Charting an atheist roadmap-by LT

     Lance Thruster (or LT as some of us call him) is guest blogger today. Most of you already know him through the comment section. He’s written an interesting post with some additional links below. I look forward to the discussion.
     Atheists have no atheist pope or canonized atheist bible. Freethought is by its very nature “buffet style.” It’s an interesting aspect of non-belief that supposedly in order to counter what is seen by us as misplaced/incorrect belief by the religionists, we are expected to have some sort of ‘solution’ in place as a substitute, as if that is what is required beforehand to oust baseless interpretations of reality. I’d rather be a trailblazer and chart my own course than be compelled to use a ‘map’ of questionable veracity (and by ‘questionable’ I mean wrong and logically inconsistent).
     Sometimes it seems the solution is to work towards a better or more accurate ‘road map’ however incomplete that task is at any given time, and not to treat some claim of ‘revealed knowledge’ as an inerrant guide to life when in reality it might have no more application to our existence than a child’s treasure map on the back of a diner placemat.
     The Age of Enlightenment began a process that broke free of the stranglehold that religious irrationalism had fettered humanity with for some time. Religionists get angry that not every decision human society makes is done by consulting their revealed knowledge texts (though far too many are), but then no one seems traumatized that astrologers are not consulted in making those same decisions either. The rationalist approach doesn’t guarantee progress or that things will get better, but I do feel it is the star by which to steer our ship.
     I’d be interested in your reactions/thoughts on these articles that have appeared on salon.com, many of them quite recently. To see others you might find interesting, type “atheist” or “atheism” in their search field and see what comes up.
Claim that atheists don’t know enough about the religion they criticize – http://www.salon.com/2009/04/28/terry_eagleton/
Better to trust an irrationalist? – http://www.salon.com/2012/07/01/dont_trust_the_godless/
A little about LT:

I am a university staff member who was raised Catholic and become an atheist somewhere in my mid 20’s. The late Prof. Paul Kurtz was my inspiration to become involved in freethought and church/state separation issues as a member of the Council for Secular Humanism and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
I’d like to thank Deborah for allowing me to guest post on her site. She has done a wonderful job of creating a community for freethinkers to discuss the many facets of godlessness.
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33 responses to “Charting an atheist roadmap-by LT

  1. The reason religious people say they “Believe” in God is because If one said “I THINK there’s a God” two things would happen. A) They would have to admit an alternative causing them to appear insincere (see previous Linus/Great Pumpkin references), and B) The words “Think” and God” would cancel and the person would only be heard to say “I there’s a”, and we’d all think they were a fool which might not be far from the truth.

    P.S. How do I get to guest blog?

    CH

  2. When I spoke with some family members about my non-belief, one of the questions I would commonly get in response was, “well, if you don’t believe in God, how can you explain [meaning of life, death, the origin of life, morality, the Twilight series, etc.]?” I feel your pain. Non-belief also involves admitting, more often than not, that there are no easy answers, and being comfortable with that. I think that prospect makes believers just as uneasy as the idea of not believing in a god … even if many of them wouldn’t accurately describe the god of the bible if pressed on what they truly did put their faith in.

    One of the many liberties we have as athiests is the freedom to adopt any philosophy we like, provided it doesn’t contradict that which makes us atheist to start with. We can be democrats, republicans, libertarians, conservative, liberal, or any arbitrary (and potentially self-contradictory) point in the vast spectrum of possible worldviews. This, combined with the distinct lack of “leadership”, makes it very difficult to pin down something common to the entire demographic … but it also makes it easer to pick and choose the more loud and obnoxious of us to get some sweet blog hits. It might be fun, and there might be some truth to their arguments in some cases, but the uniting element of non-belief remains unaddressed in favor of their focusing on other elements of their worldview …

    … or, in the case of Ian Murphy’s segment on Sam Harris, just calling their opponent an asshole and passing up an otherwise rich and fertile ground for presenting a rational opposing view (with which I very likely would have agreed).

    Atheism isn’t represented by anyone. We have people who promote it, but they are by no means perfect, nor do we (well, most of us) take what they say on faith or assume what they say is true simply becuse they said it. I, personally, don’t agree with Sam’s take on Islam or Hitch’s views of pre-emptive war and torture. Their views are their own, developed as a result of their personal life experiences. If there is any uniting philosophy that we as atheists should adopt, it is to do the same.

    tl:dr version: Yep, I agree.

  3. I like the idea of being free to choose to define and redefine ourselves as we go through life. I like the idea, as you said, “Freethought is by its very nature “buffet style.”

    I’m not bothered, and I recognize and accept as Senator Jason mentioned, that there are a lot of unanswered questions–the big questions that religion answers (why are we here, where are we going, how did we get here). Feeling comfortable with the unknown is part of what we must accept being nonbelievers.

    On the other hand, it has and does bother me that atheists have these negative labels, and I even cringe to call myself atheist because of all the negative associations. Because we have no central filter, like the Vatican, to run our spokespeople through, no laws or rules, we will be defined by whomever holds the floor. It’s a pity that we cannot live along side believers peacefully. I also feel it’s not right to shame people over their religious beliefs. I feel like the new atheists do that.

    I really enjoyed the articles, and have a couple more to read. The one, “I don’t believe in atheists” had some great points like this one that likens the new atheists to xtian fundamentalists, “There is nothing wrong with taking a moral stand, but when we take a moral stand and then use it to elevate ourselves to another moral plane above other human beings, then it becomes, in biblical terms, a form of self-worship. That’s what the New Atheists have, and that’s what the Christian fundamentalists have.”

    As for Christopher Hetkeys’ question, if you want to write a guest post, you can email me via the address on the right. (kidswithoutreligion@gmail.com)

  4. I agree that as atheists, we’re defined by who holds the floor. Unfortunately, the floor is being held by believers and the assumptions they make about us without the benefit of making the effort to understand what we’re really about. We’re not even allowed in the same room for fear of stealing the silverware.

    As for one of the articles …

    To be honest, I get the feeling that Chris Hedges thinks along these lines, at least in some capacity. Now I personally didn’t debate Hitchens or Dawkins, so he has experiences with them far closer than any I’ve had … but to associate them (or atheism in general) with the Left doesn’t make a great deal of sense. Atheists can have a wide range of philosophical positions … again, see what Hitch and Harris have to say about Islam.

    Second, I think his claim that society really hasn’t moved anywhere is flat out ridiculous. Yes, we still have war, greed, and man’s general inhumanity to man. On top of it, technology has greatly expanded our capacity for destruction … but also tremendous good. We’re not marching to Utopia, but to an overall betterment of society enabled by scientific discovery and secular moral philosophy. With these, we’ve moved from laying on of hands to MRIs and Penicillin. From “an eye for an eye” to “innocent until proven guilty”. We’ve gone from treating women like property to having them run some of the most powerful nations on Earth. These things would not have been possible were it not for the Enlightenment and the rejection of superstition that came along with it. We are at our most peaceful time in history, and we are working together towards common goals more than ever before.

    I’ll put it another way: could you imagine we would have done with our stockpile of nukes and smallpox if we were still under the rule of the Catholic Church?

    I personally happen to be one of those people who conclude – based on the evidence of history – that the judicious use of scientific discoveries guided by a foundation of ethics derived from reason and logic WILL lead to the betterment of society. No faith is needed; there is plenty of evidence to draw on. I see no possible way that such a position could be compared to a blind faith in the divine providence of a personal god and his council of angels.

    OK, that’s enough … I’m going to bed.

  5. Nice writing LT. I can only comment from what I have seen and read and from personal experiences this side of the pond. We are in many ways truly worlds apart.

    In my country there is (just like in any other Nordic country) a national church – a bit like Church of England if you like. Most of the people belong to that church because they are joined at baptism. However – because of that loose ideological tie, the latest studies reveal interesting aspects. A study done by the Research Center of the Church, showed that while some 75 percent of Finns are members of the Church, only 27 percent said that they believe in xian God. 21 percent said that they do not believe in any deity. Only some 2-3 percent attend religious services regularly and pretty much the only way the xianity shows in everyday life is that we (unbelievers also!!) get days off because of religious this and that (Easter, Pentecost etc.).

    It is (almost) a non-issue whether one believes in a deity or not. I said almost because there are still quite strong cultural ties between the church and state even though there is no political or administrational connection. Kids can study religions or philosophy at school – the latter has become more popular every year. Religion never comes up as a conversation topic wheter you are at the cafeteria of your working place, social gatherings or at the university.

    I kinda like it that way – the religiosas can do what they like at their places of worship and at their homes but in the public sphere, reason prevails.

  6. Regarding the first article about the 5 worst atheists…

    When I evaluate the claims of Atheism I evaluate them based largely on the folks in highlighted in this article and those similar. I guess I’m making the same mistake as many of the people frequenting this website regarding Christianity. Both sides have their prominent proponents who provide a misconceived notion as to their positions. Who would you recommend as an atheist who doesn’t ruin it for everyone else?

    Regarding the second about Atheist fundamentalists…

    The most pertinent statement in this one is, “Fundamentalists, no matter what their religious coloring — bear far more in common with each other than they do with more enlightened members of their own religious communities. I’m an enemy of fundamentalism, period.” His stance however has nothing to do with validity of the teachings of Christianity or validity of a belief that God doesn’t exist. His stance has everything to do with his personal political philosophy. I wonder if he would feel the same way if the <<>> Fundamentalist ideology was inline with his “politi-social” beliefs.

    Regarding the misuse of secularism article …

    Much like the misperceptions pointed out in the first article, I recognize that I have fallen to the perception that secular humanist = atheist much like the people who believe all Christians are fundamentalist, evolution, science deniers. Yet I also think he misses three key points (he only points out 3 in the fifth to last paragraph) if he wants his definition of secularism to take hold and come to power. (1) There is more to evaluating this existence then hard science, specifically a reasoned use of Aristotelian metaphysics. There are immeasurable qualities (sexual desire, love, anger, jealousy etc…) to this existence. We may interact with those immeasurable qualities through hormones and other chemicals. Those interactions cannot however, be evaluated or properly understood merely through the analysis of blood work and chemistry. (2) Proponents of secularism need to get past the notion that because some “moral” proposition is inline with some religious teaching that it is invalid. (3) Get past the notion that some benefit to society that demands the active participation of another, if that other is unwilling, can be considered a right. If the secular movement would adopt those qualities I suspect there would be a significant reduction in the opposition to secularism coming from many on the religious side of this human family. Most of us just want to be left free to live our lives in accordance with our reasoned understanding of this existence.

    Regarding don’t trust the Godless…

    To answer the first questions posted, because evolution made it that was so it fits and a woman’s vagina in order to make babies. Now that that is out of the way, I agree that we have an internal desire which impels us toward stability. That’s the bottom line here and I don’t think much more needs to be said on that. What does need to be corrected though is a common misperceived notion that we do things because, “If supernatural punishment is held as a belief, then this threat becomes a deterrent in reality, so the mechanism can work regardless of whether the threat is genuine or not.” People take actions because they are in accordance with the way this existence is ordered and that is the way to fulfill the desires that make up our be-ing, they don’t do it because of a fear of hell. There may be some sects of Christianity that do, and they (cough cough…Westboro Baptist Church…cough cough) are quite vocal but mostly they are the minority (see my comments on article one about vocal minorities). As noted in para 7, the one about the “number of studies” correlations do not equal causality. I would venture to guess that if you talk to believers who have a rationally founded belief as opposed to those who believe because their parents told them to or because it’s the socially acceptable option, “rationally founded believers” would express the belief that, “…God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason.” In layman’s terms that means, that ALL THINGS can be understood through the light of human reason. But, because our capacities are limited (i.e. there only so much time in a day to think about everything) and our ability to reason properly is subject to flaws, God has provided revelation to help us where we don’t have time. I’m not proposing this to be true or false, just pointing our what people believe so you can evaluate them from a valid perspective.

    Thanks for the post…do you have your own blog?

  7. After reading the last article about trusting those who believe in god over rationalists, I’d like to add another name to the list in the first article. 😛

  8. LanceThruster

    Seeing the comments is one of the main reasons I like throwing my musings out there. You have all made excellent points and I’ll weigh in on that shortly (commencement ceremonies here begin today through the rest of the week so it’s quite hectic). The short version of my take on the articles is that as with anyone, there are areas of strong agreement and disagreement (expanded thoughts later). It is common to have someone dismissed in their entirety because of one or another views they hold, as if it automatically negates the rest of their positions (though sometimes some of their outlooks are so odious it really does taint much of their other work).

    I’ll add my responses to your comments next but will at least adress a few things now. I don’t have my own active blog at the moment, but thanks to Deborah’s inspiration, will probably resurrect one in the near future.

    As far as a rationalist view not guaranteeing progress, I would need to qualify that as still the best option. There are so many variables in play that rationalists are just as capable of heading down the wrong path as anyone, but as with scientific method, holds the most opportunity for self-correction. In general, a hurtful truth is always better than a soothing lie. Would we choose to pay lip service to a myth if we felt that would help keep the masses in line? I’d worry about the consequences if/when the lie was found out, as with a child and Santa Claus.

    For better or worse, the default position of non-belief/unbelief, is that when we hear someone try to make their case whether for blood atonement, or golden plates, or Xenu, or heavenly paradise, or eternal torment, God’s chosen people or proxy messengers, or revealed sacred text…a reasonable response would entail observing, “Sounds like bullsh!t to me!”

    Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. ~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca

  9. LanceThruster

    An article called “The Atheist Delusion” also deals with the contrast in worldview – http://www.salon.com/2007/12/19/john_haught/

  10. LanceThruster

    I’ll tackle the articles in no particular order. In regards to the one about better to trust the religious, what comes to mind are all those ponzi schemes done through churches that are able to gain the trust and then bilk the parishioners on some shady investment. The victims most always are shocked that their fellow religious bretheren could do such a thing. The idea that one behaves better if monitored is one thing, but I would think does not hold up to any real effect when the nature of the one monitoring is a creation of your own mind, but rather the nature of the integrity of the individual. All cross-sections of humanity have their scoundrels.

    Furthermore, I have seen the religious carry on with an attitude that their behavior is sanctioned by their respective gods, so that you get the feeling that whatever flaws there are in their own character, they know their god looks on approvingly/forgivingly, whereas anyone else is not guaranteed to be ‘making the cut.’

    Additionally, there is the aspect of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I’ve often felt (though controversial) that pedophile priests *must* in many instances be ‘godless’ because who could actually believe the doctrine of an all-knowing God punishing such acts accordingly with regards to their abominable nature…and still commit them. That’s an individual that is so twisted that even if they agonize over it, they’ll still commit the act, hypothetical consequences be damned. If they truly believe, maybe it has to do with a hubris that God knows what was in their heart and forgives them for giving in to the desires whose temptations they were unable to resist.

    Hard to say. There’s the thoughtful atheist, and the jerk that thinks there’s no limits imposed by anyone or anything to their behavior and acts accordingly, and thoughtful and less than thoughful religionists. Again…laregly hard to stereotype.

    I at least know that when I can determine that someone is a follower of what is commonly referred to as “Republican Jesus,” then their behavior has almost zero correlation the the actual teachings of Jesus.

    • @LT Love this quote. Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. ~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca

      I’ve often wondered, too, how a priest or pastor can violate a person and then get into bed and say their prayers. Is it that they are godless or is there some sort of disconnect within their inner and outer worlds, a mental illness? Also, it doesn’t seem to help that the modern christian god is so “forgiving.” The funny thing is that people say god forgave them or that they are saved, yet there’s no evidence he puts his hands into this world and does that. How do you prove you’ve been saved or forgiven for sinning over and over again?

  11. LanceThruster

    For the record, I very much liked this comment at the above piece discussed in their comment section —

    Jeannette
    Sunday, Jul 1, 2012 08:36 AM PDT

    You make the assumption that those who say they are Christian or religious actually believe. Come live in a red state for a few years, deal with the Christians and non believers, and you will see the percentage of people who cheat you is just as high as anywhere else. I am with another reader: put a fish on your door and I am walking. To many of us, we feel religious oppression in America. Telling someone you don’t believe is like walking into a dark room. You are ostracized. So most people just go along to get along, even If they know it is total bs. Your theories are valid, but in reality it does not mean Christians are less likely to cheat you. Some Christians would never cheat you, but the percentage is not one bit better than in the secular world. In fact, the one business that really ripped me off, was considered a ‘Christian business.’ My experiences are quite different than the author’s.

    • Thanks Jane,this clarifies a lot for me.I have seopkn to my son and he has now decided to continue with classes in religion and to opt out of homework and any study.As a sixteen year old boy he is very sure of what he believes and does not believe but hates any focus on him and feels that because everyone else in his school has to do religion he has to too.For me that is the sorriest part of all this is that he wasn’t asked, as a person with rights he should have been asked if he would like to do religious studies or not.I would love to send a letter to the Headmaster as I feel we are really getting somewhere on lots of issues pertaining to catholicism and the more parents who opt out the more normal it will become and before we know it everyone will understand their rights and more importantly the rights of others.My two boys 16 and 18 have just finished reading Dawkins the god delusion’,they are streets ahead of my husband and I and therein lies our future , with tongue firmly in cheek ‘Praise the Lord’,great to be having this discussion,THANKS.

  12. Because I am an unbeliever, I do not have to make intellectual somersaults trying to reconcile the horrors of the world with an omnipotent and benevolent God.

    The article LT linked was just another frustrating effort – while it may well be true that John Haught is one of the more rational theologians, it is just like if you said that gonorrhea is the best of the STDs.

    It is also quite funny to notice how God forgives transgressions of those who are very vocal about it but apparently the silent ones just get what they deserve.

    Cheers,
    Konsta

  13. LanceThruster

    I’ve always enjoyed the Internet Infidels site. Here’s a recent piece –

    Evidence for Atheism by David Neff

    http://www.infidels.org/kiosk/article868.html

  14. LanceThruster

    @Christopher A. Hetkey | May 14, 2013 at 9:15 pm |

    This reminds my of an LDS service I attended because of my Mormon neighbors. Little kids would stand up in turn and proclaim, “I know the church is true and that Joesph Smith is a Prophet of God.”

    See: http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Christianity/Latter-Day-Saints/2005/09/Becoming-A-True-Believer.aspx

    I guess they don’t need “faith” because they “know.”

    xD

    Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  15. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t meet to go to a war with religious people over the terms and definitions but in my case, I always correct people who call me a “non-believer” or “not a person of faith”. Because being an atheist doesn’t prevent me from believing and it most certainly doesn’t make me faithless. To the contrary: I have always had strong faith, my faith helped me in the most difficult moments of my life. The difference between me and those who believe in god (gods) is very simple: religion has never been a part of my faith. When I tell that to religious people, most of them don’t know what to say for a few seconds or longer but the smart ones, of course, quickly come up with a “tricky question”: “ok, so if you don’t believe in god, in what do you believe?”. In most cases I don’t have time or don’t want to go into lengthy debates which inevitably involve doing a lot of explanation (some recent study showed that atheists/agnostics know way more about religion(s) than religious people know about atheism and agnosticism). Instead, I draw a cube or a ball and then a figure of a human in the middle. After that, I show it to the opponent, point to the drawing and say: “This is you, this is the world around you existing as you know it. Do you think there’s anything beyond the boundaries of your world/your knowledge about it?” Typical answer is, of course, “yes”. Then I ask the second and final question: “If this cube or ball is your religion, something you believe in, don’t you think there are things other than religion people can believe in? Don’t you think there are dimensions of faith other than religion?”

    In conversations like this one, my intention is never to score a victory in a debate or to get the opponent utterly confused. It’s always to show the opponent something that hopefully prompt him or her to think critically, realizing that it’s ok to have doubts and trying to find answers on their own rather than getting information “chewed for them and placed in their mouth” the way religious books do.

    If we want our society to change the view of us, atheists and agnostics, we don’t need to always say “we’re right and they’re wrong”. We need to not allow religion to continue monopolizing the use of “belief” and “faith”. Because we’re human and the latter is an integral part of human conscience.

  16. LanceThruster

    Instead, I draw a cube or a ball and then a figure of a human in the middle. After that, I show it to the opponent, point to the drawing and say: “This is you, this is the world around you existing as you know it. Do you think there’s anything beyond the boundaries of your world/your knowledge about it?” Typical answer is, of course, “yes”. Then I ask the second and final question: “If this cube or ball is your religion, something you believe in, don’t you think there are things other than religion people can believe in? Don’t you think there are dimensions of faith other than religion?”

    Interesting approach. Short, sweet, and simple.

  17. LanceThruster

    @Deborah Mitchell | May 16, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    I’ve heard that before from others. I would have thought that belief.net was a legit mainstream site. Sorry about that.

    LT

  18. LanceThruster

    Here’s an issue Deborah and I were talking about via email. Some people like the more academic discussions of atheism/non-belief, etc., and really get into the intellectual give and take. Others prefer the more day to day discussions of what it means in the real world to be godless amongst the ‘devout’ (cough). I’ve noticed that her posts of the latter nature get far more comments. I happen to enjoy them both, particularly because it shows how inclusive the movement is in that all are truly welcome.

    Do you, her readers, have a preference? Do you enjoy both but comment on one type of topic more than another? Just curious. I know many godless who other than deciding on that worldview for themselves, pretty much don’t care about the question as far as the world at large. I take the opposite approach mostly because of how the world at large considers belief the ‘preferable’ default position.

    When my side gets accused of ‘evangelical atheism,’ I counter that it’s mostly a consequence of pushing back. If believers would not be so insecure that they needed govt to buttress their belief at every turn, it probably wouldn’t be an issue. IN GOD WE TRUST on the money is a pretty goddamn ‘in your face’ ad campaign, no?

    I like the maxim, If you don’t want no shit…don’t start no shit.”

    • @LT I like both types of discussions –the formal and more informal.

      I don’t want to bully others to give up their belief; I just want room for us all. You do bring up a good point, though. How would our nation feel if our money said, “Land of the god-free.” Or something like that….

      • Being an academic, I am more comfortable discussing in the abstract, I guess. There’s nothing wrong or untrue about thoughts of a more everyday, personal nature, because even academics live in the wider world.

        I get very bothered, though, by those who try to use academic argument as a way of “proving belief.” It is just logically untenable, and when I was a believer, I at least had the intellectual honesty to say that my belief could not be proven (or unproven).

        One day, I just couldn’t keep the two halves of my mind inside my head without it exploding and I just gave up on belief.

        As we’re reminded so often, the USA is a free country. We’re free to believe what we want. Hell, if I want to believe the moon is made of blue cheese, then I can do so. I’ll get laughed at, but no one is going to throw me in jail or execute me for that belief, and that’s a good thing. On the other hand, if I campaigned to change all astronomy textbooks so that they include a theory of blue cheesiness in accounts of lunar history, well, that’s crossing a line.

        Let’s teach facts and base our public policy on facts, which doesn’t mean that the academic study of religion should be excluded from school. Fact: there are many religions. Fact: many of the founders of our country were religious. Fact: the majority of Americans are religious. Fact: our government was founded to allow for freedom of religion, which also means freedom from religion, i.e., the wall of separation between church and state.

        Outside of school and city halls, you’re welcome to practice any religion you want, discuss your holy books, and even do so while enjoying a nice Roquefort.

  19. Many, many atheists have probably had the experience where someone has expressed surprise at learning that the person was an atheist. There seems to be a common attitude that anyone who is nice, polite, and moral could really be an atheist. A common response is to say “But maybe you’re really just an agnostic?” Have you had this sort of experience?

  20. “As we’re reminded so often, the USA is a free country. We’re free to believe what we want. Hell, if I want to believe the moon is made of blue cheese, then I can do so. I’ll get laughed at, but no one is going to throw me in jail or execute me for that belief, and that’s a good thing. On the other hand, if I campaigned to change all astronomy textbooks so that they include a theory of blue cheesiness in accounts of lunar history, well, that’s crossing a line.”

    This is an important point – however it is odd that based on the popularity, some delusions have achieved an honored status. If I won´t work on Sunday and base it on Scripture, I´ll get a nod of approval but if I make a similar claim based on my wish to honor the day-off of Flying Unicorn then the end result might be different.

    I wish I had more time and energy to engage myself to an academic debate – while I can call a spade a…spade, I´d feel more comfortable if I could stand on bigger shoulders. The more I´ve read the more uncomfortable I have become of the total intellectual laziness of just about every theologian (aka masters of magic). Just like John Hough LT linked to earlier – all talk and circular reasoning, little else.

  21. Deborah and Lance, I’d like to give a little input regarding your church leadership comments.

    When I was a teenager I remember my parents continually playing a song called “Shut up and march”. It was written by a married couple who had several records in a row full of war songs, using such words as battle, combat, soldier, and under command. The specific song mentioned was about Joshua and the walls of Jericho. This couple would sing of how we don’t go around talking about our leaders, debate orders that we’ve been given nor dispute our ranks and positions. We just SHUTUP AND MARCH! Funny how I didn’t even remember that the song was about Joshua until I looked it up when thinking of our present conversation. I instead remember it having all of these voice overs of people gossiping about their church leaders. While this couple was shooting out military albums left and right for years they were attending a church in the Atlanta area. Would you like to know who the pastor was? Earl Paulk!

    Mental, emotional and sexual abuse are all evident among catholics, baptists, pentecostals, jews, and muslims. (I have many personal stories of this nature, Deborah, and I’m hoping to send a few of them to you privately some day.) When someone is abusive, including sexually, they have the mentality of a dominant mindset. They lust for power, control, and thrive when their subjects fear them. Isn’t this simply leadership copying the examples set before them in their holy books? God seems to kiss his consent and power upon the males who exalt themselves over people that they have bullied into submission.

    Deborah, so many christian moms have responded to your CNN article on line. Some are actually writing about how they don’t believe in the god that you wrote about either because their god is a “loving god”. I wonder what bible they’re reading.

    • @Charity That’s really interesting. I’m always amazed by the un-Christianlike words and sentiment used on believers (and nonbelievers). Wonder what Jesus would think about this military song. It does tell you a lot about how religion is run. Thanks for sharing that.

      I wonder if you look at the abuse among the religions you mention versus the Buddhists, atheists and religions like the universal unitarians, how the numbers would compare.

      So, now we’ve moved past the “let’s make our own religion phase” and onto the “let’s make our own god phase.” Then they must also reject the bible, yes? Just wondering what sites you’ve seen this on. I’d like to see what kind of gods are being invented.

      Speaking of which…The only in-the-flesh agnostic friend I have shared something interesting with me yesterday. I was wondering if anyone else has run into this. She has a friend who calls herself a xtian but doesn’t believe in the afterlife or heaven. There were some other unusual beliefs, too, but that’s what I thought the most strange.(She has a divinity degree and views much of the bible as a metaphor). I’m wondering, how can you consider yourself a Christian (and not just christian) if you don’t believe in the afterlife? In order to be a Christian and believe in Christ, don’t you also have to believe why he was sent and his message–he was sent to redeem mankind and give him ever lasting life? Seems that if you reject that important premise, then you also reject that Christ was sent by God and many other important beliefs. Anyone else run into this or know what’s behind this thought?

  22. LanceThruster

    @Deborah Mitchell | May 17, 2013 at 2:17 pm |

    Maybe your friend takes a page from the Jefferson Bible (Christ’s teaching without the supernatural) See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson_Bible

    I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. ~ Mahatma Gandhi (apocryphal)

  23. LanceThruster

    @Deborah Mitchell | May 17, 2013 at 2:17 pm |

    There’s also a the apologetic argument of “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic” (see: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_perry/trilemma.html ) but that ignores the 4th option of “historical account misrepresented.”

    • @LT Regarding “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic,” I vaguely remember this from years ago and CS Lewis. Upon reading this article, I realized that Hamlet could be substituted for Jesus.

      It’s all very interesting. As for this point here: Another, separate, possibility is that of the “noble lie.” Jesus may have felt that his teachings on behavior were so important as to validate falsely claiming special authority from (or at an extreme, as) God in order to persuade people to follow them. There is historical precedent for the idea that “the people” need the backing of supernatural authority to behave morally. Jesus could have believed in all sincerity that following his teachings would lead people into the Kingdom of God and/or eternal life, and said what he thought necessary to get people to follow him. In doing so, to the extent that such a lie was against those teachings, he may have thought he was forfeiting his own eternal security. Greater love hath no man… [While this last detail wanders quite far down a specific path of speculation, it makes at least as much sense as McDowell’s argument that it would be “unspeakably evil” to lie about promising salvation]. On this view Jesus would have been a liar, but nobly motivated, and no demon..

      This would not have made him a nobly-motivated liar but a crazy man who, “believed in all sincerity,” that he knew what was best for mankind and he knew what would “lead people into the Kingdom of God and/or eternal life.” Isn’t there a name for that complex? Oh, haha, the Messiah Complex!

  24. Hey Debbie, I’m sorry that I am getting to this just now.

    Evangelicals tend to embrace military style christianity, but then again, didn’t the entire trinity? God would down right ignore his favorites as they bullied, raped, and enslaved. His spirit would slay to death thousands at a time. Jesus, his son was a smart mouth to his mother, called a gentile woman a dog, and commanded us to “hate” everyone (Not “like less” as some theological types would like us to believe.)!

    Earl Paulk was notorious for his multiple sexual assault charges with women in his church. He also had a long term affair with his young and beautiful worship leader, and his brother’s wife who was also on his worship team. After Earl Paulk died his nephew found out that he was actually his dad.

    I have also wondered if abuse is rare in those religions you’ve mentioned, I believe they might be. I know for a fact that when everything is sin everyone will fall into sin. That’s why I believe evil is so common among the religions I had mentioned.

    As for your friend of a friend, it could be two things. She may be an agnostic or unitarian. However, due to a stigma she may have had in her mind about such people while she was actually a christian, she can’t seem to get past any identity outside of christianity. The other possibility is she might be making a friendly evangelical connection with your agnostic friend by coming across as progressive. There’s been a movement of this for about 13 to 15 years. Those type of churches are the Joel Osteen meets Rick Warren types. They almost have this hypnotic Frasier Crane “I’m listening” approach.

    • @Charity Great point here: “I know for a fact that when everything is sin everyone will fall into sin. That’s why I believe evil is so common among the religions I had mentioned.”

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