Jon Stewart on Religion & Morality

Jon Stewart recently had an interview with Sojourners, a “progressive” Christian organization. Here’s an excerpt about a part on religion:

Religion makes sense to me. I have trouble with dogma more than I have trouble with religion. I think the best thing religion does is give people a sense of place, purpose, and compassion. My quibble with it is when it’s described as the only way to have those things instilled.

You can be moral and not be religious, you can be compassionate, you can be empathetic—you can have all those wonderful qualities. When it begins to be judged as purely based on religion, then you’re suggesting a world where Star Jones goes to heaven but Gandhi doesn’t.

Like anything else that’s that powerful—that is touching that deep into the epicenter of the human psyche and our fears, it can be misused. I’m probably much more responsive in a bad way to dogma and to extremism than to religion.

When people say things like, “I found God and that helped me stop drinking,” I say, “Great! More power to you. Just know that some people stop drinking without it.” It’s when it gets into the realm of “This is the only way to salvation”—that’s when I think, “Okay, now we’re getting into a problem.”

I agree — when religion helps someone overcome a problem, I’m glad they found help. But it’s not the only way to fix problems.

And if religion helps someone be a better person, I’m glad they found help. But faith isn’t a requirement to be a good person — at least for some of us!

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  • cello

    I read Soujourners on occassion. They are progressive on some political issues like the environment and labor laws but I am unclear on their salvation views. They are self described evangelicals and have a high view of Biblical authority so they are not progressive in the sense that an Episcopalian would be considered progressive. I wonder why they chose Jon Stewart in particular to cover.

    • brgulker

      Because Jim Wallis, their founder, is a fan of Jon Stewart. He sees parallels between in the way that the ancient Hebrew prophets used humor and satire to produce social change and the Daily Show’s use of the same.

  • reckonr

    I mirror Stewart’s sentiments exactly. I don’t have a problem with people belonging to a weird little club where they eat crackers, or throw stones at a pillar, or don’t turn on light switches after sunset.

    It is 1) the notion of certainty that they claim to have, 2) the fusion of their way of thinking into public life and law for all to adhere to, and 3) that their beliefs inform their actions, that usually imposes their direct or physical will onto others.

    Turn religion into the chess club, and we’re all better off; believers included.

    • JonJon

      certainty is important to religion in a way that it isn’t for a club. so is belief informing action.

      now, that all must adhere to a set of religious beliefs made manifest in law, that, i’m not okay with. I’m a great big fan of the separation of church and state.

      But religion is very different from a club. In fact, some of the things you don’t like about religion are what makes it important. belief informing one’s actions and a measure of certainty are incredibly important to people. I’ll grant that it is possible to experience this outside of religion, but if you remove religion as an avenue for exploring personal beliefs and achieving a level of security within their (a religious person’s) own life, you are basically leaving only your own avenues for experiencing those parts of life.

      does that make sense? I feel like i’m not saying it very well. If you turn religion into a club, then the only way people can get what they now get from religion is by pursuing “acceptable” methods, that is, the methods acceptable to *you* (or john stewart.) And I hate to tell you this, but what validates you just isn’t going to cut it for everyone.

  • Chuck Lasker

    For Baptists (and many other Protestant denominations), their religion is not about any of the benefits Stewart describes. It’s 99% about getting to Heaven (or really, avoiding Hell), and they believe their way is the exclusive way to do so. Ghandi, Jones, both “deserve Hell,” and only faith in their version of Christ will get them into Heaven. I know this because I spent 10 years as a right wing Baptist, getting more and more extreme before leaving “the faith” completely. The above argument would get nowhere with someone like I was.

    The best approach, in my opinion, is to ignore the fanatics, and provide reasonable alternative answers to people seeking truth and those being subjected to proselytizing. History shows that, while slow, reason, truth and science prevail over superstition. Another few hundred years and maybe mankind will be able to accept reality without the crutch of religion.

    • dwade

      My faith teaches me that it’s about enjoying my faith in the present. God wants us to enjoy our life with Him. The scare tactics in baptist churches work for some. But most I’ve seen fall away fairly quickly when they begin to count the cost of walking a life of faith. Many denominations fail to teach on the Christian walk and how important it is each day to follow Gods word.

      Liberal denoms fail to teach on the importance of holiness and separation from the world standards. People are raised to believe that you can live a life with sin and show up at church on sunday to have forgiveness. God is not fooled by our insincere hearts. He knows when you are a sheep and when you are a goat. Don’t be a goat.

      • Daniel Fincke

        dude—seriously, don’t be a Sheep.

      • claidheamh mor


        No need to reply with a thoughtful thesis to something that is so full of ASSumptions it makes no sense.

        My “liberal denoms” are a 31-inch inseam.

      • Aor

        Is that the Church of the Flying Monster Truck?

        Or was yours the Church of I-saw-a-crippled-arm-regrow?

  • Nathan Sarlow

    I think the problem is that Christianity is dumped into the ‘religion’ category. I guess in the broad sense it is classified that way, but ‘Religion’ by itself will rarely fill any kind of void in your life. In fact, I would go as far as saying that following religion itself will leave you hollow and disillusioned. ‘Religion’ is purely the ritual and traditions surrounding the core of belief.

    I agree that believing in God or becoming a ‘Christian’ isn’t the only way to break a habit, or even to ‘baffle science’ & get over a terminal illness, because there are many many examples of this happening outside of any human instigated spiritual connection, HOWEVER I am convinced of the healing and saving power of Jesus Christ, and believe that God does indeed step into our lives at will to heal & ease suffering – even if he is never acknowledged for it.

    I am sad for you Chuck that you must have been so close, but never felt the impact of a personal and life-changing relationship with your creator. I only hope that your heart strings will be pulled on again one day – not by religion or by the church, but by the grace of God.

    • rodneyAnonymous

      ‘Religion’ is purely the ritual and traditions surrounding the core of belief.

      No, sorry. Dogmatic belief is religion; some are more strict than others. If you are convinced of the healing and saving power of Jesus Christ, you are religious.

      • Joe B

        He sounds like a more coherent John C. “Yeah religion is bad, bad religion. MY beliefs aren’t religion at all. Praise Jesus.”

        • claidheamh mor


          Religion is dogmatic, dead words. *MY* faith is from the knowing of the powerful imaginary friend Father and Jeeezus in my heart. There is life. There is more. There is bullshit everywhere, including except from me!

          • Janet Greene

            My parents always told me that christianity wasn’t a religion – religion was bad, wrong. What christians have is a personal relationship with jah-sus. Now, I prefer relationships with actual people (and some animals too). You know, entities that exist.

    • Chuck Lasker

      Nathan, I had “felt the impact of a personal and life-changing relationship with [my] creator.” At least, I believed fully and completely – every bit as much as you do. I said the very same type of thing to others. But I believe I was simply caught up in the psychological joy of thinking I was “in” with the one and only god, as well as the sudden acceptance by hundreds or others in my church and beyond. I felt I had a purpose, and that it was infinite, which is life-changing for sure.

      The problem is, if it’s not truth, then it’s all just an illusion. Over time, I could not continue the mental tricks I had to play to overcome the illogic and inconsistencies of Christianity. The idea that a god would create billions of souls, knowing the majority of them would burn for eternity, just so he could have fellowship with the few beings that chose to accept him, ended up disgusting me. To me, it’s like someone breeding dogs, knowing 90% of the puppies would be in massive pain their entire lives, just to be able to have the 10% as pets. That’s obviously disgusting, and there’s no difference with what god supposedly did. If it were true, then god is a selfish, disgusting being, and I don’t want anything to do with that.

      • Nelly

        “The problem is, if it’s not truth, then it’s all just an illusion. Over time, I could not continue the mental tricks I had to play to overcome the illogic and inconsistencies of Christianity.”

        Well said! That is exactly why I couldn’t stay with the program. Too many questions that could not be answered without “faith” being thrown in to make the mix work

      • claidheamh mor

        @Chuck Lasker:

        Nathan, I had “felt the impact of a personal and life-changing relationship with [my] creator.” At least, I believed fully and completely – every bit as much as you do. I said the very same type of thing to others.

        When I was christian, I couldn’t even fool myself that much.

        Whipping myself into believing it just didn’t work. One part of me believed it enough to *try* to believe it; the other part of me wasn’t buying it. That’s why I alternate between having contempt for christians who do spout that stuff – I know they’re lying to themselves in a desperate attempt to believe it themselves, and being drop-jawed “is-that-possible?” incredulous and thinking, jeeeezUS, some people really are mentally ill or blind enough to *buy* it without questioning.

        And if it had had the ring of truth, fact, reality, I would have bought it.

        • Chuck Lasker

          When I became a Christian, I was an electrical engineer, converted by another electrical engineer. There was much logical discussion. I soon joined a church that was more of a bible school than church, with constant studies of the ancient texts, lessons in Greek and Aramaic translations, historical contexts. It was a very logical situation, and my faith was both emotional and logical, at the time. We discussed all the hard points, and I could go on for hours and hours defending Christianity against most of the posts here that are against Christianity (including mine), using better arguments than the Christians here are using, because I’d leave out the buzz words and “just don’t think” propositions.

          However, there were questions that remained that I continued to try to deal with. In the end, it was two things that ate away at my faith and eventually ended it. One was the actions of supposed Christians. “You shall know them by their fruits.” If today’s Christians are examples of Christ’s love, then it is simply not something worth believing in. Two, I could not deal with the idea that a god would create such a system, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts. Once something starts the topple, and your eyes start opening, it’s an easy path to see the rest of the folly of Christianity.

          • claidheamh mor

            @Chuck Lasker: In the end, it was two things that ate away at my faith and eventually ended it. One was the actions of supposed Christians. “You shall know them by their fruits.”

            Don’t we, though! You got that right. From murdered doctors all the way to damaged self-worth to misogyny to hypocritical politicians to harsh discipline of children (“they’re born evil and have to be ‘taught what’s right’”) to passing laws to force others to live by their own beliefs to hate-filled, evidence-free, ASSumption-riddled, hostile, name-calling, irrational rants on this board.

    • CoffeeJedi

      Do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound when you say that Christianity isn’t a religion? You’re not the first person I’ve heard this from either. The cognitive dissonance is mind-boggling.
      That’s like pointing to your Mustang and saying “Oh, its not a car, it’s a Ford”.

      You could argue that Christianity is a group of individual sub-religion denominations, but that still doesn’t get around the fact that Christianity is a religion.

      • Nathan Sarlow

        I didn’t say that Christianity isn’t a religion, I was saying that the problem is that it’s dumped into the same box as David Karesh or Jonestown.

        Not that Wikipedia is the authority, but it states it like this..
        “The term “religion” refers to both the personal practices related to communal faith and to group rituals and communication stemming from shared conviction.”
        implying that its all about your actions, what you say and do and who you hang out with.

        Fundamental Christianity is based on the premise of a spiritual relationship, regardless of your actions. Of course, the actions are encouraged and are seen as an important part of ‘the new person’ you are, but the actions (and therefore the religious part) are not the basis of Christianity.

        • CoffeeJedi

          But you didn’t say that. Those kinds of religions have a very specific name, a cult. You said “religion” in the general sense, never once mentioning a cult.

          As for wikipedia, you’re splitting hairs. By your definition, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism aren’t “religions” either when you drill down to the core belief. Those core beliefs are NOTHING without the organization and holy texts and the rituals. Even praying quietly at home is a “personal practice related to communal faith”. Christianity doesn’t just come into your head out of nowhere, another person has to teach it to you.

          Now you can say how RITUALS don’t fulfill you*, but don’t muddy the waters by trying to separate belief in Jesus from a “religion”.

          * They don’t fulfill me either, but I do know several people who are completely satisfied by rituals, and will even admit that they don’t truly believe the principles but accept it as a psychological construct. So your idea that it leaves you “hollow and disillusioned” has a counter-argument right there.

        • claidheamh mor

          From Wikipedia:

          The Branch Davidian Seventh Day Adventists (also known as “The Branch”) are a Protestant sect

          All together now christian apologists (that’s redundant, I know):
          “But… they’re not reeeeeeallll christians!”

          Yes, I *do* lump nearly all religious weirdos with christianity. Especially the obviously christian ones.
          Unfortunately, they’re all too real.

          @Nathan Sarlow 1:29 PM:

          I think the problem is that Christianity is dumped into the ‘religion’ category. I guess in the broad sense it is classified that way, but ‘Religion’ by itself will rarely fill any kind of void in your life.

          @Nathan Sarlow 2:23 PM:

          I didn’t say that Christianity isn’t a religion, I was saying that the problem is that it’s dumped into the same box as David Karesh or Jonestown.

          Those two quotes are almost, but not quite, as self-contradictory as the bible.

    • Fentwin

      I’m curious as to how you know your god is the one true god, as opposed to the multitude of others past and present?

    • Question-I-thority

      …felt the impact of a personal and life-changing relationship with your creator….

      Why should anyone trust emotions (felt) when deciding what is true? Use of metaphoric terms like ‘heart’ are a dead give away that decisions are being made emotionally. Feeling good (or God’s presence) about a concept is no indication that it is correct. Otherwise you’d have to join every religion in the world.

  • Jerome

    Jon Stewart is actually God!

    • Sunny Day


    • Teleprompter

      Stephen Colbert is the one, true God!

      And that’s tonight’s *Word*!

      • Andrew N.P.

        In the beginning was The Wørd, and The Wørd was with God, and The Wørd was God. The same was in the beginning with God. And The Wørd became a recurring segment, and dwelt at the beginning of each episode, full of grace and truthiness.

        • Janet Greene

          You’re right! The bible is the origin of truthiness. So there, Colbert. Give credit where it’s due.

        • Daniel Fincke

          That’s awesome. That sounds familiar, was it a bit on the show?

  • Alexis

    I grew up in a religious environment that created the voids that it than claimed to fill. For example, I had the belief that I was a worthless and powerless sinner. And only jesus can save you from this. And only if you do other certain things like tithe and go to church every sunday (morning and evening and wednesday prayer and praise service won’t hurt either.But only if you don’t do certain things. Some of which we won’t tell you because you’re only a child and only grownups can know such things. And some of which are so obscure you won’t know about them until you’ve done them. But you’ll be punished anyway.
    I had no sense of self esteem left, I was filled with despair, and I am lucky I did not turn to drugs or alcohol. And if I had there would have been a twelve step program waiting to tell me that I am powerless without a higher power. But if I’d have been there it would have been because of belief in a higher power!

    • Janet Greene

      I really relate to this. I went further down than you, though. I eventually turned to cocaine, which made me feel “normal” for the first time in my life. I have been clean for several years now, but weirdly, it was the clear-headed feeling of being “high” that gave me hope that maybe my brain was capable of feeling this way (without drugs). I was set up for addiction because of the low self-esteem and guilt that is an integral part of christianity. It was the lack of dopamine and seratonin in my brain from years of religious battering. I feel unbelievably fortunate to have discovered that the christian emperor has no clothes so I had a chance for a real life.

    • Jennifer

      This was my experience exactly. I have struggled for years and years with depression, anxiety, and anger issues that seemed to come out of nowhere. I grew up in a home with alcohol and violence and we moved every year (Dad never paid the rent, ya know) until I was in 8th grade. I was always going to churches to find Answers. I thought that the Bible had Every Answer and if I just believed in Jesus and read The Word the darkness would go away. HA! It made it worse! When the depression and fear hit me and I went to pastors for help they never gave me anything more than platitudes and helpful hints like setting aside a quiet study time to bring my “heart to God” and let him heal me. What a waste. At 35 I saw a psychiatrist and was put on Zoloft. Presto! No more darkness. Life is pretty good after all and I don’t have to think about death and scary stuff all the time. Whaddyano?


    • Francesc

      created the void that claim to fill?

  • Nathan Sarlow

    Alexis paints a graphic example, of just why the ‘religion’ that wraps around a spiritual belief can be not only fruitless but unfulfilling and hollow. You just explained how the ‘church’ made you feel worthless because you didn’t fulfill codes that are ultimately not essential to salvation, but should be acts done out of a heart to follow an example set by early laws and an understanding of what it means to ‘live a Christian life’. If you church made you feel that way for not tithing or attending regularly then that’s just a terrible (although not uncommon) representation of how a church should operate.

    CoffeeJedi: Okay, you made a distinction there. What makes them a ‘cult’ but not say the Mormon church? Or the Jehovah’s Witness? It’s all perception on how closely it aligns with your own opinion of radical behaviour. They all believed in some higher being, but the views of what ‘it’ is and how you should behave manifest itself in different ways.
    Think you missed my point if you come to that conclusion by applying my statement to Islam, Hinduism and Judaism. These spiritual belief systems (to my knowledge) ALL require you to perform rituals and traditional practices in order to attain the end goal. Christianity is the ONLY recognized religion in which you are required to do little more than believe in Jesus as the Saviour & acknowledge that you haven’t lived by the standards he set, and accept the forgiveness. According to the bible, anything after that is just a bonus, so although the ‘religion’ side of Christianity is still important to Christians, the physical actions are just an accessory to the underlying principle.

    Fentwin: I know better than to try and use this site as a forum for sharing my reasoning, because as you noted, at some point you just need to make a decision which will involve some amount of ‘faith’ or acknowledgment that there isn’t an answer to every question. Ultimately, I felt that the historical facts about Jesus Christ were significant enough for me to not only believe his claims, but that it was worthy of my (admittedly flawed) following.

    • Chuck Lasker


      Christianity may be “easy” to get into Heaven as far as only believing something and not doing stuff, but Christianity is one of the few religions where your way is the ONLY way. It’s totally exclusive – all who do not believe exactly in what you believe will be sent to Hell to burn for all eternity. Islam of course is Christianity Plus, so it’s the same concept. Hinduism, Buddhism, modern Judaism, Wicca, etc. have their belief systems, but don’t claim to be the ONLY truth or that all non-believers are damned.

      Any comments on my puppy analogy, or will you ignore that and pick and choose the easy stuff to respond to? Also, what historical “facts” do you have, other than the bible, that Jesus even existed, no less died and rose again?

      • JonJon

        your puppy analogy is simplistic and not helpful

        • Chuck Lasker

          Are analogies supposed to be complicated? The whole point is a simple comparison.

          Leaving out the analogy, what do you say, JonJon, about your god creating billions of souls KNOWING that most will suffer for all eternity, just so he can be friends with the rest? Explain it.

          • JonJon

            Your analogy is not helpful, because this conversation wasn’t about whether or not God is good (or exists.) Rather, the conversation is about the pros and cons of religion as a social phenomenon (or I missed something.)

            Simple comparison is fine, but a deliberately inaccurate one is not.

            • rodneyAnonymous

              Leaving out the analogy, what do you say, JonJon, about your god creating billions of souls KNOWING that most will suffer for all eternity, just so he can be friends with the rest?


            • CoffeeJedi

              This is a good point.

              Religious people often fail to realize the scope of things. A universe that’s tens of billions of years old, where light takes billions of years to travel between stars, where trillions of organisms have lived and died? They can’t handle it. They have to simplify it down to everything poofing into existence 6000 years ago; morality is distilled to “home town” values- as if every human being everywhere lives and has always lived in rural midwestern towns.

              They just don’t fathom the consequences of their beliefs. A god expending that much energy for nothing. The vast majority of people (those trillions and trillions) being tortured for “eternity”. It never occurs to them that it makes no sense whatsoever outside of their narrow view of things.

            • JonJon

              Have I done that somewhere, or was this directed at somebody else?

          • dwade

            God knows the power of sin, the world system and the flesh, and it’s effect on our lives, He doesn’t will that any should parish in hell, His will is for everyone to inherit His kingdom. God created you with a free will. You get to decide. You may choose blessings and an eternity with Him, or cursing and an eternity in hell.

            Because God is LOVE, he waits patiently for you to understand. When the time is right He reveals Himself to you. It is at that point that you can decide top accept what Christ did for you or reject it. Your choice, not His.

            Behold I stand at the door and knock, if any man opens the door, I will come in (REV paraphrased)

            The Gospel is simple enough for a child to understand, I pray that you don’t let your human logic get in the way of what God has for you.

            Sola Gratia

            • CoffeeJedi

              “I pray that you don’t let your human logic get in the way of what God has for you.”

              Right. So instead of using our tools like logic and reason, we should just listen to what a book of bronze age folklore has to say and take it face value.

              Do you have any idea how utterly and completely stupid that sounds?

              No seriously. You just made one of the dumbest statements I’ve ever read in my entire life.

              It makes sense in a sick immoral sort of way though, as the whole thing falls apart when logic is applied to your fairy tales. You demonize logic to stop people from thinking for themselves so they can be absorbed into your death cult without realizing it. Nice.

            • claidheamh mor

              Quoting from your particular mythology writings to people who don’t share your mythology is idiotic. That repetition is no substitute for a modicum of reasoning, questioning, and some hint of a clear thought process.

              So far you’ve said nothing, proved nothing, shown evidence of nothing, amounted to nothing, and accomplished nothing.

            • Roger

              Quoting from your particular mythology writings to people who don’t share your mythology is idiotic. That repetition is no substitute for a modicum of reasoning, questioning, and some hint of a clear thought process.

              And yet, he keeps on. What’s that they say? Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

            • dwade

              [ FROM DAN: Sorry dwade, no linking to your evangelizing posts telling us about how evil we are because we don't believe in your zombie-God. ]

            • Francesc

              Dwade, it is not a choice!
              How could it be, when one option is eternal suffering? That’s like pointing at me with a gun, and “letting me decide by my free will”. So either I believe, and then I haven’t a choice, or I don’t believe, wich is neither my choice: I can’t really believe in that bunch of histories.

            • Siberia

              Lol, right. Except for those people who die without ever knowing He exists at all, mm?

              Simple enough that you have to dismiss parts (shellfish, anyone?) in face of “old customs” while saving others (“homos = abominations”) arbitrarily. Because you’ve to be a historial or biblical scholar to understand the finer points of it – which is OK for an ancient text. NOT OK for God’s Own Guidebook to Eternity.

            • Teleprompter

              “God created you with a free will. You get to decide. You may choose blessings and an eternity with Him, or cursing and an eternity in hell.

              Because God is LOVE, he waits patiently for you to understand. When the time is right He reveals Himself to you. It is at that point that you can decide top accept what Christ did for you or reject it. Your choice, not His.”

              And God created them Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist. But they had a free will, so they got to decide where to be born so that they could have a statistically lower chance to accept or reject what Christ did for them. But since they believed in the tales of Krishna and Allah and Buddha, which each contained many elements freakishly similar to the stories of Jesus, they did not believe, and they were then damned to an eternity in hell.

            • dwade

              the major difference here is:
              Muhammad is still dead, Buddha is still dead, all the Hindu deities are dead, the shaman gods are dead, the mormon gods and Joseph Smith are dead, jehovahs witness gods and Charles Taze Russel is still dead, Mary is still dead.

              Jesus Christ is alive and is sitting at the right hand throne of God interceding for his children.

              I choose to worship a living God, how about you?

            • Daniel Florien

              Pics or it didn’t happen.

              Jesus is dead, just like the rest.

              Your extraordinary claim needs extraordinary evidence, and yet you can’t even present ordinary evidence that Jesus is alive and sitting at the right side of God

              And are you sure Jesus isn’t left side of God and in front of him a little? And why does God need a throne? What kind of material is it made out of, and where is it? If Jesus is at this celestial throne, how can he appear to people if he has a human body, if in fact he does that? Does that mean he isn’t always on the right (or left) side of his kingly father/god?

              And how do you know this — and if it’s from that wacky bible book, how did the people who wrote it and the scribes who changed it know it?

              You tell us to believe, but you give no evidence except your own assertions and assertions of your holy book, just like every other religion.

            • dwade

              so you are telling me that you don’t believe history unless there are pictures.?

              This is interesting to me. There is so much that is believed about history where pictures come up short if there are any at all. Do you stand by this statement?

            • Chuck Lasker

              What do you have that proves Jesus is alive? Pictures, text, drawings, scribbles, recordings, anything? Anything at all? Even if you use the bible, that would only say Jesus was alive a couple thousand years ago, and does not in any way prove he is alive today.

            • Daniel Florien

              It’s a internet meme phase — of course I’m not stupid to think things without pictures don’t happen.

              It means, show some evidence, or I don’t believe it.

            • dwade

              so you agree that things can happen without pictoral evidence. Thanks.

            • Daniel Florien

              Did you just use the out-of-context Revelation verse about Jesus knocking at our hearts? That annoyed me as a Christian, but it just makes me laugh as an atheist.

              No more evangelizing, dwade, or I’ll be putting your comments into moderation.

            • dwade

              Daniel, I will welcome anyone from these posts to my site. They can post what they believe for an open discussion. I will not discriminate posts and silence peoples voices. This is still a free country. If you choose to block me, you have that right. I have enjoyed the interaction and appreciate you bringing up good discussion. I will say that I cannot help but share the truths that I have learned so that others can enjoy the freedom that comes from serving a perfect Holy God.

            • dwade

              As I have stated many times as have other believers, you will never understand these truths without living a life of faith.

              Study = Faith = Belief = Revelation = eternal life

            • Chuck Lasker

              I don’t think you meant equals, I think you meant leads to, right? Like this:

              Study => Faith => Belief => Revelation => eternal life

              Here’s what happened with me:

              Study => Faith => Belief => Revelation => believing I had eternal life => more study => confusion over contradictions and inconsistencies => massive attempts to crush my doubts via wordplay and purposeful denial of logic => trying to ignore the hard questions so I could be happy => decision to stop being willfully ignorant and start thinking => more doubt as the facts come to light => agnostisism

              So, as long as Christians can continue to justify all of the problems with Christianity – through mind-numbing magical terminology like dwade uses here, through ignoring the hard questions like JonJon does here, through diversionary tactics like John C does here – then they can remain Christians. But every time a Christian starts to peek outside the church, look at history and facts and starts to think with a full brain, they “fall away,” as I did.

              This thread shows one thing very clearly – the atheists try to use reason and are truly interested in discussion, and the “Christians” only care about “saving” others and not at all about reason or having an honest discussion about their beliefs. Through diversion, ignoring hard questions, lying, and spouting scripture out of context, you Christians here only further push away anyone who is even close to faith. Seriously, JonJon and the rest – you are NOT doing good here, you are NOT saving people, you are just reinforcing the Christian stereotypes that lower the reputation of your church and your god.

            • John C


              How do you interpret that verse you/he referenced? I realize what you think of all “bible” now, but what did you used to think it meant. I’m curious.

            • Jabster

              Are you starting to toughen up on the repetitive drone of the likes of dwade? I’d certainly put him into the same category as John C but with bonus points for linking to his own commercial website and posts that kind of make more sense but in some many ways are just much, much worse.

              I see nothing wrong with having rules that posters who just state the same thing over and over again regardless of the topic of the thread deserve to be warned and then blocked. This is thread hijacking and has the capability to ruin a discussion. This isn’t about free speech, although I see dwade is already playing the injured lamb and claiming that it is. This is about not being able to walk into a cinema and shout fire.

            • John C


              Despite what anyone says, I am not here to “save” anyone, in fact I am utterly incapable of such a feat, ha. As I’ve said, reason has it place, its utility like in math and traffic etc but it is woefully inadequate in the higher realm of the spirit.

              Your story is very common and sad my friend, Essentially you (you’re old man/identity/nature) has been offended by what it considers a lack of substantiation, of “reason”. Christ warned us not to be offended by Him, His words, said it would be the case and that the attributes of little children (trusting, humble, foolish, naive, loving) were good models, gateways into this kingdom in the here and now. The only “reason” we can abandon ourselves to this childlikeness is due to the nature of the Father, utterly trustworthy, His heart toward us, etc. But we are all grown up, and so cling to the Goliath’s of reason and logic that have been hoisted up by society as the only trustworthy virtues.

              Blessed is he who is not offended by me…
              He that endures (keeps on believing, going forward)…
              Will I find faith on the earth…

            • Chuck Lasker

              Why do Christians scream “free speech” when it’s about their proselytizing, but want to stifle any ideas that are not consistent with theirs or offend them in any way? And why do Christians (like Sarah Palin) seem to think that the 1st Amendment rule against restricting free speech applies to private groups, organizations, media, and citizens? It’s no wonder they are so ignorant of this country’s founding, it’s laws, and it’s real reason for greatness – if they don’t even understand the very core of the Constitution, that it only restricts what the federal government can do.

            • dwade

              The word of God will always be offensive to those that are lost. Sharing Gods word will hopefully bring you closer to your true desire to seek Him.

            • dwade

              you just expounded on what I was thinking….phenomenal.

            • Jabster


              As far as I can make out free speech for religion works like this. It means believers are allowed to say anything however bigoted or hateful as long as it’s based on religious belief and in addition demand their rights. The flip side is that free speech also means that all non-believers must not just tolerate but actually respect religious however ridiculous these beliefs are. Oh and for the second one this only extends to mainstream religious beliefs so if someone believes in Zeus then they’re are considered fair game. Hope this clears it up for you.

            • Roger

              No more evangelizing, dwade, or I’ll be putting your comments into moderation.

              Please, do so!

            • dwade

              Chuck and Jabster,
              You are right that the mainstream Christians and mainstream media make this issue a one-way street. I do not adhere to this philosophy. I agree with you in that you can’t have it both ways. You either allow free speech on both sides or you dont. Hence the fairness doctrine laws being developed. It will stifle all free speech or just select groups. Whoever controls this wins I guess.

            • dwade

              Roger, so you are not FOR the fairness doctrine?

            • Jabster

              dwade nice little side step there to try and make out that if your were blocked it would be because you were treated unfairly and not through any actions of you own.

              So your fairness doctrine, does that mean that I can wonder in to churches and start ‘preaching’ at them, and there by disrupting their service, about the error of their ways in believing such ridiculous ideas without a shred of evidence?

            • Chuck Lasker

              Wow. Where did you get all that, Jabster, from this?

              Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

              There is NO law that says I have to respect anything anyone says, or that I can’t stifle others’ speech as much as I want and can. I am free to censor anyone I want as much as I want. If I create a forum, I can delete any post I want, even delete posts only of Christians if I so choose. This is true of the media, too. Read the First Amendment above again. It starts with CONGRESS.

            • Sunny Day

              “Daniel, I will welcome anyone from these posts to my site.”

              Trolling for traffic?

              How about you just follow up with the claimed information you had about the flying monster truck that ran over someone and didn’t harm them, or the Amputee that grew their limb back?

              Oh wait you can’t, because you are a miserable liar. If you cant tell the truth here, why should we think it will be any different on your site?

            • dwade

              Sunny Day,
              I have nothing to gain from more traffic on my site. This is not a competition. I merely stated that because I believe in free speech as was established from the constitution.

              I have already answered the proof question as was asked by others. And I did not make the claim of the growing limbs, although that is not beyond God’s capabilities. The monster truck was mine and I was a first hand witness to this event in the early 90′s. UNfortunately I didnt have my handycam with me.

            • Jabster


              The constitution you say, isn’t that a thing that those upstart colonials dreamt up? :-)

              My version of free speech was a joke — I’ll include a :-) next time …

            • claidheamh mor

              Chuck Lasker, your post was excellent. As with your other posts (going for the jugular), I saw parts of my own story in there.

              You give some apt descriptions of christian ploys, devices and tricks.

              I liked your describing yourself as an xian “remaining willfully ignorant”. I <a href="; vented about willful ignorance moments ago,since some people are ignorant of</strike stupidly ignore the *connection* between ignorance and stupidity while stumbling all over and crapping themselves to overemphasize the differences between them.

            • Chuck Lasker

              I believe in free speech as was established from the constitution.

              The Constitution did not establish free speech. It was endowed on us by our creator – didn’t you know that? Free speech is pre-assumed by the Constitution, and the First Amendment only restricts CONGRESS from limiting free speech.

              Do you read any of these replies, dwade? Or do you just choose to remain ignorant?

            • claidheamh mor
            • claidheamh mor

              Do you read any of these replies, dwade? Or do you just choose to remain ignorant?

              You have your answer.

              See “willful ignorance” above.

            • claidheamh mor

              If I give in to the occasional desire to do ad hominem, dwade’s little pic looks like a typical male 100% certain-he-is-right christian: glowering, low-browed, Mephistophelian, very, very certain, hate-filled, angry, condemning. Frequently seen posing with offspring (in still pictures). Frequently seen with mouth open calling names and denouncing, in real life.

            • Religious Freedumb

              In dwade’s site, he said he had “leadership skills”. I’m not lost. Where were you deluding yourself that you were going to lead me?

              (Giving credit to Eric Frank Russell’s superb short science fiction story “And Then There Were None”.)

              Don’t you get terribly frustrated by self-directed people who aren’t looking for anyone to follow and who don’t want you to lead them?

            • Sunny Day

              Dwade’s Rules of Life:

              1. Lie
              2. When caught in a Lie, Lie again.

            • Roger

              1. Lie
              2. When caught in a Lie, Lie again.

              3. When possible or even tangentially relevant, throw in Bible verses, then repeat steps 1 &2.

            • claidheamh mor

              Anyone is welcome to post on his site.

              To get the same hostile, repetitious, hate-filled, angry, self-righteous, circular-reasoning, defensive, offensive, overlong and windy, absolutely certain, unthinking, mythology-quoting load of horseshit he shovels here.

            • DarkMatter

              True real life Christians are incapable of lying. They are born again by the Spirit of Truth.

              When they lie, they are telling the truth. When they kill, they are saving lives and when they war, they are seeking peace.

            • claidheamh mor

              And when they are hate-filled, they are loving. And when they don’t go by doctrine and rigid dogma because they are too illiterate or lazy to learn, they are living from God in their hearts. And when they are too muleheaded and desperately afraid to challenge their own beliefs, nothing will shake their steadfast faith. And when they wonder in their aloneness, “why can’t I cut the mustard? why is God gracing everybody but me? why am I not really happy? why don’t I have true peace?”, they have the peace that passes all understanding. And when God is issuing His nasty ultimatums to a humanity He fucked up in the first place, He is loves us and we should love Him back. (Or else.)

            • DarkMatter

              And not even offended by the imaginary words of their jesus, whoever takes offence, takes offences besides themselves by their concurred imaginary faiths,

              And they wonder why their imaginary faith(s) are unreasonable offences!

    • rodneyAnonymous

      I felt that the historical facts about Jesus Christ were significant enough for me to not only believe his claims

      Woah, woah, woah… what facts? No written work of any kind that mentions Jesus was written by someone who met him, or even during his lifetime. And the Roman Empire was arguably the most well-documented period in human history. Jesus might have existed. Maybe. It doesn’t really matter anymore. But there are no historical facts concerning his claims or anything else.

      • JonJon

        right. The bible doesn’t count as ‘written’ anymore and the Romans were more literate than 21st century industrialized nations. (I know you said ‘arguably’ about the Romans, but i’m arguing it.)

        • rodneyAnonymous

          I am including the Bible. The gospels were written at least a generation or two after the alleged life of Jesus, after passing orally through an unknown number of intermediaries. The appellations “according to Mark”, et al, were added hundreds of years later.

          • rodneyAnonymous

            (No written work of any kind that mentions Jesus was written by someone who met him, or even during his lifetime.)

          • rodneyAnonymous

            Ah, didn’t catch the sarcasm: I wasn’t referring to the general population (although literacy was widespread, people wrote letters etc… here is a famous guy, known to kings and slaves and rich and poor, and not one person even mentioned him?); the Roman government kept extensive records. There is evidence of the existence of, say, Pontius Pilate.

            • JonJon

              “No written work of any kind that mentions Jesus was written by someone who met him”

              this is only reasonable if you can establish that the gospels and new testament letters were written by people who didn’t meet jesus. several claim to be written by apostles who knew jesus personally. unless there is some sort of evidence I am unaware of that suggests (in a pretty firm manner) that this isn’t true, I don’t think you can simply say that you know better than the authors of the books that say they did.

              make sense?

            • rodneyAnonymous

              The gospels were written between 60 and 115 CE.

              They could not have been written by the apostles, and none of them claim to be. The authors are unknown.

              What sort of evidence are you looking for? This is a matter of public record.

            • Daniel Fincke

              The point JonJon is that without independent corroboration in history books from outside the church, it’s dubious whether he was a real person and not a mythological construction.

              It’s like when you read all the Bush administration’s claims that there were WMDs in Iraq in 2002. It MATTERS that there turned out to be no independent evidence of this.

            • JonJon

              hmm, i reread what you said. Orally? in the paradise of literature that was the roman empire? Why orally? they purport to be letters, why not letters?

            • JonJon

              Ok, lemme start over.

              Yes, shockingly enough, nothing was written about Jesus until after he died (rather abruptly, if you’ll recall.)

              While it is *possible* that the NT letters were transmitted orally, it is equally *possible* that they were written as letters, of which there are no extant copies before about 60 years after Jesus’ death. The dating of the NT letters is put at 60-150 AD *because there are no known manuscripts dated any earlier.* That is all. This means one of two things: a) no manuscripts existed before this time; or b) manuscripts existed before this time and we don’t have them (tragic house fires, etc).

              That was without Biblical evidence. So get this: using non-biblical evidence, we have a 50-50 on evidence. The authors could have known Jesus, or they could have not known Jesus. Given the fact that within the Bible they are represented as knowing Jesus, it will take more than evidence that suggests that *they may have known Jesus* to convince people who believe that those authors knew Jesus that they are wrong.

              Does that make sense? Daniel, while you argue that its ‘dubious,’ someone on the other side of the issue can make the same claim, because the extra-biblical evidence that we actually have does not rule out the existence of NT authors that actually knew Jesus.

            • rodneyAnonymous

              Lack of evidence does not imply the odds are 50-50. You could make the same case for Jesus having left Earth in a spaceship… we don’t know that he didn’t, so he possibly did! Which is true, strictly speaking, but vanishingly improbable.

              As far as we know, the gospels were not written by eyewitnesses. Evidence suggests they were not, hearsay suggests that they might have been. I’ll take door number one.

            • Francesc

              How is it that there isn’t any roman historian around year 0 who wrote something like
              “hey guys of the future, by the way, I’ve been in Jersualem and there is not a Jew named Jesus claiming to be the son of god and doing miracles. No one has hear ever the history of Lazarus and Pilate has not killed a lot of childs because of a prophecy. Oh, and there is not -so far as I know- a big cat with 3 heads and tails of fire who eat virgins”

              How silly of those illiterate romans!

            • JonJon

              As far as we know, the earliest extant NT manuscripts date from about 60 AD.

              Think about it this way:

              The manuscripts we have could be the first manuscripts that were ever written down. Or the second. There simply isn’t a way to establish whether the manuscripts we have were the first to be written down. But the ones we do have were dated from about 60 AD. So they might be the first ones. And they might not. And we have no way of knowing.

              Does that make sense? Now what I said before is that in order to outweigh the belief of someone who believes that some of the authors of the NT knew Jesus personally, you will have to provide evidence that is *inconsistent* with that idea. That is, in order to convince someone that the provenance of the NT is not what it claims to be, you will need evidence comparable in strength to the internal evidence of the NT, which contradicts the evidence of the NT.

              What you actually have is evidence that does not contradict the NT authorship claims, but is still (relatively) compatible with them.

              What I don’t understand is why you think people who already believe NT claims of authorship should change their minds based on evidence which is reasonably compatible with those claims. (or at least not *incompatible*)

            • Aor

              Yeah, it is silly that no Roman mentioned the sun going dark during the day, or the zombies Jewish prophets walking the streets. Very silly.

            • Teleprompter

              The Gospel of Harry Potter is attested to by many who claimed to know him personally. Good enough for you? Maybe not. But it’s good enough for me.

              I can’t wait to go to Hogwarts and meet Dumbledore when I die…

            • vorjack

              The dating of the NT letters is put at 60-150 AD *because there are no known manuscripts dated any earlier.*


              The dating of the gospels is done using internal evidence. The dating of the physical manuscript has nothing to to with the date ranges assigned to the gospels. As always, Peter Kirby has a round up of the scholarly arguments over at Early Christian Writings. I don’t always agree with him, but he’s good at presenting the sides. He’s probably also a few years out of date, but that’s inevitable.

              There are actually no known manuscripts before ~125 AD, and that is the size of a credit card, which makes it hard to identify. Most of our full manuscripts date to the 3rd century. This is not the issue. The dating of the Gospels and letters – and all other ancient manuscripts – is done using internal evidence compared against what we know from other sources. The scholarly consensus places the letter of Paul at 50-60, Mark at 65-80, Matthew at 80-100, etc.

            • JonJon

              I didn’t realize this! That’s fascinating. Thanks!

              So if I said this to someone I wouldn’t get in trouble for using Biblical evidence?

              I figured internal evidence wasn’t what we were looking for (which I always thought was silly, since internal evidence has always seemed very important to me.) I mean, it seems like people get in trouble for using the Bible as its own evidence…

              (I get that that isn’t exactly what this is, but I don’t understand why all the emphasis on using scientific proofs for the Bible if the acknowledged experts are using literary/historical ones.)

    • Fentwin


      Thanks for your kind reply. :)

    • Alexis

      Which version of xtianity? Interpreted by whom? Methodists differ from Baptists by emphasis on a few select bible verses. Presbyterians or Lutherans? The same. Then how about Catholics? But I did something that few real christians have done – I read the bible. I found that the deck is stacked. As Winston Smith’s interlocuter notes in 1984, there are so many contradictory laws that you cannot obey some without breaking others. And when Big Brother forgives you for your transgressions you come to love Big Brother.

      • Chuck Lasker

        Not only which version of Christianity, Alexis, but even which bible? We have 42,000 documents (supposedly letters to people and churches) that “the bible” was compiled from, none original – all copies of copies of copies. For the King James version, a team of priests compiled them under order of King James, judging what to keep and what to leave out mostly by how many copies said the same thing and of course filtering out things that would piss off King James and get them killed. Catholics have a whole different book. There are thousands of translations, all done with a preset mindset and belief system. So there’s not really a “bible,” per se, there’s only thousands of different compilations of supposed letters that were meant for specific people and churches, that somehow have been declared “God’s Word.” Believing this book is anything other than completely unreliable historical texts takes more faith than believing a part of god came down to earth, died, became a zombie for 3 days, then rose to Heaven.

    • CoffeeJedi

      Well, I personally view Christianity as just an ancient Jewish death cult that somehow gained prominence. Doesn’t make it any more “true” or “false” than any other religion, it just happened to be the lucky one that came to prominence in Europe and then America.

      But the definition of cult typically revolves around a charismatic leader that members submit to, as well as eschewing everything and every one from their personal lives.

      Hinduism doesn’t really require a lot of the “ritual” side of things as I understand it. If you’re a good person, you move “up” the ladder towards heaven on the next go around; if not, you move a rung or two “down”. The gods just help you out.

      Judaism too for that matter. Various sects will require their members to go about rituals, but there are many many secular Jews who believe in the Jewish version of God but don’t actually “do” anything.

      Paganism and Wicca, here they have a belief in nature and positive and negative energy influencing the world and your personal life; but plenty of Pagans don’t actually participate in the rituals, nor is there a penalty for not doing them. They’re there if you want them, but the core beliefs remain without.

      And as far as Christianity is concerned, you still have to do that first ritual of asking God for forgiveness. And in ALL of the cases that I’ve mentioned, I would argue that even holding the belief as a permanent active thought and filtering everything you read, see, hear or experience through that filter counts as performing an action for your religion.
      So yeah, you might want to back off with the absolutes like “only”.

    • Siberia

      Christianity is the ONLY recognized religion in which you are required to do little more than believe in Jesus as the Saviour & acknowledge that you haven’t lived by the standards he set, and accept the forgiveness.
      ORLY? I suppose Shintoism, Taoism and Buddhism are not recognized religions, then?
      By your logic, these ones are even better: you don’t even have to act a certain way or suck up to a certain god or messiah. Just face the consequences of your acts. Easy.

      • JonJon

        Buddhism doesn’t require you to do anything? that doesn’t sound right… the 8-fold path doesn’t imply action? Shintoism doesn’t require you to suck up to supernatural beings? Taoism is your best bet here, and I don’t know a whole lot about it, but I’m willing to argue that 1) there are specific actions and practices which are encouraged, even if not mandated
        and 2) that religions like taoism, since they simply teach a worldview which submits everything to an inescapable truth (a balanced universe,) are a somewhat different animal from most religions.

        and coffee jedi, i’m actually going to be sneaky here and apply something siberia said to paganism and wicca: “sucking up to a certain god or messiah” is very little removed from sucking up to a bunch of gods or messiahs.

        • VorJack

          “the 8-fold path doesn’t imply action?”

          No more than the ministry of Jesus implies that we should practice social and economic justice.

          Pure Lands Buddhism emphasizes that true nirvana may be unattainable to the average person because we live in a degenerate age, but that we may look towards the Amida Buddha for salvation. Basically, we are saved by the grace of Amida Buddha. There are differences, of course, but there are also striking similarities.

          I’ve been told there are also similarities in Dvaita Hinduism, but I don’t know much about it.

          • JonJon

            hehe, yes, you caught me. I don’t actually think that christianity requires no action.

            I was just quibbling with siberia’s notion that other religions also require no actions.
            religions require actions. ban one on that basis, might have to ban them all…

            • Siberia

              Not necessarily. Buddhism (frankly, I don’t know why I added Shinto – I know f-k all about it :p I’d this impression that it didn’t – I was wrong) doesn’t enforce the Eightfold Path; it shows the way, of course – it’s the whole point of it – but there ain’t a “do this and go to hell”, which is why I liked it so much… until I outgrew it, that is. “Do this and face the consequences”, yes, but not forever and ever and eveeerr. No belief required, either.

              Just sayin’ that Christianism surely isn’t the only “easy” religion out there.

            • JonJon


              no belief required? maybe no belief taught, but in order to follow very far, you have to at least believe a little, yeah? maybe not, at any rate, this is a tangent, and I apologize for being difficult. I’m in a snarky mood.


            • Siberia

              Actually no, you don’t have to believe. You could follow the 8-fold path without ever hearing of Buddhism (unlikely, but possible) and get there anyway. That’s precisely what Buddha’s allegedly done – he “found” the way.

              OTOH, you could live an entirely virtuous life and follow all the Christian precepts and mores and go to Hell anyway because of the whole “believing Jesus” thingy.

        • CoffeeJedi

          I agree with you on the sucking up to gods and messiahs bit.

          But most Pagans I’ve known don’t actually do that. Many of them simply see the gods and goddesses as universal paradigms or psychological aspects that all people share. Calling upon them is just a trick to help you actually do the “work” yourself. Those spiritual constructs don’t really exist “outside” of human experience to them.

          Of course my real issue with Paganism is the vast amounts of woo inherent in it. They’re all keen on viewing the gods as a mental trick, but still firmly believe in “spiritual energy” and the inherent superiority of “natural” things over “man-made”. Gets into stupidity like homeopathy, ear candles, reiki, crystals, and faeries. Many also have a skewed view that pre-Christianity Europe was this matriarchal, Goddess-worshipping druid hippie peace n’ love paradise.

          • William Hood

            Wow, you need to hang out with some different Pagans then. ;-)

    • claidheamh mor

      @Nathan Sarlow:I know better than to try and use this site as a forum for sharing my reasoning,

      No you don’t. I agree that you are not reasoning, yet here you are, ad nauseam.

      @Nathan Sarlow: Alexis paints a graphic example, of just why the ‘religion’ that wraps around a spiritual belief can be not only fruitless but unfulfilling and hollow. ….
      …. If you church made you feel that way for not tithing or attending regularly then that’s just a terrible (although not uncommon) representation of how a church should operate.

      Don’t you get it? Don’t you get anything more simple than the grade-school reasons?
      What you fail to get: the premises behind religion – *yes* specifically christianity – do incalculable damage. The premise that people are born evil, born in sin, leads to the other premises that they can’t rely on themselves; they must rely on God; they then must need saving or redeeming. Yes, I know you just *buy* that ASSumption and swallow it whole. Doesn’t make it true.

      That leads into every action you have treating people certain ways from birth through all of life to death, based on those beliefs. Your children, friends, mate, family, everyone, is based on the belief of innate evil and worthlessness, not one of any worth. I don’t care if you treat yourself that way. But you poison everyone around you.

      *That* is just the beginning of what I think Alexis means by “I grew up in a religious environment that created the voids that it than claimed to fill.”

      • Janet Greene

        claidheamh mor – I could not agree more.

      • Siberia


  • EB

    I am sorry to disagree with such apologetics and harmony, but the fact is that any belief in a supreme supernatural being that has an ultimate plan for humanity (which begins with the destruction of the world) is a dangerous belief. Christianity, as most religions, revolves around death. It requires the death of all humanity in order to achieve its fullness. This is a an incredibly dangerous teaching: to desire the wasting away of life as we know it. This fundamental belief and eagerness for the end of time, coupled with Jesus’ exclusivity as the only path to “eternal life”, has fueled countless atrocities committed throughout history in the name of god. What is even more dangerous is the belief that one can have a relationship with this fictional character. It may not seem dangerous to some of you, who fortunately are emotionally stable human beings, but for those who are not emotionally equipped to function properly in society, it can also lead them to commit horrendous acts of violence and hatred or simply harm then even more if one day they decide this “father” has let them down. Not to mention that believing so strongly in supernatural things creates a huge obstacle for scientific progress and discovery.

    • Joe B

      I’m kind of with you and kind of not. I buy the arguments put forward for why apologetics would impede progress and scientific discovery, but as long as fundies have significant numbers and influence I think apologetics do more good than harm, with liberal, science accepting religion as a stepping stone totally away from religion and a place for those who can’t give up their beliefs to do significantly less harm.

      Even if you really hate apologetics, look at it as allying with the U.S.S.R. against the Nazi’s. We can have an uneasy co-existence with the apologetics until the flaws in their fundamental principles bring them down. With the Fundies they are dedicated to wiping us and science off the map for their thousand year reign.

  • Daniel Fincke

    While I agree that the most serious social problems with religion are the dogmatism, extremism, narrowmindedness, and self-righteousness here described, I take issue with the notion that honesty, scrupulousness in belief is irrelevant to being a “good” person.

    All these arguments that religion is fine as long as it is not harming anyone essentially claim that falsehood is only worthy of denunciation if it hurts someone (and in some short term sense). The idea that human beings might actually be objectively worse off for simply having bad habits of believing, clinging to falsehoods, and deliberately training children in counter-rational approaches to evidence and belief seems completely foreign to most of religion’s appeasers.

    This is not to say, of course, that religious people are worse off in all respects or bad people overall. I also don’t mean to say that a given religious code cannot be a valuable tool for training oneself in a helpful discipline. For example, maybe for a particular person to adopt kosher laws is a way to personally inculcate a general habit of mastery over appetites. The refusal to eat pork in that case might not have any particular valuable consequence in that individual’s life but the ability to master the appetites does both consequentially improve a person’s happiness and make that person spiritually stronger (in naturalistic senses such that she becomes more capable of self-control and of constructive direction of internal energies).

    In such a way, a religious tradition can provide a ready-packaged set of rituals, sayings, habitual practices, communal networks, meditations, historical connections, etc. which have been tried and tested over centuries and which can be flexibly adapted to an individual’s unique temparement and ethical needs.

    And it is possible that in accord with such a tradition, a given individual might attain certain valuable benefits. Meditating on certain maxims promoted by religious traditions may be emotionally or ethically transformative and submitting to certain rigorous disciplines may have the consequence of developing certain virtues. And it is even possible that the character that results is on net sum better than any particular person who is more truthful but at the cost of religious training in character and meditation.

    But is it ideal? Are the false beliefs and the illicit patterns of belief justification outright irrelevant as long as other character benefits accrue to someone and as long as the believer is not an extremist or a dogmatist? I say, no, it is also a crucial matter of character that someone be honest and scrupulous in how they form beliefs.

    Just as we would blame Atheist Bob who is truthful but lacks mercy and self-discipline, so we must blame Religious Sally who is merciful and self-disciplined but lacks truthfulness. Maybe Religious Sally is, on net, a better person than Atheist Bob since she has 2 virtues and he only has one. But that does not make her vice a matter for our indifference (to the extent that we worry about our fellows’ virtues and vices that is—and discussions like this article are abstract discussions about virtues and vices rather than presumptuous judgments of our particular acquaintances’ virtues and vices).

    And, of course, I don’t mean to encourage the presumption that in general atheists have less virtues overall than religious people with my example. My point is simply that ethical assessment should involve more than pleasant outcomes but consider numbers, qualities, and intensities of virtues. And on that score, the vices of the intellect trained by literalist, superstitious, “faith-based” religiosity are marks against people’s characters—regardless of whether those same beliefs help them form other virtues or quit drinking.

    • JonJon

      this is sort of a tangent, and i’m not sure i’m actually prepared to get into it fully right now.

      but i have a question.

      I was raised a christian, and still am one. I never really experienced a childhood where morality was motivated by something other than god. so i have a question for non-religious people: what motivates your morality?

      I am genuinely interested, because I simply can’t figure this out. When I try to figure out a morality that depends only on humanistic principles, I end up with either the specific humanistic principles that indicate a standard beyond the merely human, or with bentham-style utilitarianism (which strikes me as a not very satisfactory system.)

      I’m legitimately curious. (Also, I promise to keep all punches strictly above the belt.)

      • rodneyAnonymous

        Do you mean “where does your desire to be good come from?”, or “where does your definition of good come from?”

        desire: because I want to
        definition: consequentialism, mostly

        • JonJon

          explain consequentialism for the new kid?

          @ your question, both I guess.

          • rodneyAnonymous

            “Bentham-style utilitarianism” is a kind of consequentialism, which is more of a blanket term.

            Very broadly, ethics can be divided into two categories: deontology (actions are inherently good or evil, irrespective of the consequences) and consequentialism (actions’ consequences form the basis for judgments of good or evil).

            • rodneyAnonymous

              PS: why unsatisfactory? I think it’s great. By what should we measure good and evil, if not pleasure, pain, and utility?

            • JonJon


              at the risk of being pushy…”you want to” does not explain your desire. It is your desire. “I want to because…” was sort of what I was looking for.

              I’ll understand if you don’t answer (this is the internet after all) but is there anything further behind your desire than your desire? It’ll be interesting if there is, and probably just as interesting if there isn’t.

            • JonJon

              Because I don’t think that pain is necessarily ‘bad.’ I don’t think that pleasure is necessarily ‘good.’ And when it comes down to it, I don’t think that utility is necessarily always ‘good’ either.

              I believe that an action which causes you pain, removes someone else’s pleasure, and that causes disutility can still be the morally correct action. And if that is the case, then utilitarianism can mainly only be used after the fact and not in a predictive capacity. It becomes something like “it was morally correct because we determined it was morally correct.” It just isn’t very satisfying to me.

            • rodneyAnonymous

              is there anything further behind your desire than your desire?

              I don’t think so.

              “Pleasure” and “pain” are just convenient words. “Suffering” and “happiness”? Not quite. I don’t believe in good and evil. As separate forces, anyway. I am not saying I consider suffering to be a kind of evil, I am saying (in my worldview) it is the definition of evil.

            • JonJon

              ah. got it.


            • rodneyAnonymous

              Love and fear!

      • Siberia


        I was raised by a very religious mother, but I don’t remember her teaching me morality via God. What I do remember is her showing me that, for instance, hurting people is bad (because I wouldn’t like to be hurt), that there are people out there who suffer too, poor people, sad people, lonely people. That not everyone had a nice comfortable life like ours. That my sister should not throw tantrums because she couldn’t go to a party because there was nobody to take her (since I was sick), because would she like it if the situation was reversed?

        In other words, empathy, pure and simple. Which is why, I suppose, I have no problems with people of different creeds, races, gender, sexuality, etc. – and why I have weird notions such as seeing no problem with consensual polyamory :p

        • JonJon

          so, empathy.

          that’s probably the best answer I’ve yet heard to this question.


          (maybe someday I’ll figure out how empathy is bad, and i’ll show all you heathens!)


          • Daniel Fincke

            JonJon, I wrote a reply to your question but accidentally posted it below (at 10:15) rather than up here right after your question to me.

            But if what really intrigues you is moral psychology, watch these videos with Jonathan Haidt and Joshua Greene (and read their work which you can find on the internet too) for some really influential current theories on the topic.

            Our tendencies towards moral thinking are deep in our brain and an inevitable outgrowth of our psychology, regardless of whether we are in religious cultures. Though you’ll be interested in some of the roles Haidt sees religion playing in helping us develop it.

            • JonJon

              see response below!

              and thanks for links!

          • Siberia

            Haha, possibly =P
            The good thing about empathy is that it can easily be extended to animals (once you acknowledge animals do have feelings, feel pain, etc.), people you’ve never even seen, so on. Very handy thing, empathy.

            • stoat100

              It’s empathy alright – it’s a beneficial evolutionary trait. (the irony! q: How can atheists be moral? a: Darwinism! (sic))

              We started out only having empathy for immediate kin, but over time this became extended to tribes, states, countries. It’s still a work in progress: we will (hopefully) progress to being empathic to other species.

              One of the many problems with religion is that it has paralyzed a large section of the world’s population at the ‘tribe’ level. Us v them == Good v Evil == Black v White.

            • JonJon

              I figured that was a natural evolutionarily psychological phenomenon. Us v. Them seems like it probably came from the same social forces that gave us empathy. Am I off base on that one?

      • Janet Greene

        I developed my conscience late in life. I tried to be good out of fear and guilt, or duty, when I was a christian (and for years after that when I was no longer an active christian, but still assumed it to be true). Now, my values are about relationships with myself, other people and the earth. Life is far more precious to me now, because this life is all we really know we will ever have. And I want to leave the world a better place because I was in it. I also have real compassion for people, and cannot stand injustice. I used to be a lawyer, but quit because my heart was in advocating for people. Often that means volunteer work, so I definitely gave up a good income so that I could follow my conscience. I also feel a lot of love now, and the further I get from christianity the freer I feel to love others. When someone holds a hammer over my head (if you doubt, you’ll go to hell, rapture will come and you’ll be left behind, etc.), my “soul” could not be free. Although I still carry scars from my christian background, I can honestly say that I am happy, hopeful, and excited about life. This might all sound a little airy-fairy, but these are emotional and personal things that are difficult to explain. Does it make any sense?

        • JonJon

          Maybe I get it a little.

          What I think I am picking up is that you want to be good, and to have a good impact on the world. (and that maybe you want to be good now in a way that you didn’t want to when you were a practicing christian) Is that close?

          If it is, then maybe I can ask the other part of the question that rodney pointed out.
          What makes you want to be good and have this good impact on the world?

          • Janet Greene

            Jonjon – I guess I’m not sure I want to be “good” (sometimes being “bad” can be very enriching lol) but I do want to be kind to people, animals, earth etc. because now I feel like I am a part of a beautiful eco-system. I’m not even as creeped out by bugs because they are a part of the same system as me. I used to feel competitive with people, but now I feel that when something good happens to them, it is happening to me too. I think we all share a common energy, and we are all so blessed to even exist. Just think – if our parents had not copulated at that particular moment in time, we would not be. The odds against us being here are great, and life is short and precious. I feel honored that I am a human being. I just came from our Canada Day fireworks, and it was so cool being with all these people, sitting by the river, with a fire going, etc…I felt like a part of nature and a part of humanity. Even though I had gone by myself. Because of this connection with others, it now feels natural to do for others. And in a karmic kind of way, my life is enriched too. I would love to believe that we will see our loved ones after we die, but I don’t know, and it seems unlikely since our personality, memories, and everything that makes us “us” is our brain. In a sense, our brain is our soul. I’ve been babbling a lot on this thread, but I hope it’s understandable.

            I want to add that the comments on this thread are some of the most impressive I have ever read. If you eliminate some of my more incoherent jabbering, I’m almost thinking this should be published :)

      • CoffeeJedi

        I’m motivated to make the world a better place. Its the only one we have, and our short lives are all we have. It disgusts me to think that I could make another person suffer or to impede the success of bringing comfort and joy to all of humanity. I want my children, and their children, and all peoples’ children to inherit a better world than the generation before.

        Even a simple act like calling a depressed friend or donating a canned good to a homeless shelter improves the world by degrees.

        • JonJon

          ok, fair enough.

          Can I ask another question?
          not to be pushy, simply curious.

          what is a ‘better place?’ and who defines it? what I mean is, if it would be ‘better’ to burn down factories in acts of ‘eco-terrorism’ by somebody else’s definition, how would you determine your own definition of what makes the world a ‘better’ place?

          • Warren

            Honestly, for something to be “better” it must be something that does as little harm to someone as possible, whether emotional or physical, while benefitting as many as possible.

            For someone to say that burning down factories as an act of eco-terrorism is good, that is an obvious sign of mental disillusion through brainwashing, mental illness or, in many cases religion.

            If I burn down a factory, I’m harming an business, I could very possibly be killing people, I am damaging an economy, I am negatively affecting a country which in turn hurts the people of it. When I burned down that factory, did I benefit an incredible majority, or just a minute minority?

            There are a lot of issues that go on today that are highly debateable simply by the closeness of what is the majority (51% is by no means a significant majority).

            Another thing is that, as I believe, we as human beings are universally granted the gift of free will. That free will enables us to make any decision we desire. Period. However, if you were to take a society that had never had any written and enforced laws, no religion, no standard societal norms etc., you would find that it is overwhelmingly more likely that this society would by itself come up with the idea of “You know what, let’s not kill anyone, because that hurts people, and let’s not steal each others’ shit because it’s mine and it makes me mad when you take it.” Other things such as abortion, drugs, and so on, would most likely remain something of personal privacy, as it only effects the user/do(er?) and it is not within the realm of others to decided what is right and wrong for someone to do to themselves. Why? Free Will.

            • JonJon

              @ warren
              so everyone with strong ideals that don’t correspond to yours is mentally deficient?

              why does that sound familiar?

          • CoffeeJedi

            We can determine what makes the world a “better place” by employing empathy, reason, and democracy.

            Why does your scenario have to be one or the other? We can use technology to reduce, or perhaps some day eliminate, the emissions from that factory; and proper land management to find a place for it that doesn’t harm the environment AND helps the local economy.

            • JonJon

              Let me be slightly more clear about my example; I admit, I was a little too vague.

              If Bill thinks that blowing up a logging camp is a morally correct action, and Jane thinks that it is a morally abhorrent action, how would you determine which was actually correct.

              That they could both be right *is* an acceptable answer, I just want to be sure that that’s what you mean.

        • cynic

          i really couldn’t agree more with ms greene

  • Michael

    Christianity is the ONLY recognized religion in which you are required to do little more than believe in Jesus as the Saviour & acknowledge that you haven’t lived by the standards he set, and accept the forgiveness. According to the bible, anything after that is just a bonus
    While this is what most Christians believe, this is Biblically false. Accepting Jesus as lord and savior was the first step but by no means a get into heaven pass. Biblically speaking it is the job of a Christian to constantly strive towards holiness, even though it isn’t attainable. If you stop trying then you don’t go to heaven. Most Christian denominations follow very lazy, or self serving interpretations of the Bible. If they were honest they would be anti-war, anti-death penalty, and while they might not condone homesexuality they would not judge or condemn them, they would only love. Fact is, if Jesus existed, he was an anti-establishment hippie.

    • JonJon

      “Biblically speaking it is the job of a Christian to constantly strive towards holiness, even though it isn’t attainable. If you stop trying then you don’t go to heaven.”

      — No.

      • Bill

        So here we have two “Christians” with directly opposite views on arguably the most important question in Christianity” “How do I get in to heavan?”

        How can we feeble non-believers ever sort out who the “True Christian” is?

        Will either of you enlighten us?

    • John C

      Dear Michael,

      So God wants, even demands that we “strive towards holiness even though it isn’t attainable”? My friend, nothing could be further from the truth. What a terrible sentence, hardship to endure. Why would Father be so demanding, so harsh as to demand of us something we are utterly incapable of attaining? Who wants to serve a God like that? What does that say about His character? And we say He is love?

      Here’s the liberating truth dear one. As Paul revelated in Galatians 2:20 saying “I have been crucified with Christ, IT IS NO LONGER I WHO LIVE, but Christ lives in me. He’s the one doing the living, we died with Him on the cross, Romans 6:6 ” knowing this, that our old man (our adamic man, of pride, rebellion) was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin, for he that is dead is freed from sin! YOU DIED, now He IS your life (Christ who IS our life) Col 3:4.
      There’s nothing quite so nauseating as the flesh trying (striving) to be holy, its nature never changes as hard as we try, it never wants to “behave”. So what’s the answer? Christ IN you, even as you. Your thinking keeps you focused on you, you own efforts, your striving, your inadequacies, your sin, failures, etc, is a form of self righteousness and so can never bring freedom, the liberty we long for. And remember, where the spirit of the Lord is (and He is IN you, Christ IN you being the mystery of the ages, know ye not that Christ is in you?) there IS liberty (2 Cor 3:17).

      So the liberting, burden lifting secret is actually just the opposite-stop striving! Striving is of the flesh. You died, now He IS your Life. God doesnt want you to try, He wants you to …die! ha, get it? To agree with Him, that you (that man of sin) died on the cross with Christ. We dont have to compete with the blood of Christ, for it is…finished, He did it all for us, even now does it all for us. We must jettison all expectations of our flesh, the burden is not on us, Paul tells us that if we will walk in the spirit (abide in Christ within) we will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. Why? Because then its Christ doing the living in and thru us and He is incapable of sinning!

      Now that is love.

      • Chuck Lasker

        John C – and what of me, who once believed, but does no longer? Don’t say I never truly believed – I truly did as much as any human – as much as you. So I supposedly died and Christ is in me. But I hate Christianity – I see it as an organized group of hate-mongering hypocrites, judging others all day long while excusing it was their interpretations of a fictional book.

        No, there is no Christ in me, because there is no Christ. And I did not die, only my brain did, for a while, and now it’s back.

        • John C


          Thx for sharing. My story for the last quarter century has been just the opposite. Not that I’m special, just that I commited to the (whole) journey, foolishly trusted God in a childlike way like Jesus said, allowed Him to “complete that which He began in me” as He said He would. The result has been great peace, fellowship, love.

          Maybe your journey isnt over my friend, maybe Love (Himself) wins in the end. All the best.

          • JonJon

            that was a nice post John.

          • Aor

            Standard blabbering and Witnessing, John. Try harder.

            • JonJon

              Oh hush. It was short and well-intentioned. What more do you want?

            • Religious Freedumb

              Some hint of the capacity to think, question, and reason.

            • JonJon

              you hush too

            • Aor

              John C has a pattern, you are just too new here to see it. All he does is repeat the same mindless babble, make a crazy claim or two.. and then run away from any attempts to get him to back up his position. He claimed in his first comments many months ago that he was not here to proselytize, only to admit a day or two later that he was here to Witness…and anyone who reads his words over a few days cannot escape the fact that Witnessing is absolutely all he has. I can’t begin to count how many times he has made those same Witnessy comments to different people. New post, new comment from John C, same old crap over and over.

              PS. Telling people to hush is awfully close to STFU. Try to avoid that.

            • Religious Freedumb

              I agree with Aor. Saying “STFU” “hush up” to someone who (in answer to your witless “what more do you want?”) wants a modicum of thinking and reasoning capacity? Clearly jonjon doesn’t have one! Or need one, or want one. Moronic. Come to mention it, that is exactly the kind of quarter-wit that should STFU.

            • Steve

              C’mon now guys – Don’t attack Jonathan.
              Inflection can’t be expressed in ASCII.

              “Hush up” can be said in a harmless, ironic manner – a humorous way of saying, well, like I just did above, “C’mon now guys”.

              I could have said, “C’mon now guys, hush up – Don’t attack Jonathan.”

              I would have intended no offense, and (I hope) you probably wouldn’t have interpreted it as such.

              So, Hush up y’all. I reckon t’ain’t nuthin’ too ornery been said here.

            • Aor


              Yeah, it CAN be harmless and ironic.. but the real question is, was it?
              I read it as a rather blatant “STFU because I don’t like that.”

            • Steve

              Hi Aor.

              I’m not making any claims as to JonJon’s intentions.
              (I don’t know why I originally referred to him as Jonathan.)

              You may indeed be right – maybe he WAS really saying “STFU”.
              I dunno.
              I, personally, didn’t interpret it as such.
              I suppose I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.
              That’s all.


            • JonJon

              if i had meant to say STFU, I would have. this is the internet, after all!


            • Aor

              Hush up.

  • Steve

    Christianity, in its current incarnation(s), is basically nothing but a system of beliefs and traditions. Call it a belief system. Call it a mass movement. Call it a religion. It’s semantics.

    Christianity, at its inception, was revolutionary, frenzied, and heretical. And as such, was wildly subject to change and adaptation, like any other mass movement, be it nationalistic, social, or religious. It adopted many of the “pagan” elements of its day, making it more attractive to converts. Since that time, it has broken-up into dozens of sects, each with its own set of beliefs and dogma.

    And all belief systems go through stages. The founding of any mass movement is much like roiling, boiling water – a chaotic, dynamic force of change and upheaval. Over time, the water cools, becomes still, and settles into an ordered structure. Eventually, it freezes over, becomes rigid, and sometimes fractures and splinters.

    Give any belief system a few thousand years to “settle” and what you’re left with is a set of conservative, “traditional” beliefs. As human beings, our perception of time is very limited. It’s quite difficult for us to view Christianity as a continuous whole. We think of the “good old days” – of traditional “family values”, as the time of our fathers, grandfathers, our great-grandfathers.

    And even THAT is an illusion. The conservative beliefs of American history inspired the subjugation and butchery of just about every other race we encountered (and women). Only last week, we discovered that former-President Nixon, a conservative icon, called abortion necessary “when you have a black and a white or a rape”. What we think of as traditional, conservative beliefs are simply self-deceptions.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that Christianity, like any other set of dogmatic beliefs, reacts to and reflects the issues of its day. Look at Islam. Currently, it’s a revolutionary and mobilizing force, but what are the causes? Certainly a primary contributing factor is the abuse its believers have suffered at the hands of the west; the conquests, the attempted conquests, the puppet governments, the raping of their natural resources (and women).

    There wouldn’t be a book of Exodus without the abuse (or persecution) of the Jews. And Christianity wouldn’t exist if IT didn’t suffer persecution, ironically, by the Jews, at least according to the Gospels.

    And all belief systems require faith in the unbelievable and in an eternal, utopian reward, obtainable either here on earth or beyond the grave, but generally far removed from the present. According to the New Testament, faith is the “substance of things hoped for”. Heaven, the Elysian Fields, 72 virgins, etc. – These all require faith.

    And faith is an almost impossibly strong barrier against reason. It insulates the believer from the reality of day-to-day life. “Worldliness” is shunned. The present is vilified. Compared to an unseen eternal truth, the present is almost illusory. Martin Luther said, “So tenaciously should we cling to the world revealed by the Gospel, that were I to see all the Angels of Heaven coming down to me to tell me something different, not only would I not be tempted to doubt a single syllable, but I would shut my eyes and stop my ears, for they would not deserve to be either seen or heard.”

    I don’t know who said it, and I’m paraphrasing, but “if you could reason with Christians, there would be no Christians.”

    An example of faith: “Manifest Destiny” was the belief that the United States should sweep from coast-to-coast. This was thought to be divinely ordained and, in this instance, a goal obtainable here on earth. It was inevitable. It was “destiny”. But how was it “manifest”? Through faith. It was self-evidentiary – the convenient root of all faiths. And it required the slaughter of an entire race of people and civilization.

    Faith also insulates the believer from true morality. Throughout history, some of the most heinous crimes were committed in the name of God.

    Christians often make the argument that without God, there can be no morality – that the atheist is a depraved individual. I would argue that the Christian cannot possess true morality. The Christian, like the Nazi, must follow orders – a set of pre-ordained rules. The non-believer must weigh right and wrong based on reality – the present. The non-believer is free to use the tools of critical thinking, compassion, and tolerance. The Christian must cling to eternal truths, and cannot diverge from these rigid laws. Tolerance is generally not tolerated.

    And regarding tradition, the only truly “traditional” aspect of Christianity is that it is simply another typical belief system, no different from many others. It had a beginning. It will have an end.

    And the universe won’t even blink.

    • JonJon

      I regard the creation of the “Religious Right” (the political movement) as one of the worst things that has ever happened to Christianity.

      Try to separate your feelings about Christians from your feelings about stereotypically rural and uneducated people, or your feelings about a certain political party (which shall remain nameless) *cough*republican*cough*. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

      I can barely do it, and I have a vested interest in the matter (not looking stupid.)

      So Steve, let me just join you in complaining about the connection between conservatism and Christianity. I hate it (albeit, likely for different reasons) and I want it to die.

      • John C

        As long as we still have a reputation of our own to protect, to preserve then we are still in the false Self, living from one who was crucified (adam) and the new man (the second adam, Christ) is not yet our (true) life. We are living by the flesh, not the spirit. There remains a higher and more lovely realm and heavenly light in which to dwell.

        • Steve

          John C,

          A true Christian SHOULD protect his reputation.

          More specifically, he should preserve his reputation amongst NON-believers.

          “Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” – 1 Timothy 3:7 KJV

          (To be fair, this verse was detailing the requirements for potential bishops.
          But if it’s a requirement for church leaders, then it follows it would be a noble goal for laymen.)

          JonJon is a defender of Christ on this board – and he appears to be out-numbered by quite a large margin, yet he bravely soldiers on.

          His reputation here is of import. If he defends Christ like a blathering idiot, if he sounds stupid, then his report (reputation) is weakened.

          Now YOU come on here, casting stones at a brother, finding motes in his eye, and rebuking him in front of an audience of non-believers.

          I’ll give you this much:
          You walk like you talk.
          You don’t believe that a Christian should be concerned about protecting his reputation.

          Your certainly aren’t concerned about your own.

          “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” – Matthew 7:3 KJV

          • John C


            Respectfully, no. A “true Christian” is one who has counted all things lost and now Christ is his only identity, the former things (including who he thought he was, who the world tells him he is has past away) there is no more two, but one (1 Cor 6:17).

            And what a liberty indeed to be “lost in Him”. To find our old man dead, no longer in the way.

            Jon Jon knows who I am, my intent and he is not bothered by my sharing. All the best Steve.

            • Steve

              John C

              You’re not doing it right.

              The verse you quoted only strengthens the first one. (And that’s how it should be. God’s Word is consistent. Bible verses SHOULD reinforce each other. Should they not?)

              Your first error?

              The verse you quoted is not a directive.
              “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.”

              That’s akin to saying, “Clothes are garments that cover parts of your body.”

              The verse you’re disputing (You ARE disputing the verse, are you not?) is a passive direction, stating what a Christian must have (a good report) before he may become a bishop.

              “Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”

              That’s akin to saying, “For Pete’s sake, that guy should really throw on some clothes before he steps outside, lest the on-lookers think him a chump.”

              Your second mistake?

              If JonJon’s spirit is indeed one with Christ, then a blemish to his reputation is a blemish to Christ’s, as they are one spirit.

              Indeed, his reputation, his report, and his testimony before non-believers is very important; if not to you, it certainly is to God, at least according His Word.

              What a liberty it must be – to be freed from the chains of reason.

              I know – snarky.


            • John C

              The faculties of reason and logic are good for some things. Things like balancing your checkbook and navigating traffic but are woefully inadequate in the higher realm of the spirit. These various attributes are non-competing properties, disparate capacities and therefore not comparable.

              You’re attempting to view holy writ, that ancient but timeless pneuma through the lens of the knowledge of good and evil, that dead and withered tree. And so you see by degrees, in limited shadows my friend. All the best.

            • Steve

              John C:

              You’re still not doing it right.

              Sigh… You’re making this too easy, man. It’s like shooting Jesus-fish in a barrel.

              My dear, dear, dear, friend.

              Some personal recommendations:

              1) Remember the original issue? The whole mote-in-your-eye thing? Finding fault with your brother and publicly reproving him in a forum of (mostly) non-believers? Yeah, don’t do that.

              2) If you’re quoting God’s Word, try choosing a verse that doesn’t prove your own contention wrong. That doesn’t just make you LOOK stupid – it IS stupid.

              3) Whatever thesaurus you’re using, for CHRIST’S SAKE (literally, not blasphemously), lose it. For real. The multi-syllabic words aren’t helping you. You’re kind of coming across as a pompous, bloated windbag (with a bad case of IQ-envy).

              4) Employing reason isn’t necessarily contrary to the Lord’s will. “Come now, and let us reason together, said the LORD” – Isaiah 1:18 KJV.

              5) If you’re addressing a specific question (and you may find this very difficult to do), try actually addressing the specific question. Your second response didn’t address anything at all. Don’t weasel your way around the issue because you don’t have a valid response (and then hop on a cloud of self-righteous blather). It’s transparent and, quite frankly, it makes you look stupid (déjà vu…).

              6) If you ever DO decide to address the issue at hand, you’d do best to stick with Scripture. Human words are fallible, especially yours. Don’t get tangled up with three-dollar words and erroneous logic (while at the same time, hypocritically, deriding logic). It took no logic or reason to defend JonJon; I offered you God’s Word, plain and simple. You offered diatribes involving holy writs (while not quoting any), higher realms of spirit, timeless pneuma (nu ma, nu ma, nu-ma-iei?), and so on.

              Me – “John, Why did you slam your brother? You really shouldn’t do that, especially in a forum like this. And here’s what the Word of God (the KJV AV 1611 – you know, the inspired Word of God preserved for English-speaking people) has to say about it.”

              You – “Here’s a (seemingly random) Bible quote. And ahh – Did I mention – What a liberty indeed to be ‘lost in Him.’”

              Me – “Hold on a sec – Dude, the verse you quoted totally backs up my original contention.”

              You – “Ah, yes, the Word of God is transcendent, pulchritudinous, and thaumaturgical.”

              Me –

              I know you. I’ve had peeps like you in my congregation. You’re the kind of dude who pisses everyone off, believers and non-believers alike. You’re the kind of dude who thinks he knows better than the pastor. You’re the kind of dude who thinks he’s more connected to Christ than everyone else. You’re the kind of dude who causes church splits.

              But don’t get me wrong – please continue along this path. You damage the Body of Christ much more than any non-believer ever could.

              Thank you, my bestest, dearest ole’ buddy and pal o’mine,


            • John C


              We musn’t be too terribly similar at this current juncture Steve, for you have spurned the Lover, and I have embraced Him and will never let Him go, and neither He I. And why is it that you departed Steve? What “reason” will you plead before Love’s piercing yet merciful posture?

              It matters not. Love is not concerned with such things, such externalities and trivial matters but only that the mountains of Bether (separation) would be brought low, consumed by the fire of His great love which ever smolders with the flames of restoration, of mercy. For Love would love us into purity…even still.

              For He would indwell that inner kingdom now void of light, now vanquished by the Goliath of reason. Would that you be InChristed once more? As you were in the beginning…of time? Though for the moment you identify with the limited shadow and not the celestial, heavenly man content to be mortal, confined and temporal. Or did you not know that a man will always behave like the person he thinks he is? And so, who is it Steve? Who are you dear one? Is it Adam, or is it Christ? In which of these two will you be found? There are no other choices my friend.

              As for me and “church”, you must have me confused with the religious folk for I have no church, no pastor, no priest or denomination. I have no creed, yield to no doctrine of man(kind) yet possess an inward high priest, Christ alone who ever liveth to make intercession for…you.

              For there is only one life, and that is the life of the spirit, for in the spirit there is no duality, no potential for both good and evil, only good. This is a place of disambiguity, where the many divisions and striations are healed and in this place is only…One, a life of divine union.

              For after the many wars of David comes the peaceable reign of Solomon. Peace, that’s what you want isnt it Steve? Peace is a…Person and that peaceful One would annihilate all your enemies as the spirit of Joshua (yeshua) marches through your inner kingdom pummeling the enemines within that would keep you hiding in the dark mountainans of Bether, of fear.

              No, you dont know “my kind” Steve, but you do know about the follies of religion, playing “church” and all the pain and heartache man’s “system” creates for you have had quite enough of it, have had your fill, it made you sick to your stomach didnt it Steve? Good for you for Love has finally and mercifully brought you to this place, this wonderful place of liberty, this new day where all the religious conditioning is broken, is revealed for what it is, and for what it…isnt. The scales have come off, you will never go that way again will you? Will never give your heart over to a tyrant, to the Oppressor, never again.

              No more expectations, no more despair for you have unshackled yourself and now the real journey can begin. Or did you think it was all over Steve?
              Haven’t you heard? Love, He never fails. And Love loves you nonetheless, He changes not. Your journey is not over Steve, in fact has only now just begun. What a friend we have, what a friend indeed.

            • Steve


            • Jabster


              A quick hint, John C has already admitted that he’s really not into reading posts before replying to them which I think is just plain rude and insulting. If you look at his replies then it becomes obvious as to the truth of this. He’ll repeat his stock items over and over and over again with very little regard for the subject in hand.

              Ocassionaly he comes up with a good one, like the fact that he’s a different species, but saying he’s not religious and then stating parts of the Bible wears very thin very quickly.

            • Steve

              Thanks Jabster… I guess John C has never encountered the Groucho Marx quote “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than open your mouth and remove all doubt.”


      • Steve


        I hear what you’re saying and I respect your thoughts. My intention wasn’t to denigrate Christians – although I may have done so indirectly. I apologize for any offense.

        I was simply trying to express my personal opinions regarding Christianity. In my opinion, Christianity isn’t very different from many other ideologies – not in its dogma – but in the shape of its evolution and the psychological tools it employs.

        This includes Democracy, Islam, the Civil Rights movement, Capitalism, Communism, the Green movement, Zionism, you name it. The tenets they espouse vary radically one from the other, and certainly I have distinct, personal opinions about each. But I have to recognize some commonalities amongst them – in their processes and in their means of effecting social change. Many of them, while having polar-opposite creeds, employ very similar psychological tools.

        Unfortunately – and I believe you stated a similar sentiment – most movements are usually defined by its most fanatical and irrational believers.

        In my younger days, I was a zealous Baptist preacher. I attended two “Bible colleges” and trained for the mission field. During that period of my life, I personally led 18 people to Christ. I preached, in a suit and tie, on Daytona beach during spring break. Once I was threatened by a group of men with a broken beer bottle held to my throat as I “spread the Gospel”. And I stood there, leaning towards its jagged edges, completely unafraid, shrouded in, and protected by, my unwavering faith. (If I recall, I led one of them to Christ after the group dispersed.) I remember the time a 7-11 clerk stepped out from behind the counter, fell to his knees, and recited “the Lord’s prayer” with me in front of a line full of puzzled customers. I was as sincere a Christian as they come.

        I won’t bore you with my journey to becoming a non-believer. In a nutshell, I wound up feeling that I was working to save people FROM God. I found this to be profound and paradoxical. Eventually the ideology, for me, became irreconcilable (with itself), and I dismissed it as absurd.

        I became a radical atheist for a while – which is actually another shared trait of most movements. It’s not uncommon to see a fanatic jump from one ideology to its rival. The opposite of a radical Christian isn’t a radical atheist – It’s a confident, self-assured individual who isn’t really concerned about the matter on a personal level. Radical Christians and radical atheists are almost like feuding brothers, and it’s easy for the fanatic to jump from one ship to the other.

        I was like this. It took much time and maturity before I shed my fanaticism.

        Thanks again for your reply. And thanks to Janet & Daniel too.

        • Daniel Fincke

          Great story, Steve, and I relate a lot and love the bit about saving people from God (though I never had that particular thought myself).

          Although I’m rather proud of the fact that in my wild-eyed religious zealot days I could never quite seal the deal and get anyone saved. I tried really, really hard but I tend to chalk it up to an inability to go for the emotional jugular. I remained just a little too philosophical I think to really help someone make that emotional commitment.

          And I completely agree about the counter-swing from one fanatacism to another. There is a real sense in which I still emotionally identify with devout Christians in a way that I will never identify with born atheists who are simply apathetic to the questions or to apathetic religious moderates. In other ways, of course, I share a stronger affinity with atheists because of a shared sense of the world.

          But really, I will probably always feel most sympatico with fellow apostates, who get both where I come from psychologically and where I arrived at rationally.

          • Daniel Fincke

            By the way, Steve, since you’re dealing somewhat with the question of how to define Christianity, I was reminded of these two posts I wrote recently on a related topic and figured I’d take the chance to shamelessly pimp my blog again. :)



            • Steve

              Hey Daniel,

              I promise I’ll read them both, but it’s late and my wife just got home.
              I will definitely check them out.


            • Daniel Fincke

              No problem, thanks! Have a great night!

          • Janet Greene

            I probably fall into the unfortunate category of being a “radical atheist”, in the sense that I am passionate about religion being destructive. I agree that it’s probably part of a process, and I would love to get to the point where I am just cool about it. But I doubt that will happen, because it’s too personal. I suspect it will affect me less and less as the years go by, but my evangelical roots are strong so hopefully people will forgive me some zeal :D

            • Daniel Fincke

              I have a hard time placing myself as to how aggressive an atheist I am. To me, while I recognize and frequently catalog the ethical pitfalls of religion, the only things about it that makes my blood really boil is its authoritarian approach to belief formation and its palpably obvious falsehood. I am more angered at the irrationality than any of the other deleterious psychological issues related to it since I recognize that it is a psychologically and culturally normal aspect of human life. It is ugly and regressive in many ways but it’s also the way we’ve been doing things for thousands of years. What bothers me is less religion’s history but that it continues to persist in the present at a point in time where by all means we should know better. What bothers me is that so much political energy is spent not on the side of energy but on accommodating thinking which should have no authority behind it.

              In short, religion’s irrationality and training in counter-rational habits make me more “radical” as an atheist. But I see that it’s serving needs for identity formation, ritual, meditation, life-orientation that I understand humans need and for which secularism has thus far made woefully inadequate provisions.

            • Steve

              Hi Janet & Daniel,

              Please don’t take my words to heart – They were just rambling thoughts. I wouldn’t be so bold as to claim that even a single sentence contained any truth. I humbly submit them as my simple, fallible opinions – and nothing more. I’m often wrong.

              But I’m sure that our opinions about Christian fundamentalism are pretty-much the same. I believe they are inherently dangerous. I would never allow anyone to tell my children that they are worthless, wicked creatures, deserving of eternal damnation and hellfire. In my opinion, that’s tantamount to psychological child abuse, and my inclination would be to clobber any man that tried.

              (Note: I would never strike a woman – I suppose I’m sexist and chauvinistic. In office meetings without enough chairs, I will always give up my seat for a female co-worker. If she declines, I will insist, and leave the seat vacant if need be. I can’t be seated while a female worker stands. It’s bad form. But screw the dudes – Find a corner and lean on the wall buddy – I got here first. I’m a sexist pig…sorry.)


              When I use the word radical, I’m (generally) referring to individuals with no self-worth – people that bond with some holy cause in order to justify their own existence. Without a holy cause, these individuals are lost in a foreign and hostile world. They NEED something to stand for – or to stand against. They seek the destruction of the current order. They crave absorption into a collective body, where their individual identities can be washed away in a sea of like-minded believers.

              There is nothing “radical” about expressing your opinions regarding the dangers of fundamentalism. There’s nothing wrong with having a passionate disposition in this regard. Please don’t think I’m labeling either of you as fanatics.

              Fanatics are single-minded, with a tunnel-vision that filters out anything that would impede their holy mandate. They always moving, driven forward along with their fellow believers. They possess untempered passions and an inability to reason. They tend to blame all of their ills on their enemies. (Someone once said, you can have a mass movement with a god, but you can’t have one without a devil.)

              They hate.

              If they claim to love, it’s usually just a mask for an even greater hatred.

              And, ironically, they treat each other with a measure of mistrust, always on the lookout for traitors. And should they discover a dissenter, they will expel and vilify that person with a passion even more fervent than they reserve for their enemies. They will also unleash the same amount of wrath upon followers that leave the group of their own accord, going so far as to label them as having ALWAYS been treacherous and deceitful – never a genuine believer. And (again ironically) this air of mutual suspicion actually serves as a cohesive agent, ensuring that no one strays from the holy cause.

              THAT’S a radical – not you Janet and Daniel.

              Please forgive my carelessly spoken words.

            • Steve

              Darn typos…I left out a verb.

              One sentence should have began with, “They are always moving”, not “They always moving”.


            • Daniel Fincke

              Oh, don’t worry at all, I wasn’t feeling attacked in the least. I have been curious about how exactly to classify myself. I feel remarkably well summed up by the term “New Atheist.” I feel like I was a New Atheist before there was such a thing. Reading the first chapters of Harris’s book was a rare experience of going, “Hey! That’s exactly what I’ve been saying all this time! He stole my ideas!”

              But I wonder about some of the other terms and position stances in the air as I’ve looked into the internet atheist community for my blog the last week. I just wrote a post that I’ll put up later tonight which is my first stab at addressing the “persecution” angle of the new movement to raise atheist consciousness. In the final analysis, I’m passionate about advancing secularism in public (through public policy) and secularism in private (through private persuasion) but I don’t think these goals require overblowing the real but relatively minor affronts to atheist freedoms in the country.

              We may be marginalized and they may try to vilify us when we dissent to the general consensus that faith must be ever genuflected to as an inherently good thing (even as dogmatic religion is widely denounced)—but these are not the sorts of slights to try and claim oppressed minority status for. Not in a place as free as North America anyway, or at least in not in my own experience. But I live in the New York, so maybe I underestimate what harsher pressures may exist elsewhere (including those of that poor girl in the Stossel video Janet linked to last night).

            • Steve

              Personally, I shy away from the “New Atheist” movement, or any movement for that matter. I don’t want to assign myself a label, and say HERE, this defines me, this is what I believe, and here are some like-minded people.

              Now don’t get me wrong, I probably would agree with most of the tenets of the movement, but “New Atheist” sounds like an almost religious term.

              And it seems kind of silly to assign myself a label that identifies me by something in which I DON’T believe. I may as well call myself a “New Person-that-doesn’t-believe-in-Leprechauns.”

              I also believe that there is a distinction between cursing religion and extolling reason. The former is generally a waste of time, and winds up having the opposite of its intended effect, only serving to reinforce the faith of the believer.

              Oops! Gotta go pick up my kid…

            • claidheamh mor

              I suppose *that’s* a radical…. sigh. “Radical” comes from a Greek root word, heh, for “root”. I like the idea of root change, rather than “one Band-Aid after another” (thank you for this phrase, sociology prof T. Lane Skelton!), but I hate the people being called radicals.

            • Steve

              Hi claidheamh mor,

              Regarding the word “radical”:

              Some of the commonly used definitions of the word (according to Merriam-Webster anyway…) are:

              A) marked by a considerable departure from the usual or traditional : extreme

              B) tending or disposed to make extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions

              C) of, relating to, or constituting a political group associated with views, practices, and policies of extreme change

              D) advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs

              As I recall, it was also exclaimed by a kid in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure after Pee Wee jumped over a building with his turbo-charged bicycle. “Radical!”

              And of course, unless you’re using fractional exponent notation, it’s convenient to express the square root of two using a radical sign.

              And then there’s those pesky atomic structures with unpaired electron shells – Free Radicals, sometimes simply referred to as radicals.

              And then there’s surgeries to remove cancers, like radical hysterectomies or mastectomies.

              And, as you stated, the root of the word is indeed “root”, but it’s etymology is of Latin origin, not Greek.

          • claidheamh mor

            @Daniel Fincke: in my wild-eyed religious zealot days I could never quite seal the deal and get anyone saved. I tried really, really hard but I tend to chalk it up to an inability to go for the emotional jugular.

            You just hit spot-on on a good point.

            If any belief requires going for the emotional jugular (such a great phrase) in order for people to believe it, what does that say about the belief system?

            What does needing to whip people into emotional response in order to get them to believe something demonstrate about that belief system?

            That it’s not built on reason, it’s antithetical to human nature and anything natural. The next trick of course, is that christians have to convince you that the natural world and human nature is “evil” in order to get you to distrust it, instead of relying on it.

            Having been there, I can read the christians’ thoughts now: “but you can’t trust human nature; look how bad it is! You can’t be ‘of this world’!” Exactly. That is exactly what I mean by their next trick in order for you to distrust everything about yourself and human nature, or you would never swallow their next shovelful.

            The last conversion trick is that the emotional fight-or-flight response, adrenaline, the use of the primitive brain stem, all cut off use of the brain’s cortex. Thinking ability is cut off.

            This is what they need to convert people to the christian beliefs.

            You said far more than you realized you were saying with the phrase “go for the emotional jugular”.

            • Steve

              Hi claidheamh mor,

              I thought I should explain my motivations for witnessing…

              In my fundamentalist days, I was constantly “witnessing” to every non-believer I stumbled across. It was VERY uncomfortable for me at first – not an easy thing to do. I was a relatively timid young man.

              So why did I do it? Knocking on doors. Visiting prisons. Working the children’s bus ministry. Preaching in retirement villages. Witnessing in all the “wrong” places (Daytona beach during spring break). Spreading the Good News to anyone I could – everywhere I could.

              When asked, I would explain it to people as follows (and it’s a clumsy metaphor, but I was 19 or 20 at the time):

              You’re in your home, sitting in your favorite chair, watching television. A fire starts in another room, on the opposite side of the house. The fire begins to grow and plumes of smoke are billowing out of the windows. I’m walking past your house. I see the flames. I see the smoke. And I see you, sitting in your chair, completely unaware of the impending danger.

              I would be compelled to bang on your door, to scream and yell, and get you out of there. Not doing so would not only be unethical, but your blood would be on my hands. (Ezekiel 3:16-21) I truly believed that eternal hellfire was a reality – a reality more real than anything I could touch, see, or hear. I HAD to witness, and I did so, all the time. To commit that grievous sin of omission, to NOT witness, was an unimaginable atrocity – akin to murder.

              Now, mind you, I only spoke of God’s love when witnessing. I never tried to dangle a non-believer over the fiery pits of hell. I only used the above metaphor to explain why I witnessed. It was my personal reason. I never went for any emotional jugulars. The Gospels, the New Covenant, espoused the ideas of love and compassion. I spread the Good News.

              Of course, I was completely nuts – but that’s honestly what I believed at the time.

              Changing subjects (kind of), I was prone, even in my Christian days, to bouts of independent thinking. I couldn’t help but recognize some very big disparities in the dogma I so whole-heartedly embraced. (I know that sounds ridiculous, to believe in something that didn’t make sense to me, because it IS ridiculous.)

              Note: I NEVER EVER believed the following, which is going to sound utterly insane. The following was my attempt to dissect a particular belief commonly held by most Christians – the immorality of abortion. I was playing “devil’s advocate”, so to speak – taking an idea to its inevitable, absurd conclusion.

              One day in class (in Bible college), I began a dialogue with one of my professors regarding the subject of abortion.

              “Brother so-and-so, why do we oppose abortion?”

              “Because it’s murder.”

              “We know that these innocent, unborn lives, have yet to reach the age of accountability. If so – when murdered – won’t they be immediately embraced by God, to spend an eternity in heaven?”


              “Isn’t it true, that women having these abortions are most-likely not Born-Again Christians, and that these unwanted children would probably be raised in homes where there were not wanted? And even worse, like their parents, would most-likely die in an unsaved state – doomed to an eternity in hell?”


              “So, again, why not sacrifice the few years they would spend here on earth, and spare them from an eternity in hell?”

              “Because – It’s MURDER.”

              “What if we killed all children, both born and unborn? We’ll let them live until they approach an age at which they have the ability to understand the Gospel and accept Christ as their personal Lord and Savior – say 2 or 3 years old, to be safe. If we kill these children, they will miss 100 years or so of life on this wicked planet, but won’t they also be spared an eternity of torture in the fiery pits of hell?”

              “Yes – that’s all true. But we can’t do it because God commands us not to.”

              Unbelievable, but that was an actual dialogue I had with a professor. Murdering children would guarantee them an eternity in heaven, sparing them from an eternity in hell – but, oh snap, we just can’t do it because God says we shouldn’t.

              PLEASE REMEMBER, I was playing devil’s advocate there – trying to dissect a particular tenet we strongly believed in and defended. I may have been nuts, but I never approached that kind of lunacy. I wanted to know what the church truly believed. I needed to extrapolate that belief to its ultimate, absurd conclusion. Reductio-ad-absurdum.

              After that, professors became nervous when I began to ask questions.

            • JonJon

              Yeah, I don’t buy his answer, but I can see that that would be difficult.

              Here’s my thought: Wouldn’t murdering children before they reach the age of consent be a sin no matter your intention? After all, under Christian doctrine, the free will to choose whether or not to accept salvation is extremely important. So important, in fact, that it is often used to justify the ‘problem of pain,’ why God created an imperfect world, etc.

              Removing the free will to refuse a spot in heaven seems like it would be morally ‘wrong’ under this system, since God himself actually allows all of these bad things to happen in order to preserve free will.

              That’s clunky, but for whatever its worth, there you go.

            • Steve

              Yes, of course murdering children would be a sin, unless God ordered the infanticide (or carried it out Himself). And it would appear He has an particular affectation for doing just that: Slaying the firstborn sons of Egypt – every man, woman, and child in Jericho – every Amalekite man, woman, and child. (Usually their livestock too, but on occasion the animals were spared. They had some utility.)

              Sometimes He threw in rape as a bonus – “Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.” (Isaiah 13:16)
              I particularly like the “before their eyes” bit – forcing the parents to look-on as their children were “dashed to pieces”.


              He even commanded His men to murder their own wives and children, without pity or hesitation, if they ever tried to persuade their husbands or fathers to abandon their God for another (Deuteronomy 13:6-9).

              And so on and so on…

              Bathed in the light of God’s word, even the present-day fanatical Muslim honor-killings of young women pale in comparison.

              And NOW the Lord isn’t in the mood for child-killing. They’ll still die the first death (not in the womb, but at a later time), and then (in most cases) will die the second death, damned to suffer eternal torment.

              Man, what’s up with His timing?

              I must concede – His ways are far too mysterious for me to comprehend.

              I don’t know. Perhaps He’s lacing up His shoes in anticipation of the upcoming apocalypse. (Psst! It’s coming soon! And it’s gonna make the 4th of July look like a soggy firecracker. On the reals, yo!)

              Perhaps some can understand what I meant when I described my conversion from believer to non-believer as a the result of wrestling with the profound and paradoxical nature of the Word of God.

              Some harsh words above, but they weren’t mine.

            • Siberia

              @ Jonjon:

              Wrong of you, but wouldn’t these children be better off? I mean, think about it. There’s a sin – but it would be the murderer’s, not theirs. They would go to heaven scot-free, presto, whereas you would not (unless you repented. There’s that).

              Wouldn’t that be a great sacrifice? You’d sacrifice your eternity, but guarantee theirs. Doesn’t Christianism thrive on sacrifices – the biggest one being the sacrifice of Jesus for us? Isn’t not doing so incredibly selfish of you (generic you) and thus a mortal sin anyway?

              (not saying I believe these things; just taking the “Devil’s Advocate” play a little further :p)

            • Chuck Lasker

              Maybe children who die DON’T go to Heaven automatically. Maybe God, knowing everything throughout all time, knows that they WON’T come to him, so he doesn’t care what happens to their lives, and allows them to die and go to Hell. Maybe that’s the case with the abortions, too. I’d say there’s a 50/50 chance of that, without proof to the contrary.

              In either case, abortionists are doing God’s work. If the babies go to Heaven, they saved their souls from potential damnation. If the babies go to Hell, then they saved God from having to stress over their heathen lives. If the reason for existence is only to decide whether to accept Christ or not, then if God knows a soul is not going to accept him, their existence is a waste of God’s resources.

              Remember, salvation is NOT about what you DO, it’s about what you BELIEVE. So, it is very possible to be saved, then murder children in order to send them to Heaven, and then go to Heaven yourself. There’s no price to pay at all! Imagine the happy welcome you’d get in Heaven by the hundreds of souls who have you to thank for eternal happiness!

            • claidheamh mor

              Steve, that is a great story. Thank you.

            • Steve


              May I be a real ***hole?

              If someone (not me, of course) were to ask you the following question, how would you answer it?

              “Do you worship a baby-killer (or a former baby-killer)?”

              Oh, and you have to answer it with either a “Yes” or a “No”. The answer is held in a boolean variable.

              Oh – And in my list of infanticides – I forgot the flood. We give our kids these toys – cute little boats full of cute little animals, and a little white-bearded dude with a staff. They have fun celebrating the death and destruction of the entire population of the earth – men, women, children, the whole shebang – Everybody.

              And THAT was only the first baptism of this fine planet.
              A baptism of water.
              And the next one promises to be even better.

              (Footnote: Do not EVER read “Not Wanted on the Voyage” by Timothy Findley. EVER!)

            • JonJon

              I’d say ‘no,’ steve.

              I know that you all like to harp on the genocidal god of the old testament, but the fact is that the OT is not inconsistent with a Christian worldview. Christian theology places the blame for unjust actions on the shoulders of a sinning humanity. Whether or not you buy that is certainly up to you, but it is not the logical inconsistency it is often made out to be.

            • Steve


              Look JonJon. I like you.

              I’ve even defended you on this board (against a real loony toon) in a long series of (exhausting) posts.

              And while I believe that I could easily deconstruct each of your assertions, I’m going to let the issue lie.

              I dig you.

              I think it’s time for me to simply bow out gracefully from this site – exit stage left.

              I gave up preaching over 20 years ago.

              Once every decade or so, I fall into this trap I set for myself – and I start preaching again.

              I’ll keep my yap shut for another 10 years or so, studying on my own, in private.

              Maybe we’ll bump into each other around 2020.

              If so, I’ll gladly extend you a warm hand.

              I sincerely wish you all the best,

            • Steve

              I’m sorry JonJon, but I’m going to go back on my word and preach ONE last time. (I can’t help it!)

              First let me dismantle your arguments. I’ll be as brief as I can.

              1) About the “harping” deal:

              That’s ridiculous, really. It’s unwise to begin an argument by whining that your opponent is “harping” on the issue. That’s an overt attempt to dismiss an argument because you don’t like it. It’s not a defense.

              “Your honor, I’d like to address the defendant once more. Sir, you killed this entire family, yet you want the jury to believe that you are innocent.”

              “Yes – why do you keep harping on that? Man, that was, like, a long time ago.”

              It sounds like you’re acknowledging the fact that you have no reasonable answer, and that what’s about to follow is fuzzy nonsense (ding!).

              2) Don’t refer to the God of the Old Testament as if He’s different from the “new” one. God is immutable – He doesn’t change. The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the new one. You speak of two Gods – that’s idolatry, dude.

              3) For Pete’s sake do NOT refer to God as genocidal. That’s clumsy language at best – either that, or you actually believe that He IS genocidal.

              4) Your second sentence implies that God acts unjustly because humans are sinful. That’s blasphemous, so let’s assume that’s not what you intended to say.

              Let’s say that you were trying to say that HUMANS act unjustly. Okay – but there’s no context for that statement, even if that’s what you meant.

              Point one – God kills people.
              Point two – humans are sinful.

              You never connect those two independent thoughts. (Kind of like “Dugg,” the talking dog from the movie “Up”: “The OT is not inconsistent with…SQUIRREL!”)

              And even if you DID add a sentence or two to put this into context, it still wouldn’t address the original issue: why does God kill innocent children?

              Either way, you’re skating clumsily around the real issue.

              5) “Whether or not you buy that is certainly up to you.” Errr, Buy WHAT? You never made a point. And even if you did – so what if I bought it or not? Just nonsense words to fill space.

              6) “it is not the logical inconsistency it is often made out to be “ – Come on now, you need TWO arguments in order to say that one may or may not be inconsistent with the other. You didn’t even give me ONE.

              7) Just who are these people making “this” out to be logically inconsistent (unreferenced pronoun)?

              8) Even if you did identify the people disputing the points (that you never even made), it would be irrelevant. The Bible is the timeless Word of God. Man’s opinion is of no significance. This is simply another way of saying nothing – just some more empty words to fill empty space.

              Ahem, now that the unpleasantries are out of the way, please allow me to help you. I once believed that I was filled with the Holy Spirit.

              Here is how the past me would have addressed the present me:

              God has never killed the innocent. It is man’s sinful nature that brought death to this world, along with the other ills of mankind.

              And while it is true that God is Love, God is also Justice.

              It is not God who slays the innocent. It is man’s sinful nature. Yes, it is true – all of mankind suffers in this world. And it’s not just death that man suffers, but a host of other afflictions. The iniquities of the fathers are visited upon the sons. This is Divine law. God must mete out Justice because He is Justice. And it is not man’s place to judge God.

              If a student is given a failing grade, is it the fault of the teacher who issued the grade? No – it is the student who earned the grade.

              But just as much as God is Justice, He is Love. He sacrificed His only Son so that humankind could escape the afflictions caused by man’s sinful nature. There is no greater Love than this.

              Anywho – that’s how I would have answered it. Now I’ll just slither back into the muck of atheism and sin. Mwahh hah hah… cough cough… HAH!

              Toodles JonJon!

            • JonJon

              Well, Steve, thanks. I do appreciate your effort.

              I made a crucial error in this post. I said:

              “I know that you all like to harp on the genocidal god of the old testament, but the fact is that the OT is not inconsistent with a Christian worldview. Christian theology places the blame for unjust actions on the shoulders of a sinning humanity. Whether or not you buy that is certainly up to you, but it is not the logical inconsistency it is often made out to be”

              what I should have said is this:

              “God has never killed the innocent. It is man’s sinful nature that brought death to this world, along with the other ills of mankind.

              And while it is true that God is Love, God is also Justice.

              It is not God who slays the innocent. It is man’s sinful nature. Yes, it is true – all of mankind suffers in this world. And it’s not just death that man suffers, but a host of other afflictions. The iniquities of the fathers are visited upon the sons. This is Divine law. God must mete out Justice because He is Justice. And it is not man’s place to judge God.

              If a student is given a failing grade, is it the fault of the teacher who issued the grade? No – it is the student who earned the grade.

              But just as much as God is Justice, He is Love. He sacrificed His only Son so that humankind could escape the afflictions caused by man’s sinful nature. There is no greater Love than this.”

              It is not my desire to witness on this site, so I didn’t. But that is what I should have said.

              Instead, I assumed that everyone interested had already heard that sort of thing before and wasn’t interested. I did everything on your checklist in anticipation of the scorn I thought your type of answer would receive. I, for example, know that the “OT” and “NT” gods are one and the same, but I see few critics attack the “NT” god for his “genocidal” behavior, and many attack the “OT” god for just that reason.

              I admit it. you described it as clumsy, and that’s just about right.

              What I should have said is that Christianity does not place the blame for the deaths of children on God, not even a God of perfect justice. And then I should have asked why I should do such a thing, throwing the ball back into your court.

              I hope you haven’t left for good!

            • Steve


              Thanks for not taking offense. You are a man with genuine character. I tend to get carried away with my snarky sense of humor. I apologize.

              Anyway, this is surely my final post.
              I have no desire to attack other people’s beliefs.
              My beliefs are mine, yours are yours, and it’s not my place to criticize.

              I will say this, I think better of Christians because of you. Your testimony is respected, at least by me.

              My best wishes to you,

            • JonJon

              @ claidh
              Acting based on emotion is antithetical to human nature?
              How would you justify that idea?

            • claidheamh mor

              Unless my writing was really unclear, a possibility, you are too clueless to be graced with a reply. Ask something that shows you had a minimal comprehension of what I said.

            • JonJon

              “That it’s not built on reason, it’s antithetical to human nature and anything natural”

              so explain this sentence to me? no sarcasm at all, I fail to see what this means if not that things not built on reason are antithetical to human nature. I could be wrong, but you’ll have to help me out here.

            • claidheamh mor

              I’ll spell it out.

              If a belief needs people being whipped into emotion to swallow it, the belief is something antithetical to human nature.

              It’s not natural, it’s not good for life, so you must manipulate people into a state of emotion, running on adrenaline and the primitive part of the brain, cutting off the reasoning capacity of the cortex, a good response when survival is threatened in the jungle, not designed to evaluate a belief. You don’t want people evaluating your belief, you want them to swallow it, feel that their survival depends on it, and defend it without thinking.

              Yes, I’m referring to christianity. This is how revivals and cults and LGATs such as est work. Music, testimonials, clapping together, tears, threats of hell, the sacrifices and rewards you’ll have, ad nauseum. Fear of hell is the best manipulative tactic.

              I’ll say it again, slloowwwwwllllyyyy:

              If you need the threat and fear of punishment, going for people’s emotional jugular (a threat to survival, punishment forever!), to get people to believe something, the belief is antithetical to human nature.

              Think about it (well, those who don’t have the evaluative capacity or their cortex incapacitated) – how hard is it to believe a belief that feels healthy and right and life-enhancing? You wouldn’t have to be manipulated, frightened or coerced into it.

            • Daniel Fincke

              thanks, but I realized what I was writing in talking about not going for the jugular. That was the point, even in the depths of my Christian devotion, I was already a rationalist with too much respect for reasonable argumentation to be able to cross the lines into emotional manipulation which religious conversion and indoctrination require.

    • Janet Greene

      I love this comment. Very well said.

      • Janet Greene

        Sorry jonjon, I meant Steve.

        • JonJon

          haha, no offense taken.

          whadja think of what I said, though?

          eh? eh?

          • Janet Greene

            jonjon, you’re always right on the money ;)

            But seriously, I do appreciate a christian who is willing to discuss these sensitive issues in good “faith”. And I’m glad you (and even you, John C) are on here.

            • Daniel Fincke

              yes, jonjon’s been a breath of fresh air

          • Steve


            Of course I agree with everything you said in your reply.

            And it’s obvious that you are a tolerant, intelligent person.
            It’s refreshing to hear Christianity defended in such a reasonable manner.

            You’re right – the “religious right” is tearing the G.O.P. apart.

            Try reading some of the user comments at sites like – scary, scary stuff. You’ll find an incredible amount of treasonous (literally – they want to overthrow the govt.), intolerant, hateful speech. (You’ll also find an incredible amount of spelling errors.)

            And McCain would have easily won the presidential election had he picked ANYONE else as his running-mate.

            Why, oh why, does the GOP pander to extremists?

            And I really liked McCain before his choice. He had real integrity. He was bi-partisan. And he was funny. I remember him singing Barbara Streisand songs when he hosted Saturday Night Live. “I’ve been in politics for over 20 years. And for over 20 years, I’ve had Barbra Streisand trying to do my job. So I decided to try my hand at her job.”

            I genuinely respected him. But after his choice of running mate, and then the ugly, ugly campaign he ran…He’s lost that respect.

            But yes, again, I agree with every word you said.

            Sorry for talking politics – as if discussing religion wasn’t bad enough :)

            • JonJon

              yeah, its the two things that no sane person ever discusses unless they like arguing more than is probably healthy for them.

              I actually would rather argue about religion than politics. That’s how crazy I am!


            • Janet Greene

              Religion and politics – two of my greatest passions. It’s a wonder I have any friends left! (I do – my friends are very accommodating people apparently)

            • Daniel Fincke

              I’ve never understood why people wouldn’t want to talk about the things worth being passionate about or why so many have to be hostile about being disagreed with about important things.

              That’s not true, I do understand psychologically but I think it’s a shame. I live for the debate.

            • Chuck Lasker

              I, too, love to debate politics and religion. It started as a Christian, now goes the other way. With politics, I was once a fanatical Republican, and am now an independent with a liberal bent. Gives me unique perspectives and makes it fun. I like nothing more than knowing the other sides’ arguments better than they do.

    • Daniel Fincke

      Superb reply, Steve.

    • John C

      Nothing could be further from the truth. What he described is not the spiritual life, for it is one of great liberty, freedom, is a great restoration to the original, paradaisical, pristine condition, that being Christ in you, the hope of glory (as things were prior to the defilement), His nature (which is love) within.

      Religion is not what Christ offers, not even close.

      • Aor

        Hooray, more mindless babble and Witnessing. You are still a lying douchebag, John.

  • Janet Greene

    I do not really agree with Jon Stewart. He did not grow up in an evangelical home, so he probably doesn’t realize that religion, at it’s core, is dangerous and destructive. It is not an innocuous thing, ever. Once people believe in magical things, they throw reason out the window (to one degree or another). Add to that the christian and muslim views that theirs is the only true religion, the only way to god, and everyone else is an infidel, you cannot really have a “moderate” religious person. You either are a christian (muslim), and you believe in the exclusivity of the belief, or you are not a christian (muslim) at all. It is a foundation of these religions to be exclusive. Add to this the mental health issues attached to raising children in such a bubble of fantasy, the sexual oppression that seems to usually accompany it, and all the other issues that we discuss on this thread, and my view is that if you need an imaginary friend to stop drinking, you have not dealt with the issues that made you vulnerable to addiction in the first place. It would be like being a “dry drunk”. If you think prayer makes everything ok, you have repressed the real issues and that makes you a scary person in my opinion. Like that video that Daniel had a few days ago, it is “moderate” christians that provide the power and ammunition to the crazies.

    • Janet Greene

      However, I can see why so many people are tolerant of religion because it’s so powerful, and it takes a lot of courage to piss that many people off. Especially in the US, which is such a religious country. This reminds me of a video I saw last night about a teenage atheist who was driven out of her school by the christians. It’s pretty horrifying.

    • localtraveler

      “…my view is that if you need an imaginary friend to stop drinking, you have not dealt with the issues that made you vulnerable to addiction in the first place.”

      I’ve known people who fall into this category. They have essentially traded one addiction for another–out of control drinking/drugs for out of control Jesus. They still have problems, but the issues are somehow ok now because they have found God. And they do not seem any happier.

      • Daniel Fincke

        Exactly to both of you: This South Park points this out perfectly:

        • Janet Greene

          Daniel, that South Park link kicked me to the Comedy Central site (I think it’s because of my location). Which episode were you referring to?

          • Daniel Fincke

            It’s called “Bloody Mary.” It’s from season 9, just a couple episodes after Kyle or (Stan?) became the leader of Scientology. In “Bloody Mary” Randy Marsh tries to quit alcohol and there is a “miracle” from a Mary statue. It’s a great critique of both AA and religion (and AA as a religion).

            • Janet Greene

              Oh, I’ve seen that one. It was awesome. I love how edgy animated series decimate commonly held beliefs with humor.

      • JonJon

        I buy this, actually.

    • Daniel Fincke

      Janet, I wrote a blog post about that video you refer to and it turned out to be the first of a really quality 7 part exchange I had with a fellow graduate student and Christian philosopher. If you have time and interest, the link to that original post is here

  • Janet Greene

    Here’s a short article called “the danger of believing in god”.

    • Daniel Fincke

      Thanks for all these resources you’ve been posting, Janet

  • Daniel Fincke

    But, what I can say fairly easily is the following:
    (1) to behave according to moral codes out of fear of punishment is simply not to be motivated by a sense of duty or from a sense of commitment to something taken to be of intrinsic value, so anyone who associates being good with “obeying God for fear of the consequences of disobedience” is either morally corrupt or ethically infantalized in my view.

    (2) if morality did come from God’s arbitrary commands (which is the tacit position I think assumed in your question) then I don’t see why it would be “normative” upon us unless you also hold the view that “might makes right.” If God’s commands must be followed simply because he is more powerful over us and has control over our fate, then his supposed moral authority is only an extension of his greater power over us. If his power gives him such moral authority then it must be that might makes right. The notion that the universe is one great tyranny in which we must all submit to the arbitrary decrees of a powerful being on pain of eternal punishment is a monstrous notion that I’m glad is quite likely utterly false.

    (3) While I think that metaethics and abstract normative theory are inherently vital, urgent, and fascinating topics (engrossing enough to commit the bulk of my research and teaching to investigating them), I do not think that someone without a full-blooded ethical theory are just at a loss for ethical insight or direction. While I would argue for a particular conception of ethics and think that abstract investigation of ethics should in many ways help us revise and improve our everyday conception of the moral life—-I also think that people are sufficiently morally equipped to get by just fine without a grand theory worked out about what they are doing.

    When I was still a devout Christian, a year before I left the faith, a close Christian friend, wracked with doubts, told me that he figured if there was no God then he could imagine just waking up one day and not moving. His mother would come in and ask him to get up but he just wouldn’t. There would be no purpose to anything.

    And my reply to him even then, as a believer trying to persuade him to stay in the faith, was that even were I to be convinced there was no God I would still love what I love, love whom I love, and be passionate about the causes in which I believe. Good food would taste no less sumptuous, laughter would feel no less joyous and/or cathartic, friendship could be no less deep.

    Unlike those who think there is no value apart from God, I am not a nihilist. I never was—neither as a Christian nor as an atheist. I do not need an external authority to tell me to value or not to value that in which I already find intrinsic and indisputable goodness.

    I passionately pursue the questions of what makes the good good and I am eager to figure out the mistakes in our value judgments and to figure out how best to conceptualize and implement the best lives possible for us. But never, ever do I feel love and affection for another human being and think, “Oh no, this must be empty since there’s no God.” Never do I feel the rush of satisfaction when I’ve succeeded at a difficult task and yet lament that it is all in vain since there is no God. And never have I felt the pull of my conscience when I have done something that violated a principle I seriously hold, only to shrug it off because I’m not going to go to hell over it.

    And I really don’t understand the psychology of anyone who could feel those things in the throes of those emotions.

    (I hope you don’t mind, but I also posted this reply on my blog.)

    • Daniel Fincke

      Sorry, I cut off the first paragraph there, it read: “To answer your question adequately, I’d have to let you read my whole dissertation on the topic. Questions of the most legitimate sources of value and normativity are not simple ones to answer. No truth worth knowing is easy to find but takes a lot of research and vigorous independent thought.”

      • Daniel Fincke

        And this whole reply was supposed to be to JonJon’s response to my earlier reply above asking me what motivates morality without God. Sorry, I got this all screwy!

        • JonJon

          haha, ok, i’ll go read it…

    • JonJon

      nice response, and more in depth than I anticipated.

      I’ll try to do it some justice.

      I found myself agreeing with you a lot, tbh.

      1) I agree. You betcha. Christian moralities motivated by fear don’t make me happy.

      2) This is a nice point. There are (several) ways that an omnipotent God with a moral standard could be tyrannical. But if there was an omnipotent God, who built the universe and exists outside of nature, it makes sense to me that there might be 1) an actually ‘correct’ moral standard for any given situation, even if we can’t know exactly what it is; and 2) a reinforcement of that intrinsic standard built into the world itself, or even into our own musings about morality. I don’t think that we all must submit to such a standard (or even that anyone could exactly find it) but I do think that living a ‘moral’ life (a life with a degree of closeness to that standard) generally achieves a higher degree of happiness. (We pursue morality because it will make us happy if we behave in a moral manner.)

      3) This is, I think your best point. And thanks for conceptualizing it like this, it made a lot of sense for me. I basically agree with you, so I suppose I have an answer for my question. It makes sense that one does not require a complex moral calculus in order to behave in a moral manner, or even (under the criteria I previously mentioned) to enjoy behaving in that manner.

      You mention those who feel the ‘negative’ feelings of religion while feeling ‘positive’ feelings of ‘moral accomplishment’ (for lack of a better way to say it, my apologies if I’m mangling that thought) or the ‘positive’ feelings of religion with the ‘negative’ ones of morality. (You said this much more gracefully than I did.) You indicate that you don’t understand such a reaction. If I can, I’d suggest an explanation. It seems possible that someone with a less well developed morality could easily confuse these feelings. Furthermore, as you point out, morality is not simple, and I think a desire for simplicity can often overpower a desire for morality. For whatever its worth.

      thanks for that conversation! totally worth the time it took to type this response out. now i have to go check out your blog…

      • Daniel Fincke

        Thanks JonJon. Would you mind if I quoted you from here in a future post? I’d like to address your reply to point 2 in particular.

        In the meantime, I think that you can conceptualize “God’s law” as identical with “natural law” where what you mean by “God’s law” is that we pay attention to what is naturally good for us and to us in determining our actions. If you do that though, then the need to posit or believe in God is redundant since nature already contains certain goods and ills for us which can be learned via experience and empirical investigation into (a) what are our capacities and what constitutes their excellent flourishing, (b) what goods are all humans intrinsically interested in that make their lives satisfying, etc., etc. Those are empirical questions and dogmatic assertions on the matter from ancient sources are not helpful in answering them when they are treated as final authorities.

        All mythic moral traditions and collections of moral proverbs and parables and ancient law codes potentially contain wisdom to be considered, but the problem with religion is that it ossifies particular sets of ancient value judgments rather than considering them influences among others. Sure, in 300BC or 600AD even pork may have had serious health drawbacks. But we’ve moved on to counting calories and monitoring cholesterol, we don’t need to simplistically just ban the pork.

        • JonJon

          feel free to quote away.

          I’m a bit confused by this. Maybe I’m getting tired.

          When I indicated a ‘correct’ moral law in any given situation, I didn’t differentiate between God’s law and Natural law. If an omnipotent God exists, they are indeed the same.

          When you mention “flourishing” according to “our capacities,” you mean very much the same thing that I meant when I talked about happiness coming from a pursuit of our own “intrinsic standard,” which would be based ultimately upon the afore-mentioned ‘correct’ moral law (call it God’s, call it Natural.)

          Being dogmatic is rarely helpful, I agree. However, I didn’t mention any specific codes, nor would I care to. That was the whole reason I was careful to specify that it would be very difficult to ever get to the ‘correct’ moral law. Moral codes contain the potential to come closer to that ‘law’ than we do, with the potential to make us happier. This is why people pursue religion (or philosophy): to be happy. It is certainly possible to find moral codes within religion and outside of religion. But your set of moral influences is not guaranteed to come any closer to that ideal than mine. I guess what I’m trying to say is that being inflexible is rarely helpful, whether you are pursuing that ‘correct’ morality through religion or metaethics. (No offense meant!)

          So, I would advocate flexibility. (The obvious exception is if someone happened to actually stumble onto the ‘correct’ moral law. In this case, any deviation from that law would probably be immoral. This isn’t particularly helpful, however, to your argument against dogmatism, since it suggests that the correct action for those who are assured of their closeness to the ‘correct’ moral law should be as dogmatic as possible.)

          I don’t see the point in ruling God out of the equation, since we’ve established that our terms are roughly equal. If you have an aversion to having God enter into discussions of morality, I suppose that’s fair, but since our terms seem to work similarly I think we can keep him if you don’t mind. It does make it easier for me to think about morality on a level this grandiose.

          • Daniel Fincke

            You can leave God in but I just think that it’s superfluous and potentially misleading to do so, with unintended doors left over that don’t need to be there. What do I mean? I mean that if our ethical goods can be determined via investigation of our experience using our reason, then there is no need to have any special revelation from God. Anything we can know we can ascertain through investigation. Anything that can only be claimed by a prophet but not borne out through our own experience and rational analysis is dubious. Why believe those prophets know things about ethics not clear to us through our natural moral reason.

            For example, I can assess that homosexual love can achieve all the emotional/spiritual goods of heterosexual love, just without the same reproductive possibilities. So, I can assess homosexual love and marriage and judge that it is better for gays to have their natural love inclinations encouraged into relationships in which they will thrive. This is far better than denying them institutional support and shoving them into closets to leave lives of only partial public expression and socially antagonized love relationships. They’re here, they’re queer, we need to get used to it and support them the way we would anyone else. Society does not benefit from demonizing their love or making their lives miserable.

            The ONLY reason most Americans against gays have is the Bible. So, what are we to say? Should I say that ancient disgust reactions at (male) homosexuality based on their misogynistic views on masculinity are communicating a special insight from God about morality, even though my ethical reasoning tells me that that insight much more likely reflects prejudice than ethical wisdom? No, I will go with my 21st Century, Western liberal Enlightenment and encourage the flourishing of my gay friends, family, and fellow citizens as much as I would any one else’s.

            I use this as an example but any of a number could be raised. If there are no compelling arguments for a moral position, we shouldn’t hold it. And if our best arguments support a view, we should hold it. To add “and God agrees with our judgment” whenever we are right is just superfluous. To allow that “God overrides our judgment” wherever there’s a rift between what we reason and what the Bible says is arbitrary and unfounded. So, adding God either gives an extra thumbs up to whatever we already think is ethical or gives the Bible dubious veto power that takes away our ability to reason for ourselves.

            So, I don’t see the upside for adding the “and that’s the way God made it to be” to every judgment of natural goods. And I do see a lot of potential for the downside of biblical literalism when God is kept in the conversation and the bible is kept as a trumpeted authority.

            • JonJon

              I think you might be misunderstanding the God i’m proposing here.

              Also, I don’t mean to be *ahem* ‘trumpeting.’

              More later, i have to go to work.

              have fun

            • JonJon

              Ok, here’s a question.

              When you talk about ‘assessing’ the morality of a given activity (and it certainly doesn’t have to be homosexuality, but you opened that can of worms so I guess I’ll roll with it) do you actually ‘assess’ that morality using only yourself as a source? Or do you ‘assess’ using information from other people, or even complete moral codes that you might find in a book or a particular moral philosophy?

              You seem to indicate that you are choosing to accept certain moralities, for example “my 21st Century, Western liberal Enlightenment,” over others. Is it always (or even usually) necessary to pull from outside sources when determining personal morality?

            • Daniel Fincke

              Well, as I argued earlier, you don’t need a complete moral code worked out to argue about ethics (though I think it would be nice and I think those driving public debate should have this sort of sophistication) . We all argue about ethics. I brought up “my 21st Century, Western liberal Enlightenment” framework in order to acknowledge that I think and debate within a specific tradition and that I think this tradition is broadly preferable and abstractly defensible against the claims of other traditions—say that of 1st Century Palestine for example.

              I didn’t say at all though that I “assess morality using only myself as a source.” My thinking about ethics incorporates abstract theories, arguments, and the moral appeals and experience of others. That’s really how all of us reason about morality. The only time this is not what’s happening is when someone decides to invoke an authority arbitrarily and force a shut down of discussion, demanding deference to that authority. And, of course usually such authoritarian appeals are religious in nature, which is the core problem of religion in my opinion, its demand for authoritarian thought.

    • Steve

      Wow, excellent post.

      • Steve

        Sorry – Wow, excellent post – Daniel.

        • Daniel Fincke

          Thanks! Based on your own comments, I’d love it if you made time to look around my blog and offer your thoughts on stuff there now and in the future!

  • Janet Greene

    I’m Canadian, so Happy Canada Day to all my friends of unreasonable faith! And that includes all of you who I believe have an unreasonable faith!

    • Daniel Fincke

      Happy Canada Day, Janet. I’ve always had a slightly irrational affection and prejudice in favor for your country (even though I love being an American a whole lot.) I even grew up as the only Blue Jays fan in New York and was a big Rick Moranis fan back then too. Whenever I find out someone cool (like half my favorite music from this decade and more than half the great comedians of my youth) comes from Canada, I get really excited.

      • Janet Greene

        Thanks, Daniel F & jonjon! I have to admit I have a soft spot for Americans (this did not used to be the case) because my wonderful boyfriend is American, and I will be moving to Illinois (at least that’s the plan right now) in a year.

        • JonJon

          maybe that’s why you’re so bubbly!

          my gf is home for summer

    • JonJon

      Ha. I have all sorts of pretentious scorn for Canada, but I do seem to like Canadians for some inexplicable reason.

      Happy Canada Day! (and may those words never pass my lips again!)

    • Steve

      My wife and step-daughter are Canadian.
      Happy Canada Day Janet!

  • PK

    You can’t reliably solve problems using the wrong logic…

  • Jimmy

    Whew! As the great Canadiene Stompin’ Tom Conners says, “Anna nudder big load-ah Buh-day-doze!”
    As a Born-Again Pagan, actual Native-American, I have come to know all the colonialists as religious or is the religious as colonialists?
    I think even the children of the dharma are sucking… I hate to say it, but I will anyway, even some of our traditional medicine people “teach” bad attitude towards the colonialist religions… and they all are. To us!
    I have found that it is almost impossible to get along with any of the quasi-healthy and well followers or practitioners of any the “struck-up” groups following “their-certain” way of doing life. Why even the Beeg Motorcycle Gangz could say they are a religion and they could very well be… they mean well to one another and their friends and they too, if you mess wit’em will make your life H-E-double hockey sticks.
    We Native American Indains (Canuckains for all the Habby Birdday Canadians) we have been smoozed, judged, condemned and labled by them all… and in the end we just don’t wanna be… we are “encourageable” hmmmm?? “incorrigable” Hmmmm?? Oh you know what I mean!! Too much trouble to try to convert, we are. Yoda
    Alone, So we just wanna be…
    There are a growing number of pop-up medicine people who will want you to treat them like a guru… like Gurudev of Kripalu. The only time I was there he refused to meet with me. Just before the kick his “f-en” ass outta there.
    There are a growing number of us who just practice a natural gratitude for life.
    Nuff said!
    This, I think has been the most stimulating and entertaining blog that I have ever r-r-r-r-read.
    I keep telling my brothers and sisters that it wasn’t real true christians who did what they did and keep doing to us…
    I love all that is written here. Now Nuff said!

    • CoffeeJedi


      I don’t know who you are, but could you at least TRY to communicate like a sane rational person? Holy crap, I actually feel dumber for attempting to parse the blathering inanity that is your comment.

  • Triften

    :( I started reading the article yesterday, but now they want a registration to get to the article. Sadness.

    • Steve

      If you couldn’t get to the article, then how are you posting here?

      • Daniel Fincke

        I think Triften means that the original soujourners article now needs you to register. My professor had the same problem earlier.

  • Chuck Lasker

    To the Christians in here witnessing for their lord, especially JonJon – with all the discussion about the bible, what is different between your bible and the Book of Mormon, the qu’ran, Tao Te Ching, the Apocrypha, the Marcionite Bible, The Pāli Tipitaka, the Mahayana Sutras, the Vedas, etc.? It seems deciding which one is “right” is arbitrary, simply a decision as opposed to anything factual, historical or realistic. Of any of these, the Book of Mormon has the most testimony of the accuracy of its story of how it came to be.

    • JonJon

      Don’t wanna talk about the original article, huh?

      • rodneyAnonymous

        “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

        – Stephen Roberts

        • Steve

          There’s genius in simplicity.
          Incredible quote rodney.

      • Aor

        I’ve seen you make a few attempts to draw people out of topic, JonJon. It seems a little disingenuous to take this ‘lets talk about this article’ approach only when it suits your purposes and discard it when it doesn’t. That would be hypocritical.

        About Chuck’s question…

        Believers often get put into a situation where they begin to realize that their beliefs are silly, so they want to not admit just exactly what they believe. They are easily trapped into situations where they can either admit that there is nothing inherently different between their religion and any other, past or present.. or they can run away and pretend the question wasn’t asked. When you avoid answering this question it implies that you are aware how silly it would be to just say ‘Mine is right because.. it just is” and you know we would be unconvinced. That implies that you too are unconvinced by that reasoning, as you should be. You see? You can either tell the truth, which would be unconvincing.. or you could lie, or you could avoid the question. You chose to avoid the question.

        Now imagine how much easier it would be in these kinds of discussions, open and honest conversations.. to never feel the urge to run away from something you believe to be true. Never the need to hide your reasoning because you know damn well it is silly. Never the shame of having to admit that no, there really is no inherent difference between believing in the a resurrected Jesus and Odin being hung from the World Tree.

        Honestly, wouldn’t it be a relief to not need to hide from those things anymore?

        • Aor

          Days without a reply from JonJon.. typical. Raise a difficult issue, believers scurry for the corners.

          • JonJon

            What would you like me to say?

            • Aor

              I would like you to comment on the point Chuck raised instead of playing games. You didn’t have to respond to him at all, but you chose to make a comment that put you in a hypocritical position. Since you chose to enter the conversation with that kind of remark I assumed you would stand up for your right to change the subject whenever you want to while denying that same right to others.

            • JonJon

              How ’bout them yankees?


            • Aor


  • Atheist Dumdums

    Everyone has an opinion, respect it, and you will not be a bigoted atheist.

    • Jabster

      So can you explain why I should respect all views? Please do not mix up the fact that everyone is entitled to an opinion and to voice that opinion, with having to respect that opinion. They are not the same thing.

      My opinion is that religious views are almost exclusively based on mumbo-jumbo which we would be better of without. I’ll assume that you respect, not tolerate, that view point?

    • Aor

      Do you respect someone who thinks sacrificing children to their god is a great way to spend a Sunday morning? No, you don’t. That means that you cannot and do not give respect to all religions. Learn from this, because it is very important.

    • claidheamh mor

      Like condemning, hate-filled, angry, hostile, judgmental, closed-minded, circular-reasoning, self-righteous christians respect atheists?

      I smell a christian double standard hiding its passive-aggressive stink behind deceptive language in that post.

    • claidheamh mor

      In fact, atheistdumdums, your name-calling is hostility and hatred and bigotry. I guess it isn’t covert hostility – it’s right out there in the open. What makes you a hypocrite as well as hate-filled is that you probably think of yourself a “loving christian”. Your hatred is ugly.

      You are calling for others to respect you while remaining far more than merely disrespectful to others and their beliefs.

      So,christianbigot, you’re not merely a bigot, but a hypocrite.

      Trying to change (convert) someone is demonstrating to them with your actions that they are unacceptable to you as they are.
      How’s that again? “Everyone has an opinion, respect it…”?

      You’re probably a troll who spews your hatred and then leaves the site without reading replies, but at least others see through you and know it even if you don’t:

      Your hatred is ugly.

  • Steve

    I just saw the opening page of what should be a very interesting book.
    It kind of aligns with some of the comments I’ve made here.
    Anyway, I’ll risk pissing everyone off, both atheist & Christian
    In my humble opinion, and it’s nothing more than my opinion:
    Ardent Atheist = Ardent Christian in many respects.

    (and after I promised not make any more posts here…sorry)

    Book: The Case for God
    Author: Karen Armstrong
    Releases on September 22, 2009

    May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart make Dawkins and Hitchens burn in Hell, O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen.

    Much of what we say about God these days is facile. The concept of God is meant to be hard. Too often we get lost in what Greeks called logos (reason) rather than interpreting him through mythoi – those things we know to be eternally true but can’t prove. Like Santa Claus. Religion is not about belief or faith; it is a skill. Self-deceit does not always come easily, so we have to work at it.

    Our ancestors, who were obviously right, would have been surprised by the crude empiricism that reduces faith to fundamentalism or atheism. I have no intention of rubbishing anyone’s beliefs, so help me God, but Dawkins’s critique of God is unbelievably shallow. God is transcendent, clever clogs. So we obviously can’t understand him. Duh!

    I’m going to spend the next 250 pages on a quick trawl of comparative religion from the pre-modern to the present day. It won’t help make the case for God, but it will make me look clever and keep the publishers happy, so let’s hope no one notices!

    The desire to explain the unknowable has always been with us and the most cursory glance at the cave paintings at Lascaux makes it clear these early Frenchies didn’t intend us to take their drawings literally. Their representations of God are symbolic; their religion a therapy, a sublimation of the self. Something that fat bastard Hitchens should think about.

    Much the same is true of the Bible. Astonishingly, the Eden story is not a historical account, nor is everything else in the Bible true. The Deuteronomists were quick to shift the goalposts of the meaning of the Divine when problems of interpretation and meaning were revealed. So should we be. Rationalism is not antagonistic to religion. Baby Jesus didn’t want us to believe in his divinity. That is a misrepresentation of the Greek pistis. He wanted everyone to give God their best shot and have a singalong Kumbaya.

    We’ll pass over Augustine and Original Sin, because that was a bit of a Christian own goal, and move on to Thomas Aquinas, in whom we can see that God’s best hope is apophatic silence. We can’t say God either exists or doesn’t exist, because he transcends existence. This not knowing is proof of his existence. QED. A leap of faith is in fact a leap of rationality. Obviously.

    Skipping through the Kabbalah, introduced by the Madonna of Lourdes and Mercy (1459 – ), through Erasmus and Copernicus, we come to the Age of Reason. It was unfortunate that the church rejected Galileo, but that was more of a post-Tridentine Catholic spat than a serious error and it didn’t help that a dim French theologian, Mersenne, conflated the complexities of science with intelligent design, but we’ll skip over that.

    Things came right with Darwin. Many assume he was an atheist; in reality he was an agnostic who, despite being a lot cleverer than Dawkins, could not refute the possibility of a God. Therefore God must exist, or we drift into the terrible nihilism of Sartre where we realise everything is pointless. Especially this book.

    The modern drift to atheism has been balanced by an equally lamentable rise in fundamentalism. Both beliefs are compromised and misconceived. The only logical position is apophatic relativism, as stated in the Jeff Beck (1887- ) lyric, “You’re everywhere and nowhere, Baby. That’s where you’re at.”

    I haven’t had time to deal with the tricky issues of the after-life that some who believe in God seem to think are fairly important.

    But silence is often the best policy – geddit, Hitchens? And the lesson of my historical overview is that the only tenable religious belief is one where you have the humility to constantly change your mind in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

    God is the desire beyond this desire, who exists because I say so, and the negation of whose existence confirms his transcendence. Or something like that.

    And if you believe this, you’ll believe anything.

    The digested read, digested:

    The case dismissed.

    • JonJon

      The only segment of this that I know enough about to have an actual opinion on is the jabs at dawkins and hitchens. I think New Atheism is an unfortunate trend, since it seems to give up what was previously the most unassailable foundation of atheism: objectivity. New Atheism is dedicatedly anti-religious in a way that older atheisms weren’t, and it makes me sad to see what was a viewpoint based on a deliberate, thoughtful weighing of evidence reduced to something approaching a shouting match.

      All that mostly for something to say. sounds like an at least moderately interesting read; but I’m not sure if I buy the assertion that “The only logical position is apophatic relativism.” Is it just me or is that a classic example of a logical fallacy?

      • claidheamh mor

        New Atheism is dedicatedly anti-religious in a way that older atheisms weren’t, and it makes me sad to see what was a viewpoint based on a deliberate, thoughtful weighing of evidence reduced to something approaching a shouting match.

        If, and inasmuch as, that opinion has any factual basis at all, you might consider (inasmuch as christians ever actually consider anything instead of pretending to consider while preparing their next conversion pitch) that there might be some response to the increasingly irrational, crazy, get-the-state-controlled-by-church, hate-filled religious right.

        Crazily Stupid Arizona Lady, Hypocritical South Carolina governor, and one a few “rare” individual increasingly many exposed sexual abusers, are only the most recent, the most obvious, the most famous, and make it easy for you/christians/someone to pretend that it’s only a crazy few who “aren’t reeeallll christians”, thereby diverting attention from many more really hateful and frightening christians all around them.

  • UnsareeBlooro