What to do? Believing Child with Ex-Christian Mom and Siblings

What to do? Believing Child with Ex-Christian Mom and Siblings April 9, 2015

Editor’s Note: The Atheist Ex-Pastor is B-a-a-a-c-k! Where has he been? Writing and promoting his new book, Life Beyond Belief: A Preachers Deconversion. He’s now “out” as Bob Ripley, long-time pastor of a large mainline church in Canada. He’ll tell us about his après book experience in a future post. Right now, he’s responding to a mother with a question she would not have if she had only not questioned her faith.



Dear Atheist ex-Pastor,

About three years ago I started doubting my faith. At this point I am no longer a Christian. I don’t dismiss a higher being but I believe that if one exists, we are not a priority. My older children understand and have similar feelings. However last week my five year old asked why I don’t attend. I explained that I no longer believe what the church teaches us. She asked if it was still okay to love Jesus and I said yes. Am I doing the right thing letting her attend even though I feel as though she is being lied to? I would love your insight. Thank you for your time,

Jen Eisenhour

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Dear Jen,

These kinds of decisions as parents are particularly challenging as we try to be honest and authentic but at the same time sensitive to the needs of each individual child.  In this case, you have older children who have similar feelings as yourself but it is not easy to explain to a five year old that the friend they have grown to love does not exist.

The issue is not that far removed from the time each parent has to decide to let a child know that, in fact, there is no Santa.  Often older children “spill the beans” to younger siblings which is not the most ideal situation.  In your case the older siblings might be tempted to tell your youngest that there is no Jesus (or something like that).   As a pastor who no longer believes, I would strongly urge that you bring the older siblings aside and explain that it is important for them to understand your reasons for allowing your youngest to continue to attend church, lest they think you are being hypocritical. My hunch is that with the rest of the family absent, your child will gradually drift away from church and opportunities will open up for you to explain why you are no longer a Christian.   At the same time, of course, it is important that your children know how much you love them and that life is wonderful beyond belief.

All the best,

Bob Ripley

Editor’s Question to Readers: What advice would you have given Jen?


ripley2 photoBio:  Bob Ripley, aka “Dave the Atheist ex-pastor” is a syndicated religion columnist, broadcaster, former preacher and author of Christian devotional material. His new book, which came out in October, 2014 is titled Life Beyond Belief: A Preacher’s Deconversion.


"I once went to a funeral of a person I had never met - because ..."

"Bob, Thanks for sharing this thought provoking funeral.Our feelings about funerals are vastly different; I ..."

"Never been to a 'good' funeral. All have been grim.OTOH, the sight of people on ..."

"And for god's sake no ministers or priests. None of them are worth a d_a_mn."


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • ctcss

    Editor’s Question to Readers: What advice would you have given Jen?

    What I find interesting is that Jen came to her own conclusion about God that expresses her own feelings about the matter (“I don’t dismiss a higher being but I believe that if one exists, we are not a priority.”) She started doubting her faith and then decided she was no longer a Christian. But her 5 year old daughter has a different take on the matter and still feels that she wants to continue expressing her love for Jesus. Jen says yes, but wonders if this was a good idea?

    Perhaps recasting this problem in a slightly different light might help. Suppose a family situation exists where Jen and her husband divorced because of irreconcilable differences. She felt that, despite her earlier feelings of affection for her husband, she has concluded that she can no longer regard her ex with the same feeling, and thus decided she could no longer be married to him. (“I don’t dismiss him as a villain, but I believe that if he cares about anyone, I am not a priority.”) However, her daughter (not being Jen, or having directly experienced Jen’s heartbreak and disappointment), has a rather different take on Jen’s ex. She still finds him to be appealing and loveable, even if Jen no longer does. Would Jen likely rethink/question her permission for her youngest daughter to continue expressing love for the ex? Probably not.

    The problem here is basically that different people have different takes on the God question. Some people regard God as a monster. Others regard God as Love itself. Still others have no clear idea of how to regard the God question. This, IMO, is not much different than how people see other people. Thus someone may find person X intolerable to be around while others may find X to be good-natured and enjoy having them around. This difference of opinions usually relates to the qualities perceived and experienced by each person about X, as well as what they are expecting from X.

    So if the daughter perceives and experiences positive qualities regarding the character of Jesus, she will likely continue to have good feelings about him, even though Jen can no longer feel that way herself. Still, are the people in church lying to the daughter about the qualities they are ascribing to Jesus? Not unless they know otherwise and yet are deliberately misleading her. And are Jen’s current feelings about Jesus actually the absolute truth about Jesus, or are they just her current take on the question? Because unless Jen’s take is the absolute truth, then the question of truth or lies isn’t actually so much a question about a readily determined absolute, as it is about an exploration regarding what the truth actually is.

    So I would say that Jen made a helpful decision regarding her daughter. Giving a person the chance to figure things out for themselves without the burden of judgment being levied against them is often a good idea.

    My 2 cents.

  • The Eh’theist

    A couple of things come to mind. I would agree that if she wishes to attend church, it isn’t a bad thing, but Jen should decide which church is attended, based on what hurtful messages, if any, might be communicated there.

    I think it’s also important to realize that her daughter will believe for as long as she believes. My next door neighbour went on to believe in Santa 2 or 3 years after the rest of us because he really wanted to and came up with reasons to debate every objection he heard.

    To possibly speed things up, Jen could find an alternate outlet for whatever her daughter enjoys about believing in Jesus, and that alternate, combined with everyone else’s disbelief, should have an influence.

  • “…but it is not easy to explain to a five year old that the friend they have grown to love does not exist.

    Especially if the person explaining the non existence of “Jesus” is the same one who established the existence of “Jesus” in the first place. (or at least participated in the process.)

    The thing is, what exactly does not exist that use to exist? Neither existence or non-existence is more certain than the other. Taken individually these are both abstractions. But taken together it is a potent teaching.

    Embracing Paradox or clinging to certainties; Which seems more like the stuff of life?

    It never hurts to inquire into the nature of Reality/God. Though, without honesty, curiosity and patience it won’t go far. Needing fixed answers will certainly derail the effort.

  • mason

    I think the child should be protected from the absurd nonsense that she is being exposed to. She is at such a credulous age and is so vulnerable. I completely disagree with the advise that was given to Jen based on my own experience at the child’s age and the many stories I read of those who later work to deprogram the junk they were brainwashed into. I think encouraging a young fertile mind to continue the delusion and be subjected to the environment of silly adults is child abuse. Maybe one day a child’s mind will actually be considered sacrosanct. The child is looking for help and not getting it. Get the poor kid out of that mess asap before I phone Child Protective Services. 🙂

    The parent needs to come clean and tell the child that Jesus is a myth, a fairy tale, and not real. Show the child other super heroes that can be enjoyed for what they are; fantasy. Be honest.

  • John Lombard

    I don’t agree with Mason on this. It is an argument based on “teaching children WHAT to think”…ie. “I will teach my children everything that I think is true, and shield them from anything I think is untrue”. My problem with this is that it is EXACTLY the same argument that religious people will use to justify teaching kids their beliefs, while shielding them from scientific/rational views and arguments.

    Our focus should be on teaching our kids HOW to think. Let the child learn about Christianity…but also teach them about Islam, Buddhism, atheism, etc. Let them know that you don’t believe, and honestly answer their (inevitable) questions about why. Let them understand that this isn’t a situation of the parents deciding for them what they should or should not believe, but rather of the parents being there to help them make such decisions for themselves,

    The most obvious objection to this is, “They are too young”…to which I say, “Nonsense and poppycock”. If they are old enough to be asking questions, they are old enough to be encouraged to ask those questions, and to seek to find their own answers…not to rely on others to provide the answers for them.

    To me, the ultimate difference between believing and non-believing parents SHOULD BE that while the believers are afraid of having their kids learn anything that contradicts their beliefs, non-believers are not. Because the non-believers have the confidence that if they teach their children how to think for themselves, and how to understand the evidence for various claims, that their kids will reach the correct conclusions on their own.

  • ctcss

    believers are afraid of having their kids learn anything that contradicts their beliefs, non-believers are not

    While this is an interesting point to make, it also seems to make the assumption that non-believers have no turf to protect. The conclusion that God does not exist is not a final one, and I’m fairly certain that you personally would agree that could be the case. But there seem to be more than a few non-believers who like to skew the dials to their end of the spectrum as well.

    But what if a parent has encountered and utilized helpful things that they are confident that will stand up to examination? If so, why would a parent not wish to share that knowledge with their children? It’s one thing to say, “Here’s the vast array of human knowledge. Figure things out on your own”, as though nothing particularly valuable was already known. But usually humans like to give their offspring a boost with their own hard-won knowledge and experience that will help place them further forward. Shouldn’t such information be shared early on, rather then “eventually”? I agree that offspring should be allowed to come to their own conclusions, but do you really think that each and every human should start at ground zero with no helpful initial perspective given?

    This is a difficult area to parse. Family life is not a vacuum. Children are going to witness what it is that the adults are doing, and what they are utilizing in their lives. Non-believers are, by definition, not going to be engaging in certain activities. But they will be engaging in others. And it is those explicitly engaged-in activities that children will witness and no doubt share in, just as the children of believing parents will witness and share in their parents’ engaged-in activities. The children of each will ask questions, and hopefully, both through the answers given, the actions witnessed, and the experiences shared, along with the comparisons of their friends’ families actions, as well as the personal experiences of each of those children living in those environments, they will come to conclusions as to whether their own parents’ hard-won knowledge has any value.

    Personally, I am very glad that I was introduced to my religion as a child. I did not grow up in a bubble, and I had plenty of opportunity to examine other ideas as I grew up. But I would not have wanted to wait until I was an adult before engaging in what I learned early on to value.

  • Linda_LaScola

    Coincidentally, Patheos atheist blogger Neil Carter recently wrote a piece about dealing with his daughters’ religious concerns http://www.patheos.com/blogs/excommunications/2015/04/when-your-child-is-terrified-youre-going-to-hell/

  • John Lombard

    ctcss, my response to you would be fairly simple. Yes, you should share with your child the things that you’ve learned…but leave them to compare that with what others say, and draw their own conclusions.

    The thing is, your child is inevitably going to face numerous instances in life where there is information or situations that you HAVEN’T experienced yourself, or that you are NOT there to help them with. Therefore, rather than teaching them “Believe this because I already found out its true” or “Don’t believe this because I already found out its not true”, you should be teaching them how to evaluate information (from you, and from others) and then reach their own conclusions.

    And I should perhaps change my statement from “non-believers are not afraid of having their kids learn anything that contradicts their beliefs” to “non-believers SHOULDN’T BE afraid of having their kids learn anything that contradicts their beliefs”. But truth is, there are plenty of non-believers who ARE afraid, and just as determined to ‘protect’ their children from any contradictory claims as any religious person.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    Gotta agree with you on this one, John. I thought the same thing as I read Mason’s post — that he’s just doing the same (atheist) fundamentalist knee-jerking that he so despises when true believers do it. If our kids adopt Mason’s mode of “rational” thought, then they’ll really be in trouble … It’s essential that the next generation of free-thinkers be exposed to as wide a world of ideas as possible — and (as you say) if they’re taught to think for themselves FIRSt, then we’ll be ‘cooking with gas’!

  • Linda_LaScola

    I think the difference here may be that the child is being exposed, but not brainwashed. We also don’t know from the mother’s post what kind of church her child is attending. It could be a pretty watered down “Jesus Loves me” kind of place, without the scary threats about what happens if you don’t believe.

  • mason

    John, there’s nothing in my post that tells Jen to tell the child what and how to think. Jen knows the child is hearing lies. This is about protecting the credulous mind of a 5 year old girl.

    You posted, “Let them know that you don’t believe, and honestly answer their (inevitable) questions about why.”

    You say you don’t agree with me and then say what I’m saying? Jen is not being honest with the girl.

  • mason

    To propose getting the girl out of the delusional environment is knee-jerk? I’m saying a child’s mind is sacrosanct and should not be exposed to the nonsense and Jen should be honest.

    “If our kids adopt Mason’s mode of “rational” thought, then they’ll really be in trouble” yes a world of rational human beings would be a nightmare. 🙂 So you prefer a healthy dose of ecclesiastical absurdity to keep the clergy employed and the sheep delusional?

  • mason

    Jen asked…..”Am I doing the right thing letting her attend even though I feel as though she is being lied to?”

    Jen doesn’t believe the nonsense, neither do her older children, and she knows the girl is being told lies. Why send this precious 5 year old girl into the house of madness, whether mild or harsh madness, when Jen has seen through the lies? Jen needs to be encouraged to not send the girl to hear the lies and delusions.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    YES, it’s absolutely knee-jerking atheist dogma to proclaim that ANY and ALL children exposed to religion are being abused — gimme a break, brother! (and let’s not forget about the First Amendment to a ‘holy’ document we’ve ALL agree to live under and by … )

  • Linda_LaScola

    I see your point.

  • mason

    No breaks today bro 🙂 the mother Jen knows her credulous child is being fed lies and batsh*t crazy nonsense and she needs tell the child the truth. Give Jen some real support and the child a break.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    Unless Jen wants to raise a fundie atheist zombie, she’ll follow John Lombard’s EXCELLENT advice above: “Let them understand that this isn’t a situation of the parents deciding for them what they should or should not believe, but rather of the parents being there to help their chidren make such decisions for themselves.” Some RARE good sense from the fundamentalist atheist ghetto called The Clergy Project (TCP) …

  • Jenifer Eisenhour

    Thank you all for the responses. The problem with the church she attends is the literal teaching. Creationists and the women can’t be pastors is troublesome. My in laws attend the church and we used to as well.

  • mason

    This is a 5 year old little girl who deserves to be protected from theistic delusional, in Jen’s own words, lies.

    Your slam on TCP is as wrong and absurd as your lack of compassion and concern for this little girl who is being lied to.

    I disagree completely with John on this situation because the 5 year old little hapless girl has no real capacity to decide what she should or should not believe. For Christ’s sake, she is dependent on her parent for protection from the theistic delusional lies.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    The child’s capacity to decide for herself is irrelevant — as John suggested, what’s at stake is whether she will eventually have the capacity as an adult to think for herself — and respect as fully human beings theists and anyone else who made different choices from hers. Your opinion that all children being raised in religious households are literally being abused has lost you credibility in this debate, brother — and btw, theists aren’t “lying,” they really believe what they tell their children (check the dictionary) …

  • Elizabeth.

    I am wondering how disruptive it would be to a 5-year-old to be moved to a group that their parent better approves… Maybe a U U congregation or interfaith gathering would share stories of Jesus, along with humanist and other religious and ethical traditions and figures? Would that be communicating the pluralistic world the child will be growing up in without coercing a point of view?

  • What protects you as you go through life? I’d say a willingness to look at all things and examine them from one’s own viewpoint and the viewpoint of the other person. This assures or at least makes more likely that one does not get sucked into rejecting ideas out of hand because one knows best in the first place, while preserving a sense of self. A child does not generally have an established viewpoint to see from, so is more easily taken into others without the ability to come back. So give her the idea of being open to new realities as a useful life experience. She may even avoid being an atheist!

  • Elizabeth.

    that is one fantastic post. thank you so much for linking to it… unforgettable

  • John Lombard

    @Mason — Thought I’d start a new post to discuss this more. There’s a HUGE difference between MY position of “Tell the child what you believe, but allow them to explore and learn about other beliefs”, and YOUR position of “Tell the child what you believe, and don’t let them learn about things that you think are wrong.” For all of your opposition to religion, you are falling into exactly the same trap that they do. I KNOW that you’d oppose any Christian parent who said, “I know that atheism is wrong, and atheists have done many evil things, so I won’t let my child be exposed to anything that I think is wrong or harmful”…yet you take EXACTLY the same position. It is fundamentally hypocritical. “I can restrict what MY kids learn because I’m a GOOD parent, but YOU are a bad parent if you restrict your kids from learning anything.”

    Any child is INEVITABLY going to be exposed to ideas, beliefs and claims that are not true. And in many cases, you are not going to be around to just tell them what they should or should not believe. The BEST approach is to teach a child, from the earliest possible age, how to ask QUESTIONS about such things, not to just accept it uncritically. And kids that age are GREAT at asking questions, especially if encouraged to do so.

    YOUR method isn’t teaching the child anything at all about how to ask questions, how to examine claims made by others, etc. In fact, quite the opposite, you are teaching them to adopt your beliefs based on A) ignorance of any other beliefs or claims, and B) simply on the parent’s authority that “I said it’s right, therefore you accept it”. BOTH of these are, in my opinion, fundamentally flawed…and EXACTLY the kind of thing that religious people do with THEIR kids. When you say that, “there’s nothing in my post that tells Jen to tell the child what and how to think”, that is not true. Just think…if a CHRISTIAN parent said, “I know that atheism and evolution are wrong and dangerous, so I won’t let my child be exposed to them”, and then said, “…but I’m not telling my child what and how to think”…you’d IMMEDIATELY recognize what a lie that was. You are controlling what they child thinks by only letting them be exposed to information that you personally think is right…and denying them the opportunity to learn anything else.

    I’d go the opposite direction. Let them check out Christianity…but after they go, talk with them about it. What the the church tell them? What do they think of it? They’ll also ask you questions about what you think, you answer them honestly, tell them your own perspective. Then take it a step further. Explain that different Christians believe different things. Give them a basic introduction to the beliefs of Islam, Buddhism, and other religions.

    Give them PERSPECTIVE. Give them KNOWLEDGE. And help equip them NOT to be afraid of different ideas, or ignorant of what others believe.

    No, a five-year old is not going to be able to make an absolute decision about whether or not they believe. But they CAN begin developing the tools and attitude so that later in life they’ll be better equipped to do so. I’d far rather a kid that, when they become a teenager, faces life as a fully-equipped critical thinker, able to evaluate information and reach their own decisions, than one who’s been spoon-fed by their parents, protected from anything their parents disagree with, whose beliefs are based just on “This is what my parents told me to believe”.

  • mason

    The child’s capacity is entirely what this is about.

    And I do think theism indoctrination is abusive to the development of a rational mind, and it is by degree on the continuum from fundamentalist to liberal.
    Jen, the mother says they are lying to her. Whether they believe the lies the are is irrelevant; they are still theistic lies.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    Damn you are pretty far down Fundie Avenue aren’t you bro — anyone who disagrees with you is a LIAR now???

  • John Lombard

    Jen…use this as a teaching opportunity. Ask your child questions about what they are learning. “What do you think of women being leaders?” “Do you think that talking snakes are real?” If your child has an interest in dinosaurs (which many kids do), talk about the evidence for dinosaurs, and compare that with what the Bible claims. Talk about the Ark, and have your child try to figure out how much space they would need for all those animals, and food to feed them…and ask what would the carnivores have eaten?

    As I’ve been trying to emphasize to Mason, the important thing is teaching children that it’s good to ask questions, NOT to just accept things because someone else said it’s so. Read stories to your child from Greek mythology, Indian mythology, Norse mythology, etc. Ask the child “Do you think these stories are real? Why not?” Then have them compare those stories with the stories they are hearing about in the Bible.

    We’re not talking about your child being indoctrinated in a vacuum…we’re talking about a situation where you can take an active role in helping them examine what they’re being told, WITHOUT relying on the all-too-common religious tactic of “We won’t let you learn anything that contradicts what we believe”. And I think that, in the long term, your child will come to greatly value having a parent who, rather than just telling them what they should or should not believe, helps and encourages them in reaching their own conclusions.

  • ImRike

    I think it might be ok to let the child “love Jesus”, but what must definitely be talked about is the “problem of sin”. The child must be told in no uncertain terms that there is no such thing as sin and that she is not a born sinner. I’m not saying that the child has to be given a lesson about “sin”, but the mother has to be constantly on guard about what her daughter is taught about religion and her place in it, and be ready to have answers to keep the child from having to feel negatively about being human.

  • mason

    “A child does not generally have an established viewpoint to see from, so is more easily taken into others without the ability to come back.

    That’s my point exactly, they are credulous and defenseless.

    Theism is the anti-matter of free thought, honest inquiry, by measure of degree, depending how liberal or fundamentalist.

  • Or, the unexamined is anti-matter. As my sainted mother used to say, it all depends on whose ox is being gored.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    I agree that the child is too young to hear about ‘sin’ and ‘hell,’ etc. And when she’s older she’ll find out soon enough that what the church calls ‘sin’ is just shorthand (anthropologically speaking) for our propensity to do our own selves (and others) harm, not God. Religion evolved to help our species understand and manage what’s been called both “the glory and the horror of being human.”

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    I (literally) could not have said it better myself, John. I don’t fault Mason for being a hypocrite, because being human we’re all going to be inconsistent in our views at times. But I will most definitely hold him and others who see themselves as “enlightened” to a higher standard — fundies of any stripe who judge those who disagree with them as being somehow intellectually deficient (and therefore kind of sub-human?) must be vigorously exposed and opposed if we’re going to build a more tolerant and free-thinking world together …

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    Mason, your post included the following statements:

    “I think encouraging a young fertile mind to continue the [religious] delusion and be subjected to the environment of silly [religious] adults is child abuse.”

    “The parent needs to come clean and tell the child that Jesus is a myth, a fairy tale, and not real.”

    How is this not telling Jen (and all parents generally) to tell their child how and what to think? If you really are more enlightened than theists, then you can simply admit your post went too far — or (*gasp*) admit you were wrong — instead of denying what you plainly said (as fundies are prone to do) …

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    Mason, it doesn’t seem you’re even reading John Lombard’s posts, which deal with the problem of juvenile vulnerability you keep raising like it’s supposed to settle the whole issue for everyone?

  • John Lombard

    OA — Please note that I didn’t call him a hypocrite, I said that his position was hypocritical. There’s an important, but subtle, difference.

  • mason

    That’s quite a stretching twist even for you. monotheism is a lie and a delusion. Those who teach it to children are delusional liars with no respect for a child’s mind.

    When it comes to the singular issue of monotheism there is no bridge between those who believe the fable and those who don’t. You either believe or not, but to extend the divide in a vague generality to everything is another of your habitual non sequiturs. .

    Well then, it’s good to know we’re all glad you’re out. 🙂

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    Mason, your schoolyard taunt (“we’re glad you’re out” of TCP) tells me you’re basically out of any real arguments or substance in this debate — and btw, you can expect a note from our moderator Linda for violating the privacy of TCP that you promised to protect when you became a member.

    Also, for some reason you’re having trouble understanding something very basic about relations between radically different groups of people — if you accuse religious people of “child abuse,” then you’re going to have a MUCH harder time getting them to hear you on ANY subject …

  • Linda_LaScola

    FYI to all readers: Four comments by two commenters have been removed because they contained references to the clergy project, a private organization, that were not appropriate for a public space.

    Rational Doubt, which welcomes and to some extent thrives on divergent opinions, does not endorse publicizing such comments about a private organization.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    The Klu Klux Klan is a “private organization” with anonymous members just like The Clergy Project — does that mean we can’t criticize the KKK here or even make “references” to them as a group? I’m not being flip here I just don’t understand the logic behind your censorship …

  • Linda_LaScola

    TCP can be referenced here and often is. The recent references made were inappropriate because TCP is a private organization that does not permit public discussion of its internal conversations.

    I like your contributions here, OA, on general topics, but won’t permit continued discussion of TCP.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    The posts of mine you deleted made absolutely no reference to any “internal conversations” at TCP — and with all due respect and affection, you’re being involved in the founding of TCP puts your objectivity as our moderator at risk?

  • mason

    ” but the mother has to be constantly on guard about what her daughter is taught about religion”

    Well said, and my contention is why even take the risk when she isn’t there to monitor what the child is being told?

    Life is short, the formative years so critical, and there are so many other safe and valuable things that Jen could be doing with her child

  • mason

    “Tell the child what you believe, and don’t let them learn about things that you think are wrong.”

    You don’t understand my position John. My position is to protect the child from theistic nonsense. So you’re saying a 5 year old child should be exposed to anything they want to?
    I am completely for allowing children to learn and explore, but not be brainwashed by a theist at age 5.

  • mason

    I agree that would be a much much better situation than the present one for the child and Jen.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    What you insist on calling “brainwashing” is what the U.S. Constitution protects as freedom to practice one’s religion — if I can take the rhetorical liberty of applying John’s excellent logic, it would also be “brainwashing” if an atheist parent refused to expose their child to religion.

  • John Lombard

    mason, that child is going to be exposed to NUMEROUS false claims and potentially harmful ideas. And what they need to learn is that it is NOT wrong to listen to what others claim, but it IS GOOD to teach them to always ask questions, and not just accept it because someone else told them that it’s true. Again, your way leaves the child entirely INCAPABLE of assessing or questioning anything that other people tell them when you’re not around.

    In addition, the child should have the feeling of reassurance that EVERY situation is a learning experience, where their parents will help them examine and understand it — not just forbid it. In fact, your strategy could easily backfire, as the child will likely be MORE curious about something that the parents have forbidden, and seek to learn about it in other ways (ie. at school, visiting Christian friends’ homes, etc.), but they won’t talk with you about it because you’ve told them it’s forbidden. You’ve essentially accomplished the exact OPPOSITE of what you claim to want.

    And a child is not going to be “brainwashed” if they have a parent who is talking with them about everything, encouraging them to question, providing additional information, etc. Brainwashing is a result of an environment in which people are taught NOT to question, and are presented with only ONE option, and everything else is excluded. And again, you seem to fail to appreciate the irony that while you condemn such things among the religious, you are essentially proposing exactly the same thing from an atheist perspective — ONLY teach your children the things you want them to believe, and deliberately deny any other information or claims.

    And you have entirely avoided one of my m

  • John Lombard

    OA — Having myself unintentionally fallen astray of this in a previous discussion, may I suggest that rather than a pointless exercise in self-righteous indignation, simply accept it (even if you disagree), and focus on the many interesting and fruitful discussions that still remain. And note that this wasn’t a ‘personal’ attack on you, another person’s posts were also removed.

  • John Lombard

    OA — Sorry, but now it’s my turn to disagree with you. “Freedom of Religion” applies only to an individual’s right to believe/follow any religion they choose, and not have it controlled or dictated by the state. As such, it applies only to GOVERNMENT efforts to control, endorse, or forbid any particular religion…NOT individuals. While I might disagree with Mason’s arguments, there is NO VIOLATION of the principles of freedom of religion if he (or anyone else) seeks as a PRIVATE INDIVIDUAL to forbid their children from attending or learning about a particular religion.

    In addition, it is also well established that there ARE restrictions on one’s ability to freely practice one’s religion…if those practices infringe on the freedoms of others, or are harmful to others. That’s why Mormons, for example, aren’t allowed to engage in polygamy, even though their religion teaches (or used to teach) it.

    Trotting out “FREEDOM OF RELIGION!” makes little sense or has little relevance to this situation, as it has nothing whatsoever to do with the government.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    John, my post (to Linda) is not at all an “exercise in self-righteous indignation,” as you so gratuitously characterize it — as free-thinking people we should all want the rationale for censorship in this blog (or anywhere) to be well defined and its practice to be consistently applied. And I’ll thank you in advance not to impugn my motives in the future.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    John, pardon me for broadening our discussion beyond the narrow terms you consider legitimate — I’m not the constitutional scholar you must be, but I assume that if Mason as an INDIVIDUAL were to actually infringe on a family’s right to practice their religion then YES, the GOV’T would be obliged to intervene under the First Amendment.

  • John Lombard

    OA — Honestly, it DOES seem rather self-serving when you A) begin with an indirect comparison of TCP and the KKK, then B) impugn Linda’s motives (accusing her of bias based on the fact that she helped found TCP), then turn around and complain that I’m impugning YOUR motives. You seem to have no problem whatsoever with casting out unsupported accusations, yet certainly have no problem complaining when you perceive others as doing the same thing to you.

    This is not a TCP blog. It is a private blog. Linda can censor anyone she wants. Because of her association with TCP, she prefers to ensure that all discussion stays away from anything that might violate the privacy of the TCP membership, and she perhaps errs on the side of caution in that regard. It is NOT a personal attack on you, it does NOT merit comparisons with the KKK, and it most certainly does NOT deserve unsubstantiated accusations of bias.

    You have two choices in that regard, as a member of this forum. One, get over what is really an INCREDIBLY minor issue (“Oh, no, some words I typed on the internet were deleted!!”), and continue to engage in the many productive discussions that are going on here; or two, leave. But insisting that Linda has to run HER FORUM based on what YOU WANT is absolutely ludicrous. I don’t always agree with all of Linda’s decisions or policies, but you don’t see me polluting the forums with my personal disagreements. I either accept it, or I deal with it in private via email.

  • John Lombard

    OA — And you’d be COMPLETELY WRONG. In fact, families ROUTINELY DO THIS. My parents forbade me from attending liberal Christian churches, for example. Many Muslim families forbid their children from joining Christian groups. “Freedom of Religion” applies ONLY to the government, NOT to individuals. Heck, don’t take my word for it…read the actual document!

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”

    Please note that this applies ONLY to the government. NOWHERE does either the Constitution, nor American law, give any protection whatsoever from INDIVIDUALS taking such action. This isn’t a matter of personal opinion, it is well established in law.

    On top of that, your argument is a complete straw man and red herring, since nowhere is Mason talking about infringing on ANOTHER family’s ability to practice their religion…he’s talking about how he thinks parents should raise their OWN children.

    So…as much as you may dislike it, your entire argument IS “irrelevant”. It’s irrelevant in regards to what the First Amendment actually says; and it’s irrelevant in regards to what Mason is actually saying.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    John, the more you post gratuitous speculations about my motives, the longer we’re going to prolong a discussion I’m sure were both sick of? But since you won’t stop, I’m obliged to respond …

    A) You’re the one drawing the comparison between the Klan and TCP, not me — I just used an extreme example for obvious rhetorical purposes;

    B) I didn’t accuse Linda of any bias, I posed a legitimate question about the impact of her relationship with TCP on the objectivity of her moderation of this private blog.

    C) Censorship may be an “INCREDIBLY minor issue” to YOU, but that doesn’t mean we ALL have to view it that way.

  • John Lombard

    A) Okay, I’ll accept that you were using it as a rhetorical device, no problem

    B) “your being involved in the founding of TCP is putting your objectivity as our moderator on this subject at risk?” <– This certainly sounds to me (and I'm sure to others) like an accusation of bias. Phrasing it as a question doesn't make it any less an accusation than saying, "Don't take offense, but…" means that I shouldn't take offense at what follows. You were stating that you think the main motivation for Linda's decision was bias based on her involvement in founding TCP, and NOT on the actual content of the posts in question.

    C) Censorship is a normal part of almost every forum on the internet, and entirely up to the owner of the site (and those few sites that have no censorship are so chaotic as to be virtually useless for any meaningful discussion). And the censorship in this case is not preventing discussion of ANYTHING other than a few tangential issues that are related to TCP, and that Linda has chosen to err on the side of caution. In particular, at least from what I saw before they were deleted, the posts in questions had little or no relevance to the actual original topic of this discussion, and by that measure alone would be deleted (or censored) from many sites simply for being off-topic.

    D) As I said before, this particular disagreement is one that is far better dealt with in private, by email. Linda and I have discussed several disagreements via this method, and far more effectively. As you said, I tire of this also…so this WILL be my last post in this thread.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    OK, this will be my last post to you on this subject too, John — A) I’ve edited my post to Linda to make it more clear that I was asking an honest question and not implying an accusation … B) just because censorship of blogs is “normal” doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have clear and unambiguous guidelines (which most blogs actually have posted somewhere, this one does not as far as I know) … C) I chose to respond to Linda publicly because 1) she posted her deletion comment publicly and 2) censorship is a ‘public’ issue and the ‘rules of the road’ should be made clear to everyone …

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    *SIGHhhhhh* … I don’t have the leisure, zeal or expertise that you seem to have in abundance for parsing the constitutional issues — and I think we’re actually grabbing two different parts of the elephant anyway? So guess what, brother — YOU WIN! (this round, at least 😉

  • John Lombard

    “Parsing constitutional issues”? There’s no “parsing” here. The First Amendment applies ONLY to government, plain and simple…ANY effort to apply it to individuals is simply wrong, and has no basis in fact. The ACTUAL WORDS of the First Amendment, as I quoted them directly above, make that more than abundantly clear, as does almost the entirety of American jurisprudence in regards to issues of freedom of religion.

    In addition, your attempt to claim that Mason was somehow “infringing” in a family’s right to practice their religion was equally wrong. NOWHERE has Mason talked about infringing on another family’s right to practice their religion; he has talked only about what he thinks families should do with their OWN children.

    It’s not ‘grabbing two different parts of an elephant’…that would imply that both of us are right, but in different ways. And I’m sorry, but you are absolutely, 100% wrong on both counts, it’s not subject to interpretation or opinion. Unless you can refer me to ANYWHERE that American law says the First Amendment applies to the actions of private individuals, OR anywhere that Mason stated he felt he had the right to infringe on how other families practice their religion.

    You’re so quick to jump on the “John is right!” bandwagon when I point out others’ errors…but get so terribly upset when I apply the same precision to your own claims.

  • ctcss

    Well said, and my contention is why even take the risk when she isn’t there to monitor what the child is being told?

    Mason, John already addressed this issue. You seem to be assuming that information is a one shot deal like a particular sperm cell arriving at the egg first, preventing all other sperm cells from having an effect. Information doesn’t work like that. John referred to Jen using the Sunday School teachings as a teaching opportunity to help her daughter learn how to reason through serious questions that might be brought up by concepts taught in church. And if you took the time to read it, Linda’s citation of Neil Carter’s really excellent Ex-Communications blog entry about helping his two youngest daughters dealing with the concept of their dad (Neil) going to hell was a wonderful example of just this kind of situation. He wasn’t there when the concept was brought up in church. But he was there acting like a really wonderful father helping his daughters think through the situation.,

  • I think we can solve this by an open and frank statement. The Clergy Project is an organization of spies collecting information on behalf of the foreign office of…aaaaorrgghhhhh.
    Or, that is the end of the movie The Thirty Nine Steps, whatever you want to believe.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    Jesus, John — what part of “YOU WIN” did you not understand? 😉

  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

    This is a private space, just like Linda’s *house*. If you come in and stink up the joint, or are disagreeable, you’ll be so informed. Part of that notice, on a personal blog, is removal of the offending matter.

    Get over yourself, or start your own blog, put up what you want, and take the praise/opprobrium that will follow.

  • mason

    I read John’s post. Jen wrote that the child is being exposed to the teaching of literal bible believers. Jen believes they are telling her child lies.

    Even my arch nemesis OA agrees that “the child is too young to hear about “sin” and “hell,” Alas we agree.

    I contend the child should not be left, for even a few moments, under the influence/teaching/preaching/indoctrination of literal bible believing fundamentalists. She could be permanently emotionally scarred.

    John thinks it is a teaching opportunity; I think it is an opportunity for the child to be emotionally damaged. I’ve read hundreds of stories of those who were emotionally damaged by religious fundamentalists as children.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    Probably a little easier for you tell me to ‘man up’ when you’re not the one being censored? 😉 I’m not angry about being censored, just perplexed at the lack of a cogent explanation so far for doing it — and where are the guidelines posted permanently so we know the ‘rules of the road’ about taboo subjects like TCP? I like this blog a lot and I think it provides an important forum for faithless clergy like me — caring about censorship here is just part of caring about the “ministry” it provides us …

    For example, the ‘About’ page of this blog includes the following paragraph — “If you are an active or former clergy-person who is no longer a believer, please visit http://www.clergyproject.org to learn more about the Clergy Project private forum.” The same page states that all contributors and editors/managers of this blog are either founders or active TCP members. All of this looks a LOT like recruitment for TCP — if Rational Doubt is some kind of unofficial auxiliary of TCP, I think its readers have a right to know what agenda is the rationale for the (so far ad hoc) censorship here.

  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

    you don’t seem to understand ‘consent’, do you? You DON’T have the right to stink up somebody else’s place, particularly not without their approval.

    Also, it’s not censorship if it’s not the government imposing it upon you in a public space. You’re whining.

    Also, I think Groucho had it right, “…I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member!….”

    If you want to be mad, be mad, just do it elsewhere. Also, learn how to think clearly and avoid baseless inflammatory accusations.

  • Let’s differentiate “place” from a website of written word to one’s home and hearth. If both are equal then offense can become any sort of disagreement, the “disrespect” of hoodlum rather than a real attack on one’s most cherished. I don’t care much about what is being discussed above but the internet is a haven or an examination as one chooses it to be. I like examination.

  • So it appears you want to be kicked out of this one, and be free of such things. I have performed on a few blogs such kick out performances and those actions turned out to be very useful to me. I learned I did not need them. If you choose to exercise the same mayhem I look forward to following you on other blogs and observe your interests.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    Damn you’re getting inside my HEAD now dewd — yeah might be seeing you on the other side SOOOONNNNNNnnnnnnnn

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    Can’t you just change the channel instead of going on the banal RANTS? LOL ;_

  • ctcss

    So either you didn’t read Neil’s post, or you think he was wasting his time successfully trying to help his daughters gain a more helpful and comforting perspective and understanding regarding the Bible. Interesting. Which also might mean you fully subscribe to the sperm/egg theory of information where “one and done” is the rule. I’m guessing you must also have a very jaundiced view of the possibilities for school education as well, since once a student mis-learns something, they have no chance whatsoever of ever learning the right fact, or of learning how to reason properly and effectively once they make a mistake.

    Humans (and even human children) are far more resilient than you give them credit for. And I think your “hundreds of people who were emotionally damaged by fundamentalists” probably had no one there to help them rethink or gain a different perspective about the scary bits the way John and Neil are pointing out can be successfully done. An awful lot of ignorance can be cleared up when light is brought to bear on the darkness.

    So maybe the point to learn here is to light one candle rather than to curse the darkness.

  • Carol Lynn

    Especially if the person explaining the non existence of “Jesus” is the same one who established the existence of “Jesus” in the first place. (or at least participated in the process.)

    I call bullshit. Very few children are traumatized by finding out that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy are not real. The parents certainly participated in establishing the existence of these entities in their children’s minds. Why should “Jesus” get any more traction if a non-believing parent explains that while many people believe that he’s real, there’s no actual evidence that any gods exist? Religious traditions can be fun to participate in, and there is no need to stop the fun parts, but so is putting baby teeth under a pillow for the Tooth Fairy to exchange for cash.

    I think formal apologetics may be beyond a five year old, but teaching kids to spot logical fallacies is always a good idea and can start at a young age.

  • EqualTime

    I don’t know how the discussion of what to tell a 5 yr old morphed into something about the KKK, but here are my thoughts. My children are grown. My 29 yr old son rejected the mythology as soon as he left our Lutheran grade school. My 27 yr old daughter still professes to believe. I’ve discussed my epiphany to atheism with both of them. If I had a 5 yr old grandchild, I think I would take a Jeffersonian approach and emphasize the philosophy of Jesus and explain the Bible stories as metaphors, not literal truths, until the child was a bit older.

  • mason

    A 5 year old child is far more vulnerable than evidently you are willing to acknowledge. Going by what Jen wrote she is not with the child to protect her. What John is pointing out is fine and well but the points do not apply in the context of Jen’s information.

    It is better to protect one child from emotional scarring than to try and help them recover from religion the rest of their life.

  • Not sure which aspect of my comment you consider bullshit.

    That it is “hard” to explain. Or, that the “non-existence” of the beloved old friend is an unwarranted assumption.

    You realize of course, that the cultivation of the Santa Claus and Easter Bunny storylines are conscious acts of pretend on the part of the parents.

    On the other hand…

    The cultivation of a mythic framework for contemplation and reverence in ones offspring is entirely different.

    It is something we do to give them context for their experience, and a sense of meaning.

    One wants to assume, that the parent at least desires, to transmit something close to what they understand, in real time.

  • Annerdr

    Five year olds are credulous, but they are also fast learning. I don’t like the idea of protecting them from ideas. I much prefer allowing them to be exposed to all kinds of ideas and then talking to them about it.

  • mason

    Children need protecting from all kinds of ideas of which I’m sure I hopefully don’t need to list. They are credulous children and the human brain doesn’t even fully develop in the frontal areas that control judgement, impulse, action-consequences, motivation etc. until age 25. Jen has told her child that she doesn’t believe what the church teaches.

  • Annerdr

    Jen has, and that’s brilliant. It will offset any fear the child might have from something she hears. Jen might also try exposing the child to other religions, reading Greek and Norse myths, and encouraging the five year old to trust her own mind.

  • DavidMHart

    Especially if the person explaining the non existence of “Jesus” is the
    same one who established the existence of “Jesus” in the first place.
    (or at least participated in the process.)

    I think that for a parent to explain to a child that they had been honestly mistaken, and now realised that the god they once believed in probably doesn’t exist, (i.e. the realisation that parents are not all-knowing) would be a useful teaching moment in a young child’s life.

    The thing is, what exactly does not exist that use to exist? Neither
    existence or non-existence is more certain than the other. Taken
    individually these are both abstractions. But taken together it is a
    potent teaching.

    I’m not quite sure what you mean here. If ‘Neither
    existence or non-existence is more certain than the other’, are you talking about Jesus – i.e. are you claiming that the probability of his existence is exactly 50%? And would you apply that same estimate to other legendary or divine entities, like the Angel Moroni, Melek Taus or Quetzalcoatl? What are you basing your probability estimates on?

  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

    and NOW who’s trying (and failing) to shut somebody else down? IOKIYAOA (It’s OK If You’re An Obscurely Agnostic) ??


  • powellpower

    Wow… PC much?

    I guess someone can have a stupid idea but isn’t being stupid. Someone can kill another but that does not make him a killer. See? It’s the action that is killing, but the person isn’t a killer, he isn’t that sort of person. There’s an important, but subtle difference.

  • Carol Lynn

    That’s pretty amusing and quite narrow-minded of you. I am sure you have never internalized that to someone who has considered and rejected the concept of ‘god’, there is no difference between the mythic framework of Santa Claus and Jesus. It is clearly and commonly possible for a child to, oh, “keep the spirit of Christmas in their heart” without believing in a literal Santa, as it is clearly possible for a person to come to a deep and satisfying framework for the answers to life, the universe, and everything that does not include a concept of god. I see your automatic assumption that somehow “god” is more privileged as quite a failing on your part.

    The OP question was from a parent who no longer believed in Jesus. Surely for their child “transmitting something close to what they understand, in real time,” needs to include the possibility that Jesus is just a story that some people believe but that mom does not think is “really real”. Most five year olds still believe in Santa, after all, with the full support of their parents. Children can outgrow Jesus as they get older, exactly the same way we all understand they will outgrow Santa. It’s not a tragedy if they grow up atheist.

  • ” i.e. are you claiming that the probability of his existence is exactly 50%? And would you apply that same estimate to other legendary or divine entities, like the Angel Moroni, Melek Taus or Quetzalcoatl? What are you basing your probability estimates on?”

    My statement was definitely more poetical than mathematical in nature.

    We all have much to learn. And my preference is to leave the doors wide open.

    Trusting to potential and innate genius. Which “hath brought us safe thus far”.

    And yes, I have not expressed a localized ownership of these qualities. (i.e. Not said, “our potential and innate genius”. Or assigned them to Jesus or Quetzalcoatl.)

  • DavidMHart

    Okay, I hope this doesn’t come across as rude, but I’m having trouble making sense of what you’re saying here. Are you saying that the existence of Jesus is exactly as likely as his non-existence? If not, what did you mean by ‘Neither existence or non-existence is more certain than the other’?

    As for leaving doors wide open, sure I have no problem with that in principle, but where two claims are incompatible, then they eat up two different chunks of probability mass. If A and B are the only two logical possibilities, you cannot raise your likelihood estimate of A without lowering your likelihood estimate of B, since the total combined probability is at most 100%. We may be mistaken in our probability estimates, but at least we are keeping ourselves intellectually honest if we make sure that the combined sum doesn’t exceed certainty – I.e. it cannot be simultaneously very likely that Jesus exists and very likely that he doesn’t. So if your estimate is not 50/50, despite what your comment seemed to imply, then I’d be curious as to what your estimate actually is of the likelihood that Jesus exists.

  • Interesting.

    Let’s not hurt ourselves here. Our standards, criteria and lexicons are too far apart.

    But I will ask, What do you mean by “Jesus existing”?

    Or, even more to the point, what does it mean to exist, and from whose vantage point is existence interpreted?

    Myself, I honor the horizon line. Logic and reason can only go so far.

  • I had not heard of probablity mass, so thanks. A way to look at this place is as a viewpoint universe. Everything that exists is anything and everything that one or more individuals have observed exists, in whatever form, anywhere in this place. Those forms most commonly observed become more folk’s realities, appear more solid, and are held as “true” by the most people. Although it is not difficult on earth, at least to find plenty of other viewpoints on lots of truths. If his model holds up then one will be able to see more reality by accepting everything as real and understanding the relationships between realities as one sees fit, based on training, education, awareness, and one’s ablity to accept.
    This begins eventually to lead one down the path of so called alternate realities, which is really just perception outside normal human sensory experience. How to locate these realities has been the subject of a gazillion books, from magik practices to Castaneda’s dreaming exercises, to mystical applications thousands of years old. Sorry this is off topic but you sparked my interest with probabilty mass. I suspect Jesus as written is a composite of a number of folks, but some character probably did exist at the time who would fill the bill.

  • DavidMHart

    But I will ask, What do you mean by “Jesus existing”?

    I mean whatever you meant when you wrote “Especially if the person explaining the non existence of “Jesus” is the
    same one who established the existence of “Jesus” in the first place.”

    I assume you took it to mean Jesus as postulated by mainstream Christianity – i.e. a deity which took human form, and which is still in some sense alive and able to influence us. If so, then are you now able to answer my question as to whether you think the probability of Jesus, on that definition, actually existing, is exactly 50/50? Or if not, what sort of probability you would assign it?

    And if that is not what you meant, then what did you mean by “Neither existence or non-existence is more certain than the other”?

    Or, even more to the point, what does it mean to exist, and from whose vantage point is existence interpreted?

    While we can get bogged down parsing language, I would prefer not to. Can we keep it simple and agree that Santa Claus, as traditionally defined as a benevolent human-like character who traverses the world on Christmas Eve, somehow defying geography and time, and pulled aloft by flying reindeer, doesn’t exist, and that, say, Hillary Clinton, as defined as a human who is married to the last-but-two president of the USA and who has herself now entered the competition to become the next president, does exist? Is that straightforward enough to run with? In that case, we ought to be able to sensibly discuss whether Jesus as discussed above exists in a way that Santa Claus doesn’t.

    Myself, I honor the horizon line. Logic and reason can only go so far.

    I’m afraid I have no idea what you mean with the horizon line. Is it a reference I don’t get? Anyway, yes, logic and reason will only get you so far, but they are all-but-guaranteed to get you a lot further than just making stuff up. Santa Claus, I think we can both agree, is just made up. The discussion is about whether Jesus-the-deity (regardless of whether there was an actual, ordinary human, Galilean preacher of the same name) is also just made up (whether consciously or unconsciously). What is your probability estimate that Jesus-as-deity actually exists in the same sort of way that Hillary Clinton actually exists?

  • I can’t assume what degree of theological sophistication was in play.

    Some people have indeed created a deity out of Jesus, but I consider that excessively primitive.

    On the other hand, I have no problem interpreting his statement that “I and the Father are One”.

    And, since the term “Father” here, references God. The question of existence and non-existence is moot. God being Existence and the potential of it. Including that which exists in the relative sense of the word. (i.e. our experience of things.)

    In other words the life of the carpenter/messiah shows us the TRUTH of our own Self.

    I’m not trying to be evasive, just to honestly represent this view.

    I’ll refer the thread back to the original comment now. I know I’m starting to loose track of the context for all these quotes. Perhaps others are as well.

  • DavidMHart

    Okay, I’m really starting to get puzzled as to what you’re talking about. You say that it is unsophisticated to consider Jesus a deity, and yet you agree that ‘[Jesus] and the Father are One’, where by ‘the Father’ you say you mean God. You then define God as Existence – do you mean that the entirety of reality is God? This whole universe plus whatever other universes there might be? If so, it is very confusing to call that ‘God’, since so many people think of ‘God’ as being a supernatural, omnibenevolent sentience which deliberately created the Universe, which loves us and is worth our while praying to – of course there’s no good evidence that this universe is the product of deliberate creation, that it loves us or that it hears prayers. So ‘God’ is the sum total of everything that exists, the vast, non-sentient cosmos, all the mindless stars and planets, and anything that lives on those planets (including the small packets of mindfulness that have emerged through a process of natural selection) – and yet this is somehow the same thing as a Jewish preacher who lived in Roman-occupied Judea a couple of thousand years ago?

    I hope that isn’t an unfair strawman of your position, but I can’t see how to interpret it any other way, unless you are claiming that God (and therefore Jesus) is a deity in something like the traditional sense, in which case it would be totally fair to discuss whether or not it exists, and to try to assess your probability estimate of its existence or non-existence.

    Can you explain your position any more clearly? Because at the moment, I’m afraid, it looks like you’re being deliberately vague to avoid having to confront the question of whether a religion’s claims are true or false.

  • “Children can outgrow Jesus as they get older, exactly the same way we all understand they will outgrow Santa.”

    You assume they should. Right? (So why am I being called “narrow-minded”?)

    To be clear, I am aware that there are as many storylines going on about Jesus as there are people who have heard the name.

    Your’s being one of them.

    Personally, I find the cacophony of opinion very distracting, and usually frequent other pastures.

  • Carol Lynn

    Your deepities do not impress me.

    what exactly does not exist that use to exist? Neither existence or non-existence is more certain than the other. Taken individually these are both abstractions. But taken together it is a potent teaching.

    Embracing Paradox or clinging to certainties; Which seems more like the stuff of life?

    And as helpful advice to a mother seeking answers for a five year old’s questions, they are pretty pointless. I responded the only part of your answer that made any sense – and I thought you were wrong.

    I can easily accept that someone could find comfort and assurance in believing in some god and in contemplating the paradoxes of life, the universe, and everything rather than clinging to a book that purports to have every answer. Or vice versa. More power to them. I do not, however, think that a god is a necessity and if someone does not believe in one, that’s fine, too.

    I was responding to your answer to the OP question. You seem to think that the only way to answer it is to assume that god must always be a part of the child’s life in “the cultivation of a mythic framework for contemplation”. That isn’t true, regardless of how much someone ‘loves Jesus’ as a five-year-old – and it is narrow-minded of you to assume that everyone must end up religious if they care about ‘bigger questions’. I’m sorry that it is inconvenient or difficult for you to process opinions that differ from yours – a veritable cacophony of them; as in one person, me, disagreeing with you in a reasonable manner.

    Besides, I find a ‘cacophony of opinion’ to be refreshing and exhilarating. Living in an echo chamber where I can never hear anything different is boring – and, er, narrow.

    It must be even harder on you, since, of course, you would never get any pushback when you speak your deepities in an echo chamber.

  • I get the impression that your experience of religious thought is limited largely to the Abrahamic traditions and primarily Christianity.

    That would NOT be the case with me. I have much more affinity to those traditions that reduce the impact of dualistic thinking on our experience.

    Therefore the confusion that you describe is probably a result of my unfamiliar monism.


    For some reason you are strategically keeping me off balance with unacknowledged points.

    I have a question for YOU. Why would one consider a multitude of universes rather than the aggregate of All as Universe?

    Infinitude is the whole point. It brings everything into focus.

  • DavidMHart

    I get the impression that your experience of religious thought is
    limited largely to the Abrahamic traditions and primarily Christianity.

    Okay, fair enough, I thought you were defending some form of Christianity, since you were trying to claim that Jesus is God. If you are trying to claim that Jesus is God in a way that is completely unrelated from the way that mainstream forms of Christianity claim that Jesus is God, it’d be useful to mention that upfront. But we needn’t worry about that yet until we actually start to get a handle on what you mean by ‘God’.

    Or… For some reason you are strategically keeping me off balance with unacknowledged points.

    Not deliberately, just trying to get you to describe your beliefs concretely enough that it would be meaningful to try to categorise them as true or false.

    I have a question for YOU. Why would one consider a multitude of universes rather than the aggregate of All as Universe?

    Well, I am not a cosmologist, I’m only going on what I’ve gleaned from reading a few lay-persons’ books on these subjects. If I remember rightly, there is the hypothesis that this ‘universe’ is something like ‘every particle that it would be physically possible for us to receive information about, or otherwise interact with’, and that there may be other ‘universes’ out there that are not ‘parallel’ with ours, but simply so distant, and moving apart so fast, that no information from them can ever reach us, or vice-versa. That’s probably a great oversimplification, possibly even a gross misunderstanding, but I’m not sure I understand why the question is relevant. I was asking whether ‘the sum total of everything’ (whether our universe is the sum total of everything that exists, or is merely one of many universes within a grander multiverse) is what you mean by ‘God’, and therefore identical with Jesus, or whether you are using the word ‘God’ to mean something different from the vast, but, so far as we can tell, mindless, non-sentient cosmos, a cosmos which it does not seem to be worth praying to.

    Can I at least get a straight answer on what you mean by ‘God’ here?

    Infinitude is the whole point. It brings everything into focus.

    I’m afraid you’ve lost me again. Whole point of what, exactly? It’s a pretty-sounding phrase, but I’m not seeing how it could be meaningfully true or false. Can you paraphrase?

  • Wow! You are on a roll…

    I’m obviously irrelevant here. So, if you don’t mind, I’ll just let you continue stewing in your own juices.

  • John Lombard

    powellpower — Actually, yes, someone CAN have a stupid idea without being stupid. Happens all the time. In fact, if just “having a stupid idea” was the sole qualifier for “being stupid”, then every person on the planet would be an idiot.

    But there’s a far more important principle here, which you’ve entirely failed to grasp…not surprisingly, since it is a principle of civil discourse that is generally quite lacking in online discussion. It’s got nothing to do with being “politically correct”. It’s got EVERYTHING to do with intelligent, reasoned discussion.

    The principle is this: attack the argument, not the arguer. In other words, disagree with and attack the arguments that a person is making, but don’t make a personal attack. There IS a big difference between telling someone, “That’s a stupic idea” and “You are stupid.” The former response puts the focus on the claims being made, and allows for intelligent discussion and disagreement, addressing the question of whether or not the claim is valid. The latter, by contrast, puts the focus on the individual, making a personal insult which will take the focus OFF of the issue being discussed, and turn it into infantile name-calling.

    To summarize: arguments where people say “You’re stupid” “No, you’re stupid” “No, YOU’RE stupid” don’t get anywhere, and are reminiscent of primary school idiocy. “I think your idea is stupid” is ENTIRELY different…I’m not saying that YOU are stupid, just the particular idea you’ve expressed. If you say a PERSON is stupid, you are essentially saying that EVERYTHING they say is stupid; if you say that an IDEA is stupid, it just applies to that particular idea…but acknowledges that they may have OTHER ideas that are fine.

    It may well be that YOU prefer personal attacks…god knows, there are MORE than enough people online who seem to think that insults, taunts, and threats somehow represent ‘rational discussion’. It may well be, if that is the case, that you honestly cannot see the difference. But to me (and to quite a few other people here), there IS a big difference. It is SUBTLE, as I said above, in that it is not always readily apparent to everyone…but SUBTLE doesn’t mean small, or insignificant, or unimportant.

  • Thank your for honest reply. (it has been a rare experience lately)

    ” Whole point of what, exactly?”


    My understanding is that Infinitude (as in Singularity, rather than as in unending sets of numbers or related things) Is the root cause.

    All of this (i.e. Universe) is the emergent characteristic of that absolute and unlimited potential.

    Jesus, Buddha, the Vedic Rishis, You and me are not different than the primal Entirety. (no matter how convoluted our meanderings)

    Our experience of a relative self is real, but only by proxy of the absolute Reality. (I call it God. You don’t have to.)

    Our self is seamlessly rooted in the primal Self. It is not different than that. (no matter how it seems within it’s own orbit)

    So, when Jesus says that “He and the Father are One” he is demonstrating the Truth of our Real nature.

    If we remain myopically identified with the Body/Mind (the relative self) we die (what ever that means), If we don’t we don’t.

    As for prayer, meditation, ritual, art, science. These are what we do. The more intentional the alignment with the process of enlightenment the more that aspect of our nature accelerates it.

  • MNb

    “Am I doing the right thing letting her attend even though I feel as though she is being lied to?”
    Yes, you are doing the right thing, but you should stop thinking in truth/lie terms. Or are you so arrogant that you claim to know the truth with 100% absolute certainty? When she grows older (typically at the age of 12, 13) she will start questioning faith herself. Just make sure she gets all the info that’s relevant for her.

  • powellpower


    I think you are getting a little bit too invested into this – see the disproportionate amount of response over my short paragraph.

    And funnily – you said this –

    “It may well be that YOU prefer personal attacks…god knows, there are MORE than enough people online who seem to think that insults, taunts, and threats somehow represent ‘rational discussion’.:

    That strangely sounds like a possible personal attack, when I clearly didn’t call you names. So much for saying “attack the argument, not the arguer”.

    Anyway, yes I know the subtlety etc etc. I have zero intention to argue with you since you’re looking so riled up CAPS AND ALL, but to counter what you’ve said – according to your definition, a hypocritical person is someone who is hypocritical for his entire life, and everything he does/say is hypocritical. Similarly, a killer can only be called a killer if he kills everything/everybody all the time. If not, he’s only a killer at a singular moment.

    Hyperbole yes I know, but it is to draw out a far more important principle here, which you’ve entirely failed to grasp…not surprisingly… which is how labels are used generally by the wider population. E.g. I can accept what you say about stupid, but obviously your definition won’t work on the label Killer. Lets just agree to disagree but I definitely think hypocrite is more commonly used closer to the word Killer as oppose to Stupid.

    Honestly, I’m not sure you even understand the meaning of irony. Telling me I don’t understand civil discourse, when the reply of yours is dripping with insults.

    Have the last word on this, asshole. Now that is an insult. Get a grip if you were slighted by the word PC.

    P.S. yes I understand irony and now you’ve made me more invested in this by replying so much when I had zero intention to do so… damn….

    P.P.S. I know you are a cool dude, and look forward to have better discussion over more important stuff in the future. Cheers mate.

  • plains-rabbit

    Blowhard assho/e.

  • Elizabeth.

    brmckay, if you feel ok with elaborating, it would be fascinating to hear the kinds of ‘other pastures’ you enjoy….

    It’s fun to read your perspectives, and thanks

  • John Lombard

    powellpower, my response wasn’t just to you, but for others who may read this as well…a habit that you will find I consistently engage in when responding to others. You see, some other people may see what you write, and think, “Hey, he’s got a good point!” It is therefore important that I not just respond with a quick “You are wrong” response, but rather with a reasoned explanation of exactly why I wrote what I did, and why I disagree with you.

    In regards to my use of caps, I know that by convention it can mean SHOUTING, but the problem is that this site doesn’t allow the use of italics to emphasize or stress particular words; therefore, my only recourse is to use caps. So please try to read my caps as EMPHASIS, like that when italics are used…not as SHOUTING 🙂

    And I wasn’t ‘slighted’ by the word PC. I simply found it juvenile to claim that if someone says something stupid, that means they are stupid. I also felt it was VERY important to demonstrate the difference between attacking an argument, and attacking an individual. Going back to the original comment that sparked this discussion, I said that mason’s argument was hypocritical (attacking the argument), while OA said that mason was a hypocrite (attacking the person). I pointed out that I had NOT called mason a hypocrite, because I wanted to emphasize that I was NOT making a personal attack on mason, but rather attacking his argument (and it should perhaps also be noted that mason himself up-voted that comment, indicating that he himself understood and appreciated that difference).

    If you feel that I engaged in a personal attack on you in my comments towards the end, I apologize; it wasn’t intended that way, but I do agree that it could be interpreted that way, so I happily retract it.

  • powellpower

    All is well. I don’t think you have sufficiently addressed the points I have raised, but this is not the proper venue (e.g. this is not an english forum) and lets not dwell on this anymore)

    Congrats on your website! Will definitely take a peek when I have the time!

    (can’t believe I got into a flame war with an internet celebrity, damn… I knew you were cool)

  • John Lombard

    powellpower — I assume that the points you are referring to are this: ” according to your definition, a hypocritical person is someone who is hypocritical for his entire life, and everything he does/say is hypocritical. Similarly, a killer can only be called a killer if he kills everything/everybody all the time. If not, he’s only a killer at a singular moment.” So do allow me to address them 🙂

    Let us assume that being hypocritical once makes one a hypocrite. Lying once makes one a liar. There are several logical difficulties with this kind of classification.

    First, EVERY person on the planet is, at times, hypocritical. EVERY person on the planet will, at times, tell a lie. Therefore, this means that EVERY person deserves the label of hypocrite, liar, etc. Which, essentially, renders the terms absolutely meaningless. If we cannot differentiate between ‘liar’ and ‘non-liar’, between ‘hypocrite’ and ‘non-hypocrite’, then the terms themselves become entirely useless. There has to be SOME criteria greater than this, in order to justify slapping that label on someone. Honestly, I can be 100% certain that you have lied, and there must be areas of your life where you hold hypocritical views (as is true of me, and of everyone else)…so should I just label you a lying hypocrite? Does this accomplish anything whatsoever?

    Second, your position creates a fundamental paradox. If telling one lie makes one a liar, then does not telling the truth make one NOT a liar? Yet there are people who do both. In fact, everyone on the planet would do both. Same thing with being hypocritical…every person on the planet will be hypocritical in some areas, but not in others.

    Your example of being a killer is an entirely different issue, in my opinion you are comparing apples and oranges. Yes, killing just one person in your entire life will result in branding you as a killer. But I don’t think it is equivalent to argue that telling just one lie in your life should result in branding you as a liar.

    The difference lies in the fact that we CAN use the label “killer” and “non-killer” in a meaningful way to distinguish between individuals. A person who has killed is a killer; a person who has not killed is not a killer. Since not EVERYONE kills, it is a meaningful, useful way of distinguishing between these two groups.

    However, we CANNOT DO THAT with terms like “liar” and “hypocrite”, at least not based on the criteria that you are proposing…since by your criteria, EVERY SINGLE PERSON would be a liar and hypocrite. I doubt there is even ONE person alive on our planet who has never lied, or never held a hypocritical belief. (Well, if we want to be completely accurate, I guess that babies and people in vegetative states would fit that description, but I think you’d agree that’s not really relevant to this discussion).

    So then, how do we give these terms any practical meaning? How can we use them in a meaningful manner? I’d argue that one must show an established PATTERN of such behavior…that it is not a one-off instance, but a behavior that manifests itself in an ongoing, continuous manner, most likely in multiple different areas, not just one.

    In this manner, we can distinguish between those who show a pattern of lying (“liars”), and those who do not (“non-liars”); we can distinguish those who show a pattern of hypocrisy (“hypocrites”), and those who do not (“non-hypocrites”). This is the ONLY WAY that I can see that we can use these terms in a way that has any real purpose or meaning whatsoever.

  • Thanks Elizabeth.

    Your light touch and peaceful passage through these digital lands…

    is inspiring.

    Since the 70’s my way has been to cherry pick from the classics and keep a ear open for those contemporary voices that ring True.

    Today is dedicated to Rumi and the Sufis, thanks to one of your posts and another quotation I stumbled on while coming in to work.

    Left to my own devices, it comes out like Patanjali. But Lao Tzu has been a big hit too.

    Ramana Maharshi and Neem Karoli Baba.

  • powellpower

    I stand corrected.

  • EqualTime

    What part annoyed you, PR? Wondering about the vitriolic KKK discussion or that I responded to the question of what I’d tell a 5 yr old?

  • Elizabeth.

    Perhaps the writer is involved in a situation like this and yours is the first comment he encounters to react to….

  • Elizabeth.

    Thank you for the introductions! Lao Tzu and Om are two I’ve “met,” but the others are new explorations… I look forward to learning, and appreciate so much your sharing them! Those are kind words at the top, and I appreciate them very much. I am glad you visit these “digital lands” — you are a refreshing voice

  • EqualTime

    Thanks, but I still don’t know what makes me a blowhard and worse.

  • Elizabeth.

    Well, having a hyperactive imagination, and looking around a little, I imagined that maybe the writer is desperately unhappy about a child in their life who is not being taught the religion they think is essential; they heard about this discussion so looked in; and because they don’t ordinarily use terms like “Jeffersonian” and metaphor, it sounds to them like maybe showing off. They disagree so passionately with the stance, they namecall in frustration. …..That’s the only way I can figure it, anyway. The internets are a mysterious thing… and sometimes very sad. I’m sorry your constructive comment caught the energy!

  • Connie Shaw

    First time reading. Wow. You all fight just like the christians do. sort of sad. I was an Episcopal Priest for 10 years and my partner was a RC nun for 13 years. We both left churches and have been FREE for 20 years. Interesting reading, but chill.