my favorite unchristian blog: exchristian.net

I confessing. I love reading the blog over at exchristian.net. here’s why:

  • they rant about the same stuff I rant about
  • it reminds me that I’m surrounded by people in my church who – if I abuse my power or my relationships – could very easily end up there
  • i have a hard time judging the people who write there (actually, i’d argue that the bible says that I shouldn’t judge those people). there stories are so real and raw and painful. If the things that happened to them happened to me, there is no way I’d want to associate with “christianity.”
  • after reading their stories, i want to go up to the author and say, “i’m so so sorry someone treated you like that and made you feel that way. I doubt Jesus made anyone feel the way you were made to feel (except maybe pharisees or religious leaders).”
  • reading the blog and comments of ex-christians helps me to see faults in my own faith.

Is it ok for a youth pastor to read the blog at exchristian.net? If you’re an exchristian, would you be ok with me appreciating your blog or do I have to be your enemy?

OK. Discuss.

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149 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Andrew Smith on March 31, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Lames,

    I share all of your sentiments about this blog. Their rants are legit. A very real, scary thing to be reading. However, I think it can be good to read things like this every now and then to warn us. So, yes, I think it is OK for a youth pastor to read this. At least two youth pastors (me and you).

    Keep sharing your insights. They help me through my day.

    -Smith

  2. This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

  3. Posted by Secular Humanist on March 31, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Sorry, but the message left by Smith displays an arrogance and bias that discourage me from coming here and participating in a honest discussion.

  4. Posted by ex-christian on April 1, 2009 at 1:25 am

    I would have to agree with humanist. Rants? Wow, that’s just awful. You’ve missed the point. I was tired of being thought of as unspiritual because I wanted to ask questions, be free to doubt, and search for answers in “gasp” secular material. I’m not a ranter, or one of those people over there, I had honest questions, and struggles, and was tired of being made to feel like I was crazy, heretic, unspiritual, etc. What do you think that does to someone over and over when you can’t be yourself, a thinker? It destroyed me because I had to pretend for years, and deny my questions, and who I was. I was always a second class citizen, just like you believe we are who are ranting. I sense a holier than thou attitude. For my own self esteem and mental health I had to search for god on my own, whoever he or it is. I had to think, study, search, doubt, read, whatever I needed to to find what I needed to know. You sound like your doing something wrong, like checking out a porno site or something. How sad. That’s why I’m out. I’m so tired of the self righteous treatment I get over and over by church people. I do whatever I can to avoid people I knew from the church, because I can’t pretend any longer. I was tired of the recruitment, asking for money, blind following of a pastor. Never questioning his motives. He was God. I felt like I left a cult. Can you open mindedly ask why?

  5. Posted by Secular Humanist on April 1, 2009 at 6:38 am

    “Rants,” “scary stuff,” “warn us,” all reflect an arrogance on the part of the poster.

    It makes me wonder, like Ex-Christian, whether people on this board can be open-mnded enough to engage in honest discussion.

    If you want dialogue, that is one thing. If you think you are going to convert us back to Christianity, you are sadly mistaken.

    What you need to understand from the outset is that we are ex-Christians. We have been on both sides of the issue.

  6. Posted by Secular Humanist on April 1, 2009 at 7:13 am

    Here are the questions Adam has invited me to answer:

    (1) What is the number one reason you left the faith?

    (2) What are some practical things you think the church can do to be more genuine?

    (3) Can youth ministers teach youth to be genuine and non-hypocritical? If so, how? What does that look like?

    (4) How has your view of the Bible changed since you “left christianity”?

    (5) Would you let someone you love (your children) take part in religious activities (church, youth group, etc)?

    (6) What started the ball rolling towards leaving christianity? What was it that got you thinking in that direction?

    (7) How have your values and priorities changes since leaving christianity?

    I will post an answer to each of these questions as we go along and attempt to answer the questions that are sure to arise. At least this way, we can maintain some semblance of order in our discussion.

    In my opening post in this discussion, which immediately follows, I will briefly present my personal history.

  7. Posted by Secular Humanist on April 1, 2009 at 7:34 am

    My name is David J. Fleming.

    I live in Peoria, Illinois.

    I am 64 years old. Two years ago, I retired after working as a newspaper editor for 44 years.

    I am a graduate of Western Illinois University, Class of 1967, with a major in English literature and minors in French, philosophy and journalism.

    I lost my hearing at age 5 and have worn a hearing-aid since the second grade. I am also lip-reader. This is a minor detail, but is important, as you shall see.

    My first recollection of religious training was going to church in Galesburg, Illinois, back in the late Forties and early Fifties. I recall going to Vacation Bible School. I didn’t like it at all, because I couldn’t hear what was going on, although at the time I didn’t realize that the kids around me DID hear what was going on.

    When I was in first grade, we moved to Elmwood, Illinois, a small town of 2,000 people. My family attended the Elmwood Presbyterian Church, where I attended Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. As in Galesburg, I didn’t like attending Sunday School or Vacation Bible School in Elmwood because I didn’t hear anything that was being said.

    I learned absolutely nothing about God or Jesus in Sunday School or Vacation Bible School because I couldn’t hear. Absolutely nothing.

    Once everybody realized I was deaf, I received my first hearing aid and training in lip-reading. This was in the early-to-mid Fifities. Billy Graham’s Crusades were beginning to roll.

    One night, when I was about 8 or 9 years old, I started watching Billy Graham on TV. For the first time in my life, I heard and was able to distinguish the words I was hearing over TV. Billy Graham’s speech pattern, his voice, his lip movements enabled me to hear every word he was saying.

    Imagine, if you can, living in a foreign country and never understanding a word that was being said around you, then one night you flip on the TV and somebody is speaking in your language.

    For no other reason than the fact that I could understand what he said, I began watching Billy Graham Crusades on TV every time he was on. And every time I heard him, I accepted his invitation to “ask Jesus to come into your heart.”

    I realize now that this decision was not based on reason, but on emotion. Had I known then what I was to know later in my life, I would never have accepted that invitation to “ask Jesus to come into your heart.”

  8. Posted by Andrew Smith on April 1, 2009 at 8:32 am

    To Secular Humanist and Ex-Christian,

    I’m deeply sorry my post struck you in an arrogant way. It was not intended to do so. I’ll take full blame in that regard and chalk it up to my own ignorance. I called it a rant because that is what your site says at the top. That is definitely my fault for painting many with the same brush. But from an outside perspective it seemed like a worthy title for some of the posts. I should have clarified more in my response to Adam’s post. It was scary to me see what the church has become, not scary how you guys are now living your lives. Questioning is good. Thinking is good. Our makeup is to think. I am in no way, shape, or form going to try to re-convert people like yourselves. I, like Adam, am interested in your story. I’m sorry my wording left a foul taste in your mouths. I really am hoping for an open discussion.

    -Andrew Smith

  9. Posted by Secular Humanist on April 1, 2009 at 8:34 am

    I am going to put up some more details on my background, the better to show you how involved I was in the Christian faith.

    In college I began attending the First Presbyterian Church in Macomb, Illinois. At that point I still was not “intellectually involved” in my religion. I had not read the Bible thoroughly, though I had read bits and pieces here and there. I had no idea what was really in the Bible.

    I did have, though, a thirst for logic, stemming from my studies in philosophy. One way or another, I cannot recall, I ended up taking instruction from a Roman Catholic priest. The priest was trained in logic, of course, so the priest had a logical answer to every one of my questions about God and the Church and Jesus.

    I became a baptized Catholic. This was my second baptism, having been baptized as a baby.

    I had a sense of participation when I attended Mass. There is no question that the Mass is a beautiful celebration, whether you believe in Catholicism or not.

    Once I left college, I became involved with a Christian woman and began attending a small nondenominational Bible church in a rural area. For the first time in my life I was attending a church where everybody “reached out” to welcome me and feel at home. That is one of the nicer things about the fundamentalist church, I will grant you that.

    I began attending Wednesday night prayer services, adult Sunday school and Sunday morning and Sunday evening services. Eventually I was baptized for a third time, this time by immersion.

    As time went on, I became a real student of the word. I subscribed to a Bible-verse memory program, I started frequenting religious book stores, buying dozens of Bible-based books. At one time I had a library of almost 200 books, mostly from Word Book publishers. I read every single one, some of them more than once.

    Among the books I studied were theology books, including Calvin’s Institutes of Religion, which had a major impact on me because Calvin had such a logical way of putting together his arguments. I became a hard-core Calvinist.

    My studies did not go unnoticed among the members of my congregation. I soon became a deacon, then an elder. I preached from the pupit when the pastor was gone. I preached at the city rescue mission, I went door-to-door using Kennedy’s evangelistic techniques.

    As you should be able to judge by now, I was no fly-by-night believer. I was involved. Very much involved.

  10. Posted by Secular Humanist on April 1, 2009 at 8:58 am

    (1) What is the number one reason you left the faith?

    Reason.

    As I prepared my sermons, I put away my books ABOUT the Bible and began reading the Bible itself.

    The more I read about the murderous acts of God in the Old Testament record, the very God who issued the command “Thou shalt not kill,” the less I could believe in him.

    Just ONE example, I could give you many more:

    “Then I heard the LORD say to the other men, “Follow him through the city and kill everyone whose forehead is not marked. Show no mercy; have no pity! Kill them all – old and young, girls and women and little children. But do not touch anyone with the mark. Begin your task right here at the Temple.” So they began by killing the seventy leaders. “Defile the Temple!” the LORD commanded. “Fill its courtyards with the bodies of those you kill! Go!” So they went throughout the city and did as they were told.” (Ezekiel 9:5-7 NLT)

  11. @AndrewSmith thanks for the apology. i think that cleared things up.

    @SecularHumanist thanks for taking on the questions. I appreciate your story and look forward to hearing some more. I feel like a little kid sitting around a campfire listening to stories. I like it. Also, if I try to convert you, you’ll see it coming from a mile away, as you’ve probably done more “evangelism” in your life than i have in mine.

  12. Posted by jody on April 1, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Thanks for sharing more of your story with me. You have quite a serious background in theology and logic. Have you considered writing a book?

    I only got to skim this at the moment, I am on my out the door for the day. But, tonight I will read it more thorughly. I love hearing of others deconversions,and am oh, so familiar with E.E., Calvin and the rest. My old buddies! : )

  13. just listening in….

    keep the convo going please. this is great.

    for secularhumanist and ex-christian: please keep sharing your story. I am friends with Lames and Andrew, and they will tell you that I also push around lots of idea about the faith/church/what should be but is not (yet)

    where I am: a scouring evangelical who believes in the inspiration of the bible and that the true church is the organic community of in which God moves (found both in and out of the institutionalized churches).

    SH: Reason, for me, has shown itself insufficient as an explanation for life and a way of explaining everything.

    I agree with you that the more I read the bible the less I like church(and I have a strong disdain for most systematic theology) , but I think that is the fire that needs to be in my belly as someone who is searching for truth and tries to take others with me.

    Where have you found truth outside of the institutionalized church? claim it for us please…. we are all beggars looking for bread.

  14. correction*** reason, by itself, is insufficient for me***

  15. Posted by Secular Humanist on April 1, 2009 at 9:41 am

    “Where have you found truth outside of the institutionalized church?”

    Truth?

    What is truth?

  16. Posted by Secular Humanist on April 1, 2009 at 9:51 am

    “Have you considered writing a book?”

    Jody, Dan Barker has already written that book, actually two. The first is “Losing Faith in Faith” and the second is “Godless.”

    I could not do better a better job than Dan did.

    David

  17. i’m commenting because i wanted to follow the conversation via email. thanks to all who are participating.

  18. “what is truth?” great question.

    I’ll bite with an underdeveloped thought (this has been brewing in my mind for about a month):

    Truth is a large rock which you can barely embrace enough to hold onto. It is enough to support you securely, but it cannot be moved, manipulated, or controlled.

    That’s what I got. Maybe it helps with the question/maybe not.

  19. @cwillz thanks for the props.

    @secularhumanist: Let’s say truth is merely reality. What realities have you found outside of christianity that might be useful inside of it. If I let you preach a sermon at my church (which I’d be inclined to do) what would you talk about?

    please feel free to share in this space like one who is among friends (i have yet to hear doubts from you or anything on exchristian.net that are much different than what I experience) we aren’t going to nit pick at your words or try to trap you using some logic trick. we (I’m referencing myself, smith, and cwillz because i personally know them) are merely listening to your story and your ideas. (i merely say that because I sense that – for you – christians have been hostile towards you when engaging in this sort of discussion)

  20. Posted by Secular Humanist on April 1, 2009 at 9:57 am

    Cwllz, I get pretty blunt at times so don’t take it the wrong way. Your question about truth needs a bit of work. Once you can define what you mean by “truth” I will be able to post an answer to your question.

    David

  21. […] 1, 2009 by Adam Lehman I’m not writing a new blog post because the conversation at this one is SO good today. If you work in a church, you gotta read […]

  22. Cwllz says, “@secularhumanist: Let’s say truth is merely reality. What realities have you found outside of christianity that might be useful inside of it. If I let you preach a sermon at my church (which I’d be inclined to do) what would you talk about?”

    I still do not understand what you mean about “truth,” even when you define it as “merely reality.” Maybe as the discussion continues, you will be able to re-phrase it differently. Until then …

    What would I talk about if I was invited to give a sermon in your church? That is a very interesting question, one that I had never thought of before.

    My first inclination would be to talk about moral/ethical choices being based on human values rather than absolutes derived from a sacred book, whether that book is the Bible, the Talmud or the Koran.

    David

  23. Let’s make it easier on ourselves in trying to keep track of who is saying what. I noticed I already responded to one of Adam’s posts as coming from Cwllz.

    Just address me as David, and I will address you however you would like.

    Thanks.

  24. An example of putting human values before absolutes derived from sacred books, whether those books are the Bible, the Talmud or the Koran:

    Suppose we were living in Nazi Germany during World War II.

    Some of us have been hiding Jewish children in our attics to save them from the concentration camps and possible death.

    The Nazi SS gets word that these Jewish childen are hiding out in the attics of a devout Christian and a humanist.

    They go to the home of the devout Christian, who lives by the Bible, and demand to know whether Jewish children are hiding in his/her attic.

    The devout Christian, not being able to lie because of the absolute moral authority of the Bible, says to himself/herself: I cannot lie.

    So the Jewish children are hauled off to the concentration camps.

    The Nazi SS then goes to the home of the humanist. They demand to know if he/she is hiding Jewish children in the attic. The humanist, putting the well-being of the Jewish children ahead of the absolutes taught in sacred books, lies through his/her teeth.

    Who displayed the greater love here. The devout Christian who chose to follow the absolute truths of the Bible, or the humanist who put the welfare of the Jewish children above all?

    Let’s not pick nits over this scenario. Let’s stand back and look at the message here. Some of you may recognize this as situational ethics, which is exactly what it is.

    It seems to me that enhancing human life and minimizing harm to human life should take priority over following absolute rules taught in sacred books.

    This is where reason leads me.

    David

  25. Another example of putting human values before absolutes derived from sacred books, whether those books are the Bible, the Talmud or the Koran:

    Suppose you were out in a boat.

    You are the only person who knows how to operate that boat.

    There are four other people on that boat with you.

    The boat is swamped in a storm.

    The only way to save the people on that boat is to jettison one of the passengers.

    You cannot sacrifice yourself because you are the only one who can operate that boat and bring the remaining passengers to safety.

    The Christian Bible says: Thou shall not kill. Killing one of the passengers is not an option for the Christian, so instead of one person dying, five people die.

    The humanist, on other hand, realizes that it is better to save four than to have all five perish, even if it means killing one.

    A very tough decision, but it seems to me that the correct moral/ethical choice lies in letting one perish rather than all five.

    Again, let’s not nitpick at details (like: Well, maybe you could have towed the passenger with a rope). Let’s look at the message as a whole.

    This is where reason leads me.

    David

  26. @David. Great point. I think a HUGE weakness that churches perpetuate in congregants is the lack of a “think-for-yourself” reasoning. The pastor does all of the thinking for the followers and followers merely become regurgitators of the pastor’s ideas.

    **There is the story of Rehad the prostitute who is glorified for lieing to protect spies. She’s mentioned in the book of Hebrews for her tremendous faith.

    But i would agree with you that christians tend to neglect the mysterious stories of the Bible (a prostitute being praised for lieing) with more cut and dry stories (adam and eve sin, god punishes).

  27. @David.

    I’ve got no response for the boat analogy. Sounds like everyone is screwed, but I would have a hard time killing in that situation.

    Maybe we could take that rationalization a step further and say that it would be better for all humans to be void of the right to kill no matter what. Surely, in the situation you mentioned, it would be a best for the most people to kill one person.

    However, think of how much less killing there’d be if no one killed. Sure, the 4 people in the boat would die, but that ethic would lead to no wars, thus resulting in a net gain. The sacrifice of the 4 people in the story would be that following the ethic of not-killing would leave in place an ethic that would save thousands.

    i’m sure that scenario isn’t faultless and i sure don’t hope to get into some philosophical battle through situational ethics (as I’m sure I’d get trounced).

    @David, you could respond to this if you’d like. Or we could move to a new topic: Could you please give us a definition of how you see the Bible now in contrast to how you saw it before you “left christianity.” (i’d love to know a phrase that seems appropriate to you for whatever it is that you’d call it).

  28. Adam says: “There is the story of Rehad the prostitute who is glorified for lieing to protect spies. She’s mentioned in the book of Hebrews for her tremendous faith.”

    Very good point. If that story was preached more in the churches, it would lead to more humans working to enhance human life and to minimize human pain, which is exactly my goal as a humanist.

    I cannot and will not argue with that.

    David

  29. Adam says, “David, you could respond to this if you’d like. Or we could move to a new topic: Could you please give us a definition of how you see the Bible now in contrast to how you saw it before you “left christianity.” (i’d love to know a phrase that seems appropriate to you for whatever it is that you’d call it).

    How about “before you became a humanist”? That is more descriptive.

    Befoe I became a humanist, I was one of those Christians who believed that the Bible was the inspired word of God, that there were no errors in the original text, that God made sure the Bible as we knew it came down to us through the ages as pristine as it was on the day he wrote it, etc., etc., etc.

    As an English major and career journalist, I still appreciate the Bible for its literary value. Ecclesiastes is absolutely stunning as literature, and its message of cycles is one that I wholly adhere to as a humanist.

    I do not at all see the Bible the same way I did before I became a humanist.

  30. Posted by Andrew Smith on April 1, 2009 at 11:52 am

    @David – I’m loving your story and your responses. I totally agree with you–some of the stories in the Bible should be preached more. It definitely would lead to a more humanist view. It does seem preposterous that congregants would follow only the ideas and guidance of the teachings of their pastor. I strive not to be “that guy.” A holistic view of all lessons in the Bible would be the way to go, but Christians can’t seem to put that all together, at least not at the same time. So, we’re left with some people who are really good at welcoming others into their congregations, some people who are really good at loving other people, and others who seem to be dropping the ball altogether.

    Please excuse my Christian jargon and correct as you see fit. I’d love to be able to engage others in this conversation.

  31. @Secular Humanist

    I like your points about human values. As you stated (” I have to contend that valuing human life (actual ALL life, but we will concentrate on this area for the discussion) is a biblical absolute (indeed, the INTENT of the “absolute” OT Laws and prophets. Humans are valued directly below God himself. If you read the Christian scriptures as a story (God is the central protagonist), that should be apparent. Unfortunately we sometimes do a pretty crappy job of telling it.

    A response to your ethical discussions:

    :: The lying Jew-hider you described is clearly doing the right thing. I agree with you completely. From where I sit, the behavior of the “devout Christian” is hardly ethical/just/right/faithful, although it may be said that his/her intentions cannot be judged. Strict adherence to divine commands in cases of oppression and injustice actually indicate a lack of faith/relationship with the personal God. This is an example of wisdom ethics (where situations interact with a personal God, who chooses to reveal himself under general circumstances with divine commands that are typically normative )

    :: The sinking boat story is hairier. This is a clear example of a utilitarian viewpoint (I am not saying that is wrong, just providing some background for people who may want to wiki the ethics behind this as they read). The issue of responsibility here is harsh. Who is really at fault in the story? To me this isn’t about killing, but trying to make the best out of a tragedy to begin with.
    In that light, you have created a false dichotomy(made one choose either/or) between utilitarianism and obeying the commands not to kill(actually “murder”). In this situation, reason does not discount the divine commands, but it does PROVIDE WISDOM.

    All that considered, it seems to me that the wise thing to do would be to ask for a volunteer. If your were not the only person capable of taking others to safety, the “right” thing (what Jesus would do) is to jump off yourself…

    Also, you could rebuke the storm in Jesus’ name. That seemed to work for someone.

    ::: For me reason does not make me reject faith, nor the other way around. They encourage each other.

  32. @cwillz good point on reading scripture as a divine story with God as the central protagonist. In my life, i’ve found this is pretty important to holding to the Bible. If not reading it that way, I’d end up where @David is because there are tons of contradictory statements in the OT and NT that would throw me off. I guess I think a lot of Christians read the Bible incorrectly. They read it as something that it doesn’t even claim to be (god-breathed, useful for teaching and encouraging).

    @David. I’m interested in your current view of scripture. I always tell people that most theological debates could be settled if people started with “What do you think the Bible is?” and from that “Who do you say Jesus is?” I’d like to get into your current view of the first question.

    (i’d rather not get into debates about our theoretical boat stories because those debates are old and well chronicled, though i think they are useful for our discussion)

  33. Posted by jody on April 1, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    I’m just jumping in here, if that’s ok.
    This whole “search for truth” has really screwed up my life. First in the rlds (small mormon sect) church as a child and young adult. We adhered to the teachings of the Book of Mormon, and the writings of Joseph Smith and other church leaders. We were instructed that God still speaks through prophets today, so we also listenend to our current day prophet and obeyed his “commands” from God. But, when the mainline church went left (read that liberal) the right hand side (where I was) took off on their own. Many prophets in these small house churches claiming god-inspired messages for us all. One of those last days prophecies was the catharsis for my marriage at the age of 18, just 2 months before high school graduation. I won’t take time here to tell all the details, but I will say that the truth I believed in, came crumbling down me a few years later. Then after more studying and prayer, I embraced calvinist theology. My new truth. Which then evolved to evangelical christianity when my wounded spirit could not take one more sermon on how depraved I was.

    I used to see life in black and white, now I see it in shades of gray.

    Truth? Not sure if there is a sure-fire way to define that one!

    jody

  34. Posted by jody on April 1, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    David,
    Thanks for the recommend to Dan Barkers books. I think you mentioned them before. I intend on hunting those down soon.
    Jody

  35. @jody i’d have to agree with you on the truth thing. Ultimate TRUTH may or may not exist. whatever. But I would be really hard pressed to hear someone convincingly explain that TRUTH can be fully known (in a black and white sense) in our existence. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t there, it just means that all we can do – in our human existence – is to take the evidence and experience that we’re presented with and run with it (always knowing that our experiences are probably radically different to different people and, therefore, so will our beliefs and our values and our actions.

    I think I’ll share a bit of my personal religious journey next, so as to give a context for my responses.

  36. Posted by jody on April 1, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on that. Obviously, there is universal truth (laws of physics, etc.) and my own personal truth (i.e. I am sitting on a chair in my computer room facing a window, listening to sponge bob coming from the tv in the living room… all that is true for me right now. It won’t be in about 5 minutes when I get up to do something else.) But truth with a capital T is a different story.

  37. @jody. i’m first going to give a brief synopsis of how I got to where I am, so as to give some context and background to the journey I’m on.

    I was raised in a very loving household. My parents weren’t perfect, but definitely more than I could have asked for. They were devoutly christian with a strong commitment to church attendance, not drinking, and probably advocated the “pristine” sort of religion that is referred to on exchristian.net, though I would argue that my parents didn’t make many people feel judged or condemned as they’re pretty gracious people.

    I grew up in a church that was very “old.” Full of old people and as a youth/teenager, i didn’t really matter. I would say the brunt of what I was taught was about making sure I did good stuff and understood that doing bad stuff made god really mad at me. I grew to really feel as if god were sitting on a could waiting for me to do bad stuff so he could punish me. (i now realize that this was probably some mechanism that I used to actually control god. i.e. i do good, god hooks me up. think: divine slot machine).

    When I was 18, I had some very real experiences where I very clearly heard god tell me things and give me guidance in my life. As much as I think people sound crazy when they talk about that, i believe that it really happened to me and I can’t shake those experiences.

    One of those things I felt god say to me was that I ought to pursue studying youth ministry. I went to Taylor University in Upland, Indiana and picked up a degree in Christian Educational Ministries.

    A couple of significant things happened to me at Taylor. 1) I met a pretty gorgeous gal who I’m going to marry in June. 2) I began to doubt or – at least – become disinfranchised with “churches.” i grew increasingly frustrated with the routine and rituals which i experienced on a sunday morning. not only that, while many think that a christian college is a hotbed of religious fervor, it actually breeds a pretty apathetic lifestyle. people don’t care what they do cuz they’re “christian.” 3) though i began to – at least – have growing frustrations or – at most – severe doubts about the legitimacy of the gospel, i was amongst a group of people who i could bring those doubts and frustrations to.

    Actually, i think what has kept me in “christianity” has been the profoundly influence on my life of the “emerging church” and “post-modern christianity.” those phrases are hotbeds of controversy in christian circles, but basically, they have created a space to rethink what it means to be a christian. my inherited version of christianity couldn’t hold my uneasiness and had no place for such doubting however, this new expression of faith had plenty of room for me to come with doubtful questions or ideas.

    in all actuality, a lot of the christian material I read and subscribe to probably sounds a lot more like exchristian.net than a billy graham crusade, however, as a guy who wrestles a lot with ideas, i needed the freedom to think – at some times – heretical thoughts in honesty and security.

    now, there are christians i’ know and love who would find a tremendous problem with that last sentence, but i’m often reminded of the freedom to “not-get-it” that Jesus offered his disciples. At one point he tells Peter, “get behind me satan.” right after telling explaining to Peter that he was the “rock” on which Jesus would build his church.

    so, it seems obvious – to me – that being a christian isn’t about “getting it” or ascribing to the right system of beliefs. however, i would say that it is something less burdensome, but more beautiful.

    SO…..

    that’s my story. as of right now.

  38. @jody but i like your question about capital T truth. i think that could be long to explain and I probably don’t have a good answer for that Also, I know my answer wouldn’t be satisfactory to an agnostic as I come from a different set of assumptions about God and the nature of revelation. Nor would I expect an agnostic’s take on truth to satisfy me, so i think, for the sake of space and meaningfulness, i’d rather not get into that debate as it is old and well chronicled. (but I’d be more than happy to have an email convo w/ as to not waste reader’s time adam.j.lehman (at) gmail.com

    @david & @jody I would love to get your take on the last question i posted: How have your values and priorities changes since leaving christianity?

  39. Posted by jody on April 1, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    How have my values and priorities changed since leaving christianity? Hmmm….some things have changed a lot, some not so much. I have more interest and place more value on human interaction, in all it’s imperfections. (I used to see almost every relationship as an evangelistic opportunity), I don’t wrestly as much with the pro-life/end of life type of issues as I now believe there are myriads of variables that could render a decision one way or the other to be right in some circumstances but not in others, I feel more connected with the earth, I am less threatened by people whose lives are radically different from mine, I am less judging (my family agrees), I can accept my humanity ( and everyone elses), I no longer shove down (my previously unacceptable) emotions (grief, anger, sadness, desire) but find constructive ways of dealing with those very human emotions. Those are just the things off the top of my head, I feel more free to be myself and let others be themselves. I have stopped trying to fit into a mold. My husband of 27 years and I have had so many problems in our marriage, and since my deconversion we are finally able to take off some of the masks and be more real with each other.

    Honestly, I can’t think of anything that hasn’t change so much. But all for the better, if you get what I mean.

  40. Posted by jody on April 1, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    Adam,
    Thanks also for sharing where you are coming from. My son is in a similar situation. He still loves the lord but is not so sure about all the bible stuff and is not impressed with church for same reasons as you. Just recently, he stopped going to the fellowship he is in. He has been very accepting of where I am at and has been a great listener.
    Thanks for the open invitation to share.
    jody

  41. Posted by Andrew Smith on April 2, 2009 at 10:05 am

    @jody,

    In your experience, do you think most deconverted people go through a radical change in values or subtle changes in values with a changed motive? As in, the reason behind their values changes.

    -Andrew

  42. Posted by Glebealyth on April 2, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Another visitor from exchristian.net.

    Interesting and frank blog, my friends. It really does make a pleasant change to be talking to/with christians and not feeling that I am about to told that the earth is 6,000 years ol; that I am obviously the only one in the conversation who shows evidence of being descended from apes(sic) and that I will spend eternity on a barbecue while the rest of you watch.

    Thank you for your invitation AND your welcome.

    Peace,

    David

  43. @glebealyth thanks man. we may come from opposing worldviews and look at life with a varying set of assumptions – but that doesn’t mean we can’t sit down, have a coffee (or beer) and chat about our thoughts. If my camp could learn to do that a bit more graciously, the world would be a better place.

    FYI: I’m a christian. I think the earth is probably as old as the scientists say that it is. Just so you know that all christians aren’t “6000-year-old-earth” christians.

  44. >>>All that considered, it seems to me that the wise thing to do would be to ask for a volunteer. If your were not the only person capable of taking others to safety, the “right” thing (what Jesus would do) is to jump off yourself…

    Also, you could rebuke the storm in Jesus’ name. That seemed to work for someone.<<<

    Yesterday afternoon, I attempted to respond to this. My response was not posted. Instead, immediately afterwards, at 12:29, Adam decided to end the discussion and steer me elsewhere.

    My response to the above was never put up. Several other posts I put up elaborating on the questions Adam asked me to answer were not posted to the board, either.

    I spent the whole morning yesterday, engaging in what I thought to be was an open and honest discussion, only to be shut off when things started heating up.

    As a longtime journalist, I will say this:

    Censorship is not free speech.

  45. @secularhumanist

    it is ironic that I would block your posts in response to a debate only to allow this one to be posted. seems like i must not have blocked any of your posts.

  46. No, not ironic at all. I think you realize it would had made the situation even worse had you blocked this one.

    I came to your turf the same way you came to mine. You wanted to let my fellow bloggers know that you felt grossly misrepresented.

    I in turn came to your turf to say the same thing, that I felt you grossly misrepresented what you claimed to want: An open and honest discussion.

    I am willing to accept your claim, with reservations, that you didn’t block my posts, that they are floating around out there somewhere (a whole two-hours’ worth).

    If you want to move on from here and continue the discussion, I am willing.

    A couple of loose rules:

    I reserve the right to stay with the topic being discussed as long as I am receiving and responding to posts from your other bloggers. That seems fair enough to me. After all, I do have a right to respond, don’t I?

    The other rule, which is entirely up to you is to let those who want to post smart -mouthed, shoot-from-the-hip responses to my posts do so. Those guys are the easiest ones to crush.

    I will be civil, but not as cordial as I was when I approached this discussion in the first place.

    If that is all well with you, fine. If not, that’s OK, too.

  47. @ secularhumanist

    that’d be wonderful. sorry for any misrepresentation and please – as it was my intention in the first place – feel free to nitpick the details of what I (or any others) say as my hope for doing this was that I would learn to communicate in a way that doesn’t offend non-christians and make them feel – as most of christianity probably makes them feel – condemned and inferior. thank you for reconciling the differences here.

    you man resume the discussion anywhere you wish. feel free to copy your comments before posting them so that we could avoid any further frustration on posts that don’t make it to the comments.

  48. Adam,

    It is not my experience that nonbelievers feel condemned and inferior. It is totally the opposite. We have seen the light and have been freed from the shackles of religious dogma.

    Far from feeling condemned and inferior, we feel free to enhance the lives of our fellow travelers not because we will be rewarded if we do or punished if we don’t, but simply because it is the right thing to do.

    We do not need God to be good. We do good for goodness’ sake.

    David

  49. David,

    you are correct. I misspoke. It would have been more accurate had I said, “some christians (i use the term loosely) can make non-christians feel as if the christians are coming from some moral high ground, or have an exclusive hold on truth, thus acting as if the non-christian is somehow an inferior form of human being.”

    I understand your thought and appreciate the correction.

    essentially, i’d assume that the perception outside of christianity is that christians act and speak as if they’re superior. would you say that is correct or incorrect? and to what extent?

  50. >>>All that considered, it seems to me that the wise thing to do would be to ask for a volunteer. If your were not the only person capable of taking others to safety, the “right” thing (what Jesus would do) is to jump off yourself…

    Also, you could rebuke the storm in Jesus’ name. That seemed to work for someone.<<<

    I wanted to respond to this yesterday. My post may still be floating around “out there” somewhere and eventually find its way back to this board.

    I certainly would have asked for a volunteer, but even then (as captain of the ship) I would have to consider who the volunteer was. For instance, if there was a mother, two children and elderly person aboard, tough choices would have to be made. I am sure you get the picture here. I certainly would not have let the mother or either of the two children volunteer.

    My tongue-in-cheek response yesterday was that maybe there was a Christian aboard who would volunteer, especially a 64-year-old like myself, who has had the privilege of having already lived most of his years.

    Anyway, as captain of the ship and the only one who could get the remaining survivors to safety, I could not jump overboard myself (what Jesus would do), for that would mean the four other people would perish without me.

    Finally, the idea of “rebuking the storm.”

    If I was a Christian, I would most certainly try that. But I am not a Christian. I am an ex-Christian — an atheist, a secular humanist.

    As a nonbeliever, I don’t believe in prayer. So, no I would not pray to rebuke the storm because I don’t believe prayer works.

    However, I am open to the possibility. If I ever saw prayer restore the blown-off limbs of an Iraqi war veteran, I would certainly give prayer some credibility.

    David

  51. @secularhuman

    please correct this if it is in any way inaccurate. couldn’t it be argued from a “humanist” persepective that sticking to the principle of not-murdering would actually lead to a net gain in human life as simply stopping all murdering would – in the case of the S.O.L boat – cost 5 lives, but in the case of wars and genocide, save thousands and thousands of lives? thus demonstrating that the “commandment” in the Old Testament of “though shall not murder” actually demonstrates an incredible sacredness of human life?

    **i admit that i may not have a complete grasp on the humanistic perspective here and – in no way – will i be offended if you take time to correct this if it’s inaccurate.

  52. Adam said, “please correct this if it is in any way inaccurate. couldn’t it be argued from a “humanist” persepective that sticking to the principle of not-murdering would actually lead to a net gain in human life as simply stopping all murdering would – in the case of the S.O.L boat – cost 5 lives, but in the case of wars and genocide, save thousands and thousands of lives? thus demonstrating that the “commandment” in the Old Testament of “though shall not murder” actually demonstrates an incredible sacredness of human life?
    **i admit that i may not have a complete grasp on the humanistic perspective here and – in no way – will i be offended if you take time to correct this if it’s inaccurate.”

    In no way would it change the plight of the people in the boat. Their situation would not be changed. One must be sacrificed for all, or all die. I would do here what benefits the greatest number of people and causes the least harm. That is the humanist worldview.

    Wars and genocide do not benefit anybody, but cause great harm, but only when looking at humanity as a whole.

    For instance, some local wars could benefit the greater number of people and cause the least amount of harm. A smaller tribe may be blocking a much larger tribe from water that would save a greater number of people in the larger tribe. That war over water would benefit the greater number of people and do the least harm. Some would even call it just.

    The same could be said about genocide. Wipe out a smaller tribe for the good of a larger.

    The humanist, though, at least this humanist, would look at humanity as a whole. I do not condone war and I do not condone genocide for any reason whatsoever. If I could, I would do away with the killing of human beings anytime, anywhere for whatever reason. For mankind as a whole, wars do not benefit anybody and cause a great deal of harm. So, as a humanist, I abhor war and genocide while at the same time realizing that in some situations I would have no choice except to kill somebody or sacrifice somebody for the greater good. (The boat story again.)

    So, yes, the commandment, “thou shalt not kill” would be a boon to mankind if everybody would follow it, believers and nonbelievers alike, of whatever religious persuasion.

    That is as far as I will go with this until you point out what you mean by “the incredible sacredness of human life.”

    David

  53. To wrap it up:

    Even if we could do away with wars and genocide, we would still have to deal with the boat story.

  54. @david

    good point on war/genocide in light of the boat story. can’t argue with that.

    i would go on to ask, who then has the authority to make the decision in the boat? what if the person selected truly believes that killing a different individual would do the greatest good? what if two people are friends and therefore vote to kill another member, though it wouldn’t be for the greater good? i’m not trying to dispell your arguments or promote some kind of ideology, it just seems to be the next logical jump in the scenario.

    **as for what i meant by the “incredible sacredness of human life,” i wasn’t trying to make any kind of argument for human life being initiated by God (though i believe that, but i understand that you don’t) though my usage of the word “sacred” probably through that off. I was merely stating that human life was the ultimate goal in the scenario of the boat.

    if you want to continue with the line of discussion about the boat, that is fine by me. it would also be interesting to unpack our differences and similarities when it comes to “human life” and it’s value and importance (but we can save that for another time, if you life).

  55. To look at a more mundane example of moral/ethical choices made by atheists, secular humanists and other nonbelievers, let’s consider the stimulus checks mailed out by the federal government.

    The purpose of the stimulus check is to stimulate the economy. If put into savings accounts for the kids, or used to pay down debt, these checks don’t stimulate the economy.

    In other words, hoarding them is bad and spending them on consumer items is good.

    By spending them on consumer items, we are doing what is the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

    By hoarding them, we are causing greater harm to the economy and to the people behind that economy.

    Which brings up an interesting question for the Christians. Would it be more moral/ethical to use the checks to stimulate the economy here in America, or would it be more moral/ethical to collect all those checks from the congregation and send it to support overseas missionaries?

    David

  56. Adam said, “i would go on to ask, who then has the authority to make the decision in the boat? what if the person selected truly believes that killing a different individual would do the greatest good? what if two people are friends and therefore vote to kill another member, though it wouldn’t be for the greater good? i’m not trying to dispell your arguments or promote some kind of ideology, it just seems to be the next logical jump in the scenario.”

    You bring up some good points.

    This is why we have structure and authority in society, otherwise society will be reduced to chaos.

    My first inclination was to say that the authority on the boat was the captain, but that sounds like a stretch since we are talking about a boat with five people. So we will keep this discussion to the smaller boat, although it is clear where the authority resides on a cruise ship.

    In my boat story, I had invested the authority in the operator of the boat, the only one who knew how to operate the boat and navigate back to a safe harbor. However, just because he is the operator-navigator doesn’t mean he is the one with the authority to choose which passenger must leave the boat so that the rest of them will survive.

    So you have five people, and one of them must go. That person, obviously will not be the only one who knows how to operate the boat and get it back to a safe harbor. So that leaves the other four.

    So everybody knows that one must go or they are all lost. Who decides and who goes?

    It would be wonderful if one person volunteers to sacrifice himself/herself. But let’s say nobody does. Now what?

    It seems to me, at this point, it is going to end up in the survival of the fittest or strongest. I think that without a strong authority figure on the boat, this is what it will come to.

    Let’s put ourselves on this boat. You are a Christian, I am an atheist. Your Christian belief system would lead you to sacrifice your life. I know that because I was a Christian at one time.

    However my humanist worldview would cause me to do the same. I am 64 years old, you are 23. I have lived most of my life. You have most of yours ahead of you. I would have less time to do good for the benefit of mankind in this world. You would have more.

    I would insist on leaving the boat before you.

    David

  57. An aside: If we had a couple of Christians and a couple of atheists on that boat, all arguing who gets to go first, all will be lost anyway.

  58. @david

    good points. we’d race to our deaths. ha, but I being younger, would win. LOL.

    but this conversation started with the boat example as an example of “putting human values before absolutes derived from sacred books, whether those books are the Bible, the Talmud or the Koran.”

    while you or I would both claim that we would sacrifice for the lives of others, i just don’t see how a decision would be made if there are no volunteers. I mean, i understand that you have a say as the captain, but that say is merely granted because of your skill of navigating the boat, not so much on your actual authority, but more so on your necessity to save those remaining on the boat after one is sacrificed.

    i don’t really see how this narrative proves or disproves anything considering chritianity vs. non-christianity, but i admit that i am very capable of missing the point.

    it does seem to me that this is merely a situational ethic (as we’ve clarified earlier) and we must navigate such situations with care for they reveal the limitations and weaknesses of our ethics, but it seems to me that my label as a pacifist is much more influential in this scenario than my label as a christian.

  59. Adam, this is an example of atheists and Christians working together.

    Atheists to the Rescue: Changing Misconceptions and Rebuilding after Katrina

    University of Illinois Campus Crusade for Christ and Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers

    Spring Break Trip 2008

    http://www.secularstudents.org/node/2116

  60. @secularhumanist

    and in regard with the stimulus checks, one could argue that from so many levels that it seems hardly tied to a question of one’s christianity, but more so of one’s views on economics, the role of government, and financial situations.

    example: some could say that the government is granted no power to redistribute money based on the constitution and therefore – as per the constitution – can be overthrown as it is wielding too much power. or one could say that saving money actually leads to a more stable economy – in the long run – but wouldn’t instantaneously stimulate the economy, and therefore would begin saving under the full belief that they were helping the economy.

  61. that story from secularstudents.org is beautiful. i hope more of those dialogues can happen. we are not as different as our religious labels may suggest……

  62. Adam said, “i don’t really see how this narrative proves or disproves anything considering chritianity vs. non-christianity, but i admit that i am very capable of missing the point.”

    I wouldn’t say the narrative proves or disproves anything regarding christianity vs. atheism.

    It does illustrate, however, along with the narrative of the Jewish children in the attics, that Christians are sometimes limited in their moral/ethical choices by their belief system whereas atheists/humanists are not.

    Is that a fair assessment?

  63. Afterthought: And those limitations imposed on Christians by their belief systems can harm rather than enhance human life.

  64. Adam says: “And in regard with the stimulus checks, one could argue that from so many levels that it seems hardly tied to a question of one’s christianity, but more so of one’s views on economics, the role of government, and financial situations.”

    The humanist’s worldview and moral/ethical choices encompass everything. It has nothing to do with religion. We have no religion.

  65. Adam said: “example: some could say that the government is granted no power to redistribute money based on the constitution and therefore – as per the constitution – can be overthrown as it is wielding too much power. or one could say that saving money actually leads to a more stable economy – in the long run – but wouldn’t instantaneously stimulate the economy, and therefore would begin saving under the full belief that they were helping the economy.”

    But we are not talking about that. We are talking about stimulus checks in hand, regardless of whether the Constitution authorizes it or not.

    Will you spend the checks in order to stimulate the economy, as the government requests, and therefore benefit the greater good, or will you send the money to missionaries overseas and therefore harm rather than enhance the economy of this country?

  66. Adam said “that story from secularstudents.org is beautiful. i hope more of those dialogues can happen. we are not as different as our religious labels may suggest……”

    We may be similar in some of our desires to do what benefits humanity and limit what harms humanity, and I will promote that aspect of our relationship, but that is as far as I will go with it.

    That is, I will work with Christians, Muslims and Jews for the common benefit of humanity but I will fight religious dogma tooth and nail, especially religious dogma that is forced on children who have not yet reached the point where they can reason such things out for themselves.

    The Christian, Muslims and Jews are all guilty of religious indoctrination of innocent children.

  67. David

    David asked: “Will you spend the checks in order to stimulate the economy, as the government requests, and therefore benefit the greater good or will you send the money to missionaries overseas and therefore harm rather than enhance the economy of this country?”

    **you’re assuming that spending the stimulus check as the government requests benefits the greater good. As I didn’t receive a stimulus check, this is a pretty theoretical question for me, and therefore, I’d say my answer is mildly thought through. For me right now, i’d pay off debt (as i have student loans and whatnot, thus allowing me to buy a house sooner, etc) after giving a tenth of it away (tithing).

    however, my tenth wouldn’t be to “missionaries” overseas, nor would it be to a church (who would in turn probably use it on a building or paying staff), but it would be to those in need. for me that may mean a family I know who recently lost their father or maybe to a charity which helps provide clean water for those who have none.

    the question forces me to choose two things where I’d probably choose neither. I don’t necessarily claim to be interested in the good of the united states over the good of other countries so I would have no qualms with pumping the money overseas stimulating their economy.

    by simply doing as our government requests and assuming that it “benefits the greater good.” we’re raising the “good” of Americans over the good of any other nation “the good of south africans, etc.”

    i refuse to believe that i can only help EITHER the US or Haiti (a theoretical choice of an impoverished nation). I believe that all humans are – by default – tied together and that the “greater good” includes those who might not call themselves Americans. Actually, the greater good would definitely include many of those who don’t think very highly of Americans at all. Helping Haitians IS helping the US because, we are all connected. Helping muslims is actually helping christians as – i believe – we are all created in God’s image or – as you believe – we are all members of humanity.

    i’m glad you brought this up because it highlights a christianity that i strongly reject and that is a christianity that is so tied to America that it loses it’s own identity. Jesus – if he existed – wasn’t white – or even western – and somehow american christianity seems to have lost – or conveniently misplaced – that knowledge. (sorry if this is a disconnected rambling, i get pretty frustrated with this though).

    um, so my point is….

    while i think the question contains innaccurate assumptions that I do not hold and is polemic in nature. that being said, i think one could be a christian and land at either end of the question.

    your thoughts?

  68. David said” “The Christian, Muslims and Jews are all guilty of religious indoctrination of innocent children.”

    are humanists guilty of the same?

    how would you expect a devout muslim, jew, mormon, budist, republican, hindu, humanist, vegetarian, atheist, baptist, agnostic, etc. to raise children without “indoctrination?” it seems harsh to expect that parents would not steer their children towards their own beliefs (especially if those beliefs are very much a core to that person’s worldview).

  69. Adam says: “Are humanists guilty of the same?”

    What religious belief system do humanists or atheists teach their children?

    Humanists/atheists have no religious belief system.

    We just tell our kids to do good to others because that is the thing to do.

    We don’t shackle them with religious dogma by telling them they will go to heaven if they do good or go to hell if they do bad. I can’t think of anything more horrible to do to a child than that.

    As for the comments about the stimulus checks, I run into that “hypothetical” dodge all the times when Christians can’t find any other way to defend their position.

  70. Question for anybody on the board:

    Why won’t God heal amputees?

  71. David.

    Just because you don’t call atheism or humanism a religion doesn’t mean it’s not one. (dictionary.com says religion is: 1) a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe 2) a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects 3) the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices)

    I don’t think I “dodged” the stimulus check question, I merely answered it. The question was packed with assumptions which I don’t have to adhere to. It’d be the same as me asking you “where do you think you’ll go after you die: heaven or hell?” that question assumes that you’ll go somewhere – a stance which you may or may not adhere to.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you frustration with christians who ask their children to do good or they’ll go to hell. this was part of my experience and something that I had to grow out of (as i mentioned in my story above). I believe that these people are using God or the idea of God as a sort of divine reason to do good. I don’t believe that. I don’t think I do my children any service by trying to make them behave via do bad = hell and to do good = heaven. The fundamental problem with that argument – from my perspective – is that it puts humans at the center of God’s story. In my theology, i see God as the central character. God’s actions are not for me to determine. I don’t get to declare anyone as headed for “heaven” or “hell.” that is God’s job. My faith is that God takes care of it and i have no real say in the matter other than which God grants (thus the idea of completely unearned grace).

    -as for the amputee question. I don’t know why God does or doesn’t heal.

    I would suggest – though i could be wrong – that exploring this question would lead us to try and uncover a “theodicy” which I think is the key concept in the book of Job. There are a myriad of ways to defend this kind of stuff -why bad things happen if god is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent? – some of the responses to this question, I’m a bit skeptical about, but wikipedia lists a ton of explanations, though i would say that few of them are helpful. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodicy

    your thoughts?

  72. It is impossible to make the Kingdom of God(sometimes Christianity fits into this, sometimes not) into a system of beliefs. Some people try and are very good at getting things closer, while others are obviously pretty bad at it. My belief system doesn’t look much like a system, although it does contain facts.

    I am totally not sure why some people are healed and others are not. Fortunately or unfortunately, I simply acknowledge that I am not in control over that. However,

    1) It seems clear that humans have the ability to make choices. Those choices have consequences, even for other humans (this is not always bad as there are people who make life better for others). From my reading of the Bible, this has something to do with a God being a person creating other people with the ability to chose (why? a voluntarily faithful wife is much better than a mail-order slave…). One possibility then is that God lets us hurt each other because he also wants us to be able to help each other.

    2) Some Christians would explain this away, saying that we are in the wrong period in history for God to interact with us in that way and that happened only during the initial stages of Christianity. THIS IS CRAP. God will and can interact however he chooses.

    3) Maybe no one has really prayed for this man’s healing and believed that God would actually do it. I believe God can. Do you have an amputee friend or is this a hypothetical situation? If it is a real person we could all get together and ask God to show up.

  73. Posted by jody on April 3, 2009 at 12:51 am

    I have been away from my computer for about 24 hours due to my work, and just popped back in. Great discussion going on here, BTW!

    On the healing question, we were always told to believe (in calvinistic circles) that people were healed or not based on what would bring the most glory to god. (I.E. Joni Erickson-Tada, etc. ) When my daughter was sick (confined ot wheelchair for 3.5 years, intense pain, tremors, etc. due to tetanus shot reaction) we had the prayers of chrsitians from around the country. We sought the best medical treatment. After a period of time with no improvement (and some worse reactions) she took matters into her own hands. We had been counseled to just give it to god, stop pursuing cures, etc. Just have faith, etc. She would not accept this and put herself on a raw foods diet. Within weeks she saw improvment, and by the end of the summer (08) she was comopletely well, walking, no braces, etc. People were ecstatic that she was healed and were “praising god”. I was a little miffed, because they seemed to ignore the fact that bethany had worked hard on a very restrictive dietary and physical therapy regimen to get to where she was. ( I posted a letter at http://www.lettersfromleavers.com on this).

  74. Posted by Chris Kirk on April 3, 2009 at 2:24 am

    I just found this dialogue and my curiosity was piqued. I hope to join the discussion, but, being 12 in the morning, I’ll settle for email updates to remind me at a more decent hour.

  75. “Maybe no one has really prayed for this man’s healing and believed that God would actually do it. I believe God can. Do you have an amputee friend or is this a hypothetical situation? If it is a real person we could all get together and ask God to show up.”

    Here comes the “hypothetical” dodge again.

    The question is: Why won’t God heal amputees?

    Has God (if he exists at all, and I am not granting that he does) ever restored the severed legs of an amputee as a result of prayer.

    Let’s not dodge this question. You all know where it’s going.

  76. Disregarding all the nitpicking over the stories of the Jewish children in the attics, the five people on the boat, and the use of the federal stimulus checks, let me reiterate the purpose of posting those stories to begin with.

    Each one of them illustrates how those indoctrinated with religious dogma are unable to make the choices that benefit humanity and diminish harm to humanity.

    The Christian (I am using Christians as the example here because this is a Christian board; the same can be said for Jews or Muslims):

    (1). Cannot lie (a sin), so the Jewish children hiding in the attic are handed over to the Nazis.

    (2). Cannot kill (a sin) one of the passengers on the boat, so five people die instead of just one.

    (3). Cannot spend the federal stimulus check for the reason it was issued (to rejuvenate the economy for the greater good of the populace) when faced with the choice of either spending it for the reason it was issued or spending it for overseas missionary efforts (spreading God’s word takes precedence).

    In each one of these cases, the benefits to humanity are lessened and the harm is increased.

    The choices of the atheist/humanist result in the opposite: The benefits for humanity are increased and the harm is lessened.

    God (if he exists, and I am not granting that he does) has gotten in the way of goodness.

  77. I am not going to accept the definition of religion that you posted from the dictionary; it is insufficient. Here is why:

    Dictionary definitions:
    Dictionaries have made many attempts to define the word religion:

    1. Barns & Noble (Cambridge) Encyclopedia (1990):

    “…no single definition will suffice to encompass the varied sets of traditions, practices, and ideas which constitute different religions.”

    2. The Concise Oxford Dictionary (1990):

    “Human recognition of superhuman controlling power and especially of a personal God entitled to obedience”
    This definition would not consider some Buddhist sects as religions. Many Unitarian Universalists are excluded by this description. Strictly interpreted, it would also reject polytheistic religions, since it refers to “a” personal God.”

    3. Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary:

    “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.”
    This is a curious definition because it does not require elements often associated with religion, such as deity, morality, worldview, etc. Also it requires that a person pursue their religion with enthusiasm. Many people identify themselves with a specific religion, but are not intensely engaged with their faith.

    4. Webster’s New World Dictionary (Third College Edition):
    “any specific system of belief and worship, often involving a code of ethics and a philosophy.”

    This definition would exclude religions that do not engage in worship. It implies that there are two important components to religion: one’s belief and worship in a deity or deitiesone’s ethical behavior towards other persons
    This dual nature of religion is expressed clearly in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) in Matthew 22:36-39:
    “Teacher, what is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

    5. Qumran Bet, “A Community Striving to Come to the Pure Essence of the Worship of YHWH,” cites definitions from an unknown dictionary: “religion (ri-lij'[uh]n) n.

    The beliefs, attitudes, emotions, behavior, etc., constituting man’s relationship with the powers and principles of the universe, especially with a deity or deities; also, any particular system of such beliefs, attitudes, etc.

    An essential part or a practical test of the spiritual life.

    An object of conscientious devotion or scrupulous care: e.g. His work is a religion to him.

    Obs. Religious practice or belief.” 15

    6. The Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM):
    “An organized system of belief that generally seeks to understand purpose, meaning, goals, and methods of spiritual things. These spiritual things can be God, people in relation to God, salvation, after life, purpose of life, order of the cosmos, etc.”

    In other words, the definition of religion cannot be limited to the definition that you presented. It is just not that cut and dried.

    The definition of atheism from one who is an atheist (me) is this:

    Atheism is the absence of a belief in a god or gods. That’s it. That’s the only thing that we atheists have in common.

    We have no religious belief system.

    We have no religious institution.

    We have no religious creed.

    We are simply people who have no belief in a god or gods.

  78. Posted by Mike Allen on April 3, 2009 at 7:34 am

    Sec:

    While I fully agree that many who seem intoxicated by dogma “miss the boat”, it has been my experience that many of these individuals (which I believe we share a concern for) serve “religion” rather than God. History is full of examples of “religion” gone wrong, and I will not defend the practice in itself.

    From a theological perspective, however, I do question your questions. In a nutshell, I am curious how you come to the conclusion that “benefits for humanity are increased and the harm is lessened”. From what vantage point does one make these claims? One could just as easily say that the Holocaust did benefit humanity by redistributing wealth, controling the human population in relation to resources, et cetera (and this is not my position).

    Even the disciples felt that great “harm” was being done at the crucifixion of an innocent man. We simply do not have the ability to perceive reasons and consequences outside the shakles of time. In looking over thousands of years of history, we only see the tip of the iceberg. While I respect your position, I simply can’t comprehend a system of belief that claims humanity is the ultimate authority, with all of our faults and limitations. If we are limited at all, who gave us these limitations? Who sets our boundaries…are they only in our own minds?

  79. Posted by Mike Allen on April 3, 2009 at 7:38 am

    So, the belief that there is nothing to believe in is not a belief?

  80. Regarding indoctrinating innocent little children with religious dogma:

    Children of atheists and secular humanists are taught how to think, not what to think. They are not loaded down with religious baggage that is going to cause them to put dogma ahead of human needs.

  81. “So, the belief that there is nothing to believe in is not a belief?”

    As I stated previously:

    “We are simply people who have no belief in a god or gods.”

    Notice the distinction between what I said and what you are saying?

  82. “From a theological perspective, however, I do question your questions. In a nutshell, I am curious how you come to the conclusion that “benefits for humanity are increased and the harm is lessened”. From what vantage point does one make these claims? One could just as easily say that the Holocaust did benefit humanity by redistributing wealth, controling the human population in relation to resources, et cetera (and this is not my position).”

    I covered this idea previously in my post on wars and genocide.

  83. Posted by Mike Allen on April 3, 2009 at 7:52 am

    Sec:

    Do you have kids? They aren’t innocent.

    I could just as easily say that I am teaching my children how to think for themselves, as a Christian. There is no need to point fingers here, and I think even you would have to admit you can’t speak for “atheists” in general, as I am sure there are many children of atheists who are in fact indoctrinated to repeat that there “is no god” even if their minds may draw another conclusion. I could also say that such a practice (of those atheists who do in fact indoctrinate, I can make no inference about you personally) is “baggage that is going to cause them to put dogma ahead of (perhaps the highest of) human needs.”

  84. I would appreciate it if somebody would post some evidence that God (if he exists at all, a point which I am not granting) has restored the severed limbs of an amputee.

  85. Mike Allen:

    I would be the first to say that I don’t speak for all atheists. I thought I already made that clear somewhere in this thread.

    I am sure there are atheists who pound into the heads of their children “there is no god” just as there are Christians who pound the opposite into the heads of their children.

    I am against any indoctrination of any kind. I prefer to let a child reach an age where he/she can make these decisions for himself/herself.

    I spent too many years working on newspapers and editing stories about little Arab kids — headbands, toy guns and all — screaming “Death to the Jews.”

    Where do you think they got that?

  86. More for Mike Allen:

    I do, in fact have children: a son and a daughter. Plus five grandchildren.

    My son is a Christian. My daughter is a Deist. Both of them were raised in a fundamentalist Christian church.

    My son, of course, is raising his children as Christians.

    My daughter, on the other hand, is raising her only child, a girl, “neutral.”

    When my daughter feels the time is right, she will explain my granddaughter’s options to her.

    It will be her daughter’s choice of which path she wants to take. It will be a rational, not an emotional decision.

  87. Posted by Mike Allen on April 3, 2009 at 8:07 am

    The refusal to make a choice is a choice. The decision to stay undecided is a decision. Inaction is itself an action. I am not sure why we are playing word games. You have beliefs, everyone does. You may favor or oppose capital punishment, and either is a belief. We can call it a “value system” if you prefer, but my point is that it can’t be truly dismissed.

    Anarchy, for example, is a similar self-defeating concept. I won’t pull up several definitions, but one can say that “anarchy” is simply “society without government or law.” The poblem with this is that “law” always exists. Without fedeal or state law, nothing prevents my neighbor from taking my car for himself. Thus, the new “law” is simply the will of the strongest or most armed person on the block. “Anarchy” is a system of government.

    In the same way, “atheism” is a religion. Ultimately, it is the spiritual eqivalent to the worldly example above. If I have no Lord, I am in fact my own Lord, there is no one to serve but ourselves. You can place humanity in the throne, but there is still ultimate control, somewhere. And, for my part, I know myself too well to ever imply that I am capable, even as a part of the collective “humanity”, to assume that role.

    Where is your “post on wars and genocide”? I would love to read it.

  88. Posted by Mike Allen on April 3, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Sec:

    Complete and unqualified agreement on “religious” indoctrination, especially coupled with hate. Every religion can be misapplied. 9/11, the Crusdaes, the Inquisition, Salem Witch Trials…I hear you. I really do. But the actions of some Christians no more proves that there is no God than the actions of some Atheists prove there is. I can only weep over what “religion” has done to this world. I am sure you know that the main conflict Christ had was with the religious order of the day. The person I study and read about and pray to and love also had very harsh words for religion. I have not indoctrinated anyone, to the best of my knowledge.

  89. “Without federal or state law, nothing prevents my neighbor from taking my car for himself.”

    Oh,really?

    I certainly don’t need a federal or state law, let alone a biblical law, to tell me that taking my neighbor’s stuff is wrong.

    Taking my neighbor’s stuff harms my neighbor, period. That’s why I don’t do it.

    It is too bad that people think they need a law in order to make moral/ethical choices.

    I do understand the need for laws in society, because there are always those who have no morals or ethics at all.

    But that doesn’t mean there are those of us who are not capable of acting morally and ethically without being bound by some law, wether state, federal or biblical.

    Wars and genocide? Posted at 7:41 on April 2. It’s still there.

  90. “In the same way, “atheism” is a religion.”

    Absolutely not.

    An atheist is simply a person who has no beliefs in a god or gods.

    I can understand why Christians can’t wrap their brains around that. I was a Christian once myself.

  91. Posted by Mike Allen on April 3, 2009 at 8:36 am

    I think I see the hangup here. Are you saying that a religion needs to have a “God”? As you stated before, Buddhism is often not a religion then, but merely philosophy. Let us replace “God” with “Ultimate Authority”. Someone has to be that, so if there is nothing above humanity, then humanity is the ultimate authority. So, if I define religion as a system whereby a person attempts to deal with the question of ultimate authority, I would stand by my comment that Atheism is a religion.

  92. Posted by jody on April 3, 2009 at 9:12 am

    Interestingly, as a former christian, one of the things taught in my church (and which I partially believed) was that it was only the restraining of the holy spirit that kept us from doing evil, since we were all depraved. I am now “out” of the church and have met some wonderful people who have no religious preferences (mostly agnostic) and love their kids, and spouses, are honest and hard working. No “holy spirit” here to hold them back form their evil desires! And, for myself, I am teaching my kids to do right, simply in order to live at peace with other people. It’s really not that hard!

  93. “I think I see the hangup here. Are you saying that a religion needs to have a “God”?”

    I am simply saying that atheists are people who have no belief in a god or gods.

    Why do you keep trying to turn it into a religion?

    It is not a religion. It is simply “no belief.”

  94. Back to the Arab children.

    A 4-year-old child, dressed with a Hamas headband, toting a toy assault rifle and screaming “Death to the Jews” has no ratioinal idea of what he is doing.

    This child has been “indoctrinated” with religious dogma, a dogma taught to him by his father, a dogma that the father himself believes in with all his heart because his holy book orders him to kill the Jews.

    This dogma, in turn, had been handed down by the father’s father and on and on, back thousands of years.

    And they all be genuinely believe that killing Jews is their god’s will.

    The only difference between what these people are doing today, and what the parents of Christian children are doing, is that, for the present time, the Christians have ceased from slaughtering their enemies.

    Otherwise, there is absolutely no difference between indoctrinating children with Christian beliefs or Islamic beliefs. It is still indoctrinating innocent little children who are not yet at an age where they can reason for themselves.

    It is child abuse in its worst form.

  95. Posted by Mike Allen on April 3, 2009 at 9:42 am

    Jody:

    I would also disagee that the “holy spirit” is the only thing between us and complete chaos. I would never imply that agnostic individuals are incapable of doing right, and in fact, would agree with you that many are more “right” than a lot of regular church-attenders! I, too, get disgusted by a lot of what I see from “Christians”…”pro-life” people voting for the death penalty (what about “sanctity of life”?) and guys going to the rally against gay marriage with their second or third wives (“sanctity of marriage”?). Christianity has no exclusive claim to ethics, and even that which it teaches is often cast aside for reasons of convenience or political correctness. When there is a rally to outlaw divorce (it too is unbiblical), count me in.

    But, all of that said, I simply differ with you on one point, and that is that the abundance of dirty vessels has not convinced me that there is no such thing as pure water, or that I do not need it.

  96. I am going to save myself a lot of effort here, effort that I am sure will be wasted anyway. I am posting a Web page where you can check out the question of “Why won’t God heal amputees?”

    I am not going to attempt to refute anything any of you have to say about the Web site. That will be between you and the author.

    However, it would be interesting just to see how you Christians will respond to what you see there.

    Keep me posted.

    http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

  97. Anybody?

    Does your sacred book say it is wrong to lie or does it not?

  98. “When there is a rally to outlaw divorce (it too is unbiblical), count me in.”

    Divorce is unbiblical?

    I think that demands some evidence.

  99. I have not seen any evidence whatsoever that the Bible, the Koran or the Torah are “the inspired word of God.”

    As a matter of fact, all three monotheisms contradict each other: Jews don’t believe in Jesus, Muslims say that Jesus was just another prophet, yest Christians say Jesus was God himself.

    Now, either one of these books holds the truth, or they are all false. No other way.

    So, how do you know, Christians, that you are right and the Jews and Muslims are wrong?

    To the Jews, Muslims and Christians are atheists. To the Muslims, Jews and Christians are infidels and to the Christians, the Jews and Muslims are destined for hell because they don’t believe in Jesus.

    To the atheists, who just go one step further than any of them, they are all wrong.

  100. “I would appreciate it if somebody would post some evidence that God (if he exists at all, a point which I am not granting) has restored the severed limbs of an amputee.”

    Still waiting for an answer to this one. I will give you a hint and cut down on your Google searches:

    I spent 40-some years in a newsroom. This would have been a huge, huge story. If it had actually happened I would have heard about it.

    So start your Google searches at, huh, maybe 1967 and on back.

    Good luck.

  101. Posted by Mike Allen on April 3, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Sec:

    I have already stated my complete agreement with your take on the illustration of the “Arab children”, and further concede that at times in history, “Christian children” (and adults) were equally guilty of hateful, destructive acts in the name of their “God”. Even Catholics and Protestants put each other to the sword; there is not arguing with historical fact.

    However, teaching a child is hardly “child abuse”. I recall seeing a billboard recently funded by PETA that claimed that “feeding kids meat is child abuse”. Parents can and must make decisions for their children that others may disagree with. (“You dressed your kid in courderoy? Child abuse!”) Scholars have been back and forth for ages concerning what discipline is proper for a child, but we all know it is necessary in some form.

    Teaching your child that things exist outside of sensory perception in hardly child abuse. If I do not know something, I clearly let them know that it is something I think, and often ask them what they think. I have never lied to them, even angering my mother for being honest with them from day one that there was no Santa Claus. No joke….I once heard a woman in line at the store tell her son that “if you lie Santa won’t bring you anything for Christmas”.

    Ironically, I believe that if my children make a decision to follow Christ, and I pushed them to do so, that it means nothing. I share your distaste for “indoctrination”. Like you, and your children, I can think for myself. I simply came to a different conclusion.

  102. “Like you, and your children, I can think for myself. I simply came to a different conclusion.”

    Then why not let your children think for themselves, instead of indoctrinating them with Jesus stories at an age when they cannot make a value judgment on what they are taught.

    That’s why I call it child abuse. You are abusing their minds.

    What you indoctrinate childen with at an early age is going to influence every decision they make for the rest of their lives. You might think that is a “good” thing, but I don’t.

    You also may think YOUR way is the right way, but maybe your kids, if given the chance, would beg to differ. They get no chance when week after week at an early age all they here are Jesus stories. Repeat a lie long enough, you begin to believe it.

    The sad thing is that few children are ever going to question the validity of their belief system when they mature. The ongoing Arab-Israeli violence is proof enough of that.

  103. […] ExChristian.net : The right question? Response to Adam’s blog. […]

  104. Posted by vwbusguy on April 3, 2009 at 10:47 am

    I started typing a response and it went really long. I posted the response on my blog at:

    http://vwbusguy.wordpress.com/2009/04/03/exchristiannet-the-right-question/

  105. Posted by Mike Allen on April 3, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Sec:

    OK, this is just getting silly. Are you basing your test for the existence of God by whether or not an amputee has had a limb grow back? Even if there had been, who is to say that it was “god” that did it? Perhaps it was a genetic mutation the individual got from touching a radioactive starfish.

    Although you seem to be preoccupied with this scenario, I understand your need for “proof”….a “sign” or something. In spite of what many so-called Christians say, it is not wrong to question God. In fact, how can anyone really have faith in anything without questions? I can respect your search for truth. Like someone already said, we are all beggars looking for bread. But it does not follow logically that lack of proof to my specifications defines the existence or non-existence of something, or someone. At one point, everyone “knew” that the universe revolved around the Earth; at one point, the world was flat and had boundaries set by men who had never been in a boat.

    If I beleive in God (and I am not granting that He does not exist), I must also believe that this entity is above human understanding. I must also believe that this entity is not bound to prove itself to me by making something grow back. I might as well claim that if Barack Obama does not call me with a job offer, then he does not really exist. Why won’t he heal my pain? How is he subject to my demand that he come have lunch with me today? He might just have other things to do, and I can believe that he does act in the interest of other human beings, even if I do not personally profit.

    To touch on your “word of God” argument, I agree that, to continue my analogy, different people will have different things to say about the president. He’s a socialist, no, he’s an advocate for the downtrodden! He’s tall, no, not so tall. He’s a good speaker, no, he’s awful and has to have his teleprompter. You can have different views of him, but this does not change the fact that there is one Barack, not “my Barack” and “your Barack”. And no, I am not saying Barack Obama is God. 🙂 I agree with you that there is only one truth, we simply disagree on what it is. (Yes, I agree that Jews and Muslims will perish in Hell, but I take no pleasure in this.)

  106. Posted by jody on April 3, 2009 at 10:50 am

    THese conversations are going so many directions. As far as non believing people doing good things, that may be a distinctly calvinist idea (am I right david?). They would say that the “good” that the world does is purely by god’s “common grace.”

    Totally disagree with the whole issue of divorce being “un biblical” although I took that stand for years myself. Evidence for that?

  107. @sec

    I don’t understand your fascination with God healing amputees? Is this a question taught in atheism proselytizing camp, similar to the questions mormons are taught to ask as they knock on doors?

    i have never seen an amputee healed, nor know of one who has been. My knowledge on the subject is finite.

    Though i hope you see the sadness in this question as you are claiming that an amputee needs fixed. From an artists perspective, it is easy to understand that just because things are normative, doesn’t mean they’re most beautiful. I would be interested to get a secular humanists take on beauty.

    I’m assuming that you’re a natural selection guy (correct this if it is wrong), but it seems obvious that – from a natural selection point of view – it is useless to feel compassion on those who have horrific things happen to their life as it is merely natures ways of evolving. You would actually be doing humanity a disservice and slowing it’s evolution as you helped sick, hurt, or dieing people. We would become a much stronger species if we merely killed off (or at least limited reproduction) all those who weren’t smart, strong, or gifted.

    So while, I don’t know what you’re asking about God healing an amputee – though i can point you to other healings if you’d like (i personally know a number of people whose bodies were riddled with cancer, prayed, went into the doctor and it had miraculously vanished) – when a secular humanist betrays his own beliefs to care for such an individual.

  108. “OK, this is just getting silly.”

    Oh, really?

    Let me just say, that how you answer that question depends on whether the god of the bible, as you define him, actually exists.

    Hint: The answer is no.

    It doesn’t surprise me the least that you shrug it off. Anything that threatens your preconceived belief system is “silly.

    I know.

    I have been one of you.

    BTW, how many books on secular humanism and atheism have you read?

    Honestly. Name the titles.

    The reason I ask you that is because I have not only studied those books, I have also spent the greater part of my life studying and preaching Jesus.

    Intellectual honesty calls for examining the evidence, studying both sides of the question.

    Have you done that?

    I have.

    Silly me.

  109. @jody

    divorce is as unbiblical as homosexuality is. i’m not at rallies protesting homosexual marriage because i don’t think the government is in any position to legalize or outlaw such thing. The bible is pretty clear about divorce as well as homosexuality, though those issues are best kept – in my opinion – to be figured out by faith communities rather than governments.

    also, I don’t think people doing good is a result of God’s common grace (though maybe it’s part of it). I would say that – humanity was crafted in God’s image so people – whether they acknowledge god or not – are capable of some pretty extraordinary stuff. i don’t think that changes the fact that everyone is flawed and i think we’d find – when we’re most honest with ourselves – that those flaws run pretty deep and we’re all capable of pretty horrible things if put into the right circumstance.

  110. Posted by Mike Allen on April 3, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Sec:

    Come on now, be fair. I clearly said that you and your children can think for yourselves, just as I think for myself. Why are you saying that “You are abusing their minds.” ?
    As I explained, I often ask my children what they think, and we discuss things. I have never been guilty, to the best of my knowledge, of this “indoctrination” that you are going on about. I AGREE WITH YOU. Why would I agree and then “abuse” my kids through this indoctrination? As I have already stated, their “belief” means nothing if they are simply parroting what I tell them to say.

    Not only is it “good” to give children an early foundation by which they will make subsequent decisions, it is impossible to NOT influence a child. For good or bad, Muslim or Christian or Atheist, you do INFLUENCE your child. I did not make asumptions of how “you” parent; I would appreaciate the same respect. I am not guilty of child abuse, in any sense of the word. Wait, I do feed them meat…. 🙂

  111. Posted by Secular Humanist on April 3, 2009 at 11:23 am

    Note to Adam:

    Thanks for posting “what a crock of shit” on the exchristian.net board. Now I know what kind of a person I am dealing with here. It changes the tone of the whole discussion.

    A youth pastor?

    Don’t bother posting anymore apologies. They are meaningless.

  112. @ Secular Humanist

    I like your creed:

    “We have no religious belief system.

    We have no religious institution.

    We have no religious creed.

    We are simply people who have no belief in a god or gods.”

    – Sorry for being rude, but the irony was too much not to point out.

    Also, your argument against God with the amputee argument is illogical.

    You basically propose that
    1) if there is a Christian God, he could heal amputees (I would add “if he wanted/willed to”).

    2) There is no evidence of God healing amputees. (This point I would take to the cleaner if it were a Christian writing it– all healing is God’s healing, even if modern medicine facilitates and clearly people are healed through medicine often. My take is that reason/science/medicine are the appropriate use of God given gifts that are a grace to us when do well.)

    :. The Christian God must not exist.

    David, the lack of effect does not disprove the existence of a cause. especially a cause that is told to be a wilfull person.

    I get upset that I can’t control God sometimes too, but I think it is better for the sake of humanity that I can’t.

  113. Posted by Secular Humanist on April 3, 2009 at 11:30 am

    As long as you are feeding them religious dogma in one sense or another before they are at the age when they can evaluate the information for themselves. you are indoctrinating them.

    My daughter (a Deist) doesn’ teach her daughter anything at all about religion. No Sunday School, no church services, no Vacation Bible School, etc., etc., etc. Doesn’t even talk about it.

    What she does do, though, is to teach her to do good things for people simplly because it is the right thing to do. She never brings religion or nonreligion into the good works. Religion or nonreligion is just not an issue.

    When the time comes she will sit down with her and explain things religious and nonreligious. At that time her daughter will be able to evaluate the evidence of herself instead of having it shoved down her helpless little throat.

  114. Hey guys, it is the weekend. How many of the people posting here live in the ohio/mi/ky/in area? could we do this face to face over a warm meat and/or a hot/cold beverage?

  115. Posted by vwbusguy on April 3, 2009 at 11:34 am

    re: cwillz

    I vote we make a visit to the Claddaugh in Indianapolis :-).

  116. Posted by Secular Humanist on April 3, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Cillw, I would suggest that you do what I did, spend a few weeks absorbing what is on that web site. When you are done, come back and post your refutations (if you can). I may post a question or two in response, but will not respond at any length. They do a pretty good job of that already.

    http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

  117. Posted by Mike Allen on April 3, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Cwillz:

    Exactly. Reminds me of the poem “Creed” by Steve Turner (I love his stuff)….it’s a tad long, but ends in:

    We believe that man is essentially good.
    It’s only his behaviour that lets him down.
    This is the fault of society.
    Society is the fault of conditions.
    Conditions are the fault of society.

    We believe that each man must find the truth
    that is right for him.
    Reality will adapt accordingly.
    The universe will readjust. History will alter.
    We believe that there is no absolute truth
    excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.

    We believe in the rejection of creeds.

  118. Posted by Secular Humanist on April 3, 2009 at 11:44 am

    “I like your creed:

    “We have no religious belief system.

    We have no religious institution.

    We have no religious creed.

    We are simply people who have no belief in a god or gods.”

    – Sorry for being rude, but the irony was too much not to point out.”

    I see, YOU call it a creed, then call it ironic because I said atheists have no religious creed.

    Brilliant.

  119. Posted by Secular Humanist on April 3, 2009 at 11:47 am

    “Also, your argument against God with the amputee argument is illogical.”

    You obviously have spent very little time, if any on the Web page I posted. Until you do that anything more you say about it will be as your dear leader likes to say, “a crock of shit.”

  120. Posted by mentallyfree on April 3, 2009 at 11:48 am

    If God does act as the Bible states, then why does He not act as the Bible states? Which parts are allegories? Which parts are literal? Who chooses? Why does God not heal according to James 5? Why do “Christians” not show Galatians 5:22-23 at least regularly (not even asking for continually)? Why do people who live today not warrant the open expression of God in the same way those of the Bible did? If there is a “real” difference in those who are Christian show the measurable difference between those who are Christian and those who are not. For every person you show who has a “Testimony” of God’s deliverance, I can show you someone who has no religious faith, but has similar results. How many storms have you rebuked? If this brings “Glory to God” why does He not allow it more often, if ever? I could go on and on…some might think I have. Show some hard evidence and you will make a difference in many who want to know. Stop beating around the philosophical bush please! Objective evidence is the basis for convicting criminals and convincing the jury. Can you be convicted of Christianity? Stop showing the subjective chatter that abounds everywhere else. Objective, verifiable, reproducable evidence please.

  121. Posted by Secular Humanist on April 3, 2009 at 11:48 am

    “I get upset that I can’t control God sometimes too, but I think it is better for the sake of humanity that I can’t.”

    How arrogant.

  122. Posted by mentallyfree on April 3, 2009 at 11:51 am

    One thing more…before someone says the Bible is not the only source of knowledge of God using Romans 1 (which is using the Bible to state that the Bible is not necessary-ironic). If the Bible is not the Source, then how would you know about Jesus to start with? Hearsay is not allowable.

  123. Posted by Mike Allen on April 3, 2009 at 11:54 am

    mentallyfree:

    Sure. Let’s start with what you have to prove to me that God does not exist. Nothing philospohical or theory, I want “objective, verifiable, reproducable evidence”. I can no more prove to you the existence of God than you can prove non-existence. Stalemate, again.

  124. No, Mike, not a stalemate. It is up to the one making the claim to prove the claim.

  125. “Anybody?

    Does your sacred book say it is wrong to lie or does it not?”

    I posted this hours ago. Don’t any of you even know what is in your sacred book?

  126. Posted by Mike Allen on April 3, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Yes, Sec, and you stated that there was no God, that was your claim. Neither of us can prove we are right to the other. Yes, my “sacred book” states that it is wrong to lie. What does this have to do with anything?

  127. @ secular humanist

    Creed Thing: Are we both chuckling at the creed thing? I think we can both note the irony of a plain reading of that and laugh a bit, even when our takes on the value of such a statement may be different.

    You replied to me: “You obviously have spent very little time, if any on the Web page I posted. Until you do that anything more you say about it will be as your dear leader likes to say, “a crock of shit.””

    Touche. I have not spent any time over there and will before I expect you to read what I have to say about the content of the site as meaningful. (thus my assessment of your position is solely based on your words here, not realizing that there were unspoken variable that would have been obvious if I followed the link you asked me too). I was misguided and assumed too much and should have read before responding.

    TO ALL: I propose we move the discussion to new posts/boards for the ease of organizing thoughts and helping those listening in understand what is happening. Anywhere is fine, but let’s try to keep the terms of each topic the same.

    So who wants to post on the amputee discussion? please provide a link here.

  128. Also someone should post about the discussion of ethical choices from a humanistic/atheistic/deistic/theist/and christian background so we can keep that there as well.

    Link it up pls

  129. @mentally free

    The Bible is not the only source of knowledge. I actually think that most things that are observable in life are sources of knowledge, but still do believe in the inspiration (you have not seen because inspiration is literally a “breathing into”) and authority of our scripture (the historicity of the biblical accounts is verifiable), so we hold a high view of the content in that book.

    Ultimately, the only source of anything(existence/knowledge/snickers bars/humanity) is God.

    Romans 1 points out that truth can be found in tons of places, and reason leads us to ask why, leading to a reasonable assumption of God as a cause and even a person.

  130. Cwllz. Do your own homework. That’s what Google is for.

  131. Posted by vwbusguy on April 3, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    re: cwillz:

    “Also someone should post about the discussion of ethical choices from a humanistic/atheistic/deistic/theist/and christian background”

    Let me sum up where this would go:

    [Ethical Question] filtered by [Worldview] + {digestion, personal investment, education, mental sanity} == [Answer to Ethical Question]

    In short, arguing about ethics when the real variable on the table is worldviews puts the cart before the horse.

  132. “So who wants to post on the amputee discussion? please provide a link here.”

    I would suggest that before you begin talking about it you get some idea of what you are talking about. A better idea would be for all of you to make a pact. Each of you will spend at least one hour a day studying the amputee Web page for the next four weeks.

    Or is that too much effort to spend in the search for truth?

    For you people, I suspect it is.

  133. Posted by vwbusguy on April 3, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    @ Secular Humanist

    Would you agree to read the bible for an hour everyday for the next four weeks?

    Would you make the same commitment in your search for truth?

  134. “Romans 1 points out that truth can be found in tons of places, and reason leads us to ask why, leading to a reasonable assumption of God as a cause and even a person.”

    Uh, one little problem here. You are assuming the bible is a reliable source.

    Where did that assumption come from?

    My thoughts: The bible is hearsay. Read Bart D. Erhman’s book “Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why.”

    Again, I suspect none of you will make the effort because you already have the “truth.”

    I know.

    I was one of you.

  135. Posted by vwbusguy on April 3, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Re: Secular Humanism:

    ““Romans 1 points out that truth can be found in tons of places, and reason leads us to ask why, leading to a reasonable assumption of God as a cause and even a person.”

    Uh, one little problem here. You are assuming the bible is a reliable source.”

    The problem is that the argument in Romans 1 does not point to the bible as a source – it’s about Natural revelation. It is not a circular reference.

  136. Well, I do owe Adam an apology this time. It as been pointed out to me that the words in italics on a post on exchristian.net were not Adam’s words.My mistake. In my business, we routinely italcized the quotes, not the other way around. Sorry Adam.

  137. “The problem is that the argument in Romans 1 does not point to the bible as a source – it’s about Natural revelation. It is not a circular reference.”

    Thanks for the heads-up. I was referring to the bible as a whole in my post. Apparently I didn’t make that clear.

    You made a good point, though.

  138. Posted by vwbusguy on April 3, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Re: Secular Humanist

    Shouldn’t you hold others on your side to the same standard. Shouldn’t you be equally upset that one of your own called an argument a ‘crock of shit’ ?

    Saying look how [Christian] does live up to [High Standard]. Therefore he is less than [Atheist] who meets [Low Standard].

    If your view were consistent, shouldn’t you hold both to the same standard?

  139. “Would you make the same commitment in your search for truth?”

    I already have. I have been doing it for more than 50 years.

  140. Posted by vwbusguy on April 3, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Correction: how [Christian] doesn’t live up to…

  141. “If your view were consistent, shouldn’t you hold both to the same standard?”

    I just put up an apology.

  142. Posted by vwbusguy on April 3, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    My greater point is, in reference to exchristian.net:

    If Christians made a site and just highlighted individual atheists who did terrible things and insinuated that all theists are represented by these acts and therefore their thoughts are null and void, you would have to admit it would be pretty upsetting to you?

  143. When are you brilliant bible students going to tell me what your sacred book says about lying.

    You guys just beat around the bush when you can’t answer a question.

    Now tell me, and post the evidence:

    What actually does the bible say about lying. This is really important stuff.

  144. Posted by vwbusguy on April 3, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    correction again: insinuated that all athiests…

  145. VWBusGuy, you are getting irrational now.

  146. Posted by vwbusguy on April 3, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Re: Secular Humanist

    Please pick one topic and stay on it. If you need to concede a point, please do so. It defeats the socratic method to derail the conversation.

    Just to answer you question though, it has already been answered (scroll up):

    Mike Allen

    Yes, Sec, and you stated that there was no God, that was your claim. Neither of us can prove we are right to the other. Yes, my “sacred book” states that it is wrong to lie. What does this have to do with anything?

  147. Vwbusguy, you are so hot now that you can’t even think straight, or write clearly.

    Take a break, OK?

  148. Posted by vwbusguy on April 3, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Re: Secular Humanist

    “VWBusGuy, you are getting irrational now.”

    Ok, now we’re going personal with this? We won’t profit from this discussion unless we are talking about ideas, and not each other personally.

  149. ****after some thought, i am deciding to end the comments on this blog. I am not doing so because I do not wish for open dialogue – i very much do. I am taking them down because open dialogue has become fruitless for both sides.

    it has turned from an attempt to understand one another and better co-habitate the earth to a battle where both sides assume they know everything about the other. Because of my invovlement with the christian side of things, I know for a fact that jesus has been misrepresented and i trust that humanism has been mis-represented as well.

    i do not think this was a waste of time as it provoked thoughts and lead me on a journey towards truth as i trust it has for all parties.

    if any party would like to continue individual debates via email or something, i could facilitate that. Anyone wishing to question other individuals and pursue a more orderly coversation may email me (adam.j.lehman (at) gmail.com) and i’ll connect both parties.

    in 3 hours i’m going to take down all the posts from this site as I’m sure both sides would be tempted to use words here to mis-represent the other.

    @mentallyfree @jody and @secularhumanist,
    thank you so much for jumping over into the christian realm to engage us in discussion. i think both sides can find it encouraging to look back and see how many times there was agreement over the abuses of religion. you’ve reminded us of some deep-seeded problems with our own camp and for that i am greatful.

    @cwillz, @vwbus, @smith, @joeldaniel, and @markallen
    thank you guys for sharing your beliefs and responding to some criticism.

    **any comments on this site which pertain to this blog post will be deleted. i am not shutting down conversation, i am shutting down a useless conversation in an attempt to start individual private dialogues which will lend to a more orderly and beneficial discussion.

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