The Humanist’s Dilemma: Accepting the Christ Christians Believe in

The Humanist’s Dilemma: Accepting the Christ Christians Believe in April 21, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. It’s Resurrection Sunday in Medellín, and for the last week I’ve experienced the profound difference of living in a culture with no separation of church and state. On Palm Sunday, processions marking Christ on the Road to Calvary blocked Metro bus lines in my neighbourhood. On Maundy Thursday, the evening air was filled by church processions blasting solemn orchestral music interspersed with sermons–an event, I’m told, that fills the air all the city over.

I saw this week a great deal of family outings, too, with three or four generations gathering together in the streets, and local vendors making sage use of the huge church attendance to set up shop with balloons, roasted corn, popcorn, empanadas, candles, incense, ice cream, chips, and other sundry. Bouncy castles and activity stations in the parks allowed children to manage their restlessness while adults watched screens set up outside the cathedrals for the inevitable spillover. Champions League football games blasted from nearby tiendas, but no one was watching. Restaurants usually frequented for afternoon beers held, on these strange few days, almost no clients at all.

And now it’s Resurrection Sunday–the day in which Christ supposedly returns from the dead as per his promise, and so repays humanity’s debts so that all can be saved and enter into eternal life.

How could anyone–even an atheist–not appreciate the positive message in that?

The Biblical Christ

Now, I’ve said quite a few times here that I have trouble reading the Bible without getting angry, because it’s just packewith awfulness–and that awfulness makes it harder for me to think like the humanist I want to be. In the comments to this column, more strident atheists sometimes argue the likes of “No, you shouldn’t be treating them [the people] with respect: you have to mock them, you have to condemn them, you have to show them the sheer stupidity of their beliefs.”

And, uh huh, I think, selfish venting because it feels good to be more righteous than others. Gotcha. Meanwhile, the research shows that condemning other people–for any belief I disagree with–is more often than not going to backfire, entrenching them in their positions. Why? Because it’s not logic that gets us into our beliefs; it’s emotional (in)security, coupled sometimes with ignorance about the consequences of our beliefs as they stand. As such, rare is the day that logic alone will dissuade someone from their pride in belief-without-evidence, and leave them itching to run from the deep well of community that their religion constructs.

(NB: It’s worth remembering, though, that the person arguing against belief-without-evidence might themselves still serve as reminder that there’s another way to live. However, it’s important in those circumstances not to conflate correlation with causation. Just because a person discussed a topic logically with you, and you changed your mind, doesn’t intrinsically mean the logic is what persuaded you. The character of the speaker is an argument as well.)

And yet, on a deeper level, there are times when I am tempted into similar self-righteousness.

Days, like Resurrection Sunday, when I feel the Darth Vader-esque pull of baseline atheism over humanism.

Why? Because on Resurrection Sunday, the day on which ever so many Christians believe that the road to eternal salvation became assured, I find myself dwelling on Luke 8, and the massive reminders therein that the character of Christ was not a person preaching for the benefit of all.

Now, this isn’t the only place in the Bible where the character of Christ makes plain that he’s working only for the benefit of some… and to be fair to Christianity, there are many Christians who likewise accept Christ at his word in these sections, and assume that some are just slated to be saved and others to burn. (Yay for the honesty of Calvinism!)

But… this is the section that I feel makes the whole notion of a feel-good, universally caring Buddy Christ impossible from a Biblical perspective. And as such, it’s the section that challenges me most, as a humanist, to accept the Christ that Christians make for themselves on this day of days, instead of the Christ that exists in their own sacred text.

The Moral Repugnance of Luke 8

US Public Domain: "The Temptation of St. Anthony" by Martin Schöngauer c. 1480-90. Engraving. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

There’s a lot in Luke 8, of course. It’s the section where we find out that Mary Magdalene had seven devils exorcised by Christ or his disciples. And since here the line separates “evil spirits” from “infirmities” we aren’t even talking about the usual ignorance about disease and its sources that plagues much of these ancient texts. We’re talking literal devils, which Christ believes in but many Christians today choose simply to ignore in this text because, well, it’s a touch awkward to disagree with someone you believe is a god.

But the more invidious part of this chapter lies in the character-of-Christ’s explanation of a parable to his listeners. This is the Parable of the Sower, and it’s used to explain why some people are going to receive salvation and some are not. Specifically, from the KJV:

 A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.

And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture.

And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it.

And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

And as our protagonist continues,

11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.

12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.

13 They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.

14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.

15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

Ah, yes, that pesky devil again.

By Fastfission - from Edward Grant, "Celestial Orbs in the Latin Middle Ages", Isis, Vol. 78, No. 2. (Jun., 1987), pp. 152-173. See also: F. A. C. Mantello and A. G. Rigg, "Medieval Latin: An Introduction and Bibliographical Guide", The Catholic University of America Press, p. 365 (on-line text here)., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=317560

You know, the medieval physician and philosopher Paracelsus had a similar rationalization in the 15th century, one which handily followed the 2nd-century Ptolemaic model of the universe. Paracelsus argued that disease and evil entered the world via, essentially, the lousy throw of his god, who emanated his will through the cosmos, only to have some specific instances get sullied, in transit, by their passage through other, bad-humoured celestial bodies before arriving on Earth. (Yay astrology!) Now, obviously, Paracelsus didn’t use the term “lousy throw”–but I raise the example to remind readers this was how people viewed the universe for centuries. When the gospels were first written by their anonymous authors, these were their baseline models–pre-modern-astronomy, pre-modern-medicine–of how the universe functioned.

And so here, again, on the surface, I can see how the parables of Christ are plainly the fruits of street prophets from the period. Heck, maybe even from a street prophet named Jesus, too, if the James Ossuary is any indication of a literal family wherein Jesus (the one listed under “James, brother of Jesus”) is also listed in a bone box for “Judah, son of Jesus”. (Which, if true, kind of complicates Christian narrative with nuisance archaeology, and which in consequence has left a lot of Christians–initially excited by the find, when it related to James!–now avoiding it like a Biblical plague.)

Moreover, the ministry of such street prophets is not nearly as predatory as similar would be today. True, they claimed the ability to exorcise and to heal, and probably benefitted in their efforts not only from hearsay and exaggeration, but also the actual adrenalin rush of seeming recovery that even a deeply ill person can achieve in the frenzy of group attention. However, when they were performing such acts, there weren’t really any alternatives yet. Germ theory of disease was still, oh, 19 centuries off, so just calling certain difficult-to-keep-cool foods “unclean”, as sacred texts and social practice wisely did, was about the best healthcare plan you were going to get.

But even if not predatory, it’s still darned manipulative, as Luke 8 illustrates perhaps best of all. After all, here’s the character of Christ praising those before him for having the good fortune to be, well, of “good ground” to begin with. Where the bleeding heck is the challenge of that? He’s also given to say, by the writer of this anonymous gospel, that “Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.”–as clear an argument as they come that parables, in his practice, were meant to mystify and complicate the message for outsiders. Classic cult behaviour.

By also, why not confound the message for outsiders? After all,

Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.

All will be given to those who already have (i.e. are already in the club). And anyone who has nothing (i.e. isn’t in the club) will have even his illusions of possession taken from him. Nasty, punitive, self-congratulatory stuff–and a perfect reason that the Bible works so well with the prosperity gospel that many Evangelicals in the US use to justify their support of absolutely abominable public policy.

Put another way, then, this section quite literally boasts of impending punishment for people who weren’t on the right “ground” to begin with. Or for those whose only fault was having a “devil” intervene, snatching away their access to eternal life.

And why? Because the sower has shitty aim.

The Humanist’s Christ

Now, this kind of rhetoric works well to establish cults: build an in-group through disdain for the out-group. But it doesn’t work so well, two thousand years on, for folks trying to do better. For folks, that is, trying to build a world that really will offer more to all, no matter the conditions of their birth.

So here’s the problem I face every year on Resurrection Sunday. The great majority of Christians I know do not agree with that nastiness in Luke 8, any more than they agree with the existence of literal devils in need of exorcism. And how do I know they don’t agree with it? Because when they “hear the word of God, and do it”, these Christians apply their sense of faith to actual improvements in the world. They spread goodness, and love, and charity, and social-justice advocacy, all throughout their communities. They are wonderful humans–good parents, good friends, good partners, good family members, good citizens: and on all five accounts are still striving to do better.

Indeed, for that striving alone, they are already better than their Biblical Christ. (And better, by far, than the sower who blames the seed for falling astray, and makes no effort to improve his aim or recoup his losses.)

And so today many of these good human beings, fortified by other sections of their Bible perhaps, will gather in the good will of this most auspicious date on their church calendar, and they will reaffirm their commitment to do and be better.

To rejoice in the affirmation of hope their story of Christ’s resurrection gives them.

To seek to be worthy, even when intrinsically unworthy, of that better world still to come.

And why not?

After all, we don’t have many days on the secular calendar that even approximate what joy this holiday gives our Christian friends and fellow citizens…

But we could.

We could absolutely work to develop more secular celebrations of peace and hope.

And if we did? If we fostered more emotional security through such events–more collective assurance that our species is joined more often by our optimism and fraternity than it is divided by our cynicism and our tribes?

Well… on that day of days, I think we might have a stronger argument for dismissing the role of spiritual faith in our communities. But until that day arrives?

It’s a little after 8a.m. on Resurrection Sunday. The air around my home, in Belén los Alpes, Medellín, is already thick with gospel, further booming sermons on the streets as families gather to be present with one another; to apply the general sentiment of this day to a deepening of hope and gladness for themselves and for their communities, even if they may not feel worthy of any better world to come.

No one here is gathering with the intention of sowing poorly.

Everyone has simply been awaiting the fulfilment of a promise that they might yet belong to a better story.

…And in that we stand united, don’t we?

We humanists, that is, of every stripe and creed–until simple vanity, from Christians and pedantic atheists alike–next drives us, instead, apart.


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  • guerillasurgeon

    Much to think about here – maybe too much for so early in the morning. I’ve had quite a lot to do with Christians of all stripes in my life albeit a long time ago. Now days because I live in a pretty secular country I hardly come across them, and when I do, because I live in a country where people’s religious beliefs tend to be considered private, the topic of religion rarely comes up. My last boss before I retired was a fundamentalist Christian lady and a nice person you couldn’t find. But then she largely kept her beliefs to herself – as did I – and we got on like a house on fire. And when I was at university as a boy before they built the flash new library there was a distinct shortage of seats – but the Anglican chapel had a library which you were free to go and work in. It was full of all sorts of Christians, from those well-educated wishy-washy Anglicans 🙂 to at least one guy who when challenged on one of his fundamentalist beliefs could only sit there rocking backwards and forwards saying “total immersion” over and over again. Now obviously in this place there was a little bit more religion flying around that there would have been in any other part of my daily life, and there was a fair amount of relatively good-natured disputation. And like many largish groups of people most of them were trying to be good human beings. The discussions if not fruitful, usually were rarely if ever acrimonious. Being at the time probably an agnostic though, they were never the sorts of discussions I used to sit up all night over (usually at the expense of my grades). But even so, what we had in common in those days was the idea of making the world a better place – for everyone, not just our own in group. Though of course for some, making the world a better place meant everyone having to accept the precepts of their group – but these were a minority I think.
    But having said that, there are some – and I have mentioned an example I think at least once on this site – who I feel are pretty much beyond redemption. Who you can’t even have an exchange of ideas with, let alone a fruitful discussion. These people, and of course they might be atheists among them, tend to be thoughtless, arrogant, and uncaring about anyone else’s point of view. These I will either avoid, or mock as mercilessly as I can – because I feel there is nothing else to do.

    On a lighter note.

    “Champions League football games blasted from nearby tiendas, but no one was watching“!!!!!

    My God! Was Hitchins correct when he said religion poisons everything? 🙂

  • towercam

    The writer’s first question – regarding a procession featuring a statue of Jeezy who the city supposedly believes is supposed to show up yearly to save humans from his twisted rules: “How could anyone–even an atheist–not appreciate the positive message in that?” – tells me the writer is out of touch with the world of Atheism and has no business posting copy here.

    The writer of the article is, somehow, disbelieving that Atheists might not appreciate the crippling folktales of a super being showing up yearly to save believers.

    Phooey. Were I managing editor, the writer’s article would not be appearing on this site.

  • Vince Gonzalez

    When my boys were in high school they heard and repeated all sorts of anti-lgbtq stories, comments, “jokes” not knowing at the time I was gay. I told them if they ever wanted to have a Christian witness with others that kind of behavior closes doors before they are really open. My point now is that if atheists/agnostics/humanists want opportunities to share their point of view with Christians, like me, mocking, demeaning, being rude and distasteful closes doors before they have a chance to open.
    I always, ALWAYS, treat everyone on this BB/website with dignity and respect. I don’t Bible thump and preach as that is outside the scope of this group. If anyone ever wished to have an audience with me, mocking me certainly is not the way to go about it.
    I do believe in the separation of church and state and it bothers me to see government officials etc using their positions to promote their own personal religious beliefs. The USA is not a Christian nation, the founders set up govt to be secular. I am totally against making the Bible the nation’s (or a state’s) official book. I am against prayer in public schools and Bible readings for that matter. I am old enough to remember a time when the school day started with a Bible reading usually from Psalms or Proverbs. There are many passages in the Bible, removing the religious components, that just make good sense like caring for a neighbor, treating elders and everyone for that matter with dignity and respect.
    That said, I am a Christian, I do believe the Bible when taken as a whole, i.e. not proof-texting etc. The Golden Rule does come from the Bible – treat others the way you would want them to treat you, regardless of how they treat you.

  • guerillasurgeon

    Er…It’s a blog you realise? And given that they changed the title from atheist to nonreligious I figure you can pretty much write and be what you like. I doubt if there is a managing editor anyway.

  • Denny Ehlers

    The Golden Rule was plagiarized.
    A site called Palatine Hill lists some of the oldest formulations of the Golden Rule in reverse chronological order:
    Ancient Egypt.- circa 2000 BCE “Do for one who may do for you, That you may cause him thus to do.” – The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant 109-110,

    Hebrew Bible – circa 700 BCE “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am the LORD.”

    Zoroastrianism.- circa 600 BCE “That nature only is good when it shall not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self.” – Dadistan-i-Dinik 94:5,

    Buddhism.- circa 500 BCE “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” – Udana-Varga 5:18,

    Confucianism.- circa 500 BCE “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” Analects of Confucius 15:24,

    Socrates.- circa 400 BCE “Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others.”

  • Elizabeth A. Root

    I am glad to see other people talking about the uselessness of belligerence in persuading people. Or the unreasonableness of people who pride themselves on their reliance on reason. I spend a lot less time reading these threads because I’m so disheartened. After getting yet anther nasty response from someone who didn’t read carefully enough to understand what I actually said, I wondered in a comment if anyone really thinks that an angry, insulting, profanity-laced comment actually changes anyone’s mind? Apparently they do. I didn’t get any responses. Or maybe they just enjoy the written equivalent of blowing their top. Some people seem to enjoy being upset.

    I also sadden by the hatred and contempt for the religious, including the refusal to understand that religious people vary. Trying to point that out gets me a lot of hostility.

    The church a bit down the road offers free dinners every Thursday, runs a food pantry, and has given space for a children’s program while the local library is closed for refurbishment. I’m sure we see the world differently, but they seem like pretty nice people. I don’t usually care if people disagree with me, as long as, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, they don’t pick anyone’s pocket, break anyone’s leg, or, I add, try to tyrannize other people.

  • Margaret Leanne Clark

    Thanks for responding, Towercam. A question like that is a rhetorical device–a section-closer followed by a section expounding on precisely why there is MUCH for a baseline-atheist to dislike in so seemingly positive a Christian practice… and just as much for a secular humanist to overcome the desire to mock, tempting as it is, in order to improve in the practice of said humanism!

    Not every rhetorical device works with every reader, though–especially folks who are intent on reading even a question as an absolute prescriptive mandate. Plenty of religious folks do the same, though–so hey, you’re hardly alone there! Cheers.

  • Margaret Leanne Clark

    Thanks for reading and for taking the time to respond, Vince! Although I wouldn’t want to impose such a label on anyone against their wishes, it sounds like you’ve taken a deeply humanistic approach to your Christianity–and I don’t doubt the benefit of that has been felt in your communities. All best wishes to you and yours.

  • Margaret Leanne Clark

    That last is a good addition, Elizabeth! Thanks for taking the time to read and respond. I know quite a few atheists who insist that shaming the person is necessary, but all I see in the act is ego and anger. Plus, the studies REALLY aren’t on their side re: efficacy, so the idea that they’re just being logical and pragmatic is especially absurd.

    It sounds like you have a community filled with good people striving to do right with the language and stories they have on hand. I really appreciate you taking the time to share their existence; it warms the heart to realize how much we secular humanists have in common with the humanism practised by our fellow, faith-driven citizens. All best wishes!

  • Margaret Leanne Clark

    Hi guerillasurgeon!

    Your comment about Champions League made me laugh–AGREED!

    But having said that, there are some – and I have mentioned an example I think at least once on this site – who I feel are pretty much beyond redemption. Who you can’t even have an exchange of ideas with, let alone a fruitful discussion. These people, and of course they might be atheists among them, tend to be thoughtless, arrogant, and uncaring about anyone else’s point of view. These I will either avoid, or mock as mercilessly as I can – because I feel there is nothing else to do.

    I wonder how much of this emerges simply as a result of being internet-bound in said discourse. Plenty of studies illustrate how digital technology has desensitized us in a myriad of ways, and recent political decisions to create social media blackouts around democratic events also attest to how little we now expect the internet be an empowering, universally enlightening force for good. (Although, obviously, there are equally big problems with government-imposed restrictions–don’t get me wrong on that accord!)

    Suffice it to say, I agree that it’s 100% healthy to give up on meaningful exchanges with many people online. I just hope we can develop a society in which giving up on the person behind such egregiously desensitized online copy isn’t also a lost cause. Cheers!

  • since here the line separates “evil spirits” from “infirmities” we aren’t even talking about the usual ignorance about disease

    I think that infirmities may have referred to physical ailments and the “evil spirits” to psychological ones. It was only pretty recently (within the past couple of centuries, I think) that we started having a better grasp on mental illness so it makes a lot of sense that somebody who is physically healthy but suffering from a mental illness that makes them act strangely would be categorized differently from people with obvious physical maladies. Given the general state of science at the time, it’s hardly surprising that “evil spirits” would be the theory used to describe mental illness.

  • guerillasurgeon

    “I wonder how much of this emerges simply as a result of being internet-bound in said discourse. ”
    Couldn’t agree more. Some of the things that are said online – well many of the things that are said online – wouldn’t be said in a face-to-face meeting, and bald written statements often read a hell of a lot worse than they would if they were spoken. I think they both definitely contribute to the often toxic nature of online discussions.

  • Margaret Leanne Clark

    Wholeheartedly agree on the “mental illness” (that’s how some exorcism is still used today, horrifically enough) but with one caveat… namely, that mental illness is a variable construct that has often included behaviour simply deviating from the norm or existing in contrast to the wills of others. Even today, quite a few people regard children as possessed (or even “witches”) simply for behaviours normal to childhood. So that’s why I’m not so willing to give a simple, clean pass on “evil spirits” equals “mental illness”; there’s a lot more packed into the ideology of the concept within certain belief communities (then and sadly now). Cheers!

  • Phil

    “I also sadden by the hatred and contempt for the religious” You must live in a different world as all I see is hatred, contempt, deceitfulness and unreasonableness coming from religious people, even for those of not the right flavour of the the same religion. And this religious hatred results in violence and murder in many parts of the world. It doesn’t make me hate them, just exasperated. There are always exceptions, but most atheist I come across aren’t like you describe.

  • Elizabeth A. Root

    In neither case did I say all.

    I think we live in the same world, but maybe we look at different things. I’m not in favor of religion, but I also don’t care if people have an “imaginary friend,” if they are humane people. And some Christians that I have known, although not most Christians, are model people. I apparently know more moderate to liberal Christians than most of the people who write here, and while I often think, and some of them say, that their attachment to their religion is mostly sentimental or idiosyncratic, few of them bother me, except for those who think religion is necessary for morality. I will stand my ground on that one, and I spent quite a while explaining evolution to someone who “believed in it” as a modern person, but didn’t actually understand it. This group is rapidly declining. I think it is worth pointing out that according to Susan Jacoby’s book Freethinkers, liberal Christians have been reliable allies for the separation of church and state.

    As for the hostile, the cruel, and the hateful, I dislike them for their actions. Religion may add to a person’s sense of sanctimoniusness, but it isn’t necessary to be a bad actor.

    It has been my experience that a lot of atheists only want to think certain things of the religious, to judge by the commets I get. They don’t want to be told that not all Christians take the Bible literally and are right-wing-nuts.

    It seems that most atheists who write here are Liberal, which is not surprising, but some of them are not at all liberal. I sometimes get much appreciated support. On certain subjects, which have, in my opinion, no direct linkage to atheism, if I say certain things, even things that are not that far off majority opinion, I get angry, insulting, profanity-laced, intelligence-free remarks. This isn’t uncommon on the internet as a whole, and at least no-one has threatened to kill me. I just rather hoped for more openness from people who know what it is to dissent.

    I should have added, And people who think they rely on reason. Studies say a lot of things, but one that I liked said that angry people think they are demonstrating their sincerity, but the people listening to them react to the anger, not to what they are saying.

  • ann709

    Nothing works like smug blasphemy to get Christians to convert to your team.

  • Anyse1

    When confronted by a religious person, I have only one thing to say. “Let’s agree that being a good person, treating others well and caring for one another without malice are the most important things in life.” I refuse to argue religion with anyone while I will argue against hypocrisy at every turn, even my own!

  • Anyse1

    Mocking and shaming are no better than the proselytizing that religious people do!

  • Anyse1

    I just had to say that, here, in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, there are 2 full-blown celebrations of Easter (Christian and Russian Orthodox) as well as Ramadan! My, my, my. Fortunately it is not as radical here as it is in other places where I will not go to in my constant traveling journey.
    Footnote: antisemitism is rampant here though. Sigh

  • MLC1: Because it’s not logic that gets us into our beliefs; it’s emotional (in)security, coupled sometimes with ignorance about the consequences of our beliefs as they stand.

    GW1: It can be and sometimes is logic which gets us into our beliefs. Don’t underestimate logic, or more broadly, reason. It is mostly indoctrination of children which gets people into their religious beliefs. And it is mostly life experience and reason which gets them out of those beliefs.

    MLC1: As such, rare is the day that logic alone will dissuade someone from their pride in belief-without-evidence, and leave them itching to run from the deep well of community that their religion constructs.

    GW1: Logic alone? This is kind of a straw man, I think. Rare is the day that without REASON someone will be dissuaded from their pride in belief without evidence. Reason AND emotional appeal is a combination for success.

    MLC1: And yet, on a deeper level, there are times when I am tempted into similar self-righteousness.

    GW1: You can be confident in your conclusions without being self-righteous, so don’t fall for the temptation.

    MLC1: We could absolutely work to develop more secular celebrations of peace and hope.

    GW1: What a great idea! You are the type of person who could make this happen.

  • Nothing works like compassion and reason to get Christians to convert to our team.

  • tolpuddle1

    The article is a rant based upon misinterpretation (wilful or perhaps merely ill-considered) of Luke 8.

    How can the Sower be blamed if many of us have stony, worldly or frivolous, inattentive hearts ? We have selfish, evil hearts by our OWN choice. The Message Jesus sows is intended to be received by us all and to save us all – how can He be blamed for human selfishness, hard-heartedness and shallowness? That’s our fault. We have such selfish, evil hearts by our OWN choice. And yes, Satan does take care to bring out the worst in us.

    “”God willeth that all people be saved” (1Timothy) – Jesus Christ died for all (past, present and future) without exception.

    As for “To him who hath shall be given…” – people who follow Jesus and make spiritual progress make more spiritual progress. Those who refuse to do so, wither spiritually, losing even such goodness as they once had. The passage is a not a statement about finance or economics (however much Health-&-Wealth Fake Christians may like to think so).

  • tolpuddle1

    To be Without God, is necessarily and inevitably to be Without Hope and Without Optimism, except perhaps of a shallow, transient type.

    As for people becoming fraternal – human nature isn’t inherently good (the goodness is too undermined by the contrary factor of egotism, in its myriad forms) nor is it getting better – despite Progressive hopes over centuries that it would do so.

  • tolpuddle1

    That is very true – Hillary Clinton and her supporters lost a won election by mocking and belittling their opponents.

    Just as, here in Britain, supporters of the European Union lost a won election by mocking and belittling their opponents.

  • tolpuddle1

    They are also baseless, making the truly stupid assumption that Atheism is demonstrable Truth.

    Whereas in fact, Deism is.

  • tolpuddle1

    But why follow the Golden Rule ?

  • tolpuddle1

    Treating others, or the environment, genuinely well (as opposed to reasonably-well !), requires considerable self-sacrifice, which very few people possess much of, in the normal course of events.

    No secular ideology can beef-up people’s capacity for self-sacrifice.

  • tolpuddle1

    Emotional ailments (mental illness) and spiritual ailments (demonic oppression, occasionally possession) are distinct. Though they can both exist in the same person.

    The woman from whom Jesus cast out seven demons may not have been mentally ill.

    Because demons do exist – and are never more successful then in secular societies where people think they don’t; the secularism of the 19th century led to the truly demonic history of the 20th century. (Consciously demonic in the Nazis with their demonic cosmology and fascination with the occult).

    Current fascination with zombies, werewolves, demons etc fills a gap inevitably created by the decline of religious belief – and leads to many people urgently requiring exorcism, for real !

    “The devil’s best trick is to convince you he doesn’t exist” (Baudelaire)

  • tolpuddle1

    Are you a believer in the defunct religion of Marxism, with its twisted rules ?

  • Denny Ehlers

    Why be a troll and ask such a stupid question?

  • tolpuddle1

    But it isn’t a stupid question.

    After all, almost no one obeys the Golden Rule when the chips are down; and many people don’t even try to, most of the time.

    (Though needless to say, everyone applauds the Golden Rule as a matter of armchair-principle !).

    Perhaps I should have re-phrased the question: “What happens to you if you DON’T follow the Golden Rule ?”

    That is certainly a very practical question, well worth asking.