The End of Evangelical America?

the-fall-of-the-evangelical-nation

Have you ever had the experience of stumbling across an idea for the first time, then suddenly find the idea everywhere you look? This happened to me after I read Christine Wicker’s The Fall of the Evangelical Nation.

Wicker is an ex-evangelical, now a progressive Christian, who is trying to dismantle what she sees as the myth of the Religious Right. One of her most controversial conclusions is that Evangelical Christianity is dying in America. It seems there’s some broad agreement that Evangelical Christianity in this country is on the ropes. A little digging and you can find dozens of posts and articles all premised on this idea.

Book Summary

Pullquote: Churches are shrinking, donations are dwindling, and megachurches can’t find suitably charismatic replacements for their retiring founders.

Wicker is a former journalist on the religion beat down in Texas, and her book is heavy with anecdotes and interviews from within the evangelical community. Her thesis is that the political clout of the Religious Right is based on savvy media manipulation and not on actual numbers. To summarize, she has four basic points:

  1. There are far fewer evangelicals than the evangelical churches will acknowledge, thanks to inflated church rolls.
  2. Of the remainder, very few are “real” evangelicals. As a result, she places the actual percentage of American citizens who are evangelical at 7% or lower, rather than the 25% you sometimes hear.
  3. While the evangelicals are doing a fair job of converting each other, they aren’t having much luck converting the unsaved.
  4. Evangelicals are leaving at a steady rate and either becoming moderate Christians or outright atheists.

Wicker defines evangelicals loosely as “people who have accepted Jesus as their personal savior and as the only way to heaven, who accept the Bible as the inerrant word of God, and who are scaring the bejesus out of the rest of America.” She draws most of her numbers from sources close to the evangelical community, such as the Barna Group and interviews with evangelical pastors.

The end result is a book making a decent case that Evangelical Christianity in America has peaked and is now in decline. Churches are shrinking, donations are dwindling, and megachurches can’t find suitably charismatic replacements for their retiring founders.

Critique

While I should be ecstatic about the conclusion, I’m still dubious. In all honesty, it’s not a great book. Wicker engages in a lot of back-of-the-envelope math to reach her conclusion. Even if you accept her numbers, it’s not always easy to tell if they’re meaningful.

For example, her final tally of evangelicals is based on the number who attend Sunday school. She makes it clear that only those evangelicals who stay after to be properly educated are seriously committed. That might make a difference to other evangelicals, but not so much to me. I don’t care if they don’t know the Ephesians from the Corinthians; are they going to vote the way Pat Robertson tells them to?

There’s also a lot of fluff almost designed to irritate the non-evangelical reader. Despite having left for more moderate climes, Wicker obviously still has a soft spot for committed evangelicals. She seems to be writing for an audience that has never been cornered and witnessed to at a party. Some of the folks that she finds charming would drive me to distraction, like the bubbly young lady who witnesses to the woman behind the register at Wendy’s.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of anecdotes like this, and it’s not a long book. I think her whole case could have made a better article than a book, and this padding detracts more than it adds. Be prepared to skip large sections, or just browse her blog and get the high points there.

Conclusion

Pullquote: A collapse in cohesion of the most visible portion of American Christians could change the shape of American politics.

This is an important topic that I haven’t seen discussed much in the atheist blogosphere. It seems the quite a lot of American Christians think — or hope — that their communities will be wholy different within a few decades. Groups like the so-called emerging church are almost premised on the idea that there’s a coming reformation of American Christianity.

If they’re right, then it could have profound implications for American atheists. If nothing else, a collapse in cohesion of the most visible portion of American Christians could change the shape of American politics. We might never have to suffer through another prayer by Rick Warren again.

Are Wicker and the others right about the decline of American Evangelical Christianity? What will replace it? And should we atheists stay out of it? Or give ‘em a swift kick to help ‘em out the door?

  • Sundog

    I think we should definitely be aiming for exactly the outcome you speak of. While moderate christianity may be deluded, they’re much less likely to try and force themselves on us than their evangelical brethren, and ANY step away from unthinking faith is a positive one.

    After all, which is easier to live with – the family that goes to church each sunday and says grace when you have them over for dinner, or the “christian” protestor that screams that your children are going to hell as they walk to school every morning?

  • zach

    Hey, I’d rather live next to a moderate christian than an evangelist.

    But then again I’d rather live next to an atheist completely, or just not have any neighbors at all.

  • Steve Jeffers

    It’s wishful thinking … but there’s some truth in it.

    The rise of the evangelicals is a media talking point because it’s true that without them Bush wouldn’t have won either election … but that’s because both those races were so very tight.

    It gave evangelicals the same kingmaker role that the extremist parties have in Israel, and skewed the moderate parties towards them.

    And one of the cynical ways the Republicans got the evangelical vote out was by having abortion and gay rights referenda the same day – vote against gay marriage and abortion, and in a 3 for 2 offer, vote Bush while you’re there.

    Now the Republicans know that winning the evangelicals doesn’t win an election … not only that, but there’s the Palin factor – an evangelical candidate will actually lose you moderate votes.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this shakes out.

    The thing that I wonder is just how firm the average evangelical churchgoer is. I suspect a lot of them believe in God and like the certainties and spectacle of evangelism, but don’t buy it all.

    We’ve not had the Rapture, Obama didn’t swear in on a Koran … I suspect at some point, a lot of people will start to dial down their fervor.

  • VorJack

    “It’s wishful thinking … but there’s some truth in it.”

    It’s wishful on our part, but what strikes me is how much of this is coming from within the evangelical camp. Wicker has left the fold, but she’s obviously still got an attachment to the people. Michael Spencer, AKA the Internet Monk who I linked to in the first paragraph, is another post-evangelical who writes a lot about the fall.

    These people straddle the line between progressive and moderate Christianity, but frankly I’d put them within Evangelical Christianity for our purposes. They hold the doctrine more loosely, but they still hold it. There’s an element of dejection in what they’re saying. What does it mean for these people to be unhappily predicting the downfall of the evangelical church?

  • Sundog

    “What does it mean for these people to be unhappily predicting the downfall of the evangelical church?”

    One of two things: either they are disillusioned with their previous position (and thus may be seeing things through bleh-coloured glasses), or they’re still believers who see no future in it.

    Either way, they may well be right.

  • Jasen777

    The survey numbers I’ve seen would suggest that the evangelicals are holding their own, and it is the progressives that are falling. Churches do seem to be giving up Adult Sunday School, but that doesn’t mean their beliefs or politics are any different.

    • Roland

      After being raised Christian, I turned completely against it when fundamentalism became the expectation, as did most other young people I knew. I have since returned to a progressive church. I have come to see that “Christian Fundamentalism/Evangelism” is certainly Fundamentalism, but has little or nothing to do with Christianity. They seem to have much more in common with groups like the Taliban.

      • Morpheus91

        Roland, would you care to provide reasons for your return to the church? I’d be interested to hear of rational reasons for such a “reconversion” if you have them. :) Also, just a minor point, but fundamentalism interpretations of the bible are at times more faithful to the actual test than liberal interpretations, despite the fact that I most certainly support liberal Christians over fundamentalism (I’m an atheist myself).

  • cello

    I haven’t read her book but I wonder if it is a decline in the importance of authoritarian evangelical leadership that is really underpinning her thesis, rather than true numbers. The rise of the emerging church splintered the leadership. Instead of there being half a dozen speakers for the evangelical community (eg Dobson). We now have two camps of leadership, the traditional conservatives and the emergents (McClaren, Willis, etc.) So maybe evangelicals seem smaller than they are because they have splintered.

  • http://www.treehugger.com chris tackett

    Thought you might like this. I have had the same experience of hearing an idea and then hearing it many times again soon after. That is called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baader-Meinhoff_Phenomenon

    What’s funny is when I first learned that that was what it was called, I then heard it referenced by a friend a few days later. Anyway, just wanted to share. Neat how that works.

  • http://alphonsuspeck.wordpress.com Alphonsus

    I read this with some degree of skepticism. Church attendance waxes and wanes. I remember having thought that the evangelicals were falling before, only to see a massive resurgence.

    If her numbers are indeed as dubious as you say, this seems much like the global warming debate. Just because some evidence indicates that the world is warming, or becoming less evangelical, it does not mean that the end result will be a massive melting of icecaps / end of the evangelicals. We are facing a major recession / depression. People tend to look toward religion when all of their other options have faded.

    I, for one, have not noted a decline in aggressive ignorance in my personal world.

    If this is indeed true, then I think the atheists should take a more passive approach. It has been my experience that atheists are, well, a bit off-putting when discussing their philosophy? Just because the evangelicals are falling does not mean that people are willing to jump to atheism. I’m curious. How many people were “converted’ to atheism by an atheist? My instinct (and correct me if I’m wrong), is that most atheists come to their views on their own, usually prompted more by the insane dogma’s of organized religion more than anything else.

  • LRA

    Let’s hope it’s true. I can’t stomach another election year with that lipstick-wearing bulldog who preaches abstinence only despite her knocked up teenager.

    People who actually read the bible know that it says:

    1) women should not be the leaders of men
    2) a leader who cannot control his family has no business leading

    So christians are ONCE AGAIN being huge hypocrites in supporting Caribou-Barbie.

  • http://www.illogicalstrategy.com Stephen Webb

    I’d agree with the stats listed in your summary. I LOVE this statement:
    “While the evangelicals are doing a fair job of converting each other, they aren’t having much luck converting the unsaved.”

    That’s painfully true. I’m a pastor and can admit that. I don’t do that and I’m tired of it but I can see that trend all over the place.
    Hey, I even get weird looks and comments from Christians who know I speak to you guys and comment on here.

    I’m not sure I would say that many are becoming outright atheists in leaving the church. I WILL say (surprisingly) that it would be nice if they did. WHAT I MEAN IS THIS: we need to pick. Lukewarm spirituality is crap. I’m NOT saying we need to be fundamental freaks like those Daniel Florien is familiar with. But to just be “umm, who cares” about it is a whip. That’s how many people are about too much other stuff. PICK SOMETHING. MAKE A DECISION. Buy the chocolate or the vanilla. Go to ChickFilA or McDonald’s. CRAP, JUST DO SOMETHING.
    So if it were only true that people were sold-out Christians or sold-out atheists. Crap, even the Bible mentions this (Rev. 3:16).
    That’s why I can enjoy my conversation with my new atheist friends – the ones who speak intelligently and don’t always use sarcasm (Bloggenstein). At least the atheist stands for (or against) something. (not sure what to say there).

    Here’s a thought to leave you with – I’m a pastor launching a church in Denver late this year or early 2010. WHAT IF I HAD AN AGNOSTIC ATHEIST ON PAID STAFF?
    (I’d be thrilled to hear your thoughts through my contact page on my blog)

    Now, this person would have to think before they speak. They couldn’t use sarcasm all the time. And the word “delusional” would have to take a break. But WHAT IF there was an agnostic atheist who saw the good that the church CAN do – help poor, homeless, sick, widows, etc… – and wanted to get involved?
    After all, it’s not as if there are abundant communities of atheists out there GIVING of themselves COLLECTIVELY to meet the needs of those less-fortunate.
    THINK before you speak – not all churches have billionaire pastors with jets, having homosexual affairs with 16 year-olds, telling women they can’t do stuff, yelling from the stage while smacking people on the head. That’s TV, that’s not what the Bible says.

    AND WHAT IF I told you that there may be evidence of “non-Christians” on ‘staff’ in the Bible? Oh dang!

  • Question-I-thority

    Alphonsus:

    I’m curious. How many people were “converted’ to atheism by an atheist? My instinct (and correct me if I’m wrong), is that most atheists come to their views on their own….

    Regardless of the immediate cause of conversions, there are years of prep work in which many influences matter. An example that some (including me) look to for the value of ideological activism is the gay movement. The activist gays (a small minority) have been very instrumental in the current state of affairs including both polarization and a general climate of acceptance. Life is complex, no?

  • Question-I-thority

    Stephen Webb,

    Your idea of putting an agnostic atheist on staff is a deeply moral concept imho. It would have been great to have such a person where I grew up. I’ve fantasized of a church service in which I could sit and reasonably make skeptical comments on an overhead during the sermon.

  • http://unreasonablefaith.com Daniel Florien

    @Stephen: I think having an atheist on staff is a fantastic idea! My first thought was that it might be hard to find someone who would do it, but pitched correctly it might not be hard at all — especially if they thought their ideas would be considered and they had an influence for good.

    However, it would be hard to find other Christians to agree with you that it would be a good idea. They might point you to where Paul turned over Demas “to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” because he was an apostate. And other passages where people are commanded to not even eat with believers who are sinning (and most Christians think not believing in God is sin — perhaps the “unforgivable” sin of rejecting the holy spirit), and thus should not have a leadership position in the church.

    But I like the idea! :)

  • http://catacombsubculture.com Wade

    My my undergrad work was in Religious Studies and Philosophy. The Philosophy dept. at the university I attended required all students to complete a “directed readings” course, which was sort of like a mini-thesis. The one I wrote for my Religious Studies degree was about the changing dynamic of the Church and the fall of Evangelicalism. I can tell you as a younger Christian, I firmly believe that Evangelicalism is well on its way out, and has been for a few years, now. The common thought a few years ago in Sociology of Religion circles was that Evangelicalism would be replaced by this Emergent Church movement. However, it is becoming apparent that the Emergent movement was just a part of a kick start toward the deconstruction of the Evangelical institution.

    In 10 to 12 years, Evangelicalism will not exist in America in any sort of recognizable form. As an ideology, it will still be around, but it will not be near as pervasive as it is today, nor will it carry any real national political clout. There are several different reasons as to why, but the main one being that Evangelicalism is the religion of the Baby Boomers, and it will die with them.

  • http://catacombsubculture.com Wade

    “My my” — who starts a post like that? haha, I guess that’s what happens if you’re eating breakfast and typing comments at the same time.

  • Question-I-thority

    According the the person who heads up the office of church growth in the Southern Babtist Convention (largest evangelical denomination in US), their numbers declined (slightly) for the first time at their last survey (I think it was for the 07 year).

    According to figures I have seen it takes a converstion rate of about 7% to stay even due to attrition. I’ve also seen a mega-analysis of polls concerning growth of major religions world wide. According to that study, Christianity and Hinduism are basically holding their own, Buddhism is in decline and Isam is growing but only because of birth-over-death. The group that is growing rapidly is the non-committed. Here in the US durinjg the 50′s the noncommited made up about 2-3 of polling data. Today that figure is around 25-28% Europe is even more dramatic.

    If most people were going to church on Sunday morning we would see a lot more traffic. I’m often out walking at that time and see very little evidence of people leaving their homes. Of course, this doesn’t mean that all these non-committeds are becoming good little athiests :)

  • Val

    I don’t know how to answer your questions.

    Keep acting for sane, human laws that protect us from radical right Christians.

    Abortion choice; safe, easy, available, contraception and sterilization; making pharmacist refusals based on religious belief illegal – and every other instance of enforcing one’s prejudice on others; non-discrimination laws; laws and policies that guarantee the same benefits for singles and childfree as for breeders; separation of church and state, etc..

    So, keep doing what we’ve been doing, I guess.

    Legal protection from the raving nutters of any ilk (like Andrew over on the abortion forums) who are not in mental hospitals but who still get to vote on policies just like others who actually make the effort to think about issues.

    I’m not atheist, but prefer agnostics around. (Or atheists, except for those two that came around to a clinic defense rally and started handing out pamphlets and proselytizing, trying to convert others into seeing the one true truth and convert to their belief. That was funny, but they were obnoxious. Heh.)

    But I also really like Unitarians. (And what’s funny is, I have the idea that radical Christians don’t. Even better!) I could live in a world peopled with their religion, which seems gentle, social, and for human rights. The American Baha’is I met seemed that way too.

    The whole idea here is a world without extremists trying to force their beliefs on others, is it not?

  • dr.R.

    Alphonsus wrote:

    Just because some evidence indicates that the world is warming (…) it does not mean that the end result will be a massive melting of icecaps (…)

    I, for one, have not noted a decline in aggressive ignorance in my personal world.

    If this is a concealed attempt at climate science denialism (“some” evidence?), then there has certainly not been a decline in your personal ignorance.

  • Barry

    Evangelicalism may be changing but not in the way that you guys are thinking. The emerging church crosses a wide boundary of theological beliefs, Mark Driscoll vs. Brian McLaren would be an example. What I think you will notice is slight drawback from political wrangling from some. They’ve seen that even with an evangelical president that they didn’t get all they wanted and in the end have really lost a lot. A lot are moving to an anabaptist tradition regarding political power, but that doesn’t mean that they are not still evangelical, witness Greg Boyd.

    What this means for atheists, I’m not sure of. I will say this though, that if the worst we ever have to deal with is some obnoxious moron screaming at us about Jesus or global warming, we’ve had a good life. There are countries that kills atheists and there are countries that ban proselytizing, neither are pretty in their actions.

  • Elemenope

    Steven Webb –

    I guess it simply comes down to whether he/she can do a good job and is temperamentally suited to working with people they disagree with.

    Some people can do it, and some people can’t. If you like, it’s kind of a similar principle as a shabbos goy; a guy employed by orthodox synagogues who’s not Jewish who can turn the lights on and pick up the place on the Sabbath. Some people would be honored to help others with their worship, while others would use the opportunities to mock. I think the orthodox manage the task of fining one to hire who isn’t an anti-Semite. Beyond that, if he does the job well, everyone is happy.

  • Question-I-thority

    Barry:

    Evangelicalism may be changing but not in the way that you guys are thinking.

    I haven’t seen any consensus here on how evangelicalism is changing. The wikipedia link in the original post covers some of the same arguments you have made. Are you disagreeing with Wade on the future importance of emergent Christianity?

  • Val

    I wanted to add that the Jewish people I have met have also been the most tolerant people I know.

    Perhaps more so than some atheists. I like living in a world made richer by their presence and contributions and cultural richness.

    And I also agree with dr.R in abhorring the ignorance and denial and the putting on of blinders that is so common.

    As in:
    Gee, just because we have some recession doesn’t mean we won’t spring right back.

    Gee, just because we have some measured global warming doesn’t mean that it will become massive and melt the icecaps.

    Gee, just because we have greater population than ever before – and greater fish kills, water pollution, urban sprawl, traffic congestion, loss of rainforest, extinction, loss of farmland, loss of habitat, pavement, disease, shortage of resources, crime, housing costs, medical costs, hostility and competition, and my favorite denial word, “growth”, doesn’t mean overpopulation is a problem!

    I assume that means we need more of God’s precious children crawling on the planet, competing for scarcer resources, or at least the next open spot in heavy traffic.

    The human race will die of its own stupidity.

  • http://catacombsubculture.com Wade

    @ Steven

    I believe you’re getting into some pretty murky moral waters there. I think it’s a great sentiment when done properly, but the funding for his/her salary would probably have to come from a select few individuals who are on board with that idea. Asking an entire congregation to financially support a staff member who refuses to abide by the faith and conduct policies of the rest of the members or staff of a congregation seems a bit tenuous.

    I think its a good idea, and if done properly could give many people a lot of perspective. However, when it comes to allocation of church resources, I would tread very lightly.

  • Elemenope

    The human race will die of its own stupidity.

    Much more dangerous is a great intelligence connected with a lack of wisdom. Stupid talking monkeys running about the savannah can’t do so much harm. Talking monkeys that have harnessed the power of the atom and the gene, on the other hand, are more of a threat.

  • dr.R.

    Re: growth, the Encyclopedia of the Earth puts it quite nicely in a recent article:

    Whereas tens of thousands of years passed before our species reached the one billion mark, around 1800 C.E., it took only 130, 33, 15, 13 and 12 years to add each succeeding billion.

    Well, at least the growth rate is not accelerating anymore.

    Among industrialized nations, the U.S. has the highest rates of both procreation and immigration, giving it the greatest overall population growth rate of any industrialized nation—roughly 1% per year.

    This brings us back at the topic of this post: if the evangelists are not growing, their relative share is already declining.

  • cello

    I think Wade has a point regarding Stephen’s idea. It is not the same IMO as a non-Jew who is paid to shut off the lights because they are not being asked to contribute ideas. That person is hired for labor only. I can’t imagine an evangelical church not putting large pressure on the non-theist to convert or likewise, having church members resenting anti-theism being espoused from a contributing staff member.

    Stephen, instead of actually hiring a staff person, why don’t you partner with a Unitarian Church for charity work? That would give you broader community access while still allowing you (and them) to maintain theological boundaries.

  • VorJack

    @chris tackett – “Baader-Meinhof phenomenon”

    Ha! Yes, that’s it exactly! Thank you, now I have a name for it.

  • Elemenope

    cello –

    While that’s a great point re: not like a shabbos goy, your solution (ask a Unitarian!) is nowhere near the theological boundaries.

    Both my parents are UUs, and I grew up in a Unitarian Church. Honestly, your average on-the-street Atheist is likely to have more in common with an Evangelical Christian than a Unitarian does.

  • cello

    @elemenope,

    Both my parents are UUs, and I grew up in a Unitarian Church. Honestly, your average on-the-street Atheist is likely to have more in common with an Evangelical Christian than a Unitarian does.

    LOL. Really? Why? Because I was thinking of going to a Unitarian Chuch.

  • Elemenope

    cello –

    It’s worth the experience. Unitarian Universalism was an attempt to create an anti-dogmatic theism, by combining two divergent threads of Christian thought and then shedding the Christianity. (re:Anti-dogmatism. One of my favorite UU jokes: How do you know when the Unitarians are angry at you? When there’s a question mark burning on your lawn.)

    In form, it’s pretty similar to Christian church, e.g. most UUs go to “church” wherein there is a sermon, hymns, a pipe organ/piano, etc..

    Beneath the familiar surface, though, *everything* is different. Really the only similarity in function with a Christian church is the attempt at creating fellowship, a community. But unlike a church, the community is not based in any way on a shared creed or belief. The bast way to explain it is that UU churches come in “flavors”, with the dominant flavor at any given church really being simply a due to the culture and interests of the members and the reverend. You can find churches that are more Buddhist, in orientation, or more Christian (those being the two most common, in the US, anyway). You can even find ones that are predominantly atheistic (think of them as really pretty Sunday coffeehouses with a sing-a-long hour).

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fascinating approach to religion. Just not for me. It continuously reminded me of the old quote that a person who has an open mind should also learn to shut it around something solid, lest all the content falls out. It functions best, IMO, as a sort of religious halfway house where people who have just left the traditions of their upbringing go, a safe and non-judgmental community with somewhat familiar trappings where they can chill while they figure things out.

    The upside of their commitment to social inclusion is that they are very socially involved, mostly on issues of social inclusion and conscience (front and center on Gay rights, for example).

    My comment re:atheists would fit in better with a Evangelical than a UU would is because unlike Atheists (who, like Christians, have made a choice re: the God thing), UUs are painfully agnostic. Militantly agnostic. Agnostic to the point of scary. Whereas an atheist objects to the dogma (Jesus is Lord, the Lord is God, the God is one, the one is three persons blah blah blah) because they have chosen different things to be true, the UU would object to the *notion* of dogma itself.

  • John C

    @All…

    What you “see” in these psuedo political christian organizations is not the “church” (ecclesia) per se but an entity with its own, (political, rule-keeping) agenda. Many are well-meaning “christians” but remain mostly un-spiritual, fleshly at the core.

    That being said, I realize this gets your proverbial hopes up, but it would be a mistake to associate the demise of said politico’s with the demise of…christianity in America or in any sense.

    The “church” is not a physical entity, organization but a spiritual “body” and she can never suffer loss, she is wed (in spirit to the eternal spirit) and thus…eternal.

    What God is doing, in the unseen is removing the ugly stain of religion from our landscape & replacing it with an authentic people, lover’s of God who simply love like He loves, without pretense & agenda.

    Yes, the physical buildings are dwindling in strength & influence…but He is arising in the hearts of the surrendered ones.

    The paradoxical nature of God never ceases to amaze…you want victory? You must surrender. You want to get? You must first give. You want to live? You must first die…to your Self (soulish) life…He is beautiful.

    Peace,

    JC

  • cello

    @ elemenope,

    I see, Unitarians are the people that would never tell someone his beliefs were wrong. LOL. Yeah, I would hate that.

    Thanks for the info!

  • VorJack

    And then there’s the Unitarian Jihad: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2005/04/08/DDG27BCFLG1.DTL

    Signed:
    Brother Dagger of Warm Humanitarianism

  • Elemenope

    Thanks for the info!

    Any time. :)

  • Elemenope

    And then there’s the Unitarian Jihad…

    That’s a classic. It’s funny enough on its own, but I can’t express properly to you how damn funny that is if you’ve actually grown up in that world.

  • VorJack

    @Elemenope -

    There’s enough of a mental overlap between the UU and the liberal wing of the Episcopal church that I can basically understand. I’ve been called a ‘high-church Unitarian’ before.

  • Elemenope

    There’s enough of a mental overlap between the UU and the liberal wing of the Episcopal church that I can basically understand. I’ve been called a ‘high-church Unitarian’ before.

    I’ve heard that, before, too. UCoC is another that gets the Unitarian rap.

  • Maupassant

    What does it mean to ‘witness to’ someone? I have never seen this usage of ‘witness’. Will someone please explain this to me?

    (Background: I don’t live in the US, was not raised as a Christian, and have never lived in a predominantly evangelical area. I’m not trolling.)

  • Elemenope

    Maupassant –

    The traditional notion of witnessing in the Christian tradition has to do with their religion employing the metaphor of “good news”. That is, the story it tells is “good news” for humans, and Christians bear witness to the truth of the story and so help to bear this good news.

    The word ‘evangelical’, comes loosely from the Greek for “good news”, and would thus mean something like ‘good messenger’. Christians thus think it is their job to ‘witness to’ people who have not either heard the story before, or not heard the story *properly* (in their determination), in order to convert them (because they believe that the story is transformative; once you accept it as true you become changed in a fundamental way).

  • Val

    …. the UU would object to the *notion* of dogma itself.

    I like it!

  • Brian

    Maupassant,
    Witness in the christian sense of the word mean to tell another of the gospel. By that I’m mean as a Christian, one stands as a witness to what he did (to die on the cross for mankind’s sins). A simple definition would be to share Christ’s life with someone. Witness doesn’t mean and acceptance of faith but a spread of the gospel.

    Hope that helps answer that for you. I can understand with no background in Christianity it would be hard to pick up easily on the basics of the religion.

    -Side note: I do agree with the decline of Sunday School. It had been a popular trend for many years. And like all trends, they get replaced. I happens. But i wouldn’t base the decline of American Evangelicals to that. So here’s my question: How do you decide if there is a decline or not? What can you base it on? Short of a personal census..
    Thanks.

  • Elemenope

    I like it!

    I find that, like controlled demolition, it is best enjoyed from a distance. Sure, it sounds great on paper (especially next to the dogmatism of many other religions), but in my experience it simply devolves in practice into hodgepodge syncretism.

    But it works for some, and man is it a breath of freshness compared to some other religious experiences.

  • Ty

    I don’t care too much about evangelicals any more. I’m quite capable of halting someone’s attempt to ‘witness’ to me.

    But I’d love to see fundamentalism of every stripe die quietly in a corner somewhere.

  • VorJack

    @Maupassant

    Elemenope has got it. Based on my experiences with being witnessed to, the full version usually involves telling a story three parts:

    1) Explain how much your life used to suck and how horrible you were: i.e., how nasty a person you used to be, how unfortunate you were, your dabbling with the occult (seriously), etc.

    2) How you discovered Jesus and accepted him as your personal savior.

    3) How happy and filled with joy you now are, and how much better your life has become, all thanks to the transformative power of Jesus.

    For my money, the grand champion of the “how much my life used to suck” category belongs to Ole Anthony, who was caught by the outside edge of a nuclear explosion during a bomb test.

  • Jonathon

    Wow, wouldn’t it be great if fundamentalist/evangelical Christianity just up and died?

    Sadly, however, it won’t be that simple.

    There are always going to be a certain percentage of people who are drawn to authoritarian and draconian interpretations of law and scripture. Some studies on the authoritarian personality type indicate that this percentage could be as high as 33%. So, in other words there will always be a minority of people who seek out and promote extreme, fundamentalist religion. It matters not if they are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, etc. They will always be drawn to the harsher, literal interpretations above any others. They will always reject intellectual and theological approaches to religion and instead opt for the “from the gut” emotion-based approach that is so popular in most of the Southern Baptist churches I knew from childhood.

    For these people, Jesus is not a peace-loving teacher of deep spiritual meaning. Instead he is a muscular warrior who’s going to come back at the end of time and beat non-believers into submission before he kicks them all into the steaming and boiling pits of hell. They project onto their deity the values that they themselves respect and want. They get off on the schadenfraude of thinking of all those scientists, intellectuals and peace-loving hippies screaming and writhing in anguish while they expect to enjoy the luxuries of Heaven.

    What I do hope for and long to see is a reform within Christianity along the lines of what former Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong has laid out in his many books on the subject of scripture and the state of the church. His basic message, and the title of one of his books, is “Christianity Must Change or Die”.

  • Ty

    “For these people, Jesus is not a peace-loving teacher of deep spiritual meaning. Instead he is a muscular warrior who’s going to come back at the end of time and beat non-believers into submission before he kicks them all into the steaming and boiling pits of hell. They project onto their deity the values that they themselves respect and want. They get off on the schadenfraude of thinking of all those scientists, intellectuals and peace-loving hippies screaming and writhing in anguish while they expect to enjoy the luxuries of Heaven.”

    QFT

  • Maupassant

    Thank you Elemenope and others for the explanation– you’ve made it clear. Yes, I would be quite disconcerted if someone went into that kind of sales talk to me at a party. Or anywhere, for that matter.

  • John C

    @Maupassant…

    But what if one came, sent by God to speak rich words of life and love to you? And what if your (inner man) had already been prepped to “hear” those words by the lover your soul? What if you were “set up” by Love Himself?

    What if Truth (Himself) was Love and His only agenda was to love you and be loved in return? What if, instead of “religion” (pointless rule-keeping dogma) that Love had no expectations, no demands of you but to fulfill the one remaining law…of love?

    What if God was…Love?

    Just Wondering.

    JC

  • Ty

    “What if God was…Love?”

    What if god was pasta?

    Pointless rhetorical questions are fun.

    But you won’t find any loving gods anywhere in the bible you like to quote from. More like a mass murderer.

    And the New Testament isn’t immune to his depredations. He wasn’t killing them in large numbers any more, but he did strike the occasional person dead for lying about the size of their church contributions. He gave Herod intestinal worms that killed him in the middle of a speech.

    The god of the bible is a hitman.

  • Elemenope

    He gave Herod intestinal worms that killed him in the middle of a speech.

    Which, when you stop to think about it, is *awesome*. Not good, strictly speaking. But capable of filling a guy with awe.

  • Ty

    “Which, when you stop to think about it, is *awesome*. Not good, strictly speaking. But capable of filling a guy with awe.”

    No doubt. If I had the power to do that, there would be a lot of intestinal worm related deaths going around.

    But I also don’t claim to the the personification of love, and the font of all moral wisdom.

  • John C

    @Ty…

    How could you possibly have an accurate opinion on someone who’s very existence you deny?

    The bible does not communicate anything to those who despise or reject its Author.

    After all…its a book for…children, for lovers. Not for those who are all grown up, and self content.

    JC

  • Elemenope

    After all…its a book for…children, for lovers. Not for those who are all grown up, and self content.

    Wen i wuz a kitten, i meweded leik a kitten, thinkded liek a kittenz, an I chazed strings liek a kittenz. Wen i wuz becomez a cat, i NO WANT kitten waiz ne moar. For nao we see in teh foggy mirorr like when teh human gets out of teh shower, but tehn we see faec tow faec. Nao i haz knowingz just a bit, tehn i will haz all teh knowingz, as i haz been knownz…

  • John C

    Poor analogy…you incorrectly use and interprete the meaning of that verse..again, sorry.

  • Ty

    “The bible does not communicate anything to those who despise or reject its Author. ”

    Huh, funny. It was the book itself that made me stop believing in god. I was a pretty committed Christian right up until the moment that cognitive dissonance broke my head.

    “Poor analogy…you incorrectly use and interprete the meaning of that verse..again, sorry.”

    The gospel according to John C.

    You’re the one that seems self content here, stud.

  • Tom Coward

    @ John C: So… Only people who belive in a god get to have an opinion about the nature or characteristics of a god that are described by those who do belive in him/her/it?

    I have read the Bible, and the god depicted there would scare the bejezuz out of me, if he existed. The death toll alone is in the millions!

    Give me a break!

  • Ty

    Not even that.

    Only people who believe in the incredibly narrowly defined version of god that John C has come up with get to have an opinion.

    Everyone else is wrong.

    It’s the hypocrisy in John C’s incredible certainty about his own rightness, combined with him calling other people self content, that breaks my head.

    John, you’re one of the most arrogant posters I’ve ever read. Do you know that about yourself?

  • http://progressatallcost.blogspot.com/ markbey

    @ john c

    “The bible does not communicate anything to those who despise or reject its Author. ”

    mark: John shouldnt that be exactly who the bible communicates first with? What better way to convince more people of the bibles authenticity than to communicate to those most skeptical?

    Also if god is the author of the bible and god is perfect. How come thier are so many contridictions and the mistakes in the bible such as the 2 different creation?

    such as:

    Genesis 1:3-5 (King James Version)

    3And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

    4And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

    5And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

    and then:

    Genesis 1:14-19 (King James Version)

    14And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

    15And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.

    16And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.

    17And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,

    18And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.

    19And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

    Perhaps the amount of people who do not buy what the bible is selling are not buying it because of all of the obvious contridictions.

  • Elemenope

    Honestly, all LOLcats aside, that Bible verse is about as clear as they come.

    If you think I’ve misinterpreted, by all means tell me how “put away childish things” really means “be more childlike”.

  • John C

    @Elemeno…

    So Jesus say’s “unless you become like a little child you will not see the kingdom” and Paul says “When I was a child I spoke as a child, but now I put away childish things”.

    One who doesnt know Him interprets these things as conflicting statements…but to those who love Him, who know Him and to whom the oracles of God are given (Romans 3:2) we see and understand clearly….just like He said we could if we would trust Him.

    Explanation:

    Jesus wasn’t merely speaking of the after-life, but kingdom life come here and now. It takes humility, childlike trust to enter into the reality of the kingdom of God in the here and now. Paul is speaking of going on to maturity in Christ, growing up in Him, not behaving, acting, thinking like a “babe” in the Lord any more but rather “attaining to the full measure of the stature of Christ” when He says now I put away childish things.

    Elemeno…with all due respect, just because one has “been around” those who read said “bible” or has heard casual mention, even read the “bible” doesn’t mean he or she comprehends the meaning for they are spiritually discerned, not simply textually conveyed truths. When I “hear” you through you’re writings, while highly intelligent, educated…I hear one who has assumed that he (or she) already knows these things, when in fact, with all due respect you do not, but you can.

    @Ty…

    You mistake my confidence in Him for arrogance when I say things like…I know Him. I am only saying what He said we could know. Unlike others, I am not content to wander in the desert of human reasoning, or “cognitive dissonance” in perpetuity. I have an insatiable desire to know truth….how is that wrong? Truth is a Person. Have we lost our sense of wonder? Our innocence to the degree that we no longer care what we believe…or dont believe? And what if you were made a beneficiary of my longing after truth? Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes. Where has the passion for truth gone? Life transforming, mind enlightening truth..and how do we go about obtaining that truth, is there such a thing? Is this all there is? No, there is more, much more and thankfully so.

    I will never be satisfied to not know truth…I was hoping to find a few genuine seekers amongst you. Who knows, I may yet.

    JC

  • http://mixingtracks.blogspot.com professoryackle

    The Unitarian Jihad’s manifesto is a scream. I especially like their motto:

    “Sincerity is not enough.” We have heard from enough sincere people to last a lifetime already. Just because you believe it’s true doesn’t make it true. Just because your motives are pure doesn’t mean you are not doing harm.

    One or two of the posters on this blog might do well to listen to that. Also:

    There will be coffee and cookies in the Gandhi Room after the revolution.

    Sweet.

    @Elemenope
    Wen i wuz a kitten, i meweded leik a kitten…

    Classic! Ceiling Cat has spoken!

    I move that every time John C uses the word “love”, readers substitute the word “toss”. Either that, or make it into a drinking game – he says “love”, you take a drink.

  • Ty

    “I will never be satisfied to not know truth…I was hoping to find a few genuine seekers amongst you. Who knows, I may yet.”

    You have, you just don’t recognize them because you are not one yourself.

    In addition to arrogant, you are also dishonest. You claim to only say what god said you could know. However, your interpretation of what your holy book says is quite different from many other interpretations of the same book.

    Your interpretation, John. Yours. You deciding what god has said that you can speak with certainty. Speaking with certainty regarding your own interpretation is, in fact, arrogance. We keep pointing out how the verses you use don’t in fact say what you claim they say, but you keep claiming that’s because you have some special knowledge regarding them that no one else has.

    You’re calling the voice in your head god, but it’s still just a voice in your head.

    You won’t see it, because you are exactly the opposite of what you claim to be. You are not a seeker of truth. You are a possessor of TRUTH, and you will work to fit everything into the idea you cling to.

    It’s arrogant, it’s dishonest, and the pieces only fit for you because the puzzle exists entirely inside your own head.

    No, you won’t find any converts, but that’s not because they aren’t seekers after truth. It’s because they aren’t YOU.

  • Just thinking…

    John,

    It seems to me the vast majority of the people posting here are ‘genuine’ seekers. Admittedly they aren’t genuine according to your definition, which admits only people prepared to ascribe to your beliefs, but honest seeking is the basis of their experience, and for many it seems to be the reason they post here.

    I’ll grant your definition of ‘genuine’ is consistent with your definition of ‘truth’. Because for you, truth has nothing to do with widely verifiable facts, or conformation to actuality. Your ‘truth’, as indicated by your words above, means the things you are prepared to believe that accord with your very narrow religious worldview. Consequently, your ‘truth’ excludes most humans, excepting only a tiny percentage who are as narrowly focused as you on an inerrant scripture and a personal relationship with Jesus. Your truth doesn’t just dismiss millions of Muslims, Jews, Hindus, agnostics and atheists–it also dismisses many millions of other, less- and more-dogmatic Christians.

    That to me is the real difference between your sort of seeking and the sort of seeking I see in the people on this blog. Your seeking, and your truth, narrows and homogenizes the diversity and multiplicity of humanity, setting up a gate through which only a select few who share your specific dogmatism may pass. The seekers on this blog seem to me to care about a more universal truth that accounts for and celebrates human difference and variety, and seeks to relate experience to a just, reasonable and explicable present.

    Everything you have written makes it clear to me that you don’t live in the here and now, John, you live for a hereafter populated by a tiny percentage of people just like you, the existence of which is extrapolated from a mish-mash of badly interpreted ancient writings.

    Consequently you do come across as extremely arrogant and intolerant. Your claim for special enlightenment and a unique experience of Christ, impresses no one here. We all know people like you, many of us were just like you, and would also have told ‘backsliders’ just as pompously that they had never really known the ‘truth’.

    Maybe you’ll be fortunate enough to discover the present before you fritter away the rest of your life in thrall to superstition. Maybe you are a genuine seeker. I’m doubtful–you seem to meet the perfect definition of a godbot. But if you are a genuine seeker, I hope you find the truth.

  • Sunny Day

    “I move that every time John C uses the word “love”, readers substitute the word “toss”. Either that, or make it into a drinking game – he says “love”, you take a drink.”

    I continually wonder why people still talk at it.

  • John C

    @Love you…JUST…as…you…are…THINKING! There you go, have another drink guys…that one’s on me, lol.

    But seriously, why the insistance on some ambiguous and false “truth” when Truth has already pointed the beautiful road out to us? Christ excludes no one, and neither do I…sir. I am merely pointing out the futility of walking acccording to our own (limited), human knowledge as opposed to walking…in the Light. The light of God compared to our own is as the sun is to the moon, and the moon has no light…of its own and neither do we. The place of dependence is actually and paradoxically one of great strength, not weakness. This is a precious secret.

    Your assertions of me are quite the opposite from all my acquaintences, be it “christian” or secular…I love (gulp another one down) all men…not just the ones who “agree with me”. A common thread here is to lump one into the “religious” pool of convenience…serves your purposes well, its an easy dismissal. Requires no real thought or effort.

    I think the most concerning thing I have learned from my time amongst you is this…not one of you truly knows what the real offer and message of Christ is, not one…not even the supposed past “christians”. And furthermore, no one even cares to know. Here’s a hint…it has NOTHING to do with religion per se…but everything to do with life, here and now…not merely in some “sweet bye and bye”.

    Instead of being drunk on booze, try the intoxication of the Holy Spirit…there’s no hangover and you can remember what you did…and you wont be ashamed of it…and neither will He.

    Love & Peace…to all.

    Gulp, gulp

  • Ty

    “I think the most concerning thing I have learned from my time amongst you is this…not one of you truly knows what the real offer and message of Christ is, not one…not even the supposed past “christians”. And furthermore, no one even cares to know. Here’s a hint…it has NOTHING to do with religion per se…but everything to do with life, here and now…not merely in some “sweet bye and bye”.”

    Thank you for absolutely proving my point beyond all doubt.

    Next.

  • Just thinking…

    He must be a Poe, don’t you think? No real person could be this obtuse and saccharine. I feel sort of…slimed on…

    He’s certainly doing a better job of promoting atheism than I ever could.

  • Question-I-thority

    John C is MVP of the I-know-in-my-heart league. He’s been racking up record setting (R)eal
    (B)ecause (I) said sos.

  • http://catacombsubculture.com Wade

    Being another resident theist around here… From all accounts I consider John C to be an honest and well meaning guy… but please slap me if I start sounding like that. I feel like Stanley from the Office every time I read a John C post.

  • Just thinking…

    My sympathies Wade. “With friends like that…”

  • http://mixingtracks.blogspot.com professoryackle

    @Just

    “He slimed me!”

    Either a poe, or an incredibly stupid person. I’m thinking a poe would have more finesse. Either way, I’m bored with it now.

  • http://billpost.blogspot.com/ Bill

    “Either a poe, or an incredibly stupid person. I’m thinking a poe would have more finesse. Either way, I’m bored with it now.”

    Nah – he’s a troll. He gets off on getting a rise out of people here, He knows he’s not making sense and enjoys pushing peoples buttons by continuing to do it.

    If we ignore the alleged substance of his posts he will go away. Without a reaction from us he has no reason to hang out here.

  • John C

    “Without a reaction from us he has no reason to hang out here”…

    I “hang out” here simply because I love you guys, all of you whether the feeling is mutual or not…not because I get a “rise” out of you. Many times you say nothing, or some unkind words…but nevertheless I hang out.

    Love like Him,

    JC

  • http://christinewicker.com Christine Wicker

    I’m the author of “The Fall of the Evangelical Nation.” Thank you reviewing it.

    If you aren’t convinced by my stats, take a look at my website, http://www.christinewicker.com. Since I turned in the manuscript a lot has come out.

    For instance, the rate of growth at the Southern Baptist Convention has been declining since 1950. Last year they announced that they are officially declining in total numbers.

    This is the first piece of journalism to even look at this question. So it’s not the end of the discussion, but the beginning.

    As for those annoying stories, I’m glad you felt that way. I did like the evangelicals I interviewed. I was happy for them that they have their faith. But I wasn’t trying to get you to like them. I was just reporting the picture. Evangelical faith gives people soooo much. That there isn’t a line out the door tells us some important things about ourselves and the future.

  • Just thinking…

    Aaaargghh …. grackkk… hack… hack… spit… awful taste… can’t get rid of it… cough… choke…

    So… anyone read any good books lately?

  • Just thinking…

    Umm.. sorry Christine, that was for JC’s benefit.

    Great to have you posting here.

  • Ty

    “Evangelical faith gives people soooo much. That there isn’t a line out the door tells us some important things about ourselves and the future.”

    Are you kidding me?

    As a former evangelical, I can report that all it gave me was a belief system that fails every test of rationality, and a lot of wasted time.

    That there isn’t a line out the door gives me hope for the species.

  • Jabster

    So then where’s the review of Ray Comfort’s book “You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics” I think it’s good to have a balance of views. Ray’s always struck me as a kind of level headed guy with some good ideas. Now where’s my banana?

  • Brian

    Heh, why is it when a religion is mentioned in any form of discussion the “wild” (lightly using that word) skeptics come out the wood work? I find it very humorous. But at least people are talking and hopefully learning from others. I mean what’s life without conflict and opposing forces? Boring. Much thanks for the reading guys.

  • Dell

    “I think the most concerning thing I have learned from my time amongst you is this…not one of you truly knows what the real offer and message of Christ is, not one…not even the supposed past “christians”. And furthermore, no one even cares to know. Here’s a hint…it has NOTHING to do with religion per se…but everything to do with life, here and now…not merely in some “sweet bye and bye”.”

    Wow John C. I didnt expect to see another real Christian… er scratch that… Christ-follower here. Much props. Now if only people could understand that. heh. Up to them though. They were told.

  • cello

    @ Christine,

    The article I noticed on your site specfically looks at young adults and lack of church attendence. Hasn’t this always been true, though? I have read elsewhere that people from 18 until 25ish (when they have kids) often stop attending church. Then when they have kids, they involve themselves back in church life. I have observed this to be true as well.

    Here is a NYT piece from last year. It does note that the largest demographic increase has been in the “unaffiliated” group. It also notes the trend of “converting each other”, as believers move in and out of various denominations, but the article does not point to any significant decrease in the evangelical community overall.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/25/us/25cnd-religion.html

    The SBC numbers have decreased, but can we make any conclusions as to where these folks have gone?

    Sidenote: I live in the north and the church I attended was (loosely) a SBC church plant but they purposefully did not advertise as SBC because of the negative connotations people in the area had of the group.

  • VorJack

    @Christine Wicker -

    Thank you for taking the time to comment on Daniel’s blog. I’ve been reading your blog for some time now, and I enjoyed your interview on Internet Monk. As to your comment:

    “For instance, the rate of growth at the Southern Baptist Convention has been declining since 1950. ”

    There’s a section of Robert Putnam’s famous book “Bowling Alone” where he makes a big deal out of the fact that PTA membership is declining. He points to that as a sign that social capital is declining as well. However, numerous critics have pointed out that membership in several alternative parent-teacher organization is rising enough to compensate.

    The problem isn’t a decline in parental involvement in the school system. Rather, it’s simply that parents are no longer interested in the specific institution of the PTA. It’s possible that we’re simply seeing a decline in evangelical “brand loyalty”, but not a decline in Evangelical Christianity.

    “Evangelical faith gives people soooo much.”

    You made this point several times in the book, and it was one of the things that irritated me. There seems to be an implicit assumption here that all people want the same thing out of religion.

    As a ex-Episcopalian with high-church sympathies, I have to admit that Evangelical faith never offered me anything I wanted. I wanted things like sacred space and language to carry me away from the profane world. Rather than certainties of meaning and morality, I wanted John Shelby Spong’s “radical uncertainty”. (of course, I’m now an atheist, so make of that what you will.)

    I don’t know how common this is, but maybe the reason that the product isn’t selling is that demand isn’t that great.

  • VorJack

    @Jabster – “So then where’s the review of Ray Comfort’s book …”

    Are you volunteering? I’m sure Daniel would post whatever review you wrote, as longs as it was something more than a string of explicatives or “Make him stop! Make the bad man stop!” repeated over and over.

    I’d even chip in to buy you a braille display after you were done clawing out your eyes.

  • http://unreasonablefaith.com Daniel Florien

    If someone wants to review Comfort’s book, that would be great! I’m certainly not going to take the time to read his trash. I can’t stand the man.

    But I’d love to post a thoughtful, well-written, full-of-critique review if someone wants to tackle it.

  • Jabster

    @Daniel/VorJack

    I got to “I am overawed with the way my brain works” and for once I agreed with Ray Comfort.

  • Val

    Ty, VorJack, and of course Daniel who started this whole site,

    it’s great to meet other former evangelicals.

    The reason arguments don’t get past a certain point is that the premises – the unprovable (at least for Christianity) core beliefs upon which all the other logical is built – are different.

    Those who never believed may bring up some good points, but they never had the Christian premises. They don’t have the experiences with the self-contradiction that comes from believing it.

    We had the cognitive and intellectual dissonance (ignoring for the moment the subjugation of women and slaughter of people) of the Christian teaching, until we finally had to cough up that hairball and leave it behind.

    Former evangelical types know this crap from the inside out.

    Because we were once on the inside!

  • Sundog

    John C,

    There isn’t a one of us here that is sorry someone else has put forward a diferent point of view. But just prattling about your God and how wonderful he is will never cut it.

    I don’t have faith. I never will. Faith is the absence of reason, and I will never make that bargain.

    You have to bring in evidence. Information. Testable data. Prove your hypothesis!

    If you can’t do that, all you have is smoke and mirrors and a god who isn’t there.

  • LRA
  • LRA

    Evangelicals suck big-time. The only good they’re doing is tearing the republican party apart.

  • Elemenope

    Faith is the absence of reason…

    No. Faith is belief in the absence of evidence. As I pointed out on a different thread, reasoning (as we understand it today) was basically invented for the purpose of thinking about theological problems.

    Now, I’d certainly agree that belief held *contrary* to available evidence is generally not reasonable. But that’s a different thing than faith.

  • http://catacombsubculture.com Wade

    @Vorjack

    I wanted things like sacred space and language to carry me away from the profane world.

    You been reading Eliade?

  • VorJack

    @Wade

    As is happens, yes. Well, reading about Eliade in a philosophy of history mode at the moment , but yes.

    For what it’s worth, the concept of sacred space and language have been part of my lexicon for a while. Episcopalians have to justify their liturgical conservatism somehow, and “sacred time” sounds better that “’cause that’s the way my father did it.”

  • Val

    John C, and many others:

    I gotta agree with Sundog on something: that

    There isn’t a one of us here that is sorry someone else has put forward a diferent point of view. But just prattling about your God and how wonderful he is will never cut it.
    Faith is the absence of reason, and I will never make that bargain.

    I don’t know or agree for sure that faith is necessarily, exclusively, and always “the absence of reason”.

    At least in the human condition of uncertainty (which,by the way, Christians deny, even though Schrödinger and Heisenberg had uncertainty with all their knowledge).

    But I do know that I have seen too much….
    … oh… what shall I call it? … let’s see now… oh, yeah!… I know!…

    … “Unreasonable Faith”!

    (not that I would steal that from the name of a website or anything)

  • Val

    BTW (Intending no disrespect to Greeks, Xtians or XMas, ha ha!):

    Does Church of Christ count as “evangelical”?

    I can tell you that when I believed it from age 17 to 20 (and not from birth because I wasn’t raiseed in any religion, thank God!) that

    I once said, “Aren’t we a denomination?” Ha! No, of course not! They are the original church!

    There is no speaking in tongues or modern miracles. All the miracles happened, but do not happen now. (Remember, this is not a debate; this is a description of their beliefs.)

    They pass around matzoh and grape juice for communion. They don’t believe in drinking wine/ alcohol. This is funny ever since I read the comment: “Unless the ancient Middle East had refrigerators, their grape juice DID ferment into wine!”

    They do not call themselves “dunkers” (*snerk*) but that is how they baptize. I know. I was there. Only adults, or over the age of 11 to 12. (All the ones born into it get the call by then. They call it divine; we call it conditioning.)

    Bringing my belonging to them for three years out into the light somehow banishes the shame of it. Maybe the Catholics have a point: confession can be good for you! Ha ha!

    Since I don’t know exactly what “evangelical” means, and C. of C. doesn’t get high profile, I’m hoping someone can answer my above question.

  • LRA

    If only Evangelicals would go away. Check out this site:

    http://fabiusmaximus.wordpress.com/2009/02/18/disinformation/#comment-14511

    S/He denies global warming and deleted my posts which sited scientific literature on the matter (how surprising!). Yet, claims to be scientifically motivated. How sad.

  • LRA

    Sorry, that should read: If only evangelicals/ fundamentalists/ crazy right wing conspiracy theorists would go away…

  • http://billpost.blogspot.com/ Bill

    How is “Evangelical” defined for purposes of the book and our discussion? It seems to me that has a large impact on whether or not they are in decline.

  • Val

    If John C and others can ramble on with no relevance to the topic of the forum, so can I.

    Since I have too many functioning brain cells to do that, I will go ahead and make it somewhat relevant:

    Christians seem to be the most in favor of rampant breeding, and forcing others to be breeders. (@abortion forums.)

    So (especially if no one can give me any more answers to my above question about the C. of C.) here it is:

    My nickname for the “Ask Amy Dickinson” advice column is “Breeders’ Digest”.

  • VorJack

    @Bill – “How is “Evangelical” defined for purposes of the book…”

    Within her book, she boils it down to a few points:

    “… people who have accepted Jesus as their personal savior and as the only way to heaven, who accept the Bible as the inerrant word of God, and who are scaring the bejesus out of the rest of America.”

    Basically the hallmarks are Jesus as the narrow way, being ‘born again’, and biblical inerrancy. It’s kind of loose. Technically, she lumps in liberal and moderate evangelicals. But Fred Clark over at “Slacktvist” is an Liberal Evangelical, and he’s not scaring the bejesus out of anybody. Except LaHaye & Jenkins.

    She expands on this a bit on her blog: http://www.christinewicker.com/?p=30

    Here she looks at the 9 points from the Barna Group and compares them to the (liberal) Evangelical Manifesto.

  • Val

    Thanks!

    That helped answer my question as to whether the Church of Christ is evangelical. It matched 8 (or 9) of Barna’s 9 criteria, and all 7 of the Evangelical Manifesto.

    I wasn’t sure if you had to be a Holy Roller or speak in tongues to qualify for the definition. C. of C. is too staid for that, but not too rigid, narrow, self-righteous, or closed-minded.

  • R.

    She can’t speak for all America. Maybe for North America.
    The fact is evangelical churches in Brazil (my country) are as strong as ever, which is sad, because people are treated like sheep and they do not get bothered about it.

    Well, here evangelical churches have a prolifical music market, with people massively buying original evangelical CDs (because downloading is a sin, you know) and different kinds of Bibles (the young woman Bible, the surfer Bible, the Family Bible… all of them only with different covers and illustrations inside – same text). Here we have mascots for the churches, and each sells a lot of dolls of these mascots.

    It’s f*cked up, I know, but we are a third world country, people are not smart yet… :(

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  • Jamieb

    I’m not sure if you’re trying to be ironic with this post or not.

    “making pharmacist refusals based on religious belief illegal – and every other instance of enforcing one’s prejudice on others” What do you think you’re doing? Uh, enforcing your prejudice on someone else! You’re elevating your beliefs over someone else’s and in the process forcing your beliefs on someone else.

    Face it. Everyone is an extremist to someone. Radical right. Radical left. We all fall there on someone’s scale. There’s a reason you belief what you believe – you think it’s right and the world would be better off if everyone believed as you do. Guess what? Everyone (well, almost everyone) believes that.

    How do you solve that? You have free dialogue (without condemning language or tone) and agreement to disagree. In the end, someone’s beliefs ARE going to be forced on someone else. But we’ll never have a civil conversation with accusations, innuendo, and sarcasm.

    Peace.


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