Connection Between Fundamentalists and Atheists

Alise Wright of Alise, Write! had a guest-post at Friendly Atheist in which she asked that atheists stop telling Progressive Christians like herself that they are not “real Christians.”

Amongst the comments were many saying thing like, “… that’s what the Bible SAYS,” ignoring the fact that Progressives are not Biblicists, pretty much by definition. (There isn’t really a definition for Progressive Christians, but not interpreting the Bible in a flat, context-free way would be part of any that existed.)

Over at Irreducible Complexity, Ian has a *facepalm* over the fact that the Fundamentalist have won:

They have successfully convinced the world that Christianity is nothing more or different to bible worship. That being a Christian is believing in an inerrant, absolute bible. That the ultimate goal of Christians is to follow every instruction in the bible.

I think Ian is partially right. I think that the prominence of conservative Christians has allowed them to define the terms of the debate, and that even many people outside Christianity have internalized those terms. But I also wonder if there isn’t another layer to it.

Both Fundamentalism and atheism are products of modernity (although only atheists admit it.) There’s a certain straightforward appeal to the Fundamentalist approach to religion that I think might appeal to modernist sensibilities. There’s a clear line of authority: everything is supposedly laid out in scripture, which is the ultimate authority and the Word of God. There’s none of the ambiguity or the subjectivity that haunts other forms of Christianity.

Of course, this means trying to force the Bible to be something it’s not. There’s no way for a few biographies and a passel of letters to become “Life’s Little Instruction Book,” and trying to force it just makes you look silly. But interpretation sounds arbitrary to some modernists, and so anything that smacks of it gets labeled “picking and choosing” or “wishy-washy.”

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andew Hall

    I’ve talked with a few atheists, and there is a significant minority who find liberal Christians far more irritating than fundies. Sure, fundies are more dangerous, but liberal Christians really, really try to have their cake and eat it too regarding the Bible and Jesus. For example, take Noah’s Flood. Lib Chiristians will deny the flood ever happened, but commonly way what a great moral story it is. The last time I checked genocide is not a great moral story.

    • Paul

      Its well known that the Old Testament is a collection of books which include history, myth and oral tradition going back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. I dont think it is contradictary for Christians to accept this fact.

      • Kodie

        It’s contradictory that Jesus had a purpose in arriving and martyring himself, resurrecting (?), it’s contradictory to take that seriously and sincerely as true as to deny the rest, and contradictory then to believe he has the power through this action to provide salvation.

        If this is how god works, if this is how god corrects a mistake, a mistake that is only allegorical if you choose to deny it or accept arbitrary parts of it, in hundreds of thousands of years of human existence, god only started to interfere about 6000 years ago, and then really it’s a storybook, and then only 2000 years ago he became interested in your eternal salvation – yes, it’s contradictory. It’s also to believe something magical happened referring to the same god as described in those stories, or Christianity, like LDS, invented chapters over a new myth to disregard large portions of the previous myth, to admit god edited himself, appended the story, to fill in the gaps where that old nonsense makes no sense, miracles still occur referring to the same god. Or they could admit they are making up a new religion, but that doesn’t have the deference to an historical god, the one we can keep building keeps the status of being historical also rather than blatantly made up just now.

  • Irreverend Bastard

    “There’s no way for a few biographies and a passel of letters to become “Life’s Little Instruction Book,”…”

    I completely agree. But why do we give a shit what the bible says, then? Shouldn’t we just throw that silly old book away? A “reasonable interpretation of” the word of god is not really the word of god, is it? If we ignore parts of the bible, we might as well ignore all of it. You don’t get to pick and choose the word of god any more than you get to pick and choose what parts of the Constitution should apply to you.

    And what would Christians do without the bible? They obviously need some kind of higher authority to tell them how to masturbate without offending their invisible friend in the sky. Who should do that? The pope? The local fire-and-brimstone preacher? God? Random voices in their head?

    Forget it. Based on the exact same Holy Book of Genocide and Bigotry, Christianity have already mutated into a 30,000-head monster of different faiths, cults and sects. Without the bible, there would be no Christianity. There would be no Christ. The bible is everything.

    “They have successfully convinced the world that Christianity is nothing more or different to bible worship. That being a Christian is believing in an inerrant, absolute bible. That the ultimate goal of Christians is to follow every instruction in the bible.”

    What else should a Christian do? How the bloody hell can you be a Christian if you do not base your faith upon the one and only holy book? And nowhere in the bible does it say “may not apply if you have reasonable objections”. If the bible is the word of god, you follow it, all of it, to the letter. If you don’t, then you’re not a Christian.

    I have to agree with Dawkins on this one. If you don’t believe in transubstantiation, you’re not a Catholic. A “Progressive Christian” is like “alternative medicine”. Not medicine, and not a Christian.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      But why do we give a shit what the bible says, then? Shouldn’t we just throw that silly old book away? A “reasonable interpretation of” the word of god is not really the word of god, is it? If we ignore parts of the bible, we might as well ignore all of it.

      This is a very fundamentalist mind-set. One constantly hears the same complaint about traditional Christianity from fundies, as if the world were binary or that interpretation were the same as “ignore,” or that it is simply a matter of individual impressions. None of that is historically true of traditional Christianity. Interpretations were hammered out over many years of discussion, debate, and consensus.
      Christianity does not get its faith from the Bible; rather, it gets its Bible from its faith. Christianity existed before the Bible was finalized. That is, a compilation of wedding songs, like the Song of Songs was retained in the Old Testament not because they were wedding songs, but because the Christians used them as allegories for the relationship of Christ to the Church.
      I’m not sure why one calls this “progressive” Christianity, since one finds it in the Traditions: in Basil, Augustine, Origen and all the rest.

  • Kodie

    I just think progressive Christians make it really obvious they are creating what they want to believe, and that’s irritating. If we all agree the bible is just a collection of stories, then what is to be sincerely believed? Ignore all the ugly parts that describe a particular god that one still believes in and believes loves them and they love him. Believe a miraculous god-man occurred to save them from a god they don’t fully accept. Oh no, our god is loving and I want to be with him and whatever I want him to be, he is, and whatever I want to ignore that is said that he is, I ignore. The magical superstitious heaven, the magical superstitious resurrection of a single person who died to correct something which I don’t actually think happened. Not a long time ago as life began, as I might accept the scientific truth of the age of the earth, Jesus came by, like, yesterday, and said, it’s cool, you don’t have to worry anymore. And he has a plan for my life. Everything happens for a reason. I believe that, and I wish you would stop persecuting me by lumping me in with those silly people who buy the whole bag of bullshit. And deep down, even though I don’t act like a Christian (by which I, Kodie, mean “like Christ”), I am selfish, imperfect, and normal, I justify being cranky, rude, jealous, thoughtless, and impatient because I’m not irrational about the age of the earth or the creation therein, I’m not an abortion doctor murderer, I don’t picket, I don’t hate gay people, and I’m saved.

    To me it’s not that they are unpleasant, but they are just people who cling to a belief that has baggage, they warp or force it to metaphorically mean beautiful messages from beyond, and are highly defensive of a religion they created to mean whatever they like it to mean, so whatever that is, they win. They don’t come out to say religious displays on public property shouldn’t be there. They do come out to say that it’s traditional and shouldn’t bother anyone.

    I didn’t grow up in any condition where I understood most people to be fundies. I grew up in and live in an environment where I believe most people are these rational progressive Christians (wherever most people are Christians), and they fail to understand secularism. Any assault on their privilege is something they either sit out quietly (and cowardly) or defend the Christian traditions in towns and cities across the US. They still hate atheists and secularism, as far as I can tell. They are still Christians in the sense that they defend and protect other Christians. It is always important for them to exceptionalize themselves if we are talking about fundamentalists: “we’re not all like that,” it is hard to pin down exactly what they are like. Ok, so you’re not bombing an abortion clinic because you’re not a wacko nutjob Christian, but you still vote because you think abortion should be illegal. They’re not keen on, AS FAR AS I CAN TELL, limiting the powers of fundamentalist Christians to legislate as atheists tend to be. Plus, like I said, they cut in line, they’re selfish and foolhardy as any human can be (I’m not singling them out because they refuse to be visible or exceptional humans), and they want us to respect their faith. Their obviously imaginary whatever they want “faith” in the same Jesus Christ who saved them from a metaphorically awful god’s wrath. If the wrath is fake, if the fall never happened, what is the salvation for, and why did god send a solution to a problem that was only poetic?

    Yes, that’s irritating.

    • Paul

      I think that you are wrong there Kodie. To say it is just a collection of stories is a massive generalisation. Thats another thing, I dont think that abortion should be illegal and I dont think everything in the Bible is a metaphor. For me repentance, redemtion and salvation are very real. There is a proven practical phsycological benefit to forgiveness, whether forgiving others, or even yourself. The power of prayer has also been shown to make a difference. For some science is a new religion and one which they follow with blind faith.
      Religion has got itself a bad name, largely thanks to fundamentalists, but in my opinion it is peoples interpretation and not the religions themselves that are a bad thing!

      • Kodie

        I made a reference to abortion there not to presume anything about any particular Christian but to show that it’s not clear where any particular Christian stands on any particular issue. They may not be bombing abortion clinics and can safely say “I’m not like that,” to say “that is crazy bullshit, I’m not crazy bullshit.” But there you go, unfortunately I have stuff I have to go out and do today or this would be more thorough. I see you being vague and defensive. You might be part monster and part silly, and mostly a normal human being I could eat lunch with and not get into a stupid argument, but I can’t tell. You still make claims and provide no evidence. Vaguely ignoring the douchey god while preferring to trot out what a positive it is. I don’t agree. But I can’t talk about it anymore until later this evening. Sorry if this is too blunt, but for time!

      • Michael

        Science is not a religion. It is not a faith-based worldview. It is not a belief in God or the supernatural. It is not an ecclesiastical organization. It is not a system of myths, traditions, rituals, and ethical teachings. It has no dogma and no authorities. It is not a visual text editor. In short, it fits none of the definitions one might normally attribute to “religion.”

        The “power of prayer” has not been demonstrated to help with physical or psychological healing to any convincing extent. The research on personal prayer is conflicted, while the few studies that exist on the subject of intercessory prayer suggest that it has no effect, except that the expectation of receiving prayers may have some negative effects (due, perhaps, to performance anxiety). But that’s all irrelevant anyway. The relevant question is not if praying makes people feel good, but if anybody is actually listening. Certainly all evidence throughout history points to the negative there.

        Saying that your religion teaches the value of forgiveness is not the point, because that’s not what makes it a religion. It is inevitable that any sufficiently large code of morals will contain some good ones, and those will inevitably left over when you separate the wheat from the chaff. But you’re not just saying “we should forgive people who are sorry; you’re saying that if we do, we will go to a castle in the sky ruled by an eternal zombie named “I am” who remotely fathered himself. It makes no sense to add all this meaningless, speculative, nonsensical baggage to a reasonable core value.

        • Elemenope

          Yes, but he didn’t say “science is a religion”. What he said, which is more reasonable and probably true, is “For some, science is a new religion”. Non-scientists who do not understand scientific principles but nevertheless invest science with a powerful optimism and a position as an eventual cure-all can reasonably be said to be using science as a placeholder for religion. In sociology, the phenomenon is called “scientism”, and it is an actual thing.

          Most people who claim the title “skeptic” reasonably try to avoid this type of thinking. Then again, people like that tend to go out of their way to get a handle on the gross scientific processes that underlay what they are talking about. Most people, including most atheists, are not skeptics. Ironically, scientism is more common amongst the already religious than among any other population, since they are already primed to believe in the providence of invisible forces, and they tend to think of science as just one more invisible force.

      • Reginald Selkirk

        The power of prayer has also been shown to make a difference.

        I don’t know what study, or what kind of prayer you are talking about. Intercessory prayer; i.e. praying by third parties for the sick to get better, has been repeatedly tested. In every statistically significant study, intercessory prayer has been shown to have no benefit, except in two studies (Columbia prayer study, Elisabeth Targ) known to be fraudulent.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Intercessory prayer; i.e. praying by third parties for the sick to get better, has been repeatedly tested.

          No, it hasn’t; and it probably cannot be. It assumes that the entire thing is mechanistic and that this input always produces that output. It assumes that no one anywhere is praying for “everyone,” and so forth.

          • Elemenope

            No, it hasn’t; and it probably cannot be.

            You’re probably right about that.

            It assumes that the entire thing is mechanistic and that this input always produces that output.

            To be fair, this is in response to claims as to its efficacy. To wit, religious folks are making the claim that the act of prayer has just this sort of consistent result. That claim is only backed off from when the expected results don’t materialize. So it isn’t a proper test of all prayer, since as you indicate there are too many confounding factors to ever really test a proposition like “prayer sometimes works for some things”. But it is a refutation of those who insist, flatly, that “prayer works”.

            • Ye Olde Statistician

              religious folks are making the claim that the act of prayer has just this sort of consistent result.

              Which is weird, because the traditional churches — the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic — make no such simplistic claim, and between them they represent almost two-thirds of professed Christians. Far more than Bill and Ted’s Excellent Bible Shack.

            • Elemenope

              Which is weird, because the traditional churches — the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic — make no such simplistic claim, and between them they represent almost two-thirds of professed Christians.

              What authorities say people ought to believe and what their followers actually do believe are rarely similar. What should one test, the theoretical but coherent belief, or the messy but actually lived belief?

            • Ye Olde Statistician

              @LMNOP
              Should we test the theory of natural selection or should we test the popular understanding of that theory?
              I say go with the strongest case, not puerile misunderstandings. If you set a straw man on fire, you have not really defeated anyone.

            • Elemenope

              The more properly analogous question is should we test a scientific theory as it is described in textbooks, or should we test it as it is probed imperfectly by experimentation?

              The asymmetry between science and religion, especially in this context, is that individual scientists are bound at least notionally to a strict methodology, and thus a rather handy way of judging whether a scientist is “doing it right”. Even the strictest religious orthodoxies are much less capable of stating an invariable “right way” to practice.

              Point the second is that empirical truths don’t change dependent upon what people believe about them. On the contrary, religious beliefs shift directly in line with shifting social and philosophic opinion amongst its members (not to mention those amongst the wider society in which they find themselves).

              Not to mention the fact that there is a different intersection entirely between applying correct methodology and achieving the desired output. If you use scientific principles improperly when constructing a device, the result is simply a device that doesn’t function. On the other hand, if a Christian, say, holds a belief about the nature of the Son in the context of the Father that differs slightly from orthodoxy, there is no functional difference in output (despite how exercised people may get about the difference itself); there is no reasonable belief even within the context of the belief system that such a difference of opinion would make that practitioner’s prayers less likely to be heard or less likely to be heeded.

              In this case, of the religious laity entertaining entirely different beliefs than their respective hierarchies, the “stronger” case–i.e. the one less filled with straw–is the one addressing the belief as it is actually, you know, believed by people. Which is the better functional criticism of socialism, one which tries to critique the ideas on paper, or the one which looks at all the attempted implementations in actual countries and economies?

            • Elemenope

              The short, short version is simply that religion’s necessary focus is upon the believer (since the object of the practice is to connect or reconnect a person with their God or other foundational metaphysical principle), while science’s necessary focus is upon the objective physical universe. What matters in judging a theory is whether it corresponds to physical facts of the matter. What matters in judging a religious belief is upon the personal efficacy of the belief *actually used by persons* to attempt to reconnect with God.

              This is the nutshell of why your proposed retort question is painfully inapposite.

            • Ye Olde Statistician

              @LMNOP
              It’s not entirely true that natural science is context-free. It’s no coincidence that Darwin “discovered” natural selection in the England of laissez faire economics, or that quantum theory and relativity emerged while the arts were exploring impressionism and pointilism. When engineering technology meant hydraulics (irrigation canals, aqueducts, etc.) the world was imagined as hydraulic and the mind was governed by four humours. When we became enamored of clever mechanisms, we imagined that the world was mechanistic and the mind was a collection of cogs and wheels (metaphorically). Now computers are the sexy technology and we imagine the mind as “software” running on “hardware.”

              But the point remains that to conduct victory dances after “refuting” a straw man argument is unseemly. It’s like beating up on a Little League team, instead of playing the Green Bay Packers. It makes the case look weak. It doesn’t matter how long or short your dodge is when all you have done is dodge. The Old Atheists didn’t dodge.

          • Reginald Selkirk

            Wikipedia even has a page for “Studies of intercessory prayer.” Prominent studies within the last decade or so include one by the Mayo Clinic, one by Duke University (MANTRA study), and the STEP study at Harvard (funded by the Templeton Foundation.)
            .
            The same page has a paragraph on the Columbia University “IVF-ET prayer scandal.”
            You can read the Wikipedia page on Elisabeth Targ for a paragraph on her fraudulent research on healing prayer.

            • Noelle

              I prefer cochrane to wiki when comparing multiple medical studies.

              The intercessory prayer studies:
              http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000368.pub3/abstract

              It’s trickier to find anything on personal prayer, though some do equate it with meditation. I think this is the more interesting question: not whether other people praying helps you, but does your praying do anything for or to you personally? If one subtracts god from the equation, is the act of prayer still helpful? Can it be put in the same category as biofeedback or meditation? I’m frustrated by the lack of studies which include prayer in this context.

              This discusses prayer and meditation for end-of-life suffering relief. I particulaly like that it works better combined with a massage.
              http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD007544.pub2/abstract

            • Kodie

              I think if you ask the question: is prayer an effective way to get an answer from god?, well of course there is no way to calculate that. I find some methods of meditation helpful. I sort of freestyle it. For instance, I was in a competition yesterday, I like to be very early, well that didn’t happen. I start to panic, and I kind of got lost on the way over, and there was panicfully nowhere to stop and ask. As it turns out, I had plenty of time anyway. That’s one benefit of planning to arrive extra early. I have “lateness” habits, so being more than just on time, or even what another person might consider “early” is important. I need to psychologically take in the space. I cannot just walk in, get myself ready and go in a fixed short amount of time. I need mental isolation in the crowd in which I am about to perform, not just physically stretched, I need freedom to just be there and go to the next step when I’m ready not because I’m due to start. I might even take some sort of pose that feels to me “calmness” in a chaotic environment. To psych myself up.

              Hell, yes, this is important and effective. I would not say necessary for everyone. I am not praying at the last hour to be provided a triumphant day. I have always said that prayer as a session of meditation is probably a good thing. I think the effectiveness of prayer, or any studies to do with it, I would say prayer can be effective.

              I would never say prayer AFFECTS GOD TO INTERVENE. Obviously a study done to work on that problem would be difficult but not impossible. The jug of milk video on youtube is to the point. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jk6ILZAaAMI

              To ask if “there is a power of prayer” or not should separate the types of prayers. People can pray for things they want and take a sign to go for the thing they want. They pray to god what should they do about a potential dating partner. Rather than rely on your own faculties, you want to see that guy again so you conjure up a rationale that says you should pursue him and attribute it as an answer to a prayer. Maybe you get married, maybe he is a liar and a user, maybe both. Maybe you are so confused because you thought god was leading you to be with this man when that’s all you really wanted, you wanted the answer to be yes. In some case, you could get the answer yes, go with him, find out he’s a rat, but an instructional rat. God had a reason for pushing you to see him again instead of move on. Or god had a reason for pushing you to marry him even though he wasn’t the best. Even if you later divorce, you reason out that god had some plan for you to learn something from it all. Or he was the best, in which case, of course god finally led you after all the lessons you learned to “the one”. The prayer angle to this is, you’re going to find some way to do whatever you decide to do and pin it all on prayer and god, and never say prayer wasn’t effective (or god wasn’t loving) even if you end up in a horrible relationship with someone you’d actually be better off never having met.

              You can’t go back to that possibility, you can’t go back to the moment where you weighed out the problem, or talked it over with some friends to see if they saw something that you’d overlooked. If they see anything bad, you just say they are catty or jealous, you pray and pray whether you should take a chance, and you WANT TO, so you know what the answer will be.

              How can anyone say prayer has any power? Sometimes you, yourself, make a smart or lucky decision. And you win at life. Maybe you just have a better head on your shoulders than some fools do. You meet the right people, you have great timing, and yet you ask god is this what I should do? And he says “yes” and it turns out not only ok, but great. “Power of prayer” has been documented, my butt.

            • Elemenope

              I find some methods of meditation helpful. I sort of freestyle it.

              Some years ago I did a bit of qigong guided meditation, which actually ends up being pretty interesting and enlightening; simply directing your full attention to individual parts of your body can help to notice perceptions and proprioceptions that your brain tends to filter out in the noisier day-to-day activity.

              The reason I mention was that one of the people in the group showed an inordinate concern about “doing it wrong” and asked the instructor. The instructor responded with an anecdote about a master he studied with who was an itinerant teacher in rural northern China. The master came upon an elderly man who was practicing a technique that he thought was suboptimal, so he showed the man the proper way to do it. The man tried his way and was appreciative for the instruction. Then the master moved on.

              The master ended up coming back to that village some two decades later, and sure enough, the same elderly guy (now even two decades more impressively aged) was still there, and doing the meditation technique the way he originally knew, as opposed to the one the master taught. The master, observing this, turned to one of his pupils and said, “for him, that is the proper technique”.

              It seemed to be a very pragmatic way of looking at things, so it stuck with me. Meditation, if it is to be helpful at all, is going to be pretty idiosyncratic to match the needs of the individual employing it.

          • Reginald Selkirk

            Ye Old Cranky Statistician: It assumes that no one anywhere is praying for “everyone,” and so forth.

            Likewise, you can never test for gravity, because there are masses out there which are not part of the experiment which have might have a gravitational effect on all components.
            .
            Or else your objection could be wrong.

            • Ye Olde Statistician

              Your assumption is that prayers are like physical masses and that each prayer has an ineluctable “pull” on God’s grace (or whatever) that diminishes with the inverse square of the distance from the person prayed for. IOW, the old 19th century mechanical metaphor that physics demolished a hundred years ago. But if I understand how the matter is supposed to work, one prayer may be sufficient. Especially if the others are praying/not praying as an “experiment” and not as a genuine prayer.

              But this sort of loosey-goosey stuff is what passes for “experimentation” in the social “sciences.” My own background in math-physics and applied statistics perhaps gives me a more stringent view of properly designed experiments than a sociologist or psychologist. YMMV.

      • FO

        Science has no rituals, no leaders, no dogmas.
        When you destroy its most cherished ideas, and you get a Nobel Prize, loads of publications, and eternal glory.

        Next time you say “for some” you have better to specify who these people are.
        Also, may I see the studies that confirm the Power of Prayer?

        • Elemenope

          Science has no rituals, no leaders, no dogmas.

          It most certainly does. Its leaders dictate how research resources are distributed and who gets published. Its dogmas regarding basic epistemology are if anything more firm than those typical of religions. And there is quite a bit of ritualized behavior both in the practice of each individual science and also in the process of getting published.

          That its rituals seem to be actually efficacious gives them one up over religious rituals, but that doesn’t make them not rituals.

          When you destroy its most cherished ideas, and you get a Nobel Prize, loads of publications, and eternal glory.

          Here’s where the strength of science truly lies. It’s not that there are no rituals, leaders, or dogmas in science, it’s simply that if you succeed in overturning the dominant paradigm while staying within the epistemological rules, you’re allowed to win the argument and establish a new paradigm that explains things better.

          • FO

            Come on Elemenope, you can do better than this.

            Science’s “leaders” are bureaucrats that control the **money** poured into it, not the conscience, the idea, the morals… Their only authority lies in what gets funded, not in moral, spiritual or philosophical pull.
            How many “science leaders” that decide who gets funding can you name?
            And most researchers agree that the publication system is utterly fucked up.

            The only “dogma” that you could pull out is that your understanding must be rooted in *reality*, and as far as dogmas go very -reasonable-, and the efficacy and practicality of it can be demonstrated and is not to be assumed.

            By your idea of ritual, I perform a ritual every time I go take a dump.
            I think you have enlarged the meaning of the three words up to the point where they are uttery meaningless.

            • Elemenope

              Come on Elemenope, you can do better than this.

              :-b

              Science’s “leaders” are bureaucrats that control the **money** poured into it, not the conscience, the idea, the morals… Their only authority lies in what gets funded, not in moral, spiritual or philosophical pull.

              You’re not seriously arguing that controlling the funding doesn’t impact those other things in a rather direct way? Much like the oft overused but still painfully true saw that the power to tax is the power to destroy, the power to decide which projects get funding and which ones languish affects the basic direction of how science will progress, as well as who within it end up “winners” and “losers”. In this, science differs not at all from other institutionalized human structures, including the structural instantiation of religion.

              How many “science leaders” that decide who gets funding can you name?

              That’s kind of a silly challenge since science is oligarchical instead of monarchial. The tyranny of committees, and all that.

              And most researchers agree that the publication system is utterly fucked up.

              And yet, it persists, as strong as ever. Remind you of anything?

              The only “dogma” that you could pull out is that your understanding must be rooted in *reality*, and as far as dogmas go very -reasonable-, and the efficacy and practicality of it can be demonstrated and is not to be assumed.

              That’s a heckuva dogma. One I happen to approve of heartily, and I imagine you do as well, but still a dogma. That’s not being defined downward in any way; rigorous empiricism in epistemology and reductive materialism in ontology are the two unwavering, inarguable dogmatic planks of science. To play in the science playground, those are the prerequisites.

              By your idea of ritual, I perform a ritual every time I go take a dump.
              I think you have enlarged the meaning of the three words up to the point where they are uttery meaningless.

              What I mean by ritual is any repetitive action where the person undertaking the procedures therein are not necessarily aware of the reason why each step is (allegedly) efficacious, such that the person believes their efficacy mainly upon an appeal to authority. And if you ever talk to research scientists, yes they often have a handle on the large picture, but if you quizzed them in detail about every single lab practice, you will find that they don’t exactly know why things are done a very particular way; someone else a while ago figured out that doing a procedure in a specific way avoids a host of problems, and so by the time it comes to your researcher to implement them he or she only need know that it avoids problems the particulars of which he or she probably does not know.

              Ironically, breakthroughs often happen when a scientist uncovers a hidden effect introduced unawares by lab techniques and only noticed when someone alters the procedure.

              And “taking a dump” is very different in different cultures with varying emphases on decorum and concerns with divergent concepts of cleanliness, and most definitely qualify for ritual status in the anthropological sense. Again, I’m not defining anything down, just applying the definitions to something that most people don’t bother to apply them to. Philosophers and sociologists who study science and its practice, on the other hand, do all the time.

        • Noelle

          Science has no rituals?

          It is ur own fault if you choose to sit out on the ice cream social.

          • Elemenope

            That’s definitely a ritual I can get behind.

  • http://afrolatinoatheist.tumblr.com dantresomi

    I read her piece and finds that she completely misses the mark. Many of us in the freethinking community know the difference between fundies and non fundies. Our point is not that we lump in the same boat, but that fact that there are liberal christians who still believe in nonsense such as hell or heaven.

    I know she takes issues with some atheists who “attack” christians as if they are all fundies, but those trolls are a few. I don’t think its a good idea to level that blame on the entire freethinking community

    • Reginald Selkirk

      Many of us in the freethinking community know the difference between fundies and non fundies.

      Indeed. The criticism directed at Fundies and non-fundies is different. Literalism vs. cherry-picking.

      • Ian

        So why do you direct criticism of non-fundies for cherry picking if they don’t claim that ultimate authority lies in the bible. That’s like criticising atheists for not believing Dawkins is the messiah.

        Rather, your comment betrays the fact that you don’t, in fact, understand the difference.

        • Bill

          Here’s the thing. If the ultimate authority for Christianity isn’t the Bible, what is it? I’ve never gotten this questions adequately answered by a “Liberal Christian.” I’ve asked over and over again, and the answer usually boils down to something like “well it’s just something I feel.” That doesn’t cut it. If you are arguing for the existence of an all powerfu,l all knowing, creator of everything, you are going to have to do better than “I feel he exists.”

          The reason atheists spend so much time discussing biblical literalism is because at least fundamentalists actually point to some foundation for their beliefs. Liberal Christians don’t even go that far. Nailing down a liberal Christian on the basis for her beliefs is like trying to nail jello to a wall.

          • UrsaMinor

            This.

          • http://theotherweirdo.wordpress.com The Other Weirdo

            Excellently said! Well, typed, at any rate.

          • Ian

            “I’ve asked over and over again, and the answer usually boils down to something like “well it’s just something I feel.” ”

            Really? Almost every progressive Christian I’ve asked that question says “God”. In fact, that’s the answer in the statement of faith of most non-fundamentalist denominations.

            • Sunny Day

              That’s the same answer Bill was given, they just used less words.

            • Bill

              “Really? Almost every progressive Christian I’ve asked that question says “God”. ”
              Ok – Please provide evidence for the existence of god.

            • UrsaMinor

              You already know the answer you’re going to get to that one, Bill:
              “It’s in the Bible!”

            • Bill

              Ursa – Or: “Well I feel it in my heart.”

              On a related note, I do so love the socratic method.

            • http://fugodeus.com Nox

              So how do you determine what god wants?

            • Ian

              Presumably those are all interesting questions. But hardly reinforces the point I was responding to. The idea that most progressive Christians claim that the ultimate authority on their faith is their feelings seems to be obviously false.

              Whether you believe in the God they believe in or not, is another matter. I don’t. I suspect most of you don’t either.

            • Sunny Day

              No you are just dodging the real question here by claiming that God is the ultimate authority on their faith without telling us how you/they determine what god wants.

              Going with the answer of its just something they feel is at least a more honest answer than leaving it to an nebulous and ill defined communication with god.

            • Bill

              “Presumably those are all interesting questions. But hardly reinforces the point I was responding to. The idea that most progressive Christians claim that the ultimate authority on their faith is their feelings seems to be obviously false.

              Whether you believe in the God they believe in or not, is another matter. I don’t. I suspect most of you don’t either.”

              Come on Ian, this is just dishonest. If “God” is the authority for Christianity, then you have to be able to argue for the existence of God in order for the religion to have any foundation at all. Put another way, in order for Liberal Christians to point to God as the authority for their religion, they must be able to show his existence and how they know what he wants.

              I will ask again, please tell me the evidence supporting your claim that God exists?

            • Ian

              “Come on Ian, this is just dishonest. ” How? You made a claim that most progressive Christians claim their views are based on their feelings. I don’t believe you. How am I being dishonest?

              “I will ask again, please tell me the evidence supporting your claim that God exists?” I’ve never made a claim that God exists, I suspect you’re missing something here.

              You said something “Liberal Christians cherry pick”, I said “that’s a pointless criticism, because they don’t believe authority is in the bible.” You said something like “Liberal Christians I talk to claim they base their religion on their feelings”, I said “Bullshit – I don’t believe they do”. Blustering on with asking me to prove the existence of a God I don’t believe in doesn’t hide the fact that you’re thrashing for something to land here.

            • Ian

              @Sunny Day – I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware *I* was claiming that God was the authority for their faith. I was making they point that *they* claim that, and so challenging Bill’s statement. Which in turn was responding to Bill’s claim that Liberal Christians are guilty of cherry picking, by suggesting that the criticism is irrelevant to someone who doesn’t think the bible has authority.

            • Sunny Day

              You also were not aware that I said you/they was because I was unsure if you held that view or was just offering up a stupid challenge that some how knowing what god wants without referring to the bible is different than Bills answer of, “well it’s just something I feel.”

              My point still stands offering up “god’ as the answer for ultimate authority is the same response that Bill offered. You just used less words to say the same thing.

            • Sunny Day

              “You said something like “Liberal Christians I talk to claim they base their religion on their feelings”, I said “Bullshit – I don’t believe they do””

              You’ve had three opportunities to explain why you thought that would be a vaild answer.

            • Bill

              “You said something like “Liberal Christians I talk to claim they base their religion on their feelings”, I said “Bullshit – I don’t believe they do”. Blustering on with asking me to prove the existence of a God I don’t believe in doesn’t hide the fact that you’re thrashing for something to land here.”

              Hmmmm, yet more avoidance of the question. Typical.

              Ok, let’s try again. I’ve said Liberal Christians who disclaim the Bible as the basis for Christianity base their religion on feelings. You claim the base it on God. Fair representation?

              My point: If said Christians are not using the Bible as evidence for the existence of this God you say is the foundation of their religion, the evidence must come from somewhere else. But you must agree that something has to support their belief that God exists in order for God to be the foundation of Christianity. No? When pressed for the evidence supporting God’s existence, without fail, Liberal Christains who don’t use the Bible to support such claims have told me “It’s just something I feel.” Or the liberal Christian version of the statement: “It’s a matter of faith.”

              See, there is a direct link between my request for evidence supporting God’s existence and my claim that Liberal Christains base their religion on feelings. If they claim God exists based on “feelings,” and God is the foundation of their religion, the religion is based on feelings.

              Now, I see elsewhere in this thread that you claim to be a non-believer. (I’m not sure I believe that but we will go with it for now.) Based on your representations above, you have had similar coversations with Liberal Christians, and have gotten the answer “God” as opposed to “feelings/faith.” Please tell me the evidence these liberal christians have given you supporting the exitence of God.

            • Bill

              As to how your being dishonest.

              There’s a clear line between the foundational use of feelings for the claimed existence of God, and teh resultin problem of those same feelings being the foundation of the religion worshipping that God. It’s an easy equation to figure out. Any 5th grader could do it.

              You ignored the obvious issue and just landed on: “Well they say God supports it,” while acting like you don’t understand the simple logic involved. That’s dishonest.

            • Ian

              @Sunny Day – why do I have to think it is a valid answer. Bill made a claim, didn’t back it up with evidence, and I find in my experience it is untrue. I’m sorry you think I’m somehow the one making stuff up here.

            • Ian

              I’m sorry to keep coming back to my point, Bill (whatever you seem to want to make me argue).

              But you didn’t say in your original post that the question you’d asked was “what evidence do you have for the existence of God”, you said “If the ultimate authority for Christianity isn’t the Bible, what is it? I’ve asked [liberal christians] over and over again, ” so I assumed that’s what you meant. If you’d have said what you meant right out, I wouldn’t have bothered to respond.

            • Ian

              So I suspect this probably isn’t going anywhere, so I’ll run with your other questions:

              “I’m not sure I believe that but we will go with it for now.”

              In my experience, some people find it very difficult to comprehend anyone disagreeing with them unless they disagree with everything. The enemy fallacy. It drives US political debate. And, when I disagree with other atheists, I very often get told they don’t believe I’m an atheist. There’s a fundamentalist tendency, I think, in atheism, with a very heavy pressure to think exactly alike. I don’t go for that. So if that makes me not a True Scotsman as a result, so be it. You’re free to think I’m a raving fundamentalist or a closet theist if you like. If it helps to make the world more black and white and comprehensible to you.

              “Based on your representations above, you have had similar coversations with Liberal Christians, and have gotten the answer “God” as opposed to “feelings/faith. Please tell me the evidence these liberal christians have given you supporting the exitence of God.”

              I tend to get a kind of empirical portfolio of personal history when I go there. “I believe in God because I’ve seen this, and done that, and heard the other. Because I prayed and I was healed, because I was given a word of encouragement, because I heard God speak to me.” Not described as ‘feelings’, though I get why you want to use that word (because, as a good modernist, you know that feelings are bad and thinking is good, and you’re using ‘feelings’ as a pejorative stand-in for subjectivity, which is incorrect, but nicely polemical). Rarely (but not never) have I heard someone say ‘I believe in God because I feel God exists’, though if you systematically work through their list of data I’m sure they’d say things like “well I know that specific bit of data was God because it felt like him” to some of them. Of those people I can think who might talk about ‘feelings’, they tend to have non-theistic conceptions of God (ground of all being, or ultimate concern Gods).

              To show I do have some claim to citizenship of Scotland, the land of my fathers, I’d say I’ve never been given any evidence that I can’t give a ready non-supernatural explanation to, and so it doesn’t convince me. It is rare I am given evidence for which there is an objective method of determining which is true, however. Usually the ones that can be objectively determined are around healing hoaxes. But they are the minority. I have been told that I cannot come to know God because I am too cynical. Which seems like special pleading to me. There could be a God who operated that way, I suppose, but he’d be a pretty reprehensible character, if he were.

            • Sunny Day

              “why do I have to think it is a valid answer. ”

              I didn’t realize you were trolling, my mistake.
              Carry on.

            • Ian

              Now I’m trolling? Come on grow up man. At the very least you might try to justify why you think I have the burden of demonstrating anything in relation to Bill claims…

            • http://fugodeus.com Nox

              Okay. So how do they determine what god wants?

              You might want to ignore the question but it is absolutely related to the point you are trying to argue. Even if you do leave aside the question of god’s existence, if someone is going to attempt to follow god’s will, let alone make a whole religion out of it, they will first need to come up with a will for god to have.

              If the bible is not a reliable source for what christians believe, then where are they extracting their opinions about god from? And could this perhaps be related to the trend where everyone’s personal god happens to agree with that person’s worldview?

              Here’s the thing. No one is saying liberal christians can’t call themselves christians. The argument I’m seeing is that they don’t get to arbitrarily decide what christian means and insist that only they are the real christians and the other ones don’t count. Just because you want to throw your brothers under a bus, doesn’t mean we’re going to pretend they don’t exist.

            • Ian

              “Okay. So how do they determine what god wants?”

              Yeah, that’s a really interesting and important question, I think.

              You have to here distinguish two things: firstly how they *actually* arrive at the ‘Will of God’ (assuming for a moment there is no God to actually communicate it directly), and how they *claim* or theologize coming up with it.

              I suspect the *vast* majority of the *actual* way is a kind of group-think: God’s will is the averaged out will of all the people a particular Christian associates with in their faith, weighted by the importance a Christian assigns to them. With longer distance influences reaching through Christianity, even to fundies. When a Christian ‘discovers’ some historic tradition (Celtic Christianity of post-Roman britain, say, as a trendy example), they connect and average out some of those people’s view on the Will of God too. When a mainstream liberal Christian says what they think God’s will is, I think it is doubtful they are expressing their own unalloyed desires, but instead expressing the result of a communal dialog, mediated through the sermons they hear, the conversations they have, the books they read, and so on. I see no reason to think the exact same thing isn’t happening with fundamentalists, as well, because while they *claim* to follow the bible, they don’t in practice (and I’d say their own description of their own hermeneutics demonstrates that). So a fundie believes homosexuality is a sin because their religious context says it is, not because of the bible (most fundies have no problem getting divorced, say, and that is adultery, by Jesus’s explicit declaration). I see no reason to say that almost all Christian doesn’t derive their ‘Will of God’ to a great extent in this way (I can think of a few individuals in Christian history who didn’t, but literally only a few I know of).

              ” The argument I’m seeing is that they don’t get to arbitrarily decide what christian means and insist that only they are the real christians and the other ones don’t count. ” I suspect you’ve inverted that. Mostly it is fundies who claim that others aren’t doing Christianity right. In fact it was a foundational claim in fundamentalism in the early C20. From there it has spread to Evangelicalism. There are other branches of Christianity that are also exclusivist, such as the official doctrine of the Catholic church, but Catholic doctrine is always tricky, because Catholicism doesn’t have a theology of the church based on belief, so you find more divergence in the claimed beliefs of Catholics, than you would fundamentalists, for example. People identifying as Liberal Christians are far more likely to be universalist than fundies (i.e. many don’t even think Christianity is the only way to salvation) And, I’m afraid, if nobody were claiming that they weren’t doing Christianity ‘right’ then this debate would never have got started. That is certainly the impetus for my post and for Alice’s initial rant. Its heartening to hear you say that a liberal Christian is just as entitled to call themselves that as a fundie. I agree. That’s about the only point I wanted to defend.

              They aren’t my brothers, I’m not a believer.

            • Ian

              (incidentally this group-think stuff isn’t my invention, it has been the consensus view among anthropologists of religion since Durkheim’s ‘Les formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse’, and traces back beyond that to Feuerbach, at least, to my knowledge.)

            • Bill

              “I tend to get a kind of empirical portfolio of personal history when I go there. “I believe in God because I’ve seen this, and done that, and heard the other. Because I prayed and I was healed, because I was given a word of encouragement, because I heard God speak to me.”

              This is the same as saying “I feel it.” We are arguing about nothing.

              “But you didn’t say in your original post that the question you’d asked was “what evidence do you have for the existence of God”, you said “If the ultimate authority for Christianity isn’t the Bible, what is it? I’ve asked [liberal christians] over and over again, ” so I assumed that’s what you meant. If you’d have said what you meant right out, I wouldn’t have bothered to respond.”

              Oh, I see, your weren’t being dishonest. You just aren’t very bright, and couldn’t see the obvious logical connection between the two. You thought when I said “feelings” it meant a literal use of that word. Got it.

              As to your claims to atheism. It doesn’t matter one bit whether I think you believe or not. But I’ve had enough experience with people who claim atheism but argue for religious thought to have fiarly good radar. Often when pressed they admit to some form of “belief.” You set off the radar. It’s not 100% accurate and I admit to the possibility of being wrong.

              To be clear, I wasn’t claiming “No true Scotsman.” I was saying you show the signs of someone with some form of belief.

            • Ian

              “This is the same as saying “I feel it.””

              I just don’t buy that. Not unless ‘I feel it’ basically covers anything. At some point you can reduce anything to ‘I feel it’, if by ‘I feel it’ you mean – I have to make a subjective decision about it. Because ultimately every decision you make is subjective. Feelings are subjective, but the converse isn’t true. As I said, I think you’re using ‘feelings’ perjoratively, because you’re working under some kind of structuralism that devalues them.

              “Oh, I see, your weren’t being dishonest. You just aren’t very bright, ”
              :) Of course not. Because to call you out on your superciliousness I have to be either dishonest, thick, or a closet theist. Figures. I’m sure if we carried on you’d find some other mental failing to give me to justify why I have the audacity not to fall at your superior intellect.

            • Bill

              “I just don’t buy that. Not unless ‘I feel it’ basically covers anything. At some point you can reduce anything to ‘I feel it’, if by ‘I feel it’ you mean – I have to make a subjective decision about it. Because ultimately every decision you make is subjective. ”

              This just isn’t true. We don’t make subjective decisions about the existence of things. (Except god of course.) Nobody says I subjectively believe cars exist. People have seen and operated cars, therefore the know they exist.

              If I tell you that you should subjectively believe – without any objective evidence supporting it – that dragons secretly control a world wide conspiracy to keep us addicted to oil. You’d rightly ask for the evidence supporting such a claim, and reject the argument if I gave you unverifiable personal experiences that boil down to “I feel it to be so.” (Or if you prefer: “The dragons talk to me in my heart.”)

              While there is a certain amount of subjectivity in evaluating evidence, there is a reasonable baseline of objective evidence that is required before we can say the evidence in any way supports the existence of something. (Let alone whether that something requires us to act in a given way.) Without that baseline of evidence, believing something exists boils down to nothing more than feelings.

              “Superciliousness.” Excellent SAT word. But your jab at me doesn’t address the fact that you ingored an obviously logical argument – made by me in others in this thread – in favor of a discussion of semantics.

            • Sunny Day

              “Now I’m trolling?”

              Yep.
              I’m not the one offering up a contrary viewpoint that I don’t hold to and refusing to defend why I thought it was a valid answer.

            • Ian

              Bill, cool, we seem to be off ‘feelings’ and onto subjectivity, which is progress, imho. Except the bit where you sneak it back in, but hey, small moves.

              At some point everything is subjective. This was Kant’s point – there is no direct access to anything objective. Everything is mediated through subjectivity. So there’s nothing you can claim to believe in that cannot be doubted back to a pure subjective judgement. Doubt can conquer any claim you want to make and turn it into ‘feelings’. Descartes made a game attempt to follow that through, but felt the need to throw his method out when it came to God, which was a shame.

              So you aren’t talking about what Christians believe at all, you’re whole thing about ‘boiling down to feelings’ was just a fancy way of saying that the reasons Christians give you, (which are not expressed in terms of feelings at all) you don’t believe are sufficient to warrant their conclusions. The reasons may be epistemic, but they don’t pass your required level of doubt.

              Which is, again, fine, and I agree with you – they don’t convince me either, for the same reasons. But what I didn’t figure out is that when you appeared to be given an emic description of what Christians believe. Now I suspect you thought you were being etic throughout. You appeared to be saying what Christians believe, and were in fact saying what you believe. Maybe the difference between what someone else thinks and what you think isn’t important to you. I don’t know. It is to me,

              So if that was me being thick, mea culpa.

              “your jab at me doesn’t address the fact that you ingored an obviously logical argument”

              My jab was specifically aimed at the fact that you have three times reacted to disagreement by impuning my mental capabilities or morality. Throughout you seem to have preferred to tell me (or the putative Christians we’re talking about) what we believe rather than asking, and when your assumptions don’t pan out, you seem to view it as a sign of mental incapcity. That comes across highly supercilious to me, not to mention hubristic.

            • Ian

              @Sunny – Bob: “Anarchists believe that everyone should kill each other”
              Sam: “No they don’t, they believe the state to be unnecessary”
              Bob: “Its the same thing!”
              Sam: “I don’t agree. Plenty of Anarchists believe a state-less world would be more peaceful.”
              Bob: “How is that a valid answer?”
              Sam: “What? Bob made a statement, I disagree with it.”
              Bob: “You’re a troll.”
              Sam: “Why?”
              Bob: “Because you’re not even an anarchist.”
              :o

              How about climbing down off your high horse. Clearly I’m not answering something you want answered. Rather than us spending time insulting each other, how about you try to articulate exactly what you think I am arguing for, and what you think I need to justify in that?

            • Bill

              “So you aren’t talking about what Christians believe at all, you’re whole thing about ‘boiling down to feelings’ was just a fancy way of saying that the reasons Christians give you, (which are not expressed in terms of feelings at all) you don’t believe are sufficient to warrant their conclusions. ”

              And now you’re putting words in my mouth. Let me be clear – yet again – I repeatedly have had conversations with people who self identify as “liberal Christians” (“I’m not a evangelical bible thumper”), in which said Christians when pushed for the reasons they believe what they believe, have told me “I just feel that way” “It’s just my faith.”

              What you have done is taken the answers those same christians have given you, and accepted them without pushing for the foundational basis. That foundation still boils down to feelings. Had you pushed, I supect you would get the same answers.

              Nonetheless, the subjectivity of such statements is what makes them “feelings” as opposed to objectively measurable fact.

              As to your claim about all things being subjective, it just isn’t true. Saying it over and over, and citing Kant does not make it any more true. But hey, if you want to believe that the exitence of gravity is a subjective, I invite you to test that out.

            • Bill

              “Now I suspect you thought you were being etic throughout. You appeared to be saying what Christians believe, and were in fact saying what you believe. Maybe the difference between what someone else thinks and what you think isn’t important to you. I don’t know. It is to me,”

              This is an interesting quote in that it seems to imply that we should just accept the reasons given by Christians for their belief as valid regardless of how unsupportable they are. A strange way to evaluate claims of truth.

              Yes, I’m sure that some (hell, maybe all) Christians believe subjective use of feelings is a good way to understand truth. That doesn’t make it so.

            • Ian

              Bill, okay, can I propose a truce then, because it seems to me we’re in danger of veering into territory that is interesting to both of us, so for my part, I’ll try to reset to a position with a little more respect.

              “This is an interesting quote in that it seems to imply that we should just accept the reasons given by Christians for their belief as valid regardless of how unsupportable they are.”

              That implication wasn’t intended. Emic understandings just mean, within the view of the person. I thought you were suggesting that most liberal Christians think of their faith as based on feelings. It took me a while to realise you meant that you judge liberal Christians rationalisations to be no more than feelings, regardless of how they see them.

              I suggest that, in relation to my original point (why accusing liberal Christians of cherry picking is pointless), the emic approach is the important one. It is pointless to accuse liberal Christians of cherry picking, because they themselves don’t believe the bible is their ultimate authority. Which is why switching to an etic view lost me.

              “A strange way to evaluate claims of truth.”

              I don’t know. It seems there are some truths that are foundational to who I am that I evaluate in that way. Issues of relationship – does my wife love me, am I a good father? There are empirical elements to the answers, but they reduce very quickly to feelings. I also love literature and music, and I think it is true that, say, Calvino’s Invisible Cities is a beautiful book. That seems like quite an important truth to me personally, more important to me right now than whether there is subterranian liquid water on Mars. Should I abandon my wife and son and literature because water on Mars is probably more important in the grand scheme of things (to the human race, say)? No. (For the avoidance of doubt, I’m not suggesting you would claim I should – just following the thought process through). I evaluate aesthetic and relational truths with very few layers of empiricism, where my PhD in evolution, the subjectivity was buried under mountains of layers of empirical data, so deep I never thought about it. Who decided that God should be more similar to water on Mars than to the love one has for one’s wife?

              But, again, to reinforce, don’t read that as being a claim that I think belief in God is justified. Take it as it was meant, as a suggestion that objective=important, good, real, doesn’t seem obvious to me.

              “But hey, if you want to believe that the exitence of gravity is a subjective, I invite you to test that out.”

              This is the gambit that a lot of believers have tried with me (and I get that you’re condemning it, not proposing it). Because all knowledge is subjectively acquired, they claim that all knowledge is subjective. “It takes as much faith to believe in evolution as God”, or some such nonsense. You can’t make that jump, I don’t think (though it would take me a while to explore why, I think). That’s not what I, or Kant, would say. My point was that, there is nothing that can’t be doubted, and ultimately if you prosecute those doubts far enough you end up with a variation of ‘because I feel it is’, or ‘I just do’ (why do you believe you are a person and not a brain in a vat in the Matrix, for example?, why do you believe that objectivity is important, even). The reason we don’t go through that whole stack is because we’d never get anything done, and we’re ultimately pattern chunkers. We only go through it when we want to demonstrate someone is wrong. Most Christians, day to day, give about as much thought to why they ‘feel’ God exists as you to to why you feel you are not in the Matrix. I think. Its a pity, but I cant see how their failing is qualitatively different to mine, just seems (to my mind) a difference of degree.

            • Sunny Day

              I’ll stop the feeding now.

            • Bill

              Also, you’re treading dangerously close to solipsism.

            • Ian

              @Sunny – oh well, I’ll crawl back under the bridge then.
              http://cdn.memegenerator.net/instances/400x/21140832.jpg
              :)

            • Elemenope

              @Ian

              LOL

          • Bill

            “It took me a while to realise you meant that you judge liberal Christians rationalisations to be no more than feelings, regardless of how they see them.”

            While this statement is true, I was saying more than that. When pressed, my experience is that liberal Christians admit that the foundation of their belief (particularly their belief that god exists which is after all the very bedrock of their belief), is feelings. They admit that they have no empirical evidence that god exists, and knowing that they use empirical evidence to evlautae the exitence of everything but god (and that its’ the best measure of reality), they retreat to the shelter of “faith.”

            “Issues of relationship – does my wife love me, am I a good father? There are empirical elements to the answers, but they reduce very quickly to feelings.”

            I get this argument all the time from believers. Whether or not someone loves me is observable through behavior. But more importantly, I don’t base my belief of whether that person EXISTS on a feeling. If I told people I have an invisible wife who talks to me in my head, and I know she’s there because I feel it in my heart, I’d be locked up. And rightly so.

            Yes emotions are a complicated thing. No, we don’t fully understand them. But being in a relationship with someone has measurable qualities that you can evaluate to see if it provides you what you want/need.

            “I also love literature and music, and I think it is true that, say, Calvino’s Invisible Cities is a beautiful book. That seems like quite an important truth to me personally…”

            You and I have a different definition of truth. This is a subjective opinion, not a verifiable truth. We can have a very interesting discussion about whether Cannery Row is the Steinbeck’s best work, but in the end we will not be seeking truth. Just expressing opinion.

            “Most Christians, day to day, give about as much thought to why they ‘feel’ God exists as you to to why you feel you are not in the Matrix. I think. Its a pity, but I cant see how their failing is qualitatively different to mine, just seems (to my mind) a difference of degree.”

            The only reliable measurement of reality is the tangible/testable world. If I can’t measure whether I’m “in the Matrix” (or god exists), in a repeatable way the question has no bearing on reality. There is a huge difference between speculating about what may exist (a matrix or god) and testing what actually exists.

            So while I may be able to imagine all kinds of fantastic worlds, that does not mean all reality is subjective.

            • Ian

              “Whether or not someone loves me is observable through behavior. ”

              I think I disagree. To me it would involve knowing what’s in their head. Maybe you define love to be a only a behavior and I define it to be a feeling that may or may not give rise to certain behaviors. I don’t know. But the way I understand love, It isn’t clear to me I could reliably determine whether two people loved each other in any objective way. Say, if someone cheated on their wife, I wouldn’t be confident in concluding they didn’t love her. They may not, they may, I’d have to get in their head, I think. There is some empirical basis, I don’t deny, just that (like your statement about Christians) it rapidly does decompose into feelings and blatant subjectivity.

              “You and I have a different definition of truth. This is a subjective opinion, not a verifiable truth. We can have a very interesting discussion about whether Cannery Row is the Steinbeck’s best work, but in the end we will not be seeking truth. Just expressing opinion.”

              Maybe that’s the root of it. I didn’t get the memo where all things that are true must be objectively verifiable :) (actually I did, presuming you’re referring to Ayer, but I didn’t agree).

              So yes, if its a difference between definitions of ‘truth’ then it is easy enough for me to jump definitions for the purpose of a discussion. If I temporarily adopt the definition of ‘truth’ to mean only those things that are objectively verifiable, then I’d agree with you – statements about whether something is beautiful, or what someone is feeling, or even whether something is right or wrong (which I’d say is in the same category, but I’m not fussed about trying to persuade you of that necessarily), can’t be true. They are neither true not false, but strictly (as Ayer says) meaningless. If God is another such thing, then it can’t be true or false that God exists.

              So if you jump ship into my definition of ‘truth’ would you agree with the conclusions I drew? (I ask just to check if there is some other disagreement here other than definitions).

              ” I don’t base my belief of whether that person EXISTS”, no but (and I don’t mean this insultingly) that feels like begging the question to me – assuming that God’s existence is the same kind of question as a person’s existence. Rather than, say, the existence of beauty or love.

              So in your definitions would you say that ‘beauty exists’ or is that too a meaningless statement because it is unverifiable?

              “So while I may be able to imagine all kinds of fantastic worlds, that does not mean all reality is subjective.”, No again, I wouldn’t claim it does, I was trying to stress that I don’t think that (but post was too long, too unclear, admittedly). My point was just that ultimately the only way we can arrive at any objectivity is through subjective conclusions. There really is an objective reality I think (against the solipsists), but (with Kant) I think we have to direct way of accessing it, we can only go through phenomena.

  • Paul

    I think it is true that many atheists (and there are alot today) do percieve religion in general as being very much fundamentalist, if not dangerous or naive. The last comments about Heaven and Hell are very typical. is it really nonesense? How many people realise that the word Hell in Aramaic means the grave. The trouble is that some people cant seperate concepts from actualities. As religion goes the words in the New Testament are progressive, enlightened and inspirational.

    • Johan

      Assuming you find slavery progressive enlightened and inspirational. Naturally you aren’t comparing your religion to another in order to determine which is more progressive, you simply state it as if it were a fact. Progressive, enlightened, inspirational… compared to some religions, yes. Compared to what humanism offers for example, absolutely not.

      There is no doubt that religious beliefs are naive. Ignoring reality in favor of a nonsensical fantasy is obvioulsy naive, after all.

      • trj

        Agreed. I would expect “enlightened and inspirational” scripture to speak out against slavery rather than condoning it (and no, I don’t think I’m unfairly using a modern perspective here).

        The New Testament may be somewhat progressive compared to what else was around two thousand years ago, but if you hold it up to modern (ie. 18th century) ideas and practices of egality and humanism, it fails miserably in comparison.

        For that matter, every one of the the humanistic ideas of the NT can be found in philosophical or religious scripture that predate the NT.

        In short, if you want to look for a source of enlightenment and inspiration, skip the Bible. There are so many other better suited sources.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          That’s funny. Because it was the 17th & 18th centuries that resurrected slavery after it had virtually disappeared from Europe.

          • trj

            Philosophers who formulate ideas seldom have the political power to see them implemented. At least we can say that it became a common philosophical idea around the 18th century that all people should be equal and slavery abolished. That’s a damn sight more than the Bible ever taught, and far more inspirational, I find.

            • Ye Olde Statistician

              Actually, that is not historically true. The whole idea of human equality and natural rights came out of Christianity and was developed by such as Thomas Aquinas, William of Ockham, Francisco de Vitoria, et al. They believed that “In Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no man and woman, but all are one in the Lord.” Not to mention the subversive nature of the Epistle to Philemon. Because of the separation of the “City of God” from the “City of Man,” the Church had no authority over secular law, but they could and did issue religious rulings in councils:
              452 (Arles) Protection of manumitted slaves
              511 (Orléans) Sanctuary for maltreated slaves
              541 (Orléans) Jews prohibited from owning Christians
              625 (Clichy) Prohibition against reducing free men to slavery
              644 (Châlon-sur-Saône) Suppression of traffic in slaves
              650 (Rouen) and…
              691 (Wessex) Sunday/feast day rest for slaves
              752 (Verberie) and…
              759 (Compiègne) Marriage between free and slave is valid (and the offspring are free)
              These droplets steadily eroded a secular practice that had been in force since ancient Mesopotamia. So that by the High Middle Ages, slavery had disappeared from Europe and women enjoyed a scope of life unprecedented in pagan Roman society. But both these advances were lost following the Rediscovery of Roman Law.

            • trj

              Sorry, but that doesn’t wash. What Thomas Aquinas, Ockham et al argued was that everyone was equal before God. That is definitely not the same as people having equal rights in society. Serfs were still supposed to be serfs, but they might get a reward in heaven. Which was not a new idea; Jesus said the exact same thing.

              Thomas Aquinas specificly argued in Summa Theologica that heretics should be killed. Obviously they should have no rights according to him. Apostates should be compelled, by torture if necessary, to regain their faith. Not much respect for “human equality and natural rights” there.

              by the High Middle Ages, slavery had disappeared from Europe…

              It would be more correct to say it had been changed into serfdom, which may be a step up from actual slavery, but only a small one.

              Furthermore, it’s not like there was a big Christian outcry against the reintroduction of slavery. The Catholic Church was quite happy to go along with it for several centuries (some popes even owned slaves). Papal bulls, like Dum Diversas (1452) and Romanus Pontifex (1455), fully endorsed slavery. Christian slaves were frowned upon by the Church, but otherwise it didn’t have much of a problem with slavery.

              …and women enjoyed a scope of life unprecedented in pagan Roman society

              Sources, please.

            • Kodie

              It’s probably not appropriate to interject at this time, but the idea of serfs that I learned at school, and may still be taught in school, is just cool. There’s a king and he has these little villages of people that do a lot of work for him but they’re cool with the arrangement. I mean, hey, he’s the king. Trivially sometimes called fiefs. That’s cool, two different words for the same castle village thingie. Even the terms “indentured servitude”, well those guys wanted to come to America so they kind of made their own beds there, they definitely owed someone a lot of work for the trip over. No mention made of criminals who were sent away instead of serving their term; they could just labor for eventual citizenship, it’s all cool. But SLAVERY IS UNCOOL. “Slavery” in school tends only to refer to Africans who were stolen or traded from their own country, that’s terrible, and made to do hard work, and beaten, and didn’t have any rights as Americans until the Civil War and Abe Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

              I have no idea what kids are being taught in school in modern times or all over the US, I’m not a formal scholar. I do understand concepts now that just weren’t explicit in school, but I just also think there’s a lot of hand-waving at school over the atrocities committed by mankind other than our US slavery. I think it is weird as an adult to even confront the reality of, holy crap, Thomas Jefferson, owning slaves, and impregnating slaves. They can’t talk about what a great guy he is if he was also a heaping douche at the same time. But slavery is terrible! We never talked about the slaves outside the context of Africans imported as property to the US. How were the great pyramids built? “It’s a mystery,” no one can figure it out. Those pyramids are great, just look at them being so great.

            • Ye Olde Statistician

              @trj
              Serfdom was not slavery. See comments further down.

            • trj

              @Statistician:

              Serfdom isn’t slavery, but neither is it especially enlightened or inspirational, which are the qualities you attempt to attribute to Christianity. Having the Church support serfdom doesn’t strike me as an impressive humanitarian or enlightened feat.

              Not that it really matters, because, as I mentioned, the Church continued – de jure and de facto – to endorse actual slavery throughout the entire Middle Ages. It regulated the rules of slavery, generally towards a humane treatment of slaves, but it still endorsed slavery and was itself actively involved in it.

            • Ye Olde Statistician

              @trj
              So serfdom was not slavery, as you originally intended when you repeated the common myth. Now it is simply “not enlightened of inspirational,” whatever that may mean. But then, from some point of view neither is being a “wage slave” in a factory or a “client” of a bureaucratic welfare state. We cannot honestly say a car greaser in a rail yard or a welfare recipient are anything like “slaves.” A serf was simply a villager who paid his rent in service (serf -> service) rather than in goods or coin. In German, this was called Handdienst. The services were owed on the land. If a peasant held two properties, one might be free and the other servile; meaning he might pay coin rent on the first and owe service on the other. These duties were spelled out in the manoral by-laws (in German: Weistumer) and the lord had no authority to demand service beyond the duties specified. There was a case in England in which the serfs gathered the harvest on the demesne but did not load the sheaves into the carts, contending that the by-laws required the former, but not the latter; and they had done so in prior harvests only “from love of the lord.” The grand jurors (elected annually at Michaelmas) met with the advowson and decided that the serfs were correct (Gies & Gies, op cit.)

              It does not deny someone their natural rights to execute him after a fair trial. A right is not something that others are compelled to grant you; it is something you are justified in defending. Thus, the accused is entitled to a defense, not to an outcome. We do not like to execute even serial killers, so the matter seems wretched to us. Cutting off a gangrenous arm is pretty bad — especially in bygone days — but not near as bad as leaving it attached.

              It would also be useful to understand the nature and scope of Dum diversas. It was not an authorization of slavery qua slavery, but directed at the Crown of Portugal as regards prisoners in a proposed counter-attack against the Moors. There is no mention of slavery, but one mention of “perpetual servitude,” which must be understood in 15th century terms, not in 17th century terms. Namely, it authorizes that defeated kings and princes be permanently subordinate to the Crown of Portugal. (“…et subjugandi, illorumque personas in perpetuam servitutem redigendi…” cf. http://tinyurl.com/6tjlsbs) It was not a call for slavery, although it has been branded as such by people who have apparently not read it. (It was not translated into English, as I understand it, until recently, which means that those making the claim read Latin or are simply passing along an Internet meme.) Late Moderns (esp. Americans) tend to apply modern categories of thought onto other times and places.
              Context: Keep in mind that Iberia was then still partly occupied by the imperialist-colonialist aggressors, Lepanto was more than a hundred years in the future, and Constantinople was one year away from its fall into the invading Turks. IOW the Thousand Year War was still very much in the balance.

            • http://fugodeus.com Nox

              Your reading of history is at best incredibly selective.

            • trj

              @Statistician:

              I was responding to your original claim: “As religion goes the words in the New Testament are progressive, enlightened and inspirational.”

              The NT endorses slavery, plain and simple. Which is why I said it was not enlightened and inspirational. You then took the discussion away from the NT and expanded upon Christianity’s role in slavery and serfdom.

              I’m well aware that serfdom differs from slavery, and I see no reason to discuss the differences in minute details or draw inane parallels to wage slavery. Because the fact is that the NT endorses slavery (not serfdom), and so did the Catholic Church until a few centuries ago. As late as 1866 pope Pius IX officially (Instructio Number 1293) declared: “It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given.”

              The pope himself, in the 19th century, giving excuse for slavery. Now, Pius IX was a late aberration, and plenty of other popes and other clergy voiced their misgivings about slavery, especially regarding enslavement of Christians (non-Christians not so much), but the Church never officially declared that slavery was against “natural law. I think it wasn’t until 1995 that the pope finally unequivocally declared slavery to be unacceptable in general.

              In your reading of history you seem hell-bent on seeing Christianity as some isolated factor which is directly related to abolishment of slavery and equality of women, when in reality those things were affected by a complex web of religion, international politics, demographic changes, and technological innovation. Christianity was just one factor in it, and its contributions were ambiguous.

              We can discuss back and forth the extent and conditions of slavery, and what role Christianity played in it, but my point is simply this, as I originally stated: As a source of enlightenment and inspiration the NT falls right through (with slavery being an obvious example), and the conflicting and mealy-mouthed statements of the Church don’t improve much on that. Is the Bible a moral authority? Hardly. I can find lots of moral teachings more profound, more consistent, and better reasoned than anything the Bible has to offer.

  • Joe

    This is one of the problems I have with religion. If we have to interpret the bible, then it is not as inerrant as they say it is. Then they say “well, remember that it was humans writing what god told them, and what we read now are translations of translation, so much gets lost.” That strikes me as odd, because if god wanted us to believe in him, to spread his message to everybody, why didn’t he choose a better medium? I’m pretty sure at least that if he’s as omnipotent as the bible says, he could’ve made sure that the original message he intended to never change. Nonetheless, I apreciate progressive christian’s more open minded personality, but they still spend their time in nonsense.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Matt Dillahunty says:

    Dear liberal, enlightened Christian: I’m not lumping you in with fundies – you are. Get a new name and new holy book to selectively cite.

    • Ian

      Why? Fundamentalism is a movement that is 100 years old, and encompasses a small proportion of global Christians. Why shouldn’t they be the one’s to get a new name so that they don’t confuse you?

      • Elemenope

        Because apparently they’re louder, nastier, and far more media savvy than the more moderate set. The reality is that mainstream Christianity got lazy and was usurped in the popular consciousness by their radicalized brethren. It’s the guy who was sleeping on the job when the damage happened who has the responsibility of fixing the mess that was made while he napped.

        • Ian

          “Because apparently they’re louder, nastier, and far more media savvy than the more moderate set. ”

          So?

          The fact that you can’t get your head around using one term in more than one context seems awfully stupid rationale for demanding which groups of other people change their language.

          I get you’re making a rhetorical point, but it does stop it being an idiotic one if generalized: any group that has some small splinter group that is more nasty and louder should immediately change its name and cede the name to the splinter group. Yeah, right.

          • Elemenope

            No, you’re missing the stab of the rhetorical point. Any group that has some small splinter group that is more nasty and louder should be consigned to another name if they can’t be bothered to even defend their brand from the usurpers.

            The complaint is that moderates and liberals, by-and-large, can’t be bothered with asserting their Christianity against these more malignant sorts. So I, in turn, can’t be bothered to respect their claim to the title of “true” or “authentic” Christians.

            • Ye Olde Statistician

              Nah, the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches have been calling themselves Christian since long before modernist sects broke away. Roughly two millennia, give or take. DItto, the more divergent, but still traditional Alexandrian and Antiochene churches. Atheists prefer fundamentalism because it more closely mirrors their own belief-system. (Lit. “mirrors”: change all + to -.) They can’t suit up in the same game with the big boys.

            • Noelle

              I gotta disagree. Michigan doesn’t change it’s name due to the Michigan Militia. Medicine doesn’t change its name when faced with homeopathy and those magnet bracelet things. Bob Sr. doesn’t change his name when Bob Jr. turns out to be a no-good, free-loading, good-for-nothing punk. What’s in a name?

            • Elemenope

              . Michigan doesn’t change it’s name due to the Michigan Militia.

              Last I checked, the Michigan Militia were never louder or more capable of communicating than Michigan. And doctors generally *are* willing to jealously guard their professions’ social status against pretenders and peddlers of woo.

            • Ian

              From where I’m standing progressive Christians are very vocal in condemning the religious right and its fundamentalism. Maybe you’re not standing close enough to them to hear.

            • Ian

              ” And doctors generally *are* willing to jealously guard their professions’ social status against pretenders and peddlers of woo.” Not very well, most health insurance companies will fund at least some unproven modalities, homeopathic remedies are available in just about any pharmacy in the country, doctors regularly send their patients for acupuncture. As far as I can see doctors are being rather ineffectual about their defence. Maybe there’s a few loud defenders, but they’re hardly the one’s getting the time on Oprah or filling the top of the book charts on medicine and health. If you look at health aisle at Barnes and Noble, I think you’d have to conclude, on your logic, that doctors need to stop calling what they do medicine, and go find another name.

            • Custador

              Are you fucking serious? Oprah listens to pricks like Deepak Chopra, and pharmacists make a profit off of idiots willing to buy sugar pills, therefore doctors are charlatans? You really do fail at thinking.

            • Noelle

              Ian, it’s only fair to tell you that I am a physician. El knew that when he answered me.

              Here we go, acupuncture and its uses for pain, as discussed in a well-recogonized medical journal known for shrewd analysis of the studies it cites: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/0901/p481.html

              Looks like there is merit in using it for pain control. I’m not sure how much medical science you want to know. But pain is a tricky thing. We to try to find its cause and fix it if possible. But that doesn’t always take away the pain. What we’re left with is multiple medicines that all carry serious side effects. We also have the brain’s own power to manipulate its own perception and chemistry. What some view as woo, we see as a neat trick in teaching the brain to ignore an unecessary and bothersome stimulus.

              When you say that not all medical treatment is FDA approved, you are ignoring that many treatments that are not FDA approved do have good science and studies to back them up. A medication may only be FDA approved for seizures. However, it may also work well and have studies to support its use in migraines, fibromyalgia, insomnia, chronic pain, mental illness, and any matter of disorders. Getting something FDA approved is an involved, lengthy, and pricey process which for many physicians is unecessary as long as there is good evidence that it works. An insurance company that balks at covering something which is held by the medical community as a scientifically sound treatment, but doesn’t happen to be FDA approved, is not doing its job of keeping people healthy. And really, this is what a good health insurance company should be doing.

              How are allergy shots so different from homeopathy? And yet they work for a good proportion of patients. Immunology is a fascinating field.

              And you obviously have not been around these parts long enough to see what I think of Oprah, Dr. Oz, and pop-health books. I have been quite vocal in my disgust toward them. But they do not go away. Oh, they will not go away.

              As for the name, changing it will make no difference. It’s a silly idea. Some have tried. It’s popular theses day to call oneself a “follower of Christ” instead of Christian. It’s trendy to say you hate religion, but love Jesus. But it makes no difference. It’s not the name I have the problem with. It’s when the behaviors become dangerous to everyone else. Surely many moderates and progressive liberal Xians do a nice job at condemning their fundamentalist brethren. Keep it up. Let’s see some more. There’s a danger of complacency if you believe your corner of the world isn’t part of the problem.

            • Ian

              Noelle, I was being sarcastic in that comment, previously I’d made it clear without sarcasm what I thought of the suggestion that a mainstream group should change its name when a loud and vocal splinter group arises. I agree with everything you say, including your views on TV-health gurus, and the conclusion on naming in religion, and on the responsibilities of progressive Christians. I should say that I’m not a believer at all, however.

              It is rather taking things off the point, but I’ll say that I also find the response of ‘self-limiting conditions’ like pain to be fascinating, and I think ‘placebo’ isn’t a bad word, but an acknowledgement of the whole psychological contribution towards health, which is (in my experience) rather ignored unless you present with a mental health problem. I suspect that good effects of placebo (i.e. not physiologically active) treatments are often dependent on a quite broad set of stimuli, and I further suspect that some modalities such as acupuncture, or even Reiki, have, by natural selection, optimized their ability to deliver those stimuli and increase the rate of placebo response. If that supposition on a supposition is true, I suspect that allopathic medicine could probably learn a lot from them. But though I did a science PhD, I am just an amateur thinker about such things. But I do appreciate the forums to talk about that kind of idea, and to educate myself more about the whole area. Maybe you’ll have chance to help me think about it more sometime.

            • Noelle

              I can dig scarcasm. Use it myself now and then.

              Allopaths could do well to remember they started from homeopaths and that in America it was the osteopaths making the first real strides to turning medicine into a science. But then, what’s in a name?

            • Ian

              @Custador – sorry I missed your comment.

              “Are you fucking serious?”
              No.

              “Oprah listens to pricks like Deepak Chopra, and pharmacists make a profit off of idiots willing to buy sugar pills, therefore doctors are charlatans?”
              I’m pretty sure that doesn’t follow. I’m also pretty sure that, even though my post was sarcastic (you might want to read the rest of the thread for context), even in its sarcasm, I never said anything like that.

              ” You really do fail at thinking.”
              And you, it seems, at reading!

    • Noelle

      Office Space says:

      Samir: No one in this country can ever pronounce my name right. It’s not that hard: Na-ghee-na-na-jar. Nagheenanajar.
      Michael Bolton: Yeah, well, at least your name isn’t Michael Bolton.
      Samir: You know, there’s nothing wrong with that name.
      Michael Bolton: There *was* nothing wrong with it… until I was about twelve years old and that no-talent ass clown became famous and started winning Grammys.
      Samir: Hmm… well, why don’t you just go by Mike instead of Michael?
      Michael Bolton: No way! Why should I change? He’s the one who sucks.

  • AjaxMurgatroyd

    Being raised in a fire-breathing, Southern Baptist church, I know first-hand how despotic and distasteful fundies can get. “Progressive Christians,” on the other hand, have the extremely annoying compulsion to frame arguments in favor of leftist social meddling in the same dogmatic bullshit religious terms that fundie-cons use in favor of their culture war peeves. The only real difference is that progressives spend a lot more time in the New Testament and push that treacly Hippie Jesus bullshit while actively ignoring all of the inconvenient Old Testament genocide and fag-smiting that most fundie-cons also try to pretend isn’t there. They are every bit as guilty of smugly cherry-picking the Bible in order to further a secular political agenda and they all sound like Diane Rehm insufferably croaking out the Beatitudes.

    • Paul H.

      Hey watch it she may be showing her years but she is still sharp as a tack.

    • Custador

      This.

  • http://messiestobjects.typepad.com messiestobjects

    I just want to say that this is the best discussion/post Ive seen on this site in a while. Not to diminish other posts that are good, but to say that this is a subject that desperately needs talking about. Progressive Christianity is, if anything, more hypocritical, irritating, and asinine than the fundie types. At least fundamentalists have a belief and a book which their beliefs are directly in line with, sort of. Progressive, happy feely, modern, Unitarian new-agey Christians are egregiously just making happy lovey shit up as they go along. They’re too afraid to take a stance against the obvious evils of fundamentalism, and reconcile their moral cowardice by hiding behind trite inspirational poster types of beliefs. If you divorced the Christianity from these simps, they’d be nothing more than the worst sorts of people you have to call co-workers who get a serious case of the Mondays every Monday and TGIFs on Fridays.

  • Julie42

    I’m pretty surprised at the reaction to all of this. Of course they’re cherry-pickers! They’re Christians! They may cherry pick a lot more than fundies do, but fundies still cherry pick all the time.
    There were comments on the original article insisting that she couldn’t really be a Christian if she didn’t believe gay marriage was a sin. Why is it that when we’re arguing with fundies, we point out that Hitler was a Christian because he believed in Christ, but as soon as we’re arguing with a progressive Christian, we say they aren’t really Christians because they don’t believe in everything the Bible says?
    I get annoyed with liberal Christians too. It’s obvious that they don’t agree with most of the Bible, but they still want to remain part of the Christian community and they want to keep believing in God. They are walking contradictions, but so is every Christian. I’m very glad they’re willing to come out in support of gay marriage. It seems very silly that one of the biggest complaints I see around here is of Christian bigotry, but then when there are some Christians who support LGBT, there are still complaints. Yes, they believe stupid things. But they’re not forcing anyone else to believe those things and their beliefs don’t hurt others.

    • Noelle

      Agreed.

      My FB feed is an interesting cacophony of posters, including very liberal Christians and very Conservatuve ones. Both are annoying in their own way, though these days the super-conservatives are leaning more toward dangerous than annoying. You could almost subtract Christian from that equation and I don’t know as I’d feel much different. In fact, if I choose to argue with any of my friends and family I tend to ignore religion entirely and leave God out of the discussion. As a moderate, all super-liberals and super-conservatives bother me. Now a nice moderate and reasonable Christian I get along with fine.

      If one chooses to argue religion with a progressive Christian, one will need to use a different angle than with a fundamentalist. Perhaps they’re asking us to not use arguments that won’t work with them. I’m not so much inclined to confront people who aren’t overtly dangerous. There are reasons to work on changing minds, but sometimes finesse is more effective than brute force.

    • Kodie

      I think you’ve made a very good point Julie. They all have to choose what kind of god to have because the bible contradicts itself. If you want a loving all-inclusive groovy god, you have to deny the vengeful, judgmental, insanely jealous god. It puts a church sign I once saw in a new light for me: “Our god is a judgmental god.” I think that they meant ALL our god, THE god, is a judgmental god, but now I think it was just an advertisement for their god, the kind of church you might prefer as needs to ignore the ‘loving your neighbor/taking the beam out of your own eye/being without sin can throw the first stone/turning the other cheek’ god.

      Christians contradict each other because they don’t believe in the same god, because that god is impossible to believe in.

      Let’s see what. I am thinking of a type of Christian who is really into the game of it. Adding up the prophesies to the basic disinterest in anything productive to win at life is a weird type of Christianity. I would say the bible has a few nice things to say that might help you out in life, and is a good thing some people pay the most attention to those parts and disregard the awful things, these are the same people prone to see the obvious wonder of god in a sunset without checking into reality – does one see the same obvious beauty in a cinder block? If you look at them from far away, landfills are pretty too. I just sense a train of thought that would lead one to consider Intelligent Design. I think of Christianity like a web. Like a spider web. I just don’t see any connection between admiring a tree and concluding that a god-man martyred himself just so I could look upon this tree without guilt for having to cut it down and turn it into a box of cheeZits. I do see a connection to new-agey tree fairy bullshit herbal ancient remedies though.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      insisting that she couldn’t really be a Christian if she didn’t believe gay marriage was a sin.
      Technically, it is more like an impossibility, like “married bachelor.” The “sin” is sodomy, which is a diversion of a bodily organ from the use for which evolution has shaped it. Love itself is never wrong; but non-Greek speakers tend to confuse love with sexing.
      + + +
      Why is it that when we’re arguing with fundies, we point out that Hitler was a Christian because he believed in Christ…
      This would also get you into an argument with historians of the period, none of whom defends such an account. Consult Evans, Lukacs, Kershaw, etc. It is hard to imagine anyone who speaks of reversing “a thousand years of domestication” (i.e., since the conversion of the Germans to Christianity) as a Christian. One problem with nominalism is this weird tendency to confuse labels with substances. Especially if the label is used tendentiously by a politician! Undoubtedly, you also believe that North Korea is both democratic and a republic simply because her government calls itself that.
      + + +
      but as soon as we’re arguing with a progressive Christian, we say they aren’t really Christians because they don’t believe in everything the Bible says?
      A typical fundamentalist reaction, demonstrating the thesis of the OP.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Within my lifetime, I expect to hear that it was Christians who led the movement for gay rights. That’s the way they roll.

    • UrsaMinor

      Yup. Right now we’ve got Bob M over on the Liberal Atheist thread claiming that Christians abolished slavery immediately after the fall of Rome, invented science and medicine, elevated the status of women, and cared lovingly for sick pagans during the Black Death.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        It was not immediately after the Fall of Rome, and it was not “abolished” in the lawyer-centric sense. It simply disappeared from Europe over a couple of generations. It was only in the Modern Ages, after it had been revived in the 17th and 18th centuries, that slavery had to be abolished by law. They certainly elevated the status of women compared to the pagan society that went before. (Roman women did not even get their own names, but were known only by their gens name: Julia I, Julia II, etc.) This began to decay as the Roman Law was rediscovered. But even so the history of medieval Europe has a far greater density of women in significant positions than the history of other epochs. (Perhaps even more than today, when women are regarded as important only insofar as they imitate male behaviors and attitudes.) As for medicine and science, one may find precursors; but only by muddying up the definition of “science.” As far as technology is concerned (a somewhat different notion) we note that at the beginning of the Middle Ages Europe was well behind the old Orthodox, Coptic, and Syriac lands the Arabs had occupied; but by the end of the Middle Ages Europe was just as clearly far ahead. Whatever the enabler it was something that permeated medieval civilization.

        • Elemenope

          It was not immediately after the Fall of Rome, and it was not “abolished” in the lawyer-centric sense. It simply disappeared from Europe over a couple of generations. It was only in the Modern Ages, after it had been revived in the 17th and 18th centuries, that slavery had to be abolished by law.

          It didn’t disappear so much as mutate into manorial serfdom. Most of the relevant aspects of chattel slavery were preserved in serfdom, and while it was an improvement at the margins, it wasn’t exactly a big moral leap forward. Slavery itself, it should also be noted, survived mostly intact in eastern Europe (which was just as Christian as the west) and most of the remains of the Eastern empire. Even when serfdom itself declined in the west immediately following the Black Plague, it resurged in the east and persisted well into the 18th century.

          But even so the history of medieval Europe has a far greater density of women in significant positions than the history of other epochs.

          This is quite a claim, and I don’t think I’d be out-of-line to ask for some cites. Even as late as Elizabeth I, a woman in a position of power and influence–unmarried!–caused all manner of consternation and retrenchment amongst the rest of the power brokers of the society. And certainly the Church did much in its power to marginalize women from positions of authority both in the Church and amongst secular authorities.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Serfdom was not “slavery lite.” Serfs were not property and could not be bought and sold. They could not be cast off the manor. Life was tough and work was hard, but it is primarily an Old South US prejudice that equated hard work with slavery. (cf. comments by DeTocqueville). Discussions can be found here:
            Frances & Joseph Gies: Life in a Medieval Village.
            Hans-Werner Goetz: Leben im Mittelalter vom 7. bis zum 13. Jahrhundert
            Hans-Werner Goetz: Frauen im fruhen Mittelalter: Frauenbild und Frauenleben im Frankenreich
            Friedrich Heer: Mittelalter – von 1100 bis 1350
            Regine Pernoud: Those Terrible Middle Ages! (tr. from French)
            Regine Pernoud: Women in the Days of the Cathedrals (tr. from French)
            Eileen Power: Medieval People
            Lynn White: Medieval Technology and Social Change.
            + + +
            Regarding women:
            Clotilda, Ratagund, Agnes of St-Croix, Hilda of Whitby. Matilda of Saxony, Hedwig of Merania, Hroswitha of Gandersheim, Herrad of Landsberg, Hildegard of Bingen, Dhuoda of Septimania, Eadburga of Minster, Margaret of Scotland, Judith of Flanders, Matilda of Tuscany, Petronilla of Chemillé, Héloïse of the Paraclete, Gertrude of Helfta, Christine de Pisan, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Blanche of Castile, Bertrada of Montfort, Ermengard, Matilda of Anjou, ‘Empress Maud,’ Mary of Burgundy, Margaret of Bavaria, Adela of Blois, Anne of Kiev, Catherine of Siena, Joan of Arc, Agnes of Poitou, Eleanor of Castile, etc. etc. Plus scads of ordinary folks, poetesses, pen-women, et al.
            Notarial acts list women opening shops or trade without any need for husband’s permission. The tax rolls of Paris (late 1200’s) list women as schoolmistress, doctor, apothecary, plasterer, dyer, copyist, miniaturist, binder, etc. The ‘Inquiries’ of King Louis mention women as hairdresser, salt merchant, miller, farmer, chatelaine, even a woman Crusader. (A chatelaine is the officer in charge of a castle.)
            By a deed in Beauvais (c. 1089/1095) two women serfs, Auberede and Romelde, sold a house they owned in the marketplace and used the proceeds to buy themselves out of work-rent. (Basically, serfs paid rent in labor; peasants paid in goods or coin.)
            Women voters are mentioned in the Béarn parishes, villages of Champagne, Pont-à-Mousson, Touraine, etc. Gaillardine de Fréchou of Cauterets for example cast the only Non! in a vote on a proposal by the landlord. (Voting was by household or manse. If the householder was awoman, she cast the property’s vote.
            Do not suppose that because Early Moderns had a problem with Bess Tudor, that the Medievals had a problem with Eleanor of Aquitaine. History is not linear, and there was a big backsliding that came with the Renaissance and the Baconian revolution.
            Hope this helps.

            • dmantis

              “Serfdom was not “slavery lite.” Serfs were not property and could not be bought and sold. They could not be cast off the manor.”

              This is extremely problematic and there is little agreement. In most jurisdictions, the legal definition between serf and slave was very tiny if it existed at all. Some were indeed different. However, what is the same among all of them is that while they couldn’t be cast off, they likewise couldn’t leave the land either unless for small errands or the lord’s buisness. This had disastrous consequences during raids and all-out war. Serfs were legally tied to the land and therefore could not make other arrangements (like their lords), thus often suffering the worst as far as casualties and destruction to property. This same “anchored to the land” trait also had horrible consequences during times of plague.

              I’m also extremely hesitant to say that the role of women you list was championed by Christianity. Quite the opposite in fact. It seems that the role of women expanded despite the continued mysioginistic attitude of the early Church.

              Nevertheless, you are quite right that there was alot of backsliding throughout. History is written by the winners!

            • dmantis

              And yes, numerous economic reforms during the High Middle Ages resulted in a significantly better life for more serfs. Many of them were indeed able to buy there freedom. However, what this also did was drive home the difference between those serfs on successful lands, those in poor areas and slaves. Obviously not all lands were equally fertile and prosperous. Therefore, poor serfs became more like slaves.

              So it may be a little confusing to say “serfdom and slavery decreased radically during the High Middle Ages”. While technically true, some serfs got richer and the poor got poorer.

            • Ye Olde Statistician

              dmantis: In most jurisdictions, the legal definition between serf and slave was very tiny if it existed at all.

              Where, and when? I know of no place where serfs could be bought and sold as property.

              dmantis: while [serfs] couldn’t be cast off, they likewise couldn’t leave the land either unless for small errands or the lord’s buisness. This had disastrous consequences during raids and all-out war.

              Only if the castle fell. When Saracens, Vikings, or Magyars showed up, it was a handy thing to have the lord’s castle a short run away. Don’t forget that in the Early Middle Ages, “leave the land” was essentially a death sentence. And the lord too was bound to the land and could not abandon it without violating his oath to his suzereign.

              As the danger receded, people began to travel: “than longen folk to goon on ­pilgrimages.” The High Middle Ages saw more people on the move than a later age with its passports and restrictions. Stadtluft macht frei. Any serf who entered an imperial free city (or any of the “new cities” with Flemish rights) and stayed for a year and a day was free of all manorial duties. And landlords seldom bothered to fetch them, since they found money rent far preferrable to service rent. It was certainly more fungible. Serfdom began to shrivel as the money economy revived.

              dmantis: I’m also extremely hesitant to say that the role of women you list was championed by Christianity. Quite the opposite in fact. It seems that the role of women expanded despite the continued mysioginistic attitude of the early Church.

              What a strange coincidence: the one region on earth that saw women enjoying an expanded role in society was the one region on earth dominated by Christianity. In fact, a substantial number of those listed were nuns. Hroswitha, “clamor validus Gandersheimensis,” not only wrote poems, comedies in imitation of Terence, and the epic “The Deeds of Otto,” she also held a seat on the Imperial Diet as abbess of Gandersheim. Hildegarde of Bingen, “the Sibyl of the Rhine,” was a writer, musical composer, philosopher, mystic, abbess, visionary, and polymath, consulted by bishops and kings. The Church “punished” her by declaring her a saint. Mathilda of Tuscany was praised by her biographer, the monk Donizoe, as “sola resistit ei Mathildis filia Petri” because she gave the Pope refuge in her castle at Canossa when the Kaiser Heinrich IV invaded Italy and forced him to come to Canossa in the snow to get forgiveness. Then, after Henry pulled a double-cross and was installing puppet anti-popes, Mathilda led the resistance at the head of her troops.

              History really is much more interesting than myth. You may be confusing “mysogyny” with “not all-in on late 20th century political enthusiasms.”

              dmantis: Many serfs were indeed able to buy there freedom. However, what this also did was drive home the difference between those serfs on successful lands, those in poor areas and slaves. Obviously not all lands were equally fertile and prosperous. Therefore, poor serfs became more like slaves.

              You are confusing “slave” with “poor” and “hard-working.” Nothing about being poor, or working a poor manse, makes someone into another man’s property. It is and always has been true that some will be more successful than others, even today. Take any typical high school graduating class. If one becomes a competent machinist and another becomes a welfare recipient, the latter does not become a slave.

              dmantis: While technically true, some serfs got richer and the poor got poorer.

              Again, so what? That is even more true about the modern secular/industrial age.

            • Custador

              AHEM!

              “Serfdom is the status of peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to manorialism. It was a condition of bondage or modified slavery which developed primarily during the High Middle Ages in Europe and lasted in some countries until the mid-19th century.

              Serfs who occupied a plot of land were required to work for the Lord of the Manor who owned that land, and in return were entitled to protection, justice and the right to exploit certain fields within the manor to maintain their own subsistence. Serfs were often required not only to work on the lord’s fields, but also his mines, forests and roads. The manor formed the basic unit of feudal society and the Lord of the Manor and his serfs were bound legally, economically, and socially. Serfs formed the lowest social class of feudal society.”

              Also, serfs were not allowed to leave their lord’s manor. Oh, and the social class above serfs? Those were called “Freemen”. Slight giveaway.

            • Ye Olde Statistician

              @Custador
              You are citing Wikipedia? Seriously? When even the very first sentence is in error?
              You are confusing the meaning of “freeman” in the US South of the scientific 19th century with the notion of a man who is free of service obligations to pay his rent.
              The contention is that serfdom was not slavery. Neither is a subordinate social status the same as slavery. Modern welfare recipients are not slaves, for example. In the Early Middle Ages, both serfs and lords were bound to the land and could not abandon manse not manor for which they had pledged (respectively) their labor or their lives. The revival of the money economy in the High Middle Ages undermined the seigneurial system, since rent could now be paid in coin, which land lords found much more convenient.
              In an earlier comment, I listed a number of books that touch on the subject. For a citer-of-Wikipedia, I may need to explain what a book was.

        • Darwin

          “Roman women did have their own names”
          Neither did men. Caesar’s full name: Gaius Julius Caesar. His father’s name: Gaius Julius Caesar. Ditto his grandfather.

          • Darwin

            Incorrect quote. “Roman women did not have their own names.”

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Women did not have a praenomen. Every woman born in the Claudian gens was called Claudia, and they were numbered; those of the Julian gens were called Julia, etc. OTOH, men of the Caesar family of the Julian gens received a distinguishing prenomen: Lucius Julius Caesar was distinguished from Caius Julius Caesar. If there were a shortage of praenomina, then an agnomen was suffixed: # Quintus Caecilius Metellus Creticus vs. Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer.

    • Ian

      Very true, just as most Christians today trace their lineage back to the Evangelical and Quaker reformers who did lead the clamour for the abolition of slavery. And in fact, the Christians of the future will have good cause, because a variety of denominations, including the Quakers, are unambiguously campaigning for same-sex marriage and full equality of LGBT folks.

      But that’s hardly unique to Christians. I’m sure you now stand closer to those few atheists of 50 years ago who were beacons of pro LGBT politics, rather than the overwhelming cultural hegemony of anti-gay feeling.

      And whatever the next justice campaign is. Say in 50 years there’s a major campaign on for vegetarianism (or whatever it is that you do, or do not actively campaign against, that eventually will be considered immoral), they’ll look back on you with derision.

      All part of what it means to live in an evolving moral landscape. We all want to associate with the few moral pioneers of the past, where most likely we’d be part of the racist, misogynistic, slave supporting majority.

  • Ken

    OKAY. Ball’s in your park. What IS a Christian, so that we may define the term once and for all? Inquiring minds want to know.

    • vorjack

      Well, that may be part of the problem. I’m a historian, so I tend to look at how groups evolve over time. My definition of Christianity would be something like a clade: at some point, Christianity broke off from hellenized Judaism and continued to grow and diversify. Christianity is the family tree of traditions that come down from that point. So the definition of a Christian would be someone who is engaged with the traditions within that family tree.

      I know that’s not going to satisfy people who are looking for neat boundaries, but when your dealing with a very large, very old group of people who are only joined by a body of ideas, I don’t see how you can establish those boundaries.

      • UrsaMinor

        I think at the core, a Christian is someone who accepts the doctrine of necessary salvation through Jesus. All the other details may vary, but if you don’t subscribe to that, you are not a Christian. And if you do subscribe to it, you are.

        • Elemenope

          I think at the core, a Christian is someone who accepts the doctrine of necessary salvation through Jesus.

          I wouldn’t even go so far as to say “necessary”, since many Christian groups over its history have argued, in essence, that Jesus is merely the best way, not the only way, to God.

          • Kodie

            Why on earth would they retain the label “Christian” if they are not following that path to this god? Because they can’t think of something that’s not “Jew”? I would not argue that they should call themselves Jews, but I think they need another new category and publish a bible that has only the parts they want in it!

            Ever heard the expression “Make up your fucking mind already?” Uh-huh.

            • Elemenope

              No, you misunderstand. The Christians who said that Jesus was a very good way to God, but not the only way, still believed that Jesus was the way for them. They were following that path to God, just conceding that other people might in fact have other ways to the same place.

            • Kodie

              I have come to the bullet of atheism for me. I have thought so all along in one way or many ways, but suddenly this makes even less sense. Can someone change from having an intellectual thought process occurring over many years to just a visceral response to what you just said:

              The macaroni who said that soap was a very good way to Mars, but not the only way, still believed that soap the way for them. They were following that path to Mars, just conceding that other noodles might in fact have other ways to the same place.

              What the heck is a Jesus? I haven’t heard the good news yet, which would be everyone one day shut the fuck up about this nonsense.

            • Elemenope

              Can someone change from having an intellectual thought process occurring over many years to just a visceral response to what you just said[...]

              Sure.

              Honestly, when talking about stuff like this where I believe there is no reality behind the labels and symbols under discussion, it can feel pretty surreal. It’s kinda like giving one’s willing suspension of disbelief a workout simply for the purpose of carrying on the discussion. It can be exhausting, and sometimes, much like willpower, you can just…run out, I guess.

  • Artor

    My frustration with progressive Xtians is that they’re progressive Xtians. On the one hand, they try to be liberal progressives, which is a good thing, but they cling to Xtianity, which will require a much more dramatic transformation than the second coming to be anything other than a backwards, regressive movement. And by clinging to it, they continue to provide support & comfort to the Westboro Xtians, the Dominionists, and the Catholic Church. If you really want to be progressive and move the world in a better direction, why are you dragging that old, smelly baggage along with you?

    • Kodie

      I think because they have faith, and they’re progressive, they don’t see anything wrong with religions as many atheists do. They are “religious freedom” means you have to pay respect to other people’s religions, just like they respect homosexuals the right to marry, etc. Everything goes, we love, we believe in an accepting, loving god. Of course, it is difficult to tell. They are not batshit extremists, so they think what’s the problem. They go about all, well, we’re so much progressive and civilized, so instead of bombing an abortion clinic or picketing a gay person’s funeral, they vote. It’s that vague world of being progressive and thinking you’re cool, you’re up on things, but when it comes down to it, many assume that means being racist and homophobic and anti-choice.

      As a group, they seem mild and difficult to incite to action. If there’s a Christian display on public property, they are on the side that it should stay, and that atheists are really trying to take away their traditions. I’ve only been to Rhode Island one time, but if the FFRF couldn’t get a single florist in RI to send a bouquet to Jessica Ahlquist, I find it very difficult to believe any New England state is teeming with fundies. Woonsocket, MA isn’t teeming with fundies. This is the activity of mostly progressive Christians who don’t think there’s anything fucking wrong with their faith so shut up that’s why. Something, something else, persecution. Another problem with progressive Christians is, like the fundies, they think they own the USA, like how dare you change things the way they want them to be, how dare you say anything negative about the war(s), soldiers are like angels to them, so anything negative is offensive. And as I said earlier, they aren’t necessarily (THEY MAY BE, BUT I REPEAT, NOT NECESSARILY) so progressive that they are inclusive. They may not believe creation or Noah’s Ark, or hearing god’s voice tell you to murder someone like an abortion doctor, or blow up a federal building, they assume this is enough to make them better people, people you should respect and often defer to, because they can still be racists, sexists, homophobes, liars, cheaters, assholes who don’t call, thieves, domestic abusers, child abusers, rapists, swindlers, embezzlers, shitty tippers, class snobs, persons who text in the crosswalk without even looking up, tailgaters, inconsiderate neighbors, dog-poop leavers, gossipy fucks, crazy Christmas tramplers, corrupt cops, crybabies, sleazy pick-up artists, persons who leave a drop of milk in the carton and then put it back, and this makes them the goddamned salt of the earth because they’re good people, you know, regular ordinary “what makes you so Christian” Christians.

      • Elemenope

        Woonsocket, MA isn’t teeming with fundies.

        Hold the heck on. You guys have a Woonsocket, too?!

        • Kodie

          No we don’t have a Woonsocket. :(

          • Elemenope

            Whatcha talkin’ about? I’d be happy to not have a Woonsocket. Those folks are weird. :-)

            • Kodie

              Whatcha talkin’ about?

              Wachusett?

            • Elemenope

              Wachusett?

              LOL. Of course, this is a land where “D’jeetyet?” is a perfectly normal question.

            • Kodie

              Sandwich.

            • UrsaMinor

              Sandwich is in England.

            • Kodie

              We have a Sandwich.

            • Kodie

              Sandwich, MA. Ma? Maaa!! Sandwich!!

  • Paul

    I am one of those who see progressive or liberal religion as whistling past the grave yard. They know that much of the Bible is not true and assume that it was written largely as allegory, much as Aesop’s fables were stories with a moral point to them.
    To me, it seems really difficult, even if it is allegory to accept much of the new and old testaments.
    I would like to think that we are nearing an age where religion and other superstitions are no longer at the heart of our culture, given credence far and away more than they deserve. I see both the fundies and the progressives as part of the progress we need to eliminate them.
    In psychology we are taught that a learned behavior that is no longer rewarded will increase in its presence until it eventually disappears. This is where I see the fundies, crying their belief ever more stridently because they see that its days are drawing to an end.
    The progressives are attempting to evolve religion by changing the basic tenets of the institution in order for it to remain a viable choice.
    Eventually I believe that these will both burn out but in the meantime they will become more strident and the fundies will press harder to make their beliefs into law so that regardless of them being shown to be false they will remain a part of our culture.

  • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Healing_Wounded_Christians/ Pastor Russell

    Your article has hit it spot on. As a former Fundamentalist I can testify, that they have framed how the Scripture is understood. The problem is that their perception is not scriptural based. They have approached the Scripture from presumption and mistranslation. I believe the Scripture 100% and believe it as it is written and it says nothing they teach. Believe it or not, that is the key to understanding it. Believe it as it is written and don’t add to it or take from it and and add assumption and it becomes pretty clear. What the fundamentalist has done is give new meaning to the context and to certain words. These new meaning obscure the true meaning of the text. This then allows them to substitute their teachings as though they are the teachings of the bible. In reality many modern christian teachings defy Jesus Christ teachings. I have had many tell me not to believe what Jesus taught because it is not for today. Wow! Don’t believe the Savior of the World! Really scary! I have a site which deals with the myths of modern christianity.
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Healing_Wounded_Christians/

    • UrsaMinor

      Well, that begs the question of whether Scripture is anything more than a collection of ancient writings produced by humans. The hystrionic debates over How The Bible Should Be Interpreted completely bypass the crucial question of whether or not it is any sort of authority to begin with.

      • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Healing_Wounded_Christians/ Pastor Russell

        Its all by faith, anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to themselves. The authority it has is from the authority by faith we give it. The modern bible was created 300 AD, until then it was a fragmented collection of writings. The Torah had not really changed from its inception and was added to the NT. The bible is only a primer for our understanding. The true understanding comes from a completely different source.
        My original point was that those who worship the bible as the Word of God neither understand it nor believe it. They believe their own interpretation of it. Let me put it this way. When you read a book, do you sit there and say, “This book is a mystery and it needs my understanding in order for it to make sense. Also this book does not agree with my thoughts and I’m going to change it”. No you just read the book as it is and let the author define what he is saying, whether you agree or disagree. The author does not need your feed back to correct his thoughts to match your assumptions. The fundamentalist movement , and others, have done just that. They have made Christianity distasteful and something to scorn. They have mottled the true message with their vain thoughts. I am a 1st century Christian who believes what the book says, as it is said. When I started to do that, all the contradictions I was taught cleared up for me. I then began to help other who were caught up in the deception. I don’t need to condemn you or anyone else for not believing. I don’t have to convert people who don’t believe what I believe. I just need to do what Jesus told “ME” to do. Love God, and Love my neighbor. Its that simple.

        • UrsaMinor

          Its all by faith, anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to themselves. The authority it has is from the authority by faith we give it.

          I see. So if I have faith that some other book is the authority, that would make it so.

          • Kodie

            I like Charlotte’s Web.

        • Kodie

          “We’re not all like that”, in essence. We decide the authority of the book is just to read it and it’s all true and well, how do you explain some of the horrific things in it? How can you say fundamentalists don’t read it literally, and how different you are from them, and that they’re the ones who aren’t “true” Christians?

          The only ones who make sense to me still are the dummies who read the book and think Adam was made of earth and Eve was made from one of his ribs. Distasteful and something to scorn, sure, but reading between the lines is not on their menu unless they are trying to connect the prophesies. Skipping whole portions might be on their menu. If you are coming up with something else, you are not reading it as it was written. And yet, you feel superior in your methods, a better, more true Christian, you only managed to find a way not to doubt it. When it didn’t make any fucking sense, you didn’t discard it, you formed a new religion based on it in a way you just invented.

        • Len

          The bible is only a primer for our understanding. The true understanding comes from a completely different source.

          What “completely different source” would that be?

    • Yoav

      Once you answered Ursa’s question you can go on and answer this one next.
      You claim to know what the bible really mean, so does JohnC, Pat Robertson, Fred Phelps, Darth Benedict and thousands of others. Can you give us any evidence that, unlike everyone else who ever made this exact same claim, you really know what the bible really mean?

      • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Healing_Wounded_Christians/ Pastor Russell

        Just read it as it is. That’s all I have to say. The bible makes itself clear if you don’t use anybodies interpretation. The authors can clearly say what they have to say. I don’t tell people what to believe when they read the bible. I can tell them what I get out of it but I’m not going to make a dogmatic statement of authority about what you need to get out of it. I am there just to help them get over the hurts from those who have forced their will or beliefs. I let you discover what you need to know. I may ask self reflecting questions for you to ponder and direct you to some things for you to consider, but not tell you what “You” need to do. I hope that is a little more helpful.

        • Custador

          So, you never wear polly-cotton blends or cut your hair, then?

          • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Healing_Wounded_Christians/ Pastor Russell

            LOL! Ponytail, earing, tattoos and a Harley. Military service, safety pistol instructor, target shooting, pistol, and sniper rifle. Preacher, teacher, and counselor. I guess If we were back in the old west, I’d be the guy with the bible under my arm and a colt peace maker pistol on my hip. Nobody to F**kin mess with, but your best friend for life.

            • Kodie

              No, you are an “anything goes” Christian. You are so bad-ass with your Harley, we’re really impressed that god still loves you even though you have your hair in a ponytail, so you don’t have to be “square” to be Christian, but you are putting down squares because they literally believe the word of the bible. I might suggest you look down on them because they look down on you and you don’t give a fuck. 87% of people believe they are getting into heaven. That means 87% of people think they are doing it right, and so do you.

            • Custador

              “Just read it as it is. That’s all I have to say. The bible makes itself clear if you don’t use anybodies interpretation. The authors can clearly say what they have to say.” Pastor Russell

              “Do not cut your bodies for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:28

              “LOL! Ponytail, earing, tattoos and a Harley…” Pastor Russell

              Internal consistency. You seem to be lacking it. That particular Biblical passage doesn’t seem like one that’s rife with ambiguity.

            • Kodie

              That’s only for JEWS. But Christ had long hair.

        • Kodie

          It’s not a religion, it’s a relaaaaaaationship. ::barf::

        • trj

          So anybody who ever read the Bible and came to a different conclusion than you is wrong. Man, I never saw that one coming.

          • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Healing_Wounded_Christians/ Pastor Russell

            Didn’t say that! So don’t put words in my mouth. If an individual is dependent upon the bible for their understanding they will always fall short. If they are attempting the under stand the bible from their 5 physical senses they will miss what is written. If they try to make it adjust to their belief system it will always fail. None of us are perfect and none of us have all the answers. So! They may learn something different than me, but the test will be does it produce Love. This is my test. Am I hurting people or causing them pain. If it is pain then I have not learned what I need to know. Sound fair!

            • trj

              What you say is that the Bible will make itself clear to anyone who has faith, with the added proviso that any derived understanding/interpretation must conform to love.

              The problem, of course, is that this guideline is extremely vague. For instance, in another post you talk about Lucifer as if he actually existed, whereas many other liberal Christians see him as a myth. Which of you are we to believe?

              Are you willing to concede that you may be entirely wrong regarding matters such as how to obtain salvation, the existence of demons and devils, the nature of hell, women’s relationship to their husbands, etc? Because it’s perfectly possible, in fact unavoidable, to get different answers to all of these questions – from Christians who let their faith guide them and who interpret the Bible to mean love, just like you do.

            • Kodie

              @trj – did you see the part where he said he had a lot of problems trying to adhere to someone else’s dosage of Christianity, caused all kinds of doubt and pain and confusion, but he found his comfort zone. He’s not going to consider whatever, nor willing to concede that he could be wrong, much less entirely wrong. He knows he’s right because it feels comforting and comfortable to him. He’s a post-Christian “seeker.” Read his link in his name? He didn’t follow orders, he didn’t follow leaders, he felt abused, he came to the conclusion that this must be wrong. Being Christian, I’ve heard, isn’t supposed to feel comfortable. It’s a sacrifice. He knew that was bullshit. So he went on a bad-ass journey to find the truth, and he ended up with Christianity, “Pastor-Russell-style”. He felt lighter and more wonderful. Of course, feelings are a respectable path to the ultimate truth. He’d been reading the bible under someone else’s authority, couldn’t abide, and found a way to be himself and still be cool with Jesus. It meant that much to him then. I don’t see any concession in the future.

        • Johan

          The authors clearly say that slavery is fine and so naturally you will be accepting of any modern interpretation of the bible that is pro-slavery. Right? And naturally if someone used the bible as justification for assault or rape you would be fine with that too, because that is their interpretation and it is perfectly valid.

          The truth is, you would judge those people and come down on them pretty hard for being pro-slavery, pro-violence, pro-rape. If you didn’t then you wouldn’t have any morals. So when push comes to shove, your words are just pretty words and they do not accurately describe how you would behave if people had a radically different interpretation of the bible.

          Your approach is just more trickery. You obviously haven’t discovered what you need to know yet.

        • Kodie

          http://spot.colorado.edu/~huemer/biblequotes.htm

          Deuteronomy 7:1-2 When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations . . . then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.

          Still, you distinguish yourself officially from the fundamentalist “interpretations,” but you haven’t really said what you do believe, what interpretations you do pick and choose from, which ones are literal and which ones are metaphorical, you still have a high probability just from reading the bible and giving it a higher power over your thought than any other book of abhorring homosexuality, for example. Well, don’t tell us that you can’t think for yourself and depend entirely on the bible to instruct your personal preferences in life. Because you entirely think for yourself and find parts of the bible to go with and parts of the bible to deny are literal.

          There is no way, not one “true” way to read the WHOLE bible and not interpret whatever you want from it. And whatever god whispers in your ear, those are your personal thoughts. Everyone here knows that, you go ahead and justify something the bible says, and only the bible says, that means god actually exists. Go on and do that.

          You seem to think you’re some exceptional being, out of all the Christians there are, out of the clarity of the message of the superior being, so many have got it wrong. God loves everyone, he wrote a book, it’s contradictory, it’s full of ugliness, it’s sometimes vague, it’s extremely mean, and people are fucking illiterate and selfish. What kind of perfect being do you worship who wrote something, according to you, “most people” just don’t “get”? You are blowing your own horn, by the way.

    • http://theotherweirdo.wordpress.com The Other Weirdo

      There are many parts of the Bible which have nothing to do with Jesus or are not his words or are commentary on the reactions of those who supposedly heard his words. Which parts are to be believed? The parts written about Jesus? The parts written by Paul? The parts that comment on the parts mentioned earlier? Why should any of it be given credence?

    • http://fugodeus.com Nox

      Progressive christians accept the fundamentals that fundamentalist christianity is based on.

  • Leland Somers

    The issue that most people ignore or are ignorant of is the history of Christianity is a history of a constant struggle from the beginning to today for one group to define OUT all the rest as being “real Christians”. The label “Christian” has covered a multitude of sects and belief systems from day one – and day one is NOT 33 CE but sometime in the end of the 1st century CE. What happened was that all those who held to different beliefs than the church that the Emperors backed and supported were ruthlessly stamped out. Then came the Reformation and Counter Reformation when each sect tried to kill off the other with the help of kings and princes. It was a blood bath nearly as devastating to the population of Central Europe as a Plague.

    Since then the same fight over the has continued to this day. The Orthodox churches refuse even to recognize the fundamental initiation ritual of any other Christian sect – they are absolutely right about everything. The Roman Catholic Church has reaffirmed over and over again and again including the present Pope, that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church and hence the only repository of all correct doctrine and practice. The fundamentalists, a creation of an hysterical reaction to scientific progress in marginalizing the need for gods as an explanation for anything at all, are very American in that each sect, and there are hundreds if not thousands, insist that their particular version of the “infallible word of god” is the only correct one.

    And the band plays on. Here we are in the 21st century CE and people are still casting out demons to cure illness, and not in some ritual in Darkest Africa or the impenetrable jungles of the Amazon, but right here in New York City, Los Angeles, Denver and Houston – a country dangerously addicted to fairy tales and fearful tales straight out of the Bible, a book whose god is nastier than any monster imagined by Hans Christian Anderson. It is not just a pity. It is very dangerous, not just Christian fundamentalism, but Islamic fundamentalism as well – the religion where its fighters say they will win the war against the west because they love death and the west loves life – death always wins out in the end.

    • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Healing_Wounded_Christians/ Pastor Russell

      All True, All True! That’s why I don’t consider what Church, Temple, Synagogue a person attends. I am only looking for those who “Love God and Love their neighbor”. It doesn’t matter to me if they are Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Buddhist, Jewish, and etc. Now does this mean I don’t hold to the principles found in the Scripture? By no means! Its my primer, guide or greed for this physical body. All that nasty history you mention was not a history of Christianity (Being Like the Savior), it was the altered and profane actions and thoughts of vain self absorbed men. Killing people in the name of God’s Son is not not the work of a Real Christian. Religious fanatics quote the bible to me all the time and my answer to them is, “You don’t impress me”. Have I quoted the bible to anyone here as of yet. The power of God’s Words does not hinge on the bible, but the Words which proceed from Him to us.

      • Johan

        Look up the no true scotsman fallacy.

        An honest person will stop using such fallacies when they are pointed out. If you think of yourself as honest then you should learn to avoid such mistakes. Don’t expect that kind of fallacy to be given a free ride in honest debates. Fallacies are either mistakes or dishonesty. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt so far. But still….

        You don’t impress me.

      • Len

        The power of God’s Words does not hinge on the bible, but the Words which proceed from Him to us.

        If not the bible, then what “Words which proceed from Him to us” do you mean? Are you perhaps referring to the voices in your head? That might not be so good.

  • vasaroti

    I’d respect progressive Christians a lot more if they’d just jettison the whole Old Testament. Of course, this would mean losing the notion that Jesus was a messiah foretold in the OT, but so what? If you believe the teachings in the New Testament, you should believe them even if Jesus just arrived last Thursday in Dubuque. I’ve always said that if you pay more attention to the OT than the NT, you aren’t a Christian, you’re a Jew.
    I think I could get along with people who were only interested in the NT, as there is little or no political mandate in the gospels. Well, scratch that… I’d always have a problem with Paul.

    • Yoav

      If they dump the OT they will also have to dump original sin and with it the need for jeebus.

      • trj

        Not really. Many Christians don’t see Original Sin as having anything to do with Adam and Eve. They think Jesus forgives the sins we personally make, rather than any inherited sins. Original Sin is reduced to a metaphor for our imperfect, sinful nature – and this nature is referenced abundantly in NT.

      • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Healing_Wounded_Christians/ Pastor Russell

        The “original sin” concept is not found is scripture. The concept is conjecture. The idea that we sin (rebel) because we are sinners is a fallacy. We are sinner because we sin. Jesus made that clear when He said, “He did not seek the righteous, but the sinners”, implying there were righteous people who did not need His help. The question is then, “why do we sin”? The “Original Sin” thing is really individuality or the ability to make a decision independent of God. I rebel (sin) because I chose to, because I think it is a right decision on my part. When Lucifer fell, it was because he had the ability to chose his own actions, thus it is with man. This errant decision making has separated us from the creator. Evil men in the name of Christ used this concept to “Enslave” people to their will. ie: “You are going to hell unless you do what I tell you and believe as I believe”. Live in fear was the concept they were pushing. “God is going to burn you in hell, repent” . The “Savior” (Jesus) came to correct that condition of making hurtful choices which separated us from ” a close encounter of the 3rd kind” (just joking). All of you here have been offended by the religious fanatics who claim to speak for God. And I don’t blame you one bit.

        • Johan

          You said “I don’t tell people what to believe when they read the bible. I can tell them what I get out of it but I’m not going to make a dogmatic statement of authority about what you need to get out of it.”

          For a start, look up what “fallacy” means. It does not mean “false.”

          Now here you are telling people what to believe and making dogmatic statements of authority about what people need to get out of the bible.

          This is why honest believers disappear from honest debates on their beliefs. They find that they aren’t actually being honest and they either stop debating or stop believing. We are left debating those who are ignorant of their own beliefs or outrageously disconnected from reality (John C) or well meaning but deluded believers who quickly find that their delusions are perfectly obvious to the people here or on other atheist sites, or the dishonest who refuse to concede a point when it is made and use fallacies as if they were logically convincing.

        • Elemenope

          The “original sin” concept is not found is scripture. The concept is conjecture. The idea that we sin (rebel) because we are sinners is a fallacy. We are sinner because we sin. Jesus made that clear when He said, “He did not seek the righteous, but the sinners”, implying there were righteous people who did not need His help. The question is then, “why do we sin”? The “Original Sin” thing is really individuality or the ability to make a decision independent of God. I rebel (sin) because I chose to, because I think it is a right decision on my part. When Lucifer fell, it was because he had the ability to chose his own actions, thus it is with man. This errant decision making has separated us from the creator. Evil men in the name of Christ used this concept to “Enslave” people to their will. ie: “You are going to hell unless you do what I tell you and believe as I believe”. Live in fear was the concept they were pushing. “God is going to burn you in hell, repent” . The “Savior” (Jesus) came to correct that condition of making hurtful choices which separated us from ” a close encounter of the 3rd kind” (just joking).

          That’s certainly one plausible way to read scripture.

          One among millions.

          All of you here have been offended by the religious fanatics who claim to speak for God. And I don’t blame you one bit.

          It is true that we are generally irritated by the bad things people use religion to do. But you’d be mistaken completely in assuming that that’s why we’re atheists.

          • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Healing_Wounded_Christians/ Pastor Russell

            I’m sure there are other reasons for you being atheists, but I don’t see this as a mind game. I’m here merely because someone posted a link and I thought it was interesting. I’m not here to convert or convince anyone. I’m here to say you are right about the way Christianity has been portrayed, but there is a solution for those who are interested. No hard feelings if there is no interest.

            • Custador

              Okay, this seems like a good discussion to have, but your wording there bothers me, since it suggests you’re not willing to acknowledge something fairly patent in current American culture:

              “I’m here to say you are right about the way Christianity has been portrayed…[emphasis mine]

              We don’t have to portray American Christianity as bullying and boorish and intolerant and loud and angry and ignorant and arrogant and self-serving. A significant chunk of it demonstrably is bullying and boorish and intolerant and loud and angry and ignorant and arrogant and self-serving. I’m not saying all of it is, but a large and powerful part. And they’re just as much Christians as you are.

            • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Healing_Wounded_Christians/ Pastor Russell

              No!There not! Sorry. Christian means “One who is like the Christ”. Just because somebody has a label does not make them a genuine article. Like a counterfeit dollar or Gucci hand bag made in china, not the real thing . ; )

            • Kodie

              Curiously, another “true” Christian is here to tell us about himself and distinguish himself from others who also use the label “Christian.” They are Christians, sorry to inform you. I think you are using some sort of philosophy to suppose they are, like, not really doctors but they perform surgery anyway and botch it. But they sincerely believe they are following the same words you are. And they think they are doing it right and you are doing it wrong. I think you are all doing it wrong. Because there is no Christ. There is nothing there to follow. You seem to have failed at life if you thought for yourself, but this trick, this dependence, seems to work for you. You don’t answer the hard questions, you seem amused and kind of smug.

              Hey, Christ was smug! Why are you defending your imaginary friend and your worthless book to us?

            • Custador

              I was secretly hoping for something better than a No True Scotsman fallacy from you there. Not really expecting, but really hoping.

              Bottom line: You’re wrong. Play all the semantic games you like, but they won’t make your own personal definition of “Christian” the generally accepted one versus the dictionary definition:

              “chris·tian/ˌkrisCHən/
              Adjective:
              Of, relating to, or professing Christianity or its teachings.
              Noun:
              A person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings.”

              These people would look at you and say that you are not a True Christian (TM), because you do not fit their personal definition of the word. And you’d probably both sit there saying “Ah, but the difference is, I’m right and he’s wrong”.

              You need to accept that “not the same kind of Christian as me” does not mean the same thing as “not a Christian at all”.

            • Kodie

              @Custador – but you will know them by their fruits! If they have different fruits from you they are not really Christians, and if they have the same fruits as you, then they are really Christians. If I know one thing that’s so fucking stupid about the whole bible is that it opens itself up for multiple interpretations and a justification for each interpretation to judge others by their fruits.

              Someone may say they are not true Christians, and others will say they are possessed by Satan. You always know you are right and you always know someone else is wrong. You never get it the other way around. You never get any Christian to admit he or she has got it wrong. All I get from Pastor Russell is that he thinks he’s some new breed, he hasn’t said anything from scripture that he does think is true or does think is metaphorical. He has thus surmised at least that whatever God gave to the Jews is for Jews only, and as disturbing as all that is, he can deny it because he’s not a Jew. So he can do whatever he wants.

              Jews, as far as I know, only deny that Jesus is the messiah, but Jesus affirms he is the messiah. So the NT is for Jews, and according to god, there is no one else. Christians who deny the god of the OT are ignoring what Jesus told them to pay attention to. They are only Christians because they buy into this messiah bullshit while Jews stick to (or mostly do not even hardly believe) pre-messiah bullshit.

    • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Healing_Wounded_Christians/ Pastor Russell

      You are absolutely correct. The OT is directions for living to the Jewish people. I attend a Hasidic Synagogue with a friend every so often. It became really clear to me about the Laws directed to the Jews. It is for them in their land. I am not under there Laws. People are confused when a Christian says they believe the OT. There should be no confusion because there are Laws of God which are general to everyone and then there are laws only for the Jews and it is made very clear in the bible. My Jewish friend always points this out to me. The areas he and I agree on are “Loving God and our neighbor”. So we don have to fight about who is right and who is wrong. He has no design on believing in Jesus Christ and I am comfortable with that.

      • Kodie

        So you still believe there was a god who only talked to Jews in the first part, and then he sent a messiah who speaks to “everyone else” in the second part. This is made clear to you by attending a temple and not from reading the bible. Someone interpreted it for you and fed you what to think. It “works” for you and that’s all you have to know to sign off on its validity. So tell me something any other “true” Christian hasn’t already said.

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    Re: “I think that the prominence of conservative Christians has allowed them to define the terms of the debate, and that even many people outside Christianity have internalized those terms.”

    If it’s the case that fundamentalists have managed to present their version of Christianity as THE Christianity, then I’m not sure it’s entirely because of them. I don’t see how that could happen, unless all the other Christians out there … including the “progressive” Christians … allowed it to happen.

    What I see at play here is a whine that basically says, “Sure, we ‘progressive’ Christians have allowed the ‘fundamentalists’ to abscond with our religion. But we don’t want any of you nasty non-believers to think poorly of us because of it!” Sorry, but I’m not buying that line at all. If fundamentalists have swiped Christianity out from under the progressives, it’s up to progressives to deal with the problem, take back their own religion, and retain control of it from now on.

    Ultimately, if progressive Christians don’t respect their own religion well enough to police it, stop allowing miscreants to speak for it, and keep it going in the direction they want it to go, they have no right to demand that the rest of us respect Christianity — or them.

    • Kodie

      Right on.

    • Elemenope

      If it’s the case that fundamentalists have managed to present their version of Christianity as THE Christianity, then I’m not sure it’s entirely because of them. I don’t see how that could happen, unless all the other Christians out there … including the “progressive” Christians … allowed it to happen.

      Exactly! The problem always seems to be that the argument is made, fundamentalists are a fringe, they don’t represent mainstream Christians, etc. etc.. And yet the push-back against fundies from the mainstream is nothing short of pathetic. Not that some people aren’t trying valiantly; but there are only so many Rob Bells and Matthew Paul Turners and organizations like Sojourners, and somehow despite their speaking for the majority always seem to have one tenth the muscle and one hundredth the volume of their crazy brethren. That’s not the fundies’ fault, and that’s not the wider society’s fault. The blame rests squarely upon the nearly complete abdication of responsibility that the mainstream has for reinforcing and securing their less malignant version of Christianity as the socially orthodox one.

      • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

        Re: “… there are only so many Rob Bells and Matthew Paul Turners and organizations like Sojourners, and somehow despite their speaking for the majority always seem to have one tenth the muscle and one hundredth the volume of their crazy brethren.

        Of course they’re not working hard enough to seize back their own religion. They don’t want to, and don’t feel they even have to. All they really need to do is kvetch and moan that their religion has been stolen from them. Kvetching and moaning require no work. For them to do what it would take in order to get control of their religion once more, would take a lot of effort, and involve confrontation. But that’s only natural; like most human beings, they avoid hard work and veer away from confrontation.

        Besides, my guess is that “progressive” Christians more or less are not actually bothered by the fundamentalists. They like hearing some of what the fundamentalists have to say, e.g. that this is a “Christian nation” and that Christianity is the greatest thing ever devised. And if fundamentalists get their way and the US becomes a Christocracy, the progressives don’t see any real downside for them. As Christians themselves they think they’ll be left alone and the only ones who’ll be destroyed are those vile, wicked non-believers.

        Ultimately I’m not sure there even is any meaningful “‘progressive’ Christian” movement in the US. There are a few like the ones you mentioned … but let’s be honest, it’s safe to ignore them — since nearly all Christians basically do. I think there are some Christians who have a mild distaste for some of the things the fundamentalists do, but that’s about as far as it goes. They’re more or less happy to let the fundamentalists drive the car of their religion. The only time they’re bothered is when those uppity and insolent non-believers dare point out the foibles of the fundamentalists and the folly of going along for the ride with them.

  • elitistb

    I guess my issue with progressive Christians is that the term doesn’t really seem to have anything I can grasp as a common trait, except for the term “Christian” that they use to describe themselves, and that many of them use the bible for some purpose which varies drastically from one individual to the next. It doesn’t mean a particular interpretation of the bible or believing in anything the bible says in particular. It doesn’t necessarily mean following the teachings of Christ, salvation or redemption, even.
    I’ve never said “So and so is not a true Christian”. If you want to use the term, I don’t have any issue with it, because really I don’t care what term you use. I want them to realize, however, that the term doesn’t really mean anything in particular. I’ve heard my sister, a moderately liberal Methodist, comment glowingly on people who advocate “Christian morality”, like Santorum. But when I start going into the details of that morality, I find out she disagrees with a lot of it.
    Basically, what I would like from Christians, of all stripes and denominations, is stop giving a free pass to stuff just because it has the label “Christian” slapped on to it.

  • Raymond

    I’ve read the comments here, and I think all of you should read a relevant article to this discussion in Free Inquiry April/May 2012 Vol 32 No 3 by a historian, Ian Charles Kors, called “The History of Humanism.” While I’m not shilling for the magazine, the mentioned article is about Enlightenment and it’s relationship to Humanism, and the article came to mind as I read the comments, some of which revealed a rather total ignorance(me, too, though not totally ignorant, to some degree, but I learned a good bit after reading) of history and the Enlightenment, and how 200 years of strife between the religions made folks ready to accept new ideas about life, knowledge, religious authority, and the like. e.g., “the existing authorities at the time-intellectual, religious, political,social, and ethical was arbitrary and rose from power and tradition alone,” with no real justifications for their existence, so the Enlighenment authors and philosophers started a kind of “Justify why you are an authority” movement(it stands to reason as science started an explosion of understanding the natural world) where criteria was established for doing so.
    Anyway, I wanted to share the article with fans/foes of Unreasonable Faith after I read the comments section.


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