Why Jesus?

Christian Piatt has a post up in which he attempts to present a non-Christian friendly version of Christianity; a sort of “introductory Christianity” for those who just want a sample.

As always, there’s the troubling question of authority. How are we to judge the different versions of Christianity? Why should we accept that Piatt’s version of Christianity is really Christianity, as compared to Spong’s version, or the Pope’s version, or Pat Robertson’s version? Is it really just a matter of choosing which version feels right, or whichever you find most appealing?

But putting that aside, Piatt tries to explain why you might want to be a Christian in his fifth point:

Just being a “good person” or “not hurting anyone else” isn’t enough. Sometimes I hear people say that they don’t see the need to be a Christian because they already have it more or less figured out. Basically, don’t be a jerk, try not to hurt others and be kind. These are all fine, but they are also the same values than my preschool-age daughter learned her first day at school. And just like we graduate from picture books to more sophisticated volumes, or from playground recess more demanding physical exercise, we always were so to stretch further. Further, we have a tremendous capacity to justify that our behavior is virtuous – or at least not harmful – if and when we want to. But can we honestly say that the daily habits of our lives, our habits of consumption, our material priorities, is to the betterment of others in the world?

I see two ideas here: 1) morality needs constant effort, and 2) humans are great at justification. Both explain why we need something more than a few pat answers and a catchphrase as a moral guide.

I basically agree with these points, but I have to note that Christianity has problems with both. I’ve met many a Christians who believes that the Golden Rule and a few parables from Jesus amounts to a mature ethical philosophy.

As for the second point, are Christians any less likely to ignore problems? How many passages in the holy writ have to do with economic justice, and yet how rarely do they get quoted? How much time are we spending debating issues of sexual purity while half the world starves?

I can see another level to this argument. Perhaps the point is not Christian doctrine, but Christian community. Joining a group that is dedicated to moral development might help with both issues.

But I see no reason why such a community would have to be based on Christianity. It’s not like discussions of moral philosophy stopped after the 2nd century. Why wade through the New Testament, with all of its apocalypticism, miracles and exorcisms, just to get at the few nuggets of moral thought? Why burden yourself with Christian traditions, most of which are outdated and many of which are appalling?

If morality is your goal, why bother with Jesus?

  • ctcss

    “Perhaps the point is not Christian doctrine, but Christian community.”

    Exactly. Just because someone claims to be following the Christ does not mean that they are being as successful at it as they think they are. Jesus constantly pointed out the problems of hypocrisy and heartlessness and arrogance in religious thought and practice, even among his own disciples. It really does take humility and constant effort to adhere to high standards. None of of us are there yet.

    “If morality is your goal, why bother with Jesus?”

    Jesus pointed out that even publicans and sinners understood enough about moral behavior to know how to love their neighbor. But Jesus wasn’t asking his followers to simply learn how to be nicer humans. He pointed out that they needed to seek to become perfect, even as God is perfect.

    If one simply wants to be be humanly moral, following Jesus isn’t necessary. But if one wants to learn about what it means to be a child of God (which is, to say, spiritually perfect, just as God is), then following Jesus (if he understood God as well as the gospels claimed he did) and striving to understand God as Jesus did would seem to be an absolute necessity.

    • DavidMHart

      “Perhaps the point is not Christian doctrine, but Christian community.”

      You agree with this statement, but then proceed to totally misunderstand what the point was. The point of the quote, as far as I can see, is that it’s not that believing Christian doctrine makes you a better person, it’s that being a member of a community which emphasises moral development makes you a better person (presumably because you have the effect of teamwork and friendship to aid your efforts at moral development compared to going it alone) … and that (if it is true) is regardless of whether the community actually believes Christian doctrine.

      You also seem to be doing a No True Scotsman thing, which I’m pretty sure you’ve been called out on before. You don’t get to unilaterally define who are the real Christians and who are the bogus ones, any more than Fred Phelps does. The Bible is so sprawlingly contradictory that there is simply no way to adhere to it all; you have to cherry-pick; and if the interpretation you cherry-pick is better than the interpretation Fred Phelps cherry-picks, that is because it is better in secular terms, not because it is more true to the text.

      And seeking perfection isn’t healthy. Seeking constant improvement is great, and to be encouraged, but demanding that we be perfect before we can be considered good is likely to mitigate against being humanly moral (which is the only sort of ‘being moral’ we have any reason to think actually makes a difference for the better).

    • Artor

      Yahweh is spiritually perfect? That’s news to me.

      • trj

        Well, that’s what Christians like to claim. Of course, his actions show God to be anything but perfect, but Christians have that covered – puny humans can of course never understand the ways of a spiritually perfect being.

        And so we come full circle, and every atrocity and inconsistent behavior by God can be neatly brushed off.

      • basenjibrian

        I agree with the above. Why is “perfection” even the standard?

        God purportedly created us. Per the Three Omnis, He must have known (because he knows all) that most of us will be anything but “perfect”. He MADE US that way.
        What makes me question Christianity is this problem, which even, to me, goes beyond the Problem of Evil. effectively, we are “Created sick…Commanded to be well”. Given omniscience, the “free will” cop-out is just that. The Calvinists are at least consistent in their understanding of the ultimate horror at the heart of Christianity.

        Plus…how “perfect” is His creation? It seems pretty hostile to me. Gnosticism gives a better answer to this than Orthodoxy. :)

  • Nox

    “Why wade through the New Testament, with all of its apocalypticism,
    miracles and exorcisms, just to get at the few nuggets of moral thought?”

    Because the entire goal of those making the argument is to find something worth keeping in christianity. The moral thought is an afterthought. The idea that it makes you a better person is just convenient and sounds like the kind of thing that would be true and makes the church sound good. The question of whether you really need christianity to bring about these moral improvements (and really, christianity’s track record in influencing human morality is mostly negative) is something they are not likely to ask. It is just not one of the answers they are looking for.

    • evodevo

      And what is interesting is – and you won’t find any of my Xtian fundie friends examining this AT ALL – is that the few nuggets you do find are ones that are more or less common to every human culture, from primitive hunter-gatherers to IPod carriers, stuff that EVERY culture teaches its 3-year-olds in order to have a functioning society. And I find that when I quote some of the more “uncomfortable” obscure sayings of Jesus, I get total silence in reply.

      • Artor

        I usually get an indignant, “Jebus never said that!” until I give the chapter and verse. THEN I get total silence.

        • JohnMWhite

          It’s always interesting to see what happens after the silence. Next time the conversation comes up, the same mistake tends to get made all over again. Or, like one of our friends below, they will rebut with “that’s not what it means!!” which leaves us with an empty conversation where words don’t have a meaning.

          • coljos

            I say that is not what they mean, precisely because it obviously isn’t what they mean when the entire gospel is taken as a whole. If Jesus is adamant about loving even your enemies, he wouldn’t advocate for you to hate your father and mother. I hate when any piece of literature, video, speech are taken out of context. Also, I am aware that Christians are just as guilty of this as you are.

            • Nox

              The problem is that god always looks ends up looking worse when you look at the context.

            • JohnMWhite

              If Jesus is adamant about loving even your enemies, he wouldn’t advocate for you to hate your father and mother.

              Unless he’s schizophrenic, or his character was cobbled together from various writers and sources, leading to contradictions. Once more, you have taken it upon yourself to decide what things mean rather than consider what is actually written and how it came to be there. If anything is taking things out of context, it is dismissing the quotes you don’t like as not being meant literally and insisting that the quotes you do like ‘obviously’ were.

  • ORAXX

    Christianity is the most factionalized religion on the planet. Nothing else even comes close. I’ve long thought that the sheer number of denominations should be enough to get people asking questions, but it doesn’t seem to. Perhaps without realizing it, a great many people have come to accept the notion that a divine being, capable of willing the universe into existence, is a lousy communicator.

  • Mick

    “Is it really just a matter of choosing which version feels right, or whichever you find most appealing?”

    Yep, that’s it. Even better, once you’ve snuggled up to Jesus and got his approval, you can toss out the bits you don’t like in your chosen version, and add some new bits that you’ve made up yourself.

  • Michael

    “[J]ust like we graduate from picture books to more sophisticated volumes, or from playground recess more demanding physical exercise, we always were so to stretch further.”
    Indeed. And just like we as a species graduate from divine command to ethical naturalism, or from vicarious redemption to personal responsibility, we always ought to reach further than the standards of our ancient ancestors. What a patently self-defeating argument.

  • coljos

    If your last line sums up your point then I guess you are right. Being a Christian does not have the end goal of morality, though. In fact Christianity sets the bar much higher than morality. I would say the Law from the old testament, rules and procedures, would be a morality driven religion. (and in some cases some pretty weird rules at that). Jesus basically tells his followers to love God and love others. Love is defined as laying down your life for another, or in other words acts of love are sacrificial. The morality of the world is basically whatever is right and works for me is good, very self driven. While the “morality” of Christianity, defined as love, is completely “others” driven. It is easy to do the things that seem good to you, but to put others before yourself is much harder. Especially when there are calls to do things that seem stupid to non-Christians, like loving your enemies and doing good to those that persecute you. You say a decent amount about Christians that do “x”, and lines like are Christians any better that non-Christian’s at “y”? Does Jesus call them to do that? All Christians are in process and are never going to act in this difficult way all the time, that is why we lift each other up and encourage one another in our faith.

    • JohnMWhite

      Love is defined as laying down your life for another, or in other words acts of love are sacrificial. The morality of the world is basically whatever is right and works for me is good, very self driven.

      These two things don’t quite go together. Love is defined one time by Jesus as laying down your life for another, but it is also defined in other ways, and your definition of what is morality in this world is merely a jaded and nebulous over-simplification. Meanwhile, much of the tree of life has practiced sacrifice for others for millions of years. Is Jesus grand revelation merely for upright mammals to do what they have tended to do for the existence of their species?

      While the “morality” of Christianity, defined as love, is completely “others” driven.

      That’s not true. The morality you have described is really driven by fear and adulation of one figure, a god that has no need of our love or help. Jesus did not get out a spliff and tell everybody they should love one another because we’re all brothers, man. He told people to obey him and his god or they would suffer for eternity. You can’t expect selfless acts when the consequences for not performing them are so severe.

      Especially when there are calls to do things that seem stupid to non-Christians, like loving your enemies and doing good to those that persecute you.

      How many non-Christians have you spoken to? These things are not considered stupid by many outside of Christianity. These ideas also predate Christ by quite a margin.

      Does Jesus call them to do that?

      Jesus calls people to do lots of things they simply don’t do. I’ve never seen a Christian give away all of their possessions, despite Jesus’ explicit instructions to do so. I’ve also not seen many Christians deliberately hate and abandon their families, despite Jesus’ explicit instructions to do so. I’ve also seen few Christians maintain the Old Law (sans the rules about homosexuality) despite, again, Jesus’ explicit instructions to do so.

      • coljos

        I will give you that my assessment of the world’s morality is jaded and over simplified. Why would you say that the upright mammals (as you put it) act in this way? It doesn’t seem logical. Morality seems very subjective when there is nothing to gauge it by.

        As to your second point about, Jesus calling us to obedience…or else! I guess as a Christian my assumption is that even though some people are “good” people, not one of them hasn’t sinned. This puts all people at odds with God, and separates us from him. Christ isn’t saying obey…or else, he is saying I am reconciling you to me, obey because I want to reunite with you.

        As to your last two points. Jesus told lots of people lot’s of things, and most of the time it cut to what they needed to hear. The rich young ruler you mention kept the Law and thought it made him right with God, but he was clinging to his worldly possessions like they were what gave him life. Jesus saw this in him and confronted him with the one thing that was keeping him from following him. As to the point about hating their family, he was using an exaggeration to drive home a point. Faith in Christ is divisive, and I can say from much experience that people have been driven out of their homes and disowned from their families for having a faith in Christ. Like I said before the greatest command is Love God, second is love others. God is first.

        Thanks for your response. I appreciate the time you put in to challenge my thoughts. You bring up good points, and I realize we start with different assumptions but your thoughts make me answer some tough questions.

        • JohnMWhite

          Why would you say that the upright mammals (as you put it) act in this way? It doesn’t seem logical. Morality seems very subjective when there is nothing to gauge it by.

          It’s called parenting. Upright mammals (which is not simply how I put it, it is how biology puts it) tend to be willing to sacrifice themselves, in whole or in part, for the sake of their offspring and relations to further propagate the species. Morality remains subjective if you gauge it by what the big strong god says you’re supposed to do, and isn’t so much a morality as a hostage crisis.

          As to your second point about, Jesus calling us to obedience…or else! I guess as a Christian my assumption is that even though some people are “good” people, not one of them hasn’t sinned. This puts all people at odds with God, and separates us from him. Christ isn’t saying obey…or else, he is saying I am reconciling you to me, obey because I want to reunite with you.

          No, this isn’t true. He is saying obey or else. Disobedience to him and his father will result in severe and eternal suffering, and he makes that plain. He’s not offering a hand of friendship. Do you really want me to quote your own bible at you? It’s in there, and you should know it if you are approaching your faith honestly.

          As to your last two points. Jesus told lots of people lot’s of things, and most of the time it cut to what they needed to hear. The rich young ruler you mention kept the Law and thought it made him right with God, but he was clinging to his worldly possessions like they were what gave him life. Jesus saw this in him and confronted him with the one thing that was keeping him from following him. As to the point about hating their family, he was using an exaggeration to drive home a point. Faith in Christ is divisive, and I can say from much experience that people have been driven out of their homes and disowned from their families for having a faith in Christ. Like I said before the greatest command is Love God, second is love others. God is first.

          This is all special pleading that dodges the very authority you put in Jesus in your first post. The argument “it only applies to this guy/those people” or “it’s not meant to be taken literally” doesn’t work with a book that nobody can agree on what to take literally and when. And yes, some people have been driven out of their homes because of their religion. Some people have also been driven out of their homes by Christians for being gay, or marrying the wrong kind of Christian. You’re not telling me anything I don’t already know, and what happens in isolation is not really relevant to the broad picture of Christianity. You were trying to undermine the OP’s depiction of Christianity, but all you are doing is picking and choosing what to emphasise when he was trying to reflect the inconsistent whole.

          Thanks for your response. I appreciate the time you put in to challenge my thoughts. You bring up good points, and I realize we start with different assumptions but your thoughts make me answer some tough questions.

          I appreciate your response as well, and your effort at thinking about these questions. We get a lot of drive-by posters not interested in discussion, or who only want to sell their religion and dismiss any and all criticism of it. I would point out that I don’t think much of my criticism has penetrated yet, but it’s not as if it’s your job to believe me. All I ask is that you honestly consider the possibility that Christianity could be philosophically poor. Presumably you consider that to be likely for every other religion in existence. It might help to consider why that is.

          • coljos

            It seems like you are saying that humans will die for their offspring, because it is what they do to continue the species. I think that the natural way of things is to fight for survival and for the survival of your offspring. This is not the teaching of Jesus as far as I can tell. I also don’t understand your hostage crisis comment.

            As to your comment about God threatening to send us to eternal torment. First, I am not fully convinced the Bible teaches eternal torment, (I know the verses that are used for this, so spare me) furthermore how much worse would it be if this were the consequence for a life lived apart from God and he didn’t warn you ahead of time. In any government or institution, Justice basically states the consequences for an action and then follows through with the consequence, when the action is taken. Why do you have a problem with it when God states the consequence? Most people have a problem with it, because they realize according to God’s Justice, they are in the wrong.

            If I gave the implication that everything that Jesus said must be taken literally in my original post, I did not intend to. I do not think that I am dodging the questions. I think if Christ’s teachings are taken as a whole and put into context it is pretty obvious what is meant by the two examples you gave.

            Finally, as to the OP. I still take issue with his assessment that Christianity as a whole is more concerned with sexual purity, than starving people in the world. Or that Christians never speak out on economic justice. I guess I would use your point against the OP, then:

            “your definition of what is “Christian” in this world is merely a jaded and nebulous over-simplification.”

            • JohnMWhite

              It seems a lot of what I’m saying is going over your head, especially when it comes to how species propagate and what the term ‘sacrifice’ actually means. I don’t mean that as an insult, but what I’ve been trying to say hasn’t been what has reached your ears, so I’m going to have to break this down into the basics. Yet if you’re just going to decide “nah, that’s not really how things are” like you did with what the bible actually says about hell, then what’s the point in continuing the conversation? Remember what I said about approaching things honestly? You’re not being honest by simply deciding “I’m not convinced that verses in black and white mean what they say” because it makes things uncomfortable for you.

              Your final sentence doesn’t make any sense. When I called your view of worldwide morality jaded and overly simplified, it was because there are lots of types of morality and morality itself is a complex and subjective spectrum that cannot be defined as ‘whatever is good for me’. The world has not chosen, en masse or in the majority, to run by a self-centred morality. Christianity is also a complex and subjective spectrum but Christianity has for the most part chosen to expend much more effort and resources in trying to stop gay people getting married and young people having premarital sex than in trying to feed the hungry or make sure the poor have adequate health care. The OP’s point was neither jaded nor nebulous, it was directly targeted and accurate. It was a simplification, but knowingly so. That was kind of the point. We’re not writing a catalogue of what every individual Christian focuses on here.

              I’ll just cover this at the bottom, as a separate point, because I want to make it very clear and not let it get lost in the shuffle:

              In any government or institution, Justice basically states the consequences for an action and then follows through with the consequence, when the action is taken. Why do you have a problem with it when God states the consequence?

              I have a problem with it for two reasons. 1) I never agreed to play by god’s arbitrary rules that he set in direct opposition to the nature of his own creation. 2) Nothing I can ever do in a finite lifetime can possibly merit eternal torment. The punishment is monstrously unreasonable and the rules are unjust. I don’t have a problem with it because I might be punished by god, I have a problem with it because any being that would torment people for things that have no moral value, like having sex with the wrong gender, or not believing in the right doctrine, is evil. I have a conscience that tells me this. Why don’t you have a problem with it?

            • coljos

              First, the bible is not black and white when it comes to hell as eternal torment. Many influential Christians don’t have this view. I am not unorthodox in believing that hell is finite or annihilation is the end of non-believers. I didn’t think we were going to have a theological debate, so that is why I didn’t want you to expound.

              As to where Christians spend their time and money, I would like statistics to back up claims. Just because there are loud Christians that support and spend money on “sexual” sin there are just as many that quietly feed the poor and tutor kids in underprivileged areas. It is convenient that he chooses the two topics that paint Christians in a bad light. This is precisely because he is jaded. You say the point of this is not to catalog what every Christian does, the OP just picks and chooses the points that suit him and his argument. You urge me to have an open mind, then open your eyes to see that the Christianity in the media is not the Christianity in most Churches and that Christians do a lot of good as well.

              I find it interesting that you bring up your conscience. How do you even have an idea what right and wrong are? I agree that you do know what right and wrong are, but I doubt you can reasonably explain why.

              To answer your question. I don’t have a problem with it because I know that I don’t live the moral life I intend to. I sin. A sin against a perfect God, eternally separates me from him. Some would say a sin against an infinitely holy God deserves an infinite punishment. The only way to bridge the gap it by grace, because I can’t do an infinite amount of good to earn my status again, but you I’m sure know all this anyways…

            • Nox

              We can know what right and wrong are because we can comprehend that we have an obligation to treat our fellow humans fairly. We have the natural capacity to see ourselves in others, and our survival depends on cooperation.

              In cases where we are right about what right and wrong are it is because we look realistically at the situation and fully consider how our actions will affect ourselves and others.

              In cases where we make uninformed guesses about sin with no thought for which actions would help or avoid harming (the only useful definition of right) and which actions would cause harm (the only useful definition of wrong), and arbitrarily declare certain things to be wrong because they make someone’s imaginary friend sad, there is no real reason to call these things right or wrong, and no reason we should keep the groundless rules which result from these groundless proclamations.

              In the case of the former we couldn’t avoid knowing the logical justifications that separate right from wrong. In the case of the latter, we are gradually beginning to know that right and wrong are inapplicable labels. They never deserved to be called those words. There was never any benefit to divine revelation based morality, and when we lose it we will lose nothing. When we as a species abandon the broken ways of thinking about right and wrong that have caused so much injustice, we will not forget what we now know about the necessity of justice.

              Real morality is an evolutionary imperative. It’s something we couldn’t not do (most of our moral failings come not from a lack of concern for right and wrong, but dysfunctional methods for distinguishing right from wrong). The conscience isn’t something christianity invented. It’s just something the christian church took credit for.

              But if you don’t accept that utilitarian ethics are an objective baseline, and thus don’t accept that god’s morality should be judged by its failure to live up to even the most basic standards of justice, there may be another way I can phrase this to help you understand John M White’s point.

              If the definition of right is following god’s commandments, and the definition of wrong is disobeying god’s commandments, how does god’s failure (lack of any effort more than failure) to live up to the moral rules he commands for humans reflect on god’s own moral character?

            • JohnMWhite

              I don’t really care what view influential Christians have, because plenty of influential Christians think gay people should be executed and a man in a fancy dress mumbling a few words can magically transform bread and wine into human flesh and blood. What influential Christians believe, and what yourself believe, don’t really matter in the face of what is actually true. You are being thoroughly dishonest once more in your approach, and I’m not really interested in going round in circles with you. If you can’t accept definitions of what things actually say and you’re going to pull the ridiculous old card of “Christians do good too”, we’re never going to make progress. I could give you statistics about where the effort and money of various Christian churches go if you wanted, but you’d just say “that’s not true” or “that’s not my experience”. It’s not as if it matters if Christians do 51% good and 49% evil anyway, that has nothing to do with whether their claims are true and does not mitigate the damage their faith does across the world. You ignore what is said to you and you want to play a silly zero-sum game. Why should I put any effort into this discussion when you refuse to pull your weight?

              And the core of this is that you have no problem with the bullying monstrosity you call god deciding to infinitely punish people for hurting his feelings by breaking his arbitrary rules, usually by following instincts he purportedly put into them in the first place. If this is truly the case, you’re not a nice person by any real moral standard, and are merely a quisling in league with this vile entity. Some might say a sin against an infinite god deserves infinite punishment, but they have absolutely no grounds for saying that. It’s just you choosing how to define things at random all over again. Nox covers my point yet again for you, so I’ll leave it there.

  • JohnMWhite

    Basically, don’t be a jerk, try not to hurt others and be kind. These are all fine, but they are also the same values than my preschool-age daughter learned her first day at school.

    What is it about Christians and their need for an authority to tell them how to behave? I did not go to school to learn not to hurt others, I went to school to learn academics. I learned not to hurt others by example and development of my own conscience. It is not an instructional concept like long division. Christianity’s moral blindness is its obsession with authority dictating what is and is not morally correct. That someone would trip all over this issue while trying to explain why being moral isn’t enough is somewhat amusing.

    If morality is your goal, why bother with Jesus?

    In short, I don’t think morality is the goal. Obedience is the goal, and obedience is morality. This is the same moral philosophy that believes that murdering one person excuses the sin of another. It’s like Dungeons and Dragons, the DM has the book of arbitrary rules and rolls the dice behind a screen and tells you whether you’ve passed or failed the test.

  • smrnda

    The problem with the last point is that Christianity fails to make people more ethical both for the reasons you pointed out (particularly the ease of self-justification) and that Christian doctrine emphasizes this ‘grace’ business. Plenty of churches tell people to avoid a ‘works mentality’ since it will stress them out trying to be too good, that we’re all loathsome sinners no matter how good we try to be, and that it’s all about your *personal faith* in Jesus, combine that with the whole idea that ‘well, things will be better in heaven’ and you’ve pretty much got a formula for ethical complacency.

    I’m actually kind of willing to admit that there’s a reasonable limit on how good people can be, and this is often the produce of circumstances. I can afford to be honest, generous and forgiving because I’m a privileged American. Put someone in a terrible situation, and then you get all sorts of ‘immoral’ behavior just since there aren’t better options. Kids who are dealing drugs and joining gangs don’t have better options.

    • coljos

      You have about summed up the sad complacent state of the majority of Churches in America, but not all Churches and Christians are this way. I would say that although this ‘grace’ business can lead to this mentality, it is not taught in the Bible. Salvation by grace through faith is taught, and so is the outpouring of that faith through your works. We are not working to get to heaven, we are working because we’ve already been given the undeserved gift of a future in heaven. This is a key distinction.

      As to your second point, we should be working to give them better options then…

      • smrnda

        I agree with your last sentence, though the political will to do so is pretty weak in the States.

        I’ve heard, over and over again from about every Christian I meet, that the complacency isn’t what it’s supposed to be. I have attended churches and *all of them* repeat this, and yet end up with pretty much the same mediocre results as everyone else. My skepticism is kind of based on this notion that a *personal relationship with Jesus* or some sort of *holy spirit based connection is possible.* If Jesus was just some guy you had some quotes from, Christians failing to be better than anyone else is no more remarkable than the USSR failing to be a better society by implementing Marx. But if he’s some sort of god, you’d think this divine, supernatural connection would get better results.

        In my life I’ve met a few incredibly moral, dedicated people, and religious and non-religious people seem about equally represented there, or at least proportional to their numbers in the surrounding population. If there’s some factor that does it, it’s something other than what I’ve seen in any religion.

        • coljos

          Your point is valid about the Church, but at some point the power of the Holy Spirit must have been there. The Church started with roughly 12-20 people, and spread rapidly until it was a global movement. My personal opinion is the comfortable American culture has wiped out the voice of the Holy Spirit, and thus wiped out the urgency to live a life of obedience. Take China for example, Christianity is spreading like wildfire because they actually have to live out their faith, and not just show up to Church every other weekend. Just my two cents.

          • Azel

            The problem with considering a rapid initial spread of a religion as sign of the Holy Spirit’s favour is that then it must have also smiled upon Islam and Scientology. And arguably, it favoured them more: Christianity’s initial expansion wasn’t that impressive compared to both of my examples’.

          • basenjibrian

            A life of obedience to the petulant monster in the Bible?

            Wow. Thank the dark Lord for American Culture.

            As for how Christianity is “spreading like wildfire” in places like China or Africa. So is Falun Gong. The Chinese are certainly looking for alternatives to the corruption of the Chinese State….it’s not surprising that religion is one of those alternatives.
            Besides, is this a good thing? Christians talk about the spread of “the church” in Africa. It sure seems like much of this “Christianity” is focused on things like the Prosperity Gospel, imprisoning gays, or killing “child witches”. The craziest, most reactionary aspects of Christianity. Color me thoroughly unimpressed by the fruits of THIS Holy Spirit, which seems more like a Spirit of Darkness to me.


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