Why I Hate Jesus

Editor’s Note: Wow! Those former fundamentalist preachers sure can let loose when it comes to rejecting the Heavenly King they once worshipped. This is reposted with permission and with minor editing and condensing.

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By Bruce Gerencser

I don’t hate the flesh and blood Jesus who walked the dusty roads of Palestine, nor do I hate the Jesus found in the pages of the Bible. These Jesuses are relics of the past. I’ll leave it to historians to argue and debate whether these Jesuses were real or fiction. Over the centuries, Christians have created many Jesuses in their own image. This is the essence of Christianity, an ever-evolving religion bearing little resemblance to what it was even a century ago.

Jesus composite

The Jesus I hate is the modern, Western Jesus, the American Jesus, the Jesus who has been a part of my life for almost fifty-eight years. The Jesuses of bygone eras have no power to harm me, but the modern Jesus – the Jesus of the 300,000 Christian churches that populate every community in America – he has the power to affect my life, hurt my family and destroy my country.  And I hate him with a vengeance.

Jesus the Consolator

Over the years, I have had a number of people write me about how the modern Jesus was ruining their marriage. In many instances, the married couple started out as believers, and somewhere along way, one of them stops believing. The still-believing spouse can’t or won’t understand why the other spouse no longer believes. They make it clear that Jesus is still very important to them and if forced to choose between their spouse and family, they would choose Jesus. Simply put, they love Jesus more than they love their families.

Sadly, these types of marriages usually fail. A spouse simply cannot compete with Jesus. He is the perfect lover and BFF. This Jesus hears the prayers of the believing spouse and answers them. This Jesus says, “You must choose me or your spouse.” It is this Jesus I hate.

This Jesus cares nothing for the poor, the hungry or the sick, has no interest in poor immigrants or unwed mothers. He cares more for Tim Tebow than he does a starving girl in Ethiopia and more about who wins a Grammy than he does about people in poverty-stricken Africa having food and clean water. It is this Jesus I hate.

This Jesus is on the side of the culture warriors. This Jesus hates homosexuals and demands they be treated as second-class citizens. This Jesus, no matter the circumstance, demands that a woman carry her fetus to term. It it the child of a rapist, afflicted with a serious birth defect, the product of incest or a one-night stand?  It matters not. This Jesus is pro-life. Yet, this same Jesus supports the incarceration of poor young men of color, often for no other crime than trying to survive. It is this Jesus I hate.

This Jesus’s earthly representatives often drive fancy cars, have palaces and cathedrals and followers who spare no expense to make his house the best mansion in town. This Jesus loves Rolexes, Lear jets and expensive suits. This Jesus sees the multitude and turns his back on them, only concerned with those who say and believe “the right things.” It is this Jesus I hate.

He owns condominiums constructed just for those who believe in him. When they die, he gives them the keys. But, for the rest of humanity this Jesus says, “No keys for you. I have a special Hitler-like plan for you. To the ovens you go, only unlike Jews in the Second World War, who were incinerated, I plan to give you a special body that allows me to torture you with fire and brimstone forever.”

It is this Jesus who looks at Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Atheists, Agnostics, Deists, Universalists, Secularists, Humanists and Skeptics and says to them,

“Before you were born I made sure you could never be in the group that gets the condominiums when they die, and it is your fault, sinner man.”

It is this Jesus who lets billions of people be born into cultures that worship other Gods and then says it is their fault they’re born at the wrong place and at the wrong time. This Jesus says,

“Too bad. Burn forever in the Lake of Fire.”

He divides families, friends, communities and nations. He is all about money, power and control. He subjugates women and ignores the cry of orphans. Everywhere one looks, this Jesus hurts, afflicts and kills those we love. It is this Jesus I hate.

What I can’t understand is why anyone loves this Jesus? Like a clown on a parade route, he throws a few candies towards those who worship him, promising them that a huge pile of candy awaits them when they die. He lets his followers hunger, thirst, and die, yet he tells them it is for their good, that he loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life. This Jesus is all talk, promising the moon and delivering a piece of gravel. Why can’t his followers see this?

He tells his followers:

“Fear me. I have the keys to life and death. I have the power to make you happy and I have the power to destroy your life. I have the power to take your children, health and livelihood. I can do these things because I am the biggest, baddest Jesus ever. Fear me and oppress women, immigrants, orphans, homosexuals and atheists. Refuse my demand and I will rain my judgment down upon your head. But, know that I love you and only want is best for you and yours.”

It is this Jesus I hate.

Perhaps there is a Jesus somewhere that I could respect, a Jesus who might merit my devotion. For now, all I see is a Jesus who is worthy of derision, mockery and hate. Yes, hate. When the Jesus who genuinely loves humanity and cares for the least of these shows up, let me know. In the meantime, I hate Jesus.

======================

bruce gerencser 2015-002Bio: Bruce Gerencser lives in rural NW Ohio with his wife of 37 years. He and his wife have 6 grown children and 10 grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for 25 years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. He left the ministry in 2005 and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. He is also one of the original members of The Clergy Project, which began in 2011.

>>photo credits: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27127270

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Christ_The_Consolator.jpg#/media/File:Christ_The_Consolator.jpg

 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • carolyntclark

    Well said Bruce. It seems this more judgemental Jesus is growing rapidly.
    He is particularly obsessed with the human pelvis. The old “what would Jesus do” question, seems to have been answered… social condemnation.

    His supposed words are ubiquitous, on bumper stickers, in-mega-churches, political speeches, TV Evangelism, even in Congress, where there is a movement toward a theocracy. In the SCOTUS the Bible is challenging the Constitution.

    .

  • Art_Vandelay

    I’m no theologian but that stuff about condemning the apostates to eternal torture…didn’t that come from Bible Jesus? I mean sure, it’s probably communicated as ambiguously as possible leaving it to be interpreted how anyone wants just like everything else, but I’m almost certain that this idea that heaven and hell are in the balance based on what you believe is prevalent with Jesus, Paul, certainly Revelations. The West didn’t invent that.

  • Warren McIntosh

    “It is this Jesus I hate”

    Nah. This is just another example of letting the real guilty parties off the hook, and is a dangerous vehicle for bigotry against the innocent (i.e. modern Christians who DONT do/believe those things). Individuals, not their particular ‘Jesus’ are the one’s guilty of all the things you complain off. Pretending its ‘Jesus’ fault just lets them get away with it.
    You should hate the people who use Jesus’ legacy for their own ends in those ways. Christians, in common with all groups, are not the Borg – convenient though it is for both sides to pretend otherwise.

  • Robert Templeton

    This Jesus says, “You must choose me or your spouse.”

    Unfortunately, this new Jesus is the old Jesus in this situation:

    “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26

    Even more unfortunate is that this new Jesus is a mish-mosh of puritanical O.T. rules sewn together with the more precocious statements associated directly with the old Jesus and some new hem from modern-era Manifest Destiny (Puritanical Fundamentalist v2.0).

    I am currently looking for a good image with Jesus wearing an Italian suite, smoking a Cuban, carrying a flag and M-16, while crushing those unbelievers under his cowboy boots.

  • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

    This post isn’t about the Jesus of the Bible as much as it is about how Christians shape and fashion him into their own images. All Christians pick and choose which Bible verses to believe. These verses are then shaped to fit particular theological, sociological, political and economic beliefs. I don’t hate Jesus as a person. That would be silly. He’s dead, so there’s no reason for me to hate him. However, he has been resurrected from the dead, and it is this Jesus I hate.

    • Rex Jamesson

      When I was a kid I used to love those mylar overlays on almost everything: the human body, world geography, you name it. You have a base image on the bottom, and layer after layer it transforms and changes. The bible is like that: it is so inconsistent and so easily retranslated and changed, that basically what REALLY happens is that Christians put their own beliefs and values on the overlays, “hiding” or retranslating the verses that don’t work, and highlighting the ones that do. And voila! We have proof that our own little biases are correct, and proven by the Infallible-Word-Of-God (TM)! The most sinister thing about this is that the players of this mylar overlay game don’t even realize they’re doing it! The “hippie Jesus” of the 60s and 70s? He was the REAL Jesus. The everybody-hating Jesus of Westboro Baptist? Yep, HE is the REAL Jesus… and on and on…

      Sadly, the one thing I have to disagree with you on, Bruce, is that I kinda hate the Jesus of the Bible, too – because beyond the disgusting one that people make for themselves, when you allow the Jesus of the Bible to speak for himself without reinterpretation, you do see a nasty hell of infinite torment; a ruler who wants those who won’t submit to be brought to his feet and killed in his sight; a bigot who won’t heal outside his Jewish home unless they grovel and he can tell them every reason they’re not right with god.

      • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

        Oh, I agree with you about the Jesus of the Bible. I spend a lot of time talking about him on my blog. That said, I don’t know of any Christians who actually believes in the Jesus of the Bible. They might tell me that they do, but upon careful examination what I always find is a selective, cafeteria approach to the Jesus of the Bible. Fundamentalists and Liberals alike are quite selective about which verses apply to their Jesus. God (Jesus) is love? Really, explain that in light of the murderous violence found in the book of Revelation. Jesus was the perfect gentleman? Explain his disrespectful words to his mother at the wedding of Cana, his angry cleansing of the temple, or the fact his family thought he was crazy and wanted him to take his traveling miracle show elsewhere.

        There are many Jesuses in the NT, along with Jesuses found nowhere in the Bible. He’s a chameleon. Jesus can be anyone Christians want him to be. This post in particular is about the Jesus fashioned and forged on the anvil of the culture war. This Jesus, to some degree, was birthed by Jerry Falwell in the late 1970s.

        • Elizabeth.

          Thanks, Bruce! I was interested a few posts back in “Crossan’s Razor” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-8r8rxboUo — he hangs everything on Jesus being crucified under Pontius Pilate, which demonstrates that historically Jesus had to have been a non-violent resister to oppression (a dangerous enough enemy to waste soldiers & nails on, but nonviolent else all the followers would have been executed with him)…. Crossan’s razor then shaves off everything in the NT that doesn’t jibe with that. Appealing! He sees as probably historical too a gift for healing (like a shaman), and a radical sharing of resources, especially meals (“The Historical Jesus”).

          I agree with you about the culture war Jesus. Appalling.

          I’m sure you’ve read Borg (Marcus, not “the”!) and Sojourners, etc… do you not mention them because they are so totally overshouted by the hard right?

          • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

            Elizabeth,

            I tend to focus on Evangelicalism since that’s the religion that dominated my life for 50 years. Occasionally, I will critique liberal/progressive Christianity, but most of my writing focuses on that which I am most familiar.

            I find liberal/progressive Christianity to be quite frustrating. Their beliefs are often reductionist or so soft that it is often impossible to determine exactly what they belief. I’ve concluded that many liberal/progressive Christians are atheists who like to go to church.

          • Elizabeth.

            I think you’re on to something! Many thanks!!

          • Linda_LaScola

            Atheists who like to go to church but don’t identify with the word “atheist.”

          • lizzysimplymagic

            That conclusion is as imaginary as the Jesus you hate, but hey, we all have our illusions. 😉

            I wasn’t raised in any church, and when I started attending it was after I started researching the Bible and studying history. I became a liberal Christian relatively freely (obviously, no choice is entirely without biases and external forces paving the way), and with considerable reflection. Your critique of the fuzziness of progressives is valid often enough, but there are plenty of times when nuance is dismissed out of hand because it’s not something you can put on a bumper sticker (or a meme, for the kids today).

            Personally, I find it frustrating that so many atheists read the bible the same way fundamentalists do – literally, selectively, and with little context. Reading it that way already includes all kinds of assumptions, biases, and reductionism, which gets conveniently swept under the rug by declaring, “the text speaks for itself!”… which simply isn’t true (unless you’re actually talking about an audio book, ha ha). The texts – and Jesus – speak through us, for better or worse. It isn’t neat. It isn’t simple. I totally get (and often envy) those who walk away from the mess, but I’m happier in it. And my agnostic partner of over a decade doesn’t mind sharing me with Jesus. 😉

          • Linda_LaScola

            If you’re happier in liberal Christianity, fine. I know liberal Christians who have similar feelings based on similar thought processes.

            But in the process of explaining and defending your beliefs, don’t presume that atheists are coming to their non-belief by reducing their thinking to bumper sticker material or by not reading the Bible properly (i.e., the way you read it).

          • lizzysimplymagic

            I of course do not believe that people who ultimately reject the Bible are all simply reading it wrong, or all athiests read it in a reductive way. The author of the article (and the comment I responded to) vented some frustrations and I did the same. Atheists are not a homogenous group, and are as varied in their rationales and world views as any other group, and I’m sorry if my grumbling implied otherwise.

            I also tend to think “atheist” means something more than merely “someone who doesn’t believe in Evangelical Jesus”. I don’t doubt that there are atheists in church (I know a few!) but it’s a callous and dismissive remark to say liberal Christians = athiests… and I actually hear that sentiment more often than not from fundamentalist Christians.

          • Elizabeth.

            Me too, lizmagic. Very close relatives considered me outside christianity when after decades of no official church membership I joined a peace & justice congregation. Sort of funny to think how ‘liberal christians’ are one issue fundamentalists and atheists can sometimes agree on : )

            I’m interested… how do you decide which of the many conflicting statements attributed to Jesus in the gospels to affirm?

          • lizzysimplymagic

            I don’t have a quick or simple answer for you, in part because that’s something I’m still sorting out :) and I don’t know if it’s something I could explain or even justify rationally.

            Disclaimers aside… I read a lot, I have regular conversations (with Christians and non Christians… it’s difficult to find a westerner with no opinion of Jesus), and I try not to let my head go soft or my heart get hard. I ask a LOT of questions, and I’m lucky enough to have access to a number of really smart people to launch them at! I also ask myself certain questions, such as, “how are my beliefs affecting my actions?” and, “are my my actions harmful?” (or in other words, “am I being an asshole right now?”). I don’t always get it right, but I keep trying.

            For whatever reason, be it culture, coincidence, or character flaw, following Christ works for me. Christianity, as I see and experience it (which probably some would find irredeemably heretical), allows me to be more just because it helps me bear the heartbreak that comes with witnessing injustice. It helps me to forgive even when I really would rather not and even when the person doesn’t “deserve” forgiveness, and even when that awful, no good somebody is me. It helps me to share space and air and time and words and dinner tables with all the wrong people, people I’m told I shouldn’t want to associate with… people on the edges, people it would be so easy to write off, people I have NOTHING in common with!

            Except, I do. We as a species share a great many needs, and Jesus – Jesus, the Jew from Nazareth, or the wonder-worker of the Bible, or the “Cosmic Christ”, or the pagan-derived myth, take your pick – helps me to live with all that beautiful, messy, crazy need, and find the strength to try and meet it with my whole self.

            I think whatever helps you be a better human – whether it’s Christianity, Islam, Wicca, Secular Humanism, motherhood, cross fit, or writing poetry – makes the world a bit better. I consider a soul “saved” when they find their way, even if it will never be my way. I affirm those parts of the Gospel that show me which way I am going.

          • Elizabeth.

            Strong and beautiful writing; Thanks!!

            Some day when you have some time, I’d love to hear more about helping “bear the heartbreak that comes with witnessing injustice.” I can’t quite “fill in the blanks” there….

            I am in the sorting-it-all-out stage too and am glad to meet you!

          • lizzysimplymagic

            Glad to meet you too! :) Feel free to drop me a line sometime: lizzym.hood@yahoo.com

  • mason

    Nicely put Bruce. I too find the historical Jesus simply nonsense,,, and the contemporary Jesus a divisive and disgusting political icon.

    Absurd folk lore bad jokes like this “ask me for anything” ought to be enough to act like a strong pesticide to keep the faithful from munching on cannibalistic wafers. If they had half a brain they’d be repelled from the gold standard for nonsense.

    “Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” John 14:14

    Cancer, war, the continuous rape of women, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, all disease, famine, and more could have all be eliminated if the faithful would only just ask.

  • Seabeacon

    Jesus’ teaching was jettisoned not long after his death.

  • charles freeman

    Too bad for Bruce. I cannot imagine travelling through life so filled with hate. He must be the life of the parties he attends.

    • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

      Ah yes, an armchair psychologist who can divine human emotions though the internet. Actually, despite living with chronic illness and pain, I am quite happy. I have been married for 37 years, have six grown children, and eleven grandchildren. Life is grand–without Jesus. And the parties are better too. No more worries about “sin”.

    • Linda_LaScola

      His feelings about Jesus needn’t extend into other parts of his life.

    • davewarnock

      ****whooosh****
      That’s the sound of charles missing the point

  • Nimblewill

    ………….You hate a fictitious person that much? I wonder how many people have wasted so much thought on things they didn’t believe in? If I had ranted like this about the purple cow that lives in my ceiling fan, people would think I was crazy.

    If you had ranted about “the flesh and blood Jesus who walked the dusty roads of Palestine,” or ” the Jesus found in the pages of the Bible” I would get it. Maybe? From the sound of it you might even think He is fictitious.

    • Linda_LaScola

      Nimblewill — If people were killing, discriminating and frightening children in the name of the purple cow that lives in your ceiling fan, you might feel differently.

      • Nimblewill

        If you honestly thought about the number of people killed by atheism you might feel differently.

        • Otto

          ‘People with hats kill people…therefore hats are the reason for murder’….is an inane argument and yet that is the crux of your position about atheism.

    • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

      Did you actually read what I wrote? This post focuses on the Evangelical Jesus. As with all sects and Christians, each have shaped Jesus into their own image. As far as the historial Jesus? He lived, he died, end of story. Modern Christianity owes its existence to Paul not Jesus. Whatever Jesus might have wanted Christianity to be, it died 2,000 years ago.

      • Clare45

        Bruce, good point about Paul. He had a lot to say about Jesus even though he never actually met him. Jesus in the gospels didn’t say very much at all. A few parables and the sermon on the mount.

    • mason

      Fictitious is indeed the appropriate word for the mythical Jesus; a hoax that has been so successfully perpetrated by the clergy.

    • davewarnock

      when people start being hurt in the Name of Purple Cow, then you will have a point.

      • Nimblewill

        Do some honest research and find the number of people killed by atheistic regimes.

        • davewarnock

          seriously? you’re gonna trot that argument out again? wow

          • Nimblewill

            I’m not sure how to reply to this. I lost my mood ring and I’m not sure how I feel about it either.
            You are either uninformed or dishonest.

          • davewarnock

            Let’s assume for argument sake that atheists killed in the name of their non god, and Christians killed in the name of their God. So there goes the argument that Christians are morally superior.

          • Nimblewill

            You wrongly assume that Christianity is about morals. Christians are not morally superior. They have a superior love, but one that is freely available to all. I love because he first loved me and I am only able to love to the degree that I believe I am loved. I am loved unconditionally and therefore can love unconditionally. That is what makes me like Christ. Not that I am morally superior.

          • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

            Are you like Christ? I have yet to meet a Christian who is like Christ. Jesus commanded Christians to be perfect even as their father in heaven is perfect. Are you perfect? James said that he that sins is of the devil. Do you sin? Doesn’t that mean you are “of the devil”?

            The notion that Christians have some sort of superior love is not rooted in fact. Is the church you attend all peace, love and joy? Are there squabbles and conflicts? Do church members get divorced? Do parents fight with their children? Do church members look at porn, commit fornication and adultery? Shall I go on? You have convinced yourself that Christians have some sort of special love, when in fact Christians are every bit as human as non-Christians. In fact, some of the most hateful, mean spirited people I have ever met, I met in church. Some of these miscreants were pastors and deacons. All one has to do is attend a church business meeting or a staff/deacons/elders meeting to see that the notion that Christians have some sort of superior love is a myth.

            Now you may argue from the perspective of “how it should be”, but for those of us who are no longer Christians, we know how things actually are. I have pastored thousands of people of the years. I have yet to meet someone who has this love you speak of–myself included.

            As far as unconditional love is concerned…God does not not love unconditionally. All one has to do is read the Bible to see that God’s love is always conditional. I wrote a post on this subject http://brucegerencser.net/2015/01/god-love-us-unconditionally/

            How do you know exactly what Christ was like? Since Jesus left no writings, diaries, or photographs, and there are no extant news reports about him, all you have is the Bible. Since it is likely that none of the authors of NT books had firsthand knowledge of Jesus, aren’t you really just mimicking __________ Bible book author’s version of Christ? Each author has their own Jesus version, so which version are you? Complicating things further, each Christian molds God/Jesus into their own image. This is understandable since there is no prototypical Jesus. Every Christian believes in a Jesus that is built upon their peculiar interpretation of the Bible and their personal experiences.

          • davewarnock

            I haven’t assumed that Christians are morally superior, I was merely repeating what so many have said; that their God was the giver of morals and we can’t have morality without God. I find that argument to be complete bullshit, as well as the notion that Christians have a superior love.

            Prove that, please, and then we will have something further to discuss.

          • Nimblewill

            I didn’t mean that my love was superior but that I was loved unconditionally. That is the driving force in my life. Its the reason that I can say that I love you and truly mean it. Agape love is superior to anything I can muster up within myself. I am in no way superior to you. But I do believe that God loves us both unconditionally. The love of God constrains me. I love because He first loved me.

          • davewarnock

            I know you believe that. I did too, for over 30 years. I no longer believe that there is a supernatural, invisible deity involved in any of our lives- much less loving us unconditionally.

            As I write this, I am in a central American country loving some really poor people in a way that is completely unconditional. I don’t need anything called agape to do that, though they have a rum here that is really good that is called something similar.

            We are different- that’s ok. good luck to you.

          • Nimblewill

            And you! Drink a shot for me!

          • Nimblewill

            Saint John Chrysostom speaking of the Apostle Paul.

            The most important thing of all to him, however, was that he knew himself to be loved by Christ. Enjoying this love, he considered himself happier than anyone else; were he without it, it would be no satisfaction to be the friend of principalities and powers. He preferred to be thus loved and be the least of all, or even to be among the damned, than to be without that love and be among the great and honored.

            To be separated from that love was, in his eyes, the greatest and most extraordinary of torments; the pain of that loss would alone have been hell, and endless, unbearable torture.

            So too, in being loved by Christ he thought of himself as possessing life, the world, the angels, present and future, the kingdom, the promise and countless blessings. Apart from that love nothing saddened or delighted him; for nothing earthly did he regard as bitter or sweet.

          • Otto

            Umm…so what. One guys opinion.

          • Nimblewill

            Yep, and one opinion that I agree with. I thought it applied to the discussion at hand. If you don’t, just ignore it. I could be wrong and so could he. St John that is.

          • Otto

            Whether I (or you) agree or not is not the point. There is no indication that what he says is actually true. It is mere conjecture without any reasonable foundation.

          • Otto

            So you are saying non-believers are not loved unconditionally and therefore cannot love unconditionally. So the unconditional love you receive is conditional on the belief/love you give to God…and is therefore *not* unconditional. Your logic refutes itself.

          • Nimblewill

            No it doesn’t you misunderstood me. You and I are both loved unconditionally. I accept that the Creator of all things loves us unconditionally. Having this love in us allows us to love. A person’s idea about god is not necessarily what love is, but love comes from God. I love because he first loved me and so do you. You just haven’t acknowledged it yet. That’s OK. You will.

          • Otto

            So where does the superior Love come from that you assert Christians have? What method did you use to determine it is actually superior?

          • Nimblewill

            Unconditional love is superior to conditional love. Duh?

            Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

          • Otto

            No…you didn’t answer my question. You claim that Christians have a superior love because they are loved unconditionally. Then when questioned on that you said we are ALL loved unconditionally…so if we are ALL loved unconditionally why is love Christians show superior?

            As to your Corinthians verse…let’s see how many the God of the Bible fits.

            Love is Patient…yet God losses his patience as shown in all the people he kills because he gets angry.
            Love does not envy…yet God is envious of the attention people give other gods.

            Love is Kind…yet eternally torturing people is not kind. Hardening Pharaoh’s heart so that the first born would have to die was not kind.

            Love does not boast…yet God boasts often in the Bible.
            Love is not self seeking…God is very self centered.
            Love is not easily angered…God gets very angry easily.

            Love keeps no record of wrongs…God keeps a large record of all the wrongs he perceives are done to him and had to kill himself in order to erase them…but only if we accept the “gift”… if not they are still counted.
            Love does not delight in evil…yet God created evil, it says so right in the Bible.
            Love rejoices in truth…yet God gives no indication of his existence and even the people that do believe fight over what is true regarding God because he apparently refuses to provide the truth of the situation.
            Love always protects…but your all powerful God constantly fails to protect when it is easily within his power to do so.
            Love always trusts…but God had to test Abraham to see whehter he would kill his son for Him. He did not trust.

            Bottom line is your God of Unconditional Love fails at most all of these.

          • Nimblewill

            I believe that Jesus is the True Revelation of who God is. The OT writers simply got it wrong. I realize that puts me in the minority but so be it.

          • Otto

            1) Are you going to answer the question regarding your claim that Christians have superior love? That is a pretty bold statement to make without providing anything but conjecture to base it on.

            2) The whole Jesus narrative is based off of the OT. Throw out the OT and there is no need for Jesus. Additionally Jesus took the OT seriously so apparently he was OK with that description of God.

          • Nimblewill

            I’m sorry Otto, evidently I’m having some difficulty getting my point across. Christians don’t have a superior love but they understand that they are loved unconditionally. You don’t understand how freeing that is; that the Creator of the Universe is not pissed at me. You have the same superior love that I have. I just acknowledge it and you don’t believe it. I can no longer believe in a God depicted in the OT. Jesus said that God was like him not the other way around.
            It’s not conjecture. Jesus told the Jews, “you have heard it said, but I say.” He told the ones that though they were in, that they were out and the ones that thought they were out, that they were in. The Jews killed him. Why? They believed that God’s blessings were material possessions. Jesus turned that on its head. He hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors, drunkards. So much so that they called Him one. I think you have Jesus wrong, but heck I could be wrong about all of it.
            This guy explains it in part.
            HOW JESUS TURNED THE BIBLE.docx

            http://www.evangelicaluniversalist.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=58&t=6605

          • Otto

            I appreciate the response, I also appreciate your honesty.

        • Otto

          Do some research and find out how many mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters alienate family members because they think gay people are icky and they think Jesus agrees with them.

          • Nimblewill

            Sorry Otto, You’re barking up the wrong tree. I have a gay brother who is fully accepted by his brother and sisters and both parents, all of whom are Christians.

          • Otto

            Well good for you. I have a gay niece and the vast majority of my family are Christians, even though many were taught she is committing a sin so heinous she deserves to be eternally tortured they ALL have rejected those teachings (sometimes with difficulty) and embraced their humanity now by accepting her for who she and her partner is.

            But my point was not about Christians like yourself or like my family…my point was about all the families who have decided the Jesus described in this blog post is more important.

            Just because you have figured it out doesn’t mean there is not a whole boat load of people in this country willing to treat anybody they see as spiritually inferior as lesser human beings all because of their version of Jesus. Your issue should be with them, not with atheists who are pointing out the obvious.

          • Nimblewill

            Maybe, Just maybe God is tired of His name being profaned and is changing hearts. He changed me.

          • Otto

            Maybe, just maybe God is a lie we tell ourselves and eventually our humanity takes over. Sometimes we reject the lie and sometimes we just change the lie to make it line up with the humanity that was always present but was at times suppressed because of the previous lie we accepted.

  • Ruthitchka

    I am not crazy about “American Jesus” either — left Evangelicalism 7 years ago.

    Personally, if the man I loved became atheist, that’s his issue, not mine. He would still be the same lovable guy. No big deal.

  • candide

    The Jesus you hate is the one invented by Paul the Apostle. He took a Jewish apocalyptic prophet who wrongly expected the imminent coming of the kingdom of God and turned him into a sacrificial divine being whose death somehow saved all those who believed in him. The eucharist was an invention, no Jew would encourage the drinking of blood. The resurrection was a delusion. All of it is false except for the real Jesus who was honored only by his brother James’ little group in the temple area which was soon to be called heretical by the orthodox churchmen.

  • Monique Maître

    This article couldn’t have been re-posted at a better time because I too have been demystified. There is not one thing Mr. Gerencser wrote that I disagree with.

    • Linda_LaScola

      Wonderfull! While I’m sorry you’re going through this, I’m really glad that Bruce’s post helped you. That was my hope when I posted it here. It’s my hope with all the posts from former/current clergy who no longer believe.

      They’ve been through a lot. They not only lost their beliefs, but because it was their livelihood and professional identity, they lost their jobs too, and in some cases their families and friends. They are perfectly suited to help others, clergy and lay, who are going through a similar transition.

  • David

    Bruce I get your point. But is it really Jesus that you have issues with or is it more His human representatives and what they/we have done with Him and said about Him? Take for example what you wrote: “It is this Jesus who lets billions of people be born into cultures that worship other Gods and then says it is their fault they’re born at the wrong place and at the wrong time. This Jesus says,“Too bad. Burn forever in the Lake of Fire.”
    I would suggest that this is an Evangelical mis-representation of Jesus. On this basis therefore you need not wait for when “the Jesus who genuinely loves humanity and cares for the least of these shows up”. He already came and will return.

    • Linda_LaScola

      Any thoughts on why this good Jesus has let the bad Jesus conjured by so many of his followers take over?

      • soter phile

        Marilyn Sewell: “Mr. Hitchens, the religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement — that Jesus died for our sins, for example. Do you make a distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?”

        Christopher Hitchens: “Well, I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.”

    • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

      Well, I am an atheist, so I think every version of Jesus is a work of fiction. From this perspective, your Jesus is not any different than the Evangelical Jesus. That said, the Jesus of Evangelicals gets most of my attention because it is the dominant expression of Jesus in the United States.

      I have a straight forward way of judging someone’s Christianity. Do non-Christians go to hell when they die? Will atheists goes to hell when they die? If your answer is yes, then the rest of your beliefs are meaningless details. Any religion that says the majority of the human race will be punished/tortured by God because of their sin/unbelief is a religion worthy of scorn and ridicule. The same goes for Christians who try to soften the notion of hell by saying God will annihilate unbelievers or send them to purgatory to be tortured for a set period of time. And if there is no hell, why would it matter what I believe about Jesus? Since I have found out that life is — in every way — better and more fulfilling outside of religion than in, what possibly could religion offer me?

      • soter phile

        “My thesis is that the practice of non-violence requires a belief in divine vengeance…My thesis will be unpopular with man in the West…But imagine speaking to people (as I have) whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned, and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit…Your point to them – we should not retaliate? Why not? I say – the only means of prohibiting violence by us is to insist that violence is only legitimate when it comes from God… Violence thrives today, secretly nourished by the belief that God refuses to take the sword… It takes the quiet of a suburb for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence is a result of a God who refuses to judge. In a scorched land – soaked in the blood of the innocent, the idea will invariably die, like other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind… if God were NOT angry at injustice and deception and did NOT make a final end of violence, that God would not be worthy of our worship.”
        -Miroslav Volf

        • Elizabeth.

          Wow, soter… apparently this invalidates Dr. King’s and Ghandi’s principle of “eye for eye leaves the world blind”?

          • soter phile

            Read it again, then. Miroslav Volf’s point was that without the promise of God’s justice *human* retaliation would proliferate (i.e., it is precisely because God guarantees justice that humanity does not have to insist upon taking up the sword to get it ourselves in this life). While Ghandi may not have agreed, MLK certainly did.

          • Elizabeth.

            “violence is only legitimate when it comes from God” was the phrase that surprised me.

            I don’t remember MLK ever relying on a violent God, in the here or hereafter…..

            In his Riverside speech about Vietnam he said, “We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation” and the fascinating “My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence” explains,

            “Gandhi resisted evil with as much vigor and power as the violent resister, but he resisted with love instead of hate. True pacifism is not unrealistic submission to evil power, as Niebuhr contends. It is rather a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love, in the faith that it is better to be the recipient of violence than the inflicter of it, since the latter only multiplied the existence of violence and bitterness in the universe, while the former may develop a sense of shame in the opponent, and thereby bring about a transformation and change of heart.” http://forusa.org/blogs/for/my-pilgrimage-nonviolence/6731

            I think it’s Paul who advises, “Leave room for God’s wrath”
            [ Rom12] : )

            The Vietnam speech is so tremendous, with much of his mature thinking, from Nobel to “Dream” to “World House” ….. http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkatimetobreaksilence.htm

            “When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate — ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: ‘Let us love one another, for love is God. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.’ ‘If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.’4 Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.

            “We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says:

            ” ‘Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word’ (unquote).

            “We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now….”

            You can tell King’s one of my heroes!!!!! Seems a different view of God and ultimate power than the Volf passage here….

          • soter phile

            So you want to divorce MLK’s quotes about God’s love (esp. citing 1 John) from the primary biblical picture of love – namely, the cross? Note well *how* the biblical God puts an end to injustice. It is not without reason that MLK famously quoted Amos 5:24 (note: Amos wasn’t a gentle prophet by any means). The injustice done the black community was violent and deserved to “let justice roll down like a mighty river” (Dream)… which every Christian realizes it did for his/her own sins on the cross.

            As David Chappell has written in “Stone of Hope”, it was precisely because MLK was appealing to the Southern racist’s own bible that made him so effective over the long haul. He wasn’t asking the Southerner to leave his faith behind, but rather to more fully embrace it. That’s why his legacy remains, even in Southern white churches where they are still (sometimes) repenting of their racist past – he called them to *integrity* in their faith, not to abandon it.
            http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/08/books/chapters/a-stone-of-hope.html

            Along those lines – Volf is not calling for human violence! He lived through the Serbian conflict. He is speaking *against* human violence & retribution precisely because of what Christ did. He is pointing to the God who went to the cross as the final arbiter of justice. That is the same Christian meta-narrative that MLK shares.

          • Elizabeth.

            Except that Volf is relying on the threat of a violent God, whereas the violence of the cross is not God *doing* violence, but God *suffering* violence.

            The huge contribution Dr. King makes is to live the conviction that justice and righteousness do not require violence by God nor by people (tho that would likely surprise biblical Amos!).

            “A Stone of Hope” highlights the courage derived from believing “God is fighting for us” — but God was not fighting violently. As the link, observes, “The movement did all this with remarkably few casualties. Ugly as white southern resistance was, Maya Lin’s memorial to martyrs of the civil rights movement has only 40 names engraved on it. The apartheid regime in South Africa beat that figure in a single day, at Sharpeville in 1960, when it killed 67 people and wounded 200 more. In a freedom struggle closer to our own time, Chinese authorities killed some 2,600 in the immediate aftermath of Tiananmen Square. America’s own war to destroy slavery, with 600,000 deaths, makes the destruction of segregation a century later appear astonishingly nonviolent. Its eradication appears a feat of moral and political alchemy, well represented by King’s stone of hope from a mountain of despair.”

            Yes, the violence faced (and still faced) by the black community did deserve “righteousness rolling down”… but Dr. King’s vision of that did not involve the threat of God wiping segregationists off the face of the earth. Instead,

            “I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and I’ve seen hate on the faces of too many sheriffs, too many white citizens’ councilors, and too many Klansmen of the South to want to hate, myself; and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up before our most bitter opponents and say: ‘We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, and so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and drag us out on some wayside road and leave us half-dead as you beat us, and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country, and make it appear that we are not fit, culturally and otherwise, for integration, and we’ll still love you. But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.’ ” http://www.ecoflourish.com/Primers/education/Christmas_Sermon.html

            There is much horrific violence attributed to God in the bible — but I do not find that in Dr. King’s writings — instead, a commitment to love and nonviolence as the key to God’s character and thus the most powerful force in the universe. That’s why I am totally in awe of Dr. King and was surprised by Volf.

            Thanks for the conversation and the link!

          • soter phile

            Just saw this.

            Yes, I love how King approaches that – but consider: King’s faith is driving his response. but where does he get that incredible resolve to suffer? as a Christian, he’s looking to the cross.

            note well the biblical nuance of the cross: who is performing the violence? the people. those who deserve that justice. and yet how does God answer? taking it upon himself… yes. but it is not merely a physical wrath which Christ endures (there have been many worse physical deaths!). it is being forsaken by God (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!” the only time Jesus doesn’t speak to God as his Father). Can there be a worse violence?

            There are lots of other passages in the Bible that blatantly say Jesus bore the wrath of God, but here – on the lips of Christ – we hear the ultimate punishment possible. That’s Hell.

            To say merely that Christ suffered the violence of his enemies is to fail to understand what Christ was doing for us (namely, taking the full justice we deserved in our place) – and to fail to understand the full power that motivated MLK. If God himself would both UPHOLD justice on the cross while also TAKING it upon himself… that’s a very different and life-altering premise for attempting to change the world – especially the world’s injustices. And, note well: that does not require MLK to stand apart from the biblical Amos (something any preacher – esp. a Civil Rights era one – would be loathe to do).

            And in that regard, I do not think Volf’s pacifist views are that far removed from King’s aggressive non-violence.

          • Elizabeth.

            Volf and King both counsel nonviolence, but their rationale appears quite different. Volf says rely on God to punish, whereas King says the cross and resurrection reveal that God’s love cannot be defeated and will result in transformation and reconciliation to form the beloved community. I haven’t seen King describe God as punishing evildoers, whereas Volf takes the images of divine violence in Revelation as essential.

            “According to Volf, it is precisely because Christ will usher in the new kingdom with violent justice that Christians can follow the peaceful example of the crucified Messiah. ‘In a world of violence,’ he says, ‘we are faced with an inescapable alternative: either God’s violence or human violence.” http://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/eq/1999-3_261.pdf

            It’s surely true that the prevalent theory of the cross in the U.S. is substitutionary punishment. In contrast, King’s description of God and the meaning of the cross is nonviolent:

            “The cross is an eternal expression of the length to which God is willing to go to restore a broken community….

            “And oh, that cross to me is a demonstration of something. It is triumph, isn’t it? It is not only tragedy, but it is triumph. It is a revelation of the power of God to ultimately win out over all the forces of evil….

            “The important thing is that that Resurrection did occur. Important thing is that that grave was empty. Important thing is the fact that Jesus had given himself to certain eternal truths and eternal principles that nobody could crucify and escape. So all of the nails in the world could never pierce this truth. All of the crosses of the world could never block this love. All of the graves in the world could never bury this goodness. Jesus had given himself to certain universal principles. And so today the Jesus and the God that we worship are inescapable…. God holds the reins of the universe in His hands, and when the light goes out at one hour, it comes on at another with the power of His being. And this is the hope that can keep us going and keep us from getting frustrated as we walk along the way of life.” [Easter Sermon 1959] https://books.google.com/books?id=TU_HozbJSC8C&pg=PA171&lpg=PA171&dq=Martin+Luther+King,the+cross&source=bl&ots=TXt0hFwCV0&sig=jPZ7vmM-GTMktkaDIg2AcOs3OoY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjWtub53bTMAhUBfSYKHXQaBuk4KBDoAQguMAM#v=onepage&q=Martin%20Luther%20King%2Cthe%20cross&f=false

            I think Amos and other prophets likely did think of justice and righteousness as requiring punishment for past sins, but that is not the only way to think of justice or righteousness. That way looks to the past; but one can look instead to the future and see them as the way life will be when God’s way of nonviolent love triumphs. Dr. King would not be standing apart from the prophets but would be looking for the day when God’s nonviolent love so transforms the earth that justice and righteousness are the everyday way things work — rolling down like waters!(Probably has ramifications for our debate over whether our U.S. justice system should be punitive or restorative)

            (As a p.s. about the cry of dereliction…. since Jesus is quoting Psalm 22, which includes much of the gospels’ description of Jesus death, I wouldn’t put a great deal of stress on the absence of “Father” in the psalm.. tho certainly there is much depth to plumb there.)

            Thanks again for the interesting comments about such a vital issue!

          • soter phile

            I hear you wanting to distinguish King from Volf in terms of what they stressed, but I think it is a bridge too far to claim (even in light of your quotes) that King would not agree that the power in the cross is *how* Christ revolutionarily deals with justice without compromising it. (Or do you have a quote in which MLK denies that aspect of the atonement explicitly?)

            So, yes – it deals with the past. AND yes, it transforms the future. but to separate the two would require completely divorcing them from the context in which these theological concepts arise. I see MLK as doing the exact opposite – understanding the context and letting the full force of how revolutionary it is come to bear… including in the face of the Southern racist who is *claiming* to be faithful to his bible. that is what makes his argument so powerful among them long term.

            As for Ps.22, yes, Jesus was quoting it on the cross. But he quoted the OT often – and yet this is the first time we see him referring directly to God without using the term “Father.” Considering the situation and the quote he’s chosen, that does not seem coincidental.

          • Elizabeth.

            I see nonviolent righteousness and justice not as a compromise, but a fulfillment of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus… e.g. for southern segregationists, the object wasn’t/isn’t to flog them or throw them into hell but to end segregation and transform them into full members of the beloved community. That was pretty revolutionary!

            I’ve never seen Dr. King discuss what theories of atonement he does not believe; but his descriptions of what he does think happened — love being the most powerful transformative power in the universe –would seem to be far from a violent God. I will keep an antenna up but just say that the way Dr. King lived that out awes me.

            Psalm 22… I have to admit, I hesitate to place heavy interpretations on single verses. If that were key, I would expect Luke and John to include it… so I take it seriously but not despositively : )

            Thanks again, soter phile! It’s been fun to think more about Dr. King — I think one of the great humans of history has been among us.

          • Elizabeth.

            Wow, soter phile, I had no idea I would find anything, but googled and Wow! Here is a paper he wrote at Crozer Seminary that I wish I had seen decades ago!!! So I really thank you for prompting me to look!! http://okra.stanford.edu/transcription/document_images/Vol01Scans/263_29Nov1949-15Feb1950_A%20View%20of%20the%20Cross%20Possessing%20Bibli.pdf

            I had no idea he talked about Abelard… I thought I was practically the only person anywhere who thinks that Abelard came closest to a thoroughly good description of what was happening. But Dr. King even quotes the passage from Abelard’s Romans commentary that I only managed to locate about a year ago. Wow.

            Thumbnail… At this point in his studies, Dr. King wrote that the ransom, satisfaction (Anslem), penal (the Reformers), and governmental (Grotius) theories are inadequate because the obstacle is God’s nature. But in King’s view,

            “Merit and guilt are not concrete realities that can be detached from one person and transferred to another. Moreover, no person can morally be punished in place of another. Such ideas as ethical and penal substitution [Knudson] become immoral.”

            King endorses instead the “modern” theory:

            “Here the emphasis is not on the Godward but on the manward side of the atonement. According to this theory, the atoning work of Christ was a revelation of the heart of God, not intended to remove obstacles to forgiveness on God’s side, of which there was no need, but designed to bring sinful men to repentance and win their love to himself. First formulated as an independent theory by Abelard in the twelfth century, it was rejected by the Church. But in modern times it was revived, and under the influence of Schleiermacher, Ritschl, and others gained wide currency, becoming the dominant theory in progressive theological circles, so that it is often referred to as the modern theory. of atonement….

            “The true meaning of the atonement must be interpreted in the light of the incarnation, whose purpose and cause was, in the words of Abelard, ‘that he might illuminate the world by his wisdom and excite it to the love of himself . . . Our redemption, therefore, is that supreme love of Christ shown to us by his passion, which not only frees us from slavery to sin, but acquires for us true liberty of the sons of God . . . so that kindled by so great a benefit of divine grace, charity should not be afraid to endure anything for his sake.’ ”

            I am totally blown away. Haven’t looked at the other google hits, but gotta make a cake for the covered dish in the morning.

            I deeply thank you for keeping up the questions!!!!!!! Many wonderful people see things differently from this, but finding this is very meaningful to me and I thank you. Elizabeth

          • Edwin Woodruff Tait

            Abelard has been a hero in liberal Protestant circles since the 19th century. You aren’t alone by any means. (I am more inclined toward the patristic “Christus Victor” approach, which has elements of both Abelard’s view and substitutionary atonement but I think transcends the weaknesses of both.) Soter phile is wrong, I think, to assume that MLK held soter phile’s understanding of the Cross. I’m not entirely sure Volf does either.

            I think the Volf quote is onto something, though I would not describe God’s justice as “violence.” But I think you make good points as well. Whatever God’s justice means, it is not the same thing as human violence transposed to a higher key.

          • Elizabeth.

            Thank you very much, Edwin Woodruff Tait. This is helping me realize that probably I need to find some shorthand way to indicate that I think that traditionally, Abelard’s view has been incorrectly described as something like “Moral Influence” — we behold Jesus’ sacrifice, and think we should follow his example. What I haven’t seen is an understanding of his view as a “Revelation Theory” — revelation of the depth of God’s love, that “kindles” in us love for God and others…. and it’s that perspective that I am so happy to discover in Dr. King’s paper. It could be that the Christus Victor understanding you incline to is similar to what I think Abelard was saying in his Romans commentary. I appreciate the reminder that Abelard’s name is frequently mentioned in theories of atonement, but that I [ impertinently… but strongly!] disagree with the descriptions : )

            Thank you too for the violence comment. I would like to be a thoroughgoing nonviolence advocate… but I struggle with it!

            Very glad to meet you; thank you for joining the conversation

          • Edwin Woodruff Tait

            Very good point! I agree that there’s more to Abelard than the conventional appropriations of him recognized. Although, in fact, there was a lot of depth in 19th-century Broad Church theology too (which opted for Abelard over substitution) and many quite conservative Christians today are shaped by it via C. S. Lewis, who rejected the “liberal Anglicanism” of his own day but was deeply influenced by the Broad-Church figure George MacDonald. I think MacDonald’s atonement theology could also be described as a “Revelation theory,” and I really like that term. If I ever teach this stuff again, I might steal it :)

          • Elizabeth.

            You would not be stealing it!!!! I hereby deputize you to correct the record (in my opinion!)… which has been driving me bonkers all these years!!!!!!!

            Many thanks for the Broad Church clue! The name George MacDonald is familiar, but I think the only thing I’ve read is his “Diary of an Old Soul” long ago, plus possibly mentions in C.S. Lewis. I don’t see MacDonald’s name, nor Broad Church, in my Walker history index. I look forward to exploring!

            My view is that if understandings like Abelard’s “revelation” and Girard’s and Wink’s “breaking the cycle of violence” could displace ideas like substitutionary atonement, that could go far toward breaking up this horrendous idol, as you identify it below.

            I see that you have some writing online… great! Look forward to reading more! And thank you again for the encouragement!

          • Edwin Woodruff Tait

            Oh, it’s known among scholars that Abelard is richer than the common summary–it just doesn’t always make it into schematic presentations of atonement theology.

            There is a form of “substitutionary atonement” (mediated via Christus Victor) that I accept, and it’s connected to my thoughts on your dispute with soter phile over Volf vs. King. Basically I’d argue that there is a kind of retributive justice in the universe that is grounded in God’s justice, but that, in its purely retributive form, it’s a kind of “shadow” of God’s justice. God’s full, blazing justice seeks to restore and heal. But when it’s rejected, that very justice becomes retributive justice. There are consequences for evil in the universe, and those consequences are an expression of God’s justice. There’s more to it, but that is my basic idea.

          • Elizabeth.

            Very glad to know there’s more nuance in scholars’ understanding of Abelard!! Somehow all I’ve ever heard/seen has been Moral Influence and Example — neither really seeming to me to affect the relationship of a person to God, nor capture some of the historical dynamics of Jesus’ going to the cross …. that is, except for one sentence mentioned by a NT prof that had me searching libraries [ including
            Duke : ) ] for decades for what turned out last year to be the English translation of Abelard’s Romans.

            If there is an online description of the Christus Victor view that you like, I would very much appreciate a link or tip how to find it!! ….The description here is reminding me of Flannery O’Conner’s astonishing procession to heaven thru fire of “white trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs” … plus the respectable too : ) [in “Revelation”]

            Many, many thanks again!!

          • Elizabeth.

            p.s. Just happened to wonder if you might be interested in the discussion about a post I wrote here on R.D. about the cross back in October… the comments are pretty interesting, I thought. (Fortunately, Linda edited my stilted writing in the main post!) If you’d like to scan, it’s http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rationaldoubt/2015/10/psychoanalyzing-god/

            Thank you again so much for the conversation and information!!

          • Edwin Woodruff Tait

            Thanks! That was interesting.

        • Otto

          So the only way to get people to understand that violence for the sake of retribution is not the way to go is to feed them the lie that violence will happen…it is just God that will do it.

          That is stupid, it is wrong and given the Christian worldview it is not even consistent. Christianity is built on the idea that rapists and murders will ultimately get away with their crimes if only they turn to Jesus and honestly say they are sorry.

          Lying to people does not justify the result EVEN if it did work. The ends to not justify the means.

          • soter phile

            1) even if you disagree with theists, let the idea have its integrity. within the theist’s framework, if injustice is to be judged, what better arbiter of justice could there be than God?

            2) No, Christianity is not about anyone “getting away” with murder… literally or figuratively. The whole point of the cross is that the injustice is incredibly and voluntarily paid for in full – by the only life more valuable than all other lives combined. again, you don’t have to agree with Christianity to accurately represent its views.

            3) “lying to people” – that’s begging the question, and not very helpful in the discussion, especially since it requires assuming that no Christian genuinely holds his/her own faith.

          • Otto

            1) There is no reason to think there IS a God AND there are so many versions of God, they are so poorly grounded in reality and reason that their could not be a WORSE arbiter of justice than God. We don’t submit to God in our court systems to determine justice for a very good reason.

            2) The point is justice is withheld on rapists and murderers in the Christian worldview so long as they submit and apologize to God. That is not misrepresenting Christianity. If you think it is you need to point out where the misrepresentation is.

            I have no idea how substitutional atonement pays for injustice. If someone wrongs me punishing another for that injustice would not pay for it… nor would it be itself just. The whole idea is completely absurd.

            I also take issue with the idea that Jesus’ life is more valuable. According to the Christian view his ‘life; is infinite, our lives are finite. Our lives are therefore more valuable as ours are more rare.

            3) I don’t care if the Christian believes it, I only care if it is actually true. If one claims to have knowledge of something when in actuality they don’t it is lying, it matters not whether they believe it.

            If there was a jar of pennies that was created in such a way that no one knew the amount of pennies in the jar and a person stepped up and said with complete certainty and belief that he has 100% knowledge that there was an even amount of pennies in the jar…he is lying. He is not lying about his belief…he is lying about the claim of knowledge, and it would not matter one iota if the jar was counted and it turned out he was right, he did not have the knowledge he claimed to have had.

          • soter phile

            1) you are moving the goalposts. the conversation was about the integrity of the theist’s views from WITHIN his framework. you now want to move the conversation to criticizing it from without.

            and i said nothing about court systems. you clearly are reading the conversation through a particular lens that is not what we’ve been discussing.

            2) a) yes, justice is taken by another. that’s the idea of substitute. but you’re only hearing half of it. your example assumes the place of the innocent victim. Christianity explicitly speaks to the contrary – that ALL deserve that death. in other words, instead of objecting that ‘those bad guys over there’ get away with something, the claim is that we all are the bad guys. you hear it very differently when *you* are the one with whom he is trading places.

            b) infinite vs. finite value: you analogy here doesn’t make sense. economically speaking: the rarer thing has the higher value. infinite value (as Christ has) is because he is “rarer” (in your example). your analogy to finitude would be like saying: “fruit flies only live a day, whereas humans might live 70 years – so the life of a fruit fly is more valuable.” it’s illogical.

            3) again, you are begging the question. it’s a logical fallacy. it’s attempting to settle the thing under debate by assuming the very thing under debate is already decided.

            and, for the sake of clarity, your jar analogy fails to understand the subjective/objective divide. theism in general does not claim the power is in the subjective agent (“i know the number of pennies!”) but in the objective agent (God has taken action).

            to respond to your analogy w/ another analogy: if two men are fleeing a lion and come to a cliff’s edge. there’s a rickety rope bridge. the first man screams “i believe the bridge will hold with 100% of my being!”, runs out onto the bridge, it falls and he dies. the second man looks down and sees a ledge below him. he doesn’t know if it’ll hold his weight. he’s pretty sure it won’t. but the lion is about to get him. so he jumps. the ledge holds. so which man had greater faith?

            the problem with the analogy is the assumption that the power of faith is in the subjective agent. no, the power of faith is contingent on the object. it’s not about the level of devotion you have to a thing (especially if its the wrong thing), but the power of the thing to which you are devoted.

            that analogy doesn’t decide this debate, but hopefully it clarifies. you are criticizing the power of the subjective agent. the real debate lies in the legitimacy of the objective agent.

    • davewarnock

      The Jesus that sends people to hell and separates families in His name is the one depicted in Scripture. If you don’t agree with the depiction of Jesus from scripture, I wonder where you get your depiction. The image of Jesus described here by Bruce is very much Biblical.

      I agree with Bruce. It’s not that Christians have mis-represented him, it’s that the Jesus of the New Testament is simply not a nice person.

      “think not that I have come to bring peace, but a sword- to divide a mother from her daughter” (paraphrased). That’s all I have to hear. I have lived that- and still live it. It’s a despicable concept and I, like Bruce- HATE it.

  • RoyMix

    When a couple breaks up over a change of ideology, the party who changed ideology is probably the most responsible party, not the one who refused to change.

    Though I suspect such a relationship was pretty awful already for some time. I also suspect that the change of ideology could be anything, it doesn’t have to be Jesus.

    Also I have known quite a few couples where one party stopped going to church or even became an atheist and the marriage survived. The only marriages I have ever seen broken up by ideology change are the ones where the changing party demanded the other go along with them. These are not healthy relationships.

    Now you can hate Jesus all you want, or Buddha or what have you but most of what you are talking about is just human behaviour, a godless society will still have people behaving badly.

    • Nightshade

      ‘The only marriages I have ever seen broken up by ideology change are the ones where the changing party demanded the other go along with them.’ I’ve been on the other side, I was the one who changed, my ex could have kept to his beliefs and I would have been OK with that, but he was determined to bring me back to his ideology. Looking back I see it wasn’t a healthy relationship to start with, but I was young and stupid when I got married.

  • soter phile

    There are so many caricatures in this article. It is one thing to have legitimate, thoughtful objections (there are a few above)… but this reads more like an angry teenager who has yet to transcend knee jerk reactions to his parents’ various failures – as aptly demonstrated by the inability to say anything positive about them *at all.*

    For those in heart-felt agreement with this article, ask yourself: would you read even a paragraph of an article written with reciprocal caricatrues from the opposite position? This sort of approach prevents genuine dialogue in our supposedly pluralistic society. Ironically, isn’t that the very sort of thing the author is complaining that “those guys” are doing?

    • suchandsuch

      Believers frequently caricature the nonbeliever as a spoiled child (or “an angry teenager”) in rebellion against authority. I expect you offered that “reciprocal caricature” in your critique without irony.

      Now, I’m sure there’s a beam in my own eye that needs removing…

      • soter phile

        interesting that you didn’t see an attempt to be balanced in my parenthetical… while yet simply acknowledging the nature of the post. I would say the same of an angry evangelical tirade. Pointing out it is a tirade does not invalidate the point that it remains a tirade.

        And on that note: rebellion from authority was peripheral in my intended critique. It was the inability to see *anything* positive or say anything measured that denotes a purposeful desire to overstate the case (and thereby silence any voice to the contrary).

        The author’s response to me above (that this was one post of out of many) gives me hope that this was not typical… and yet also appears to be a tacit admission that he recognizes the problem of his tone (as I described).

        • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

          I made no such admission. There is a place for polemical writing and rants. It is not how I normally write, but such writing has its place. This particular piece is widely read and shared. Former Evangelicals, atheists, and progressive/liberal Christians understand the content and tenor of the post. You don’t, and that’s fine. I would, however, suggest that you walk in my shoes a bit before complaining about my “tone.” I am a former Evangelical preacher — well-known in some circles. I have been publicly taken to task in sermons. One pastor preached a series of messages about the apostate Bruce Gerencser. I daily receive blog comments, emails, social media comments and messages from Evangelicals determined to show me the error of my way. Then there’s the hate mail–including attacks on my wife, children, and even my grandchildren. Some zealots have even attacked my daughter with Down Syndrome. I have had fake Facdbook accounts with my name set up by people wanting to harrass me and spam my friends. One man from Detroit threatened to slit my throat. Others wish me a painful death or ridicule the fact that I am disabled and have to use a wheelchair. Shall I go on?

          I write, people read. No one is forced to read my writing. At its base level my writing is one man with a story to tell. That my story resonates with tens of thousands of people is gratifying — a reminder that I am not alone.

          These days — having spent 8 years wading through the Evangelical sewer — I don’t respond to people upset over the content of my writing or my “tone.” I know not everyone is going to like my writing or me as a person. I took the time to answer you because I thought you might be genuinely trying to understand. I think I have said all I can say on the matter. I wish you well.

          Bruce

          • soter phile

            Note my comment to you above.

            As for your experiential appeal (“walk a mile in my shoes”), I’m sorry you have been wrongfully treated by Christians. But am I actually hearing you argue that *justifies* perpetuating the cycle?

          • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

            I am telling you that you are hearing what you want to hear and making a judgment. That’s fine. I am a public figure and writer, so I am used to people interpreting my writing like they do the Bible.

            This really is my last word.

            Thanks.

            Bruce

          • soter phile

            So by “hate” you really mean “not hate.” I see. I have simply misinterpreted your writings.

    • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

      It is one post out of the 1,200 I have written for my blog. Perhaps you need to get some context.

      I am willing to have thoughtful discussions with any Evangelical who dares to engage me in such a discussion. However, most Evanglicals who come to my blog are there to preach, quote Bible verses, evangelize, or deconstruct my life. Few Evangelicals have the ability to engage in rational discussions. No need. They have THE truth — the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. This kind of thinking keeps Evangelicals from contemplating any other worldview but their own.

      I get emails from former Christians every day thanking me for my writing. My goal has been the same for eight years: to help those with doubts and those who have left Christianity — specifically Evangelicalism. Currently, I am corresponding with several Evangelical pastors who are having doubts about their beliefs. They contact me because they know I was once a part of their fraternity. They know that a man who spent 25 years in the pastorate understands their struggles. I don’t try to evangelize them. My goal has always been to be a help. I suspect this is why some readers consider me an atheist pastor.

      • soter phile

        I am glad you are willing to have conversations with others even if you disagree with them.

        But consider: the primary word in the article above (other than Jesus) is “hate” – which rarely leads to a productive dialogue. isn’t that the very sort of approach to which you are objecting? a theology of “Jesus hates” (as you wish to ascribe to Evangelicals) and “I hate Jesus” are ironically mirror images.

        is it possible you are peddling the same thing (namely, hate) simply under a new philosophical rubric?

        • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

          No.

    • Otto

      It is not a caricature when there are concrete examples of every behavior to be found all over the country in most every city and town that are justified through the offenders belief in Jesus. If you have a problem it is with them I should think, and not with the writer.

      • soter phile

        I have had enough discussions on both sides of this debate to know that *both* sides use that same flawed argument. And both should be called out for it.

        Take your first sentence, drop the word “in Jesus”, put it in the mouth of an evangelical in regard to your beliefs… and wouldn’t you object that is anecdotal &/or reductionist? It’s the reason I can’t watch more than 5 minutes of Fox News. Almost verbatim, they use your sentiment couched from the “other” side. It’s more of the us/them narrative – just their version of it.

        I do have a problem with anyone perpetrating evil (including myself) – yet ironically for this conversation, it is precisely my underlying metaphysical grid by which I make that judgment.

        And the irony for the writer here is failing his own standard. Objecting to others’ hatred? Ok. I get it. Justifiable. Hating them because they are haters? That’s self-refuting. And perpetuating the cycle, as I told him below.

        • Otto

          You miss the point. You may think you have heard enough discussions on both sides to understand but your comments clearly show you don’t.

          The writer doesn’t hate the believers, the writer hates their justification for their hate (their version of Jesus). Never once does the writer say that he hates these people, he hates their beliefs. That is a very significant difference and you would do well to understand the point he is making. Don’t conflate the hating the believer with hating the belief.

          • soter phile

            On the contrary, he explicitly and repeatedly states that he hates their God. Period.

            Give them the integrity of their faith. That’s the greatest insult you can make – and that’s not even to address the caricature of that God. What you see as mere concepts, they see as the center of their existence – their very identity. You don’t have to be a theist to understand that’s not the same as just assaulting an ‘idea.’

          • Otto

            Too bad. It is just an idea. Just because you hold your idea in a position of higher esteem doesn’t mean others should be expected too.

            Religion is a part of the marketplace of ideas. What people like you want to do is to put it in a special category that is exempt from criticism. Putting ideas above reproach is dangerous and unreasonable. Ideas should not be given automatic respect, they should have to earn our respect. The religious ideas that the writer is criticizing deserve no respect.

          • soter phile

            1) it amazes me that race, gender, and sexuality are (rightfully) discussed with respect – but the notion that religion should also get that respect is somehow seen as illegitimate? if it’s hate speech in any of the prior cases, why not with religion as well? there is little hope for your “marketplace” without an ability to disagree respectfully.

            2) I welcome critique. Why else would I be on a blog like this? But i think our divide is in the latter part of your paragraph. The author (in my estimation) purposefully caricatures his opponents. Sure, many of the ideas he places upon them are worthy of disrespect – but are they accurate?

            I’ve said it repeatedly on this page. If the scenario were flipped, and the article made anecdotal, partial descriptions of atheist’s beliefs, compiling *only* failures and citing all the examples of the worst offenders – would you consider that an honest & fair assessment?

            Yes, “putting ideas above reproach is dangerous and unreasonable.” and hence my critique here. the author is employing the very tactics he is criticizing (and, imho, inaccurately projecting upon ALL those with whom he disagrees) – so why isn’t he equally taken to task? It’s an attempt to silence, and would be clearly seen as such if it were coming from the “other” side.

          • Otto

            “it amazes me that race, gender, and sexuality are (rightfully) discussed with respect -“

            Really? In all cases? I don’t think so. The ideas that the White Supremacists espouse are not treated with respect, the ideas that the misogynists espouse are not treated with respect, nor the homophobes. Yes i put these ideas that the writer criticizes in the same category and will defend that position.

            The ideas he criticizes are accurate in some cases, not all. Not everyone believes in a Jesus that promotes homophobia, etc. but he is not addressing those beliefs in Jesus. The problem here is that believers want to put ‘Jesus’ and those that believe in Jesus in the same box when in actuality Jesus means different things to different people. The writer is criticizing the worst aspects of the Jesus belief. Believers can’t wrap their head around the idea that Jesus belief can be responsible for anything negative, which is demonstrably false. I have had contentious disagreements with atheists on issues and will call them out equally for holding poisonous positions when I see them.

            “Sure, many of the ideas he places upon them are worthy of disrespect – but are they accurate?”

            If there is something specific you think is inaccurate I think you should address it. Up to now you just seem to generally disagree without explaining what exactly he took issue with that you don’t agree with.

            “I’ve said it repeatedly on this page. If the scenario were flipped, and
            the article made anecdotal, partial descriptions of atheist’s beliefs,
            compiling *only* failures and citing all the examples of the worst
            offenders – would you consider that an honest & fair assessment?

            If such an article tried to lump all atheists into the same category based on the examples of some than yes I would agree with you. I don’t think that is what he is doing though. As I explained above I think that is what you are wrongly extrapolating from it.

            I don’t see anyone attempting to silence here. You have not been banned for your disagreement nor would I want you to be. There is nothing wrong with blunt disagreement as long as the issues being discussed stay on topic.

          • soter phile

            1) I didn’t say in all cases. I guess I should have added qualified along these lines: “it is a given expectation on this blog that…”

            2) there are so many inaccuracies, it’s difficult to choose just one. i’ve been trying to make the reciprocal analogy because of how *little* patience would be demonstrated in such a case.

            but for the sake of giving a few examples (so you know I’m not just using that as a dodge):

            a) he opens by saying he does not hate the Jesus of the bible – and yet, *some* of the things he later attributes solely to a fabricated modern Jesus *are* the things taught in the Gospels.

            for example, Jesus suffers no rival. if one were *forced* (in the most extreme instance?) to choose b/t a spouse and Jesus, of course God must come first. not only is it intrinsic to the notion of a Creator/creation divide, but it’s a theme of the entire Bible. and note well: if one does not assume the bible is contradictory (a hallmark of the community being criticized), this is the same Jesus calling for love of family and enemies. yet there is no nuance demonstrated by the author to allow them to hold that view with integrity.

            b) then it’s a string of various perceived hypocrisies… some of which do *not* fit together in a singular group even if granted as sometimes accurate.

            for example, prosperity Gospel proponents often *are* the poor (from lower socio-economic backgrounds). yet the author describes it as though the rich are lining up for this view. “This Jesus cares nothing for the poor… [his followers] often drive fancy cars, have Rolexes, lear jets, fancy suits…”

            and his criticism of the prosperity Gospel follows directly after choosing Jesus over a spouse – but prosperity Gospel proponents *rarely* ever engage the topic of Jesus’ commands on one’s life apart from *finances*. for example, Joel Osteen almost never speaks of “sin.” it’s a critique of two different approaches almost never found together, but here cobbled together into one “bad guy” for the author to hate.

            other examples follow in his article, but it is probably the opening rant which most aptly demonstrates the problem, in which he dismisses the Jesus of the past as irrelevant, but complains “the Jesus of the 300,000 Christian churches that populate every community in America – he has the power to affect my life, hurt my family and destroy my country. And I hate him with a vengeance.” considering his numbers (certainly exaggeration), what is one to conclude but a rather ALL-encompassing statement about virtually ALL conservative/historically orthodox churches?

            but if that wasn’t sufficient, consider: “This is the essence of Christianity, an ever-evolving religion bearing little resemblance to what it was even a century ago.” even if one only considers the Apostles’ Creed (outside the bible, the most ancient Christian list of core beliefs), the vast majority of today’s self-designated “Christian” churches – just like a century ago – ascribe to those *unchanged* central tenets… some of which are the very thing he is saying is “destroy[ing] my country.”

            SUM: honestly, if we simply traded the target for atheists and “liberals”, this would be a rant off Fox News (esp. the “destroying my country”) that would incite most readers of this blog to rage for the shallow misrepresentations of their views and history. it’s the same old us/them narrative, merely flipping the script for “us” & “them.”

            And as for silencing: when you purposefully misrepresent your opponents’ views, you prevent a platform for genuine dialogue (for refusal to acknowledge one another’s *actual* positions). Both the Republicans and Democrats are doing that now in the presidential race. It’s as if neither can say *anything* positive about the other, for fear that they might lose the numbers game to take the power of the White House. And when that happens – as with this discussion – we all lose.

          • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

            You are beating a dead horse, friend. But keeping on flogging that horse…he’s dead so he won’t mind.

          • soter phile

            And you are demonstrating my point. Instead of engaging the substance of my points, you choose mockery. Though it may not be an overt silencing tactic, it is a functional way to avoid any real conversation.

          • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

            You are not interested in discussion. You have spent days now reasserting the same point–that the tone of my post was wrong/offensive. I reject your claim, end of story. Thousands of people have read this post, yet you are the only one to complain about my tone. Perhaps you are the one with the problem, not me.

            Since I reject your line of reasoning, what more is there for us to talk about?Others have tried to educate you, but you refuse to accept their words too.

            I know what I know about Evangelicalism. I was born into it, attended an Evangelical college, and spent 25 years pastoring Evangelical churches. I have experienced virtually everything there is to experience in Evangelicalism. I have visited, attended, or preached at over 200 Evangelical churches in ten states. I spent my days studying and critiquing Evangelicalism. My blog, which is widely read, features daily critiques of Evangelical theology, politics, and practice. I am say al of this not to toot my own horn, but to say I know what I’m talking about.

            My post stands on its own. Everything in it can be found within the Evangelical tent. If you can’t accept these facts I don’t know what to tell you. Facts are facts regardless of whether you accept them.

            Let me be clear, Evangelicalism in its current form is a pernicious theological,political, and social system that deserves sharp critique. At times, Evangelical behavior warrants scorn and ridicule. Evangelicalism is often psychologically harmful, and at times it causes physical harm. It is a theological system that promotes ignorance because of its laughable belief that the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, infallible text. Evangelicalism promotes scientific ignorance,sexual repression, and the subjugation of women and children by men. Like the Catholic Church, Evangelicalism has a huge with child sexual abuse. Politically, Evangelicals are shills for the Republican Party. They are anti-abortion, homophobic, and have irrational fears concerning using the same bathroom as Transgenders. I could go on and on…

            No Evangelical is all of these things, but my observations and study (and 50 years of being part of the Evangelical church) have led to to the conclusions detailed in my post.

            Evangelicalism is inherently Fundamentalist–both theologically and socially. Its death will be sweet music to my ears. Until then, I write.

            If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. With that, I am done talking about this issue.

            Bruce

          • soter phile

            Facts *are* facts. And I’d point out again how few of them are present in your above comment. Rhetoric and testimonial? yes. Engaging *any* of the particular points I raised? absolutely not.

            Case in point, I gave several, specific examples of problems in your essay. You chose merely to gloss over those in favor of reiterating the same broad accusations. Ironically, I find that very reminiscent of Donald Trump: repeat the same big picture; ignore the facts.

            Again, BOTH sides have a tendency to do this. I think it’s a problem for BOTH sides. But you are perpetuating that problem in your response. You want to eviscerate “them” for doing it, all the while doing the very same thing yourself.

            And I’d go back to what I asserted earlier: the theology of “Jesus hates” and “I hate Jesus” are mirror images. Your philosophical framework may have changed, but your demeanor has not. Fundamentalism is alive and well on the left, too, Bruce. Will its death also be sweet music to your ears?

          • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

            I have said all I can possibly say on this matter. I learned years ago that some people will only hear what they want to hear, and no amount of discussion will change this. You continue to make assessments about my personality and character. How could you possibly know anything about my demeanor?

            Fundamentalism is a problem wherever it exists.

          • soter phile

            1) You said earlier: “I am willing to have thoughtful discussions with any Evangelical who dares to engage me in such a discussion.” You repeatedly have refused to engage me beyond the most generic rhetoric. I expect you might take the out on the adjective “thoughtful” – but barring that dodge, you have yet to address *any* of the particular points I’ve made. Is that really “all I can possibly say on this matter”? It strains credulity to then blame the listener for “only hear[ing] what they want to hear.”

            2) You said: “How could you possibly know anything about my demeanor?” You used the word “hate” 15x in the above article – but somehow I’m the illogical one for deducing a particular tone from that?

            3) Yes, “fundamentalism is a problem wherever it exists…” whether one’s fundamental is hating atheists OR Evangelicals. A theology of hate remains just that.

          • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

            You really don’t want me to tell you what I think of you Soter Phile. :) On my own blog I would, but not here. I know your species quite well, having been one myself at one time. That you can’t wrap your mind around my use of the word hate is your problem not mine. Expand your vocabulary and try to understand how the word hate might be used differently from how you think it is being used in my post.

            I keep saying “all I can possibly say on this matter” because I really do want to put an end to it. You have dominated this discussion thread with numerous comments, yet you have not moved a jot or a tittle away from your unfounded assertions. Several people have tried to patiently show you that you are mistaken, all to no avail.

            Perhaps you should write a blog post that details how my assertions about Evangelicalism are wrong. As a previous commenter tried to tell you, every point I made in my post can be found within Evangelicalism. That you choose not to recognize this is your problem, not mine.

            Your problem is singular…you don’t like that I used the word hate. That’s fine, but most readers understand my use of the word. Take a piece of advice…when you find yourself standing alone on the outside, perhaps you are the one who is mistaken. As with all of my writing, I will gladly correct any factual errors. Since I haven’t made any in this post, all we are left with is your objection based on my use of the word hate.

            I have devoted far more attention to this discussion that I should have. There really is nothing more that I can say on the matter. You are free to talk to yourself or perhaps others may still want to engage you. I have a garden to plant so I hope you forgive me for not investing any more time in trying to get Lazarus to rise from the dead.

          • soter phile

            1) Yes, I am on a page in an environment where many disagree with me. Isn’t that part of being willing to have a conversation?

            2) As for correcting factual errors: even your summary of what *I* have been saying is inaccurate. From my very first post, I affirmed that there were *some* thoughtful objections in your piece. But as for my objection: it was not merely singular. not only did I point out your (literally) hate-filled speech but also the anecdotal and contradictory gathering of all the worst possible offenses into one straw man presentation. [a) Evangelicals are not that monolithic, and b) (as I said above in one of the particular points to which you have NOT responded) you’ve combined versions that do not exist in the same space for the sake of building your straw man.] As I’ve said multiple times – if the “other” side reciprocated this argument, it would be called out for what it is: a caricature. I’m simply asking this community to hold you to the same standard.

            Why does it matter to this community? Because straw men prevent real dialogue. Your responses certainly seem to want to perpetuate that problem, but I have often found reasonable people on both sides of this debate who actually desire to *accurately* represent those with whom they disagree so genuine interaction and progress can occur. Straw men are a way to *prevent* dialogue, functionally silencing those with whom you disagree.

            3) As for your advice that “finding yourself alone on the outside” strongly implies one is mistaken, I find that highly ironic considering your experience of alienation in leaving Evangelicalism. Did you take that same advice then?

          • Otto

            I do agree with you that all the things regarding Jesus he takes issue with can be justified through the Gospels and the Bible and therefore should not be attributed to a fabricated Jesus. The Jesus of the Bible is not nearly what he is cracked up to be. Putting God first is not ethical.

            One does not have to assume the Bible is contradictory, it IS contradictory and the multitudes of various Christian belief demonstrate that. Most any behavior can be justified through the Bible…both good and bad. Jesus tells us to love our enemies…but yet he assures us they will be dealt with in the afterlife, I don’t find that message to be loving.

            Regardless of the Apostles Creed many Christian ideas have come about in the last 100 years. There are more denominations of Christianity than at any other time in history, that list keeps growing.

            He also specifies the attributes of the “Jesus” he hates…if those attributes don’t fit you, your fellow Christians or your brand of Christianity he isn’t addressing you. It seems to me if you are aligning yourself with them either the attributes do apply or you are lumping yourself in with the rest in which case you are also helping to create an “us vs them” situation.

            After all Christians are more than adept at creating the us vs them narrative, in fact I would argue that is where much of it started. How many times have you heard “this is a Christian nation…we are founded on Judaeo-Christian values” or some Christian conservative railing against the “Secular progressive agenda”. Or how about the very core of most Christian belief in this country…the idea that if you are not on ‘our team’ you cannot earn salvation and you deserve eternal punishment, you can’t get much more “us vs them” than that. Just out of curiosity when you hear this “Us vs Them” rhetoric from your side does it make you angry in the same way? Do you address it with them like you are here? I hope you do.

            This piece was absolutely a polemic and I do think you in your response to me here where you got more specific in your criticism you bring up some valid issues (even if I don’t agree with your conclusions) and I do appreciate the response. I would have liked to see the author respond to your specifics, imho I think using these type of specifics is how you should start next time.

          • soter phile

            Thanks for your input, Otto. I appreciate the measured response here – including the advice of where to start next time.

            a) Yes, many of these issues are directly from the Bible. but claiming God is unethical begs the primary question (since one’s metaphysical underpinnings are what normally what defines the ethical).

            b) if you assume the Bible is contradictory, then you might want to ask: in what way could a group of (even mildly) intelligent people read this book and think otherwise? what have i not considered in my method of interpreting? could they have an integrity i’ve missed or is Freud/Nietzsche/etc. right in claiming it’s all just a foil for other (read: nefarious & manipulative) purposes?

            c) there is diversity within Christianity – some of it within appropriate parameters, some of it embarrassingly scandalous. i won’t deny that.

            however, i’d temper your critique with a thought or two:
            i) this is arguably the largest human movement in history with currently over 2 billion adherents. is the diversity seen within that light? (30k denominations sounds huge, but as a subsets of 2 billion?)
            ii) considering such a large number, it’s easy to overlook the incredible unity in something as complex as the Apostles’ Creed, to which over 98.9% of those denominations naming the name of Christ adhere doctrinally (e.g., not the LDS, JWs, etc.).
            ii) the fact that denominations continue to splinter is a deep embarrassment for the cause of Christ. but it doesn’t contradict Christianity’s anthropology (in light of sin) – even in the Church.

            d) i need to be clearer in my critique if it sounds like i’m aligning myself with his straw man. *some* of the attributes he rightly (imho) criticizes as distinct from the Bible. others he conflates with historical orthodoxy. and yet others he fabricates as an amalgamation of ‘parts’ to which he objects, which do not exist together. but my primary objection is not simply to one of these steps; rather, it’s the whole picture. it makes his critique a caricature – and as such, it is not useful for any real progress in civil dialogue here. it’s the same tactic as the political right’s fear-mongering: gathering all the anecdotal, worst case scenarios as if they were the rule in order to “win” the argument (at the expense of mutual respect and understanding).

            e) i absolutely call that junk out on the other side. a lot. i think it might be the biggest problem for those of us who believe in Christ. the us/them narrative is killed by the cross. who is the “them” that needs to be blamed? ME. I deserve that. period. that’s the message of the cross: I’m worse off than i want to admit; but in the very same place I’m more loved than I ever dared hope. as a result, the testimony of a Christian should be: “if God can rescue someone as broken as me, he can rescue anyone.” not: “those are the bad people. we’re the good people.” no, the cross means Jesus died for bad people like me.

          • Otto

            but claiming God is unethical begs the primary question”

            No it really doesn’t, not when it comes to the character of God in Christianity that we are talking about here. Is there any offense for which it would be considered ethical to continually torture a human being? No metaphysics required to answer that one.

            “in what way could a group of (even mildly) intelligent people read this book and think otherwise?”

            If they started from faulty premise that the Bible is communication from a perfect being they would have no choice but to rationalize the obvious contradictions. Intelligent people are just as capable of fooling themselves as anyone else. If one accepts a faulty premise any conclusions from that premise are also faulty.

            The Apostles Creed was settled on through war, politics, infighting, happenstance and committees over hundreds of years…not exactly the best way to figure out the truth of an issue. The fact that large numbers still subscribe to it says nothing as to its truth value.

            *edit* BTW why do you think it is that Christianity does not teach the history of how the tenets of the Apostles Creed were settled on? If it is such ‘truth’ what are they hiding? I am willing to bet that a very small percentage of Christians understand or even know anything about that part of Christian history. Do you think knowing that history would help or hinder the faith in it for the average Christian?

            As to your point in (d)…I am not sure his post was meant to promote discussion between the groups. It could be that his intention in as much as it was directed at still in the fold Christians was to let them know that not everyone thinks Jesus as promoted by some groups is all that wonderful. I can’t say what the authors intention was though. I can only say I don’t see it in the light you do.

            As to your e)…I think that is one of the most awful parts of Christianity, defining ourselves in the worst light possible and then requiring a certain belief in order to get around the punishment it claims we all are due. It is toxic. I had nothing to do with the situation I was born into and yet I am none the less blamed for it. It also points out a contradiction in the Bible where it says we should not judge the son for the sins of the father…and yet that is exactly what the Christian God does. Christianity is not consistent with itself. I can tell you that at a very young age when I was a believing Christian I often wished I had no been born at all…what a great message for a child. *sarcasm*

          • soter phile

            1) an ethical judgment necessarily is based upon one’s underlying foundational/metaphysical grid (even if that grid explicitly denies the metaphysical; e.g., naturalism). it is one thing to point out contradictions from within a system, but an appeal to ethics from outside a system in order to critique that system simply points back to the primary debate: which metaphysical grid has authority/is accurate/etc.? but to do that in order to settle the debate *is* begging the question.

            2) you said: “If one accepts a faulty premise any conclusions from that premise are also faulty.” Agreed. But who has the faulty premise? Taking something as “obvious” which is not obvious to all certainly seems to be a faulty premise in and of itself.

            as to the Apostles’ Creed: a historical study of its formation will also reveal that all of the doctrines espoused therein are found are not conceived *in* the process, but based upon the appeal to the earliest documents (i.e., the New Testament). in other words, while i’m tempted to enter into the debate about the critical, first 300 years (in which Christians did *not* have such privileged political positions nor fight wars, etc.), the greater point would be simply this: all of the doctrines that make up the Apostles’ Creed are found in the earliest documents. To ascribe the document’s authority to (centuries) later historical developments is a re-narration of how the early Church understood authority. For some very interesting historical considerations on that topic, here is one NT scholar on several of those hotly discussed issues:
            http://michaeljkruger.com/the-complete-series-ten-basic-facts-about-the-nt-canon-that-every-christian-should-memorize/

            3/d) while the author’s secondary intention may not be ultimately clear, his words do carry meaning – and in virtually any other scenario (esp. in regard to race, gender, sexuality, etc.), there would be no discussion. it would be called hate-speech. period. to make it a semantic discussion is as ridiculous as those Republicans who were debating the meaning of “rape” last year. words have meaning – especially (literally) hate-filled words. and even if the author “didn’t mean it that way”, one is still responsible for one’s words – which (incredibly ironically!) is his very point to Evangelicals.

            4/e) is it “toxic” for a doctor to insist the patient has cancer? again, it still presses the metaphysical/objective reality. the blame for the ‘toxicity’ of the situation is utterly contingent on whether or not the doctor’s appraisal is objectively accurate.

            i am sorry to hear of how you were treated as a child. that is sad – and without fully knowing the details, it certainly sounds unfaithful to Christ’s approach to others.

            as for your sins of the fathers question, here is a quick summary of the distinction:
            https://carm.org/bible-difficulties/genesis-deuteronomy/do-sons-bear-sins-fathers-or-not
            (not recommending the whole site, just a decent short summary on this topic)

            5) this, i think, i think is the most important point. *nothing* we do makes us “worthy of being saved”. according to Eph.2:8, even our faith is a gift from God. so, no, there is NO room for a superiority complex. as Eph.2:1-3 makes clear, Christians equally deserve the wrath of God. there is no room at the foot of the cross for Christians to look down on anyone.

          • Otto

            1) When your argument boils down to “eternal torture is ethical in some situations” I highly question whether those ethics are actually ethical. Appealing to an authority that cannot be demonstrated to exist as the foundation for ethics is completely inane…it is no wonder that the state of morality in theistic culture is such a mess. Everyone can just claim to have the direct connection and understanding of the Ultimate Authority and do whatever they have determined that authority wants. There is literally no difference between the statements “God is the only Being that is ethically able to commit violence” and “I am God’s instrument of violence” in their foundation. They are based on the exact same supposition. It blows my mind people claim that is an objective foundation when it could not be more arbitrary.

            2) If you cannot demonstrate the truth of the claim i.e. the Bible is communication from a perfect Being the faulty premise is yours. It matters not whether one person claims this or a billion claim it. The number of people making a claim says nothing to its truth value. That is an appeal to popularity and is fallacious. If you make a claim the onus is on you to back it up, not just assert it. You seem to be taking a presuppostional stand in this discussion in an effort to claim all presuppositions are equal and therefore they are all valid. I reject that out of hand. The fewer presuppositions, the better.

            Per the Apostles Creed. Yes there is basis for the tenets of the Apostles Creed in the earliest documents, there was also basis for the oppositions positions, hence why there was so much infighting. The winners did not win based on reason and evidence. The documents that were decided on were also determined at this time so it is not all that interesting that the documents ended up lining up with that belief.

            3/d) There is a difference between attacking the attributes of a person, their race, their gender, etc. and attacking the beliefs a person holds. Beliefs should be held up for criticism. This idea that beliefs should be given any kind of automatic respect is ridiculous. Now I have Christian family and friends, I don’t go around telling them I think their beliefs are faulty and caustic. But this is a blog, not an interpersonal relationship. If you don’t like what is said that is your prerogative. This is exactly the place to vent and exchange ideas without worrying about offense. No one is forced to. The argument about whether rape is legitimate is a whole lot different than whether one’s version of God is toxic.

            4/e) Yes it is toxic for a doctor to insist that a patient has cancer if he has no empirical basis to make that determination…they call that malpractice. If a doctor routinely diagnosed patients with cancer after doing nothing more than taking their temperature he would rightly have his license yanked.

            I don’t find Matt Slick to be anymore of an authority on these issues than anyone else. His basis for his opinion has the same foundation, they are all equally valid…and therefore they are all equally invalid.

            5) I had a Christian argue the exact opposite to me the other day…and he could quote chapter and verse to support his position. He said ALL that matters is how we treat others, period. There is no more reason to think you are right over him. Or you could both be equally wrong.

            And if faith is a gift from God and some people have it and some don’t, it would stand to reason some people who think they have been given this gift would feel superior to those that don’t. Even that idea is toxic. A metaphysical version of the Star Bellied Sneeches.

          • soter phile

            We are wandering from the original article into my faith. I certainly don’t mind, but I haven’t forgotten your earlier comment in that regard (about being banned). At least I think it was yours. But in response to your questions…

            1) That is not my argument.
            a) philosophically: everyone has a metaphysical for ethics. i merely pointed out that labeling someone else’s ethical system “unethical” based on your own standards is not compelling – and it invites the reciprocal. it’s much better to discuss its merits on its own integrity.

            b) “eternal torture is ethical in some situations.” this presses the question of justice. a finite offense would normally be matched by a finite ‘just’ punishment for the offense/injury. many cite “eye for an eye”, etc. so what does one make of an infinite offense? does justice require an infinite punishment? would it require an unjust God to forego justice? if there’s a concept of “justice” to which God answers, well, that’s the real God. but if instead, God is demonstrating his character (which defines justice), now we look to see what justice is.

            the cross presses this conundrum: here we have an infinite offense (as one theologian put it: “the cross demonstrates the heart of humanity: given the chance, we would kill God”). if there is any way to even conceive of an infinite offense, that would be it. what does it warrant? but the amazing thing is what God does with the offense – turning the very place that most demonstrates the terrible justice we deserve is also the very place where God’s grace & love are most demonstrated.

            application: should Christians be for torture? absolutely not. we all deserve it and didn’t get it.
            does God torture people eternally? as CS Lewis said, “the gates of Hell are locked from the inside.” or as Jesus put it: “anyone who sins is a slave to sin.” that’s addiction language. or as Woody Allen so tragically put it: “the heart wants what it wants.” consider: what if the burning depictions of Hell in Scripture are more aptly considered in that light? It is not so much some sadistic God who exults in inflicting pain as it is a just Judge who leaves one to his own devices. repeatedly in the NT, Christians are reminded that apart from God’s grace, that is what we are (Jn.15:5; 1 Cor.6:11; Eph.2:1-3).

            c) you said “Appealing to an authority that cannot be demonstrated to exist…” – again this begs the question. which is why you’ll probably object to an ontological response: we exist. we didn’t make ourselves. why doesn’t that warrant at least *some* humility regarding this question? i’m not saying that *decides* the question, but it certainly doesn’t match the “everyone who thinks that way is clearly inferior” mindset which I too often encounter among atheists. again, its wrong when Christians demonstrate that mentality, too.

            d) you said: “…and can do whatever they have determined that authority wants…”
            certainly Feuerbach’s critique applies (“all theology is just anthropology”), i.e.: how do you know you’re not just self-projecting? the only exception is if you have a God who can tell you things you don’t want to hear.
            i) and in that regard, I’d point out how many of the biblical authors share their brokenness and messes. if you’re fabricating a story, why include things that make you look bad in the process?
            ii) it is also worth pointing out that the Bible criticizes every culture into which it speaks – including those in which it was written (and for different reasons in different cultures). if the agenda is to pre-determine and manipulate people, the text itself calls that out.

            e) i highly doubt you see no difference between the God who calls his followers to commit violence and the God who takes the primary violence upon himself. you have demonstrated before an ability to be reasonable. a quick pass at comparative religions demonstrates otherwise.

            consider, for example, the critical first 300 years after the inception of two religions: Christianity and Islam. In that most critical phase, Christianity spread without privilege of military conquest, exalted political privilege or the like – and yet it came to be the dominant presence in the urban centers. As Rodney Stark has pointed out, maybe the two most critical events were the plagues that hit in that time period. families threw out their own. Christians took them in, nursed them back to health. sometimes they died. sometimes the Christians died. but after your family has kicked you out, who is your new family? even just a quick historical outline of Islam’s spread over it’s first 300 years demonstrates it was at the edge of a sword.

            those are starkly differentiated philosophies of life and certainly of proselytizing. let’s not call that “the exact same supposition.” maybe both believe God acted in history – but note well the *manner* in which God acted.

            2) agreed – it is all about demonstrating the truth of the claim. after all, it was Jesus who claimed to be “the Truth” and said it would “set you free.”

            a) i’m not appealing to the fallacy of the majority. the numbers only demonstrate that an idea is worth considering – they do not ensure it is correct.

            b) no, i don’t claim all presuppositions are equally valid. i’m merely entertaining the philosophical quandary of authority by pointing out the dilemma of making a presuppositional appeal. i – like everyone else here – have a presupposition, and i do not think they are all equally valid.

            c) i personally would encourage engaging the scholarship for any who dismiss Christianity out of hand. Don’t just read the authors you like – read intelligent and thoughtful people on the “other” side. that’s advice i try to put into practice… and part of why i’m here. if you’re interested, i have some recommendations.

            d) i strongly disagree with your assessment of the Apostles’ Creed. no, despite postmodern history professors skeptically teaching that “history is written by the winners”, that is not the case. that assumes that later “victors” cannot re-write and/or have access to any earlier documents to the contrary. if we really believed history was only written by the winners, why would we study archeology?

            the incredible thing about these discussions is that we can read about them. the argument has been made that the church suppressed a number of ‘heresies’, but that simply doesn’t match logic or what we know of history. first of all, pre-Constantinian Christianity had not ultimate political basis for “enforcing” a theological stance. and yet, if that’s the case, where are all the heretical bishops who represented those various stances – esp. in the 2nd & 3rd c prior to Constantine? we know a very *few* pastors who held them (which goes against the “they were written out by the winners”), but none of them were bishops. and considering how little centralized authority there was in this period, when supposedly all these various views existed, how could that be? here’s an article to that very point:
            http://michaeljkruger.com/where-are-all-the-heretical-bishops-in-the-second-century/

            point being: the unity of the early Christian church was not a fabrication of the later Constantine views, but a largely pre-existing unity based upon a non-political authority – namely, the biblical accounts (as the historical events). notably, the much maligned later church councils had this same view: not that they were “deciding” the canon/Church history, but that they were affirming what God had already done.

            3) this is back on our original topic: so you want to separate the *concepts* of race, gender and sexuality from belief. that certainly sounds like a distinction without difference.

            as you said, this is a blog. we can criticize ideas – but hopefully respectfully and charitably, even if genuinely and passionately. so why would the concepts of race, gender & sexuality be treated as “personal” but religion/faith not be?

            4) i agree that it must be demonstrated – but your insistence on empirical is problematic (not just for our metaphysical basis questions, but especially on non-empirical discussions like gender identity). and when discussing spiritual and/or philosophical matters (e.g., love, meaning of life, etc.), the empirical has *nothing* to say on the matter – and by extension no way of gauging what is and is not ethical. science can’t tell you what’s “good” or “bad”, for instance.

            so, yes, the doctor must be objectively correct – but in this instance, the objective cannot be relegated merely to the empirical.

            i read “Matt Slick” & thought “who the heck is that?” i had to google it. like i said, i wasn’t recommending that site as a whole – i merely saw a good summary of that particular discussion & the passages in question. in that regard, the appeal was not to “any” authority – but the very question you raised from *within* Christianity (a valid critique & question, BTW!); therefore, for the premise of that particular part of our discussion, seeing the Bible as an authority. and (here’s where there is overlap) that is an empirically verifiable discussion: does it say that or not? one can look it up for oneself.

            5) i’d be VERY interested in his chapter & verse, then – both as a Christian (because, if i’m wrong, I *want* to know it), and for the sake of our discussion. certainly, when the central teachings of a faith are paradoxical (God-man, 3-in-1, 1-in-3, justice & mercy together, etc.), and there can be tensions that are oppositely stressed. but to say “all that matters is how we treat others” requires ignoring the entire concept of grace, much less the megalomaniacal claims of Christ.

            as for superiority: it’s hard to feel superior if…
            a) a gift by definition is unearned
            b) you are repeatedly reminded (by the gift itself) that you deserve something very different
            c) you are called to share the gift with others who, like you, don’t deserve it

            And, as a fellow Seuss fan, I’d point out that the Sneeches realized in the end that they were no better than the other.

            *****
            Otto, I’m enjoying this conversation, but I know we’re stretching this format to its limits (esp if you just made it through the above tome). I wish there was a way to have it over lunch. Oh well. The privileges and challenges of the internet…

          • Otto

            I never said anything about being banned other than I would not want you to be. While I very much disagree with you (and of course you with me) the discussion is cordial.

            1) a) I would be happy to have a discussion on the merits of theistic ethics since they lack any merit. It is not a system of ethics it is a system of obedience. Obedience lacks ethics since it is just doing what one is told.

            b) What is an infinite offense?

            If I understood you right you said killing God. But it was God’s plan to kill himself so ultimately God is responsible. If God is leaving us to our own devices he knew at least a certain amount of people would do things that would end horribly…so again the responsibility for that would still end up with God. (Understand I am referring to God as the character presented, this does not mean I believe he is real.)

            c) I do not think people who believe are inferior, I think they are wrong. Atheists or theists that claim to be personally superior because of their belief or lack of belief are wrong.

            Ontologically the best answer is “I don’t know”. I don’t, and I see no evidence that anyone else knows either. The most humble answer to the question would be ‘I don’t know’, I don’t see giving poorly or fallaciously supported answers as being humble.

            “if you’re fabricating a story, why include things that make you look bad in the process?

            If the objective is to show how much broken and messed up people are it makes perfect sense. It is pretty hard to be able to know what someones motivation is today…much less 2000+ years ago.

            e) I said foundationally they are the same. They have the same grounding, there is no demonstration either are correct, or just.

            and yet, if that’s the case, where are all the heretical bishops who represented those various stances – esp. in the 2nd & 3rd c prior to Constantine?

            http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Wars-Patriarchs-Emperors-Christians/dp/0061768936

            Race, gender and sexuality are not ideas. Attacking someones race is essentially an ad hominem attack. Attacking the belief someone holds is not.

            I wasn’t accusing you of using Matt Slick as an authority. My point was that there is no reason his answer to that question is correct and the Catholic answer is wrong…or any other answer for that matter. I will accept an answer to that question when the person(s) answering can demonstrate that they are correct.

            And there lies the problem. When a person speaks about “love” or “meaning of life”, etc. they are talking about something personal to them. They are talking about something they can define themselves, and if it contradicts my version or someone else’s version of those terms it is not a big deal.

            Religion makes claims about our shared reality and that makes it a whole different matter. Religion isn’t just making claims about personal truth, it is making claims about what is true for everyone, and once a claim crosses that line empiricism becomes very important.

            If a theist says “hey this is true for me but I don’t expect anyone else to believe it or be subject to it” I could not care less. If people’s religion stopped at that point it would be no different than a personal hobby, everyone has personal hobbies and generally we don’t argue about who’s is better or more correct. We also don’t expect other people to respect our hobbies. That isn’t the case with many religion’s, it especially is not the case with Christianity. I don’t tell non-golfers that if they don’t follow and respect golf they are going to suffer consequences later. Yet I am constantly given messages from Christians that if I don’t follow their religion I will pay for it later. At that point asking for empirical proof of their claims is not being unreasonable. That is where and why I get frustrated with religious claims and those people who make them.

            Yes lunch would be better, and I am enjoying it as well. I do think you are a thoughtful and well meaning individual. I know and respect many Christians like yourself.

  • http://www.jrutgermadison.com J. Rutger Madison

    “[I]if forced to choose between their spouse and family, they would choose Jesus. Simply put, they love Jesus more than they love their families.”

    In fairness, these people are doing exactly what Jesus commanded.

    “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26 KJV

    Which is another reason to hate Jesus.

    • pintorider

      I would hate Jesus but he never existed.

  • smarley

    soter phile says – It is one thing to have legitimate, thoughtful objections (there are a few above)… but this reads more like an angry teenager who has yet to transcend knee jerk reactions to his parents’ various failures .” — Except, that this essay was written by a former pastor with more than a quarter century of experience inside Christian faith. Who else might be in a better position to have thoughtful objections? However, the author is correct that the “fathers” various failures cause many to have a “knee-jerk reaction” and turn to atheism.

    • soter phile

      Again, I *did* say there were some legitimate & thoughtful objections in the above article. The problem with this article is the inability to state *anything* positive. yes, that smacks of overcompensation – and all the more for someone with 27 years of experiences upon which to draw even a modicum of balance.

      flip the situation. wouldn’t you appropriately respond in the same vein if an evangelical made such a melodramatic summation of atheism (especially with words like “hate” and only listing negative examples)? if *either* side attempts to silence the other through rhetoric and straw men, it prevents any real progress in civil dialogue, much less mutual respect among genuine yet passionately held differences of opinion.

  • Kathy Mulholland-Isabell

    Perfect. I waffle between atheist/agnostic, and paradoxically I am active in a United Methodist church. I like it because I’m plugged into community service and I get to be involved in music. OK. My pastor recently preached on a related topic, how politicians, bigots, and other shallow people call on their “faith” as an excuse to judge and be mean to others — IN THE NAME OF JESUS! Let us all call on JESUS while we trash marriage between two loving people of the same gender. Let us call on JESUS while we tell people in vicious terms what bathroom to use. Let us invoke JESUS while we decide if you can work here, teach here, be yourself, get a cake or some flowers, a marriage certificate, adopt a child, can you add to this list? IN THE NAME OF JESUS so many atrocities, so much hate has been spread.

  • http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com Brambonius

    And the egregore of Murikan Jeebus, the tribal war-god that looks as much as Jesus of Nazareth as Tash of Calormen looks like Aslan, seems to be growing through the praises of his followers….

  • Preston3072

    What does hating homosexuals have to do with Jesus? Is it Jesus’ fault if some of His followers misread His teachings? Do we write-off a teacher because one of his/her students doesn’t get 100% in a test?

    • Otto

      Well the OT orders the killing of homosexuals and Jesus seemed to agree.

      “Is it Jesus’ fault if some of his followers get the teachings wrong”…if one believes Jesus is an all powerful God than ‘yes….yes it is’.

      • Elizabeth.

        I’d put it that Jesus “did not explicitly refute it,” wanting to lend as little credence to culture wars Jesus as possible. The gospels show him continually in trouble for putting human need over religious tradition. Thanks for your comments, Otto….

      • Preston3072

        Yes, Jesus agreed with all the OT laws, and He died on the cross for all the death punishments including homosexuals, adulterers and Sabbath breakers etc so that they would no longer apply.

        • Otto

          Well not all versions of Christianity believe that so the fact that a supposedly all powerful God didn’t communicate properly would be his fault.

  • iafarmer

    You have very little understanding of Jesus; more to the point, you have absolutely no understanding of the fall of man in the garden, the power of sin and Satan in this world.

    God is a good God: this is the central theme of all scripture. Everything bad, evil, or perverted is a product of the evil influence of Satan,to whom Adam gave the ‘deed’ to this world and all of God’s creation,for all time, until time ceases to exist.

    You, sir, have been deceived by Satan (as have been countless others). The deception is this: when you see evil, you hang the blame on Jesus, who is your only chance for salvation and eternal life. Get right with God. Bless and adore Him. Praise Him until you meet Him. Praying for you…….IAFARMER

  • Edwin Woodruff Tait

    I’m a Christian and I hate the “Jesus” of right-wing American Christian culture too. I just finished a long series of arguments on another atheist forum, so I’m not going to get into another one here. I’m not going to try to persuade you that “my Jesus” is different, just to agree that this is the Jesus worshiped by many people, and that it’s (from my perspective) a false image of Jesus, a demonic idol.

    • Elizabeth.

      “demonic idol” — strong stuff… but I have to agree that the outcomes surely justify such a strong view. May its days be numbered!!!

      • veritasspiritus

        “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

        • ElizabetB.

          True, veritas!
          Tho I guess that’s redundant : )
          Thanks

    • Michael Ross

      My best friend is a christian, and his innate goodness as a person leads him to focus on the very best (humane?) parts of christianity and to ignore much of the rest. Often people create, or at least reify, god in their own image. Religion can be a confirmation of our basest tribal instincts, or a vehicle for striving to be better people.

  • steama

    Cults will be cults whether it is now or then.

  • Truth Seeker

    Written by a man who never met the real Jesus. Nice distortion of the truth.

    • pintorider

      Noone ever met the “real Jesus.” Jesus is a myth.

      • Truth Seeker

        Well if you say so it must be true.

        • thinkerfromiowa

          I have no clue about “pintorider’s” credentials, but he comes across to me as being quite well educated like I am. So yes; if pintorider says something I would consider it to be true far sooner than I would something from anyone who believes in “Jesus.”

          • Truth Seeker

            Well there you go then, you have it all figured out.

      • thinkerfromiowa

        I agree with you. Indeed, there is a movement called Mythicism that holds that Jesus was only a myth and never really existed. Google “mythicism” and you can find a lot of their materials.

        • pintorider

          Thanks. I’m fairly well read on the topic. Earl Doherty’s “The Jesus Puzzle” is a good start and it’s a free book download available at his website.

          • thinkerfromiowa

            I am very aware of “The Jesus Puzzle.” However, I didn’t know that it was downloadable. I just spent the better part of an hour at the site downloading stuff. Thanks for clueing me in!

    • littlekat

      Look up the word “metonymy”. Obviously an atheist doesn’t hate Jesus, since, as a rule, they do not believe in the biblical version of Jesus. One does not hate what has no meaning to them. BTW, interesting use of the word, “truth”.

      • Truth Seeker

        What you are saying is true if God does not exist and Jesus was just some nut who lived 2,000 years ago or never existed. However, if God does exist and Jesus really is who he claimed to be then the words of Jesus are true and the hatred is spiritual. John 15:19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.

    • thinkerfromiowa

      But how do you know that he never met the real Jesus? Do you have a clue about the circumstances that caused him to start feeling this way? For the record, I have known the very same Jesus that this writer knows and I hate and despise this Jesus as well.

      • Truth Seeker

        I know he never met the real Jesus because I have and he didn’t mention him in his article. He only talks about fake Christianity which I despise more than he does. The real Jesus is described in the Bible. He’s the Jesus who left us two commands. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Is it hard to find people following that Jesus? It sure is. I’ve only met a handful myself, but that should not surprise a man who spent close to 30 years in ministry. After all the real Jesus said that the road is narrow and few will find it. It’s narrow because you have to die to self to get on it and few want to do that.

  • Barbara

    Jesus doesn’t do any of those things. People do. Why not just hate them?