Religion

What I hate most about Christianity

It’s not the homophobia and gay bashing, it’s not the misogynistic anti-choice rhetoric, it’s not even the fear mongering and fire & brimstone preaching that comes from the fundamentalists. These things are obviously bad to most sane people and they give Christianity a bad name, which is fine with me, frankly. What I hate most about Christianity is the denial of reality. Here are a couple of examples:

I stopped by the Friendly Christian blog today following a link from Hemant’s Friendly Atheist blog and saw this in the comments in response to the question, “What do you think the greatest challenge facing Christianity is today?”

I’d say it is people thinking Christianity is a religion (this includes Christians). Being a Christ-follower is not a building, rituals, etc. and Jesus spent his time on earth attacking the religious…

Christians are delusional. (OK, I’m convinced. See the comments for why I deleted this.)

If someone spends their time going to church, reading the Bible, praying, and evangelizing others and says that they are not religious, they belong in a nut house. I’m sorry, but that is the epitome of being religious and just by saying you’re not religious doesn’t make it so.

Just because you don’t got to the church on the corner with the big steeple and instead you go to little church meetings in a store front or in someone’s basement, doesn’t make you less religious. Just because you don’t say the rosary or sing hymns to organ music on Sunday mornings but instead you read the Bible every morning and you go to Bible study and sing worship songs accompanied by acoustic guitar on Thursday nights, doesn’t mean you have no rituals.

You just have a different kind of church and different kinds of rituals. Suck it up and just admit it already.

Christians are religious.

Another comment said this:

I think the greatest challenge to Christianity is people who claim to be Christians with words, yet their actions say something else.

Sorry again, but if someone says they are a Christian, they are one. You can’t decide that only the people you like are “really” Christians and everyone else who says they’re a Christian but acts in a way that discredits your religion is some kind of fake. All of the Christians that get bad press — the ones I mentioned above, the misogynistic, homophobic, fear mongerers — yes, even they think they are the “real” Christians and they are the ones that are following Christ properly. You can’t say “our religion is really beautiful and all those mean people who say they are Christians are fakes, so their shortcomings shouldn’t cast a shadow on the beautiful light that is true Christianity.” Well, you can say it, but no one will listen. If Christians are mean and hate-filled, that means that Christianity is a mean and hate-filled religion.

There is no perfect, platonic Christianity or Christ, no perfect hereafter or heavenly kingdom. There are only flawed human beings in the here and now.

Christians are Christianity.


P.S. I promise the Infidel review is almost finished!

writerdd

Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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72 Comments

  1. Yes, it's a very evangelical viewpoint. In fact, the "relgious" Catholics and sometimes even Methodists are not considered to be "real" Christians! Those people just follow rules. They don't "have a personal relationship with Jesus."

  2. The "Christianity is not a religion" thing… OK, I don't know how fundies or self-styled evangelicals use that phrase, because I wasn't brought up that way and really can't understand the mindset.

    The way that mainline/liberal Christians use the phrase is in the same way that Buddhists say that "Buddhism is not a religion". It also reminds me of a discussion I had this morning over whether or not a platypus is a mammal.

    What they're saying is that the thing that makes Christianity important isn't going to church or all of the stuff that people normally call "religion". It's not the going to church etc that makes you a Christian.

    When you understand where they're coming from, it makes more sense, and isn't nearly as "delusional" (ugh; more on this later) as it may appear.

    However, if anyone tries to tell you this, you can easily counter it by bringing up the following two points:

    – By the same measure, Buddhism isn't a religion either. Neither are a lot of things that the same Christian might call a "religion". (Generally speaking, liberals don't have a problem with this, but mainliners may start dodging at this point.)

    – For some real squirming action, quote James 1:27: "Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world." (I'm using the NET here; pick their favourite translation, they all say much the same thing.)

    One last thing, and I'm sorry in advance for bringing this up again, but it has to be said.

    For the sake of His Holy Noodly Appendage, please, please, PLEASE do not misuse words like "delusion"! It's a good scientific term that has a fairly well-understood meaning.

    Calling this a "delusion" is just as irritating to a psychiatrist as new agers' use of terms like "energy", "vibration" and "quantum" are to a physicist. Just don't go there.

  3. I didn't realize mainliners used the "not religious" argument as well. (I can almost buy it regarding Buddhism because at least they don't have a god!)

    I see your point and have crossed out the delusional comment.

  4. Yeah, I used to hear the "not a religion" thing a lot back in high school. I had a lot of churchy friends (which realy amazes me, considering my worldview), and I can't count the number of variations on it I'vebeen told – dominated by "religion is man reaching to god, Christianity is god reaching to man." I thought it was stupid then, and I stand by it now.

  5. darwinfan // Mar 5, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    So do I have this right? Christianity isn’t a religion; it’s the truth!

    You know, I've been thinking. My atheism doesn't seem like a religion…yes, in fact, it's not a religion at all! It's sort of like reason reaching down to man…

  6. We see this in skepticism too, though. Someone is a jerk, or makes a point we don't like, or doesn't fit entirely with our worldview, and we hear "he's not a real skeptic".

    I've yet to find someone who is, though :)

  7. Donna:

    I didn’t realize mainliners used the “not religious” argument as well.

    To be fair, they don't mention it much; maybe one sermon every few years.

    Plus, they only tell themselves, and don't use it as part of their external image. This is probably because they realise that it requires a bit of nuance to explain what they mean by it.

    Thinking about it, I think they use the idea as more of a "fresh perspective" device. Yeah, you might do all this stuff, but that's not what it means to be a Christian, sort of thing. As such, while it might make for a good thinking point, it makes for a poor slogan, and I think they would acknowledge this if asked.

  8. Regarding the second issue, the way I usually respond is similar: If someone says he worships Christ, he's a Christian, and all else is window dressing (unless you actually catch him at claiming at other times to specifically not be a Christian, in which case it's clear that he can't be both, but it's still a question as to which is truth and which the lie).

    It can be claimed that the person in question is a bad Christian, or is doing things that are inconsistent with Christianity; but while this sometimes can be pretty easy to get others to agree with (e.g., Hitler), in actuality it just comes down to one's personal theology.

    ~Wordplayer

  9. I am a christian, and religious. It is important to realize that if Jesus were alive today, there'd be hell to pay with what some people are doing. The whole point of the thing is love, understanding, and forgiveness.

    If you consider the actions of Jesus as described in the Bible, his behaviour is in no way reflected by many who profess to follow his lead. I only ask that you judge christianity based on what the bible says, not how it is represented by those who ignore it. If it still deserves condemnation, then so be it. At least then it is being condemned for what it is, and not for the distortions that some have popularized.

  10. wackyvorlon:

    I only ask that you judge christianity based on what the bible says, not how it is represented by those who ignore it.

    You missed my point entirely. The point is that Christians are the representatives of Christianity in today's world. Not some guy who lived 2000 years ago, or some old book. I see no reason why I should not judge Christanity by watching Christians.

    To rephrase, it doesn't matter what the Bible says (although if you open that door, you'll be bombarded with Biblical criticism as well). It matters what Christians do and say today.

    I personally have never met anyone who claimed to be a Christian who didn't think they were following Jesus the right way, and everyone else was doing it wrong. So who's to say which Christians are "truly" relfecting the behavior of Jesus?

  11. Wackyvorlon, I have a question;

    How else shall a creed be known but by those who claim adherence thereto? I feel that your "excuse" is disingenuous.

    I was once a fundamentalist Christian, believe it or don't; But I was born and raised in a Jewish home– In Jewish life, there is something called Halacha. That is, the collective body of Jewish religious law, including biblical law (the 613 mitzvot) and later talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions. Halacha is determined not merely by scripture, but by majority practice.

    Although in Talmud, for example, you will find many dissenting views on how the bible ought to be interpreted or put into practice, there is a "final" judgement by which we are expected to abide.

    If the majority of Christians live or behave in a certain way, then to me, that is their Halacha. That is what Christianity is for them. No matter how I myself might try to interpret the teachings of Jesus. It is according to the traditions and customs that have grown up around what Christianity may have been at one time.

    So I don't believe that we can dismiss the behaviour and actions of large swaths of the Christian community as not being "really" Christian, just because it's embarrassing, or doesn't conform to our own personal opinions as to how the bible should be interpreted.

    By their example, Christians are indeed homophobic, intolerant, anti-intellectual, misogynistic, blinkered, hypocritical refugees from the fourteenth century. Men like C.S. Lewis or Dietrich Boenhoffer are exceptions. Not the rule.

    (All of this said, I shed any form of faith some years ago. I hold all faiths as equally invalid.)

  12. You could base it on percentages. But that is irrelevant.

    The point is that the religion's followers are the only signs I have to go by in order to judge what the religion teaches and tolerates.

    If Christians are mean and hate-filled, then yes; Christianity is a mean and hate-filled religion as practiced now.

  13. Wow, some good responses here. Going through some in turn…

    wackyvorlon :

    That's a sentiment that you see a lot. I've heard of one famous convert to Islam who commented that if he knew about Muslims before he knew about Islam, he'd never have converted.

    I've never met an atheist who had a bad word to say about the sayings and deeds of Jesus as reported. To the extent that they have a problem, it tends to be along the lines of a) a lot of the gospels are probably misreported, or b) the remarkable difference between Jesus and Yahweh implies that any connection between the two is tenuous at best, so God is either schitzophrenic and arbitrary, or "scripture" is not inspired as a whole.

    (Aside: Christopher Hitchens famously noted that he saw more morality in a George Eliot novel than the gospels put together. I find this puzzling. First, the four gospels taken together cover most of the same material three or four times. Second, it ignores the fact that the gospels contain a lot that was new (or at least newly consolidated in one coherent framework) for that part of the world at that time. Third, George Eliot novels are products of European culture up to that point that includes the gospels, so naturally whatever she wrote would go beyond that.)

    To its credit, Christianity explicitly acknowledges that people are fallible. But what Donna says is true:

    The point is that Christians are the representatives of Christianity in today’s world.

    "By your fruits will you be known", I believe the book in question says.

    But I also understand the dilemma. To speak out strongly against the fundies is a distraction from what's important, right?

    You have a long memory, and you remember well the long and horrible history of people telling other people that they're not really Christians. People were killed over that. Every time you hear a fundie say that Catholics aren't really Christians, even if you're not a Catholic, you cringe internally, praying fervently that these guys don't get enough power that they start the next Inquisition.

    Yet you can't bring yourself to spend a lot of effort in denouncing them. Partly, it's playing by their rules: the old, bloody rules of schism and excommunication. Partly, it's a distraction that you don't want to get into.

    Can you imagine if the Salvation Army started knocking on peoples' doors asking them if they've heard the Word of Booth? No, neither can I. What a waste of a doornock!

    I have some deep concerns about… uh… not what the Salvation Army does, exactly, but what they sometimes fail to do. Regardless, every second of their precious airtime that they spent trying to convert people, or denouncing fundies, is a second that they're not spending raising funds for sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry and generally thinking about, as Booth famously said in his dying word, "Others".

    Would any of you have them do that? Would you have people think that if they give money to the Salvation Army, that some of it might be spent on inter-denominational bickering, rather than helping the needy?

    No, me neither. So we're in a bit of a pickle, and I don't know of a good solution.

    Donna:

    I personally have never met anyone who claimed to be a Christian who didn’t think they were following Jesus the right way, and everyone else was doing it wrong.

    Well, I know plenty who don't think that everyone else are doing it wrong, though all of them think that some of those others are doing it wrong. Fundies, usually.

    Rav:

    By their example, Christians are indeed homophobic, intolerant, anti-intellectual, misogynistic, blinkered, hypocritical refugees from the fourteenth century. Men like C.S. Lewis or Dietrich Boenhoffer are exceptions. Not the rule.

    Comment #1: People are homophobic, intolerant, anti-intellectual, misogynistic, blinkered, hypocritical refugees from the paeleolithic era. Christians are not special in this respect.

    Comment #2: You don't get to be a cable TV pundit or mega-church televangelist for saying how great it would be if everyone were nice to each other for a change.

    Comment #3: The plural of anecdote is "anecdotes", not "data".

  14. No worries, I'm just trying to understand how it's rational to blanket a religion based on any percentage, since no one person is able to view the entire dataset, as it were.

    I mean, if there were only one jerkpod of a christian (wouldn't that be nice?) in the world, and that was the only one you knew, that doesn't seem very accurate.

    Further, it gets into the whole "do the evil deeds outweigh the good deeds of all Christians ever" argument, which is so completely subjective that it divides itself by zero.

  15. I have heard an explanation of how Christianity is not a "religion" by an Evangelical. This was on NPR and it was in the context of freedom of religion, where a Hindu was talking about the many gods that Hindus had and how freedom of religion was important in a pluralistic society. He was saying that his Evangelical Christianity wasn't a religion like Hinduism; his Evangelical Christianity was a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He was ready to give modest lip service to a modest amount of religious "freedom", and all those other religions were very nice, but when push came to shove, all those other pretend religions were fake compared to his personal relationship with Jesus Christ which was Real and True, and that government should reflect the Reality and the Truth that those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ are not practicing a "religion", they are doing something much more real.

    A delusion is defined as a belief very strongly held in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I think there is overwhelming evidence that someone who believes they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ does not have a belief system that is sufficiently different from the belief systems of other religious individuals that it can be characterized as not a religion but something superior. Those who believe they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ have exactly as much evidence for their beliefs as the followers of any other religion. That they have exactly the same amount of evidence is strong evidence that they are no different than any other religion. That does make the belief that Evangelical Christianity is not a religion a delusion.

  16. Sorry again, but if someone says they are a Christian, they are one. You can’t decide that only the people you like are “really” Christians and everyone else who says they’re a Christian but acts in a way that discredits your religion is some kind of fake.

    The problem, of course, is that Christians have to say such things about other Christians because they’re all trying to follow the same book full of contradictions and errors.

    Take two Christians: Pat Robertson and Bishop Gene Robinson. One hates teh gay, the other is openly gay. According to Gene Robinson “…I am convinced that I am not an abomination in the eyes of God…" but according to Pat Robertson “Homosexuality is an abomination. The practices of those people is appalling.” They can’t both be right so which one is it? Christians believe in a heaven ruled by god according to his doctrine and free of conflict. If they’re both getting into heaven, one’s going to have to change his mind (and possibly have his sexual orientation “fixed” for him). Or maybe god is going to condemn one of them to hell for his heretical beliefs.

    Whichever way you slice it, someone's interpreting the bible incorrectly, i.e. they’re ignoring the wrong parts. Whoever is doing that is not a "true" Christian. It's what comes of elevating a self-contradicting book to the level of infallibility. People who accept the sanctity of the book itself disagree about the issues it raises. These disagreements can't continue into the afterlife if everyone is to live in harmony. Someone will have to be declared wrong by god. Generally, that person is whoever doesn't agree with you.

  17. Yeah, I agree with you there, seanhogge.

    Personally, I think that the only solution that's fair to everyone is to see religion (or Christianity, or whatever) as just something that humans do. It's not true or false, any more than the wearing of hats is true or false. It's not good or bad, any more than the wearing of hats is good or bad.

    Once you've got past that, you can concentrate on identifying specific people and specific behaviours which are destructive.

    I think this is hard for everyone. We have some ex-fundies here, and it's hard for them to see religion as anything but the kind of religion that they grew up with.

    Hell, I grew up a liberal theist, and it's hard for me to get my mind around fundamentalism. I remember the first time I encountered the position that skeptics (contrasted with atheists) might have a beef against religion in general. It struck me as bizarre to think that the very idea of religion could be antithetical to the very idea of science. (Of course religion and science can co-exist! Everyone I know believes that!)

    I understand better where you guys are coming from now, but I still get a little offended when Prof. Dawkins refers to my family, childhood friends and just about everyone else in the third largest church in Australia as "numerically negligible".

  18. Let me supplement my earlier response. If someone says they are a Christian, and that being a Christian only involves doing good works, and doesn't require any supernatural beliefs, and that their version of Christianity is not a religion, that person is not being delusional.

    When an Evangelical Christian says their version of Evangelical Christianity is not a religion because it involves a Personal Relationship with Jesus Christ and is True and Real and Superior to all the lesser pretend religions, that person is being delusional.

    I think in the context of the answer to the question on the Friendly Christian blog, the Christianity is not a religion was of the second type and hence a delusion.

  19. "…I think that the only solution that’s fair to everyone is to see religion (or Christianity, or whatever) as just something that humans do."

    It most certainly is something every human does (and rightly so). Morality is not empirical. Since religion at its simplest is an adherence to codified beliefs – with or without deities – any behavioral edicts are religious in nature, if not a full-blown mythology-based religion.

  20. Yeah, when I was a Christian I was always shouting, "It ain't about religion, it's about a relationship!"

    Want to meet a REALLY delusional Christian blogger, who wants it to be illegal for atheists to speak up and promotes a National Church for America? Go here

  21. I think it somewhat obvious that all individuals should be judged by their own acts. An individual cannot claim the "goodness" of a group, and a group cannot be tainted by an individual unless they embrace him or her.

    That being said, when religious people don't speak out against intolerance coming from within their faith, falling back on the "No true Scotsman" is hardly going to convince me to be less judgmental.

  22. "Men like C.S. Lewis or Dietrich Boenhoffer are exceptions. Not the rule."

    I know a few exceptions up close and personal — not many, but a few. What bothers me is that the five I can think of who are in the C. S. Lewis camp (and yes, I've read enough of his non-children's works to know what you're talking about) are all so under the radar about it. I wish they'd make more noise — maybe a few more people would get their heads out of their Young's Concordances and start actually living their religion.

    I can't honestly say I've left the faith entirely, but the wild inconsistencies in the behavior and rhetoric of people claiming to believe the same book is a lot of what's doing me in here. More and more, the Bible seems to me like a clouded mirror — Paul's "dark glass", if you will — that reflects (badly) both the best and the worst of the people reading it. Unfortunately, the worst makes better press, and the best gets lost in the shuffle of daily life.

    I can't believe that all of the people I grew up admiring are homophobic, intolerant, anti-intellectual, misogynistic, blinkered, hypocritical refugees from the fourteenth century. However, I think that if more Christians didn't act like that loudly and in public, Christianity might look a little different to the casual observer.

    I remember a Christmas song from the CCM charts in the mid-90's that said, "This is such a strange way to save the world." And I guess that's it, for me — if all of that is true, the Four Spiritual Laws and the Wordless Book and the Romans Road, it seems like there were better ways to do it. Ways that encouraged unity instead of division, ways that didn't turn parent against child and friend against friend. Ways that didn't require a constant suspension of disbelief that would challenge all but the most dedicated sci-fi fan.

    "Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind" — I had a professor who used to quote that, and follow it up with, "In my class, two out of three is not a passing grade." It's the "mind" part that's tripping me up here. It seems like if this is true, the mind should lead you to it, rather than having to be left at the door with the coverless Bibles and forgotten umbrellas.

    (Note to self: Avoid combining online introspection and Jack Daniels in the future.)

  23. I’d say it is people thinking Christianity is a religion (this includes Christians). Being a Christ-follower is not a building, rituals, etc. and Jesus spent his time on earth attacking the religious…

    1 – If the above is the case, where did you learn to be a Christ follower?

    2 – I find it this claim to be a little like those who claim not to BE RELIGIOUS.

    PT 1- Do you have a personal revelation form Christ who has told you what is correct or incorrect about RFEKIGIOUS CHRISTIANITY?

    PT 2- The term spirit and spiritual really mean NOT MATERIAL, PHYSIare

  24. If I am interpreting the two comments in your original post correctly (and I think I am), they are both driving at the same basic idea: that the "ideal" form of Christianity is not what is practiced by many/most Christians. Typically, in my experience, this means they are criticizing those who focus all their attention on the rules and structure of the Christian religion, and none on actually trying to act or live in a way that Jesus would have encouraged. Thus the "gays are an abomination" Christians, as opposed to the "feed my starving children" Christians.

    So, in a nutshell, the commenters were saying that Christians shouldn't be such dogmatic assholes, and should instead go out and try to do good in the world.

    Why did this send you into yet another anti-religious rage, writerdd? Is your anger at all things religious so great that you cannot see that these two commenters are actually potential allies to your ultimate goals?

    And finally, I can't let a statement like this stand without objecting:

    "If Christians are mean and hate-filled, that means that Christianity is a mean and hate-filled religion."

    That's a just plain foolish statement! I know any number of fellow Democrats who are mean and hateful. Does it therefore follow that the Democratic party is mean and hate-filled? Of course not! What a silly concept! Guilt by association is frankly ugly. Shame on you!

  25. Improbable Bee:

    I remember a Christmas song from the CCM charts in the mid-90’s that said, “This is such a strange way to save the world.” And I guess that’s it, for me — if all of that is true, the Four Spiritual Laws and the Wordless Book and the Romans Road, it seems like there were better ways to do it.

    There's a certain amount of Alanis-style irony in a criticism on the whole 90s Gen X trendy Christian stuff coming from a 90s CCM band. (I was there as an outside, and quite mystified, observer.)

    I'm not going to tell you what to believe. That's up to you. But please don't base your decision on the Four Spiritual Laws and the Romans Road stuff. Really.

  26. Two quick comments – for the evangelicals and others who say they have a "personal relationship" with their god – what the heck does that mean. No one has ever given anything concrete, they just get all vague, with "I talk to Him, and He loves me" thing (my personal relationships generally involve two-way interaction, not just wishful thinking). How is that not a religion, since it involves sky-daddy. Do they think that people praying in a Church (or mosque, temple, whatever) don't feel the same. The "personal relationship" is a cop-out.

    The other thing – I can't remember where I read it, but someone said that most of what (most) people consider to be Jesus' teachings were not original – most could be found throughout the old testament and other Jewish writers (not to mention the Cynics, and perhaps even an odd buddhist or two who may have been in the area). I wish I could find it, so that I could try to track down the sources myself – now that I think of it, I wonder if it was in one of the many podcasts or lectures I listen to. Anyway, if anybody has heard this before, please respond – it's an interesting area of study.

  27. Badger: I think the most common view among intellectually respectable New Testament historians is that Jesus' teachings, or what we know of them, lie well within the (very broad) continuum of viewpoints that made up Second Temple-period Judaism.

    (see, e.g. Sanders "The Historical Figure of Jesus")

  28. SteveT, I may not always know how to articulate what I mean clearly (which is often why I write here, to figure out what I want to say, so sorry if that is annoying to those of you who would want me to post fully formed thoughts. :-))….

    but my point is just that there is no ideal Christianity, there are only Christians.

    Sure, I write overgeneralizations sometimes, but they certainly do spur discussion. Christianity is what Christians are and do and nothing more. So it's a mixed ball of wax. It is good and dark. It is positive and light. And from where I sit, the bad and the dark HUGELY outweigh the good and the light–from both historical and contemporary perspectives. So what if I sometimes I ignore the 5 non-delusional Christians and make an overarching statement? I think most readers can figure out what I mean even if I haven't said it in the best way possible.

    However, I don't think I "ranted" at any of the commentors, although it's true that my original post is a rant. So if my responses to any individuals came across that way, I apologize. Chalk it up to the limitations of comments (like email, quick, off-the-cuff writing, usually unedited), or, if you prefer, chalk it up to me being an idiot.

  29. Pseudonym said: "Personally, I think that the only solution that’s fair to everyone is to see religion (or Christianity, or whatever) as just something that humans do. It’s not true or false, any more than the wearing of hats is true or false. It’s not good or bad, any more than the wearing of hats is good or bad."

    By this logic "God hates fags" is as neutral as wearing a hat. Or am I supposed to assume they meant cigarettes? I don't think it's at all fair to assume that a religion, and the acts of people in the name of that religion, whether fringe or not, are neither true/good or false/bad. I don't think that's very fair to people who are gay.

    Bad things are "just something that people do" as well, and sometimes they do those things in the name of religion. Also, it is blatantly false to ignore scientific evidence when convenient and at the same time use science to try to support other aspects of the religion. I don't think that's very far to scientists.

  30. Whoops, I just realized that SteveT meant that my original post was in response to comments on that other blog. Yes, that's true. That kind of talk leads me to rant. I don't visit Christian blogs a lot because they make me act insane. I hate the subculture, the religious jargon, and the distorted way of looking at the world. It pisses me off becuase I got sucked into it for so long and I hate to see other people in the same trap. I can't stand talking to people who live in this little box and can't seem to think for thsemselves. Listening to or reading that kind of talk makes me nuts and I freely admit that. It's something I can't seem to get over, it feels like tiny cactus needles are stuck under my skin. In my ex-fundie group, we call this "triggering."

    And, to be honest, I despise religion, even though I undestand why it draws people and the satisfaction they find in it. But I guess that's easy to figure out. That doesn't mean I despise religious people, but I do feel like they could do better for themselves without the baggage. It makes me sad that people are living such small, isolated, closed lives. (Again, I'm ignoring the 5 Christians who don't fit this description.)

  31. Stever T, the problem with your analogy of mean and hate filled Democrats is that those mean and hate filled Democrats don't use "being a Democrat" as the reason they are mean and hate filled. There are no Democrats saying that "to be a Democrat one must hate those the Democratic leadership says are worthy of hating". The Democratic leadership isn't using their positions as leaders to preach hatred against groups they disagree with. This is exactly and precisely what some Christian leaders say, that to be a Christian one must believe that some activities render those who commit them worthy of being hated. Some dress it up in doublespeak (hate the sin but love the sinner), but some (such as Fred Phelps) don't. These religious leaders preach hatred as one of their core beliefs.

    People who consider themselves true Christians don't seem to mind too much when people they consider to be faux Christians use the label "Christian" to identify themselves, even when their beliefs are seemingly diametrically opposed with one group of Christians ordaining gay ministers and other groups condemning all gays as an abomination in God's sight. What it tells me is that those Christians are mighty confused about what it means to be a Christian. Until they sort out what "being a Christian" actually means, it is not my place as a non-Christian to try and make sense of something that is nonsense.

  32. Yeah, I'll admit that the analogy was flawed. It was the best I could do at 11:30PM, and captured some of the idea I was trying to get across, so I went with it despite its flaws.

    My point in commenting was simply to note that while it may be satisfying to put everyone who identifies as a "Christian" into a box and then to say, "I hate everything in that box," it's not at all productive. It doesn't move the debate anywhere; it just allows one to feel smugly self-righteous. I suppose if feeling self-righteous is your goal, then that an OK thing to do, but I don't think that is what writerdd is really going after.

    In a way (Watch out, another analogy coming!), it's like people who voted for Ralph Nader last time because they said the was no real difference between Bush and Kerry. We all know how THAT turned out, don't we!

    Sometimes, holding onto an oversimplified view because it makes you feel good can have some pretty drastic negative results!

  33. bADGER3K–

    Much of Jesus' reported teachings are nearly identical to the teachings of Hillel. He seems to me to have been a reactionary against the politicization of the Temple priesthood. He was, after all, raised in a region in which Zealotry was rife amongst Jewish "patriots." He was, in other words, a kind of fundamentalist.

    Assuming he ever existed.

    As to Buddhist influences, try Wiki-ing Greco-Buddhism. You'll find it fascinating.

  34. Steve T, when different groups allows others to use the same identifying label and espouse opposite values, they have only themselves to blame when people confuse them. It is not up to non-Christians to somehow remove that ambiguity, it is up to people who call themselves Christians.

    If some Christians believe it is ok for gays to be ministers, and other Christians believe that those same gays have a one-way ticket to Hell and will burn there for all eternity, the resolution of that contradiction is not for non-Christians to try and figure out. At least one of those groups of “Christians” is wrong.

    I appreciate that Christians don’t want to do that because it would be divisive. If Christians can’t get along, that is a problem for Christians to solve. If “Christianity” wants to have such a large box that it can hold mutually contradictory ideas and values, that is ok, but don’t expect me to waste my time trying to sort through their nonsense.

    I appreciate each group doesn’t want to change the label they use on the box because some members only care about the label and not the content. That is a problem, not a feature. If the term "Christianity" doesn't have an unambiguous meaning, it is a useless term.

  35. Here’s the score card folks!!

    • Conservative Christian types give substantially more money to charities than secular non believing rational types.

    • Christian churches and non denominational Christian organizations build more health clinics and more schools in third world countries than any other type of non government organization including the UN.

    • Liberals talk more about compassion on the local level but when it comes to actually giving time and money it’s church folk who give more time and money and have more organizations that care for the needy than other non religious affiliated groups.

    Now don’t get me wrong I’m not advocating for religion, only making note of repeatedly confirmed statistical data that is widely available. Christian doctrine places the onus on “believers” to consider others as more important than themselves. (ya, ya I know, it hardly ever looks that way) I do find it amusing that liberals seem more willing to have their taxes pay for something (government in your pocket) but are far less willing to dig into their own pockets. So while some Christians say a lot of mean and nasty things it is not a reasonable argument to paint with a broad brush when criticizing. It’s just to easy and sloppy to throw mud, and it’s never likely to start a productive discussion with a Christian… , which is not a bad thing is it??? And yes I am a libertarian.

  36. Donna, I wrote that particular blog post. It was a quick question is response to Bill's request for a blog that day. I believed at the time that the rise of atheism was the greatest challenge to Christianity. I see now that atheism is simple an effect of the rise of education and critical thinking. It is really the act of questioning that challenges religion.

    Religious faith is about acceptance of dogma. When someone says to themselves "Hang on a minute, that doesn't seem right" then dogma loses its strength. Eventually we are left with a choice to reconcile evidence with faith or to reject faith.

    I believe that this is where the questioning of what constitutes a "True Christian" originates. It is a re-evaluation of core values. The dogma is rejected but the core lessons are retained. If you will, the wheat is separated from the chaff. The faith in Jesus is retained but the religious structure is rejected.

    You may see this as a halfway house to atheism but I don't think that these sorts of Christians do. I think that they are trying to be honest about their faith and fit their beliefs into a rational context

  37. Hi hoverfrog, as I said in my post about cherry picking the Bible, I'm all for people giving up on dogma and ignoring the obnoxious parts of the Bible. But that's not the impression I get from most of the comments from Christians on Bill's site.

    What irks me about the "real" Christian thing, is just what I said in my post. Even Phelps thinks he's a "real" Christian and those who disagree with him are bad examples. Dobson thinks the same thing. The liberals and fundamentalists all think they're the "real" Chrisitans and everyone else is missing the point or being a bad example, making the meaning of "real Christian", well, meaningless. Catholics think they are the only ones. So do born again Christians. So do Mormons. So do Pentecostal Holiness. So do Church of God of Prophesy. And so forth. No-one group or type of Christian can claim to be the only real Christians.

    What bothers me most on the Friendly Christian blog, is that so many of the people commenting sound exactly like the people I went to church with in the 70s and 80s. They are still regurgitating the same stuff, word for word, giving the impression, at least, that they never think for themselves. Even Bill, who seems to be pretty open minded, sounds like a broken record that I've heard literally thousands of times.

  38. Jamie Fox– Are you sure your statistics are correct? I had always thought it was more a difference of socioeconomic class as opposed to religious affiliation.

    Could you cite your sources for your data on charitable works?

  39. @James Fox: I've heard that statistic before but not seen the source. Do you know if churches are included as charitable organizations? I'm not talking about church-based charities that exist solely for doing humanitarian work. I mean the actual funding of churches and proselytizing organizations. (I realize this is a bit of a fuzzy area, as many organizations both proselytize and offer humanitarian aid.) If tithes & offerings to churches are included among charitable donations it would severely skew the results of the study.

    Either way, I do think humanists/atheists/skeptics need to be more involved in humanitarian efforts. Churches have a head start in that they have a centralized location for fund raising and volunteer organizing.

  40. Thanks for the replies – I'l do some research when I can. Oddly enough, the comment before this (#56) was related to a post I just read (http://www.thejesusmyth.com/new-in-the-mail-bag.htm):

    To quote: re:secular/atheist charities:

    "1. The American Atheist Homeless Shelters, located in every small to large urban area in the United States. There are in excess of 700 shelters located throughout the continental United States. Manned by Atheists of all races, colors and creeds, they provide shelter, food, clothing, and a lack of spiritual help and guidance.

    2. The American Atheist Society is also committed to providing high-tech professional health care in the many Atheist hospitals in every corner of America. They also are well known for the many smaller medical clinics that have helped the poor and poverty stricken in blighted areas.

    The staffing in these medical clinics give of themselves night and day.

    3. In addition to all the many in and outpatient hospitals, the American Atheist Children’s Hospitals are on the cutting edge of infant and adolescent care. They are staffed by highly dedicated care givers who work tirelessly to bring health care to those who would otherwise go without.

    4. Then there is, Atheist charities, similar to Catholic charities, but far more advanced. They don’t offer false hope to those who are hurting by praying with them. Atheist charities, believe a nice pat on the back, and a little motivational talk is all that’s needed to get people back on the right path.

    5. Then there is the American Atheist Hospice program. Thousands of Atheists in every city, town, and little burg in this country are committed to providing comfort and care during the last remaining days of someone’s life.

    I could go on. In addition, you may wish to google Secular Humanism for a better understanding."

    Just FYI, although I have to say I just saw this and have not searched for info on these, but these should give some ideas.

  41. Donna, in many ways you are absolutely correct. Like the people who bemoan how "society" has let them down it is easy to forget that we are society and we make it what it is. Why should faith be any different? There are groups within any social system who work towards change and try to better the lot of everyone.

    Granted, they are no more and no less "true" Christians than I am a "true" member of society but that doesn't mean that change isn't happening. I concede that the rate of change is slow. What can we expect from an entrenched system like religion? You and I have chosen to reject the whole idea as unworkable but others seek to fix it so that it does work. Bill is one of them. If he gets caught up in the dogma once in a while then I'm sure we can forgive him and maybe point out where some of his assumptions originate.

    We do miss your insight over there. However, now I know where to find you and I can pop back and sample it from time to time. ;)

  42. I'm Catholic. A bad, skeptical Catholic who would ask about non-Christian religions and the Spanish Inquisition during the religious classes. But my claim to be Catholic is entirely testable along with claims of other mainstream denominations – there are rituals, classes, and statements of belief that you must engage in before you become an adult member of the faith. So lumping denominational religions in with the Jesus is my bestest friend crowd is an error in analysis. Again, I'm a bad, lapsed Catholic, but at least my version of Christianity was testable hypothesis.

    Regarding the sins of Christianity, please – should I base my opinion of all physicists on the success at Almagordo, my opinion of all chemists by the slaughter of the Kurds, or my opinion of biologists by the work of eugenicists. Generalizing on limited data is a fallacy. Now, if you want to establish some criteria and perhaps create a testable hypothesis, go for it. Perhaps discover how strong a correlation there is between church attendance, a given denomination, and socially destructive or constructive attitudes and acts. My bet would be you would see a statistically significant difference between Quaker and fundamentalist wacko military support.

    Finally, what the heck is wrong with cherry picking? Assuming it is possible to believe that religious and spiritual texts are not the inerrant word of a deity; rather, they represent humanity's historical struggles with understanding our place and purpose in the universe. So not wanting to stone an adulterer, own a slave, or believe in a six day creation makes as much sense as adjusting our ideas about human health and illness in light of germ theory or about Mercury's orbit in light of relativity. Admittedly, science's methodology for understanding new truths and shedding misconceptions is far more sensible than religion's rule of the mob approach in so many cases, but that's why I'm a bad, lapsed Catholic.

    PS Regarding the crime of reality denial, there have been studies (if I remember correctly) suggesting that depressed individuals are far better at predicting the probability of positive and negative future events. If I have to deny reality every so often to stay off Prozac, okay.

  43. hoverFrog

    Your comments about the workings of religion make it sound like Group Therapy. Are not Christians those to whom God has chosen to reveal himself ?. God is not the group leader in these therapy sessions. God gave his Word to people many years ago. Who are we to change it?

    If God wanted us to change our beliefs why has HE not revealed himself again. Why can there not be another Moses, Matthew, Mark, Luke etc.

    The reason is SIMPLE .There was never a God ergo, no revelation. Religious changes are what people NOW want to believe or do NOT God revealing anything different. To admit that however would be to deny the premis of Christianity- divine intervention in human affairs.

  44. JohnR, I suppose that it does sound a little like a therapy session but then isn't that what church attendance is in some ways?

    "Are not Christians those to whom God has chosen to reveal himself ? " Well some people claim that but it sounds like they're just trying to claim a monopoly on holiness. They claim exclusivity. Worse they do so without any evidence. Is this worse than claiming that everyone is part of God's plan? It requires just as much in the way of evidence. Yet claiming that you are "chosen" seems to me to be more arrogant and separates the claimant from those who were not "chosen".

    You are quite correct when you say that religion is what people make it now. We aren't going to make people abandon their faith so should we not encourage the more moderate and open minded faithful rather than use our energy to work against them? If we encourage people to be open minded and see things differently are we not helping ourselves and society in general? Theists may never take that step of abandoning their faith but they can certainly come to accept that other world views are just as valid.

  45. hoverFrog: We aren’t going to make people abandon their faith so should we not encourage the more moderate and open minded faithful rather than use our energy to work against them?

    Yep. That's the same thing I meant by encouraging cherry picking!

    Sometimes I can't resist a good rant, though. It would go a long way, for me at least, for these Christians who want to change things to start talking like normal human being instead of like members of an unwelcoming subculture. The jargon-laden talk is very uninviting, at best, and a complete turnoff, at worst. Learning to prhase their thoughts in your their words instead of regurgitated Bible verses and sermons would be a fantastic first step, if they are truly concerned about communicating with outsiders.

  46. I love jargon. It allows people in the same group to communicate quickly and efficiently. Jargon literally lets people speak the same language. It is unfortunate that anyone not in that group is automatically excluded from the conversation. It is uninviting for outsiders but extremely useful for insiders. It is only when trying to cross that barrier that jargon loses it's usefulness.

    I'm a software developer by trade and trying to explain the intricacies of encryption or communication protocols without using jargon is very difficult. Look, I can't even tell you what they are without some jargon. While not technical, the language of religion has it's own assumed meanings. This is probably why so many conversations focus on what the question really means than what the answer should be. IMO

  47. "Cherry picking" is the selective picking from a large data set of instances which support the position you want, and the rejection of instances that don't support your position, while then claiming that the large data set from which selective instances were selected supports your position. It is not inappropriate to selectively pick what is useful from the Bible, but it is disingenuous to do that and then claim that the Bible supports your interpretation. As a self-contradictory system, the Bible encompasses all information. That would be things that are right, things that are wrong, and things that are not even wrong. Cherry picking from such a source can achieve any result. BFD, the "result" comes from the selective filter applied during the cherry picking and has nothing to do with the source material.

  48. With regard to who gives what, I initially heard about this in a John Stossel report and have subsequently read about it in a number of other places. Also, it was nice hearing about the atheist organizations and children’s hospitals. However with regard to total numbers it would represent a very small number compared to religiously based or founded health charities.

    Here is some fairly current information and a couple of URL’s

    Sacred and Secular: Households that give to both religious congregations and secular organizations give over three times ($2,247) more than do households that give to only secular organizations ($623).27

    Low Percent Gives High Percent: Religious observers (only 38 percent of all Americans) give two-thirds of all charitable dollars in the United States. (The Gallup Organization)

    Religious People Give More: Religious observers (those who attend weekly services) give 3.4 percent of income annually, while nonreligious people give only 1.1 percent to 1.4 percent. (The Gallup Organization

    Giving by Class: The two groups in the United States that give the highest percentages of their income are the poor (those making less than $20,000 per year) and the rich (those making more than $100,000 per year). Middle-class Americans (those making between $40,000 and $100,000 per year) are the smallest percentage givers.11

    (http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=2682730&page=1) and (http://www.generousgiving.org/page.asp?sec=4&page=161)

    Also the statement about “atheist flying planes into buildings” with regard to my factual statements that Christians and the religious give more to charity is nothing more than an Ad hominem and Non Sequitur argument. So, lets see, it was religious folk who were the 911 terrorists…. Therefore monies given to charities by Christians doesn’t happen/count , is of no consequence, or is tainted by all bad acts of other religious persons thus making it suspect with regard to motivation. Where were you going with that line of thinking? Is it that no matter what religious folk do that is good and positive it’s of no account because religious people also do evil things??

    To play devils advocate how about I say more people have been killed and murdered with various means by professing atheists than all religious people in all recorded history. That statement at least has some argumentative basis in factual information. But I’d never use it to impugn the motives or actions of a self proclaimed atheist who gives monies to a children’s charity.

  49. hoverFrog

    Thank you for your considerate response.

    If there is no GOD Revelation of Christianity to begin with, then churches are simply social organizations who can make and break there own rules. For those who believe God in fact provided to humans a right or wrong way of believing and behaving, why has God abandoned men and left them to their own devices. Only a cruel and capricious God would have allowed Catholics and Protestants to barbeque each other over such things as :

    1. The number of Sacraments;

    2. The meaning of Transubstantiation.

    If humans saw their children torturing and maiming each other, most would stop it. If the dispute between child A and B was "Can we go to Billy's house to play?"most parents would stop the fight and say if it was or was not okay to go to Billy's house. Parents would not say O well the children should have options to fight, kill etc.

    True, humans for the most part are not barbequeing each other, but why has not GOD intervened way before now.

    If you believe in an All Powerful and All Good God you cannot simply dump the problem on human fraility. Would one not hold the Parent resposible for their children hurting one another about going to Billy's house?

    Substitute for Billy's House:

    Abortion. Stem Cell research, people not having health care, homsexuality, poverty etc.

  50. Sacred and Secular: Households that give to both religious congregations and secular organizations give over three times ($2,247) more than do households that give to only secular organizations ($623).27

    The issue I have with this is the inclusion of "religious congregations." Personally, I don't consider giving to religious congregations to be a form of charity. I know plenty of people will disagree with that but giving to a church solely for the upkeep of the church seems more like paying a membership due than philanthropy. I'm really not trying to make light of people who donate to church, I just don't think that kind of giving is in the same league as giving to an organization that works for the welfare of members outside of the organization. Way back when I went to church I tithed faithfully. I gave a much larger percentage of my income to "charity" then but none of it went for anything other than maintaining the church itself. It didn't go towards feeding the homeless, alleviating poverty, etc. (Yes I know that for a fact, I was the assistant treasurer.) Now, though I give a smaller percentage of my income to charity, I feel it does more for the wider world. When I was giving to church, it never went beyond the church walls.

    And don't forget, if you're going to count "giving to religious congregations" as a form of charitable giving, Tom Cruise is quite the philanthropist. He recently given $5mil to the church of Scientology, a tax exempt religion.

  51. JohnR said "churches are simply social organizations who can make and break there own rules."

    Yes, absolutely. The thing is, they think it's more than that AND they think that their understanding of religion is correct. I can't blame them for this, not when I think my understanding of religion is correct. I bet you do too.

    There's nothing I can do about those who refuse to even consider other people's perspectives. Cajoling, mocking, debating, arguing. All have no effect. Yet, those few who are willing to listen and engage should be encouraged.

    Maybe they can reach the ones who won't listen to my point of view. They speak the same language after all. This is a two way exchange though. I have to be willing to listen to them if I expect them to listen to me.

  52. hoverFrog

    Again thank you for courtesy and repect.

    I was raised and schooled as a Roman Catholic through Graduate School. I have a MA in Philosophy and minor in thelogy. My point is

    I have heard the other or PLUS side of the religious point for most of my life.

    I can speak with believers having been one. Very few believers with whom I have spoken have ever heard the other side. They have mever read Hume or Voltiare let alone John Shelby Spoong.

    I know this is arrogant BUT they have lived in

    a closed minded view only-they cannot really

    exchange ideas very well.

    I have been where they are. They have not been

    where I am.

    CAVEAT- There are exceptions of course.

    Respectfully-JOHNR

  53. James Fox says

    Also the statement about “atheist flying planes into buildings” with regard to my factual statements that Christians and the religious give more to charity is nothing more than an Ad hominem and Non Sequitur argument. So, lets see, it was religious folk who were the 911 terrorists…. Therefore monies given to charities by Christians doesn’t happen/count , is of no consequence, or is tainted by all bad acts of other religious persons thus making it suspect with regard to motivation. Where were you going with that line of thinking? Is it that no matter what religious folk do that is good and positive it’s of no account because religious people also do evil things?? To play devils advocate how about I say more people have been killed and murdered with various means by professing atheists than all religious people in all recorded history. That statement at least has some argumentative basis in factual information. But I’d never use it to impugn the motives or actions of a self proclaimed atheist who gives monies to a children’s charity.

    JAMES your sense of balance is most laudable.

    I am a nonbeliever and have major negativity with Christianity BUT blind ideology is destructive. We should applaud those who care about others and their needs whether they are atheists or believers. A starving child is helped by food whether given by a Catholic missionary or an atheist.

    It might be possible that some day the differences between Atheists and believers will be only theoreticl. If they agree to live and let live and care for all humans, that might be the best of all possible worlds.

    I am NOT convinced that the world would be better if everyone were a believer or an atheist.

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