I’m a better Christian now that I’m not a Christian

December 5, 2007 at 11:59 pm 52 comments

On a previous post, Heard of God (Sam) made the following comment:

FingerThe de-Convert, I have read that you tried to be free from sin once and you said that is one of the one of the reasons that led you away. It took me two years to finally get rid of the last sin. I live to day free from sin because I believed in God and his promise. I couldn’t do it on my own; it was the grace of God that finally did it for me.

It is a typical Christian response to de-conversion to point to “sin” as a catalyst. They simply believe that we’re apostates because we need a license to “sin.” Huh?

First of all, what is sin? Sin, according to Christianity, is disobeying God’s Word (the Bible).

Well, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, there are numerous commands in the Bible that Christians do not follow. Women speak in church. A man can marry a divorced woman and not be in a perpetual state of adultery. Women can wear jewelry and costly clothing. I could go on for hours on commands from the Bible which are not followed by the majority of Christiandom. In other words, a Christian who subscribes to the above definition of sin is really nothing more than a perpetual sinner. Well, everyone but Sam. :)

In addition to these clear violations of scripture, other “sins” have evolved over time. There was a time when drinking, smoking, and dancing were considered sins and still are in some circles – but these are now becoming more and more acceptable in Christianity today.

Christian FishThe ironic thing is I’m probably a better “Christian” today, as an apostate, than I was as a Christian. For example, I no longer sit in judgment of others (in line with what Jesus is quoted as teaching). I now try to be kind and compassionate to everyone in spite of their beliefs, sexual orientation, or a variety of other reasons Christians have to discriminate against others. In other words, I really do attempt to “love my neighbor.”

Yes, I no longer care whether a couple engages in pre-marital sex. I don’t see how it could be wrong for two consenting mature individuals. After all, sex is a part of humanity. I no longer care if two people of the same sex love each other and want to get married. Hell, I’ve seen many heterosexual marriages void of love and respect. Yeah and who gives a damn if I curse (especially when I’m alone in my car and not offending anyone). However, is this why I’m an apostate? This question is so ridiculous to me that it doesn’t even deserve an answer.

I am an apostate because I came to a point in my life where I could no longer simply believe myths to be true because a very flawed book said they were – and in the process, became a better Christian. How? Well, I do not subscribe to the Christian definition of sin hence believing the above stated issues does not make me a sinner. I do also attempt to live my life by the basic constructs supposedly subscribed to by Christianity. If you think about it- sin should really be defined as NOT violating the rights of another individual (to their life and possessions) but that’s another blog.

- The de-Convert

Entry filed under: The de-Convert. Tags: , , , , , , .

Praying my way to losing faith Challenging Religious Myths 1: No Morality without Religion

52 Comments Add your own

  • 1. fontor  |  December 6, 2007 at 12:31 am

    Sin is anything God doesn’t want you to do, right? Or it’s anything that separates you from God.

    Well, if God doesn’t exist, then sin really becomes an irrelevant concept, doesn’t it? There’s no one to sin against. (You can still do terrible things to people, but that’s called ‘doing crappy things’, not ‘sin’.)

    So, since becoming an atheist, I am free from sin. And actually, I always was. What a release.

    Now to work on not harming people.

  • 2. Julian Rodriguez  |  December 6, 2007 at 2:26 am

    You could consider some of his “other” teachings…

    http://www.bandoli.no/whyimmoral1.htm

    Jesus was not THAT great… I say this because some atheists empathize with him.

    Read the Bible! Christians, atheists, everyone! The best way to know the religion absurdities and crap.

  • 3. Rachel  |  December 6, 2007 at 2:59 am

    “Sin, according to Christianity, is disobeying God’s Word (the Bible).”

    Umm…yes and no. Yes we sin when we fall short of the standards God has set for us, but that’s different from original sin, which is more about the corruption of our very nature. But the definition you present is very legalistic, almost Pelagian, which makes me think that you’re missing the point. Sin is more about turning our hearts away from God than it is about not following the letter of the law. Heck, the Pharisees were great at following the law (they were very devout, in fact), but Jesus told them they were missing the point too. Jesus himself “disobeyed” God’s Word and performed miracles on the Sabbath.

    Your definition of sin was narrow when you were a Christian and it’s narrow now. With all due respect, the petty, legalistic version of sin you are working with isn’t even worth arguing about. And surely you realize that Levitical laws and the passage about women and church have to be understood in regards to exegetical principles and historical context.

  • 4. OneSmallStep  |  December 6, 2007 at 8:25 am

    And surely you realize that Levitical laws and the passage about women and church have to be understood in regards to exegetical principles and historical context.

    I think the problem with this view for many is that it’s a lot like picking and choosing. You can start doing this with almost anything in the Bible, such as homosexuality. You could say that it no longer applies, because of historical context. Passages about hell or salvation could then no longer apply to us today, because they need that historical context. This would also mean that you can’t just read the Bible to get the correct information, but would need a proper scholarly background. In which case, how is the Bible supposed to be useful on its own, or provide a clear idea of God or salvation on its own?

    Even original sin — we could say that doesn’t apply, since the concept came about with Augustine, and there is no concept of that in Judaism. Since it’s something not followed for almost 2/3rds of the Bible, why can’t we say Augustine didn’t have good historical context, or used poor exegesis?

  • 5. Stephen P  |  December 6, 2007 at 8:28 am

    But the definition you present is very legalistic, almost Pelagian, which makes me think that you’re missing the point.

    I don’t know about The de-Convert, but I get rather tired of Christians accusing non-Christians or ex-Christians of missing the point, or being simplistic, or presenting a caricature, when all they are doing is relaying the views of a different Christian group. I expect that the view he presented is the view he was brought up with, and I doubt very much that he is missing the point at all.

    And surely you realize that Levitical laws and the passage about women and church have to be understood in regards to exegetical principles and historical context.

    Ah yes, exegetical principles. Sets of convenient but arbitrary rules that enable each Christian group to claim that its own preferred morality is derived from the bible, while enabling it to ignore all the inconvenient bits. You may think that harsh, but it is none the less true for that. That is, after all, how both sides in the American Civil War claimed to have the backing of the bible. And it is how millions of Christians insist that the bits of Leviticus prohibiting homosexuality are still to be taken absolutely literally and applied universally, while Jesus’ injunction to sell ones worldly goods and give the proceeds to the poor somehow doesn’t apply to them.

  • 6. Matt  |  December 6, 2007 at 9:47 am

    Fundamentalism, legalism, etc, can make one think anything is a sin. Personally I believe a sin is an offense. I believe it that many offenses in the Bible were cultural, not eternal. I believe that any sin would be anything anyone with a conscience would not want to do. (backstabbing, cheating, stealing, murder, etc)

    The problem with literalism (thinking the Bible is the inerrent word of God, when it doesn’t even SAY it is) is exactly what atheists are extemely good at pointing out. As a Christian, I reject the Bible being inerrant, and find it inspirational instead, and if I am to accept that it is inerrant, then I must embrace contradictions and legalism.

    I view the Bible as stories and letters, where men interacted with God *AS* they knew him. I beielive there are lots of other books written in those days, that help reflect the culture of those days, as well as give insight to some of the “sins” etc.

  • 7. heatlight  |  December 6, 2007 at 9:48 am

    So, good blog, apart from the straw men. Why – if you really seek to communicate honesty – do you feel the need to set up such ridiculous straw men, such as stating the the Bible expect women not to speak in church, when any Bible scholar of note – liberal or conservative – would tell you otherwise. That’s some sort of sick proof-texting worse than any fundamentalist would use, and it only hurts your case. At least, you lose any sympathetic ear from me. Maybe take the rhetoric down a notch – you may have a greater impact then.

  • 8. Yueheng  |  December 6, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Hello heatlight:

    I was rather amazed when I read this comment from you:

    Why – if you really seek to communicate honesty – do you feel the need to set up such ridiculous straw men, such as stating the the Bible expect women not to speak in church, when any Bible scholar of note – liberal or conservative – would tell you otherwise.

    But women were explicitly forbidden by Paul to speak in church, as evidenced by these writings attributed to his apostolic authority:

    As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. — 1 Corinthians 14:33-34, NIV

    A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. — 1 Timothy 11:12-14, NIV

    Some Christian apologists have out forth the argument the Corinthian passage was written in a context of a church where women were busily making prophecies and disrupting the church services. Although the context of the Corinthian excerpt does indicate some concern about disorder in the churches, Paul seems to be making a categorical order directed at “all the congregations of the saints” for women to be silenced. Ditto for the 1 Timothy quotation. Although Paul was clearly a product of his (patriarchal) times, his justification for silencing women was also doctrinal. They caused man to fall (back in the Garden of Eden) and therefore they should remain silent, lest they tempt men again.

    Many Christians have quietly (and sensibly, may I add) discarded Paul’s anti-women ideas in the Bible. There is probably no church today that will strictly follow Paul’s instructions, even though they will still regard his writings as inspired scripture. So where does one decide which parts of his writings are still scripture? This is where the art of theological cherry-picking is very much necessarily.

  • 9. Yueheng  |  December 6, 2007 at 10:59 am

    Sorry for the html error. In the above post, I quoted heatlight’s words in italics:

    Why – if you really seek to communicate honesty – do you feel the need to set up such ridiculous straw men, such as stating the the Bible expect women not to speak in church, when any Bible scholar of note – liberal or conservative – would tell you otherwise.

    The part in italics which goes: But women were explicitly forbidden by Paul to speak in church, as evidenced by these writings attributed to his apostolic authority: is my own statement.

    The remaining two Bible passages in italics are statements attributed to Paul.

  • 10. Matt  |  December 6, 2007 at 11:02 am

    Hey Yueheng, you are absolutely correct when you talk of theological cherry-picking. Which is why I can’t possibly ever consider the Bible inerrant, and literal, word-for-word from God himself. That would make cherry-picking illegal.

    The greatest thing is, the Bible never claims to be inerrant, the epistles were never thought of being scriptures until they were canonized, and so on and so fourth. When we pick apart the history of the Bible, and LAY ASIDE what zealots are preaching, it is amazing.

    I have found the BIble itself to be one of the most abused books of all mankind. A tool used to abuse people spiritually, emotinoally, and physically.

    2 Timothy 3:16 has been taken out of context (especially by fundamentalists) where ti talks about Scipture being God-inspired and useful. Well, I believe this today, that scriptures are indeed useful, and God inspired (God inspired meaning people interacting with God, recording their interactions, for us to chew in and in our own way) Never does it say “ONLY SCRIPTURE” but “ALL” and never was his letter to Timothy even “scripture” at that date, but just a letter, nothing but a letter!

    I could go on and on about the Bible. Oh how abusive it is to cherry pick verses!! David Karesh anyone?

  • 11. CoryScott5  |  December 6, 2007 at 11:07 am

    Heatlight:

    Yes, bible scholars will defend or explain away certain passages that include such things as slavery or misogyny. They say we miss the context. But if you’ve read the detailed and highly refined rules and descriptions, it is easy to see that these were ot meant lightly, and the writers wanted these doctrines followed. It is easy to say, “You cannot use that example because we’ve explained it away”, but…. why is that? Is it because it is offensive? Does it contradict your feelings about the teachings? Why can’t we explain away “good” things in the bible the same way? If these things have been explained away….why are they still in there?

    What can’t be explained away? If some is not real, then all is not real. At the very least — it isn’t to be trusted. I find no rhetoric in this — just reality. No straw men here — just Christian apologetic justifications from those who allow men of faith to explain away their problems with hollow interpretations. Let’s not allow them to get away with that.

  • 12. Yueheng  |  December 6, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    Hi Matt:

    Yes, the Bible has been used to justify much evil, but it has also inspired people like Martin Luther King, Jr and Gandhi. LIke you, I can’t accept it as an inerrant scripture. Rather, I see it as a fascinating book chronicling what different people thought about God over a few centuries in our human history.

  • 13. Matt  |  December 6, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    It is good to read the Bible with an open mind, rather then with a narrow one manipulated from the pulpit. The pulpit itself is a tradition not even found in the Bible, but found in more recent culture with no electricity, where most could not read or write.

    I love Jesus, don’t get me wrong. I love his message, I want to help people more, I want to advance the Kingdom of God. But I don’t believe advancing it is converting people, nope, not at all. I think advancing it would be charity and equality.

  • 14. Daniel  |  December 6, 2007 at 12:42 pm

    …there are numerous commands in the Bible that Christians do not follow. Women speak in church. A man can
    marry a divorced woman and not be in a perpetual state of adultery. Women can wear jewelry and costly clothing.

    Is women ministers really a sin? I doubt it. I doubt Paul was contradicting himself about women singing or prophesying in public and also forbidding them to speak in church. Paul was forbidding them to ask questions and make statement that disputed the service just as he forbid those speaking in tongues to keep silent if no interpreter was present.

    It is true a man could marry a woman and also be guilty of adultery based on at at least one condition: only divorces for infidelity and abuse are permitted. As Jesus said, God allows divorce for those reasons only, but God’s still hates divorce of those who were joined together as one flesh. Therefore, many Christians today are guilty of sin who have divorced because of other reasons.

    Where do it says wearing jewelry and costly clothing is a sin? Immodesty may be regarded as such. Paul said that moral virtue was the adornment God regards as beautiful rather than fine jewelry or clothing.

    The ironic thing is I’m probably a better “Christian” today, as an apostate, than I was as a Christian. For example, I no longer sit in judgment of others (in line with what Jesus is quoted as teaching).

    You are not likely to be a better Christian because you do not really care about understanding what you criticize. Jesus never commanded his followers not to judge others and by implication to be tolerant as you prefer. How could they also judge the fruit of other people’s lives? How could they discern who was a false prophet and who was not? How could the HIs church appoint judges?

    Can you follow the Father of lies and still be better for it? By the way, myths are truths clothed in narratives.

  • 15. Yueheng  |  December 6, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    Daniel wrote:

    Is women ministers really a sin? I doubt it. I doubt Paul was contradicting himself about women singing or prophesying in public and also forbidding them to speak in church. Paul was forbidding them to ask questions and make statement that disputed the service just as he forbid those speaking in tongues to keep silent if no interpreter was present.

    Daniel, I think that a careful reading of 1 Corinthians 14:33-34 will show that Paul was expressing an opinion that under all circumstances and in every church, women should be submissive, banned from speaking and making inquiries. He further added that “it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church.” Why he felt it disgraceful is unclear, but his misogyny is rather evident here. His instruction is delivered in absolutist tones and he does not seem to be addressing the problem of disruptive public prophesying (If that is true, why apply the ruling only to women?), as the popular defence of this understandably unpalatable passage goes.

    Also, the author of 1 Timothy categorically insists that women “…cannot teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” If one takes these words as inspired scripture, then having women ministers really is a sin.

  • 16. heatlight  |  December 6, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    Dear “Y”…
    I’m not dealing with apologeticists…I’m talking basic Greek scholars with an understanding the context of that phrase and of the culture at the time. The issue in the text is not women speaking is church, but church order as opposed to disorder. It’s sad people no longer have the basic literary skills to read a text and discern it’s main points anymore, and instead focus on archaic cultural artifacts within the text which are only there to make the other point more clear.

  • 17. michael  |  December 6, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    some interesting thoughts here….but you seem to be focusing on the actions of one’s life, and while important, it is not the center of the issue in christianity.

    guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life…i think you can act like stuff doesn’t bother you and you don’t care about this or that, but ultimately the essence of christ was a purity of heart which manifested into purity of action.

    if your faith didn’t change your heart then it was never more than knowledge of a certain set of data. i think christians often become wrapped around the wheel with regard to their faith, and it ends up being a set of sanctification standards instead of increasing their trust in something bigger than themselves.

  • 18. Thinking Ape  |  December 6, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    if your faith didn’t change your heart then it was never more than knowledge of a certain set of data

    It is truly amazing how ethereal and spiritualist the Christian tradition has become – the earliest Christians would be rolling in their graves.

  • 19. Yueheng  |  December 6, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    heatlight wrote:

    I’m talking basic Greek scholars with an understanding the context of that phrase and of the culture at the time.

    Which scholars? Could you cite your sources? Furthermore, it’s not just a phrase we’re dealing with here. It’s a whole passage instructing women of all Christian churches (“all the congregations of the saints” – that seems to suggest all churches everywhere) to be submissive and silent because Paul felt it disgraceful for them to speak.

    You also wrote:

    The issue in the text is not women speaking is church, but church order as opposed to disorder. It’s sad people no longer have the basic literary skills to read a text and discern it’s main points anymore, and instead focus on archaic cultural artifacts within the text which are only there to make the other point more clear.

    The issue is about women speaking in church. Paul did not approve of it. That’s the main point for 1 Corinthians 14:33-34.

  • 20. Thinking Ape  |  December 6, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    …to be submissive and silent because Paul felt it disgraceful for them to speak.

    Wow, someone actually put the word “scholars,” “1 Timothy,” and “Paul” in the same sentence. Please, don’t. Ever. Not even moderate Christian scholars believe Paul wrote the Pastoral epistles. Granted, they might be in Pauline tradition, but don’t say things you obviously have no idea about.

  • 21. Quester  |  December 6, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    Some interesting points have been made about biblical errancy and inerrancy. Out of curiosity, for those of you who believe that the Bible is useful, but filled with errors, yet you still consider yourselves Christian- what sources of revelation and inspiration do you allow to inform you about who God is and what God wants, and what tools to you use to discern whether or not it is really God who speaks?

    Matt and Yueheng, I am especially interested in your answers.

  • 22. Matt  |  December 6, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    Hi Quester, those are very deep, thought provoking questions you have asked!

    I’m thinking my answer will be far different than Yueheng’s but I’ll be as honest as I possibly can.

    My sources of revelation and inspiration are life experiences.

    1. falling asleep at the wheel, hittgin a semi, waking up unscathed, morning rush hour traffic, along with doing a lot of other risky things that should have killed me yet surviving, because of a mother praying to Jesus and knowing taht I was in trouble despite it,. time and time again This could all be coinsidental, nor does it explain unanswered prayers and still leaves questions on answered when examined with intense skepticism, regardless, my life experiences hold my faith intact well.

    2. Seeing faith based compassion for others in a sincere way, across denominations.

    3. Witnessing a united community who focuses not on who is right but on love itself. (Emergent church, seeker-friendly, progressive, unitarian churches, etc)

    I want to point out that I am well aware that it is completely possible that I am wrong and there is no God, and there is no spiritual realm, and I am willing to admit that I don’t know for sure.

    I am in a seeking phase right now, where I am holding on to my religious beliefs out of the sheer desire to. That I feel that I am benefiting from my faith. That my faith puts me in situations I couldn’t get into without it, not necessarily by God, but by faith itself.

    I also am in this life for peace of mind, not “knowing truth” . I find peace of mind with my spirituality, but I do not think it is requried for others to be Christian, nor do I believe in Hell. As discussed in other threads I have explained my reasoning that t don’t believe in hell in detail. Which I won’t go into here.

    Bottom ilne is, I do not know if I am right or wrong, but for me, life isn’t about being right.. For me, it’s about peace of mind. In my community, with it’s free food, dinner parties, connection with others, compassion, and artistic expression without any legalism at all. (our church is only Apostilic and Nicene) and a community of agnostics being included and enjoying themselves, I find ultimate freedom. I am happy with what I believe, and for me that is ALL that matters. If you are content in what you believe I do not want to change your mind.

    The ONLY thing that I cant stand, that I hate more than anything else, is a narrow-minded, black and white mentality where one person is Right, and everyone else is wrong. Or one philosophy trumps all the others. Where one philosophy has a monopoly on truth. I hate that shit. I can’t stand it. I won’t put up with it. I won’t go to a church or partake in any community that says they’ve got it figured out, and don’t question them, because they’re right and everyone else is wrong. I see it in Christianity, Islam, in NON-METAPHYSICAL philosophies (such as the best way to do X, Y and Z) and so on and so fourth. Anyone who thinks they’ve got it all figured out and everyone else should stop seeking and searching for answers is a tool.

    I am continually seeking, and am Christian by choice, but I am a universalist and believe all will be reconciled to God. I am this way because I have peace in it, and that’s all that matters to me is having peace.

    I was an atheist for a bit, but I found no local community, no support for emotional growth, and so I found it better to continue to my spiritual journey. I do not know where it ends, but I am not afraid of being wrong or being fully aware that I just don’t have it figured out.

  • 23. Matt  |  December 6, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    What do I use to see if God is not in it or not? I believe God is in everything. To discern whether or not it is of God or the devil, I contemplate on whether or not said proposition is constructive or destructive. I consider constructive ideas to be godly, destructive ideas to be ungodly.

    Charity, love, compassion, sacrifice, and selflessness I see all as Godly (within reason, love yourself too) – Opposites like backbiting, cheating, murder, etc, I see as ungodly.

  • 24. Quester  |  December 6, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    Matt, right now, I’m a pastor. I, as you describe above, manipulate from a pulpit. I’ve only been a pastor for two and a half years, straight out of seminary. As I’ve been preparing weekly sermons, it’s become harder to see the bible as consistent, and even more difficult to see the God described in scripture as good and loving. When I tried to apply the scripture to the world around us, things got even worse. Just a few months ago, 2 Timothy 3 came up in the lectionary, and as I researched my sermon, I realized that the bible does not claim to be inerrant. This shook me.

    I read some of Dorothy L. Sayer’s Creative Theology which define good and evil as creative or destructive, as you do, and I tried to teach and lead on that basis. As time went on, though, I slowly came to realize that there is no actual difference between the Christianity you describe (and I was beginning to preach) and secular humanism.

    I’m not going to be preaching from the pulpit much longer. This is incredibly difficult for me, spiritually and practically. But this form of Christianity gives me no peace of mind. I’m glad it does for you, but if I’m praying as a meditation technique, gathering for fellowship, and reading the bible (and other books) for simple inspiration of how people think, treat each other, and what people want out of life, which is what you seem to be promoting, then I have left no room or need for a god in my life, and the language of Christianity seems an unnecessary and unhelpful burden.

    Perhaps I will become a better Christian, as The de-Convert describes above, by letting go and moving on. I don’t know.

    Thank-you for your honesty, and thorough answers.

  • 25. Matt  |  December 6, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    Quester,

    Thank you for your honesty as well. If you have no peace in it, then it must mean it’s not right for you. That’s all I can really figure.

  • 26. OneSmallStep  |  December 6, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    I’m talking basic Greek scholars with an understanding the context of that phrase and of the culture at the time

    But then this means that the text can’t be taken at face value, which, from one perspective, is incredibly convenient. Anytime there’s a troublesome passage, such as the ones that put women as silent and submissive, the reasoning is that people are setting up strawman, or lacking cultural context.

    But if we are saying that the Bible is a clear message to humanity, then should such reasoning even be necessary? The text plainly states its stance on women in certain areas. Yet we’re not allowed to accept that, not because of what the text says, but because of some outside factor that determines the Bible can’t really say that.

  • 27. Rachel  |  December 6, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    You can’t take everything the Bible says at face value otherwise we would be dealing with a flat earth with water being held back by domes. We most certainly do have to understand the Bible with regards to audience and historical context.

    Really, I love how you guys complain that fundies are so deluded in their literalistic interpretation of scripture and then turn around and call using exegesis to understand scripture a “convenient excuse.” Give me a break.

  • 28. bry0000000  |  December 6, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    Rachel,

    I think the argument the others are trying to make is that in order to accept Christianity as a legitimate set of beliefs as presented in the Bible, we must accept the whole thing or nothing at all.

    *If this isn’t your guy’s exact argument, please feel free to clear this up. I’m by no means a spokesperson for the above.

  • 29. bry0000000  |  December 6, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    *Sorry, I meant THE spokesperson, not A.

  • 30. Yueheng  |  December 6, 2007 at 9:17 pm

    Hello Quester:

    I am no longer a Christian, so I see the Bible is useful in the conventional sense of being a historical document which tells me about what a certain group of people thought about God for a period of about 1,500 years. Tis document occasionally contains wisdom but, on the whole, is not spiritually relevant to me.

  • 31. Yueheng  |  December 6, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    Rachel wrote:

    You can’t take everything the Bible says at face value otherwise we would be dealing with a flat earth with water being held back by domes. We most certainly do have to understand the Bible with regards to audience and historical context.

    Really, I love how you guys complain that fundies are so deluded in their literalistic interpretation of scripture and then turn around and call using exegesis to understand scripture a “convenient excuse.” Give me a break.

    But if not everything in the Bible can be taken at face value, then who or what determines what can or cannot be taken at face value? If Paul’s misogynistic statements are not to be taken literally, then who is to say the same is not true for his other writings? Where is the line?

  • 32. karen  |  December 6, 2007 at 9:47 pm

    See for me, when everything in the bible is open to interpretation, it becomes meaningless. Any group can put their spin on it and manipulate the words to mean whatever they like, or to reflect the “fashion” of the day.

    There are strict Christian literalists who do NOT allow women to lead in churches and who don’t believe women and men are spiritual equals. They take the passages quoted above quite literally.

    Then there are progressives who want to impose today’s modern beliefs about the equality of women back onto the scripture and so they put their interpretation on those passages and insist that they don’t really mean what they seem at face value.

    In two centuries, there’ll probably a completely different spin put on those verses so they “actually” have something completely new to say, for good or bad.

    When I see how the bible gets used as a kind of tabula rasa to justify all kinds of good, or evil, or utter nonsense, then I lose respect for it as some kind of divine guide for life. Instead it seems to be a collection of ancient history mixed with fable and myth that should be retired from its place of honor and looked at much more realistically.

  • 33. OneSmallStep  |  December 6, 2007 at 10:03 pm

    You can’t take everything the Bible says at face value otherwise we would be dealing with a flat earth with water being held back by domes.

    I would echo what has already been said in relation to this. Many Christians do take the flat Earth aspects or the water held back by domes as metaphorical. That makes sense, given what we scientifically know. However: where is the line drawn? How likely is it that the writers of the time meant a literal flat Earth? To say that all those statements are metaphorical is to apply something that the writer probably did not intend. Or take Jesus’ ascension — that makes perfect sense, given the idea that heaven was directly above, in the clouds. But that doesn’t work in today’s time, because we know that heaven is not “right above.” I assume that is now taken as a metaphorical statement, but then as Karen says, it can become whatever you want/need it to mean.

    This goes back to picking and choosing, in terms of deciding what is and is not literal.

  • 34. Jersey  |  December 6, 2007 at 11:52 pm

    Since when the comments on this entry go from being a better Christian as an apostate to the debatable interpretations of the Bible?!

    Personally, I am a better one nowadays myself. I still don’t tithe (can’t, too poor), but I am more loving to my loved ones, much less judgmental, more open to being humble and meek, and more accepting of my faults and others’. Just not proselytizers. :)

  • 35. LeoPardus  |  December 6, 2007 at 11:53 pm

    Rachel:

    I love how you guys complain that fundies are so deluded in their literalistic interpretation of scripture and then turn around and call using exegesis to understand scripture a “convenient excuse.”

    Yes, I think one can get crunched no matter what method of biblical interpretation is used.

    A lot of exegetic approaches give the appearance of weaseling one’s way out of “inconvenient passages”.

    On the other hand, literalism leaves one with a lot of “inconvenient passages”.

    Ironically then one is ‘damned’ either way. :) :(

  • 36. Rachel  |  December 7, 2007 at 1:16 am

    I’m really not an expert on biblical hermenutics, so I can only offer a few brief comments.

    OneSmallStep,

    I think the writer of Genesis DID actually think that the world was flat. These were ancient people with an ancient cosmology…this was the world as they knew it.

    You are right about the problem of everybody making passages mean whatever they want to. Christianity in modern times has become extremely individualistic. However, the Bible is first of all a narrative meant to be proclaimed communally. It is most importantly a story that points beyond itself to Jesus Christ, not a rule book to be handed out to nit-picky moralizers. The gospel is meant to be understood within the larger witness of the church, so tradition can guide our thinking on some of these matters. Catholics also talk about the Holy Spirit working through history and through the Church to reveal God’s truth to us. Mainline Christians claim the Bible to be infalliable in its witness to Christ, but not infallable in the strictest sense of the word, so there’s still some room within the arena of orthodoxy for differing views on less important matters. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t like to waste time tearing apart passages that aren’t central to the faith. Probably not the answer you wanted. Sorry. :)

  • 37. Rachel  |  December 7, 2007 at 1:20 am

    Leo,

    Thanks for sympathizing with my dilemma. ;)

  • 38. Quester  |  December 7, 2007 at 1:29 am

    Yueheng- thanks for your response. I misunderstood where you were coming from.

  • 39. OneSmallStep  |  December 7, 2007 at 9:25 am

    Rachel,

    Thank you for your response. If it helps, there is no one right answer I’m looking for, just an indication that the responder understands what I’m asking. :)

    It is most importantly a story that points beyond itself to Jesus Christ, not a rule book to be handed out to nit-picky moralizers.

    I do disagree with this on some level, because if you just take the Messianic prophecies in Judaism, as well as only the Tanakh itself, it does point to a Messiah. What it does not point to is a Messiah who will be God in flesh, die and resurrect to save people from hell, the son of God coming, the Trinity and so forth. If you just took the Tanakh on its own, with no knowledge of Christianity in any way, I would find it near impossible to get to any sort of Christian doctrine. The only way the story really matches is “after the fact,” in that the Tanakh was re-interpreted in order to fit the New Testament, which is why many of the Christian prophecies were pulled from Psalms, which are ambigious to start with.

  • 40. Matt  |  December 7, 2007 at 9:29 am

    Hey OneSmallStep: If Jesus Christ isn’t the messiah, then how come Christianity is so popular? Just wondering your thoughts on this, what caused such a following for Jesus to begin with? What is it with this Jesus?

  • 41. OneSmallStep  |  December 7, 2007 at 10:00 am

    Matt,

    Now you’re asking for a very in-depth history lesson. :)

    I would like to clarify that I didn’t say Jesus wasn’t the Messiah, simply that there’s no way to get Christian doctrine out of just the Tanakh. You need the NT to tell you how to interpret the Tanakh, almost.

    I can only give you my opinion, in terms of the question, based on what I’ve read. Someone else may know more, and tell me that I’m wrong.

    One of the reasons I would say Christianity is popular is because it deliberatly sets out to gain converts, as opposed to Judaism. My understanding of Judaism is that it’s not a religion one accepts lightly, and so you have to be very serious about it before converting. I would also say that back when it first started, it would’ve held a great appeal to the lower classes, in terms of slaves and women, because they would have been told they have equal standing with the upper class men.

    Also, it would be due to the political power. After Constantine’s reign, when Christianity was politically acceptable, you almost had to become one (my grasp of history is particularly murky here). There were no longer a lot of options for you. And up until the Reformation, the church and state were incredibly interlinked.

  • 42. Rachel  |  December 7, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    OneSmallStep,

    It’s true that Christianity set out to gain converts and gave an equal standing in the kingdom of God to women and slaves. May I point out, however, that conversion to Christianity wasn’t about making people feel good about themselves or an easier alternative to Judaism. ‘Member Nero? Christians faced persecution and unspeakable suffering early in the church’s existence (and many Christians around the world still do).

  • 43. OneSmallStep  |  December 7, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    Rachel,

    May I point out, however, that conversion to Christianity wasn’t about making people feel good about themselves or an easier alternative to Judaism

    I’m uncertain as to where I made either claim?

    Part of the appeal to this, though, can be the idea that any suffering you face occurs for a reason, and will be rewarded in the afterlife. It gives a purpose to all the horrible things that happen, and comfort that even if there’s no satisfaction in this life, there will be satisfaction in the end.

  • 44. bipolar2  |  December 8, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    All religions are myths, fictions — xianity very much included.

    — becoming who you are

    Joseph Campbell (following Jung) would say that everyone lives according to some myth(s), but it is important that the myths never live you. When the myth lives you, you can’t become who you are because you haven’t even tried. You’ve taken someone else’s answer, someone else’s schema to be your own. But of course, that’s naive at best.

    Campbell spent his life trying to create a “science” of mythology. Really, a typology — but one must start somewhere. Myths are what Campbell called “the masks of god.” The error of errors becomes, then, taking the mask and missing the divine. Or, as Meister Eckhart pleaded, “I ask that God rid me of God.” 

    And, it may well be that behind each mask is nothing. That is my opinion.

    As far as my opinions about xianity itself:

    — inherited “sin” is the thread to pull

    How could I ever accept any myth which postulates a doctrine like inherited sin? Especially, one that condemns the female as the prime agent of sin. Thus woman is more culpable than man. She deserves greater punishment. And God sees to it that she is subjected first to her father, then her husband, when widowed young her brother, when widowed old her son. That’s why for so many years it was law in some U.S. states, until just recently, that a husband could not be held to have raped his own wife. Her duty is to submit.

    There is no “sin” — there is error, there is failure, even moral failure. There are evil people, who do vile and unlawful acts. But, there is no sin.

    So the doctrine of atonement is pointless. Salvation is unnecessary. The universe is innocent.

    The four so-called great monotheisms — Zoroastrianism, post-exilic Judaism, Xianity, and Islam are so much smoke, mirrors, greasepaint, cardboard used to sell irrational beliefs and puritanical sleaze. The Western versions of religious truth are untrue. They do us not good, but great harm. They are unhealthy.

    What a price we pay for the dream work of our ancestors! A three thousand year old nightmare from which so many in the U.S. never awaken.

    bipolar2
    c. 2007

  • 45. autumn  |  December 8, 2007 at 9:23 pm

    wow oh wow! what a lot of great points!
    i, too reject the bible as being inerrant. i think it would be difficult for people to say that it is inerrant when it does contradict itself. “sin” is such a broad term. it’s “anything God frowns upon”. which is, like you said, a lot. i hate when christians say “you just don’t get it.” and walk away from a conversation. no, i get it, i just don’t think it’s right, now stop being so holier-than-thou and realize where i’m coming from.

  • 46. Stephen P  |  December 9, 2007 at 6:29 am

    Coming back to this a little late (sorry).

    Rachel:

    Really, I love how you guys complain that fundies are so deluded in their literalistic interpretation of scripture and then turn around and call using exegesis to understand scripture a “convenient excuse.” Give me a break.

    You put “convenient excuse” in quotation marks, but I don’t know who you are quoting, as no-one used the phrase until you did. However, this was probably aimed mainly at me.

    I am not objecting to trying to understand scripture and interpret it in a sensible non-literalistic fashion. I have however noticed, both in my own correspondence with apologists and in observing internet discussions, that when apologists start talking about “exegesis” and “hermeneutics”, they are using code-words for something that has little to do with scholarship. Rather, what they do is first make up their minds what they consider to be moral and what sinful, and then invent whatever rules they need to get to their own opinions from the biblical text. Then they claim that their morality is based on the bible, when it is nothing of the sort.

    I think Leopardus got it right when he said “A lot of exegetic approaches give the appearance of weaseling one’s way out of ‘inconvenient passages’.”

  • 47. heatlight  |  December 15, 2007 at 12:08 am

    BiPolar – WHERE in the WORLD do you get the idea that according the Bible that women are responsible for sin? If that is so, why does the text always imply that we die because of ADAM’S sin – not Eve’s? I think a fair reading of those passages would acknowledge this: Eve was deceived – but Adam sinned.

  • 48. heatlight  |  December 15, 2007 at 12:12 am

    Yueheng – returning to our original conversation, study Chiasms, then get back to me about that whole “women in the church” thing.

  • 49. Thinking Ape  |  December 15, 2007 at 12:27 am

    heatlight, I think that bipolar is getting at the pragmatic idea that without Eve, Adam would not have eaten the forbidden fruit, for Eve had to be deceived first, and the weak-willed Adam just followed her lead.
    The “Adam sinned” loophole is easily explained by, what I would argue is much later notion, the patriarchal tendency to ignore the female – remember, “Eve” is actually closer to “Hava” in the original Hebrew and is a title, not a name: the original J Writer never even names Adam’s partner. Women, hence, cannot be “spiritually” or “ultimately” responsible for sin because they don’t have a whole lot of human worth in the Bible – but they can be the cause of sin, such as in the Adam and Eve myth.

  • 50. Jersey  |  December 15, 2007 at 1:54 am

    @ heatlight: how about it this way: eve was disceived, but when it was time for her to tell the truth to god, what did she do? Instead of fessing up and saying that it was her fault she allowed herself to be disceived, she said the whole thing was the snake’s fault. (Since when could snakes walk, talk, and whenever did they eat dust after the fall? Never…)

  • 51. OneSmallStep  |  December 15, 2007 at 10:32 am

    I think 1 Timothy 2 plays a role, especially the last three verses: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was the transgression. Not withstanding, she shall be saved through childbreaing … ” If the woman hadn’t been deceived, Adam wouldn’t have sinned.

  • 52. Anonymous  |  October 10, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    It seems you are judging God by the behaviors of man. Smacks of the original sin to me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

Twitter

Archives

Blog Stats

  • 2,032,396 hits since March 2007

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 203 other followers