Fundamentalism: A Disease of the Mind?

February 15, 2008 at 12:08 pm 189 comments

Disclaimer: This article is my opinion only, based on my own literary and theoretical research (M.A. in Lit.) and is not intended as “scientific research” or “rhetorical argument.” It is not a proscription against Christians in general, nor should it be implied as a “remedy.” It is a description of my thought processes out of Fundamentalism. Please don’t infer anything else.

memes-danger.pngThe more I interact with Christian fundamentalists, either in church or on the Internet, the more I become convinced it is a disease of the mind, or at least a self-replicating meme or “mind virus.” Having been a Christian fundamentalist myself, I can honestly say that you aren’t in your right mind when you are caught in the throes of religious fundamentalism. As a fundamentalist you close your mind to anything but what ancient texts say. You only listen to certain things and filter everything through the lens of your chosen religion. How can this be normal when we are born without filters of any kind (except pain and pleasure)? Being a fundamentalist is like confining all your thought to the works of Archimedes or to Shakespeare (that might not be a bad idea) and refusing to accept information past that point. It’s like insisting that Greek culture is the only true culture and channeling all of your efforts to seeing that it becomes our culture now.

That being said, there is a certain thrill in suddenly “waking up” and realizing you’ve been deluding yourself for many years. What I once did to become a fundamentalist, I have now done in freeing myself from it’s grasp. You slowly begin to grasp that the fundamentalist rituals you are using are designed solely to keep those delusions fresh and ever present in your mind so that you will quickly fall into line if you have doubts. Hell is an ever present threat. You pull out pat phrases and use terminology of the group rather than honestly grapple with questions that come your way. It’s brainwashing, pure and simple. Why? Because of two simple mental tricks foisted upon the weak of mind and ingrained over time:

1) Never trust your mind or your spirit

2) If it’s not in the “scriptures” don’t trust it.

fundies

Using this memetic device over and over, you are guaranteed to become a mental and spiritual robot, willing to take orders from those who will gladly tell you what to do and how to do it. The bible is used as the mimetic tool. Your brainwashers will interpret society and the bible for you, don’t worry about that. You may read the bible, but don’t think about it too much. If you refuse to trust your own thoughts and feelings and keep repeating to yourself that “satan” is trying to lure you away when you read other things, then you have successfully stunted your growth for the rest of your life. Is it any wonder that fundamentalists are stuck in the adolescent stage of life? Is it any wonder that they cry and bawl if they don’t get their way? Is it any wonder that when faced with opposition, they cajole, threaten, use stock phrases and when these tactics won’t work, they become violent and hateful? There’s nothing more evil than the false smile and the “God bless you” of a fundamentalist who won’t accept your view of the world as equally as valid as his. I know! I’ve done it myself and recently too! Because it’s so EASY and so smugly self-satisfying.

I’m over-generalizing here, but many Fundamentalists are people who have had rough lives and are looking for unconditional love. Every fundamentalist I’ve ever met talks of being “saved” from drug dependency, alcoholism, depression, abuse, or suicide. Or a fundamentalist speaks of feeling love for the first time in his life. Rarely does a fundamentalist come from a happy family, unless said family is already steeped in fundamentalism and the believer knows no other happiness. Why? Because happiness does not need the remedy fundamentalism provides: a tightly knit group of like-minded people who resist the larger culture in which they find themselves. Fundamentalists cannot cope with the world as it is. They must invent an ideal world that shelters them from chaos.

In a way it’s admirable that we can divert our attention this way to try to “heal” ourselves, but it is only a tiny, tiny step to full fledged mental health. And, turning to religion is not a necessary step to heal ourselves. There are other routes. Religious fervor is not a cure but a band-aid. Its effects should be temporary, but some never grow out of the fundamentalist mindset and choose to remain in ignorance. The fundamentalist worldview is basically an ideal. These ideals, like political ideologies, don’t really exist in the real world as we experience it with our bodies. These ideas must be invented and grown from revolutionary-like movements, spurred by revolutionary-like messiahs. It’s very, very hard to change the brainwashing of fundamentalism. It requires a strong sense of self and determination and the drive to be aware; to wake up! It requires education, formal or otherwise. This is why trying to reason with some fundamentalists doesn’t work. But I believe it can be done. The fundamentalist can change if they allow themselves to rethink and analyze why they believe. They can change if they perhaps allow themselves to imagine just a tiny bit that their scriptures were written ages ago by men who didn’t have all the answers and who weren’t right 100% of the time. The fundamentalist can change if they can see that their worldview is not necessarily the only “correct” worldview, or that the god they worship does not exist except in their own minds, or that the promises the church keeps teaching them will work, in fact do not work in practice. One has to pull oneself up by the bootstraps, so to speak, and realize the damage done to individuals and to families who fall victim to this mind virus. But it’s also very painful to wake up and not something people willingly take on without a serious jolt to their belief system.

For some, this kind of strength would precipitate a mental break that can’t be borne. For others, mere argument here on this site will not achieve what we hope it will, an enlightenment into reason and hope and a break from the false strictures of religion. It takes so much time to reason with rote answers. It also takes a huge dose of patience and humility to allow others to de-convert at their own pace. But, I’m willing to do it. Look at it as an intervention to save my life. Why? Because I’ve gone through the process and am still going through the process. I want to wake up.

-MysteryofIniquity

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Theocratic Evangelicals: Forgetting History What’s So Bad About Religion?

189 Comments

  • 1. notabarbie  |  February 15, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Wow MOI, excellent post and so true. As my sister has gotten more and more involved in Bible studies and “biblical counseling,” I have seen her become more and more unstable. I think I find it so disturbing because, like you, I was right there just a couple of years ago. I was completely steeped in fundamentalism and black and white thinking. I’m actually worried about her because the things she says and the time she spends studying tells me she is heading for some trouble. I agree though, patience and humility is the best way to reach a fundamentalist. No one could have crammed rationality down my throat. It was a long and drawn out process for me to see the flaws, fallacies, and irrationalities in the Christian religion and the mental harm caused by fundamentalism. Thanks for that reminder and it was so well written.

  • 2. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 15, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    notabarbie,

    Thank you! My sister is going through that right now too. It’s painful to watch, because I can see her following the exact same path I did and learning lessons the hard way, but every time I challenge her she gets very emotional and distressed beyond reason. I’m convinced it unbalances you to an awful degree!

  • 3. Mike  |  February 15, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    MOI,

    I dont deny that much of what you described can be true, but I am curious how you would define fundamentalism. I only ask because I would consider myself and the seminary I go to conservatively fundamental, and yet my experience with the people here is so night and day different from what you have described. It would just help me to engage with this article knowing that we are talking about the same thing. Thanks!

  • 4. Bro. Burton  |  February 15, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Very well written post, and interesting. I am sorry that this was/is the impression you were left with from “fundamentalist christians”.

    I will tell you, not all Christians are like this. We do not all blindly follow what someone else espouses to be true, to the contrary we listen, and research, and allow the Spirit to guide us (I know thats a “pat” answer – but its true), to the Truth.

    I find the cartoon interestiing. It implies that scientists NEVER make a huge jump to a tremendously eroneous conclusion. Show me the proof (hard scientific evidence) that says the big bang really happened (there is none that is why it is still called a theory). But yet scientists regularly regard this as fact. They are trying to find the facts to support their wrong conclusion.

    There are so many things in this world that have NO explanation, is it so wrong that I choose to follow my heart and my mind, to the only thing that makes sense? There is a Creator.

    Prove to me there is no Creator. I will listen to reason, but it must be supported by FACT, otherwise your beliefs are no better than mine – and that means you are still asleep and are being blindly led by those that are “de-converted”

    I dont mean to offend, please understand that. But the idea that your beliefs are any better than mine – well I am as offended as you.

  • 5. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 15, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    Bro. Burton,

    You wrote: “Prove to me there is no Creator. I will listen to reason, but it must be supported by FACT, otherwise your beliefs are no better than mine – and that means you are still asleep and are being blindly led by those that are “de-converted.” I dont mean to offend, please understand that. But the idea that your beliefs are any better than mine – well I am as offended as you.”

    No offense taken. You see, that’s just it, I’m not espousing any “beliefs” at all. I’m coming out of, not going into, a belief system. Nor am I “blinded” by the de-converted. To me they are fellows along the same path, but not my spiritual leaders. And I have no interest in “proving” a god does or doesn’t exist. Sorry.

  • 6. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 15, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    Hi Mike,

    A religious fundamentalist is someone who believes that whatever scripture they adhere to is inerrant (without error) and inspired by God (i.e. transmitted to the writers without error) and who follows their own interpretations of said scripture as if it were fact. A religious fundamentalist is also someone who believes that the whole world is under their god’s control, including secular governments, and that believers of said god have the right to convert, pronounce upon, or exact justice upon others in this god’s name and in said god’s stead. (a belief in a literal heaven and hell is also necessary for the judgment part).

    I just made that up on the spot, so it could be missing some things. The chief quality of fundamentalism for me though is the inerrant scripture idea and the belief that everyone must believe in an inerrant scripture to be Christian.

    I hope that helps.

  • 7. Marge  |  February 15, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Thank you for raising my awareness of the actual meaning of meme.

    I agree that fundamental Christianity is brainwashing (I’ve come to think of it as just another cult) however I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a disease in the popular sense. It’s a choice. In a society where the integrity of family and it’s inherent strenth are at risk, people crave a sense of belonging and a source of validation and guidance. Religion provides a community and “answers” and I think many take comfort in the stories and traditions the way a child finds comfort in the imaginary realm. Your remark that “fundamentalists are stuck in the adolescent stage of life” rings true in so many ways.

    Like you and Notabarbie, I have a sister who is blinded. She and her husband are missionaries in South America – I guess perpetuating this dangerous mindset in America was not enough for them. They are so deeply entangled that I often fear for her wellbeing (as a submissive wife to an overbearing, controling, emotionally abusive husband). We both grew up in a home where Christianity was the basis of everything – we ate slept and breathed it. Unlike her, I have no fear in questioning authority. She is one of the few people that I cannot bring myself to tell of my deconversion (even after ten years).

    Sometimes I think our society could benefit from a new breed of rehabilitation facilities.

  • 8. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 15, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Marge,

    I agree that “disease” is a strong word, but I think it fits in the “virus of the mind” category. Diseases do not all have to be physical manifestations. I guess the term could be understood as a dis-ease of the mind. Fundamentalism has the illusion of solving our problems for us, but then creates a whole host of new ones once it’s taken control of our thought processes. We cannot easily rid ourselves of them either. It takes an anti-dote, if you will, in the form of more information and clearer, less biased thinking. Many people choose to live with the dis-ease, even if it makes them feel bad. I know I did.

  • 9. Paul S.  |  February 15, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    We do not all blindly follow what someone else espouses to be true, to the contrary we listen, and research, and allow the Spirit to guide us (I know thats a “pat” answer – but its true), to the Truth.

    I would applaud you if I thought this was true. But have you really researched other religions besides Christianity as well as research what a secularist/humanist believes? What is it about Christianity that convinces you that it is the Truth (as you put it)? Surely you realize that there are a billion Muslims who are just as convinced as you are about Christianity that Islam is the Truth. Same goes for Hinduism, Judaism, etc.

    It implies that scientists NEVER make a huge jump to a tremendously eroneous conclusion.

    The difference is that scientific conclusions are based upon the collection of data through observation and experimentation. The scientific method, by definition, does not allow for a scientist to make a scientifically-based jump to a tremendously erroneous conclusion since one of the main components of the scientific method is to document, archive and share all data and methodology so it is available for careful scrutiny by other scientists, thereby allowing other researchers the opportunity to verify results by attempting to reproduce them. So while a huge jump to a tremendously erroneous conclusion can obviously be made by a scientist (from opinion or misapplication of the scientific data), it doesn’t follow that that conclusion would be accepted in the scientific community.

    Show me the proof (hard scientific evidence) that says the big bang really happened (there is none that is why it is still called a theory). But yet scientists regularly regard this as fact. They are trying to find the facts to support their wrong conclusion.

    But what you’re doing is applying your own religious presuppositions (that the big bang theory is the wrong conclusion) to try and show that the big bang theory is the wrong conclusion. This is circular reasoning. There most certainly is evidence that the big bang happened. If there wasn’t, it wouldn’t be considered a scientific theory.

    You might also want to do a little research and learn how a scientific “theory” differs from the layman’s use of the word “theory.”

  • 10. Marge  |  February 15, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Bro Burton & Mike –
    Please understand that the label “de-convert” is merely a convenient way of grouping those who have chosen to leave fundamental religion behind, it’s not a defined belief like Agnosticism or Atheism. Indeed by identifying with other de-converts I am neither embracing nor eshewing the existence of God, merely choosing to formulate my thoughts and beliefs on the subject outside of conventional religious teachings.

    People everywhere in the world have this strange inclination to not only define their beliefs but to rationalize and justify them. In my long journey away from that mindset of “right and wrong” or superior beliefs, I have come to accept that it’s ok not to completely know what I believe about everything. Definition of one’s beliefs is and should be a moving target. I have my personal reasons for thinking there’s a deity and whether I can prove it or not is irrelevant to me. This mindset allows me to grow and interract with all people with less judgement.

    I am always encouraged to see commentary on these posts from those who are active in their religious faiths and look forward to more of your perspective.

  • 11. Mike  |  February 15, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    MOI,

    Okay, that helps a lot. From what you have described, it sounds like an underlying contributor to the distress that you have expressed in your article is these beliefs paired with a strong Modernistic epistemology. I say that because I believe all the things you enumerated (#6), but I treat them with a Postmodern epistemology. While I cannot speak for any of my peers at seminary, my guess is the reason they believe similar things that you have described without acting the way you describe in your post is because of the Postmodern backdrop behind their beliefs. Does that make sense? Could that be the root of what you are describing, or am I way off?

  • 12. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 15, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Well said, Marge! My sentiments exactly.Sometimes I think there’s a deity and other times not. Still, like you I choose to exist outside the confines of a religious system that purports to tell me what to believe.

  • 13. Mike  |  February 15, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Marge,

    I dont know if I have had the pleasure of dialoguing with you before, but I appreciate your comments as well and look forward to continuing the discussion with you:)

  • 14. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 15, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Mike,

    Distress? I was unaware of any distress. In fact, I feel pretty good. Mental vacillation with a few self-imposed residual feelings of PTSD, perhaps. :-)

  • 15. Mike  |  February 15, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    MOI,

    Okay, you got me on poor word choice:) You know what I mean though.

    P.S. It is always a pleasure to talk with you as well:)

  • 16. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 15, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Mike,

    I know, I’m just giving you a hard time ’cause I’m not sure how to answer your question.

    Are you saying that because there is a different epistemology behind your seminarian education that you and your fellow seminarians see the issue of inerrancy differently than say…seminarians of times past? Not to be an academic snob, but there’s a vast gulf between what is learned by pastors then and now, and how they present such information to their congregations today. Whether or not you are “emergent” or “pentecostal” in your theology, inerrancy means the same thing. Even if we are taught to view different books of the bible as different pieces of literature, the inerrancy of scripture is held as a test of faith. Most in the pew could care less about epistemological reasons behind those beliefs. All they know is that they are told to believe every word of “scripture” and that it is the final word in every argument.

    There are Christians who don’t ascribe to this. I would not call them fundamentalists.

  • 17. What is a “meme”? « Marge In Real Life  |  February 15, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    [...] strength I mustered years ago to break away from the mental control of religion. I was reading an interesting post today on that very topic which linked to the definition of the word [...]

  • 18. Zoe  |  February 15, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Great post Moi. I just had a two hour conversation just today that contained a lot of what you’ve written in this post.

  • 19. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 15, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    Zoe,

    I must confess that our recent email conversations and posts at your web site precipitated a reworking of an old post on my site. (bowing) Honor where honor is due!

  • 20. Godamn  |  February 15, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Bro, just because we dont understand something, does not mean the first thing that seems to make sense is correct. Thats knowledge from ignorance. The following story illustrates religious beliefs (I strongly suggest reading ‘The Demon Haunted World’ by Carl Sagan) -
    The Dragon in My Garage
    Suppose I come to you one fine day and say,”Dude, you aren’t going to believe this but there’s a live fire breathing dragon hiding in my garage”.
    Although you are skeptical, you feel I should be given a chance to prove what I am saying.
    You say, “Show me”.
    So, I take you to my garage. But its empty! Nothing wrong with that, you think.
    Perhaps the dragon’s out for a walk. You can’t hide in a garage 24/7, it would drive you batty (get it?). Maybe the dragons gone to visit a friend over in Europe or China. Birthday party, perhaps?

  • 21. Godamn  |  February 15, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    These inter-continental dragons must be every Air Traffic Controllers worst nightmare, what with no communication equipment or flight plans, they are a hazard. Not to mention the effect on passengers, especially those who are afraid of flying. Imagine what it would be like to look out the window and see a couple of drunken dragons with party hats and balloons, grinning and waving to you, there six inch razor sharp teeth glinting in the sunlight.
    Theres a phenomena called Radar Angels which causes radars to show something where theres nothing. Stratospheric temparature inversion always seemed to be a weak argument. Now we know that Radar Angels are Flying Dragons.
    Anyway, you turn to me and say, “Where’s the dragon?”
    “Oh, she’s right here”, I reply, waving my hand around the garage vaguely.
    “I forgot to tell you, this dragon is invisible”.
    You: Well, ok, then lets spread flour on the floor so we can see the footprints being formed.
    Me: Good idea, but this dragon floats in the air, so it won’t form any footprints.
    You: Then lets spray some paint on her so we can see the outline.
    Me: That won’t work. This dragon is incorporeal, so the paint won’t stick.

  • 22. Godamn  |  February 15, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    You: Lets use an infra-red sensor to detect the heat from the dragons fire.
    Me: Great idea, but this dragons fire is also heatless.
    So, you go on proposing ways of testing the dragons presence and I keep giving you a special explanation as to why it won’t work.
    Now whats the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon that spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? Wouldn’t you wonder that if there is no way of testing the existence of the dragon, what convinced me about it? What was it that changed my mind from not believing in dragons to believing in them? The only plausible answer would be that it’s all in my head. I may truly believe in the dragon but does that mean the dragon truly exists? Similarly, if god is beyond the realm of perception, how do we know that he is there at all? We can see Dragons in nature just as easily as we can see gods. A flawed and self contradictory book cannot be used to justify its own claims. And lets not forget that the books in the bible were picked from a larger collection of books by humans. There was no objective criteria that was applied to determine which book was true or not.

  • 23. Godamn  |  February 15, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    It was simply a case of the majority preference. How can we know that the correct books were included? How was it determined whether an author was being inspired by god or not? In light of this we can ask, What evidence does gods theory have that is superior to the dragons? After all, stories of Dragons have prevailed in a variety of cultures for centuries before Christ. Can you disprove my dragon? No? So, does that mean she is real? Why should we assume god is real if we cannot disprove it? It is impossible to disprove a negative. That is why it is necessary for the proponent of an idea to prove its validity, which is possible.
    It is very irritating to have people say that Atheists believe god does not exist. Even worse is when Atheism is called a belief. When a theist makes a claim of god, why should it be accepted without proof? How can the rejection of the hypothesis equate those rejecting it as being opposed to the possibility of that idea? Anyone who says atheists must disprove god has to accept my dragon claims are just as valid as those of god and it needs to be disproved in order to be invalidated.

  • 24. Godamn  |  February 15, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    They must also accept the theories of gods of all the other religions as true until disproved. Infact, any claim anyone makes must be accepted as true, no matter how ridiculous, unless it can be proved false.
    Should you have to prove your innocence in a court of law?
    Suppose you get arrested and accused of murder. Would it be fair to expect you to prove you did not commit the murder? Even if you were not in the vicinity, you could have hired someone to do it. Can you prove that you did not hire an assasin? Shouldn’t the prosecution have to prove that you were responsible for the crime you are accused of? A negative claim cannot be refuted but that does not mean it should be accepted. Just the opposite.

  • 25. Godamn  |  February 15, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    It’s not hard to see how a dragon in a garage could become a new religon if we accept claims to be true until proved false. I start worshipping the Dragon in my garage. I claim Dragons are hiding out in garages all over the world waiting for the day when they will take over (Dragon HQ will , of course, be in my garage, since it was where the Revelation was received), and anyone who doesn’t believe in them is going to be roasted by their heatless fire. Millions of other people become believers. Why? Some have felt the presence of The Dragon. A spiritual experience. Some of them have had visitations from Dragonite angels (Drangels – Get it? Deranged angels) telling them to spread the word or else…
    Some dragonites show burnt fingers which they attribute to rare manifestations of the dragons fiery breath. There are other ways to burn fingers, but it is for the skeptics to prove that the Dragonites burns were not caused by the Dragon. How could they do it?

  • 26. Godamn  |  February 15, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    My garage becomes a place of pilgrimage for Dragonites from all over the world. A number of the pilgrims come for specific reasons, like an incurable disease. Some of these are cured. The vast majority are not. But nobody hears about the latter. The ones who are cured believe it was their visit to The Dragon in the Garage that cured them. They feel they have received smoke signals from The Dragon instructing them to spread the religion like wild fire. They would proclaim Him as their saviour (and the roaster of unbelievers). But at the end of the day, the fact is, we don’t know if The Dragon exists or not.
    That is why a claim needs objective proof in order to be accepted. Accepting everything that is proferred as knowledge is as good knowing nothing. Attributing somethings existence to god eliminates the possibility of gaining further knowledge of it and as such, is just laziness. Why think of other possible explanations? This one works just fine. You cannot disprove it and it explains everything. Its perfect. As in perfectly worthless. How can we be sure there is no explanation possible unless we search for it? But who would search for answers if god explains everything? Some things are not meant to be understood – but how do you know it is not meant to be understood unless you try to understand it?

  • 27. Godamn  |  February 15, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    The Big Bang theory has a very simple explanation. Radar. Actually, the same principles of radar only we use the light from stars instead of bouncing waves as is the case with planes. Its called the Doppler effect. As a source of light moves further away from us, its light will shift to the red end of the spectrum, called redshift of light. We know the Universe is expanding because the light from distant objects is constantly shifting towards the red end of the spectrum. There is also the fact that the Universe is homogeneous and isotropic. The uniformity of the Cosmic Microwave Background also indicates a singular source.

  • 28. Zoe  |  February 15, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Moi,

    Well I’ll be. I’m both humbled and honoured. :-)

  • 29. Marge  |  February 15, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    Godamn – You have a lot of good points – probably more than I’ll ever know because I stopped reading after the clever dragon story. As mentioned in other recent posts here it’s not considerate of the discussion participants to clog the commentary. I would enjoy reading up on your expanded thoughts in your personal posting(s). It’s best practice to leave shorter comments containing links to the longer text. Thanks.

  • 30. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 15, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Uh, what Marge said. You mean dragons don’t exist?

  • 31. Michelle  |  February 15, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    OK, MOI:

    What am I? I really buck at the term “fundamentalist” because of the negative connotations. I don’t want to make people submit to my way of thinking or propose bombing them if they don’t. But I do believe what the ancient Hebrew texts (except Luke, some people think he was Gentile) say about God. I do have faith in Christ for my salvation. I do believe in heaven and hell, although I can’t give you a concrete picture of what they will be. I can say I believe one is fellowship with God, and the other is separation from God. I have experienced something “Holy Other” than me, and am thrilled I am in relationship with Him. I believe He came in the form of a man and lived on the earth and made a way for me to be in Him.

    But, I don’t see the danger. This is my belief. I would like others to believe it too – to experience what I experience and to have a life with this same Holiness forever. Am I going to force my belief on anyone? No. That would be totally against what Jesus told me to do. Am I going to shun anyone who does not believe what I believe? No, that would be totally boring since I would probably be all alone. I don’t think any two fallible people believe the exact same thing. Am I hurting someone with this belief? I see it may offend, but how does it hurt? Why am I considered dangerous? Why am I diseased (or dis-eased)?

    I am sincerely asking and not intending to sound obtuse. ;)

  • 32. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 15, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Michelle,

    I believe that when someone uses a text like the Jewish and New Testament scriptures as the final say on everything, that’s where fundamentalism comes in and that’s where the danger lies for the mind because it closes off communication not only with other people, but it closes off education and reasonable thinking for ourselves.

    People can believe whatever they wish, but to insist that others must believe the same things they do, based on what a 2000-4000 year old text is saying is, to me, madness. People do not have the authority to tell others that a god exists and therefore they must believe in what that god proscribes without evidence to back it up. To me, there is no evidence.

    Like I said, inerrancy of the bible and the insistence on obedience to that bible is the test for being a fundamentalist.

  • 33. Michelle  |  February 15, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    OK…so…

    ” inerrancy of the bible and the insistence on obedience to that bible is the test for being a fundamentalist.”

    I believe one (inerrancy of the bible) but not the other (insistence on obedience to that bible). I believe we need to listen to one another, hear all points of view, reason and educate ourselves and our children in all areas of academia and most of the cultures (some are just too scary).

    Do you see the difference I am trying to make? I am open-minded and yet hold my beliefs closely, but I do not force them on anyone else. I believe the fundamentals of the Christian faith, but I am not going to teach only that to my children. I try to protect them from any obscene culture, and am a bit overly protective, but I don’t want their minds closed. I want their faith to be reasonable. Didn’t God say, “Come, let us reason together.”

    So…you see…I believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God but I do not insist others obey it. What does that make me – what’s my label?

  • 34. Brad  |  February 15, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    MOI,

    Wow… I’m following the conversation between you and Mike and want to add my two cents… I think we’re all lining up very well, but need to address the issue of defining “inerrancy.”

    Based on your definition, I agree with it. So would a fundamentalist, but I’m not a fundamentalist (as you well know!). The difference is in how we define it.

    The fundamentalist would go on to say that, by “innerrancy” they mean that “scripture is truth given by God, and that if it isn’t in scripture, it isn’t true.” (or something like that). It is a very very very literal interpretation of the Bible.

    The Reformed tradition (to which all of us over at Confessions of a Seminarian subscribe to) would sat that “scripture is true in all that it affirms.” Where it makes strong statements (i.e. Drunkenness is a sin), we affirm it as true. Where it does not make a statement, we also do not (i.e. Drinking alchohol without getting drunk is not a sin). The fundamentalist, on the other hand, would try to apply God’s truth where it was not meant to apply. This is rooted in Modernistic epistemology, and leads to a lot of “truth,” but very little love.

    There are many conservative Christians that believe in the inerrancy of scripture, but also recognize that truth in scripture is not complete truth. There are a lot of questions that scripture doesn’t answer (i.e. When exactly does Jesus come back?). But the questions it does answer are truth and are to be trusted. Belief in inerrancy (should) affirms that where God has spoken about a subject, it is authoritative in that context and where it can be reasonably applied in ours.

    Fundamentalists do a lot of adding to God’s truth that isn’t God’s truth. And then they tell each other they have to believe it… or else! We Reformed types like doubting/wrestling/struggling. We’ve found it brings further clarity and understanding to our faith because we are confident that the truth will enlighten our doubts. Make sense?

  • 35. Brad  |  February 15, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    To supplement that last comment, here’s a post that Jim wrote on the subject. It should give a lot of further clarity on our stance:

    http://seminarianblog.com/2007/08/27/bees-inerrancy/

  • 36. karen  |  February 15, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    It’s interesting that we have so many fundamentalists in this country, and so few willing to claim the term.

    I believe that the word has become somewhat “poisoned” over the recent years, particularly in its association with Islamic fundamentalism.

    However, there are very precise definitions of fundamentalism available in sociology literature. The basic dividing line is a view of ancient holy texts as literally inspired by god and therefore inerrant. Once something is divinely inspired, of course, inerrancy is a logical follow up (unless a perfect god can make mistakes!).

    Bruce Bawer’s excellent book, “Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity,” is a terrific starting point for those trapped in fundamentalism’s black box who are beginning to see cracks in the walls and want to peek outside to see what’s there.

    Terrific post, MOI. I agree with you, and I particularly applaud you for mentioning that fundamentalists CAN break out of the mold, with some help. Certainly I and many here are living proof of that!

  • 37. Quester  |  February 15, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    It wasn’t long ago when I considered the main problem with fundamentalists was that they were not fundamental enough. Most of the judgements and condemnations I heard did not come from the bible, or came from a few verses taken out of context.

    On the other hand, I sympathized with some underhanded evangelists. If you truly believe that only by performing a particular action (even if that is only an act of will) would someone be saved from eternal torment, anything short of eternal torment is a worthwhile act if it results in people performing that act.

    Michelle, you say you hold your beliefs closely, but are open-minded. What promises in the bible allow you to be open-minded without fearing the condemnation of those you are not trying to ‘save’? Are those promises contradicted by other passages of this inerrant bible?

    MoI, I’m glad you call for patience and remind people of the pain of deconversion. I’ve only been here a few months and I sometimes struggle to be patient as someone comes with the same arguments for God’s existence as another did the day before, neither reading any other threads on the site to see those same arguments taken apart. But I try to show patience because I want people to be patient with me as I struggle with my own faith and what I’m still beginning to see as my loss of faith. More than that, I want to live in a world where people are not so scared of damnation or convinced of salvation that they have no problems hurting themselves or others. I do not think that my venting angrily would further either of those desires.

    What took me out of my belief of scriptural inerrancy was my belief in scriptural inerrancy. Trying to teach the bible, study the bible, and derive a consistent morality and image of God from the bible, forced me to stop taking the bible as inerrant. For one thing, nowhere in the bible is there any claim that the bible is inerrant. I had not realized that until last year. It shook me, but in other ways freed me from having to fear as much as I did.

  • 38. Quester  |  February 15, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    [Quester, I fixed it - Paul]

  • 39. Bro. Burton  |  February 15, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Go: you say: “Why think of other possible explanations? This one works just fine. You cannot disprove it and it explains everything. Its perfect. As in perfectly worthless. How can we be sure there is no explanation possible unless we search for it? But who would search for answers if god explains everything? Some things are not meant to be understood – but how do you know it is not meant to be understood unless you try to understand it?”

    I agree = lets look for other explanations. But. if I choose to accept this explanation, and you choose to subscribe to the belief that there is no belief (?) who is wrong? There is no empirical evidence one way or the other – without faith.

    So I choose to believe that there is God. I can find no other explanation that is plausible to me. I look at his creation and stand in awe. So, I place my faith in Him, who has revealed himself to me through his Word.

    And I have looked up theory, and my understanding is a theory is NOT fact, if it were it would be a law.

  • 40. Michelle  |  February 15, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    Quester asked:

    Michelle, you say you hold your beliefs closely, but are open-minded. What promises in the bible allow you to be open-minded without fearing the condemnation of those you are not trying to ’save’? Are those promises contradicted by other passages of this inerrant bible?

    I believe God when He says all whom I have called will come to Me. I don’t understand it (how that exactly works) but I trust in His character. He is the only One Who can judge because He is the only One Who can see man’s heart. I cannot judge anyone. I have no clue what anyone else has experienced to lead them to where they are – only God sees the whole. I trust in who He is as He has revealed Himself to us in His Word. Do I know all about Him? No, I can’t. I’m just a puny human, on a tiny pea of a planet, in a small galaxy, floating in a vast universe. I am not the final authority on anything, and glad I’m not. I trust in the One Who knows.

    I have not found anythng in the Bible that tells me I cannot search for wisdom. Contrary to what some believe, I am told to search for wisdom as a man minds for silver. This leaves me open to enjoy all of God’s creation (that is not obscene – some things are just gross) and search for beauty everywhere. I can appreciate Eastern beliefs without believing the same. I can research all topics without having to adhere to all points of view.

    When I say I hold my beliefs close, I mean they are personal and will be glad to share them with anyone who wants to know (thus, the reason for my blog) but I do not condemn anyone, I cannot condemn anyone, I am too small. I leave the things I can’t understand to God. I believe He is big enough.

  • 41. OneSmallStep  |  February 15, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    MOI,

    I haven’t read through all the comments, but did see your definition of fundamentalism. I’m wondering if you can possibly add to it the idea of someone who doesn’t listen, and I’m using this in the same sense of your cartoon. We’ve all come across people who if they hear our belief in God, jump to certain conclusions because that’s what a certain religious book says.

    For instance, take evolution, or any scientific field. Many scientists (no, not all) seem to find that the more they study their particular field, the more agnostic/atheistic they become, because of where the evidence leads. Yet a fundamentalist Christian would point to Romans 1 in that all of creation points to God, and then say that the scientist is clearly not using the evidence, and reallyreally knows that God exists, but is just denying it, or living in sin. The fundamentalist has the conclusion, and everything is molded to fit that conclusion.

    So if a book is taken as inerrant, in any religion, and part of that book says that everyone knows there’s a God, how well can you truly listen or understand someone who says otherwise? If something is taken as inerrant, can you truly be open to evidence/facts that might contradict the inerrant object?

  • 42. Thinking Ape  |  February 15, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    OneSmallStep,

    I’m wondering if you can possibly add to it the idea of someone who doesn’t listen

    Well then we are all fundamentalists in one way in one circumstance or another, aren’t we? I mean, even when I was a fundamentalist, I still listened – I just didn’t agree. Likewise, now we have cases where we are actually expelling tenured university professors for professing believe in intelligent design.

  • 43. Quester  |  February 15, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    Thank-you, Michelle. I’m glad your beliefs give you peace. You seem less troubled than I am by what God may expect of us in regards to sharing the Christian faith, and how God will respond if we are not appropriately diligent, but I feel no need to give you dis-ease. I do hope you find the wisdom and beauty you search for.

    Bro. Burton, should there not be more evidence for something that exists than there is for something that doesn’t? Arguing that there is no evidence that God exists, but at least there is no evidence God doesn’t may be enough for a philosophy class, but surely something more is needed to base a life on.

    And you’re right. Theory is not fact. It is simply something that explains all the known facts. If you wish to discard it, please bring some facts with you.

  • 44. TheDeeZone  |  February 15, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    MOI,

    Well said.

    I agree with Bro Burton not all Christians are like that. Some of us actually think. I do believe that the Bible contains the inspired word of God & I support evangelism. However, I do not believe that we are to proclaim God’s judgement on the those we don’t agree with “judge not lest you be judge.” I also believe that others may disagree with everything I stand for and that is their right.

    Marge, Interesting definition of de-convert.

    Michelle,
    I agree with your comments in # 32 & 33. Although I don’t think believing in fundamentals of one’s faith makes you a fundamentalist or at least my experince with them. My expreince has been they are something of a modern day Pharasee (sorry for spelling). I think Proverbs 1 backs up searching for wisdom.

    Brad, Good difination of a fundamentialist.

    I have been called a liberal and unchristian by fundamentalist because of the music I listen (Christian rap & alternative), I wear pants, get into theological debates with my husband and other males, have a degree in ethics and the apparently the worst is that I pursued an MDiv and not a MACE because academically it is a better degree. Had a fundamentalist co-worker at Christian school tell me that the teacher’s lunch table was not the place to discuss thelogoy with men. Gee, if we can’t discuss theology in a Christian shcool where can we discuss it. I will stop before I say something unkind about fundamentalist.

  • 45. Quester  |  February 15, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    Thinking Ape, I’ve read that Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez claims he was denied tenure for believing in Intelligent Design, but I haven’t heard of any tenured professor who actually lost his job over the issue. Who are you referring to?

  • 46. OneSmallStep  |  February 15, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    TA,

    Well then we are all fundamentalists in one way in one circumstance or another, aren’t we?

    I did expand upon this, though, in terms of science, and in terms of the cartoon. One goes where the evidence leads, the other makes the evidence fit, regardless. Are there situations where we all use our conclusions to interpret facts? Of course. But I think someone who doesn’t hold one book or creed/tenent to be inerrant might listen better, simply because each situation is its own. As opposed to someone who tells you you’re angry at God because you’re agnostic/atheist. Even when you tell them you’re not angry, they “know” you’re wrong because something in their religion says so.

    There’s a big difference between hearing and listening. Even in disagreeing — there’s a big difference in disagreeing with someone because of your evidence, and using your evidence to tell the other person what s/he really thinks/feels/means.

  • 47. Godamn  |  February 16, 2008 at 4:15 am

    First of all, I sincerely apologize for the clog. I really need to put up a blog. Im just such a big hand (not big mouth) LOL. Sorry, bad joke – you may have noticed, I make a lot of bad puns too).
    Bro,
    Who is correct? Well, computers, cars and planes dont run on faith. The evidence of the science’s validity is all around you. I cant think of a second that I spend when Im not surrounded by the products of science. Thats why its true. Does religion have anything comparable to show for its own achievements? Science has very tangible returns. Thats why its believable.

  • 48. Jon F  |  February 16, 2008 at 5:11 am

    Hi MOI,
    A great post! I still have a lot of underlying anger in myself over my “fundie years” as I continue to shake myself loose from its grip. I have never heard anyone go as far as to describe fundamentalism as a disease, so if that’s true then my question to you is “what’s the cure?” And along with this, why do some people manage to snap out of it (like the cotributors on this site) and yet others just stay locked in all their lives?
    Jon

  • 49. Godamn  |  February 16, 2008 at 6:30 am

    Jon,
    Thats an excellent question. Ironically, it seems to me that most people who leave their religion are the ones who tried to make sense of them and reconcile the contradictions. A lot of people on this site who are exians have studied theology and it was their attempt at understanding their beliefs that led to deconversion. Ignorance plays a significant role in keeping people religious.

  • 50. John  |  February 16, 2008 at 8:33 am

    Great Post! Been there – I too was once a fundamentalist christian.

    “That being said, there is a certain thrill in suddenly “waking up” and realizing you’ve been deluding yourself for many years”
    I know what you mean!
    although a costly thrill I must say – all those years trapped in a mindset

  • 51. ninepoundhammer  |  February 16, 2008 at 9:12 am

    What a sad post. Yet, it is not unexpected nor surprising considering the state of sin into which we enter the world. We are conceived at enmity with God and, barring His intervention, remain that way.

    I do find it odd that we ‘fundamentalists’ (a very loaded term these days) are derided for our presuppositionalism yet, your argument presupposes that we are wrong. You go so far as to call us DISEASED.

    How very enlightened and tolerant of you.

  • 52. We Put the ‘Mental’ in Fundamentalism « Metallic Pea  |  February 16, 2008 at 9:24 am

    [...] ran across a sad posting on a sad blog this morning that initially had me quite vexed.  However, as I posted in the comments section, I am [...]

  • 53. Godamn  |  February 16, 2008 at 9:34 am

    NPH,
    Read comments #20 – 27.
    You cannot begin with a conclusion you are right. Evidence must be offered. And objective evidence. Read the comments, I dont think you have.

  • 54. a short hiatus — anti-theism.net  |  February 16, 2008 at 9:59 am

    [...] said that, I very much enjoyed the d-C post from yesterday, here is a snippet: I can honestly say that you aren’t in your right mind when [...]

  • 55. isaiah30v8  |  February 16, 2008 at 10:16 am

    Godam re#53

    Thats what I thought too!

    I felt that if the bible was true then eventually there would be real tangible evidences proving it. I read the bible focusing mostly on end time prohecies and then used the Internet (which was new to most of the world at the time) to search for “EVIDENCES”.

    I was an athiest.

    Now I am Christian.

    You can read about what I did and found in an article called “Armchair Archeology”:

    http://ablebodiedman.blogspot.com/

    Yes, my beliefs are based on real evidences!

  • 56. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 16, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Michelle,
    I can sense your anger and that’s ok. You don’t have a label. There are exceptions to every rule. This is not a hard and fast rule, it’s my opinion from coming out of fundamentalism. To me fundamentalism is a disease of the mind. It changes my thinking in not so good ways. It makes me an angry person when I don’t get my way. It makes me see the whole world as evil and only a chosen few as “acceptable to God.” Fundamentalism is any system of thought or any “scripture” that its adherents insist is the right system of thought or “scripture.” You can label yourself. I know I have for years and I’m not going to any longer.

  • 57. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 16, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Brad,

    Points taken and noted. However, I have found very few people outside of academia that would distinguish between those points.

  • 58. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 16, 2008 at 10:34 am

    Karen,

    As always you make good points and I agree that no one wants to own up to the term themselves. Well I owned up to it and am relieving myself of it as well. I believe fundamentalisms of all kinds is harmful to the mind. Thanks for chiming in!! :-)

  • 59. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 16, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Quester,

    You wrote, “What took me out of my belief of scriptural inerrancy was my belief in scriptural inerrancy. Trying to teach the bible, study the bible, and derive a consistent morality and image of God from the bible, forced me to stop taking the bible as inerrant.”

    That’s exactly what I found to be true. The more you study and study to see the bible as systematic theology, the more you see that it isn’t. There is no consistency and to ask it of such divergent texts is to do a disservice not only to the God that’s supposed to be consistent, but to the sheep that claim to follow that God.

    Patience is extremely difficult, especially when applied to myself. I hate it that I fall back into it over and over. It’s like walking into the same hole again and again and not picking a different sidewalk. I even fall easily back into fundie-speak. Ask Zoe, she’s heard me spout it mindlessly before!

    Thanks for commenting!

  • 60. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 16, 2008 at 10:47 am

    DeeZone,

    You are correct, the fundamentalism I am referring to is akin to the thinking of the Pharisees: taking the letter of the law and dispensing with the Spirit. Of course some Jewish scholars would take issue with Christians’ depictions of the Pharisees. My focus is strictly on the bible. The only way to dispel political and religious fundamentalism of all varieties is to get rid of the idea that certain texts are written in stone or handed down by gods or a god. Once you have documents you say are written or inspired by God the discussion is closed and no other view is allowed.

  • 61. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 16, 2008 at 10:49 am

    ninepoundhammer,

    I’m only speaking from experience, with my own diseased mind and in conversation with others. And you’re right it was sad. But I’m much happier now that the conflict is gone.

  • 62. Brad  |  February 16, 2008 at 10:53 am

    “Points taken and noted. However, I have found very few people outside of academia that would distinguish between those points.”

    You are probably correct on that… However, I think that members of a Reformed congregation (because they learn under academically Reformed pastors) live a life more line with that (truth with love). They may not be able to verbalize it as succinctly, but that definition will color and flavor every sermon they hear.

  • 63. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 16, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Hi Jon!! Good to see you here. I’m still working on the cure. It takes huge mental effort to loosen the grips that fundamentalism had on me, but I think it can be done.

    The first cure I found was realizing the bible was written by humans and not inspired by God. The argument that the bible is true because the bible says it’s true (“all scripture is inspired…”) was my first clue.

    The second cure was going to university and learning about cultures through literature, philosophy, and science courses. University teaches you how to think and analyze logically. So education, whether self taught or classroom led was invaluable.

    The third asset is having an insatiable mind for information and for reading and for asking questions. Not settling for the first answer that comes along. As one pastor told me when I went to him for counseling, “You know you are just smart enough to be dangerous.” Whatever THAT meant!

    The fourth thing I found invaluable was to actually explore atheism, agnosticism, and other religions. I acted as if I were converting to other religions and read all I could about them. I wondered why we were always told by our Baptist church that Catholics were non-Christians. So we promptly went through RCIA and joined the Catholic church. Discovering that religions lie to you about other religions was a big help and alos realizing that everyone used the same bible to do it!

    Those helped for starters. But the biggest help was having an open mind, something that many, NOT ALL, fundies do not have, because it’s too dangerous to their faith to have.

  • 64. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 16, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Godamn,

    Good point.

  • 65. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 16, 2008 at 11:02 am

    John,

    Welcome! Yes, coming out into the light of reason was a great feeling. It was an eye-opener!

  • 66. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 16, 2008 at 11:10 am

    OneSmallStep,

    Listening is hard when you are a fundamentalist. It takes real openness and humility, something that I haven’t found in the fundamentalist community. Brad and the seminarians who post here are academicians and in academia you are supposed to keep an open mind. However, when you are in an enclosed university AIMED at furthering a system of thought, it can only be open so far. But I appreciate the effort.

    Unfortunately, I’ve not run across this out in the real world of churches. I’ve been in Evangelical Free Churches, American and Southern Baptists, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic. I’ve been ELCA and Wisconsin Synod Lutheran and Churches of Christ. The more liberal churches were much better about taking the bible literally–it wasn’t discussed–but the others were all universal in the belief that “the bible says it, that settles it.” Those who believe this confine their thoughts to this realm and no other. To do otherwise would be threatening and like a virus that is threatened, you fight the bad thoughts or new information until it ceases to threaten you.

    I have chosen to get rid of my “thought virus” by allowing antibodies of knowledge in and I’m feeling much better now. :-) (to use the analogy to its logical extreme) But the first barrier has to be breached and that’s not only listening, but actively seeking and proving for ourselves.

  • 67. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 16, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Mettalicpea posted a pingback #52 that calls for prayer for those of us who he thinks are still in “sin.” I find this common among believers. Rather than admit that Christians can be deconverted, they will claim that we were never really Christians and are still “in our sins.” This is a clear example of the disease of fundamentalism. When we are in it, we cannot conceive of anyone ever coming out of it. We rationalize our beliefs by citing 1 John 2:19.

    It’s so much easier to blame the person leaving that blame the system you think is the Truth. I know, I’ve done this myself.

  • 68. Michelle  |  February 16, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Hey, MOI:

    I’m sorry I came off as angry, it wasn’t my intent. I do get frustrated when I read a “one size fits all” commentary. I try hard not to do this to others, and feel it would be great if the effort was reciprocated. To lump conservative, bible-believing Christians into the same category as those who are “dangerous” and “diseased” is an overstatement, to say the least. I wish no one harm, and most of the people I know who hold my beliefs feel the same, although I cannot speak for everyone. I cannot presume to do so.

    In this day when we are fighting against an ideology that does wish us harm, it is necessary to differentiate the terms. Fundamentalist Christians do not want to kill, or give second-class citizenship, to others for not bowing down to their God. Fundamentalist Muslims believe that is what they are called to do. I’m beginning to wonder if fundamentalist scientists or fundamentalist athiests/agnostics do not fall into the same category of “phariseeism.”

    Brushing anyone with broad strokes tends to shut down the lines of communication. I don’t think that was your intent. Please, let’s leave off the name-calling and be examples of conciliatory behavior. ;)

  • 69. Michelle  |  February 16, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    It’s just been brought to my attention that Westboro Baptist would be considered fundamentalist Christian. I don’t understand their confession of Christ – with their hatred for others. I don’t see the Christian side of their behavior.

    Many claim the term, but not the Man. ;)

  • 70. Bro. Burton  |  February 16, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    Marge: re #10

    you say: “In my long journey away from that mindset of “right and wrong” or superior beliefs, I have come to accept that it’s ok not to completely know what I believe about everything. Definition of one’s beliefs is and should be a moving target. I have my personal reasons for thinking there’s a deity and whether I can prove it or not is irrelevant to me. This mindset allows me to grow and interract with all people with less judgement”

    I appreciate your candor. I hope you did not view my posts as judgemental, honestly it could not be farther from the truth. It is not my place to judge for anyone but myself and my family, what is right and wrong (based on scripture). I think your right, our beliefs to should be a moving target, I just take it a step farther and “check” my beliefs against Scripture.

    My prayer is that I not be viewed as judgemental, I want and desire to be thought of as grace filled – the exact opposite of judgement. I do not hold any of you in any type of judgement…. This is a dialouge to help sharpen ones beliefs. I will continue to share my beliefs, and please don’t misinterpret my posts as judgemental :) – I haven’t ever intended them to be.

  • 71. paulmct  |  February 16, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Very good and very true, MOI. I’ve also noted that many believers were ‘recruited’ from the desparate and troubled. I touched on it in this post:

    http://paulmct.wordpress.com/2008/01/17/charity-with-strings-attached/#comments

    I also wrote a critique of M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘The Village’ on my blogsite called ‘Beware the Ever Present Bogeyman’, that looks at the metaphorical representation of religion and how it works.

    If anyone’s interested, there is also another post there about predatory recruitment tactics called ‘God’s Gift’.

  • 72. Michelle  |  February 16, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Quester:

    Comment 69 states your point – but these groups are not associated with any known denomination. They may call themselves Christian or Baptist, but they do not hold to any association or leadership outside of their own local leader.

    Many take on the name Christian but do not follow the precepts of Christ’s teachings. What Christian teaching tells us to go kill those who do not agree with us? Christ told us to love everyone – even our enemies. Those who have murdered in the name of Christ have defamed His Name.

    you say… but I have heard it many a time, from loving compassionate Christians who can not understand why such thinking might be wrong.

    I don’t understand how they are considered loving and compassionate if they hold to this thinking. I have many bigots in my family who consider themselves loving, compassionate Christians – I can’t follow their logic. Either they are not as loving and compassionate as they think – or they are not truly Christian (followers of Christ’s teaching). But then, maybe they are baby Christians and have not come to understand all they have professed. ;)

  • 73. Quester  |  February 16, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Michelle said, “Fundamentalist Christians do not want to kill, or give second-class citizenship, to others for not bowing down to their God.”

    I’m afraid that I’m going to have to ask you the same thing you’ve asked of others: beware of ‘one-size fits all’ commentary.

    I’m willing to believe that none of the Fundamentalist Christians you know have expressed this wish in your hearing, but I have heard it many a time, from loving compassionate Christians who can not understand why such thinking might be wrong. It follows biblical principles, after all, to treat those who are not chosen in such a way, or to take a life to save others. Whether it is distrusting or discriminating against atheists, keeping atheists from speaking publicly about their lack of belief, or killing abortionists , there are, indeed, Fundamentalist Christians who want to kill, or give second-class citizenship, to others for not bowing down to their God. Like the fundamentalist Muslims, they believe that is what they are called to do, and they have the scripture to support their views.

    As for fundamentalist atheists/agnostics, what fundamentals do they cling to? Their view that… nothing is inerrent?

  • 74. Quester  |  February 16, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Nine pound hammer,

    We are conceived at enmity with God and, barring His intervention, remain that way.

    Under what definitions of “good” and “loving” do you apply such terms to a God who does not so intervene?

    I do find it odd that we ‘fundamentalists’ (a very loaded term these days) are derided for our presuppositionalism yet, your argument presupposes that we are wrong. You go so far as to call us DISEASED.

    As many of the posters on this site are deconverts, we do not presuppose you to be wrong. We presupposed that Chrisitanity led to Truth, and Christ was the Truth. It is when these presuppositions are found not to bear much weight as we had supposed that people such as I begin to view deconverting as the best option. If you want “enlightened” views to “tolerate” yours, give evidence your views are correct.

  • 75. Quester  |  February 16, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Michelle,

    They are loving in that they love people too much too see them tormented for eternity and will commit any deed to prevent that from happening. Looking at verses like Revelations 3:16, they see toleration as a sin and recognize that God, through scripture, calls them to be passionate warriors for Christ. They are compassionate in how they wish to alleviate the distress non-believers must be feeling if they hate God and themselves so much that they pretend to be atheists.

    Do you truly believe that all of the 2,000 randomly selected people that were interviewed by researchers from the University of Minnesota who claimed to distrust or discriminate against atheists are not part of a larger church body or are only baby Christians?

    Or do they simply take Christ at his word when he says he comes with a sword to divide families, that only those who hate their families can be his disciple, that those who are not for him are against him, that persecution is a sign you’re understanding God’s Word and obeying His Will, and other such intolerant condemnations that flow from the mouth of Christ, as reported by inerrant scripture?

  • 76. Michelle  |  February 16, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Quester,

    I’m not sure what you are referring to – what happened at the University of Minnesota? I was referring to Westboro Baptist not being associated with any Baptist organization.

    I haven’t understood those words from Christ in the same way you have stated them. Their (or your) interpretation of His words is not the same as mine. As a pastor (am I correct in thinking you are a pastor – I thought I remembered from some comment), I’m sure you have learned the rules of interpretation. Taking words out of context and away from an overall teaching will cause error. Any action presumed from one scripture, extracted from the whole, would be foolish.

  • 77. Quester  |  February 16, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Michelle,

    Yes, until tomorrow, I will be a pastor.

    What I referred to in #75 is in one of the links I provided in #73. The University of Minnesota performed a survey with the results proclaiming atheists as the most distrusted minority in America. I have not mentioned or spoken of Westboro Baptist. There are enough other Christians teaching similar messages that I do not have to.

    And yes, I have learned various exegetical tools and techniques. Please tell me what other interpretations are possible for the verses I’ve referred to, or what context would make these statements of Jesus’ wise and mature, as opposed to (your words) babyish or foolish?

  • 78. OneSmallStep  |  February 16, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Michelle,

    In this day when we are fighting against an ideology that does wish us harm, it is necessary to differentiate the terms. Fundamentalist Christians do not want to kill, or give second-class citizenship, to others for not bowing down to their God.

    I would disagree with this simply based on how well the ‘Left Behind’ series has done. Those books are written from the viewpoint of those who are eager to watch the non-Christians get killed, or “get what’s coming to them.”

    They may not want to kill themselves, at this time. But there’s a huge part of them that is looking forward to someone killing, or someone making all the non-Christians second-class citizens.

  • 79. Brad  |  February 16, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    “Until tomorrow”?

  • 80. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 16, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Thanks Paulmct! That article about “The Village” sounds fascinating. I’ll hop over and give it a read.

  • 81. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 16, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Michelle,

    My intention in posting in such inflammatory language is to force people to take a long, hard look at their beliefs. Broad brushes are necessary because dissecting each bristle on it’s own merits is impossible. When enough of a group of people display the same characteristics, then broad brushes can be applied. Atheists and agnostics have too long had to live with these same “broad brush strokes,” as have pagans, wiccans, and any other group anti-thetical to fundamentalism. I find it very frustrating when fundamentalists demand civil behavior and speech, yet insist on giving none in return. There are indeed individuals that don’t fit into the category, but I stand by my broad brush strokes. Fundamentalism in any area is narrow-minded and the source of much heartache in society.

  • 82. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 16, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Michelle,

    Here are some links to the “fundamentalism as disease” theory, so that you know, I’m not the only one saying it:

    http://www.tikkun.org/magazine/tik0709/frontpage/neuroscience
    http://www.prodigalsheep.com/archives/2005/12/a_viral_view_of_religious_fundamentalism_1.htm
    http://exchristian.net/exchristian/2002/12/deconversion.php

  • 83. Brad  |  February 16, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    So is it that the doctrine of innerrancy claims that Christianity is the only truth that stems from your complaints? Cause I TOTALLY see how the abusive language can piss you off… not blaming you there at all. But I’m curious as to how you are using the term “narrow-minded.”

  • 84. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 16, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    Brad,

    Are you talking to me?

  • 85. Michelle  |  February 16, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    I just gave an answer I thought was down-right inspiring, got up to get my dictionary (don’t have spell-check down yet) and the whole comment escaped into blogosphere. I will attempt again, but I know it won’t be nearly as profound. ;)

    I commented:
    I wish no one harm, and most of the people I know who hold my beliefs feel the same, although I cannot speak for everyone. I cannot presume to do so.

    In this day when we are fighting against an ideology that does wish us harm, it is necessary to differentiate the terms. Fundamentalist Christians do not want to kill, or give second-class citizenship, to others for not bowing down to their God.

    I should have said, “Of the fundamentalists I know, I do not know of any who want to kill,…”

    I guess we’re arguing semantics. I don’t know of any scripture where Christ told us to kill in His name. Anyone who thinks h/she should has misconstrued Christ’s teaching. The verses you alluded to, Quester, do not tell us to take up our swords and kill, do not tell us to hate (a comparison of our love for Christ over others is the most common interpretation), do not tell us to persecute, but to be ready to be persecuted, and they do not tell us to spit those who are lukewarm out of our mouths. Those types of interpretations would be used of the unstable to distort the truth about Christ (my opinion). I chose to give them the benefit of the doubt and call them “baby” Christians, possibly because they were not well taught.

    Fundamentalism is a bad word – that’s why I “buck” at the term. To believe in the fundamentals of any teaching is not bad, unless the teaching is bad. Some of you have concluded Christianity is bad, I don’t see what’s bad about loving God and my neighbors.

  • 86. Brad  |  February 16, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    MOI,

    Yeah, sorry, I forgot to address it to you specifically.

  • 87. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 16, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    I would say I mean all of these:

    narrow-minded:
    1. Not tolerant of the beliefs or opinions of others, for example: bigoted, close-minded, hidebound, illiberal, intolerant.
    2. Not broad or elevated in scope or understanding: limited, little, narrow, petty, small, small-minded.
    3. Having the restricted outlook often characteristic of geographic isolation: insular, limited, local, narrow, parochial, provincial, small-town.

    All of which you could say about some atheists and agnostics that I know as well. But, since I was a fundamentalist and exhibited all of these qualities at some time or another, and since I experience more narrow-mindedness in churches than I do out of them, I’m using it here to describe Christian fundamentalists who restrict their worldviews to the bible.

    I must also comment that I am not talking about ALL Christians or ALL Muslims or ALL atheists or ALL agnostics. I am speaking about those who believe that their god speaks finally and irrevocably through a set of documents they call scriptures, who hold belief in this set of texts as a test of fellowship in church, and who believe that the bible is 100% correct in science matters, and finally who believe that the entire world should be subject to the “laws” in the bible because they believe it is “God’s blueprint” for society.

    There, did I cover everything?

  • 88. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 16, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    Michelle,
    There’s nothing wrong with loving your God and your neighbors. I never said there was.

  • 89. OneSmallStep  |  February 16, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    I don’t know of any scripture where Christ told us to kill in His name. Anyone who thinks h/she should has misconstrued Christ’s teaching. The verses you alluded to, Quester, do not tell us to take up our swords and kill, do not tell us to hate (a comparison of our love for Christ over others is the most common interpretation), do not tell us to persecute, but to be ready to be persecuted, and they do not tell us to spit those who are lukewarm out of our mouths.

    But what about verses that state of a time when God will destroy/punish the non-Christians? When JEsus will be the one who will spit out the lukewarm? For many who do act in a way that harms others, they would use those verses as justification. Since God will do it at some point, we can also do so, since we follow God. And for those who don’t do it, because Jesus said to love one’s enemies … eventually, those non-Christians will suffer eternal torment. What is the line between not doing something yourself, and following one who will do those things?

  • 90. Michelle  |  February 16, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    One Small Step,

    That’s what I mean when I say the “unstable distort the truth of Christ’s teaching.”

    Only Christ through being fully God is able to be Judge. I can’t make any determination about anyone’s soul. For me to execute any kind of judgment would be done from a purely arrogant, self-righteous position. I am not God and should not take on His role. I can rely upon His judgement (how do you spell judgment/judgement?) because He is Holy, Righteous, Pure, Good, All- Seeing, All-Knowing, All-Present,…..all of the attributes of God, Christ envelopes. He is the exact representation of His Father. He is the great I AM.

    Anyone who tries to take on His role is deluded.

  • 91. Michelle  |  February 16, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    MOI,

    I read those links. I can’t see how that could make me feel any better about your position. So others out there believe I am infected with a virus, that I might be best cared for if I were put in quarantine? The first article seemed to be saying I am brain-damaged and will never be able to come to a place of “reasoning.” Kind of like Dawkins determining some are the “brights” and others are the “dims.” Are these truly indicative of your position?

    I’m trying to understand, but I feel I have just been insulted once again. Why do I have less Creative Intelligence or Emotional Intelligence because I believe there is a God and He has revealed Himself through the Old and New Testaments? Why is it necessary to go to such extreme rhetoric?

  • 92. Michelle  |  February 16, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    One Small Step,

    I just realized when I read my comment back that it might sound as though I am saying you are unstable and distorted. That was not my point. I was trying to say those who would murder in Christ’s name are distorting His teaching.

    Sorry for any confusion ;)

  • 93. OneSmallStep  |  February 16, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    Michelle,

    I got what you meant about those who take on the role. :)

    However, I don’t see an answer to this question: What is the line between not doing something yourself, and following one who will do those things? And then to add another question to that — to be Christian is to be Christ-like. Christ will eventually do those things, so perhaps to those who do act “bad,” they are being Christ-like.

    I know that you’re saying that since you are not God, you are not in a position to judge. And that God can do those things, because of all the attributes you listed — but if God did something that was not just, or wrong, how would you know?

    It just doesn’t seem like an answer to me, in terms of “the line.” I guess, and I don’t mean this in an attack fashion, but to follow that silently is almost like condoning the eternal torment for non-Christians.

  • 94. Michelle  |  February 16, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    One Small Step,

    In past conversations I’ve felt you have a solid understanding of the Tanakh (Did I spell that right? I’m trying to use your term for the Law and the Prophets). Do you come from a Jewish perspective?

    I’ll try to be more clear. I see God as revealed through the names He gave us, as He allowed man to see Him. When He revealed Himself to Moses on the mountain and described Himself in Exodus 34:5-7 as the LORD! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet He does not remit all punishment, but visits the iniquity of parents upon children and children’s children, upon the third and fourth generation.

    I bow down to His definition of Himself. I believe He is the Self-Existent One Who holds us all in His Hand. He knows our hearts better than we know ourselves. So I trust in His definition of Himself. I don’t separate Christ from YHWH – through Christ I see the compassion and forgiveness available. I don’t see how One Who sees all and is Holy and full of Love could judge unjustly. Wouldn’t we all like to have a judge like that – who could not make a mistake because He knows and sees everything?

    I’m not sure I’m getting to ‘the line” of your question. I’m not able to make a judgement because I would not be just.

  • 95. Bro. Burton  |  February 16, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    lets play an “if” game…..

    If God really exists, and everything in his Bible is true (Christ is our redeemer, sins must be accounted for), wouldnt it stand to reason that God would demand punishment for those sins against him?

    We as a society require punishment for breaking the law, we expect that people should take responsibilty for their own actions…

    We frown as a society on those who practice vigilateism (sp?), and those that do practice this are dealt with accordingly.

    So, God would require us to take responsibility for our breaking of his laws, he would deal with those who practice “spiritual” vigilanteism accordingly. The difference is his way would be perfect and his knowlege would be perfect – there wouldnt be any false accusations or false imprisonment.

  • 96. OneSmallStep  |  February 16, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    Michelle,

    I use the term ‘Tanakh’ because I think it’s more respectful to the Jewish viewpoint, as opposed to calling it the Old Testament, whereas the New one is the new/updated version, and the Jews are simply ‘outdated.’ And I think it’s spelled right.

    But what I see in your definition is that you know who/what God is because that’s what He tells you, through the Bible. However, if a person tells you that s/he is just, do you take the person’s word for it? Or do you have some standard of justice by which you measure the person’s claim?

    I’m assuming the latter. So when you say God is all those things, what standard is used to determine that claim? To answer your question, what standard do I use to determine that God is all that you or the Bible describe?

    But in terms of my question — you say that those who do go after the non-Christians are violating Christ’s teachings and commandments. But you say that Christ/God is entitled to punish eternally, through what portions of the Bible describe as a torment. You wouldn’t kill non-Christians and such. Yet God would, and this is a God that is followed and accepted. If you would (I would think) not stand and watch someone be beaten to death, and are in fact commanded to interfere by God, why would a God be followed that says it is just to torment eternally, and that it’s okay for no Christian to interfere?

    I guess — and again, I don’t mean this to attack or belittle — you say that those Christians who do make non-Christians second-class citizens or kill them are violating the Christian living. Yet it’s not violating that to follow a God who would, in the end, torment non-Christians? Who would, in a way, strip them of dignity and pretty much make them second-class through hell? To me, it’s very hard to see a difference between the two ideas sometimes.

    I think those who would kill non-Christians would say they are able to make such a judgement, because God tells them that it is just. Or God has made the judgement, and is using the Christian to complete that judgement.

  • 97. ned  |  February 16, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Bro. Burton: This is probably not the best forum but maybe you can answer a question that bothered me for a long time. I am asian. If God has a law that he expects us to obey, why is this law only revealed to the jews and not to the asians? The Chinese has five thousand years of civilization. Christianity was introduced only 500 years ago (and when the message finally came, it came with guns). How can I take this law seriously when God didn’t bother to send it to my ancestors? It seems to me that the only reasonable conclusion is either: 1) God only expects his chosen people to obey his law, or 2) Christianity originated from a local cult, which only spread due to the east due to military power of the west.

    Every time I talk to an American Christian, I ask this question: How can I be sure that God has a plan for me, when my grandfather grandfather never had a chance to hear his message? If my grand grandfather isn’t included in God’s plan, it’s only obvious that I am not included in God’s plan either. A possible solution is that Confucius was a messenger of God to the Chinese (Confucius’s teaching is quite compatible with Jesus), and since Confucius said nothing about redemption, the whole redemption thing was God’s plan only for the jews. The asians obviously are not descendants of Adams and Eve, otherwise our ancestors would have said something about them.

    This is not meant to be ridicule your faith. I am seriously asking these questions and no Christian so far offers any answer to me.

  • 98. Bro. Burton  |  February 16, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    Ned – I appreciate the question, but I must say that is something that has bothered me for years. I do not know the answer, but I’ll bet one of the other Christians in this discussion can address this. If I dont know – I admiit it :)

  • 99. ned  |  February 16, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Bro. Burton: Thanx. Please do share it with me when you have some idea.

  • 100. Michelle  |  February 16, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    One Small Step,

    First, about the Tanakh, I don’t think Christians use the term “Old” in meaning the Jewish way is outdated. It is meant to be in comparison to the covenants. Jesus said He came to establish the New Covenant (or New Testament) and to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. But maybe you’re right, I know lots of people who teach we don’t need to even read the Old Testament. I maintain it was the Bible Jesus read so why are we to ignore it? We can’t even understand Jesus without it.

    Anyway…back to the topic at hand.

    I’m not sure how to answer your question:
    I guess — and again, I don’t mean this to attack or belittle — you say that those Christians who do make non-Christians second-class citizens or kill them are violating the Christian living. Yet it’s not violating that to follow a God who would, in the end, torment non-Christians? Who would, in a way, strip them of dignity and pretty much make them second-class through hell? To me, it’s very hard to see a difference between the two ideas sometimes.

    I don’t understand the torment, I do understand the separation. If a person did not want to worship His Creator on earth, he certainly won’t want to worship Him forever.

    The only other way I know how to answer is to say I don’t understand everything about God. I can’t, being the finite being I am. I read what He says about Himself and let Him do the explaining. I want to know as much as I can, but until I see Him I won’t know fully. “We now see in a mirror darkly, then we shall see face to face.” And then I even wonder if we won’t have an eternity to get to know Him even more.

    I feel that must sound like foolishness to you, but to me it’s liberating, it really is what I’m living for.

  • 101. Michelle  |  February 16, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Ned: If you want me to try and explain, I will.

    I don’t know how to link to one of my blogs so I’ll just give you the site and name, and if you are interested you can pop over:

    considerjesus.wordpress.com

    then search for “jesus is the problem”

    I’ve alluded to this problem from my ancestry. It may not give answers, but I’ll try if you want to engage.

  • 102. OneSmallStep  |  February 16, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Michelle,

    I think from the Jewish perspective, they do find it as a way of saying the Tanakh is ‘outdated.’ I mean, even to say that Jesus fufilled all the prophecies is saying to them that they didn’t quite understand their own religious works.

    If a person did not want to worship His Creator on earth, he certainly won’t want to worship Him forever.

    Why does one mean the other? You later say that you are a finite being, and don’t understand everything fully. Why couldn’t someone who doesn’t want anything to do with God on earth change his/her mind after death? Any time spend on Earth is seeing through that glass darkly, and seeing through a finite viewpoint. It’s like saying that simply because a child wanted nothing to do with his parents from the age of 5-15 means that they’ll reject their parents forever. Or saying that because someone wants to kill him/herself for ten years means they’ll never, for an eternity, want to live.

    And you’re now saying that you don’t understand everything about God — but are you also using that to explain how you know that God is what He says He is? When you listed the earlier characteristics, I assume that you had at least a pretty good understanding of what all those characteristics are. Correct?

  • 103. ned  |  February 16, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    Michelle, thanx for the link. I appreciate it but I must say that your points are probably too subtle for me to understand how they are related to my question. My theory is that God has different plans for different people. For the asians, a series of secular philosophers were sent. None of them claimed to be God or the messengers of God. They only encouraged people to behave in a morale and compassionate way. Asian civilizations based on secular humanism, with no concept of redemption, original sins, god-given laws, and final judgement, worked very well for thousands of years. It worked so well that it’s hard to believe that it’s not part of God’s plan. From history and the teaching of our ancestors, I believe God wants us to forget about him and live for ourselves. That’s Confucius answer when his students asked him about supernatural beings: To devote oneself earnestly to one’s duty to humanity, and while respecting the spirits (Gods), to keep aloof from them.

  • 104. paulmct  |  February 16, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    Ned – The reason no one can answer you is that it isn’t true. I discussed this in a comment on another thread. One of the many Christian commenters who seem to be trying to take over this site made some claims and sent a link to back them up. I followed it and used the information to prove the opposite. Go to Comment #40 at:

    http://de-conversion.com/2008/02/11/the-true-origins-of-a-specious-argument/

    Then run as far away from these people who are trying to rope you in as possible.

  • 105. Michelle  |  February 16, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    One Small Step:

    I can’t know. The only “knowing” I have is in the meaning of the greek term – epignosis – a more full knowledge in the object known, a spiritual knowledge, not just a seeking to know or inquiry, but a participation in the object known. I can only believe what He has chosen to reveal. It’s like Job saying he has only seen the fringe of God’s robe (I think it was Job). I don’t understand Him because His ways are not my ways, nor His thoughts my thoughts. I am just the created, not the Creator. I believe He is Creator and Sovereign, so I rest in the system He created. I put my trust in His love and understand that any judgement He makes is holy and good.

    I think I’m just repeating myself. I’m sorry, it’s all I have. ;)

  • 106. Michelle  |  February 16, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    Ned,

    I’m sorry it seems subtle. I guess what I was trying to say was I am glad I live at this time in history when I can hear the word; because at the time of Christ, my ancestors were pagans worshipping in rock circles and making human sacrifices. I don’t understand the “time of the Gentiles” but it seems to be a teaching in the scriptures. And if you take the stories of the Bible as truth then you came from Adam and Eve too. We all did – but after the Flood, the Tower of Babel, and the “days of Peleg” we became scattered with incomplete understandings.

    Oh, but that’s all mythology – I forget ;)

    Paul, I encouraged him to pop over to my site because I didn’t think this conversation fit the forum. Sorry if it seems I’m trying to take over the site. I’m only trying to give answers to questions asked of me. ;)

  • 107. ned  |  February 16, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    I am trying to formulate a theology. Here’s what I think. I think God wants at least the asians to be agnostics or atheists. Confucius’ teaching (“respect gods but stay aloof from them”) was God’s last revelation to asians. It happened 500 years before Jesus Christ. It was not expressed as a commandment because it will defy the purpose. How does a God communicate his Will (Thou shall let go of me) to his people? There is no other way but to send messengers disguised as secular humanists. This system worked very well for thousands of years.

    Now, maybe this plan was intended not only for asians, but for all of us? Maybe that’s why He recently sent Richard Dawkins to us. No I am serious. I think it really is God’s will. To let go of him. As expressed by the last prophet Confucius so beautifully in Analects. I have pondered this problem very deeply for many years and it’s the only solution I can think of to reconcile the idea of a creator with my culture.

  • 108. Godamn  |  February 17, 2008 at 2:46 am

    Michelle,
    Human sacrifices? Yknow, its quite common for a group trying to portray another evilt to accuse them of child sacrifice and cannibalism. Infact, the Romans accused the early Christians of the same, since Jesus talked about eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the son of man( Romans interpreted this to mean Child ). By the way, ancient cultures practised the same rituals of eating flesh and blood, except their culinary preferences tended towards the real thing, their king. The king would be sacrificed and the people would have him for dinner, in hopes of acquiring the qualities of the dead king, since he, presumably, will not require them anymore. The Christian ritual is a direct descendant of this.
    You may believe what the bible says, but why do you believe it? What makes you so certain you are reading the word of god and not man? Surely you have to be able to understand why you think its gods word. Why do you think it cannot be the word of man?

  • 109. Brad  |  February 17, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Ned, you said:

    “I think God wants at least the asians to be agnostics or atheists. ”

    It’s easy to see how various cultures and regions around the world develop philosophies that affirm and produce in people a similar morality. The Bible explains this as the “Law of God written on all men’s hearts:”

    14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them … (Romans 2:14-15)

    The problem with the pluralistic direction you are going with your theology, is that God would be contradicting Himself be sending messengers with radically different messages. Dawkins, for example, has said that all religion is “harmful” to humanity because it is a delusion. Why would God send someone to condemn His other messengers?

    This kind of God would either be foolish and incapable (he can’t help but contradict himself), or cold and uncaring (that he contradicts himself is of no concern, and neither are the various conflicts between religion and culture through the ages). Inclusivism, at it’s heart, is a good and noble pursuit. It seems very beneficial to seek unity among religions. But the pursuit of it fails because it becomes exclusive to any interpretation of God that defines God otherwise, thus defeating the purpose…

    The Christian faith explains the “plurality” of religions in the world without crossing into “pluralism.” Objective truth exists independently of our belief in it. Our belief is not what makes it true.

    Keep wrestling, questioning, and searching. It sounds like you’re asking all the right questions. God speed.

  • 110. Brad  |  February 17, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Godamn…

    Jeez man… straw man much? There are documented cases (real evidence even by your standards) of child sacrifice in the ancient near east. Would you not agree that that’s bad ju-ju? That’s all she was trying to say.

    Michelle, you said:

    “I think I’m just repeating myself. I’m sorry, it’s all I have.”

    Hehe… you say that like it’s a bad thing. ;)

  • 111. Michelle  |  February 17, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Go:

    I was referring to the most recent documentary I saw on the History channel about the druids in England. I found this on Wikipedia:

    As written in Roman sources, Celtic Druids engaged extensively in human sacrifice.[11] According to Julius Caesar, the slaves and dependants of Gauls of rank would be burnt along with the body of their master as part of his funerary rites.[12] He also describes how they built wicker figures that were filled with living humans and then burned.[13] It is known that druids at least supervised sacrifices of some kind. According to Cassius Dio, Boudica’s forces impaled Roman captives during her rebellion against the Roman occupation, to the accompaniment of revellery and sacrifices in the sacred groves of Andate.[14] Some modern-day scholars question the accuracy of these accounts, as they invariably come from hostile (Roman or Greek) sources.[15] Different gods reportedly required different kind of sacrifices. Victims meant for Esus were hanged, those meant for Taranis immolated and those for Teutates drowned. Some, like the Lindow Man, may have gone to their deaths willingly.

    Archaeological evidence from the British Isles seems to indicate that human sacrifice may have been practiced, over times long pre-dating any contact with Rome. Human remains have been found at the foundations of structures from the Neolithic time to the Roman era, with injuries and in positions that argue for their being foundation sacrifices. Similarly, additional human remains in the tombs of aged men show signs of having been killed to be buried in the grave.

    Brad:

    I don’t think it’s a bad thing – I only wish I were better able to express myself. Thanks ;)

  • 112. Godamn  |  February 17, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    I did not say sacrifices did not take place. Paganism is generally used to refer to non-Abrahmanic religon. You made a blanket statement about a very large group, which is what I was objecting to. Mass execution of prisoners was practised in an organized manner which gave the impression it was a sacrifice for gods. Human sacrifice in Christs time was not common even in Paganism. In addition, one could make the argument that large scale eradication of people in the bible, including the systematic execution of captured women and children and even animals as well as destruction of property (except what was valuable which was to go to the lords treasury) could be considered sacrifice. Not to mention the burning of witches. Only the pretext is different. So, the god of the bible cannot exactly make claims of moral superiority.

  • 113. karen  |  February 17, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Michelle, you said:

    “I think I’m just repeating myself. I’m sorry, it’s all I have.”

    Hehe… you say that like it’s a bad thing. ;)

    It is a bad thing, and Michelle may be starting to realize that. She believes what she believes because the bible tells her to believe it and her pastors and teachers and parents told her to believe it, and she feels it in her heart to believe it, and so she believes it, believes it, believes it.

    Thing is, that’s fine for some people. Heck, it’s probably perfectly fine for the majority of people. The studies show that the religion one was raised in is by far the strongest determining factor of what religion one will adopt in adulthood. So people raised in Muslim countries by Muslim parents in Muslim clans or sects are very, very likely to adopt Islam over any other religion when they grow up.

    Ditto for Christianity, Hinduism, etc. etc.

    There are certain people, however, who have a hankering to go deeper, to investigate, to research, to think deeply about what they believe and why. These people (and I and most of the contributors here are among them) at some point run across arguments counter to what they’ve been taught. A few of those arguments can’t be easily dismissed. Some of them even make a strange kind of … sense.

    Suddenly, “I believe because I know it in my heart” just isn’t a very good reason anymore. “God’s ways are not our ways,” seems weak and silly. “We’ll get all the answers in heaven,” doesn’t work like it used to.

    Suddenly there’s an awareness that dawns about looking at the question more objectively, more rationally, more logically. This is the beginning of breaking out of the fundamentalist shell, when cherished responses and re-stating one’s ‘faith statements’ over and over do not cut it anymore.

    Keep thinking, Michelle. Don’t be afraid to question and read and research. No matter what the authority figures tell you, remember that if there’s a god he gave you a brain so that you could use it, not keep it wrapped up in a cocoon of rigid beliefs that cannot be breached due to fear.

  • 114. paulmct  |  February 17, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Michelle,

    I wasn’t talking about you, in particular. Actually, you are probably the most open minded of the half dozen or so Christians who’ve been commenting here.

    I think you have questions yourself, and I agree with Karen that you should continue to ask them. I took a quick look at your site and noted some dialogue with people there that was… maybe revealing. I wonder if you don’t come here for a reason. I think you may be ready to move forward.

    When you step outside the belief system you’ve been brought up in, you’ll find that you don’t degenerate into a serial killer, believe it or not.

    Karen,

    Good point about people having the religion they were born into. They simply don’t question it because they were taught it from early childhood by the people they’re supposed to be able to trust or just assume have it right – notably, parents and teachers.

  • 115. Quester  |  February 17, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    Wow, there’ve been a lot of responses since yesterday.

    Michelle, let’s see. Your last response to me (#85) started:

    I just gave an answer I thought was down-right inspiring, got up to get my dictionary (don’t have spell-check down yet) and the whole comment escaped into blogosphere. I will attempt again, but I know it won’t be nearly as profound.

    I sympathise, entirely. That sort of thing often happens to me.

    You then corrected yourself, saying you don’t speak for all fundamentalists. I appreciate that.

    You guessed we might be arguing semantics. That’s fair, but without doing so, I can’t see how we can express anything meaningful. I’m one of those strange people who considers arguing semantics to be very important, instead of dismissing it as unimportant.

    Let’s see, you then went on to refer to the verses I referred you to. I am so glad you did. I had no idea I could be interpreted as implying what you seem to say I implied.

    Christ indeed did not call us to take a sword to each other. But he did claim to come to bring division and set us against each other. (Mt 10)

    Again, you are right, that a common interpretation of Christ’s words in Luke 14 is a comparison of our love for Christ over others. We get that interpretation from the similar words in Matthew 10. But even though we have chosen to interpret Christ’s words in that way, because we choose to believe Christ is loving, if we believe that the bible is inerrant, we also must believe that Jesus told us to hate. We can interpret his words, but that doesn’t make them go away.

    I also agree that the verse I mentioned on persecution was not a call that we should persecute, but instead support that receiving persecution is confirmation that we are following the right path. What this leads me to wonder, though, is how we know we’re on the wrong path? We hurt others, they strike out against us, we have been persecuted and therefore are blessed. I have heard this logic time and time again from Christians defending their practice of going door to door to let people know they are damned if they don’t believe. This seems to me to be a hurtful practice.

    And with the final verse, again we are in agreement. I did not mean to state that scripture calls us to spit out the lukewarm. Instead, it says that God will spit us out if we are lukewarm. That is a reason we should not be tolerant, but love each other with a Godly passion, correcting others when they are wrong, and removing them from the community if they will not be corrected (Mt 18)

    I can interpret all of the above in a loving manner, but I can’t see my interpretations as more mature or correct than those who choose to take God at his word. The more I try to preach from scripture, the more I find I have to twist, dodge and explain in order to interpret God’s words as loving. It is possible, but increasingly difficult, and I keep feeling that I am preaching my words instead of God’s as I struggle to portray God as a loving creator who intervenes in human history due to the love he has for us.

    I do see how God describes himself, but I have a hard time reconciling those descriptors with how God chooses to act in the world- at least, according to His word.

    Later, in #100, you speak about the separation from God that is a common interpretation of Hell because it is more just than the torment the bible describes. Admittedly, it seems there are roughly as many verses where Jesus says the damned will be cast into the outer darkness as there are where Jesus says they will be cast into the furnace of fire, but the one does not negate the other. And even if hell is only separation, it becomes increasingly hard to see that as a just consequence of a finite inability to believe in God.

    I’m glad you want to know as much as you can. Let us not allow our inability to understand God perfectly become an excuse not to understand as much as we might.

    Even if our seeking leads us into darkness and doubt like mine has.

  • 116. Quester  |  February 17, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Brad, you asked “Until tomorrow”?, and I assume that was in response to me. Yes, as of today, I am considered clergy on leave in regard to my national church body. If you look at response #4 in the comments thread responding to Reasons I Remained Faithful, you will see more of my story.

  • 117. empy  |  February 17, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Quester said “I do see how God describes himself, but I have a hard time reconciling those descriptors with how God chooses to act in the world- at least, according to His word.”

    That every action has its equal and opposite reaction is a universal law of science. This is true both in the physical and in the moral realm. If there was some one out there who never made any mistakes in life, it would be ok for that person. There won’t be any negative reactions waiting for that person. Since every person has failed miserably in the moral realm, each person’s actions will foollow him/her and God is helpless. In His love God offers to help and if some one does not want that provision, it is each person”s decision. Hell is God accepting man’s final ‘No’ to Him.

  • 118. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 17, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    Wow, we had internet outage due to a storm here in the Midwest so I’ve been away a couple of days. Everyone else has been busy! :-)

    Michelle,
    I provided the links to show that others think the same way and I’m not coming out of left field. I’m not trying to make anyone feel better or worse, that’s up to you how you feel. I’m only stating my opinion: that people who confine their thinking to ancient texts and who insist that others do too are fundamentalists and are dangerous to society when they insist others believe exactly as they do. It’s cult-like thinking and leads to cult-like behavior.

  • 119. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 17, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Ned,

    You wrote: “How can I take this law seriously when God didn’t bother to send it to my ancestors? ”

    This very question has also always bothered me. If God existed and wanted everyone to be “saved,” then there are far better means of getting the message out there than an itinerate preacher in Palestine. Obviously, the message was meant only for the Jewish people.

  • 120. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 17, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    Quester,

    I’m interested in learning more of your story as well. I’m loving your responses to this post.

  • 121. Quester  |  February 17, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    Empy, what actions can we perform during our life spans on earth that eternal salvation or eternal condemnation can be considered “equal and opposite” to?

    How about the conquests described in the book of Joshua? How are they anything other than evil acts ordered and enabled by God?

  • 122. Quester  |  February 17, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    Mystery,

    I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a blog, but every time I’ve tried, it’s just been too painful. I’m going to miss this parish so much. I am mourning the loss of my certainty, my faith, and, in many ways, my God. This may not be clear as I try to discuss things rationally with others on this board, but I’ve been breaking down with the immediacy of it as I try to blog.

    Thank-you for your compliment, though.

  • 123. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 18, 2008 at 12:15 am

    Quester,

    I understand the pain. I’ve gone through it (still am) myself. While not a pastor, which I’m sure holds its own setbacks, I can relate to the mourning of faith’s passing. You are in my thoughts.

  • 124. empy  |  February 18, 2008 at 1:21 am

    Quester said,”what actions can we perform during our life spans on earth that eternal salvation or eternal condemnation can be considered ‘equal and opposite’ to?”

    Quester, that we are living in a moral universe is indisputable. The moral law is “What a man sows, so he reaps” and this is what we see all around the world of harvest. You sow one seed and you get a hundredfold.

    You challenge the nature and you go out in a cold winter night without proper warm clothes on. You get Pneumonia. For a single night’s action, you get a prolonged illness.

    You catch HIV by a single act of whatever and the result is lifelong suffering. This is just the law of life. Who can alter it?

    Since man’s retribution is not fully carried out here on earth, the Bible says that man gets it back in eternity.

    Quester said, “How about the conquests described in the book of Joshua? How are they anything other than evil acts ordered and enabled by God?”

    Quester, would you consider destroying birds in bulk by farmers as cruelty when there was bird-flu rampant?

    That is what God did in Joshua’s time to those cultures there. You and I know for sure that the culture there was one of the worst with sexual promiscuity which culminated every year at the so called ‘New Year Festival’. If they were allowed to continue the same, the twentieth century epidemic (AIDS) would have hit the human race then. Just imagine the fate of the human race if that had happened. So as a preservatory measure God had to remove them from the scene.

  • 125. The de-Convert  |  February 18, 2008 at 1:31 am

    Quester,

    I’m interested in learning more of your story as well. I’m loving your responses to this post.

    I agree.

    Paul

  • 126. Quester  |  February 18, 2008 at 1:52 am

    Empy, you said,

    The moral law is “What a man sows, so he reaps” and this is what we see all around the world of harvest. You sow one seed and you get a hundredfold.

    This completely contradicts your previous statement about every action having its equal and opposite reaction in the moral sphere.

    What about “it rains on the just and on the unjust alike”? I live in a small town with many farmers around. their faith and adherence to religious codes have no effect on the condition of their crops come harvest time. Or perhaps you are arguing that adhering to God’s laws has consequences that reside only outside of our lifetimes on earth? If so, what can we do in order to earn salvation?

    You also asked would you consider destroying birds in bulk by farmers as cruelty when there was bird-flu rampant?

    Yes, if they had the power to cure the bird-flu. God did not choose the Israelites because they were sinless. They became righteous through his choosing them. The people already living in the so-called Promised Land were not given any guidance, direction or support from God, as far as revealed in the Bible. They were simply slaughtered. Even the children.

    And if you believe that we all descended from Noah’s family, how much further back would an AIDS epidemic have set the human race back in Joshua’s time?

  • 127. Quester  |  February 18, 2008 at 1:58 am

    Paul, thank-you. That’s three of you now who’ve asked me to share more of my story. All right. I’ll see what I can do.

  • 128. HeIsSailing  |  February 18, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Make that four.

  • 129. empy  |  February 18, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Quester, You said, “This completely contradicts your previous statement about every action having its equal and opposite reaction in the moral sphere.”

    The universe that we live in does not just have one immutable law. There are several. One law does not contradict any other; rather they complement each other.

    You said, “What about ‘it rains on the just and on the unjust alike’? I live in a small town with many farmers around. their faith and adherence to religious codes have no effect on the condition of their crops come harvest time. Or perhaps you are arguing that adhering to God’s laws has consequences that reside only outside of our lifetimes on earth? If so, what can we do in order to earn salvation?”

    If you say that their faith has no effect on their harvest, it is because their life has no difference from that of the ones who do not believe. One’s faith/adherance to a dogma is useless unless it brings about a drastic change in their day-to-day life. If that change in life should take place, it is only possible by regular contact with God through His Word. Both salvation and holy living are gifts of God and no one can produce it in life by self-effort. Those who live in constant communion with the divine will benefit here in this life and also here-after.

    Man is a dependent being. For our physical life we depend on the air that we breathe and the food we eat. For our mental life we depend heavily on our culture and our education. For our spiritual life to thrive and produce any result here and here-after, our spirits must heavily depend on God every moment. That is why it is said,”prayer is the vital breath”.

    You said,”God did not choose the Israelites because they were sinless. They became righteous through his choosing them. The people already living in the so-called Promised Land were not given any guidance, direction or support from God, as far as revealed in the Bible.”

    It is true that Israel was not chosen because they were sinless. Truely they were privileged in that they were given the revelation of the immutable laws of the moral world and they were therefore found to be more responsible.

    Others all around had what is known as general revelation or primitive revelation as every human being on the face of the earth has some concept of good and evil in their hearts. Ofcourse, standards of morality are different, nevertheless there was the moral law within them so that they were with out excuse.

    You siad, “even children”. Who knows whether HIV was already found among them or not. God of the universe is not such a person that He would do things below His dignity. We can trust Him to be righteous in all His actions for He is indeed GOD.

    Yes, indeed, Sodom and Gomorrah had to be wiped out for exactly the same reason and the flood had to destroy every one during Noah”s time except the pure breed.

  • 130. karen  |  February 18, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Quester, would you consider destroying birds in bulk by farmers as cruelty when there was bird-flu rampant?

    That is what God did in Joshua’s time to those cultures there. You and I know for sure that the culture there was one of the worst with sexual promiscuity which culminated every year at the so called ‘New Year Festival’. If they were allowed to continue the same, the twentieth century epidemic (AIDS) would have hit the human race then. Just imagine the fate of the human race if that had happened. So as a preservatory measure God had to remove them from the scene.

    Wait a sec. Are you comparing conservationists destroying disease-ridden waterfowl to a god that wipes out whole human populations? That’s unbelievable. Aren’t people supposed to have consciousness and souls and all that? Does that count for nothing?

    Yes, indeed, Sodom and Gomorrah had to be wiped out for exactly the same reason and the flood had to destroy every one during Noah”s time except the pure breed.

    The “pure breed”? You’re scaring me, man.

  • 131. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 18, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Empy,

    Ok, and Christians are scared of me calling fundamentalism a virus of the mind? Now who’s the scary one? Good observation Karen!

  • 132. Godamn  |  February 18, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    I’d like to add, humans would wait until the disease manifested in the fowl. We wouldn’t pre emptively wipe them all out on the off chance that they may get the disease sometime in the future. Why the hell did god let these people be born if he was gonna kill them?

  • 133. Bro. Burton  |  February 18, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    Go,

    “I’d like to add, humans would wait until the disease manifested in the fowl. We wouldn’t pre emptively wipe them all out on the off chance that they may get the disease sometime in the future.”

    Honestly now, are you saying Humans are so compassionate, and understanding, that we would never wipe out an entire species of animal (regardless of the reason)? I think the Human race and its depravity is manifested daily.

    “Why the hell did god let these people be born if he was gonna kill them?”

    Free will. We have a choice, myself and others here have chosen God, others have not.

    By your reasoning: Why do people choose to have children? They’re all gonna die.

    Your post sounds more like angry rantings than anything logical. Come on now.

  • 134. Quester  |  February 18, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    Empy,

    The universe that we live in does not just have one immutable law. There are several. One law does not contradict any other; rather they complement each other.

    That may be true. Nonetheless, the two laws you’ve stated completely contradict one another. What that might tell you is that they are not immutable laws of the universe.

    If you say that their faith has no effect on their harvest, it is because their life has no difference from that of the ones who do not believe.

    Despite Jesus saying the same thing, reportedly, in his infamous Sermon on the Mount? What evidence do you have that good things only happen to good people and bad things only happen to bad people? Do you believe that the most successful and prosperous in this world are also the most virtuous?

    If that change in life should take place, it is only possible by regular contact with God through His Word. Both salvation and holy living are gifts of God and no one can produce it in life by self-effort.

    Those two sentences also contradict each other entirely. Either self-effort is needed, or it is a gift from God that self-effort can not produce. You can’t have it both ways.

    You siad, “even children”. Who knows whether HIV was already found among them or not.

    It doesn’t matter. If the problem was disease and not sin, God could have cured them instead of killing them.

    God of the universe is not such a person that He would do things below His dignity. We can trust Him to be righteous in all His actions for He is indeed GOD.

    I see no evidence of that.

  • 135. Quester  |  February 18, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Bro. Burton,

    “Why the hell did god let these people be born if he was gonna kill them?”

    Free will. We have a choice, myself and others here have chosen God, others have not.

    The people we’re talking about are the people who were already residing in the “promised land” when God led Joshua on his killing spree through there. What choice did those people have that their deaths can be considered the results of free will? How about the children and the servants? Why did the buildings need to be burned down? Had they exercised free will, too?

  • 136. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 18, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Quester,
    Do you notice that whenever good things happen it’s always God we are supposed to thank, but when bad things happen it’s never God’s fault but man’s fault? But according to the bible, nothing happens that God does not endorse or cause to happen. It’s a universal maxim that we should thank God both for evil and good. Even the bible says it.
    * The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these. (Isaiah 45:7, NASB)

    Therefore, Joshua’s people deserved it and they should be thankful they were eliminated. It’s God’s will. Can’t you see that?
    Signed,
    Tongue in Cheek

  • 137. karen  |  February 18, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    Honestly now, are you saying Humans are so compassionate, and understanding, that we would never wipe out an entire species of animal (regardless of the reason)? I think the Human race and its depravity is manifested daily.

    Depraved and flawed humans are an unfortunate reality. However, if the majority of us were genocidal our species wouldn’t have survived this long. The fact is, a great majority of people are law-abiding and harbor no particular wish to do violence to their neighbors. This is how we have millions of people living in close proximity in relative safety all their lives.

    But forget about people, we’re talking about GOD here, right? Isn’t he supposed to rise above mere humanity and operate on a higher level of morality? How can you reconcile an all-benevolent god who wipes out entire races? That’s a contradiction in terms. Don’t forget that “entire race” means not only heads of household, but also women and servants (who likely weren’t given a choice whom to worship), children, animals and even the unborn.

    “Why the hell did god let these people be born if he was gonna kill them?”

    Free will. We have a choice, myself and others here have chosen God, others have not.

    I have examined the free will argument right side up, upside down, sideways and every other way possible. It just holds no water for me at all. It makes no sense, and it smells a whole lot like a weak, apologetic after-the-fact attempt to justify the unjustifiable and to make sense of the nonsensical.

    Your post sounds more like angry rantings than anything logical. Come on now.

    I don’t read any angry ranting here at all. Am I missing something? Why is it that when Christians come to this site and post and then get their presumptions challenged we start hearing whining about how angry we are, and how we’re ranting or disrespectful and how they didn’t want to get sucked into an argument anyway?

    C’mon now yourself – if you want to dialog here, go for it, and don’t complain about vigorous discussion.

  • 138. Quester  |  February 18, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Mystery,

    Maybe it’s part of the ‘diseased’ mindset you spoke of in your post, but I have thanked God for my suffering, in times of suffering. Even though I stepped out in faith to answer what I thought was God’s call to me and suddenly stopped feeling God’s presence and felt cut off from any spiritual and emotional resources I thought God had promised me if I responded to God’s call, I’m still willing to believe that good has been done through my suffering and failure and that God’s plan has been furthered. I’d rather believe that than believe God doesn’t exist.

    It’s other people’s suffering I tend to have a harder time with. I can believe I deserve pain. I can believe that by choosing to follow God I have chosen a life of pain. I just can’t believe that about anyone else.

    And I’m not even sure which of my statements in the above two paragraphs are the irrational ones.

  • 139. Bro. Burton  |  February 18, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    Karen,

    “Depraved and flawed humans are an unfortunate reality. However, if the majority of us were genocidal our species wouldn’t have survived this long. The fact is, a great majority of people are law-abiding and harbor no particular wish to do violence to their neighbors. This is how we have millions of people living in close proximity in relative safety all their lives.”

    It doesnt take a majority, look at Nazi Germany. And for that matter ealry America – (Native Indians) But that isnt the point. Go back to my earlier post #95, wouldnt God (who is just) have the right to do anything he wills with his creation?

    This is my belief that I will phrase in a question:

    Who am I to presume God’s will? I know what he has told me about himself through his Word, but I am still a finite being. Science only tells us a part, it does not explain everything. There are many things unanswered, how do you explain the human genome? It is SO complex, we only understand a small portion – but we presume to be so smart?

    Consider the simplest bacteria – it has always been bacteria. It hasnt suddenly popped into a monkey that became a human. Consider the trees – why do all trees of the same Genus/Species have the exact same characteristiccs (genetically)? They graft and can become a seperate cultivar, but they are always weaker than the original.

    I find it amazing that the Almighty thought to make flowers that need bees that make honey. I look at my kids and wonder at his creation.

    back to topic:

    “But forget about people, we’re talking about GOD here, right? Isn’t he supposed to rise above mere humanity and operate on a higher level of morality? How can you reconcile an all-benevolent god who wipes out entire races? That’s a contradiction in terms. Don’t forget that “entire race” means not only heads of household, but also women and servants (who likely weren’t given a choice whom to worship), children, animals and even the unborn.”

    First off He does not need to rise above humanity – he is the Creator. He is operating on a higher level of morality – he defines the law and the consequence. Just because you dont agree with it, does not make it so. I don’t agree there should be a speed limit in my state, but if I break that law I pay the price. So how is that a contradiction?

    I dont mean to sound whiny, and i certainly am not upset. But I do wonder why, when someone brings up a point you (collective) dont agree with you attack the poster?

    and BTW I love vigorous discussion :)

  • 140. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 18, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    Quester,
    I am not in any way disrespecting your beliefs, but I must ask, what possible good comes from suffering except our own existential justification of being born?

  • 141. Quester  |  February 18, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    Thank-you for your tact, Mystery. Suffering could remind me that I am not in control of the universe, and thus make me more humble. Suffering could help me avoid greater suffering (as a broken leg might keep me from going dancing the night the dance hall catches on fire).

    A popular concept travelling in some circles of pastoral thought today is that of the wounded healer. According to this concept, those who have suffered terribly are better at relating to and ministering to others who have suffered terribly. Thus suffering makes a person a better pastor.

    Sometimes, one might also be called to suffer so that something greater can be accomplished. Running into a fire and suffering terrible burns to save the baby that will grow up to discover the cure for cancer might be an example, or the simple emotional suffering of stage fright undergone to get an important message communicated.

    Does this help?

  • 142. Quester  |  February 19, 2008 at 12:21 am

    Bro. Burton,

    I’m not sure I understand what you’re trying to say. It looks like you’re trying to say than because God created us, God can cause suffering and tell us to kill, hurt and destroy and it’s okay because there’s a lot we don’t understand?

    Just because you dont agree with it, does not make it so. I don’t agree there should be a speed limit in my state, but if I break that law I pay the price. So how is that a contradiction?

    What we’re talking about is more along the lines of, “There’s a speed limit in my state, but no car has a spedometer. If we get a flat tire or run out of gas, we’ll be told it was because we were speeding. Also, God might tell others to run us off the road for reasons we can’t understand right now, but sense there’s lots we can’t understand, it’s okay.”

  • 143. Quester  |  February 19, 2008 at 12:23 am

    “Since”, not “sense”. Sorry.

  • 144. Bro. Burton  |  February 19, 2008 at 2:12 am

    It comes down to justce. In every illustration the assumption is made (from my post earler #59) that God Is, and that he is Just, and that his knowledge and will are perfect.

    And BTW – if your car has no speedometer, well thats breaking the law too, and if you cant keep your car up to inspection, you are probably driving erratically and are blaming others for the problems you are having controling your car. But, only God knows
    (sarcasm – but there is some truth here to be gleaned) :P

  • 145. Quester  |  February 19, 2008 at 2:23 am

    Bro. Burton, it does not help if your premise and your conclusion are the same thing. You seem to be saying that everything God does is just because, by definition, everything God does is just. That’s not just a circular argument, that’s a very small circle that fails to be an argument at all. Can you define the word “just” without referring to God or a characteristic of God?

    (sarcasm – but there is some truth here to be gleaned)

    Care to point some of it out? All that I’m able to glean is a seeming inability for you to understand the concept of metaphor. I assume I’m interpreting you wrong, but some clarification would help.

  • 146. Godamn  |  February 19, 2008 at 4:23 am

    Quester,
    Not having a broken leg could mean you go to the dance the night your house burns down :-P

  • 147. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 19, 2008 at 9:01 am

    Quester,

    Yes, it does. Thank you!

  • 148. The Pulpiteer  |  February 19, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Quester: “A popular concept travelling in some circles of pastoral thought today is that of the wounded healer. According to this concept, those who have suffered terribly are better at relating to and ministering to others who have suffered terribly. Thus suffering makes a person a better pastor.”

    Another popular thought on this is that suffering ‘tempers’ a person like fire tempers steel, thus strengthening them for future hardships. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a direct prevention scenario like your ‘broken leg’ example.

  • 149. Marge  |  February 19, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Pulpeteer/Quester – The entire process of personal and emotional growth is based on the concept of learning from our experiences and mistakes. It is always fascinating to consider the wide spectrum of attitudes toward experience. A negative attitude will dwell on the “suffering” and “misery” of an experience, however a positive attitude will highlight the lessons and opportunities to be derived from an experience. All experience has potential to make a person better able to minister to another. This point is relevant both to discussions about religious ministry and secular ministry.

    On the concept of a “just god” – The word “just” as used in these comments could be defined as “fair” or “right” and from my own life experiences I have learned that not all that is fair is equal ,and certainly not all that is right is gentle and kind.

  • 150. karen  |  February 19, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Who am I to presume God’s will? I know what he has told me about himself through his Word, but I am still a finite being.

    Basically what you’re doing here is using the old “god’s ways are higher than our ways and we can’t understand them so we shouldn’t try to” or “god works in mysterious ways.” As Quester pointed out, that’s a circular argument and a very narrow one indeed.

    You may be fine with accepting that, as I was for 30 years. But I grew up and realized that those arguments are a huge cop-out and they’re a conversation and a learning stopper. “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” – fine. But then you have nothing else to learn and we have nothing else to talk about.

    As I see it now, if god instilled us with reason and sense and morality, why would we not be expected to use them in all areas of our lives (paraphrasing Galileo)? Why does god’s behavior get a “pass” when we wouldn’t give one to any human? Again I ask, shouldn’t god be operating on a higher standard?

    Here is the point where I had a breakthrough: All my life, I’ve used reason and logic quite successfully to navigate choices and make a majority of fairly good decisions. As a natural skeptic, I haven’t been suckered into any get-rich-quick schemes or UFO cults or costly quack health cures. But I was asked to suppress my logic and skepticism when it came to religious belief. I wasn’t to question god, because as you say, he’s god and therefore off-limits to our puny understanding. Spiritual “truths” were off-limits to the very traits that had served me so well in the rest of my life. Why? Well, maybe it’s because once you objectively examine the claims of religion, they fall apart quite completely. Of course religious authorities don’t want you to examine these things for yourself, and so religious doctrines uniformly condemn it!

    Science only tells us a part, it does not explain everything. There are many things unanswered, how do you explain the human genome? It is SO complex, we only understand a small portion – but we presume to be so smart?

    My gosh, man! Of course we don’t understand everything yet. It’s very likely that we never will – certainly not in our lifetimes nor in our grandchildrens and great-grandchildrens lifetimes. But look at the trajectory of understanding since the Enlightenment. A few hundred years ago we didn’t understand that microscopic bacteria and viruses cause disease. We didn’t have mechanical transportation, technology and a whole myriad of things that we have today that would be called “miracles” by our own great-grandparents. What has caused this incredible, unprecedented gain in knowledge and understanding?

    Prayer? Devotion to god? Meditation? Nope. ;-)

    If you want to believe that god snapped his fingers and made flowers and bees and honey intact 6,000 years ago, of course that is your prerogative. But frankly, I feel sorry for you. If you took the time and energy to research how these organisms evolved, and how whole systems in nature developed reciprocal relationships, and how utterly amazing they are, you’d be far more inspired and far better educated as well.

  • 151. Quester  |  February 19, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Godamn: You’re right. The logic works both ways.

    Pulpiteer: Indeed. I was just presenting examples, not an exhaustive list.

    Marge: It is the suffering that is neither fair nor right that bothers me. Suffering that is not the consequence of human action or inaction. Suffering a person can not learn from, because it kills them or impairs their ability to learn from anything. Suffering that only others who are not suffering can learn from is an example of a category of suffering I can no longer see as fair or right.

  • 152. MOI  |  February 19, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Quester,
    I think I’ll have to take issue with the “suffering is good” idea. There is no suffering that an abused child could go through that makes it worth it later, either to the child or to anyone else. That’s just cruelty plain and simple. Any god who “allows” such evil is cruel as well. The God works in mysterious ways beyond our understanding” concept isn’t gonna’ cut through this one.

  • 153. Quester  |  February 19, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Mystery,

    While I agree with your conclusion, I don’t agree with how you get there. Child abuse is clearly the result of the free will of the abuser, and it would not be fair for God to limit our ability to choose just because we make evil choices.

    Stick with suffering that is not the result of human action or inaction and your logic will hold together much further. Malaria kills an African child every 30 seconds. While human action can fight this, now, it couldn’t always. That sort of suffering more clearly points to a non-existent or cruel god that the “God works in mysterious ways beyond our understanding” doesn’t cut through.

  • 154. Bro. Burton  |  February 19, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Marge – thank you for your clarification, I think you are right that I am being misinterpretted to mean just as “Fair” or “Right”. I think Right is closer to the truth, but fair (as we define it) does not apply here.

    The problem here is that I believe in an absolute. There is a hard, fast standard that I will be judged against – the Law (thankfully there is Grace). Because of my acceptance of this gift (grace), my breaking of the Law has been forgiven, or pardoned.

    Questor:
    Just(ice) can not be defined without aggreeance that there is an absolute.

    I understand the metaphor given, I think you dont understand: my point is:

    The law states you must have a speedometer, and you dont. The law states you shouldnt speed, and you do. Just because you do not agree with these laws does not mean you are not judged by them. For that matter ignorance of the law is no defense. There is great truth in that. You wil. be judged according to your actions.

  • 155. Bro. Burton  |  February 19, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    IMHO, I think fairness as is being thought of here is not at all what God would consider as fair. We (humans) seem to think that fair is how an outcome relates directly to us; wheras it should be how an outcome directly relates to God.

    It is my belief that He is Holy – and I dont mean like we think of a priest or a clergy man as being holy. I mean perfect, unable to look at sin, and for that matter we would not be able to look at Him, because of our fallen state. This is a result of Adam – origianil sin. The only way we can reconcile ourselves to him is through his Word.

    To me, the idea that our Creator, that we so blatantly blaspheme/choose not to deal with.sin against, would even still try to give us a way to reconcile, well, that’s Love. That he would give us a chance to choose altogether, shows that he loves us, and those that choose him take that first step toward learning love.

  • 156. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 19, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Quester,

    It matters not whether the evil exists in the free will of the abuser. A god who stands idly by in the face of it is no god at all.

  • 157. Quester  |  February 19, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Bro. Burton,

    I also believe in an absolute. I do believe that objective reality exists. If we act, those acts have consequences in the here and now. If you kill me, I will be dead. If you take something from me, I will have less and you will have more. From this, ethics of reciprocity can be derived:

    Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” Udana-Varga 5:18

    “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you” Analects 15:23

    Socrates: “Do not do to others that which would anger you if others did it to you.” (Greece; 5th century BCE)

    Et cetera, et cetera.

    This is not a law, and needs to be implemented with both reason and compassion, but it is derived from an absolute (actions have consequences).

    If God views fairness as how the outcome directly relates to God, and not as how it directly relates to us, I can judge God, by standards derived from objective reality, as unjust.

    If you need more reason to see God as unjust, I invite you to look at your own words.

    You claim that Law is your absolute. What Law? The contradictory and condemning laws written in the Old and New Testaments of the bible which no human can fulfill and by which all humans are condemned? Perhaps, perhaps not. It doesn’t really matter, because while you say You wil. be judged according to your actions. you also give thanks for Grace, through which you will not be judged according to your actions. You are not counting on justice, but mercy.

    Where is the justice in your absolute? Where is the justice in your Law or your Grace?

    To me, the idea that our Creator, that we so blatantly blaspheme/choose not to deal with.sin against, would even still try to give us a way to reconcile, well, that’s Love.

    To me, the idea is illogical, emotionally manipulative and evil that a Creator would write laws that condemn everyone, sacrifice his Son (or Himself) in some painful but non-permanent way to claim the moral high ground in any debate, and claim that it was for our own good and we should be grateful and thus obedient. That this Creator would then go on to blame all our suffering on our sins he claims to have already saved us from is only rubbing salt into our wounds.

  • 158. Quester  |  February 19, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    Mystery,

    I disagree with you, but I think I’ll drop the issue unless you see some reason to continue arguing about what sort of god we don’t believe in.

    *grin*

  • 159. Bro. Burton  |  February 19, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Wow.

    I am truly not equipped to argue these points with you, but take heart in your suffering:

    “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

  • 160. Quester  |  February 19, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    Bro. Burton,

    You might consider researching sources outside of the bible in order to equip you for arguments, keeping your mind open to the possibility that the reason you are presently unequipped to argue may be because you are wrong.

    I appreciate your sympathy and hope that you take heart from the fact that there is always more to learn, as long as you are open to learning.

  • 161. empy  |  February 19, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    Quester, You said, “I see no evidence of that”

    I suugest you change your goggles. By the way, have you got answers to every other question? Can you only believe in things after settling every question pertaining to it?

    Mystery, You said, “Now who’s the scary one?”

    I think truth often frightens people, isn’t it?

    Karen, You said, “You’re scaring me, man”.

    yea, I think everyone, irrespective of being a theist or an atheist, needs to be scared of any laxity in morality as man is not wired for promiscuity at all. Results are truly frightening, isn’t it? I think every one would do well to be prepared for the final cleansing by fire which is not very far off. Otherwise it may take you by surprize.

  • 162. Quester  |  February 19, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    Empy,

    I suugest you change your goggles.

    I suggest you offer evidence to support your statements instead of telling me the evidence is there, but I can’t see it.

    By the way, have you got answers to every other question?

    Pretty much, yes. The answer is sometimes “I don’t know” but is rarely “that can’t ever be known”.

    Can you only believe in things after settling every question pertaining to it?

    No. I can only believe in things when I have more evidence for them than against them, or reason to believe there is more evidence for than against them. Even then, I may question the evidence for and wrestle with the evidence against.

    What informs your beliefs and what do you do when you have questions pertaining to them?

  • 163. empy  |  February 20, 2008 at 1:06 am

    Quester,

    You said, “I can only believe in things when I have more evidence for them than against them.”

    Quester, I read some of your other posts elsewhere and I found you have credible evidence in your own life. Your childhood experience of the dog and your experience on the motor-way are clear examples which you sited. I think for you to ask for more evidence is simply putting God to test and it is not going to help you in any way.

    Many believers do not even have experiences that you had in your life. Yet they go on believing, many of them hearing about what God has done to others. You have some first-hand evidence. Do you still need more? I think you are too greedy.

    Don’t forget we are living in a world which is in the power of the Evil One (1Jn.5:19). And God is a God who hides Himself (Is.45:15). In this situation could you or would you expect any thing more than what you had in your life?
    God bless.

  • 164. Quester  |  February 20, 2008 at 1:39 am

    Oh, I have anecdotal evidence of personal experience that something supernatural may have impacted on my life. But a god who is righteous in all his actions, just in all his ways and loves each of us yet plans to cleanse the earth with fire is a god I don’t have a lot of reason to think exists. I am not saying there is no god. Just that if there is, then god appears to either be less than all powerful, less than all loving, less than perfectly just. And I don’t think that my Christian background has prepared me to answer questions of what this god, or these gods, may want, why they want it, and why I should want to participate in their plans. I believe that there are answers, and that the answer may well be there is no god, or a pantheon of them, or that I need a new definition of ‘god’. I do not know, and thus, I Quest.

  • 165. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 20, 2008 at 8:24 am

    Quester,
    No, that’s fine. I think we are at an impasse. :-)

  • 166. empy  |  February 20, 2008 at 10:04 am

    We are living in a world which is under the power of the Evil One(1Jn.5:19). God in His love started the redeeming process by sending His only Son, Christ Jesus our Lord. The redeeming process is on and is in progress.

    When God became man, He told us to love our enemies. The Devil knows that God is infinitely good and that is why the devil is playing havoc now. A day is coming soon when the devil will be chained on his accepting his defeat. In the mean time we are asked to pray, “Thy kingdom come”. Till then, what else can we expect, Quester?

    Good Bye.

  • 167. Quester  |  February 20, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Empy,

    Till then, what else can we expect, Quester?

    A world that is in control of an all-powerful one who doesn’t blame an evil one for his inaction.

    Take care.

  • 168. empy  |  February 21, 2008 at 12:33 am

    Quester,

    I am back. I thought I must ask you a question in the light of your last posting.

    My qn. is: If someone considers the act of God in Christ as ‘inaction’ who can help?

    By the way, I am fed up with my old-fashioned and stupid understanding of the human predicament. If you could possibily give me a more enlightened and a practical understanding of the human situation, I would be very glad to discard mine and follow you. Would you please help me. Kindly post it here so that I can have access to it. Thanks.

    Or may I ask any one around who might read this post to help me, please.

    Have a great day!

  • 169. Quester  |  February 21, 2008 at 1:29 am

    The human situation, as I understand it:

    Humans have remarkable potential within definite limits, though it is within their potential to change those limits.

    Within that situation is a challenge to use that potential to increase the potential of other humans. Also within that situation is the option to add limits to yourself or others. There is also the option to misuse potential or ignore the benefits of limits. Nonetheless, there is always potential.

    My understanding, as described above, may be old-fashioned, stupid, enlightened or practical. I’ve never been good with adjectives. My understanding is also subject to change, as I learn more and am challenged by others and by life. I would not recommend following me, though. Exercise your own potential, rather than being bound by my limits.

    What is your understanding of the human situation? It may be old fashioned, but I’m not convinced it is stupid.

    By the way, my answer to your question If someone considers the act of God in Christ as ‘inaction’ who can help? relies heavily on what you consider the act of God in Christ to be: substitution, sacrifice, ransom, reconciliation, re-creation, free gift, purchase, metaphor, conquest (full or in part), role-modelling, instruction, combination of some of the above, combination of all of the above, or other. I’d hate to make assumptions about your theology.

  • 170. bipolar2  |  February 21, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    ** So, you wanna criticize “The” Bible? Why beat a dead god? **

    >> ignorance is no excuse

    One of the central problems with discussion on almost all sites I’ve come across using StumbleUpon, I call “conceding out of ignorance.” Four (interacting) dimensions of discourse . . . of perspective get ignored:

    1. time — xianity appeared as a jewish heresy. It is a belief structure which has been in steep decline since 1600. Attempts to preserve it are shrill and vicious. They will fail because they are socially destructive. And xianity will totally cease as a “living” religion. (This what Nietzsche meant by the infamous phrase: “God is dead.”)

    2. space — most of the world’s people are not xian. They would resist (and have resisted) attempted conversion. Their religious views, of course, are mutually inconsistent. As myths, they are fictional prose and poetry.

    3. value — India and Japan are good examples where the dominant culture will not absorb an alien framework of religion. Japan is basically a secular society. India has withstood domination by Buddhist elites and by Moslem elites. Buddhism no longer exists in the land of its birth, and by partition Islam was simply cut out of the Indian body politic.

    4. culture — most Europeans are secularists, and admit it. Most Americans are secularists, but don’t admit it. One upcoming test of cultural health in the U.S. — the elections of 2008 — will show whether the disease of fundamentalism will be limited by an immune system now trained to recognize it and begin a long process of limiting its virulence.

    >> the essence of concession

    Xianity looks big because you’re standing too close to it. In perspective, it can be dismissed — as an unbelievable belief structure — along with all its closely related near eastern relatives: zoroastrianism, judaism, and islam.

    All matters related to defects of xian’s so-called sacred writings — contradictions, bad arguments, polemics — directly taking on its apologists is a total waste of time.

    You might as well be parsing Batman at a comix convention. And, theology is third-rate fan fiction.

    bipolar2
    c. 2008

  • 171. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 21, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    bipolar2,

    Great summation of those usually ignored points. It’s true that we are too close to the problem, or invest too much energy in such an uncertain outcome. Thanks for putting all in perspective. It helps clarify!

  • 172. Matt  |  February 21, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    bipolar
    Buddhism does not exist in the land of its birth.
    Where did you get that? Wasn’t the case last time I checked.
    Partition cut out Islam.
    India’s Muslim population is small compared to Hindus. But India has the second largest Muslim population in the world (after Indonesia), so Islam has not been cut out.
    Japan is basically secular – The majority Japanese religion is Shinto (The way of the Gods), accepted by most Japanese. One of the major Japanese gods is a sun god (I cant remember the name but it was something like Amaretsu) and the Japanese royal family claimed descent from him. That is why the emperor was considered god and Japan is known as ‘The land of the rising sun’.

  • 173. Reynvaan  |  February 21, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    Matt

    While it’s certainly true that there are Buddhists in India, the religion as a whole has virtually no presence there. It is a dominant religion in neighboring countries like Nepal, Bhutan, and particularly Sri Lanka, as well as almost all of Southeast Asia. India’s lack of Buddhism is partially due to the Brahmins’ (priestly class) explanation that the Buddha was simply an avatar of Vishnu, which largely re-absorbed Buddhism into Hinduism in India.

    As for Japan, yes, Shinto shrines abound, and people visit them regularly, but for the majority of Japanese people religion is simply a non-issue. Things like visiting shrines and observing Shinto holidays such as Setsubun are done largely out of tradition rather than religious conviction. The number of people who still actively believe in the sun goddess Amaterasu and the other Shinto kami, is negligible, much in the same way modern Europeans no longer believe in fairies, leprechauns, etc.

  • 174. exevangel  |  February 23, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    I have not had the time to follow all of the discussion here but disagree with the point in the original article that all fundamentalists needs something, that it is not self-propagating. It is absolutely self-propagating. It’s brainwashing in the mechanism of its primary propagation tactic, and the “newcomers” are the exceptions, not the rule, in most churches of this sort. I hope I am only reinforcing the much more developed points of those who spoke above by stating this point.

  • 175. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 24, 2008 at 9:08 am

    exevangel,
    I don’t believe I mention anything about propagation, self or otherwise. But I would agree that like any virus, fundamentalism is self propagating.

  • 176. exevangel  |  February 24, 2008 at 9:44 am

    I think it was this statement:

    “Fundamentalists are people who have had rough lives and are looking for unconditional love.”

    that got me, the idea that the only route to being a Fundy was having a rough life. I know a lot of fundies (including those in my family) who have had much easier lives than others on average. They are simply born into it and it propagates, no need for seeking anything in particular.

  • 177. Brad  |  February 24, 2008 at 11:13 am

    It strikes me that one of the “symptoms” of fundamentalism is a “Christ against culture” interpretation of scripture. This leads to the creation of a “safe” sub-culture that is defended against the “evil world” outside.

    In essence, it may be made up of people with rough lives seeking shelter instead of (or more than) healing, or (at the other end of the spectrum) people seeking to maintain the comfort, stability, and security they already have. It is a sad, sad marriage of western consumeristic individualism with a Christian “theme.”

    In short, it is a critical and gross misunderstanding of the gospel message.

  • 178. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 25, 2008 at 9:59 am

    exevangel,

    I didn’t say it was the only route to being a fundy. I said the majority of fundies I’ve met have had rough lives or grew up in a fundy household. Very, very few fundies come to fundamentalism due to reading and research. For most of us, it is an emotional response to a plea to come to “unconditional” love from Christ.

  • 179. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 25, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Brad,

    If it’s such a “gross misunderstanding” of the gospel, perhaps preachers shouldn’t offer it to the laity in such terms. To me, then, it becomes a gross misrepresentation. But, I still maintain that people do not usually come to Christ after reading and reasoning their way there. They come as an emotional response because that’s what is offered to them.

  • 180. Brad  |  February 25, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    MOI,

    “If it’s such a “gross misunderstanding” of the gospel, perhaps preachers shouldn’t offer it to the laity in such terms. ”

    How do I make the “stunned” emoticon with wide eyes? Please give me the names of said pastors so I may “extend the right hand of fellowship” on behalf of misinterpreted scripture…. /sigh. It kills me to hear that, and I would wholeheartedly agree with you. There is some critical negligence from many pulpits across the world. Many pastors are woefully aware that half of what they preach is privileged western individualism. In short: I agree!

    “But, I still maintain that people do not usually come to Christ after reading and reasoning their way there. They come as an emotional response because that’s what is offered to them.”

    Not completely, no. This is why I am not interested in trying to convert anyone while blogging. It just doesn’t happen and would be an insult as well as a waste of time. I would say it is a “both/and.” It was an emotional experience that got my attention, but there was no way I could get on board before spending over a year critically analyzing the truth claims of scripture. We are holistic beings. We have a mind, a heart, and a soul. All parts of us must be called for us to be fully on board with the God thing.

    Christians should not be required to check their intellect at the door, nor should they be required to respond after reading a “logical” tract handed to them by some stranger… And don’t get me started on THAT load of horse puckey…

  • 181. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 25, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Brad,

    Hey, I’m agreeing with you, but rarely have I EVER heard a sermon on “truth claims” of scripture outside of “academic churches.” No, what I’ve always heard from the pulpit is that we should open our hearts and receive Christ on a purely emotional level. Sort out the truth claims later, we are told. I also contend that there is a HUGE divide in what preachers and teachers assume people in the pew know and have done on their way to faith and what people in the pews hear and actually respond to. Never have I heard in a pointed sermon that we should believe because of this or that evidence before coming to Christ at the altar call (and I certainly never came to Christ that way) nor had anyone else I’ve talked to in my 25 years experience in churches. We all had similar stories of emotional upheaval and turning to Jesus as the solution.

    Perhaps therein lies the key to deconversion and/or why many now are repulsed at Christianity and other religions that espouse fundamentalism. To use a silly analogy: You can’t convince the horses to come into the educational barn after the barn door has been flung wide and everyone scampers outside willy nilly most of the time. I think the Catholic church has it right to make you go through nearly a year of classes before joining. Of course, it’s a crash course in Catholic dogma, but still they have the order right.

  • 182. exevangel  |  March 3, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    MOI,

    But I think these are very different things.

    I said the majority of fundies I’ve met have had rough lives or grew up in a fundy household.

    Growing up in a fundy household may just mean that you are following like sheep, you might not need or be looking for anything at all other than to not rock the boat. Very different path from coming to fundy-ness by having a rough life or directly needing something. Most of my fundy clan have just never thought that there was a life any other way.

  • 183. mysteryofiniquity  |  March 4, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    exevangel,
    Yes, they are. I still stand by my experience.

  • 184. fundamentallymisguided1  |  June 9, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Great post! Confirms everything I already believed about Christian fundamentalism- and everything I lived through.

    ~From the author of “Fundamentally Misguided”

  • 185. journalingwoman  |  June 10, 2008 at 9:23 am

    funda…

    Hey thanks!

  • 186. MOI  |  June 10, 2008 at 9:28 am

    Thanks Fundamentallymisguided. It’s everything I lived through as well and quite insidious if we allow it to take root in the country as the measure of all Christians. I’ve learned that there are a wide variety of Christians out there that do not insist on everyone adhering to the same beliefs and the same behavior in order to be acceptable to the church and/or to God. That’s really what fundamentalism is all about: sameness and peer pressure. Both stem from fear and lack of faith in a God of mercy.

  • 187. billdunlap  |  October 17, 2008 at 4:39 am

    Fascinating article. I have seen this in more than just Christianity too. The Golden Road Buddhists are Christianoids in yellow robes. The Lubavitchers are Christianoids in yalmelkes, and don’t get me started on some Pagans I have met

    Great post. I need to read more of your stuff.

    Bill Dunlap

    http://billdunlap.wordpress.com/

  • 188. Mysteryofiniquity  |  October 17, 2008 at 7:21 am

    Thanks Bill. I believe fundamentalism is a propensity in all religions and political ideologies as you point out as well. Thanks for the kind comments.

  • 189. THE FUNDAMENTALIST PLAGUE » The Painful Truth Blog  |  July 7, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    [...] I just read a very good article that precipitated a great deal of thought. I had to conclude that this insightful article was “right on.” You can find and peruse the same article right here. [...]

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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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