turned away from him and to her. He just kept trying to get my attention.

    I didn’t say anything at the time because I was too wrapped up in what was going on with my friend, but I wish I would have turned to him and said “If you are truly preaching and evangelizing in the name of Jesus, you would realize that my friend is near tears and I am trying to comfort her. Maybe you would ask what was wrong. Maybe you would say that no matter what is going on you would pray for her and that things would get better. Maybe you would realize that something more important than telling me about a radio station was going on and say silent. But you wouldn’t be stopping me from comforting my friend.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/Tim.Gertsch Tim Gertsch via Facebook

    A lot of the things in those letters are the things that came between God and me for the longest time. Nobody ever took the time to just explain God and Jesus to me, they either condemned for being the sinner I was and considered me too far gone, or they just expressed every reason I wasn’t good enough and needed to change for. It was never presented through love, it was never said to me, “Tim, Jesus loves you, no matter what you’ve done, and he forgives you your sins.” Nothing like that was ever said to me. It took a long time for me to know what it was all about. But I was shown.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rosemarie.cereghino Rosemarie Cereghino via Facebook

    Yes,yes, and yes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Natalie-Jones/100001438912549 Natalie Jones via Facebook

    I’ve often wondered how these Christians would re-act if they knew that i’ve read a little Aleister Crowley and Anton LaVey in my time…I think i just got my answer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amber.bussard Amber Bussard via Facebook

    <3 love it,

  • http://www.facebook.com/kas.deddens Kas Deddens via Facebook

    None of us have the right to judge another. Christ asked that we love one another and lift one another up. No one is ever too far gone. Christ never gives up on us. We give up on ourselves.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    I know that my neighbor absuses his daughter. Should I not judge his actions? Are we not allowed to make moral judgements about behavior that we feel is in opposition to what is good and right?

    • karly

      you can know and understand that a persons actions are not for the greater good, but do not have to hate the person or label him as “evil” because of it.

  • Mary Withers via Facebook

    Sadly enough, I find that “Christians” most often roll out the “DO NOT JUDGE!” right after they’ve finished judging *you*, and you’re about to share *your* reaction with them.

    This was my biggest problem in my discussion with the Squished Rabbit Pastor and his Fangirls the other day. The Pastor agreed that what he’d done might have been over the top.

    None of the Fangirls did. They just kept repeating the gospel, increasingly stridently, despite the fact that most of the people complaining on the site were also Christian.

  • http://vmwishes.com Mike

    As a progressive Christian, I am always saddened when I read these types of articles. I’m not about to say the reactions are not justified, precisely because I agree with all of the comments. I am saddened because those of us who do strive to live a life that emulates the Christ, those of us who strive (and often fail) to live a life of UNCONDITIONAL love of all humanity (including all individuals), are painted with the same brush as those who use Christianity as a tool for elevating themselves over others.

    There is a wide diversity of Christians. While most, or at least the loudest, refuse to use the gray matter that holds their ears apart, or those orbs in the front of their face to see what is so evident, or to use those glasses holders on the sides of their heads to hear the voices around them, their exists many Christians that do not believe that the bible is a scientific text or infallible historical journalism, that do not believe that those who don’t share our views are on a fast track to hell, that do recognize the horrific actions that have been committed in the name of Christ.

    Please keep this in mind when making blanket statements about Christians as though we are all of one mind.

  • Vanda Law via Facebook

    This is too important a piece not to share.

  • Anthony Archer

    I would offer up that it’s our fault this is the overwhelming message non-Christians are getting. I believe the vast majority of Christians are loving, accepting people in the model of Jesus. Unfortunately, up till just about now, we’ve been a silent majority who complacently sat back and let the radicals amongst us highjack Christ’s message of tolerance, love, respect and humility. Not only has it offended many non-believers (my aethiest friends took quite a bit of convincing before they accepted I loved and respected them and their right to their own world view), but those same radicals drove off many Christians, such as myself. It wasn’t so much that I’m gay, as I reconciled my sexuality and faith many years ago, knowing God made me to be as He wanted me to be. Rather, it was the judgemental lack of love for others different from ourselves that caused me to walk away from the church. Now I rejoice because the majority is beginning to wake up and take back our faith. We have a long way to go and a huge responsibility to correct the damage that’s been done while we silently allowed it. How wonderful that we’ve begun to start!

  • Catherine Crawford via Facebook

    When I look at what I feel should be the modern role model of Christians in the world, I think of Fred Rogers. He was an ordained minister whose TV show Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, was never overtly Christian but gave out so much love to the children watching it. Think of it – if everyone behaved like Mister Rogers, telling those around them that they are loved and special just the way they are. Listening with respect and caring.

  • Aggie

    Hey all, I just got introduced to this website recently and have enjoyed it. John (and his fellow bloggers!) can be really funny and have some good ideas.

    I’m an agnostic but wanted to make a contribution anyway– I thought you might (hopefully?) appreciate a perspective from a total outsider.

    Not surprisingly, I favor progressive forms of Christianity so I’m on board with a lot of what is said here. What makes me sad to see is not only conservative Christians bashing on you all, but you all bashing on conservative Christians. (I had to take a break from the blog because of it.)

    I used to be a conservative Christian and I can say that many of the things that you all say about conservative Christians can be very true. For my participation in all that, I give a heartfelt apology. I should also note that I found it personally painful intellectually (and ethically if that makes sense) to be one. I had a lot of cognitive dissonance to say the least.

    I know that many of you have been horribly hurt by conservative Christians and some anger that comes out sometimes is perfectly understandable.

    In my experience though, insults and such only harden people and make it harder for them to come around. Smart and even kind people don’t always have the best ideas. Gandhi and MLK Jr are probably the best examples I know of treating people with complete respect even while being insulted– while at the same time still completely denouncing immoral ideas. I’d love to see even more of that impulse when I check in here. (I know, that’s a tough order to fill. I wish I was better at it myself…)

    And I hate to bring up this subject but I think I should– I don’t think that someone is necessarily a complete imbecile and miscreant if they think that certain passages in the Bible denounce homosexuality. Don’t get me wrong, I’m 100% on your side on the larger issue. I think that many conservative and traditional Christians have horribly hurt homosexuals by raising certain perceived rules over the law of love. I also think that some Christians have improved upon/expanded the best in the Bible by taking certain ethical strains and drawing them out. E.g., The OT institutionalized slavery, the NT allowed it, but slavery was fundamentally against the golden rule so many Christians worked to abolish it. Likewise, the OT denounced homosexual acts as an abomination (at least as far as I read it), the NT didn’t make much progress in this area (or at least didn’t help to clear this up as much as it could have), but you all are working to move the golden rule into this realm of Christian faith as well. So keep on!

    My father is a wonderful man and a Christian who has not seen the light on this yet. Perhaps he (and others like him) will some day change, I sure hope so! (I’ve been encouraged by the generational changes and think that it’s just a matter of time– hopefully the time will be short.) But I guarantee that if you called my father an idiot or implied that he was being intentially immoral he would have another hurdle to get over before he got on board with you. He’s a wonderful man, but human like everyone else. Some biases die hard.

    Thanks for reading. And thank you for many of the kind words you say towards unbelievers like myself. I really appreciate the inviting attitude!

  • Miriam

    Having been raised by fundamentalist born-again Christians who make Southern Baptist look liberal, I cannot express the angst that the mere mention of the subject raises in me. My Christian family and friends seem to think that because I no longer profess to believe what they believe that I have no beliefs and that I am a lost soul. I have person beliefs, ethics and a moral compass — just not one given to me by organized religion. I have more compassion than most of my Christian counterparts. I am more involved with my community and those in need than my Christian counterparts. I am not interested in having my beliefs legislated on others. I am not interested in judging who others love our how they manifest that love. If persons of faith want their faith respected, they must respect those of us who believe differently and walk a different path through life.

    • Aggie

      I hear you Miriam. I think that there is something that can kill one’s soul in fundamentalism. It’s a denial of the intellect and all-too-often push to call something bad that is good (freedom of conscience, loving homosexual relationships, etc.) and something good that is bad (Yahweh’s maniacal actions in the OT, believing it’s a virtue to profess something like inerrancy, etc.)

      Sounds you’ve found your soul at a high price– but fully worth it! (I think someone once said that it did no good to gain the whole world but lose your soul??) Best wishes, I hope your family follows suit.

  • Luke

    I was raised in a non-denominational home on a bible college campus with some severely legalistic views on the world. After growing up, getting out of the house, and seeing the world I left my faith and belief in their god behind. Now that I’ve “come out” so to speak as an atheist I’ve lost many friends, my family has all but disowned me, and any christian friends I still do have feel the need to “save” me whenever they can while at the same time apologizing in that patronizing way about how they’re “sorry that the events in my life forced me from my belief in the almighty” (direct quote). I long to meet a Christian I can respect, and who will return that respect.

    • Jill H

      Oh my. I guess I’ve been lucky– I’m avoided by my prior family of religious wingnuts like I’m contagious.

      I am sorry to hear that you, like me, have had to start all over again. From scratch. Rebuild whatever modicum of faith or belief or simply just trust that there’s something better than this hell of being rejected for being true to yourself. Then figure out how and who to trust, given the stellar experience of placing your trust in shall we say, some very lost people. It sucks.

      Luke, I don’t claim to know your experience, but I relate and understand where you’ve arrived. And, if you don’t know it just yet, it’s an quite awesome place. It’s where you get to find people– of all faiths, of no faith– who can love and respect you for you. Period. Nothing to prove, nothing to feel bad about. If you’re serious about meeting people to respect, you’ve come to the right place. Cheers!

  • Linda Burton via Facebook

    As a Christian , and a Mom of a son who isn’t. I have to tell you John. You are a relief for me, a light in my search to find likeminded others who feel as I do. I love everyone, I love my God, but I love you even if you don’t. it’s a trial in today’s society to find that, and I am so happy you are here to help us share this message. Thankyou.

  • Linda MB via Facebook

    As a Christian , and a Mom of a son who isn’t. I have to tell you John. You are a relief for me, a light in my search to find likeminded others who feel as I do. I love everyone, I love my God, but I love you even if you don’t. it’s a trial in today’s society to find that, and I am so happy you are here to help us share this message. Thankyou.

  • Linda MB via Facebook

    As a Christian , and a Mom of a son who isn’t. I have to tell you John. You are a relief for me, a light in my search to find likeminded others who feel as I do. I love everyone, I love my God, but I love you even if you don’t. it’s a trial in today’s society to find that, and I am so happy you are here to help us share this message. Thankyou.

  • Linda MB via Facebook

    As a Christian , and a Mom of a son who isn’t. I have to tell you John. You are a relief for me, a light in my search to find likeminded others who feel as I do. I love everyone, I love my God, but I love you even if you don’t. it’s a trial in today’s society to find that, and I am so happy you are here to help us share this message. Thankyou.

  • Robert Curlin via Facebook

    I stumbled across this book last week in a used book store–and finished it over morning coffee in 2 days. My book review in just 2 words: EXCELLENT READ!

  • Robert Curlin via Facebook

    I stumbled across this book last week in a used book store–and finished it over morning coffee in 2 days. My book review in just 2 words: EXCELLENT READ!

  • Robert Curlin via Facebook

    I stumbled across this book last week in a used book store–and finished it over morning coffee in 2 days. My book review in just 2 words: EXCELLENT READ!

  • Robert Curlin via Facebook

    I stumbled across this book last week in a used book store–and finished it over morning coffee in 2 days. My book review in just 2 words: EXCELLENT READ!

  • Harvey Summers

    I’m agnostic. I’m tired of being lumped in with the atheists. I’m sick of the pity and the presumption that they are somehow a more moral person, a better person, and live a more fulfilled life. And most of all, I’m sick of being told how to live by people that can quote, but who clearly haven’t read and do not understand the Bible or the words of Christ. I have a minor in religion from a real religious school and had some great teachers. I watch these people violate their first commandment by putting their narrow-minded beliefs in the mouth of their god, unaware of their ignorance and hypocracy and holier-than-thou attitude. Even worse, they stand by while vile men hijack their religion and nail a new and improved Jeezus(tm) to the cross, a new savior who loves guns and the rich and despises the poor and minorities. And they think I should look to them for salvation! Luckily I know a few who know the true meaning of their religion and prove that it is possible to be a Christian without being an arrogant, ignorant fool. I wish their we’re more.

    • Jill H

      yes. yes. yes.

  • Linnea

    As a liberal Christian, I can relate to this as well. I can’t tell you how often I run into fundies who consider me a “false” Christian because I don’t believe every word of the Bible is true, or don’t believe that gay people are going to hell because of the way they are, or because I refuse to believe that we are inherently sinful, awful people who are going straight to hell unless we believe Jesus literally died for our sins.

    The last one is the most important to me: I’m prone to depression (due to family history) and I battled self-esteem issues off and on for a long time, and was nearly driven to suicide. I now believe that a good part of the reason for that is that nasty little message in fundamentalist Christianity which says, “You’re really *not* an OK person, and unless you trust Jesus to save you from your sins, you’re headed straight for hell. Oh, and by the way, you really *should* believe the Bible is inerrant, etc., or you’re not *really * saved and therefore still in danger of eternal punishment.” *That’s* what fundamentalism says, IMO.

    • Jill H

      So true, and it’s not just your opinion, Linnea. It’s had that subjugating effect on enough people already, caused enough hurt, broken families, psychological damage that it must cease. And I have hope that it is.

  • Gina

    I guess I’m agnostic, I don’t know. I was raised Catholic and would probably still be it, except that the catholic church denies me birth control or financial assistance in raising all the children it insists that I give birth to. I’ll continue to live by the golden rule on my own and love God in my heart and let others live how they choose. What’s so hard to understand about loving one another and helping out those less fortunate?

  • Tricia MamaCougar Mitchell via Facebook

    You already know my veiws on this subject John, but lately my veiws against any form of christianity have been reinforced by my wife’s and my daughter getting suspended from her christian school because she supported our right to hold hands in public. They even had a sherriff’s deputy in the suspension meeting and filed a harrassment and menacing report against her! We have since enrolled her in public school, and she’s alot happier but she says she will never go back to that church or school ever again. Its bad enough when christians use scare tactics against adults but when they use those same tactics against kids something is definitely wrong!

  • Tricia MamaCougar Mitchell via Facebook

    You already know my veiws on this subject John, but lately my veiws against any form of christianity have been reinforced by my wife’s and my daughter getting suspended from her christian school because she supported our right to hold hands in public. They even had a sherriff’s deputy in the suspension meeting and filed a harrassment and menacing report against her! We have since enrolled her in public school, and she’s alot happier but she says she will never go back to that church or school ever again. Its bad enough when christians use scare tactics against adults but when they use those same tactics against kids something is definitely wrong!

  • Tricia MamaCougar Mitchell via Facebook

    You already know my veiws on this subject John, but lately my veiws against any form of christianity have been reinforced by my wife’s and my daughter getting suspended from her christian school because she supported our right to hold hands in public. They even had a sherriff’s deputy in the suspension meeting and filed a harrassment and menacing report against her! We have since enrolled her in public school, and she’s alot happier but she says she will never go back to that church or school ever again. Its bad enough when christians use scare tactics against adults but when they use those same tactics against kids something is definitely wrong!

  • Tricia

    You already know my veiws on this subject John, but lately my veiws against any form of christianity have been reinforced by my wife’s and my daughter getting suspended from her christian school because she supported our right to hold hands in public. They even had a sherriff’s deputy in the suspension meeting and filed a harrassment and menacing report against her! We have since enrolled her in public school, and she’s alot happier but she says she will never go back to that church or school ever again. Its bad enough when christians use scare tactics against adults but when they use those same tactics against kids something is definitely wrong!

    • Alex

      Tricia, I want to apologize for the way you and your family have been treated by Christians. I am sad that you view Christians in this way, but I can’t say that I blame you one bit. I just want you to know that there are those of us who abhor this behavior and believe it goes against the core of Jesus’ message.

      • Tricia

        Thanks Alex for understanding, and please know I dont hold any animosity for people who believe, but when they use that belief to essentially bully people into submission, then yes I have a problem with that. Especially when they use that type of bullying against our daughter. She has supported us ever since I came out to her and met my wife and I just cant understand why a 13 year old has more true love and acceptance than adults who should set the example.

  • http://www.facebook.com/loretta.s.halliday Loretta Schmidt Halliday via Facebook

    Your “right to hold hands in public”……….?????? SERIOUSLY???
    I had my kids in Christian schools as well, but always had to pull them out because of some wacko school policy that was offensive and arbitrary. They all wound up in public schools and did much better.
    But I’ve NEVER heard that one……

    • Tricia

      Loretta, You have to know where I live, a very conservative, christian town. This church/school has very definite veiws against homosexuality and believe only in the “traditional, biblical” definition of marriage and family. That includes our daughter. I even had one lady from there tell me that I wasnt raising our daughter “right” and that WE (my wife and I) were exposing her to a sinful lifestyle. Our daughter stood up to her though and told her that we were raising her just fine. She’s stood up for us every step of the way and this last incident was no different except it was HER in the crosshairs and not my wife and I. The pastor saw us hold hands and said it offended him and god and told us that if we did it again we would “go down another road”. I guess that road was our daughter. :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/loretta.s.halliday Loretta Schmidt Halliday via Facebook

    Your “right to hold hands in public”……….?????? SERIOUSLY???
    I had my kids in Christian schools as well, but always had to pull them out because of some wacko school policy that was offensive and arbitrary. They all wound up in public schools and did much better.
    But I’ve NEVER heard that one……

  • http://www.facebook.com/loretta.s.halliday Loretta Schmidt Halliday via Facebook

    Your “right to hold hands in public”……….?????? SERIOUSLY???
    I had my kids in Christian schools as well, but always had to pull them out because of some wacko school policy that was offensive and arbitrary. They all wound up in public schools and did much better.
    But I’ve NEVER heard that one……

  • http://www.facebook.com/loretta.s.halliday Loretta Schmidt Halliday via Facebook

    Your “right to hold hands in public”……….?????? SERIOUSLY???
    I had my kids in Christian schools as well, but always had to pull them out because of some wacko school policy that was offensive and arbitrary. They all wound up in public schools and did much better.
    But I’ve NEVER heard that one……

  • Scott

    JSW from Philadelphia could be telling my story. I’m also a once-fervent Christian who has since simply outgrown it.

  • Eireann

    M.S. In Honolulu could be telling my story too, just change “Judaism” for Wicca.

  • Sunstorm

    May I just say 4 things, as a Christian:

    1) Just because someone doesn’t announce that they are a Christian, doesn’t mean they aren’t one. It’s not like we all wear ID badges. I’d be willing to bet that all those people who complain about Christians doing one thing or the other have had good done unto then by Christians, just not realised it.

    2) People talk about Christians being bigoted, judgemental, etc as if they are the only ones. In my experience, the most hateful rhetoric is often aimed AT, not from believers. I’ve seen many people being ‘judged’ for things that have nothing to do with religious beliefs of acts.

    3) Every group has pushy, self-righteous, fanatics. Every religion, every non-religious ideology. I have a friend of a friend who manages to start going on about gay rights at every party/get together without fail (she’s straight for the record), when everyone else is talking about the usual non-controversial stuff. If she was talking about Jesus like that, she’d be branded a nut.

    4) There is more than one denomination, and then you have hypocrites, and people who call themselves Christian but define it how it suits them. Add this to the basic idea that nobody is perfect (in Biblical venacular, we’re all sinners), it’s very easy to pick one Christian ‘approach’ and tar everyone with the same brush to ‘prove’ a point.

    My point is, all the things Christians get accused of, that others ‘want them to hear’ can be applied to any and every group on the planet to some extent. Too often though, some get a free pass, some don’t.

    • Lymis

      I think you must be new here. The vast majority of the people who post here identify as Christians. You’re not telling us anything we don’t know.

      On the other hand, if someone says that they are Christian, then pointing it out when they appear to completely ignore the commandments to love their neighbor, to not judge, to pray in private, and to treat others as they would be treated isn’t out of bounds.

      Atheists, agnostics and non-Christians have moral codes, too, but when someone trumpets how much better their moral code is than anyone else’s and that it therefore justifies their condemnation of anyone else (including, but not limited to, passing laws and rewriting constitutions specifically to discriminate against them), then yeah, they’ve pretty much opened themselves up for a well-deserved shellacking.

      No, not all Christians are like that. But unless you’ve been on the receiving end of organized Christian bigotry, you really aren’t in a position to tell non-Christians how they are supposed to feel about Christians.

      You’ll note John didn’t ever say that all Christians are like this. But a depressingly large number of them do. Do you spend as much effort telling them to stop doing it as you tell their victims to shut up and put up with it?


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