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Religion

Missing the Point

Content warning: This post contains a photograph from a Westboro Baptist protest which is used as an example of what not to do. It contains language which is offensive.

Over a decade ago, while I yet called myself a Christian, I was onto something good: a realization that homophobic protests and otherwise aggressive “evangelism” were no way to properly show forth the power, love, and, frankly, appeal of Jesus Christ to the world around me.

Borne out of honest and open readings of the Gospels, I came to understand better what Jesus wanted out of his followers, and what I saw didn’t look much like the religion which I had been taught, despite the best intentions of my church leaders and friends.

This post was originally published on 2007-12-07. It has been updated for republication. Comments below may reflect the original version of this content.

Categories
Religion

A Tale of Two Worldviews

Christianity is fascinating. The stories of the Bible, the miracles and teachings described throughout? It’s endlessly curious, with more nuance than it is often given credit for, particularly among my fellow unbelievers.

Far too often, unbelievers pick up on caricatures of Christianity — shallow exaggerations or distortions that can be easily mocked in textbook examples of the strawman fallacy.1 Adam and Eve, for example, get replaced by “a mud man and a transgender clone rib woman.”2

If, however, our goal is to address what the Bible says and to use what it says as an argument for why people shouldn’t believe it, we’re going to need something beyond a quick joke or meme. We’re going to want to understand why Christians believe what they do, what their theology means, and how we can best interact with them in the real world.

Christians aren’t stupid, regardless of what you might’ve heard in the seedier atheist circles, and their apologists and theologians know their religion better than most of us “on the outside” do. I promise — I’ve been there, on the inside of not only casual Christianity, but of absorbing all I could in terms of apologetics, or the art of providing a defense for something, in this case what the Bible teaches.

I bookmarked dozens of websites and read through as much of them as I could handle. The CARM apologetics notebook was a prized possession of mine years ago, and I sat attentively and excitedly for a Ken Ham presentation. Apologetics was my jam, and that’s not to mention my endless obsession with theology, both in reading it and discussing it with my closest friends.

Apologetics is the jam of many churchgoers, and despite whatever faults it has, it does one thing well: It inoculates believers against baseless attacks against Christianity.

Categories
Religion

Bible Verse that Says God Will Never Give Us More Than We Can Handle

Over the past thirteen years, I have learned that some things will always remain a constant fact of life: taxes, the overwhelming loudness of toxic members of my fandoms, and the fact that the most overwhelmingly popular way for people to end up on this site via a search engine is by searching for “god never gives us more than we can handle” or “god doesn’t give us more than we can handle.”

I can’t imagine that there aren’t many websites which address that phrase better than I ever could, but if you’ve reached this point, it’s because according to your search results and your choices made regarding them, there aren’t. I’m glad to have you here!

But… There is no such Bible verse! Disappointed?

I hope not.

But if you are? Look, I get it. You hear the phrase a lot, such as when things are getting rough in life. “Cheer up, sister. God isn’t going to give you more than you can handle.” It’s repeated so often by so many people that it not only rings true in the ears of Christians but seems like it could easily be a paraphrased Bible verse.

On the contrary, the phrase has become a platitude, a Christian meme which lacks in both substance and originality.

And on top of that, it doesn’t reflect what the Bible teaches about Christian living.

This post was originally published on 2006-09-06. It has been updated for republication. Comments below may reflect the original version of this content.

Categories
Religion

Wheaton’s Law

Sometime in the past year or two, I was added to a Facebook group called The Black Sheep. I didn’t think much of it, nor have I interacted much therein because I prefer interacting more in the public realm than within groups online for some reason. It seemed a peaceful place, though, and the conversations therefrom which Facebook’s algorithm decided I should see seemed interesting enough, so I introduced myself to the group and solicited friend requests to spice up my news feed.

The influx of new friends lead to what you’d expect: I saw new political perspectives, new hobbies, and so on, and I considered that little experiment to be a success. My next step in spicing things up was to look at Facebook’s “suggested friends” feature every day for a few days. If I had more than ten friends in common with a person, I added the person.

Within a week or two, I had over 700 friends on Facebook, and my news feed was unrecognizable. I’m not saying that as a bad thing! However, I noticed something almost right away from many of the atheists added in this way: If I didn’t know better, I’d almost say that atheism had become a religion to them. 

Categories
Religion

God Chose the Strongest Women

Working with the public, I see a lot of stupid shirts. Shirts with declarations of apathy and demotivation. Shirts with religious messages that completely butcher the message of the religion used. Shirts with profanity for profanity’s sake. Nonsensical pink t-shirts on men that say, “Don’t laugh; it’s your girlfriend’s shirt,” as if that actually makes any damn sense.

And then there is the shirt I saw the other day while at work, a shirt design which I hadn’t ever noticed before but which seems at least decently common after searching around for it online:

God found some of the strongest women and made them veterans.

Categories
Religion

Christianity Needs a Preacher

I once wanted to become a preacher.

I believed so fervently in the Bible that the thought couldn’t escape me that the more I learned about it, the more I should share what I learn with others. It felt only natural. (Or supernatural, as it were.)

My church gave me a few opportunities to preach, and I cannot lie, it was fun. I knew what to say to get shouts of “amen!” and “preach!” from the pews, and when up there, my usual fear of public speaking seemed to fade completely.

Those opportunities came when I was a fairly cookie-cutter Baptist fundamentalist. I stuck to the doctrine and expressions and talking points that were oh so very familiar to the listeners.

I preached, but I didn’t challenge.

I didn’t challenge because I wasn’t challenged.

Baptist fundamentalists, not unlike so very many other sects of Christianity, have a groove into which most of their adherents can fit into without causing much friction.

Far too closely to the end of my life as a Christian, though, I learned that Christianity cannot exist in a frictionless environment, that Christianity must shatter the grooves so many people fit snugly into, upending not just worldviews but whole lives, redefining the fates of its adherents in such a way that, frankly, I had never seen before.

I never had the opportunity to preach this radical new (ancient) form of Christianity. My faith was swallowed up by knowledge, and so I cast off the vestiges of Christianity.

Part of me regrets that decision. 

Categories
Religion

Christianity Is under Attack‽

The first chapter of Ken Ham’s The Lie begins with a bold statement: Christianity is under attack! I’ll let the inimitable Jon Stewart speak on that notion as only he can:

Yes, the long war on Christianity. I pray that one day we may live in an America where Christians can worship freely! In broad daylight! Openly wearing the symbols of their religion… perhaps around their necks? And maybe — dare I dream it? — maybe one day there can be an openly Christian President. Or perhaps, 43 of them. Consecutively.

Christianity has a pretty sweet ride here in the United States. In my county alone, there is just about a church for every 250 people; they’re everywhere! Pastors and church leaders are respected members of the community. Church or worship service-like programming can be found on television at all hours of every day. The President of the United States has a spiritual advisor who is a Christian, and next to a highway in Kentucky, a 1:1 scale model of Noah’s ark stands as a brazen testimony to Judeochristian fundamentalism.

If there is an attack on Christianity, at least here in the United States, it’s not a very overt attack. So let’s look at what Ken Ham is talking about here.

Categories
Religion

Introducing “The Lie: Evolution”: An Examination

Some years ago, never mind how many exactly, I had the opportunity to attend an Answers in Genesis conference featuring Ken Ham, their founder and president, and another gentleman whose name I cannot recall but whose presentation was much more targeted toward children.

At the time, mind you, I was a fundamentalist Christian with a passion for creationism. I spent my time debating the merits of “creation science” in a number of online forums, and greatly enjoyed seeing the Ken Ham live and in person. I even dropped $60 or so on a collection of around ten Answers in Genesis publications.

cover art of "The Lie: Evolution," featuring an apple-shaped globe with a bite having been taken out of itAmong those books was The Lie: Evolution: Genesis — The Key to Defending Your Faith, (Seriously, the book basically has two titles for some reason) written by Ken Ham, “a very popular and effective speaker with American church audiences,” according to the blurb.

When I heard Mr. Ham being an “effective speaker,” he described what he considers one of the primary reasons why so many scientists accept evolution despite having the same evidence available to them as the clearly scientifically superior creationists: they wore different “glasses” which colored their interpretation of the evidence available to them.

Categories
Religion

How to Prove an Atheist Exists, Biblically

As a bit of a follow-up to Definitively Proving God’s Existence, I want to add that in the Hebraic myth discussed in 1 Kings 18:21–40, God was proven to be real by Elijah’s sacrifice being accepted, with a spontaneous combustion of the sacrifice caused by God himself.

The prophets of Baal had no such luck with their sacrifice, as in the myth, their god did not exist to aid them in any way.

How would this play out in a contemporary context, if a believer in the God of the Bible decided to make a sacrifice to God as a show of faith in showing that he is real, in the face of unbelievers who may be making a counter sacrifice? 

Categories
Religion

Definitively Proving God’s Existence, One Way or Another

As a skeptic, I have often asked for proof that God — specifically the God of the Bible, the religion of which is an overwhelming majority in my area — exists, to which I’m often told that there is no proof that God exists, that it simply requires faith, or that there is plenty of proof but that it takes faith to actually accept that proof.

I’m also often challenged to prove that God doesn’t exist, the implication being that one cannot prove a negative and so cannot prove that God doesn’t exist, leaving open the possibility that he does exist.

The Bible even goes so far as to say that you cannot test God (Deuteronomy 6:16; Luke 4:12), and some apologists will say that you cannot test God from a position of a lack of faith but that those who have faith in God can test him because they already know he’s real.1

Would you believe, though, that there is an experiment described by the Bible which is entirely repeatable and which can be performed by any group of people, provided one of them is a believer in the God of the Bible and the other isn’t?