On the Christian’s Natural Sense of Superiority

On the Christian’s Natural Sense of Superiority August 23, 2010

Like This!

Aprops to some of our most recent discussions, I thought I’d share with you a short excerpt from my 2006 book, I’m OK–You’re Not: The Message We’re Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop. That book ended up becoming known for its look at the relationship between the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, but that topic only comprises the first one-third or so of the book. Two-thirds of the rest of the book addresses those dynamics at play in the relationship between Christians and non-Christians that are necessarily problematic. Here’s a bit from that part of the book:


The easy way for us rid ourselves of whatever sanctimonious self-importance may have attached itself to us [Christians] is by simply (and constantly) remembering that we’re not better than nonbelievers. What we are is luckier than nonbelievers. We didn’t do anything to get saved. We didn’t deserve it. It’s not like God was holding auditions for an open spot in heaven, and we just so wowed him with our killer rendition of “Oklahoma!” or “Go Tell It On The Mountain” that we won.

Being close to God is something to be grateful for, not proud of.

And that God saves us through no effort of our own is hardly a surprise to we Protestants, ‘eh? If there’s anything we know, it’s that we are saved by the grace of God, and by that alone. That’s the single shape of brick from which we build our entire home. That’s how we live. That’s who we are.

If we Christians know nothing else, we know that being arrogant—much less being arrogant about our relationship to God—is about the last thing we’d ever want Jesus to catch us being.

And yet all too often there we are, acting like since Jesus himself isn’t present, we will certainly do in his stead.

Well, some Christians act like that, anyway.

I don’t, of course. But some do. Lots do. But I don’t, because I’ve chosen to put obeying Christ’s Great Commandment ahead of everything else in my life.

I’m just … better, that way.

God is especially pleased with me that I … sfKI;;;pwofdkd flfljfdj d MY haANDS I CAN’T AOSLS MOVE MYH ANDS RIGHT!!1 [[Mmy Fingers!! s ccsx crazy I wtylggmghoiox alos.w!!

Oh. Whew. Here we are. Cool. I can type again.

Much better.

What in the heck was that about?

Oh, well. Life’s a mystery.

Anyway, we Christians really aren’t any better than anyone else. For some reason we may never understand we became a great deal more fortunate than many others—but what sort of fool takes credit for his own blind luck? Being saved should make us insanely humble, not proud. “There but for the grace of God,” and all that.

And let us not (ever) forget that the people we consider unlucky don’t consider themselves unlucky—and not by a long shot, either. Normies [a word I use in the book to refer to normal, everyday people who (though they may consider themselves “spiritual”) don’t ascribe to any particular religion] like their lives. They’re content. They’re having fun. They’re living rich, emotionally rewarding lives. They’re not looking in from outside the candy store that is our lives, wondering why we get all the breaks. They think we wouldn’t know a break from a pitchfork. They think we’re soft-headed dupes.

They feel sorry for us—just like we feel sorry for them.

So it all kind of works out.

Kind of.

Well it can, anyway.

And here, ultimately, is how: We need to radically change our paradigm relative to how we relate to Normies.

And I mean, radically.

Out with the old, in with the new.

Let’s be bold, or let’s be blue.

We’re out in the cold; it’s time for a clue.

What we’re selling’s been sold; now what do we do? (And you just got a preview of my next book: Mother Goose Goes to Seminary.)

Serious business, now: Our Whole Entire Thing toward Normies has got to stop being “Let’s change them!” and start being, “Let’s not change them!”

Let’s not change them.

Let’s stop worrying about changing the minds of people who don’t want to believe what we believe. Let’s stop pushing our religion on people who are perfectly content doing whatever it is that they’ve chosen to do, who are happy to travel down whatever course they’ve chosen for themselves.

Let’s really respect people, instead of just saying that we respect them.

Let’s respect people; let’s love people; let’s let people be.

It’s like Sting said: “I can make love for eighteen hours straight.”

No, I mean: “If you love someone, set them free.”

Right on, Bee Boy! That’s exactly right: It’s time to set the Normies free. And I mean really, truly, absolutely free. In our hearts, minds and souls, it’s got to be perfectly okay for non-Christians to be non-Christian.

That’s it. That’s the singular, whole point of this book: It’s got to be perfectly okay with Christians if other people aren’t Christian.

It works practically (they’re not listening anyway); it works emotionally (finally, we can quit stressing over this relentless pressure to convert others); it works theologically (it allows us to fulfill the “Great Commandment”).

It’s time. We’ve preached enough to people who don’t want to hear it. It’s time to give them, and us, a break.

[I then go into how a Christian can arrange in his or her own mind and soul to really and truly be okay with someone else really and truly not being Christian; the chapter following the one from which the above is excerpted is titled, “Shall we Dance,” and includes a section called, “Seven Handy Dandy Tips To Bear In Mind About Any Given Normie When You’re Interacting With Them So That It’ll Be Easier To Love Them In A Way That Might Not Come So Naturally Once You Find Out They’re Pagan Nonbelievers.” I’ll maybe run a clip from that section next if anyone’s interested.]


Come join me/us on my Facebook fan page!

Browse Our Archives

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I do wonder, and I actually did this just yesterday while in church as our pastor talked about how important it is for us to do the Great Commission thing. (he was speaking on baptism of course)….

    My wondering was framed in the following questions. When Jesus gave the disciples the direction to go, preach, baptize, etc. was He speaking to just the disciples at that time? OR Was that His intent for every generation thereafter to continue along the same vein? And what if everyone in the world has heard the message, then what?

    OR was his intent to say to the disciples he was standing in front of speaking to….. "Ok guys you know me, better then anyone else ever will. After all we did live and work together in close proximity for several years. You are the best ones to tell everyone about me and what I came here to do. After that, the ball should really get rolling and you'll be able to concentrate on teaching others how to live as I showed you."

  • From my post, "<a / rel="nofollow">"How Is 'Convert, You!' Loving Others?":

    For Christians to solve their "I love you" / "It's a shame you're you" conundrum, all they have to do is realize that what Jesus tells his disciples at the end of Matthew was critical at that time. When he said those words, almost no one but his audience had heard of Christ or his message; then his disciples needed to get out there and spread the word, in order to ensure it survived at all.

    But today? Not so much with the urgency.

  • Yeah it's disappointing how some people get a superiority complex over things they had no control over.

    It's probably because they're shorter than me.

  • Ace

    Not a big fan of Napoleon Bonaparte, eh?

  • Yeah, I totally agree. the urgency isn't there so much, but boy do we need to be spreading a bit more of that other message. the one from "The Great Commandment"

  • It must be the fact that my body is embracing all things sinus infection. I read that and at first thought you said Napoleon Dynamite.

  • berkshire

    What's a "normie"?
    I get that it refers to non-Christians, but I don't get where it comes from or what it's supposed to mean.

  • I think it implies that Christians come across as rather odd. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but we are just different, not quite fitting into those round peg holes. Shoot some Christians are shaped nothing like round peg holes, trying as hard as possible to be anything BUT round.

    If that makes any sense.

    Ok. That's it. I need cold medication!

  • Oh, right: thanks for reminding me to drop into this excerpt something I explain earlier in the book, which is that by "Normies" I mean normal, everyday people who (though they may consider themselves “spiritual”) don’t ascribe to any particular religion.

  • Tanager

    When I met my half sister for the first time, and we were having coffee together, I told her quite simply that I thought Jesus was fabulous, but that was all I was going to say about it. At the time, she was exploring a pagan spirituality. I never said boo about that choice but did want to share my enjoyment of Christ. I never pushed it. Christ found made himself known to her (cuz he didn't "find" her, as I don't think Jesus can really stumble upon someone and be surprised) many, many years later and today she is a Christian. Not through my evangelizing, although who knows if that planted a seed. I shared whenever asked to, which wasn't much.

    I don't even push my child into Sunday School or anything. Sometimes I think I'm supposed to and might be doing a bad job. But God revealed himself to me when I was very young and gave me the heart to follow; I don't think anyone could have talked (or harangued) me into it. So I figure as long as I remain open and available, he'll come to me if he wants to. For others, I can share the gospel but then it's up to them to decide if they are interested, and up to God to decide (I guess) if he wants to water the seeds, and when, and how. I do believe in spreading the gospel but that's not the same as shoving it down someone's throat. Jesus seems to have accepted a lot of folks just as they were, certainly advocating certain changes…and I don't think he was smug about anything. People seem to be smug about so much these days; their spirituality of violent disdain thereof, their politics, their eco-friendliness, their country club or even their purebred dog. It's irritating in any case, but we probably all do it once in a while (maybe not the Dalai Lama, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.)

    Attraction versus promotion is what it boils down to for me. If you are living a life I admire, are a person I admire with qualities I wish were a part of my self and life, I want to know how you got there.

  • Susan

    Love this post.

    I don't, however, have problems with Normies as much as I do Fundies. Nonetheless, this post is extremely relevant as it still applies. A scarily large percentage of my Facebook "friends" from high school and college have morphed into Fundies – and not in a good way. True example: a FB friend posted both of these sentiments…1. "I live for Jesus as he is the way and the light, if you believe this, click like!" & 2. "I felt like crying for the victims of 9/11 after I heard the news about plans for a mosque. I hope somebody bombs it." This person and this person's friends didn't see these as conflicting ideals.

    So, to me, it is CRITICAL that I be vigilante in not thinking myself superior to any Fundies (who are fear/hate-based) because if I don't watch myself, I can take on the same characteristics of hate and hypocrisy. Hate only begets hate.

    IMO, the words "There go I but for the grace of God” should be heeded especially when dealing with such individuals.

    My two cents.

  • You are a witty and amusing writer, but I'm afraid you are being totally sincere here. Christians will be arrogant until they get over this "saved" business. I used to have these conversations with God: "Let me win the lottery; I know how to spend it. Think of all the good things we can do with this money!" And God always said, "You go ahead with the good things; I'll get back to you on the money."

    Can you put this "saved" business totally out of your mind? Shrug, say "Maybe I am, maybe I'm not…won't really know until I'm dead… If I leave this world a better place than I found it, then, yeah, I guess, I will rest. Is that what you are talking about?"

    Jesus said, "Never let the right hand know what the left hand is doing." That's serving to the best of your ability in this world and making yourself forget all about being "saved" in the next.

  • I find myself at idealogical odds with a good deal of my friends and families because of those very things Susan. I cannot align myself with a lot of fundies when it comes to the political mindset, the we vs. them mentality, or the contradictions presented depending on who they are talking about. I understand a great deal where they are coming from, and I can respect their views, I just don't share a lot of them, especially any more.

    I also like Tanager's approach to sharing Christ. One of my favorite quote by a Christian figure is "Preach the gospel daily, if necessary use words." To me, living a way of life, has much greater impact then telling others how to live a way of life.

  • Susan

    This just in – another example of FB Fundie. It's rather frightening, because just over a year ago, this was one laid-back dude…

    –I have no hate for the terrorists who car…ried out the attacks, but I do have respect for the families of the victims. Those I hate are americans that wish to destroy the freedoms that make us great. I hate those that wish to enslave americans by creating a welfare state. I hate those who punish creativity and hard work and reward those that feed off the hard work of others. I hate those that ignore individual rights in favor of collective rights. I hate those that expect MY children to pay for THEIR mistakes. I hate those that seek the eventual destruction of the capitalist system and replace it with communism. I hate mediocrity and those who worship it… Maybe you're right, that was easy. —

  • wow. That is a lot of people he is hating, if they all actually exist.

  • Susan

    @Sylvie —-

    Thank you for sharing – it's not that I'm glad you're in the same boat…well, maybe I am slightly glad. It's just nice to know someone gets where I'm coming from and that I'm not alone.

    Much appreciated 🙂

  • Susan

    But he loves Jesus…

  • Oh goody, one in the "i love" category…

    being sick and satirical at the same time…..bad combination. (eyes non working meds)

  • Ray

    A very Jewish sentiment, John. Unlike the Christian call to the preach the kingdom….

    I happen to like the Jewish sentiment better than the Christian calling mentioned above, but it seems such a central part of Christianity. How do you rectify this (at least seemingly) contrary message?

  • Diana A.

    Yeah, I agree with you on that. The anger atheists feel on this subject is justified.

  • It's an anger all who value freedom of religion should feel.

  • Diana A.


  • I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed and appreciated your post. It’s a reminder that I feel is well timed and needed. After all, the sentiments you are bringing forth here is the way to TRULY follow Christ…judging no one and loving everyone. Lately I’ve been reading a book called “Principle Centered Living” by Reverend Dr Sheldon E. Williams and it’s all about maintaining our values and ethics in this world we live in. One of the many things I appreciate about the book is it has a biblical basis, but can be appreciated by people of any faith or any walk of life. I this trend is a turn for the positive, and I hope it continues and pervades. Thanks again. =)

  • DR

    Yes x 1000.

  • DR

    What does that word mean to you?

  • Susan


    We're all broken vessels. If we weren't why would we need God?

    And, lots of us think our brokeness surpasses any value we may have, but usually, that's just dysfunctional thinking that FEELs like the truth, but it is the opposite. Baggage, tragedy, depressive illnesses…countless things can make us feel this way.

    I'm not a doctor, but I do know that self-care must be a top priority.

    Please take care of yourself.


  • Gina Powers

    Tanager, no worries about your son, you sound like you're doing great! And I really dig your perspective on "evangelism"–or non-evangelism..;). You're right; there seem to be quite a few smug religious folk around these days, and I don't know why that is…could just be primarily fundies, or those who enjoy belonging to what amounts to them as a social club. I can honestly say that it never occured to me to be smug about my faith–hell, I'm such a goofy Xian, I have nada to be smug about! ;). I'm just stumbling along in the dark, probably more often than most. Am pretty sure I'm the klutziest Christian ever…..good thing my creator loves me anyway, huh? 😉

  • This would be a welcomed first step. I cannot think of a better way of taking much wind out of the gnu atheists’ sails than for all religious folk to follow this sound advice, John. The central purpose of New Atheism has arisen (almost entirely, I think) in response to those who would (and do) support inserting private religious belief into and upon the public domain.

  • Jon

    Sophie, I just wanted to add a reply since your post sits not replied-to and I think it deserves some attention :). I think you’ve hit on a good point worth some contemplative focus.

  • V

    Another great post, John! I am virtually patting you on the back.

    I had to move out of the country in order to learn all of this! I used to think because I volunteered at church and attended service every Sunday, I was a good Christian. Then one day something just clicked and I realized that there was more to this Christian business.

    Please run the clip from the next section! I am very much interested.

  • Tim

    I know you ascribe to the notion that the gospel has been sufficiently preached to North America, and that any evangelism, on our part, is overkill. However, if not for the evangelism of some fundie neighbors, I don't imagine I would be where I am today with Jesus. I wasn't keen on their clumsy attempts to share God's love by telling me I was going to he'll. Debating them only left me irritated and exhausted. I didn't like Jesus people, and I knew I would rather risk he'll than become one of those dorks wearing a tie and carrying some big-ass King James Bible to chur

  • Tim

    Frikkin' iPad!!

    …church on Sunday. But damned if I didn't sort of become that dork. What the hell?!

    Anyway, all this to say that God still works in mysterious ways. Hebrews (somewhere) says that He (God) is the same yesterday, today, and always. Not so sure if I'm ready to assume the Great commish was only applicable to the 12. I believe if He wanted His disciples to share the gospel thousands of years ago, I guess I have to believe that it still deserves repeating today…regardless of how many times someone has heard it. This stuff isn't easy or pat.

    That's all I have to say about that.

  • Tim

    The Psalmist David suffered from chronic depression. Most geniuses do. So your theory that being "mental" precludes you from pride, may be just the protruding root to trip you. Watch out, Shadsie. I've struggled with clinical depression for well over 10 years. I guarantee you that pride gets ALL of us. We know the author of pride doesn't take holidays or give passes. Keep watch and guard the gates of your mind and heart…better yet, ask His Spirit to keep watch and guard. We fall asleep too effing easy.

  • Tim

    Btw, I totally agree that wanting to feel superior is common to all people. Christians just don't rate a pass because they are required to flawlessly live out every commandment of God, and lesson of Christ. I mean…c'mon…the normies have to feel superior to us Christers in some respect, don't they?

  • From the post above:

    "They’re content. They’re having fun. They’re living rich, emotionally rewarding lives. They’re not looking in from outside the candy store that is our lives, wondering why we get all the breaks. They think we wouldn’t know a break from a pitchfork. They think we’re soft-headed dupes.

    "They feel sorry for us—just like we feel sorry for them."

  • I tend to think this kind of thing is inescapable, though. I think “feeling superior” or “feeling desperate to feel top of the heap” is a part of human nature. You see it all the time – not just in religion (and oh, I know what you mean, I rememeber as a teen being told that I was “wiser” than most of the world because I’d found the Lord)… and the people on the outside who look at us as a bunch of soft-headed loons.

    I am a nerd. I’ve seen people get on their high horses of supposed superiority over liking one form of a media over another (sometimes the same story; “I like the comic better than the animation, so I’m a better fan, and more sophisticated and am just better than you!”)

    I think I may be one of the people who has less inclination to pride anymore (over being a Christian, or most things, really), just becuase I suffer from a depressive illness. I tend to feel like the “I’m mental” cancels out just about any “good” or “better” I potentially am. If God ever makes anything out of me (seems like my life’s a failure so far), it will be because he likes broken vessels.

  • Tanager

    Thanks, Gina. I hope my son sees my more relaxed faith and finds that attractive (as opposed to all the rules and "you shoulds") but I also don't want him to think it's not important – very, very important – to me just because I don't do what he sees others doing, like going to church regularly, saying formal grace at meals, kneeling next to the bed at night, going to a bible study, or whatever. What he can't see is that when I swear in the car at other drivers on the road I often perform a mental dope-slap and roll my eyes upwards and apologize in a "sorry, sorry, I'm trying to do better." NOT because I swore, but because I displayed behavior indicating that I think I'm more important and better than those other drivers. Although I personally would like to avoid the swearing, too 😉 And my praying is not obvious at all, but a conversation I have with God that has no outward appearance unless I am deeply moved to actually take a posture (and even then, who sees me? I don't do this on a streetcorner.)

    I'm a total screwup; God knows this, I still follow as best I can. I imagine He follows my "progress" much as I follow my son's, with some pride interspersed with TLC and many dope slaps accompanied with "what were you thinking?" when I get myself into a mess 🙂

    I think God does have a sense of humor. But I'm not sure everyone feels that way. Those "fundies" – and I really, really hate labeling them like that because we know it's a very negative term today – have been taught and bought that they need to save people and harangue them into salvation. Some of them do this because they honestly care about people and not because they desire to be irritating, overbearing, or holier than thou. And much of the time, if you listen to them, you can tell the difference between the obnoxious and the basically good person who really does care about you but thinks this is the way they are supposed to behave. They really do think they are loving you. If you spend the time, sometimes you can show these folk how they are not only not loving you, but working against what they are supposedly trying to accomplish – show God's love.

  • What's wrong with pride for a job well done? For achievements? In one's children? For the compassion of and charity of others?

    You make it sound as if the emotion itself is something to associate with guilt.

    Completely off topic for a moment, I wanted to touch on depression because I think most of us have been touched by it (and never in a good way it seems) and I wanted to express my two cents worth merely as a passing consideration.

    Depression is a strange beast; is it a cause or an effect?

    How you answer that will determine your approach to treating it.

    I'm a supporter of the notion that how we think determines what we think – that brain chemistry is the result of and not the instigator for how we feel. I am in the minority I well realize but the evidence is very strong that depression can be successfully treated based on this approach.

    If we assume that depression is a clear indication that the how-we-think part needs significant changing, then changes here should yield success. And this is what we find. It seems to me to be the only treatment method that yields unparalleled long term benefits for those who have suffered from the debilitating effects of depression. (But I'm also all for shorter term stabilizing pharmaceutical intervention when depression has already settled in.) As a few of my therapist friends have explained, when we come at depression as something we own, something we have unwittingly played a part in bringing upon ourselves, something that we have control over rather than merely and passively carrying a disease from somewhere out there (and we know it if far more prevalent in some families than others), then the person becomes an essential participant in treatment with a clear and achievable goal of ridding one's self permanently of this debilitating and painful condition. Not surprising to me is the new data on how brain chemistry alters itself under this kind of treatment approach and helps explain in part why long term talk therapy has better efficacy than long term drug regimens.

    Anyway, sorry for the diversion. Now back to pride…

  • Diana A.

    "What’s wrong with pride for a job well done? For achievements? In one’s children? For the compassion of and charity of others?

    You make it sound as if the emotion itself is something to associate with guilt."

    My personal take: Being proud of a job well done, for accomplishing a goal, or having pride in a loved one–not necessarily bad.

    Pride can be dangerous in two ways: 1) "I'm in a heap of trouble but I'm not going to ask for help because I don't want people to know how bad things are. So I'm just going to pretend that everything is alright and if I end up quietly slipping down the drain–oh well!" 2) "I'm so friggin' wonderful that other people ought to be grateful that I condescend to say 'hello' to them."

    Also, one can spend too much time on the mountaintop. Yes, enjoy the view while you're up there, but eventually, one does need to climb down–if no other reason, than to find a more challenging mountain to scale.

  • Oh, I see. More in the sense of false pride or self-aggrandized pride. I happen to be rather partial to the quiet, contented, confident, and tested kind, so I didn't understand why I should feel guilty about it.

    Thanks again, Diana.

  • Something interesting, maybe related, maybe not…. in just thinking about how much the *same* all people are when it comes down to it…

    My fiance' and I are what you would call anime-geeks. (We have a strong interest in Japanese animation). Well, we both have a strong interest in animation in general, American, Japanese, International… It's not all for kids (in fact, most of the titles I like are a bit on the deep-philosophical side and some of what I like has copious amounts of blood). Anyway, out of curiosity, my guy downloaded an exceptionally rare Japanese animated film that is not only not licensed, no one's even bothered to fan-subtitle it yet, but you can pretty much tell what's going on. "Morotomo's Divine Sea Warriors" — It's a Japanese World War II propaganda film.

    … in which all of Asia seems to enjoy being conquered by the Japanese and adorable, Disney type animal characters "heroically" slaughter bumbling, cowardly allied troops in the Asian theater.

    Watching it, I realized just how *similar* it was in feel to somme of the World War II propaganda cartoons I've seen made in America – some of which I grew up with even though I grew up in the 80s because they didn't bother to edit that stuff out of classic Looney Tunes then.

    It just seems like the more I learn about the world and "other" people, whomever the "other" might be – humans are pretty much the same animal and we all want to be "better" than our enemies and perceived "enimies."

  • Tim

    "Depression is a strange beast; is it a cause or an effect?"

    The funny thing is (at least for me), it is BOTH. Like SHIMMER…a floor wax AND a dessert topping. Great on this butterscotch pudding…and just look at the shine on that kitchen floor!

    Seriously, for me it is cyclical and it is metamorphic. Triggers set thought processes into motion that become habitual, and habitual thought processes affect physiological processes that exacerbate thought processes. I've traced my dysthymic trigger to my recreational drug use during post adolescence. Emotional stability was already rocky and the drugs put me even farther out of touch with reason.

  • Tim

    Yeah. What you say is true. But what is "perceived" and what is basically true will at some point have to jive. It's kind of hard for an aggressive military machine to roll over border after border, expanding an empire or a reich at the expense of the occupied, then go about making cutesy cartoons painting American and English opposition as cowardly. Maybe the "cowardly" shoe fit Stalinist Russia a little better with their penchant for ethnic cleansing and mass deportations to Siberian wastelands.

    To me, there is a world of difference between the idea of "being better" and "being better than…". The second always leads to frustration and schisms. The prior hopefully leads to introspection and a spirit of reconciliation.

  • Tim

    Before someone makes the comparison of Japanese-American internment camps (Manzanar) to the Soviet deportations to Siberia, remember that the U.S. later paid 1.6 billion in reparations to the families of those interned Americans. 44 years is a long time to be sure, but I always say, better late than never.

    Not trying to say that America is guiltless, we make mistakes. Sometimes criminal mistakes. But what I've always admired about our nation, is that when an American burns a flag, or chants hateful rhetoric in the town square about a race, a nation or a religion, those Americans most often don't wind up dead or in prison.

  • Diana A.

    Okay, you deliberately put errors in your comment, right? Because, like, Noah was on the ark, not Moses, the ark of the covenant came about in the time of Moses, not Noah, and the 10 commandments were given to Moses, not Abraham–but you know that, right?

  • ManimalX

    @ Diana

    Just having some sneaky fun 😉

    I am relieved that you caught it. I throw stuff like that into conversations with Christians I know from time to time. You would be surprised and a bit saddened by how many either let the comments pass without realizing something is wrong, OR realize something isn't right, but can't identify what exactly it is.

  • ManimalX

    Agreed, Mr. Tweedell.

    I'd love to see a "sacred writings" class be a mandatory part of public school. Of course, I'm biased towards a pure Bible study, but that would never fly in today's P.C. Western world. 😉

  • Matthew Tweedell


    What is so difficult about learning the common knowledge (or it should be at least) that the Bible says that Noah, to rescue his family and animals from a global flood, built an ark, and God established a covenant with him, and that Moses received a certain set of commandments etched in stone, and he put them in the ark of the covenant, compared with learning what's in Dante's Inferno, works of Shakespeare, the Iliad, the Scarlet Letter, Crime and Punishment, and so on?

  • Matthew Tweedell

    And, by the way, religion is never a "personal" matter.

    The reality is this: spirits are experienced personally; religions are cultural phenomena; and faith is found at their intersection.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    I don’t know if you’d like to admit it, DR, but there are probably at least twice as many tax-payers in the US who don't want their children exposed to evolution and yet we are obliged (I mean by God, whether by man-made laws & customs or not) to teach it, because it is established science of significant import.

    In the same way, the Bible is established literature of significant import—its influence on history, and indeed the role it plays in the world today, in shaping thoughts and attitudes, in shaping the language of other literary works and everyday speech, and so on, cannot (try though you might) be denied.

  • DR

    Well first, we're a country that has a constitution that protects the rights of all citizens in terms of public facilities and shared experiences we're all paying for, so the "majority" certainly does not and should not rule when it comes to what we offer in public schools regarding religious text. Right? I mean, pretty unfair to the Fruitarians!

    Secondly, evolution is science. It is apples to oranges when it comes to religion.

    As far as me denying the role of the Bible as it has clearly impacted our – you know – entire society? Not really sure where I'm denying that. It's just too delicate a business – not to mention, sophisticated of a topic – to reference during the K-12 years, in m opinion. And it opens the gates for people offering all sorts of agendas. It's too incendiary on all sides.

    And as an American citizen, you're not obliged to do much of anything when it comes to educating your kids. A lot of religious people home school, some of my dearest friends have made that choice. They've done so because they want to be able to infuse religions into their children's curriculum in a way they trust to be accurate.

    Not all education happens in a classroom, nor should it.

  • ManimalX

    "Again, there’s no way of saying this without sounding cross, but it’s difficult to imagine this is serious comment. If it is, public schools are funded by American citizens of no faith are paying as much tax as you and I, which makes exposing their children to any religion inappropriate at best. "

    Again, there is no way of saying this without sounding cross, but this is a ridiculous statement that you are making simply because you have some sort of inexplicable need to disagree with everything that I post.

    "The Bible is fascinating as literature." Really? That's your assessment? That is one of the most extreme understatements I have ever heard.

    Christianity and the Bible are easily the most important aspects of world history, and any intellectually honest person of any nation would do well to study them. You don't have to agree with or endorse Christianity or the Bible in any way to acknowledge that Christianity and the Bible have been (and continue to be, to an extent) the biggest shapers of world history there are.

    Also, as Matthew Tweedell correctly pointed out, religions are "cultural phenomena." As Christianity is the largest "cultural phenomena" there has ever been, any intellectually honest person should advocate for it to be taught, same as any other thing that has shaped people, nations, continents, and the world.

    Of course, that kind of historical examination can't be allowed in public school where revisionist history and anti-Christianity are king and queen, right?

    If we really wanted to encourage students to be "free thinkers," if we really wanted to turn them in to well informed adults, we would teach things like Christianity & the Bible, Islam & the Koran, Hinduism & the Bhagavad Gita, the Mahabharata, the Upanishads and the Vedas… etc., etc..

    Teaching this stuff is hardly "college level" thinking. It is simple history and sociology.

  • DR

    Because you just compared it to pure fiction. And for many Christian parents, they'd be outraged at the notion of their sacred text being dummied down as comparative literature only (and I'm not sure I disagree). And many who are not Christian have far too many experiences with scripture being injected into their lives unannounced.

    If people didn't have so much meaning attached to the Bible? It would be a really great thing to study from a pure literary perspective, as well as the Qur’an. But that's not the world we live in.

  • DR

    I love this comment, Matthew. We don't agree on the Bible being the right literary device to study in a public school setting, but this is well said, I stand corrected. D-

  • DR

    Manimal, I hate to disappoint but I counter a lot of what you say because this is the Internet and you're putting it out there for discussion. Correct? Please stop taking everything I offer to you so personally (I disagree with Matthew too, but I don't think he thinks I'm stalking him)). Please try to relax a little and to stick with the topic, it's a bit irrational to think I'm coming after you. Seriously. Let it go.

    A lot of my response was offered in my comments to Matthew above, no need to reiterate with exception of two points.

    Christianity and the Bible have some fairly large implications in the world and there are appropriate places to learn about that. K-12 which is funded by a lot of people who would – in my opinion – inject so much noise and heat into how the topic is taught to children just wouldn't be worth it.

    And if it wasn't "college thinking" I wonder why there are so many comparative religion courses as well as religion influences as they relate to our social and economic state in college? Weird! 😉

  • Matthew Tweedell

    "Not all education happens in a classroom, nor should it."

    No, some of it happens in the streets. Of course this isn't how it should be. But that doesn't change the reality for *so* many children today. (I doubt you could be so sheltered…)

    Literature is of no more relevance for religion than science. If literary learning is akin to religious indoctrination, then evolutionary education certainly is as well, as it touches upon the religious doctrine of creationism as held by many, while I can think of no religious doctrine that would be advocated by teaching a bunch of stories that enjoy widespread popular appeal, influence, and reference.

    Is not the religious symbolism in Dante's Inferno equally dense? Was not the Aeneid once considered a work of divine inspiration?

    I have found that Christians and nonbelievers alike who know the Bible well tend to be much more rational in their conclusions in regards to Christianity and culture, which is generally better for all of us to get along together in the world. The same goes for Muslims and nonbelievers in the case of the Qur'an, and as it too is a work of great import for the world today (and tomorrow), I advocate increased education in it as well.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    🙂 Thanks, D.

  • DR

    If literary learning is akin to religious indoctrination, then evolutionary education certainly is as well, as it touches upon the religious doctrine of creationism as held by many>>>

    I just can't go here with you MT. This is only my experience so of course take that for what its worth, but when I worked with the educational system, those who believed in and taught evolution didn't even feel the need to address Creationism. That's a religious belief that has no basis in a science class.

    I actually think a better argument to discuss how sacred texts could influence an ethics class/philosophy. To reference the Bible's historical significance as it relates to our citizenship and our consumerism – perhaps even our politics – could be very interesting. I don't think it would go well for all the reasons I offered, but for me this might be the only thing that is tolerable.

    I love the Bible! I'd love everyone to have a really positive, productive exposure to it so at least they could say "Cool story, Bro" I just don't think that's the public school system/required curriculum, for me that just wouldn't be appropriate.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    (When I wrote "try though you might", "you" was meant in general, not as "you", personally, and "might" was only to assert that it's conceivable to me that someone would (try, that is).)

  • DR

    Had it been directed toward me it wouldn't have bugged me, but thanks for clarifying none the less.

  • Matthew Tweedell


    How does biblical literature assert more about ultimate Truth than science does?

    How does biblical ethics and philosophy *not* assert more about ultimate Truth than literature does?

  • Matthew Tweedell

    "Intelligent design" is not science.

    The Bible *is* literature.

    Creationism cannot be constitutionally taught in a public schoolroom by ruling of the Supreme Court.

    The constitutionality of the study of literature of a religious nature however is roundly acknowledged.

  • ManimalX

    The claim has been made that, “what we’re selling has been sold.”

    Am I correct in understanding this to mean something like, “Americans all know the gospel message already, so drop it?”

    If so, I wonder: do you think there is ANY need for western Christians to educate people regarding the Bible? I’m not talking deep theology or anything, just plain old biblical literacy.

    In my experience, and from the research I have read, Americans are extremely biblically illiterate. And I mean in a scary, Jay-Walking kind of way (the bit from Leno’s ‘Tonight Show’). I mean, most people probably couldn’t even tell you how many animals of each kind that Moses took with him on the Ark, what Noah carried around in the Ark of the Covenant, or name 5 of the 10 things that God had Abraham put on those stones.

    Shoot… even most CHRISTIANS can’t address those questions.

    There used to be a time in the US that the Bible was an integral part of education and everyday life. Today? Not so much, if at all.

    I’m not sure we should be leaving “Normies” alone so much as making sure CHRISTIANS are a little more knowledgeable about their faith.

    Does any of that make any sense?

  • Matthew Tweedell

    I’m right with you on that one. I would even say that, considering the Bible is one of the most influential written works ever, no primary literary education should be considered complete without it. And I’d say the Qur’an should also be taught and probably a few others. But for some reason my public education focused a lot more on the Divine Comedy than any works claimed of divine inspiration.

  • Susan

    Thanks for writing this. When Jesus said, repeatedly, not to judge others, I think this is what he was talking about.

    When we place ourselves above other people, we step out of the Holy and into the Worldly. We leave the Kingdom.

    I believe God wants us to reach the point where we willingly stay in the Kingdom because we prefer it.

  • Diana A.

    Okay, good. Just checking.

  • DR

    Again, there’s no way of saying this without sounding cross, but it’s difficult to imagine this is serious comment. If it is, public schools are funded by American citizens of no faith are paying as much tax as you and I, which makes exposing their children to any religion inappropriate at best.

    Religious beliefs of any kind are personal beliefs best cultivated within family and community. While the Bible is fascinating as literature, that’s sophisticated curriculum and belongs in a college setting where adults can choose to learn about it.

  • DR

    The Bible *is* literature.>>>

    Sure. But the problem with that Matthew is that it is *more* than just literature as well.

    As you've duly noted, it's a book that has shaped much of our society. Many who pay taxes don't like how it's shaped our society and that outweighs the merits of "it's literature".

    I don't believe you're wrong in your assertion that the Bible is literature, but it would be intellectually dishonest for anyone in this debate to state that is all it is, or to make the assumption that people in a K-12 setting could let go of their agenda (for or against Bible) to talk about it as literature. It's playing with fire.

  • Matthew Tweedell


    And how can evolutionary science not inherently address a certain understanding of creationism? I don’t get that point.

  • DR

    How does biblical literature assert more about ultimate Truth than science does?>>>

    Whether it does or does not is a debate that will continue. That we push the debate of Creationism vs. Evolution into a public school setting is simply out of bounds constitutionally, nor is it appropriate. Evolution has it’s roots exclusively within science – there’s no need to bring up Creationism while teaching evolution, not even as a comparison. It’s just incendiary, nor does comparing and contrasting either do much of anything for either point of view.

  • Matthew Tweedell


    But there’s no reason to bring up explicitly any religious doctrine when dealing with a work having roots, and more importantly shoots, in literature. It’s not only incendiary but inappropriate to the subject at hand.

  • Tanager

    I think there is plenty my child is exposed to that is better taught at home, frankly. Sex education. All that enviro-junk (my child can lecture me about global warming and polar bears until the cows come home, but can he remember to shut off a dang light??? LOL.) There’s a load of stuff on “being a good citizen” and “respecting each other and our planet” and so on. I’d like to see pure, rigorous academics with a little art, music and PE thrown in than all this junk *I* feel is better taught at home.

    OK, done griping. But I wish our kids could graduate knowing how to parse a sentence and do higher math than spout off about things the teachers personally (and often that is just what it is, so many of his teachers have been happy to share their politics and personal beliefs with me in P-T conferences, and you bet they inject that into the classroom) have fed to them throughout their public school careers. Back to the corner with me!

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Amen, brother tildeb!

    (except of course that bit about the enlightenment at odds with the religion of the Light of men)

  • Matthew Tweedell


    Then the same could be said regarding Darwinian selection. This does not relieve us of the obligation to at least introduce such topics and direct students to reading about it.

    And would you say we shouldn't teach history in the schools either, as I see institutionalized biases as well as political agendas quite frequently involved there?

    With the limited selections of religious literature that were utilized in my high school education, I can tell you I recall no religious (or irreligious) bias being shown by my teachers. These are teachers of language and literature. We're not talking about elementary-school general-education teachers. Speaking of which, when I found a few months back an old elementary-school notebook of mine and read through some of my notes on history, I realized that my teacher had been giving me quite a biased view of the world back then. Yet that basis was better at least than none at all; I've managed to fill in the rest of the picture myself; and I'd say I've turned out all right.

  • Ever the optimist, eh MT? (Just yanking your chain!)

  • I think there is plenty my child is exposed to that is better taught at home, frankly. Sex education. All that enviro-junk […] I'd like to see more rigorous academics […].

    Come on out of the corner for a minute, if you don't mind.

    I got a fairly strong sense of derision from you comment and thought, "What in academics constitutes rigor, I wonder?" I also wondered what education means to you.

    Care to write more?

  • you should read your of course. Sorry.

  • But that's rather central, MT, because religious belief is very much based not on personal revelation as it is often touted but how that revelation 'fits' within a highly constrained scriptural authority that rather effectively suppresses inquiry versus enlightenment values embrace inquiry.

  • DR

    If one does not understand why the nation’s political power is wholly secular and why that is so central to its legitimacy, one cannot appreciate why public authority from any branch of government cannot extend or favour ANY religious bias without acting contrary to the founding principles. It is that bias that must be kept out of education, for example, and not the study of religion itself.>>>>

    This gave me a lot to think about.

  • This is a very common misunderstanding – that separation of church and state means that religion has no place in public education. Quite the contrary is true: Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, and even the irascible Hitchens have long said that no education is complete without a thorough grounding in biblical studies. The reason is that much of our culture today can only be understood through understanding religion’s role in shaping it. Dawkins has said innumerable times that one cannot appreciate (or even comprehend) the writings of Shakespeare without this understanding. But I take it much further; we cannot find our way to living mature and responsible and meaningful lives if we don’t first learn how to enlighten our minds… and I mean that in the sense of fully understanding and implementing enlightenment values.

    One cannot understand why the justification of enlightenment values are a direct counterpoint and stand in stark contrast and competition to the justification of christian religious values. If one does not grasp this important difference (by never having to study the history of christianity, for example) then one can be led down the garden path thinking that enlightenment values derive from religious values. This is not true. They stand in directly against each other and are incompatible ways of knowing played out in a host of ways… from political authority to morality, from science to philosophy, from human rights and individual freedoms to the role of law.

    Enlightenment values power western civilization and modernity. If one does not understand how enlightenment values are contrary to religious, one cannot understand why, for example, the US constitution is such a radical departure from establishing political legitimacy not from some divine source or ruling class authority but from the people governed under its name. If one does not appreciate why this is such a radical departure from government as usual, one can be forgiven for falsely believing that the founders were creating a christian nation because many were themselves christian (as well as deists and in a few cases atheist). If one does not understand why the nation’s political power is wholly secular and why that is so central to its legitimacy, one cannot appreciate why public authority from any branch of government cannot extend or favour ANY religious bias without acting contrary to the founding principles. It is that bias that must be kept out of education, for example, and not the study of religion itself.

    Nowhere is this insertion of religious bias more troubling than in the science of biology. That more than half of Americans are deeply confused about evolution as a theory (and what that actually means) stands as testament to the anti-enlightenment affect religious allegiances can have. There is no scientific controversy, no scientificdebate, no scientific alternative to the theory of evolution. This theory is the foundation of modern biology and we rely on its trustworthy practical benefits every day. To not ‘believe’ in it is akin to not ‘believe’ in germs, not ‘believe’ that the earth orbits the sun, not ‘believe’ in gravity. Yet because the theory successfully and legitimately challenges certain religious claims, a false dichotomy between religious belief and evolution’s explanatory knowledge pervades the public awareness.

    The crux of the matter lies in how we think. How do we know what’s true? In our civilization before the enlightenment but since the first council Nacaea, revelation and metaphysics has been the basis of our inquiries for knowledge. What has that yield in practical terms of deepening knowledge in various endeavors like physics, chemistry, biology, philosophy, medicine, and engineering? Since the enlightenment, contrast and compare what methodological naturalism has brought to humanity. The difference is striking. Would you prefer to live in those times or ours?

    Without a full understanding of just how radically different our way of thinking has become since the enlightenment, and just how dramatic are the effects of applying our new-found knowledge over such a short period of time, we make it difficult to fully appreciate the burden of responsibility we must shoulder for exercising that knowledge. If we cannot teach our children through public education that direct link between using what we know and responsibility for its effects, then we are abdicating our parental obligation. Not only are we choosing to sit out of the important discussions we should be engaged in but we are deciding on behalf of our children for them to sit out, too. For example, if we do not appreciate what evolution means, how can we intelligently join into the conversation about genetic modifications? If we do not appreciate what global warming means, how can we intelligently join into the conversation about climate change?

    When we argue that illiteracy in some subjects is preferable (as some kind of sign of respect), we are doing no one any favours. Educating kids to be illiterate in the bible carries a cost in the same way educating kids to be illiterate in evolution carries a cost. And nothing good has ever come from illiteracy. When we promote ignorance (which is illiteracy in action), we promote irresponsibility and immaturity.

    I don’t know about you, but when I look at much corporate and government behaviour, tune in to many talk radio and television talk shows, see the many kinds of front page stories that sells copies, find the actual message in many types of advertising, and so on, I am bombarded with exactly this: irresponsibility and immaturity. I see litigious societies that are full of people unable or unwilling to become mature autonomous responsible adults because they have lost their connection to what’s real and what’s true and what’s meaningful. And it all starts with learning how to think, learning to appreciate on what basis we justify our attitudes, beliefs, and opinions.

    It’s not about this specific religious claim should be interpreted this way versus that, this kind of religion is true versus that, this religious authority is superior to that, and so on. It’s about figuring out what’s true, caring about what’s true, justifying what we know is true. It’s about being responsible for what we think is true, being responsible for how we think it is so, being responsible for why we think something is true. These are the required thinking tools of rational discourse, rational public policies, rational education, rational inquiry. If we fail to equip our children with these necessary tools of the modern world, how well will they be able to build their own lives?

  • Matthew Tweedell

    I thought we were talking about true Biblical Christianity. Where in the Bible or the living apostolic tradition of the Church is there reason to believe that any of these ought to be opposed? A reactionary stance is but the result of men's fears, and worse examples than these can be given for any state that's officially adopted an atheistic position!

    About the court ruling, as you point out, that is among people who share a belief in God. It should be fairly evident thereby that really this has precious little to do with anything Biblical; it's political.

    What did you mean that in Greek science/metaphysics there's no way to test and falsify assertions? For any assertion that doesn't reduce to a tautology, there surely is: physical evidence—hence the metaphor of seeing the light.

    “But even Newton believed in astrology, proving that intellect alone is no defense against unjustified beliefs.”

    I think it proves rather that light may be shed in some areas by the same mind that accepts darkness in others. So enlightenment is not merely a state of rejection of darkness; no, such is not even possible, without shining of the light.

    I will agree with you however about the role of the Reformation in bringing about the Age of Enlightenment, about the necessity of solid public education, and that methods of inquiry have significantly improved over the last 2000 years (which, of course, was to be expected Biblically—an increasing in the Kingdom—and should be expected to continue, though God only knows what they’ll become).

  • Matthew Tweedell

    How does it suppress inquiry, when one of the overall themes is “seek and you will find”?

    And the Bible says, “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”

    For a treasure beyond riches is Wisdom; indeed, She is the Way Himself.

    For a self-description of Her, see Proverbs 8. It is there She says, “I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion.”

    So do not forget that the gates to the Kingdom are the twelve pearls.

    “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding.”

    Yet what is the way to find Her? How should we seek out Blessed Sophia?

    “The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none, but knowledge comes easily to the discerning.”

    “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.”

    Far from condemning anyone for questioning, Jesus seems rather more amused than anything else by people’s constant skepticism.

    If one seeks enlightenment, I suggest it would do well to start with Ecclessiastes.

    The Bible makes clear that the principle of order universal, reason perfect and just, Logos Divine, as understood to the context of scholarly Greek of the first century, the Lord to whom all else is rightly subject and the only Savior of mankind!

    I think it no coincidence that the Age of Enlightenment began in Europe, though the Middle and Far East were more technologically advanced prior to that time.

  • John, thanks for the post. I’ve found your blog to be most fascinating, especially for this non-Christian. I offer you much praise for all you’ve written. but I have to admit that I found the following statement to be rather disconcerting. You wrote: “What we are is luckier than nonbelievers.”

    You wrote that you want to respect others. As a non-Christian, I find your statement about luck to be supremely disrespectful. I read your statement as implying that all those billions, and I do mean billions with a “b”, of human beings who are not Christians are not lucky. This is absurd, especially from a soul who says he’s trying to respect others. My personal belief is that there are many paths up the mountain to divinity. Christianity is one way, but it is not the only way.

    Did I misunderstand you?

    Once again, many thanks for your thought provoking writings!

    Diane Silver


  • Susan

    Though not a Texan, I am currently a resident of the lone star state. A few months back, the Texas State Board of Education adopted significant changes that put a decidedly Republican spin on history, social studies and economics text books. Because Texas is one of the largest purchasers of text books, it is expected that such text books will reach schools across the nation.



    Teaching the Bible in public schools, for enlightenment, literary, religious our secular purposes is a frightening prospect. Politics is oddly taking on the characteristics of celebrity, infiltrating virtually every aspect of our lives. I would not want my child to learn about the Bible in public school, because there is no control over the particular “spin zone” in which it would be taught.

    Let’s just work on making our kids competitive in the global community and capable of analytic reasoning.

    Unfortunately, until our public education system is far more advanced, it is unlikely that such a subject would be taught in the manner which you outlined, tideb.

  • Susan

    If it had been Napleon Dynamite, Sylvie, I’d have to be a fan, or ‘vote 4 pedro’ 😉

  • Susan

    @ Diane Silver –

    I have to laugh b/c an acquaintance felt like his approach in this matter was far to accommodating and secular!

    if I understand correctly, is an excerpt from a book about Christians’ behavior towards non-Christians…of which John happens to have authored. While I get what you’re saying, imo, it seems like your missing the overarching message he’s trying to convey not only in the book cited, but in his blogs, especially if you’re a regular vistor to his blog.

    Also – thanks for the link. I’ve sent it to some friends!

  • How does one suppress inquiry? Look no further than today’s response by Francis Collins about the court ruling that stops stem cell research! That’s wholly religious interference in action, having a deleterious effect in the US on scientific inquiry. And how ironic is it that Collins seems “stunned” by the ruling when it is his own confrères who just so happen to share and exercise the very same <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Language_of_God:_A_Scientist_Presents_Evidence_for_Belief"<“moral law” that they all see as given by God! The hypocrisy is thick.

    I think no one better than Galileo has ever laid out exactly why Greek science and metaphysics is completely inadequate for coming to know about the universe and everything in it. (Simply put, there is no way to test the assertions and no way to falsify them, meaning there is no way to know if one is right if there is no way to show that one is wrong.) It was Galileo who showed why stuff does not contain a ‘nature’ but is subject to knowable forces equally. It is upon Galileo’s shoulders that Newton first stood and enabled to see so far ever since. (But even Newton believed in astrology, proving that intellect alone is no defense against unjustified beliefs.)

    I think it no coincidence that the age of enlightenment began after Luther, where competition in practical methods and products between nations with different religious loyalties became a common means to indicate god’s favour. It was this fracture of the christian religion’s iron grip (along with the printing press and the rise of the middle class and houses of representation) that allowed new thinking to be so influential… influential enough to cause revolutions accompanied by tremendous affect. Few people know, for example, that the economy of the revolutionary and secular United States by the middle of the 19th century was already equivalent to all of Europe and ten times its combined size by the beginning of the 20th. Nor is it a mystery why technological advancement became synonymous with American ingenuity and know-how. Without a unified national church to adversely affect government policies and strangle education and business practices, practical technologies based on research and development revealed why enlightenment values were superior fuel for rational inquiry that paid and continues to pay dividends in technologies that work that are the envy of the world.

    But for how much longer as China and India ramp up competition in the knowledge business? Again, most complacent westerners are oblivious to the reality that the top 10% of students from either country (India or China) outnumber ALL our students combined. That’s the real world competition our children face as they leave our schools. Arming half our students with a gross misunderstanding about evolution in the biological sciences to favour some religious belief about the sanctity of a stem cell line is a faster means of writing our selves out of top tier competition in this knowledge field and it serves in no one’s best interests except those who have faith that 2000 years old method of inquiry is somehow equivalent and still relevant. It isn’t and it’s not.

  • Susan, thanks for your comment, but I’m not missing the overarching message. I get it, which is why I’m reading John’s blog. (Thank you, John.) But it’s off-hand comments like the “lucky” line that I quoted that make non-Christians like myself want to scream at Christians. This reads as an extremely arrogant line. I don’t think this is said to be arrogant, but it is. The problem that I see is that at least some Christians believe they have the only way to truth. Sorry, but I sincerely disagree with that, and so do millions of other people. If a Christian, or any human, wants to understand respect for his/her fellows, then he or she has to start actually respecting other people and not just paying lip service to the idea.

    Thanks for passing on my link. I wish you the best.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Though there may be many paths on the mountain, the *only* Way to Most High is up!

    (Also, we *are* luckier, because luck is a subjective reality {I hope I won’t have to get into the rather long explanation needed to prove it}, and ours is the subjectivity that is judging it so.)

  • Yes, Susan, on the one hand the Lone Star state and its state board of education is an embarrassment that tries to spread throughout the land (with the direct help of the Discovery Institute) including Pennsylvania and Colorado and Louisiana and Arkansas and Florida even California. I mean, seriously: how many lost court cases will it take? Just as an aside, I’ve noticed there seems to be a strong correlation between dentistry and an unshakable belief in creationism. Why, I cannot sink my teeth into.

    On the other hand, we have brave and stalwart citizens stepping forward and suffering at the hands of neighbours to stop the insertion of religious bias into education and to respect the First Amendment. It’s a battle that is unnecessary yet never-ending, which is why we need the religious themselves to rein in their faith from the public domain and return it to the personal. Of even greater difficulty to implement is for parents who love their religion to both support secular and public education while withholding any religious indoctrination of their young to allow them to come at their beliefs honestly. (After all, there’s a very good reason why geography more than any other single predictor identifies with a very high degree of accuracy one’s religious affiliations.) That’s a very tall order, I’ll grant you, but one that I think will eventually become more commonplace.

    I find it ironic that the criticism of public education and questionable curriculum is the centerpiece argument against publicly supporting it. It wasn’t always this way.

    Once upon a time, public education was the great equalizer. But systemic attacks to underfund it, make parents rather than educators and their best practices the major consideration for elected school boards, and the special exemptions and elevation of standardized testing that allow most private schools to unfairly compete have played the major role here. It’s not ‘advanced education’ we need but a return to it!

    We should learn from the British example that when a third of all students attend religious schools, we should not be surprised that 32% of young muslims born and raised in England think that killing in the name of religion (page 43) is acceptable because such beliefs are respected within these more isolated and homogeneous groups. Mandatory public education mitigates some of these influences (which the parents naturally think are good) and exposes kids to those who inhabit the wider public and their differing opinions and beliefs. (Look to Canada to see how people of vastly different and diverse cultures, ethnicity, politics, religious affiliations, races, and even languages, can live and work and prosper together peacefully.)

    So although I think your warning about how biblical literacy would be taught in public education is relevant, your agent of subversion (the education system itself and biased teachers) I think is wrong: it’s the parents who so heavily influence public education who are in need of some remedial learning. Any state can come up with an excellent curriculum to implement very quickly if allowed. Organized resistance under than banner of separation of church and state can be easily defeated with good curriculum and many examples abound.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Well, now, that (my comment immediately above) doesn’t seem to start off with a particularly friendly tone, does it? Sorry about that.

    Yes, it was a bit of an exaggeration regarding lack of opposition in the living Tradition of the Church, particularly on the point about stem-cell research. But here's the thing that you were exaggerating first: we're only talking *embryonic* stem cells, and we're not talking about stopping research but only denying funding (not as financing, but as grants) out of tax-payer money to it.

    (There is legitimate political debate to be had as to the role of government in determining what is worth researching and how much. And there are powerful corporations in the medical industry not wanting government to grant small startups power to compete with them.)

    I realize of course that the majority of Christian clergy worldwide are opposed to embryonic stem-cell research on theological grounds. Of course the same could be said of abortion, and even of capital punishment which churches themselves once used to practice routinely. Indeed the same could be said of doing business on Sundays. I believe the majority recognize the important distinction between what should be prescribed on theological grounds and what should be tolerated on practical grounds. The current tradition of the church is all proper separation of church and state; indeed, it's better for the church that way. So when the church advises living a certain way, it does not mean we’re to oppose any supportive given unto any other ways than this. Indeed, the teaching of the church generally is to give when specifically asked without regard for how it would be used. And I doubt the Church would oppose taking advantage of any major medical breakthroughs that come about through this.

    (As for the Catholic Church specifically, it looks in some ways like its trying to keep conservatively well on the safe side whilst it struggles internally to resolve the issue of just what constitutes a human soul, and until such time as the majority recognize what is manifestly revealed of God in nature through the limited resources of our planet that God's command to be fruitful is foremost in regards to one's spiritual seed, not the physical seed, even for those who do not choose celibacy, which itself is Roman Catholic custom, not apostolic tradition.)

  • From Francis Collins with bold added by me:

    “This decision has the potential to do serious damage to one of the most promising areas of biomedical research, and just at the time when we were really gaining momentum. . . “If this decision stands,” Collins said, “very promising research on human diseases on which we need new insights and new options will not get done. Screening for new drugs using hESCs, a very promising way to discover new compounds, will stop.

    Researchers, who have been so energized by the opportunities made available over the last year, will likely grow discouraged, maybe move on to other countries or other fields of research. We will lose the momentum.”

    He continued: “This is one of the most exciting areas of the broad array of engines of discovery that NIH supports. This decision has just poured sand into that engine of discovery.”

    Of course removing funding will directly impact research. You can quibble all you want about the whys and wherefores of the role of funding but the point I am making is that theology does not stimulate but stultifies inquiry. Always has, always will. And that's the kind of extension of theology into the public domain under the guise of 'morality' that has been, is, and always shall be incompatible with science. Even Francis Collins knows that although he pretends that perhaps, maybe, quite possibly, there is some magical way the two can be somehow reconciled. I'll say it again: religion and science are incompatible ways of knowing.

  • Jeanine

    The New England Primer was the most widely used textbook in the beginning years of our nation. I was even shocked when I first saw it myself.

    If you can get your hands on a copy, take a look at it. It was the primary school text book that taught reading and writing. In teaching the letter 'A' – the book says, "In Adams fall, We sinned All". The letter 'B' was "Thy life to mend, this Book attend".

    There is alot of debate going on in the culture about what the founders meant by seperation of church and state. But, I think we can really only answer those questions by looking at what they did – and they were teaching the Bible in their elementary schools.

  • Diana A.

    "There is a lot of debate going on in the culture about what the founders meant by separation of church and state. But, I think we can really only answer those questions by looking at what they did – and they were teaching the Bible in their elementary schools."

    True, but I'm not sure we should be using the past to attempt to solve the problems of the present and the future. The Bible has become politicized, with the result that anyone who teaches from it is likely to have an agenda of one form or another.

    At least one reason why the Bible was used as a textbook back in the day is because it was one of the few books that most people had available to them. Books were not as abundant as they are now, so the people made do with what they had. And too, nobody really objected to the Bible being used as a textbook, since most people were at least somewhat Christian-oriented.

    Times have changed. There are many different kinds of books in print–books on a multitude of subjects, ranging from general to specific, from literature to hard-core science and math–and this doesn't even begin to get into what's available on the internet. So now, we should be teaching our children with the abundance of material which is available. More important than teaching children individual subjects is teaching them to think and not just to accept the truth which is spoon-fed to them.

    I do, however, support the rights of parents to teach their children the tenets of their own religious beliefs.

  • Jeanine

    @ tildeb "There is no scientific controversy, no scientific debate, no scientific alternative to the theory of evolution. This theory is the foundation of modern biology and we rely on its trustworthy practical benefits every day. To not ‘believe’ in it is akin to not ‘believe’ in germs, not ‘believe’ that the earth orbits the sun, not ‘believe’ in gravity."

    This statement is not true. There is a group of scientists who do not believe in evolution for 'scientific' reasons – not religious. There is also compelling new information coming forth in molecular biology that supports intelligent design and exposes some scientific problems with Darwinism and evolution.

    David Berlinski, Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, Paul Kwan Chien, Marcus R. Ross, Paul Nelson – naming only a few. (Many of them are not Christians).

    Just because they are not currently the main stream, does not mean that they don't exist.

  • Jeanine

    I agree that we live in a decidely different time. However, I am just saying that their notion of seperation of church and state did not mean that the Bible could not be metioned or taught in schools.

  • Jeanine

    The point is – who's world view 'will' be taught in the public schools? Because make no mistake, 'A' world view is always being taught, be it secular or religious.

    My son's entire year of science this year – 8th grade level – consisted in how to 'Be Green'. They taught him how to recycle 'absolutely everything' and how to select the appropriate environmemtally friendly car.

    I am all for not polluting, recycling and conserving energy. I love emmissions inspections in my state because I can actually breathe as I drive down the road. But I think that the frenzie about global warming is one that certain people and companies are gaining great profit from. And, I believe there is as much science that contradicts the notion as there is science that supports it.

    The Bible talks about the earth being destroyed in Revelation and then made new. I don't think any amount of recycling will prevent this.

    If we are concerned about being fair to the non-believing taxpayer with public education; then why can't my son have a voucher so I can choose to send him to the school of my choice, where he will not be indoctrinated with the 'Green' world view?

    I am not trying to ridicule the Green movement. It has done a lot of good.

    The fact is, we each teach out of our own hearts. If a Christian teacher has to check his Christianity at the door, then a secular humanist ought to have to do the same. Although, I think that is impossible for both of them.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    "Of course removing funding will directly impact research."

    Did I say it wouldn't?

    "You can quibble all you want about…"

    I'm not quibbling. I'm just point out that other people are.

    "…theology does not stimulate but stultifies inquiry."

    Yet you haven't been able to give actual theological support for such a claim.

    "Even Francis Collins knows…"

    I wouldn't be so quick to think I can read someone else’s mind, tildeb.

    "[R]eligion and science are incompatible ways of knowing."

    Then how come all you can point to are particular disputes between some portion of religious people and some portion (whilst, I assure you, other groups are upset that these people receive funding while they don't, for projects they may believe to be just as full of promise) of the scientific community, instead of pointing to where the actually fundamental incompatibility lies?

  • Diana A.

    "The point is – who’s world view ‘will’ be taught in the public schools? Because make no mistake, ‘A’ world view is always being taught, be it secular or religious. "

    "The fact is, we each teach out of our own hearts. If a Christian teacher has to check his Christianity at the door, then a secular humanist ought to have to do the same. Although, I think that is impossible for both of them."

    I agree with you on these points.

    Regarding the "green" thing and the book of Revelation–I don't think the notion that God is going to destroy the world is a good excuse for not taking care of the world we have. In truth, I think some of the things that are expressed in the Bible as certainties or seeming certainties are more intended as warnings. Is God going to have to come down and destroy the earth in order to get our attention? Or will we live in a Godly fashion now, taking good care of the earth and all who inhabit it? When God returns, will it need to be in anger or will God be able to say (and mean) "Well done, good and faithful servants"?

    No, if we are servants of the Lord, we should be doing the Lord's work, regardless of whether it might be destroyed at a later date or not. Taking good care of the planet and the inhabitants of the planet is part of our job as servants of God–at least this is my belief.

    Somewhat off topic: a quote from the book "The Misunderstood God" by Darin Hufford:

    "I would like to give you the first accurate prediction concerning the timing of Christ's return that will actually prove to be right. There are thousands of authors and preachers who have tried to predict the timing of the Second Coming, and so far, all of them have been wrong. My prediction will be the first to come true: Jesus Christ is not returning anytime soon!

    "Imagine being a groom on your wedding day, and just before you go out to meet your bride, someone comes to you and informs you that they found her hiding in a broom closet in absolute terror of your coming. Would you want to come to that? There is no doubt in my mind that until we get a right revelation of who God is, Jesus Christ will not be coming. He wants His bride to rejoice at the trumpet sound, not scream in terror."

  • Jeanine

    I think we said the same thing about the environment – I am all for taking care of it, after all God created Adam and put him in charge of the garden – but I am also listening for Garbriel's trumpet every day 🙂

  • Jeanine

    I'm just pointing out that instead of teaching my son about molecules and DNA; they are spending the time indoctinating him with political ideas by showing him dramatic videos of polar bears stranded on ice shards in the ocean. They fail to mention that there are biologists that have studied polar bears for 30 years who say that the polar bear population is actually increasing. They are not be honest about this 'critical thinking' issue. They are merely insisting that any mention of the Bible and God be left out so that their point of view can be taught without challenge.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Hi Jeanine!

    You say, "Many of them are not Christians," but every single one of the individuals you mentioned IS.

    They are not main stream not because they hold a minority viewpoint but because they spend the better part of their efforts acting outside of their capacity as scientists.

    Regarding another of your comments above:

    "I believe there is as much science that contradicts the notion as there is science that supports it."

    This is excellent example for what I’ve been saying to tildeb.

    @tildeb: These are the sort of beliefs—not real theological ones—that you have to contend with, at the heart of the matter.

  • Jeanine

    I know that Dr. Stephen C. Meyer is a Christian – but I'm nearly positive that David Berlinski has said that he is agnostic (raised Jewish). Regardless, if I am in error on that, then sorry.

    But why should it matter anyways?

    Somebody might say that their view that there is a creator taints the results of their science. Well, I could say the same about an athiest scientist. Their view that there is not a creator may just be tainting the results of their science.

    The fact is – there is an opposing scientific community for evolution, and especially at the level of molecular biology (the complexity of the small mechanical systems that make up DNA) I find their argument more compelling than any evidence I've heard of in the evolutionary science community.

  • Jeanine

    To suppose that a Christian scientist has an agenda and that an athiest scientist does not; is being dishonest. Both have something to be gained by having the natural realm prove their theology.

  • Diana A.

    One thing I've never understood is why it matters so much that the creation story in Genesis be true in order for Christianity to be upheld. So what if it turns out to be a myth or a legend and scientifically in error. That's not the basis of my faith in God anyway. In truth, I believe that God could have created the world in six hours, six minutes, 6 seconds or the blink of an eye. If God chose to create the world the way Genesis describes it or the way science describes it or by shooting it out his hindquarters as I've heard others describe it (tongue in cheek or in earnest, I'm not sure), who cares? It's here now.

  • Matthew Tweedell


    No, it is I who was in error. Mr. Berlinski indeed claims agnosticism. He was the only one I didn't specifically look into because I had heard a lot about him before, and I guess I just drew my own conclusions from his arguments about what his beliefs were. It turns out he doesn't have any; he's just an extreme skeptic.

    It also turns out that you were in error to list him among scientists. He is a popular writer, with a background in (but no contributions of his own to) mathematics—a discipline not based upon the scientific method.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    If one can disregard its truth because it seems to him or her incompatible with science, what Scripture at all is left inviolable? Would not the resurrection from the dead on the third day also seem scientifically impossible? "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." (1 Cor. 15:14 — although that then is probably just a fairy tale too; God, who even needs such a religion at all then? What real faith could it be—just false hope!)

  • Jeanine

    I'm thinking that maybe the reason you don't care about 'how' God created the world is because you don't believe in the inerrancy of scripture.

    Christians who believe in the inerrant Word of God, care very much about wether it is true or not – it is the basis for everything they believe. A 'Fundie's' (is that the right term?) faith is based on the Bible being True – apital 'T'.

    John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.


    John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

    Jesus calls himself the Word. To me this is a very important concept.

    See if I cannot believe in creation, because evolution has become scietific fact (which it hasn't) then why would I think that what the Bible says about salvation is true? Or why would I think that everything Jesus said about love and kindness and serving your brother is true?

    Choose this scripture, reject that one, believe this one, interpret that one; that is a messy business.

  • MT, you exhibit exactly how religious belief stultifies honest inquiry by how you frame the issue as one in need of theological justification!

    What is incompatible is the methodology that underlies truth claims. When the method is circular – where assertion is the proof for the assertion – we have no method to test the claim for verification. In a nutshell, this is the method that informs religious belief – untestable, unverifiable, unfalsifiable assertions. That is directly antithetical to the method of science, where ONLY that which can be tested, verified, and falsified is considered sterling evidence. These are oppositional methods of inquiry: the very reason why assertion without evidence is rejected out of hand in science is exactly that which sustains the central pillar of religious belief…the necessity for faith!

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Speaking of creation hymns, I of course adore this one & the one from the Gospel of John, but I'm also quite fond of the one from the Rig Veda:

  • Diana A.

    And, you're right. I'm not a big fan of the notion that scripture is inerrant. Scripture is a finger pointing to the truth. It is not the truth itself. The truth is greater than the human mind can conceive. So what is written in the scriptures is not the truth but only some truths, mixed in with some things that may or may not be true.

    Any faith that requires me to leave my brain at the door is no worthwhile faith at all. The God whom I worship does not need me to believe that every single word in the Bible comes directly from him–especially since the oldest manuscripts we have of the Bible are not even the originals but are themselves copies and the translations of these copies are filtered through the biases of the translators. So no, I do not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. Which does not mean I believe it should be completely disregarded either. There is a middle-ground between those extremes, believe it or not.

  • This in response to Jeanine's post waaaayyy up there about New England textbooks!

    Do yourself a favour and compare and contrast (remembering having to do that in school?) the style and language of the state charters with that of the Constitution. the former are flowing with religious language in utterly stark contrast with the Constitution (and remember that education IS a state matter). Why is the Constitution so different?

    If you're a good bridge player (a dying art, unfortunately) or a decent trial lawyer or a wily parent, you will have learned that one of your greatest assets is figuring out what has NOT been said. It is very revealing. They say good politics is the art of the possible. It is easier to get a group of people to NOT say something together than it will ever be to get them to say the same thing and support it. You have to agree with everything to support something but find only a single thing upon which to disagree.

    Writing a Constitution is one thing; getting a group of people to agree with it another thing entirely. One way to do this is to avoid inserting ideas that make it easier for people to disagree with any portion of it. But the intent of a secular document is there and quite obvious, for example, by directly including the revolutionary idea of either oaths (religious) or affirmation (secular). If the intent were to favour a religious overtone, rather than a non religious founding document, then why the absence of religious language, an absence of religious style? Why the direct support for affirmations? These points make no sense if one honestly wishes to support a document that favours religion.

  • Jeanine wrote There is a group of scientists who do not believe in evolution for ‘scientific’ reasons – not religious.

    If so, Jeanine, they have been singularly unable to scientifically justify those reasons.

    Jeanine continues There is also compelling new information coming forth in molecular biology that supports intelligent design and exposes some scientific problems with Darwinism and evolution.

    There is no new information as far as I know but it would be worth a Nobel prize if such information were indeed available and presented. As of ten minutes ago, I cannot find any such information on the web. What I can find is a lot of assertion backed by zero science.

    Are there scientists who are creationists? Absolutely. Does this mean creationism is somehow compatible with science? No, in the same way that just because some priests are pedophiles does not mean pedophilia is compatible with being a priest.

  • And therein, MT lies the rub. As I wrote: incompatible.

  • Diana A.

    Good analogy!

  • Diana A @10:53

    You write The truth is greater than the human mind can conceive.


    Then by your own reasoning this is an unknowable assertion!

    There is a middle-ground between those extremes, believe it or not.

    And that middle ground I think lies in personal belief that is not extended into the world.

    A neighbour may believe that fairies live in her garden and I'm fine with that. But as soon as she pretends her reasoning is sound without any requirement for establishing and testing what her evidence may be is not fine. It is intellectually dishonest. To then claim to be in possession of a higher morality because of special insight granted to her only through accepting her beliefs as true is delusional.

  • Matthew Tweedell


    "True" is an adjective; so I'm not sure what it changes when you capitalize it. If you mean that the Bible is the Truth—and when you've previously asserted that it actually is the Word—you are committing blasphemy. The Truth is WAY bigger than the Bible; He is God the father, whom ultimately none of us have ever seen. What we do perceive is the Word, and He is God the Son. The Bible is the icon of the Word, and in that sense one could call it "the Word" just as one may refer to an icon of Jesus simply as "Jesus". But when people actually confuse themselves into thinking that it's the real substance of it, then they commit the sin of idolatry, attributing divine qualities to what is ultimately corruptible earthly matter (in the case of a Bible, letters fade and could be misprinted; the word (as spoken by the Word) — mistranslated, misread, or misinterpreted; the book possesses no divine powers).

    "See if … evolution has become scietific [sic] fact (which it hasn't)…."

    How can a model be a fact? Of course, that one has a biological ancestor that was a single-celled organism, that is a fact. One of the most well-established scientific facts ever, in fact.

    @tildeb, re: “And therein, MT lies the rub.”

    I see no incompatibility.

  • Diana A.

    tildeb, I'm not sure I get your point.

    When I say there is a middle ground between the extremes of accepting what the Bible says without questioning it and rejecting everything in the Bible without questioning it, I don't see how that is incompatible with my view that the truth is greater than the human mind can comprehend. We do the best we can with what we have. I'm not advocating that we sit in the corner crying because we can't see everything that is true about the universe right this second. I'm advocating that we take the truth we have, limited as it may be, and use it to the best of our ability. Is that a problem for you?

  • Jeanine

    Being somebody who believes in the inerrancy of scripture, I do not live under some delusion that I have 'ALL' of the Truth or that I am all-knowing about who God is in His essence. Certainly not. That is why I do not pick and choose which parts of scripture to believe. Of course I will pick what I like and discard what I don't.

    What I believe is that God has chosen to 'reveal' himself to us in three ways. One – in the creation (nature). Two – in His Word, the Bible. Three – In His son Jesus and through the Holy Spirit.

    I think that even though the revelation of the Bible is limited and it does not give us a perfect understanding of the spiritual realm – what it does give us is some understanding for the here and now of history, and that understanding is the Truth about man and about God. I think it is fully reliable, every word that he has chosen to reveal for now.

    He has told us that when Jesus returns, then we will know Him as even we are known.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Where does sound theology employ this supposed incompatible methodology? What claim is circular here? If there are any untestable assertions, then they necessarily make no claims about anything testable, and thus have nothing to do with science. (There may be methodological differences, just as mathematics is pursued differently from that which is subject to the scientific method, but that doesn't make it incompatible at all!)

    "…assertion without evidence is rejected out of hand in science…"

    Then why does science employ mathematics, and why is rigorous definition of terms prior to experimentation on their referents not only allowed but expected?

    As for belief running contrary to established evidence, I find that such is quite un-Biblical.

  • Jeanine

    @ Matthew Tweedell


    “True” is an adjective;

    I do not believe the Bible has some spiritual power, but I do believe the Word does.

    Sorry if I am too sloppy with my words (if you haven't noticed I can barely even spell).

    And truth is also a noun.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    I apologize, Jeanine, but I don't quite understand.

    What did you mean then when you said, "A 'Fundie’s' (is that the right term?) faith is based on the Bible being True – apital [sic] 'T'"?

    Do you mean that it's the Truth, or not?

    And are you saying that the Bible is the Word, rather than the Son, Jesus?

  • Jeanine

    @ tildeb 'These points make no sense if one honestly wishes to support a document that favours religion.'

    I didn't say they wished to favor religion in the document. In fact, I think in many of their own writings, they were very much trying to be sure that government could not dictate or regulate or mandate the practicing of religion, coming out of the reformation where the catholic church lorded religion over the people, much like the Pharasees of the Bible.

    But neither do I think that they meant to in any way limit a person's right to live out their personal beleifs in the public arena. Many of them voted, made decisions and policy based on what they beleived to be true from scripture.

  • Matthew Tweedell


    I believe you're right on everything except this baseless assertion:

    "But the intent of a secular document is there and quite obvious, for example, by directly including the revolutionary idea of either oaths (religious) or affirmation (secular)."

    Jesus forbade the taking of oaths and it is well known that many of the former colonists were of religious persuasions (such as Quakers) that prevented them from taking oaths for religious reasons. If anything, you've got it backwards, that the oath was for the Normies, and it was for the Fundies that the "affirmation" thing is included.

  • Yikes! The Reply function makes it difficult to follow the comment as a reply but this one refers to Diana A at 11:50 who writes I’m advocating that we take the truth we have, limited as it may be, and use it to the best of our ability. Is that a problem for you?

    It is and it isn't, in the sense of determining if what we 'have' is, in fact, the truth. If we have a lie – even a two thousand year old lie! – then what we are 'using' can be a very big problem indeed. And it is not a personal one if it is taken beyond the personal and extended into the world to influence policy and education and research and programs. That' makes it a global problem.

    So which is it?

    We need to look no further than religion's toxic affect on inquiry with the recent ban on funding research into embryonic stem cells – not for good reasons but for poor ones – even though this area offers all of us the most promising of medical treatments to date. Yet we suspend this funding at the behest of religious reasons for potential humans (these cells will never be fertilized, never be embryos, never be implanted, never gestate, never be born, and flushed away as biological refuse) over and above actual humans! That's religious belief in action.

    By this suspension we agree to thwart developing new treatments for living people to deference to the sanctity of the cell's supposed soul! So the question must naturally be asked: is there a such a thing as a soul in an embryonic cell? The answer is one of life and death for untold numbers of people, which is not a trivial nor personal matter.

  • Diana A.

    Re: tildeb's post on August 26, 2010 at 2:58 pm–I'm not out there advocating for the banning of funding for research into embryonic stem cells. In fact the whole issue of funding for research into embryonic stem cells does not happen to be a passion for me at all. In a vague way, I am actually for the funding of this kind of research–though not sufficiently passionate about it to advocate for it–sorry, call me an individual with her own priorities.

    Diana A.: I’m advocating that we take the truth we have, limited as it may be, and use it to the best of our ability. Is that a problem for you?

    tildeb: It is and it isn’t, in the sense of determining if what we ‘have’ is, in fact, the truth. If we have a lie – even a two thousand year old lie! – then what we are ‘using’ can be a very big problem indeed. And it is not a personal one if it is taken beyond the personal and extended into the world to influence policy and education and research and programs. That’ makes it a global problem.

    So, what you recommending, tildeb? That all religious people keep their mouths shut and let all the nonreligious people make all the decisions? Good luck with that one. Let me know how that works for you. By the way, did it ever occur to you that you are a blooming hypocrite to insist that religious people keep their mouths shut and let nonreligious people rule over them when you rightly object to the reverse? You see, the problem is not religion. The problem is tyranny. And nonreligious people are just as inclined toward tyranny as religious people are, so you needn't act as if nonreligious people are somehow above all that.

  • MT, I stand corrected. Thank you.

    So do you think affirmation was codified to allow christian people to hold public office?

  • Well, Diana, this is a rather important and emotional issue, isn't it? It is hard to explore without feeling under attack. And (as usual) you've hit the nail on the head with your comment and justifiable anger about being asked to keep you mouth shut and have others rule over you! The fit of that shoe really sucks, doesn't it? Why is that sentiment of anger so familiar to me, an atheist, who dares – like other atheists – to speak out about exactly this expectation of tyranny to be accepted because it honours god, yet is often met by criticisms not about substance of the complaint but of tone, of militancy and stridency, of arrogance and intolerance?

    Of course, I am not suggesting you or any citizen be excluded in any way from public life, from sharing the same freedoms and responsibilities as any other franchised adult.

    What I am hoping has been revealed is that accommodationism between respecting the methodology of science and the methodology of religion is incompatible. When actions based on religious assertions are brought into the world it causes tyrannical problems that are very difficult if not impossible to resolve consensually. The two methods simply do not mix in the public domain in spite of the best of intentions of those who act on them.

    What I am suggesting is that we have to be very careful about bringing religious beliefs into the public domain. I think in any role of exercising the power of public office, we have to err on the side of policies and programs justified by the method of science known as methodological naturalism. I say this not because of personal bias but because its the the only method we can test, the only method we can verify, the only method we can change based on best practices and tangible results. Sex ed is an excellent example of these testable and tangible results that show a host of negative affects can be measurably reduced by such education. By direct comparison, if ten million deaths from AIDS in Africa isn't enough to convince the holy see to alter its public policy on the need for condoms, nothing will. And that's the problem with public policies based on beliefs that are not open to testing, not open to verifying, not open to change, not open to alterations based on measurable results.

    It is my hope that religious moderates will come to understand in ever greater numbers why the exercise of faith-based actions should be kept to the personal and to appreciate why their extensions into the world causes more problems than they solve no matter how strongly we believe it to be the right thing to do according to our faith. The key here is to understand that is our faith, which does not make it the right faith or even the right expression of our faith. Our belief is insufficient in and of itself as a justification for policy and programs because we have no way of knowing if it is wrong. And, clearly, we do not believe anything because we think it may be wrong!

    So I am not trying to legitimize tyranny of the godless over the godly. What I am trying to do is to explain that with religious freedom comes a civic duty to exercise it responsibly. And that exercise is to keep it personal.

  • Diana A.

    Okay, tildeb, I see your point. How much in agreement I am with it, I haven't decided, but I do understand what you are saying and I can see how it might have some truth to it.

  • Matthew Tweedell


    "these cells will never be fertilized, never be embryos…"

    These are not egg cells we're talking about. They already WERE fertilized and already WERE embryos, until the embryos were destroyed in the process of harvesting the stem cells, which are then cultivated in the laboratory.

    "That's religious belief in action."

    No it's not. The case had nothing to do with religion. The case was brought by scientists who felt the administration of the law was unfairly disadvantaging their adult stem-cell research, and the judge handed down a ruling based solely on his understanding of the law and legal principles involved. If anything, the judge's bias is likely more anti-Obama than religious. Though the law involved itself was passed to appeal to certain moral sensibilities, those are not specifically religious. And indeed many, many people, including the president of the United States and Francis Collins whom you mentioned, believe in God and firmly support funding such research, seeing it as God's will and our moral imperative. And, in fact, if not for faith, hope, and love, no one would be doing this at all anyway!

    "… to deference to the sanctity of the cell's supposed soul!"

    I'm sorry, but who is saying that a cell has a soul?!

    Your strawman arguments aren't helping you any, except in that it is probably easier and more comfortable for you to think that that's how religion is.

    "When actions based on religious assertions are brought into the world it causes tyrannical problems that are very difficult if not impossible to resolve consensually."

    No, when actions based on truly religious assertions are brought into the world (with exception of cults), it makes the world a better place!

    "… if ten million deaths from AIDS in Africa isn’t enough to convince the holy see to alter its public policy on the need for condoms, nothing will."

    If tens of millions in Africa didn't engage in unhealthy sexual practices, there wouldn't be an AIDS epidemic to begin with. But you see, relatively few of those people are Catholic, and we see AIDS at far lower rates (often lower even than in US) in highly Catholic-predominant countries, so this does not prove anything wrong with Catholic doctrine (which is meant only for adoption in its entirety).

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Well, it was to accommodate anyone who felt uncomfortable with swearing. Some Christians were; some Christians weren't (it's like with opposition to embyonic stem-cell research); and there hardly was a man who wouldn't consider himself Christian.

  • I was speaking of the cells once involved with research, MT. Before then, all would be discarded! So what's the strawman? And where did I say the judge's ruling was illegal? The law is very clear and the intent plain, my point being that refusing funding such research is very stupid, shortsighted, and a waste of scientific potential.

    The religious supporters of this law are well known: the catholic church, the southern baptists, and the national association of evangelicals, which represent the majority of the US population but you already know this. If not for these religious organizations lobbying government and funding advocacy against embryonic stem cell stem, there would be no call to stop the funding because there would have been no organized advocacy against the research.

    Your assertion that when actions based on truly religious assertions are brought into the world it makes the world a better place hinges on the word 'truly'. Many wars and daily human rights abuses have been committed over defining that one.

    And only a religious person steeped in a permissive culture of god-sanctioned misogyny would dare describe rape and incest as "unhealthy sexual practices." If a man believes he can be cured of the wasting disease by having sex with a virgin, it's not difficult to convince him that the use of condoms is the greater evil. But then, I'm not arguing that this kind of religious belief enhances learning.

    And, to be very blunt, I think a very sound argument with much evidence can be made that catholic doctrine when followedhas played a pivotal role in many kinds of atrocities. But for those who assume all catholic doctrine is good because it's catholic doctrine, no evidence nor argument can ever be good enough to counter the assumption. Again, he method for testing the claim is unavailable.

    As for your AIDS comment, the facts are here. I don't see evidence that countries with higher populations of catholics have lower rates of AIDS. The opposite seems to be true outside of Africa.

  • Matthew Tweedell


    The strawman is what you pretend religion is—that is, something unenlightened.

    If you agree with the judge's ruling from a legal perspective, and you say, "[t]he law is very clear and the intent plain," why has it been interpreted differently than it was by this judge by every administration since it was first enacted in the mid-90s?

    "But for those who assume all catholic doctrine is good because it’s catholic doctrine, no evidence nor argument can ever be good enough to counter the assumption."

    I don't think that's true. What was the Reformation all about then? How did Luther find any support among the common man? People aren't as stupid as we might think, when the truth becomes plain enough before their own eyes.

    "Again, he [sic] method for testing the claim is unavailable."

    What do you mean? Can't you come up with a way to see if something really is good or not?

    Do you really think that "[i]f a man believes he can be cured of the wasting disease by having sex with a virgin," you'd succeed in convincing him to use a condom? (By the way, that's another example of the sort of belief that needs to be transformed, as always a decidely scientific claim, not of any serious religious nature.)

    The Catholic countries of Europe have significantly lower AIDS rates than the former Soviet republics, and in my own hemisphere, Latin American countries generally have lower rates than the USA. Also, look at the HIV prevalence rates in the Muslim world; Islamic teaching is, I believe, similar to Catholic in this regard. Of course, India and China and Northern Europe put many Catholic nations to shame. But what do you suggest, that they crack down like in the Middle East? I suggest rather that AIDS rates, when low, are not the primary factor in determining whether a people's lifestyle is as it should be (whatever that might mean).

  • Jeanine

    Diana A. hit the nail on the head with her comment about tyranny – which I think is exactly what the Founding fathers were getting at. Trying to insure that government could neither tyrranize people using religion (which we see throughout history) nor prevent people from exercising their religion (which we also see throughout history and even today).

    @ tildeb 'So I am not trying to legitimize tyranny of the godless over the godly. What I am trying to do is to explain that with religious freedom comes a civic duty to exercise it responsibly. And that exercise is to keep it personal.'

    This 'keep it personal' is laughable. Everyone acts on the basis of what they believe to be true. I make decisions because I believe I am accountable to a Holy God; you make decisions based on the notion that you are accountable to nobody. It is the Garden of Eden replaying itself over and over all throughout time. Each one decides, "Did God really say this?" or not. You have decided 'not'. But I fear God who has the power of life and death rather than fearing you who has the power to mock me.

  • Shit dog…..I thought I'd never get to the end of these comments so I could share my own. 😉

    John……I really just keep liking…..more and more…..what I read from you. And I agree. I don't like us (and I was only PREVIOUSLY part of this elite club but I quit.) "Christians". I don't like the way we act or the way we treat others. I'm sick of it.. I have been L.O.V.I.N.G. running as FAR FAR AWAY from that pressure to conform "them"….to "save" them…..to "witness"…..all of that pressure pressure pressure to force the *gasp* UNSAVED to give up what they believe is right (and their RIGHT to believe that what they believe is right)….and to listen to our message of love, Dammit, and understand that they are thoroughly UNACCEPTABLE and, in fact, unlovable to a loving God….and to us chosen ones because we are so like him, and "they" need to turn and embrace….with gratefulness and softened hearts….. our condemning (but oh-so-grace-filled) Message of Love….. 😉 Bleh

    I refuse to participate any longer. I can't stand it. I want for us ALL to HONOR one another's hearts…..to respect that each of us might hold a facet of truth that can be learned from. I have found some wonderful, smart friends who claim to believe stuff that before I would have burned at the stake….or believed they had the power to somehow taint me with their "contamination"!

    I now watch them live in love, kindness, thoughtfulness, and (my personal favorite here) ACCEPTANCE!!!!!! Tolerance!!! Their version of who they know God to be is one I'd love to hear more about. The fact that Jesus didn't worry about contamination from "dirty filthy sinners" should show me how to go have supper with them and TAKE A DEEP BREATH!!

    Anyhow….I could go on and on. Suffice it to say…..I honor your truths you've shared. I agree. I long to spend the rest of my life in love and acceptance and tolerance of our WONDERFUL, AMAZING DIFFERENCES!!! Insecurity says different is bad and to be attacked. Confidence says…..tell me all about your differences…..I think I"d like that!! 🙂 And I may just learn a lot! <3

    Thanks for letting us all share ourselves with you and each other. When we do….we are actually offering the gift of ourselves…..and I, for one, am thankful for all of your gifts! Especially you, Mister Shore! 😀

  • Jeanine

    @ Matthew Tweedell "I apologize, Jeanine, but I don’t quite understand.

    What did you mean then when you said, “A ‘Fundie’s’ (is that the right term?) faith is based on the Bible being True – apital [sic] ‘T’”?

    Do you mean that it’s the Truth, or not?

    And are you saying that the Bible is the Word, rather than the Son, Jesus?"

    I still don't quite understand your question, and I guess I never thought about it in that way before. But I guess I am not saying that the Bible is the capital T, because obviously the Truth existed as the Word – Jesus long before the written pages ever came into being. However, I do think the Bible is true in all of its asserts, concepts and essence because I beleive it is written by God's Spirit through human writers; and therefore I do not beleive it contains errors, lies or mistakes.

    There are far to many instances of spoken prophecy (in the Psalms for instance) where the writer could not possibly have known that he was writing about for it to be merely pointing to God or describing God. These instances let me know that God himself has said it.

    Does that answer the question, or am I still missing your point?

  • Jeanine

    This post also reminds me of Matthew 11:16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: 17 ” ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ‘ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.”

    I think what Jesus is saying here is that it doesn’t really matter if the message of the gospel comes through a fire and brimstone preacher like John the Baptist or a tender, loving listener like Jesus – there are some who are determined not to accept it. They will just claim that it should have come in a better form……

  • Matthew Tweedell

    I believe you've answered the question pretty well.

    It was just that you seemed consistently to speak of the Word and its icon, drawn by human hands or man-made printing-presses, as if they really are one and the same. In particular you equate the inerrancy of the Word with the inerrancy of Scripture. But tell me then which version of the scriptures is inerrant? The original manuscripts are lost to history. As you say, "Choose this scripture, reject that one, believe this one, interpret that one; that is a messy business." Yet how can you read it at all without interpretation? And haven't you accepted certain scriptural works and rejected others (and I'm guessing in a way different from what the majority throughout Christianity's history have accepted)?

    Even now, you assert that the Word is the Truth; rather the Word reveals the Truth—makes Him known—but His essence remains in fact unseen.