Why Is Christianity Conservative? Shouldn’t it Be Leading the Charge for Change?

Why Is Christianity Conservative? Shouldn’t it Be Leading the Charge for Change? April 20, 2016

Why is Christianity conservative? (By conservative, I mean “believing in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society,” as defined by Merriam-Webster.)

On one hand, it’s obvious why a religion would be conservative. Religions preserve a particular social order. They’re like many other institutions or movements that want constancy in a particular area of society like the Freemasons or other fraternal organizations, the National Wildlife Federation or other nature conservation organizations, a constitution, proponents of a traditional language or culture, or labor unions.

A religion like Christianity has a particular need to be conservative and reject new ideas since they already have the perfect plan given by a perfect source.

On the other hand, Christianity in many ways welcomes change. Many Christians feel free to declare other church leaders or traditions to be heretical. Christianity is the opposite of conservative when you consider its 45,000 denominations, which are expected to grow to 70,000 by 2050. But then every new denomination becomes a stake in the ground, a conservative position that must be defended, a hill to die on.

The fact is that social improvement comes from change. Slavery in the U.S. was allowed, and now it’s not. Polygamy was allowed, and now it’s not. Voting and other civil rights were not given to women and certain classes of people, and now they are. Alcohol was allowed, then prohibited, and then allowed. Western society is satisfied that these issues are now resolved for the better.

Where does social change come from?

I’ll grant that Christianity can’t embrace every crazy new social fad. But Christianity isn’t an ordinary institution; it’s supposed to be the only one that comes from God. It’s perfect. So it should know what the correct moral response is. It should be leading the parade and giving us the bitter but necessary medicine to make society a better place on a dozen important issues.

But it doesn’t work that way. Why does the church make no moral commands that we moderns find shockingly advanced? The shocking thing is when their position is too backwards, making the Bible look like just another ancient book.

Imagine our descendants in a future society. They will probably have adopted additional social changes. Whatever these changes are, can you imagine Christianity driving the change? It never has in the past: give me one example where Christianity led a reluctant society through a social change that is now almost universally accepted.

I’m sure the institution of slavery will spring to mind for some readers (William Wilberforce and all that), but Old Testament slavery was the same as American slavery, and the Bible gives more support for the slave owner than the abolitionist. If any other counterexamples come to mind, I’ll also want to see that (1) Jesus unambiguously advocated for this position and (2) the early church advocated for this position. Rejection of slavery or polygamy? Prohibition? Civil rights for minorities, immigrants, and women? Education rather than work for children? Laws against mixed-race marriages? Why did society have to inform the church the correct path on these issues?

Christian response

I’ve heard several Christian responses.

1. Christians and Christian movements have been the drivers of change on many of these issues!

Christians and Christian movements have been on both sides of these issues, giving no clear Christian position. We don’t see clear guidance from Jesus, and these are modern concerns, not ones that the Christian church understood since its earliest days.

Take one specific example: the U.S. Equal Pay Act of 1963 that abolished pay differences based on sex. There might have been a Christians in favor of it primarily for biblical reasons, but that’s not what we’re looking for. There was no unified voice pushing for this from Christians and their churches, raising the issue when the majority of society didn’t even know there was a problem. That’s what you’d need to argue that Christianity did indeed have the one correct moral viewpoint.

The major social changes we’ve touched on—abolition, civil rights, and so on—happened more than a thousand years after the early church. The push for change often came from Christians, but these Christians weren’t simply pointing out truths that were plainly in the Bible all along. Christians advocating for change on these issues were not acting as students of the Bible; rather, they were products of the Enlightenment and modernity.

2. Perhaps Old Testament morality and modern morality are both right. God might simply be waiting for us to mature so that we can accept more demanding moral standards.

This argument is just an attempt to explain away the immorality we find in the Old Testament.

Yet again, I’m looking for evidence of the church on the cutting edge of social change. For example, imagine that the Baptist Church declared slavery immoral long before all Americans were ready for it, and then all other denominations quickly supported that position. (History records that the Quaker church was a vocal opponent to slavery in the late 1600s, but it was a voice in the wilderness. The Baptist church split over the issue of slavery, and the Southern Baptist Church apologized for its pro-slavery origin only in 1995.)

Same-sex marriage will be an interesting example to watch. Opponents of SSM say that their church’s rejection is justified, just like supporters of the Catholic Church will say that its stand against contraception is justified. But this isn’t social change, it’s just social conservativism.

I predict that in a couple of decades, SSM will be accepted and uncontroversial. Churches will be pointing to the bold few Christian martyrs who supported it in the early days, trying to recast history to show their church as a pioneer. But we return to the question, Why did the church not lead the charge? Why is the church conservative on social issues, not progressive?

Christianity tells us that it has the one correct worldview. This argument fails because Christianity is a fragmented battlefield with no unanimity on any social issue and because Christianity has never dragged a reluctant society into a new understanding on a social issue that is later accepted as correct. If it were the one correct religion, as it claims, it would be leading the charge on every social issue.

See also: Is America the Greatest Country in the World? A Rant.

The American Jesus is more a pawn than a king,
pushed around in a complex game of cultural (and countercultural) chess,
sacrificed here for this cause and there for another.

— Stephen Prothero, American Jesus

Photo credit: zzclef, flickr, CC

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  • Myna A.

    Christians advocating for change on these issues were not acting as students of the Bible; rather, they were products of the Enlightenment and modernity.

    Precisely.

    Christianity tells us that it has the one correct worldview.

    Christianity didn’t even hold the correct worldview 2,000 years ago. It held a story, like all other religious systems held a story. To cling to a story 2,000 years old as though it had any relevancy in the 21st century is absurd. And relevancy is the keyword. The only stranglehold Christianity has left is the heaven/hell noose, which plays on the innate fear of death…which then makes it little more than a death cult complete with an emblem featuring a tortured, bleeding god/man on a cross.

    If it were the one correct religion, as it claims, it would be leading the charge on every social issue.

    It cannot lead social change when its very doctrine and sole existence is antiquated. Those within its spectrum who advocate for positive social change, have to step outside of its core dictates. The religion wants all the benefits of the modern Age, but none of its reality.

    The American Jesus is more a pawn than a king,
    pushed around in a complex game of cultural (and countercultural) chess,
    sacrificed here for this cause and there for another.
    — Stephen Prothero, American Jesus

    Indeed.

    The late actor and poet, Richard Harris, wrote a long poem entitled, “There are too many Saviours on my Cross,” which was composed in response to the violence in Northern Ireland, but is universally relevant and to the Prothero quote as well.

  • vaiyt

    Conservatism takes the side of keeping the power and money with those who already have the power and money. Churches have a lot of power and money.

  • Aegis

    Christianity claims that morality comes from obedience. It lays out rules from an entity, and if you don’t obey those rules then you’re immoral. Obedience doesn’t mesh well with the kind of movements that attempt social change, let alone the ones that keep pushing until they make progress. Women’s suffrage, black civil rights, Occupy Wall Street, gay pride – hell, the vast majority of Christians with public broadcast mouthpieces who had *anything* to say about the It Gets Better campaign were complaining about it, and that was just an attempt to encourage gay kids to stay alive.

  • Rudy R

    Christianity tells us that it has the one correct worldview.

    How does Christianity, or for that matter, any religion know it is the one true church or religion? We here claims that if a god didn’t really exist, how come so many people naturally believe in a higher being? Which higher being? If there is the one true higher being, why doesn’t everyone in the world just naturally believe in the same god? If everyone could compare notes and find that there were identical experiences that could only be attributed to the same god, then there might be something to this magical fellow. But all the different world religions and all the different denominations throughout the history of man are exactly what you’d expect from cultures trying to make their way through the labyrinth of living in an unforgiving natural world.

    • RichardSRussell

      If there is the one true higher being, why doesn’t everyone in the world just naturally believe in the same god?

      No sane person doubts the existence of the Sun. Even blind people can detect it. If there really were a god, wouldn’t it be even more obvious?

      • Sheila Warner

        That’s my view. Why isn’t any god making itself known to humans?

        • Zeta

          Yahweh made himself known to ancient people as the tribal war god of the ancient Israelites helping them to commit genocides against other tribes which I believe were supposed to be his own creations as well.

          Steve Wells: “I counted the number of people that were killed by God in the Bible. I came up with 2,476,633,
          which, of course, greatly underestimates God’s total death toll, since
          it only includes those killings for which specific numbers are given. No
          attempt was made to include the victims of Noah’s flood, Sodom and
          Gomorrah, or the many plagues, famines, fiery serpents, etc., with which
          the good book is filled. Still, 2 million is a respectable number even
          for world class killers.

          Quoted from: http://dwindlinginunbelief.blogspot.com/search?q=god%27s+killings

          Then somehow he decided to return as his own son and threatened people with violence and hell fire for not believing in him. I often wonder why he did not think of that for the first few thousand years after creating Adam & Eve. Soon after, he became an absentee god, presumably retiring to his heavenly abode outside of space and time for the last 2000 years.

          So he did show himself and his great love.

        • Sheila Warner

          Yahweh wasn’t monotheistic until the Babylonian exile, when the Pentateuch was written. Who cares, in the end? Yahweh didn’t reveal himself to anybody. It’s all myth.

        • Zeta

          Of course, it’s all myth. I totally agree. It is fortunate that (most of) the atrocities described in the bible did not really happen.

          The Christian god concept evolved through the ages, with embellishments invented by theologians (Did they have a direct line to their god?) How could the same god change from a local vicious war god to one endowed with great omni* attributes? This shows clearly that it is all made up. Yet incredibly, billions seem to worship him.

        • Zeta

          … billions seem to worship him” including StevenK.

        • Michael Neville

          One thing I find mildly funny is seeing how Christians try to combine a bronze age Middle Eastern tribal god who worries about peoples’ sex lives with an omniscient, omnipotent and various other omnis creator of billions of galaxies and trillions of stars and planets. No matter what contortions are done, the fit just isn’t there.

        • Zeta

          As you said, this omni* creator god supposedly created trillions of celestial objects including fantastic astronomical objects such as black holes, neutron stars, pulsars, etc.

          So, it is truly comical when one reads stuff such as Numbers 31: 28 (NIV) that (as commanded by the Lord) “From the soldiers who fought in the battle, set apart as tribute for the Lord one out of every five hundred, whether persons, cattle, donkeys, sheep or goats.

          He wanted a share in the spoils and loots of war!!! Cattle, donkeys, sheep or goats for a creator of the Universe? Really funny, isn’t it?

        • Great observation.

        • MNb

          It’s always funny that according to christianity, which preaches humility, the entire shenanigan was created with the specific purpose to give Homo Sapiens a place, an idea that’s very arrogant.

        • Rudy R

          For an omnipotent god, he is a very needy fellow.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          And he wanted them all burnt as an ANE sacrice known as the ban. It’s all so horribly superstitious and cruel.

        • TheNuszAbides

          helping them to commit genocides against other tribes

          another spot of tragicomedy is that at least one of those (Canaanites) was apparently mere retcon posturing on the part of Hebrew scribes.

    • TheNuszAbides

      agreed–though by an astonishing coincidence, it’s also exactly what you’d expect from a modicum of imagination inserting a Great Deceiver figure (or the immaterial taint of Original Sin, or blahblahblah …) into any evidence that fails to favor One True Religion.

  • StevenK

    >> But it doesn’t work that way. Why does the church make no moral commands that we moderns find shockingly advanced?

    One reason is because the highest moral commands to love God and be the human being God created all of us to be remains the same throughout history. Living out that command is what produces the unifying change.

    • Myna A.

      One reason is because the highest moral commands to love God

      As I recall, the command was to both love and fear this god. How is love compelled through fear? Do you fear those you love? Do you want those you love to fear you as well? What’s that all about?

      and be the human being God created all of us to be remains the same throughout history.

      What was the human being created to be, do you think? Life on this planet has never been static, understanding deepens. It moves forward, with or without your god’s permission, therefore, life, itself; indeed, the planet, itself, is the stronger force, and not the story.

      Living out that command is what produces the unifying change.

      What unifying change would that be? Change occurred rapidly when Christianity lost its theocratic power and the sky did not fall. How do you account for this?

      • StevenK

        Repeating what I just wrote…

        There’s no contradiction between loving and fearing. You can love justice and at the same time fear what justice will rightfully bring upon you.

        >> What was the human being created to be, do you think?

        Good question. In brief, I’d say we were created to be in a loving relationship with God where God is the divine being, the ground of all reality, and we are his creation. That’s what Christianity teaches.

        >> What unifying change would that be?

        The unifying change to be more like the humans God created them to be. We all change according to our beliefs, right? Looking at the extremes, if we believe we owe nothing to God then we will change one way. If we believe we owe reverence and love to God then we will change in a way that is 180 degrees opposite.

        The question for me isn’t “can a unifying change occur? The question is “which unifying change is best?” The term “best” is the key term to understand. It’s a term that is objectively connected to God and to what humans were created to be.

        • Myna A.

          You can love justice and at the same time fear what justice will rightfully bring upon you.

          Justice is a concept and has meant different things in different times, and to different cultures and subcultures. Love, as a term, is conceptual as well, but if we use it to illustrate a common drive to bond with other human beings, then where does fear come in as its balance?

          I’d say we were created to be in a loving relationship with God…

          What does a “loving relationship” mean? How can you be in a loving relationship with an abstraction?

          The question is “which unifying change is best?” The term “best” is the key term to understand. It’s a term that is objectively connected to God and to what humans were created to be.

          How do you define best? How do you know which fruit on the tree is best, unless you’ve tasted them all?

        • StevenK

          I don’t really understand the question about fear and balance.

          I wouldn’t say God is an abstraction.

          I explained what I meant by best. As it applies to humans and what it means to be the best human, it’s a term that refers us back to what humans were created to be.

        • Myna A.

          I don’t really understand the question about fear and balance.

          How does fear balance love? Are they of equal weight? If one is compelled by fear to love, then fear has the greater weight. Yes? No?

          I wouldn’t say God is an abstraction.

          How is it not?

          I explained what I meant by best. As it applies to humans and what it means to be the best human, it’s a term that refers us back to what humans were created to be.

          Can you be more specific in what you mean by best? What does it mean to be best, if you have nothing to intimately compare it with? How does Christianity bring out this quality as opposed to another religious system? And how do you know?

        • StevenK

          I don’t know the answer to your question about fear and love.
          Christianity doesn’t teach that God is an abstraction.
          I explained what I meant and don’t think I can go much beyond this unless you are asking a specific question.
          Why do I need something to compare it with?
          This quality comes out when who you are aligns with who you were created to be by God. Other religions teach something different.

        • Sheila Warner

          How do you know, better than other religions’ gods, what your god thinks is a “best” for humans? How does your god communicate this to you?

        • MNb

          Only problem is that I was not created by your god. I’m the product of my parents having sex about nine months before I was born. They weren’t into kinky stuff with a third partner, material or immaterial.

        • Susan

          Christianity doesn’t teach that God is an abstraction.

          Homeopathy doesn’t teach that it’s remedies are water.

          But they are.

        • TheNuszAbides

          ooooh, that one’s going right into my molecular memory banks!

        • Sheila Warner

          Myna, forget justice. He substitutes that word for “God” whenever he is asked about what loving/fearing “God” mean.

        • Sheila Warner

          What a bait and switch! When pressed on the issue of loving “God”, you persistently substitute “justice” for “God”. What is your definition of “God”? Is your “God” actually “justice”? You are dodging. I call bs on you.

        • StevenK

          Obviously I haven’t explained a lot. It wasn’t my intention to explain everything you thought I should.

    • RichardSRussell

      But if a significant number of people (like me, for instance) don’t think that loving God is the highest moral command, your whole scheme falls apart, akin to Weinberg’s 2nd Law: “If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.”

      • StevenK

        I’m basing my comment on what Christianity teaches because the OP appears to be confused about that. I understand you don’t think that loving God is the highest command but that’s irrelevant to my comment.

        • RichardSRussell

          Not at all irrelevant, Steve, if you think that the primary consequence of that command is “Living out that command is what produces the unifying change.” Consider an extreme case in which only a single person on the entire planet is even making the attempt to live out that command. What are chances that any kind of “unifying change” is ever going to happen? Essentially nil, right? In order for your plan to work, pretty much everybody would have to be on board with your initial assumption, and that’s hardly the case at all.

        • StevenK

          Change happens at the level of the individual first then at the level of the group. If Christian’s want to maximize group change, we must get on board with the Gospel message. Repent, trust, believe so that the individual can be transformed, followed by the culture.

        • RichardSRussell

          Actually, pretty much my own preferred approach to getting people to cast off the shackles of Christianity. Kind of ironic, huh?

        • StevenK

          In my view the issue of which change is best can only be resolved if best is a fact that can become known, even if only partially known. If best is what each individual or group prefers then there’s not much point in bringing facts into the discussion because the issue doesn’t rest on facts – it rests on preferences. I’m not sure which one you subscribe to, but those do seem to be the options.

        • RichardSRussell

          Highest, heaviest, brightest, etc. can be known objectively thru measurement. Best, prettiest, savviest, etc. however, are purely subjective opinions.

          But even matters which can ultimately be known objectively don’t start out as obvious to everyone, which is why we have horse races. Conversely, matters of taste (de gustibus non disputandum) don’t start out with obvious answers, nor do they end up there, either.

          With regard to Christianity, I’m pretty sure the world would be a better place if it would wither and die, along with all the other vapid (and often dangerous) superstitions of which it is a premier example. That is, of course, a completely subjective opinion, but I’m perfectly willing to run the experiment and see if anyone misses it.

        • StevenK

          Opinion noted.

        • MNb

          Well, yes, you could maintain that mental health is just an opinion. You could even present yourself as someone for whom it’s a good thing to have psychological issues.

          https://valerietarico.com/2016/01/23/15-screwed-up-catholic-ideas-that-may-affect-your-sex-life-even-if-youre-not-religious/

          Fact remains that rigid christianity can cause serious psychological effects, which decrease happiness. Of course christianity in the end doesn’t care about happiness here and now, it’s all about happiness in fantasyland called afterlife.

        • Sheila Warner

          I would have been a better person psychologically, for starters, had there been no rigid Christianity in my life. I would probably have been a decent scientist, but decades of being told that some questions should not be pursued robbed me of the use of any critical thinking skills. My Christianity ruined my brain.

        • Sheila Warner

          Fact: human beings have basic needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter. Fact: being deprived of basic needs causes suffering. Fact: human actions which actively take away basic needs are harmful. Any human action must be weighed carefully regarding those facts. Our biological needs for survival are facts. Beyond that, our rights as described in our wonderfully written Bill of Rights come to an end if they infringe on another’s rights. We have set up a system of laws and courts to make decisions when rights are disputed, and we keep the system in place because it has worked for us for centuries. Yes, infallible humans make mistakes in that system, but so far it is a good system that learns from past errors & makes course corrections. I see no real corrections within rigid orthodoxy that is thousands of years old.

        • StevenK

          Thanks for that summary.

        • Sheila Warner

          I’m thankful for the patient atheists who provided a way out for me. People who challenged me and put up with my questions.

        • Sheila Warner

          It was a group–of my parents and church elders–that changed me. I was carefully taught from my earliest ability to reason that I was a stench in the nostrils of God Almighty, but, not to worry, all I had to do was confess that state & accept Jesus into my heart as my Lord & Savior. Then God would accept me as long as I stayed covered in Jesus’ blood, and I would not have to endure the horrors of an everlasting hellfire. I was also taught it was my DUTY to go out and get others to do the same thing. Groupthink is real, my friend. For years I was shut down if I had any tough questions, because hell, you know. Neither groups nor individuals are always good agents of change. It takes human societies to hammer out civility. Every individual and group must be subjected to some kind of logical assessment of any claim.

        • God made you, but you stink. Doesn’t say much for God’s handiwork. But not to worry, if you’re covered in human blood, that makes you smell nice.

          Makes total sense.

        • Sheila Warner

          There was an actual demonstration of this concept. One of my Sunday school teachers wrote the word “SIN” in red on a piece of paper. She covered it with a clear plastic cover, saying that is us as nonbelievers. God only sees our sin. Then she put a red plastic sheet over it, and the word “SIN” disappeared. That’s how God sees those who have Jesus in their hearts. We were also taught that God doesn’t hear any unbelievers’ prayers until they pray the “Sinner’s Prayer”. That’s the only prayer he listens for, until Jesus is inside, and you look/smell ok, then he will deign to listen to you. Mind you, I was inculcated with this from the time I was a preschooler. My pastor used to read sections of “sinners in the hands of an angry god” by Jonathan Edwards to scare the adults so they’d stay “Christian”. Once saved, always saved, but did you really mean it when you prayed that magic prayer? If you really were a Christian and kept sinning, then God would just kill you. That’s in 1 Corinthians, where Paul waxes on about communion. Needless to say, our altar calls were full. Needless to add, I was totally f@cked up as a human being.

        • StevenK

          Groupthink is real. I wouldn’t dare say otherwise.

        • MNb

          “Change happens at the level of the individual first then at the level of the group.”
          Bullocks. The bolshevist revolution of 1917 didn’t happen at the level of the individual first.

        • TheNuszAbides

          another quick one:

          – bullocks = bulls (but not bullshit–although bullockshit seems like a fun variant)

          – bollocks = ‘balls’/bullshit/horseshit/nonsense

          – Rocky Mountain Oysters = bullocks’ bollocks (or those of other livestock), gastronomically

        • TheNuszAbides

          In order for your plan to work, pretty much everybody would have to be on board with your initial assumption,

          a crucial point that seems to elude many ideologues and most low-information fanfolk, even if they give lip service to freedom of/from religion.

        • Sheila Warner

          Your comment was confusing, as you can tell by my reply. It would have been helpful had you said “here is what I think Christians believe”. And, no, we were taught to be afraid of its God, even going so far as to say that the God of the Bible couldn’t even look at us unless we were covered in Jesus’ blood. How sick is that? Fear kept me in that damned religion for decades!

        • StevenK

          It’s not a literal covering. That would be sick.

    • Logan Blackisle

      But the Bible is unclear even on this issue:

      Matthew 10:28 We should fear God
      Matthew 22:37 We should love God
      1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love

      I’m confused.

      Also:

      the highest moral commands to love God

      This isn’t absurdly creepy to you?

      • StevenK

        There’s no contradiction between loving and fearing. You can love justice and at the same time fear what justice will rightfully bring upon you.

        It’s not creepy to me.

        • Sheila Warner

          Love justice, or love what some god says is justice? Why the added layer? If it is “love [a] God”, then I ask “which one”?

        • StevenK

          Why the added layer? Because God is the grounding of all reality according to Christianity.

        • Greg G.

          You are not all Christians. You don’t know what other Christians believe.

        • StevenK 2

          You’re right, I don’t know what other people believe. I’m referring to the teaching of classical Christianity.

        • Michael Neville

          Classical according to whom? The Inquisition? John Calvin? John Knox? The Second Vatican Council? The Patriarch of Constantinople (none of that prissy Istanbul nonsense for the Orthodox)? Joseph Smith? Sun Myung Moon? David Koresh?

          Seems like there’s an awful lot of “classical Christians” who hold differing views on what “classical Christianity” entails.

        • StevenK 4

          The first century classic.

        • Greg G.

          You don’t know anything about first century Christianity. The only thing you have are copies of copies of manuscripts that you assume are from the first century and they are contradictory.

        • Name is StevenK

          I get my information from other sources, just like you do.

          Maybe you’ll be kind enough to explain to me how your source knows that my source doesn’t know anything about the first century when my source has evidence in hand.

        • Greg G.

          The epistles don’t have anything about a traveling preacher/teacher and that is what the gospels are all about. What have your sources got about first century religion?

        • StevenK

          How does this demonstrate that my sources don’t know anything about the first century from the evidence they have?

        • Greg G.

          SteveXXX’s reply:

          How does this demonstrate that my sources don’t know anything about the first century from the evidence they have?

          If your sources had first century sources about what Christians believed, you should have mentioned them instead of posing such a stupid question. That is why your posts continue to be deleted.

          If the Catholic Church had first century evidence that supported what they profess, they would display it. If they have first century evidence that refutes the current Catholic religion, shame on them. Either way, those relics are looted. Such relics belong to humanity, not to the Catholic Church.

        • StevenK

          These sources have evidence to support their knowledge, which is true. You claim they have no knowledge. Where’s your evidence to support your claim? I need evidence.

          I kinda like that my posts get deleted after a period of time. No evidence that I was here. Nice.

        • MNb

          You only need evidence when it suits you or you would have asked what evidence there is that your sources know anything about the first century.

          “No evidence that I was here.”
          Even about this one you’re wrong, confirming that you’re dishonest what constitures as evidence as well.

        • You like to leave no evidence of your existence here? I can think of an even better way.

        • Greg G.

          @SteveXXX,

          You still have not provided evidence. There is not much that is definitely from the first century and the little that might be is contradictory.

        • StevenK

          These sources have evidence to support their knowledge, which is true. You claim they have no knowledge. Where’s your evidence to support your claim? I need evidence. Without it I (and you) cannot know if what you’re claiming is true. Help a brother out, man.

        • Greg G.

          In response to my question:

          What have your sources got about first century religion?

          you replied:

          How does this demonstrate that my sources don’t know anything about the first century from the evidence they have?

          I don’t have to prove your sources don’t know anything about first century religion. I can’t unless you tell me what your sources are. If you are making the claim that your sources do have reliable information from the first century, it is up to you to prove it.

          You seem to know you are wrong so you aren’t brave enough to lay your cards on the table.

        • StevenK

          You made the claim so you must have had something in mind. State what you had in mind – what scholars claim they know based on evidence – and then provide the evidence that shows they are wrong.

          Without it, nobody can know if your claim is true – not even you.

        • Greg G.

          From your reply:

          You made the claim so you must have had something in mind. State what you had in mind – what scholars claim they know based on evidence – and then provide the evidence that shows they are wrong.

          Without it, nobody can know if your claim is true – not even
          you.

          I have already commented on the epistles and the gospels. You didn’t defend them. What else do you have from the first century? The Testimonium Flavianum in Josephus was certainly forged by Eusebius.

          Do you mean late first century Christianity with bishops? Do you mean mid-first century Christianity with the division between Pauline Christianity and Jerusalem Christianity? Do you mean an earlier Christianity with no writings whatsoever?

          Put up or shut up.

        • StevenK (Hi Bob!)

          Explain how your epistle/gospel comment leads to the conclusion that scholars don’t know anything about first century Christianity. What do you mean by first century Christianity and which scholars are you talking about? Maybe you are correct, but at this point I have no idea if you are.

        • Myna A.

          Apparently, there is no escape from this guy, StevenK.

        • Greg G.

          Obviously the system is not fool proof.

        • Myna A.

          And gnats and trolls are wily creatures.

        • Susan

          Apparently, there is no escape from this guy, StevenK.

          He’s been weaseling for what seems to be a year now. Amazing.

          I see George Watson has started fresh with his bullshit over at poor Godless in Dixie. The same vacuous crap he attempted here but now that he’s been banned twice and is on probation as “gw”, he’s just found a new site where he can try out the same stupidity on people who aren’t familiar with his dishonesty yet.

          I keep asking them to send us an honest apologist but my cries have gone unheeded.

        • Myna A.

          It’s like a persistence that is no less than pathological with those two…the gnat and the troll. I strolled over and took a look at Godless in Dixie to witness the George chicanery in full swing. Perhaps he is a guy who envied for himself the prestige of scholars, which might explain the shape-shifting of professional personas and past environs employed to raise the dust over a deplorable lack of cohesive knowledge. All I know is that both gnat and troll have no shame.

          I keep asking them to send us an honest apologist but my cries have gone unheeded.

          It might be there just aren’t any, not equipped with essential tools for a cogent defense, anyway. It’s generally all emotion and surface jargon…one can sense the resentment of being contradicted beneath the armor of willful ignorance. I think a good amount of fear is at play, but that’s always been Christianity’s game.

        • Susan

          It might be there just aren’t any, not equipped with essential tools for a cogent defense, anyway.

          Not yet.

          Nothing but “tactics” as MR so solidly puts it.

          A merry-go-round of tactics.

          If atheists were truly hedonists at heart and only rejected God (insert random internet theist’s personal deity here) because they wanted to “sin”, we would have turned engaging in apologetics into a drinking game a long time ago.

          If God were out there, she would understand the value of epistemology and send us an honest apologist who was willing to reject an argument if it wasn’t a good one.

        • TheNuszAbides

          she would understand the value of epistemology

          ESPECIALLY if she’s the only thing that grounds logic!

        • TheNuszAbides

          as for Georgie, my top three semi-wild speculations are
          1) entirely dishonest about his personal history; perhaps (at best) an amalgamation of relatives, pseudo-mentors or the like, who occasionally point him towards apologetics or logic resources which are either exceptionally flimsy or which he doesn’t fully read/absorb or know how to usefully apply to his shenanigans here. chief exhibit: repeated disdain for Wikipedia without ever addressing actual points being made.
          2) entirely honest about his personal history, but for whatever reason (accident, aging, etc.) his intellectual faculties have atrophied or been cut off. i’ve seen several forms of dementia up close, and can fully understand the hypothetical reluctance/handicap to being fully aware of and fully accepting such a loss or degeneration. chief exhibit: nothing really–he mentioned starting to go deaf at some point, and this is basically my most charitable speculation since the overwhelming majority of the evidence points to Troll Shitheel.
          3) as 2), but rather than damage in the intervening years, he’s simply an ongoing product of favoritism/nepotism and ideological bubbles, who somehow never learned to have a serious and honest argument, or simply has such an over-developed sense of being correct that it doesn’t even occur to him to attempt actual debate (or he’s such an utter egomaniac on behalf of his tribe that he hides his Righteous Prowess under a bushel because we atheist swine either can’t handle or don’t ~deserve~ the Good Stuff). chief exhibit: idiotic guessing about our majors, boasting of his Senior Wrangler former pupil, strutting about the “top public university in the US”.

          apologies to Bob for wasting ones and zeroes on this instead of whatever the OP was about!

        • Myna A.

          Those are some impressive possibilities. I lean toward the first one.

        • TheNuszAbides

          false fire: i have decades of experience designing RPG characters but pitifully little time spent actually earning them XP.

        • adam

          “I keep asking them to send us an honest apologist but my cries have gone unheeded.”

          Thousands of years and they are still trying to find one….

        • Greg G.

          Ixpleeen hoo yuoor ipeestle-a/guspel cumment leeds tu zee cunclooseeun thet schulers dun’t knoo unytheeng ebuoot furst centoory Chreesteeuneety. Vhet du yuoo meun by furst centoory Chreesteeuneety und vheech schulers ere-a yuoo telkeeng ebuoot? Meybe-a yuoo ere-a currect, boot et thees pueent I hefe-a nu idea iff yuoo ere-a. Um gesh dee bork, bork!

          Nope. I already explained the contradictions between the epistles and gospels. You explain first century Christianity and how you know what it was.

        • MNb

          “The Testimonium Flavianum in Josephus was certainly forged by Eusebius”
          Certain? Only faith provides certainty. Your JM is getting more and more religious.

        • Michael Neville

          The general consensus among historians and Biblical scholars is that the Testimonium Flavianum was almost certainly a forgery, probably by Eusebius.

        • MNb

          Probable is not the same as certain. Good job missing the point.
          And no, forgery is not the general consensus. Tampered with is.

        • Michael Neville

          Actually forgery is the general consensus. The TF is missing from parallel sections of The Jewish War. Also Justin Martyr never mentioned it and probably (there’s that word again) would have since he quoted Josephus extensively.

        • Greg G.

          Since absolute certainty about anything is impossible, especially in history, certainty is a degree of probability. I find it difficult to see the TF as not a forgery in light of the evidence to the degree that it is absurd to say otherwise. Make a case for Josephus having written it, and I’ll change it to “near certainty” or switch my position depending on how persuasive your argument is.

        • epicurus

          If the TF was not tampered with or forged, then Josephus surely must have been a Christian. I don’t see how he could say what he did and not be one, and that would mean we’ve lost our only non christian 1st century source.

        • Michael Neville

          I don’t know enough about Josephus to say if he remained Jewish or became Christian. Of course in those days Christianity was a sect of Judaism.

        • epicurus

          Well, here is the passage in question – I think to write this and not be a Christian boggles the mind, even if one held to a Christianity within Judaism.
          Antiquities 18.3.3. “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct to this day.”
          From:
          http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/testimonium.html

        • Michael Neville

          As has already been explained, the passage you misquote is likely a late 2nd Century forgery, not written by Josephus.

        • epicurus

          Right, I was just making a trivial point that for any who want to think Josephus’ TF is not a forgery, and that he actually wrote it, then we would have to discount it as an independent non Christian 1st century source, because it would make him a Christian.

        • Greg G.

          We have many instances of Christian authors commenting on Josephus prior to Eusebius and several after who don’t mention the TF. The only person to mention the TF besides Eusebius was Jerome a century later and he mentioned it once despite mentioning Josephus 90 other times. Eusebius had access to Origen’s library. Origen knew Josephus well and mentioned that Josephus was not believe Jesus was the Christ, which wouldn’t make sense if he saw the TF. Origen mentioned the “one who was called Christ” and the John the Baptist account from Josephus in Contra Celsus where it would have made sense to include the TF (which is now a couple of paragraphs before the JB account). If it was in the early copies of Antiquities, it would be most remarkable to have been overlooked by Origen and Justin Martyr, even in its most reduced form, even if it only hinted at “Christ”.

          Gary Goldberg shows that there is a very unlikely relationship between the Emmaus Road passage in Luke 24 with some additional Christianese added. He doesn’t think anyone back then could have imitated Josephus and thinks it came from a common source. He overlooks that the Luke 24 passage is recapitulating the story told in Luke which mostly comes from Mark so it could not be a common source. That leaves his first option of coincidence which he rejected as too unlikely because of the specificity of the coincidences and that an interpolator used the passage from Luke which he rejected because of the phrases that sounded too much like Josephus. Then Ken Olson found the very phrases that were supposed to be clearly from Josephus used by Eusebius in his other writings.

          If the police were making a case with that evidence, Eusebius’ defense lawyer would be ready to plead guilty for a reduced sentence.

        • Only a Christian (which Josephus wasn’t) could’ve written the TF.

          Very few thoughtful conservative Christian scholars even hold to the claim that it was original to Josephus. All they’ll attempt is some hand-wavy attempt at finding some “historical core” within the TF and original to Josephus so they can at least get a little something from him.

        • MNb

          And how exactly does that provide the certainty you claimed? Or did you, like the average apologist, just not feel like addressing what I wrote? If yes you nicely confirm it.

        • Greg G.

          We had the conversation with the original SteveK months ago that we cannot have absolute certainty about anything. We can’t be certain that we didn’t pop into existence with intact memories 5 minutes ago or last Thursday. Does that mean we can’t use the word without qualifiers?

          All the lines of evidence point to Eusebius. We have Origen highlighting the New Testament parallels in Josephus and stating that Josephus didn’t believe Jesus was the Christ. We have others citing Josephus and not mentioning the TF. Practically nobody thinks the TF was written as is by Josephus but the silence about a reduced version of it in discussions of Josephus by the church fathers would need a better explanation than they just overlooked it.

        • Michael Neville

          Your god sounds like an abusive spouse to me. God loves me and if I don’t follow some nit-picky rules then I’ll be punished forever. It doesn’t say anything good about you that you worship a sadistic bully.

    • Sheila Warner

      Be the human beings we were meant to be…..by which god’s standards? The one that advocates killing unbelievers, denying civil rights to others, the one that sees governmental enforcement of orthodoxy appropriate? Sorry, but I just don’t buy into the “love [a] God & be our best selves” argument. I call bullshit on that one. We should treat each other the best way we can because it is right, full stop. No god required.

      • StevenK

        I’m speaking from the Christian point of view.

        What do you mean by best way?

        • Greg G.

          I’m speaking from the Christian point of view.

          You should say “a Christian point of view.” There is no the Christian point of view.

        • StevenK 2

          I stand corrected.

        • TheNuszAbides

          you’re waaaay behind on those concessions, champ. settle up with Susan and you’ll start looking sincere (maybe even courageous!).

        • adam

          ..

        • TheNuszAbides

          it’s usually a laugh, but honestly i think any of us can all too easily treat stupidity as more of a choice than it necessarily is. i won’t pretend i’m consistently brimming with compassion, but i at least try not to stomp on the less combative. of course i won’t go as far as “let he who is without stupid cast the first stone”, but the core sentiment is there. 😉

        • Cygnus

          Even when speaking from a Christian point of view, that is included in the Christian point of view. Nobody has the copyright of [the] Christianity, it is not even clearly defined, it is just a nebulous idea of what the Hellenistic Jews wished to mean by “Christ” translated from Messiah. All you got after that was a religion and philosophy of religion salad.

  • RichardSRussell

    Christianity is the opposite of conservative when you consider its 45,000 denominations.

    You will not find an American astronomy, a Baptist biology, a capitalist chemistry, a mammalian math, or a feminist physics. There’s only one worldwide version of each, because they’re all based on facts, not accidents of birth or matters of opinion. Conversely, religion is nothing but opinions, no facts involved, which is why anybody’s word on religion is just as good as anyone else’s (to wit, no good at all).

  • Sophia Sadek

    There is only one Christian denomination that counts: the One True Church. The nice thing about the One True Church is that there are so many from which to choose.

    • BT

      Of course not. It’s MY church that’s the OTC (One True Church.). I thought everyone knew that.

      • Sophia Sadek

        MY: Methodists You-knighted. I know them well.

    • Cygnus

      There goes God….

  • gusbovona

    There was a long report (by the U.N.?) that I think is the source of the 45,000 figure for the number of Christian denominations, and that report was also widely cited. But I looked at that report and the report mentioned that they did not control for every duplication of demonizations (ETA: er, denominations, but what a funny auto-correct error!) that was reported to them, as I recall. I wish I could remember the name of that report.

    Also, not even that earlier report had a list of those demonizations, which list would sure make me feel better about the 45,000 number. While I don’t wish to minimize the absurd lengths to which religious people will divvy up the theological pie, so to speak, that 45,000 number raises an eyebrow. I’d give up that feeling if the raw data was ever available.

    • The link is in the post above. I’m pretty sure that every independent church is considered a “denomination.” Given that, that doesn’t make the number surprising.

      • Sheila Warner

        Yea, they’re all “independent” this or that. My childhood church called itself a nondenominational church, only because it feared ecumenism so much. It was a die-hard independent fundamentalist church.

    • rascal barquecat

      Upvote for that wonderful auto-correct.

  • MR

    Or spousal and child abuse, two other social issues on which the Bible is weirdly silent.

    Like abortion, Christians want to piecemeal together biblical support against the practice, but where is the direct condemnation in the Bible? One can just as easily piece together a defense of abuse (submission of wives, spare the rod, etc.).

    Look at all the directives supposedly from God: don’t covet, don’t mix fabrics, don’t boil lamb in its mother’s milk…; how about a clear cut statement: “Don’t beat your wives; don’t beat your kids.”

    When I was growing up, I remember abuse being much more common. Even today it’s surprisingly prevalent. The social campaigns I remember as a kid aimed at ending such violence weren’t driven by the church. In fact, regarding spousal abuse, with the growing acceptance of divorce I recall churches being in the awkward position of, while on the one hand not wanting to condone violence, on the other, having to defend a husband’s rights over his wife. How many times did I hear of women advised to “stick it out” because divorce was the worse sin! The position of churches seemed to be that abuse was one of those dirty, little secrets that it was better to provide hushed support to the victim rather than actively call out the perpetrator.

    That attitude has largely changed, but not because of the church. With no direct condemnation in the Bible and thousands of years of silence by the church, it was by large secular campaigns that helped advance those societal changes—an indication of a shift in moral perspectives regarding abuse and divorce. (Moral objectivity, where, oh where art thou!) Spain, that bastion of Catholicism, is only recently going through such a major shift in view on domestic violence.

  • raylampert

    I’ve had conversations like this with Christians before, who say that Christians were at the front of many positive social movements. While that may be true, it ignores the fact that they were acting against the establishment at the time. Also, while men like Dr. King did invoke the Bible and quote Jesus to support their positions, it’s clear that they did so because they were trying to persuade their fellow Christians of their own positions. After all, they wouldn’t need to resort to the Bible as authority if they wanted to persuade atheists or freethinkers.

    • swbarnes2

      “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is a must read for King’s view on how moderate Christian clergy were contributing to the cause:

      “But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church…I had the strange feeling when I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery several years ago that we would have the support of the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests, and rabbis of the South would be some of our strongest allies. Instead, some few have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows…I have heard numerous religious leaders of the South call upon their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers say, follow this decree because integration is morally right and the Negro is your brother. In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sidelines and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard so many ministers say, “Those are social issues which the gospel has nothing to do with,”…[The church] is so often the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s often vocal sanction of things as they are.”

      • raylampert

        One can hardly blame Dr. King and other black American Christians for supporting civil rights. After all, they were fighting for their own rights and for the rights of their friends and family. But when you look for the white churches and white preachers who supported the movement, the list of names is short to nonexistent.

        Imagine if white denominations like the Methodists, Lutherans and Catholics had been as vigorously in support of the civil rights movement then as they are in opposition to the LGBT rights movement today. Things would be much different.

    • Cygnus

      “Also, while men like Dr. King did invoke the Bible and quote Jesus…”

      So, Americans are forgetting that the first thing that Christians did, when they enslaved black people, was to brainwash them with Christian religion, with the “love” of Jesus that will make them free after they die? Somebody should have reminded Dr. King about that, but I think that Dr. King was afraid to fight against abominations of Christianity and for American Civil Rights Movement in the same time
      So, he showed some sympathy to “Jesus” and got a little bit of time to fight for American Civil Movement, before being murdered. I am sure that those were not atheists who killed Dr. Martin Luther Jr.

      • TheNuszAbides

        King (not to downplay his efforts) was also a far more easily admired public figure for his time than another otherwise-viable leader: Bayard Rustin, who managed the social stigma trifecta of black, communist and gay … in the 1950s U.S. of A.

  • Christianity is neither conservative or liberal rather Christians are called to discern the times and apply the Principles of the Gospel. Sometimes the Church will be “progressive” or with progressives. If the changes that “Progressives” want are opposed to teh Gospel then Christians will oppose them or seem conservative. Sometimes conservative Christians will even move conservatives in a given direction. Pro-Life Christians for example are beginning to oppose the death penalty more and more and some conservatives are moving in that direction.
    I think the biggest thing that makes Christians seem conservative is the abortion issue. I am basically conservative but I can compromise on a lot of things. I could give at least partially on taxes, the deficit, amounts of social programs etc but I cannot stomach calling abortion a human and civil right. Regarding Same sex marriage I oppose it for anthropological as well as faith reasons a the very least I want to make sure there are conscience protections for churches and individuals regarding this matter. But in the end it is abortion, and perhaps euthanasia that become a bridge too far for me when it comes to compromising with progressives.

    • We seem to be largely in agreement on your first point. Christians are all over the map, and that’s what’s disturbing. If they’re the One True Way, they should unambiguously be pushing in one right direction, and they should have been doing so for 2000 years.

      But that’s not what we see.

      Sounds like we have lots of disagreements on abortion rights and same-sex marriage. Share your ideas, if you’d like.

      • BT

        I’m not so sure it’s rational to expect consistency. No ideology, faith, or other intellectual exercise ever results in all that much consistency. In the end, there is an idea and humans interact with it. The idea gets fractured and reconstituted a million ways by a million people as each person’s own neuroses and backgrounds filter and change it.

        Take any poem and ask 10 people to interpret it. See what you get.

        • Myna A.

          I’m not so sure it’s rational to expect consistency. No ideology, faith, or other intellectual exercise ever results in all that much consistency.

          A valid point.

          The idea gets fractured and reconstituted a million ways by a million people as each person’s own neuroses and backgrounds filter and change it.

          I agree, and a case against any religion positing its gods or its doctrine as being infallible or based on any reality.

        • BT

          But I’m not so sure it’s a very good case. A valid question, to be sure, and an excellent challenge to people like me.

          Still, the reality of a thing and my perception of it, are two separate concepts that occasionally correlate with each other and occasionally don’t correlate at all.

          That discussion ends up though where modern philosophy dies – a never ending chasing ones tail in subjectivity.

        • I agree completely. And we’ve left the idea of a God-directed worldview far behind. Christianity is just another manmade belief, no more correct than any of the others.

        • BT

          There was a time I probably would have agreed with you. I find myself now coming back full circle.

          Life is strange.

        • Your comment is strange. You’ve bypassed it. Am I right? Am I wrong? Did I misunderstand you?

        • BT

          I started off very conservative religiously, threw it all out, and now find myself wandering back to it but reformulated in a more progressive fashion. During my atheistic/agnostic days I would have agreed with you. That’s all.

        • Cygnus

          You mean to say that when you probably were atheistic/agnostic you would agree with Bob, but you surely started off very conservative religiously, and you are back at it because it is reformulated in a more progressive fashion?
          I guess that all what’s changed was going from religious conservative to religious progressive… yet you kept religion.

          Bob has all the rights to feel that you’re making strange comments. I don’t see him talking about that if religion is bad it should be removed, especially if it has some goodies in it. So Bob actually helped you getting from conservative religion to a progressive one. Is that bad?

        • BT

          Not exactly what I was shooting for there.

          The comment was really intended to say that the argument that the diversity of religious opinion is evidence of its falsity isn’t terribly compelling to me.

          I think where he started off could have led to a more compelling anti-God argument, namely that if Christians actually took their faith seriously, they would lead more on social issues rather than remaining 20,30 or 50 years behind the broader secular society.

          That’s all. Wherr I had intended it to go went off the rails fairly early on. My apologies.

        • Cygnus

          Religious diversity is the fact that there are significant differences in religious belief and practice, the differences in religious opinions is the evidence for the fact that religious claims about what is absolute truth, are false or confused, at best.

          Atheism/skepticism is not based on pro-God/anti-God kind of argumentation. That argumentation is used inside of a religion to settle the unsettled matter of what God wants, if it exists… and if it exists what exactly does it want if not what anyone can wish and imagine, thus the divergences of pro-God/anti-God.

          The broader secular society did not develop as a better alternative for religious society. Secular society development took place as religious education, very strong in Christian religious totalitarian sates has to go away in favor of scientific education that started spread more and more, especially after the Age of Enlightenment era.

          You seem to wish Christians were more serious with their faith, to keep Christianity afloat, but it is not working even with the catholic church blessing the roundness of the Earth, Evolution and friendship with atheists. Religious society won’t be back but in the ISIS style, the bloody Crusades cannot be repeated, even with the vain efforts in finding “goodies” in religions.

        • Greg G.

          It is not rational to expect consistency and for that reason John 17:20-23 has been called “The Most Fantastically Failed Prayer in History”, where Jesus prayed “so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me…”

        • BT

          Or maybe call it “Why I’m the most insanely optimistic person ever.”

        • Susan

          Take any poem and ask 10 people to interpret it.

          Take an absessed tooth to 10 dentists and ask them to diagnose it and see what you get.

          The implication here seems to be that because humans are limited, that all truth claims are equal.

          Is that what you’re suggesting?

        • BT

          Not exactly. I’m kind of thinking of it as a negative – the absence of agreement can’t necessarily be taken as a proof against something being true. Humans have too much inherent variability.

        • Myna A.

          Humans have too much inherent variability.

          Which is why religion is just another variant of story from beings with a propensity to worship something beyond themselves.

        • BT

          There is a chance you’re right. Too bad we have to die to find out! One or the other of us gets robbed of a truly epic “told-you-so”.

        • Susan

          There is a chance you’re right.

          All the evidence seems to suggest she’s right.

          Too bad we have to die to find out!

          Without working brains, how would we “find out”?

          How does that work exactly?

        • BT

          It works like most humor does – best when not analyzed to closely.

        • Susan

          It works like most humor does- best when not analyzed to closely.

          It’s not humour, nor is it a poem. It’s an ultimate claim.

          About reality. About objective reality.

          You have nothing with which to support it.

          Which is why you bring up humour and poetry.

          Don’t talk about “truth” and tell Myna “there’s a chance she’s right” if you don’t want to examine things too closely.

          Truth claims don’t work like that. YMMV.

        • BT

          To you, I guess it wasn’t funny. It was, however, how it was intended.

          My apologies for a poorly thought out attempt at lightheartedness.

        • Susan

          To you, I guess it wasn’t funny.

          Irrelevant. Subjectively, it wasn’t even an attempt at humour. It was a strategy to divert your strategy to areas of human subjectivity (like humour and poetry) and to then declare your ultimate claims equal to any human claim.

          My apologies for a poorly thought out attempt at lightheartedness.

          It was a diversion. An evasion.

          Are you claiming something is objectively true or not?

          We’re not talking about humour or poetry. We’re addressing your “God” claim.

          That is, (correct me if I’m wrong) that an immaterial Yahwehjesus pulled reality out of metaphysical nothingness.

        • BT

          Of course it was a diversion! I thought that was fairly obvious. Sometimes in polite society, we do that when we know we will never agree and it’s pointless to debate. The diversion is supposed to be a social cue that it’s time to make a friendly conclusion to the matter.

        • Susan

          we do that when we know we will never agree and it’s pointless to debate.

          Why would you assume we would never agree? Why is it pointless to discuss it?

          It’s not the variation in interpretation that I find threatening.

          I see the variation in interpretation as a symptom of what can happen when people just make stuff up.

          What Christians say they believe compared to what they do?

          I know some very inconsistent christians. I also know some consistent ones, for better and worse.

          A christian who believes that helping the vulnerable and who commits their time and resources to doing so is consistent. So is a christian who believes abortion is literally baby murder and bombs abortion clinics.

          I think I understand what you’re getting at. If christians claim to have access to and a relationship with a morally perfect agent, then why don’t they show it as a group?

          That raises questions in my mind. The first really doesn’t.

          That’s what I was addressing. Implicit in your “poem” point was that all interpretations are more or less equal.

          But christianity isn’t a poem. It’s a series of truth claims.

          Which is why I brought up dentists and abscessed teeth.

          Maybe our misunderstanding began here, when you said:

          No ideology, faith, or other intellectual exercise ever results in all that much consistency.

          When did “ideology” and “faith” become equivalent to “intellectual exercises”?

        • Myna A.

          One or the other of us gets robbed of a truly epic “told-you-so”.

          I would expect, were such a moment to arrive, to then, as now, not be inclined to such a self-satisfied conceit.

        • BT

          Quite possibly. But the moment to rediscover a sense of humor might.

        • Myna A.

          Let’s just say your humor is rather cloddish, and leave it at that.

        • Why would you imagine there’s an afterlife? Is there evidence for this claim? If not, why should anyone believe it?

        • BT

          Of course there’s no evidence. The only people who know (or don’t know) are dead. Besides – it was a joke. Y’all need to find a sense of humor! I won’t say it was a good one, but I thought it was at least recognizable as an attempt at humor. Personally? I think I’m gravitating toward Abraham Lincoln’s opinions. More or less Christian deist, but generally not terribly convinced of the idea of an afterlife. To me, it’s a fairly irrelevant thing in my own life.

        • Greg G.

          Besides – it was a joke. Y’all need to find a sense of humor!

          Sometimes a smiley is required unless it is a running gag. There are some crazy things said in earnest here, so it is sometimes hard to tell.

        • BT

          Quite an excellent point. I should make that a habit. Thanks.

        • Argus

          Not to rain on your self applied label..but I do not understand how a deist could be Christian. A deist posits a non-interventionist god. The Christian god is all about intervention..”sending it’s son to earth” Answering prayers etc.

        • Cygnus

          Just being a devil’s advocate: not anyone should believe in afterlife, just those who need a hope that they will live after death. Damn death, nobody that’s dead knows anything about it, barely those looking confused when they see a corpse.

          Now you may ask “why do they need that hope”? Well, one has to make money on this life giving that kind of hope to those who need this kind of hope. Marketing, lucrative ideas are so many and so varied.

          Others make money writing books to explain why the idea of afterlife is so futile to hold. But that idea came after someone else came with the afterlife lucrative idea. In this economy one has to make money contradicting others. But money can be made also by jumping to one side to another… one just has to have some imagination.

        • Just being a devil’s advocate: not anyone should believe in afterlife, just those who need a hope that they will live after death.

          Just being the opposite of whatever you are, not anyone should believe in the afterlife if there is no evidence for it.

          (I’m thinking here of typical Westerners. Someone who lives a truly hellish life may have needs for hope that overrule my rule above.)

        • Cygnus

          I know a lot of people who do not live a hellish life, and yet believe in the afterlife. You don’t need evidence for something in order to have faith in it. The afterlife was fabricated, you cannot deny that, based on the evidence that chemical imbalances in brains, psychosis, and other abnormal or “supernatural” reactions produces something that can be defined as afterlife, God, Christ, Allah, etc. All you choose is not to believe in those products because you don’t have “evidence” for them. Good for you.

          Some others feels good having faith in those “products” of brain chemical imbalances, psychosis, abnormal and “supernatural” reactions. Some of those “products” were appropriated by created Christian regimes and claimed that they are part of Christian culture, the one you’d like to defend because it may be the base of Western civilization. It can be.

        • You don’t need evidence for something in order to have faith in it.

          Right. I’m just criticizing that view.

        • Cygnus

          That’s OK. I didn’t defend the faith or belief without evidence. I think that I mentioned that, that I was devil’s advocate. Just to express what I’ve defended when I was a Christian.

        • Susan

          Not exactly. I’m kind of thinking of it as a negative-

          I’m not sure I understand that as an answer to my question, which is:

          Are you suggesting that because humans are limited, that all truth claims are equal?

          the absence of agreement can’t necessarily be taken as a proof against something being true.

          Of course not. Which is why you can’t prove my Immaterial Snowflake Fairies untrue. But what a silly waste of time it is for either one of us to demand that the other prove our claims untrue.

          On what basis do you claim something is true?

        • BT

          Faith. In the end, neither is “provable” whatever that means. It’s insufficient as a basis, but it’s the best either one of us has.

        • Susan

          Faith.

          Mmm hmmm.

          In the end, neither is “provable” whatever that means.

          You brought it up. What does it mean?

          It’s insufficient as a basis,

          Yep.

          but it’s the best either one of us has.

          Tell that to the eleventh dentist who sells you a $400 dollar magnetic bracelet when you have an abcessed tooth. No. It isn’t.

          It is only so on this particular subject for you.

          “God”. You haven’t defined your terms. You haven’t supported your case. Instead, you’ve gone nuclear as all apologists do by suggesting that humans are limited and therefore all truth claims are equal.

          Is that the best you’ve got?

        • adam

          Faith

        • BT

          I totally agree. Faith and proof are completely at odds with each other. In this domain, though, proof isn’t really possible. Thus, it’s what we have left no matter which side we end up on. At some point, we all take the leap that makes the most sense to us individually.

          Best,
          BT

        • adam

          ” In this domain, though, proof isn’t really possible.”

          Of course it is.
          THAT is what science offers,

          Faith is a tool of the propagandists.
          Faith according to the bible is wishful thinking.

          No relationship to reality.

        • Argus

          but 4 out of five dentists recommend Trident to their patients who chew gum…

        • Argus

          There is ONE and ONLY ONE..interpretation to Green Eggs and Ham….Sam I Am is trying to date rape the Ham/eggs denier.

  • Cygnus

    “But Christianity isn’t an ordinary institution; it’s supposed to be the only one that comes from God.” I know you’re having a good laugh when you wrote that.

    Christianity is already changed, kicked out from its totalitarian power it had kept since Constantine put them in power, when they created Christian states, similar of nowadays Islamic states. What we see now in politics, is a pathetic struggle of Christianity trying to get back in totalitarian power they have lost since Age of Enlightenment.

    About that ridiculous point, that some baptists said something that is NOT in the Christian bible, that slavery is immoral, thus Christianity is anti-slavery (gasp!), please stop spreading that urban-legend. As catholics are embracing evolution, gayness and “friendship” with atheism in a pathetic struggle to keep catholicism afloat, so were the baptists doing for their religion, by embracing already existing anti-slavery ideas.

  • BT

    The author is right, of course. Speaking as a Christian, I’m beyond frustrated that members of my faith are 30, 50, or 100 years behind the times when we should be out in front. We would rather cling to power, bad science and bad logic than pursue what our own book actually tells us to do. There was a time when we actually did that. About 18-20 centuries ago.

    • Dom Saunders

      When you pursued what your own book told you to do, we had the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition. Christians who are progressive and do good do so in spite of their book, not because of it.

    • Argus

      To be fair….your book does condone owning and beating slaves as well as “hating/forsaking” your family and living life as a wandering spiritual hobo (carry only a stick or shoes on your path..etc.).

      I think the time has come to simply ask: Is it more beneficial or less beneficial for modern humans to look to the bible as a source for modern, rational living? Or to restate…do we now have clearly superior guides and data to allow us all to live rational/peaceful lives that are superior to the Bible or Quran.

    • TheNuszAbides

      what our own book actually tells us to do.

      one might think that within 2000 years of the Ultimate Sacrifice, there would be a clear and concise totality that can be accurately described with those words of yours. surely you don’t claim that there are no contradictions in “what your own book actually tells you to do”? especially when it cannot be taken entirely metaphorically or entirely literally. you interpret, you pick and choose, just like every fundamentalist, just like every progressive, just like every Catholic, just like every Lutheran. it is written words: nobody can choose whether or not to interpret–we all interpret words. hence how stupid the literalist-fundies are when they pretend there’s One True Path, clear instructions, “the bible as a whole”, etc.–actually, that last catchphrase gets used all over the spectrum of biblical Christianity.

  • It’s been observed by many Biblical scholars, I think Bart Ehrman especially, that there never was a core ‘Christianity’ in the first place. And it does seem that codifying the many ‘Christianities’ into one set dogma really did ossify the various traditions into something that became rigid and inflexible, at least in comparison to the past. The Roman government turning the former mystery cult into politically forced orthodoxy didn’t just set things even more in stone but basically codified the closing-minds that had been happening.

    • Cygnus

      The “core” of Christianity is just that a Messiah prophesied in the Jewish bible had cometh, according to first Hellenistic Jews religious literature writing, and that leaves a lot of room for myriads of Christianities to develop according to everybody who calls himself/herself Christian, to fantasize.

      If you look at the history Christianity, starting with Emperor Constantine, when Christians took totalitarian power, imposing apparition of religious states, to nowadays Christian ideologies, you can see how Christianity evolved until it became an “endangered species”.

      Apparently, the only thing that may keep talking about Christianity is the image of “Jesus”, but it is so ridiculed that the only reaction of Christians is that unbelievers will suffer eternal discomfort.

      • TheNuszAbides

        starting with Emperor Constantine, when Christians took totalitarian power,

        i think there’s a 50-60 year gap between the two. Constantine basically just decriminalized it.

        • epicurus

          Theodosius was the one who brought the hammer down.

  • Richard Green

    As a devout Christian, I must say that I am grateful for voices outside of Christianity that point out the reality of Christian hypocrisy. I wish that more of my brothers and sisters in faith would listen more intently to the challenging truth that comes from those outside our faith and even outside faith altogether. I shall endeavor to continue in my own listening as well. Keep on in your pursuit and proclamation of truth, good fellow; some of us really do appreciate it, and perhaps all of us need it. 🙂

    • Thanks! I hope you return with more open-minded, civil Christians.

      If you don’t agree with what you read, tell us so. If I make an error, I want to correct it. If my arguments aren’t persuasive, I want to know.

      • Cygnus

        Bob, you got me confused. You want to correct Christianity, which Christians claim is from God, or are you exposing Christian facts to substantiate why you don’t believe Christian claims?

        • I’m confused, too. I don’t know how to make sense of your two options.

        • Cygnus

          OK then, let’s work a little bit to de-confuse the issue. Maybe by answering the question below, I can formulate a less confusing option.

          Is your blog a tentative to correct Christianity by exposing the facts that follows from Christian teachings?

          If you find that Christianity is wrong, what’s the use of correcting the Christianity that is claimed as perfect by its followers?

          Do you know better than Christians how to correct their religion?

          Now, the “correct” Christian teachings can be taught only if you believe that Christian claims are substantiated, evidenced by the existence of God that supposedly is the source of those teachings.

          Do you believe Christians claims that their unsubstantiated, unsupported and not evidenced claimed God, can be corrected?

          Or you are just exposing Christianity facts to support why theism is false?

        • 1. Yes, I will often follow Christian or apologist or conservative or pro-life thinking to its conclusion as a way to help analyze the argument.

          2. If Christian thinking has a contradiction, I will point that out. If they correct that by abandoning one option, then we can reevaluate that improved Christian outlook. (Assuming that’s available to them–with contradictions in the Bible you’re stuck with them.)

          3. Apparently. If Christians have a contradiction or error, I will happily point that out. “Yeah, but we’re the Christians here!” is a meaningless response.

          4. If there is good evidence for Christian claims, I’ll reevaluate. So far, not so much.

          5. I do not believe that any amount of juggling of claims will help Christianity as long as they cling to the supernatural.

          6. I’m focusing on Christianity in this blog. If it stops being the primary religious problem for the U.S., I’ll reevaluate my target.

        • Cygnus

          Let me refine the questions:

          1. What argument? What are you arguing in your blog about, for correcting Christianity or that Christianity is a failure?

          2. Christian thinking has no contradictions, unless you indeed find contradictions to support the argument that Christian claims are false, and not re-imagine a non-contradicting Christianity. That’s the job of apologists. Are you an apologist?

          3. See 2.

          4. “So far, not so much.” Do you think there are hopes, after 2,000 reinventing, recreating, retelling, a nonsensical idea of a Christ, to created a better Christianity? What for?

          5. Now I see, you believe in a non supernatural Christianity. Did you try Humanities?

          6. Let me rephrase, if I understand you correctly: You focus on Christianity so you can make it better integrated in the U.S? But the U.S. is a secular state, not a religious state. Gone are the times of Christian states, where everything was perfect for Christians. How can you reintegrate Christianity when it has been found a failure since the Age of Enlightenment?

        • 1. What argument? What are you arguing in your blog about, for correcting Christianity or that Christianity is a failure?

          Whatever argument is on the table. I argue that Christianity is false.

          2. Christian thinking has no contradictions

          Christians make contradictory statements, backing it with their religion.

          4. Do you think there are hopes, after 2,000 reinventing, recreating, retelling, a nonsensical idea of a Christ, to created a better Christianity?

          A secular Christianity—the good works, the community, the inspirational music—without the supernatural would be a better Christianity. Millions of Christians are living this Christianity; they’re just not able to be out about it.

          I call this Christianity 2.0 and have posted about it.

          5. Now I see, you believe in a non supernatural Christianity.

          No.

          You focus on Christianity so you can make it better integrated in the U.S?

          I focus on Christianity (instead of, say Shintoism) because Christianity is the bull in the china shop, not Shintoism. If Christianity knew its place and Christians didn’t want to overstep the rights granted in the First Amendment, then I’d have no more social issues with Christianity and I could focus just on the truth claims (which I don’t accept).

          But the U.S. is a secular state, not a religious state.

          You’re right. I wish we could convince the politicians who make “In God We Trust” the motto and put it on the wall of the council chambers in countless cities and counties around the country. Or the busybodies who want Ten Commandments displays on public property.

          Gone are the times of Christian states, where everything was perfect for Christians.

          It’s easy to make the case that the US today is more perfect for Christians than other periods.

          How can you reintegrate Christianity when it has been found a failure since the Age of Enlightenment?

          What is your worldview?

        • Cygnus

          Hi Bob,

          Thank you for your detailed answers. Now I can see more clearly what is your position in regard to Christianity.

          I think you’d like to keep cultural Christian worldview for its controversial, minimal and diminishing contribution to Western civilization, contribution that’s baselessly claimed as being inspired by God of Christian inclination.

          But you know very well that those remnant wannabe Christian culture was created in a totalitarian religious regime, so the artists were forced to dedicate their creation to the religious Christian dictatorship, which appropriated everything including sciences and philosophy.

          I was born and lived most of my life in a communist country, and I can tell you that Communism was not all that bad, it had goodies in it, but it is gone as it the Christian totalitarian regimes,. How would you feel if I’d defend Communism for its few goodies and try to expose Communist failures with the purpose of bringing back a better understanding of Communism?

          After all Communist ideas can be bettered under some humanist perspectives, keeping in mind what mistakes were done, as it is Christianity doing now to remain afloat in spite of its stalled ideology. It was Christian ideology that fought against Communist ideology even if both ideologies are similar, the only difference is that Christianity base their inspiration from a daddy in the sky and Communists in a supreme leader.

          Surely my worldview are not based on secular Christianity, but Christianity will be in my mind for mocking, satirizing, criticizing, laughing at the idea that Christianity is inspired by God. I would like to defend cultural Christianity, but I cannot for the reasons above. Culture and Science under Christian as well Communist regimes do not belong to respective ideology, labels of their religions or regimes, but to humanity.

          But I guess we need a label to fight for. Apparently labels come and go, and right now we need a label to fight for and if we are not imaginative, we may cling to the old labels like Christianity.

        • Now I can see more clearly what is your position in regard to Christianity.

          Your turn. I have little idea where you’re coming from.

          How would you feel if I’d defend Communism for its few goodies and try to expose Communist failures with the purpose of bringing back a better understanding of Communism?

          Go for it. Isn’t that what people who see the value of socialist thinking in Europe are doing?

        • Cygnus

          Well, it would be “my turn” when I’ll have my own blog. Right now I am just expressing my opinions vis-a-vis to your opinions. I hope you’re not irked by that.

          If I’d have a blog on socialist thinking, you’ll totally be free to express your opinions, for I believe that Communism censured opinions, in spite of the fact it is written in the Communist Manifesto, I don’t know in what epistle, chapter and verse :), that freedom of expression is guaranteed.

        • You’re hard to communicate with if you don’t explain your position with respect to Christianity. Is it a secret? Perhaps you’re shy?

        • Cygnus

          But a communication already took place. Don’t you agree?
          You started with your opinions in your blog, I answered with my opinion. Isn’t that a communication?

          I hope we won’t have this kind of retarded religious communication: theists claim something to be believed, then they get disbelief as an answer in their claim, but they don’t consider it a complete communication unless you either believe in their claim or come up with another claim they want to prove is not believable because it is not in accordance with their claims.

          I told you that I understood what you are trying to convey, I didn’t say that what you do is wrong, just that in my opinion, there’s need to focus more on what is created by humans to reflect humanity.

          Christianity is a human creation, but it claims that it reflects God, the afterlife, or something you already declared that you don’t believe in because there’s no evidence for it. Yet, Christianity in any form, cultural or not, denies the human inspiration in humanity.

        • yewtree

          “with contradictions in the Bible, you’re stuck with them” — only if you believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, which many Christians don’t. Many of them believe it to be a human account of their relationship with God.

          (In case anyone is wondering where I am coming from on this, I’m a Pagan.)

        • Yes, they will go there, though I wonder where that leaves the Bible. If they fall back on “Don’t worry about that–the Bible is a human book,” then how much supernaturalism is left?

        • yewtree

          speaking as a member of a religion with no holy book and no supernaturalism (Pagan deities are immanent in Nature, therefore preternatural)… I don’t know the answer to that question – it doesn’t fit in my paradigm.

          As to how people manage without regarding the Bible as inerrant (which is a position only held by fundamentalists and some evangelicals anyway) – have a look at the Progressive Christian channel on Patheos – they are doing just fine. As are many of the people on the Judaism channel, several of whom are liberal and progressive too.

        • Argus

          Pagan? Burn em…Burn em. S/he turned me into a NEWT..it..umm it got better.

        • yewtree

          hahahaha I’ve never heard that joke before

        • epicurus

          It’s from the classic “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” movie (the movie used “witch” instead of “pagan”).
          A must watch.

        • yewtree

          Seen it, of course!

          I was being sarcastic.

          I’m a Wiccan – I have heard ALL the broomstick jokes, etc etc etc etc.

        • epicurus

          oh ok sorry.

        • yewtree

          No worries – it wasn’t you recycling very old jokes 😀

      • Richard Green

        To be fair, I am a devout Christian so I would expect that we would disagree on many things, so I won’t burden you on matters of mere disagreement (especially since I suspect you would know as much about these things as I do).

        But yes, as I read your articles from time to time, I will comment in areas that I think might be beneficial. And will do so outside of comment threads if I don’t think my comments would be of any benefit to anyone else.

        • Sounds great. I learn plenty from the atheist commenters, including errors that I make. But we’re pretty much on the same page. I’m most interested in what supports Christians’ beliefs, and I often get the best insights from Christians.

        • Cygnus

          “I learn plenty from the atheist commenters, including errors that I make.”

          Do you think that there are perfect atheists who are trying to correct “errors” you make?

        • No need to put “errors” in quotes. I make ’em.

          I know of no perfect atheists. The imperfect ones here are still helpful in pointing out some of my errors.

        • Cygnus

          I put “errors” in scare quotes because I don’t see the expression of disbelief in theistic claims as errors.
          Surely enough, one expresses better his/her disbelief than others, but an error would be to express disbelief in such a way to send someone back to believing theistic claims by finding “good” parts in theistic claims. Are you referring to this kind of errors you are making?

          I mean, there are a lot of good parts in any other non-theistic areas that can help humanity, why do we have to find “good” parts in religion just to keep religions afloat?

        • TheNuszAbides

          the errors are usually points of fact. they might sometimes relate to Christian claims (such as whether they are accurately represented) but he is not referring to ‘errors’ of belief or disbelief.

        • Argus

          I will commend you Richard on the fact that you seem open to changing your worldview should you be convinced with evidence. As a former “devout Christian” (seminary student, part time minister, etc.), I know how difficult it can be to step out of the comfort zone of “typical christianity” and actually analyze your beliefs and question their validity.

        • Richard Green

          Also to be fair, my faith does fit well within the moderate Protestant church I’ve been a member of for over 20 years. While I have discarded a number of Christian beliefs that “don’t work”, it has not put me outside my own faith community. Not that there has not been discomfort, but the greatest majority of the discomfort has been within my own self (fighting with my own ego) … with perhaps some some discomfort on the part of some of my Facebook followers.

    • Cygnus

      I wonder why the devout Christians like you aren’t one step ahead of those outside Christianity to point out the reality of Christian hypocrisy. I mean hypocrisy, as you already observed, is part of Christian reality.

      Historically, what devout Christians did to each other was to charge with heresy. Those outside Christianity mention Christian hypocrisy to state a fact, not to correct what is intrinsic Christian. You cannot Christian feeling love and compassion, yet thinking about eternal nuisance for those who don’t accept love and compassion as Christians think is.

      People outside of Christian are hypocrite too, but I don’t think that becoming devout Christians would make them less hypocrite. If you want to call atheists as outside of Christianity who expose Christian hypocrisy, they are doing that to substantiate why they disbelieve Christian claims, NOT to try to correct Christianity.

      “Christianity is supposed to come from God” – Yes, I am laughing when I wrote the last sentence, I am not only outside Christianity, but also outside of any other religion.

      • Richard Green

        I see the history of dealing with hypocrisy more as the role of prophet (proclaimers of challenging realities) than inquisitor (prosecutors against heresy). Inquisitors maintain status quo; prophets shake it up.

        And indeed there are and always will be prophets of truth, we Christians are rather adept at finding ways not to listen.

        Today too many Christians (especially when we are being hypocritical) seem to be so locked into their schools of Biblical interpretation, that rather than being torches to light their way forward, they are fixed lights to keep us where we already are.

        • Cygnus

          From what I read, I see you are just trying to find excuses for a religion, Christianity, that Christians claim is perfect because it comes from God.

          But claiming the existence of God that gives perfection to Christians, should translate into facts that reflect a perfect God through the acts of Christians, but all you see since incipience of Christianity, is failure after failure, justifications after justification, apologetic and philosophy of religion. Absolutely nothing real, or helping the humanity, just unsupported claim about the existence of God that need to be “listened” to, when instead you hear only the voices of religionists.

          Of course Christians are supposed to be locked in their schools of biblical interpretation, how do you think Christianity keeps itself afloat? By Christian hypocrisy, adulterer, child molestation, etc. that’s exposed?

          What is the use in exposing Christian behavior unless by exposing what Christians are doing, you want to substantiate why you don’t believe Christian claims?

        • Richard Green

          I don’t see where I am making excuses for Christians. What Christianity is differs somewhat depending on who is using the term, of course.

          I agree that Christians should reflect the image of the God we claim to serve. In doing so, Christians should indeed “do justice”, “love kindness”, and “walk humbly” (Micah 6:8). There are of course other such teaching that I would personally subscribe to.

          I believe in trying to follow a Christianity without hypocrisy, that does not seek to justify my bad behavior by saying “it’s not what I’m saying, but what the Bible is saying”.

          I would say that I do not believe many of the claims that many people who likewise call themselves Christian do. But I do not think that this necessarily puts me outside the scope of Christianity … at least as I use the term. I would be dishonest if I did not think that some of these other Christians would not consider me a “good” Christian because of my beliefs.

          Some types of Christianity do try to, as you put it, “keep itself afloat” by its judgement and hypocrisy. Others of us try our best to humbly walk another path. Just as Atheism, Judaism, Islam, etc can’t be reduced to simple sweeping defining statements; I would claim that the diversity among Christians likewise makes it hard to define in absolutist terms.

          Perhaps all that being a Christian is is trying to follow God through the example of Christ. The nature of that God and that Christ of course has many different interpretations within the full scope of Christianity,

          Thank you for your comments.

        • Cygnus

          “I don’t see where I am making excuses for Christians”

          What about your declaration “To be fair, I am a devout Christian”?

          Why won’t you tell Bob, when he’s exposing Christian hypocrisy, that you’re fighting to remove the inherent hypocrisy from Christianity, that reflects the image of the God? You cannot deny that the bible shows a lot of God hypocrisy. Surely, you won’t make excuses for it.

        • Richard Green

          I’m afraid that I’m not being as clear as I would like. I shall endeavour to do better in the future.

          Question 1: That was a fragment of my sentence, I believe that it might make better sense in the context of our entire exchange. He said that I might let him know about any area of disagreement. Being a Christian and Bob being an Atheist, we obviously would disagree on some things. The “to be fair” part is an idiom and expresses that I desire to be fair to his atheist sensibilities; as he likewise seems to me, to be quite fair to theist sensibilities.

          The “devout Christian” can be a vague term, I would agree. In this case to differentiate myself from being casual in matters of my own faith. I would more easily identify with those in this site’s “Progressive Christian” channel (but not exclusively), if this helps.

          Question 2: Fair point. Bob, I do try to deal with Christian hypocrisy. I believe we have a shared interest in doing so, though from two different places. Which is why I appreciate what Bob is doing, and more effectively than I probably ever will manage.

          Whether there is “inherent” hypocrisy in Christianity may be a point that the two of us may differ on. I would not deny that there is a fair case to be made for your implied position on this matter. Explaining my thoughts on Christianity in this regard would take longer than I can devote to it here – plus this is someone else’s blog.

          My thoughts about the Bible likewise seems to be different than yours. I would not deny that there are apparent contradictions in the Bible. To what level I might consider these contradictions “hypocrisy” (which likewise is far too complicated to deal with here), I would not attribute that “hypocrisy” to God himself (again more complicated than I can adequately address here). I’m sorry that I can’t be much more clear in the time and space available.

          Perhaps I might suggest that these matters aren’t binary in nature, but rather cover multiple spectrum (spectra) of religious thought.

          So if you are saying that I should admit that Christianity in and of itself must by its nature be hypocritical, I wouldn’t say that since I don’t think that. That being said, I am quite understanding of those who disagree with me in this regard.

        • Cygnus

          Bob exposed Christian hypocrisy. You agreed with that because you, as a devout Christian (now “Progressive Christian”), know about Christian hypocrisy and you are not making excuses for it. Did I get that correct?

          I told you that you have to deal with Christian hypocrisy because it is an inherent feature of religions, including Christianity, and I explained one case, about Christ love. (You cannot say that you sincerely love someone, yet be satisfied that rightful thing is done to nonbelievers in Christian love, i.e. eternal discomfort)

          I thin you’re creating a false teamwork with Bob. You are not working together to correct Christian hypocrisy. From what I understand, Bob is trying to keep cultural Christianity, a Christianity as it is, a human cultural creation inspired by a historical or mythical character (I don’t want to get into debating the source of inspiration, it is irrelevant to the subject at hand).

          While you are thinking that you are teaming up with Atheist Bob, by agreeing with him about Christian hypocrisy, it has absolutely nothing to do with what Bob intends, by exposing Christian hypocrisy. Many atheists expose Christian hypocrisy to show that Christianity don’t have a moral compass in God, for God is a fine example of hypocritical character, BUT let’s keep Christianity in mind as a culture, political or a totalitarian regime that existed in the history of humanity.

          Nobody is compelling you to admit that Christianity is hypocritical in nature. Atheists are exposing hypocrisy in Christianity and other religions, to substantiate their disbelief in theistic, Christian, Muslim, etc. claims. Of course you are free to disagree with that, but that is a disagreement about the response you get when you make theistic claims you cannot substantiate or bring evidence for.

          I think that lately, there’s a trend started by a pope to get friendly with atheists, that expose the Christian shortcomings, and work together to better Christianity for getting out of the Dark Ages and install it back into totalitarian power with a “modern” dictatorship, while Bob is working just to keep Christianity cultural, as a chapter, as many other chapters in the human culture.

          I told Bob that I don’t see anything wrong in keeping Christianity as a culture, but for you, I am telling you that it is wrong to work for bettering Christianity when it has been proved that it is failure in its moral, ethical, and legal concepts.

          Surely you can disagree with the above. If you live in the US, we have a secular governing that guarantees you the freedom of expressing disagreement with the disbelief of others in regard to your religious, theistic claims. That’s a freedom that wasn’t guaranteed in a religious state, something that Christians wants to bring back.

          I know you may want to talk only in regard to finding just “goodies” in Christianity because you happened to be born in a religious family or like that religion. But you are free to practice your religion in places and building allocated for that purpose, here on Internets we are just expressing our opinions, not evangelizing, exorcise demons, or proselytizing.

        • Richard Green

          I’m not sure that I can adequately explain my own Christian faith to you. But I am not proselytizing here, so I’m not sure how relevant my own beliefs are anyway. But suffice it to say that you make assumptions about my beliefs and motives that are not entirely applicable to me. Since most of the louder voices in American Christianity might be fairly characterized by your statements, this is completely understandable.

          I am outside the boxes you think I must be in … and I’m afraid that I do not clearly have a reference point to tell you where in the diverse religious spectrum I happen to find myself.

          I hope that Bob does not interpret that I am trying to “team up” with him, rather that we have some shared interest in Christianity being “better” (and I would not assume that what he might consider as “better” and what I would are the same). In his case, I believe that his motivation is because of the influence of Christianity on the larger culture (forgive me if I misspeak to his points). For me it is because I am Christian, and have a vested interest in it – however much “cultural” Christianity may deviate from my own faith.

          Perhaps it would be better for me to use the term “hypocrisy of Christians” rather than “Christian hypocrisy” to express what I seek to persuade Christians against.

          Finally, I staunchly believe that “freedom of religion” must include “freedom from religion”, that these rights shouldn’t be denied the atheist simply because he/she isn’t theist.

          I’m not going to reply further in this comment thread, since my inability to speak clearly enough will only lead to redundant misunderstandings.

          Be well good fellow. May good things come to you in your life. … My typing this won’t make it so, but this is what I might wish for you.

        • Cygnus

          “I’m not sure that I can adequately explain my own Christian faith to you.”
          ===
          Do you think that it is the place to do that, in an atheist blog?

          Moreover, you mention your own Christian faith, what kind of Christian faith is that if not the same as Christian faith? Maybe you want to adequately explain another kind of Christianity and add it to the myriads of Christianities already owned by some other Christians?

          If you are a Christian or at least the owner of a kind of Christianity, you’re already in some kind of box mentality, from which you may want to get out and analyze it, that’s what I did when when found out that there’s Christian hypocrisy, a specific hypocrisy that already explained to you.

          Maybe Bob found “hypocrisy of Christians” as you try to explain, and you agreed that hypocrisy may be found as a trait of some people regardless of their religion or non-religion. But that’s something trite, I don’t think that Bob was discussing hypocrisy as some general human practice just to weep about immorality of humanity at large , but in the context of Christianity, that there are Christians who are hypocrite and blame their hypocrisy on the human nature, whimpering for help from “devout” Christians who are not looking to excuse them or, form atheists like Bob who exposes Christian hypocrisy to make Christians think “oops! Atheists are looking at us, let get more Christian” , but to no avail, for religious hypocrisy is a Christianity trait, and that was subject of discussion you seem not to agree to.

          Well, you’re free not to agree, but if you want to “adequately” explain your own Christian faith to you, you can do better in the places and buildings you are free to gather with your fellow devout Christians. I am not going there, I already went, but I got freedom from.

        • Richard Green

          To be brief: No I don’t think I should go into great detail about my faith in an atheist blog; so you may have noticed that I haven’t and have resisted doing so except in quite broad and concise terms. You have however made characterizations about my own specific religious positions, despite not my actually voicing them.

          Christianity is not all one thing any more than atheism is. It would not be fair of me to make sweeping assumptions about your or anyone else’s atheism; so I don’t.

          Since you are projecting onto me an awful lot that I am not actually saying; and actually attributing to me things to the contrary of what I have actually said about myself and my positions, it is likely that either you are not realizing that you are doing this or you are being intentionally argumentative. Which is fine, but I’m dropping out of this discussion.

          Don’t worry about me, I am no threat to anyone’s atheism and I have no hidden agenda. All I really started out doing was trying to provide Bob some encouragement from a sector that he probably doesn’t get much from.

        • adam

          “Christianity is not all one thing any more than atheism is.”

          But atheism IS one thing, disbelief in deity.

        • Richard Green

          At one level yes, but there are also various philosophies that can fall under the atheist umbrella. Agnostic, skepticism, secular humanism, etc. And many of these philosophies aren’t mutually exclusive.

          In the same way Christianity can be defined as “one thing”, but this can ignore the wide spectrum of religious thought within this umbrella.

        • adam

          agnostic, skeptism is not atheism,
          Secular humanists can be atheist, but secular humanism is not atheism.

          Atheism is STILL, one thing.

          Christianity is ONE THING.
          Christianity is claim central to belief in Christ, of which apparently no two people can agree on completely.

        • Cygnus

          “…there are also various philosophies that can fall under the atheist umbrella.”

          Do you think that theism has anything to do with philosophy? I mean, theists are making their claims of God existence under the religious “umbrella”, and while theists claim they can make “philosophy of religion”, they are doing nothing but pushing their theistic agenda.

          You are calling some philosophers as “atheists”, but philosophy has absolutely nothing to do with theism or atheism. If “God” is mentioned in some philosophies ii just a fabricated item for an abstract discussion, not to be believed or denied. Abstract: existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence.

        • Richard Green

          If you have a better word than “philosophies” in the context of my statement referring to schools of atheist (and other somewhat related) thought, then please offer it.

          I would have used theology/theologies rather than philosophy/philosophies if I were referring to the beliefs and doctrines of theists.

        • Cygnus

          To start with your “schools of atheists”, sorry, but it is a total nonsense, if you refer to atheism as we know it, in our times.

          When Christians started to pervert, muddle, and obfuscate Philosophy of Antiquity starting with that catholic priest Tommaso d’Aquino, Muslims were considered atheists by Christians and vice-versa, even if Muslims had their religious “philosophy”. I put “philosophy” in scare quotes because philosophy and religion are two separate domains that have nothing to do with each other even if the process of conceiving them start in our brains.

          Philosophy is expressed to understand humanity, Religion is produced to “understand” divinity, whatever it means in theology/theologies of theist doctrines. Surely, theists claim that they fabricated divinity with the purpose of bettering the humanity, but they cannot bring any shred of evidence about that. Building temples, synagogues, churches, mosques, mega-churches did not better the humanity. Even as some kind of meditation, religion fails miserably for it tries to produce divine hallucinations without even taking drugs in spite of the fact that divinity was started by drugged people or brain damaged by epilepsy (see Paul).

          So schools of atheists of Christianity vs. Muslimist “philosophies” has ended, and atheism has consolidated its meaning as a way to fight for freedom of expressing disbelief in theistic claims, liberation from theistic suppression of thinking, and substantiate the disbelief in theistic claims. I do not have to create a “school of atheist” when I use scientific and philosophical thinking to substantiate my disbelief in theist claim about a God existence.

          I can be philosopher or scientist without having the label of “theist” or “atheist” attached, for philosophy and sciences has absolutely nothing to do with theism or atheism. Those are the results of philosophy or sciences that are used by someone who disbelieves theistic claims, BUT that person is not necessarily a philosopher of scientist. And that someone happens to be called as “atheist”, a derogatory term used by theists by adding an “a” to their cherished kind of theism. “A” being a privative particle to show that…meh… atheists lack the divinity theists claim but can’t prove.

          To recap, if you are Christian and you want to refer at Christian ways, use theology/theologies. If you are just a human using your brain to think about abstract things, call it philosophy/philosophies. Just don’t mix religion with philosophy. At best, religion can be called “applied” philosophy, and see the disastrous application of religious thinking.

        • Richard Green

          So “philosophy” would apply to schools of atheist thought then, right? And in doing so, I am NOT saying that all philosophies are atheist. I’m quite aware that many philosophies do not address any notion of divinity or religion at all.

          So my use of language earlier is vindicated; keeping in mind the words that I actually used earlier and not ones you might consider implied.

          I refer in specific to – “but there are also various philosophies that can fall under the atheist umbrella. Agnostic, skepticism, secular humanism, etc. And many of these philosophies aren’t mutually exclusive. In the same way Christianity [can’t] {correcting a typo here} be defined as one thing, but this can ignore the wide spectrum of religious thought within this umbrella.”

          I’m still trying to determine if you are argumentative or pedantic. But since I would not put any stock either way on my own opinion of the matter, I proclaim it a moot point at best.

          Be well, good fellow. Keep using that considerable intellect, but I would advise against straining to much against overly fine points. No one can include everything needed to *fully* communicate so as to totally avoid any problem of language.

        • Cygnus

          “So “philosophy” would apply to schools of atheist thought then, right? ”

          Huh? That’s all you got from what I wrote? From where did you get that I said anything that l inks “schools”, “atheist”, “thought” and “philosophy”?

          I explained in detail that “school of atheist” is a nonsensical term applied for nowadays atheism. I explained that “school of atheist” could be at best the atheism expressed between Christians and Muslim in their so called “philosophy”.

          Now you dismiss everything I told you because you run back to whatever you thought, and think that I did not understand. Typical Christian “philosophy”, you claim something then complain that you are not understood.

        • Argus

          These other philosophies could actually be held by an atheist or a theist so they cannot be a de factor watermark of the “atheist umbrella.” Really atheism is not so much a philosophy as it is One response to One Claim (that of gods existing). I would agree that many atheists do indeed gravitate to these philosophies..as well they should.

        • Cygnus

          I did not characterized but Christianity, I have nothing to do with you personally or with your “own” Christianity, whatever you mean by that.

          Of course you are confused as any other guy/gal who’s calling himself/herself having an “own” Christianity, for even the first guy who came up with a Christ had his own Christianity that apparently wasn’t pleasing everybody, thus the development of myriads of Christianities. To be sincere, when I was a Christian, I had like you, my own Christianity because I’ve seen so many Christians that weren’t… Christians. You can’t explain that, all you can say is how you’d love to interpret your view about what you think Christ is.

          In the end, after I finished with my “own” Christianity, I realized that Christ is nothing but a translation of the Jewish word “Messiah” by a Hellenistic Jew that who thought that it is the time to came up fabricate a new religion (and boy, aren’t the Jews good at that? Read the old testament), and with that new religion started the imagination about what a Christ should look like, therefore some arts had been done and some culture “sponsored” by Christian totalitarian leaders in religious states, appeared as Christian culture that was somehow appealing to Western civilization.

          Need I say more? Oh, lately there are some voices trying to pull the rug from under Christian leaders who are “fundamentalist”, by some “progressives”, to go back to what is seen as “simple Jesus teachings” or beating the dead horse of historicity of mythological source of Christianity.

          I already went thru that “historical/mythical” blogs when I was a Christian, and got sick of it. Apparently, some Christians want to extend that nonsensical historical/mythical Jesus to atheist blogs, to keep them busy in a religious quarrel instead of getting rid altogether to that nonsense.

          But as long as religious “scholars” and “philosophers” of religion can make money jumping from historic to mythic and vice-versa from Jesus boats, they can buy cars, houses, have a nice life with the money taken from suckers who think they are “intellectuals” when debating the source of Christianity. In the end you get devoted Christians with their “own” Christianity, forgetting they actually disbelieve Christian claims, but maybe they want to keep some cultural Christianity.

        • I’ve written about how I’d like Christianity to evolve here:

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2012/11/christianity-2-0-secular-christianity-2/

        • Richard Green

          Interesting … I’m going to have to think about this.

    • Argus

      I’m curious….what one thing could convince you that Christianity is wrong?

      • Richard Green

        That is a truly excellent question!

        It depends on what one’s definition of “Christianity” is and what the criteria is for it being “wrong”. There are many prevalent doctrines in many and even at least one in most “flavors” of Christianity that I would already disagree with. To that extent, some things about Christianity I already consider wrong.

        However the things that I am am convinced are wrong within the scope of Christianity are not things that I believe put me outside the scope of Christianity itself. Some on the far right would not include me within their definition of Christian, but I personally reject such narrowness.

        But there are things that I could be convinced of that might put me outside the definition of most people’s definitions of Christian. I can’t think of any of these that would put me outside of being a theist who believes in a loving God and who is personally committed to following Jesus.

        Such things that might convince me against this core are not in the realm of what is provable in this life (as far as I have been able to determine so far). To the opposite side of the issue, these are also not things that I can prove conclusively for in this life either. I fully understand that my core beliefs are matters of faith.

        To leave these issues up to faith, I not do so by throwing my hands up and leaving my intellect completely out of the equation. Rather there are always things outside the realm of proof and we all have choices about what we do and don’t faith (believe) about these matters. My faith is where it is because I have found no better place to put them.

        So what could convince me that Christianity is completely wrong? At this point, it would be that there is a better place to put my faith than in the existence of a loving God with the context of the life, words, works, and example of Jesus.

        I state this without intent to evangelize here. If anything I would point out the shaky ground upon which I place my faith.

        I also understand the philosophical problems of the existence of a loving God. I think I may actually have some different ideas on this subject outside the usual arguments, but to go into any detail would take too long. I do so fully understanding a *lot* of persuasive arguments against this point.

        Also I understand the problems inherent in my reliance upon the person of Jesus of Nazareth, If God exists and is loving (whatever that might mean for Him), then I would think that He might be patient with my faithful reliance upon the template of Jesus in my faith. Hence, despite being a *Christ*-ian, the “God” part is more important than the “Jesus” part. By stating this, it doesn’t mean that my own belief in Jesus is currently at risk. Again, too much to fully go into.

        I do not believe that any of us get through this existence being right about everything. This is inherent in being human, so I do not believe that a loving God expects that we will have *completely* accurate thoughts in all matters, or perhaps in *any* matter at all.

        I’m not sure this was a satisfactory answer. I’m quite sure that this makes for exceedingly poor Christian apologetics, not that this would be my intent here. At the same time, I fear I am a poor soil for cultivating an atheism or even agnosticism.

        My positions/beliefs/faith may indeed be due in part or in whole to my personal flaws and shortcomings, and I don’t think that I could argue much against this point.

        • adam

          “It depends on what one’s definition of “Christianity” is”

          Full Definition of Christian Merriam Webster

          1 a : one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ

          b (1) : disciple 2

          (2) : a member of one of the Churches of Christ separating from the Disciples of Christ in 1906
          (3) : a member of the Christian denomination having part in the union of the United Church of Christ concluded in 1961

        • Richard Green

          Yes, I am aware of a number of dictionary definitions of Christianity. But encyclopedias exist because dictionary definitions don’t always suffice; and entire books on relatively narrow subjects exist because encyclopedia articles don’t always suffice. There are a number of things that Argus could have meant; or he could be leaving it up to however I might use the term myself.

          Regarding your graphic, that is not what Luke 12:47-48 says.

          47 That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.

          This is part of a story (parable). The story uses the reality of slavery and punishment to make the point “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” Acknowledging present realities and using them to make a point is not inherently an endorsement of those specific realities … from a logical standpoint.

        • adam

          “I am aware of a number of dictionary definitions of Christianity.”

          So there appears to be only two ways to view WHO is a christian and who is not.

          Either ‘Christ’ defined what disciples are and ONLY those are Christian,

          or (the whole problem with Revealed ReligionTM)

          Everyone gets to ‘interpret’ Christ in their own mind and claim to be Christian.

          “The story uses the reality of slavery and punishment to make the point “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”

          Of course, instead of the moral position that OWNING another human being is WRONG!

          But of course that contradicts Gods own rules for owning slaves.

        • Richard Green

          Your logic skills will need to improve if you are trying to be persuasive to me. Binary reasoning, and other such logical fallacies really don’t resonate with me.

          And I’m not going to be drawn further into side points. I thought that perhaps you might want to know that you were using a misquote, my mistake.

          If you are disagreeing for the sake of others, then I’m quite sure that other people will disagree with me for their own reasons; hopefully based on what I have actually written. I was answering Argus’ question, not trying to get anyone to agree with me.

          So to be clear, if you are reading this and you are atheist – I am not trying to change your mind. I’m sure there are no shortage of Christian apologists who will try to change your mind, you really don’t need me to add to that.

          I am quite sure that I haven’t written anything in these comments to change anyone’s mind about atheism; nor am I trying to here.

          If you are just trying to be disagreeable, rest well. I’m really not worth the effort.

        • adam

          “Your logic skills will need to improve if you are trying to be persuasive to me.”

          Please demonstrate.

          I am not trying to be persuasive to you,

          “It depends on what one’s definition of “Christianity” is and what the criteria is for it being “wrong”.”

          But I only see the two options for claiming christianity.

          ” I thought that perhaps you might want to know that you were using a misquote, my mistake.”

          Sorry, what misquote am I using?

  • yewtree

    If you have a religion with a holy book, the holy book is always open to new interpretations, but you are always constrained by the text. Hence the conservatism (with notable exceptions which were pointed out in the article) of religions with a holy book.

    If we look at the exceptions (e.g. Liberal Judaism, the Sufis, the Unitarians, the Universalists, the Quakers), they all contend that the individual conscience (or the heart) is the primary source of connection to the truth and/or God, while the holy book has so many possible interpretations that it should be up to the conscience of the individual to interpret it.

    The conflict between adherence to doctrine and liberal and/or mystical interpretations has been going on for centuries.

  • Argus

    This point may have already been made but..seems to me…when a religion is new…it has more to be gained by challenging the status quo. Example: Pauline Christianity challenged the Judaizer proto-Christianity. Hence.it made sense for their early propaganda (Gospels) to urge change and activism.

    When the religion gets inculcated into the fabric of the status quo..it then becomes and evolutionary advantage to defend said status quo. Example: 4th century Christianity colluding with the State and forming a mutual defense league that still stands today.