Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How to Talk to an Evangelical

One of the things that fascinates me in my thankfully infrequent dealings with Christians of the evangelical bent these days is that they have a tendency to completely ignore history. I’m not talking about declarations of a Christian origin of the American nation, either. I’m talking about my history. Statements like, “I spent the first twenty-five years of my life as an evangelical,” seem to have absolutely no impact on their script for evangelism. Hell, I’ve run in to a couple people who I used to go to church with who apparently think I have absolutely no idea what this “Bible” and “Jesus” thing is all about. It’s both annoying and sad in equal measure. Now, I’ve been fortunate not to end up around the real jackasses. By which I mean the sort of people who would bring us this lovely message of god’s love: Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with these people? I do, however, get people who have decided I just don’t get it. There are those who tell me that it’s too bad I was unfortunate to run in to that tiny percentage of Christians who get it all wrong. There are those who think I just need to experience god’s love. And then there are those who want to know what traumatic experience I went through that made me turn in to an atheist. As I say now and I’ve said many times: I’ve spent the vast majority of my life among the fundagelicals. If I were writing my memoirs now the title would be Twenty-Five Years a Fundie. I was Outreach Coordinator for an InterVarsity chapter, wrote the book on how to do outreach for a different group, spent four and a half years doing junior high ministry, and was all about the Emerging Church movement right up until the point I stopped being all about church for the love of Pete. I don’t know how much more I could have done to “get it.” I think I was “it.” But this experience isn’t credited to me in conversation with the usual evangelist. It doesn’t matter that I could generally run circles around most people on the apologetics front, either. Actually, I’m thinking that one of these days if I run in to a particularly self-assured apologist I’ll simply game the poor guy. Go with his apologetics, make better arguments, then completely demolish them. Because, see, there’s something that a lot of people from my former world don’t understand. They see it all as a black and white and emotional decision. They think there’s a weird pride thing going on and that if everyone just hit the emotional state where they acknowledge a need for god and hear all the arguments for Jesus, they’d snap to and just get it. It also means that my current stance has to be based on emotions. In a moment of emotional weakness, then, someone or something (I guess Satan…?) grabbed a hold of me and gave me all of the right arguments. It’s silly. But now that I’ve spent a lot more time preferring to be in contact with religious outsiders, I see this argument over and over again and I see the flat incomprehension with which the non-religious respond to such concepts. So in my continued public service to a skeptical world, I keep thinking I should try to translate. Or, at least, explain. See, I was fairly moderate for a fundamentalist. I mean, I was aware of that whole going to Hell problem, but I tried not to think about it much. I mean, I knew the Bible said* that non-Christians were going to Hell and I wasn’t a fan. However, if god had decided to consult with me, I’d have been hard-pressed to send anyone down there. I knew plenty of people who didn’t live Biblical lives, but I knew very few bad people. And they seemed to be pretty evenly distributed among the church and non-church population. The world in which I was living, however, was necessarily limited by that whole Hell thing. Even if I didn’t like it, I was supposed to abide by it because god said so. I think this is where a lot of the people I used to know were, which is why I have a lot of sympathy towards evangelicals and harbor very little anger. It’s simply a crappy place to live. See, the Bible says god is going to damn everyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus as his or her personal savior is going to hell. The Bible also says god is love. This is almost impossible to fully reconcile. The simple fact of the matter is that Epicurus came up with the only argument we need against the Christian god as advanced by the fundagelicals some three hundred years before Christ. Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God? The fact is, too, that the fundagelical viewpoint adds in an additional level of evil that rests squarely on god’s shoulders. You can stand on the argument from free will when countering the questions of theodicy. However, the wrath of a loving god who sends finite people to eternal torment for being deceived by Satan is an evil in and of itself. For the evangelist, then, the problem is attempting to ignore the single-point view of their world and attempt to convince the other person that not only is their viewpoint wrong, but that it’s actually hurting them. This is, shall we say, complicated. It’s also why every attempt at evangelism basically sounds the same. You can’t tailor all that much for an audience if you can’t allow yourself to think like that audience. This is why my 25 years amongst the fundies gets lumped in to the same category as those who have no idea what this “Bible” is. The evangelist can’t hear that I made the move of my own free will after weighing all of the evidence and deciding that Christianity sucks because my action invalidates his apologetics. Furthermore, not only can the evangelist not hear that, he can’t actually afford to hear anything I say. Getting derailed from the talking points invites doubt, after all. That’s the shit of it. I made it a point to not be one of those angry former believers. I came across my skepticism and discarded Christianity honestly and after a lot of soul searching. Not only that, but it would probably have been easier for me to stay in the faith. See, I was planning on going in to ministry and dropping religion also meant dropping my plans. There was also a girl who I loved, yet with whom I wasn’t having a particular happy relationship. And as bad as things were, I knew that going where I knew I was headed would be the end. Truth is, I held on the Christianity harder than I should have and longer than I wanted to. Part of the reason I’d be able to run circles around apologists stems from that time. I came up with arguments in favor of god and Christianity that I’d never thought of before. I came up with arguments with the fierceness of a drowning man desperately reaching for any chance at security. I wanted to stay in. It was for all the wrong reasons, but I wanted to nonetheless. But, see, my story derails their story. And to the evangelical, the only story that matters is their story. It’s why I must be reduced to one of three talking points. I didn’t actually get it. I was surrounded by abusive Christians who gave Christianity a bad name (which is always amusing coming from people I used to go to church with). I had some traumatic experience that soured me on Jesus. Those are my only choices. I get no other story. That, too, is why the fundies try to control the language and dialogue. It’s the root of why gay marriage and abortion will bring about the downfall of Western civilization. They’re so tied up an a right/wrong, black/white dichotomy and so sold out to this idea that the only way anyone can be happy is with Jesus that they have to believe the world will fall apart if anyone else is allowed to run it. Jesus or Hell is their personal story, so it has to be your story and my story. Anything else hurts their position. PZ Myers embedded a couple YouTube videos in a recent post. It’s the audio from a radio show where some idiot tried to ambush Christopher Hitchens in to admitting he needed Jesus. Listen. It’s priceless. The thing is, the fundagelicals can’t be allowed to tell their story without consequences any more. I have a story. And it sounds nothing like the one their putting in my mouth. Moreover, those Christians who let the fundagelical crowd tell that story as the important and only version should join in, too. It demeans them, too. ---------------------------------- *Any time I say “The Bible says” or “god says” in this post, understand that “the Bible” or “god” almost certainly says no such thing. There’s a lot that’s hand-waved with those phrases, however. I’m intentionally using the device.

41 comments:

PersonalFailure said...

It was hell that did it for me, too. We moved around a lot when I was kid, and my mother's method of picking safe neighborhoods in unfamiliar cities was to move into the Orthodox Jewish section of town. (It's not a bad strategy, btw.)

So, I always had Jewish friends, and I distinctly remember my first grade teacher announcing that nonchristians go to hell. I was horrified by that. I couldn't imagine why my friends, and their families, would burn forever in hell. They were nice people, good people, and that seemed unfair.

I have always suspected that the reason evangelism never involves actual conversation is because that is the exchange of ideas, and there is the risk of hearing an idea that confirms the doubts you don't want to admit to having and then you'll end up losing not just the comfort of assured salvation, but friends and your entire social life.

It's like being in a bad marriage. Sure, day to day everything sucks and all you want is out, but that means tearing apart your life, losing friends and family members, and the scary prospect of going it alone.

Ken said...

I’m not trying to prooftext by any means, but for the sake of length I’ve only included snippets from certain points that interest me in your post. Also considering comments are right below your post, it is an easy reference between both.

--Quote: I’m talking about my history. Statements like, “I spent the first twenty-five years of my life as an evangelical,” seem to have absolutely no impact on their script for evangelism.--

I as well do not see where being an evangelical for twenty-five years and losing faith discredits Christianity or God. Losing faith is commonly associated with a lack of proof of God’s existence, or as you’ve heard from others, a traumatic experience that cannot be understood at the time. I don’t understand why you would think negatively toward people trying to understand your situation, or for that matter, other believers trying to reach out.

--Quote: Hell, I’ve run in to a couple people who I used to go to church with who apparently think I have absolutely no idea what this “Bible” and “Jesus” thing is all about. It’s both annoying and sad in equal measure.--

I personally believe you are undoubtedly well educated in Scripture and history. However, I don’t understand why you use your knowledge to attempt to discredit Jesus Christ, and the entire Christian religion. It is your right to think, say, and write, whatever you wish, though what good are you doing for people? I don’t mean this to sound like an insult; I would just be interested to see how atheism has made you a better person, or how anyone seeking answers on the blogosphere, and running into your post, could benefit from your direction.

--Quote: It also means that my current stance has to be based on emotions. In a moment of emotional weakness, then, someone or something (I guess Satan…?) grabbed a hold of me and gave me all of the right arguments. It’s silly. But now that I’ve spent a lot more time preferring to be in contact with religious outsiders, I see this argument over and over again and I see the flat incomprehension with which the non-religious respond to such concepts.--

Good and evil isn’t black and white, and often time’s people think that anything bad in life is associated with Satan. Something that can be regularly overlooked is what good can come out of a bad situation or why you are in a particular situation. ‘These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.’ - 1 Peter 1:7

--Quote: See, I was fairly moderate for a fundamentalist. I mean, I was aware of that whole going to Hell problem, but I tried not to think about it much. I mean, I knew the Bible said* that non-Christians were going to Hell and I wasn’t a fan. However, if god had decided to consult with me, I’d have been hard-pressed to send anyone down there. I knew plenty of people who didn’t live Biblical lives, but I knew very few bad people. And they seemed to be pretty evenly distributed among the church and non-church population.--

So what I gather from this text is that really everyone should have eternal salvation, no matter who they are, what they believe or do, or how they live their life? I understand the discomfort of imagining a “good” person going to hell because they’re not saved, but really, there’s no real confusion of the logic here, and the need for Christ. We are sinners, and must accept the spilt blood of Jesus to go to heaven. ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.’ - Romans 6:23

--Quote: The world in which I was living, however, was necessarily limited by that whole Hell thing. Even if I didn’t like it, I was supposed to abide by it because god said so. I think this is where a lot of the people I used to know were, which is why I have a lot of sympathy towards evangelicals and harbor very little anger. It’s simply a crappy place to live.--

Having a close relationship with Jesus has transformed my life, and made me happier than I could have ever achieved on my own. A common “crappy place to live” for Christians is when they have a distant relationship with Jesus, and don’t put Christ first in everything they do. ‘But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!’ - Revelation 3:16.
It is when you have a close and strong relationship with Christ that a supernatural change occurs in you. If one finds themselves discontent in their life, they should look at their current relationship with Jesus and their current walk with faith. Christ wants to give hope and change us for the better, but we must be willing and have faith and desire to change.

--Quote: The fact is, too, that the fundagelical viewpoint adds in an additional level of evil that rests squarely on god’s shoulders. You can stand on the argument from free will when countering the questions of theodicy. However, the wrath of a loving god who sends finite people to eternal torment for being deceived by Satan is an evil in and of itself.--

Being deceived by Satan does not condemn you to an eternity in Hell, not accepting Jesus Christ as your savior does. As doing evil is free will, so is that of choosing to be saved by Christ and having eternal life in heaven.

--Quote: For the evangelist, then, the problem is attempting to ignore the single-point view of their world and attempt to convince the other person that not only is their viewpoint wrong, but that it’s actually hurting them. This is, shall we say, complicated. It’s also why every attempt at evangelism basically sounds the same. You can’t tailor all that much for an audience if you can’t allow yourself to think like that audience.--

I am a regular reader of your blog, in large part to try to understand you and your experiences in life. I could give a lot of emotional definitions for things I feel when hearing the things you say, but assure you none of which are doubt or disbelief in my faith.

--Quote: This is why my 25 years amongst the fundies gets lumped in to the same category as those who have no idea what this “Bible” is. The evangelist can’t hear that I made the move of my own free will after weighing all of the evidence and deciding that Christianity sucks because my action invalidates his apologetics. Furthermore, not only can the evangelist not hear that, he can’t actually afford to hear anything I say. Getting derailed from the talking points invites doubt, after all.--

--Quote: It’s why I must be reduced to one of three talking points. I didn’t actually get it. I was surrounded by abusive Christians who gave Christianity a bad name (which is always amusing coming from people I used to go to church with). I had some traumatic experience that soured me on Jesus. Those are my only choices. I get no other story.--

There are varying amounts of strengths and weaknesses in people, and we all have some degree of weakness. Some struggle when being surrounded by people challenging them and their faith. You shouldn’t look poorly upon people for not always having the strength they should, for some might even categorize you yourself as being weak for losing your faith when tested.


“Geds”, I hope you don’t take insult to my oppositions; I am interested in dialog, and furthermore hope that you don’t silence my voice by deleting this. In addition to my regular thoughts of you, I also worry about the searching people who stumble upon your posts and don’t hear other sides to your stance.


Ken

big a said...

QUOTE: "If one finds themselves discontent in their life, they should look at their current relationship with Jesus and their current walk with faith. Christ wants to give hope and change us for the better, but we must be willing and have faith and desire to change."

So if your life with God sucks because he's just not there, it's your fault for not trying hard enough?
That's standard con-man logic and I refuse to tolerate it. It is the method by which fundamentalist Christianity forces it's membership into heaping lumps of self-doubt and self-loathing.

I did all the right things, as did many I know, for and "with" God and still received no answer, no peace, no help, no support, no contentment, and no happiness. It is in that realization that we were forced to come to grips with the fact that God either doesn't exist, or is very different from the one we'd been taught about.

I refuse to allow you to dismiss that out of hand on the claim we "just weren't trying hard enough".

QUOTE: "I also worry about the searching people who stumble upon your posts and don’t hear other sides to your stance."

Geds is not an educational institution or a public media broadcaster subject to FCC 1980s "Fair Use" regulations and is therefore not required to present "both sides" of an argument. His blog is his, and on it he's allowed to share his opinion to the fullest extent he wishes. The internet is a large place and people seeking multiple viewpoints can read his blog AND someone else's... or not. It's not his responsibility and to try to claim otherwise is entirely illogical and unfair.

Geds said...

Aw, Ken. Why did I have to get you instead of some random internet troll I could rip apart?

Anyway, I'll bite. Especially since you've managed to neatly illustrate exactly the point I was making in the post. It's not my job to be fair. This is why creationist morons are trying to get science teachers to waste time "teaching the controversy."

There is no controversy. I don't believe in the religious indoctrination I was fed any more. I don't see why it's my job to offer point and counter-point on anything. My story is mine.

I would just be interested to see how atheism has made you a better person, or how anyone seeking answers on the blogosphere, and running into your post, could benefit from your direction.I was incredibly angry at the tail-end of my time with Christianity. I also lived with lots of double-think that nearly drove me nuts. So ever since I realized I didn't have to listen I've been happier and, I like to think, nicer. I don't know what you mean by "better," though. I'm the same person I always was, just, y'know, happier about it.

And since you ask, I hope that no one minds if I borrow their quotes (the italicized lines came from me):

So there's this oneThe petty jackass who didn't like me very much is me. I just blamed it on god for all these years.Thank you. I think you just saved me several years in therapy.

And this one...that the man needs to withdraw from the woman...Oh, hell. So THAT'S where it came from...

...I've watched my friend go through eight months of hell because of this fucked up theology. I am SO glad to see someone ripping it apart...

And this one from over at Personal Failure's blog:

I do read Accidental Historian, and he is helping me understand where on earth these people are coming from. It's funny, like learning another language. You have to learn to think in it before you really understand it. Maybe we need to teach more of these people our language.

-------------------

So there you go, Ken. I'm sure there are others, but those are the three that came immediately to mind.

Also, the thing you don't realize is that my goal isn't to destroy Christianity. Just because there are those who claim any disagreement with Christianity is an attack on Christianity. My goal as a former insider turned outsider is to help people who don't know what it's like inside understand the language of the insiders.

And I like to tell my story, which is all about realizing that Christianity is full of crap. Why do I have to tell someone else's story?

Ken said...

big a…,

Quote: I refuse to allow you to dismiss that out of hand on the claim we "just weren't trying hard enough".

Your relationship with Christ is comparable to a relationship with a spouse, for instance, as the more you work on it, the stronger it gets. Claiming you did everything right is pretty ignorant, as none of us do everything right. Something I find common with atheist is they mostly seem bitter with life (at least the ones I’ve come across). I also have every right to claim lack of effort in many scenarios of people strayed from God. I myself lived over 25 years as a “Christian”. Yes, go to church, pray when you need something, be neighborly, and tell those close to you you’re a believer… That’s not how it works, that’s not how you allow Jesus in to change your life. I speak from experience, as I can’t speak for yours personally, that when Christ touches your heart, you know, and you’re changed forever. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you didn’t “do everything right”.

As for “Geds” (who I consider a friend by the way), and his right to say what he wants… I specifically stated that very thing: “It is your right to think, say, and write, whatever you wish, though what good are you doing for people?” So why not exhale your inflated chest a little and calm down. I’m not trying to be hostile to anyone, and considering I felt this post encouraged a Christian defense, I decided to jump in.

Geds,

Sorry for not allowing a troll in, I thought maybe it would be good to have a face on the internet on occasion, rather than some right-wing nut that do float around a little too frequently online. Something common I see in your posts is insults, demeaning connotations toward Christians, and an overall bitter outlook on life. From knowing you, and understanding you’re a pretty rational respectful guy, I don’t understand why you have to be so negative to get your point across. I would just as easily correct a fellow Christian if being rude and saying something like “those ignorant cowardly atheists…” Why is Jesus now a “sky ferry” and all creationists “morons”? Surely as a respectable writer, you understand how discrediting it is to your own words when they’re filled with bitter anger and pointless insults, except by those who share your hostility.

I wasn’t intending that you should change your story, as was I more explaining my reason for commenting.

As for your references, wow… I hope it’s not situations like that which cause many people to leave the church. Finding a broken person or relationship in a Christian home is nothing astonishing. I am constantly puzzled why so many put faith in people first, to support their faith in God, and if people fail, then they assume God will?

I do appreciate you giving me some clarity as to your purpose to your writing. I honestly do want to continue to learn more about people’s struggles and trials with faith (as I myself have had in my past).

(Would I be an ignorant moron to close with […]?)

In Christ,

Ken

Geds said...

Nope. That ship isn't gonna sail, Ken. You don't get to quote mine me and play the "bitter and angry card." You're not allowed to make those claims until you read this or this.

And for the love of crap, please stop putting scare quotes around my nom de internet.

I have used the term "sky fairy" exactly once in my blog that I can recall, so I'm not entirely sure why you're willing to take my use of that to mean I have a systematic anger towards Christians. And the people trying to push creationism on our country are morons. That's not a hit against Christianity, but against a subset who are doing their damnedest to ruin the educational standards in our science classrooms to push a single issue and are outright lying to people about both their intentions and "research."

I have extremely strong words that I would use against the people over at the Discovery Institute or Answers in Genesis. However, I also know people who have been poorly served by science education and been taken advantage of by guys like Ken Ham. I have nothing but sympathy for those poor souls.

Also, any number of my "pointless insults" are what is known as sarcasm. I pick my targets carefully, however.

Overall when I'm on this blog and not writing directly about history or politics I tell a story. A large part of that story is how I have changed and how I realize that I've changed a great deal and a lot of things I used to want to blame on external sources are things that were my own damn fault. That includes god and religion.

However, my story of leaving religion is also about how I realized I couldn't believe it any more. I'm not angry at god or religion. I am, however, more than willing to get angry at those who push it on the world and can't be bothered to hear another side of the story.

It's not my job to be nice. It's not my job to make sure everyone feels warm and fuzzy about religion. I don't see myself as a so-called "new atheist" or an evangelist for anything.

I'm a guy with opinions. This is my blog. I don't see why I have to hand over editorial control to anyone.

Ken said...

Okay, I’m not going to push the “bitter and angry card”, because arguing my general observation is really… my observation. But I would challenge you to find a few respectable people outside your followers, even agnostics for that matter, that would disagree even reading the past half dozen of your posts, that they don’t sound bitter or angry. Again though, my interpretation of your writing is my opinion. As your two referenced posts… I will read them again (as I do recall seeing and reading those previously on my rss feed), but for the sake of keeping my job, I’m going to start writing some reports for work tonight… But for the record I know I've at least read one of the two.

Scare quotes? Sorry, don’t understand that one…

“Sky ferry” is one example I used. I cannot recall one of your posts that don’t demean Christians in some way, so yes, that does come across as a systematic anger towards Christians, whether your intention or not. And things like this: “It's not my job to be nice. It's not my job to make sure everyone feels warm and fuzzy about religion.” I’ve seen a lot of that “I don’t give a crap” attitude out of your posts as well. Did your compassion towards people, making a positive difference in the world, and your accountability to others, stay in the church with your faith? It kind of seems that now that you have no one or thing to answer to and that life kind of just blacks out at the end, that you just say and do whatever you feel, without consequence. This seems awfully convenient and also rather dangerous to me... (and yes I read your past post about mortality). I’m not claiming knowledge that this is who you are, rather, making an observation from many of your writings.

As far as my presence here… my intention isn’t to push and butt heads with anyone and cause controversy. I assumed your public blog was public for that reason, to both share your story and communicate with others on the topic. But if you say we (Christians) don’t want another side of the story, but you yourself don’t want me cluttering up your blog comments, I’m not going to be pushy and step all over your turf. It’s just sometimes I feel compelled to comment on some of the things you say. I am willing, however, to hear the “other side of the story”, unless I as a single person am not enough. Or would you rather get angry at the select group of Christians who won’t listen to you, and use them to support your beliefs? I don’t believe any specific group of people should stay in their bubble all the time, be it Christians, atheists, Jews, blacks, Star Wars groupies… or whatever, it doesn’t promote humanity.

So I’ve really said my peace, and as I’m sure you’ll add one more in response, just note that I’m signing off for now. Honestly, I’m trying not to be that overly irritating turd on your blog that people cringe when they see posting somewhere… topics like these have been going on forever. Be well, Geds.

big a said...

QUOTE: I myself lived over 25 years as a “Christian”. Yes, go to church, pray when you need something, be neighborly, and tell those close to you you’re a believer… That’s not how it works, that’s not how you allow Jesus in to change your life. I speak from experience, as I can’t speak for yours personally, that when Christ touches your heart, you know, and you’re changed forever. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you didn’t “do everything right”.

QUOTE: I am willing, however, to hear the “other side of the story”

You realize there's an obvious hypocrisy here? You refuse to acknowledge my point and instead attempt to reaffirm that I just wasn't trying hard enough, based on your assumption that I'm some slothful hack who only saw fit to contact God when I needed something. It's cute too, because you play "I used to be a douchebag, so obviously so did/are you" game. Another extremely common evangelistic tactic...

What if I "did know what you [think] you're talking about"? I assume you'd argue that I obviously didn't because Jesus still isn't in my life. In essence, your argument boils down to "God exists because I say so. If you don't agree, it's because you're a lazy bastard."

In past times I'd challenge you to a duel for this intolerable insult. Sadly, this is the internet, where pomposity roams free behind the veil of anonymity.

All I demanded from you was the basic decency to give people who couldn't find God, despite their very best efforts, their due. Instead, because your worldview depends on absolute arrogance, you threw it in my face and spat upon it.

Geds told me to take it easy on you because you were "a good guy"... I'm not sold in the least.

Sniffnoy said...

Why is Jesus now a "sky ferry"I just have to say, I like this image. I feel like it should be a kids' book or something.

Geds said...

See, here's the problem, Ken. You make the same exact mistake I see a lot of people make. You take places where I have directed anger and assume that since I have anger at that one thing, I'm angry at all things nominally related to it.

I think John Eldredge's ideas on the roles men and women play are dangerous. I think that the people at the Discovery Institute and Answers in Genesis are disingenuous jerks. I think that the people who are fervently waiting for Jesus to come back and think they have no responsibility for the planet because it's happening tomorrow are idiots. But does that mean that I think Eldredge, the Discovery Institute, and Jack van Impe speak for all Christians? No. No it doesn't.

How about this post where I blather about my excitement for making it to the Slacktivist blog roll? Fred's a Baptist, in case you're wondering. Then there's this post, wherein I lament the way that Christian culture has adopted a siege mentality and and walled itself off from the larger world.

All this does is illustrate my larger point. You have to believe I'm bitter and angry. Because if I'm not, if I took a rational look at what I knew and what I saw and evaluated my beliefs in sobriety, then decided I wanted nothing to do with Christianity, that means that your story has no power over me. If, however, I'm still angry and bitter and just one of those atheists, then that means that I just haven't tried hard enough or seen the right examples of Christian love or whatever. So I can assure you that I'm not bitter, that what I'm doing is for the purposes of education (or education plus snark, as is the case with ripping apart After the Flood, but since I was planning on doing the same thing to 1421 until I realized it was kind of boring with that book, I really don't think you can use that as ammunition). It behooves you to read anger and bitterness in to my words, however.

Y'know, it's funny. I was introduced to Christopher Hitchens as this angry demon spawn. Yet he's mostly come across to me as witty, urbane, and quite warm. I think it's no accident that it was Christians telling me about Hitchens the first time around. Just a little food for thought...

I also think it's fascinating that you claim to have read my post entitled Morality, Darwin, and AIDS and then claim to have intentionally ignored or missed the point. And then you presume to ask me questions like, "Did your compassion towards people, making a positive difference in the world, and your accountability to others, stay in the church with your faith?" First off, I don't recall having more compassion when I was in church. In fact, I know people who would claim the exact opposite (I'm sure if Fiat Lex and "Anonymous" were here, they'd affirm that one). Why is it that being in church automatically makes me more compassionate and more willing to make a positive difference in the world? I mean, I know the Christian claims that the only way for me to have compassion and make a positive difference is through Jesus, but let's just say I disagree with that premise. Hell, I started disagreeing with that premise long before I left Christianity. It was one of the factors in the whole leaving thing.

Also, I find it amusing that you think I have "followers." And that I'm angry that there is a "select group of Christians who won't listen to me" (emphasis mine). I claim no followers. I'm not starting a movement. I write a blog, just like pretty much everyone else on the planet these days. I get 50 hits on a really good day and I think half of them come from PersonalFailure. And there is no select group of Christians who won't listen to me. There are, however, a large number of Christians who won't listen to reason and who keep insisting that I have to listen to them.

As a privileged, firmly middle class white male in America I don't want to play the Civil Rights card here. However, I find it interesting that I'm being reduced to an angry and bitter atheist who despises Christianity. It's much the same way that feminists are reduced to "militant lesbians" and African Americans are reduced to "uppity blacks" simply for speaking their minds. This is the tactic the majority always use to quell dissent.

I have to be nice so I don't offend the poor, fragile Christians. Yet I think it's funny that when Pat Robertson is saying something crazy the rest of Christianity backs away, but when I say he's a jackass, that means I'm attacking every single Christian on the planet. Including the ones that would rather not be associated with him.

Consider the mote in your eye before you stick a plank in mine and say I put it there.

Geds said...

Ah, crap, I got that backwards. I meant to say, "Consider the plank in your eye before you stick a mote in mine and tell me its my fault." Stupid Thursdays.

The Woeful Budgie said...

Huh. Seems I'm late to this pleasant little party. Anyway, here goes.

However, the wrath of a loving god who sends finite people to eternal torment for being deceived by Satan is an evil in and of itself.Yeah, that's clear to any of us, but most fundies are nicely insulated against ever recognizing that as evil. The argument I was fed at Fundie School went thus:
God is infinite, so any sin against him amounts to an infinite offense, and therefore deserves a punishment that is infinite. I believed this for an embarrasingly long time before realizing it sounded a helluva lot like a battered woman saying, "I guess I brought it on myself...I did burn the toast..."

Of course that doesn't sound like love to any of us, but, well, that's just our fault for operating out of our fallen human definition of love! If you defined love by God's perfect standards, then you'd know that eternal torment is totally OK! So is genocide! Kewl!

(I may be preaching to the choir here---sorry if that's the case---but you mentioned you were a moderate fundie, so I don't know how deep you ever got into the silly justifications for "Mean God Is Really Not So Mean".)

Geds said...

Oh, I know all about that argument, Budgie (mind if I call you that?).

It's another one of those places where being a historian doesn't actually help with the whole faith thing. It's an indication that the Bible was most definitely locked in the cultural mores of the bronze age (and, technically, the iron age. And the Middle Ages). We have the Law Code of Hammurabi, which was revolutionary in that it was the first law code that was written down.

It's also interesting to note that the punishments change in severity according to the status of the offender and the victim. Commoners might capitol punishment for something a that would only require a tiny fine from a wealthy landowner. A commoner attacking another commoner also wouldn't be punished as severely as a commoner attacking a noble.

It then stands to reason that if you assign a status of "infinite" to the godhead and a status of "absolutely nothing" to the human, any and all transgressions made by the human against the godhead would result in infinite punishment. We find this absurd in the post-Enlightenment world. It's also part of the reason that fundies still rail against the Enlightenment.

And, um, sorry if I stole your thunder. I just find it a fascinating topic...

hapax said...

Geds, not a "follower" but a person who drops by here occasionally because you have interesting things to say and write *very* well...

As a committed Christian, I have to say that the "marriage" metaphor for faith works both ways. Maybe YOU weren't trying hard enough to be a good "spouse", but maybe God wasn't talking to you in the language you needed to hear, either.

I dunno. Personally (as you know) I'm looking forward to the Eschaton, when we're all tangled up happily in a polygamous puddle of Tang, but, hey, until then I've got my Divine Marriage to work on, and my own garbage to take out.

Pure curiosity (not criticism, honest) -- why do you persistently capitalize "Bible" "Satan" "Hell" and so forth, but not "god"? I don't personally care, and doubt very much that God does, but yeah, from your writings I assume that you are more about not accepting the existence of a personal God than commenting upon the meaningless of the abstract god concept (unless I get you completely wrong...)

It looks odd, that's all.

Geds said...

Aww, I forgot about you in my random list of things/people I don't dislike in Christianity. Sowwy.

And, yeah, obviously we'd have a difference of opinion in the whole "god communicating" thing, but I agree with the sentiment. I never say that I'm 100% certain I won't go back, not for the least reason that five years ago I would have told you you were crazy if you told me this is where I'd be in 2009. As long as I'm supposed to be married from god, I'm not sure why it is that I have to do all the work.

Yet that's exactly what I was always told in Church. Jesus did the whole dying thing and then left it to me to figure out. And if the relationship wasn't working, that meant that I was doing something wrong. I stepped down from Christianity. First I lost the ability to take a "personal god" seriously. Then I realized I didn't so much feel any particular reason to give the Bible any more credence than any other holy book. Then I realized that even if I concede there might be a god, if I didn't see any compelling reason to live as if there is one, I might as well not bother thinking about or kowtowing to one.

As for the god thing, I dunno. I stopped capitalizing it right after I quit. I still do it because I don't think if god as a deity or a proper noun, but as a concept. I keep capitalizing the others because I do think of them as proper nouns.

It's kind of evolved to the point of being a quirk, though, I guess.

Ken said...

Quote: "However, the wrath of a loving god who sends finite people to eternal torment for being deceived by Satan is an evil in and of itself."

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. - Genesis 1:27

Man was created in a perfect world created by God, with free-will, to reign on this earth. Man, with his free-will, chose to sin against God in the Garden of Eden, thus creating sin. God didn’t create man to burn for eternity in Hell. This is why we have Jesus, who was sent here to pay for sins, by dying on the cross, and to give us that second chance to choose not to go to Hell for our sins.

Geds said...

So do you just not get that proof-texting from the Bible gets you nowhere? I mean, I understand that the would-be evangelist is at a disadvantage in this discussion, but the Bible is a wildly inaccurate historical document and the book of Genesis is a creation myth along the same vein as Norse tales of the sky being the hollowed-out skull of a frost giant. Believe you me, part of that 25 years amongst the fundies involved me believing that Genesis was a valid account of the creation on the universe. Then I started learning biology and physics and chemistry and earth sciences and whatnot in high school.

'Sides, god creating man and woman in god's image, then flat out rejecting them for a few thousand years is pretty shitty. It's like parents locking their child in the basement forever because the poor kid touched the stove. If god is a father, he's an abusive one. And for that matter, how were people to know they were wicked before Noah's flood without the Law, pray tell?

How, exactly, can one "choose to sin of their own free will" if no one tells them what it means to sin? That's a question that I have never heard answered satisfactorily. Feel free to try.

Ken said...

Don’t accuse me of proof-texting by quoting Scripture simply because of your doubt of its accuracy. That’s below you Geds.

Quote: ‘How, exactly, can one "choose to sin of their own free will" if no one tells them what it means to sin?’

"It's only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, `You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.'" - Genesis 3:3

Call it sin, disobedience, or whatever label you would give it. God gave an instruction and man disobeyed God. Are you implying God should have threatened Adam, and every man thereafter, which if man sin’s against God, that he’ll burn in hell for eternity? If that would work, then every man for thousands of years, to this day would be born and get to talk to God in the hospital before getting wrapped in a blanket. This would object the point that God wants us to be faithful, and not just believe if He were to come down from Heaven on every birth and stare us in the face. Then there would be no need for faith…

Geds said...

I wasn't talking about Adam and Eve there, Ken.

I'm asking about the people who were killed horribly in Noah's flood who weren't around to hear the command not to eat of the fruit and way pre-dated Moses and the Ten Commandments.

Ken said...

Well, as Adam and Eve still directly relate to the Scripture here, I first must admittedly express my weakness of knowledge of the Old Testament. But let me give it a try.

12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) Romans 2: 12-15

Before and after the law was given, God inherently places the law on our hearts, the knowledge of good and evil, and right and wrong. The same as how you don’t need to be taught not to kill another. God knows if you knew the truth, His word, and those who didn’t, were to be judged by the law God places on all of our hearts. Prior to Jesus, God knew He was to send Jesus to earth, and would then judge men at the time of Jesus’ being crucified, paying for our sins.

16 This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares. Romans 2: 16

Prior to Jesus, people were being judged on their faith that Jesus, the Messiah, was to be delivered by God as their salvation. Having the faith of Jesus, before Jesus, even though not knowing His name, was still a testament of faith.
This is an act of love, putting the law on people’s hearts that have not heard the law.

Even though the law is put on our hearts, the people before the law was given before Noah and the flood chose to disobey their conscience.

5 The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. “…” 11 Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. Genesis 6: 5, 11-13

These people that were sent to Hell were not innocent. They were wicked, worldly, and chose to disobey what they knew was right and wrong. God displayed grace when he spared Noah, when seeing his faith and righteousness. “9 This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” Genesis 6: 9

PersonalFailure said...

Late to the party, but I will chime in with my view of what happened in the Garden of Eden.

See, Yhwh put a tree in the center of the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Actually, it was two trees. He also put the Tree of Life in the center of Garden of Eden. Now, being omnipotent, if he didn't want anyone to eat of the fruit of either of those Trees, he could have put them outside of the Garden of Eden, or put them on top of a mountain, or put a fence around them, but no, he just leaves the Trees right there where anyone can get at them.

Then, Yhwh puts two people, two completely innocent people, who have been alive all of one day, who have no concept of right or wrong, who have never seen or heard of death, in the Garden with the Trees. The Trees he didn't want these two people to touch. Then he told them they would die if they ate the fruit.

Did I mention Yhwh is supposed to be omniscient?

Yhwh: You can eat anything you want, but don't eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

Eve: Why not?

Yhwh: Because I'll fjwuieruthf you if you do.

Adam: What?

Yhwh: I will fjwuieruthf you if you eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

*Adam and Eve look at one another*

Eve: Ummm . . . what's fjwuieruthf?

Yhwh: You know, I'll fjwuieruthf you if you do it.

Eve (to Adam): You've been around twice as long as me, what's fjwuieruthf?

Adam (shrugs): I dunno. Maybe it's one of those furry things I haven't named yet?

Yhwh: Look, you eat that fruit and I'll fjwuieruthf you! End of discussion.

Eve: That fruit looks pretty tasty. What do you call it again?

Adam: Snorg.

Eve: Snorg? Really? Are you sure you don't like apple better?

Adam: What's wrong with snorg?

Eve: I let you have platypus.

Adam: I guess apple's okay.

Eve: Well, that apple looks pretty tasty, and we don't know that fjwuieruthf is bad. Maybe it's not bad at all.

Yhwh: I can assure you that fjwuieruthf is very bad. Very, very bad.

Adam: Yeah, but what is it?

Eve: Maybe you could fjwuieruthf something else in the Garden and then we could decide if fjwuieruthf is bad enough to make us not try the apple.

Yhwh: I can't fjwuieruthf anything! This is the Garden of Eden, nothing ever fjwuieruthfs!

Adam: So, wait, will you or won't you fjwuieruthf us? We're in the Garden. Why can we be fjwuieruthfed?

Eve: Screw this, I'm eating the apple.

Ken said...

PersonalFailure,

May I quote you quickly...?

"I have always suspected that the reason evangelism never involves actual conversation is because that is the exchange of ideas, and there is the risk of hearing an idea that confirms the doubts you don't want to admit to having and then you'll end up losing not just the comfort of assured salvation, but friends and your entire social life."

So why again is there no conversation?

Geds said...

Ah, yes, quoting ol' Paul in the Christian Bible to answer questions I asked about the Jewish Bible. That's always a winner. Did you know Paul never actually met Jesus? He apparently never got the memo on the "I came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it," thing, either. I was also kind of a self-aggrandizing jackass who crowed about how he knew what Jesus wanted even better than Jesus's own disciples. Good guy,really.

Oh, yeah, and he told abused women to be even more submissive to their husbands in order to show them Jesus's love. Maybe that's where you keep pulling your Christianity as a marriage concept from.

Either way, you defeat your own argument with the passage you quote. If all who are apart from the Law perish without the Law, then that means that the poor people who lived between Adam and Moses were screwed. That includes Noah, too, for the record.

And god most certainly does not place the Law upon people's hearts. Let's say I wake up in the morning and put on a shirt that's cotton/poly blend, get in my car and go to work. I get on the elevator and brush up against a woman who is on her period. At lunch I go with some co-workers to a restaurant and order the coconut shrimp. I've broken the law three times. The first and third are for things that really don't matter. The middle time there's no possible way I could have known.

When I do put on that cotton/poly blend shirt is it written on my heart that in order to atone I have to make a grain sacrifice, sacrifice a dove, or offer up a pure, unblemished lamb? And can I do it on my own altar or do I have to go all the way to Jerusalem? Am I ritually unclean, or just required to pay a fine?

Okay, then, I'll concede that maybe the 613 Mitzvot aren't written on my heart by the hand of Yahweh. Let's go with the Ten Suggestions. What if I do keep a holy day, but it's Thursday? What if I'm some poor schlub over China who doesn't know this Yahweh fellow, so I've got no chance to make sure I exalt him over all other gods?

Oh, yeah, and the Law? That was designed to keep the Chosen People in line. Not following it in the Jewish Bible led to invasion by Assyria or Philistine. When did not following the Law switch over to eternal damnation?

Meanwhile, too, where does this whole Hell thing come from, anyway? To this day most (all, perhaps...) Jews don't have a concept of an afterlife. And there's no freaking way you can read the book of Job and get the Satan of Revelation (or Milton, for that matter) out of it. Plus, it's pretty obvious the Ol' Scratch wasn't in the Garden of Eden. I mean, if Satan simply took the form of a serpent, why did god respond by taking the legs of all real snakes away?

Seems god's wrath is awfully poorly aimed.

Sniffnoy said...

Presumably the appropriate "law" in this case would not be the 613 mitzvot but the Noahide laws. But then, if we really want to take this from a Jewish perspective, I think most of what Ken is saying falls apart for other reasons...

Geds said...

Oh, yeah. The Noahide Laws. Forgot about those. They're also post-flood, so it doesn't wreck my argument.

Doesn't that just add a third set of laws I need to have written on my heart, anyway? What's next? The Law Code of Hammurabi?

I kind of need room for blood in there, y'know...

Ken said...

Geds,

You’re asking about something that I don’t believe. I am not Jewish, I am a Christian. In everything I have said, it is based on Jesus the Messiah, which you know as an ex-Christian. The Jewish religion doesn’t accept Jesus as the Messiah. Don’t try to fault the bible by taking out Jesus. What you said has no merit for those with Christ and who believe in Him.

Geds said...

...I...

...I'm speechless. I am without speech.

I can't actually respond to that, Ken. There's simply nothing of logic or reason in that statement.

big a said...

QUOTE: "In everything I have said, it is based on Jesus the Messiah, which you know as an ex-Christian."

No, pretty much everything you've said on this subject has been in relation to the opinion pieces of Paul (someone who never knew Jesus) in the New Testament.

The next time you want to offer a "biblical defense", try making sure you know your own damn Bible first - not just the the last third you find most appealing.

PersonalFailure said...

Dude, Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) was a Jew. And not just any Jew, but an ultraOrthodox, messianic Jew. Yeshua followed all those laws you do not, and never said once that his followers should abandon them. In fact, he said they should keep to the rules of the Torah.

The original apostles were also Jewish, following around a Jewish rabbi, obeying all the Jewish laws. Paul was not an apostle of Yeshua, he never even met the man.

Your argument is just . . . bizarre.

Geds said...

Okay, I'm back. And my speech has been returned to me.

You might want to consider checking out Acts 13:13-35. I'm sure it will be tremendously enlightening.

Also, in the future you might want to avoid quoting from the Christianized Jewish Bible, then declaring the Jewish Bible off limits. Although, to be fair, you may simply be unaware of the fact that you do use the Jewish Bible. You just call it "The Old Testament."

Jews don't so much think of it that way, though...

Ken said...

Geds,

The number of insults and intentional diversions I see in your arguments have brought me more strength and knowledge than I even had days ago. The number of attacks I’m getting from both you and others on here, though somewhat understandable being a Christian on an Atheists blog, is leading me to pull out for now, and leave you with what I have said. I do wish you would have given me more respect as a man, than you did. For now, be well, and I’m sure we’ll dabble around the topic again in the near future. I am turning off comments for now, so I wont know when things come in.

PersonalFailure,

I have answers for you if you really seek them, and there is an answer to your question. Finding many answers is a lot of work sometimes, as I do not claim to be all-knowing of the bible, and am not talented in the area of theology… but if you do want answers to what you ask, I can find them for you. One of my alias emails is – k e n d u f f y j r @ g m a i l . c o m.

Be well all,

Ken

Geds said...

It's really too bad you're turning off the comments.

Because, you see, you walked in here unasked for, put words and intentions in to my writings that weren't there, tried to argue against me disingenuously, then weren't able to put together a coherent defense of your beliefs. I didn't mock you, I mocked your arguments. But you told me that my lack of Christianity was because I wasn't trying hard enough.

We won't have this conversation again. On Monday if someone had asked me how I felt about you I would have said, "He's a cool guy."

As of today I'd rather not speak to you again. Ever.

It's really too bad you're not man enough to see my response, though. Especially since you claim I've made you stronger.

And I fail to see how anything you've done here would increase my desire to go back to the Christianity I already rejected.

PersonalFailure said...

Did I ask you a question?

Geds was polite, as always. I was positively restrained, for me. As was everyone else. It is not rude or argumentative to point out that someone else's arguments have no basis in fact.

jessa said...

There's an experiment I've always wanted to do, but don't have a way of doing. I want to hear the impression of someone reading the Bible for the first time, someone who has never heard of it and has no preconceptions about it at all. I want to know what they think. I expect they would still find much of Christian theology to be completely foreign. And I don't just mean Evangelical theology or the theology of other people, I bet there are things I still think about the Bible that they would be able to tell me simply aren't there. I have read the Bible and I have tried to do so critically, but I doubt I have been able to do so without my interpretation being tempered by those of others.

I understand the intolerance of Christians toward those of other faiths. There is an absolute certainty about how salvation and Hell work and a compulsion to save people from Hell. That is entirely honorable. It would seem cruel for people who honestly believed others were going to suffer so extremely not to try to prevent that. I no longer hold such an extreme view (but I do still consider myself a Christian), but I do understand it. What I don't, and never did, understand is the unwillingness to even entertain the thought that Christianity might be wrong. Sometimes I have heard Christians give lip service to the idea of being wrong, but they never do the empathy thing earnestly enough in order to understand how frustrating this all is to people who do not hold such absolutist beliefs.

I can make the Christian arguments about what I am saying right now. "I have gone soft on theology." "There is too much at stake to worry about being nice or reasonable." Most of those arguments are just conversation stoppers. They say, "I am right and I am not going to waste my time trying to understand your position." Those arguments sometimes do have an honorable motive behind them, saving people from Hell, but that isn't enough.

What if Christians really honestly tried to imagine what they would do if they found out undeniably that they were wrong? We won't worry about what that proof would have to entail, because this is a hypothetical situation and I'm not actually trying to convince anyone that Christianity is wrong. What would you do? How would you show your still-Christian friends that this wasn't backsliding, going soft on theology? Can you even imagine that? It's like being in a mental hospital and trying to convince people you aren't crazy (sorry for this again); it is basically impossible. It doesn't matter whether you are right or not, nothing you do is good enough. It is a catch-22. When did you stop beating your wife? Until Christians who evangelize can understand how frustrating this is, being evangelized to is never going to stop making us crazy.

Geds said...

I wish I had an answer to your question, jessa.

In my case it's a wholesale rejection based on a great deal of reason and logic. But then the evangelist shows up and says, "Aha! I know what it will take to convince you!" Then, after an infuriating conversation in which no politeness is extended to me and anything I say is considered a personal attack, the evangelist leaves in a huff of weaselish indignation, shouting things about how I'm going to hell over their shoulder.

And I breathe a sigh of relief, turn around, and find another evangelist standing there who can't wait to tell me about Jesus. "You'll really buy these arguments," my new annoyance says, "They're new!" and I then hear the same exact things I heard five minutes ago. It's really quite tedious.

And you're right, it does feel like being the only sane one in the asylum.

As for how they'd respond...

The most hurtful thing anyone ever said to me came from the one I call Her on these pages. I was joking that she was drunk one night. She said she didn't get drunk, then I asked why and she said, "Because I don't want to end up like you."

I walked away. I really wanted to just walk out. That night she said, "But I love you, isn't that enough?"

The answer I gave her then is the exact same answer I will give to anyone who tries to quote John 3:16 to me. "No. It's not enough." Someone who claims they love you but who does not respect you isn't doing enough. Someone who claims to love you while abusing you is a jackass.

Because that, "I don't want to end up like you," was about so much more than drinking, especially since I'm not exactly a lush. I believe she was afraid of still being with me if I got to where we both knew I was going. I believe she was afraid of the questions that I asked and the fact that she couldn't come up with any better answers than I could.

In the end she rejected me. I can't and don't blame her.

The thing that hurts the most, though, is that she never even tried to understand why it hurt. And when I tried to tell her, she got mad at me, told me that I was being an asshole.

It's been a year and a half and that memory still hurts. Quite frankly, if it turns out that god does actually exist and god does actually want us to be the way the fundagelicals say he does, that's one of the first sins I will lay at god's feet. Love isn't enough by itself even in the best of circumstances. And when it's intentionally attached to abuse, there's nothing of value in it.

jessa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jessa said...

I kind of wish Ken stayed around so I could hear what he would have said in response to me.

Evangelists don't bother to stop and empathize with those they evangelize to, so they don't realize how rude they come off as. They could have the best, most honorable intentions in their absolutist stance, which is fine, good, but it simply isn't enough. They still end up insulting people tremendously, then wonder why we react the way we do. They are rude to us, so we are rude back (or maybe we aren't, but if we don't fully accept what they've said, they seem to think that means we are being rude. Pot meet kettle.). But since they never realized that they were being rude in the first place, they think we are just jerks for being rude or "rude" to them, that it is entirely uncalled for, that we are "persecuting" them, and then they become even ruder, except this time they are even rude by their own standards (I think, though I doubt they would admit to it).

I was thinking on my drive home, what if Jesus came back right now? Evangelicals think they base their faith solely on the Bible, but they don't. They remind me of the Pharisees. The Pharisees based their faith on the Jewish Bible, and they really did think (or so I would suppose) that they were doing a good job and that they were getting things right and that the little Pharisaic buffer (That's what I call the extra layer of rules they created. They made a layer of ruler one step more strict than the Jewish Law, so they would focus on their rules, and even if they messed up, they would still probably be on the right side of the actual Law.) was a pretty good idea, and they probably thought God would agree with that. But when Jesus came (I make no claims about the accuracy of this, just that it is what Evangelicals believe and I am highlighting some irony), the Pharisees didn't recognize him, thought he had things all wrong, someone so wrong couldn't possibly be the Messiah.

If Jesus came now, who's to say that the modern-day Evangelicals wouldn't parallel the Pharisees? Well, the Evangelical's would probably say they wouldn't parallel the Pharisees, but the Pharisees would have said that of themselves, so that makes for a crappy argument, even by their standards. Come to think of it, this might make an interesting conversation. I could just counter their every argument with "but don't you think that's what the Pharisees would have said?" If Jesus came back and just wore the wrong clothes, they would probably reject him, which is pretty much like what the Pharisees did. I like this.

btw: I'm reading Rapture Ready. It's less bitter than I thought it would be, but I actually appreciate that.

The Woeful Budgie said...

The number of attacks I’m getting from both you and others on here, though somewhat understandable being a Christian on an Atheists blog...Ooo. The persecution card. Sexy.


I have answers for you if you really seek them, and there is an answer to your question.Ooo, wait! *whips out the trusty Field Guide*

Aha! I knew it! We've found an Answers To Everything!

Wow. It's like birdwatching, only interesting.

Fiat Lex said...

Hell of a lot of water under this bridge. Here's some more.

Yes indeedy, Geds, you got nicer and more compassionate after you deconverted. You appreciate life and the people in it more now, and I like your writings better, too.

Also, I am one of the people your blog is helping. You allow me to experience vicariously the saying of a lot of things I now cannot say on my own blog. My refuge is no longer a refuge. And I don't have the will anymore to make a new one.

What's weird is that I've personally come to an unexpected place. I've always believed in invisible stuff, ya? So I'm willing to give the possible existence of an invisible, spiritual Jesus, even the possible existence of the historical Jesus described in the gospels the benefit of the doubt. But even assuming that person may exist, I don't think people like Ken and my family, are in touch with him. They have this idea of a Jesus that fuels their weird groupthink, sure. But if there's a genuine article out there, that idea ain't it.

And in keeping with my feelings on invisible stuff, I am of the opinion that I've had truck with angels and demons and various other things of various descriptions.

Invisible Jesus, however, has never gotten in touch with me. Not now, not in my teens when I started seriously questioning my faith, not in my single digits when I wanted him most desperately. Nada. When I went looking for Jesus as a kid, I found group hysteria, emotional abuse, and demons. Lots and lots of demons. I was told Jesus would take them away if I had faith that he would and that I had the right to send them away in his name. Apparently, as Ron White put it, I had the right, but I did not have the ability. The ability only came along when I went after the things that troubled me on my own recognizance.

I'm still waiting for word from invisible Jesus. I've talked to two people, people I trust, who've had visions of him or seen him in dreams. The guy's apparently unmistakable. But what I get lately is the kind of stuff I've always gotten: experiences that are powerful but vague. Experiences that could just as comfortably be explained by symbolism arising from my unconscious mind, or regular old contact with organisms from the invisible side of the natural environment of our wonderfully chaotic universe.

If I keep on assuming the existence of invisible Jesus (even as opposed to fundagelical fake Jesus), there's really only two conclusions I can reach. Either he doesn't exist, or I don't rate facetime.

It's a measure of my depression that in the last few months I have been seriously considering re-believing anyway. Because they're my family and it's never going to stop until I'm dead, I cave in, or I lash out at them and accept the role of evil nonbeliever. It's never, ever, ever going to stop.

The Woeful Budgie said...

Having a close relationship with Jesus has transformed my life, and made me happier than I could have ever achieved on my own.

I hope you believe me, Ken, when I say I'm happy for you. Really. I've got no problem who find joy and contentment in their relationship with Jesus. I'm married to one, and we're still cool. That said, your experience with Jesus is not necessarily going to be everyone else's. It's pretty insulting to be told that if Christianity didn't work for you, it's because you just didn't try all that hard and put Christ firsty-firsty-first enough:

A common “crappy place to live” for Christians is when they have a distant relationship with Jesus, and don’t put Christ first in everything they do.That was one of the major crumbling points of my faith, actually, when I realized I loved my husband a lot more than I loved God. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much guilt I received from myself or from others, no matter how many choruses of Lifehouse's "Everything" we all sang, I could not make God be everything to me.

So of course, I became terrified for a long time that God would take him from me in order to teach me some lesson about dependence and faithfulness. I would pray every morning to keep him safe as he drove his shitty route truck through the rain, knowing that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away and His thoughts are higher than mine and basically all the bible platitudes that have come to mean, "you suck and don't really matter".

Fear. All the time. Always afraid of losing. That's what God had become to me. It actually took my husband (who has a much more positive experience with God) saying, "If that's what God's like, then he isn't worth worshipping." I realized he was right, though I don't think it led me to the conclusion that he'd hoped it would.

It wasn't the distant relationship with Jesus that made it crappy. It was the trying REALLY REALLY hard to be someone I'm not. All the time. It's fucking exhausting. And I'm done.

The Woeful Budgie said...

Oh, and late response to Geds: Budgie's fine, it's my favorite part of the name anyhow. And dude, thunder away. I wouldn't hang around here if I didn't appreciate your take on it all.

Maybe YOU weren't trying hard enough to be a good "spouse", but maybe God wasn't talking to you in the language you needed to hear, either.Hapax, I want to thank you for saying this, just because it helps hearing this come from a Christian. My Christianity came with the blessed assurance that because God is perfect, if something was even remotely wrong in the relationship it had to be my fault. Not just sometimes, or even usually. Always. Otherwise, God's not Triple-Omni Perfect, right? So if I had any gripe about how I felt treated by God, it couldn't possibly be a legitimate one. And then, of course, I'd read God's super little speech to Job...

I dunno, maybe that works for some people. But for someone already given to depression and self-loathing, the constant invalidation kind of sucks.

You've been among the handful of people who, by virtue of their own faith, have kept me from losing my respect for Christianity. Care for an internet? :)