25 Stupid Arguments Christians Should Avoid (Part 5)

25 Stupid Arguments Christians Should Avoid (Part 5) October 13, 2014

stupid Christian arguments apologeticsLet’s continue with our exploration of stupid arguments Christians shouldn’t use (Part 1 here).

Stupid Argument #17: Failure to acknowledge the incredibleness of the Christian claim. So you think the Big Bang just happened? And evolution says we got here by chance, and life came from nonlife? That’s crazy—I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist!

Correcting the many confidently asserted scientific errors isn’t our goal at the moment. The problem I’d like to focus on is apologists expressing doubt over a naturalistic explanation when their God hypothesis—that a supernatural being created the universe and came to earth as a human and that this was recorded in history—is perhaps the most incredible explanation imaginable.

That the conclusions of science offend their common sense is irrelevant and unsurprising. If science were nothing but common sense, no one would need to spend years getting a PhD. Unfortunately, none of these science skeptics seem motivated to end their perplexity by reading a textbook on the relevant subject.

Science has given us plenty of surprising explanations—the earth goes around the sun, germs cause disease, plate tectonics, quantum physics, and so on—that aren’t on Christians’ radar only because they don’t step on their theological toes.

And when apologists object to a natural explanation for some aspect of the Christian story (the resurrection, say) they ignore that not only is their supernatural explanation less likely than even an outlandish natural explanation, there isn’t even an accepted category of supernatural events that we can all agree to. Science has rejected countless supernatural explanations for natural ones, but the reverse has never been true.

The plausible natural explanation always trumps the supernatural.

Stupid Argument #18: Christians are better. Christians give more to charity (or are nicer or have fewer divorces or have fewer abortions or are better looking or whatever).

In the first place, many of these proud claims wither under closer scrutiny.

A study by Gregory Paul compared 17 Western countries on social metrics (homicides, suicides, STDs, and so on). The U.S. came out at the bottom of this comparison of social metrics but on the top in religiosity (more). Proving a causal link is difficult, but Paul suggests that poor social conditions cause the high religiosity, and religion is again the opium of the masses, helping people deal with their pain.

I have no interest in getting into a citation war, where you show me studies that rebut any of the points above. Select any subset of the population, and you can probably find at least one thing on which they’re better than average. I’m confident we could find one or more positive traits that Christians have to a greater degree than atheists.

But so what? “Christian belief gives benefits; therefore God” is the pragmatic fallacy. This fallacy argues that if it is beneficial, it must be true.

Perhaps I’m just old fashioned, but I first want my beliefs to be true. I think I can handle the consequences of believing true things.

Stupid Argument #19a: God’s making himself plainly known would impose on your free will. You couldn’t then make a free choice to follow him or not. As C.S. Lewis observed about God making himself known, “[God] cannot ravish; he can only woo.”

Knowing of the existence of no one else offends my free will; why should it be different for God? Satan knows about God in great detail, and he’s still free to not follow him.

The Bible record many instances of God imposing on people’s free will. “God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (Romans 9:18). He hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 9:12), for example, and he gave ungrateful humans over to “shameful lusts” (Rom. 1:26). “The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples” (Psalms 33:10). Following the Ten Commandments and the rest of the 613 Old Testament laws is mandatory, which was a substantial imposition on human free will.

And these Christians will be quick to say that belief is the work of the Holy Spirit, so even coming to belief is not something we do freely.

This is a pathetic attempt at avoiding the Problem of Divine Hiddenness and celebrating faith (that is, belief without sufficient evidence). Faith serves no purpose in any other part of life and is always the last resort. Defending an invisible God and celebrating faith is precisely what Christians would do if their religion were manmade (more).

Stupid Argument #19b: “All that are in Hell, choose it” (C.S. Lewis). People send themselves to hell—don’t blame God. God is a gentleman, and he won’t impose himself on people. If they don’t want to be with him, he respects that. The gates of hell are locked from the inside.

Are we talking the same God who imposes genocide? Not much of a gentleman.

I understand the motivation to downplay the eternal torment that the loving God has planned for the majority of his greatest creation, as C.S. Lewis does with his quote above. There may be Bible verses by which liberal Christians imagine a kinder, gentler hell, but the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus gives the traditional view. When the rich man is sent to hell, he says, “I am in agony in this fire.” There’s one person who wouldn’t be in hell if he could choose otherwise.

Continue with Part 6.

If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it,
however helpful it might be;
if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it,
even if it gives him no help at all.
— C.S. Lewis

Photo credit: Scott McLeod


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  • katiehippie

    God is a gentleman, that’s why he created hell in the first place!

  • MNb

    “Proving a causal link is difficult”
    is not necessary at all if we only aim to disprove that “christians are better people”.

  • Kodie

    Re: #18 – I have a lot of different things to say about that one but probably not all at once. First, religions are subcultures, and belonging to a subculture can have certain traits that are better or worse than another subculture or society as a whole. It is like belonging to a gang, or a club, or a neighborhood, or a particular workplace. If you want to do it the easy way, compare something like countries. Each country in the world has such a thing as “belonging” to it, and though not necessarily homogenous, you can sort of make some generalizations. Some are rude, some are way to far over the line, but let’s take something fairly ubiquitous as “family”. Some countries, i.e. cultures, have a strong emphasis on family and extended family, and many traditions according to it. Since the US has a varied culture based on immigration over several centuries, I wouldn’t say “American culture places a strong emphasis on family.” I would say American culture places a strong emphasis on children, and child-rearing to a somewhat hostile degree, and Americans get sentimental about their families around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but many immigrant groups have a strong emphasis on “family” to a noticeable degree, who are also Americans, but that do not necessarily color American culture as having a strong emphasis on family. Many of these same cultures have an emphasis on food as well.

    Anyway, what about Christians. I’d say it depends more on the congregation than the religion. It has nothing to do with god being real and everything about going through the steps and learning good things and being a good person because your culture demands an upbeat attitude and a generous spirit. Morals are subjective, as in the food example – people are offended because you reject their hospitality, whereas among my people, if you offer someone something to drink, and they say “no, thank you”, it means they’re not thirsty, and nobody’s feelings are hurt because they spent all morning juicing lemons by hand on the off-chance they’d have an unexpected guest who had to take their lemonade or else be suspect. And it’s perfectly fine if they are thirsty and take something because you offered, but there are no snacks or “why don’t you stay for dinner?” on the spot. Religions are just the same way as that. They develop behaviors of the group and interact accordingly that may be attractive or may be creepy to an outsider looking to join. They may accomplish things people in a different group do not, or what people who aren’t in a group cannot, but that doesn’t make god real.

    International Number Ones: Because every country is the best at something…

    • MNb

      So The Netherlands are nr.1 on Ecstasy …. couldn’t they have thought of something else? Like marathon iceskating?
      Nice to read that Suriname is nr.1 on forests. But for how long yet?

      http://www.president.gov.sr/sr/kabinet-van-de-president/fotogalerij/ordening-goudsector.aspx

      http://suriname.wedd.de/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=index&topic=9

      (Scroll the second link a bit for a shocking picture)

      • Kodie

        Many countries exceed at probably more than one thing. I thought I remembered somewhere on the main article why the creator chose certain aspects while ignoring others, mostly because they had to choose one thing, and why choose the boring thing. Commenters are of course offended that their country leads the world at something horrible or something kind of lame, but these are also based on facts and data, and the author of the site seems to put a lot of work and research into these graphics, which are almost always interesting besides. It is particularly interesting in cases of religions – if you isolate a positive aspect that a religion might be better than all other religions at, you have to also look for the negative aspects that they also may exceed at. Say, like, fewest divorces, but you can’t really isolate that statistic and assume that means they have the happiest marriages also; that’s a different statistic and different survey questions to arrive at a different conclusion. The things a religion might be good at as a culture tend to hide what they might be the most terrible at, in the quest to always give religion a pass and look at the positives, and then while you’re at it, correlate a positive aspect with god being real, with god giving them the gift of a positive statistic. It just means they have a cultural ideal and prioritize it among their members, and they could do that with a negative (to the rest of us) aspect as well.

        • MNb

          My comment was tongue in cheek. I’ve read before that The Netherlands are the nr.1 country regarding ecstacy. Deforestation in Suriname is a serious problem though, with the government lacking means to stop it

  • Nemo

    Many denominations don’t even believe in freewill. Lutherans believe that humans are incapable of “choosing” Jesus, and the Holy Spirit must instead override the free will of the elect whom God chose. Calvinists take a step further and state the God has also chosen the non elect specifically for torture. And the Book of Romans argues against freewill.

    • RichardSRussell

      I’m not sure that anybody can make a good case for “free will” in the sense that it’s normally used. We all seem to be products of our heredity and environment and nothing else. We just don’t have a solid enuf grip on how all those complexities interact with each other to be able to predict human behavior with any degree of certainty, but there’s no evidence at all that there’s anything spooky affecting it.

    • TheNuszAbides

      sounds extra-old-school Lutheran, practically Jehovah’s Witness; the last Lutheran congregation i saw was quite permissive and hardly elitist.

  • TheUnknownPundit

    Science has rejected countless supernatural explanations for natural ones, but the reverse has never been true.So true, yet there’s always an excuse from the apologist for this. I’ve heard believers assert that God wanted us to learn things on our own, that’s why he didn’t impart any scientific knowledge through his word. Which means that God wanted us to live in ignorance. For instance, Jesus (aka The Son of God) could have done humanity a real solid if he had told the world about the existence of micro-organisms and that they do harm and good to other living things, including humans. But instead, Jesus departed Earth without imparting this information, so God’s followers continued to espouse the erroneous belief that sin caused sickness. So if God exists, he really is a jerk.

    • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

      I must correct something you’ve said here: The gospel of John contains a statement Jesus made DISCONNECTING sin from physical maladies, although other people of his time clearly connected them. (John 9: 1-3) “1As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.
      2And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
      3Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” If later Christians did as you said and espoused erroneous beliefs regarding sickness, it was something they concocted in their own human minds, or the result of harkening back to pre-Christian teachings. Your accusation that Jesus never addressed this is erroneous — He gave the spiritual explanation but did not explain microbiology, leaving that for us to explore later (do you honestly think any 1st century fishermen could have understood it?). Using logic, I can very easily understand why germs were not one of His chief topics of teaching. Jesus’ point was that while WE are not all-powerful (i.e. our own sin is not so powerful as to make us blind), God is — He can use even the negative, frustrating, and tragic circumstances of biology to not just bring Himself glory, but also to show us our need for Him. Even nature demonstrates this duality of beauty and death in a single system.

      Jesus also said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Human history seems to be marked by a persistent and universal human striving for autonomy and power that we do not have — in fact, we are sick with this desire. Illness is one small way that God brings people to the end of themselves and forces what is actually a scientific, biological reality upon us: WE ARE GOING TO DIE ONE DAY. Physical infirmity is therefore not merely biological, but also spiritual and existential in nature. That was Jesus’ point.

      • adam

        “He gave the spiritual explanation but did not explain microbiology,
        leaving that for us to explore later (do you honestly think any 1st
        century fishermen could have understood it?).”

        Do you think a ‘god’ could not have them understand?

        • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

          Good point. Any omnipotent being CAN make anything happen, right? But what would the effect have been for those individuals? I am having trouble picturing how that particular revelation would have benefitted anyone. They had no means to construct a single instrument that would have fought diseases at the molecular level. It seems like, absent the proper context, that information would be both useless and even frightening. But maybe I am silly to project myself into 1st-century Palestine.
          I suppose I would argue that spiritual things are, logically, up to spirit beings to administer. If God is omnipotent and good, He — and not we — have the knowledge and compassion to reveal things in His own time, when they were both useful and beneficial to humans. If He is the supreme deity, and if He has a plan — and I recognize that you might believe that all of human history has no trajectory or purpose — it would make sense that He planned the timing of various revelations and discoveries. As I study history, analyze the Bible, and look at human nature, I can’t see any other alternative, as the very things that scripture describes about mankind persist across millenia.

        • Susan

          Hi Ellen,

          But what would the effect have been for those individuals?

          They wouldn’t have died in awful ways and watched their children die in awful ways as they stood by helpless to do anything about it.

          They had no means to construct a single instrument that would have fought diseases at the molecular level.

          “He” could have given them the means. That is, he could have explained how the whole thing worked and showed them what to do about it.

          Even better, “he” could have skipped over the hundreds of millions of years of natural selection that involved the majority of beings with nervous systems on this planet that lived and died under a system in which “disease” is inherent.

          I would argue that spiritual things are, logically, up to spirit beings to administer.

          Then, you would have to explain what a “spirit being” is and provide evidence that it exists. Keep in mind that you are addressing many ex-theists here.

          If God is omnipotent and good, He — and not we — have the knowledge and compassion to reveal things in His own time

          That’s a very big “if”. Christians generally adamantly claim that their deity is both “omnipotent and good”. That is, they make the claim that it exists and that it has those attributes but when confronted about that claim, they explain that we can’t know. On what basis do you claim it has those attributes then?

          The rest is more “ifs” projected from “ifs”. Respectfully, there is no reason to accept your first “if”.

          Stories told across the ages from all points on the human planet talk about humans. Nothing special about Jesus. Nothing even particularly illuminating in most of what Jesus is supposed to have said.

          Even if there were, that wouldn’t make him a god.

          Slow down. You haven’t established your first premise.

          Define “God”.

        • Improvements in society are due to humans. We’re not perfect, but we’ve eliminated smallpox, we aid people suffering from natural disasters, and we feed billions of people. You’ve got to invent reasons for God to exist.

          There simply isn’t the evidence. Let him go.

        • adam

          ” They had no means to construct a single instrument that would have fought diseases at the molecular level. ”

          AGAIN how difficult for an Omnipotent being?
          Who could perform literally TRILLIONS of miracles a second for EVERY human being on the planet without effort

          A recipe for SOAP?
          Germ theory instead of claiming disease was caused by witched, spirits and demons?

          “reveal things in His own time, ”

          You mean while BILLIONS suffer needlessly, until we figure it out for ourselves?

          “it would make sense that He planned the timing of various revelations and discoveries. ”

          So needless suffering:
          The worshiping of a cruel god makes a cruel man.

          “As I study history, analyze the Bible, and look at human nature, I can’t see any other alternative, as the very things that scripture describes about mankind persist across millenia.”

          So as a descriptor of culture with no power to change except by human will and motivation.

          Then WHY call it a ‘god’?

      • If the Bible were what you say it is, I agree that a dissertation on microbiology isn’t what you’d expect. What you’d expect would be (1) a recipe for soap (easily made in OT times but glaringly absent) and (2) no mention of Jesus using false ideas of medicine (mental health = demon possession or blindness can be cured by magic spit).

        Much of the rest of your comment was a sad rationalization of why we actually need God to explain things … even though God isn’t needed to explain anything. People getting sick and dying isn’t hard to explain in a naturalistic world. With a god in charge, however–that’s much harder.

        • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

          I hadn’t thought about the absence of the recipe for soap! I can only assume that the other dietary, sanitation, and cooking laws He gave the Israelites did in fact prevent a number of preventable deaths, which is why He gave them to them.
          Are you sure that talking about demon possession is truly a false idea of medicine? Have you got empirical evidence that demons don’t exist, and didn’t exist 2,000 years ago? And is it not possible that there are medical, chemical factors to any illness — whether physical or psychiatric — but that there could also be factors that are beyond the explanation of science? I have spent lots of time in the offices of medical specialists and subspecialists who are unable to explain even the most basic problems with the health of my loved ones. And finally, you seem to be proposing in point (2) above that Jesus might have been saying that spitting and making mud to cure eyes was normative for regular humans practicing medicine. I don’t believe that is implied in the text. Rather it was a demonstration of His unique power to heal. When asked his opinion, the blind man in John 9 who has been healed says, “One thing I do know: that though I was blind, now I see.” That’s fairly straightforward scientific evidence, isn’t it?

          As for people getting sick and dying, both the Bible and science describe reasons for them happening, as you said. The scientific reason — that living things are programmed to decay and eventually die (and I’m not a scientist , so forgive my simplistic summary) — doesn’t seem to explain WHY that should happen, does it? No doctor has been able to tell me why my son was born with a cellular-level disease. Their explanation of the problem itself included at least 3 uses of the phrase, “Then we extrapolate…then estimate….” It is not nearly as exact as “good science” would dictate. But the Bible explains that there is staggering hope outside of the bodily life we lead, that my child has a spirit that is even more important than his body. And that this section of his existence will be short, whether it’s 4 years or 104. The Bible is not an instruction manual for our bodies, as you indicated, but for our souls. I believe that’s why there is not a recipe for soap, which might wash away microbes but has no power to clean your soul or change your heart as Jesus has changed mine.

          I don’t know any of you, but I am starting to feel like I do. 🙂 Thanks for sharing all your thoughts so openly. Have a good evening.

        • Greg G.

          I can only assume that the other dietary, sanitation, and cooking laws He gave the Israelites did in fact prevent a number of preventable deaths, which is why He gave them to them.

          If that was the purpose of the dietary laws, why did Jesus contradict them?

          Mark 7:14-15 (NRSV)14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”

          That was a defense of the disciples not washing their hands according to Jewish law.

        • Susan

          I can only assume that the other dietary, sanitation, and cooking laws He gave the Israelites did in fact prevent a number of preventable deaths

          Why would you assume that without data to support it?

          which is why He gave them to them

          Didn’t “he” give them, along with those laws, barbaric laws about stoning people to death as well?

          How do you think the stoning laws impacted the preventable death stat?

          Here’s a handy dietary law:

          “‘All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be regarded as unclean by you. 21 There are, however, some flying insects that walk on all fours that you may eat: those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. 22 Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. 23 But all other flying insects that have four legs you are to regard as unclean.

          Have you got empirical evidence that demons don’t exist, and didn’t exist 2,000 years ago?

          You’ve got to be kidding.

        • I hadn’t thought about the absence of the recipe for soap! I can only assume that the other dietary, sanitation, and cooking laws He gave the Israelites did in fact prevent a number of preventable deaths, which is why He gave them to them.

          Search “soap” in this blog to find my post on that. No, the dietary laws were simply customs that God demanded. God did nothing to improve their health.

          Are you sure that talking about demon possession is truly a false idea of medicine? Have you got empirical evidence that demons don’t exist, and didn’t exist 2,000 years ago?

          You’ve got an odd idea of the burden of proof. You want to say that the supernatural exists? OK, the burden is yours.

          As for demons, modern medicine does nicely with no assumption of demons. The demon hypothesis solves no medical riddles.

          I have spent lots of time in the offices of medical specialists and subspecialists who are unable to explain even the most basic problems with the health of my loved ones.

          Medicine is imperfect; therefore God?

          Oh dear.

          you seem to be proposing in point (2) above that Jesus might have been saying that spitting and making mud to cure eyes was normative for regular humans practicing medicine.

          This kind of magic looks like the superstitions of the time. Again, this hypothesis that magic spit can cure blindness (after a couple of tries, of course) has aided modern medicine not at all.

          That’s fairly straightforward scientific evidence, isn’t it?

          You’re saying you think it is? It’s a story in an ancient book. It gives us no insights, though science does. I think I’ll stick with the one with the track record.

          doesn’t seem to explain WHY that should happen, does it?

          Science and medicine answer Why? questions by the boatload. Why did Jim the Smoker get lung cancer? Why did the car crash victim break his legs? Why did this person get dengue fever after a trip to Central America?

          No doctor has been able to tell me why my son was born with a cellular-level disease.

          I’m sorry to hear of this difficult problem. If believing in Christianity helps you cope, that’s fine. Just don’t tell us that there’s any evidence behind anything but science-based cures.

          The Bible is not an instruction manual for our bodies, as you indicated, but for our souls.

          And all the claims you make for the Bible have no evidence behind them. “I was made right with God, thanks to the Bible” is an evidence-less claim.

          Again, if this is the path that you must travel, that’s fine. Just don’t pretend that there is evidence here that will convince someone else.

      • MNb

        “He gave the spiritual explanation but did not explain microbiology, leaving that for us to explore later (do you honestly think any 1st century fishermen could have understood it?). ”
        Do you have any idea how damning this is for your Big Hero?
        Jesus could have said something like “set any slave free immediately if he/she expresses that wish.” Jesus didn’t. Apparently he was such an arrogant snob that he thought that “1st Century fishermen couldn’t understand it” and hence “left that for us to explore later”.

  • TheUnknownPundit

    Bob, this whole series of posts is unfair. After all, if Christians can’t make stupid arguments in defense of their beliefs, then they will have no arguments at all.

  • About argument 19a, I think a good wrap-up of average Christian thought about it could be: “You do not have free will enough to take credit for your good deeds (it’s always God’s work in you!), but, at the same time (!), you have enough to get the blame for your disbelief and/or sins”.

  • RichardSRussell

    Re #17, it’s even worse than you paint it, Bob:

    Religion’s unbroken record of failure

    Name one scientific principle revealed thru prayer.

    Name one medical cure discovered by reading the Bible.

    Name one work of literature translated from tongue-speakers.

    Name one catastrophe averted by a holy amulet.

    Name one amputee healed by a miracle.

    Name one supernatural event from the Bible accepted as such by historians.

    Name one flood or lava flow held back by the literal, visible hand of God.

    Name one mountain — or even one grain of sand — moved by faith.

    All these claims of religion — all of them, 100% — have been failures.

    Each time. Every time. All the time.

    Those who made the claims were either deluded fools or outright liars.

    Religion is beyond worthless and well into outright harmful.

    If you knew of a horse which had lost its previous 999 races, would you still bet on it for #1000?

  • busterggi

    “God is a gentleman”

    A gentleman doesn’t ignore the cries for for help from the sick, injured and dying.

    A gentleman offers help when he sees it is needed and doesn’t want to be begged for his help.

    A gentleman is honest & open not parable-ic and hidden.

    A gentleman forgives unconditionally.

    God is no gentleman.

  • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

    I am surprised that anyone would claim that Christians are better than another group of people. In reality, Christians are some of the only people in the world who are equipped to claim the opposite — our faith says that we are inherently and decisively NOT better, that we are not good or righteous or anything else positive in and of ourselves, no matter what we do. We are broken, and we are supposed to be humble. Christians are not better than others — we are just better than we personally used to be, if we are becoming more like Christ and less like ourselves. When I was an atheist, I was a stuck-up, judgmental, selfish, intellectual snob. Now I know I’m nothing, that I’m mortal and fallible and not even remotely better than anyone else.

    • Michael Neville

      This is one of my major objections to Christianity, the concept of original sin, the idea that people are inherently broken. People are not perfect but that doesn’t mean we’re lacking something essential in our lives. A pervasive social organization makes a lot of money by telling people they’re broken and only this organization has the ability to fix them.

      I’m not broken. That doesn’t mean I’m perfect, I have my flaws and could improve myself in various ways (I’m presently trying to lose 20 pounds). But imperfection is not the same as being broken, wounded, sick, or incomplete, whatever name one wants to put on the condition.

      Not only do Christians claim they’re broken, they romanticize the idea. Churches push this anti-humanist idea because they say Jesus is the solution and they’re pushing Jesus. I’m not broken so I don’t need the Jesus repair. Nor does anyone else.

      • adam

        ” A pervasive social organization makes a lot of money by telling people
        they’re broken and only this organization has the ability to fix them.”

      • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

        I understand why many people object to the idea of original sin. It is indeed unsettling to think that we might be inherently flawed. But when you say that we’re not perfect, and yet not lacking anything important, I am a little confused. If you’re lacking nothing of importance, why aren’t you completely fulfilled, happy and perfect? Why don’t you live forever in your current state? If you recognize that you’re lacking, how do you determine the impact (or lack thereof), of what you’re missing? I suppose when I say I’m broken, I just mean that I am inherently imperfect, and I have recognized it. That breaks my pride. I don’t mean to say that I’m beyond usefulness, in the sense of a shattered vase. I just mean I can see that I have lots of chinks and imperfections. Yet I have value and purpose to God. All that said, the New Testament never uses the word ‘broken’ to describe Christians. 🙂 That is probably a modern phrase.

        I am also personally unable to understand your reference to a social organization. I was introduced to Christianity at a secular academic conference by a young man who was not part of any Christian organization, and never tried to bring me into anything like one. He merely presented logic that I found irrefutable, and furthermore, I sensed with the small part of me that was feelings-based, that what he was saying about human behavior per the Bible was also true of myself. There was no one selling me anything, or threatening me with hell. Part of the glue that holds true Christians together is the simple
        admission that we’re all imperfect and we have no interest in pretending
        to be otherwise. Having lived in large, liberal cities, I have never once felt any social pressure to join or buy anything. And yet when I have sought and chosen to join a group of Christians, I have been loved, accepted, challenged, and surrounded by true friends. I have been taught how to forgive, how to love unconditionally, and how to support other human beings regardless of whether I like them or agree with them. I have been given the freedom to be a mess, and also freedom to change. I had not experienced any of this love or freedom in academic circles.
        If you don’t like the word “broken”, that is understandable…perhaps you’ve never failed, been humiliated, or lost something or someone. You may have never experienced your human limitations. I have. The things I worshiped before God was a part of my life failed me in subtle and disturbing ways. More significantly, I failed myself, and I still do, daily. The Greek word for “sin” used in the New Testament is “hamartia”, which simply means “to miss the mark”. I don’t have trouble believing I miss the mark…perhaps if more people understood the word, they would not be so offended by the concept. Christian theology teaches that I am more flawed than I think, and yet also more loved than I imagine. As a mother, I feel that this is exactly the type of love one would receive from a parental god who knows his children well.

        • It is indeed unsettling to think that we might be inherently flawed.

          That’s not the point. The idea that there is a perfect god who made us … but we’re still imperfect is without evidence. This is theology. When you have evidence to show us that your claims make sense, give it to us. Empty claims aren’t helpful

        • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

          What sort of evidence do you seek? I’m unclear if you mean that you’ve never seen evidence that humans are imperfect (surely that is not the case!), or that you don’t think there is any such thing as “perfect” in the first place (that’s a different matter), or that you don’t believe there’s any evidence that God is perfect (again, presupposes there is or is not such a state) because it’s not provable with a science experiment? Your assumption (if that is your assumption, and perhaps I’m wrong) that without hard, fast, material evidence, God must NOT exist, is not remotely scientific or logical — rather it’s philosophical and subjective. So that must not be what you meant. Are you actually open to the kind of demonstration of power, change, love, peace, healing, forgiveness, joy, etc that Christians over nearly 2,000 years claim to experience in accordance with scripture every day? Is that permissible as evidence? If not, then I would be interested to see you prove scientifically that all knowledge must be scientifically provable.

        • Michael Neville

          Are you actually open to the kind of demonstration of power, change, love, peace, healing, forgiveness, joy, etc that Christians over nearly 2,000 years claim to experience in accordance with scripture every day?

          I understand you now. You’re just another Christian missionary here to proselytize to the heathens and apostates. Thanks but we’ve seen what you’re selling and we ain’t buying. It would be silly to buy a figment of someone else’s imagination.

        • Pofarmer

          I wonder if ellen is open to taking about all the atrocities commited in the name of Christianity?

        • MNb

          I bet she is. Original sin. The good old “praise The Lord for everything good, blame Homo Sapiens for all evil” always works. Kind of.

        • You claim that a perfect god made imperfect people. There is negligible evidence for the supernatural of any sort, let alone a perfect creator god. The burden of proof is yours.

        • MNb

          “Your assumption (if that is your assumption, and perhaps I’m wrong) that without fast, material evidence, God must NOT exist, is not remotely scientific or logical — rather it’s philosophical and subjective.”
          It may not be scientific, it is logical. It may be philosophical, it is not subjective.

          “If not, then I would be interested to see you prove scientifically that all knowledge must be scientifically provable.”
          And now philosophy and logic suddenly are not good enough anymore?
          There is a simple observation. You are religious. So is my female counterpart. She is a muslima though and hence doesn’t believe the same things as you do.
          What’s your method to decide who is wrong? See, if two scientists disagree they set up an experiment or go out and collect some observations. What do you do? Perhaps offer some blabla how different roads of faith have the same purpose or something.
          Science walks two paths: deduction and induction. Both are objective. If the two paths end at the same point we can say we have found knowledge. And we’re not talking vague blabla here. We are talking concrete stuff, like things invariably falling downward and not upward.
          Religion at most also walks two paths: deduction and faith. Unfortunately the latter is completely subjective. That’s why it’s impossible to settle religious issues. Hence religion can’t provide knowledge.

        • Philmonomer

          Are you actually open to the kind of demonstration of power, change, love, peace, healing, forgiveness, joy, etc that Christians over nearly 2,000 years claim to experience in accordance with scripture every day? Is that permissible as evidence?

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2012/11/final-thoughts-on-the-atheist-prayer-experiment/

        • adam

          “re you actually open to the kind of demonstration of power, change,
          love, peace, healing, forgiveness, joy, etc that Christians over nearly
          2,000 years claim to experience in accordance with scripture every day?

          Nope, nobody shoul be…

        • MR

          Yet I have value and purpose to God.

          May I ask what that is and how you know?

          He merely presented logic that I found irrefutable

          What did he say?

        • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

          Hi, MR — I’m sorry I haven’t replied to you yet. There are at this point scores of comments directed at or to me, so it’s taking me a long time to reply to all of them. I didn’t mean to neglect yours. I’ve been very busy this week. But I’m trying to think and pray about my answers and also to be kind and considerate in what I say. I’m sorry to disappoint you. I have to feed my family now. 🙂 I will try to get back here tomorrow.

        • Greg G.

          Yet I have value and purpose to God.

          Wow! You must be special to have a purpose for a perfect being.

        • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

          I believe we all have a purpose to God, not that I alone do. If He’s perfect as I believe, then He may not need me, but He chooses to use me, and anyone else who is willing, to give the comfort, peace, hope, joy, love, tenderness and forgiveness that He promises in scripture. Those are the tasks that shape my day. I hope you don’t feel that you’re living without a purpose — that strikes me as very painful. If your “purpose” were merely to live for no reason, suffer pointlessly, and die for nothing, that would not qualify as a “purpose” in my book. I sincerely hope that isn’t what you feel is true of your life. I hope it’s not offensive for me to say it, but I believe God loves you and values you no matter what.

        • Greg G.

          I feel that my life has purpose but I don’t have to imagine that it has anything to do with invisible beings.

        • Susan

          If your “purpose” were merely to live for no reason, suffer pointlessly, and die for nothing, that would not qualify as a “purpose” in my book

          That doesn’t sound like anyone I know.

        • MR

          Gosh, how many passive-aggressive sermons does that bring back. 😛 “If you want to throw your life away….”

          As I expected we have this little gem:

          and die for nothing

          which goes back to my theory that talk of meaning, value and purpose are at root an appeal to a selfish desire to live forever.

          Notice that she never actually talks about what her value and purpose are. She didn’t even bother to answer my direct questions. What value and purpose, after all, could we hold for such a being?

          No, underlying that appeal is a shot at eternity. The common every day variety of meaning, value and purpose, the kind we experience each and every day, is swept aside and the carrot of some nameless mvp is dangled in front of us; but, the truth is, no one really cares what that carrot is so along as they get to munch on it forever. It’s just a veiled appeal to selfishness.

        • Susan

          no one really cares what that carrot is so along as they get to munch on it forever.

          Exactly.

          Technically, we can all go home now. There’s nothing more to discuss until they provide evidence.

        • Greg G.

          Her purpose is to make God feel good about himself for allowing all the unnecessary suffering.

        • Michael Neville

          I have to sincerely doubt that you ever were an atheist because the straw atheist you’re describing is completely unlike any atheist I’ve ever come across. You have the weird idea that atheists are nihilists. You’re wrong!.

          I have the same hopes, fears, joys, sorrows, and all the rest of that as everyone else. The only differences between you and me are (1) I don’t believe in the sadistic, narcissistic bully you worship and (2) I don’t believe I’m broken.

        • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

          I can tell you’re very concerned with defining the beliefs I held 20 years ago. Can you define atheism for me? Maybe my definition is wrong. I have always thought that believing that God did not exist was atheism. Is there a better way to categorize that? Is nihilism incompatible with atheism? I am not well-versed in this area.

        • Michael Neville

          I agree that atheism is disbelief in gods. That’s all it is. Most commonly nihilism is defined as what is properly called existential nihilism, the belief that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. There are other forms of nihilism such as moral nihilism, epistemological nihilism and ontological nihilism, but those don’t concern us for this discussion.

          Many theists claim that since various gods are the sole purpose of life and atheists reject gods that ipso facto atheists are nihilists. The obvious rebuttal is that while some theists see their gods as the only reason for existence, other theists and atheists see other purposes for life. As I said before, I have a happy, fulfilling life that doesn’t require gods. I have a family, a job I enjoy, friends, hobbies, interests and all of these give my life meaning.

          I think that’s the difference between you and me. You’ve decided that Jesus is your raison d’être. your reason for being. I don’t feel the need for gods. I don’t have a god-shaped hole in my psyche crying to be filled.

        • adam

          ” I don’t have a god-shaped hole in my psyche crying to be filled.”

          Nor a hole shaped god to shoe horn in some ‘deficiency’ in your psyche.

        • adam

          ” Can you define atheism for me? ”

          Disbelief in deity – Merriam Webster

        • MNb

          “I can tell you’re very concerned with defining the beliefs I held 20 years ago.”
          No, that’s not it. You make a few claims that remind us suspiciously of typical conversion stories – how awful you were as an atheist, how Jesus came to your rescue and how wonderful your life now is. It’s so stereotypal that it loses credibility.
          However for the time being I’ll accept that your story is genuine. Point remains that your ex-atheism is hardly thoughtful. So we cannot relate anyway. There is nothing in your story that would cause even a tiny bit of doubt afaIc – and not as many other regulars are concerned either, I bet.
          So why would we bother about your conversion? If it works for you, congratulations. Making believers deconvert is very low on my priority list anyway.

        • MNb

          “I hope you don’t feel that you’re living without a purpose.”
          I don’t – because I myself set purposes for myself. I think purposes to imaginary sky daddies utterly lame.

          “I hope it’s not offensive for me to say it, but I believe God loves you and values you no matter what.”
          It’s not offensive, it’s worse. It’s ridiculous.

        • adam

          “I believe we all have a purpose to God”

          So that he could torture most human beings for eternity…

        • MNb

          “I understand why many people object to the idea of original sin. It is indeed unsettling to think that we might be inherently flawed.”
          And this casts more doubt on your statement that you used to be an atheist. Atheists generally don’t need a meaningless expression like “sin” to understand that human beings, including themselves, are inherently flawed.

        • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

          Unfortunately, I actually believed I was not significantly flawed. I know it sounds crazy, and embarrassing, but I was that prideful. When I was an atheist, I rejected morality because of my lens of cultural relativism, and so I didn’t see myself as having inherent flaws…there was no standard or source of moral comparison. I’m not proud of it, but that was my life and mindset. I have read my old journals with shock and awe. 😉 Sorry, really signing off now!

        • adam

          ” When I was an atheist, I rejected morality because of my lens of cultural relativism, ”

          So you’ve chosen instead the morality of the bible?

          From the ‘morality’ of the bible ANYTHING is forgivable with the exception of blasphemy of the holy ghost

          Yes, you can commit genocide and be forgiven.

          Yes, you can murder, rape and be forgiven.

          You can commit genocide on every single individual in any group except lets say a baby and its mother, you CAN beat that baby to death, rape its lifeless body, then carve that baby up and eat it, cut off that mothers head and shit
          that baby down her throat…..

          And STILL be forgiven.So the biblical “morality” is the REAL case where anything goes…

          THIS is the kind of ‘morality’ you get out of a biblical deity

        • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

          A human who does the things you describe above would be violating every moral teaching of Christ. “Christian morality” never excuses or condones any of those crimes — Christianity is not a free-for-all. You have misrepresented Christian morality.
          However, the Christian concept of mercy and justice does include God’s forgiveness for a person who sees what they have done and repents of it and changes. That is true. That doctrine doesn’t bother me because I can only imagine that if a person did the things you listed above and then eventually saw how reprehensible their deeds were, they would be reduced to a puddle with grief and guilt and shame as their true condition hit them. It is at that point that God forgives. He may not remove the consequences of their actions, but He is moved by humility, like any father or mother would be. When I read the gospels, I see a relational deity who seeks restoration with us if we are willing.

        • adam

          “A human who does the things you describe above would be violating every moral teaching of Christ.”

          But STILL FORGIVABLE, just as I describe

          “He may not remove the consequences of their actions, but He is moved by humility, like any father or mother would be.”

          How so?

          How does an IMAGINARY character in a book demonstrate that it is ‘moved’ emotionally?

        • MNb

          “there was no standard or source of moral comparison.”
          Then you didn’t even try. See, as soon as unbelief came en vogue, ie some 200+ years ago, smart people began wonder how to be a moral person without any god. Here is one of the first.

          http://www.iep.utm.edu/bentham/

        • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

          I didn’t have a chance to read all of it…but I did have quite a few friends in college who loved Ayn Rand and declared themselves to be utilitarians. They justified the most selfish actions with this philosophy. I need to read more about it. To me, it sound less like morality, and more like a system of government or a means for consensus? I will try to read the whole article later…

        • Greg G.

          Certain members of the GOP have adopted Rand’s philosophy.

        • MNb

          Ayn Rand was not utilitarian, she was hyper-egotistic and not capable of accepting her own philosophy when she happened to be at the butt-end. So afaIc don’t bother about her.

          If you don’t have the time to read that article, this is the core:

          “utilitarianism, which evaluates actions based upon their consequences. The relevant consequences, in particular, are the overall happiness created for everyone affected by the action.”
          Note: happiness here on Earth, not during afterlife.
          And that’s why I provided the link: you wrote

          “there was no standard or source of moral comparison.”
          Bentham provided it – suffering is bad, happiness is good.

        • Pofarmer

          “When I was an atheist, I rejected morality because of my lens of cultural relativism, and”

          Hedonism is not atheism.

        • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

          I wasn’t conflating the two — just saying that my rejection of morality was concurrent with my atheism. I agree that they’re different — and some strands of American Christianity are extremely hedonistic.

        • Michael Neville

          I agree with Esmeralda Weatherwax:

          And sin, young man, is when you treat people like things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is. –Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum

          That is the only sin. God, being an imaginary being, cannot be sinned against.

        • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

          That is a cool quote. I have to say, though, that I think the materialist view is the one that treats people like things. If you don’t have a spirit, and you’re just some collection of cells, isn’t that treating yourself like a thing? It makes me so sad.
          Jesus said that people are much more than things. That we are spirit, that we are loved, that we are in the image of God, and that we can live forever in a place with no pain. So I would conclude the exact opposite that you did from the Pratchett quote — if sin is treating people like things, then I submit that the materialist worldview is highly sinful.

        • Greg G.

          You are confusing materialism with sociopathologism.

          Materialism just doesn’t treat imaginary concepts as real.

        • Michael Neville

          I treat people as people, not ensouled critters like you’re proposing. First, tell me what is a spirit, how does the spirit interact with people, and how can you tell if a spirit even exists?

          People are people, senescent beings capable of emotion, rational thought, hopes, dreams and the rest of the mental paraphernalia of being human. You’re the one reducing us to a “collection of cells” by requiring that we have a “spirit” which you can show zero point zip evidence exists but you deem necessary for people to be human.

        • About humans as collections of cells: if we are collections of cells, is there value in hiding or ignoring that, even if it makes you feel sad? I’d prefer to understand the truth and embrace that.

          You could say that people are “shit makers” if you’re determined to find an unpleasant, earthy description, but why would you do that? All the loved ones in your life are people; surely it’s easy to see their importance even if they don’t have souls.

          Are you aware of the concept of emergent phenomena? Some properties only emerge with sufficient volume (like fluidity in water–this isn’t a property of a water molecule).

        • Greg G.

          Plants see us as “fertilizer factories”. Tapeworms see us as luxury apartments.

        • Dys

          There’s also the fact that the notion of Original Sin is completely immoral. It’s little more than punishing others for the supposed actions of a single pair of humans. If the god of Christianity were truly perfectly just, good, etc, then Original Sin would be one of the first things to go.

          It’s a bad, outdated idea that doesn’t really make any rational sense given the common attributes of god.

        • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

          I have been giving this some thought. I personally — and I do not represent all of Christendom, obviously — tend to look at the Hebrew in Genesis 1-3 and see some synecdoche, and some symbolism. I don’t think this text is meant to be scientific or historic, but spiritual and philosophical. Having an English degree, I do believe we have to read Genesis differently than the historical books (or books of prophecy, or poetry, or exhortation). Have you ever looked at the meaning of “Adam” in Hebrew? You might find it particularly fascinating. Here is a link to the Hebrew word with the usage of “adam” in the entire Old Testament outlined. http://biblehub.com/hebrew/120.htm

          I think that the doctrine of original sin came from 1 Corinthians 15:22, but I do not have a theological background and you guys may know more than I do about that doctrine. I should probably avoid using that phrase until I know more about it!

        • Greg G.

          If you think Genesis is allegorical, some religious groups will ask you if you think think Jesus died for a metaphor.

          But then you have to read Exodus differently as there was never a large population of Hebrews in Egypt. Archaeology shows that there was no 40 year sojourn of a group of people large enough to subdue the “Promised Land”. Archaeology shows they developed a culture along side the Canaanites as the only cultural differences between sites is that some had pig bones and some didn’t.

          Stories about David and Solomon are exaggerated. There’s Balaam’s talking donkey, Samson’s magic hair, the miracles of Elijah and Elisha… You can read it for critically with comprehension of just for inspiration while ignoring the silly stuff.

        • Michael Neville

          But when you say that we’re not perfect, and yet not lacking anything important, I am a little confused. If you’re lacking nothing of importance, why aren’t you completely fulfilled, happy and perfect?

          My dining room table has a stain in the wood and some nicks around the edges, so it isn’t perfect. However it’s completely functional for eating on.

          Similarly I have my imperfections. I get annoyed when faced with stupidity or lack of concern for others. I dislike having to explain some things over and over again to a co-worker. I’m about 20 pounds overweight. But overall I’m fulfilled and happy with myself.

          I am also personally unable to understand your reference to a social organization.

          Now you’re trying to make me angry. I’ll let it go this time because you didn’t know that stupidity makes me angry.

          I was talking about Christian churches, as should have been plain to anyone with more than three brain cells, which supposedly you have.

          The Greek word for “sin” used in the New Testament is “hamartia”, which simply means “to miss the mark”.

          That may, as in MAY be true. However nowadays “sin” means “evil, wickedness, double plus ungood” as you and I and everyone else who’s living in the present day knows. As I said before, Christian churches promote the idea that everyone is sinful and that Jesus is the fix. Well, I’m not sinful. Too bad that your self-esteem is so low that you believe these obvious lies.

        • Michael Neville

          I see now that I was rather intemperate in my previous post for which I apologize. However my point remains that Christianity teaches that people are sinners from birth. In other words, we’re broken. If your premise is that people deserve punishment just for being human then I think you’re anti-human.

        • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

          Thank you so much for your apology, Michael — that really means a lot to me, and you have my utmost respect for being willing to say that. Apology accepted. And I’m sorry I made you angry. I think what I meant to say, but worded poorly, was that I didn’t understand why you were saying that a pervasive social organization makes a lot of money off of me, or says that only it can fix me. I just don’t remember ever experiencing social pressure to attend church (I don’t live in the deep south), and no church has claimed it can fix me (I think that would be heresy). They say that only Jesus does that. But you are so right that there are people and churches that make that claim anyway.
          I also had never heard of churches being referred to as a social organization, though it’s partially accurate. I have belonged to some rather frivolous social organizations (don’t judge me) and so I tend to associate your moniker there with something other than my church. 🙂
          I am wondering if my particular type of church is different from some you have experienced…I have never belonged to one that required giving — that’s entirely left to me to decide, and I know how they/we spend the money. For the last 18 years, I have always been a member of independent churches. I am a natural skeptic and I am slow to trust organizations.
          I would never quibble with you — Christianity teaches that people are born sinners. As I mentioned elsewhere, I no longer doubt this because I have raised children and observed them closely from birth. They seem to be regarded in our community as unusually tender-hearted, disciplined, and analytical…and yet they are most certainly sinners, in the sense that they miss the mark like all of us do. I used to despise the word “sinner” too, and I agree that in common parlance, it is used in hideous name-calling, but I have studied it in the Greek and I now understand it. The New Testament uses “sinner” (hamartolos) in two different ways: one use refers to a person devoted to sin, but the other is used of all people, as those who are not free of hamartia. The people whom others had labeled as “sinners” are always the heroes of Jesus’ stories (esp. see Luke 7, 18, & 19 and the story of the Good Samaritan). 🙂 I wish more Christians would stop worrying about everyone else’s sins and work on our own. Then people might actually want to listen to what we say.

        • Michael Neville

          I wish more Christians would stop worrying about everyone else’s sins and work on our own.

          This is one thing that angers me about many Christians. The Catholic hierarchy have an official policy to support and protect child raping clergy while simultaneously claiming to be the ultimate moral authority. The CEO of Hobby Lobby got the Supreme Court to agree for him to deny his employees company insurance paid contraception because Baby Jesus cries whenever a woman takes the Pill. The Mormon Church (I consider Mormons to be Christians) spent millions of dollars in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to prevent same sex marriage even for non-Mormons.

          Edited because I replied to the point I edited out elsewhere.

        • adam

          “I understand why many people object to the idea of original sin. It is indeed unsettling to think that we might be inherently flawed. ”

          Apparently not, because it is not about being flawed, it is about being punished for the deeds of another.

          It is also about punishing those who dont have the capacity to understand the ‘crime’

          It is simply CRUEL

          I have no problem being inherently flawed..

        • adam

          “I understand why many people object to the idea of original sin.”

          Sin?

        • MR

          And yet when I have sought and chosen to join a group of Christians, I have been loved, accepted, challenged, and surrounded by true friends. I have been taught how to forgive, how to love unconditionally, and how to support other human beings regardless of whether I like them or agree with them. I have been given the freedom to be a mess, and also freedom to change.

          Yeah, and virtually everyone I know gets the same thing from friends, family and all kinds of diverse social groups which have nothing to do with religion. You don’t need Christianity to get those things. Heck, even cult members feel love, acceptance, challenged, true friends, etc. It says nothing about the veracity of Christianity at all.

          I had not experienced any of this love or freedom in academic circles.

          Maybe because academic circles are built around… academics. Not all social groups are built on touchy-feely things.

        • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

          That’s really great that the people in your life have those things. I’m glad to hear that. I guess I have just encountered a lot of people who confide that they don’t experience depth with others like that, and they long for it. I think we humans were meant to be connected.
          Cult members, I believe, have been made to feel that their connection is to the cult, instead of directly to God.

        • MR

          You’re not talking about connections with God. Reread what you wrote. You’re talking about connections with people. You’re implying that Christians offer love, acceptance, etc., and “academic circles” don’t. I’ve just pointed out that love, acceptance, etc., has nothing to do with being Christian. Everyone, everyone, can experience those things in their life without any religion whatsoever. Your post is simply a red herring that falsely ascribes those qualities to Christians rather than human beings.

          As far as having direct connections to God, you haven’t even established that a god exists.

        • Greg G.

          And yet when I have sought and chosen to join a group of Christians, I have been loved, accepted, challenged, and surrounded by true friends.

          The term is “love bombing”. What happens when you see through the faith charade? Is it a group that will shun you?

        • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

          Wow, I haven’t heard of love bombing. Do you know who is teaching people to do that? Are there groups that do this as a practice? I see nothing in the Bible about that. It appears to me that Jesus said to love and forgive unconditionally. I have many, many friends who don’t believe in God or follow other religions, and I treat them with the love that I feel God gives to me. I hope you haven’t been the victim of a love bombing — that sounds creepy. If someone befriended you only when you were a church-goer, and then abandoned you when you walked away, that is very cruel, and I’m sorry that happened to you.

        • Greg G.

          Love bombing is not unusual. When a convert joins a group, the group does lots of things to welcome the person to make them feel like they belong. It is as if the believers are thrilled that somebody else fell for the religion and it helps to allay their own doubts. It feels really good so it is not a bad thing in itself. But if a person from the group falls away, it is as if the cognitive dissonance is stirred up in the people in the group making them uncomfortable, so that person becomes non grata. Many groups will make it a formal shunning.

          I maintained a friendship with one guy who fell rose away. He had been brought into the group by coworkers and they changed their behavior toward him at work which made an uncomfortable situation for all. It wasn’t as if they were intentionally shunning.

          When I began to understand that the beliefs of the group were wrong about evolution and other things, I still tried to rekindle my faith. By the time I realized that was not going to happen, it was no problem for me to stop attending. I played several sports so I had friends from my teams and our opponents.

        • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

          Ah, I see what you mean. I guess it’s good that there was a natural separation that happened socially, versus a formal shunning. But that sounds so awkward in the work environment. 🙁 I’m glad you had other friends who were more loyal.

        • Wow, I haven’t heard of love bombing. Do you know who is teaching people to do that? Are there groups that do this as a practice? I see nothing in the Bible about that.

          Nor do you see singing or cathedrals or whipping people into an emotional frenzy, but smart church leaders have kept practices that make religion sticky.

          It appears to me that Jesus said to love and forgive unconditionally.

          Did he? I can’t get over that whole hell thing, which kind of overshadows anything laudable he did.

    • MNb

      I don’t need a guy who has been dead for almost 2000 years to understand that in the grand scheme of things I’m nothing, that I will die and return to nothingness and that I’m fallible.

      • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

        You didn’t address the question of feeling superior to others. 😉 It’s possible to admit one is fallible on a micro level, and even “nothing” in the “grand scheme of things”, while never admitting that everyone who disagrees with you or lacks your education and convictions could be just as sincere, intelligent, kind-hearted, open-minded, or important to the planet as yourself…just curious if you left that part alone on purpose. 😉 I’m a recovering snob so I sort of know that of which I speak. When I was far from God, I pronounced judgment on all kinds of people who struck me as idiots. I can’t do that anymore because I have studied Jesus’ teachings. How do you battle the tendency towards superiority, if you fight that battle? It seems like a pitfall for theists and atheists alike.

        • MNb

          “You didn’t address the question of feeling superior to others. ;-)”
          Deliberately.

          “It’s possible to admit one is fallible on a micro level, and even “nothing” in the “grand scheme of things”, while never admitting that everyone who disagrees with you or lacks your education and convictions could be just as sincere, intelligent, kind-hearted, open-minded, or important to the planet as yourself…just curious if you left that part alone on purpose. ;-)”
          Yes, because in your initial post didn’t make this point.
          No, I don’t need any god to admit that either.

          “When I was far from God, I pronounced judgment on all kinds of people who struck me as idiots. I can’t do that anymore because I have studied Jesus’ teachings.”
          Good for you, but there are plenty christians who are arrogant snobs who have studied those teachings at least as well as you. And I still don’t need them to not be a snob.

          “How do you battle the tendency towards superiority, if you fight that battle? It seems like a pitfall for theists and atheists alike.”

          1. By realizing that all humans are of equal value.
          2. By setting the bar higher for myself than for other people.
          3. By being brutally honest to myself about my many flaws.

          And guess what? In part can be found in the Gospels indeed. For instance Matth. 7:1 is my favourite Bible quote. But I still don’t need to be a christian to realize that there is some good stuff as well.

          “When I was far from God”
          This casts doubt on your statement “When I was an atheist”. If you were an atheist indeed you would understand that “far from God” is a meaningless expression for an atheist. Apparently you always believed, but there was a time you didn’t practice it. Perhaps you even hated god, similar to CS Lewis?

        • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

          You are right — there are so many Christians and others who struggle to take an attitude of humility. To me, this is evidence of the fact that we are born prideful, and while we are still physical beings, our animal, material nature is going to be at war with the rest of us (because I believe there is more to us that flesh and blood). I don’t know if you have children, but I do, and they seemed to come from the womb ready to place their wants (not just needs) ahead of all others. 🙂 Having kids has actually been the most forceful demonstration to me of the correctness of the idea that all men, no matter how we attempt to act, sin (miss the mark).

          I really appreciate all that you said that you do to stay humble. I do agree that the passage you quoted and all of the Sermon on the Mount, provide the underpinning for those ideas. The first verse I ever memorized when I became a Christian was Matthew 7:1 — I can’t even figure out why, but I opened the bible and there it was, and it convicted me of my error and judgmentalism. So we have that in common. 🙂

          When I say I was far from God, I am using the lens of my last 20 years as a Christian — while at that time, I didn’t believe He existed, I now describe it differently of course. Now I would say, I was convinced He was a fabrication, and though I know now that He was still there, I chose to reject His existence during those years. So, through my current lens, I would describe that former time as one when I was far from God. Sorry if I caused any confusion. I never did hate Him — I had no reason to, if He didn’t exist. I mostly just hated other people whom I deemed to be inferior. 😉
          I’m off to plan a birthday party — have a good day, and I’ll look forward to chatting more soon.

    • “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!”

      I’m amazed that Christians brag about how worthless they are but then tell us that Christianity is a religion full of hope and that it’s actually the atheists who have the hopeless worldview.

      • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

        I’ve been mulling this over, but I can’t understand your logic. If I have hope in something besides myself, why would that preclude me from being humble?

        • We’re talking about different things. I’m comparing Christians’ wallowing in self-abasement while wagging their fingers at atheists, saying that the atheist worldview is hopeless.

    • Philmonomer

      We are broken, and we are supposed to be humble. Christians are not
      better than others — we are just better than we personally used to be,
      if we are becoming more like Christ and less like ourselves.

      Isn’t the logical conclusion of this that “Christians are better than other people?”

      The only way I can understand that Christians aren’t better than other people is if the people who become Christians are actually worse than other people, such that when they become Christians they they just rise up to the same level of other people.

      • Ellen Sharp Tuthill

        This is a very interesting point! I respect how you’re looking at this. I guess my explanation would be that I am still not better than anyone else, because I am still a flawed human. Since God’s been living in me, I have changed a lot, and I am able to act in a different way because of his power, not mine. So although I am personally better, and better off, as I’m made more like Christ, I will always have some percentage of me that is bound by my human limitations and selfishness. In that, I am exactly like every other person, regardless of what they believe. That’s what I mean by never being better than anyone else. The Christians I’ve known who have been following Christ with humility for a very long time are the most aware of their sin — the longer and better they know Him, the more sensitive they are to where they fall short, and still need Him.
        I can’t really address the second part of your statement because I think all people are equal to each other. There’s no reason to compare ourselves to each other to see who is better, in my belief system, because we are all the same. We all have value and all are loved, and we all miss the mark.

  • Lifelessly

    No one choose hell god just incredible bias towards sinners and sin it self well speaking for most Asian most will not forsake there acestor, culture, history just to please that self absorbed god “speaking for religious people in Asia that is”