Greetings and Salutations!
Some time ago, I wrote an article here addressing the issue of how a Christian can share the Word without triggering an instinctive, negative reaction. Although it surprises me, apparently some folks DO read my blog, as I got a reply to the comments I had made. It was an interesting and thoughtful post that raised enough points, I felt it was worth expanding it into an article of its own. The text of the original comment is in italics. My discussions are interspersed, in plain text…
I agree many atheists seem angry, I don’t consider myself one of those. However I find conversations with theists to be extremely frustrating. You willfully ignore the devisive and harmful nature of religion (not to mention how this confirms the Christian notion of persecution) despite the number of people killed every year due directly to a difference of religious belief and the number killed and punished because of non adherence to religious dictate.
I hear this about the frustrations of trying to talk to the person on the other side of this rift. That difficulty is increased both by the basic issue of belief/non-belief, and, the tendency for ego to get involved in the process…causing us to retreat to a stance that is cast in stone, and impossible to change. Attempting to change that stance may well appear to be an attempt by the other side of the discussion not to simply discuss, but, to destroy what is a basic part of our lives and our self-image.
The Evil that men do, in the name of religion, does, indeed, cause all the hateful actions detailed above…However, while I will touch on this later, in greater detail, But, for consideration, I submit that it is less an issue of Christianity, than it is the perversion of religion by the imperfect people who live in the world.
Couple this with the cognitive dissonance repeatedly demonstrated and it leaves little room for polite conversation. Christianity necessarily leads to suffering and only by the constant persistence of secular society are we able to shine a light on that suffering until it finally reinterprets itself out of existence.
Sigh…there is a real problem, as I mention in the other article, for people to cherry-pick the Bible to fit their world view. Mark Twain said it best, I believe. “It is not the parts of the Bible I do not understand that bother me. It is the parts that I DO understand” I do have to take issue with the concept that “Christianity necessarily leads to suffering…” I submit that Christianity is a way for humans to deal with the suffering that life inflicts on us. I will, though, agree that it is the perversion of Christianity, by the religious fanatics and fundamentalists that, indeed, brings suffering to the world. Their typically narrow minded, and limited view of reality forces them to cherry pick the verses and phrases that support their agenda…even if the verses in context, do NOT. Since much of what they are doing is oppressing the freedoms of others, it is expected that they bring suffering to the world. It is a shame, but, it is very Human, and, is one of the reasons, when I get into a discussion with someone about Christianity, I urge them to focus on the New Testament, rather than the Old Testament. As I have written elsewhere, the Old Testament gives us valuable tools to grow our spiritual understanding, but, it no longer rules us as Christians.
I am pleased we (mostly) no longer burn witches, deny science, condone slavery, deny abortions, deny women equal opportunity to name but a few. What’s more is you probably do to despite these all being incompatible with your religion and a literal but honest reading of your text.
Provide me sufficient evidence for your god and I will believe but I will never worship something so blatantly evil.
I must say that I am not entirely sure how “a literal but honest reading of your text” in my previous post would give anyone the impression I was advocating any of the evil actions listed here… The problem that most people have with Christianity (which, I think is the focus of this comment, although passing references to other religions are made), is partially rooted in the fact that God is an entity that exists on dimensions that are to ours as a dot is to a globe. By definition, it is not possible for humans, who live in a 4D world (X, Y, Z and Time), to truly understand how the mind of an 11D entity works, or why it would make the decisions and take the actions it does. I usually recommend that folks read “Flatland” by Edward Abbott for an idea of how experiencing interactions with such an entity could be. Speaking of other religions, I also am not so pride-filled that I believe that any ONE religion has the Blessing of God, and is the only True Religion. Because of my understanding of the complexity of God, I believe there is more than one path to Him. Alas, some levels of understanding may be dead ends, as they are so focused on the “Law as Society” that they cannot stand. In general, I believe that the closer a religious belief is to that of Christ, as expressed in the New Testament, the more likely it is to be True.
Another root that feeds the difficulties is the fact that Humans have a very bad habit of ignoring inconvenient truths. Many of the most intolerant and hateful Christians I have encountered are so deeply engrossed in the Old Testament that they ignore the existence of the New Testament entirely. I tend to describe these folks not as “Christians”, but as “Under-educated Jews”. The bottom line is that to truly call oneself a Christian, one must follow Christ, and his messages of love, mercy, tolerance and forgiveness…and NOT the extreme legalism of the law-and-punishment based society of the Old Testament. As a part of this bad habit, we all tend to cherry pick the verses or parts of verses in the Bible that support our, very human, agenda. I do discuss this Biblical Interpretation issue in another article.
I am often asked to provide evidence of the existence of God. That can be a challenge, because many times, the Hand of God can be (and is) blown off as forgetfulness, or a simple mistake. For example…several years ago, my younger sister, who lived in Colorado at the time, was in town visiting. Alas, it turned out that she was not going to be able to be a part of an event that was happening the afternoon of the day she was scheduled to fly out. She would be landing in Colorado when it happened, as she had an early flight. However, when she checked her paperwork confirming the reservation, not only did the flight number listed not exist, but, when she called the airline, they confirmed that she was actually booked on a flight leaving mid-morning the next day. My sister is VERY much a numbers person, and, she had double checked the reservation when she made it…so.. it was unlikely that it was a mistake on her part. She was able to make the event, and, it was a good thing for all of us. At the time, it was such an inexplicable occurrence that I ascribed it to an action by God. However, I am sure that some could find a more complicated explanation that demonstrates it was simple, human error. The fact it would have required several errors, happening in the correct order, and not being caught, though, does make one wonder.
When the issue of Christianity being a great good, or a great evil arises, I am reminded of a (possibly apocryphal) story from Native American Culture. In the story, a young man is asking an Elder about the struggle he is having with wanting to be good, but wanting to do evil things. The Elder tells him this story: “Inside each of us lives two wolves, one good, one evil. Through our lives, they struggle with each other to gain control over us.” The young man asks “Which wolf wins?” The Elder replies “The Wolf we feed!” I look upon Christianity as, basically, a neutral thing. It has its good side, and it has its evil side. The side that we see as being the important one is the side we feed – that we focus our attention on.
Religion came to be in the world because humans are self-absorbed, greedy, and uncaring of others. They often only care about others to the extent that these others can help or enrich them! And, yes, like most generalities, this picture of Humanity is incomplete. However, the goal of Christianity is to teach us to love the other, as we love ourselves; to feel empathy for the other, and so to reach out and help them in their time of need; to be honorable, ethical, and trustworthy. All these tend to fight against the basic programming we humans start out with…so it is an uphill struggle.
I do not seek to entice or force anyone else to worship Christ as a part of God; We were given Free will, to believe, or not, as we please. I do, in my low-key way, introduce folks to the basic precepts of Christ’s teachings, in hopes that they will be interested enough to follow up and learn more.