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Atheism v. Christianity

Timothy Kincaid

July 23rd, 2009

Recent threads have devolved into debates over the merits of atheism or Christianity. While this is distracting and annoying to those interested in the topic of the threads, it is of interest to a number of our readers.

So go for it. Debate away.

Unlike most threads, I’ll be lenient in allowing insulting comments about the nature of ones faith (or adamant denial of faith). So if you’re easily offended, be warned. Other rules of the Comments Policy apply so be prepared to see any vulgar or trollish comments disappear.

Now that you have a place to argue the merits of your positions on religion, I’ll ask that you keep this debate out of the other threads.

Comments

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L. Junius Brutus
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

I’m an atheist, but I don’t think that someone’s metaphysical beliefs really matters. I have more in common with a decent and fair-minded Christian than I do with a crazy, whacked-out atheist. And sane Christians have more in common with me than they do with their fundamentalist coreligionists.

So there’s no need to trash Christianity, or any other belief system – or their adherents. However, it’s a moral imperative to trash and oppose the bigots and theocrats of this world.

TonyJazz
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

One of the things that I appreciate about being gay (Yay!) is that it gave me the opportunity to question the so-called morality associated with most Christian religions.

I grew up a strong Catholic, but the church’s constant attacks on civil rights and supportive laws for our community taught me how immoral the church can be.

Once you question their morality in any regard, it becomes quite easy to migrate to “Why would I believe this stuff?”.

I don’t miss Catholicism nor Christianity for a second—and I feel sorry for those people who remain superstitious…

…and I am much more comfortable and confident in my personal views of morality.

TonyJazz
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

…and two cheers for your comments, Mr. Brutus….

Pender
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

I think of god-worshippers exactly the same as UFO theorists or Santa Claus believers: it’s not really my business, and I will stay civil to a fault in a work environment, but let’s face it, you’re a goddamn lunatic.

Candace
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Walking away from fundamentalism and, ultimately, from all of christianity, was like being let out of a pitch-black torture dungeon, into the beautiful light of a spring morning. There’s nothing that could entice me back into the life of condemnation and self-hatred that is christianity. I call myself an agnostic ONLY because I haven’t personally looked into every corner of the universe to make sure there’s no god there.

Matt
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Reading a lot of comments on this question in general makes me glad I’m a Unitarian.

Lindoro Almaviva
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Speaking as a believer, I am 100% with Brutus. I have more in common with a non believer with a basic set of morals, common sense and respect than with say Pat Robertson.

I used to be very close minded about religion, but as someone said, being gay has forced me to assess the role of religion and organized churches in my life. I’ll thank God every day that, unlike some of the people who I used to associate with a long time ago, I can have a close friendship with an Atheist, a Wiccan, and a Santero and still feel secure on my believes.

I see it this way, when we die we’ll know for sure whether there is a god or not. Either we will meet him/her/it, or we’ll be like well, those atheists were right after all, who would’ve thought?

For all we know, God could be a big chicken, like Calvin and Hobbes used to say.

Emily K
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Guess as a Jew, with this thread I’m free & clear. Nice

t(-_-(t)

Nate
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

I hold my faith (Christianity) as the major defining factor in my life…..and I also happen to be gay. That being said, I also believe that (per my faith background), there is really no reason to disrespect people based on their personal beliefs (even if, as Pender put, those beliefs label me a lunatic). I’m definitely ok being labeled a lunatic by some, as personally, it seems (to me) just as inconceivable not being a Christian.

I realize that many have been hurt by organized religion in general, and many “Christians” tend to live quite far from what Jesus Christ actually taught.

All that to say, I am definitely on the “side” of Christianity. I can see why some would not want anything to do with Christianity (I’m sure we could all find many other posts here that display the unfortunate Christians who feel the need to focus more on wrath than grace). All I ask is to be respected for my choice in beliefs, just as I respect the beliefs of anyone else.

And thank you, Tim, for starting this space for discussion.

Jason D
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

boo! This is more civilized than I expected.

Kidding, this is exactly what I expected from these posters, a thoughtful and civil discussion.

Richard W. Fitch
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Since this thread has been set aside for those of us that wish to discuss the full spectrum of beliefs, I want to start by pointing out that there is one world-wide acclaimed, honored and venerated atheist who everyone interested in this topic should be able to identify with – namely HH, the 14th Dalai Lama. Had I been born in the East, I feel I could easily be a Tantric Buddhist. Several books are in print discussing the parallels between the teachings of Jesus and Buddha and there even are some who claim that a part of the ‘Lost Years’ of Jesus were spent in India. [Although I am more inclined to believe that, if Jesus’ was influenced by Buddhist teachings, it was the proximity of Israel to the Silk Road and the exposure to merchants from the East.] But the fact is that I was born into a Christian family and have considered myself a part of the Church for all these 64 yrs. That is not to say that what the Church means to me has not changed over these years. I hope to add more later, but for now I want to invite those who believe that religion in general and Christianity in particular is about Santa Claus and sky faeries to look into the writings of scholars such as Joseph Campbell, Karen Armstrong and Bishop John Shelby Spong. In the 21st our understanding of the empirical world has accelerated far beyond the mythic frame of the three-story universe of Biblical and other ancient writings. We can still embrace the import of the mythic without giving blind credence to the detail.

Burr
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

I respect all beliefs that respect my right to live the way I see fit as long as it hurts no one else.

Anything else is not a true faith or objectivity, but a rationalization of hate.

Lindoro Almaviva
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Nate, I want to expand on what you said because I think you have brought up a very important point: To what extend does someone’s anger with the church over (real and or perceived) abuse of gay people bring someone to declare (s)he is an atheist?

I ask because I know that anger to be real, I have felt it and still do. I have no patience for people who use the bible to excuse persecution of others. I nearly slapped a street preacher in Chicago while walking with my boyfriend.

So the question is (where it applies): Do you call yourself an atheist because you have genuine doubts on the existence of a god (I find those doubts very valid. I have never seen him, heard from him and the bastard has never left a comment to any of my blogs, nor answered any of my emails) or is your atheism based on not wanting to be associated with a church that has desecrated a message and made a mockery of what they preach?

To what extend is your atheism genuine conviction of the non-existence of a god? To what extend is a reaction of anger over the thousands of years of abuse? Could an atheist who is reacting through anger be called an atheist?

I ask because it is not the first time I hear an atheist use the abuses of the church as basis for their conviction and it makes me think, well, what does that have to do with the existence of a god?

I’m not sure I am making sense, but my own experience has told me that God as I see Him, is bigger than the people who claim to represent Him in this world and their lack of morals does not represent Him.

DavidMichael
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Nate, I will definitely respect all beliefs that do not separate judge or condemn others, otherwise, nocando as I find such things immoral.

Emily, I totally agree. Jews are the chosen people. How could they possibly stoop to decline to such a conversation. Christians and Atheists? I mean. Hello!

As for me I see any organized theocracy (except Judaism of course ;) as relatively defunct after it’s first run of time. My religion is to smell test all theocracies and see if they pass, with the help of God of course. I just focus on my pet turtle and you would not believe all the great advice I hear from Nananukina, the Goddess of smell tests, coffee and of course, pet turtles. Does anyone else here Nananukina? You know what they say; If one hears it you have a nut case. If two hear it you have a religion.

It would seem most things get corrupted after it’s been tossed around a bit by a human brain, the ping pong ball of the universe. Politics, marriage, sex, Rock bands, corporations and the beat goes on.

So I just stay as rational as possible with my “smell test” kit in nostrils, and hope others will join in the smell test if they so desire.

Alan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Just wanted to thank Timothy for posting this thread. It seems very common for debates on the Internet to veer off topic, and hopefully this will help.

Nothing really to say about the debate here…as a postmodernist I think these arguments are pointless anyway. ;)

FriendOfJonathan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

It is tragic.

GLBTQ people roundly, and rightfully, complain about the derogatory assertions made about us by homophobes.

And then Pender makes exactly the same kinds of statements about people of faith.

And Candace, with just a few changes, your statement could have come from any ex-gay ministry – and would be railed against by all and sundry here.

“Walking away from homosexuality and, ultimately, from all of sexual immorality, was like being let out of a pitch-black torture dungeon, into the beautiful light of a spring morning.”

We’ve all seen that very concept from ex-gay ministries, not exactly the same words, but parallel imagery. So, if GLBTQ people are offended, and we are generally, when ex-gay ministries publish such claims . . .

making them about faith is just as vile.

And this, Candace, this was completely reprehensible: “There’s nothing that could entice me back into the life of condemnation and self-hatred that is christianity.”

It exactly parallels what homophobes say about homosexuality. Sorry, but as a Christian, my life is neither about condemnation nor self-hatred, and I hope that in the future, you will have the decency not to project what I presume were your experiences, onto Christians.

As a community, GLBTQ complain loudly, and rightfully, when some professional ‘ex-gay’ characterizes being gay or lesbian as destructive, self-hating, defining all GLBTQ people by their own history of substance abuse or dehumanized promiscuity. Yet, over and over and over again, fundamentalist atheists use exactly the same arguments to dehumanize, libel, and vilify people of faith.

In my extensive experience, fundamentalist atheists and fundamentalist christians are mirror images of each others, caught up in reflecting back the worst that they see in each other.

FriendOfJonathan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Lindoro,

You made an excellent point. It is rare, extremely rare, to find an atheist who doesn’t use the ‘the church did bad things’ as their first, primary and defining argument against religion. And consistently, they run from the historical fact that humans managed to use everything we get out mitts, thoughts or governments on, science, art, music, religion, everything, to somehow dominate and harm others.

It is very common to find atheists, even GLBTQ atheists, strongly asserting traditional homophobic theology as the sole valid way of looking at the gotcha verses – not because they can defend that interpretation, but because it gives them a strawman to abuse Christians with.

And it is not uncommon for atheists to define this God they don’t believe in, in ugly and horrific ways, and then become as brutally offensive as any homophobe, to people of faith who reply ‘That is not the God I experience’.

Richard Rush
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

I grew up being indoctrinated into Christianity, as most Americans have by varying degrees. Specifically it was in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Gradually, from that early indoctrination to the present, I have arrived at the conclusion that no gods exist, and I live my life consistent with that position. All of the essential religious doctrine and notions now strike me as absolutely preposterous. Many, such as the notion that the crucifixion of a man (or son of a god) somehow washes away sin, go well beyond preposterous into the realm of sickening. To the chagrin of those who seek to control my thoughts, beliefs, and actions, I have no concern that I will suffer for eternity in an afterlife for not believing any of it, or for some other sins.

I can understand how ancient people would be desperate to make some sense of their existence, and would develop the concept of gods as the most plausible explanation. But I can also understand how some clever people would soon realize they could amass power and influence by claiming special insights and receiving revelations from the gods. The seizing of power became complete once these clever people convinced the masses that the god(s) knew their every thought and action, and that he would punish them in an afterlife if they didn’t think and behave in prescribed ways. And thus, organized religion was born.

It is worth thinking about how the vast majority of people not only come to accept their own religious beliefs, but are able to quickly and easily reject the beliefs of others. In overwhelming numbers, people take on the religion of their parents and/or their social environment. It happens through indoctrination, not education. Yes, throughout history there have been waves of change, but after each wave the new/revised beliefs are passed along to many subsequent generations. And many people make an unremarkable change in religious flavors, such as from Presbyterian to Lutheran. But how many people do you know who, without bias, have researched the world’s religions in order to select the correct one? It is fascinating to observe how Christians (for example) quickly and easily reject other religions as being so obviously preposterous. Or how different sects within Christianity battle each other.

As an aside, I will note the serious disagreements between fundamentalist Christians and moderate Christians. Actually, I think the fundamentalists have a reasonable claim on being the more authentic Christians. If you base your religion on the contents of the Bible, it seem defensible to take it at face value, translation issues and cherry-picking notwithstanding. The moderates seem rather squishy to me. But having said that, if all Christians were moderates we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion. I think the rise of the so-called New Atheists is a direct response to the rise of authoritarian fundamentalism in recent years.

After those statements, it may seem surprising for me to say that I am enthralled by much of the magnificent architecture, art, and music that religion inspired or produced (although I think it all served mostly as marketing tools over the centuries). I remember one experience about thirty years ago while walking alone in New York City. I wandered into St. Thomas Church (near St. Patrick’s Cathedral), which was virtually empty except for the organist practicing. The experience was emotionally overwhelming with the combination of magnificent architecture, soaring thundering organ, and all of it illuminated by the sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows. Some might have called it a religious experience, but I saw it as the power of architecture, art, and music (although I was merely somewhat agnostic at the time).

Priya Lynn
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

I don’t have time to go through all the posts in various threads and address them, even those solely addressed to me. I will however cover one point raised by Friend of Jonathon on another thread. He said something to the effect that I’m just as bad as Michael Brown in how I treat Christians. This of course is preposterous, I’m not trying to deny any Christian equal rights under the law, I’m not trying make it so they can be fired from their jobs solely for being Christian, evicted from their homes solely for being Christian, I’m not trying to prevent them from marrying anyone they chose or from adopting children Mr. Brown however, is trying to deny gays equal rights under the law and make them vulnerable to severe oppression.

Jonathon – you quite simply are lying when you try to suggest I’m doing the same things Mr. Brown is. I suspect that’s not the only untruth you’ve told, but as I’ve said, I don’t have time to go through everything you’ve written and debunk it.

homer
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Can one of the Christians commenting on here explain why the Christian god is real and the thousands of other gods that are/have been worshipped aren’t?

People believed so strongly in Athena that they built the Parthenon. Some adherents to Cybele castrated themselves. Followers of some of the Aztec deities cut the hearts out of living humans to bring good fortune to themselves. So why is it that the Christian god is real and the others aren’t?

Really, as long as your religious beliefs have no impact on my life, I could care less what someone believes.

Michael A.
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

“exactly the same kinds…exactly parallels…exactly the same arguments…mirror images”

Huh. FoJ, you have to ignore many fundamental differences between the two camps to see them as “exactly” parallel.

For example, Candace openly acknowledges that she could be wrong – that a god might exist. And I can’t speak for Candace, but I assure you, if Christ appeared on earth and started working verifiable miracles, I would quickly come to accept that the Christians were right after all. Honestly, I don’t even demand that much, I am always interested in hearing people justify their personal philosophies, and I will always be willing to change mine if their arguments are sufficiently convincing. Many (definitely not all) atheists and agnostics, even the evangelical ones, share a similar attitude.

As a former Christian, I know that this attitude is not well appreciated in fundamentalist circles. Based on our discussion in the previous thread, you yourself consider it to be a weakness of character (“Someone who can be talked out of their faith is like someone who can be talked out of their sexual orientation, among other things.”).

But refusing to acknowledge the possibility of error denies any opportunity for growth or learning.

Oh, and good luck talking me out of liking men. ;-)

AdrianT
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Homer hits the nail on the head: the best way forward is to ensure human rights stand above religious rights.

‘Fundamentalist’ means someone who will not change their opinion when confronted by the evidence.

I am an extreme anti-theist, but not fundamnetalist – I am glad to think there is no dictator in the sky who can condemn me to burn forever. However, if I were presented with enough evidence e.g. Jesus returning, during a match at the Manchester United staduim, I’d change my opinion. (I wouldn’t bow down though).

I think all religion is nonsense. We have much better answers to life’s deepest questions thanks to Darwin, Einstein, Watson, Crick and others – but I’d defend to the death anyone’s right to fill their minds with superstitious rubbish if they so wished.

xx :-)

jeff
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

I never understood why atheists are so vile toward people not atheist. What’s up with all the name calling? Makes me wonder if maybe they are so insecure in their “non-beliefs” that they lash out at people they view as having a stronger character.

And just for the record, who says all the gods for earlier eras aren’t the same God?

Alan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Boy, this is helpful…”completely reprehensible””superstitious rubbish”…since presumably everyone here agrees about gay rights, why waste time arguing about religion? How does that advance gay rights?

Richard W. Fitch
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Ad Coelum
by Harry Romaine

At the Muezzin’s call for prayer
The kneeling faithful thronged the square,
And on Pushkara’s lofty height
The dark priest chanted Brahama’s might.

Amid a monastry’s weeds
An old Franciscan told his beads;
While to the synagogue there came,
A Jew, to praise Jehovah’s name.

The one great God looked down and smiled
And counted each His loving child;
For Turk and Brahmin, monk and Jew
Had reached Him through the gods they knew.
================
A poem I have treasured since the late 60’s.

Timothy Kincaid
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

My faith in the divine is based on my own personal experiences. Without expanding at great length, I have found that I have “experienced God”, though not in ways that might be easy to define by means of the five senses.

And I’ve also found that the divine has interacted in my life in ways that I cannot simply write off as either chance or personal interpretation. So I don’t think I’ll be adopting atheism any time soon; to do so would be to deny my own experiences.

I am a Christian partly through social conditioning, but mostly because I find meaning and value in the words and teachings of Jesus Christ as compiled and presented in the gospels. But my Christian identity is based on those words and teachings and how they ring true with me, not on their textual authority in commandment towards me. I am that rarity, a Christian by selection.

In other words, if Jesus appeared to me (in a tortilla, perhaps) and announced that the conservative fundamentalists had it right, well I’d want nothing to do with that Jesus, even if he did zap me with a lighting bolt (or a splash of salsa).

I observe Christianity because it feels right to me, not out of fear of an angry God who holds me over the pit of hell much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors me, and is dreadfully provoked.
I don’t have any use for a cruel and capricious god – even a powerful one.

My moral code is not based on the promise of reward for worshiping a diety. Nor do I much fault those who find that their experiences do not allow them faith, provided they set a code of morality and decency in their interactions with others.

If, at the end of time (mine or all of it) I discover that I was wrong and that there is no god, well at least I found comfort in my myth. And if I discover that there is a god and that I’ve been worshiping the wrong one all this time, well I’ll hope that the right one loves me regardless – and if he doesn’t, well I wouldn’t want to worship that kind of god anyway.

Laurence
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Jeff, as a formerly vile atheist (still an atheist, just not quite so vile), I would suggest that some of us may be a bit pissed at a society that sets out to force our minds into a theocraticly-dictated mold and, failing at that, tries to punish us for thinking what we think. To many of us, the forced imposition of christian strictures equates to abuse, and Americans as a class tend to push back when they perceive themselves to have been wronged. That’s not to say that atheists can’t have pleasant, friendly relationships with christians, only that our emotional reactions to the concept of religion in general may be more visceral than rational.

L.

Candace
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Friend of Jonathon said: “In my extensive experience, fundamentalist atheists and fundamentalist christians are mirror images of each others, caught up in reflecting back the worst that they see in each other.”

Have you ever lost a child, FOJ? I have. In 2003, a week before christmas, my 20 year old daughter was shot to death by a straight man who SUSPECTED she had a relationship with the girlfriend he was beating and abusing daily. I had been a member of christian churches since I was 3… I was an ordained mnister and had an evangelistic and teaching ministry…. I had been years-long friends with christians and had helped church members spiritually and financially and every way possible…. when my daughter died and 4 of them found out about it and came to my house and discovered I was gay, ALL of them turned their backs on me and have never spoken to me again, I presume their way of dealing with my horribe sin, and didn’t they pick a great time to do it? The only word sent to me was that of a christian minister who said this:

“Tell her god killed her daughter and he’s going to kill the other 2, too, because god hates queers.”

In 7 long years, not a one of them has spoken to me again.

Now, FriendofJonathon, I don’t need you to lecture me how I’m just as bad as those I complained about. I did and would still do only good for them, while they have treated me and my family as if we are of less value than a dead dog in the street.

I am not a”mirror image” of them and for you to say so is simplistic and unfair.

Warren
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

It depends what you mean by ‘Christian’. Personally, I don’t see how you can call yourself a believer and then discount those parts of the Bible that you find disagreeable. Either it’s all the word of god, divinely inspired and the (pardon the phrase) Gospel truth, or it isn’t. Either there was a talking snake, worldwide flood and subsequent repopulation of the Earth in the time of humans or there wasn’t. Either a virgin fell pregnant or she wasn’t a virgin. Either Christ died and rose or he didn’t. Saying, I am a Christian because I think the golden rule is a good idea is, to me ridiculous.

(As an aside the contemporaneous evidence for the existence of Christ and the facts surrounding his life as reported in the New Testament are in contradiction to the story as told. For
example, there is no record of census in the time when Herod was king of Judea and the governor of Syria cited in the scriptures (whose name escapes me) were concurrently in power. Further Roman census taking did not require travel to home towns in Palestine as purported by the Gospel of Luke. However, the convenience of placing Jesus of Nazareth at Bethlehem for his birth is essential if he is to fulfil the prophecy of Isiah. Also, the Gospels themselves are contradictory on the facts of Jesus life and death.)

As you might guess I find these claims to be prepostorous. I find no evidence to support the claims made in the Bible, particularly of a deity who created the universe and who after creating stayed activley involved in its development. I don’t say there is absolutely no god or other supernatural power, just that based on the evidence we have today there is no reason to believe there is. Additionally, all the advances made in human history in our understanding of the universe remove the need for a supernatural force a as yet and every question we answer scientifically about where we came from and how the universe and human beings work is made without resorting to a supernatural cause. But even if there were proof of deity, the leap from there to thiesm is even greater. As a rational person I want to make clear that I am open to evidence being presented that could change my mind. That after all is what science and reason are based on – awareness of ignorance and the search for answers. Religion says it knows the answers and then tries to find evidence to support its claims which is a reason why I dismiss it.

Having made clear a (very) brief summary of some of my main reasons for not believing in any supernatural beings (be they Jesus, Krishna, Thor, Zeus, Apollo or Spiderman) I do go further. Religion does active harm throughout the world and we would be better rid of it. None of the benefits society reaps from religious organization REQUIRE the religious belief, and all of its destructive influence could be eliminated without it. I won’t expand on that thought any further than to challenge you to think of any good action committed in the name of religion that could not be committed without the religious motivation (obviously saving souls for Jesus, etc. doesn’t count). I have yet to hear one. Now think of a wicked action that could only be committed in the name of faith. It shouldn’t take more than a few seconds.

Turning specifically to the Christian faith. I find Chrisitianity, at it’s core to be an immoral belief system. Even if you discount (and I don’t) the horrendous teaching of Christ when he implored his followers to ‘take no thought for the morrow’ and follow him blindly without care, the core message of the faith is morally bankrupt. The concept of vicarious redemption through the suffering and brutal murder of a stranger is something I want no part of. My actions are my responsibility, no one elses. And for this belief, I am told that I can literally go to hell.

One final reason I have for not wishing that there were a god or to believe in such a fancy is the creepy factor. I would hate to believe that there was a being who watched over me 24/7/365, that knew my thoughts and could convict me of thought crime even before I had had them, and that didn’t stop even after I was dead. To wish that to be true is to wish to be a slave and I am thankfully not a slave.

I believe, however, that the primary reason people have for believing in religion is the fear we have of death. Almost all faiths teach that we are in some way immortal and that we go on after our demise. This gives us comfort as a species it seems, but does no such thing for me. While I have no better evidence than anyone else for what happens to us when we die, it seems the most likely option is that it is the same experience as before we were born. In other words we simply don’t exist, and as we don’t exist we have no way to know that we don’t exist. I freely admit to being unable to wrap my head around imagining what it would be like for ME not to exist — it is an impossible task by definition, but I can imagine just about anything else not existing, so there is no reason to assume I couldn’t either, at least in theory.

Candace
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

And let me add this: I had many, many doubts about the existence of god while I was in christianity. After all, it doesn’t take much to discover the contradictions and errors and outright lies in the Bible…. but even though I tried to believe but could never quite do it, I stayed in christianity and kept my mouth shut and tried to go along with it. Even after my daughter was killed I tried to believe…. but was told so many times on christian discussion boards that unless I managed to become heterosexual that I was going to burn forever in hell that I finally couldn’t take it any more.

That’s when I finally walked away from it.

And every day that I wake up is still the beautiful spring morning, and the whole world is still there for me, and if I cannot believe, then I don’t have to face daily condemnation and threats of eternal damnation for it.

I don’t wish to be misunderstood and have someone think I left christianity as some kind of angry reaction. I stayed as long as I could and tried to believe and finally figured out there was no point in my staying around.

I expect no understanding from the christians from my experience, but I’m shocked to find mischaracterization from those who should know better.

Live and learn, huh?

Burr
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Anyone who takes such offense at someone else’s questioning of their faith really has no faith at all.

Aaron
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

I think it’s kinda silly to debate religion at all really. Sure, if someone asks me about my faith then I’ll answer them, but I’ve never heard of someone who has been argued into Christianity.

But since you so kindly asked, I might as well say what I believe and why… ;-)

I believe in God because 1) I was raised in this belief (very common), 2) I genuinely feel that I have a relationship with said God (I actually feel like I’m being listened to, and feel an emotional response that I do not generally anticipate). 3) Events happen as if there was a response to my prayers, as Sir William Temple stated, “When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don’t, they don’t.” 4) Most of my family have been healed from some disease or another in ways that I can only describe as miraculous.

I don’t pretend to be able to empirically prove God’s existence. It seems unlikely that it is possible to. Indeed, it seems that God doesn’t care to be empirically proven. I believe this has to do with the nature of the relationship He wishes to have with us (this crosses into the realm of freewill which is another supernatural concept I have come to believe in).

I am a Christian. I believe this because I see good historical evidence (indeed, overwhelming) for the existence of a Jewish rabbi named Jesus of Nazareth. There is also good historical evidence that this rabbi claimed to be the long-awaited messiah. There is also good historical evidence that this rabbi refused to take up the political/military power that such a messiah was expected to wield. Finally, there is excellent evidence that this person was executed by a Roman governor named Pontius Pilate via crucifixion.

It is after this that the strange thing happened, about a month and a half later the rabbi’s students are recorded as proclaiming the above man’s resurrection, and proclaiming a new “way” of living.

They don’t appear to have anything in the world to gain for their proselytizing. Indeed, they risked death (and eventually were killed) for an idea that they could have at any point denied, but they didn’t. Instead they boldly presented a message that within a very short period earned them some of the most intense persecution of the ancient world. And now it’s the world’s dominant religion…

At the very least it is interesting… whatever y’all believe, know that I wish peace and love on all of you. I know the Church is broken, we are trying to fix it.

tarheel
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

It boiles down to whether we care about fellow human beings or not.
Religion is an opiate for the masses (Marx) and an excuse for some to believe they have all the correct beliefs.
We are all of the human race and we should try to help eache other as best we can.
There is only ONE truth- do unto others as you would have them do to you.

Peace and All Good to all

Aaron
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

I just read the other comments…

I hate what self-proclaimed representatives have done to y’all.

It tears my heart that y’all have suffered so much. I understand why you don’t believe. I know that the world can be wicked and cruel.

I personally believe that when someone’s acts in such horrible ways they are acting according to the world’s ways, not Gods. It’s that whole freewill thing. I’m not trying to piss y’all off, just giving an answer…

Warren
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Aaron,

I would be most interested to see citations of the evidence you mention exists. I mean I am genuinely interested, not being sarcastic. Further, how does evidence of Christ’s (or Mohamed’s or Joseph Smith’s) existence provide support for their supernatural claims?

That said, the mere fact that people were willing to die for their proclaimed belief is hardly evidence the resurrection was, as a matter of fact, real. If that was sufficient I would consider the Emporor Hirohito a deity as well, given the kamakaze pilots of WWII who died on his divine instruction.

Just to be clear, I don’t believe because of the wickedness perpetuated in the name of religions either to me personally or otherwise. I don’t believe because the story makes no sense and is so far fetched and outside natural experience as to make it seem impossible. Additionally, there is no greater evidence that the Christian story is more accurate than the Muslim or Hiundu or Roman or Mayan. I have heard all the ‘evidence’ for the reason Mohamed was a genuine prophet from his followers and it is of the kind that I hear from Christians. I have also heard Muslims provide plausible arguments refuting the Christian version of events and vice versa. Either one side is right and the other wrong, or they are both wrong. The latter seems to be more likely, especially if you were to start including all the other faiths mankind has come up with over the centuries.

One other thought comes to mind Aaron. I am glad to hear you have had good outcomes to the medical conditions of your loved ones, but if you have numerous experiences of these seemingly miraculous events, are they really miracles? Additionally, given that we have fairly rudimentary medical techniques today (after all medicine has only been a science for less than 1% of our existence as a species) is it not likely that there was an explainable course of events at a cellular level that lead to the healing? Note I do not suppose that you have or ever will know theexplanation, just that there is likely to be one.

Generally speaking, the claim of religion being factual due to personal experience is not a convincing claim to me. The human mind is extremely powerful and complicated beyond our current comprehension by degrees of magnitude. It is capable of incredible feats. I don’t mean to dismiss the profundity of personal experiences, but having an active mind is evidence of having an active mind, not of the existence of a god. I have never taken LSD, but I understand that under its influence the mind is capable of seeing and feeling fantastic things that are entirely ‘real’ to the person under its influence. Given that the mind has that potential, it is not unreasonable to me to expect that under the right conditions one can have certain experiences that seem supernatural to the person but which are in fact just the mind working.

Emily K
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

People see my yamulke that wear daily and wonder. they wonder if i’m orthodox. And the conservative/orthodox Jews wonder if I’m reform or reconstructionist. None of them, really. Not at the moment.

Wearing the skullcap draws a lot of questions and attention. First they ask if I’m Jewish. Then they express confusion at a girl wearing one. Then they usually have a question about the faith that they ask, often prefaced with “I don’t mean to offend by asking, but…” And I’m never offended, and usually I can answer to more than their satisfaction.

I study scripture, history, and language. I love religious art history and studying the cults that later amalgamated into Christianity. I also love studying counter-missionary materials at JewsforJudaism.org and OutreachJudaism.org.

I pray daily. I try to remember to say grace before meals but this is always silently and to myself. Plus, I have funny graces I say – I’ll say Hamotzi but then I’ll say in English, “Thank you L-rd, for the Bounty of the Chicken…” (if I’m eating chicken.)

My heritage and history are the most important parts of my Jewish faith. I remember the Union organizer – a Jewish man – in the movie “Norma Rae.” (paraphrasing:) Norma Rae says, “I thought Jews had horns.” and he says with a smile, “No, we’re pretty much like everyone else.” and she asks, “then what makes you so different from others?” and he replies, again smiling, “History.”

Many Christians have taken a hobby of studying Hebrew to try to understand the Jewish roots of their religion. But they’re only getting a 10th of the story, if that. They need to study the Oral Torah to REALLY FULLY “get” the Jewish perspective of scripture. This is another thing I enjoy studying. I wish they would understand why associating “Pharisee” with “hypocrite” might be quite literally Gospel for them, but very hurtful to the Jewish people. They would probably find interest in Philo of Alexandria who had many “crazy” ideas but was not crucified for them. See? We Jews can argue amongst ourselves without going nuts and calling for execution. Just read the Talmud.

How to I feel G-d in my life? Connections. Strange clairvoyant things that happened. I don’t care if I’m “doing it wrong” and actually it’s “coincidence,” “a god,” “pseudo-divine” whatever. I see it as divine influence and whatever it “really” is, well, it’s pretty divine.

So what makes me Jewish? Education (of anybody who asks), personal study, prayer, and an open mind and heart for observing what could be the Divine.

I don’t see that as being particularly threatening. OH, and in case people are curious, we don’t believe the whole world needs to be Jewish to go to Heaven, we don’t believe in Hell, and “chosen” means “chosen to follow the Torah.” Being Jewish doesn’t automatically make one better in the eyes of the L-rd.

Warren
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Jeff,

“Whose to say all the earlier gods aren’t the same god?”

Well, in the case of the god of the 3 great monotheisms God himslef does. The first five of the 10 commandments go to great pains to make sure that everyone knows that the god of the Old Testament wants to have exclusive claim to the title.

DavidMichael
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

I just had a great burger and had a great interaction with the bartender.
We are both God as everything and everybody is God. It’s all just a big energy field called God. Now If I coulda just levitated that steak over to my table instead of having the burger delivered, nope, the burger was fantastic! It was a fantastic God particum all by itself!

Now energy fields have little to do with religion, which seeks to separate everything out into perfect bite size
Swanson TV Dinner style compartments, complete with all the poisonous additives.

I think Penn and Teller had it right. When asked what was the biggest myth they had ever busted, the answer was “Religion, as it’s the biggest hoax ever played on mankind”. That was very brave.

Touche!

FriendOfJonathan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Priya

First, this is the second time you have falsely accused me of lying, and that suggests to me that you have no functioning ethical code. Your apparent displeasure with what I have posted does not make anything I have posted wrong, or a lie.

“He said something to the effect that I’m just as bad as Michael Brown in how I treat Christians.”
Second, your paraphrasing is again, inaccurate to the point of appearing deliberately dishonest. I wrote:
“Your characterizations of Christians are exactly as reprehensible as Michael Brown’s, or Paul Cameron’s, characterizations of GLBTQ people.”
And what I said is completely accurate. Your statements about Christians are exactly as reprehensible as those made by any professional homophobe. Characterizing God as an imaginary character, when people of faith have reported personal experiences of God, is exactly the same as the a homophobe asserting that homosexuals chose to be gay, for just one example.

Of course, you defend your behavior with strawman arguments (“trying to deny any Christian equal rights” etc) to avoid the actual argument I made. By the way, Priya, that is a tactic that homophobes consistently use to defend their prejudice.

One of the many, many similarities between your perspective, and that of Mr. Brown, is that both of you judge enormous numbers of very, very diverse people, by a cherry-picked handful. That is what prejudice is, Priya. It is prejudice when Mr. Brown does it to GLBTQ people, and it is prejudice when you do it to Christians.

By the way the ‘I don’t have time excuse’ is also common with homophobes who have been taken to task for their derogatory and abusive assertions about GLBTQ people. It tells me that you cannot actually debunk anything I have posted. So too with the cherry-picking you’ve engaged in, making mountains out of subordinate statements while carefully avoiding the large issues that have been raised.

I would ask you to apologize for falsely accusing me of lying, but I suspect that it would be a waste of time.

Priya, you should remember that you, I, we all would have precious few civil rights at all, if not for the efforts of people of faith. Many of the most repressive regimes in the world today, are ostensibly atheist. The fact is that the fundamentalist atheist position of summarily and offensively dismissing the testimony and experiences of billions of human beings, is dehumanizing and degrading, a tactic well-exploited by oppressors throughout human history.

The fact that fundamentalist atheists in the U.S. have not yet physically harmed people, doesn’t change the ugly and malicious nature of their message.

One other strong parallel for you, priya. Your response mirrors that of nearly every homophobe I’ve argued with when I’ve told them that their statements about GLBTQ people were offensive, dehumanizing, degrading, and false.

Warren
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

To correct a typo above, on an important point given some of the other comments. My lack of belief in a god of any kind is not because of the actions committed against me or anyone else in the name of religion. My lack of belief comes from lack of evidence, the fact that religions appear to be entirely man-made and culturally aligned with the people who incvented them in different parts of the world and the inner peace that comes from living a life true to myself while trying to be as positive an influence on the world as I can.

FriendOfJonathan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Burr
“Anyone who takes such offense at someone else’s questioning of their faith really has no faith at all.”

Nice. I cannot tell you how often I’ve seen homophobes use exactly the same kind of strawman argument.

It is not a matter of being offended when the faith of Christians is questioned, but rather, when Christians are denigrated, verbally defined as a threat to humanity (sound familiar), mentally ill, and so on.

Anti-Christians here are using exactly the same rhetoric, the same concepts for their insults, that homophobes use.

And you’ve pulled another parallel, for homophobes routinely argue that anyone who takes offense when their homosexuality is questioned really isn’t homosexual.

It seems to me that prejudice inevitably relies on the same kinds of frauds and cruelties, degradations and falsehoods to defend itself in every circumstance, for every target.

Burr
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

I wasn’t really talking about you.. but hey run with that if you want.

Candace
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Tell me what MY response mirrors, FOJ, since I never said I was an atheist at all, let alone a “fundamentalist” atheist, nor did I say anything negative about christians or fundamentalists in my post.

I disagree with the tactics that fundamentalist christians use to promote and perpetuate their religion. Nowhere does that say that I harbor any ill feelings towards fundamentalist christians at all.

You might have misunderstood my position at first, but I think it has been made abundantly clear to you…. curiously, I find nothing forthcoming from you now to take back your accusation that I am the “mirror image” of violent fundamentalists. All I see in response from you is to see you take Priya to task, accusing her of having no “functioning ethical code” because she states that she finds your words less than truthful, and you finish up your lecture by saying she is the flip side of a homophobe.

Your pat, one-size-fits-all answer doesn’t seem to fit many of us at all.

Warren
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

FoJ,

You do raise an interesting point regarding the hurt Christians may feel when dismissing their experiences. I don’t resort to name calling, denigration, etc. mainly because I respect the choices people make in what they choose to believe and how they interpret events that happen in their lives. However, I do disagree with your assertion equating the expression of doubt over whether experience is real to the questioning of whether gay people chose thier orientation. If someone believes that I chose to be gay, but keeps that opinion to themselves and leaves my interactions with my govenrment, my employer and my spouse alone I don’t care that they have personal experience of ‘god’. They could believe that they have personal experience of walking on Mars and I wouldn’t care (though of course walking on Mars is more plausible in my mind). BUT when their belief is used to hurt me finanicially, emotionally and physically then I think it is reasonable to point out their delusion and stand up for myself.

FriendOfJonathan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Candace

The cherry-picking you employed is another commonality your arguments have with those used by homophobes. So too is this one:
“Have you ever lost a child, FOJ?”

A standard ploy, particularly from fundamentalist women, is to claim that they have lost a child, but in their case, to the “horrors of homosexuality”. You have your horror story, they have theirs. You use your horror story to pass sentence on enormous numbers of people, they use their horror story to pass sentence of enormous numbers of people. You conclude that the trait you don’t like is to blame, they conclude that they trait they don’t like is to blame.

So, Candace, your arguments are the mirror image of those used by homophobes. And just like the people you are so angry with, you avoided the substance of my post to run up a strawman argument instead.

Let’s return to the meat, to the thing you avoided: I wrote:
“And Candace, with just a few changes, your statement could have come from any ex-gay ministry – and would be railed against by all and sundry here.
“Walking away from homosexuality and, ultimately, from all of sexual immorality, was like being let out of a pitch-black torture dungeon, into the beautiful light of a spring morning.”
Be brave, Candace, and honest. Admit that if you saw the statement above, which compares your capacity for love and intimacy to a torture dungeon, you’d be at least offended. Guessing from your response to me, you’d be viciously po’d, frankly. And you’d be right to be offended.

Your characterization of faith as a ‘pitch black torture dungeon’ was inexcusably offensive. And it is exactly the kind of characterization that homophobes make about homosexuality on a regular, consistent, perpetual basis.

Additionally, your “I had many, many doubts” story has its own strong parallel in ex-gay ministry propaganda. So too your “that’s when I walked away” bit. Over and over again, some ex-gay regales the world with a sordid story of sex and drugs and crime, while being gay or lesbian, and then sees the light, walks away, and argues that all the bad things he did, or that happened to him, were caused by being homosexual, by homosexuality itself. And mirroring that, you have argued that the bad that happened to you, happened not because there are bad people in the world, but because of the existence of Christianity.

It is not my fault that your arguments mirror those of homophobes. And like them, you are free to ignore the information. But it needs saying – your statements about Christianity and Christians are indeed degrading, dehumanizing, prejudicial and offensive for the very same reasons, and purpose, as anti-gay and ex-gay rhetoric is.

FriendOfJonathan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Candace,

Once again, wittingly or now, you mirror the arguments of homophobes.
“nor did I say anything negative about christians or fundamentalists in my post.”
I just covered an example of this, but for fullness sake:

Candace, you stated at the top of this thread:“There’s nothing that could entice me back into the life of condemnation and self-hatred that is christianity.”

Now, just as homophobes routinely do about their claims, you assert that your statement is not negative, and claim that said statement does not reflect “ill feelings”. I have lost count of how many times some homophobe posted an equally degrading statement about being gay, and then defended by saying “I haven’t said anything negative about gays”.

And like so many homophobes, you’ve pulled the pre-emptive dismissal.

You won’t convince you are not mirroring the homophobes when you keep using their arguments (adjusted for the different prejudice, of course).

The Lauderdale
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

I’m an agnostic theist. That’s my summation of “I believe in God but do not know the nature of God.” I used to leave it at that, but these days generally add that I suspect God isn’t perfect.

I’m comfortable with these beliefs. They feel “right” to me, for what that’s worth. On the other hand, I’d be the first to say that they are pretty wishy-washy. Which I *like*. I love religion in an “it interests me” kind of way: studying, discussing, etc. I’m disinclined to take up any organized religion, but I can respect followers who apply themselves to firm systems of belief.

I admit to a chip on my shoulder about Christianity. I was raised Lutheran so my points of divergence with Christianity feel more personal then with, say, Islam or Mormonism since they aren’t my background. I’m angry with Christians but I’m also angry at the Christian God. And that keeps me thoughtful. It’s hard to be this angry with someone you don’t believe with on some level.

I admire those atheists and religious theists of good will who don’t try to push their beliefs on me. Rude aggressive rhetoric and mudslinging on either side is a real turn-off.

FriendOfJonathan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Michael

The cut-n-paste job in quoting me, while a convenient way of avoiding context and setting a strawman argument, is not honest or ethical.

The fundamental differences you cite are irrelevant to my theme, which is the use of language to degrade, dehumanize, subjugate and abuse. Frankly, many homophobes openly acknowledge that they might be wrong about some fact about homosexuality, they just don’t care. And many offer up the possibility of some form of miraculous evidence that would convince them as you did.

Additionally, your false characterization of my statement, reflected in your post here:
“Based on our discussion in the previous thread, you yourself consider it to be a weakness of character (“Someone who can be talked out of their faith is like someone who can be talked out of their sexual orientation, among other things.”)” doesn’t destroy the strong comparison between the arguments used by homophobes, and those used by atheists. Like the average homophobe, you read into my statement a meaning that was not there, and then presented it as fact. Homophobes do that on a daily basis.

I do think you should take your own advice (“But refusing to acknowledge the possibility of error denies any opportunity for growth or learning.”) rather than give it away. Oh, and the snotty closing sentence, which insinuates an accusation I have provided no cause for, is yet another parallel with the communication techniques used by homophobes.

FriendOfJonathan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

All of the strawman arguments, the cherry-picking and other avoidance tactics used here, won’t make the theme I’ve addressed go away.

In general, and pretty consistently, GLBTQ people complain, rightfully, about the abusive and degrading rhetoric that homophobes use to define us, to vilify our lives and relationships, to dismiss our experiences and testimony.

It is just as wrong when atheists, GLBTQ or straight, use exactly the same rhetorical techniques to vilify, define, dismiss and abuse people of faith.

When Warren wrote “the claim of religion being factual due to personal experience is not a convincing claim to me” it was no different from when any homophobe insists that the personal experience of GLBTQ people is not convincing.

How on earth can any GLBTQ person expect any straight person to believe our testimony about our experience of our same-sex attractions, something they do not experience, that seems foreign and imaginary and irrational, if we dismiss the testimony of people of faith about their experiences of the Divine?

Those who refuse to believe GLBTQ people, when we say ‘I did not chose to be gay’, and those who refuse to believe people of faith when we say “I experienced the Divine” are both acting in an equally immoral way.

Just because “Joe Het” hasn’t experienced same-sex attractions doesn’t mean “Gay George” hasn’t, and by the same token, just because “Andy Atheist” hasn’t experience God, doesn’t mean that “Cathy Christian” hasn’t.

Yet both homophobes and atheists first conclude, and then insist and act, as if their experiences, or lack thereof, define and limit those of everyone else, ever, no matter what. And then they dismiss, disregard and malign the testimony of anyone who’s experience is different.

Aaron
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Hey Warren,

We seem to have a misunderstanding, I am not attempting to prove that God, or the Divine at all, exists. I was merely attempting to explain why I believe (I can see why it would look like that though). Thus, some of what I wrote were not defendable arguments. For example, if I wished to prove the medical thing, I would have posted a pic of my friends medical record after he was healed of HIV after 17 years of infection (sorry, I couldn’t help it, it’s just so cool, no?). :-P

When I came to the Christianity bit, I was being serious….

It is difficult to post the various evidences of Jesus’ existence. It is generally accepted amongst scholars, not to say that proves anything. In the New Testament two eyewitness accounts from the gospel of Matthew and John (some disagree that John was written by John the Apostle, however) we also have the Gospel of Mark which was written by Mark the translator of the Apostle Peter after Peters death. Next, we have the Gospel of Luke who was written by a historian within the very early church who sought to reconstruct the life of Jesus using the previous gospels and the remaining oral tradition about Jesus. Whether John was written by the Apostle or not, it was a text written in a separate tradition from the others and yet still confirms much of what they have to say. All of these were written within forty years of Jesus’ death (except, perhaps, for John) and all record Jesus’ death by Crucifixion and his reported resurrection. Outside sources for Jesus’ life include Josephus and Tacitus whom also record that he was executed under Pilate.

Even earlier sources for Jesus’ life include some of the letters of Paul, 1 Thessalonians and Galatians were written some 10 – 20 years after Jesus death. Paul records that Jesus lived, was killed and rose from the dead. On a personal note, I can find little evidence for this known Pharisee’s conversion outside of divine intervention (again, not definitive).

I think I can dig up a few more refs for Jesus if you want… “The case for Christ” by Lee Strobel is pretty good too.

And oh yeah! The point I was trying to make about the apostles giving their lives was this: it is one thing to give up your life for something which you become indoctrinated in (like religion), but it is quite another to give up your life for a lie that you created, as the Apostles (supposedly) did.

Still not debating!!! Just giving the man what he wanted!!! Please don’t hate me! (looks around nervously)

Love and peace.

Candace
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

FOJ, are you a christian?

Why would you characterize the hate-crime murder of my youngest child as “A standard ploy, particularly from fundamentalist women, is to claim that they have lost a child, but in their case, to the “horrors of homosexuality”. You have your horror story, they have theirs.”

It isn’t a “horror story,” it is my LIFE. I washed my daughter’s blood off the sidewalk after all the police left and went through years of hell that you cannot even imagine, and you say my experience is a “ploy” equal to stories from fundamentalist christians who have a gay child.

There’s a difference in my “standard ploy” and theirs, FOJ, their child is somewhere dancing with another man or woman and mine is in an urn on top of a bookcase.

Again….are you a christian?

Aaron
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

It seems that, generally, God wants faith, before He reveals himself. Very annoying for people who believe only what can be proven.

Much empathy.

Aaron
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Dear FriendOfJonathan,

Please quit typing before you discredit the entire body of Christ.

Love, Aaron.

Richard Rush
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

jeff wrote: “I never understood why atheists are so vile toward people not atheist. What’s up with all the name calling? Makes me wonder if maybe they are so insecure in their “non-beliefs” that they lash out at people they view as having a stronger character.”

Perhaps I can help answer your question (but I’m not sure that the vile is directed so much toward people as it is toward the beliefs).

First, I’m assuming the vast majority of non-believers were originally some form of Christian before moving towards atheism. Once a person reaches that point, I think the perceived level of absurdity of Christian belief reaches such an extremely high level that it becomes very difficult not to use sarcasm, sneering ridicule, and snarkiness. And that person may also feel embarrassment for having ever held such beliefs, and resent being raised with them.

Also, I think there is a backlash against the millions of Christians demanding that all of us live according to their dictates, and they are eager to achieve that goal through government action. Moderate Christians are getting caught in the crossfire, and are criticized for enabling the fundamentalists. Please notice that no one here is going after beliefs in Astrology.

Many atheists are highly knowledgeable about Christianity, and the more you know, the more absurd it becomes. It is precisely because of that knowledge that many Christians become non-believers. The key here is to allow the entry of knowledge from sources outside of the Christian echo chamber. Many people are too scared to allow that. BTW, I certainly don’t claim to be one of those highly knowledgeable people.

I’m not trying to defend the “vile,” but I think I can understand some factors that cause it. I’ve been guilty myself.

FriendOfJonathan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

One last thing

I’ve spent my entire adult life caught in the middle of this damned war, abused from one army for my sexual orientation, abused from the other for my faith. BOTH sides insist that I must abandon everything that is meaningful to me, that I mutilate my very sense of self, to appease their selfish ideas. BOTH armies vilify my character, my intelligence, my sanity, solely (and that of my peers) because I/we will not do as they demand.

And I am as thoroughly sick of being maligned, directly or indirectly, for my faith, as I am for my sexual orientation.

Those participants here who are non-religious, have in my posts the opportunity to learn from a perspective they do not have.

Heterosexual homophobes routinely, and consistently, reject all opportunities to learn directly from GLBTQ people about our perspective, which they do not have direct access to.

Learn from those of us who are living both sides of this war.

Candace
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

I’m sorry for the turmoil you’ve lived in, FOJ, but I, for one, didn’t abuse you for your faith.

The only thing I have learned from your posts is that you have a lot of anger over things that have happened to you.

I hope you find peace in your life so that you can be a better representative of the one you claim to worship.

FriendOfJonathan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Candace

Again you mirror the homophobes. Whenever I tell one something he or she doesn’t like, but cannot refute honestly, they invariable ask ‘Are you a Christian?”

Yes, I am. And I’m gay, before you ask. Also, I’m human.

Misrepresenting my remarks about your post was dishonest, Candace. I didn’t characterize the event as a ‘standard ploy’ – I stated that your use of it was. And it is. You state “It isn’t a “horror story,” it is my LIFE.” and the homophobes who use their own life history say the exact same thing. Yes, Candace, your use of your story is equal to that of the way I’ve seen homophobes use their accounts from their lives.

Since you don’t know what stories from homophobes I was referring to (many different details, one basic premise), you don’t what their child or spouse is doing. Fact is, Candace, their most common story is that their kid/spouse/parent is dead of AIDS because of homosexuality, just like your story is that your kid is dead from a hate crime because of Christianity.

See, you used the events in your life to create a negative claim about all Christians and Christianity itself, just as many homophobes use the events in their life to create a negative claim about all GLBTQ and homosexuality itself.

So tell me, how is your prejudice and the way you verbalize it any different from that of any homophobe?

FriendOfJonathan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

“I’m sorry for the turmoil you’ve lived in, FOJ, but I, for one, didn’t abuse you for your faith.

The only thing I have learned from your posts is that you have a lot of anger over things that have happened to you.

I hope you find peace in your life so that you can be a better representative of the one you claim to worship.”

More mirroring behavior, Candace.

When I post to a homophobe about homophobia, after they have reviled GLBTQ people, as you reviled Christians, they say ‘But I, for one, didn’t abuse you for your faith’.

And then my justifiable rebuke of their prejudice, they characterize as ‘you have a lot of anger’ and make derogatory insinuations, just like your last paragraph.

With one – ONE – word change, Candace, your response could have come from any homophobe any progressive Christian like myself has stood up to. One word, that’s the only difference. Change “faith” to “gay lifestyle” and its the same degrading, belittling, self-superior, holier than thou message.

FriendOfJonathan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Richard

One comment for the moment. You wrote:
“Many atheists are highly knowledgeable about Christianity, and the more you know, the more absurd it becomes.”

I disagree. Most of the atheists I’ve encountered are not hightly knowledgeable about Christianity, they are, at best, moderately well informed about the basics of what is currently the most visible flavor of Christianity – fundamentalist/evangelical Christianity.

Most atheists articulate an extremely simplistic, often grossly inaccurate vision of Christianity, comparable to the distorted vision of science that most creationists have.

It is the problem of defining a hugely complex, nuanced, enormous body of thought, by the words and deeds of a tiny fraction – whether it is atheists defining Christianity by the Religious Right, or creationists defining science by this or that discredited scientist.

Candace
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

You mistake my motivation, JFOJ. I didn’t ask you if you were a christian because I find christianity and homosexuality to be incompatible… I TEACH discussion groups about what the Bible really says about homosexuality.

I didn’t say a word about christians. I spoke about prejudice towards a philosophy and religion that produces such violence as I have lived through.

But let me get this right: I don’t speak about my murdered daughter because of such unneccesary loss and sorrow, I only use her death as a “ploy” to bash christians?

Why did you characterise me as a “fundamentalist atheist” when I’m not an atheist at all?

I have no prejudice against individuals, but instead against a violent religious worldview.

But continue to post…. you are doing far more harm to your cause that I ever could.

Narc
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

“…people of faith who reply ‘That is not the God I experience’.”

Similarly cops can’t be racist (and I’m referring specifically of the Gates case) because, as a white guy, I’ve had a few interactions with the police, and that’s not the police force I’ve experienced.

Richard W. Fitch
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGwFlvX_Uzs
Here’s a clip you may want to check. It was the HRC Clergy Call in May 2009. I have mixed feelings about HRC, but the clip makes some good points with regard to not all religions being condemning of LGBT persons.

Warren
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

FOJ,

Read my sentence carefully: “the claim of religion being factual due to personal experience is not a convincing claim TO ME.” The last two words are key. The homophobes say I’m not convinced you didn’t choose to be gay and that gives me license to treat your poorly and condemn you to hell. My assertion is merely that I am not convinced. Others have every right to their beliefs and my tone in all my postings and discussions on this topic are purposely respectful and restrained. I expect the same treatment from others, but unfortunately all to many followers of various faiths assume that their revealed knowledge trumps my opinions. I understand the impulse many who respond to religion in anger are acting on, but I agree with you that it serves no good purpose. That said I do not apologize for my positions and am prepared to defend them until proven to be wrong.

Warren
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

I am surprised the names of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins have not yet come up in this thread, but I’ll throw them out now in this way. I have read most of the Bible, Book of Mormon, some of the Koran and studied Hinduism and Roman Religion somewhat. I remain unmoved by the arguments put forth by those faiths (though strangely Roman Religious practice is the one that fascinated me most, and the one I am most inclined to research further). I would suggest to all believers to read Hitchens’ God is Not Great and any of Dawkins, but especially the God Delusion. I do not expect them to change your mind, nor do I mind one way or the other if they do. However, I humbly suggest that in order to sustain any position one should at least understand the nature of the arguments that oppose it and be able to determine the reasons you have for maintaining your belief.

Rob Lll
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

I was going to post a few thoughts here, but given the direction the thread has been going over the past few posts, I think maybe not, at least not now.

However, I did want to say one thing, to Candace: I am sorry for your loss. And even if your path is not necessarily one I would’ve chosen, I’m glad you’ve found a better place for yourself.

Candace
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Rob, thank you. As for my path, I have no idea where it will lead. I’m just glad that now I have the freedom to follow it, wherever it may go.

Gay Christian 101
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Candace-

Your post about the treatment you received from Christians after your daughter’s death made me sad. I too have had some negative experiences with Christians but I’ve also had some wonderfully uplifting experiences who were not particularly gay friendly.

It may not help much but as a very conservative, Bible believing gay Christian, I would be happy to know you and be your friend.

In spite of the bad things you’ve experienced, it sounds like you have a loving heart. Although you’ve “walked away” from Christianity at this time in your life, know that God has not walked away from you.

“Throw all your anxieties upon him, because he cares about you.”
-The Complete Jewish Bible

Rick

Candace
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Thank you, Rick. I don’t know if I walked away or was never really there to begin with, but I know that I tried my hardest to belong and it didn’t work.

The only thing I know now is that I don’t know anything. I used to think that I had all the answers and found out that I have none.

That is my honest attitude and if it isn’t good enough for someone, then there isn’t much I can do about it.

Again, thank you for your kindness.

Michael A.
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

FoJ, I’ve read and reread our correspondence thus far and concluded that our understanding of religion, logic, and language are irreconcilably incompatible. I want to assure you it was never my goal to misrepresent you, to be snotty to you, or to “degrade, dehumanize, subjugate and abuse” you. But I will give you the benefit of the doubt and apologize for all of the above.

Seriously.

It’s clear your faith is a passionately held, vitally important part of your life. I sincerely hope it serves as a positive force in your life.

Timothy, if we haven’t scared you away from this thread already, I really was curious to hear your explanations for the biblical challenges Priya Lynn listed in the previous thread. You see it’s issues like those – scriptures that make God appear immoral – which started me down the path towards atheism.

FriendOfJonathan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Warren

“Read my sentence carefully: “the claim of religion being factual due to personal experience is not a convincing claim TO ME.” The last two words are key. ”

No, not really. And your subsequent statement really doesn’t help, not when atheists on the ‘net, here and elsewhere, daily assert their desire for a world where Christianity has been eliminated.

Like others, you appear to be arguing that because the consequences of your prejudice are not yet destructive, your prejudice is not prejudice.

Essentially, atheists are asserting that because they have not experienced something, every person who says they have, is wrong, deluded, a liar, indoctrinated, etc. That is morally equivalent to the arguments used by homophobes, who argue that because they are not attracted to their own gender, every person who says that they are homosexual is wrong, deluded, a liar, indoctrinated, recruited, etc.

In both instances, there is a fundamental contempt for the character, testimony and person of anyone who has had a different experience of life – either by experiencing some form of spirituality, or by experiencing some form of same-sex sexual attractions.

That the consequences of atheist rhetoric have not yet, in the U.S. become as destructive as the consequences of homophobic rhetoric, does not change the intrinsic oppresive nature of either position.

Plenty of homophobes have used your ‘to me’ excuse as well. And like the homophobes, you require that people of faith prove you wrong about their experiences. How are you any different from the homophobe who says ‘I don’t believe that you did not chose to be homosexual, prove me wrong’?

I have a question for you, Warren. I hope you will actually answer it, and answer it honestly. When I ask it parallel of homophobes, they either change the subject, disappear, or engage in ad hominem.

Since you “are not convinced by the personal experiences” of people of faith, why, seriously, should any one, at all, be convinced about anything by your testimony about your personal experiences?

I’m serious. If you wrote “I went to France and stayed at a great hotel” – why should anyone believe you? If you say “I completed xyz tasks”, why should your employer believe you?

Any argument you could come up – here’s the photos, here’s the work product, has a plausible dismissal.

So, if the testimony of billions of people across the scope of human history is empty to you, why should your testimony be meaningful to anyone?

Pender
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

FriendOfJonathan, it’s your choice to be religious — or at least, no less your choice to be religious than to believe in Santa Claus or UFO’s. It’s not your choice to be gay. So saying derogatory things about religious people is not at all like saying derogatory things about gay people. The only reason you put Jesus talk in a different category from alien talk is that you’ve heard more Jesus talk than alien talk in your life. They’re equally crazy, though, in that they’re both positive beliefs about the universe that are entirely unsupported by evidence. What’s tragic is not that people like me think of Jesus-worshipers as lunatics but that society abets and defends irrational fantasies as long as they’re called religions. The world would be a much brighter place if it weren’t filled with supernatural lies.

Pender
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Essentially, atheists are asserting that because they have not experienced something, every person who says they have, is wrong, deluded, a liar, indoctrinated, etc. That is morally equivalent to the arguments used by homophobes, who argue that because they are not attracted to their own gender, every person who says that they are homosexual is wrong, deluded, a liar, indoctrinated, recruited, etc.

If I told you that a magical elf appeared in my bedroom and offered me the power to commune with the hidden spirits inside every box of Lucky Charms, you’d feel perfectly justified in thinking that I was “wrong, deluded, a liar, indoctrinated, etc.” You would not for one single split-second even consider the possibility that my alleged experience reflected reality.

So why do you expect me to treat you otherwise when you claim your own elaborate, supernatural and non-falsifiable revelations?

FriendOfJonathan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

“…people of faith who reply ‘That is not the God I experience’.”

Similarly cops can’t be racist (and I’m referring specifically of the Gates case) because, as a white guy, I’ve had a few interactions with the police, and that’s not the police force I’ve experienced.”

Taking statements out of context is dishonest. Convenient for your strawman argument, but dishonest.

The full statement I provided was:

“And it is not uncommon for atheists to define this God they don’t believe in, in ugly and horrific ways, and then become as brutally offensive as any homophobe, to people of faith who reply ‘That is not the God I experience’.”

So your parallel was completely false. I recount people who, by their own definition, have no experience of the Divine, and are cherry-picking from the acts and words of humans, to create a false definition of something they have never experienced, and then asserted that their construct is intrinsically more accurate than the testimony of people who have experience.

To correct your comparison, and reveal how irrational it was –

If someone who has never had any experience with the police, who insists that there are no such thing as police, claims that, if there were police, they’d be racists because he only accepts the testimony of people from minorities who’ve had bad experiences with police, and dismisses all testimony from everyone else,

we’d have a more accurate parallel to what atheists do in characterizing God.

Which, not so coincidentally, is also what homophobes do in characterizing the lives of homosexuals, our relationships, our intimate acts, our feelings, our faith.

Pender
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

“If someone who has never had any experience with the police, who insists that there are no such thing as police,”

Well, let’s just stop right there, because the existence of police is a falsifiable question; we don’t need personal experience because we can add up evidence and come to a reality-based conclusion. The scientific method will vouch for the existence of police. If you could come up with evidence (according to the scientific method) for the divine existence of God or Jesus tomorrow, I would instantly stop being an atheist and start being a believer. Until you or someone else can do that, stop making specious comparisons.

FriendOfJonathan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Pender

Let’s do an experiment with your words.

“it’s your choice to be religious”
and in homophobe-speak:
“its your choice to be gay”

You think spirituality is chosen, I know I experience it, rather than chose it. Homophobes believe that sexual orientation is chosen, I know I experience, rather than chose it.

“What’s tragic is not that people like me think of Jesus-worshipers as lunatics but that society abets and defends irrational fantasies as long as they’re called religions.”
and in homophobe-speak:
“What’s tragic is not that people like me think of homosexuals as lunatics, but that society abets and defends perverted lifestyles as long as they’re called civil rights.”

Guess what? There is no difference between your argument, and that made by Paul Cameron except target. You target people of faith, he targets homosexuals.

“The world would be a much brighter place if it weren’t filled with supernatural lies.”
And in homophobe-speak . . .

Oh, but this thread is a spin-off of discussions about someone who seeks to make a world that isn’t filled with homosexuals.

“If I told you that a magical elf ”
If you, personally, told me the sky was blue, Pender, I’d go check.

Your comparison is dishonest though, because spirituality is not something that only one person has ever testified to. It is something that humans have been experiencing and testifying to for millenia.

More people have testified to an experience of God, than can testify to meeting you in public Pender. I haven’t met you in public, on the ‘net “Pender” could be anything or anyone, including a Jesuit with a mean sense of humor. Does it mean that you do not exist, simply because I, and most of humanity, cannot falsify your existence?

The reality, Pender, is that most of your life experiences are essentially unfalsifiable to most of humanity. Claim you went to the Eiffel tower – easily faked with a camera and photoshop. Claim you had a grilled cheese sandwhich for lunch – do I look like I carry a stomach pump with me? Just about any claim you make about your self, your life, can be faked nowadays.

And be honest with yourself. You would expect to be believed if you told me about what you did, or saw, or felt, and absolutely, if a magical elf did appear in your bedroom, you’d damn well expect to believed when you told me about it.

And, if I didn’t already know that you dismiss the experiences of people of faith, and you told me ‘A magical elf appeared in my bedroom last night’ – my first response would be, not to dismiss your story, but to ask you more about it. I’d be skeptical, because very, very, very few people have been visited by magical elves; far, far, far, far fewer than have experieced God, but, I’d hear you out.

I’d even bet that there are more people in the course of human history who have claimed to have been visited by magical elves, than have met you face to face.

FriendOfJonathan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

“Well, let’s just stop right there, because the existence of police is a falsifiable question;”

Not universally. Go ask someone from one of the aboriginal tribes in the Amazon basin, who have had and do not tolerate any contact with the outside world.

“Until you or someone else can do that, stop making specious comparisons.”

You first.

Just because you cannot duplicate my experience, or that of any other person of faith, doesn’t mean their testimony is false.

Most of us cannot, ever, falsify the data and conclusions coming out of particle physics. Ever. Does that mean that quantum particles are a delusion?

Your existence, within the context of this thread, is not falsifiable. Your posts could be written by one person, a dozen, any number more or any number fewer. There are programs now that are sophisticated enough to fool most people participating on most discussion boards.

From my perspective, you are less real than God, I have only experienced words on a page on the internet of you, over the course of one evening, and found very little of any substance. God, on the other hand, I’ve experienced in myriad situations over more than 40 years.

Now, your diversionary tactics, as commonplace as they are, accomplish nothing to refute the theme I actually have been working on, that is, that the dialogue and arguments used by atheists is identical to that used by homophobes.

Your demands for proof of God’s existence are identical to the demands from homophobes that homosexuality is not chosen. You won’t believe what it suits you not to believe, they won’t believe what it suits them not to believe.

Candace
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

FOJ, you have complained through most of this thread about you and your statements being mischaracterized and misrepresented. I’d guess that means that you are apparently very sensitive to mischaracterization and misrepresentation.

So why did you mischaracterize me as a “fundamentalist atheist,” the “mirror image of fundamentalist christians” after I’d specifically said I was an agnostic?

If you didn’t characterize me as such, could you please say so in your reply?

FriendOfJonathan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Candace

“You mistake my motivation, JFOJ.”

I said nothing about your motivation, Candace. Responding to an imaginary accusation is yet another thing your arguments have in common with the average homophobe.

“I didn’t say a word about christians.”

I quoted your prior post.

“But let me get this right: I don’t speak about my murdered daughter because of such unneccesary loss and sorrow, I only use her death as a “ploy” to bash christians?”

If you say so. That’s not what I said, but, Candace, falsely construing rebuttal is another tactic frequently used by homophobes.

So why not address the point I really made?

Your use of your personal history to fabricate a charge against all Christians matches the use homophobes make of their personal history to fabricate charges against homosexuals.

How is your use of your story any different from that of the many homophobes who tearfully recount how their husband/son/father was gay, got AIDS and died, so homosexuality is “life of misery and death”

just as you described Christianity as “the life of condemnation and self-hatred”?

How is your argument any different? All you’ve changed is the nouns.

“I have no prejudice against individuals, but instead against a violent religious worldview.”

Ah, love the sinner, hate the sin, in new verbiage.

“But continue to post…. you are doing far more harm to your cause that I ever could.”

Do you have any idea how consistently homophobes use that exact statement, nearly word for word, at anyone who argues to refute ‘homosexuality is sin’?

Any time anyone raises strong objections and refutations to their arguments, out comes the ‘you are only hurting your own cause’ malarkey.

That mirror is pretty durned reflective, Candace.

Now Candace, I asked you a question. I answered yours about my religion, I think I am entitled to answer to mine, and an honest, accurate one. No dodging, no strawman, no more ad hominem.

“So tell me, how is your prejudice and the way you verbalize it any different from that of any homophobe?”

It is a reasonable question. I’ve illuminated at length considerable and significant similarities between your statements here, and those made by homophobe. Explain how your statements are different, are not degrading, abusive, offensive, and a clear manifestation of prejudice.

FriendOfJonathan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

“So why did you mischaracterize me as a “fundamentalist atheist,” the “mirror image of fundamentalist christians” after I’d specifically said I was an agnostic?”

Where, exactly, do you believe that I characterized you, personally and explicitly, in that fashion?

You keep raising this accusation, without quotation or source. And while I have a good guess where you are reading into what I wrote, I also notice that for all your harping on this accusation, you have not addressed the core themes of any of my posts.

Additionally, kindly answer my question, repeated in my post above.

Maybe you could also explain why you are avoiding the theme, what I have really been saying all along.

Why is it wrong for homophobes to say ugly and degrading things about homosexuals, and acceptable for you, atheists, agnostics, people who don’t believe, whatever label you like – to vilify and denigrate people of faith?

Does your unbelief exempt you from morals and ethics?

Candace
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

FOJ said: “Your use of your personal history to fabricate a charge against all Christians matches the use homophobes make of their personal history to fabricate charges against homosexuals.”

I haven’t leveled a single charge against christians, let alone all christians. I have said repeatedly that I reject the violent philopsophy of fundamental christianity.

I don’t think you can distinguish the difference in disliking a destructive religious philosophy and christian people.

You continue to misrepresent and mischaracterise both me and my words.

Your argument is absurd when carried to its logical conclusions: any and all arguments nonbelievers (or believers) make to you will always be wrong in your opinion because they argue against something just like the homophbes you’re fond of mentioning, argue against homosexuals.

“I don’t like chocolate ice cream.”

“Well, just substitute the word HOMOSEXUALS for chocolate ice cream and you’ll see how homophobic your argument is!”

I’m sure you can spout that for every single argument anyone can make against your beliefs, and it’s ludicrous.

We aren’t TALKING about homosexuality in this thread, we are talking about atheism and christianity. You have spent an entire evening attempting to turn every post by a nonbeliever into an attack on homosexuality… that’s ridiculous, considering this is a gay blog.

The god portrayed in the Bible is more evil than satan is ever portrayed as being. The bible is full of contradicitons, errors, and flat-out lies. Some come to that knowledge early, and some come to it sitting in a church pew when they’re older. You have NO RIGHT to equate all of them with homophobes and dismiss their arguments.

Many people refuse to kiss the foot that grinds them into the dirt, FOJ, both nonbelievers and ex-believers. I, for one, have had my fill of it.

We are as entitled to our beliefs or lack of beliefs as anyone else.

Deal with the subject at hand and stop turning every argument into some kind of attack on your homosexuality. I’m gay too. My other two daughters, the ones god is going to “kill, because god hates queers,” are gay. I have had my share of discrimination because of my sexual orientation.

You CHOOSE to stay in christianity and endure the discrimination and problems that apparently brings you.

Again, stick with the topic of the thread and stop trying to relate every argument against christianity to homophobia.

Warren
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Hi FoJ, I was out for dinner, not ducking your post. I’m enjoying myself here immensely.

I’ll start with the question you posed then turn to the other arguments you make.

“Since you “are not convinced by the personal experiences” of people of faith, why, seriously, should any one, at all, be convinced about anything by your testimony about your personal experiences?”

The answer is simple: You shouldn’t. Firstly I am not asking anyone to be convinced by my experience, I am advancing an argument that purposely does not rely on personal experience. I don’t care if anyone agrees with my opinions or not, as long as they don’t try penalize me for mine. I just ask for the same accommodation from other people. This requires me to be polite and listen to their arguments, to put forward my own point of view and to respect their right to hold a different point of view. That’s it. End of story. It doesn’t require either of us to give up our beliefs, and it certainly does not follow that either party must as a matter of course should take offense.

The France and work examples tend to support my position and not yours. For the sake of brevity I will just concentrate on the France one. If I wanted you to prove you had been to France, I’d be able to obtain your passport with the stamps, your air ticket, the records of your flight, surveillance footage from the CDG airport, interview witnesses, use forensic software to determine if your photos had been altered and any number of other techniques to gather evidence. Based on the preponderance of the evidence I would then come to a conclusion. Now of course I could not say with certainty that I was not a victim of an elaborate hoax, but I could reduce that probability in my own mind to such a small degree that I would conclude that as all the evidence points that you went to France I should act on the assumption that you did. Similarly, as the evidence available to us today presents a picture of a universe and planet that follows natural laws and which can be largely explained through those laws and evidence I conclude that there is unlikely any supernatural force actively involved in at and conduct my life as such.

“No, not really. And your subsequent statement really doesn’t help, not when atheists on the ‘net, here and elsewhere, daily assert their desire for a world where Christianity has been eliminated.”

I have never asserted such belief. If others have that is their business not mine. The only thing most atheists have in common with other atheists is lack of belief in god. There are many atheists whose worldview is totally different different from mine.

I do, as a personal opinion, believe that the world would probably be better of without doctrinal religion, but that is a hunch, and not a debate I’m very interested in as religion will exist long after I am dead, so I live in the world as it is, not as I wish it would be (though I do try to make whatever change I can). I am not interested in ‘atheist fellowships’ the kind of which are becoming more common, though I don’t really mind that they exist.

“Essentially, atheists are asserting that because they have not experienced something, every person who says they have, is wrong, deluded, a liar, indoctrinated, etc. That is morally equivalent to the arguments used by homophobes, who argue that because they are not attracted to their own gender, every person who says that they are homosexual is wrong, deluded, a liar, indoctrinated, recruited, etc.”

The two are absolutely not morally equivalent. And you totally mischaracterize my statements. I think that people who maintain they have personally experienced god absolutely believe their experience was divine and that the experience was real to them. I don’t think they are liars, and they are not necessarily indoctrinated, though to all religions indoctrinate to some extent, after all that’s the only way to perpetuate their doctrines. Based on my opinion I do think that these people have made an error in their interpretation of certain events, but I know I am not perfect myself, so I don’t necessarily think less of them. The anti-gays however believe their opinion is irrefutable, and because of their certitude are entitled to pass judgment, not just in word but in effecting public policy and any way they can. They do not respect difference in opinion and seek to ensure that their opinion triumphs by metaphorical (and sometimes physical) force.

“Plenty of homophobes have used your ‘to me’ excuse as well. And like the homophobes, you require that people of faith prove you wrong about their experiences. How are you any different from the homophobe who says ‘I don’t believe that you did not chose to be homosexual, prove me wrong’?”

I’m not sure I used it as an excuse. What would I be excusing? I did not require them to prove me wrong Though I would be interested to be presented with evidence as to why I was, I don’t require anything in that vein. I am different from the homophobe because I am not being confrontational, nor am I standing in judgment of their character because of their belief. More than that, a personal characteristic that arises as a combination of genetic disposition, hormonal makeup, early childhood development and personal preference such as musical talent, sense of humor or sexual orientation is totally different to the nature of the religious beliefs someone consciously chooses to follow and act on and is yet further removed when those beliefs are used to interfere in other peoples’ lives.

That said, I find your characterizations of what ‘atheists’ want to do misguided. You have projected your own personal feelings about the experiences you have had with atheists onto all who do not believe in any religion. By doing so you come across as acting in the very manner you are so critical of.

FriendOfJonathan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Michael,

Thank you, I believe you.

Despite all of the distractions, there really is a crucial point I’m trying to make.

There’s pretty strong consensus among GLBTQ people that derogatory statements about our lives are offensive, inappropriate, degrading, etc.

From what I’ve read from atheists and people who do not believe religion, they are equally in agreement that degrading and derogatory statements about their character, motives, values, lives, are offensive, etc.

So why is it appropriate, acceptable, celebrated by some, to revile Christians?

We all get irked, when homophobes treat GLBTQ people as some sort of monolithic borg entity, all thinking, feeling, bonking, snorting, fornicating alike.

Why is it appropriate, acceptable, celebrated by some, to treat Christians like some monolithic entity, all torturing, persecuting, bashing alike?

We complain, as a community, about the invisibility of the contributions and contributions of GLBTQ people across history. We complain when we get defined, as a whole, by some gay murderer or drug abuser or closet case.

Why is is appropriate then to pretend that all of the contributions of Christians have been destructive, to pretend that the majority of the social, political, idealogical advances in Europe and the America’s, have come from Christians?

It all reminds me of a theme in fiction, the “good guys” have the chance to use the weapon or authority or power of the villain, but refrain rather than risk becoming a new villain themselves. The classic example of course being the Ring in Tolkien’s epic.

Prejudicial, malicious rhetoric is wrong when some Christians wield it against GLBTQ people, or people of color, or women, or non-believers.

It is just as wrong when some GLBTQ people, or people of color, or women, or even non-believer, agnostics and atheists, wield it against Christians.

Jonathan Osborn
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

I understand, and to a large extent agree with the atheist’s contempt for the behavior of institutional Christianity and the European political hegemony it has ideologically and materially supported. From the destruction of the great library in Alexandria, through the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, enslavement and oppression of the indigenous folk of the other continents and so forth. Certainly, this history has a very dark side.

As a gay man, I’ve always been troubled by that history, and by the self-righteousness of many nominal Christians.
In what started for me as an attempt to disarm the fundamentalist’s claims of absolute certainty in their simple minded theologies, I started to study books by members of the Jesus Seminar, and the like, to understand the very human origins of the New Testament scriptures.

In becoming familiar with the New Testament in this way and how it came about, I have found it easier to see the gospels as simply one (actually several, but let’s not get bogged down on that) of many attempts through history to understand our position and our roles in the world. There’s wisdom in there, and nonsense as well, occasionally simultaneously.

On any given day, I can’t tell you what I think Jesus’s role in the universe is (hint, probably not unique son of God), but I do know that the parable of the Good Samaritan contains wisdom that is worth aspiring to, and I only appreciated the parable of the Prodigal Son when I came to understand that I am the father, and both of his sons in the story simultaneously.

FriendOfJonathan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

“I haven’t leveled a single charge against christians, let alone all christians. I have said repeatedly that I reject the violent philopsophy of fundamental christianity.”

Candace, I’m not easily fooled. Your own words, at the top of this thread:
“Walking away from fundamentalism and, ultimately, from all of christianity, was like being let out of a pitch-black torture dungeon, into the beautiful light of a spring morning. There’s nothing that could entice me back into the life of condemnation and self-hatred that is christianity.”

And “Even after my daughter was killed I tried to believe…. but was told so many times on christian discussion boards that unless I managed to become heterosexual that I was going to burn forever in hell that I finally couldn’t take it any more.

That’s when I finally walked away from it.”

That is a charge. You are blaming Christianity, you walked away from “it”, not the terrible people who abused it as a cover for their crimes.

Your denials are yet another parallel your arguments have with homophobes.

“I don’t think you can distinguish the difference in disliking a destructive religious philosophy and christian people. ”

You did not even attempt any such distinction until I began calling you to task. Your ad hominem remark about character is yet another standard tactic used by homophobes.

Denial after denial doesn’t change the fact that you use your story to malign Christians, just as homophobes use their stories to malign homosexuals. Why is it ok when you do it to Christians, if it is wrong when homophobes do it to homosexuals?

Your dismissals of my statements as absurb, is simply rude. Your strawman arguments, equally rude. Again, how are you any different from any homophobe who posts degrading things about homosexuals, and then relies on denial, dismissals, personal attack, to change the subject?

“You have spent an entire evening attempting to turn every post by a nonbeliever into an attack on homosexuality… that’s ridiculous, considering this is a gay blog.”

That is a lie, Candace. You may consider yourself exempt for Biblical laws condemning lying and false testimony, but other codes of law forbid it as well.

This dishonesty, Candace, is another trait your arguments have in common with those used by homophobes.

“Some come to that knowledge early, and some come to it sitting in a church pew when they’re older. You have NO RIGHT to equate all of them with homophobes and dismiss their arguments.”

It really would be ethical if you stopped falsely accusing me of things I am not doing. And, Candace, you do not determine what my rights are, but, isn’t that an amazing coincidence?

Like any homophobe, here you are, telling me what my rights are, and in your opinion, they do not include criticizing the message and techniques of fundamentalist atheists. What, are you doing to tell me I don’t have the right to gather in public with other progressive Christians too?

Open your eyes to your own posts, and see just how identical your own arguments are to those used by homophobes to oppressed GLBTQ people.

Oh, at the moment you are content simply to tell me what I can, and cannot, post about:
“Again, stick with the topic of the thread and stop trying to relate every argument against christianity to homophobia.”

“You CHOOSE to stay in christianity and endure the discrimination and problems that apparently brings you. ”

Again, you duplicate the arguments of homophobes. How is your non-belief any different from homophobia, Candace? How is the way you express any different from the hate speech from Cameron or Mr. Brown?

My theme is the remarkable similarity between the way some atheists, particularly fundamentalists atheists, by any less than forthright appelation, use verbal abuse to talk about Christians, and the way homophobes talk about GLBTQ people. Completely relevant to a discussion about Christianity and atheism.

You claimed that you taught people about the Bible and homosexuality, I hope that was as false as your myriad accusations about me, because if you are defending the traditional, and erroneous notion that the Bible condemns homosexuality, then you are endangering people’s lives, and, run the risk of inflicting the very same situation that claimed your daughter’s life, on someone else.

I hope that you are not spreading that lie just so you can have some reason to rail against Christians, some excuse to justify your prejudice.

AdrianT
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

FOJ said “Why is it wrong for homophobes to say ugly and degrading things about homosexuals, and acceptable for you, atheists, agnostics, people who don’t believe, whatever label you like – to vilify and denigrate people of faith?”

Simply, you are expecting me to believe what you say – that you not only know a supreme creator of the universe exists; but you are in intimate contact with its mind. You know, presumably, which god is real out of the thousands that have ever been invented. You claim to know that God listens to you, cares for you, and has a special plan for you.

As the late, great Carl Sagan once beautifully said: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

In any other line of enquiry – politics, sport, the discovery of a UFO, an urban myth, a Nigerian internet scam, a crime scene, whether or not to invest in the stock market… we would put your claims to rigorous testing and probling. But you seem not to want to play by those rules when it comes to your faith. I don’t think you should be able to have this special treatment.

You are the one making the claims you have your work ahead of you not us; you must face the consequences, when you cannot give a coherent reaon as to why you are right, which would be some degree of mockery.

And to compare those who mock you with paul cameron, is ridiculous. We are not stopping you worshipping, or professing your faith; it is you who cannot tolerate the criticism.

Look on the bright side, you are atheist about thousands of gods – you just have to go one tiny step further!

PS the true atheis position isto say ‘there is no reason to believe god exists’, not so say ‘god does not exist’. That rules out the ‘fundamentalist atheist’ argument.

FriendOfJonathan
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Warren,

I’ll have to save the bulk of your post for tomorrow, I have an early obligation as a volunteer tomorrow morning.

But I want to leave you with one thought for the evening, one that goes to the core of human interaction, conversation, and testimony. From the top of your post, this exchange:

“I’ll start with the question you posed then turn to the other arguments you make.“Since you “are not convinced by the personal experiences” of people of faith, why, seriously, should any one, at all, be convinced about anything by your testimony about your personal experiences?”

The answer is simple: You shouldn’t.”

So, Warren, if no one should believe you, why post? Why are you communicating with others?

Human interaction, conversation, debate, argument, chit-chat, is all predicated on the implicit understanding that what we say has some value, some meaning, some purpose.

It sounds like you are saying that the testimony of people of faith is worthless, your opinions and experiences are worthless, everyone’s interaction with others is pointless, worthless.

Your simple answer means that BTB, and every blog, every newspaper, every author, every one, has no value, no purpose, no meaning, no function. Even your own words, according to your statement, are worthless.

If you really feel that way, why do you post? Why communicate, why even acknowledge anyone else?

Candace
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

I’m amazed at how you continue to put words in my mouth, erecting strawman after strawman in an effort to rail against something I did not say or even think.

First you accuse me of disliking christians when even your quote of my words shows that I am against the philosophy of christian fundamentalism, not against all the christians in the world.

Then you tell me that the death of my daughter is being used as a “ploy” and you turn around and deny saying that.

Now, after I’ve repeated told you that I’m GAY, you seek to infer that I’m using the Bible to condemn homosexuality. Can you go ahead and show me where I said that? Oh, let me save you the trouble. I didn’t say it. Your inference is nothing but another strawman thrown up to run the thread topic down whatever rabbit trail you want… as in, every argument against the existence of god or anything concerning christianity is HOMOPHOBIC if you manage to make the argument about homosexuality instead of religion.

But guess what…. no matter how hard you try to make it so, the argument here ISN’T about homophobia. It’s about atheism and christianity.

All disbelief in god ar rejection of christianity does NOT equate to homophobia…. no matter how hard you try to make it appear so. Nobody here is buying your argument, FOJ.

I do NOT teach against homosexuality. Stop bearing false witness against me.

You hope that I’m not “spreading that lie so you can have some reason to rail against christians, just to justify my prejudice?”

How’s this: I hope you can stop throwing up strawmen to keep the topic on homophobia instead of atheism and christianity.

You’re not the only one here allowed to voice an opinion.

Lynn David
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Well…. wow! I wish I had the time to read this thread. Makes me wonder if anyone might read this, but here goes.

I was happy as a gay Roman Catholic. I could cope with the obvious contradiction. Then as this century started people got a little nasty in the Church about gay people; still I coped because I had a deep faith in Jesus and my parish was a supporting one which has always been family (my ancestors had been there since its inception in 1847).

But another thing got going the creationism/evolution world-view wars. Really, the epitome of the culture wars if you will. I was and am clearly a person who take a scientific view of the world and could fit god and savior into it. But others couldn’t.

Eventually I got into some clashes with some creationist and these were people who I felt were breaking the 8th commandment (or 9th by your reckoning) to discredit certain science and thus calumnizing the scientists behind the research…. the geologists.

Well, I am by profession a geologist. By the end of the dicussions I was hurting in terms of my faith. Over the next month I felt it literally ripped from me. That’s not something I would wish on anyone. It hurt, and in some ways still does. But I came to a point where I could no longer lie to myself. Thus I am an atheist.

I cannot but view religion these days in anything but as Marx did, an opiate of the masses. But I realize that most of the masses probably needs religion/faith and without it we’d be in deep trouble. I further consider myself to be a ‘spiritual atheist.’ That is I consider spirituality to be a completely natural aspect of man in which his emotions, wonderment, and self-awareness interplay at random to produce a euphoria or feeling of joy.

BTW…. in that respect I still sometimes attend Catholic Mass because it always lifted my spirits (though there are some sermons of the last several years which have given me a sickened feeling concerning my gay spirit). Still the parish is my family in blood and often in spirit, even if I do not believe their ultimate.

AdrianT
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

PS Warren, absolutely agree – Dawkins is a genuis, and he is the one whose books helped me understand science years ago. his new book is out in september :-))

His quote in Unweaving the Rainbow, sums up why as an atheist, one is more likely to value life:

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.

Of course, we could also add, that we happen to be alive no as opposed to in any of the other infinite number of centuries that ever were or will be; that we could have been born as any of the other millions of species. That should make your hairs stand on end! We have this gift of consciousness for a very tiny period and we should make the most of life, to understand the universe in which we live, while we can. Spirituality is not the preserve of the faithful.

Warren
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

The answer is simple: You shouldn’t. Not because nothing has meaning, but because you investigate for yourself and make up your own mind. I take positions based on fact and verifiable evidence, and when those are lacking I admit it and readily incorporate new facts. Now counter evidence may be presented and be valid either as a matter of opinion or fact, but I am persuaded by evidence, not by opinion. I don’t expect others to convinced by my mere stating of something either. That in no way leads to a collapse on inter-personal relationships or diminishes the wonder that I have for life or the search for answers to its biggest questions.

I would leave you with a point of agreement, as I don’t doubt your intentions are good and we do actually have some common ground. I agree with you that confronting homophobic religiously inspired vitriol with provocative and militant language and anger is not productive to our shared cause. This is why I make cool, reasoned and respectful arguments in response to these people. I have had experiences on more than one occasion when this tactic has resulted in a LDS/fundie saying something to the effect that they see my points clearly and if ‘all gays’ would just be as respectful and polite they might have less opposition to our equality. The reason is because they have been given the space to think through the justice in treating all people equally before the law and don’t feel as threatened.

cd
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

(FOJ) So why is it appropriate, acceptable, celebrated by some, to revile Christians?

The problem I have with this is that you don’t differentiate. There are different major elements of Christianity and people who champion different parts of it.

The reason I consider myself ex-Christian is that I see much I regard as pre-Christian paganisms and occultisms in most forms of Christianity and find them unbearable, corrupt, and highly distorting. From these elements come the common ground that the Religious Right shares, in my opinion, and in it grows the poison of authoritarianism, denial of the full humanity of gay people, etc. Of course, the RR denies that their religion(s) are greatly compromised by these two things.

These balance against the mystical (in the theological sense) or spiritual religion bourne within Christianity. This is religion without a great deal of rules or authority, and with a diffuse theology. In it theism is only an early (and certainly not the only) notion of godhead.

Operatively, most Christians I know divide up Christianity in roughly similar fashion even though they rarely used the three labels (pagan-ish, occultic, mystical) I do for its parts. Which part(s) they call Christian varies.

Atheists vary greatly, but I find that on the whole they do attack and have commonly been hurt by the first two elements mentioned.

I guess you have to turn a critical eye on your Christianity and American Christianity at large sometime and decide for yourself which parts are defensible and which ones aren’t. Because defending all of it makes no sense. And feeling vicariously offended is a waste of time that mentally well adjusted people do not indulge in.

Timothy (TRiG)
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

This is going to be fun.

Mortanius
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

Really, what does an Atheism v. Christianity debate on a Gay Blog do for furthering Rights/Equality of all people. Gays can be Atheists, Christians, Jews, Mormons, Polytheists, or any other belief.

A mindless debate between two camps that are entrenched serves no valuable purpose, particularly when the parties are “safely” behind a monitor and do not have the face to face dialog between humans which could be beneficial in bridging the gap in working towards our commonality as humans regardless of ones beliefs.

jeff
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

BOTTOM LINE: Atheists blaming their vile attitude on the behavior toward them by some fundamentalists is just like the fundamentalists claiming all gays are like the ones they film at parades.

Johnson
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

The Golden Rule, people. And, “Just be good, for goodness sake”. Everything else is up to you.

ragarth
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

I’ll start off by apologizing for not reading the most of the previous posts, I just don’t have the time to wallow through them. It is my experience, however, that most of the arguments for theism are of an emotional reaction, and so I can pretty much guess what has come above- ie, logical fallacies such as equivocation, strawmen, emotional pleas, and false comparisons. Thankfully it’s also my guess that no-one’s tried Pascal’s Wager, that one seems to have gone the way of disco.

To the meat of it, I’m an atheist not out of some emotional reaction such as anger (bet that argument’s been made- ‘You’re an atheist because you’re angry at god!’ or ‘I bet someone hurt you. Well, just because people are flawed doesn’t mean god doesn’t exist’), I’m an atheist because it’s a conclusion I’ve drawn from logical thought.

Empirically, there is no evidence for divinity, not that I’ve seen. The only evidence I’ve ever encountered has been the personal experiences of others, and I’m sorry to say that personal experiences without verifiable proof are not sufficient evidence, and indeed can frequently be explained as purely naturalistic phenomena. In the absence of proof, I’ll choose the natural explanation over the supernatural.

A rational argument for divinity can be made, though more often than not such arguments will inevitably fail Occam’s Razor when placed in comparison to equivalent naturalistic postulates.

This leads me to conclude that most any claim of divinity is going to be an emotional argument, or a special pleading. I do admit I could be wrong, however- as Dawkin’s said, any atheist who’s a 7 on a scale of 1 to 7 is as deluded as the religious, and so I am open to anyone who wants to prove me wrong.

To the meat of the matter, here’s a quick run-down of my latest arguments for atheism of choice, I’ll start with the thought that began me on my journey towards atheism:

None of the currently existing religions are the/one of the original religions. This means that there is no single belief in a god/s that is original, and that no single be belief in a god/s has survived the test of time. Given this, we can conclude that any god/s out there do not play an active role in perpetuating belief in them- they neither originated the belief nor maintained the belief. If any god/s out there have no vested interest in maintaining belief in them, then why should I care to believe in them?

From that initial query I began testing my religious beliefs and considering why it is that I wanted so badly to believe in a religion (amusingly, by this time I was practising wicca. ) From here I found additional arguments for atheism:

No significant common themes exist amongst all religions that cannot be ascribed to naturalistic phenomena, except those that which can be ascribed to universal human fears. ie Belief in afterlife arises from fear of death.

Most every religious account of world, universe, human creation fails Occam’s Razor because of an excess of assumptions. By default, the presumption of intelligence is not necessary for creation, meaning even the simplest religious argument for creation has 1 extra assumption over a non-religious argument.

The default position on the presumption of most any supernatural phenomena is that it doesn’t exist- ie, Santa Clause. If this weren’t the case then we’d believe in all kinds of crazy things because the non-existent is surprisingly difficult to show it doesn’t exist. Therefore the burden of proof is upon those wanting to prove the existence of said supernatural phenomena. Since religion is supernatural, the default position is that it doesn’t exist, and no effective proof has been given showing that it does indeed exist.

Pender
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

BOTTOM LINE: Atheists blaming their vile attitude on the behavior toward them by some fundamentalists is just like the fundamentalists claiming all gays are like the ones they film at parades.

I have the same attitude toward UFO worshipers even though they haven’t done anything bad to me. I just hate irrational fantasies.

jamesnimmo
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

This comment was removed because it is off topic

ZRAinSWVA
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

FOJ “So why is it appropriate, acceptable, celebrated by some, to revile Christians?”

Because when one is targeted by, and hurt by, a group/force/agency, it is human nature to resist and resent and, yes, even revile that group. Where some err, though–including myself, at times–is when ‘Christianity’ is viewed as being homogenous. It isn’t.

However, in southwest Virginia, there are SO many (what I would consider to be) fringe Christian organizations that it is sometimes difficult to remember that there are decent and well-intentioned Christian denominations and persons. Snake handlers? Got that. Holy Rollers? Got that. Primative Baptists? Got that. However, when any one of these groups litters my yard with little white crosses, they’ve crossed the line. They become vile. When they come to my door to preach salvation, and then state that I am damned when I ask them how their church views homosexuality, they become vile. When the drug addict, born again neighbor places a 3×6′ “Jesus Saves” sign facing directly at my front door, he becomes vile. When a Catholic priest, during a sermon when I was 13 years of age, gave a sermon on the sins of homosexuality and how all homosexuals were doomed to hell, he became vile…and he also started me down the road of hating ‘the church’. And, yes, I felt betrayed.

I consider myself to be spiritual, and I am seeking to define what that means. I think there are valid and worthwhile messages in the Bible. However, I also know that what constitutes ‘the Bible’ is a selection of text chosen by men long ago, in most cases written by men long ago, and in most cases interpreted (and reinterpreted) by men across the ages. It is a contextual document, however, and I think it is absurd to attempt to apply many of ‘the rules’ from 2,000 years ago to our society of today. I become impatient when it becomes clear that someone has read the Bible but understands nothing of how the Bible was “created” by the church (men) for a very specific purpose and intent; when it becomes clear that a person honestly does not understand that much of the Old Testament is allegory and is not meant to represent fact or actual occurence–but rather to explain what could not be explained at the time. I admit that I get very angry when a professed Christian cherry-picks passages from the Old or New Testament to support their stance, but refuses me the same discretion. I become angry when “My Sin” is viewed as being worse than “Their Sin”. We are all sinners and struggling to learn and grow in life and love, now leave me alone.

Christians (or any organized religion, so far as I care) are free to practice and believe what they wish. So long as they keep their condemnation internal, I’m fine with that. And, please, keep your religious beliefs out of the laws and out of my life. If you don’t, yes, it will make me angry.

Timothy, I appreciate your sincerity. Perhaps one day I’ll overcome my resentment and distaste and return to an organized religion. I valued it for years, and was terribly hurt–and was set greatly adrift–when I felt betrayed by it.

Bruno
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

Anyone who claims to know anything is full of it :-P

TonyJazz
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

I believe FriendofJonathan needs to take a ‘lighten up’ pill. His remarks are consistently negative, and he makes bizarre generalizations on all sorts of people (with no support). (“the atheists I know…”)

He does a disservice to his own arguments by the way he presents them.

Richard W. Fitch
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

The Pale Blue Dot

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47EBLD-ISyc

AJD
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

To put it simply, I was baptized a Catholic and kinda-sorta raised in the religion (i.e. we went to church when visiting grandma and for Midnight Mass). As a teenager, I migrated from Catholicism to Celtic paganism to pseudo-atheism (more out of rebellion than conviction), back to Celtic paganism to Buddhism and finally to atheism (this time for real).

My main reasons for switching religions and settling on non-faith was that while I really tried to believe in God/gods/boddhisatvas, it just didn’t work. I couldn’t convince myself. Also, I had burning questions that I never saw adequately answered such as: If there is a God (singular), then why don’t all religions worship him? What makes the Judeo-Christian take on things more likely to be true than that of, say, the Norse religion or the religion of the !Kung-san of southern Africa?

With respect to Christianity, however, no offense intended, but I think it’s a waste of time for gay people to try and be Christian or change the collective mind of Christendom as a whole with respect to homosexuality.

To be sure, you’ll encounter plenty of gay-affirming churches in this country and a few others, but the fact remains that the vast majority of the world’s professed Christians are vehemently anti-gay. Christian homophobia isn’t something that just cropped up 20 years ago; it’s been a defining factor of Christianity for the religion’s entire history. Can we honestly think that Russian Orthodox Christians, Nigerian Anglicans and American conservative evangelicals are going to start loving us any time soon? Chances are, church attendance will probably drop before churches become gay-friendly, as has already happened in Western Europe, Canada and a few regions of the U.S.

I think Christianity is beyond help. Homophobia’s roots run too deep in the religion for it to become pro-gay in any meaningful sense. Plus, like the other Abrahamic religions, it’s highly prone to fundamentalism, given its belief in a single, all-powerful deity and a prophet who is “the way, the truth and the light.” So for every Christian who can be swayed to our side, there are others who can be swayed to the opposite side based on a Bible quote.

By contrast, Buddhism is fundamentally opposed to dogmatic thinking, and Buddhists have a lot more leeway when it comes to deciding what to believe and what not to; plus, Buddhism doesn’t have Christianity’s long history of homophobic oppression, but it does share a lot of Christianity’s basic ethics and was also intended as a “universal” religion (Alexander the Great’s conquests of Central Asia and India helped spread Buddhism there, and a number of Greeks converted to it). I’m not trying to promote Buddhism specifically, but if you really feel a need for faith in your life, it might be a lot easier to practice than constantly having to defend yourself against your homophobic “brothers in Christ.” Religions like Wicca tend to be more flexible as well.

Aaron
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

“I believe FriendofJonathan needs to take a ‘lighten up’ pill. His remarks are consistently negative, and he makes bizarre generalizations on all sorts of people (with no support). (”the atheists I know…”)”

SImiliar to Palin’s “gay friends” perhaps?

—————

Even more interesting than the actual debate to me is the fact that there are more comments on this thread than any of the other subjects of late. Humans are fascinating creatures.

Aaron
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

“With respect to Christianity, however, no offense intended, but I think it’s a waste of time for gay people to try and be Christian or change the collective mind of Christendom as a whole with respect to homosexuality.”

I disagree. From our point of view the Church will continue to mature till she is without “spot or wrinkle”. It is our belief that one of these real big ugly ones is the church’s hatred/intolerance of sexual/gender deviance. Given enough time I have faith that the church will be led by the Spirit to the light. I know that may not mean much to you (no offense!) but I wanted share why I continue to place my hope in the church.

The rise of the post-modern generation, which will be ascending into leadership in the next few years, will be very good for the western church. Empathy with other viewpoints and understandings will increase throughout this century. There are more gay-affirming churches then ever and I have no reason to believe that this trend will not continue.

AJD
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

Aaron,

That may be true to an extent in parts of the U.S., but if you look around the world, gay-affirming churches are very, very rare, especially in developing countries and Eastern Europe.

Take a look at Orthodox Christians in Russia, Catholics in Poland, Anglicans in Nigeria and Baptists in Mississippi, and it’s a little hard to see the whole of Christendom moving to our side within any of our lifetimes. And even if a whole bunch of Christians do support us, like I said, you can always find justification for homophobia in the Bible.

If you are a gay Christian or a Christian who supports gays, it often means you constantly have to debate and defend against the religion’s homophobic majority. That’s a tremendous waste of time and energy, in my opinion because Christianity is so good at producing people who are completely adamant in their beliefs and convinced they have an omnipotent being on their side and who can simply refuse to be persuaded. It would be far more worthwhile to pick a belief system where you’re not having to constantly do spiritual gymnastics to justify your existence to fellow believers and yourself.

Aaron
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

I understand what your saying. But from my point of view, one cannot simply pick and choose one’s religion. I have experienced God and His miracles through this spiritual support system that we call Christianity. What’s more, I genuinely believe that the Church is the greatest hope for this world as far as world hunger and a host other problems are considered. What’s more, I genuinely believe that prophecies indicate that the church, as an expression of God’s impending Kingdom will succeed in this.

I’m not trying to convince you (why bother, right?), just share my point of view.

Oh and I don’t bother to debate most people. I try to have my actions speak louder. They can tell me I’m going to Hell all day; but if I’m the one feeding the poor and attending to the needs of the sick and they are not, then it seems they have a problem…

CLS
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

As an atheist, ex-fundamentalist, I would have to note that atheism is a lack of a belief, not the affirmation of a belief. Anyone lacking a belief in a deity is an atheist. I would not use the term “merit” in association with such. It is like saying: “What is the merit of not believing in Santa Claus?” It may be an accurate assessment of the state of affairs but I’m not sure the word “merit” is associated with that. The list of things that one could potentially believe in, but which aren’t true, is literally endless.
But it is critical to define atheism correctly. Lindoro gets it very wrong when asking: “Is your atheist genuine conviction of the non-existence of a god?” Atheism is merely the lack of a conviction that there is one, not a strongly held view that there isn’t. One may have strong views that there isn’t, but that is merely more of the same thing. Anyone lacking an affirmative belief in a deity is an atheist whether or not they call themselves one. Agnostic is just another form of atheist.

Theists frequently use the misdefinition of atheism as the starting point of bad logic. Unless the premise of the argument is repudiated then the argument takes one on to bad conclusions.

FriendofJonathan: the church is irrelevant to the existence of a god. A bad church does not disprove a deity nor does a good church prove one. That the church did do bad things is a case against the church. God is a separate matter.

A final word, since there is so much that could be said. The use of emotions to justify god is really bad argumentation. Emotions are human creations based on what we already believe about a situation. If we believe there is a sugar daddy in the sky then we will find that comforting. If we believe that chanting will make us rich, then chanting will make us feel good. If we believe that being gay dooms us to hell, then we will feel bad about that. Feelings are not tools of cognition. They correspond with your prior held beliefs. And beliefs based on false premises will generate emotions that feel the same as those based on true premises. So “feeling” there is a deity, or “experiencing” peace or comfort (or conflict for that matter) tells us nothing about a deity’s existence, it merely confirms that the believer does hold certain beliefs, not whether those beliefs are true. Otherwise, every self-hating gay person would be evidence it is wrong to be gay.

Priya Lynn
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

I skimmed through the comments and once again caught Friend of Jonathon telling an out and out lie. He said I’m the flip side of a homophobe. Once again, if I were trying to use the law to deny Christians the right to marry anyone they please, the right to adopt, the right to not be fired from their job or evicted from their home merely for being Christian that would be true. I am not trying to do those things, I utterly oppose making Christians second class citizens so Friend of Jonathon is unethical in his attempts to lie about who I am. Clearly he’ll come back and tell some more lies about me, but based on his past performance I’m confident every rational reader will recognize him as the dishonest, blinded by hate person he is. I won’t be back, so the next time he falsely compares me to Mr. Michael Brown or your garden variety anti-gay bigot please remember unlike those people I don’t favour using the force of law to oppress Christians into second class citizenship. I fully support the equal rights of Christians, gays and all peoples.

mark barnes
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

I don’t really see where there is anything debatable. You either believe in superstitious nonsense or you don’t.

BCCanuck
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

Warren wrote:

“I don’t see how you can call yourself a believer and then discount those parts of the Bible that you find disagreeable. Either it’s all the word of god, divinely inspired and the (pardon the phrase) Gospel truth, or it isn’t. Either there was a talking snake, worldwide flood and subsequent repopulation of the Earth in the time of humans or there wasn’t. Either a virgin fell pregnant or she wasn’t a virgin. Either Christ died and rose or he didn’t.”

A religious identity or belief system is not a dichotomous, black-and-white situation, where either one accepts and lives 100% of the religion’s content or else one isn’t really religious; this is an aspirational definition, not a realistic one. Belief and practice are things that exist along a continuum.

FriendOfJonathan wrote:

“Prejudicial, malicious rhetoric is wrong when some Christians wield it against GLBTQ people, or people of color, or women, or non-believers.”

Exactly. SOME atheists tell ALL Christians what they MUST believe in order for them to qualify as Christian. Atheists who attempt to define the parameters of belief and practice for non-atheists use the same rhetorical tactics as religious fundamentalists. There is no substantive difference. As Tom Bozzo (an atheist himself) notes: “The failure of the New Atheism, and of atheism generally, is this: Its message is almost entirely negative … It is time for atheists to push for something more than a closet.” Or, more descriptively, an echo-chamber.

Christians of various sects and denominations have re-defined Christianity since its inception, as have Muslims and Jews with Islam and Judaism. During the lifetime of Jesus there were multiple schools of Torah interpretation which asserted that scripture could be interpreted on many different levels. Muslims and Christians have always had a similar tradition of multivariant readings. A literal interpretation of scripture is only ONE possible interpretation, valid only to those who choose it as the only possible way to read the texts. But it has never been the only way, nor is a less literal approach a purely modern one.

To be religious might simply mean an epistemological preference or theological disposition to use religious scriptures as sources of inspiration rather than as instruction manuals for legal obligations. It is neither a modern phenomenon nor an irrational one, but rather, a non-rational (not synonymous with irrational) way of grappling with non-rational experiences of love, beauty, grief, meaning, etc.

Timothy Kincaid
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

Michael A

Timothy, if we haven’t scared you away from this thread already, I really was curious to hear your explanations for the biblical challenges Priya Lynn listed in the previous thread. You see it’s issues like those – scriptures that make God appear immoral – which started me down the path towards atheism.

It is always a temptation to cherry-pick a text, take something out of context, twist its meaning, and present it as an example to support ones position. This is what I think occured in this situation.

While that tactic may be effective with those unfamiliar with the text, it is pointless when trying to argue with someone like Dr. Brown who is very versed in Scripture.

These were all pretty transparent examples and you can search them on your own, but I’ll address one of them.

Jesus criticizes the Jews for not killing their disobedient children as required by Old Testament law. (See Ex.21:15, Lev.20:9, Dt.21:18-21) 7:9-10

The section of the book of Mark which Priya Lynn references actually says nearly the opposite of what s/he thinks.

This story is about the hostilities between the religious establishment and Jesus and his followers. For clarity, I’ll paraphrase.

The religious leaders criticized Jesus and his followers for not observing ritual cleansing ceremonies before eating. Jesus countered that these leaders were more interested in traditions and religiousity than really pleasing God.

As an example he says that the Law requires that one honor their father and mother and goes so far as to say that cursing your parents is punishable by death. But instead of caring for their aging parents, these leaders instead would say, “the money I would otherwise use to care for you in your old age I’ve dedicated to God, so you’re on your own.”

The text:

“You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

Jesus wasn’t endorsing the stoning of disobedient children; he was pointing out hypocristy, self-righteousness, and skewed priorities of those who were all worried about following specific religious rules but cared nothing about whether their parents were suffering. (I think he’d say the same to some wealthy ‘good christians’ who buy a new car and bigger house while their parents barely get by on Social Security)

This example is actually rather ironic. We gay people use a very similar tactic in debating anti-gays.

Many times I’ve heard someone say, “Why are you spending all your efforts to ban gay marriage. Why don’t you ban divorce instead since Jesus forbade it (except for adultery) and yet so many of your parisoners are divorced. You hypocrits!”

When we say that, we aren’t really criticizing Christians for not seeking to ban divorce. I suspect most who say that really don’t think that a battered wife should be forced to stay married to an abusive husband. Rather, we are using the same tactic Jesus used by pointing out that they are all upset about our “sins” while they ignore and excuse their own.

As you can see, in context the situation was not at all what Priya Lynn said. So it wasn’t useful in arguing with Dr. Brown, who just saw this as another example of anti-Christian bigotry and absolute ignorance about his beliefs. He couldn’t take it serious (and indeed he ignored it) because it wan’t serious.

Now, I’ll not seek to proselytize you or try and induce you into adhering to a religion. I only caution that you not assume that what an evangelical atheist says about Christianity is any more likely to be accurate than what Peter LaBarbera says about homosexuality.

Aaron
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

“I don’t really see where there is anything debatable. You either believe in superstitious nonsense or you don’t.”

Out of curiosity, given that myths are generated from seeds of truth (Santa Claus=St. Nicholas), how are you able to explain the existence of the God myth?

Rick Brentlinger
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

“I only caution that you not assume that what an evangelical atheist says about Christianity is any more likely to be accurate than what Peter LaBarbera says about homosexuality.”

Well said Timothy!

God is seriously interested in saving atheists because Jesus died for them too.

Rick

Warren
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

Aaron,

“Out of curiosity, given that myths are generated from seeds of truth (Santa Claus=St. Nicholas), how are you able to explain the existence of the God myth?”

Not all myths are generated from seeds of truth. In ancient times it was believed that if you sailed off the edge of the Earth a dragon would eat you. Clearly a myth, clearly no grain of truth starting it. What did lead to the myth was an attempt to answer a question that at the time was not known, i.e. “What is over the horizon?”

Similarly the birth of religion comes out of the early attempts of our species to explain the world and our existence. Fortunately today our answers to these questions are far more wonderous and amazing than a simple “God must have done it”.

Chris McCoy
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

In order to have a debate, I think we need to clearly define our terms.

In order to talk about something labeled “God” we should be clear about what we mean we say “God,” since, as FoJ has said, his experience of God is different from how other people here claim to experience God.

So, when you say you believe in God do you believe that God:

a: is a living being who exists in a specific location
b: is a living being who does not exist in a specific location
c: is not a living being, but does exist in a specific location
d: is not a living being, and does not exist in a specific location
e: none of the above

God is often described by Christians as having various attributes. Do you believe that God is:

a: Omniscient (All Knowing)
b: Omnipresent (Exists everywhere)
c: Omnipotent (All powerful)
d: Both A and B
e: Both B and C
f: Both A and C
g: None of the above.

Since this topic focuses on Christianity rather than other religions, when you say you are (or are not) a Christian, are you saying that you:

a: believe that Jesus was a real living person who is the only born son of God
b: believe that Jesus was a real living person who is not the only born son of God.
c: believe that Jesus was not a real living person.
d: none of the above.

When you say you are a Christian do you believe that a Christian is a person who:

a: Follows the Letter of the Teachings of Jesus Christ
b: Follows the Spirit of the Teachings of Jesus Christ
c: none of the above.

The majority of Christians are of Protestant (non-Catholic) denomination. Protestantism is characterized by the belief that the Bible is the sole source of information about God/Jesus (scriptura solis). So as a Protestant Christian do you believe that:

a: The Bible is the infallible Word of God, and that all of it is completely and wholly true
b: The Bible is not the infallible Word of God, and is wholly false
c: The Bible is not the infallible Word of God, but is partially true
d: none of the above.

I have more questions after these have been settled.

AJD
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

Aaron, your response suggests that you believe in the supremacy of Judeo-Christian belief, what with your talk of miracles and impending kingdoms, but I think your post revealed a lot about religious thinking in general.

I highly doubt that you’ve ever encountered God with one of the five senses (if you have, then you probably need therapy). Rather, you’ve had experiences in your life that have bolstered your faith. I think that in general, humans have an innate discomfort with the idea that things happen due to random chance; we often believe in deities or other forces intervening in our lives because it makes the world around us seem more ordered than it really is and makes our lives feel more special than they really are. When we have success, God is rewarding us. When we fail, he’s punishing or testing us.

This is a modern development from the original reason why religion developed: to explain natural phenomena that sparked ancient people’s curiosity, but for which they lacked any logical explanation.

Unusual among species, we also have an ego, and we’re so self-aware that we know of the inevitability of our own deaths, but we have trouble contemplating the idea of life simply extinguishing, with nothing afterward. That’s where belief in the afterlife comes from.

Another question that your apparent belief in the supremacy of Judeo-Christian belief raises is this: How do you know you’re right? Abrahamic religions are not the oldest religions in the world, and Christianity and Islam are only widespread because their boosters adopted good PR tactics early on, mixed with a lot of violent coercion.

For me, there’s nothing that leads me to think that Christianity is any more likely to be true than any other religion.

I’ve arrived at this conclusion partially through a brief cross-cultural study of religions. I don’t just mean the major religions, but looking at religious beliefs from historic and prehistoric cultures. What I’ve found is that the complexity and underlying structure of religious belief tends to develop alongside social complexity. That’s why, for example, hunter-gatherer cultures like the !Kung-san of southern Africa and the Inuit of the Arctic have similar religious beliefs; why chiefdoms in Europe and eastern North America built stone and earthwork monuments; and why the Hebrews, Maya and Egyptians worshipped heavenly, anthropomorphic deities represented on earth by bureaucratic priesthoods residing in temples that function as both religious and political institutions.

Looking at all of this, one must arrive at one of the following conclusions:
a) All religions are true
b) One religion (or a group of similar religions) is true
c) No religion is true

The idea that all religions are true makes no sense because that would require the simultaneous existence of thousands upon thousands of gods and other supernatural beings, as well as multiple versions of the afterlife. The idea that one religion is true falls through because it fails to explain the enormous diversity of religious belief around the world, and the only religions that claim to be true while others are false (i.e. the Abrahamic religions) are relative newcomers on the historical scene (Judaism is a few thousand years old; the religion of the Indigenous Australians has presumably been around for 40,000 years).

Thus, my conclusion is that no religion is true.

jeff
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

“I don’t really see where there is anything debatable. You either believe in superstitious nonsense or you don’t.” (Nothing snotty about that comment.)

And for the guy who made the UFO comment, what’s it to you?

Do you see how even people who don’t consider themselves pushy are pushy at times. You don’t believe in gay marriage, then don’t marry a queer. Don’t believe in God, then stay out of churches. Don’t believe in UFOs, the don’t board shiny objects. Are you catching a pattern here?

jeff
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

“I highly doubt that you’vie ever encountered God with one of the five senses (if you have, then you probably need therapy).”

There’s another judgmental comment. Who are you to say anyone has not? Maybe you’ve never been in love; does that mean it never happens?

Vast
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

Aaron

In ancient civilizations gods were often created in order to give an explanation to the unexplainable.

Faith or lack of faith in and of it self has little effect on the world beyond the individual that subscribes to it. It is when you wrap faith in the trappings of man, scriptures written by individuals who desires and ambitions are no where near divine, that it becomes a weapon or tool, which can be used to placate the masses.

And just to be clear, as a pantheist I do believe in the existence of god. I don’t however believe that this world or the universe was created simply to be a home for humanity. We are simply a part of a larger whole, like a blood cell is a part of the human body.

AJD
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

jeff,

Being in love is vastly different from perceiving a supernatural being with any of the five senses. Unless someone can produce hard evidence that the voice they heard really was that of God, then I can only assume they have a psychotic disorder or some kind.

jeff
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

AJD – How can someone “produce hard evidence” about being in love? Or even being hot or cold”? Ever feel someone is watching you and SOMEONE IS? Just because YOU don’t believe/understand, doesn’t mean it’s not true. And isn’t all that fighting in the Middle East about people not believing each other? And aren’t the gays and others always saying “Celebrate Diversity”?

Jason D
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

“Thus, my conclusion is that no religion is true.”

This is why I’m an agnostic. It’s not that I don’t think there is spirituality or God, it’s that I don’t think anybody’s gotten it right yet.

It seems likely to me that God, if she were to exist, would be a creature of immense complexity probably beyond our limited ability to understand.

Vast
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

Jeff

There is evidence that by looking at the electrical activity in the brain that you can determine some feelings, such as love, being hot, being cold etc.

The Lauderdale
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

Chris McCoy:

Good try, but I doubt those are gonna be settled in this thread’s life time. 8)

R Holmes
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

I lost my faith a number of years before I got angry about the effect that fundamentalist Christian teaching on homosexuality had had on my self-acceptance. Having dealt (for the most part) with my own self-hatred, my anger is much better directed – it goes to the people who teach that homosexuality is evil.

If someone tells me that they have had life-changing experiences which they chalk down to an encounter with the divine, I don’t doubt that they have had those experiences. I just doubt that the experiences were caused by contact with a god.

People credit Islam, Chritianity, Hinduism etc etc for their life-changing experiences. Since it is logically impossible for all religions to be true, it seems over-sensitive to me to get offended just because someone suggests you might be mis-ascribing the cause of your experiences. If they said you never had those experiences at all, I’d understand the offence. That, in my view, *would* be equivalent to telling gay people they are not really gay, they just think they are.

Chris McCoy
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

FOJ said:

“More people have testified to an experience of God, than can testify to meeting you in public Pender.”

This is similar to the “A Million People Can’t be Wrong” argument. To that, my reply is, Nazi Germany Circa 1939.

FOJ said:

“I haven’t met you in public, on the ‘net “Pender” could be anything or anyone, including a Jesuit with a mean sense of humor. Does it mean that you do not exist, simply because I, and most of humanity, cannot falsify your existence?”

This is an “Argument from Ignorance” logical fallacy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance) which means that something is not proven False solely on the basis that it cannot be proven True.

However, the Burden of Proof (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burden_of_proof#Science_and_other_uses) for the existence of God does not lay on the unbeliever. Instead it rests upon the shoulders of the Believer that their Belief (in the existence of a Supreme Being) is True.

To say that your experience validates your claim, but without providing evidence to back up your claim of experience is an Argument from Silence logical fallacy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_silence).

Using the tactic that an argument is false because the same argument is used against you in a different way is an Association Fallacy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Association_fallacy).

Just because Atheists use similar argument styles/tactics against Christians that Anti-Gays use against Homosexuals, doesn’t make the Atheists wrong.

The Anti-Gays are wrong, not because they are using the wrong argument tactic/style, they are wrong because their arguments are based on lies (Argument from Fallacy).

You are using an Appeal to Emotion instead of Logic to win your case.

People who are mean are not also Wrong simply because they are mean.

Pender
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

This is why I’m an agnostic. It’s not that I don’t think there is spirituality or God, it’s that I don’t think anybody’s gotten it right yet.

It seems likely to me that God, if she were to exist, would be a creature of immense complexity probably beyond our limited ability to understand.

I guess I read this and am left wondering why you treat some kinds of supernaturalism with more deference than others. I doubt you’d describe yourself as “agnostic” as to the existence of Underpants Gnomes. Given that there’s exactly as much evidence for one as for the other, how can you not reach the same position of rhetorical skepticism with regard to the existence of one as you (presumably) do the other?

Timothy Kincaid
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

Some folks will see something unusual or not readily explained and insist it is the result of the supernatural. And even when a more logical explanation appears, they will hold to their insistence that it is an evidence of the supernatural.

Other folks will see something unusual or not readily explained and insist that there must be a logical explanation that excludes the supernatural. Even when all known natural explanations are exhausted they will hold to their insistence that the supernatural does not exist and therefore an explanation must just have been missed.

I think both are fools.

Ben in Oakland
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

AJD– there is actually a fourth possibility. that all religions are equally true, more or less.

If you’ve ever read James branch Cabell– sadly, very few people do these days– this was his hypothesis. That, and the whole thing was really run out of a small office by a being named Koschei the Deathless, Who Made Things as They Are. (What is your pride and reputation to Me, Who Made Things as They Are?)

It’s a far more entertaining possibility. As John Gardner said in The Wreckage of Agathon, what matters is not so much that which is true, but that which is entertaining. It explains a great deal of why religion exists despite a major lack of evidence for what it proclaims to be Absolute truth.

R Holmes– just because someone believes that G is telling them something, doesn’t mean that he is, and also doesn’t mean that he is telling them the truth. The Gnostics had an interesting way of looking at this problem. they believed that the God of the bible wasn’t the real god at all, just his shadow, or something like that. There was no other explanation for his bad behavior. Bart ehrmann’s book on the gospel of Jesus explains this very well.

Timothy: you wrote “Other folks will see something unusual or not readily explained and insist that there must be a logical explanation that excludes the supernatural. Even when all known natural explanations are exhausted they will hold to their insistence that the supernatural does not exist and therefore an explanation must just have been missed.”

Sherlock Holmes said much the same: “When all but one possibility has been logically or factually eliminated, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” (not an exact quote)I’m not sure i agree with sherlock or you on this one. The one probability that has to be considered here is the lack of evidence for just about any supernatural explanation of anything that has been proposed. It is not enough to pull an Obama and say G is in the mix. It is an easy explanation for that which cannot be explained in any other way– yet. Very frequently– and i think here lies the problem many have addressed– it is frequently a justification as well for that which cannot be justified by any other means.

Chris McCoy
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

Timothy Kincaid said:

“Other folks will see something unusual or not readily explained and insist that there must be a logical explanation that excludes the supernatural. Even when all known natural explanations are exhausted they will hold to their insistence that the supernatural does not exist and therefore an explanation must just have been missed.”

The key words here are “known natural explanations”.

For centuries there was no known natural explanation for tuberculosis. This does not make tuberculosis supernatural. It simply means that we lacked the knowledge of the underlying reality.

The fact that we do not have knowledge of how something actually is, does not negate its reality.

Another example from school – Spontaneous Generation. In the past, people believed that objects were created wholly from other unrelated objects – that a rock became a bird – that a log became a turtle.

Their belief in this did not make it true. Their lack of understanding of what was really going on did not make the real reality untrue.

You said “Even when all known natural explanations are exhausted they will hold to their insistence that the supernatural does not exist and therefore an explanation must just have been missed.”

I propose that the explanation was not missed, but that it was not known about.

The jist of your argument, however; is that, lack of evidence of a Supreme Being does not prove there isn’t one.

On that, I agree.

Chris McCoy
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

The Lauderdale said:

“Good try, but I doubt those are gonna be settled in this thread’s life time. 8)”

The jist of my post was not to come to an agreement on each bullet point (there hasn’t been agreement from scholars on any of those points in 20 centuries), but to show that there are a variety of possible answers to each question.

Experience of the Divine is like experiencing an emotion – it is difficult to describe in words that do not use the emotion itself. Try to describe being “in love” without using the word love. We are left with using words that can only hint at what the experience is like, and are usually left with the feeling that we didn’t quite capture the whole thing.

The trouble that arises is when your experience (or absence of experience) differs from mine, there is a knee-jerk reaction of of “why”. This is most often the case when the two experiences seem to contradict each other.

For example – I taste chocolate and I say it is bitter, and you taste chocolate and say it is sweet. It immediately asks the question – which one is correct answer.

The issue that arises when your experience (or absence of experience) of the Divine differs from mine, is that we make an assumption that one of the two experiences must be wrong.

However, your experience of Reality is entirely dependent on your life experience – this is why two people can be sitting in the same movie theater watching the same movie, and one person can be enjoying themselves, and the other can be miserable.

Therefore, your experience of the Divine, of Transcendent Reality, is likewise dependent on your personal experience.

Thus, one person has an experience of the Divine that is in utter contrast to the experience of the Divine of the person sitting right next to them, and they are both valid.

Pender
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

Chris McCoy: There is a difference between facts and feelings. I would never question that people have experiences during which they feel like they are in communion with God. No problem there; in fact, it’s pretty well established, scientifically, that lots of people do feel like that from time to time. I remember reading an article in the New York Times that identified the portion of the brain responsible for the feeling; when researchers stimulated that region of the brain in a conscious patient, she immediately and predictably had a powerful feeling of communion with the divine.

What I object to is the claim that this is evidence for the actual existence of the divine any more than the “oh shit I’m gonna die” feeling one gets on the first big hill of a roller coaster is evidence that one is actually about to die.

Timothy Kincaid said:

Other folks will see something unusual or not readily explained and insist that there must be a logical explanation that excludes the supernatural. Even when all known natural explanations are exhausted they will hold to their insistence that the supernatural does not exist and therefore an explanation must just have been missed.

Timothy, how do you feel about the following bit of logic? The arms of the Milky Way galaxy turn too quickly near the rim of the galaxy relative to near the center based on all known natural theories of gravitation. Therefore, we cannot dismiss the possibility that magical underpants gnomes are flying through space near the rims of the galaxy and pulling on the stars with their fireproof underpants. Agree or disagree? Would someone be a fool for doing so? Or is it only the Jesus-based explanations that demand the suspension of scientific skepticism?

Burr
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

The appeal to the God of the Gaps would be more compelling if not for the fact that the gaps keep shrinking..

Chris McCoy
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

Pender said:

“Chris McCoy: There is a difference between facts and feelings. I would never question that people have experiences during which they feel like they are in communion with God. No problem there; in fact, it’s pretty well established, scientifically, that lots of people do feel like that from time to time. I remember reading an article in the New York Times that identified the portion of the brain responsible for the feeling; when researchers stimulated that region of the brain in a conscious patient, she immediately and predictably had a powerful feeling of communion with the divine.

What I object to is the claim that this is evidence for the actual existence of the divine any more than the “oh shit I’m gonna die” feeling one gets on the first big hill of a roller coaster is evidence that one is actually about to die.”

Pender, since you did not say which post of mine you took objection to, I am unsure of how your point follows mine.

I stated earlier that a single person’s experience, or as you put it, feeling of connection to the divine, can never be construed as evidence of fact of the existence of the divine.

I was stating why people often have different experiences. Your experience of the taste of lemons is most assuredly different, on one, if not many levels, than mine.

side note: I really wish there was a help page on how to indent quotes in these comments…

Timothy Kincaid
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

Timothy, how do you feel about the following bit of logic? The arms of the Milky Way galaxy turn too quickly near the rim of the galaxy relative to near the center based on all known natural theories of gravitation. Therefore, we cannot dismiss the possibility that magical underpants gnomes are flying through space near the rims of the galaxy and pulling on the stars with their fireproof underpants. Agree or disagree? Would someone be a fool for doing so? Or is it only the Jesus-based explanations that demand the suspension of scientific skepticism?

I would say “We cannot rule out some law of nature that we do not at present understand. Nor can we rule out the supernatural.

And it is only your overt hostility to Christianity and desire to mock and defame those who disagree with you that cause you to put your question in the terms that you selected.”

Or something like that.

AJD
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

jeff, being in love is a personal emotional state, so technically, it is provable. “God,” on the other hand, is a sentient being apart from the individual, so demonstrating his existence would require more evidence than “I know in my heart that he’s real.”

Ben, I already suggested that as a possibility and offered a rebuttal. All religions being true would require the simultaneous existence of the gods in every polytheistic pantheon, the existence of boddhisatvas and other beings from Buddhism, the Judeo-Christian God, Juju spirits and so on. It would also require the simultaneous existence of Heaven and Hell, Valhalla, Elysium, reincarnation, etc. Do you honestly believe that all these things exist? Does that seem plausible to you?

I forgot to mention an anthropological study I once read where researchers talked to people in Papua New Guinea who’d had near-death experiences; all but one described going to their tribe’s version of the afterlife — the one who didn’t described meeting a figure similar to Jesus, but unlike the others, he’d had exposure to Christian missionaries. Another study I saw was in Thailand, where people described being visited on their deathbeds by figures from Buddhist mythology. This is a pretty clear indication that being taught religious beliefs has a profound effect on people’s thinking.

Religion — especially when we’re raised surrounded by it from an early age — tends to be imbued with a lot of emotional value, and I suspect that’s why people often get defensive when you challenge beliefs that they connect with religion, such as the belief that homosexuality is wrong.

In the case of Christianity, that religion has had nearly 2,000 years to perfect its marketing pitch. Like good businesspeople, Christian missionaries are adept at reading the people to whom they’re trying to witness, noticing certain personality traits and taking advantage of them to convince them their lives are unfulfilling and empty. This is why conversion to Christianity is such an emotionally powerful and overpowering experience for a lot of people, and why the guy in Papua New Guinea was so affected by it that he thought he met Jesus in a near-death experience.

David C.
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

Some formatting help since somebody asked:

<blockquote> some text you want to quote </blockquote>

<b> some text you want to embolden </b>

<i> some text you want to italicize </i>

<u> some text you want to underline </u>

Note: the ‘u’ tag appears to be disabled here

<a href=“your link”> some text you want to make into a hyperlink pointing to your link </a>

Always preview your comment to make sure you have all tags balanced and the text formatted the way you want.

Megan
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

@Warren: Many of your comments are typical of the views of various atheists I’ve known. However “rational” they may seem, I find them remarkably uninformed. Your assertion that one must either believe “all of it” or “none of it” is naive, and sounds much like the black-and-white views of the fundamentalists you seem to deplore.

As for your comments about things written in the Bible…you obviously haven’t bothered to study it much. Modern Biblical scholarship has done much to clarify the original meaning and context of the content. Much of fundamentalist “doctrine” is actually not traditional at all, but was created in the nineteenth century as a response to the Enlightenment. Additionally, Christianity, along with Judasim and all other religions, has changed and adapted and evolved over time. The commandment “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” simply meant that Yahweh was the head honcho, replacing the other Mesopotamian Sky/Mountain gods, not that he was the only one. Old concept. It was only much later that the concept and depiction of Yahweh changed and expanded. As Emily mentioned…Judaism does not believe in Hell, and neither did Jesus (being a Jew). The word often translated as “hell” in the Bible is actually “Sheol” which I believe literally means “under the earth”. It is likely another remnant or influence from Mesopotamian religions, as those had a similar concept for what happened after death. And finally, the idea that Chistianity is about what happens after you die is wrong. When Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of Heaven(or God) he was talking about creating a nation or world where there is peace, justice, compassion, where all people are free. Not some pie-in-the-sky playing-a-harp lottery ticket, but actively working to create that better world–right here,right now.

I could go on, but I won’t. I am fine with atheists not believing what I believe; but I object to an atheist telling me how to be a proper Christian, and I object to the implication that I am stupid, or crazy, because I choose to believe. To me, my faith is about trust, and hope, and carving meaning out of chaos. Not about blindly accepting what someone else tells me. I use the brain I was given, as well as the heart.

Richard W. Fitch
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

Here is a shining example of how certain extreme fundamentalist ‘christians’ exhibit – “Love the sinner but hate the sin”.

http://www.star-telegram.com/fortworth/story/1504881.html

SavedGirl wrote on 7/24/2009 8:30:02 PM:
All homosexuals need to be arrested to protect the children.
It is time to take a stand and stand up for what is right.
Homosexuality is a SIN. Standing up and speaking against this vile evil does not make you homophobic as the homosexuals would have you believe.
Homophobia is a fear of homosexuals. As children of the one and only eternal and loving true God, we have nothing to fear from these sinners. In fact, it is they who are afraid of us.
They are afraid of us because we stand up against them and proclaim homosexuality for what it is, a VILE AND EVIL SIN.

Vast
July 24th, 2009 | LINK

@Megan

But do you blindly believe that everything a priest tells you or even the Pope tells you?

R Holmes
July 25th, 2009 | LINK

Timothy,

I would say “We cannot rule out some law of nature that we do not at present understand. Nor can we rule out the supernatural.

I’m not sure how one goes about defining the supernatural, but I think you’re spot on here. The answer to a conundrum like the anomalous speed at which the galactic arms rotate is “I don’t know” – period. I respect theists who are willing to say that, and not resort to using “God did it” as a gap-filler, which explains nothing.

AJD
July 25th, 2009 | LINK

Robert, the fundamentalists operate by a kind of cognitive dissonance that allows them to separate being gay from doing gay things, as if it’s reasonable to ask us to simply ignore our feelings or act on heterosexual feelings that we don’t have. That’s not unlike saying, “I don’t hate Christians; I just don’t think they should be allowed to believe in God.” It’s a convenient way for them to obfuscate their hatred.

Scott
July 25th, 2009 | LINK

“All homosexuals need to be arrested to protect the children.”

Uh, I’ve watched EVERY edition of “Dateline: To Catch A Predator” (gotta love Chris Hansen’s readings of chat transcripts! LOL), and SavedGirl will be surprised to know that about 90-95% of the cumulative busts were men seeking sex with underage girls.

That would be heterosexual.

The busted “hetero” men seeking underage boys were largely married with kids of their own (one brought his toddler son to the decoy house); only a couple busted in the entire series were openly gay.

It’s a shame that TCAP was cancelled.

cd
July 25th, 2009 | LINK

Even when all known natural explanations are exhausted they will hold to their insistence that the supernatural does not exist and therefore an explanation must just have been missed.

This sounds good in theory, and the syllogism is cute. But I doubt the rigor and reality of exhaustion of “all known natural explanations”.

Ben in Oakland
July 25th, 2009 | LINK

AJD: “It would also require the simultaneous existence of Heaven and Hell, Valhalla, Elysium, reincarnation, etc. Do you honestly believe that all these things exist? Does that seem plausible to you?”

Plausible? Neither more nor less than anything else going on in this discussion. That was my point about what’s important is what is entertaining, whether you believe in none, one, five, or a pantheon of gods.

That was also my point about ultimate questions. They ultimately don’t matter , and i live my life accordingly,

Priya Lynn
July 26th, 2009 | LINK

I’ve got a bit of free time so I decided to come back to look at this thread and saw Timothy’s distortion and spin on this comment:

Jesus criticizes the Jews for not killing their disobedient children as required by Old Testament law. (See Ex.21:15, Lev.20:9, Dt.21:18-21) Mark 7:9-10

By the way Timothy, I am a woman. Timothy would have you believe that the text does not mean what it says, that it means the “nearly the opposite” of what it says. That clearly is not the case and Timothy knows it, but is committed to ignoring that.

Jesus says “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’”.

In the lines following that he criticizes the religious leaders for letting their parents suffer and claiming they did so because the money they’d have spent on them is a gift for god. That in no way contradicts the previous statement, in fact it supports it. Jesus says that its so important to honour your parents that failure to do so is punishable by death. His following statments criticize exactly such a failure, the failure to honour one’s parents.

Timothy uses the analogy of gays telling anti-gays “Why are you spending all your efforts to ban gay marriage. Why don’t you ban divorce instead since Jesus forbade it (except for adultery)”
and claims people who say that don’t really want the anti-gays to ban divorce because he suspects most wouldn’t want a battered wife to be forced to stay with an abusive husband.

This analogy is way off base for several reasons. First, just as Jesus suggested an exception for adultery in prohibiting divorce, most of us suggesting the anti-gays are hypocritical for not banning divorce would suggest a similar exception for domestic violence. Second, many Christian fundamentalists, whose attitude we are speaking of rather than our own, do insist that a battered wife should be forced to stay in that marriage. Third, unlike the in the situation where a gay person criticises someone whose views she does not agree with for not following all of their religious rules Jesus was fully in agreement with the laws laid out by Moses – he should have been, according to Christian theology which Timothy should know Jesus and the god of the old testament were supposed to be at the same time seperate, but the same person. Moses got his laws from god, from Jesus himself in other words and god gave Moses the law that says disobedient children should be stoned to death.

Christians often like to try to weasel away from the old testament and claim that the old laws are null and void, but there are also several problems with this spin on the book. One, there is no such statement in the bible saying the old testament is no longer in effect. Two, even if this were true, where is the list which says which old laws are null and void and which are still in effect? Or are we to believe that ALL old laws are no longer in effect? Surely the old laws against murder and theft still apply. That there is no such list of which laws are still valid shows the absurdity of the claim that “the old laws no longer apply. Third, Jesus himself said:

“For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

“And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.”.

Obviously the idea that Jesus was somehow telling religious leaders not to stone their disobedient children when he specifically said they must be put to death is false.

In refereing to the various examples of Jesus’s immorality Timothy said “These were all pretty transparent examples and you can search them on your own.
LOL, As we can see from Timothy’s lame attempt to defend the indefensible he knew better than to try this “it doesn’t mean what it clearly says” spin on the other examples I gave. Rather he resorts to the even lamer “just trust me, Priya’s wrong, you can look it up yourself, but I won’t tell you where because I’d rather you didn’t see even lamer attempts to defend the indefensible”. There are in fact hundreds of examples of the immorality of his god/Jesus in the bible and I only gave a few. You can see example after example after example at:
http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/
Christians like Timothy, in the few examples they have an “explanation” for would have you believe that in case after case the words don’t mean what they clearly say, rather that you should believe some tortured “logic” of theirs instead such as Timothy demonstrated above. Sometimes the highly unlikely explanation is the correct one, but when someone askes you to believe the highly unlikely scenario, over and over and over, at some point you have to say “This is simply too far fetched to be believed”.

Priya Lynn
July 26th, 2009 | LINK

Timothy also said “I only caution that you not assume that what an evangelical atheist says about Christianity is any more likely to be accurate than what Peter LaBarbera says about homosexuality.”

As we can see from an examination of Christian theology and the bible it is Timotny’s “the words don’t mean what they say” spin that is wholely inaccurate. Its rather ironic that he attempts to insult atheists by applying the evangelical/christian label to them.
While Timothy tries just as Friend of Jonathon did to smear me by comparing me to the likes of Peter Labarbera, he shares much more in common with Labarbera than I do. Like Labarbera Timothy puts adherence to his cherry -picked version of christianity ahead of the truth, like Labarbera Timothy is happy to worship a myth that says if you don’t think like I do you’ll be infinitely punished.

Timothy says “it wasn’t useful in arguing with Dr. Brown, who just saw this as another example of anti-Christian bigotry and absolute ignorance about his beliefs. He couldn’t take it serious (and indeed he ignored it) because it wan’t serious.”. For starters, Mr. Brown never addressed any comments after I posted those examples, so Timothy’s claim that he choose to ignore my post is simply wishful thinking as is his claim to speak for Mr. Brown by saying he “couldn’t take it serious”[sic] (which, as we can see it obviously was, and Timothy was not). The fact is I’ve debated many, many people far more knowledgeable about the appropriately named Christian apologetics than Mr. Brown and they know they know how weak their tortured explanations come across so they usually simply choose not to attempt to defend the indefensible.

Its also rather ironic and hypocritical of Timothy to label factual statements about what the bible says as bigotry. Apparently unless you tottuire logic, spin and deny the clear meaning of words you’re a bigot. The people who created Christianity threatened people with eternal torture for not thinking as they did. According to Christian theology as long as Hitler repented of his sins he’s being rewarded with eternal happiness, while an atheist who devoted his life to helping others but simply didn’t find enough evidence to believe in god is rewarded with eternal torture. I can’t even begin to conceive of a philosopy that’s remotely as bigoted as that. And today people continue to promote this philosophy, defend it, indoctrinate children into it who can’t yet think rationally for themselves. How shameful.

I am often struck by how often Christians like Timothy claim the hate crimes law punishes thought. They clearly consider it evil to punish thought and yet they worship a philosopy that punishes thought with the infinite punishement of eternal torture. Most of us instinctively agree the punishment should fit the crime and most of us thing a thought is no crime, yet look at the evil of Christianity

The most egregious of injusticies are at the very foundation of Christianity. Even a child can recognize that its immoral to punish someone for something they haven’t done and yet the very aspect of Christianity that Christians worship is just such a grotesque injustice – the torture and murder of the innocent Jesus for the wrongs of others. We instinctively know that its an horrific to punish someone for something they didn’t do and that one person can never take responsibility for the wrongs of another. And yet bizarrely that is what Christianity is based on. If a mother said of her children “Suzy was so incredibly bad today I beat Johnny severely” we’d recognize her for the insane evil person she is and somehow Christians think a god that behaves that way should be worshipped. If someone kicked you in the groin for no reason and I came up to you and said “I’m taking responsiblity for that, I’ve cut my arm in several places so because of my suffering he’s absolved of all guilt” you’d rightly think that was absurd and wrong and yet somehow Christians think this makes sense for the Jesus character – it most certainly doesn’t. Its insane. A child knows its wrong to take something that isn’t theirs and yet Christians admire a god who takes another man’s wive and impregnates her – without her consent no less. Christians claim to deplore adultury yet praise their imaginary god for committing it.

The Jesus/god character is harmful and hateful – in the extreme. He commands the Jews to invade other people’s lands and to “utterly wipe them out”, every man, woman, child, and innocent baby. He orders the Jews not to make any peace treaty with them, but to simply kill them. He hardens Pharoah’s heart so Pharoah will not let the Jews go and then kills every innocent first born because of what he has caused. Why? So he can brag about how powerful he is – how vain. Once again, he punishes the innocent for the wrongs he himself caused. He brags that he punishes the sins of the father onto his children to the fourth generation. He allows belief in him and his religion of preference to be questionable and then eternally tortures those who happen to believe otherwise – just as he knew they would when he created them. He creates people knowing that he will eternally torture the vast majority of them for the “crime” of being exactly as he created them and behaving exactly as he knew they would because of the way he created him. I can’t think of a more despicable character in all of fiction.

People here can argue about how this or that cosmological or abstract idea means there is or is not a god but it doesn’t change the fact that the specific Christian version of god is too outrageous to be believed by any rational person.Think about it deeply and you’ll realize your bible is not the word of a god. Think about what a book written by a omnisicient being would be like. It’d be full of astounding knowledge that couldn’t be known through any human means, it’d be profoundly impressive, constantly amazing you, unlike anything ever written in all literature. And yet what is the bible really like – full of scientific and geographical errors, devoid of any useful scientific, medical, or legal knowledge, full of mysogeny and xenophobia, and example after example of the Jesus/god character acting in ways that we instinctively know are immoral. It reads exactly like you’d expect the bigoted fantasies of a primitive people to read, just like every other religion Christians acknowledge as fake. A book inspired by an omnisicient god wouldn’t say to stone disobedient children to death if that wasn’t what was meant. If somehow, as Timothy claims, the opposite meaning was intended a perfect god would have made that clear, would have avoided even the appearance of impropriety. The book doesn’t, its loaded with errors and contradictions because it was written by imperfect unsophisticated people, not a god.

One way some Christians attempt to “prove” there is a god by claiming that morality can’t exist without a god. Christians, ask yourself this:

Is what your god tells you to do moral because your god tells you to do what is right, or is it moral because your god says it is? In other words, if your god told you to rape and burn to death an innocent baby would that be moral because he said it is, or would that still be immoral even though he told you it wasn’t?

Is your morality subjective, based on your god’s opinion, or is it objective where what is good and evil stands apart from what your god claims it to be?

I’ve heard one Christian, a nuclear physicist (clearly an intelligent man) state that he would rape and burn the innocent baby and that it would be moral because god said so. You can see how blind adherence to a belief leads to evil behavior. The essence of morality is “Do whatever you want, but harm no one”. To be moral, this must come before following an imaginary celestial dictator.

Ben in Oakland
July 27th, 2009 | LINK

“I’ve heard one Christian, a nuclear physicist (clearly an intelligent man) state that he would rape and burn the innocent baby and that it would be moral because god said so.”

Clearly noyt an intelligent man. He’s not examining the underlying suppositions: was it actually G talking, and how did he know that G was telling him the truth?

Timothy Kincaid
July 27th, 2009 | LINK

I’ll not answer Priya Lynn’s rather amusing rants. She does about as well debating Christian theology as I would do trying to argue the finer points of Zoroastrianism.

But just in case anyone else is uncertain about the the accusation of hers that I debunked, I’ll paste the whole section and let you see if it means nearly the opposite “of what it says” or if, as I stated, it means the opposite of what Priya Lynn claimed.

Mark 7:1-23

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.’

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’ ”

After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)

He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’ “

Priya Lynn would have you believe that story is best summarized as “Jesus criticizes the Jews for not killing their disobedient children as required by Old Testament law.”

I would suggest, rather, that this story is about Jesus criticizing the priorities of those who placed more emphasis on following rules and tradition than on being decent to those around them.

Beyond that, you can come to your own conclusions. But, as I stated above:

I only caution that you not assume that what an evangelical atheist says about Christianity is any more likely to be accurate than what Peter LaBarbera says about homosexuality.

(I wish also to comment that Christian tradition and Jewish tradition have different perspectives on Pharisees. Any implied condemnation of Pharisees is best understood as a condemnation of any religious leaders who have skewed priorities and is not intended to offend our Jewish readers. Incidentally, this thread is Atheism v. Christianity not as an exclusion, but rather because there seems to be little animosity between atheists and other faiths on this site.)

ravenbiker
July 27th, 2009 | LINK

I agree with the bog at the head of this thread. However, too many people bloviate for too long on this subject. And as for me, the problem lies not in what one believes, christian or non-christian, the proplem our world consitantly suffers from is fundamentalism and fanaticism.

May all them be dammed.

Priya Lynn
July 27th, 2009 | LINK

Timothy said “I’ll not answer Priya Lynn’s rather amusing rants…But just in case anyone else is uncertain about the the accusation of hers that I debunked”.

You’ll not deal with my “rants” because you can’t defend the indefensible. You’ve utterly failed to “debunk” what I’ve said because it is the truth – the words mean what they say.

Your spin is basically that when Jesus says you must stone your disobedient children to death he is like Alan Chambers claiming “gays can change” – in other words, Jesus is lying and when he says one thing he really means a bunch of deceptive, redefined, parsed and twisted meanings the opposite of what most people would understand.

Your “I can’t explain how, but just trust me, she’s wrong” line is rather pathetic. As I said your Jesus/god character gave Moses the law in the old Testament and said in the new “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

“And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.”.

Case closed Timothy – you’re wrong and to put it bluntly, a liar.

I share nothing in common with Peter Labarbera, you however share a great deal – the desire to put adherence to your cherry picked version of christianity ahead of the truth.

Priya Lynn
July 27th, 2009 | LINK

Timothy reminds me of Scott Lively when I posed to him the same egregious injustices that are at the heart of Christianity. Scott faked laughing it off claiming that there were simple answers to them and that he would get to them shortly. Of course he never did despite my pressing him in email after email to do so.

The Lauderdale
July 27th, 2009 | LINK

Ravenbiker:
Bloviate is right. At this point I’m fed up with both sides.

Ben in Oakland
July 27th, 2009 | LINK

My side isn’t bloviating. It is very succinct. The ultimate answers to ultimate questions ultimately don’t matter.

Jarred
July 28th, 2009 | LINK

If, at the end of time (mine or all of it) I discover that I was wrong and that there is no god, well at least I found comfort in my myth. And if I discover that there is a god and that I’ve been worshiping the wrong one all this time, well I’ll hope that the right one loves me regardless – and if he doesn’t, well I wouldn’t want to worship that kind of god anyway.

Let me just say that I find this a great statement. Thank you for sharing, Timothy.

I left the Christianity I raised it in because I ultimately found that the Christianity I was raised in was rooted in self-hatred, self-deprecation, and condemnation. (If someone else’s experience of Christianity has been different, I respect that.) I found that in order to become a better person and build a life of love, I needed to embrace a faith that gave me a better starting point than what my Christian upbringing provided. My capacity for compassion, love, and goodness had to come from within me rather than being something that was granted to me only through some external force.

My gods are not saviors or authoritarians, but friends, role models (well, usually), confidants, and mentors. They offer advice and counsel rather than doling out commands and judgments.

Some Christians may experience their god in much the same way. I respect that. They’re simply not living the same Christianity I knew growing up.

BearToast Joe
July 28th, 2009 | LINK

I admit, I’ve only read about half the posts. I’m too slow a reader.

I am a Christian (but nearly ashamed to use that title because of all the baggage). For me, being Christian, or following Jesus’ teachings (or whatever you want to call it) is not quite the same thing as adhering to doctrines, dogmas, and crazinesses of the Church.

Beholding the Mystery is more important (for me) than checking of a list of “beliefs.”

Divorce Records – Find Divorce Record « Wicked Blogging
August 1st, 2009 | LINK

[…] Box Turtle Bulletin » Atheism v. Christianity […]

Timothy (TRiG)
August 17th, 2009 | LINK

I love religious debate usually, but this post caught me at a busy time, and I’ve not contributed to it. Is it still living?

Here’s an interesing article: Greta on being an atheist in the queer community.

TRiG.

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