Crept out the back door

James Wolcott reads Ruy Teixeira on the demographics of American evangelicalism, noting this point in particular as it applies to the future electoral prospects of Sarah Palin:

White evangelical Protestants overall are roughly stable as a proportion
of the population.

Set aside electoral politics. I'm more interested in what this fact says about white evangelical Protestants.

Teixeira's statement is backed up by decades of research from Gallup, Barna, Christian Smith, Green/Guth/Kellstedt, etc. White evangelical Protestants have been stable as a proportion of the population for decades. That block — the evangelical subculture of born-again, fish-on-car, literal-interpretation, "pro-family and pro-life"/anti-gay and anti-abortion voting, CCM-listening, church-going patriotic Americans — is the same size it was 40 years ago.

And that's interesting, because the biggest defining characteristic of this subculture, more important than any of the cultural or political hallmarks listed above, is that it is evangelistic. The foremost concern of these evangelicals is evangelism — proclaiming the gospel and making converts and saving the unsaved. When that is your primary mission, it's not good news that your numbers have remained "roughly stable" throughout my lifetime.

America is home to hundreds, probably thousands, of evangelistic ministries — nonprofit parachurch agencies that exist, solely, to spread the gospel, which is to say to win converts. And they're all very successful. Just ask them. From the godfather of the bunch, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, on down to the smallest mendicant ministries, these groups and individuals invariably report anywhere from dozens to thousands of "souls won" every year.

How can we reconcile those claims with the actual demographic facts reported consistently over the decades? Either the massive numerical claims of all those evangelists are seriously exaggerated, or else there is an equally massive exodus in which the same number of people as they're bringing in through the front doors of the church are sneaking out the back.

I suspect, actually, it's a combination of both. I suspect that the numbers are exaggerated, but that whatever the actual numbers might be, attrition is keeping pace with addition.

I don't mean, necessarily, that these claims of quantitative evangelistic success are all deliberately exaggerated. But their score-keeping has no way, for example, of accounting for the serial conversions of chronic altar-call respondents, and I would guess those make up a much larger percentage than any of the professional evangelists would like to admit.

USA Today's religion columnist, Cathy Lynn Grossman, notes another way in which these evangelistic tallies can be inadvertently exaggerated:

The booming churches cited in every megachurch report haven't led to more believers, just believers switching churches for the newest facility, a better band, a bigger name preacher, perhaps.

Perhaps. Though some of those booming churches do seem to be places where "day by day evangelistic technique is adding to their number those who are being saved." Whatever you think of Rick Warren, his Saddleback Church really is huge and growing. Many of Saddleback's thousands of members are surely zero-sum transfers from other congregations, but probably not all of them.

Yet overall and over time, that zero-sum result of attrition matching addition has held true for America's evangelical subculture. "Roughly stable" in number and size for decades.

American evangelicals are aware of this, and even somewhat panicked by it. (They've got demographic studies looking ahead that paint an even bleaker picture for their future than Teixeira's studies paint for the future of the GOP.) But most of the response focuses on the addition side of the equation. I'm much more interested in the other part — why are so many people leaving?

The answer, I think, has to do with that verse from the second chapter of Acts that I misquote above. The bit about "adding to their number" comes at the end, as an apparent consequence, of a longer passage describing the early community:

All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Their numbers, it seems, were not "roughly stable."

  • low-tech cyclist

    Following up on what Cat Meadors said above (and partially in reply to ohiolibrarian’s response to Cat), if “White evangelical Protestants overall are roughly stable as a proportion of the population,” and whites are decreasing as a part of the entire population, then evangelical Protestants are increasing as a portion of the white population, and whites are indeed flocking to evangelical churches.
    White evangelical Protestants are, of course, 0% of the nonwhite population.
    Let’s put some (purely hypothetical) numbers on it.
    If white evangelical Protestants had been holding steady at 30% of the population, even as whites had dropped from 90% to 70% of the overall population, white evangelical Protestants, who are by definition a subset of the white population, would have gone from 33% to 43% of the white population, and would have continued to be 0% of the nonwhite population. But for all we know, black, Hispanic, Asian, etc. evangelicals might have been going from 33% to 43% of the nonwhite population at the same time, in which case evangelicals as a whole would have gone from 33% to 43% of the population.
    Or maybe the proportion of evangelicals among nonwhites had remained steady at 33%. They would have then gone from 3% to 10% of the population as a whole, so even then, evangelicals would have grown from 33% to 40% of the overall population.
    In fact, the only scenario where evangelicals have only held steady as a fraction of the overall population is one in which nonwhites abandon evangelical Christianity in droves, with nonwhite evangelicals staying at 3% of the overall population even as nonwhites go from 10% to 30% of the overall population.
    And we know that hasn’t happened. So Teixeira’s comment doesn’t in any way indicate that evangelicals’ evangelism has been less than successful.

  • Lee Ratner

    Yes, it figure that Fox would be going after libraries.

  • hapax

    Emcee, thanks for posting that. It absolutely made my day.

  • Dav

    I think that the one word that cannot be use in describing these whack-jobs is stable.
    Please keep in mind that evangelicals encompass a large and diverse group, many of whom are lovely people once you get to know them – or even if you don’t. As many beefs as I have with the white evangelical movement, classifying an entire population as either “whack-jobs” or “unstable” is incredibly rude. They’re not. Quit it.

    I generally find worldbuilding exercises where Something Big happens and the solution just happens to be a massive reinforcement of slavery and traditional gender norms really suspicious. It’s not an interesting discussion, in the sense that it is clearly offensive, and there are clear plot holes. The scenario described doesn’t seem to have much depth to it; it appears to exist solely because some marketing person realized that they’d have to explain why there aren’t more women around.
    It’s just a more modern version of the aliens who keep their women locked away in harems, or that Starfleet has perfect gender equality and presumably women just naturally prefer careers in counseling or medicine (or very very very brief ones in security). Honestly, it’s dumb and insulting, but it’s not horrific in some special way, and (until now) it didn’t seem like it was capturing people’s attention in a way that meant I should go pay extra attention.
    Honestly, I’ve been spending more time flailing over the spectacular, epic transphobia in Wire in the Blood. Dear Writers: A serial killer “confused about sexuality” who “secretly turns out to be a trans woman” and “lures” victims by “pretending” to be a vulnerable woman in trouble before torturing and killing her victims is not unique or new, but it does make you assholes, and not in the lubed-up-and-ready-for-fun kind of way.

  • MaryKaye

    There were signs near Chehalis, Washington, but also scattered across Oregon; they weren’t all together. You may be remembering the conservative political signs (home-made billboards) near Chehalis. Those are currently criticizing the Governor for “allowing searches of tenants’ property without warrant”, an accusation for which a brief Google search finds no evidence. The Governor recently signed a bill requiring landlords to pay rent assistance to tenants who are evicted because the building fails its safety checks. If this is what the Chehalis sign means, it’s sure ass-backwards. Let’s stand up for the right of tenants to… refuse safety inspections? (Perhaps it’s really “Let’s stand up for the right of landlords to run unsafe buildings” but that didn’t sound good as a slogan.)
    Maybe there is an issue I don’t know about and my Google-fu isn’t up to it. But that set of signs has never seemed particularly attached to reality to me.
    By the way, the Seattle Weekly has a feature article on someone recently convicted of running a tax-evasion/tax-resistance pyramid scheme. The description of ranking organization members (“worship Ayn Rand and can’t accept any but a completely literal reading of the tax codes”) was very reminiscent of other groups we’ve discussed here. It’s worth reading.

  • Anton Mates

    J,

    For most of the same reasons I came to hate living in a co-operative house in college, I would consider this a fairly dystopic lifestyle. Seriously: if there’s a communal living arrangement that hasn’t fallen apart for want of basic adherence to the damn Kitchen Chores Wheel, I’ve certainly never heard of it.

    AFAIK, communal living was the norm for most of human history–until we had agriculture, basically. Even in some modern hunter-gatherer societies, it’s gauche to express thanks for a comrade’s gift, because it implies that they might have chosen not to give you what you needed, which is horribly insulting. There’s a nice piece on altruism in hunter-gatherer societies here.
    And adherence to the Chores Wheel is quite easy to achieve, provided you’re willing to punish cheaters. Exile, violence and accusations of witchcraft have all been used to discourage freeloading, but those are nuclear options; usually, verbal criticism or refusal to share with the offender are enough to bring them back into line.
    Of course, that often doesn’t work in a university co-op because the members have very little power and social influence over each other; each undergrad is primarily and permanently allied with an external community of family and friends, and hir relationship with hir housemates takes a back seat to that…particularly when that relationship comes with unpleasant obligations like cleaning the toilet.

  • minerva’s owl

    Maybe it’s too far south, but are you talking about the ones on the long, lonely stretch between Yreka and Medford? Usually they’re accompanied by some anti-Catholic nonsense and/or anti-evolution. I’ve always figured they’re part territory marking and partially to re-confirm the rightness of the sign owner’s beliefs. Just like Left Behind proves the rapture is coming in the near future, a large sign proves that aggressive evangelism wins God’s favor.
    My personal favorites are the State of Jefferson devotees. I imagine the signs keeping those traveling through a little more alert as they try to imagine what the heck that might be about. It also makes me nostalgic for my childhood in northern Northern California where as late as the 80s it was seriously being discussed.

  • ako

    My question is, do they have any conversion potential whatsoever? I can construct scenarios in which someone is on the tipping point and a sign like that persuades him/her, but I don’t know if these scenarios ever actually play out. Has anyone heard such a story firsthand? Even secondhand?
    I’ve heard some vague third-hand accounts of people going “God, give me a sign!” and then looking at a religious billboard and taking it as significant of something, but it involves a rare and specific situation, and generally a person on the edge of converting anyway.
    I agree that these are less about actually winning converts than about giving the people putting them up the “I’m evangelizing!” feeling. When it comes to big messy problems like trying to convince people to believe in a specific thing, creating a sense of action is often important for morale, as there’s no way to guarantee results. However, this often results in people using less effective strategies (fake-money tracts that are more likely to make the waiter think you’re a self-righteous cheapskate than get them to embrace Jesus, lawn signs that give any passing pagan a “We don’t like you” vibe), because they satisfy the irrational urge to seem like you’re doing something more effectively than the stuff that works better.
    I generally find worldbuilding exercises where Something Big happens and the solution just happens to be a massive reinforcement of slavery and traditional gender norms really suspicious. It’s not an interesting discussion, in the sense that it is clearly offensive, and there are clear plot holes.
    Yeah. The logic almost never hangs together all that well in those scenarios (you can see no one’s asked questions like “Is cutting our manpower in half the best choice right now?”, “Do we have the resources to look after all of the babies?”, “Aren’t we giving the women an incentive to run off and look for more open-minded communities?”* or “Is one more infant every year really worth the cost of sidelining a trained doctor?”
    Also, even when the logic does work, I can see the strings. You have to rig the game incredibly for “Make all women full-time breeders” to be the best option, and when it is, it’s less “Wow, what an interesting idea!” than “Wow, that author is deeply dedicated to proving that sexism is sometimes okay!”
    *If they’re the only option, this is less relevant. But if it’s one survivor enclave, and there are others, some women will risk their lives in the hope of freedom. Particularly if it’s women going from an environment of comparative equality and enlightenment to “We don’t care about what degrees you hold, how well you can shoot, or how good you are at stopping a man from bleeding to death! Now go use your uterus for our benefit!”

  • Ursula L

    I agree that these are less about actually winning converts than about giving the people putting them up the “I’m evangelizing!” feeling. When it comes to big messy problems like trying to convince people to believe in a specific thing, creating a sense of action is often important for morale, as there’s no way to guarantee results. However, this often results in people using less effective strategies (fake-money tracts that are more likely to make the waiter think you’re a self-righteous cheapskate than get them to embrace Jesus, lawn signs that give any passing pagan a “We don’t like you” vibe), because they satisfy the irrational urge to seem like you’re doing something more effectively than the stuff that works better.
    Another point about these methods are that they are emotionally and socially safe.
    Putting up a sign in your yard, or leaving behind a fake-dollar tract, gives you the “I’ve evangelized” feeling without actually having to engage with another human being who does not already share your beliefs. There is no chance of rejection or confrontation, because the exchange is done at a distance. There is no risk of the person countering with their own ideas, and perhaps undermining your own belief, or converting you instead of you converting them.
    I’d be curious to see a study of how the fake-dollar tracts are used. I suspect that people don’t leave them at restaurants where they eat regularly, where they might be remembered for the behavior and perhaps have to face consequences. Instead, I suspect they get left when people are traveling, or at restaurants where they rarely go, so that the anonymity and emotional distance of this particular evangelistic method is preserved.

  • http://twitter.com/chi_mangetsu Chi, He of Infinite Humbility and Who By No Means Has a Duck on His Head

    I’m really glad to hear that this was all a misunderstanding, but seriously, you may want to be a little more careful in the future.
    In my defense, only 10% of communication is verbal.
    And I’m at least 65% sure I had been posting one or a number of those posts before any reasonable human being would be awake.

  • Emcee

    To all those who appreciated the librarian’s smack-down of Fox News that I posted: you’re very welcome, and I am glad I could brighten your day. My work here is done…

  • http://jamoche.livejournal.com Jamoche

    I was kind of hoping to hear responses that instead of challenging the poor decision by those in power in the fiction for its possible unoriginality instead proposed an alternative–such as using all abled body individuals to fight the threat and to work on eliminating the enemy at all costs, my own personal thought on the situation, which obviously ends up being the final solution in the game trilogy.
    Seriously?
    Dude, I gave an alternate approach to a population problem (didn’t know there was also a war) in my *first response*.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    There is a big-ass sign of Jesus, his sacred heart bleeding rays of light, at one of the entrances to Longmont, Colorado (northbound Hwy 287). It says something like “Jesus, I trust in you,” and it’s survived at least one big graffiti attack (the tag got spray-painted over in the same dark color of the sign’s background). I have always imagined that the people who rent that sign for this purpose are laying a territorial claim: “Longmont. It’s a Christian town. You better recognize.” Another purpose may be as a sort of shibboleth, a we-are-different, given that us in notoriously liberal and religiously-diverse Boulder are just next-door (not that Hwy 287 takes you through Boulder, but still). Also, the two Hwy 119 entrances are dominated by sculpture and either hospitality or retail outlets, so maybe the people behind the Jesus sign really wanted to make sure they got a piece of the pie before it all went to Mammon and secular art works.
    All purely speculation, of course.

    “We are made of star stuff”.
    – Delenn, B5
    – and Carl Sagan.

    And Neil Peart riffed on that concept really nicely in the title track to Rush’s Presto album. “I am made from the dust of the stars / And the oceans flow in my veins.” My roommate and I back in the summer of 1993 (3-week intensive learning academic summer program for high schoolers) totally bonded over that CD when she came back from her astrophysics class and exclaimed, “You know what we learned today? We’re all made from star dust!” and I was like “OMG you have to hear this song.”

    Lovely links this thread. The cornfield painting: I keep thinking that stalk on the left is morphing into a grasshopper. Alien grasshopper/corn hybrid! Dude! The librarian’s response to FOX: Made of pure win.

  • http://twitter.com/chi_mangetsu Chi, He of Infinite Humbility and Who By No Means Has a Duck on His Head

    Dude, I gave an alternate approach to a population problem (didn’t know there was also a war) in my *first response*.
    I thought that was an example of a near analogous situational example to the issue of women’s rights in a dire situation (and a more creative fictional example) than the one I had presented rather than an alternate approach. I guess I expected a response being made to have been done with a bit of meager Googling and a reference to having that knowledge to be made. Since there was no mention of the overall threat–a bit of basic information for making an informed response to the situation–I didn’t see that as what you meant it to be.
    Hope that doesn’t sound condescending, for some reason that came out a bit overly… clinical, I suppose one might say.
    In any case, Bioware (especially in the Mass Effect series) does the entire “for the greater good” scenario much better than Epic–really better than most anyone. There are particularly a few decisions in game that make you want to chuck your controller through the damn screen rather than make a choice between the lesser of two evils.

  • Lonespark

    On the subject of grasshopper corn: Things a big like that were among the awesome parts of Speaker for the Dead.

  • http://jamoche.livejournal.com Jamoche

    Usually when someone asks for an opinion they provide the minimum necessary information needed to form an opinion, which is what I thought I had, and we *had* been talking about groups thinking they have population problems, so that seemed to be the important part anyway.
    If I’d googled it then, trust me, my response to their so-called solution would’ve been a lot less polite than “unimaginative”. I’d have known that it wasn’t an example of worldbuilding, but a retroactive excuse for plot holes – that in all likelihood they just hadn’t thought about what women were supposed to be doing during this desperate war so threw in “baby-making” when pressed.

  • Daughter


    Within the African-American community, political liberalism has often gone hand-in-hand with conservative Christianity for many generations.

    The vast majority of the African-Americans I know are devout churchgoers, and I continue to be amazed at how conservative they are on social issues. It’s ironic that the group on which they agree about same-sex marriage, white RTCs, has a fair amount of racism.
    Well, political liberalism isn’t necessarily identical to social liberalism. But even then, I think you’ll find a whole gamut of opinions among religiously conservative African-Americans in a way that you might not find among religiously conservative whites. I’m speaking from personal experience as well. There’s a reason why, for example, white gays who were among those gentrifying Boston’s neighborhoods in the ’80s, ’90s and early 2000s tended to move to what had once been predominantly black and Latino enclaves such as Dorchester, Jamaica Plain and the South End, rather than the white enclaves of South Boston and Charlestown. Or why Rep. Barney Frank noted that members of the Congressional Black Caucus have been among the congresspeople most supportive of gay rights over the years. Or why cities with large minority populations have been more likely to adopt same-sex partner benefits, for example.
    FYI, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Pam’s House Blend did some pretty good take-downs of the “blacks are homophobic” meme after the Prop 8 vote two years ago.

  • Davis X. Machina

    “Revolt against Tyrants, Obedience to God.”
    Two nominatives make a linking verb (here it would be est) unnecessary. So Franklin’s phrase — in English suppressing the copula is harsh — is the model.
    What mystifies me is:
    a.) the tyrran?s — dative of disadvantage? Ablative of separation?
    b.) sediti? is a very, very odd choice of words for a positive act — secessi? is a far better choice, although I can guess why Beck avoids it, tied up with our Civil War and the Roman secessi? plebis, the revolt of the Plebs (the first general strike by the lower orders).
    The basic idea is thoroughly non- or anti-Roman, however. As for obedience to (the) G/god(s) requiring action in the political sphere — that’s a Christian idea through and through.
    In Roman pagan religion, you have a contractual relationship with the gods — the pax de?rum, where I undertake to do X, Y and Z on days A, B, and C, with right ritual, and in return the gods do A, B, and don’t do C to me or for me.
    Whether the government is in the hands of knaves or angels doesn’t signify, and they certainly wouldn’t demand that you dispatch the local bigwig….the upper classes here, and on Olympus, cover for each other.

  • Daughter

    The danger of doing so is, of course, always the possibility that the young evangelical who gets too into this pursuit will turn it reflexively on his own beliefs.
    @ Art, I agree. I remember reading James Sire’s The Universe Next Door, and thinking that the same arguments he used against various non-Christian worldviews could be used against Christianity. Which, of course, is the opposite conclusion he wanted his readers to draw.

  • Daughter

    I just read the librarian’s response. Awesome! My local paper has reported that library usage is up during the recession, most likely due to job searchers, people who’ve given up Internet to cut back on expenses (added to the folks who never had it in the first place), and people going to the library as a source of free leisure activity.

  • Daughter

    Off-topic here; I need some advice. When I was a kid, my adult teeth often started growing in before the baby teeth would fall out, so usually the dentist had to pull them. If we waited too long before pulling them, the adult teeth grew in crooked. Fortunately, all my crooked teeth are on the bottom, so they’re not very noticeable when I smile.
    My daughter, who just turned five, is having the same issue. One of her adult teeth came in a few months ago, and when I called her dentist to ask about it, her assistant said the dentist never pulls teeth in those instances. Instead, she prefers to wait until the teeth fall out on their own. I accepted that at the time, but since then, a second adult tooth has started to emerge, and DD is still a full year away from losing any of her baby teeth.
    My daughter’s semi-annual checkup is next week, and I’m trying to figure out what to do. If we go to the appointment and the dentist maintains her stance, I don’t know if our insurance will pay for us to have a second opinion. (I plan to call tomorrow to find out). But in the meantime, I want to find out as much information as I can before the appointment.
    What I’m really wondering is the rationale for pulling the baby teeth vs. not pulling them. Does anyone know if one is better than the other? All I can see now is my daughter in school having two rows of teeth, with its accompanying discomfort and teasing by other kids, or needing braces in five years because her adult teeth are out of alignment, when both could have been prevented. (Given that we’re trying to pull ourselves out of several years of financial setbacks, I doubt we’d be able to afford braces in 5 years). But if there’s a good reason for not pulling the baby teeth, I’d like to know what it is.

  • Lonespark

    Hmmm. I don’t know about the shark tooth thing, but I have known people whose kids have had it. I know in some cases they do pull them, to prevent problems with the adult teeth. The kid can grow up to need braces either way, though. Hopefully someone here will know or maybe I can find out. Have you tried googling and such?

  • http://jamoche.livejournal.com Jamoche

    I had a dentist who pulled my baby teeth too soon, so my adult teeth came in cramped and I needed braces. So looks like it could go either way, and with any luck your insurance company would rather pay for a second opinion than an unnecessary correction later.

  • http://goth-is-not-emo.livejournal.com The L

    “There is a big-ass sign of Jesus, his sacred heart bleeding rays of light, at one of the entrances to Longmont, Colorado (northbound Hwy 287). It says something like “Jesus, I trust in you,” and it’s survived at least one big graffiti attack (the tag got spray-painted over in the same dark color of the sign’s background).”
    Ah yes, the Divine Mercy Jesus. If you go to any Catholic Church on the second or third Sunday after Easter, they play that picture up like crazy, pointing out that it’s a professional artist’s rendering of one woman’s vision and is thus Divinely Inspired. (Never mind that, by definition, ANY likeness of ANY deity is generally inspired by that deity…)
    “As for obedience to (the) G/god(s) requiring action in the political sphere — that’s a Christian idea through and through.”
    As a non-Christian, the idea of using politics to push your particular religious views at the expense of others’ religious freedom terrifies me. Where some people get the warm fuzzies from hymn lyrics about how “the host of God in conq’ring ranks combine,” I get mental images of a second Inquisition.
    As for the pulling teeth thing: Remember that your daughter has to sit still long enough to actually have the teeth pulled, or you’ve wasted your money. My parents tried that with me when I was 7. The dentist gave me a light prick with a needle, to demonstrate how little it was going to hurt (“Like an ant bite”). However, at 7, I was the world’s biggest pansy. I screamed bloody murder, and they never actually got to the tooth-pulling stage.

  • http://j.com/ Tonio

    FYI, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Pam’s House Blend did some pretty good take-downs of the “blacks are homophobic” meme after the Prop 8 vote two years ago.

    I wasn’t trying to make a broad generalization of African-American voters nationwide, merely pointing out a phenomenon I’ve noticed among the ones I know in this exurban and rural community.

  • J

    “…one day [Bishop Otto of Bamberg] found boys playing out the in the street. He greeted them in their barbaric tongue, and even blessed them with the sign of the cross in the Lord’s name, as if joining in their fun, and when he went on a little way he noticed that they had all left their games and gathered to stare, as boys of that age will, they followed behind the bishop admiring the appearance and dress of [him]. The man of God halted, addressed those round him in a kindly way, asking if any of them had been baptized. They looked at each other, and began to point out those among them that had been baptized. And, when asked if they wanted to hold fast to their faith, the bishop said, ‘If you want to be Christians, and keep the faith of baptism, you should not allow those unbaptized boys to join in your game.’ Immediately, like joined together with like, as the bishop had suggested, and the baptized boys began to reject and abominate the unbaptized, and stopped them from sharing in any of their games. And so it was beautiful to see how these boys gloried their profession of the Christian name, and became more friendly and keen to pay attention to their teacher even in their game, while those [other] boys stood off at a distance as if confused and panic-stricken . . .”
    –Herbord
    “Vita Ottonts”
    1060 A.D.

  • http://www.nightkitchenseattle.com MadGastronomer, who is really just very tired

    Was there a point to that, J?

  • Erl

    There’s no such thing as a personal connection to the divine, or a personal journey. Faith does require dogma, leaders and a community. Because dogma, leaders and communities are things that all human endeavors involve.
    Mr. Dolder, where do you think religions come from? At the very least, their leaders or founders experience just such a journey. Regardless of whether they’re actually connected to some higher being, they do experience it exclusively.

  • J

    Well, it’s just so obviously an aberration: I mean, according to Karen Armstrong *nobody* before the 19th century believed religion was *literally* true. *Everyone* understood that there were different ways of knowing and no one would ever think to do so rude and cruel a thing as to divide up boys based on their baptismal status. *As if they actually believed that baptism had some sort of magical power.*
    I mean really, can you imagine so silly a thing?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jpc101280 Jason

    @MadG-
    Was there a point to that, J?
    I can’t be completely certain, but I think that possibly, he may be trying to convey that he dislikes Christians and Christianity. Based on very subtle turns of phrase and wording of his other posts, I get that impression. If you pay attention to the subtexts of what he’s been saying during all the time he’s been posting here, you can pick up an overarching theme.

  • Ursula L

    I’m not sure what J’s point was with that quote.
    But the point I see is that there is nothing new in the problems of evangelical methods and culture that Fred is observing. The issue of evangelism dividing evangelizers from their would-be evangelical targets, rather than creating a rapport from which conversation might grow, is well established. Likewise the use of evangelism as a tool for group identification, and to exclude nonbelievers rather than draw them in. And finally, the phenomenon of believers seeing these outcomes as good, rather than as a failure of their supposed goal of conversion.

  • J

    *Mr. Dolder, where do you think religions come from?*
    My hypothesis: Extremely hot places–Israel, the Arabian peninsula, Southern India, Persia, the American Midwest and West. The sort of places where a person, outdoors, could easily become befuddled and begin hallucinating, seeing sundogs and heat waves as angels or spirits.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Pius Thicknesse

    @MadGastronomer:
    The use of religion as divisive tool is well-established in human history right down to today. That Bishop wrecked a bunch of friendships in the name of religion; like J or not like J, I’m hardly going to be sympathetic to someone who uses any religious faith – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Zoroastrian, etc – as a tribalistic tool (and it’s all the more egregious when that someone is among the religious majority).
    Aside: I actually headdesked in real life at that Bishop’s behavior.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jpc101280 Jason

    @Pius-
    The use of religion as divisive tool is well-established in human history right down to today. That Bishop wrecked a bunch of friendships in the name of religion; like J or not like J, I’m hardly going to be sympathetic to someone who uses any religious faith – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Zoroastrian, etc – as a tribalistic tool (and it’s all the more egregious when that someone is among the religious majority).
    Yes, I agree with this 100% and it pretty much flies in the face of everything Jesus taught anyway. Jesus never ever ever once said that you should only hang out with people who think and believe just like you do. In fact, He did quite the opposite both by example of his actions and in His words. Someone who was thought of by most as “the Other” was to be treated as your brother or sister. I don’t understand how so often Christianity is used to do things that so incredibly counter to what Jesus said.
    That being said, it came from J and given his past track record for saying things that make me want to punch him in the face, its hard for me to take anything he says objectively anymore.

  • J

    *The use of religion as divisive tool is well-established in human history right down to today.*
    GASP! *Pearlclutch* Listen to yourself! I mean, religion has always been first and foremost about compassion! Karen Armstrong, Steven Wright, sixty-seven guys on Templeton Fellowships, and every Unitarian minister I’ve ever heard have all have said so!

  • Art

    My hypothesis: Extremely hot places–Israel, the Arabian peninsula, Southern India, Persia, the American Midwest and West. The sort of places where a person, outdoors, could easily become befuddled and begin hallucinating, seeing sundogs and heat waves as angels or spirits.
    That’s a really stupid hypothesis, considering the ubiquity of religion in geographic regions that were quite the opposite of really hot.

  • http://www.nightkitchenseattle.com MadGastronomer, who is really just very tired

    I can’t be completely certain, but I think that possibly, he may be trying to convey that he dislikes Christians and Christianity. Based on very subtle turns of phrase and wording of his other posts, I get that impression. If you pay attention to the subtexts of what he’s been saying during all the time he’s been posting here, you can pick up an overarching theme.
    Really, Jason? How fascinating! How insightful of you!
    @Pius: Sure, and I’m not exactly sympathetic to those who’d cause division over religion, either. But the point we get from it and the point J might have been attempting to make might’ve been quite far apart. And, indeed, his response is kind of off in left field somewhere.

  • Erl

    My roommate and I back in the summer of 1993 (3-week intensive learning academic summer program for high schoolers) totally bonded over that CD when she came back from her astrophysics class . . .
    Maybe this is a bit personal, especially from a lurker, but, CTY?

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    Everyone seems cross.
    Here’s another nice picture: http://www.artrepublic.com/attachments/image/444/10444/10444.jpeg

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jpc101280 Jason

    @MadG-
    But the point we get from it and the point J might have been attempting to make might’ve been quite far apart.
    The point we get from it: “Lots of times religion has been used as a tool of divisiveness to drive wedges between people. This is very unfortunate thing that needs to be fixed and is often counter to the philosophy of the very same religions.” (which I’m pretty sure no one here actually disagrees with)
    The point J wishes to make: “Anyone who believes in God a complete drooling idiot that can barely tie his or her own shoes and is also a complete an utter asshole. Religion should be banned from existance and J should be made head of the internment camps where religious people will be sent to await their executions in order to purify the human race.”

  • http://www.nightkitchenseattle.com MadGastronomer, who is really just very tired

    @Jason Just so.

  • Amaryllis

    But the point I see is that there is nothing new in the problems of evangelical methods and culture that Fred is observing.
    That which has been is that which shall be; and that which has been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there a thing of which it may be said, “Behold, this is new?” It has been long ago, in the ages which were before us.
    - Ecclesiastes, c. 250 BCE.

  • http://www.agirlcalledraven.blogspot.com sarah

    Holy crap, I think I’m in love with the Chicago Public Library Commissioner.

  • Will Wildman

    I can’t be completely certain, but I think that possibly, he may be trying to convey that he dislikes Christians and Christianity. Based on very subtle turns of phrase and wording of his other posts, I get that impression. If you pay attention to the subtexts of what he’s been saying during all the time he’s been posting here, you can pick up an overarching theme.

    On the other hand, if we give the whole body of his posts to Tim LaHaye for ‘literal interpretation’, we may find that J has actually been providing a carefully constructed and encoded message declaring the truth of all prophecy (and, incidentally, a magnificent recipe for flourless orange cake).
    That anti-Christian thing sounds kind of plausible too, though. I just don’t know what to think sometimes. He’s all “I hate Christianity and every religion is evil!” and I’m like “Man, I can’t follow your metaphors here. Are you trying to comment on the ongoing lack of infrastructure maintenance in the US?” It’s like Finnegans Wake sometimes.

  • Dav

    That’s a really stupid hypothesis, considering the ubiquity of religion in geographic regions that were quite the opposite of really hot.
    No, no, see: hypothermia *also* can cause hallucinations, so really cold places are prone to that too, where people are outside and see shadows in the snow or get turned around in a storm and think they see God.
    It’s why more religions have come out of the midwest prairie states and northern Asia than anywhere else – they get both Mirage God and Frostbite God.
    See, it all makes sense: the rise of Christianity really became significant when it moved north from the middle east, becoming a temperate religion. As it moved north and south, it got more power via conjugation with various hallucinations: ergot poisoning was an unsuspecting contributer. It also explains the small numbers of atheists in places like New York, and the well-researched Atheist Belt that runs through the mild parts of the country all the way from DC to British Columbia.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Pius Thicknesse

    *is trying not to be laid low with hysterical laughter* XD

  • Emcee

    I mean, religion has always been first and foremost about compassion! Karen Armstrong, Steven Wright, sixty-seven guys on Templeton Fellowships, and every Unitarian minister I’ve ever heard have all have said so!
    Once again, J, get the fuck off my side. Seriously, do you realize that you are trying to put a large segment of good people on par with holocaust deniers? Can’t speak to the rest of them, but no Unitarian minister I ever met(and having been part of the Unitarian church for over 30 years, it’s been a lot of them) denied that bad things have happened and do happen in the name of religion. They just denied that it should be that way, or that religion should somehow be an excuse for not being compassionate.
    Oh, and not being religious doesn’t really make one compassionate, either. You yourself are proof of that. Now shut up until you grow out of your Angry Young Man phase, by which time I should be in a nursing home, and won’t have to listen to your shit anymore.

  • Emcee

    (and, incidentally, a magnificent recipe for flourless orange cake).
    Mmmm…if you’ve cracked that part of the code, please pass along. And really hoping I fixed the italics I just broke…

  • http://www.nightkitchenseattle.com MadGastronomer, who is really just very tired

    Italics, avaunt!

  • Emcee

    Italics be gone!
    Did I get it this time?


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