Is the Internet Killing Christianity?

Is the Internet Killing Christianity? October 1, 2014

cyber edenNo one reasonably disputes that attendance in Christian churches is in sharp decline. The real lingering question is “why?” which is one of the most important questions I take on in my new book, “postChristian: What’s left? Can we fix it? Do we care?”

Though it’s not solely responsible, the internet – along with the way it changes the way we interrelate, communicate, seek and consume information – is certainly doing its part to contribute to the decline. And it’s not just Church that is feeling the pinch; any hierarchic system in which the institution traditionally has played the role of guard, gatekeeper or mediator is finding their authority challenged.

As for why now, the answer is more complex than any single factor. On the one hand, changing domestic, social and economic systems have caused us to spread out and move around far more than before. The churches, as a result, are no longer social hubs of neighborhoods any more. And along with being social hubs, churches also served as economic engines, as businesspeople networked after worship or over a potluck meal. Now we just use LinkedIn.

There’s also been a substantial shift in cultural perception, such that not going to church no longer holds the same stigma that it used to. Even atheists are coming out of the proverbial closet in greater numbers. And as I suggest in postChristian, lower church attendance doesn’t necessarily correlate to fewer people believing in God. Plenty of skeptics have filled church pews out of a sense of familial or other social obligation.

But beyond these factors, there’s the dramatic shift in how we access and consume ideas and information. As Michael Grunwald points out in his TIME Magazine article, “The Second Age of Reason,” we are living today in the midst of a “Golden Age of answers.” This is important on a couple of levels as it relates to church, and actually, it’s been a long time coming.

Prior to the development of movable typeface and the printing press, few people of average means owned a bible. But once printing was accessible, the information once relegated to libraries and collections of the rich was distributed far and wide. Of course, more people had to learn how to read first in order to enjoy the books, but the availability of literature such as the Gutenberg Bible provided an incentive.

Fast forward a few hundred years, and we see the Internet having much the same effect. Aside from the ease and immediacy of access to information, it also offers an unprecedented variety of perspectives. Before, we might have had one newspaper – or one priest or pastor – to tell us what the facts were in any given situation, and we’d take it more or less on faith. But now we dissect everything from the presidential actions in the middle east to Biblical interpretation, and even the price of our favorite coffee.

Perhaps most important, though, as Grunwald notes, is that we have direct access to the information. It’s always “out there,” waiting to be retrieved, rather than being parsed out to us by some other mediating body. “The democratization of information,” he writes, “is particularly threatening to middlemen and gatekeepers. Who needs a travel agent when there’s Kayak and Priceline? How long can real estate agents and stockbrokers survive when buyers and sellers are linking up online?”

Stated another way: who needs a church or a priest when spiritual seekers believe they can access God directly?

Granted, this is a bit of an oversimplification for the purpose of illustration, postmodern thought – a reaction to modernist, post-enlightenment liberal though and Platonic dualism – reached a sort of tipping point with the advent of the Internet in every corner of our lives. Even before the World Wide Web invasion, we were becoming increasingly suspicious of all institutions, and of anyone who claimed to possess absolute truth about anything. The mid-century upheavals caused by events like Watergate and Vietnam hardened us, but they also gave us pause. We started asking questions, doubting and pushing back against systems of authority, rather than taking their sovereignty as a given.

So we were, in a sense, primed for what the Internet afforded us. Not sure if you like your doctor’s diagnosis? Go on Web MD and diagnose yourself, or find six other doctors to offer alternate opinions. Skeptical about the story you read in your local paper? Look into it on Snopes, PantsOnFire or Politifact. Disagree with the sermon your pastor preached on Sunday? Download a slew of podcasts, thousands of ebooks or hundreds upon hundreds of blogs with a focus on theology. Or watch a sermon online, while in your robe and sipping coffee on your couch.

After all, if the Church is primarily a purveyor of information you can get on your own, and if their assertions about being the mediators for your own personal salvation – or at least your spiritual wellbeing – begin to ring hollow, then why go at all?

This is where the Church (with a big “C”) is largely culpable, and not just a victim of unfortunate cultural circumstance. The fact of the matter is that there is great privilege and power to be enjoyed in being a gatekeeper. You get to decide the rules, and the terms of acceptability. Granted, since the advent of Vatican II, we’ve seen gradual, if grudging, movement toward a more “open source” approach to faith. But many Christian churches still claim to be essential, or at least critical to our experience of the Divine.

The thing is, fewer and fewer of us believe it any more.

Organized religion is a big ship to turn around, especially when so many at the helm are resisting the change at every turn. Granted, the willing accession of authority and power is not an innate human instinct, so often times, we only do so when forced to. And as Churches continue to close and denominations shrink, some are being forced into such a “change or die” ultimatum. Even then, some choose death over change, but in other cases, the transformation may be too late, coming off as desperate or opportunistic.

But Jesus has been calling us to such radical abandonment of the “gatekeeper” model of religion from the very beginning of Christianity. In his book, “Zealot,” Reza Aslan argues that Jesus boldly took the spiritual leaders of his time head on. After healing a leper in the gospel of Matthew, he orders the man to go visit the local priest. But Aslan suggests he didn’t do so in order to prove himself to the religious authorities as a bona fide miracle worker. Rather, he did it to challenge the entire system of controlled access the priests used to deem who was worthy to be in the presence of God.

Before this, a man with leprosy had to go through extensive, and expensive, cleansing rituals that benefitted the church financially. But Jesus says to the man he heals to “offer him (the priest) as a testimony the things that the Law of Moses commanded for your cleansing1.”

“Jesus did not only heal the leper,” writes Aslan, “he purified him, making him eligible to appear at the tmeple as a true Israelite. And he did so for free, as a gift from God—without tithe, without sacrifice—thus siezing for himself the powers granted solely to the priesthood to deem a man worthy of entering the presence of God.”

Then we returned the favor, spending the next two thousand years trying to reclaim that priestly authority. But now, we’re paying for our sins.

So although the Internet did not single-handedly put Western Christianity in the state we find ourselves today, it is an important catalyst that galvanized the elements already in place in the culture. On the other hand, the way we are now networked presents no small number of opportunities for organized religion. Whereas a local preacher once would only have had their sermon received by whoever was at worship on Sunday, now podcasts and streaming media offer worship a global reach. The concept of community stretches and expands, as relationships forged on Sunday mornings continue to evolve through our digital ties. Some pastors even welcome the introduction of popular culture memes into the church, integrating streaming images and other media into their lessons.

But focusing too much on such novelties is akin in some ways to adding a coat of paint to a sinking ship. It may help keep a few people there who might have otherwise left, but those who hold religious institutions inherently suspect will not likely be wooed by a video clip from Youtube.

Now, the only question remaining is not whether the rest of the world will come to its senses and return to Church. It is, whether the Church will recognize its proper place in the human experience, as servant and steward, not gatekeeper or arbiter, or risk going the way of the temple in Jerusalem who, too, did not heed the grave warnings of Jesus.

If the latter, then we deserve the obsolescence toward which we are so steadily headed.

Christian Piatt is the author of “postChristian: What’s Left? Can we fix it? Do we care?” and a blogger on the Patheos Progressive Christian channel. For more information about Christian, visit www.christianpiatt.com, or find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I had left christianity many years ago, but I eventually found myself in a progressive christian church which I attended for over 5 years. while I loved the congregation I eventually moved far away from the neighborhood. Personally I much rather check out religious services on line, but I am getting to the point in my life where I am DONE with institutionalized religion. nothing personal, but I don’t have the time for the drama anymore.

    • Tim Johnston

      Christianity without people. Interesting concept.

  • R Vogel

    we are living today in the midst of a “Golden Age of answers.”

    The risk is we are also living in a golden age of confirmation bias. The access to information without the ability to discern destroys the value of information.

    • sharon peters

      i cuttapasta from wiki;
      ‘The phrase caveat emptor

      arises from the fact that buyers often have less information about
      the good or service they are purchasing, while the seller has more information.
      Defects in the good or service may be hidden from the buyer, and only known to the seller.’

      cuttapasta from http://www.spiritualgiftstest.com/spiritual-gift-of-discernment
      Spiritual Gift of Discernment
      The Holy Spirit gives the gift of discernment to enable..[ppl].. to clearly recognize and distinguish between the influence of God, Satan, the world, and the flesh in a given situation.

    • Tim Johnston

      #FirstWorldProblems

    • FA Miniter

      No, it does not destroy the value of the information. That remains what it is. It exposes the inability of the multitude to understand anything complex. The masses will willingly accept a simple lie in place of a complex truth.

      • R Vogel

        Conspiracy Theories are the easy counter to this where loads of people believe ridiculously complex explanations for incredibly simply things, and the Internet is the perfect breeding ground for them. The internet has allowed anyone to find the ‘supporting’ evidence for any crack-pot idea they come up with. Everyone is subject to confirmation bias, whether the ‘masses,’ or some elite, from the tin-foil hat propagator of chem-trails to the scientist working in his lab. The difference is the scientist has a whole community ready to point out where those biases led him astray. The information age has dropped an overwhelming amount of information on anyone who has connection to the internet, but with no filters it is left up to the individual user to try and sift out the bona fide from the garbage.

    • AnnArborReligion

      Here is one thing the internet taught me….church attendance is not actually declining. Here is a Gallup poll showing attendance has been in the same range since the 1930s:

      http://www.gallup.com/poll/166613/four-report-attending-church-last-week.aspx

      • $122284574

        That’s your confirmation bias working. It’s declining. This research shows why the Gallup poll is in error:
        churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/139575-7-startling-facts-an-up-close-look-at-church-attendance-in-america.html

        • AnnArborReligion

          You posted that before. “churchleaders.com” is not more reputable than Gallup. Further, the link you provided actually does not engage the historic data.

          • $122284574

            Yeah, you’ve posted the flawed Gallup poll, like what, three times? The link I give explains specifically why your Gallup poll is in error. Deal with it.

      • Jo Clark

        The point still remains, it’s not close to even 50%, so that hardly makes us a “religious” nation.

      • R Vogel
  • Heather McAuley

    I left the church when it became apparent that I had more compassion and mercy than the god they were promoting. How could that be? the creation surpassing the capacity of the creator? But I still hungered for something. The internet filled that void for many years as I studied sacred texts from many faiths. I had thought I was alone in what I had come to believe, but the internet also led me to others asking the same questions and pursuing the same direction. Full circle.
    I think one opportunity for the church to remake itself and pull back from extinction is to focus on their personal connection with the divine spark and whenever possible remove barriers to enable others to do likewise. Feed the hungry, heal the sick, shelter widows and orphans, visit prisoners, love your neighbor. All else is distraction.
    If the church continues to busy itself with numbers, money and politics then there is nothing worth saving.

    • Heather your sentiments are healing. I encourage you to keep telling this story, perhaps as an article or blog post. (Maybe you already have.)

    • raylampert

      It’s true that the god of the bible is a monster, a racist, sexist, genocidal bully.
      But what’s great is that you don’t need a supernatural creature to feed the hungry, heal the sick, or do other acts of good You can do those all on your own!

      • Daniel King

        It’s true that good deeds can be done without a religious motive, but in our world most good deeds stem from religious motives. Atheists do much less good then Christians. In my city there is a St. Francis hospital and a St. John’s hospital but there is no St. Dawkins hospital anywhere to be seen.

        • raylampert

          Have you read about the history of Christian persecution of atheists and other nonbelievers? Where would an atheist group get the sort of resources and privilege that Christian churches have enjoyed for centuries? Besides, if they were really motivated by charity they wouldn’t be so profitable.
          You don’t need religious belief to do good. If you do good just because you think you’re being ordered it doesn’t make you a good person. It just makes you somebody who just follows orders.

          • M Decci

            Have you read…, etc.

            And that is where the confusion is. One thing is religious dogma, and another one is religious clergy in its respective historic time.

            Trust me, I’m not big on religion, although I never had these conflicts between bible and science. I always saw them as complementing each other rather than conflicting with each other. But through life, wanting it or not I have put to practice the main core teachings of Christianity, like love, compassion, the Old Testament 10 commandments, etc, and have worked great. So the argument about the crusades, etc, is flawed, because is more about political power than it is about religion.

          • raylampert

            So in other words, if people do good things because of Christianity, then you have Christianity to thank. But if they things because of Christianity, then Christianity isn’t to blame.

          • Alexandra Marie

            The LGBT ‘community’ can do whatever they want, but they do not have to force the Christian Church to accept their agenda or their lifestyle as holy.

          • $122284574

            Oddly, Paul acted just like a flamer. He couldn’t keep his hands off a young traveling companion’s pee pee. He wrote a ribald innuendo using a play on words about how useful a slave-boy named Useful was to both himself and his Master He-Who-Kisses. He was totally obsessed with sex and homosexuality throughout his writings the New Testament. And all that homoerotic talk about being a Bride to The Big Guy Christ? I sometimes wonder if Paul was just another Ted Haggard or George Alan Rekers. Eww!

          • Alexandra Marie

            Quite frankly, I find your comment repulsively disgusting–terribly indicative of the unfortunate era which we live in. One’s speech is generally also indicative of the person’s heart, mind and soul, from which it comes from. How sad.

          • $122284574

            I simply commented on a repulsively disgusting apostle. It appears that you find the Bible repulsive and disgusting. So do I. If you want to call Paul an apostle, you can have him, he’s nobody worth following to me.

          • The LGBT community is going to force their lifestyle on us?

            Well, I hope my new husband is pretty.

          • RB

            But what is good? And please don’t whine about persecution of atheists, atheists have murdered more people in the 20th century alone than members of all other religions put together over the whole of human history.

          • raylampert

            First, there is no way to know that. Second, are you using that as an excuse for Christian persecution of nonbelievers? Are you saying that “Atheists killed Christians, therefore Christians should kill atheists?” So much for your moral superiority.

          • RB

            There Is a way to know it, just add up the dead people killed by communist governments for starters. You can add in the French Revolution too for good measure. I never said one form of persecution justifies another, just that atheists shouldn’t whine about historical persecution when they are the biggest perpetrators of it.

          • raylampert

            Not all atheists are communists. Not all atheists support capital punishment. In fact, a greater proportion of Christians support capital punishment and torture than do atheists.
            Either way, that shows absolutely nothing regarding whether god exists or not.

          • Alexandra Marie

            Ray, if you are brave enough, you can find out if God exists yourself. Simply, and humbly, have the guts to ask Him…

          • raylampert

            I did. There was no answer.

          • $122284574

            Spoken like Clint Eastwood. 😉

          • Alexandra Marie

            Keep on knocking Ray or open the eyes of your heart…you will see God in all those who do good for others, such as the ‘good samaritans’ we read about often, who will risk their own lives to rescue another.

          • raylampert

            And what do you see in those who spread ignorance, hate and persecution in the name of God?

          • $122284574

            Could your deity make a contact on the 160-Meter band (radio frequencies between 1800 to 2000 kHz)? I hang out there sometimes, and have a full-wavelength antenna (600 feet long) that is the best. Pray for that, simply, humbly—if you have the guts.

          • Alexandra Marie

            You don’t need radio frequencies dear Will–just witness the birth of a baby, and you will know that God exists.

          • $122284574

            I don’t go much for a magi‧cal birth plagiarized from pagan sources.

          • Alexandra Marie

            The next time you read about the kind of kindness or heroism that brings a tear to the eye of even the most hardened heart or the most obnoxious man, you will have experienced the goodness of God manifested through that person.

          • $122284574

            I can find that same tear-jerking morality in an “unsaved” cat. No magical pagan dying-rising solar deity required.

            “But all moral problems can be illustrated by one misquotation: ‘Greater love hath no man than a mother cat dying to defend her kittens.’ Once you understand the problem facing that cat and how she solved it, you will then be ready to examine yourself and learn how high up the moral ladder you are capable of climbing.” ~Robert Heinlein (1959)

            Also see:
            • Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals. (1996) Harvard University Press.
            • Rational Animals? (2006) Oxford University Press
            • Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved. (2006) Princeton University Press.
            • Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals (2010) Chicago University Press
            • Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame. (2012) Basic Books.

            The supernatural isn’t necessary to explain morality. Morality, kindness, even heroism, has evolved.

          • Alexandra Marie

            Indeed, RB…either many are too young,or too ignorant to remember the horrible 60 years of the Soviet Union and its death camp/gulags and outright murders of religious people, destructions of churches, etc. Ask those who trembled with fear to even own a bible or religious icon hidden in their homes for fear of being sent to the gulags…and they will tell you about the goodness of atheism.

          • $122284574

            Communism is just another hare-brained mass movement of True Believers based on Christian fanaticism found in the Bible:

            • “…to each according to his ability.” ~Matthew 25;15
            • “…not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.” ~ Acts 4;32
            • “…and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” ~Acts 4;35
            • “…the daily distribution.” ~Acts 6;1
            • “…your liberal distribution…” 2 Corinthians 9;13

            And now we know where Karl Marx got his words: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”

          • Jo Clark

            Oh, right, and you so conveniently neglect to mention 6 million people killed by Hitler and his minions, all in the name of religion.

          • Alexandra Marie

            Dear Jo: I don’t think that you know history very well. Hitler and the Nazis didn’t care one bit about religion–they cared about German nationalism and racial purity, which they felt was their birthright as the ‘superior’ Arian race. They targeted the Jews, not because of their religion, but because they were not Arians. Please do not confuse this! Many Christians in countries which the Nazis occupied, like Greece, Italy, France, were left to starve to death because they were not Arians! If you were lucky enough to be blond and blue eyed, like my father’s family in Greece, you might be thrown a crumb or two more than the others because the Nazis liked that you looked Arian. People were literally dead in the streets of Athens from starvation because the Nazis took all their food, even though they made the Greeks cook it for them! This, obviously, had nothing to do with religion because these Greeks were Christians.

          • lorasinger

            Afraid not. If you mean Hitler, Stalin and Pot Pol, then you are referring to mad men who, far from killing for atheism, actually didn’t care about religion in general, but felt that THEY themselves warranted worship and enforced it with murder. It’s simply substitution of one religion for another.

            Christianity on the other hand, got to the top of the heap through murder, having started right from the get-go upon becoming legal and just kept it up for 1700 years, killing even other denominations of Christians. More have died at the hands of Christianity than for any other cause, even the plague.

            See “Victims of Christinity” – all 18 pages of it.

          • WhateverDunce

            No Christians are persecuting Atheists these days. You’re no victim. Give me a break. If anything, Atheists these days are smug bullies. A true Atheist wouldn’t see a difference between good and evil or right and wrong. Atheism leads to Nihilism. That’s why we have religion. Yeah, you can tell me that Atheism can make a distinction between good and evil, but it’s not Atheism that made the distinction, it’s Western Civilization based in Judeo-Christianity that decided right from wrong in the first place. The Western values you were raised on are the product of religion whether you call yourself an Atheist or not. The endgame of Secularism is to tear that down and replace that with it’s own version of morality and it’s own right and wrong.

          • raylampert

            None of that is true. Every major social, cultural, and political advancement the Western world has made has always been fought against by institutional Christianity. Christianity supported the divine right of kings. It supported slavery. It opposed the civil rights movement and the women’s rights movement. Today Christianity is the biggest opponent to equal rights for LGBT people in the Western world. Christianity has stood against every form of progress our civilization has made.

          • WhateverDunce

            Ridiculous. Christianity had everything to do with shaping Western Society. You’ve just painted all of Christianity with a fundmentalist brush which is completely fallacious. I see this from Christian-haters all the time, they falsely believe every Christian is like Fred Phelps or something. It’s complete ignorance and epidemic on the Internet.

          • raylampert

            Except that most Christians do seem to agree with Fred Phelps. They only criticized his methods. I rarely ever saw Christians expressing disagreement with the content of what he said. But if what you say is true, then what are you doing to change that perception?

          • WhateverDunce

            I haven’t chosen a religious path in life. I only consider myself a ‘Christian-Sympathizer’ because if I was ‘Christian,’ I’m a poor excuse for one. I don’t think “God Hates Gays” or “God Hates American Soldiers.” and neither do most Christians that I know, and I know plenty. The best thing about Christianity is that it is basically the only faith that celebrates forgiveness as it’s central tenet. Even a Liberal Secularist can find appeal in the ‘turn the other cheek’ mindset that most Christians have. In fact, Liberalism embraced Christianity in the 60’s and 70’s for this reason. Forgiveness stops war, it stops pestilence, it works to rebuild and to prosper. It’s a beautiful thing.

          • Alexandra Marie

            Well said…it seems many want to judge all Christians by the fringe denominations of the United States which started not by apostolic successions, but by the ego of their founders.

          • sharon peters

            black and white thinking

          • $122284574

            When Christianity was in full force in the Western world, it was in the Dark Ages. When the age of reason began to push back the church, the Western world bloomed out of the Dark Ages into the Enlightenment.

          • WhateverDunce

            Badmouth Christianity all that you want, but Atheism had nothing to do with shaping Western values and culture. To suggest such is ridiculous. It was a fringe movement at best. It existed and still exists only on the margins. Those are the facts regardless of your view of such.

          • $122284574

            Ooops, I’m not an Atheist. And I call myself a Christian, just like the third US President did, who also made the same critiques of Platonic Christianity I’m making.

            Gregory Lawrence Knittel (1993) The Euthanasia of Platonic Christianity: Thomas Jefferson, Plato, Religion and Human Freedom. San Jose State University. http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/etd_theses/689/

            In fact, I think you are the Atheist. Or perhaps Demonist is more accurate term. So how’s tossing-off your Atheist name-calling working out for you now?

            “I concur with you strictly in your opinion of the comparative merits of atheism and demonism, and really see nothing but the latter in the being worshipped by many who think themselves Christians.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Richard Price, January, 8, 1789

            “Indeed I think that every Christian sect gives a great handle to Atheism by their general dogma that, without a revelation, there would not be sufficient proof of the being of a god.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, from Monticello, April 11, 1823

            “I can never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was Daemonism. If ever man worshipped a false god, he did.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

          • Alexandra Marie

            Ahhh, so now I know who the haters are…thank you; I had a feeling that was the issue..

          • $122284574

            Christianity is truly nihilistic. Life of earth lacks any meaning, and only has meaning with a magical afterlife, as this fellow wrote:

            anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life [JN 12.25]

          • WhateverDunce

            You are making a literal interpretation. I am certain this is probably an allusion to the alternate path in the afterlife, basically a metaphor for hell.

          • $122284574

            > I am certain this is probably

            I am certain that you are probably bullshitting right now, trying to ignore the plain meaning of what was written, oh thou Nihilist hater of life in this world.

            P.S. That idiotic Platonist verse has been excised from the version of the Bible I read.

          • Alexandra Marie

            Ummm.. dear Will–I love the life which my parents and God gifted me with. I also believe in the after life and the life of the Kingdom to come. One is not exclusive of the other.

          • $122284574

            If you love your life, you’re rejecting the “anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life” found in John 12:25. If you believe in an afterlife, then you’re in disagreement with Ecclesiastes 3:19 “Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals.”

            All kinds of opinions in that book, aren’t there?

          • WhateverDunce

            What’s the context here? You’ve proven nothing. I am not a theologian and neither are you, what do they have to say about it? It’s bullshitting to leave out context. Also, the bible has been translated and re-translated so many times, how much of it has been redacted and how much of it embellished? We have to take the totality of the work and not cherry-pick those verses that confirm our bias.

          • $122284574

            Oh my god, we’re not credentialed experts in the miraculous! Most often, “context” is wielded as a magic “abracadabra” scheme to detract from some horror in the Bible that somebody doesn’t want considered carefully. Here’s your sign:
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK7P7uZFf5o

          • WhateverDunce

            It’s confirmed that you don’t really understand people or Christians, in particular. You project a certain fringe fundamentalism on everyone that doesn’t think as you do. This is typical of most Atheists. You should try finding as much common ground with people as you can. I’m sure that in real life you work with and are friends with quite a few Christians. I am also certain that you observe Christmas in some fashion, if not for yourself, then at least with your family. You have been shaped by it, whether you will admit it or not. A favorite intellectual of mine, who was also Atheist, Christopher Hitchens understood this. You also don’t understand history. The point is, the foundation of Western Civilization is Judeo-Christianity and Atheists and Secularists had very little to do with much of anything. Our traditions, our morality and the basis of our government and laws are rooted in the Christian faith. Secularism can’t claim those things, but it does seek to destroy it and to replace it with something else. It has been entertaining to engage someone as one-dimensional and stereotypical as yourself. Have a nice day.

          • $122284574

            I’m not an Atheist. I’ve told you twice now. Why don’t you follow your own advice on finding common ground, instead of confirming how little you understand?

          • WhateverDunce

            Then what are you?

          • $122284574

            I’ve told you that too. Do you even read what I write before you start flaming your “atheist” strawmen?

          • WhateverDunce

            I get that you’re not Christian from your ramblings.

          • $122284574
          • Alexandra Marie

            You see atheists as smug bullies, and I cannot disagree with that assessment judging from how they write on these anonymous internet venues, but I see them more as angry and injured souls that want to lash out somewhere. Others could be motivated by hatred and narcissistic egotism too…but I doubt that too many of them are atheist because of philosophical and intellectual musings and searching. Those who are atheist for these reasons are usually not obnoxious persons, and are generally open to respectful debate and reason. You don’t see much of that here.

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            i think there are trolls on ether end of the spectrum. i think one has definately targeted you. please don’t feed.

          • Alexandra Marie

            Thank you for being aware of that. I am finished here. Be well!

          • lorasinger

            All you have to do is a search “Atheists attack Christians” and you will get hundreds of sites – all about Christian attacks and persecution of atheists.
            You cannot be an expert on what a true atheist is unless you are one. What you are expounding is simply what you’ve read that was written by another believer.

          • WhateverDunce

            So ‘Google’ is the ultimate authority on Atheist persecution. Sorry, not buying. It’s bullshit, in fact.

          • lorasinger

            No, it isn’t bullshit, in fact. A search simply means you will find a list of site from which you can pick and choose. In fact, right at the moment, on this site is a family in Louisiana, members of an atheist group, who are receiving death threats and have had to move their family to safety.
            ,
            This isn’t an isolated incident either. Aside from threats of violence, there are areas where people can lose their jobs or not be hired simply because they don’t fall into the herd.
            .
            Persecution of Christians in this day and age in the USA is nonsense. They are the majority and they make the rules, Criticism isn’t persecution. Death threats and other such measures are.
            .
            A majority of Christians are just the people we have all grown up with but there is a minority who are fundamentalists of the extreme kind and these are the ones who claim to represent all of Christianity.
            .
            I’ve read their forum discussions, dunce, and they don’t think highly of mainstream Christians either. In time, if they gain strength, they will turn against you too.

          • Alexandra Marie

            I have no problem with an atheist who is a good person, and for some philosophical or benign reason cannot grasp the concept of God, but judging from the atheists on internet conversations such as these, I see nothing but psychological issues and motivations of anti -Christian hatred as being the foundation of the respondents’ atheism. I doubt such anger in the soul can manifest into anything constructive or redeeming.

          • $122284574

            Frankly, I think you’re the true Atheist here, Alexandra, if one considers that anybody who believes in a angry, jealous, hellfire and torture repulsive deity has surely missed what any real deity should be, as this fellow points out:

            “I can never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was Daemonism. If ever man worshipped a false god, he did.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

          • raylampert

            Regardless, that has absolutely nothing to do with whether Christianity is true or not. And I dare you to look at the words and actions of leading Christians over the last several decades and tell me that anger is limited to atheists. Fred Phelps, Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Rick Santorum, James Dobson, William Donohue, Bill O’Reilly, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann come to mind, to name a few.

          • $122284574

            > I see nothing but psychological issues

            Like your psychological projection?

            That’s the only issue I see, other than your conjuring up psychological issues because you simple can’t debate and defend your beliefs, so you have to attack the person.

          • Jo Clark

            First off, you’ve got people like the Westboro Baptist Church on one end of the spectrum, and very angry atheists on the other end. The vast majority of atheists are not angry at all. What they are, though, is fed up with being demonized for their beliefs or lack thereof.

            I suspect what you call “anger in the soul” and “anti-Christian hatred” is merely that you’re religious and don’t like atheists and you resent the fact that they point out the fallacies in religion.

        • FA Miniter

          Churches get an unfair tax exemption. Atheists do not.

        • “Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said, ‘I tell you the truth. That widow has given more than all the others, for she has given all she has.”

          Someone hasn’t read his Bible.

        • $122284574

          Wrong.

          Are Religious People Really More Generous Than Atheists? A New Study Puts That Myth to Rest
          patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/11/28/are-religious-people-really-more-generous-than-atheists-a-new-study-puts-that-myth-to-rest/

        • lorasinger

          Secular charity organizations:

          Red Cross, United Nations Children’s Fund, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, Oxfam International, United Way, Cansave., Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Big Brothers and Sister, Easter Seal Foundation, Cancer Society, Council for Secular Humanism, (Then there is the Council for Secular
          Humanism.There is the Center for Inquiry. There are hundreds of non-religious student organizations on campuses across the United States and the world
          dedicated to supporting the needy, the victims of social, political and racial unrest and helping victims of natural disasters. They are far, far too many to
          name here.
          As a side note: The 10% tithes of churchgoers go largely right back into the upkeep of the church and missionary efforts.

    • Tim Johnston

      “…Feed the hungry, heal the sick, shelter widows and orphans, visit prisoners, love your neighbor…” Lifted straight out of the Christian Bible.

      • raylampert

        You’ll find support for charity in cultures that aren’t Christian and don’t believe in the Bible. So what?

        • Alexandra Marie

          Actually, if you research it, you will see that throughout the world, the most charitable organizations are linked to some Christian group–because charity is the key fundamental to Christ’s philosophy. For instance, if you ask the homeless of NYC who it is that leaves the comfort of their homes Thanksgiving, Christmas day, and other random nights to serve them hot meals, talk with them and give them clothing and other necessities, they will tell you that it is various Christian church groups, and they will also tell you that they (the homeless) love them and bless them for their ministry.

          • raylampert

            You don’t need to believe in the supernatural to do charity. And whatever they do, it proves nothing about whether Christianity is true. And while individual Christians may be charitable, look at the immense wealth and power that their leaders enjoy and the luxury they live in. There you will see what religion is really about.

          • sharon peters

            This earth indeed is the very Body of God, and it is from this body that we are born, live, suffer, and resurrect to eternal life. Either all is God’s Great Project, or we may rightly wonder whether anything is God’s Great Project. One wonders if we humans will be the last to accept this.

            [if it’s true] It’s true all the time everywhere or it’s not
            true! And that one truth is always Mystery.

            Richard Rohr Quotes

          • raylampert

            The Earth itself is God?

          • sharon peters

            yep!

          • raylampert

            Then it’s a pretty small god, in the cosmic scale of things.

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            sharon told me she doesn’t care what you think.

          • Leon Schoeman

            Christian or non-, the practice of charity is as spiritual as you can get. All people, regardless of what they believe show similar response mechanisms to its own when its own hurts, suffers or are in despair. This doesn’t have to prove Christianity or the supernatural. It proves our connectedness with one another and the world we live in. It remains interesting and can be proven that true Christians are always inclined to engage with the poor, prisoners and the sick at some cost to themselves and sharing its resources freely. There was a time when I preferred to just donate money – easy and clean. Since I pray and rely on God’s grace in my life, I find Jesus where the dirty children play in need of a pair of shoes. I am humbled when I come accross someone who needs a meal today, has no means to pay for it but I can and do. This my friend is where I find the gateway to the supernatural. My charity is the key that opens up the spiritual doors. I know more Christians that do this (and I travel a few continents a year) than the atheists or other religions in these communities do. Besides the fact that I advocate the rights of children, I get far more projects resourced by Christian givers than wealthy businessmen and the wealth and power of some christian organisations is not a new thing and what it demonstrates is the supernatural power of collective human greed and lust – NOT the teachings of Jesus Christ the Redeemer, who served the poor, restored the broken hearted and healed the invalid.

          • raylampert

            And at the same time, Christianity has been at the forefront of fighting against the rights of the poor, the downtrodden, women, racial minorities and other groups. And every day you see Christianity’s representatives spreading fear, hate and lies. Churches and their leaders rake in billions of dollars, tax-free, and fund wildly luxurious lifestyles while at the same time preaching that people are poor because they don’t love God enough. That sort of thing reminds me why I could never be a Christian.

    • seashell

      Heather, this comment should win the Internets. When I read about churches like Mars Hill where they want to save everyone’s soul by spreading God’s word through patriarchy, spiritual abuse, spanking their wives and kids after breeding like rabbits, all I can think of is they would do more good and ‘save more souls’ just by feeding one homeless person.

      I’m an atheist, but even I have joined local (mainline) church projects and contributed money because I believed in their actions, if not their words. This new crew seem like people even Stalin wouldn’t want to meet, full of hate, judgement and tithing demands. Their constant spewing of Bible verses is about as meaningful as reading an EULA, with nothing more forthcoming than yet another Bible verse. Yech.

    • AnnArborReligion

      You have more compassion than God? Wow. Humble much?

      • seashell

        Ahh. So Jesus has been in Ann Arbor all along. Who knew? People have been looking all over for you.

      • $122284574

        Do you really think that the psychopathic, hell-fire, torture-loving deity promoted in evangelical churches is actually “compassionate?”

        • Alexandra Marie

          Have you ever read the philosophy of Jesus Christ? It is the most awesome, non-judgemental but holy and righteous philosophy of the ages. It has nothing to do with what you are describing, so I can only ascertain that you enjoy Christian bashing on anonymous forums without really knowing of what you speak.

          • $122284574

            If you wish ignore the psychopathic evil in the Bible—God-ordained rape, mass murder, slavery, human sacrifice—then that is a reflection on how you’ve lost your moral compass.

            And yeah, I’ve read a philosophical The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted Textually from the Gospels., in which a famous fellow takes scissors to the Bible and preserves a few of the “diamonds” out of the “dunghills,” and all that is left is a “wee little” book. It’s about the only Bible I’m willing to read; the remainder is vomit-inducing.

          • Alexandra Marie

            You are exceptionally angry, aren’t you. I wonder if the ‘psychopathic evil’ of which you speak is actually a reflection of your own heart? I pray not. I do hope with all my heart that you will find peace and let go of the hatred and anger. Get out and enjoy life. enjoy the warmth of the sun, take a walk, smell the proverbial and actual roses, pet a furry animal, smile at a fellow human being, eat a yummy treat, and live all the blessings of life.

          • $122284574

            If you cannot simply call the horrors that “god” commanded/condoned in the Bible evil, you have lost your moral compass, Alexandra.

            And no, I’m not “angry” or “bitter.” Stop with the completely ignorant Fundamentalist tropes that try to turn a critique of the Bible away from the horrors in the scriptures to the critiquer, ok?

            And no, I don’t need your advice. I already enjoy life, and for you to insinuate that I don’t is simply a lie. Quit lying, ok?

          • Alexandra Marie

            My dear friend. It is the disrespectful manner in which you comment and insult, not your critiques of the Bible…. Have a nice day.

          • $122284574

            I’m not your dear friend. You have demonstrated that you’re willing to lie about my personal life rather than discuss the Bible. You’ve earned disrespect. Try earning it some day.

          • Guest

            .

  • Jon Fermin

    Any form of christianity which abandons sacramentality is doomed to perpetually compare itself with the world. it is the sacraments which the church offers, that the world cannot. these channels of grace which are never outdated do not become a burden, but rather a liberation. instead of a church perpetually chasing the present, sacramentality releases the chains that tie the church to the present because it is more concerned with the eternal.

    • sharon peters

      1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect
      ROMANS 12;1,2

      • James

        Pure assertion. How about some evidence and logic?

        • sharon peters

          i am not claiming that ROMANS 12;1,2 is true. i don’t think it has anything to do w/ logic nor can it be proved. i think i set it out here several days ago b/c it seemed to be a relavant contribution that belongs in this discussion.
          here are some quotes i found today that seem to be on the same wavelength as ROMANS 12;1,2

          There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

          Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

          Hamlet Act 1, scene 5

          11For who among
          men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?
          Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit
          who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,
          13which things we
          also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the
          Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 14But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God,
          for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they
          are spiritually appraised. 1 CORINTHIANS 2;11-14

          here is one of my favorite quotes from a childrens book;
          things are not untrue just b/c they never happened.

      • Torin

        Since you are a women, all you need to do is have babies to be saved. 1 Timothy 2:11-15.

        • sharon peters

          Give no poor fool the pretext to think ye are claiming knowledge of what no mortal knows.”
          ― C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
          how live as a ‘sacrifice’? your comment makes me ponder my ignorance & i am sorry that i seemed to provoke you. to my sorrow i am only a tiny bit closer today in my understanding about this or other things i have been exposed to in the 40+ years since i met my higher power.

          • $122284574

            C.S. Lewis has been all but canonized into the NT.

          • sharon peters

            really? I didn’t know!

          • $122284574

            In my encounters on the receiving end of proselytizing efforts, I know well that C.S. Lewis is pulled out immediately after the proselytizer realizes I know the Bible better than they do, in an attempt to appear cool and modern.

          • sharon peters

            i am so sorry the ppl who claim to love the lord have failed you. i don’t know you personally but i can see you are a gifted person w/ intelligence. i did mean to insult you but i am glad you saw thru that!

          • $122284574

            Nobody has failed me; having been raised a Christian and attending church three times a week, I already know well the religious rituals to avoid going to the realm of Zeus’ brother Hades (or the realm of Loki’s daughter Hell, if you prefer your Bible translated into Norse mythology.)

            But I know longer accept the flat-earth cosmology necessary to believe in the underworld realms of Hades and/or Hell. If you haven’t heard yet, or at least integrated it into your knowledge, the earth is round, and there is no underworld Hell, nor is there anythird heaven (heavenly seat of divinity, below) beyond the first heaven where the planets move, and the second heaven, where waters for The Flood are stored.

          • sharon peters

            [to Deputy Harvey Pell]

            Joe: I knew you had guts but I never figured you for brains. It takes a pretty smart man to know when to back away.

            HIGH NOON(1952)

          • Alexandra Marie

            So then, dear Will, be at peace with what you believe! No one is telling you to do otherwise–but you are proselytizing them a great deal; your discourse is also disrespectful. If your goal is to ‘win’ the believers over to your world view, you are going about it in a most childish manner. Insults and obnoxious language do very little in commanding the attention of others to your views. Peace!

          • $122284574

            You have zero ability to discuss anything you believe. All you can do is try to demonize me personally with your insults. Come back when you can discuss the cosmology that underlies your belief system, ok?

        • $122284574

          No, no; hating life is the key to getting saved.

          anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life [JN 12.25]

          If you’re happy with your life, then you’re really evil.

    • raylampert

      So it offers, what? Ritual? Anybody can make up a ritual. Is there anything of substance it can offer?

      • Alexandra Marie

        For those of us who find and have experienced
        great peace in the sacraments instituted by Christ, there is nothing of this chaotic and burdensome world can replace that peace with…

        • $122284574

          Sure, but yours are the same rituals Plato talked about 400 years before Jesus, which are rituals to avoid going to the realm of Zeus’ brother Hades (or the realm of Loki’s daughter Hell, if you prefer your Bible translated into Norse mythology.)

          […] they perform their ritual, and persuade not only individuals, but whole cities, that expiations and atonements for sin may be made by sacrifices and amusements which fill a vacant hour, and are equally at the service of the living and the dead; the latter sort they call mysteries, and they redeem us from the pains of hell, but if we neglect them no one knows what awaits us.

          Plato (4th century BC) The Republic. Book II.
          classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.html

          • Alexandra Marie

            Dear Will, Why do you feel it necessary to argue with believers about their belief? What is your issue?

          • $122284574

            What are your personal issues that make you feel the need to proselytize?

            Lead on, oh great one. You want to discuss personal issues now. You first.

  • Yonah

    That you can “believe” something apart from an institution is a big yawner. So, now. What will you DO now and FOR WHO with whatever that there “belief” you have???

    Should the Methodist church on the corner close its food pantry? Yes or No?

    Today’s lepers are economic. Can the homeless guy come knock on your personal house door and get some “belief” from you?

    • louismoreaugottschalk

      I think I can share my belief w/ anyone who has hit bottom like I have. I see that recovery of faith is easier for anyone who has no where else to go. the homeless ppl I know all know the lord.

  • wow, what a ballsy article, coming from a Christian. Hats off.

  • John Powell

    I think the biggest challenge from the internet for churches is how it effects community and relationships. Sure, people can get all the scriptural, theological, historical, etc., info they want, which can be great for their understanding of the Bible. But what they can’t get is relationship and community with others. So I wonder if people are frustrated because they know more than the pastor or have a different opinion/interpretation of some issue, and so they leave. People leave over doubts, questions, disagreements and have no idea how to reconcile those and live together with other imperfect people. That is what is learned in relationship and community for the Christian who (hopefully) has a basis in forgiveness, grace, freedom and love for others. The internet may have helped force scriptural knowledge ahead of relationship, which is having ill effects on many churches. I know many believers who no longer have fellowship in churches because of abuse, disagreements, power issues or other, which are legitimate issues, but they have always been a part of church. We need a deeper theology and praxis of community (which includes grace, forgiveness, addressing conflict, rejecting power and abuse, etc.). Having knowledge about community and knowing how to be in community are two different things. Interesting how there are many atheist groups are popping up with these same desires for community and identity. Ultimately, what is happening will purify the church of compromise and sin, but this will be a painful and often ugly process.

    • sharon peters

      for various reasons of mental health disability, physical disability & economic status which is very easy to recognize on me in person this is just what i can’t get;
      a real relationship w/ intelligent educated spiritual/ mystic peers and community with other peers in my neighborhood or region. I can see people on internet are not afraid, maybe b/c of anonimity, to know more than a pastor is willing to reveal or be honest about b/c of his need to stay employed, or have a different opinion/interpretation of some issue that politically disturbs the status quo. so i experiment w/ internet like i am trying to do in order to find my own voice and seek like minded people as well as witness the vastness of conversations from deep wells of humanity. b/c i am somewhat antisocial, lack social skills, connections and agency i have no idea how to reconcile doubts, questions, disagreements and live together with most other people. what i learned in relationship and community on the internet is that many believers who no longer have fellowship in churches because of abuse, religous addiction, disagreements, power issues or personality disorders, which are legitimate issues that have always seemed to quench the holy spirit on church property is not going to be stopped. Internet is a sorce of info, comfort, connection that i feel privileged to be part of and it has helped me recover from a cult experience so i can finally find well being and detox from an identity that has been poisioned from my desires for community that i can fantsize control by putting on a false identity.

  • Malcom Warner

    The human species has existed for hundreds of thousands of years. Christianity is a blip on that timescale, and it even at its peak never claimed more than a third of humanity as followers. Religions come and go. Did you really think this one was going to last forever?

    • bdlaacmm

      Yes.

      • djoelt1

        So did the Greeks think about their own.

        • Alexandra Marie

          Actually, putting aside the 12 gods of ancient Greece, the great philosphers of ancient Greece spoke great philanthropic wisdom which was much akin to Christian thought and practice, and something of a precursor to Christianity. Today’s ‘if it feels good, do it, and don’t care about anyone or any ramifications other than your own hedonist pleasure and personal satisfaction’ mentality is just plain animalistic (at best), and not philosophical by any means or culture or time and place. The great and mighty Rome fell because of this very cultural phenomenon which modern Western man is coming very close to fully embracing.

          • $122284574

            Rome fell because of intolerant, totalitarian monotheism. Pagan polytheism was the social glue of the Roman empire, recognizing all peoples’ beliefs as valid.

            Jonathan Kirsch (2004) God Against The Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism. Viking.

            See especially chapter 7, entitled “The Ruler of the Whole World: The Invention of the Totalitarian State by the First Christian Emperor of Rome.”

          • Cjones1

            The republic was lost long ago, but the foundation that was laid held the state up as the empire succumbed to the storms of emperors, plagues, corruption, and invasion.

          • $122284574

            Greco-Roman civilization succumb to the forced anti-intellectualism of Christianity.

            “Empty your minds of secular knowledge.” – John Chrysostom

            A Timeline of Catastrophe: Darkness Descends on the Greco-Roman World
            jesusneverexisted.com/dark-age.htm

            “Rome had been able to resist, defeat and conquer barbarians for a thousand years. Barely sixteen years after the triumph of Christianity as the ‘one true religion,’ Rome fell.”

            The Christianizing of the Roman Empire: Bishops control the minds of juvenile Emperors
            jesusneverexisted.com/xian-barbarism.html

          • Cjones1

            Do you think moving the capital from Rome to Constantinople might have led to the break up of the empire? Not a decision based on Jesus as I recall.

          • $122284574

            If you’ll recall, the move of the capital—which you admit was a large factor that “led to the break up of the empire”—was orchestrated for religious reasons.

            The Emperor [Constantine] always intent on the advancement of religion erected splendid Christian temples to God in every place—especially in great cities such as Nicomedia in Bithynia, Antioch on the Orontes, and Byzantium. He greatly improved this latter city, and made it equal to Rome in power and influence […] God appeared to him by night and bade him seek another site for his city. Led by the divine hand, he came to Byzantium in Thrace, beyond Chalcedon in Bithynia, and here he desired to build his city, and render it worthy of the name of Constantine. In obedience to the command of God, he therefore enlarged the city formerly called Byzantium […]
            fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/sozomen-constantinople1.asp

          • Cjones1

            From Wikipedia…and notice near the end that Constantine had a statue of himself made mimicking Helios.
            Constantine had altogether more colourful plans. Having restored the unity of the Empire, and, being in course of major governmental reforms as well as of sponsoring the consolidation of the Christian church, he was well aware that Rome was an unsatisfactory capital. Rome was too far from the frontiers, and hence from the armies and the imperial courts, and it offered an undesirable playground for disaffected politicians. Yet it had been the capital of the state for over a thousand years, and it might have seemed unthinkable to suggest that the capital be moved to a different location. Nevertheless, Constantine identified the site of Byzantium as the right place: a place where an emperor could sit, readily defended, with easy access to the Danube or theEuphrates frontiers, his court supplied from the rich gardens and sophisticated workshops of Roman Asia, his treasuries filled by the wealthiest provinces of the Empire.

            Constantinople was built over 6 years, and consecrated on 11 May 330.[1][11] Constantine divided the expanded city, like Rome, into 14 regions, and ornamented it with public works worthy of an imperial metropolis.[12] Yet, at first, Constantine’s new Rome did not have all the dignities of old Rome. It possessed a proconsul, rather than an urban prefect. It had no praetors,tribunes, or quaestors. Although it did have senators, they held the titleclarus, not clarissimus, like those of Rome. It also lacked the panoply of other administrative offices regulating the food supply, police, statues, temples, sewers, aqueducts, or other public works. The new programme of building was carried out in great haste: columns, marbles, doors, and tiles were taken wholesale from the temples of the empire and moved to the new city. In similar fashion, many of the greatest works of Greek and Roman art were soon to be seen in its squares and streets. The emperor stimulated private building by promising householders gifts of land from the imperial estates in Asianaand Pontica and on 18 May 332 he announced that, as in Rome, free distributions of food would be made to the citizens. At the time, the amount is said to have been 80,000 rations a day, doled out from 117 distribution points around the city.[13]

            Constantine laid out a new square at the centre of old Byzantium, naming it theAugustaeum. The new senate-house (or Curia) was housed in a basilica on the east side. On the south side of the great square was erected the Great Palace of the Emperor with its imposing entrance, theChalke, and its ceremonial suite known as the Palace of Daphne. Nearby was the vast Hippodrome for chariot-races, seating over 80,000 spectators, and the famed Baths of Zeuxippus. At the western entrance to the Augustaeum was theMilion, a vaulted monument from which distances were measured across the Eastern Roman Empire.

            From the Augustaeum led a great street, the Mese(Greek: Μέση [Οδός] lit. “Middle [Street]”), lined with colonnades. As it descended the First Hill of the city and climbed the Second Hill, it passed on the left the Praetorium or law-court. Then it passed through the oval Forum of Constantine where there was a second Senate-house and a high column with a statue of Constantine himself in the guise ofHelios, crowned with a halo of seven rays and looking toward the rising sun. From there the Mese passed on and through the Forum Tauri and then the Forum Bovis, and finally up the Seventh Hill (or Xerolophus) and through to the Golden Gate in the Constantinian Wall. After the construction of the Theodosian Walls in the early 5th century, it was extended to the new Golden Gate, reaching a total length of seven Roman miles.[14]

          • Alexandra Marie

            Then I suppose that Nero and Caligula were heroes of virtue in your book? LOL>

          • $122284574

            No. Want to invent some more lies about me? It seems that inventing lies is your forte.

          • seashell

            Seems like “if it feels good, do it” has its opposite reaction in moral panics that periodically appear in societies. Neither are philosophical, but that doesn’t make them less real. To me, they can appear in the same society at the same time. Where you might see hedonism, I see a moral panic.

            Thomas Macauley, 19th century British historian and Whig politician, once said that there is “no sight more ridiculous than the British public in one of its periodic fits of morality”.

          • sharon peters

            It’s true all the time everywhere or it’s not true! And that one truth is always Mystery.
            Richard Rohr Quotes

    • Frank6548

      It will whether you like it or not.

      • $122284574

        A fortuneteller we have.

        • Frank6548

          Nah just reality.

          • $122284574

            How see you into the future, fortuneteller?

  • bdlaacmm

    Food for thought, Christian. I might agree with you, as long as you expanded your thesis to say that the internet is killing most forms of direct, face-to-face social contact today – not just those related to religion.

    However, it ultimately poses no existential threat to Catholicism. You can’t receive the Eucharist (the essence of Catholic worship) over the internet.

    • $122284574

      Individually wrapped host with the most for $18.99, online.

      Communion Wafers Box of 1000 by Swanson Christian Products
      • 1 1/8 inch round wafer communion bread
      • White color
      great for home use or church use
      • individually packaged in sleeves of plastic for keeping
      amazon.com/Communion-Wafers-Box-of-1000/dp/B00BERFBQQ/

      Hopefully UPS doesn’t shatter my starchy Jesus.

      • Cjones1

        Without a miracle, wafers are all that they are!
        Be careful before you eat…1 Cor 11.

        • $122284574

          Is Miracle Whip magi‧cal enough for your taste?

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            troll me once, shame on you, troll me twice, shame on me! please don’t feed you know who!

          • $122284574

            Are you angry and bitter that your make-believe faith is proven to be abject nonsense?

          • Frank6548

            It’s pitiful that you think you’ve proven anything. So sad.

        • $122284574

          Re 1 CO 11: The malevolence of Christianity knows no bounds. Sickness and death to the infidels who eat the host without the proper piety! Your reminder mostly reminds me of those ISIS fruitcakes in Iraq. Not really much difference.

          The Christian Origins of Islam | Peter J. Leithart | First Things
          http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2012/12/the-christian-origins-of-islam

          • Cjones1

            I guess it it comes down to respect and perspective. The message becomes muddied and the wise become fools.
            Mr. Leithart makes an observation that is worthy of note.
            As I alluded to, a tower of Babel constructed of, hopefully, good intentions has diluted the core of doctrine and the internet is merely a brick in the wall.
            Your bitterness is more in line with the foundation of groups like ISIS whose actions bloody and desecrate spirituality.
            I am more open to arguments that technologically advanced interlopers manipulated less advanced humans into becoming devotees…but, of course, human imagination that explores the meaning of life easily confounds the simplicity of the truth. The sword destroys the truth generally.

          • $122284574

            Ah, the famous Fundie “bitterness” trope, trotted out when their juvenile threats don’t work. That is so lame, Cjones1.

            You want to talk respect, Cjones1? Don’t make childish threats about sickness and death if people don’t follow your little magical communion rules.

            And so far, you can’t address that, after I brought up just how malevolent your comment was. Care to try again?

  • Cjones1

    A tower greater than that of Babel has risen that confounds the wise and confuses all.
    What doctrine is to be followed when the message is mixed and many of the messengers have fallen?
    Political opportunists have sought to belittle the masses because of their belief in God while convincing them that government should assume the philanthropic endeavors of spiritual charity. A new morality is promoted by government that upends traditional morality…so much so that an anthropologist might remark that human sacrifice has become fashionable and defined as a choice.
    I don’t know what to think until some group like ISIS dictates otherwise.
    Seriously, we all have an obligation to pray for guidance and against evil.

    • seashell

      Perhaps a gatekeeper other than Fox News is in order.

      • Cjones1

        Fox has become best in class. We need diversity in thought because the MSM engaged in NEWSPEAK for too long and it was obvious that many supposed intelligent folks had become political simpletons. People were selling their souls and good name in order to be considered hip and progressive.

        • $122284574

          Mmm, foxy news best in class.

    • $122284574

      You must be an evildoer to despise “God’s servant” so much.

      For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good.

      Romans 13, baby!

  • M Decci

    I’m not an atheist nor hostile to religion. Yet I’ve learnt more about the goodness of Christianity as a secular person than I ever did as a practicing (by force and culture) catholic.

    • Alexandra Marie

      Fair enough. I am often lazy, but I do find great peace in the sacramental life of Eastern Orthodoxy, of which I am a grateful member.

  • Courretort

    Let Ebola continue to “have its way” and catastrophic storms increase, and the west fall to _____. The atheist oriented Communist regime, I believe, in Russia showed many in that society, their need for God.

    There will be a return not necessarily to organized Christianity, but I predict to Christ.
    One of the silver linings of the The Great Plague was that it reminded folk of their mortality.

    The Internet, in my view, is an addiction for many, and all this need for social networking is a cry for community and communion at some deep level.

    While it attempts, without naming the heart’s cry, to replicate a pseudo “communion of the saints”, it never can because it’s not the real thing.

    Only Jesus gives what Jesus can give. Can’t go through “the door” by trying to climb through a window or “connecting” with that which in the end is only finite online.

    • $122284574

      “Silver linings of the Great Plague?” Sweet M.F. Jesus! The only reason I’d want to know what door you went through would be to avoid being in the same room as you.

    • sharon peters

      Restless

      gordon lightfoot

      There’s a kind of a restless feeling and it pulls me from
      within
      It sets my senses reeling and my wheels begin to spin
      In the quietude of winter you can hear the wild geese cry
      And I will always love that sound until the day I die
      There’s a plain and a simple answer to each and every quest
      From every quiet dance who might be a special guest
      In a movie made for TV or a late night interview
      You might even find them on the Young and the Restless too
      Do ya get that restless feelin’ when you hear a whistle blast
      Like an echo from the past
      Of an old engine flyin’ down a road that’s ironcast
      The lake is blue, the sky is gray, the leaves have turned to gold
      The wild goose will be on her way, the weather’s much too cold
      When the muskie and the old trout too have all gone down to rest
      We will be returning to the things that we love best
      Do ya get that restless yearning when you think about your dad
      And the scrimshaw that he had
      Of an old schooner rovin’ ‘neath a sky that’s ironclad
      There’s a kind of a restless feeling and it catches you off guard
      As we gaze off at the distance through the trees in my back yard
      I can feel that restless yearning of those geese as off they roam
      Then trade that for a warm bed and a place I can call home
      Will ya get that restless yearning when you hear the wicked blast
      Of a spectre from the past
      Of a cold diesel rollin’ down a road that’s built to last
      Still I get that restless feelin’ when I hear a whistle blast
      See an image from the past
      Of an old schooner flyin’ down a sky that’s overcast
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2G9PiSiWAwU

  • RB

    “Church” was never meant to be some kind of authority over us. If you read Paul’s description of church meetings in the New Testament or Pliny’s description of what 2nd century Christians did in Church it is clear it was a meeting of Christians who gathered to celebrate their faith with each other and share the Eucharistic meal in honor of Jesus’s last supper. There were leaders of the groups (Paul just says that they should not be drunks, adulterers ect.) but even Paul doesn’t seem to have thought that he was some kind of gatekeeper between Christians and God. I still go to Church once a month with my family but having read a good chunk of the Bible some of the sermons bore me as they are just telling me what I already know but sometimes I really like hearing my priest’s take on the readings. I do however always come away from Church feeling better that I have shared an hour with my fellow believers.

    • $122284574

      > “Church” was never meant to be some kind of authority over us.

      Paul would disagree with you; but then that mythmaking imposter also disagreed with Jesus.

      Jesus: Call no man your padre (pastor, elder, shepherd, father.) [MT 23.9]
      Paul: You have only one spiritual father. For I became your father… [1CO 4.15]

      Jesus: Rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. [MK 10.42]
      Paul: So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us… [1CO 10.8]

  • Alexandra Marie

    What I find disturbing about the internet is that, while I am truly compassionate for those who have issues of faith and their Christian backgrounds, the anonymity of this venue, brings them out in droves to comment on any article on Christianity they find in a way that is not conducive for earnest discussion, but insulting and debasing. I doubt that they would comment to Christians in such an angry manner in a true social venue.

  • A lot of people are leaving the “brick and mortar” church because it is so seeker friendly, it is not longer friendly to the true believer. The internet has made it possible for a person to find a preacher who is preaching the word of God that they might not be able to find locally where they live. It has it’s pro’s and con’s, but a believer shouldn’t forsake fellowshipping with other believers, but that doesn’t have to be done in the “brick and mortar” church. We can meet in houses, over the internet, at the park or over a conference call. It is the fellowshipping that is important and the teaching of the word of God. If that can’t be done in our local churches, then a believer should reach out over the internet besides just dying spiritually.

  • Frank6548

    Anyone who uses Aslan as a defense of their position can be rightly dismissed.

    • $122284574

      The dismissive-avoidant individuals have completed a mental transformation that says: “I am good, I don’t need others, and they aren’t really important to me.”
      /wiki/Attachment_in_adults#Dismissive-avoidant

      • Frank6548

        Oh stop looking foolish.

        • $122284574

          Reality sting a bit?

          • Frank6548

            I’m embarrassed for you if that’s what you are asking.

          • $122284574

            You are the part of the internet killing christianity the most. Congratulations, Frank6548.

          • Frank6548

            So embarrassing for you.

  • AnnArborReligion

    “No one reasonably disputes that attendance in Christian churches is in sharp decline. ”

    Uh….. except gallup that shows that church attendance has been about the same for the past 80 years.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/166613/four-report-attending-church-last-week.aspx

    • $122284574

      Gallup’s error is trusting “churchgoers” to actually be truthful.

      The Gallup International indicates that close to 40%[1] of Americans report they regularly attend religious services, however the numbers that actually do attend are less than half that claimed.[2]
      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_attendance

      • AnnArborReligion

        Will, I think you are missing something obvious. Yes, there is pressure for people to over report how often they go to church. It is unlikely that people attend quite as much as they say. But we are talking about historical trends. If there is pressure in 2014 to say “I went to church”, there surely would be at least as much pressure to say so in 1939. So, if anything, the over reporting would be less today than historically. Right?

        So, I think the gallup data still makes the point. Unless you have data that shows it was more socially acceptable to miss church in decades past.

        • $122284574

          You’re missing the obvious: churches are reporting declining attendance, even while people are increasingly keeping up appearances. It’s called the “Halo Effect” by researchers.

          We knew that over the past 30 to 40 years, denominations had increasingly reported a decline in their numbers…at play is what researchers call “the halo effect”…
          churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/139575-7-startling-facts-an-up-close-look-at-church-attendance-in-america.html

          • AnnArborReligion

            Some churches are reporting declines. Especially, mainline, but many are actually reporting growth. There are countless church plants (the church I attend for example) who are now large but were non-existent a few years ago. Further, there are many new mega churches that have 10s of thousands of people attending that were small a few years ago. Churches go through life cycles. Many grow, then stabalize then shrink. Just as it is bad logic to say that because funeral homes are reporting deaths that the population must be shrinking, it is bad logic to say that because some churches report reduced membership, church attendance as a whole must be shrinking.

            I think that the Gallup data speaks for itself. I do not think that you have any evidence that individuals getting calls from gallup are more likely today to say “I went to church” than individuals getting a call in 1950 or 1970. I actually think when more people attend church, there would be *more* social pressure to lie and say you went (who wants to be on the one heathen?). No, I think if anything, there are more people attending today than ever.

          • $122284574

            Piatt got it right, backed up by research, when he wrote “attendance in Christian churches is in sharp decline.” Your anecdotal account doesn’t trump systemic research. But keep grasping for straws if you wish.

          • AnnArborReligion

            The only non anecdotal long term historical data on church attendance we have is Gallup. Gallup says it is not in decline.

          • $122284574

            Are you blind? Holy cow, your obtuseness is astounding. Can you read? I pointed to this once; I’ll do it again:

            Another study published in 2005 in The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion by sociologists C. Kirk Hadaway and Penny Long Marler — known for their scholarly research on the Church — backs up his findings. Their report reveals that the actual number of people worshipping each week is closer to Olson”s 17.7% figure — 52 million people instead of the pollster-reported 132 million (40%).
            churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/139575-7-startling-facts-an-up-close-look-at-church-attendance-in-america.html

          • AnnArborReligion

            If you read Bradley Wright’s (UConn sociologist) 2010 book on Christian behavior, you will find an in depth review of attendance. Wright argues in depth against many of the arguments you are mentioning and maintains that Gallup should be taken at face value.

            You keep bringing up that the actual number of attenders is lower (probably true) but that is not an argument on trends. You would have to show (and you have not done this) that the overstatements are growing with time to maintain the same percentage of attendance. You would have to show that people in the 1940s did not overstate but people now do.

          • $122284574

            He’s an evangelical Christian, right? I’ve never encountered one yet who didn’t have an axe to grind.

            Now just looking at the book from a researcher’s standpoint . . .

            He bounced around so much in selecting his secondary sources (and don’t forget this book is merely a compendium of secondary data with very little, if any, primary data), that I became a bit suspicious of those selections. I know in some cases he selected a source because of sample size or topic, but he rarely provided a description of the particular study’s respondent base; so we are left with the need to believe that the respondents across all these studies over the last 90 years or so are congruent. Sorry, I can’t make that leap of faith (pun intended). We also don’t know – and I suspect Wright doesn’t either – how respondents were selected and with what type of rigor, how the data was actually collected, by whom and how it was cleaned before acceptance.
            I was surprised and somewhat dismayed that there were no qualitative studies represented in the entire book.

            amazon.com/gp/review/R14J2E6LXQ4TQ6/ref=cm_cr_pr_rvw_ttl?ASIN=1598597590

          • AnnArborReligion

            He is tenured prof at UConn.

            What do you call it when you dismiss a whole group of people (e.g. ‘he is one of those….’)? It is called bigotry.

            So, rather than considering the opinion of a tenured sociologist at a major academic institution, you dismiss him because he is ‘one’ of those.

          • $122284574

            By-God! A Bi-Got a religious person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions.

            I’m just being skeptical and naming his bias. It’s getting pretty bad in several academic areas, even what should be hard science, much less social matters in which somebody has an ax to grind.

            Doctors Clinical Trials Flawed by Biased Reporting
            well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/14/clinical-trials-flawed-by-biased-reporting/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

            A Christian rah-rahing Christianity….well, I’m not completely dismissive, but when I read a critique on Amazon like that, I say “whatever.” If you think his research is worth something, then hurrah for you.

  • Jennifer Prestash

    The practice of Christianity is only in decline in those churches which have put aside the Gospel for political correctness. Examine the churches that are in precipitous decline. They have embraced un-gospel teachings from contraception to abortion to homosexual ‘marriage’. Then examine the churches that hold fast on these teachings. They are stable and growing. You can even see this within the Catholic Church. Women’s religious groups that have embraced the contraceptive mentality and abortion and want women priests have an average age of 75 and are rapidly dying off. Those women’s religious groups that hold traditional teachings and cling fast to the Gospel and keep worship of Christ as the center of their lives have an average age of 35 and are flourishing.

    • $122284574

      Is this a personal anecdote, or do you have any research to cite?

      • Jennifer Prestash

        It’s been well researched by different Christian denominations, though I have not seen a single study analyzing all Christian denominations. It’s not news to those who follow such things, but you certainly won’t see it on the evening network news.

        If you’re really interested, spend some time with google. Or, spend an hour on wikepedia. Make a list of Protestant denominations, their positions on abortion and homosexual ‘marriage’ and then trace their decline or growth since 1900. Don’t forget to include those groups which splintered from the more liberal groups (like Anglicans and Lutherans who broke with American branches of their churches to join with the African branches). You’ll find those which cling to Gospel values are stable or growing. Within Catholicism it’s more difficult to do a self-study. You need to know which dioceses (bishops) are more liberal and which are more traditional, and the compare church attendance rates as a percentage of the Catholic population within that diocese.

        • seashell

          Jennifer, market investors refer to a phenomena known as the “wall of worry”. In that context, the Reformed Missional churches that you speak of have been in a bull market. But the ‘wall of worry’ has become extremely loud, and it’s acknowledged that their bull market is descending into the bear atmosphere, although it takes awhile before the mainstream recognizes the picture.

        • $122284574

          > It’s been well researched…

          Cite?

          • Guest

            Mainline denoms are collapsing. They are also the ones that went liberal. Check out this chart from General Social Survey.

          • $122284574

            People who still actually go to church are switching brand names. So?

  • If church attendance is declining it is because of the sport of soccer. Every good conservative knows that David Beckham is the anti-Christ and that the Bundesliga is the work of the devil, drawing those young minds into Sunday morning soccer games. It is a World Religion. Ha ha.

  • bevy

    I find church to be an especially uncomfortable place mainly bc of the past. I don’t like being around so many ppl I don’t know at all. Im probably socially awkward at the least. I don’t see much use for the church. There’s alot of ppl pleasing going on. Not enuf peace.

  • Derek

    Good post.
    Though I think there is something to be said for the invisible church/born-again believers that are part of the universal body of Christ – though they are scattered around the world – they are one. Moreover, the church is the pillar of truth and we are admonished to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the Saints.
    Thanks again, and you make some good points on the issue of gatekeepers.