Protection from a witness program

Protection from a witness program October 29, 2010


Way back before I became a Christian, my wife Catherine and I used to study and practice Zen. One morning we were walking toward our car after a night spent sitting zazen at a Zen center with a dozen or so other would-be Buddhas. (Zazen is Zen meditation: you sit; you close your eyes; you try to disconnect from your thoughts; you try like crazy not to sneeze, cough or itch; you try not to panic about the fact that after about a half hour your whole lower body is so asleep you wouldn’t flinch if somebody harpooned your thigh.)

As we were approaching our car, we saw that a guy who had just pinned a flyer underneath our windshield wiper was now leaving a copy of the same flyer on the car parked behind ours. He gave us a friendly wave. “I hope you don’t mind me leaving one of these on your car,” he said cheerily.

I unlocked the passenger door so that Cat could get in. “No problem” I said. But what he somehow heard me say, apparently, was, “Please come over and talk to us.”

“It’s for a nearby church,” he said. He was maybe thirty, fit, and clean-shaven, sporting an orange baseball cap, a winning smile, and an ever so manic gleam in his eyes. “It’s called Calvary Chapel. Ever heard of it?”

“I haven’t,” I said. I closed Cat inside the car. Tucked under my arm was my zafu, the round pillow Zenners use to sit upon whilst trying to merge with The Great Nothing/Everything. The guy nodded toward it.

“You folks study Buddhism there in the center?”

“We do,” I said. “We like Zen. Been at it for a pretty long time now.”

“Oh, is that right? Do you find it helps you with your life?”

A little alarm bell went off in my head. “Actually, yeah. It’s been a really wonderful thing for both of us.”

“But you must know that it can’t give you what the Lord Jesus Christ can. The only way you can ever find what you’re really seeking is to open up your heart to the fact that Jesus Christ is your personal lord and savior.”

The thing about sitting zazen—especially if you’ve just done it for ten hours straight—is that it leaves you feeling like Lake Placid. So, in a voice filled with nothing but calm warmth, I said, “That’s great. I mean, I know that for a lot of people Christianity is perfect. We’ve chosen Zen. I’ve got a friend who’s a Hindu. My wife’s dad is Catholic. I guess everybody has to find their own way.”

“But there’s only one true way, friend. And that way is through Jesus Christ.”

I walked around the front of our car to the driver’s side. “Christianity’s a really sound option, for sure,” I said. He stepped toward me.

“It’s more than just an option. It’s the only way. Anyone who doesn’t repent of their sins and declare the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal savior is lost to the flames of eternal hell.”

I felt a tight ball gathering in my stomach. With one hand on my door handle I smiled over the top of the car. “Well, that doesn’t sound like much fun. I hope that doesn’t happen to me!”

“Oh, it will. It happens to everyone who chooses any but the one true way.”

And then I made the mistake I too often do: I started talking too much. “I understand that Christianity works for you. And I think that’s outstanding. Your life must be so rich because of your faith. But must Christianity be the only way? Can’t there be other good ways for people to know and experience what you call God? Does everyone who chooses any other way but Christianity have to be wrong?”

With nothing but teeth showing the guy said, “Hey, I don’t make the rules. You can fight against it all you want. But the fact is that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins. The cost of not accepting him as your savior is the eternal damnation of your soul.”

Through the windshield I saw Cat, quietly looking straight ahead. I knew she could hear us.

I pulled open my car door. “Well, I guess I’ll just have to hope that you’re mistaken.”

“Oh, I’m not, buddy.” He raised his voice a little; I was getting away. “But you are. Both you and your wife are condemning yourselves in the eyes of the Lord by engaging in sinful idolatry.”

“All right; I’ll bear that in mind. There aren’t actually any idols in Zen, but I see what you’re saying.” I waved. “Thanks for sharing. Have a good day.”

As I closed the car door the guy moved to the front of our car. He held up his hand like he was halting traffic. “Stop what you’re doing! Let the Lord into your heart! You please the devil with your sinful ways!”

“Jesus,” murmured Catherine.

“Or one of his ambassadors, anyway,” I said. I started the car. “I wonder if I’m gonna have to run this fool over?”

“You’re lost!” he cried. But he also demonstrated that he hadn’t lost all touch with reality by stepping away from the front of our car back up onto the curb.

“Repent!” he fairly yelled. “Accept the Lord! Turn your back on the devil! Rid yourself of your sin!”

I pulled our car out and headed down the residential street.

“Well,” said Cat “wasn’t that special?”,

“Can you imagine being God, and looking down, and seeing that?” I said. “I wonder what Jesus thinks when he sees stuff like that?”

“‘Maybe I should become a Buddhist’?,” said Cat. “Or maybe, ‘I need to get some new salespeople. People who aren’t totally rude and intrusive? People who don’t think the way to attract people to me is to scream insults at them’?”

“Or maybe he’d just go, “‘That’s it. I give up. Time for the Apocalypse.’”

That the Christian in the orange cap meant well isn’t in question. Of course he only wanted what was best for Cat and me. But he only repelled us from Christianity, because his evangelizing effort was grounded in what all such efforts must be, which is a lack of respect. By showing that he had no respect whatsoever for our belief system, he showed that he had no respect for us.

Showing that he had no respect for us proved that the evangelizer did not love us, since the best that love without respect can be is patronizing. And by not loving us, he utterly broke the second part of what Jesus himself called the greatest law of all: to love your neighbor as you love yourself. (See Mark 12:28-31.) Another reason he absolutely could not love us is because he drove us away from him. And you can’t love someone with whom you have no relationship at all.

Trying to “share” Jesus in the manner he did meant explicitly and directly disobeying Jesus.

To my fellow Christians: Remember, please, that the whole point of a witness is to answer questions someone has first asked you.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I agree, man. I’ve always been repelled by the selling aspect of evangelism. Even as a Christian, I felt awkward talking to people. I tried, I mean, I was a good little Baptist girl so I sure as hell tried to do it, and every time I left with this terrible feeling in my stomach. Actions speak louder than words, so shut up and maybe someone might see how actually rich your life is!

    People and their belief systems are very nuanced. Reasons are very nuanced. To give it such a blind treatment is just ridiculous. It’s a complete disrespect to people.

  • Never been there, nor done that. Man, you’re like a crazy magnet. Wait, what does that make me?

  • An excellent account. You are so good at telling these scenarios in a respectful and unbiased way. Bless you for the work you do, John.

  • John, another excellent account. You are so good at handling this time of confrontation in a loving and respectful way. I’m sure Jesus would be proud 🙂

  • Christy

    “Can you imagine being God,” I said, “and looking down, and seeing that? I wonder what Jesus thinks when he sees stuff like that?”

    Jesus: (slaps self on forehead, turing to God he says) I told you parables were way too esoteric for them.

  • You seem to like Paulian scripture. How about Acts 26:16?

    “Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you.”

    This would appear to be Christ, himself, appearing to Paul to convert him. By meeting with Paul on the road to Damascus, Jesus set a precedent for all other Christians to actively convert people on the road…home, after a heathen zen meditation.

    What would Jesus do? Or more importantly. Why would you not do what Jesus does?

    Look at what Deanna comments on. She was a good little Baptist girl and actively participated in evangelising people despite not being comfortable with it. This alone suggests that the process of evangelisation is a Christian trait which is equated to good works.

    The fact of the matter is that Christianity is not negotiable. Follow Jesus or be literally damned. Evangelisation is a core principle of Christianity, and if you, as a Christian shy away from this, you are not a true Christian. I’ll say it again. What would Jesus do? Obviously, he would go out and evangelise, because that is what he did. That is Christianity. And you criticise this?

  • Ace

    Yea, religious evangelizers who act like pushy used-car salesmen are like that. Baptist, Jehova’s witness, hari krishna, PETA members, I’ve been accosted by all sorts, actually (and still have a little vegan propaganda/min-cookbook some unwashed dude with muddy-blond dreadlocks thrust into my hands at an outdoor concert zonks ago – the propaganda’s specious as hell but hey, at least it has some good tofu recipes in the back).

    I don’t think strong-arm tactics work, anyway, people just get pissed off. I’ve had non-Christian acquantances in the past that, after getting into more philosophically-themed discussions of religion and after explaining my own beliefs (in a neutral manner), have borrowed (or “permanently borrowed” as the case may be) a Bible from me or in one case I remember, gone to church with me for a few Sundays. I’m not egotistical enough to think I “saved” anyone but I’ve lost contact with most of my old high school and college buddies since graduating so who knows what they’re doing/thinking at the moment.

    Truth will stand on its own, I think, without waving threats around. Some people will never be interested, though. You can lead a horse to water, blah blah blah.

  • Ngetha


  • Anonymous

    People: Tris here is just an angry atheist looking for a fight. Ignore him.

  • Ngetha

    Tris I think you are missing the point, the point is not against evangelism, its in the means of evangelism. And to that end, whatever means of evangelism that are disrespectful and unloving are infact sinful. Needless to say the loving and respectful kind are the right ones.

    What do you think about what Calvinists think? Like God already chose who He will save and to that end it makes evangelism easier, if you are one of “them” then you will respond to it as expected (not necessarily the first time). If not, then the person evangelizing to you is content knowing he shared his faith with you…..?

  • Ace

    I don’t think John is saying trying to spread the word of God is a bad thing, I think it’s the methods that the man in the anecdote used that are being criticized here.

    If what a Christian is doing is so repugnant to the non-Christian as to drive him or her away from the mere idea of Christ, that’s not really fulfilling the Great Commission, now is it?

    If that person had simply handed the flyer to John and his wife, invited them kindly to go this church of his, wished them a good day and gone on with his business, I think John’s reaction would have been quite different than what it was to some dude screeching “YUER GOIN TU HEEEEEELLLLLL” at him while he and his wife were trying to make a quick escape from the Crazy Dude with Pamphlets.

    Meditation isn’t inherently “heathen” or anti-Biblical either, BTW, that’s kind of a smug pooh-poohing you’re getting up to there.

  • Gene

    I spent decades of my life in churches where this was the expected form of evangelism. I never felt comfortable with it, but I thought that just showed how cowardly and how uncommitted to Christ I was. God bless you, John Shore, for showing how this kind of evengelism is UNCHRISTLIKE.

  • Marcelo

    “Or maybe he’d just go, “‘That’s it. I give up. Time for the Apocalypse.’”

    John, I nearly did a spit-take with my coffee this morning when I read this. Well done! Haha!

    And, yes, a wonderfully written account. I could picture all of it very clearly. I especially love the fact that you wrote about it in such a clear-eyed fashion. Some people I’ve spoken to who are “born-again” who recount similar episodes in their previous heathen existence always speak of themselves in a condescending fashion. Good on you that you didn’t! You took yourself as you were in that situation.

    Which reminds me of something I’ve come to believe: God takes us exactly where we are and when we are and meets us on our level.

  • Ric

    Like I said, crazy magnet. (which I like, btw)

  • Marcelo

    Oh, and I have spoken to more than one person who has recounted similar episodes and who have firmly declared that if having to accept yahoos like that and what they do as what Jesus requires us to do, then they would prefer going to hell than agree to a religion that condones that.

    So, great, those individuals have been relegated “to hell” for the actions of these chuckleheads. Nice evangelism!

    I believe God calls us to Him, he doesn’t grab us by the back of the neck and pull us close to His face, yelling, “You better if you know what’s good for you, young man/lady!”

  • When Deanna called herself a “good little Baptist girl,” she meant good by Baptist standatds, not good by Christ’s standards. You are very good by Baptitst standards, Tris. I think you need to be humble enough to reconsider whether you are good by Christ’s standards. Maybe Johh Shore is not as heathen as your dogmatic Baptist cohorts in orange baseball caps would think.

  • Hominidx

    Methods and ends are two components of how to do anything.

    What would Jesus have done?
    Something that would have touched their hearts in a manner that opened them up to whatever He was offering.

  • I was an atheist for twelve years. I was repulsed by “evangelistic” acts such as this. Why would anyone be attracted to the God this man described? It was a quiet Christian man who led me to God by his actions. He never talked about his faith unless asked. But he had a peace about him I wanted with every fiber of my being, and when I learned in a couple of sentences its source, I was on my way. I gave my heart to God at age 30.

    I continue to be dismayed at the certainty so many require of their faith. How can we humans possibly know The Truth and the mind of God? We who seek answers continue to shape our faith, an elastic puzzle that morphs into new forms as knowledge grows. The minute we discover a new aspect of God, a puzzle piece snicks into place. But then a new question arises and another gap appears, and we continue our journey in search of truth that never holds still.

  • I take offence to that, John. At no point have I displayed anger towards you, and when I put forward an opposing view, you have either censored, or ridiculed me.

    Let’s stay on point though, shall we? Just what is it that I have stated that is either angry, objectionable or incorrect?

  • Anonymous

    I can’t believe you’ve never been evangelized like that. I can’t imagine how many times this sort of thing has happened to me. What is UP with that?

  • Anonymous

    Birdie: very well said. And AMAZINGLY similar to what I once wrote, here:

  • I agree. That is a working definition of evangelisation.

  • I never suggested that John was heathen. I am sorry, but I have no idea where you got that idea.

    As for Deanna (whose comment has disappeared), I agree with you. She was acting in a good Baptist manner, but I fail to see how Baptists are no considered Christian. Do they not follow Christ’s teachings too?

    For my part, I try to be as good a person I can be. I am mindful of peoples reactions when I make a post, and only become angry when others do something to anger me. Just because I am a non-believer by no means equates to my not leading a life that Jesus would oppose. Or am I wrong?

  • Marcelo

    Tris, it appears that you are either an atheist or agnostic from your website and blog. Neither view being objectionable to me but isn’t it a bit objectionable to present a comment in this blog as if you are a believer, especially since some of the responses to you seem to assume so? If not, why not?

  • Anonymous

    Hi, Ng. Thanks for asking. Here’s a bit of what I think of the idea of anyone being “elected” by God:

  • Everyone seems to be hung up on the word ‘heathen’! No matter. You make a fair point, But where is the line drawn? If people have a personal relationship with Jesus, that is fine, but it never is personal. Religions are lobby groups that serve to organize that personal relationship, which might explain why there are over 36,000 Christian denominations, and what need does someone have of a personal relationship if it is shared. It is like saying that you believe in God because of someone else’s revelation. It is not YOUR revelation, so why buy it? I accept that many with a personal relationship with Jesus
    will have their own personal revelation, but that is meaningless to anyone but them.

    I agree with John. Evangelising in the manner described is specious and beneath people that claim to have this personal relationship with Jesus. I mean, just how can one advance a concept that is inherently personal?
    Smug? Ad hominem is a low form of argument.

  • When ever Mormon missionaries come knocking on my door, I politely say hello, shake their hands, and then tell them I’m gay. All the blood drains out of their faces as they try to figure out how best they can decontaminate their hands without being rude.

  • Wow! I mean just, wow! Do you really think that is what I am doing? You are SO wrong, Marcello. For the record, I am one of those crazy people that agree with the crazy theists that say one must have known God to reject him. I have never known God, so I am not an atheist. Agnosticism is not a valid position to hold. To say that one cannot know about the existence of a deity, is to tacitly not believe in a deity. I call myself either a non-believer or a partisan of free thought (I just like the way that sounds).

    If I appear to you like a theist, then I actually take some amount of pride from that. It proves that you think I am well versed enough on these matters to comment in the way I do.

    Thank you, I think.

  • I accept your point, but the problem of evangelisation still remains. Just how is one supposed to evangelise to others that do not want to hear? It is inherently egocentric and unwarranted, no matter how lovingly it is offered.

  • I wonder if the the faiths with the least intrinsic value on their own are the ones who sense the most that they need to utilize tactics such as these to attract people.

    I was a former Mormon missionary at age 19 in Brazil and the whole sales approach that was required of us sat very uncomfortably on my shoulders. When you realize that that whole program is designed to solidify the commitment of the missionary as much as it is to gain converts then you begin to see a sort of desperation in the entire faith structure.

    Why wasn’t my 19 years in the faith enough to entice me to stay without such wild measures?

  • Marcelo

    Uh, actually, I was about to respond to you because it appeared that you made some misapprehensions of Christian doctrine, so no, I didn’t think you were “well versed enough.” And…you didn’t answer my question, but I’m not surprised.

    And…you are a “non-believer” or a “partisan of free thought” but not an atheist or agnostic? You don’t have to “know God” in order to be an atheist. I’m afraid this is confusing, but more importantly, I don’t sense from you that this is going to be a productive discussion. I don’t engage with baiters.

    Have good day, though!

  • Marcelo

    Haha! Love it!

  • Mindy

    Tris, as an agnostic, I have to say I find you quite off-putting and arrogant. You appear to know everything already, so really, engaging with you in any kind of conversation seems completely pointless. Nice try, though.

  • Marcelo

    *sigh* You seem to be averaging one or two every week….

  • I have been a Christian most of my life, and I have NEVER been comfortable with the type of “evangelizing” you portrayed in your story. Yet it is something I have seen again and again, in my part of the super highway wide portion of the bible belt. Chick tracts have long been a popular method. I saw one just a few weeks ago on the toilet paper holder of a public restroom at a restaurant I went to eat at. Those things should be considered an abomination.

    At a public rally to protest an upcoming Pride march the rhetoric from the speakers was almost verbatim the type of things your “orange capped” friend said, but aimed at the gay community and any who supported them.

    I have been asked by clients about my level of faith while I am doing their hair! Thankfully I figure out how to change the subject in about 3 seconds. Or pick up the blow dryer and turn it on high, while saying “huh? What did you say dear?”

    As for Tris’s comment about the statement “Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you.” I believe that the key words servant and show need to be more strongly considered. To serve is literal, to help, to assist, to defer authority. To show is to demonstrate, to display. Neither need a whole lot of talking, just simple actions that often have a far better, much more positive impact then accosting people with negative messages, especially when the word “love” gets tossed in there. To me using love that way is highly conditional, and is about as far as the actual proper use or meaning as one can get.

  • What a cop out. If you don’t wish to approach the issues I have raised, that is fine, but to attack me as being arrogant smacks a little of pot and kettle talk.

    If you think I am wrong about what I state about agnosticism, then have the nuts to defend your position, or stfu.

    Now, I AM angry.

  • Ace

    Wow! I mean just, wow! That is exactly what you are doing.

    You are not participating this conversation honestly, that much is quite obvious at this juncture.

    If people react badly to smug, condescending evangelizers, why do they think they would react differently to other smug, condescending people?

    You smell like troll, sorry.

  • Ace

    (In fact, I think John made a post about people exactly like you a while ago, I think it was called “Silly Putty People” or similar. I suggest you go find it and read if you think it’s not obvious to all and sundry just where you are coming from here)

  • Marcelo

    Mindy, Exhibit A…. 🙂

  • And yet you feel it necessary to tell me that.

    I did answer your question, at least the best way I could. It is not my responsibility how people take my posts, and you were wrong to call me an atheist or an agnostic. I am neither.

    The very term is steeped in theistic terminology, derived, as it must do from its necessary progenitor – theism. I subscribe to neither. I am well aware of atheists claiming that is the lack of belief in any god or deity, but the truth of the matter is that atheism is too broad and interpretatively ascribed. I do not believe, therefore I am a non-believer.

    To be entirely true to answering your question: No. It is not objectionable, because you have totally misunderstood the tenet of my post.

    By your reckoning, you didn’t answer my question either.

  • By besmirching my character in the way you have, you have proven our self to be just the sort of person that people like me despise religion for. Your attack is way off mark and totally uncalled for. You want to keep to the point? Then do so.

    Answer this question: Given the fact that Jesus is accepted as a teacher and evangeliser by Christianity, why is it not okay to teach and evangelise in the manner seen by the orange cap brigade?

    Attack me again without approaching the issues I have raised, and you will only serve to prove that it is you that is the troll. I am here to discuss the issues raised by John’s post. Why are you here?

  • Now I wish I was evangelicized more. Brilliant, Amradorn! ^_^

  • chellee

    John IS a saint. All who walk in truth…I believe ARE saints. Add to that John’s patient and very respectful responses to things like antagonistic game playing?……yup!!! He’s most DEFINITELY a saint! 😀

  • My brother in law was raised gay, so my daughter and her mother in law have had more then their share of visits from missionaries. Often it is a pair of young men, barely out of high school, who may feel out of their depth in a strange neighborhood. One pair made daily visits to the MIL’s house, the week they were in the area because she just let them hang out for a bit, no strings attached. My daughter was often there. It was a bit odd, but these women handled the matter beautifully. I do wonder what those boys took away from the experience, but I suspect it was positive considering how decently I know that my daughter and her mother inlaw handled things.

  • Anonymous
  • Ace

    It’s actually quite obvious you’re not here to discuss anything, just play games with us. I’m not really in the mood for games. Your faux-indignation fails to impress as well.

    Oh, look what I found:

  • chellee

    I don’t read a compliment in Marcelo’s comment. I also did not see ANY suggestion of you “being well versed enough in any matters to comment the way you do.”
    I’ve always told my children, “Saying it’s true doesn’t make it true!”
    Be careful, Tris. You want to preserve your dignity and your credibility, don’tcha???

  • Ace

    Oh, we found the link at the same time. Are you borrowing my brain? 😛

  • Marcelo

    True dat.

  • Ric

    Well, so much for your ignore plea.

  • Ace

    Chellee, Tris is just trying to play Derailing for Dummies but happens to rather suck at it.

    Dignity and credibility are unlikely to be in his goals, just pissing off the silly ickle Christians (which he’s not even doing that particularly well, as at this point I’m more inclined to just point and laugh at such transparent trollery).

  • Marcelo

    “Silly Puttier.” Don’t know why, but the image popped into my head of my pathetic attempts to spackle at home.

  • I have seen precious little dignity in the responses I have received thus far. Hardly anyone has so much as approached the tenet of my post, and I have been accused of a great many things that are not demonstrable, ill-conceived and outright wrong.

    You, yourself, comment on my retort to a wholly irrelevant and factually wrong attack on the nature of what I have written, rather than concentrating on the issues raised by my original post.

    Why will so few people approach the valid issue I have raised, and why do so many seek to resort to attacking me?

    I am shocked by the level of indifference and misrepresentation that I have faced for making what I feel to be a perfectly valid observation. Your post is further evidence of this.

  • No I am not! I am trying to illicit responses to my original post. Nothing more.

  • How many examples are there going to be of people attacking my character without so much a tip of the hat to my original post?

    Ad hominem attacks are specious and irrelevant. It is not I that is trolling.

  • Ace

    Raised gay? Or raised Mormon? O.o;

    Can you be “raised gay”??? I think that was a mistype?

  • I AM HERE TO DISCUSS! How many times do I have to repeat this?

    Why don’t you approach my original post and see, rather than attacking my character?

    I can assure you, my indignation is very real.

  • Anonymous

    Are you gay? If not you could end up in H E double hockey sticks for telling those young Mormon boys a big fat lie. All seriousness aside, when faced with the same doorway evangelism, I launch the “salvation by works” argument. The counter argument usually goes something like, “don’t you care if your neighbor goes to he’ll or not? Of course I do. I just don’t think that a person who feels secure in life, can be warned that their average human life will result in eternal separation from God.

    The door to door drill that seem only routine for JWs and LDS, gives them what they are looking for. The sense that they have just done God’s work and temporarily have their own sense of security. That is, until the stake leader tells them it’s time to go out and share the message of the Latter Day Saints. The JWs don’t seem to get it. I will bring up how Jesus brought healing to cripples. What future do people who can’t walk door to door have with Jehovah’s Witness? Are they doomed to perdition because they were unfortunate enough to be born without mobility?

    For way too many, it all seems to boil down to works. Man knocking on man’s door. Whether it is a literal knock on a front door, a tract handed out in a shopping mall, or like the Calvary Chapel guy in John’s story. Revelation says that the Lord stands at the door and knocks. If any man open the door unto Him, He will come in and sup with him. That door is the internal portal of a man’s conscience. Until the conviction of the Holy Spirit rings a person’s bell, they will not receive anyone else in His name.

    I do think that there are opportunities for a believer to share their faith. But I’ve never known cold calls for Christ to be an effective mode of MLM for God.

  • Ace

    If by some scant chance you are not a troll, the fact that everyone here thinks you are a troll ought to tell you something about the manner in which you present yourself and your arguments.

  • Ace

    (and before you cry that you are being targeted, there are numerous athiest such as tildeb and agnostics such as mindy that get along just fine here, so don’t bother playing that card)

  • Ace

    Now, what fun would that be?!?

  • Ric

    haha, I’ll give you an “A” for effort, Ace. And good on the silly putty call.

  • Anonymous

    Wow. I didn’t realize Calvary Chapels did that style of evangelism.

    One thing I find odd about the great commission (which is the main impetus for this style of interaction) is that so few look at the wording. It says “make DISCIPLES of all nations…” In my thinking, you cannot make a disciple of one who doesn’t yet believe. Belief must occur first. That comes by hearing the gospel message and having the conviction of the Holy Spirit draw you to a crossroads decision within your own heart. That is not the work of man. Once a person believes, they receive others who also believe. THEN discipleship can happen.

    I suppose if a believer wants to attempt spurring new belief, they could knock on a door, stand there and read John 3:16 or whatever passage they feels makes clear that God loves us all just as we are, look up, smile, maybe ask if they have any questions about God we could try and answer, then apologize on behalf of anyone else who ever made them feel as though God hated them. That would be a refreshing start to the old door to door schpeal.

  • Well, you’re right to a point. Damascus is kind of a unique situation because I have no idea how to do exactly like Jesus in that situation and appear in a vision to people. If you know how, let me know. 😉

    Sharing your faith is an important part of being Christian. Throughout the New Testament you see the twelve disciples going out to different cities and talking to people.

    But, take the woman at the well for an example. He did tell her that she can drink water, but the kind of expansive love that he offers is like living water. He did not however tell her that if she didn’t take him up on the offer that she was going to burn in hell, and that she was condemning herself to hell if she walks away, etc.

    And seriously, the way this kid approached it was fear-mongering. Jesus did not fear-monger. Besides, if you’re only accepting something out of fear, it’s not really genuine, is it?

    Plus, you have to go back to “do unto others what you would have them do unto you, this sums up the laws and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12) Think about it. Would you like to be converted in that manner? I sure wouldn’t. I would be offended, irritated, and if anything they would push me away from Christianity and not towards it. Jesus was all about making people whole. If I don’t approach others with respect, dignity, and giving them the respect of an equal, they won’t listen to me anyways.

    So, you’re right kind of. I’d just honestly rather not be brazen and rude. I don’t see that example. (Unless he’s talking to the Pharisees, which funny enough, were the pristine religious group at the time.)

  • I responded to your question up there, someplace. You raised a good point.

  • Don Whitt


    You’re observation begins with a dogmatic, narrow assumption about Christianity and what it means to be a Christian and, therefore, is flawed by it’s narrow framing.

    That’s why people assume you’re looking for a fight.

  • Ace

    The term is “straw-man argument” I think.

  • I attended a Calvary Chapel in Seattle, back in the 1990’s. It was the church that drove me from Christianity. The ultimate straw was my divorce and the subsequent treatment by people there — the first order of business was to try and shame me into staying married, the second order of business, when it was apparent the first wasn’t working, was to treat me like a leper.

    People were “strongly encouraged” to take the Monday night evangelism class. I don’t know about other Calvary’s, but this one utilized D. James Kennedy’s program. And program it is. You are taught a methodology of evangelizing, and then once you have passed certain key units of study, you are put on the streets in groups of three to do street evangelizing.

    It was so uncomfortable for me. I like to share my opinion with others, but usually when its a forum that invites participation, like my blog, or a discussion group. I find it repellent to be approached by salespeople and people pushing their religious beliefs, had always always hated when the JW’s came knocking, so it was really awkward for me to be put inthe position of doing something to other people that I hated to have done to me. It was such a relief to hang up the reins on that endeavor and just be able to be a “normal” person again, not a member of what was beginning to feel like a cult.

  • Also wanted to mention that it just bugs the living crap out of me that some people think you can’t be a Christian and practice meditation or yoga or other like activities. Puhleeze.

    A friend commented on the FSM emblem on my car. I just said “I’m a liberal heathen Christian. At my church it’s OK to be a Pastafarian too,” and left it at that.

  • DR


    I’m not sure who you’re used to dealing with, but on this blog you’re contending with some fairly bright individuals. To make a claim that you weren’t angry is a little odd – in reading your blog for five seconds, it’s clear that you were already angry prior to even commenting here.

    Second, you are objectionable because you are acting just like this young man did that John references. Your questions and attempts at conversation are actually neither of those two things at their core- they are bait offered to draw others in to a conversation you are determined to have at any cost. You have decided you are right, and that people here need to know it. So you will use any means necessary to show it. You are a fundamentalist evangelist. You simply have another agenda, another message that you were intent on communicating. But don’t fool yourself, you are cut from the exact same cloth this young man is. So far you’ve found a way to dismiss each opportunity to display an openness to simply correcting how you’re communicating in order to be understood and understand others.

  • DR


    Simply put, you have decided to despise religion. So any data that comes your way, *particularly* someone who is actually – gasp – *challenging* your style? You’re going to simply fold that in as another reason why. As you’ve offered earlier, you’re not responsible for people misunderstanding you. In part I think that’s true, we all read what we read based on our own filters. But in stating that, be mindful of your own. Yours are firmly in place. So to apply your own logic? We’re not responsible for you despising religion. You’ve already decided to, and given that there’s really no one who will change your mind. I’m not going to treat you like some child who needs to be convinced or coddled. You’re not here to actually learn. You’re here to “Luther” us up, pinning your protests to the Church doors. And that’s fine, but let’s not pretend that you’re here for anything else but that. Come on. No one is stupid.

  • DR

    Your original comment was manipulative and put words in John’s mouth. Go back and read it. If you were here to “discuss”, you’d actually be offering opinions instead of drawing summary conclusions and then bristling and crying “I’m being attacked” . Slow down and if you’re here for conversation? Consider entering into dialogue taking some responsibility for the first impression you created and change your style so you’re less misunderstood. In other words, lose the temper tantrum because you don’t get to dictate the conversation according to the direction you’d like to see it take.

  • Ace

    I almost got one of those flying spaghetti monster bumper decorations, then remembered I lived in the middle of the bible belt and was too afraid lest my car would be vandalized by some overzealous twerp. :

    “liberal heathen Christian” I like that, LOL. I may steal that. 😉

  • Shadsie

    This is one of the reasons why I like Universalist thought, and one of the reasons why, even if eventual reconcilliation of all doesn’t turn out to be true, that God must give people another chance to find him *after* they die. Too many of his followers are very, very good at driving souls away. Between the stories of wounding I’ve seen atheists share about their strict/controlling/angry Christian families and stories like crazy public preachers, I think he’d kind of have to give souls another chance.

    I remember, when younger, sometimes I’d feel this urge to preach to people and I’d act on it even if I didn’t want to because I thought it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit, when, in hindsight, I could see it was my own crazy with poor impulse control. I acted on feelings without a lot of wisdom because Christianity was this shiny new thing for me and I wanted to do the right thing (turns out, I wound up preaching to some “already saved.”) Again, I’m inclined to blame a lot of weirdness of my past on my recently-diagnosed-and-treated functional mental illness. Maybe all your parking lot preacher needed was some lithium? Sounds a lot like a mania combined with “I’ve found something shiny and am worried about doing the right thing.”

    The only time I ever left tracts for anyone though was just flyers on mailboxes for my old church’s Vacation Bible School – just informing area parents that this was something fun they could send their kids to for a week. I once got a Chick Tract on my car in a college parking lot, though – I think it was something about how Rock N’ Roll is evil and will send me to Hell. I got in my car and cranked up my local rock station for the drive home.

  • DR

    Dear Tris,

    From your own blog:

    “mygodlesslife’ is a reaction to inaction, a philiosophical challenge to the phlosophically challenged and a ‘fuck you’ to those that wish to subjugate and dictate to me with their 2000 year old myths.”

    You’ve just entered into a blog with people you’ve already told to fuck off. But you’re not angry, you’re just a victim. You’re just here for conversation – right? How does that go again?

  • Ric

    In some parallel, Fringe-stylized universe (which is not too far away, actually) a non-believer has, just today, blogged about a particularly obnoxious, arrogant, self-righteous evangelist he suffered long ago while walking home from church one day. While the confused, wiki-wielding crusader was not wearing any orange, he was quite obviously an overexposed avatar for the cause.

  • Oops, not up there. It’s further down in all the comments.

  • Anonymous

    lol I may have to hold that in reserve. Granted it would be a mild fib, but one should have fall-back positions.

    Generally saying “I’m Unitarian” is enough to get them to skedaddle.

  • Tris, your last paragraph is true. That’s the big question, and also why I believe that we have to leave it up to God to decide who makes it and who doesn’t. If I spend all my time just sitting around, scaring people into Heaven, being judgmental, etc. but then my atheist neighbor is loving, spends his time doing community service, being a tutor to kids in need, gives to charities, and is a great citizen, how is that fair? Who am I to say that I’m the one, just because I said the Sinner’s Prayer when I was 5, am the one who is going to the good place upstairs? It’s something I have no idea how to answer.Baptists are considered Christians, it’s just that in my experience (at the least the ones I know) they are very legalistic. Strict, rule-based, conservative, must maintain appearances of perfection, discourages questions. For a long time I was a “good little Baptist girl”. I did what they told me, thought they knew best and tried to do well in their eyes. In the end I offended people, was hurt by them because I couldn’t keep up and was nearly thrown out when I started questioning the methods of the staff and my faith. It stressed me out, and I missed the entire point of religion, which is morality (being a compassionate, kind person with open arms) and love.So, I still technically call myself a Christian, but I try to live in a way that more closely matches Jesus instead of what closely matches my pastor and Focus on the Family.

  • Anonymous

    LOL I love it. I’m going to have to remember that. Granted it would be a mild fib, but one should always have something held in reserve in such situations.

    If the door-knockers seem to be very polite, I usually kill them with kindness – “Oh, I’m soooooo happy to see you have found a path that suits you! Good luck!” Generally just saying “Hi, I’m Unitarian!” is enough to get them to skedaddle.

    For the really rude ones (“You’re going to hell!”), I ask if they are going get the Easter Bunny to attack me or something.

  • John…..the point to all this is? John are you protesting the fact that someone went out of their way to persuade you to consider getting to know Jesus Who can show you LOVE as you’ve never known before? Jesus says that by preaching the name of Jesus we are saving people from the very flames of hell! The fact that you want Christians to stop “bothering” you and you shame them for loving you and following their faith causes me to lose faith in Zen. I believe in respecting all people and beliefs and from what I understand from studying Zen is that there is no shame. Sorry I just realized I’m commenting to the wrong person….oops

  • “liberal heathen Christian

    that is me too!

  • I understand your point of bringing up ‘abrasive’ evangelizing. What Mr. Orange Cap said was somewhat true to his understanding, but, as you mentioned, was not coupled with love. However, it obviously stuck with you, and yet you ended up finding Xtianity anyway.

    Maybe what Mr. Orange Cap did and said was “supposed” to happen in order to stick with you all this time to instiga–er –start a healthy discussion about Christians trying to spread the gospel. 😉

    Truth without love is legalism;
    Love without truth is sentimentality

  • Stormy

    What was your point exactly, Tris?

  • Allen

    OK, I am going to just bypass all this whether-Tris-is-worth-talking-to stuff. Kathy Curtis Anderson’s post is interesting, and shows why Evangelism as perpetrated on John and Cat so often gets this kind of response.

    Right off, Kathy mentions that Jesus LOVES people. Not ever mentioned by Mr. Orange Hat. If Christianity is based entirely on a fear of eternal damnation, and someone dying for my sins, then someone has done some serious misinterpretation along the way, and I hope it isn’t me .

  • Anonymous

    I sort of do think that, actually….

  • Marcelo

    I agree! If God is God, He can take anything–including something negative–and make it work towards His plan… 🙂

  • Thank you, Ace.

    And I agree that this community has, as DR pointed out, many quite intelligent and articulate and nice commenters (commentators?). I’ve learned quite a bit here not just from John’s posts that are always thought-provoking and usually quite entertaining but especially from the varied people who offer up their own opinions. I have had many beneficial conversations (for me, at any rate). And still, some people think many of my points are WRONG! I KNOW! Hard to imagine, but I shall continue to hold out that everyone else in the world will come around to my point of view eventually.

  • Exactly my question: HOW can one be “raised” gay, and WHAT does that mean!? (Very KoNpHuZeD – [konphuzed = confused] – here, now!)

  • Very KoNpHuZeD – [konphuzed = confused]: “raised” gay!?!?!?

  • I am/have been many things. I am/have been a son, grandson, brother, nephew, cousin, significant other, gay, Christian (Lutheran, Calvinist, Charismatic, Assembly of God, Church of God, Foursquare, Pentecostal Holiness, Baptist, etc.), and more.

    Many of the things I am ashamed of, that I have said, done, or failed to say or do.

    Two biggies for me were my days of involvement in Jim Bakker’s PTL Club, which came later, and my initiation into radical rabid fanatical Charismatic neo-Pentecostalism.

    It was the Calvinist church. The minister became charismatic (nondenominationally pentecostal). The church split in two over it, and we left, with him, not knowing what we were getting into.

    In due time, we learned. By then he was rabidly frothing at the mouth about demons in every corner of one’s life, and on about how a Christian wife was duty bound to honor her unsaved husband so much that if he order her to commit adultery that she had to obey him. He also said she could not directly pray to God if her husband was a Christian, but that her husband had to mediate with God on her behalf. His church elders were voted in for life.

    When we left, two of them came over, raging at us, bellowing, in our house, that God would not bless this action we were taking. They were trying to terrify us into obeying and staying with them. I was in the kitchen, hanging back, listening. One of them turned on me with venomous rage snarling “I SEE you LURKING in there! You GET IN HERE NOW” he bellowed.

    That did not set well with my mother, who barked equally strongly at me “You stay right where you are!”

    Man, did I ever back up FAST. I was way more terrified of mama than of that man. I was 15!

    But what shames me is our weekly “witnessing” we did, that I engaged in, with them.

    I remember us going door to door, trying to invite people to church, trying to shove Christian “tracts” (like this one: in their face.

    We met a gentle Roman Catholic Latino lady, who said in mildly broken English no thank you, she was Catholic.

    We left, slowly, jeering and sneering at her, literally, as we shouted with haughty arrogance and pompous stupidity that we “felt sorry” for her because she was “going to hell” – etc.

    I can still hear our voices in my head, a good 37 or 38 years ago, now.

    I am more ashamed of myself, then, and so much of what I did “in the name of Christ,” than I can every hope to convey.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Tris, just a FYI with your first post I thought you were a Christian. You know, the way you wrote it, I jsut assumed you were a hristian. I was therefore pretty surprised when John wrote to watch out for you. I didn’t think he was being very nice to you. But now I have read the discussion down to here and I get it. Your best approach is to not try and fake people out (like I was faked out) pretending to be a Christian, make your same points but in the real person that you are. FWIW, you did fake me out and I was still thinking people were making a mistake about you for a few of the earlier posts but they all saw through you. Just be honest, like the other non-christians who comment here.

  • StraightGrandmother

    I pushed the “Like” button 3 times, I hope they all show up.

    Love , love, love this = “So, I still technically call myself a Christian, but I try to live in a way that more closely matches Jesus instead of what closely matches my pastor and Focus on the Family.” Belisimo, MWAH

  • StraightGrandmother

    I do think Jesus had it much easier though, I mean he preformed miracles. Much easier to draw people to you when you whip out a miracle. The very best “evangilist” I have know is a very simple woman who has a certain calming and loving persona that makes you drawn to her. Never ever once did I ever hear her quote scripture. She has a way of communicating her deep faith in a way that made you want to learn more, it was more of the gentle comments she would make espcieally her compassion for the less fortunate.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Amradorn, Ha-ha-ha-ha! You win the prize for the best response ever.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Me too, how can you be “raised gay?” The only thing that cmes to mind is that as a child he was obviously transgender so his parents raised him in the gender he identified with. Could this be it?

  • Ace

    You and I and everyone else here have had our differences, but at least you don’t insult our intelligence with a load of cheap diversionary tactics… *kof*

    People generally know when they are being screwed around with, and generally resent it. As Tris has found out today.

  • StraightGrandmother

    I don’t think I did evangalizing. When I was a teenager our youth group decided for a project we would go around the neighborhood around our church and knock on doors and invite people to church. Here is what we said, “Hi I’m from the Luthran church down the street. I just wanted to let you know that if you are not a member of any church that you would be welcomed at our church. There are 2 church services one at 8am and one at 11am. You are welcome to stop over any Sunday” And that is all we said. It didn’t make me uncomforatble at all. And actually it did work a few new local neighbors showed up in church but I dont’ remember if they joined or not. I think that was a good approach.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Well look at it this way, at least you wised up. None of us can go back and change our pasts, the only thing we can do is do the best we can now and in the future. My sister has a saying, “Don’t worry about things you cannot change” You can’t change the past so just focus on today. ((HUGS))

  • Jkhp

    Dance or wail? Some people don’t like either…… They didn’t particularly like most of the things the Lord said either, but that didn’t make them any less true! Christians are not very good at purveying such excellent precious truths, but the Lord assigned it to them anyway!

    Makes you wonder why He didn’t send the angels instead. God bless that young man for trying!

  • Thanks! You’re sweet.

  • Marcelo

    You know, I’m curious. Does anyone know anybody who has been converted using this method and particularly in the fashion that young Mr. Orange Hat employed?

  • “I shall continue to hold out that everyone else in the world will come around to my point of view eventually.”

    Maybe if you stood in front of churches, with pamphlets on the evils of homeopathy in your hand, shouting loudly that only the miracles of medicine will save them, you’d have more success. ^_^

    (But don’t get run over by an enraged [or myopic] Christian… I still need you to explain this scientific morality to me!)

  • “I shall continue to hold out that everyone else in the world will come around to my point of view eventually.”

    Maybe if you stood in front of churches, with pamphlets on the evils of homeopathy in your hand, shouting loudly that only the miracles of medicine will save them, you’d have more success. ^_^

    (But don’t get run over by an enraged [or myopic] Christian… I still need you to explain this scientific morality to me!)

  • Anonymous

    The fact that Jesus seemed keen to pick the d-bags of that culture says something to me. I suppose if Mr. Orange cap was loving, eloquent, and made all the right points, and those points compelled you to convert to Christianity, in some ways, man would get the glory for your conversion. Two college age Christians that lived in my apartment complex said all the wrong things, made me profoundly uncomfortable, and came off very insecure and even angry. YET, the things they shared from the Bible didn’t return void. They did stick with me. I thought about those things a lot. I think God has a way of even redeeming our worst for someone else’s best. Yet, I still think anything done without love being the motivation, we become tinkling weener and a sounding ass.

  • How about: Get to really know peeps befor presuming you can tell if they need saving. Understand how they see the world and learn to speak their languge, address their actual spiritual needs, stay aware that salvation is a process that nobody is ever done with and try to learn from them while you pass them some of your wisdom and experience. And never be too certain that you really know God’s will.

  • Diana A.

    Aw. Poor baby.

  • I agree — my initial thought after encountering one of these folks is that they might have better luck if they’d shut up for a minute and a half and let God get a word in edgewise. Christ admonishes his disciples to plant the seed and then move on, not to stay and harangue folks into believing. To expect folks to capitulate immediately is an ego-driven attitude, not a Christian one. People don’t convert other people, the Holy Spirit does.

  • Diana A.

    Thanks, John. This puts the whole thing in perspective.

  • Diana A.

    Thanks, John. This puts the whole thing in perspective.

  • Diana A.

    “Be careful, Tris. You want to preserve your dignity and your credibility, don’tcha??? ”

    I rather suspect not.

  • Nohell

    What is really fun is to say to these people, “I have really good news for you. There is no hell!” They really, really want there to be one. Our Native American friends never heard about this place until people brought the good book over here.

    On another note how would you like to be sent to a place for eternity that doesn’t exist? You would be wishing for the real thing wouldn’t you?

  • Shadsie

    I’m not paying too much attention to what’s going on with Tris here, but clicked your link.

    Thank you for pointing out that site! Looking it over, I can see how it applies to sooo many Internet conversations and fights I’ve seen on a variety of subjects: Everything from religion and politics to geek fandom theories!

    It’s kind of like Flame Warriors! Just shows the amusing predicatbility of human nature.

  • Diana A.

    “And seriously, the way this kid approached it was fear-mongering. Jesus did not fear-monger. Besides, if you’re only accepting something out of fear, it’s not really genuine, is it?” I love this. This is so true.

  • Ha!

    (I, of course, write with tongue firmly planted in cheek)

    As for the scientific morality, fascinating, fascinating, fascinating. I’ll be getting back to you on this.

  • DR

    Kathy, with all due respect – your lack of getting how someone telling a total stranger that his spiritual practice is going to land him in hell and then BLOCKING HIS CAR (not yelling, just emphasizing) – is freaking me out. That is not behavior that Jesus ever did. He never forced himself on anyone. It was an invitation. He *knew* men’s hearts and more often than not even knowing the state of the heart of the one in front of Him? He *still* made it personal.

    Just vomiting up “Jesus has to be your personal savior or you are going to hell” is not evangelism. It’s just not. As a matter of fact, it is desecrates true evangelism with is a sacred, special calling. Just wandering up to a stranger and talking at them is not evangelism. That you don’t get that scares me to death, I have to be honest.

  • Anonymous

    Wow. Sane much?

  • Anonymous

    Wow. Sane much?

  • yeah that was a mis-type, O totally meant raised Mormon. Of course I wrote that and headed off to work, blissfully ignorant of my faux pax.

  • I personally don’t know of any.

  • Ace

    Well, he’s a victim of not being able to spell “philosophical” at least…

  • Ace

    It seems like a better method than yelling at someone that they are going to hell, anyway.

    People respond better to an open hand than a closed fist, generally.

  • Ace

    I know quite a few people who have been converted that way…. to rabid atheism. *kof*

    It’s truly counter-productive.

  • KOF? Kentucky Optometric Foundation? Kelly Osbourne Fans? Keepers Of Faith?

    Okay, I give. What does it mean?

  • Ace

    It’s the sound you make when a bit of fluff gets stuck in your throat. *kofkof*

  • Tell me how your response to John Shore is any less dignified that the responses to your posts and I’ll believe you when you whine about being a victim (as so many evangelical Christians do).

  • Kim J.


  • Don Rappe

    I see no relationship between the actions of the young man and Biblical faith as I understand it. I see no reason to think of it as gospel proclaiming, i.e., not evangelism.

  • Shadsie

    Holding out for the day everyone comes around to your way of thinking?

    Don’t hold your breath!

    Not an insult to your views – it’s just that – that is the way it is with everybody. I’ve learned in life, particularly in conversations on heavy issues (especially on the Internet) that… you just have to come to an acceptance that no matter how right you are about something, there are people out there that will *die* before they ever come around to your way of thinking. To ease your own stress about it, you have to come to the acceptance that “It’s okay” or else ignore those people and go play videogames or something.

    I mean, I like Tabasco sauce. I know not everyone can handle the spicy. Some people like raw celery and I can’t stand the stuff.

  • Shadsie

    My man has told me about what one of his sisters used to do – that is, when she had a pet snake. She’d open the door holding the snake, letting it climb on her – and that would scare people really quick. She’s Wiccan, too, so I don’t know if she’d be wearing something Wiccan-like, too, or what…

    Then there’s what I’ve done when JW’s have come to my door. I’ve always been polite and nice to them. It really seems to surprise them – to have someone who’s *not* slamming a door in their faces. I just like that feeling, seeing them with the “What, she’s actually talking to us?” looks on their faces.

    Most of the time, however, I do what I do when *anybody* I haven’t invited over knocks on my door: Hide and hope the lights are off and they go away thinking no one’s home. I am not the most social of creatures.

  • Shadsie

    Some of the stories people have about gospel tracks reminded me of a funny story.

    A little background: Back when I could afford it, I used to enjoy going to anime’conventions. Anime is, of course, Japanese animation – though these nerd conventions often cover other things, such as games and whatnot. Back in 2003, I got to go to my very first con – and, back then, I was quite obessed, specifically, with an anime series called “Trigun.”

    I *STILL* love Trigun, but – this is important – one of the principal characters of Trigun is a shifty priest who carries a huge cross with him everywhere he goes. Since this anime is set on a wild west desert planet and is about gunslingers, this priest’s “sign of faith” is *actually a huge-fricking gun!* It’s actually a storage unit for multiple pistols and doubles as a rocket-launcher. The crux of the cross is the trigger and the long portion is what shoots the missles. It’s really a very cool arsenal. The priest character keeps this cross wrapped up in a cloth so people don’t know what it is at first.

    Many people who go to anime conventions like to cosplay – that is, dress up as favorite characters, sometimes with props. I was hanging out in the Arists’ Alley section of Anime Expo 2003 taking a rest from walking around and talking casually with a couple of cosplayers who were both dressed as this priest- character. One of them had his very own prop-cross that he had leaning against a pillar.

    The convention hall had another convention at the same time as the nerd-a-thon. Some televangelist’s retreat.

    I watched, not knowing what to do, mouth agape, as someone from the Christian convention came up, drawn, as if by a magnet *to the cross* and slip a tract in it. The cosplayer who owned the cross turned, saw the tract, I told him what I just saw, and we were all “What the-?”

    It was funny because it was like – the guy stuck a tract *in a cross.*

    By the way, if your interest is at all peaked by the anime I mentioned, – despite being full of guns, Trigun is actually a rather beautiful story that has a lot to say about redemption. The shady priest gets his own redemption story in the end, and I kind of like to to describe the pacifist gunman (yes, you read that right) main character as being “Kind of like Jesus with a gun.” He tries to spread Love and Peace over his planet.

    Yep, guy stuck a tract right in a cross.

  • Of course, some Christians go beyond shouting to spread the good message. And seriously stand up for their right live by the Word of Love and Compassion.

  • Please do. Seriously. No snark.

  • Yes, I really am. =)

  • Anonymous

    When counting the cost of Christianity, I was painfully aware of it’s dark side. The last thing I wanted, was to be associated with the long tradition of hypocrisy that has followed church history. I heard the voice of reason speak within saying, darkness and hypocrisy are inexorably tied to being human. We walk, we fall, we get up, we fall again. We learn, slowly, surely, but we still fall no matter how much practice…no matter how disciplined. As many times as I fail, He said that many times and far more He will forgive if I seek reconciliation.

    He is the Lord of second chances…third, fourth, fifth….what was the number? Seventy times seven? Does that mean after 490 faults I have exhausted God’s forgiveness? I don’t think so. I think if I can forgive seventy times, I can forgive seventy-thousand times. My days will expire before that number does. If I count up to 490 and cease to forgive, I don’t believe for one minute that any of those numbered forgivenesses were actual counts of forgiveness in the first place.

    No matter what discipline we follow, if we honestly seek God with a whole heart, I believe He is found. How that plays out is as personal and unique as our own set of fingerprints, or the number of hairs on our head.

  • Hmm. I know I’m inviting Tildeb’s argumenative wrath again, but, anyone who says there is “no hell” obviously has never had his heart torn out, has never had his deepest trust betrayed, has never lost loved ones under unbearably painfull circumstances, has never felt excluded from love or acceptance, has never felt to be truly worthless, or utterly hopeless, or really, really alone.
    Hell is not a physical place, of course, it is a state of mind. But it is more than depression (though it can of cause cause, accompany, or be caused by depression), more than physical or emotional suffering. Hell is a state of being cut of from himself, from the world, from humanity – from God and his own soul.
    And hell is both eternal and yet can be overcome and left behind: Because being in hell means being cut of from the refuge of happy memories (in hell even happy memories, by being past, turn into a poisonous source of constant agony), and from the expectation of the future (since there exists no true, heartfelt hope that things could ever get better again). In hell there is no cool, refreshing dusk, no colourful, promissing dawn, just endless, frozen night or an endless scorching noon, with no shelter.
    Ironically the way out of hell is not fleeing from it – any attempt to protect yourself, to hide, to run, to cower, just drives you deeper into it, increases its power over you. Hell is eternal and neverending – its borders are not on it’s outside, but in its centre. There were the flames of guilt, of fear, of self-loathing, of despair burn hottest: It is only by accepting it’s punishment, by fully experiencing the pain it offers, by giving in to grief, by allowing your soul to be cleansed of despair and regret and shame and unfulfillable desires in the purgatory of suffering the loss in fullness, that we can escape from hell.
    So, peeps who commit suicide are in hell. Only it is not the punishment for the suicide, the suicide is the desperate attempt to escape, and by that the final admission that there truly is no hope, no life left.
    Hell is real. The sins that condemn us to it are lack of faith, lack of acceptance, lack of humility, and lack of perseverence. That doesn’t make it fair, no more than a tsunami is fair. But it doesn’t make it any less real, either.

  • Anonymous

    Attempted reconciliation is never a mistake. However, it’s wrong for anyone to guilt someone into it. Yet such guilting is often a natural response outside the church as well.

    I do agree with you on the forced witnessing stuff. Jesus was a friend first and a priest second. He met the practical need before the spiritual need. If we hope to share our gospel with an unbeliever, we must earn the right to be heard. We must prove we love them in a practical way before we can stick our spiritual foot in their door.

  • someoneLooking

    My son shared with me his recent evangelizing experience:

    He’s involved with a church that is not “SB” (southern baptist) in a city he has recently moved to. One of the members invited him to go out on a Saturday evening to tell about Jesus. He was a bit apprehensive because of his experience with the SB church involvement in his youth. However, it was a chance to hang out with new friends, so he went. They walked around the city about 2 hours, looking at people, places, interesting sights. All of a sudden his friend stopped a young lady and asked if they could pray for her about anything. The lady told them that her boyfriend was a military member and would be deployed soon, and would they pray for him. So that is what they did, the 3 of them, right there on the street corner…..a random encounter, which I am sure was orchestrated by God. After they prayed, they invited the young lady to church. They then walked around another 30 minutes or so, and then took their leave of each other. My son was so excited about this type of evangelism. He told me that he felt like God was right there with them.

    John, you cause me to question old beliefs, and I appreciate that. Many things are working in my life right now to bring me closer to God, this blog being one of them. As many times as I’ve disagreed with what you’ve written, I still come back. Thanks for challenging my preconceived ideas.

  • Shadsie

    By your description, I’ve been to Hell and back many times. The way out has been admitting that I needed help and being helped. Maybe that’s how it is in the spiritual plane, as well – Jesus offers the help – those who suffer “Hell” are those who are too proud and refuse the help – for as long as they refuse it.

    I honestly don’t know what the concepts associated with “Hell” are anymore (or if they are eternal – I like the idea of Universalism with all reconciled to God, but, like many things, I say “I don’t know”). I just know that the imagery of “living flesh seared off the bones” never really made sense to me because, if it’s a place people’s disembodied souls go after they die, they don’t exactly have the flesh to sear.

    Then, in response to above “people wanting there to be Hell” I immediately thought of something I’ve written for a fantasy novel I wrote/am editing/am working on. I’m not an actual bonafide published novelist or anything – Everything I do is met with many rejection letters, but I still try because I enjoy writing fiction, even if only a few people ever read it.

    Anyway, I had this scene where my main characters were present at the execution of a criminal that one of my characters caught and brought to the authorities. My main characters are not native to the city they are in at the time and are from a place where people believe in supernatural things (the book revolves around guardian-entities). The city they are in is (well-run) and has a majority population that doesn’t hold to any supernatural concepts. My main characters do have a vauge believe in an afterlife and they know that most of the people in this city do not. The character who caught the criminal (a serial killer) thinks about this for a moment before the hanging commences and feels a touch of sorrow for the families of the man’s victims because they don’t have the solace of them “being in a better place” nor do they have the idea that the killer is going to suffer for what he did to his victims (hanging being quick and too good for ‘im). The character feels like the entire city must be feeling an unfulfilled need for vengence since they don’t have any concept that this criminal is going to face any kind of judgement whatsoever other than a quick death.

    Yeah, I do write a little gritty sometimes. It’s actually a lot more complicated than what I’ve been able to convey here. Long ramble short – Yeah, I think some people like the concept of Hell just for the “justice” and/or “vengence” reason. They want to see bad people who are remorseless get the comuppence no one can give them in this life.

  • StraightGrandmother

    I am rather surprised you did not get more responses Firefox. Probably it is a time lag type of thing, that the psot is now “older” and people are not checking back. With that said, honestly I am without words. You have left me speechless actually. The way you write, and what your wrote, it is searing, like a knife. I’m gonna be honest with you after reading what you wrote my first thought was of myself. I thought “Whoaaaa this guy has been at the bottom, I have never felt even thisclose to the emotions he writes about. I am glad I have never been where he has been.” Then my second thought, which did come very quickly, was to want to reach out and pull you close to me. The way you write you have obviously experienced hell on earth. You have obviously experienced way more pain than I can even imagine, that I can conceptualize. How do you come back from that? There have been passing indications here and there but for the most part I just read your posts with admiration, you are obviously way way up there intellectually, sometimes I don’t even “get” what you write, it’s so “above” me. I don’t know what to say, maybe just that I hope you beat the shit out of that monkey who was on your back causing you such deep deep pain. That you just beat the shit out of him and are victoriours because YOU HAVE SURVIVED and you will not be beat!

  • StraightGrandmother

    Obvious reply to the dude who did that, “WTF?”

  • I don’t feel I am a victim. I do feel that very few people have approached the issues raised in my original post.

    You haven’t, have you? So why bother responding at all if all you have to say is that you think I am going to cry ‘victim’ or ‘persecution’? They are wholly irrelevant to the issue at hand.

    I have merely stated a case, which I will admit looks like it may come from an evangelical Christian, that proposes an alternative Christian perspective to how the word is spread.

    Further to this, I hoped to illicit responses about how one can rationalise not evangelising when there are – perhaps – reasonable scriptural examples of why one should. I am almost positive I can find other references to back up a claim that evangelisation is biblically acceptable, and I think it would be more difficult to find biblical passages that oppose evangelisation – which was the tenet of Johns post (albeit aggressive evangelisation). Notwithstanding all this, there is the further issue of just where is the line drawn between aggressive evangelism and passive evangelism? And who gets to decide? Why is aggressive evangelism considered bad by both the non-believer and the believer alike – or why do some believers find it an acceptable practice and not others?

    Also, I make no bones about being a non-believer. I will go as far as to say I am an anti-theist, in that it is my contention that religion does more harm than good, but none of this detracts from the merit of my post, nor from my detractors from answering the issues raised.

  • Thank you for the heads up. I can be very lazy with regards to using a spell checker on Dreamweaver.

  • “H E double hockey sticks”??? o.O

  • Screw my blog. That has nothing to do with the validity of my initial post.

    Why is it acceptable to say that evangelisation is not desirable when there are biblical references to it being acceptable, and where is the line drawn between acceptable evangelisation and not acceptable evangelisation? Also, who gets to decide, and why? How can any form of evangelisation be deemed acceptable if those being evangelised to do not wish to hear it, and how can any form of non-evangelisation be deemed acceptable if scripture suggests one should?

    It doesn’t matter what I think, but if you can’t answer these questions for your own purposes, it should matter to you.

  • No. You are wrong. It is only a ‘straw man’ if I am not prepared to back up the claims made, and despite being a non-believer and an anti-theist, I can do that. Why can’t you, as a believer, do the same yourself?

    I would love to hear you defend either position, but the sound of your silence on the matter is deafening.

  • It doesn’t matter it is dogmatic and narrow. The question remains a valid one – one that you have refused to approach.

    The whole article was about how aggressive evangelisation is a bad thing. The fact of the matter is that I agree, but only as far as it goes. My post relates firstly, to how an alternative opinion could be deduced from scripture, and secondly who gets to say what level of evangelisation is acceptable – if at all?

    People here generally appear uncomfortable with that. Why that is, is something else would like to know.

  • Yeah, what is that all about? The posts don’t appear to be displayed in any particular order. It makes things very difficult to follow.

    What’s the word on this John?

  • There would appear to be a serious flaw in your comment, in that I am not screwing around with people. Just because people are uncomfortable with my post, does not mean I am not for real, or that I do not have a valid point to make.

  • Shadsie

    You see, even “normal” people get freaked out by anime conventions – seeing people in costume and with merchandise going to and from hotels/the convention hall. It’s like a science fiction convention – only even nerdier. The last time I went to Otakon a few years ago in Baltimore, there were news helecopters covering it all. It’s kind of like having your city invaded by aliens, I think – except being one of the aliens…

    Now take “normal people” to see all the nerds running around and replace them with “straightlaced people.”

    Anime Expo (in LA)… seems to have a weird habit of being scheduled at the same time in the same complex as this televangelist’s convention. I remember seeing once on their website “Freaking out Christian Conventions since 199-something!” To their credit, though, most people actually would stop and talk with me (not to evangelize) but to ask “What is this all about?” and ask me who I was dressed up as (at the time, the pacfist gunman main character of my favorite anime, though I’m a woman). .Most of the Evangelical conference people I met were very nice and just curious, which was nice – I enjoyed “evangelizing” the anime-nerd-culture to them.

  • Actually, what my experience of this thread has taught me is that John’s readers would probably agreed with him if he had written FOR aggressive evangelisation, had he backed it up with Paulian scripture.

    I am not saying that the position I take in my initial post is one I agree with – I have already stated that I agree that aggressive evangelisation is a bad thing – but the fact that so few people have the inclination to so much as refute it in favour of John’s article, simply amazes me. Why won’t you come to the defence of either position? Because you don’t. You do defend John, but John is not what the article is about. Sure, he was in it, but the articles name is ‘Accosted by a Christian’ and that is the subject I commented on.

  • Shadsie

    Replying to myself, for fear I might be taken the wrong way: When I spoke about being to Hell and back and getting out of it by getting help – I was only talking about my own situation…. being in depression…. nothing more, nothing less. Not the stuff I would assume FreeFox has been through.

    I’ve felt pain in life, but the “getting out of it” deal was about seeking out people who could help me out of my mental state/depression/feeling suicidal and whatnot, all for reasons that were my-life-specific and not fundamentally changing who I am or anything.

    Sorry if anything was miscalculated.

  • Then what is evangelism? How far do you propose it should be taken? What level of evangelism is acceptable – and to whom?

  • So if I say I am not being attacked, could you provide evidence that I am not. Now THAT is a straw-man.

    Manipulative, you say? I don’t see that. Please define. My opinion is irrelevant in this case. What I have done is create, what I feel, is a valid argument for evangelisation. The questions that are raised from this observation are numerous. Feel free to answer any of them, form your own, or none of them. You needn’t keep mentioning me personally.

    What level of evangelising is acceptable?

    Who gets to decide what is acceptable?

    What source can you quote to defend WHATEVER position you hold to be true.

    The fact is I don’t care what your answer is, I DO very much care how you justify your position. So should you.

  • I find it utterly fascinating that people perceived me to be a Christian – a Baptist, no less. It has been one of the lighter moments I have had on this thread, I have not once given people that impression in any of my other posts here though.

    In answer to your points though. I did not write it as I thought a Christian might, but it would be churlish of me – with hindsight – to say that it appears otherwise. The fact is that it is a Christian defence, and I was interested to see how people felt about that.

    Apparently, people seem more concerned with focusing in me rather than the issue I raised.

    Would it make any difference if I apologised for unintentionally giving the impression that I was a Christian? If so, I apologise. I can assure everyone here it was not my meaning.

    How is that for honesty?

  • Ace

    We’re not uncomfortable, honey, we’re all falling out of our chairs laughing.

  • Ace

    What elementary schoolers say instead of “hell” so they don’t end up in detention. 😉

  • Ace

    I used to love going to Anime Weekend Atlanta every year when I still lived in Georgia.

    The costumes were always amazing! Some very very talented people. I never did dress up since I don’t have a clue what to do with a needle & thread, much less an actual sewing machine.

    I don’t remember it drawing a lot of attention from the Baptists (etc) but it wasn’t concurrent with a televangelist’s convention either.

  • “Get to really know peeps befor presuming you can tell if they need saving. ”
    This is a far more rational way of doing things, but it still begs the question ‘who decides who needs to be saved?’. If someone has come to the conclusion that they need to be saved, then there is no need to evangelise in any shape or form; the decision to accept Jesus has already been adopted. But if someone who YOU may feel needs saving – no matter how well you know them – and they do not require the need to be saved, it is going to be seen as aggressive by the very party you are trying to help.

    Speaking peoples language is a given. Without a common understanding of the language being used, any and all conversation is meaningless.

    By addressing their spiritual needs, you make the assumption that this person has or requires any. Would it not appear to such a person that the presumption of matters spiritual – when none appear to him – is moot?

    I don’t wish to ignore your statement on salvation, but I can’t honestly think of anything constructive or critical with regard to it.

    The sharing of wisdom and experience is valuable to all of humanity, but it is a two way street. No one has the right to presume that one form of wisdom and experience has any more value than that of another. It is all relative. I think in the context of this conversation, wisdom and experience is best approached when it is asked for, lest it be considered intrusive.

    Your final statement is certainly something I can agree with. We are all human, and we each of us carry the burden of uncertainty!

    Thank you for a respectful answer – I appreciate it.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps your question about an alternative proposition is seen as what it was used for in your letter to the Boston Catholic Journal, a silly trap to further your agenda: to send/post a “fuck you” (as stated on your site) to believers.

    Letter to the Boston Catholic Journal:

    Recently, I came across a statement from Scranton’s Bishop Bambera, citing his “obligation to ensure that authentic Catholic teaching is being provided in all Catholic institutions in the Diocese, and that viewpoints in opposition to this teaching are not being presented as acceptable alternatives.”

    My question is: What would an acceptable alternative to ‘authentic Catholic teaching’ be?

  • Ace

    Well, he keeps bouncing back in for more. Persistent little glob, I’ll give him that much credit.

  • And people call me a troll!

  • Why is this post being shown in isolation? It has no meaning as it is. You have said before that you do not know what is happening with comments all the time, but I would be interested to know what is causing such confusion and randomness.

  • DR

    You’re spinning like a top here, dear. You got called out on your manipulative behavior and you’re either unwilling to acknowledge it or perhaps you don’t possess the emotional awareness to self-reflect and discover it on your own. Either way, I don’t waste my time on discussions that were never meant to be truly discussions in the first place. Save it for someone who’s a bit less easily manipulated.

  • “If someone has come to the conclusion that they need to be saved…” The quest for salvation in no way means that it has been found, does it? Quite the contrary. To paraphrase folk wisdom: you cannot make a horse drink against its will, but if it is thirsty, you can lead it to the water.”But if someone who YOU may feel needs saving – no matter how well you know them – and they do not require the need to be saved…” (I understood the last part as meaning ‘they do not think themselves in need of salvation”) If they truely are content and in balance with themselves, yeah, sure, leave them alone. But often it is easier for a friend to recognize the small signs of unhappiness or even deeper discontent – irritablitiy, restlessness, shiftiness, flightiness, as if they were searching or avoiding something still inbeknownst to themselves – than it is to themselves. Facing a spiritual crisis is painfull. Of course we want to avoid doing that at first. Having someone else, someone you trust and of whose true concern you are convinced beforehand, respectfully bring up such questions is often actually welcome. Because if it is correct, then deep down the person knows they are already in pain, they already know they have an unadressed need. Sometimes the fear is so strong that they will lash out, and then you are pretty soon back to the problem of making a horse drink. Or you could be wrong and they really have no such need. Then you gotta apologize and back off, of course.”Speaking peoples language is a given.” Sadly it is not. Look around in these comments. Hell, look at some of the reactions to your own comments. Two peeps speaking English are still a far cry from “speaking the same language.” To be able to help someone you must really try to speak their language, speak to their heart if you will. You must first listen to them, and try to truly understand them. If you can’t be bothered to try that, well, you might as well pack your pamphlets away. They’re not going to understand you anyway.”The sharing of wisdom and experience is valuable to all of humanity, but it is a two way street.” Indeed, it is.”No one has the right to presume that one form of wisdom and experience has any more value than that of another.” See, that is were I think the misunderstanding between us lies in regards to this matter. Indeed, nobody has the right to presume that. It isn’t a right. But if you listen to someone, if you care for someone, and if you detect that they are in pain, you have the moral obligation to care. If they bleed, you dress their wound. If they cry you offer solace. And if they suffer from inner darkness, you offer what light you can share. Not in the desire to make browny points with the heavenly management, but because you want to help a person in need. And advice honestly offered out of compassion (not pity, mind you, without the urge to make the other better, but as the best option you can come up with for them) it will usually be accepted at least as a kindness.If you truly think that Jesus word is helpful for that person at that time, and you offer it in such a way… and it then actually happens to truly be of help to them… they will benefit from it.What more can you do? As for the conversion, well, here I think a scientific/practical approach like maybe Tildeb would appreciate, is quite in order: If it helps them, well, that is all that was required, right? If it doesn’t stick, maybe the message wasn’t the right one. At least this way, you will usually not do any harm.

  • DR

    Again, I’m more interested in discussing what evangelism “is” with someone who’s already – on his blog – told me to fuck off. Nothing personal, I just don’t often converse in any substantial way with Fundamentalists.

  • DR

    “Screw my blog.”

    Translation – “How DARE you actually hold my feet to the fire regarding my actual pre-conceived notions regarding Christians and the axe I intend to grind under the guise of “real” dialogue!”

    Fixed that for you. You’re welcome. (Though I’d also recommend a spell checker).

  • I am used to dealing with people that show a little respect. When people start calling me out as being off-putting and arrogant – rather than addressing the issues – I feel I have a right to defend that like for like.

    You, like so many others, have totally missed the point. Just because you have ignored the questions and conversation does not mean that they were genuinely proffered. You are a perfect example of the person I am criticising here.

    I didn’t want to get into a conversation about this. It is irrelevant to the conversation at hand – something you refuse to join in with – so one has to question why you bothered posting at all?

    My reasons for my initial post were to expand the conversation and to garner opinion of the merits – or otherwise – of the argument laid out. They were not meant to be a platform for my being right, or any other position. My intention was to see how opinion is formed given a valid alternative to Christian evangelisation.

    If I am wrong for wanting to discuss the subject covered in John’s article, then so be it. But what is the point of having a comments system if you do not wish to draw comment and debate on the issues raised?

  • Thank you. Trying my best. As to how, well, you know the old answer: One day at a time. Sometimes one hour or one minute or even one second at a time. That is the good part of not being in hell any more: No matter how bad it sometimes gets, there is always the hope that with time it will get better again. If you have never been there, I do not know if you can appreciate that, but that single experience – the sheer possibility that there can be love, that there can be peace, that alone is all the ground I shall need to stand on. From there, it can only go up. 🙂

  • Not that this has any relevance whatsoever, but his answer was ‘none’. Why bother to mention alternatives to authentic Catholic teaching when there are none?

    The ‘fuck you’ you reference, in context, is valid if you feel you can evangelise to me when I do not wish you to do so, and to fight against people that feel that this attitude should be codified in law. The full text of the paragraph is

    “‘mygodlesslife’ is a reaction to inaction, a philosophical challenge to the philosophically challenged and a ‘fuck you’ to those that wish to subjugate and dictate to me with their 2000 year old myths.”

    Your comment is, at least topical. I agree with John entirely. I find aggressive evangelism intrusive and offensive. By ridiculing my point, though, you have established that you disagree with the tenet of my argument. Fine. You are free to do that, but remember. What denomination of Christianity is going to be forced on you if you feel it is okay to force religious thought on people? Or indeed, what if Obama converted to Islam and forced through Muslim backed Sharia Law and outlawed Christianity? You tacitly imply, by dismissing my statement, that you approve of making your opinion law, and that everyone else has to think like you. That is detestable, un-American and you should be ashamed of yourself.

  • How condescending. How Christian of you.

  • Ace

    Fine, I’ll bite, even though I know this is just more B.S. designed to center attention on you and your bloated ego. I should really just pass on this bait, but hey it’s a boring Saturday afternoon and I have nothing constructive to do at the moment anyway.

    The problem is that you come in here demanding attention, attempting to dictate the flow of the conversation to the others here and generally browbeat us all into behaving as you want us to behave and conforming with your stereotypes of what you think Christians should be/think/feel, with no regard for us as individuals with intellects and brains of our own. You act like a 3 year old who throws a screaming tantrum in the middle of a store in an attempt to shame his parents into buying him a toy.

    “see how an opinion is formed” blah blah, what a load of old rot. We are not bacteria in a petri dish for you to poke at like a high school science fair experiment. You come in here posting a comment that for all the world looks like it comes from an aggressive evangelical christian when a mere glance at the blog you linked to in your account shows you up for being an aggressive anti-theist who would not hold the opinion you present in your post – in other words, you were here under false pretenses from the beginning. You clearly haven’t been reading this blog long or you would realize that while we all appreciate debate here, we also appreciate honesty and a bit of humility, neither of which you possess.

    Also, for the record, that isn’t how an open forum works. John Shore seems to go to great lengths to ensure his blog is an egalitarian forum – no one person gets to dictate the conversation, it is an even ground for exchange of ideas. Even trolls like you get to post unhindered.

    In any case, there are plenty of us who have had on-going discussions and relationships before you walked in the door acting like you own the damn place. You demand respect but because you give none, you will receive none.

    We will be more than happy to continue playing with you like the troll you are though, if you like.

  • So what your saying is, then, that you are one of those people that wish to “subjugate and dictate to me with [your] 2000 year old myths.”.

    Nothing personal, but that is the context. What if someone wanted to subjugate and dictate to you using whichever myth you disagree with? Would you not also want to tell them ‘fuck you?’

    Quote mining appears to be coming de rigeur here. This is the third time it has happened, and the third time I have had to point out that in disputing the tenet of my statement, you prove you are the sort of person that represents a danger to ANYONE that disagrees with you.

    And you have the audacity to call me a fundamentalist?

  • Ace

    Only one attempting to dictate and subjugate here is you, sweetcheeks.

  • So you are saying that you are unable to establish how I am being manipulative? I do not see it myself, I admit. I am only trying to establish an opposing view and how people justify what they hold to be true given the context of John’s post.

    If you don’t wish to answer, then fine, but please don’t presume to know my motives. You have proved time and again you are wrong.

  • But no credit for trying to keep to the subject? Interesting.

  • Ace
  • Ace

    Condescending. Well, you’d know quite a lot about that I suppose.

  • Ace

    Well damn, disqus doesn’t like images. Ah well.

  • DR

    You really need to brush up on your leading questions, buddy. They are as transparent as plastic wrap. I’ve no desire nor do I have any need to play your little troll games and get into some kind of silly pissing match with you. I’ve been on this forum for a while and love to debate the issues and posts at hand with all sorts of things. Move on, your bell has officially been rung.

    Now go ahead and have the last word you need it way, way more than I do. Bon appetit.

  • Anonymous

    The people who are familiar with me on this blog know that I am not a proponent of forcing religion on anybody or in public policy. I advocate the separation of church and state.

    What I dismiss is not your inquiry, rather it is you whom I dismiss, because, I question (perhaps wrongly) your motive for being here. You seem to have an agenda and are trying not to illicit “a” response, but “the” response to be used in your blog for fodder.

    If I am wrong, I regret my other comments.

    I believe others have responded to your initial post. “Witnessing” or “evanglizing” is not what is being opposed, however, harassment disguised as such is simply offensive.

  • DR

    He’s quite the internet warrior, this one. But his 15 minutes of John Shore fame are up. Happy Trails, fundie!

  • It might just be a Disqus thing. Who knows. Or maybe they’re in a threaded order rather than a chronological order.


  • Ace

    Flamewarriors! I remember those comics back when I was a wee thing just discovering the internet message board circuit ~1999.

    They apparently still exist in this archive:

    Wow, those were the days.

  • You can end up in detention for saying hell? (but not for saying “h e double hockey sticks”???) Where I’m from, well, where I’m from schools don’t give detention. They either call your rents or send you home. But they send you home for fighting (unless somebody got seriously hurt, then there’s more to it.) Not cussing.

  • Ace

    I dunno, I think it was about 1992 when I got detention for saying “hell” so maybe things have changed.

  • No one has the right to presume that one form of wisdom and experience has any more value than that of another. It is all relative.


    What if I can back up my ‘wisdom’ with much better evidence to inform it as ‘wise’ than another person’s – perhaps even antithetical – ‘wisdom’? Are each equal because they can be different? Are they equally well informed? Does each achieve an equal amount of worthiness in relation to central idea that define the word?

    I think not.

    To test my assertion, let’s substitute another relative word: rather than ‘wisdom’ let’s try ‘health’ and see if your assertion stands.

    No one has the right to presume that one form of health and experience has any more value than that of another. It is all relative.

    And we immediately see the problem: if we assume any variation in what the word can mean automatically shifts the condition being referred to into that of some state of relativity, then we make a mental mistake in assuming that word itself is defined first by its relativity rather than its actual meaning. And this is a mistake. Just because there is some level of variation in the meaning of a word does not mean we can toss into the dustbin of subjective and equal relativity that therefore comes with an equal status of what’s true.

    For example, in the case of health and its relativity, we know that someone being dead is far, far less ‘healthy’ than someone who suffers from a sprained finger. The two states of ‘health’ are not compatible just because the notion of ‘health’ has an acceptable level of variation. Being dead and having a sprain are not equivalent levels of health any more than your values and experience that upholds human well-being and my values and experience that upholds the death sentence for apostasy are not equivalent levels of wisdom.

    Relativity inherent in some concept does not mean equally valid. And yes, we can legitimately argue that we have the right to presume that one form of wisdom and experience has […] more value than that of another.

  • Thank you FreeFox. A considered and well thought out response. I do, of course, have some feedback 🙂

    Your horse analogy is fine, as far as it goes, but the horse, unbounded by human constraints, will walk itself to water if it is thirsty. Surely, the personal journey in finding the ‘water’ is what makes the journey a credible and worthy one, for if there are different ‘sources of water’ – and there are – how is the ‘horse’ to know that he has been lead to the sweetest source?

    You understand me correctly. I think that most people – regardless on their position on faith – are ‘truely … content and in balance with themselves’. Everyone has bad times to endure, but most of us find one way of dealing with them or another. Some find that in faith, and others do not. As for spirituality, I have no point of reference, but that again falls to the individual to deal with in the best way he knows how. It is certainly true that a friend will notice these bouts of ennui, and if it is sought, the solace of a friends wisdom and experience is always valid. You and I will disagree on how each of us will proffer such solace, but the fact that it has been sought means something to each of us and, more importantly, to he that seeks it. Opinions are offered, of course, but if those opinions are rejected, we have to respect that and move on. For if we don’t, we are meddling.

    You are right about the language aspect, which is why I put my original post in the way I did. I tried to engage people in a manner I thought would be applicable to them. This appears to have back-fired on me horribly, but I hope that now you and one or two others have been polite enough to actually approach the issues, they will see that I am not the threat they painted me to be. Misrepresentation is one of my biggest bug-bears, and to be accused of it myself is not a little frustrating. If people still think that is what I am doing, then you have my most sincere apologies. It was not my meaning.

    With regard to your impassioned argument on the presumption of a right to wisdom and experience over others, I feel I have already dealt with that earlier in this post. For clarity I shall repeat it here, “Opinions are offered, of course, but if those opinions are rejected, we have to respect that and move on. For if we don’t, we are meddling.”

    “This way the question whether or not you are right sort of answer itself, doesn’t it?” To quote Google, ‘Do no evil’. I’ll buy that!

  • Diana A.

    I hate when I hit the “like” button instead of reply. That said…

    “So what your saying is, then, that you are one of those people that wish to ‘subjugate and dictate to me with [your] 2000 year old myths.’.”

    Yes Tris, that’s exactly what we are saying. I’m surprised that it took you so long to pick up on the conspiracy.

    You are not writing to this blog of your own volition. No, not at all. We have a computer chip planted in your brain and we are manipulating every action you take–including every comment that you have submitted to this blog. Then we’re all getting together on a secret John Shore blog (only available to those of us who are in on the conspiracy) and plotting what we will say to you next, so as to further manipulate you.

    Run, Tris. Run for your life. Not that you’ll get that far since we are tracking your every move–but run anyway. A person’s gotta try.

  • Thankfully, some people have begun to take a more respectful attitude towards me. I hope you enjoy my posts.

  • Do you honestly feel that the way you have behaved towards me is in any way justified? What a nasty person you are.

  • Very well. Let’s put this all behind us then. I am genuine. I just wish people would treat me as such.

  • *shrugs*

  • jes

    The reason nobody’s bothering to reply to your original post is that they don’t see the point. You don’t actually want people to evangelize, so posing a question phrased as if you were all gung-ho for it just annoys people. This is the first post I’ve seen from you here, and you present yourself as uber-fundy-christian-evangalism-boy, which turns out to be a thin facade. If you really cannot understand why that would put people off of wanting to have a conversation with you, then you need to take some basic communication and psychology classes.

    But I’m bored, so I’ll play.

    The level of evangelism I find acceptable is to offer information if someone asks. I am interested in learning about religions. I am not interested in having “convert or burn” shoved down my throat by strangers who approach on the street. That’s not evangelism or conversion, it’s threat, and depending on the situation, assault.

    Granting for the sake of argument that everything the bible says about Jesus is true, here are many things he did/could do/does that I, and no one else living, can do. I can’t turn water to wine, I can’t walk across a lake, and I can’t read a total stranger’s heart to know if they are ready to hear about religion. So the fact that he appeared and spoke to Paul exactly when Paul was ready to consider converting is in absolutely no way a call for everyone who’s read part of the bible to go out accosting people on the street.

    What would Jesus do? He would know when someone was ready to accept him, and approach them gently at that time. Why do we not recommend Christians do this? Because they are NOT Jesus, and cannot know when it’s the right time unless they wait to be asked. Also, Jesus didn’t force or threaten anybody into following him, and only a fool thinks that threatening strangers will make them think “oh, look, I’m LOVED!”

    I hope that if you comment on other posts, you will drop the BS facade and actually engage in conversation with honest curiosity and your own thoughts, not false positioning blatantly phrased to induce anger.

  • You see. This is more like it. Thanks.

    On the whole, you are right. It would be folly to disagree with the main gist of your post. I do have one thing to say about it though, and I think it has a particular resonance to the company in which we are keeping here.

    The fact is, people do claim this right. They do it all the time. What is relative about it is how this right is applied. In this case, there are a great number of people who will claim, with all sincerity and belief, that offering their wisdom and experience of God or Jesus or whatever their religious standpoint is, has more validity than that of another’s standpoint that opposes it. It was not my meaning to suggest that wisdom, for example, is a relative term (and I think in some respects it might be – that would be an entirely different conversation though), but that, in the context of how it is proffered, it is not necessarily an objective one. In fact, given the context, I feel that the worth of someone’s wisdom and experience is entirely subjective. As such, it is relative.

  • Anonymous

    OkeleeDokelee there neighborino!

  • DR

    Well, nasty is debatable. I don’t proactively tell a group of people I’ve not even met yet to fuck off, but that’s just me.

    To answer your question (since the Giants are getting crushed and I’m tired of watching it); Calling a Fundamentalist out for his manipulative evangelism tactics that he’s already admitted to applying in subsequent comments? Yes. I feel 100% justified in doing that. That some dude who came here with the intention to prove all of the Christians wrong and hasn’t admitted to that and now has his feelings hurt because he got caught – then called on it? Yep. 100% justified.

    Particularly since you’ve have actually admitted to agreeing with John’s initial premise! Goodness, how far of a hole are you going to actually dig, it’s making me embarrassed for you at this point.

    That you won’t acknowledge your initial rudeness and agenda it is your own problem. That you’d display the arrogance to actually suggest that those here *support* aggressive evangelism because we won’t play in the conversation sandbox you’ve set up is weird and pathetic. But this is what Fundamentalists do, and you do it because you’re so intent in making everyone see what you see, you don’t see yourself. Maybe that will change as you interact here. I hope so!

  • DR

    Tris, simply put. You EARN the right to be heard. Period. It’s pretty simple. There are really wonderful people here who are willing to actually debate you, I sense you have some really great things to say. But you have to be willing to admit when you’ve been a jerk – that is also a common denominator here. There are some really incredible atheists, Diests, Theists, Universalists as well as conservative Christians who display integrity, respect and humility. Be one of them and things will go better for you. Or don’t, your opinion isn’t terribly unique (I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings, but it’s not). And someone else who is willing to display less hostility and is more inclined to offer their points of view in a straight forward manner instead of your style will come after you have gone and then a real conversation will occur. It’s all up to you.

  • I have to presume that you have not read all of my posts. I am sure you will find plenty here that will sate your doubt as to the genuine nature of my enquiry. Hopefully, if John still allows me to, people will accept me for who I am, should I like to comment on another subject. And for the record, thanks for your answer.

    I have given a very similar answer to others here on exactly what you have stated as an acceptable level of evangelism. No one likes the ‘convert or burn’ message, and it truly is unfortunate that people think this is a good or beneficial past-time. It is, as you say, a threat, but unfortunately, there are New Testament quotes from Jesus that bear these threats very clearly (Matthew alone – 7:13-14, 10:28, 10:34-36, 11:20-24, 15:4-7, most importantly 25:41 – to name a few.), so it is not incomprehensible why people do such things.

    There are, undoubtedly, good things that come from the teachings of Jesus, and if someone wants to ‘sell’ these traits, fair play to them – you will find that any decent and moral person will try to live their lives by them, but to pretend that it is all light and good, is to ignore the unmistakeable and unveiled threats that Jesus did utter.

  • Ace

    genuine pleather, huh?

  • Ace

    I think you’re mistaking boredom for respect, silly putty dude.

  • Kara

    Wow. I get busy with midterms for a couple weeks, and the blog explodes with new people. John, you really are getting famous.

    My thoughts: Evangelism is not a natural extension of Christianity, at least not in the way many portray it. Those who fail to distinguish between early Christian practice in an age when the very existence of Jesus was still news and modern Christianity in a world that already knows about him do rational conversation on this issue a great injustice. Especially if they challenge others for making such a distinction.

    Literal damnation isn’t a tenet of the Christianity I practice, and evangelism, sugar-coated or not, has no place in my spiritual life. I will tell my story to those who ask it of me; I don’t hide that I’m a person of religious faith. But that doesn’t mean I want to convert anyone.

    I think straw-man is exactly the right term for any argument that says “true” Christians must support or practice evangelism. In fact, it’s almost laughable to imagine that anyone could define what “true” Christianity is. Beyond thinking Jesus was a unique fellow who did important things, there’s virtually nothing that all Christians believe in common. And an unsupported claim to the contrary indicates to me that the person making such a claim is not serious about engaging with the complexity and diversity of Christian beliefs and practice.

  • Ace

    I’d say, see the “No True Scotsman” fallacy for comparison:

    It’s difficult to say who is or isn’t a “true” Christian really, and in so many cases, “you aren’t a true Christian” just means “I don’t agree with your opinion” anyway…

  • Shadsie

    I don’t sew, either. The Vash the Stampede (Trigun) costume I had was made by a friend, whom I paid – but various acccesories to it were things I’d already owned. Hey, if you know anime, you probably know who that is because he was pretty popular for a while… though never as popular as Goku or Naruto. My friend made me a *really* nice coat.

    I can make props, though… and at Otakon one year, I did a very authentic cosplay of a character from another anime – Haibane Renmei (a more obscure title). I say “authentic” because characters in that story are angel-like beings who are only allowed to use items that are no longer of use to humans – ie. they get all their clothing at thrift stores. It’s actually a minor plot point. I found clothing reasonably similiar to my character at a Goodwill, got some costume wings online, my guy made me an LED halo, and I made other props (the character’s infamous halo mold – from a craft store wreath-form and dowel). Actually, cosplaying a Haibane is rather simple because their clothing is plain and, as mentioned, is thrift-store stuff!

  • Ace

    That’s kind of hilarious because I’m sitting here in an old Haibane Renmei t-shirt and I have the whole DVD set. One of my all-time favorite series.

    I can see how it would be easier to cosplay than Trigun though. And yes I’m familiar with Vash, there were a few dozen Vash’s for a couple years there when it was really popular.

    I kinda miss all that silly anime stuff. Since I finished school (and thus have no contact with the anime club there any more) I’ve kind of drifted away from that particular hobby.

  • Shadsie

    *Laughs* Hikari – Winter Outfit with the long skirt – Halo Mold – and a Haibane Renmei ledger. I did bother people in the Dealer’s Room with it saying “Haibane aren’t allowed to use money, so allow me to pay with a page from this” as a joke.

    I’m still an anime-lover. My fiance’ and I met through mutal love of anime. Nowadays, he likes to download obscure fansbus – and more than I feel I can watch! But I did watch a really cool warped-animation science fiction series called “Kaiba” that I highly recommend – one of the more cerebral animes that I like.

    We haven’t been to any conventions in a couple of years becuase we’ve fallen on hard times. Things like having a roof over our heads and enough food to see us through a week are slightly more important than geeking out in large herds. (Though, I will admit, it is one of the very *few* things where I can stand being around a lot of people. Even so, a crowd-press situation almost sent me into a panic attack the last time I was at one).

    On that happy note:


  • Shadsie

    Darn, forgot to add just how much of a pathetic geek I am.

    I’m 31 years old. My fiance’ is 49. We… didn’t grow out of animation and anime. I’ve expressed that I think I’m getting too old to cosplay, but my guy says that next convention we get to go to that I ought to feel free and do it, because it’s fun. Now, if he can ever fix the prop Vash-gun that I dropped and broke…

    Oh, and if that’s not pathetic enough… we write fan fiction. We also write original fiction and are both trying to get stuff published for reals like, but fanfiction is a hobby we both enjoy. We’ve both written stories for Trigun and Haibane Renmei (he’s the author of a somewhat “famous in the fandom” HR story, actually), and currently (for the last two years) I’ve been really into the Legend of Zelda videogame series and have been writing stories for that.

    Hope my otafunk doesn’t scare you off. We do shower (though it’s probably offsent by the fact that I’m a stablehand at a horse barn) – replace one funk with another.

  • Don Whitt

    Completely, unequivocally agree re. hell. And please keep your hope alive FF.

  • That is certainly an interesting take on Christianity. I am intrigued as to how you rationalise the, for want of a better word, absence, of literal damnation and evangelism.

    So now that Jesus is not news, and modern Christianity(?. People?) do know about him, what place modern Christianity? What is the ‘raison d’etre’ if it is distinguishable from early Christianity, and where does the justification for this arise? I don’t ask this to be rude, I ask because I don’t know.

    The straw man does not exist here should one be capable of making a defence of it. You do not defend it, so it appears to be a straw man, but the argument for a literal interpretation is still a valid debate for many Christians today. There was one person that thought me a Baptist for raising the question, which would suggest that Baptists, at least, still hold these views to be valid. Would they see it as a straw man?

    It is impossible, I think, to establish what a true Christian is, as you yourself have pointed out, but there are Christians that use the term freely. I should imagine Baptists do such a thing, although it would be wrong of me to generalise too much.

  • You see, Ace, we can agree on things. 🙂

  • Can’t find fault with any of that. Agreed. ^_^

  • Well, I’m still waiting for your info on the science of morality. After you mentioned the phrase I googled it and read some Sam Harris online. As far as I can see I would call him at least impractical – though I would love to see the kind of research he proposes actually conducted! I also have some beef with some of his basic assumptions, but a truly empiracl approach to his theory should settle that, after all. (Yay, science!)

    Before we have this sort of hard data (and with it some kind of validation of the basic theory), that is exactly the point though:

    Is spiritual health (something that goes way beyond “morals” and is a complex combination of emotional balance, balance between the individual and societal values and expectations to life, and between the individual and the experience of life and how it is interpreted and dealt with) really comparable to physical health?

    It is – as Mr. Harris and his opponents have already begun to hash out – because of its subjectivity at least far more complicated to assess. A cat scan, a gene test, a blood analysis all can reveal tiny physiological causes of illness. What except the extremely blunt instrument of psychotherapy does the same for the psyche. And on what hard data is the therapy of psychotherapy founded? Maybe we are still only in the bloodletting phase of treating happiness scientifically, maybe in a hundred years we will truly have a science of bliss and despair that goes beyond filling peeps up with thorazine or ritalin. (I’ve had my share of experience with that sort of approach. I can only say, it would behoove these people to spend a little bit more time listing to their patience, taking them serious, and trusting more in compassion and empathy and less in chemicals and quick solutions, especially if the patient is a bloody child.) You’ll excuse me if I’m rather sceptical.

    So far at least, I see only very marginal help from science for spiritual ailments, and not even the hint of a methodology that would allow science to even grasp the problems, let alone provide any substantial answers beyond the inanely superficial. Not because science is in any way a bad tool… just one that (so far at least) is unhelpful here.

  • If I sometimes sound exasperated or even impolite to your approach, I do apologize Tildeb. I very much value your basic argumenative honesty. It is just, when you talk about this is sounds rather like intellectual fencing. Like peeps who have beef with the misuse of “anticipate” to mean “expect”. I don’t mind a good desbate for debate’s sake, and I share your exasperation at stupidity. But this is real life you are talking about here. And not silly terrorists. I know everybody makes a bit thing out of terrorists, but if you compare the deaths by terrorism worldwide to, say, the deaths by traffic accident or by medical malpractice (or the suffering caused by silly contraceptive mores or idiotic eco-friendy suppression of insecticides furthering the spread of malaria – I certainly do not want to exculpate bad religion or bad idiology here), you see that the crisis in the near east is really only a media distraction of the real problems.

    You seem to treat it as a matter of intellectual principle. I fail to percieve your practical approach to provide any solutions still in this lifetime. Because, frankly, I needed salvation two years ago. I needed it to survive. Sam Harris wasn’t there for me. Modern neurology wasn’t there for me. A Sami shaman and her spirits were. My personal experience of God was. An online friend who lived 6,000 kilometers away, who was as confused, and in pain, and alone, but who had empathy and intuitively knew the difference between compassion and pity was. I owe my life to them, to the massive, unprovable, unlikely, unscientific subjectivity of all of them. I am still alive. That is an empircal fact. It is a physical manifestation of those “metaphysical” experiences. It’s real. Life.

  • Hehe. Yes, but is it not that quiet desperation part of what makes us human? It is that, which in me, drives me to understand my environment and discover means that all can abide by equally.

    If we go to the grave without this song still inside us, we have either succeeded, or we still strive for the means to make it a reality. I wish for the former, but fear the latter a more attainable and worthy one. It is the act of overcoming the desperation that gives life it’s purpose.

  • Ace

    I don’t recall stating I agree with you anywhere. Please don’t put words into my mouth.

  • Ace

    Oh don’t feel bad, I still play video games and read comic books.

    Anime downloading just requires bandwidth I simply don’t have (I live less than half a mile from a dam with large high-voltage power lines going directly over the apartments I live in, that the phone company says makes DSL service here untenable, and I can’t afford $60 for cable, so 1998-style dial-up it is. *cries*).

    Hahah, I used to write fanfiction. It’s not something I do much any more, though I have an account over at the vortex of weasels ( that probably still exists, LOL.

  • Becky

    Ugh. So many things wrong with this picture.

  • *sigh* I didn’t say that. I was agreeing with your comment.

  • Actually, Shadsie, I was just joking about waiting for everyone else to come around. People usually believe what they do because they think they represent the best reasons to do so. All I can do is offer up other – what I think are better – reasons and people can do with that what they will. In other words, I know perfectly well that I can’t change anyone or alter what they believe… but I can add my own thoughts that may or may not offer a slightly different view or different take on some consideration. That’s all I mean.

    Your advice about stress is right on. And I learned long ago that if I didn’t have the power to change a problem, then it’s not MY problem even if I am suffering from the consequences.

  • Shadsie

    I don’t know what we’re paying for Internet – it’s in some sort of package with the basic cable. We pretty much only use the cable to watch Discovery Channel. (Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs are our only not-miss shows). With the apartment we live in, the whole shebang package is pretty much all we can get, and with a company we don’t really like. The Internet is important because – the downloading is just a side-thing. My guy is using it like mad to try to *find a job.* Our truck is on its last legs and is needed to get me to my meager little job, so he cannot use it to go run around filing resumes, so he’s pretty much on every job-search site known to man (and probably some known to monkeys) trying to end his dreadful year-long unemployment. — this is why I bitch all the time about praying and praying not really working for me and why I am not and will likely never, ever become a “prosperty gospel” Christian. – That moment illicits lost of growling from me. Also, why we well at the television when politicians are on it.

    Yep, I’m on the Pit of Voles, too. Under Shadsie. I think I’m most “nerd famous” (and that tenously) right now for a very weird, long Legend of Zelda fanfiction that I co-authored with a friend – we combined medevial and high-magic “Zelda” with…. sci-fi Western. Sort of a Triforce meets Trigun thing. What’s weird, it that it seems we actually made it *work* because people seem to like it. I’m addicted to fanfiction writing – it’s a fun hobby.

  • I like being right… on the whole! (If only…!)

    I understand what you’re saying about scripture and its role. But you’ve missed a good opportunity here because of your assumption about the authority of scripture John used in his post. Let me explain.

    Your argument is essential in understanding why a religious scriptural literalist is on very firm theological ground and why that is so dangerous for the rest of us – theists and non-theists alike. Of course, it’s neither a trivial nor a relative matter.

    I happen to respect the literalist who strictly adheres to even the most brutal of his religious expressions (and it’s usually a he but by no means exclusively so… right Jeanine?) because it is so honest. Transparently honest. “Here’s what I believe, here’s the authority on which I base it, and here is the justification for acting on it.” And I fear such a person… quite rightly, too.

    I know that with such a person I can trust that he believes what he says what he means, means what he says, and will do what he says he’s going to do. It is very refreshing to meet such simple honesty and integrity but man-o-man it’s so dangerous. It’s also somewhat delusional for many of us who moderate our thinking and actions with other considerations to assume that such a person is simply some tiny fringe element of religious extremism because, when push comes to shove, the fact of the matter is that such people are moderates first. It is from the rank and file of moderate religious folk who give succor to and toleration for religious ideas to evolve into beliefs with firmer edges and boundaries.

    How can I assert this is so?

    For example, that over a third of young educated affluent British born muslims raised in a secular society agree that killing in defense of their religion is acceptable and justifiable should scare the pants off of the rest of us whether or not we are theists or atheists (agnostics aren’t sure if they have anything to worry about). In the meantime, it is the religious moderates who tell us that we don’t really have to be concerned about this belief because… well… it’s just a fringe element, an extremist element, when it’s no such thing: it is a natural extension of the theology that its scripture is true… but taken further (to its logical conclusion) than the majority of moderates are willing to go. But in order to address the third who are immoderate in defense of their religious convictions, the two thirds need to better understand that they act as bulwark and bulkhead against the important criticism aimed at the the root cause of this literalist justification, namely, the religious belief that it is a true representation of what god wants which supersedes human rights and the dignity of personhood.

    And THAT’S the real issue at stake, the battleground upon which either the secular or the religious must take a side: this issue of primacy of allegiance. And that’s not a relative nor unimportant choice.

    Any movement away from a literalist approach to scripture is a good thing, IMO. Any attempt to blend scripture to modern knowledge and modern moral sensibilities is a move in the right direction.

    Now we get back to your original comment and why it received the response it did.

    The point that I think others are trying to make to you is: most of the people here are not literalists; they are good people who are honest in their search for meaning and purpose after struggling through a lot of hardship and are trying to find a sense of community. Their religious affiliation fosters this… not as a hard core this or that, but as people who have had honest struggles with many aspects of their religion – especially with scriptural literalism. Your criticism of John’s post creates a false dichotomy that assumes biblical scripture is the only authority he uses, that this authority is shared by those who appreciate and follow his postings. That assumption you have made is not just misguided. It’s flat out wrong true.

    In this post we know that John is relying on his previously expressed notion of using a kinder, gentler scriptural interpretation of raising Jesus’ two ‘commandments’ (for lack of a better word) to primacy and then comparing that goal of this more modern christian understanding to the goal that is too often achieved by the more hard core christian evangelist: turning people away from Jesus. The two are at direct odds.

    Your assumption about the primacy of scriptural authority and its criticism is therefore misplaced (regardless of its importance and truthfulness to a larger issue). But you went roaring off in this direction without trying to first understand what it was John meant. And you did so (by all appearances) in order for you to have an argument you wanted rather than to add to the search for meaning and understanding and sense of community so many commentators like about John’s site. That’s why so many took you to task not for your argument itself but for your motivation for commenting.

  • FF, you gotta give me time! I’m not trying to avoid your question but inform my own. Neurophysiology is not my strong suit! But it is SO interesting. And we really can (and already do) inform our morals with a much better understanding of how things are through the knowledge stimulated by scientific inquiry. Just look how fast Bill Clinton stopped talking (and telling un-truths) about the nature of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky once he heard the stain on her blue dress was off for DNA testing. Imagine if we had the same kind of technology to detect lies built into the walls of our courtrooms. Or in the Senate. Or Parliament. Lawyers and politicians might actually fall silent!

  • Shadsie

    Ah, ah, you *were* joking! That’s the problem with text – no inflection to the voice or “I’m being goofy” faces. One of the many things to be aware of as a writer.

    I find that a lot of people *really do* think of “their way” as a pure good – like “everyone will convert to my way eventually” or “People who have different views than I do will eventually DIE OUT and the world will be a better place.” (Personally, I love it when a piece of science fiction *averts* this – hence why I really love “Firefly” ). Was browsing a certain news site once and one commenator talked of how they were raised athiest by their parents but converted to Catholicm – to which someone responded “Your parents must have done a piss-poor job of raising you, then.” Ugh.

    Conversely, I remember my old Baptist church. The message of “you cannot lose your salvation” was very-much needed by me at the time, but with it came the idea that “If you really know Christ/know God, you won’t ever leave” – the attitude was *actual* apostasy being impossible.

    I just don’t subscribe to *any* human message being “a pure good.” Even an actual relationship with God can get messed up by people’s utter humaness. In my sight, it all winds up becoming the “I’m better than you!” contest that it seems all human arguments eventually d/evolve into.

    I know, for myself, that athiesm is something that I cannot *handle.* Not only do I have beliefs that really won’t just go away, I’m a rather morbid person. I think about death a lot. Always have – some childhood experiences did that to me. I am keenly aware that one day, we are all going to die. And to me, where is the meaning to that apart from *something* eternal existing to at least *remember* our lives? (I want eternal life, that’s why I go with Jesus, but even if we all eventually non-exist, I’d like there to be someone or something eternal to remember us all, all of our stories – some eternal impact to each of our lives). In other words – “If there is no plot to this story, why am I suffering through it?” Some people are perfectly finding meaning “in the temporary” and… at least for now, I just can’t. I’ll admire your bravery or your ability to find meaning in the temporary, but, at present, I cannot, so atheism, at least as it currently stands (oblivion after death, the eventual heat-death of the universe) doesn’t have an appeal for me. Even if you and others are *right* about it, I wouldn’t be able to “come to the truth” as it were. I would “Go mad from the revelation.”

  • Guest


  • Ace

    There aren’t a lot of “fandoms” I ever wrote more than 1 or 2 stories for so I can’t claim to be a BNF in any of them. I think I had a few for House MD and a couple Doctor Who drabbles and some odds and ends for other stuff, that’s about it.

    I dunno, I just quit writing. I kinda miss it but I never have ideas for stuff anymore. I lost my brain somewhere, LOL.

  • This is definitely an aside, but since you brought it up before, I’ll vent my frustartion about this argument on you: What the hell is this problem you all got with terrorism?

    I don’t mean to say that isn’t a horrible thing, but if you compare the time and money wasted on terrorism compared to really dangerous stuff, I don’t understand how rational people don’t all shout in disgust and anger?

    In 2001 in the USA 42,116 people died in car accidents. In 2000 the FBI Crime Index estimates 15,517 deaths in homicides. The healthcare quality company HealthGrades has estimated that between 2000 and 2002 on average 195,000 (!) people died in the USA due to potentially preventable, in-hospital medical errors.

    By comparison in the 36 years between 1970 and 2006 to the best (and most inclusive) count on numbers I found on the web, no more than 3872 US citizens were killed by Islamic terrorists worldwide (including a lot of Israel-Americans, but excluding victims of the wars/occupation in Iraq and Afganistan post 2001, since I wasn’t able to get to any reliable count differentiating between war and terrorism). I only counted US citizens, since I am only contrasting them to other sources of death in the United States.

    Less than 4,000 victims of Islamic terrorism in 36 years – nearly 3,000 of those in 9/11 – compared to an anual 15,000 victims of homicide, 42,000 victims of car crashes, and almost 200,000 victims of medical malpractice. I’m sorry for every one of those needlessly killed 4,000 people, but it is hardly a global crisis.

    (If you want to attack unscientific ideologies for deaths, then supporting the exploitation of the 3rd world, preventing contraception and protection against STDs, and blocking the use of insecticides to prevent malaria are certainly much bigger killers than all muslims with guns or explosives together.)

  • Ainotna

    *ahem* I have never “known” God, as I was not raised in a house of any religion, and therefore I am atheist. Perhaps you have a misconception as to what it means to be atheist?

  • Your fears are not unfounded and your angst not at all unusual. When faced with the perplexing notion of ‘what’s it all about’ some people head into a deep depression while others seem to be fine, leaving us scratching our collective heads over what the ‘right’ answer might be. For some, religion works just fine.

    I have heard from many religious people who have faced some of the problems of their beliefs come out the other side of their internal conflict and into atheism with a rather surprising conclusion: far from being alone and despondent, many of these new atheists find and embrace and are empowered by a new-found freedom to be whatever one wishes to be, to make of one’s self what one can.

    Some of the reports indicate a sudden awareness of the sanctity of life because it’s all we have, this one shot, this astounding miracle of beating such long odds to actually be alive in this place at this time and thus finding it liberating to see everyone else in this new light. We give because we choose to give, be nice because we choose to be nice, be responsible because we choose to be responsible, and so on. We make our day from the moment we wake and build our life day by day. This is the first day of what is to follow and we have the power to act and respond as we see fit. What has happened is past; what is to come unknown. For many people, this casting off of religious belief liberates them from all the previous baggage – especially guilt and shame for past transgressions and thought crimes, past hurts, score-keeping, other people’s expectations, and so on – that they have carried with them into today. It’s an ownership thing… that we own our own lives no matter what it entails and we own how we live it and own how we respond to all the adversity and suffering that comes with life. We owe nothing to some imaginary concept that many of us best friends and closest confidants hold to be real, and owe nothing to the demands and allegiance that accompany believing in this religious concept. But we’re all this boat of life together and we matter.

    But with this understanding comes responsibility to make life worth living, worth all the pain and suffering and sacrifice and do what we need to do to insert joy and awe and compassion into this day, to be personally responsible to make our life better today than yesterday, to make today more meaningful in some way than yesterday, to move along towards a self-directed purpose that feeds our sense of self-worthiness, that we matter, that we have a positive affect by our presence, by how we engage with the world and the people (and critters) we populate it with that matter to us.

    Once we become self-directed and realize the choices we make each and every day are our own, we also own the results. And as we age we have to come smack up against our projections of how we thought life would be and come to terms with how it really is – with its burdens and its joys and mundane concerns – and use our newly-granted power to go on from this point in whatever direction we choose towards whatever goals we select. It is both daunting and exhilarating. But mostly it is just real life with a new perspective.

  • jes

    You can select how it orders them, by oldest first, newest first, or most popular first. Most popular appears to be the default, so if you have that selected, the threads with most comments will display first.

  • jes

    Because the point of terrorism is to terrify people by brutal and outrageous acts–and it worked. People got scared sh…er… crapless and aren’t thinking straight.

    But it happens about everything. Look at the huge fuss about “mad cow disease”, of which a grand total of fewer than 300 people EVER have died, compared to much much more valid reasons for decreasing consumption of red meat, such as obesity, heart disease, cholesterol imbalances, which affect hundreds of thousands of people annually.

    By sheer rarity, terrorism (and esoteric diseases) get news play, where as very common things, well, happen commonly and are no longer of interest to news media. Which leads to a strikingly disproportionate level of concern in readers/viewers of news about those very rare things that get huge headlines.

    I haven’t got the cite for the study I’m basing this on handy, sorry. I can look it up for you if you want.

  • jes

    You should try answering the door naked sometime. I had a great laugh at the young man trying to hide himself further and further around the corner of the building while I kept moving further out in an attempt to see who’d just woken me at what seemed an incredibly unreasonable hour.

  • jes

    The snake never worked for me… Guess my little ball python isn’t scary enough. Or maybe being in a college town inured them to things like random reptiles.

  • jes

    I second that.

  • Shadsie

    That is a beautiful way of seeing things and I’ve long understood how those type of views can work for many people. (Especially people who were raised in a legalistic setting – although a lot of peoples’ “liberation from god” stories read to me just like people’s “born again” experiences).

    In the end, I come to the conclusion that existance is difficult and we all come up with our own ways to make sense of it and to make it meaningful. I do believe in “loving people while they are here” and seeing to here and now tangible issues. A lot of people seem to think that as soon as someone believes in a God or gods and or Heaven, that they don’t. Not true for all of us. I’ve heard about how some religious Fundamentalist Christians aren’t concerned with protecting the environment because “The Rapture’s gonna happen soon.” This little off-kilter Christian wants to smack them hard. I like to think that most who believe in God/gods/ the hereafter and whatnot are like me in this regard. For me, the temporal does have meaning even though I believe in the eternal – however, if I belived *only* in the temporal, with my personal psychology being the way it is, I wouldn’t survive. It’s just that, for, I think “No matter how kind I am, no matter how much I do for other people – or how much people do for each other, we’re all going to be dead in the end, anyway” and I *cannot* get over that.

    Even the whole “own your life and make it good while you have it” doesn’t quite work out for me, personally. I am a person of ambition – I have *tried* to accomplish things in life, but all in all, I’m a profesisonal failure. Hell, I just got a rejection letter for one of my novels in my email inbox – a feeling with which I am *way too familar.* Every time I’ve tried to “rise up” someone or something has kept me down. Sometimes, my own brain has kept me down because I happen to be Bipolar and – oh, you have a panic attack at most decent jobs and *see* how quick they fire you and quickly come up with some kind of excuse that won’t get you bringing lawyers to their door! I’ve also done something that, at least in the social sense makes it too late to “make good” on my life/to pull myself up by my bootstraps to become a success – there’s too much discrimination present for it to work.

    The idea that my suffering is “a part of a plot” that I’ll get to find out about at some point in the eternal scheme of things is actually *what helps me to care* about the here and now and keeps me from going on a roaring rampage of revenge against ex jerk bosses, people who’ve cheated and betrayed me and etc. In my view, if there is an Author to all of this, I can be a peaceful and forgiving person. Otherwise, I think I’d either want to get some blood on me, or else give into the suicidal impulses because, “screw it all, all this trying in life is getting me nowhere.” As I’ve said on other threads on this blog, I’ve been very close to that point already – believing in a God who ulitimately loves me really helps me in those times, and in general to not be at that point all the time. (If that makes any sense).

  • Shadsie

    That is a beautiful way of seeing things and I’ve long understood how those type of views can work for many people. (Especially people who were raised in a legalistic setting – although a lot of peoples’ “liberation from god” stories read to me just like people’s “born again” experiences).

    In the end, I come to the conclusion that existance is difficult and we all come up with our own ways to make sense of it and to make it meaningful. I do believe in “loving people while they are here” and seeing to here and now tangible issues. A lot of people seem to think that as soon as someone believes in a God or gods and or Heaven, that they don’t. Not true for all of us. I’ve heard about how some religious Fundamentalist Christians aren’t concerned with protecting the environment because “The Rapture’s gonna happen soon.” This little off-kilter Christian wants to smack them hard. I like to think that most who believe in God/gods/ the hereafter and whatnot are like me in this regard. For me, the temporal does have meaning even though I believe in the eternal – however, if I belived *only* in the temporal, with my personal psychology being the way it is, I wouldn’t survive. It’s just that, for, I think “No matter how kind I am, no matter how much I do for other people – or how much people do for each other, we’re all going to be dead in the end, anyway” and I *cannot* get over that.

    Even the whole “own your life and make it good while you have it” doesn’t quite work out for me, personally. I am a person of ambition – I have *tried* to accomplish things in life, but all in all, I’m a profesisonal failure. Hell, I just got a rejection letter for one of my novels in my email inbox – a feeling with which I am *way too familar.* Every time I’ve tried to “rise up” someone or something has kept me down. Sometimes, my own brain has kept me down because I happen to be Bipolar and – oh, you have a panic attack at most decent jobs and *see* how quick they fire you and quickly come up with some kind of excuse that won’t get you bringing lawyers to their door! I’ve also done something that, at least in the social sense makes it too late to “make good” on my life/to pull myself up by my bootstraps to become a success – there’s too much discrimination present for it to work.

    The idea that my suffering is “a part of a plot” that I’ll get to find out about at some point in the eternal scheme of things is actually *what helps me to care* about the here and now and keeps me from going on a roaring rampage of revenge against ex jerk bosses, people who’ve cheated and betrayed me and etc. In my view, if there is an Author to all of this, I can be a peaceful and forgiving person. Otherwise, I think I’d either want to get some blood on me, or else give into the suicidal impulses because, “screw it all, all this trying in life is getting me nowhere.” As I’ve said on other threads on this blog, I’ve been very close to that point already – believing in a God who ulitimately loves me really helps me in those times, and in general to not be at that point all the time. (If that makes any sense).

  • That makes perfect sense, Shadsi, and more power to you. I am all too familiar with bipolar/schizophrenia diagnoses and if you’ve figured out a way to live with it then you’re ahead of a lot of folk.

    I didn’t mean any notion of ‘pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ kind of advice; I know you’re struggling hard and have had more than your fair share of difficulties and letdowns. I was merely letting you know of some results that I found suprising by people who have gone through the wringer with their faith and seem to have found peace and contentment at the other end and even a greater zest for life as an atheist. That’s all.

    I started to write a story about a very good friend of mine – a doctor – who lost his faith during Katrina and found his life again… much to the benefit and relief of his wife and three kids , but I cut it because sounded too much like an Hallmark moment. He lost everything and all his loans were called in because he’s Canadian so he was despondent with the loss of what he thought was his life’s work but… it all worked out in the end for the better (I think) and he has lived more in the last few years than he had in the previous dozen. He calls his atheism ‘authentic’ living now that he and his financial wealth and position in his congregation have been separated from him and he’s rearranged the priorities in his life to better reflect what is truly precious: his family. And you don’t need much money to do that… but you do need enough. And that’s a struggle for you, I know, so my hat’s off to you for doing the best you can.

  • The British muslim study is an eye-opener to the fact that what so many assume is religious extremism is not all that extreme but a significant part of moderate religious belief. The death rate stats you use as a baseline to compare the real danger from religiously inspired terrorism is not the point; one nuclear device set off in a US city or a biological attack in the name of some god will dramatically alter that stat overnight.

    The danger that religious belief brings to the table is being played out all around us: in politics, education, foreign policies, social services, banking, the armed forces, medicine, research, the list goes on and on. The influence is pervasive and it needs to be publicly challenged and reined in. Foremost is the need to clarify primary allegiances so that various religious beliefs are all equally secondary in our secular states and under the laws of the land.

  • Yeah, well, detonating a nuclear device is a pretty horrible thing. And religion could motivate peeps to do that. PETA seems equally motivated. Modern, explosive-wielding terrorism was invented in the early 20th century by Eastern European Nihilists, if I remember my history. The only two known (to me, at least) nuclear detonations that were used to actually kill people were set of by folks not motivated by religion, but politics. And for nuclear bombs you might blame unchecked science as much as unchecked religion.

    You’ll have no opposition from me when you argue not only for a secular, but for a laicist state. As I said, I dont even contend that there are some grisly genocidal activities supported by religious belief – though I really think the support of the Catholic church in the exploitation and destabilization of Africa, and the suppression of access to and eductaion about contraceptives and protection from STDs seems to me a much more dangerous and horrifying deed. Of course, it doesn’t endanger Americans or Brits in their homes, so I guess one doesn’t need to spend billions and billions and billions to stock up on arms, cut away civil liberties, incite hatred of other highly complex and diverse cultures by casting them all as a uniform bogeyman, lock down borders, and use it to legitimize the further exploitation and destabilization of large regions of the world, and the downright murder of a quarter million civilians.

    As someone who grew up in a part of Berlin where many turkish and arabic immigrants lived, and who was close friend with many of them, I can tell you that you will not diminish the threat of religious violence by trying to suppress religion. Remember Princess Laia and Grand Moff Tarkin: “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

    Jesus had a better idea: Love and embrace your enemy. In the long run, that will save more lives.

  • Yay! Follow your bliss, as the (in your terms) athistic but divine Joe Campbell used to say! So, suddenly personal experience is a valid basis for a worldview? I’m shocked, mate. 😉 And “But with this understanding comes responsibility to make life worth living, worth all the pain and suffering and sacrifice and do what we need to do to insert joy and awe and compassion into this day…” (continued brilliantly but too long to quote). Poetry, mate.”the choices we make each and every day are our own”. Oh, aye. As my spirit guide (well, one of them, the one with the deep, growling, impatient voice, that always looks as if he’s about to bite me) once said to me – quoting Neil Gaiman, I believe – “You’re life is your own, boy, always and forever your own.” ^_^”It is both daunting and exhilarating.” That it most certainly is. Huggsies?

  • I’m not trying to suppress religion; I’m trying to show why we need to rein it back into the personal rather than the public domain… not by force or by imposing law but by showing that the reasons are better to make religious belief a personal rather than a public activity. Religious freedom depends on us understanding why this is necessary. And that includes both ends of the belief spectrum – from overt violence to overt piousness in the name of god. It is a difficult task to show religious believers why their abuse of religious freedom to insert their beliefs into the public domain causes damage to the very freedom they think they are exercising. And it’s not about saving lives. It’s about saving Enlightenment values that benefit all humans and foster respect for our shared humanity.

  • Yep. No argument. Totally agree with that.

    Just don’t. Call. Me. Delusional. ^_^

  • My point is, that the atheist is intrinsically linked to its necessary progenitor – the theist – and that holding the position of being specifically ‘an atheist’ is moot when what you are really saying is that you ‘do not believe in the existence of a deity or set of deities’. It is more accurate to call oneself a ‘non-believer in the existence of a deity or set of deities’, as that is necessarily what you are stating by calling oneself an atheist. The moniker of atheist, whilst convenient, is an irrelevance, and detracts from what it is you are stating about yourself. Allow me to demonstrate.

    A theist practices theism therefore it is not unreasonable to make the assertion that the atheist practices atheism. The theist practices a positive position on a positive statement – he is active in believing in a deity or set of deities. However, the atheist (using your definition of the term) does not practice atheism for there is no positive position that can arise from the negative statement that you ‘lack a positive practice of belief in a deity or set of deities’.

    The ‘positive atheist’ can, should he so choose, accurately call himself an atheist, because he does, indeed, practice a positive position in his belief that ‘there is no deity or are no sets of deities’. But, the positive atheist now puts himself in the same league as the theist when it comes to the burden of proof. If you actively claim that there is – or there is not – a deity or set of deities, the burden of proof is upon those that make that claim to provide evidence for their belief or claim. Whilst the Judeo-Christian God can be dismissed this way, it does not function as a credible argument for ‘all possible deities or sets of deities, for just how do you propose to prove – with evidence – that the nothing you believe in exists?

    No matter which way you look at it, the position of defending being an atheist – as opposed to a non-believer in such matters – is indefensible and irrelevant. You do not believe in a deity or set of deities, so you are by necessity a ‘non-believer in a deity or set of deities’ If you think that is a little long-winded, then perhaps a new term should be arrived at. The problem with this though, is what is the point? You still have nothing to practice and you will never have anything to prove.

  • chaospet

    This is a silly semantic game you’re playing. What many people mean by “atheist” is simply “non-believer”. The meanings of words evolve over time. Whatever the roots of the term, to insist that the label “atheist” has to have the narrow scope you attribute to it – referring only to those who have known god and rejected him – is just to ignore what a whole lot of folks actually mean when they call themselves atheists.

    On your original point, though, I am inclined to agree. I don’t buy the dismissal of Mr. Orange Cap as a true Christian just because he’s doing something that we don’t like. As you say, evangelizing is a core part of Christian scripture. And from the Christian perspective, it makes sense. If I literally believed that someone was going to suffer from eternity unless he changed his mind about something, I’d probably do everything in my power to change his mind too. That person might feel disrespected, but I’d be much more worried about that person’s eternal suffering than I would be about his present annoyance. We might question whether Mr. Orange Cap’s methods are the most *effective* (maybe gentler persuasion would have a greater chance of success), but I see why that sort of error of tactics automatically disqualifies someone as a Christian. The real problem is not with Mr. Orange Cap, but with a religion that teaches that anyone who disagrees has to endure an eternity of unimaginable suffering.

  • With respect to your comments on atheists, I have expanded my thoughts on this in my response to Ainotna here: I hope this sheds some light on why I do not align myself with either the term ‘atheist, or the (non-) practice of atheism.

  • Kara

    I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking in your second paragraph, but I’ll answer a couple things and hope I explain what you wanted.

    The place of modern Christianity is in the personal realm of belief and the interpersonal realm of service and charity. For those who believe, Christianity should bring them internal peace and move them to external acts of kindness.

    The motivation of modern Christians who still feel compelled to evangelize their friends and neighbors isn’t clear to me. However, while it’s speculative on my part, I would say that arrogance, social biases, and a lack of consideration for others play into it. However, I also think they would probably say that they are doing the same thing as Paul and other early Christians, and disregard the distinction between informing people of that which they do not know and harassing and browbeating those who have already heard and rejected certain claims. It’s a distinction I personally find very important, however.

    The questions of how and why I reject the doctrines of hell and evangelism would require far more space than this forum allows, but I will tell you that I find the rejection of those doctrines more Christlike and more moral than embracing them.

    As to those Christians who defend modern American evangelism, I find them as frustrating as you. And you are right, they would not see the necessity of modern evangelism as a straw man. But John might (though I obviously can’t speak for him), and I think that’s important in the forum.

    (As an interesting note, I myself am a Baptist, although of the American Baptist variety, which is decidedly removed from the Southern Baptist variety.)

  • Personally I use the philosophy, “always preach the gospel, and if necessary use words” I believe accredited to St. Francis. I have had occasion to tell others what I believe, and at times in blog (voluntary) form I’m rather out spoken, but I would never ever accost someone like Mr. Orange. I see those Christians holding signs shouting, “Turn or Burn” or “John 3:16” or whatever, and all I can think is “do you think that ever really helped anyone understand God?” I guess they have the best intentions in mind, but they seem to be the cause of more people running from God then running to him! Thanks for another eye opening post John!

  • I don’t know what kind of solutions you are talking about, FF, or what it refers to regarding principles.

    If you’re talking about a practical approach to life and creating a meaningful one without religion, then good parenting and a good education (where one learns how to think) go a very long way. You’ve already mentioned another way: reading the myths. They are profoundly important narratives. Reading Genesis without a jaundiced eye reveals some pretty sound wisdom, but its co-opted meaning so tortured by christian theology renders it useless for practical purposes.

    One doesn’t need a degree in neuroscience to understand that how we think directly affects what we think. If what we think is a problem, often the solution is to change how we think. Local libraries are a treasure trove. And so on.

    If you clarify, I’ll be glad to respond.

  • Wow — you sparked an idea for a blog post: Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man” as a paradigm for 20th century American Christianity. We (collectively) spent so much time & effort selling the product that we never ever got around to actually teaching people how to use it. As a result we’ve got a buncha self-educated yutzes who think they’re Essa-flippin’-Pekka Salonen.

    The result is an ugly, jangly, discordant cacophony that no matter how sincerely wrought is still an abhorrent pastiche of the original & not at all what was intended by the creator.

  • Anonymous

    I probably shouldn’t reveal this, but I can, some thirty-five years after memorizing it, still recite, easily and without flaw, the entirety of the “Trouble” speech done by Robert Preston in his role of Harold Hill in the Meredith Wilson production of “The Music Man.” Sincerely yours, a serious ex drama-geek.

  • Don Whitt

    I think Camus put it much more simply.

    To paraphrase Albert – “He who stands against something, stands for nothing.”.

    In his recorded discourse to Christians, he had a very pragmatic entreat: That the fundamental tenets of Christianity make Christians responsible for doing good and, in general, for caring for other humans and actually practicing Christ-like deeds. I think he was both stating something very true, but also throwing a gauntlet down – being political and, in a fashion, saying to put their money where their collective mouth was.

    I truly love Camus, but I think his perspective is very common among non-Christians. That is, to peck at those aspects and perceived weaknesses of a theology as a way to denigrate Christians in general – to pick out specifics and dig-in rather than to look at the paradigmatic aspects of the theology.

    John Shore’s point regarding aggressive evangelism is in no way contrary to Christian faith. If Christ (as far as we know) demonstrated anything, it’s that Christianity should be demonstrated. That’s a damn sight different than blathering on about your savior and witnessing to strangers. I think that’s a mode that makes sense to some – they’re so stoned on the holy spirit they can’t shut the fuck up.

    Faith needs to be something to which we can RELATE. And it’s hard to relate to strangers accosting us in public venues, using terms and phrases alien to us or even insulting and repugnant. And o one likes being pinned-down having to listen to someone run-on. Ever.

    I recommend that, if you’d really like to participate in intelligent discourse regarding faith, that you chuck the one-size-fits-all business and realize that it doesn’t. And if you’re looking for a battle of wits, please bring more ammo. This isn’t some flame-worthy venue where you can show-up and use lame-ass logic. Most of us think A LOT about this stuff – that’s why we’re here. Our stripes and spots differ, but we’re open to openness. What ain’t cool is the whole internet forum baiting crap.

  • Don Whitt

    Let’s please not forget that anti-terrorism is big business. Big bucks business. Fear is a growth industry.

  • Don Whitt

    “If people have a personal relationship with Jesus, that is fine, but it never is personal.”

    Wrong. You have no idea what my relationship with God, Jesus, my mother, my father or anyone else is is about. You are very presumptuous and in error. But you’re getting lots of attention.

  • Oh, definitely. I wish I’d had good parenting and a good education. Seriously. Well, I suppose not even my rents think they did much of a job, but I can’t say I’ve seen much in schools that makes me think well of them. Curiosity, creativity, freedom of thought and expression seem to be rarely welcome in class-rooms. But I wish they were.

    In Sandman: The Kindly Ones, Neil Gaiman writes: “I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.”

    Math, and reading and writing, and some basics in science and culture and all that stuff that they do teach you in school, well, that’s all well enough and important and all. So, again, I have no beef at all with science. It is an excellent method for a particular kind of inquiry, and I am more than happy about many of the results. (Parise be to antibiotics and all that, you remember… 😉 I tried living in caves, lol, no need to go back there. Electricity and flowing hot and cold water are brilliant achievements.

    But I don’t see science teach me how to walk away from someone I don’t love anymore, or how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind, or any of those things. How to deal with despair and hope and desire, and friendship, and ambition, and all the really important things in life. Oh, science helps. It is a great tool to figure out precise solutions to precise problems, even in all of this. But for it to work you need to know the exact parameters, you need time and and be impassionate enough to develop theories and how to test them. And slowly humanity is building an ever refined database of such empirical knowledge, and more and more of it is accessible to everyone and can be drawn up in real life. Sure. I learned a lot about psychology and how the human brain works trying to be a better thief and liar, lol, and it turned out to be of great use in better understanding friends and myself and how to improve our lives.

    But when I most needed something to help me get a long with life at its most existantial level, science was no help. A bloody shamanic spirit quest did help. A God who impassionately and pitylessly told me to either get busy living or get busy dying and offered Himself up for a sacrifice if only I would take it, did help. Without any supernatural magic, or lifting the laws of nature, and maybe even without interfering with the laws of probability, though at the time my pattern-seeking mind certainly was under that impression.

    I don’t ask you to believe in God. The Shaman-in-training who helped me certainly didn’t believe in anywhere a similar kind of God as I do. Perhaps some science could be found to test who is right. Perhaps a deeper understanding would just reveal that she was seeing the trunk of the elephant while I’m staring at its arse-end. The hologram of a rose cut into strips will still reveal the same rose, but each strip from a different angle, and there will be several strips that will not let you call what you see a rose. When in a prolonged conflict about such a matter of perception, science again is a greatest tool in the world, to resolve it. Develop a science of morality. Fight the torturous theology. Definitely keep the church out of the government. Push better education and finance libraries. Yay.

    But this idea that there cannot be a religion that is compatible with science, and that all of us who experienced God must be delusional, and that atheism is the only intelligent way of thinking about the universe, sorry, that’s just arrogant and insulting.

  • Diana A.

    “The ‘positive atheist’ can, should he so choose, accurately call himself an atheist, because he does, indeed, practice a positive position in his belief that ‘there is no deity or are no sets of deities’. But, the positive atheist now puts himself in the same league as the theist when it comes to the burden of proof. If you actively claim that there is – or there is not – a deity or set of deities, the burden of proof is upon those that make that claim to provide evidence for their belief or claim. Whilst the Judeo-Christian God can be dismissed this way, it does not function as a credible argument for ‘all possible deities or sets of deities, for just how do you propose to prove – with evidence – that the nothing you believe in exists?”

    IMO: There’s only a burden of proof if one insists that others change their opinions to match one’s own. Otherwise, one can exist quite happily with people whose opinions are different from one’s own (unless, of course, those others are behaving violently toward oneself or one’s loved ones. Then one might rightfully be a little ticked.)

  • Diana A.

    “If I literally believed that someone was going to suffer from eternity unless he changed his mind about something, I’d probably do everything in my power to change his mind too. That person might feel disrespected, but I’d be much more worried about that person’s eternal suffering than I would be about his present annoyance. We might question whether Mr. Orange Cap’s methods are the most *effective* (maybe gentler persuasion would have a greater chance of success), but I see why that sort of error of tactics automatically disqualifies someone as a Christian. The real problem is not with Mr. Orange Cap, but with a religion that teaches that anyone who disagrees has to endure an eternity of unimaginable suffering. ”

    This is a big reason why I am a Christian Universalist. Thomas Talbott even addresses this specific issue in his book “The Inescapable Love of God.”

  • Diana A.

    “I’m not trying to suppress religion; I’m trying to show why we need to rein it back into the personal rather than the public domain… ”

    Unfortunately, the very people who most need to hear this message are the ones who are most likely to ignore it, not just because you’re a “godless atheist” (a redundant term? Mais oui!) but because, in their view, anyone who disagrees with them is godless, anti-god, bad, wrong, and stupid, etc.

  • The burden of proof applies to anyone that holds a positive belief in something, regardless of whether or not that belief is shared. How else is the belief to be justified?

  • “He who stands against something, stands for nothing.”

    This is a non-sequitur. ‘something’ could equate to a political cause, a faith or a baseball team, but if I were ‘against’, say the political cause, it does not follow that I do not ‘stand for’ another political cause, a faith, a baseball team or any other ‘something’ I may ‘stand for’. Honestly, I fail to see why you thought it necessary to add this line.

    The more I read, the more I understand the dynamic here. I shall try to bear that in mind when I give my responses, but so far, I have been unable to grasp the justifications for many of the views put forward here. If I have any agenda at all, it would be to understand peoples justifications for their views.

    I am unfamiliar with the works of Camus, but from what I can gather from what you have written, you appear to be saying that non-Christians take his work to be a broad-brush treatment of Christianity as a whole. What I don’t understand is, if that is what non-Christians think about Christianity or Camus’ works, why you would hold his writings in such high regard, and then go on to imply that we should look at Christianity from a holistic and all-encompassing perspective – as opposed to studying its minutiae.

    I can freely accept Johns perspective on Christianity for what it is, but I find no justification for how this perspective has been arrived at. There is undoubtedly more research that I should carry out to understand how Johns fans on this site justify their positions, but that is why I am here.

    Scripture can be cherry-picked for the loving aspects by both Christian and non-Christian alike – none of these good parts stand in isolation in Jesus’ teachings – but its more onerous and outmoded aspects can be only disregarded by the Christian to support his belief? That is nonsense. If you really do believe the good bits, and use this as a basis for your faith overview, what use the rest of it? Or more importantly, how can you justify adopting the good bits, whilst making noises alluding to the New Testament being taken in a wider context? If the justification for these perspectives come from people like Camus and other extra-biblical sources, just what is their worth as a personal theology over a personal philosophy?

    In the context of John’s perspectives as I understand them, there is no Christian justification for coming to the conclusions he has done, rather he has adopted a personal philosophy that as admirable in its premise, but has a questionably tenuous link to anything non-Christians understand Christianity to be about. All this despite trying to RELATE some sort of perceived link back to Jesus when none is either obvious or necessary.

    I am genuinely flummoxed.

  • My meaning by saying that a personal relationship is never personal in no means was meant to portray the fact that it isn’t personal to you – of course it is – and how could I know what that personal relationship is? To that end you are right. What was meant by it is that there is a preponderance of vocal theists who like very much to make that personal relationship very public indeed.

    I understand that the more quiet and reflective amongst you are widely ignored because of your more relaxed approach, but the fact that you come here and share opinion on it displays that it is not a wholly internalised practise, and is therefore not personal any more.

    You still maintain your personal relationship, but it is shared all the same.

    I could very well ignore these moments of candour so that you can maintain your personal relationships in isolation, but they interest me. How else am I, or anyone else for that matter, going to learn if your faith is not shared. This is where it gets topical.

    No matter how it is put across, the Christian sharing his faith or musings on Jesus is evangelising. Like going to church; it is an outward expression of your personal faith. Without it, Christianity – or any belief system – would die out in a generation.

  • And that’s why atheism defined as non belief in deities rather than belief in no deities is a quibble but an important one. As soon as one begins to define non belief as a belief of any kind, we’re into a linguistic quagmire where up means down, black means white, and atheism is deemed split into positive and negative beliefs, which is simply nonsensical.

  • Thanks. Despite not being clear on what I was asking you have managed to do so anyway.

    I would like to take what you have written and change it slightly to illustrate the similarities in our positions:

    “The place of modern Christianity is in the personal realm of belief and the interpersonal realm of service and charity. For those who believe, Christianity should bring them internal peace and move them to external acts of kindness.”

    “The place of modern humans is in personally believing that there are benefits in interpersonal acts of service and charity. For everyone, these external acts of kindness should bring them internal peace.”

    The ends are much the same, and the means are strikingly similar, but the motivations come from quite divergent sources. By way of a follow up question, I should like to ask you why you feel a need to be motivated by Christianity (for want of a term you might rather use), whilst non-Christians can come to the means and ends without it? Is it not possible to come to this conclusion independently?

    The most important thing is that we do all act in this – or similar – matters, but that is obviously not the underlying issue here. At least not for me. I cannot understand the justification for Christianity as a justification, when the means and ends are apparent to all, and are attainable without it.

    Also, the distinction you find in Paulian teachings, whilst inspiring to you and other Christians, is cherry-picked or interpretative. Paul is unquestionably one of the most influential Christians to have existed (some have argued more so than Christ himself!), but it is because of his importance in these issues, that I fail to understand how anything other than a personal philosophy can be gleaned by making distinctions, rather than a personal theology based on all of his teachings. It is ultimately you that gets to decide, rather than any overview of scriptural authority, and as such, I fail to see it as a justification for acting the way you do.

    Personally, I find these things self-evident. Humans are not overtly prone to acting against acts of kindness and charity without Jesus or Paul, so the question remains for me: How can a Christian faith be judged to be a justification of acts of outward kindness and charity, when such actions can be demonstrated to exist independently without it?

    n.b. Having just re-read this, I am reasonably confident someone could attack me for questioning your faith. I suppose that is what I am doing, but I do so – not because I am being disrespectful – but because I cannot find any justification for it in and of itself.

  • Kara

    I understand that you may well come to the same ends in what we’re terming the “interpersonal realm of service and charity”. However I don’t mean to indicate that I think belief is only the means to an end. Perhaps I could well come to the same ends without my faith. But I see the “personal realm of belief” as an ends in itself, at least for me personally.

    My internal faith is related to the good I attempt to do in the world, but only because it is related to and motivates every facet of my life. I hardly think I would stop eating or spending time with friends were I not a Christian; it’s simply a matter of the meaning that I assign to these tasks.

    As to your assertion that I am “cherry-picking.” It’s frustrating to be assailed from both the right and the left with the claim that “either it’s all true, or none of it is”. It seems to me that examining a text carefully and determining the contexts and biases of claims is a more intellectually honest way to engage with a piece of moral literature.

    I would certainly never say that morality or acts of kindness depend on Christianity or religious faith in general. I believe I would still try to do good without any religion. But religion is more than just some preferred means to a specific end for me; it is deeply fulfilling and meaningful internally as well as externally.

    Once again, I hope that clarifies my position for you.

  • But the arrogance is earned, FF. It works. It is reliable. It is a method using reason to help us determine what is true. It is an epistemology that works as well in philosophy as it does in music. Its ontology informs that our knowledge has veracity.

    You cut short science when you assume that it cannot offer answers that are meaningful on some emotional level. You are making an error in thinking that something unanswerable in practice means that it is unanswerable in principle, which is why I introduced neurology to better understand what it is that you are actually experiencing, why what you attribute to some outside agency is dubious.

    Science does have a lot to say about what love is, how it is expressed, why we find it meaningful, when the condition occurs, who is affected. These ARE scientific questions and the method of inquiry yields sustainable results of knowledge about the experience of love in spite of its subjectivity.

    Religion as we know it today offers us comfort with pseudo-answers… and grants us no means to discover what’s true. What you describe as your faith in god seems to fall into every linguistic category under the sun. You make constant counter claims that you believe in some THING but not the THING itself, you believe in the IDEA but not any expression of it. You play loose and easy with metaphor and allegory as if these are THINGS in and of themselves when it suits you and discard them as mere literary techniques when you assert what they represent them to be factually true and real in and of themselves. You then claim they are USEFUL religious beliefs so therefore are compatible with methodological naturalism when the claims are no such things.

    I have claimed that the way you have come to know about god as a real THING – as an active agency in the universe – is incompatible with the way you come to know about anything else that is true and real, that your experience of this THING is an attribution on your part that if used in a similar fashion throughout the rest of your life would cause you to lose all grasp on what’s real and true. You could not function. Not only is it an unintelligent way to come to know about the universe you inhabit, it is an impediment.

  • Fmiyc

    Any man who claims to be a Christian and can then write an article against people who try to share something about Jesus are anti-Jesus. Jesus sent his disciples out in fact 72 of them at one point, to preach the kingdom of God. He trained the 12 to be apostles of his word–apostle means ‘sent’. Your problem is you find it so uncool and unhip to walk up to someone and say something about Christ. And you wouldnt be caught dead being uncool. Your writing is nothing if not intended to be cool and hip–it is utterly self conscious and SCREAMS “See how funny I am!!” And let me warn you about something. When you empty your mind as the practice of Zen Buddism (its not Christiainty youre practicing–and Ive ‘sat’ before in the same type place you have) you open it up to WHATEVER . If you are not filled up with he word–not writing about the word, but THE WORD, scripture, you are a house swept clean and empty waiting for a few decieving spirits to come in and take residence. And that is exactly whats happened in your case. You are a false prophet pure and simple becasue you preach and teach false doctrine. Its all over what you say– and in your case, how you say it as well. You cannot even get out of the way and let Jesus shine in anything you write about Chrstiainty becasue hes not inside you in the first place and because its all about drawing attention and praise to yourself. STOP calling yourself a Christian!

  • Wow. Nice opinion there Fmiyc. And that is all it is, your personal opinion. Yeah, you…your opinion. You are of course entitled to it, thankfully there is no mandate on us sharing it.

  • Now here’s a great example of how to show love for a neighbor through seething, angry ranting. It kills two birds with one stone. Why would you ever think, even for just one moment, that this type of rant would reflect the example of love for any potential non-Christian reading this blog? Why would I ever feel compelled to get to know your view of Jesus if it meant that by doing so, I would become just as angry as you?

    Or maybe you’re another atheist troll parodying a fundamentalist. It’s impossible to tell while you’re hidden behind anonymity.

  • Although I can see how an atheist might portray him- or herself as fundamentalist nut case (many that I know are quite literate in religious studies), I don’t think it helps the move towards a more modern and rational and enviable personal faith. Again, most atheists I know fully embrace the notion of religious freedom… but also insist that freedom includes protection FROM religion. I would be very disappointed in any gnu atheist who stooped to such a tactic to stir the pot when good reasons are so readily available.

  • Don’t you admire the use of the word ‘share’ as if the exchange were mutually respectful?

  • Yeah, John Shore! The best way to be pro-Jesus is to be so obnoxious that you turn everyone away from the Word of God! So make sure you loudly tell people they’re going to hell, because they’ll be disgusted with you and Christianity, and then they’ll go to hell! Because that’s what Jesus wants: people to be turned off to his message, and go to hell.

    Fmiyc, I bet Jesus LOVES the fact that you are turning people off to his message and his love with rants like this. But I’m glad you don’t feel guilty about turning people away from God; as long as YOU’RE going to heaven, that’s all that matters.

  • Suz

    John is not a “prophet” at all. He is a compassionate man who loves God, and treats His creation with the respect due to EVERYTHING He loves. Your comment implies that you cannot bring yourself to love some of God’s creation, a fault shared by most of us. And unlike John, you have chosen to show uncivil hostility and contempt for a child of God. I find that sad, and I don’t see Jesus shining in your comment. You have brilliantly illustrated the point of his post. We thank you for your contribution.

  • Anonymous

    Whoa. That was awesome, Suz. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Paul! Nice!

  • DR

    I appreciate your drive-by evangelism and suspect that John will be closing the blog doors shortly as a result of this loving and gracious exhortation. Thank you for clearing all of this up.

  • Don Rappe

    No moat in your eye, is there?!

  • It’s always so nice when the arrogant assure us that their arrogance is so well earned because they are right, right? Now, who does that remind me off…?As for “playing loose and easy”, from my perspective, I’m just rather despairingly trying to lead you all around the bloody Himalayas and show them to you, while you keep saying: “No, man, there is no Himalayas here, just these bloody big rocks.” And you even step up to the mountainside and condescendingly knock against the cliffface, as if that would prove your point. “Since everybody knows that space can only be occupied by one thing at a time, there cannot be anything called Himalayas right here. Ergo, they must be a delusion. QED.”
    “But, but… they make up the Himalayas,” I shout, near tears.
    “Ah,” you say dryly. “Your ‘Himalaya’ is a bunch of rocks. I see.”
    And I look at the breathtaking majesty before me, and am at a loss for words.The ideas and expressions that seem to annoy you so, are just various illustration. But that doesn’t mean that what they illustrate doesn’t exist. Again, it’s like showing you a picture of a rhinoceros and you say: “That is supposed to be a grand animal? Don’t make me laugh. It’s just some colors on a piece of paper.” Myths are literary (allegorical or metaphorical) devices – that point to the shared, subjective experiences of real, complex phenomena. You recognize the parts of these phenomena just as I do. You just refuse to see that they make up a magnificent, often horrible, always miraculous narrative, the way a novel is made up of words and letters. You will never grasp its real essence or importance by anaylzing the ink on the paper. It is that complex gestalt that emerges in the interplay of things and how they form my experience of the world that matter. If that is unintelligent and impeding, well, you and I obviously have very different priorities.Keep counting rocks, or neurons, and be content with it. Meanwhile I’m walking the Himalayas, in awe.

  • Fmiyc

    I know false doctrine when I hear it

  • Fmiyc

    There is little love or graciousness in the attacks he makes against christians who evangelise, as the bible commands them to do, or christians that stand on the word regarding divorce, or sexuality etc. He regularly insults acutal born again believers. I think he finds the term born again a dirry word or just some political label actually. He ceratinly never applies it to himself–but Jesus said “unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”

  • Fmiyc

    Well he certainly posts articles where he declares that his liberal poltical/universal salvation doctrines are from Jesus. He says he is speaking God’s truth. That is the heart of what a prophet does. He does not do it accurately, hence he is a false prophet.

  • Fmiyc

    Aren’t you able to address or answer the people who address YOU directlly, or are you only able to high-five those who stand up for you? I notice you refuse to answer posters to disagree with you at Huff Post as well. Simple questions like “what does it take to become a Christian etc. Dont you have an answer for that? Its shouldn’t be a hard question for a person who claims to be so well versed in the faith

  • Anonymous

    I answer people whom I sense are serious about the questions they’re asking; I don’t bite on every piece of bait sloppily dangled before me. (And take care: calling “What does it take to become a Christian?” a simple question cannot help but make you seem almost tragically simple.)

  • Anonymous
  • Fmiyc

    So I think John the Bapstist would fit your discription of obnoxious–he said “Repent for the kingdom of God is near!” and to the religious leaders of Jesus time “you brood of vipers!”. Of course people make mistakes about how soft or forceful to be at any given moment, but there certainly ARE times to be forceful and direct and not mince words.

    John Shore is leading people astray of the truth, encouraging Christians to sin sexually, telling them its ok to divorce without biblical grounds, therefore bringing condmenation from God down upon themselves eventually, encouraging them to sit on their backside and do nothing to spread the Word, although the body of Christ is COMMANDED to do just the oppostie The man is encouraging the people of God TO SIN. Sin, unrepentanted of brings judgement eventually. That is also a part of Jesus message and if you cannot see any love in correction towards the correctee or towards those who might fall buy his false doctrines, by pointing them out then youve never been a parent or ever known that correction or rebuke is parental love toward you kids and towards anyone your kids bad behavior might influence. He says hes a Christian and as one myself I have every right and responsibly to call him on anything incorrect he says. He does that all the time, holding himself up as an expert when in fact its clear he’s limited time in the actual scriptures–he has listed all the books he’s read about the faith as proof of his knowledge, but and left out the Bible as part of his reading list. And Mr Shore regularly–as in this rags on Christians at secular sites. How come you arent upset at him for doing that? Frankly i find his articles obnoxiuos and his teachings dangerous to believers and non- believers.

    By the way a woman who called me in the middle of the night, who I worked for threateneed to kill herself over some abuse by her husband –all my talking to her about the good things that where on the other side of her despair did no good to stop her threats, so finally I said what I knew was true–you’ll go to hell if you do that. (“If you destroy the temple of God, God will destroy you”-). She stopped, listened, calmed down and got some help the next day. There IS a time to say it.

  • Fmiyc

    Ivre read some of his atricles, and his teaching is not accuate or biblical and his attacks on Christians are nasty

  • Anonymous

    Hmmm. To block, or not to block—that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of this outrageous guy; Or to take up arms against his sea of trouble, and, by opposing him, end him.

  • Anonymous

    Hmmm. To block, or not to block—that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of this outrageous guy; Or to take up arms against his sea of trouble, and, by opposing him, end him.

  • Anonymous

    What did punctuation ever do to you, that you should hate it so much?

  • Anonymous

    What did punctuation ever do to you, that you should hate it so much?

  • Uhm. I am a Christian, and I find quite a bit of what john says utterly relevant, even tempered, respectful and refreshing. His view on how Christians should treat each other, and emulate the teachings of our Savior quite accurate and a mirror of how I feel we should be doing things the Christian way.But then I also remember that people have used biblical teaching to prove all sorts of crazy things, such as people who are not white are inferior, slavery is a good thing, polygamy is a good thing, women are inferior to men, women are to be subjective subordinates to men, it is ok to treat others with disdain and hatred…yep every last one of those have been “proven” to be just fine by God to do by using scripture. It doesn’t mean its right or the purpose or intent of what Scripture is all about. And it certainly is very contrary to the basic commandments laid out for us, so simply by Jesus, “love God, love your neighbor. It just shows that people can twist things to make their own purposes seem justified, by saying “well it says here in the bible…”

  • he did use a comma in that last post.

  • what kind of help? Like an actual escape from her abusive husband? If he wasn’t actually abusive, (which I suspect he was) then a good doctor who was able to treat her medically and get her to an appointment with a wonderful compassionate therapist? Does it not cross anyone’s mind that to the truly desperate that death by one’s own hand may be preferable to life in the intolerable? And that to them life is in itself hell? And shouldn’t we at least try a little bit to see where they may be coming from?

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Or you could have just told her that she has no need to take her life to end her life of abuse—that she’ll move on to a better life in this world, one where she receives the true love God that intended for her, before He’s ready to call her into the next. Yet it seems you choose to keep her in hell here by the threat of hell there. (This does not sound like that which God has brought together; yet you seem to think that it becomes a marriage as far as the Word is concerned simply because men say that it is so, though I guess that bodes well for eventual gay marriage. Anyhow, as far as the words of men are concerned, sounds like someone’s already broken his—to love and cherish, or however it might be have been put—rendering the covenant void by such unfaithfulness.)

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Either that or the pot’s calling the kettle black (when, perhaps, it’s stainless steel, mind you). And John – a Universalist? “Jesus decides who does and doesn’t make the cut,” seems to me a far cry from “Everyone is saved.” But Lord knows best.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    So you have seen the Kingdom?

  • Kara K

    John the Baptist stood in a river and people came to him because they wanted to hear what he had to say. He didn’t accost people in the public square. Jesus reserved “you brood of vipers” for religious leaders because of their arrogance and judgments. The people He was trying to reach He spoke to with kindness and love.
    Having made that middle of the night call when my husband was strung out on meth and punching me in the head randomly every day, I know from reading everything you’ve written here that you would be the last person I would call for help. In fact even though I’d grown up in the church I called a Wiccan. You believe you have “every right and responsibility” to call what is correct and incorrect, to say who is and who isn’t a Christian, to know who is going to heaven and who is going to hell. That is precisely the behavior that got the Pharisees called a “brood of vipers”. Jesus also said “Judge not, lest you be judged”. I don’t necessarily agree with everything John writes, but I do agree with him when he says “Jesus is the only one who decides who gets into heaven”. And in that case, treating everybody with respect regardless of what they believe seems like the best way to be faithful to Jesus. I truly believe that if Jesus wants me to talk to somebody about Him, He will put that person in my life. I don’t have to go out making people uncomfortable and putting them on the defensive. Your words here are not spoken out of love, they are, frankly, full of contempt.

  • Nice post, John.

    Pity about the trolling it attracted, but a nice post. 🙂

  • Maybe there are additional reasons that feed into the willingness of young Muslims to take up arms against the west beside the poisonous nature of religion: Check out this article from the well established non-kooky Foreign Policy magazine.

    Another triumph of tribalist It-Must-Be-Us-Or-Them thinking.

  • I think this is accommodationsit crap. It is the usual ego-centric self-loathing found in the confused ranks of relativistic po-mo liberals who think the world revolves around them.How about we compare the number of muslims killed by other muslims and figure out how that jives with a willingness to murder apostates.For example, from Oct 30 – Nov 5, 2010 there were 46 reported jihad attacks of muslims killing 322 people and injuring 687. How does this defend, excuse, or rationalize that the responsibility that more than a third of British born affluent muslim youth think that killing in defense of their religion is acceptable somehow falls on US foreign policy? To do so takes very twisted reasoning.

  • You know, my first reaction was actually a rather baffled fullhearted agreement. I don’t know what po-mo means, I think I’m rather past my self-loathing stage, and I am quite aware that very littel revolves around me… I work nights in a bakery to contribute to our bed & board costs and struggle through hopefully therapeutic novel-writing that nobody will ever seriously read by day. But a part of me wanted to share your indignated self-righteous anger. I wish I could say that I don’t condone any killing, but that would be silly of course. But the murder of peeps just because of their believe, well, anything, or because of percieved slights to some national, religious, or ideological pride is of course just terrible and inexcusable. And the queer boy in me, the outsider, the person who’s rarely held any popular views and has gotten his share of friction from not fitting in want to join you in telling any bully what an aşağılık herif he is, and a murderous bully anway.
    But you see, the thing is this: We can sit here and agree on how bad some deeds are, and be joined in deontological outrage, and other than that we could feel thoroughly superiour, what good would it do?
    I might have mentioned that I grew up in a part of Berlin where a lot of kids from Turkish, Arabic, Polish, and Yugoslav families lived. I was friends with a lot of them. But stupid ethnic, nationalistic, and religious barriers kept eroding these friendships. (And being queer didn’t help either, but that was a bit later.) Yes, in part it was them clinging to those self-definitions, and following the “irrational” tenets of their faiths and stuff. But a lot was being ascribed to them. It was bloody impossible for them to not be defined by those categories. Some could deal with it better, some worse. But no matter how much we may wish that everybody had the self-confidence to just “be himself”, few are, and it’s not going to change. And even fully secular societies keep upholding their tribalism. And every time someone says “we” he makes all others into “them.”
    It is not a moral defense, not an excuse, and no rationalization that Muslims in Western societies, as well as the entire Muslim world, is defined by the ostracisim behaviour of the West as much as by their own religion or culture. We can ridicule or scorn it as much as we want, we are not making the world a better place by pointing the finger at them.
    The modern muslim world was created by Russia and the British Empire in the 19th Century and shaped by the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, and actual religious faith has only a very minor part in the whole mess. This is much more about self-confidence, validation, pride, belonging, peers, poverty, and exploitation.
    So, if you really are the consequentalist with a scientific approach to morals, shove your self-rightous shouting up your arse, mate, stop attributing blame, and look for realistic solutions for real people, taking into account the complex neurological and social web they are bound in. Telling Muslim (or Christians) that are wrong and evil – no matter how right you are – will not achieve anything, except harden the fronts.

  • You have a very strange way of describing me and my points. For example, the basis of the comparison you introduced was an article that showed muslim deaths attributable to the ‘West’. You have set out the parameters here. I then say that a better comparison to be fair must also account for muslims killing muslims. You then tell me I’m shouting, that I’m dividing people into us versus them, and that the violence British muslims are willing to support is still due to colonization, political interference, and the Cold War carried out by the West. You then tell me that I can shove my self- righteousness and blame and calling people evil and wrong up my ass if I don’t accept your assumption that because I think beliefs themselves have consequences when put into action I should agree with you.

    Umm, no.

    Although you may think that people willing to kill others in defense of their faith is due to geopolitical forces, I think it has a great deal to do with the specific religious beliefs that directly justifies killing in defense of the faith. I know; it’s quite unreasonable and rather rude of me to think people actually mean what they say and what is said is naturally the fault of the West if it barbaric. But hey, that’s just me. I’m so intolerant of potential murderers. It’s a fault I have and very intolerant, to be sure. I should be ashamed.

    Perhaps a good night’s sleep will help clear your head so that you comprehend what I write first before rushing off to do battle with your straw man you call tildeb.

  • For the namecalling I do apologize. Passion of the moment and stuff, but really bad form. You are right to call me out on it. So, sorry for that.

    The straw man thing is a bit weird. Look, from my POV it was rather rlike this: You make your claim that religion makes people murderous. And I see your point. In some cases it does to some people. But then I say that a) a lot of things kills people, and islamic terrorism seems to be amongst the smaller risks, and b) there are more factors in what makes muslims murderous than the religion itself. And yeah, you can’t get past the fact that actions in the West contribute to the evils of fundamentalist Islam. You know, the way sometimes “trolling” for example is in part responsible for flamewars. It would be a better world if we all could just let the trolls be trolls and ignore them… but often we can’t. It’s human. Any solution has to deal with that “fact”.
    “you may think that people willing to kill others in defense of their faith is due to geopolitical forces” –> That was a misunderstanding. I wanted to say that often enough they are not rationally defending their faith, but that they are only using the faith as a group identifier, like a flag, or like gang colours or the scarf of their fav football team, and they try to fight the externalization of their own feelings of worthlessness, poverty, insignificance, and other stuff (coupled with a badly repressed sex drive and a very unhealthy – and solely religously motivated – feedback-loop of screwed up man-woman relationships.)
    “it’s quite unreasonable and rather rude of me to think people actually mean what they say” –> Well, I dunno about rude, probably not, but as someone who went to school with David Shore, you might have noticed that everybody lies, and mostly to themselves. And that’s religious and non-religious folk alike. Neurological research does actually support this assumption. So, yeah, thinking that they say what they mean is actually very unreasonable. Und very unscientific.
    For the straw man: When you claim you want to rationally better the world and prevent killings, you should indeed try to understand people better. Because, frankly, I don’t think you do very much. Not only that you have a very unrealistic image of how “rational” people actually are – and that is all people, in general – but also that you do not seem to try very hard. Instead you claim this “intolerance of murderers” as a fallback position and from there make demands that the world be different. And no matter how morally justified these demands may be, it just will not happen. If you want the sad occurences in the Middle East to stop, you must either change the behaviour of Muslims or of the West. Since the Muslims are a) kind of out of your reach, and b) factionalized and unorganized, you simply cannot change them directly, no matter how much you would want to. As an educated member of western, democratic society however, you have an influence on the process that determins the actions of your governments. They can change. They can try to overcome their selfish greed and their moral indignation and try to behave in a way that will promote rational and peaceful behaviour in Muslims. Prosperity, the growth of a middle class, and close economic ties with other countries for example all tend to stabilize societies and reduce the risk of war and terrorism. (As the loss of a middle class seems to push the fruitcakes back into power, see USA today…)
    So, I do think that it is rather you who has made a straw man out of, well, humans in general, based on very few assumptions (maybe, again, it is more the hasty generlization falacy, than the straw man per se). And as a consequentialist it would indeed be in your interest to change that.
    And by the way, don’t look now, but when you call that “someone” I am doing “battle” with a “straw-man”, you are not really talking about a literal man made of straw, are you? You are just assuming that the term describes best the mental construct I directed my last response to. Does that mean the “straw-man” doesn’t exist and you are delusional? That you are claiming non-existant facts? Or are you just applying a suitable term to a real phenomenon? *hint-hint, nudge-nudge* 🙂
    (But, seriously, once more apologies for my rudeness.)

  • You make your claim that religion makes people murderous.

    No I don’t. Extending beliefs without compelling evidence that they are true into the world results in adding to the combustible mixture of ignorance and power. Such a mixture (More than a third of British born affluent muslim youths think killing in the name of their religious beliefs is justified; the earth is less than 10K years old, vaccines are poisonous, eating parts of albinos protects you from AIDS, gays should be killed, and so on…) is very dangerous to maintain and badly in need of very pointed and sustained criticism.

    everybody lies

    We need a fine understanding that human beings and their sense (especially interpretations and attributions and assumptions and assertions of supernatural agency) are fallible. There is greater call and a legitimate role to think critically and skeptically in a democracy – to ask the necessary questions of those entrusted with public authority, to interrogate those who tell us something is true – to avoid falling into the trap of trusting and supporting whatever religious or political charlatan comes along for all the worst reasons.

  • Jason Smith

    I believe very firmly in Jesus. But the emphasis on that statement is at the beginning of it and the end, “I” and “Jesus.” We are the only 2 parts of my personal faith equation. I also believe (somewhat sadly) that Ghandi was spot on when he said “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” The point to the article is, regretfully spot on as well. There is an ignorant arrogance to Christianity nowadays. They can quote Scripture like nobody’s business, word for word in many cases. But ask them what it means…

  • Kat

    Do you also know that the Bible tells us to share our faith with “gentleness and respect?” and to do otherwise and to judge is more in keeping with a self righteous Pharisee than a humble disciple of Christ. Go back and read your Bible and pray. You will have to answer to God one day, as will we all. I doubt He will tell you “well done, good and faithful servant” for your insults to a fellow Christian and disregard foe scriptural precedents of how we are to represent our faith. I will pray for you.

  • Kat

    Hahaha. He doesn’t line verb conjugations that much either

  • Scott

    ^^LOVE this!^^

  • This, this is the very thing that has made even holding on to Jesus so prickly for me. I bristle at the absolute certainty that many Christians have about God, Jesus, mankind and our intertwined fate that hinges on belief . . . belief that is undoubtedly influenced by culture, nationality, tradition and, yes, Divine will. This is what causes me such pain . . .

  • charles

    btdt….. I am sorry for it too- it was not a reflection of Jesus in any way.

  • Jeff Huckaby

    This young man was more concerned about being right than saving your soul.

    I read in his actions arrogance and a fragile ego.

    A person’s faith should take them deeper in to love for another human being. This kind of action he is taking will only drives others away. This type of “Christian” is attempting to control someone through fear and intimidation disguised as concern. I personally don’t believe something like that can be from a greater power.

  • Jonah

    I firmly believe in God, and in Jesus, but while my church teaches us that we should try to bring the knowledge of Christ into others’ lives, they also teach that temperance, understanding, patience and most of all a connection with the spirit of the Lord (which connection should tell us, if we’re actually practicing Christ’s teachings, when to talk and how to teach most effectively) should be used when speaking to others about the gospel, and that the most effective form of proselyting, if you will, is to demonstrate in your every day actions the type of behaviour that the Lord would, himself, demonstrate.

    We are supposed to make every effort possible to use love and empathy in our every day lives, and through that to show others what it really means to be like Christ – which is the entire point of being Christian, isn’t it? Learning to be like Christ *yourself* so that when you’re enough like Him, you can recognize how best to help those around you.

    Also, please note that I didn’t say “you can recognize how best to convert those around you.” I said help for a reason; helping others with no care for reward or recognition is the ultimate form of love.

  • Congratulations! Pastor Dave from Repent Amarillo has publicized this post on Facebook!

  • Thanks to Grisham I found your website lol shadowing him has led me to all sorts of cool people. Well said, keep up the good work 🙂

  • Rhoda

    I’m here from Pastor Dave’s link too.

    Good story, congrats on your escape!

  • “christians that stand on the word”

    Ah, that explains your lack of reading comprehension.

    Hold the book in front of your eyes.

  • Amen.

  • *needs Love button*

  • dan

    “he only wanted what was best for Cat and me.”

    As a former believer who was ‘evangelized’ by a ‘friend’ who used some very strong armed and manipulative tactics when I was a very vulnerable 18 year old closeted gay man, I can say that this man’s motives may well not have been what was best for you and your wife. People ‘witness’ for many reasons. I realized years later that my ‘friend’ was desperately trying to build a safe world, a buffer, around herself, and in her mind that meant building a circle of people saying the same thing she was saying.

    Others do it for validation. Some just really enjoy the rush of ‘witnessing.’ Think of how hard that man’s heart was beating as the conversation ratcheted up. Most of his encounters don’t lead to any conversation at all. He likely went home and told his church friends all about the encounter. We did(yes, I also was taught to witness and became an obnoxious ass).

    And I’ve used a whole lot of ‘quotes’ in this message. ‘Sorry’

  • Brena

    “By proving that he had no respect whatsoever for our belief system, he proved that he had no respect for us.

    Proving that he had no respect for us proved that the evangelizer did not love us, since the best that love without respect can be is patronizing.”

    Awesomely well put. I would add that when we don’t listen to or respect others it shows we are either afraid that what they say may make sense to us or afraid we don’t really understand or believe what we say we do. (It’s probably fear of both.)

  • <>

    What IS it about this particular brand of “Christianity” that seems to attract so many people? The God they worship is an angry bully who requires the shedding of innocent blood as payment for the evils of humanity. I don’t get it.

  • Still one of my favorite posts ever. It strikes such a raw nerve in the inherent problem with religion, and yet treats it with humor and grace.

  • Brena

    Agree. Living your truth can inspire, and inpiration is helpful while coercion is bullying.

  • Brena


  • Brena

    hmm…an iambic pentameter head scratcher.

  • Brena

    Yes, power trips, too. I watched a video describing the Bleep Chritians say to Atheists (actually I watched a few) and one thing that popped up repeatedly was that it takes “more” faith to be an Atheist than to believe. That made zero sense until I realized what they are saying is their faith is defined by going along with the moral majority and being approved of by the decent people around them. If that is how they see faith then they could not imagine how brave an athiest has to be. So, for a lot of people faith = doing what I’m supposed to. So, when polite Zen people don’t reaffirm my goodness and truthiness then it gets personal real fast. Of course being polite and complimentary is not reaffirming my faith. If they really agreed with me then they needed to convert when and where and how a believing person is directing or it’s not the real deal. It is not such a mystery why so many people run from that kind of “help.” Or why so many Christians are convinced the world actually and personally hates them.

  • dan

    Yes, you hit that nail on the head in regards to the reaffirming part. Early on my friend convinced me that a rejection of her faith meant a rejection of her. That is really why I went to her church a second and third time. In the end, an 18 year old kid who had only 3 times been out of the state of Michigan, who also was hoping desperately to find a way not to be gay, was no match for a few people who had practiced evangelism for decades. But I’m not bitter!

  • I don’t get it either, Scott. But I was one for a while, early in my walk with Jesus. Thankfully I don’t recognize that person anymore. I do know how they think. Or, rather, don’t think. They just accept an amazing amount of contradictions, on faith.

    Questions, as we know, are not encouraged. But God can take it, and inquiring minds will get answers. I did. I’m no longer affiliated with any organized church. If I were, I would never have met you, for one thing. I am most blessed today. <3

  • You always read my mind! Your posts are my favorites!

  • Heidi Thibodeau via Facebook

    Love this! I sometimes think people like that enjoy feeing as if they are better than everyone else because they are “saved.” Like they belong to this ultra exclusive country club or something. Kind of a “Nah nah, Im saved and you’re not; ha ha, I’m going to heaven and you’re not.” Some of the most arrogant people I’ve ever met have been evangelical Christians.

  • Andie

    Beautiful, John. You are so eloquent.

  • Kristi

    I’ve been accosted many times in my life. What really gets me is when, “I’m not interested,” or a simple “No,” isn’t enough. I’ve reached a point where I view evangelists as predators. Yes, I know that’s harsh but I can’t help but feeling like I am their prey.

  • Brena

    The simple way: go to the approved church, practice approved practices, speak the approved dogma, pay the minimum 10%, only ask questions we already know the answer to, treat everyone outside of the church as, at best, ingnorant victims drowning in their own pitiful egos and identities and, at worst, the same type of people who nailed Jesus to the cross and are now attempting to crucify me with their non-compliance. Simple. (Yeah, there is some personal faith in there, too. It can get question-y and doubt-y but that is not logic or reasoning working out our own salvation with fear and trembling; that is the work of the devil and the cure is to go to church more, more practicing of the approved practices, more speaking of the approved dogma, and rebuking the satan vessels who blatently work on the balance of uncertainty and belief.) Stays simple.

  • Brena

    And don’t forget the eating of the shellfish. We must never forget the horrors of that. Amen.

  • MissRose

    I volunteer at a crisis center. If someone is suicidal you need to get them proper professional help. Telling that woman she would go to hell for ending her life is probably one of the worst things you could have said. I’m sure she shut down rather than calmed down after you said that.. I am very troubled that you would say that to someone in such crisis. I think you should seek out a good therapist. At the very least, refrain from counseling people in crisis.

  • Diana A.

    Subtle. I like!

  • Mark Hull

    Beautifully said John maybe minus the shame on you 🙂

  • danielle

    I was once approached by a rather shaky woman who cried, “God loves you,” as she tried to shove a pamphlet into my hand. I simply replied, “I know, but don’t worry; God loves you, too.” She was silent. I kept walking, sans pamphlet.

    Every situation is different, but personally I’ve found that responding kindly but firmly without getting into any semblance of a conversation (while keeping in motion) is generally the best way to evade people like this. Just as the best thing you can do when someone insists on screaming about hellfire and damnation on a street corner is to ignore him/her completely (unless, of course, that person decides to do something to harm him/herself or others). They thrive on conflict. It’s the only way they feel powerful. It’s almost like they’re addicted to it. It’s tragic, really.

  • LSS

    I’m curious, maybe it was already commented and i missed it, but why did you guys leave Zen? I was considering going into it but didn’t think i have the committment. My husband practices zenlike, well, practice, without the meditating. But it has an effect on his life, definitely. Maybe he has found some adhd compatible method of meditating or something. Anyway… Since i know it’s compatible with christianity, i don’t assume you left Buddhism because you became christians. So that’s why i ask, why DID you leave it, or didn’t you really leave it? Sorry if this is too nosy a question. But i ask if for practical reasons in case it applies to our own case.

  • Jill

    what a great statement

  • Jill

    dan I’m pretty sure I get your story of evangelism by strongarm personally. I believe we’ve been down the same hyper-religious road, of course when we were young and clueless. So a big win for the street preachers! I’m not bitter either. 😉