Theocratic Evangelicals: Forgetting History

February 13, 2008 at 4:19 pm 44 comments

christianflag.jpgAround a year and a half ago I wrote an article, published elsewhere, on the theocratic inclinations of contemporary evangelical Christians. I continue to recognize that these imposing proclivities are usually theoretical and manifest themselves only on special circumstances, such as in conservative pulpits, political surveys, and in the ballot box. However, as I re-watch that notorious video clip of Mike Huckabee scaring the hell out of every religious (and areligious) minority in America, I can only sit in amazement of the frightening hold the icon (or idol) of the Bible has on these people. For your reading pleasure, I have re-published that original article, with a few edits, below:

I had so many great headlines for this story. If it was not so long, ambiguous or condescending I would have stuck with: “Evangelicals Chose God over Democracy in American Politics”. I admit, the title I selected is still a little harsh and maybe a little misleading but it is getting my opinion across about a poll released by the Pew Research Center back in August 2006. Polls on religion and politics in the United States are always interesting. Specifically, my “favourite” question is the one concerning the influence the Bible should have on United States laws versus the will of the American people. The exact question reads, “Which should be the more important influence on the laws of the United States – Should it be the Bible or should it be the will of the American people, even when it conflicts with the Bible?” The following are the questionnaire results of white evangelicals, white “mainline” Christians, Catholics, and secular Americans:

  • Secular: Will of the American people= 91%, Bible= 7%
  • White mainline: Will of the American people= 78%, Bible= 16%
  • Catholic: Will of the American people= 72%, Bible= 23%
  • White evangelical: Will of the American people= 34%, Bible 60%

I would love to be able to admit my surprise, shock, and disbelief, but I can not. At first one wonders whether those 60% of evangelical Christians actually understand what they are saying when they admit that the Bible should more influence over American lawmaking than the will of the people. Essentially, these people are admitting the defeat of the great American democratic project in favour of a single-source authority. It is very nice and pious to say you want your Scriptures influencing your lawmaking, but this is not what was asked. In order for the Bible to have more influence than the will of the people, it must first be interpreted by a figure of authority. That is to say there is someone qualified to accurately interpret the Bible. I think we had this once. From what I have read in the history books, that did not go over so well (well, the Roman Catholics might not agree but they are not the ones confusing their contemporary politics and religion – according to the poll). It is interesting that these are evangelicals admitting this. These are the supposed theological descendents of Martin Luther’s protestant reformation against the authority of the Pope and the priesthood of all believers. The irony. The people who rebelled against the spiritual authority and theocracy ruling Europe are now supporting the spiritual authority and theocracy of America.

The trouble is, I do not think most evangelicals see it this way. The equation does not compute. The concepts are so horribly simplified that the questioning of authority and the Bible translates as, “What do you support – Good or Evil?” Evangelical Americans are forgetting the reason that church and state are not fused together in the Constitution of the United States is so that they do not end up like Afghanistan, Iran, or Saudi Arabia. Believer it or not, there is more than one interpretation of the Bible. For evangelical Christians, the Pope does not speak for all Christians. God forbid, literally, that George W. Bush II speaks for all Christians. So who is interpreting the Bible in order to deny the will of the American people? Apparently Mike Huckabee and Kenneth Copeland.

-The Apostate

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Reasons I Remained Faithful (for so long) Fundamentalism: A Disease of the Mind?

44 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Secular Planet  |  February 13, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    What about the 7% of “secular” who said the Bible? WTF?

  • 2. JustCan't  |  February 13, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    TA:

    I’m glad to see that Huckabee is pretty much done. I know, I know, he’s waiting for a miracle. And there are millions of people praying for that miracle. I guess it will fall on deaf ears, because he has no chance now. A common problem. I hope that when he finally quits, he’ll be asked why God didn’t provide the miracle his people had prayed so hard for. Oh wait, I know…… probably because the apocalypse is near. I forgot.

    Being in a situation where I am feeling the sting of the evangelical movement (in my marriage), I can honestly say that I am not surprised with the results for evangelicals on the poll you cited. It is so sad. It is like my wife’s brain (and theirs, in the poll) is not allowed to be used anymore. A complete change in wiring.

    Someone recently said to me that it was like she was lost at sea. Not dead — just gone. I agreed, to a point. If she were at sea, she wouldn’t be putting everyone through such hell every day. The person I married is gone though, to be sure.

    It is so scary for me to see this movement work. And it should be to everyone else too. Kenneth Copeland, Mike Huckabee, James Dobson, and so many others are doing such harm to the human race with their blue sky/hot fire garbage.

    I for one, granted still stinging from my own personal experience, hope (not pray) that people will wake up. I hope this danger isn’t like other dangers, where many people have to suffer before things change.

    But of course, I know better. Based on history, this is like an out of control grass fire, with generational and viral capabilities.

  • 3. karen  |  February 13, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    Good points, TA. I agree with your suggestion that most evangelicals do not know, and are not encouraged to think through, the implications of statements like that one you cited.

    Everything is reduced to simplistic, nonsensical choices like: “Who will you serve, god or the devil?’ and of course there’s no option if you want to stay faithful. Doing any kind of historical study or objective research on the topic is unheard of and unnecessary for people who get all their opinions straight from the pulpit.

    I see a lot of buzz about how conservative evangelicals are losing influence and numbers, and how soon they’re going the way of the dinosaur, but I’m wary of writing them or their influence off too quickly. Especially when I see how they have the numbers to keep a whacko candidate like Huckabee alive for so many months. They are still out there and still in impressive numbers.

    To make a different point: How many here who were formerly fundamentalists heard of or ascribed to the theocracy movement? It’s frequently a source of fear for secularists, but honestly even with 30 years steeped in evangelical Christianity I only was hazily aware of theocratic ideas and churches and I totally rejected them, as did most of my fellow church members.

    I contend that it’s very much a fringe movement that doesn’t have a majority of evangelicals’ support. Anybody have a different take on it?

  • 4. Yurka  |  February 13, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    TA, there are subtleties in the Bible that require theological thought such as the doctrine of the trinity, predestination and original sin. There are also areas (adiaphora) that are not addressed at all (holidays, diet, etc. see Rom 14).

    But you vastly, vastly overstate the difficulties when you bring up the question of interpretation here. Most of the biblical injunctions that would apply to civil law are crystal clear. The decalogue, the sin lists in the Pauline epistles, marriage (Mt 19), etc.

    I’m not a theocrat like Bahnsen. But think about it- whatever laws you support, your value judgments will come from somewhere, whether that be nihilistic materialism, or belief in the Deity.

  • 5. Scavenger  |  February 13, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    “If you are a skeptical,deconverting or former Christian???
    Quite selective in your biases aren’t you?
    Why did you leave out the doubting Jew and the Muslim here?

  • 6. Thinking Ape  |  February 13, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Yurka, you give me an example of Jesus or Paul supporting state-imposed morality and I’ll be amazed. The question is not what you support, morally or ethically speaking, it is whether you are legally enforcing one set of codes and creeds upon that on another. I would imagine that you might have some issues of Islam was the majority religion in America and Koranic literalists tried imposing a strict Sharia law in your nation.

    The sorry fact is that 100% of Christians cannot hold true to the Kingdom of God that Jesus taught, but they are more than willing to support someone who says they would like to implement literal Biblical laws. Well lets try and see how long America lasts. I’m Canadian, so be my guess – I’ll just head to the mountains while those giddy for the end of days start declaring holy wars once again.

    And yes, my laws I support do come from somewhere – somewhere between reason and emotionalism: neither “nihilistic materialism” or nihilistic theism play a part. But thanks for the false dichotomy. A virtuous life is hardly a meaningless one. I strongly suggest that you take some care to study ethical philosophy, both ancient and contemporary, before labeling every other philosophy than your own as “nihilistic materialism.”

  • 7. orDover  |  February 13, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    I heard Obama make this same point recently. He mentioned the fact that it was the fundamentalist Christians who were so in favor of the separation of Church and State because the wounds of their battle against Anglican Church were still fresh.

    I know one big catalyst for their argument these days is the misconception (or is a down-right lie?) that “this country was founded on Christian values,” and the desire to “return morals to America.” I was always taught, via my 12 years of Christian education, that the Founding Fathers were Bible-believing Christians, righteous men of faith. I later found out, much to my surprise, that the founding fathers opposed Christianity and believed in a loose form of Cartesian Deism.

    Jefferson:
    “I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature.”

    “I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology.”

    Adams:
    “The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find a precept for Creeds, Confessions, Oaths, Doctrines, and whole cartloads of other foolish trumpery that we find in Christianity.”

    Franklin:
    “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”

    And one Lincoln quote, although he was not technically a founding father:
    “The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my profession.”

    Plus we have this zinger, from the treaty with Tripoli from 1796 which says that the United States was “in no sense founded on the Christian religion.”

  • 8. Thinking Ape  |  February 13, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    orDover elucidates much of the problem which I hinted at in my title. I recommend Stephen Prothero’s “Religious Literacy” for more information on the development of evangelical Christian push for the secular state (in fact the only issue I would take up with orDover in the previous response is the use of “fundamentalist” rather than “evangelical”).

  • 9. Thinking Ape  |  February 13, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Scavenger,
    I assume you are referring to the website’s subtitle. As you will notice, our community site, http://de-conversion.org, has changed it to “A Community for Religious Apostates.” While we definitely welcome apostates to this blog from all religious backgrounds, it subtitle merely reflects the reality of Christian dominance in America (and the western world). Additionally, the majority of the contributors come from Christian backgrounds (with one or two never actually being a de-convert – whether currently an atheist or a theist).
    I stress, however, that we would love the input of a fellow apostate – be him or her a skeptical Jew, an ex-Muslim, or an escapee from New Age spiritualism.

  • 10. mcclaud  |  February 14, 2008 at 6:48 am

    “I would imagine that you might have some issues of Islam was the majority religion in America and Koranic literalists tried imposing a strict Sharia law in your nation.”

    That hits the nail on the head. You set a precedence now for allowing religion to control this nation, and later, should Christianity become the minority, the new majority religion will walk all over you in retribution for forcing religious views on them.

    “Do onto others as you would have done onto you” or better yet, “An eye for an eye.”

    A lot of evangelical Christians I interact with on a daily basis – mostly in forums – don’t want to hear it. They think that moral absolution and the Bible are the only way we should be governed, without a thought to free will or choice.

    And to take away free will of others is an affront to God, who allowed us to make choices – whether they are sin or virtue – because that is the Creator’s ultimate love for us.

  • 11. Happy Valentine’s Day 2008 « The Sound of EmCeeKhan  |  February 14, 2008 at 6:50 am

    [...] And here’s a good article on why we should keep religion and faith [...]

  • 12. ED  |  February 14, 2008 at 10:07 am

    Very Good blog. However, the reason evangelicals choose to inch ever closer to a theocratic state is not due to “forgetting” the reformation or the abuses of history, it is because most evangelicals don’t know about where protestantism originates or for that matter very little knowledge of church history. Evangelicals’ knowledge of history is barely surpassed by their lack of knowledge about what the bible itself has to say on matters of ethics. As a former fundamentalist, my experience has been that most church systems exist to protect and pass along the dogma of the particular denomination of which they belong. Most fundamentalist denominations should have a sign over the door reminding people to check their brains at the door.

  • 13. abw  |  February 14, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    orDover…what are your sources for those quotes. I have always heard that the founding fathers were Christians…they didn’t agree with Christianity and politics mixing but I always thought they themselves were Christians. I would be interested in looking up your sources and seeing those quotes for myself.

  • 14. Thinking Ape  |  February 14, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    abw,
    The Treaty of Tripoli (specifically Article 11 – it was meant to further the idea that the United States is religiously neutral and would not declare something akin to a holy war) and numerous quotes by Jefferson, Paine, and Adams can be found everywhere – simply search should suffice. I’ll let orDover answer for his specific quotes, but they shouldn’t be hard to find.

  • 15. orDover  |  February 14, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    Her specific quotes.

    Anyway, the Franklin quote is from Poor Richard’s Almanac, and the Lincoln quote is from a speech, recorded by Joseph Lewis. The Jefferson and Adams are hard to trace back, but they both have many other quotes of similar nature with better sources. Such as this:
    “It is not to be understood that I am with him (Jesus Christ) in all his doctrines. I am a Materialist; he takes the side of Spiritualism, he preaches the efficacy of repentance toward forgiveness of sin; I require a counterpoise of good works to redeem it.” – Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Carey, 1816

    Also interesting to note is what Jefferson wrote about Washington:
    “Gouverneur Morris had often told me that General Washington believed no more of that system (Christianity) than did he himself.” – Jefferson, private journal, Feb. 1800

    There are actually tons of websites dedicated to this topic that all present the quotes I gave and many others. It’s really common knowledge outside of the evangelical Christian word that they were Deists. And it only makes sense, considering them were men of the Enlightenment.

    Thinking Ape, I used “fundamental” instead of “evangelical” because one of the main tenets of the Protestant Reformation was the literal interpretation of the Bible and I wanted to emphasize that point.

  • 16. Thinking Ape  |  February 14, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    orDover, my sincerest apologize – a patriarchal slip up on my part.

  • 17. Thinking Ape  |  February 14, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    orDover,
    re: fundamentalism vs. evangelicalism.
    I agree that Biblical literalism was a major tenet during the Protestant Reformation, but it used an entirely different interpretative method than contemporary fundamentalists. We could go on to argue that the earliest Christians were “fundamentalists” as were Pharisaic Jews.
    I only call attention to confusing anachronisms – there are enough of them in Christianity that we don’t need to create more of them. You had used “fundamentalists” in terms of social movement of some type; I am only commenting that, historically speaking, fundamentalism is a 20th century American phenomenon, whereas evangelicalism is a late 18th/early 19th century creation. Again, I wasn’t make a big deal of it, its just a major part of my graduate thesis and I felt the pretentious need to clarify :P.

  • 18. Mike  |  February 14, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    TA,

    Good post. I just did a similar one a couple days ago on our blog. I am a Libertarian precisely because of the reasons you cite in #6, “you give me an example of Jesus or Paul supporting state-imposed morality and I’ll be amazed. ” However, I think the reason that Evangelicals believe they should go to the Bible for rule in government is precisely because we live in a Democracy. They get their moral guidance from their interpretations of scripture and vote according to their conscience. There is nothing wrong with this at all. It is no different in practice than the process of the atheist or theist, except of course the source. Now the problem is when they get upset that what they voted on doesnt become law (and gloat when what they did vote on becomes law). And Christian groups are absolutely notorious for picking the wrong battles. Dont even get me started (slight pun from SNL).

    My difficulty in the whole issue has been the fact that the only reason that some people dont embezzle from their company is because it is against the law. There are actions that affect others negatively, so we prohibit them. But people’s interpretations of negative effects are wishy washy at best. So how do we determine what laws to enact? The only moral backdrop I am comfortable with as a Christian is the Bible. But I understand that people may interpret their responsibilities differently.

    For instance, Christians are called to take care of widows and orphans (basically those that couldnt support themselves). Some Christians believe this means the state should provide welfare programs that do this, and consequently it is their duty to vote accordingly. Others feel that it is the church who should provide this support to the community it ministers to. As a Libertarian, I lean toward the responsibility being placed on the church, but I greatly respect those who feel the state should provide welfare programs.

    I dont know. These are just several thoughts I have had lately and I apologize if they dont seem coherent. Do they resonate though? Did I unwittingly propogate the very thing you are railing against? Are we on the same page (albeit coming from different perspectives)?

  • 19. orDover  |  February 14, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    Okay TA, thanks for setting me straight in regard to terminology.

  • 20. ninepoundhammer  |  February 16, 2008 at 9:41 am

    I think it is important to consider what placing the ‘will of the people’ upon a throne would get you when drawn out to its logical conclusion. Was not slavery at one time the law of the land and ‘the will of the people?’

    Even more, suppose we place the will of the people as the most important vehicle of our government–and then the people choose to have a theocracy. If that’s the ‘will of the people’, by your argument, would that then be acceptable?

    What if the will of the people was to herd people into camps and sytematically exterminate them? Or to kick them out of the country? Or to euthenise baby girls (as was the policy in China for some time)?

    The will of the people is not infallible and–owing to our nature–not all that desirable as the touchstone for right or wrong.

    What if all us ‘mentally diseased’ Christians were the 80% majority–would you then want to live under the sway of our will in government. (I think I know the answer to that.)

  • 21. Thinking Ape  |  February 16, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    ninepoundhammer,
    You outlined all of the flaws with democracy – yet it is the best form of government we have. When someone says “the will of the people” it is always a reference to the democratic Constitution of the nation in discussion. Does democracy lead to tyranny? Not necessarily. Can democracy lead to tyranny? As we saw in Germany in the 1930’s, of course.
    Political and social philosophers have been discussing the advantages and disadvantages to democracy since the classical Greek era. What you failed to mention was an alternative. Now should Christians – whether you refer to yourself as mentally diseased or not, that is not my position – make up the majority in my nation (which they do in the United States), I would care less, so long as they respected the rights of the minority. Now should fundamentalist Christians take over the government (which they have on federal and state levels in the United States), I would be deeply worried for my civil rights, because certain Christians question even those rights.
    The problem with extremists is that they shut down discussion. Both sides start yelling at each other and a nation goes bi-polar. And when discussion is shut down, people take sides that don’t even make sense in their own religious or areligious paradigm (eg. secularists and pro-choice, Christians and capital punishment).

  • 22. ninepoundhammer  |  February 16, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    Do you feel that describing Christians as ‘mentally diseased’ (as you did in another post) promotes civil discourse?

    Something I think you should keep in mind: One should separate Christianity from Christians. As the former makes clear, the latter are, and always will be this side of glory, sinners. The failings of the followers should not dictate the veracity of the beliefs.

    To wit: When a teacher is caught having sexual relations with an underaged student, there are no cries to dismantle Big Education. When a politician is found guilty of malfeasance, there are not loud calls to do away with Government. Nor is there a move to eradicate Hollywood because a couple of young actresses can not keep out of trouble. One can not say that Christianity is bad because some of the followers are fallen.

    As for civil rights, where do they come from? What is the highest authority? If it resides in the people, they are NEVER safe (ask the 30 million Ukrainians systematically starved under Stalin). Are YOU the highest moral authority? Is a simple majority vote of the people the arbiter of Right and Wrong? Remember, the will of the people is as fallible and subject to passion as anything else.

    If I believe something to be true why, then, would I vascillate or abandon it depending on whim? I’d like to see you argue gravity with someone. No matter how much ‘dialogue’ or ‘discussion’ they may want to have, would you not try to convince them that jumping off a bridge (without a parachute, etc.) is NOT a good idea? Or, would you leave them to their own enlightened devices so that you can be considered ‘open-minded’?

  • 23. Thinking Ape  |  February 16, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    ninepoundhammer,

    Do you feel that describing Christians as ‘mentally diseased’ (as you did in another post) promotes civil discourse?

    I have never called any Christian “mentally diseased.” I believe you are referring to MysteryofIniquity’s recent post on fundamentalism. While I do not share her candid malignment, I do recognize that there is a frustration towards fundamentalists by most moderate Chrisitans as well as secularists. And no, I do not believe it promotes civil discourse and I encourage you to respond with civil criticism on that article.

    One should separate Christianity from Christians…

    So I told myself for many years. Sociologically and politically, however, such a separation is not so easy. Survey’s have shown how evangelical Christians flocked to George Bush on both elections and multiple books have been written on the phenomena of American Christians going from heavily Democrat in the mid-20th century to politically apathetic to swinging right in the 70s and beyond.
    Sure, theologically and morally speaking we can most definitely separate, but that doesn’t mean much to most of us. All it has shown us is that Christian theology continues to evolve and its morality is highly subjective and culturally relative.

    One can not say that Christianity is bad because some of the followers are fallen.

    I completely agree with you – but to wit, as you say, which followers should we side with?
    In all seriousness, I knew there was something seriously wrong and hypocritical about the majority of Christians all of my life. This hardly turned me agnostic. You know what I did instead? I worked my ass off in my theological and Biblical studies in hopes of being a) a great apologist for the faith and b) a much needed reformer. When DC Talk famously intro’d “What If I Stumble,” it was the most real statement I heard in a long time:

    The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and get on with their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.

    I thought I, along with many others, could change this. The problem is that the premise is wrong. The largest cause of atheism is not experiential, it is philosophical.

    As for civil rights, where do they come from? What is the highest authority?… Are YOU the highest moral authority? Is a simple majority vote of the people the arbiter of Right and Wrong? Remember, the will of the people is as fallible and subject to passion as anything else.

    Your last statement hits the nail on the head. The will of the people is fallible and subject to passion… as well as reason. No one is denying this and there is no need to point out Stalin’s reign (who had nothing to do with democracy), I already stated the problems the democracy can lead to with Hitler’s (which was a result of democracy).
    ninepoundhammer, I am unsure whether you care for civil discourse yourself. When did I ever claim to be of the highest authority on anything? If I did, I would be a totalitarian (one without much power). If anything, is it not yourself who believes he/she has a hotline to the highest authority and knows absolute right from wrong? I, and no political philosopher, have ever said that a majority vote determines right from wrong. Where are you coming from and why do you make such comments? Our civil rights come as a result of deliberation upon centuries of moral and political philosophy – pick up a history book, you’ll enjoy it. I recommend Hackett’s “Classics of Moral and Political Theory.” If, however, you are looking for something a little more teleological, I recommend Hauser’s “Moral Minds.”

    If I believe something to be true why, then, would I vascillate or abandon it depending on whim?

    Who is asking you to do such a deed? My only encouragement to anyone I meet to not to simply flounder in a static belief. If you are passionate about your belief system, continue to learn about it. I have never lost my passion for learning about philosophies and theologies of Christianity, or the sociological and political realities of its adherents.

    No matter how much ‘dialogue’ or ‘discussion’ they may want to have, would you not try to convince them that jumping off a bridge (without a parachute, etc.) is NOT a good idea?

    Um, well, the problem with analogies is that they always break down. But if you must use it – I would still say dialogue is the best way of getting someone to come down from a bridge. It would appear to me that the lack of discourse usually ends up in one person pushing another off the cliff.

    Or, would you leave them to their own enlightened devices so that you can be considered ‘open-minded’?

    Oh snap, so you ARE the highest authority! Sorry God, I didn’t recognize you.
    I’m sorry to say this but simply because you claim to have the ultimate knowledge of the Kingdom of God doesn’t make it true. So sit down and explain to me why you think this is the case. I have spent my entire life (literally) investigating in one way or another, the claims of various Christianities – I am hardly one to be considered a cliff jumper. The problem is I continue to run into individuals who make claims of authority, yet cannot substantiate them.

  • 24. ninepoundhammer  |  February 16, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    I am afraid you didn’t understand my point(s). When asking questions such as I did, using ‘you’ and other pronouns does not necessarily mean I am speaking directly to or about ‘you.’ It is merely a (Socratic, perhaps) method for discussion.

    By the way, I have read a history book or two. (I have a B.A. and M.A. in history.)

    We are obviously arguing past one another. I am not claiming to be any sort of authority; it appears that you are, however–by this and other posts you have made.

    How do I know truth? I reckon the same way you do: I examine the data. We have the same facts, yet different conclusions. We can both be wrong–but we can’t both be right. (I reckon one day we’ll all know.)

    And, again, I would posit one should not judge Christianity necessarily by the people. We acknowledge our fallen/ sinful condition–thus, the need for Jesus. I certainly hope that I am not the gold standard by which others judge the veracity of the Gospel. I sin daily–all day. I am but a poor sinner, a wretched man (Romans 7). But, thank God that He condescended to us and provided the propitiation for my sins against Him. I didn’t (and don’t) deserve it–yet, in His mercy, He chose to save me.

    It seems to me that something (someone?) happened to you in your life that made you bitter. I hope you resolve it and will one day return to the faith.

  • 25. LeoPardus  |  February 17, 2008 at 12:04 am

    ninepoundhammer:

    What is the highest authority? If it resides in the people, they are NEVER safe (ask the 30 million Ukrainians systematically starved under Stalin).

    Uhm, in that particular instance, the authority was decidedly NOT with the people. It was with a single dictator. Had authority been in the hands of the people, the Ukranians, and the rest of the Soviet people would probably have been MUCh better off.

    Is a simple majority vote of the people the arbiter of Right and Wrong?

    Generally, in the western countries, it is. Democracy ya know. Not that it’s the best system, in fact I believe Churchill said it was, “the worst form of Government except for all those others that have been tried from time to time.”

  • 26. Thinking Ape  |  February 17, 2008 at 3:03 am

    ninepoundhammer,

    It seems to me that something (someone?) happened to you in your life that made you bitter. I hope you resolve it and will one day return to the faith.

    Sir or Ma’am, please re-read our discussion. I would very much appreciate it if you could back up what you say. While I have taken much of my time to respond to at least 90% of your comments, you have neglected almost every single statement I have made.

    And for our regular readers, I would like you to pay special attention to the follow quote from nph:

    By the way, I have read a history book or two. (I have a B.A. and M.A. in history.)

    If you follow this blog at all, you will find me pointing this out at least a dozen times. If you feel the need to refer to your academic credentials you probably don’t have them. NPH, I would love to give you the benefit of the doubt, so just a word of advice: your credentials do not mean anything in any discussion or dialogue, and if you do have an MA, you should know better.
    And I believe you have picked up a book – I was simply giving excellent references that would help you in your ongoing search for where our civil rights come from.

    We are obviously arguing past one another. I am not claiming to be any sort of authority; it appears that you are, however–by this and other posts you have made.

    I have not argued past you. I have blockquoted almost every statement you have made and responded directly to them. You have, as I have said, chosen to dismiss every response I have given. This is plain to see for any reader. I would like you also to please reference what posts I have written in which I have portrayed to be an authority of any type.

    I am afraid you didn’t understand my point(s).

    Well make yourself clear then. Re-read what you write before you press “submit.” And no, it is called speaking rhetorically and has nothing to do with the Socratic method (which actually involves responding to what someone answers). When you think there is some aspect of our discussion that I haven’t understood, it would be nice, once again, to back that up.

    How do I know truth? I reckon the same way you do: I examine the data.

    We are speaking about political issues here still are we not? What data are you suggesting? Even if have moved on from politics to theology, I would still ask, what data do you suggest?

    I would posit one should not judge Christianity necessarily by the people. We acknowledge our fallen/ sinful condition–thus, the need for Jesus.

    You can keep saying it, but it would be nice if you could answer my response. I believe I said, repeatedly, that Christianity, at least philosophically and theologically, should not be judged by its adherents, but by its texts, tenets and creeds. But that is all that is judged, it has no filling until someone fills it. The last Christian, in that case, died on the cross two thousand years ago.

    I will conclude by going back to my original comment in this response. I am not bitter at Christianity, sir/ma’am. I greatly appreciate and am indebted to much of Christian philosophy. I have made this quite clear. I am, however, somewhat bitter towards the utter lack of respect and integrity that many Christians show in completely civil discourse. I am disappointed at those Christians who continue to call themselves such without caring to treat their texts with integrity as they would a Shakespearean play. I am disappointed at those who debate by shoving aside valid responses and genuine questions to push a message that they believe to be true, yet have trouble convincing others of it. I am disappointed that someone who supposed has taken the time and energy to write a Master’s Thesis on something, requiring exhaustive research and perhaps hundreds of citations, cannot substantiate one claim, whether positive for his/her arguments or negatively against mine.

  • 27. Thinking Ape  |  February 17, 2008 at 3:06 am

    ninepoundhammer,
    Furthermore, I would encourage you to go to the top right corner of the blog, under “Contributors” and click on “ThinkingApe.” You have made false statements about what I believe and have obviously not read any of my articles. By clicking on that link you can read what I have written and no one else. Maybe you will not accuse so hastily.

  • 28. Godamn  |  February 17, 2008 at 3:22 am

    Oh brother! The “What made you so bitter?” line again. What makes you so sure deconverts lose faith because of some terrible calamity that befell him? I think the previous comments were quite clear as to the reasons for the loss of faith.

  • 29. paulmct  |  February 17, 2008 at 4:20 am

    “The irony. The people who rebelled against the spiritual authority and theocracy ruling Europe are now supporting the spiritual authority and theocracy of America.”

    No great surprise really, in the country that rebelled against an empire then became an empire.

  • 30. Thinking Ape  |  February 17, 2008 at 4:42 am

    Godamn to ninepoundhammer:

    Oh brother! The “What made you so bitter?” line again. What makes you so sure deconverts lose faith because of some terrible calamity that befell him? I think the previous comments were quite clear as to the reasons for the loss of faith.

    Isn’t it interesting that this was even brought up? I see how certain passionate posts by myself and others may lead one to think this, but I would hardly consider this one of them.
    In reality my evangelical parents are quite loving and I would never ask for another set. My sister is a missionary who knows very little about Christian theology or history and is satisfied with Jesus’ love – which is good for her and I love her to death. The majority of my closest friends are from the Bible college I attended, many of whom are in seminary. I can’t blame my parents, I can’t blame my friends. I can’t blame any old relationships because my only bitter one was with an agnostic atheist. As a Canadian, your politics affect me mostly in an economic way and only slightly give me a gag reflex when someone like Bush was re-elected or Huckabee starts speaking about the Constitution.
    But yes, there must be something that made me bitter. How about devoting my dreams, my time, my entire life, every aspect of my life to something that I found, even through my entirely Christian/fundamentalist/evangelical-centered bias, is false. If I am bitter, it is only at myself.

  • 31. Thinking Ape  |  February 17, 2008 at 4:47 am

    paulmct,

    No great surprise really, in the country that rebelled against an empire then became an empire.

    Not only a country, but a religion that rebelled against an empire! The majority of scholarship on Paul coming out of the Society of Biblical Literature has been suggesting that Paul was vehemently anti-empire.

    Furthermore, Kierkegaard, I believe, recognized this centuries ago, since he was puzzled about how one could actually be a Christian in a Christian world. He deciphered by reading the scriptures and engaging with existential philosophy that there is an actual logical contradiction between the moral theology taught by Jesus and the life of a Christian immersed in a Christian culture.

  • 32. ninepoundhammer  |  February 17, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Again, you have misunderstood (or chosen to ignore) what I have written. As to my having presented false claims about you, if that is so, it was unintentional. The genesis (pun intended) of my original comment was in response to the post on Christians having a mental disorder. Because it was on your blog, I assumed that you wrote or, at least, endorsed it.

    Let me conclude with this: You rail against Christians who purport to have an air of superiority and/ or a lock on truth. My impression from reading your posts and comments is that there is no lack of the same from you.

    You continue to deny my point about differentiating Christians (fallen sinners) from Christianity, yet you continue to make comments doing exactly that.

    With that, as I said before, we are arguing past one another and that’s not fruitful nor beneficial.

    You are absolutely correct in at least one thing: No one can be browbeaten (nor should they) into believing the Gospel. I won’t be one of those who tries.

  • 33. Zoe  |  February 17, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Ninepoundhammer: “Because it was on your blog, I assumed that you wrote or, at least, endorsed it.”

    Wrong assumption. We are not clones in thought or experience.

  • 34. Thinking Ape  |  February 17, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    ninepoundhammer,

    Again, you have misunderstood (or chosen to ignore) what I have written.

    Please outline what I have missed and, as I have stated, I will respond to it.

    As to my having presented false claims about you, if that is so, it was unintentional.

    You have repeatedly made assumptions about who I am and what I believe without any substantiation and you know it.

    Because it was on your blog, I assumed that you wrote or, at least, endorsed it.

    You will note, upon casual observance that at the bottom of each article, in bold, is the author of the article. There are over 20 contributors here at d-C. So while you are making arguments that we should not judge Christianity by the way Christians act, think, speak, etc., what have you done by thinking that 20 people with only one thing in common all think the same thing? Some of us believe in God, some do not. Some of us grew up in evangelicalism, some of us in Eastern Orthodoxy. Some live in Europe, some in North America. Gross assumptions only hurt your arguments, not mine.

    Let me conclude with this: You rail against Christians who purport to have an air of superiority and/ or a lock on truth. My impression from reading your posts and comments is that there is no lack of the same from you.

    Back it up back it up back it up. I gave you the benefit of the doubt and it appears you are completely incapable of substantiating any claim you make. I would gladly respond to your accusations if you would properly deliver them! Likewise, I will not bow down to a belief system if it is solely based on someone claim that it is truth! Why do you, sir or ma’am, not believe that Islam is not the truth, for they argue as passionately as you do? Well, maybe it doesn’t ring true for you – why?! This is all I have been asking all along and yet you haven’t given me one actual argument for why you believe your perspective to be true.

    As for the whole Christian superiority thing: who, under your belief system, preached humility? Who demanded a revolutionary new world where the first would be last and the last, first? Who, amongst a patriarchal society, included multiple women among his followers? Who railed against those white-washed Pharisees for their supposed spiritual superiority? Who died a suffering horrible, humiliating death? I am more than in my right to criticize those who call themselves “Christians” but they are, in fact, in name only. They have no clue what Jesus himself taught and hold Truth like the Pharisees did.
    I do not rail against those who are inherently superior, I rail against those who logically contradict everything that not only I stand for, but so did their supposed founder.

    You continue to deny my point about differentiating Christians (fallen sinners) from Christianity, yet you continue to make comments doing exactly that.

    I have not denied it, I have differentiated the various aspects of Christianity. You have not responded to any of this except by repeating your same statement over and over.
    But let me ask you this, if we take all the supposed “Christians” away – does Christianity still exist? Or if we completely warp what Christianity was in the past, is it still the same “Christianity”?

    With that, as I said before, we are arguing past one another and that’s not fruitful nor beneficial.

    I continue to respond directly to you, and you lack either the integrity or the capability to do the same.

    You are absolutely correct in at least one thing: No one can be browbeaten (nor should they) into believing the Gospel. I won’t be one of those who tries.

    No, instead you will compare the religious decision of one’s life to jumping off a cliff, presumably to eternal damnation. Not browbeating at all – just passive-aggressively saying, nice to know you, you hell-bound heathen. Talk to me! ninepoundhammer, I have repeatedly given you opportunities to share your ideas with me. Tell me not only what you believe, which I still do not know, but why you believe them! You have continually dismissed all of these opportunities only to turn around and pick a fight that isn’t there! Sometimes I wonder whether you are actually reading any of my responses!?

  • 35. karen  |  February 17, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    TA, you’re one of the least bitter and most consistently civil and thoughtful contributors here.

    Don’t let this guy get you down. He’s obviously not reading your responses, he’s just repeating random arguments from his own agenda and he’s flummoxed that you’re not taking his bait so he can’t do anything but repeat himself.

    Sorry, ninepoundhammer, but you live up to your moniker. Try beating someone over the head elsewhere, why don’t you?

  • 36. ninepoundhammer  |  February 17, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    Again, you have missed the points I have been trying to make–you’re misstatement of my ‘cliff analogy’ is a prime example. I have tried very much not to be contentious nor petty. (Sadly, the favour has not been returned.) That is why I tried to leave the argument; I don’t have the time nor inclination to continue such a fruitless exercise and this is hardly the best vehicle for doing so in any case.

    Those who have inserted themselves into the discussion have had just as little success in understanding what it is that I have been trying to say. You accuse me of not being clear–and perhaps I have not gotten my ideas across well–but your responses make it obvious that you either cannot or will not understand what I am trying to say.

    One thing is for sure: It is quite clear that Christians most certainly do not have the market cornered on hypocricy and arrogance.

  • 37. karen  |  February 17, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Those who have inserted themselves into the discussion have had just as little success in understanding what it is that I have been trying to say. You accuse me of not being clear–and perhaps I have not gotten my ideas across well–but your responses make it obvious that you either cannot or will not understand what I am trying to say.

    Geez, did you ever think that if a whole bunch of people don’t “get” what you’re trying to say, the problem might be in your own thinking or in your delivery?

    Believe it or not, we’re a fairly bright bunch around here. People like you come onto the site all the time and we are generally pretty much able to understand the arguments they’re making and respond rationally.

    You’ll see that is true if you look at some of our longer threads – there’s quite a bit of erudition in these parts. To assume that we can’t understand your lofty arguments or are willfully ignoring them is pretty amazing. And yet you accuse US of arrogance? Wow.

  • 38. ninepoundhammer  |  February 17, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    Karen:
    Thank you for proving my point yet again. I have, many times in this thread, admitted that the reason for misunderstanding could lie at my feet, inasmuch as I may not be getting my point across as I would like. In fact, you quoted that in your post above (‘and perhaps I have not gotten my ideas across well’…).

    What I wrote was that y’all are not getting my point–and I have admitted many times (again) that it may be my fault for lack of clarity. Still, the fact remains that y’all are not getting my point. I never wrote that it was due to an lack of intellectual ability, I merely stated that my point has not come across. My observation is that many here are bristling for a fight (I admit that I can get my hackles up rather easily, as well) and are too eager to interpret every comment as an insult or attack.

    I don’t know how many more ways I can say that I am trying to admit that we should agree to disagree and that I am (apparently) misunderstanding what it is y’all are trying to get across.

    To back up a bit, here is what my initial issues were:
    1) The post regarding the mental pathology of Christian ‘fundamentalism.’
    I admitted to incorrectly attributing the authorship of the article to the blog master. My mistake. A thousand mea culpa’s. However, I would assume you can understand how I would at least think that he endorses such a view and why I would take issue with it.
    2) Much of what TA has written regarding this thread has had to do with the behaviour of Christians reflecting poorly on Christianity. I take issue with that because there are NO good Christians–we are all wretched sinners in need of God’s grace. Because some Christians behave badly should not reflect on the veracity of the faith itself. I also understand that y’all believe Christanity is false; that was not my main point of contention. Judge as you will the faith for its own sake and not by its followers–again, who are fallen sinners. Pythagorus’ theorem is not disproved by the fact that I may not be able to perform the calculations, nor is the civil law by default evil by virtue of our filled jails.
    3) Christians have been derided in this thread for ‘arrogantly’ posting that we have the truth. Yet, does it occur to you that your argument bears the same assertion? (Such a statement–without proof–is made in the ‘About’ section of this blog, in fact.)

    Now, I have tried not to be contentious but have, as evidenced by many responses, come across that way–hence my frustration. Much like e-mail, one cannot utilise voice inflection, facial expression, nor verbal pauses–to say nothing of ‘air quotes’ :) –to modify a post. I is easily open to misinterpretation.

    Therefore, yet again, I will state that I am not accusing y’all of being so obtuse as to be unable to understand my posts. Rather, I am saying that my point is not adequately coming across; thus, y’all are ‘not getting it.’ Don’t take that as an insult, it is just a fact. Whether my fault or not, my point is being missed and we have reached an impasse against which it does none of us any good to assail.

    I do not apologise for my (perhaps inadequate) defense of my Christian brethren or my faith in the one Triune God. However, I will apologise for any intemperate language–intentional or otherwise–and hope that we can (as much as possible in cyberspace) live in peace.

  • 39. Thinking Ape  |  February 17, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    ninepoundhammer,

    I have tried very much not to be contentious nor petty. (Sadly, the favour has not been returned.)

    I apologize if you believe I have been contentious and petty, but I believe that is all you moved this discussion to. You have not substantiated any claim you have made. You have not tried to explain vague analogies. You have not bothered to have a normal debate, and you are easily offended.
    I responded thoroughly and succinctly and did not return the favour under any circumstance. You have limited your arguments to sticks and stones – I have never called you arrogant or hypocritical. I never leveled a personal attack on your character. I focused solely on your arguments or your lack of valid argumentation. Please do the same.

    1) The post regarding the mental pathology of Christian ‘fundamentalism.’
    I admitted to incorrectly attributing the authorship of the article to the blog master.

    The funny thing is, you didn’t admit any wrong-doing. Instead, you tried to weasel out of admitting anything by actually trying to make it my fault.

    2) Much of what TA has written regarding this thread has had to do with the behaviour of Christians reflecting poorly on Christianity.

    And much of what TA has written completely blows this statement out of the water. I can’t help it if it makes Christianity looks poorly – you make your own bed. But how about instead of blaming the one billion or so “Christians” on the planet, try doing something about it! The very fact that I railed only against one extremist sect of Christianity means nothing to you. The fact that fundamentalists would most likely be unrecognizable to original Christianity means nothing to you!

    Why do you not respond to anything I say? Are you doing this completely on purpose? Are you really that low?

    3) Christians have been derided in this thread for ‘arrogantly’ posting that we have the truth. Yet, does it occur to you that your argument bears the same assertion? (Such a statement–without proof–is made in the ‘About’ section of this blog, in fact.)

    Should I even bother? Well, since you actually backed up one thing you said, I may as well follow through with my promise. First, I will ignore that first comment since you did not give an example. I have never called a Christian arrogant for believing you have truth. I have definitely, however, implied it when someone argues as though they speak for God – I think we both believe this would be arrogant.
    My own personal arrogance. A much better topic, I admit. Arrogant: “Having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance and abilities.” Hmmm. I know I definitely haven’t made any fallacious arguments from authority (i.e. I have a philosophy degree, which gives me credibility), nor have I claimed, explicitly to possess any objective truth. But yes, as a perspectivist, I am going to have a subjective view of what I believe is true and I am in my right to express that view. The problem is, just by opening my mouth (or moving my fingers), does this make me arrogant? I doubt this is the case inherently, so I must ask, once again, in what cases would you say I have acted so arrogantly? How have I revealed an exaggerated sense of importance? I have merely refuted your claims and asked questions (which were all ignored). If you feel that it is because my refutations were too harsh or my questions too cynical, you really have to get out more.
    As for the “About me” section. I personally haven’t read it in awhile, but I believe what you say is true. Philosophically speaking, if someone holds that they believe their life is dictated certain things, including the right to convert others with very little evidence, and go about their life as though they have the “inside scoop” on the Almighty, it is, well, an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance.

    Therefore, yet again, I will state that I am not accusing y’all of being so obtuse as to be unable to understand my posts. Rather, I am saying that my point is not adequately coming across; thus, y’all are ‘not getting it.’ Don’t take that as an insult, it is just a fact.

    No, this is what you said earlier:

    Again, you have misunderstood (or chosen to ignore) what I have written.

    To which I replied,

    Please outline what I have missed and, as I have stated, I will respond to it.

    To which I have been met with silence.

  • 40. ninepoundhammer  |  February 18, 2008 at 10:28 am

    I am simply incredulous. The whole last post was outlining exactly what my reasons were for commenting originally and trying to clear it up. And you end your response with ‘Please outline what I have missed’! Amazing. I don’t know what else I can do. Now I know what the problem is, you DO refuse to even consider my side of the discussion.

    Accuse me of ‘sticks and stones’ and then call me ‘low’? Really. Accusing me of ‘weaseling?’ Hmmm.

    You have proven my point again and again, no matter how gracious I try to be.

    You think you have it all figured out and accuse Christians of the same. You ARE arrogant and stubborn. Take a long look in the mirror.

    Physician, heal thyself.

  • 41. HeIsSailing  |  February 18, 2008 at 10:34 am

    Thinking Ape, stop feeding this troll.

  • 42. Thinking Ape  |  February 18, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    HeIsSailing suggests,

    Thinking Ape, stop feeding this troll.

    I figured if I exhausted every avenue, his/her trolling would become increasingly apparent. So I agree, I think that I can do no more.

  • 43. Thinking Ape  |  February 24, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Secular Planet in comment #1,

    What about the 7% of “secular” who said the Bible? WTF?

    You know, that was the second thing that came across my mind. Maybe they were thinking theoretically speaking?

  • 44. PirateFaafy  |  March 21, 2008 at 12:20 am

    Ah, Thinking Ape, you are one of my favourite contributers here. You do nothing but try to be fair, and you will even argue an atheist if they say something fallacious. However, there are all these people who would do no more than to try and make you look bad by insulting you and using terrible logic to, as you put it, “weasel” their way into looking like they are right in arguments.

    It truly saddens me that such a bright mind is being so vehemently ignored by those who choose to do nothing about what anyone does but live in complete and utter denial.

    *Puts away thesaurus*

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Attention Christian Readers

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

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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.

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