What is My Motivation in Debunking Christianity?

WarrenL asked me the following two questions:

As I understand it you spent a good portion of your life assenting to Christianity and now with your book and regular articles it appears you plan to spend a good portion of it debunking Christianity.
(1) What is your motivation for this?
(2) It seems that religion will always be a part of our culture. Do you see any good or value in Christianity?


Question #1: My motivation for debunking Christianity on the web is pretty much the same as any Christian apologist, except I don’t do it to glorify God, and I’m not taking anyone to heaven with me. Christian apologists want to know that their beliefs are true, and one good way to do that is to get in the ring and argue for them. In doing so, they learn things and find better arguments to defend what they believe. This describes me too. Some want to make a name for themselves, some want the satisfaction of winning an intellectual contest (the competitive urge), while others want to gain some respect from their perceived peers, and still others promote themselves to make some money off what they write. So the motivations of us all are multifaceted.

I personally like an intellectual challenge. Can I describe what I believe in a way that makes some sense to those who disagree? That’s quite a challenge, and I like to try since our control beliefs are so diametrically opposed to each other.

I am a teacher, so I’m also against people believing in wrongheaded Christian ideas that I tend to think are based upon ignorance, although that’s the stuff that maddens me, since many apologists don’t seem ignorant at all! What is it, I ask myself, that makes us believe different things where each side has this strong tendency to think the other side is just plain ignorant? This is where discussing and debating these things intrigues me to the utmost, and so I try again to explain why I see things differently. In the process I get a better glimpse of what it takes to cross that great divide between us, and I test my own explanations of why I see things the way I do. How can we each be so sure the other is wrong? That intrigues me like nothing else I know.

I also believe that life it better from my perspective, having been a former Christian myself. I can be more...well...human. Church people are stuffy people who are so judgmental. I only realized how much this is true after leaving, although I thought it was true while still in the church. There is a life to be lived to the fullest, and Christians are afraid to do this...and once in a while to step out of bounds. I love the freedom to live like I want to without the fear of hell or the judgment of other Christians. Don’t get me wrong here, I still am every bit the honest and good person I was before (without the so-called help of the Holy Spirit), but I no longer feel guilty for what I think about, whereas Christians always seem to struggle with thoughts of hate, greed, lust, and the like. I don't have to anymore, for the most part. I only have to be concerned with what I actually do, not what I think about. I no longer have to give of my hard earned money to fund a church building in hopes God will multiply it back to me, I don’t have to worry about what Ms. Peabody thinks if I go play pool at the bars, and I no longer have to waste so much of my time attending church, reading the Bible, praying, and evangelizing, and the overwhelming guilt that used to come when I failed in these things. If I see a pretty girl I can imagine what she looks like naked if I want to, and comment on her looks to the guys, so long as I do nothing about it, since I’m a very happily married man. I can drink and get buzzed if I want to. If someone does get in my face I don’t have to be a mild mannered man, but I can tell him to get the fuck away from me, and I can say it like I mean it. I can waste away my time watching TV without guilt if I want to. I can drive over the speed limit if I want to without fear of God's judgment, although I don't speed hardly ever. I also love the freedom to think for myself without feeling like I must justify everything I believe in the Bible (have you recently tried to come up with a view of hell from the Bible that passes the moral test?). And I love the fact that my thinking is not hamstrung by fear of being cast into hell, hence I'm a freethinker. I also love being good to people just because I want to, and not because I have to, and I am. Even as an atheist I have reasons to be good without God.

Consider the medieval monks, for instance. They lived ascetic lives on the bare bones of existence, spending their lives reading a Biblical text that was false, rather than living the fullest life possible. Consider modern day Catholic priests, who live life without knowing the warmth of an intimate embrace in the arms of a woman, and the joys of being a father and a grandfather. Lacking this intimacy some of them have resorted to the crime of molesting altar boys, and have received prison sentences and the disgrace of it all. Consider the fundamentalist Baptist minister who never may know what it’s like to have a few drinks and get buzzed (or if he does, he will feel guilty for this). Consider the many nights Christians spend evangelizing others, when those same nights might be better spent with their families or friends (and as a result many a man lost his family while he was out winning the world). Consider the time many Christians spend reading the Bible, when they could enjoy the great novels of their day. Consider the joy one might have in alleviating the person who is suffering for the pure joy of it, rather than doing it for some false heavenly reward. Consider the money that was spent in building great cathedrals and temples to this false sense of ultimate reality that could be better spent on the needs of people, or with what is leftover a cruise in the Bahamas.

I also want to help people who are struggling with their Christian faith to know there are others out there like me. As I was thinking my way out of Christianity I did it alone with my books. I read things. Then I thought about them. And I read some other things. But I struggled, and struggled. I didn’t seek out anyone to talk to about my doubts, because most all of the people I knew were Christians, and I didn’t want to be branded as a heretic, or shunned, nor did I want to create doubt in anyone else, since I wasn’t sure what I would end up believing at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. So my book and this Blog are to help people discuss these things. It’s to let them know there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that others like me have come out of the tunnel and we’re okay. It’s okay to doubt. You’ll be fine. In fact, I believe it’s better over here.

I also believe there are inherent dangers with religious beliefs. They don’t always materialize, but they do have their impact in various ways. There are political reasons, which I don’t touch on here much at all. There is a large voting block of evangelical Christians in America that help elect our local and state and national governmental officials. This large block of evangelical Christians also participate in letter campaigns to change public policy in ways I don’t approve of. Atheists generally think Christian theism inhibits scientific progress, creates class struggles, sexism, homophobia, racism, mass neurosis, intolerance and environmental disasters. There are some dispensationalist Christians in America who believe the Jews are somehow still in God’s plan. So they defend Israel no matter what they do, which fans the flames of war between the militant Muslims and the US.

Christian inclusivist scholar, Charles Kimball, argues that certain tendencies within religions cause evil. “Religious structures and doctrines can be used almost like weapons.” (p. 32). Religion becomes evil, according to Kimball, whenever religion: 1) has absolute truth claims; 2) demands blind obedience; 3) tries to establish the ideal society; 4) utilizes the end justifies any means when defending their group identity; or 5) when they see themselves in a holy war. He says, “A strong case can be made that the history of Christianity contains considerably more violence and destruction than that of most other major religions.” (p. 27) [When Religion Becomes Evil (Harper, 2002)].

According to Bertrand Russell, “one of the most interesting and harmful delusions to which men and nations can be subjected is that of imagining themselves special instruments of the Divine Will.” “Cromwell was persuaded that he was the Divinely appointed instrument of justice for suppressing Catholics and malignants. Andrew Jackson was the agent of Manifest Destiny in freeing North America from the incubus of Sabbath-breaking Spaniards.” Of course, such a political program “assumes a knowledge of the Divine purposes to which no rational man can lay claim, and that in the execution of them it justifies a ruthless cruelty which would be condemned if our program had a merely mundane origin. It is good to know that God is on our side, but a little confusing when you find the enemy equally convinced of the opposite.” “Belief in a Divine mission is one of the many factors of certainty that have afflicted the human race.” “Most of the greatest evils that man has afflicted upon man have come through people feeling quite certain about something which, in fact, was false.” [“Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind,” Unpopular Essays (Schuster, 1950), pp. 146-165)].

As far as the second question of WarrenL goes, yes I do see some good in Christianity. It has saved marriages headed for divorce (although it can create an oppressive family structure where the wife is dominated and must obey her husband). It has changed rebellious teenagers who were hell bent on doing drugs, sex, and crime (but there are other down-to-earth reasons why they should change). It offers a heavenly comfort (even if it is a false one) in believing that God can help Christians and will bring them to heaven (although it also requires believing that our neighbors, friends, mother, father, siblings, and cousins might spend forever in hell, however conceived). Christianity inspires kindness to needy people and motivates them to give to help others out but see this.

However, I just don’t see where a Christian society is a better one. And even if Christianity was the main motivator in starting most all early American universities, most all of our hospitals and many food kitchens, and the like, these things still would have been started anyway, if for no reason other than necessity. It just so happened that Christianity has reigned in America for a couple of centuries, that’s all. Besides, these things were probably not started by Christian churches out of altruism, or any desire for a better society, but as a way for those churches to convert people. After all, who are most vulnerable to the Christian message? The sick (hospitals), the poor (food kitchens) and young people leaving home for the first time to enter the world as adults (universities). Most of the earlier universities were all started to train preachers who would evangelize.

Christians have a false and irrational hope, but just don’t know it. They are simply deluded into thinking their lives have some grand ultimate purpose. So who’s better off? Someone who lives a life of delusion, doing things because they think it will matter for eternity, along with the daily guilt for not having lived up to those standards, or someone who lives with his or her feet planted squarely on the ground with the only reality that is to be had? Atheists have offered suggestions why people turn to religion. Sigmund Freud claimed that religion is an expression of the longing for a father figure. Ludwig Feuerbach claimed that God didn’t make man in his image, but rather we made God in our image. Karl Marx taught that religion is the opium of the working class people. It is funded and pushed by the rich class in order to numb the working class from trying to right the injustices put on them by the rich class. Religion keeps the working class focused on a hope of bliss in the hereafter. Friedrich Nietzsche claimed that religion endures because weak people need it. For Jean Paul Sartre, God represented a threat to authentic morality. If God is autonomous, in the Calvinistic sense, then human beings cannot be responsible for themselves. He argued that the rejection of God makes morality and freedom possible, for only then can people take responsibility for their own choices.

Listen finally to Robert W. Funk and Robert M. Price's motivations:

Robert W. Funk in his book, Honest to Jesus (p. 19) wrote: “As I look around me, I am distressed by those who are enslaved by a Christ imposed upon them by a narrow and rigid legacy. There are millions of Americans who are the victims of a mythical Jesus conjured up by modern evangelists to whip their followers into a frenzy of guilt and remorse—and cash contributions. I agonize over their slavery in contrast to my freedom. I have a residual hankering to free my fellow human beings from this bondage. Liberation from fear and ignorance is always a worthy cause. In the last analysis, however, it is because I occasionally glimpse an unknown Jesus lurking in and behind Christian legend and piety that I persist in my efforts to find my way through the mythical and legendary debris of the Christian tradition. And it is the lure of this glimpse that I detect in other questers and that I share with them.”

Robert M. Price: “We are viewed as insidious villains seeking to undermine the belief of the faithful, trying to push them off the heavenly path and into Satan’s arms. But this is not how we view ourselves at all. We find ourselves entering the field as the champions and zealots for a straightforward and accurate understanding of the Bible as an ancient text. In our opinion, it is the fundamentalist, the apologist for Christian supernaturalism, who is propagating false and misleading views of the Bible among the general populace. We are not content to know better and to shake our heads at the foolishness of the untutored masses. We want the Bible to be appreciated for what it is, not for what it is not. And it is not a supernatural oracle book filled with infallible dogmas and wild tales that must be believed at the risk of eternal peril.” [The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (Prometheus, 2005), p. 15].

I hope this helps explain.

To read Part II of why I am debunking Christianity see here.

70 comments:

Kaffinator said...

> Church people are stuffy people who are so judgmental.

BBWWWAAHAHAHAHAHHA

John W. Loftus said...

Of course Kaff, YOU just reinforced my view of how Christianity makes people judgmental. I've been on both sides of the fence, and I'm saying it's better over here. Christian people judge you and gossip about you if you act in ways they don't approve of, even though the church is supposed to be a family. That's petty and it means having power over people to control them.

One writer said that the biggest problem in the church is pettiness, and plenty a church has split over it. There is little love among church members. I ministered to a church where two families continually fought for the power in the church. You could see it in every decision that was made. Say it's not supposed to be like that all you want to, but it's there in all churches in varying degrees.

Judgmentalism, pettiness, power struggles. It's no wonder that people don't go to church. they have their own problems to work on without getting involved trying to solve theirs!

If I could just spend one hour with you and if you were completely honest with me, you could tell me about the problems in your church and the problems between people in your church. Most of it is based in judmentalism and pettiness with the goal to control people. Have at it all you want. There is a life to be lived elsewhere and I'm doing it

Kaffinator said...

Ahem…now that I’ve caught my breath I can tell you what made me laugh. It was that in the same breath you basically passed judgment on all churchgoers as “stuffy” and then had the gall to call THEM judgmental! Did you expect style points for flipping into an empty pool?

Are there churches where family power plays and pettiness rule the day? I’m sure there are. If you truly had a position of any spiritual leadership in that church, your first order of business should have been to root out the wolves and expose them to some good old-fashioned Biblical church discipline. If instead you were subject to spiritual leadership that had become hopelessly corrupt, your only option would be to separate. If you found yourself in a situation where you felt you couldn’t (or wouldn’t?) follow basic scriptural prescriptions, my heart goes out to you, but I don’t see that you have license to whine about it.

But where you really go wrong is generalizing your experiences to think that ALL churches are ALL negative. The church I attend is not free of personality problems (no church is or will be, as long as they contain humans) but I would certainly not characterize issues like the one you raised as the rule rather than the exception.

John W. Loftus said...

Kaff: If you truly had a position of any spiritual leadership in that church, your first order of business should have been to root out the wolves and expose them to some good old-fashioned Biblical church discipline.

That's right, blame me...again.
These were normally good church folks. They just didn't like each other. Do you have someone in your church YOU don't like? Well, then, call in the pastor and let him exercise church disipline on YOU and tell me how it goes. :-)

You don't understand about church discipline though, do you? If I tried that it would split the church (great Christian witness, eh?) or I would alienate people from my ministry. You must be young and idealistic. Time will show you what I mean.

Tolerance. That's what I have for the most part, now. All you see is that I'm intolerant about Christianity. But the amount of intolerance among conservative church people about everything and everyone is so large by comparison that there is no comparison, even if no one can be tolerant of everything. There are degrees of tolerance, or did that thought not occur to you? And I'm against the overwhelming levels of intolerance among conservative church people.

Christian people are even intolerant of each other. You'll have church people arguing that different denominations are not even Christians, while others will self-destruct over what style of music to sing, or color of carpet to install,(etc, etc, etc).

Of course, you can continue to blame me and my experiences, can't you?...because the problem isn't within the church itself. ;-)

Kaffinator said...

Hi John,

> That's right, blame me...again.

If a church was crammed full of miserable and spiritually immature people who constantly fought, who else should I look to but their shepherd, their overseer, their pastor, to intercede?

> These were normally good church folks. They just didn't like each other. Do you have someone in your church YOU don't like? Well, then, call in the pastor and let him exercise church [discipline] on YOU and tell me how it goes. :-)

Sure, there are people in my church who I don’t have great personal affinity for. I still can and do love them: I pray for them and seek for ways to minister to them, loving them as Christ loved. But lack of personal affinity was not really what you complained about. You said they were involved in power struggles and pettiness and ugly fights over decisions. If you really were a pastor it would have been your role to directly confront people who were causing contention and division, and working to heal them. I'm not saying it's an easy job. But did you try?

> You don't understand about church discipline though, do you? If I tried that it would split the church (great Christian witness, eh?) or I would alienate people from my ministry. You must be young and idealistic. Time will show you what I mean.

Sounds like your church wasn’t exactly a thriving Christian witness to begin with. Maybe a split is what it needed.

> Tolerance. That's what I have for the most part, now. All you see is that I'm intolerant about Christianity. […]

Yes, well it’s rather hard to miss, since I am part of the group you slander, stereotype, and discriminate against.

> […] But the amount of intolerance among conservative church people about everything and everyone is so large by comparison that there is no comparison, even if no one can be tolerant of everything. There are degrees of tolerance, or did that thought not occur to you? And I'm against the overwhelming levels of intolerance among conservative church people.

Actually I have no idea what you mean by degrees of tolerance. Do you mean, calling what is a sin, not a sin? I guess you are asking “conservative church people” to drop their moral standards or something?

> Christian people are even intolerant of each other. You'll have church people arguing that different denominations are not even Christians, while others will self-destruct over what style of music to sing, or color of carpet to install,(etc, etc, etc).

Right now Americans are debating whether illegal immigrants should be given a quicker path to naturalization or citizenship. This is a healthy debate over our nation’s identity as we confront the question: who is an American? Unfortunately the debate does spurn some hard feelings but one cannot ignore the extreme importance of answering the question; the future of our nation is at stake.

It’s no different to discuss whether a body of teaching employed by a church is properly described as “Christian”. It’s a necessary thing, if the term Christian is to have any meaning.

> Of course, you can continue to blame me and my experiences, can't you?...because the problem isn't within the church itself. ;-)

I thought I already made it clear that churches will have problems as long as they contain humans. But we all have a role to play in it. So if you are going to call yourself an ex-pastor then you need to own up to the role that was yours. From what you’ve revealed so far, it sounds like you thought of it as a job where you just bring popcorn and watch a church destroy itself as you draw negative conclusions about people. John, that’s just not pasturing.

Kaffinator said...

Hehe...pasturing. Dumb spell checker. Actually perhaps it was "pasturing" rather than "pastoring". Don't like your congregants? Put 'em out to pasture and hope the rain will cure their ills...somehow.

Kaffinator said...

> So, Kaff, I see you've never been a pastor and you have no clue what he is and isn't responsible for....

Actually, I've been working closely with pastors and elders of my church for the last year as part of a training course and spiritual leadership was one of the key topics. But if it is your basic approach simply to assume my ignorance, but leave me in it, I guess there's not much more for me to add, and less to ask.

(But of course I'll be looking on to see your pastoral (pastural?) wisdom at work through the minor crisis DC seems to be experiencing...)

Professor Doktor Matthias Flay said...

Great post. A candidate for 'Key Post', especially as it lays out the reason for this blog.

Though the vehement obnoxiousness that plagued the weeks and months surrounding my deconversion are long over, I still sometimes seem--to Christians, anyway--to be inordinarily concerned with the religion. "If you really didn't believe," so it goes, "why devote any energy to the issue?"

John's post lays out some of the reasons quite nicely. For me, the issue is that whenever Christianity is taken seriously, people suffer. Women, gays, 'witches', Jews, heretics. When it's not these people, it's the believer himself. In my case, I was brought up to believe certain things, but my conscience eventually screamed against it. It was a difficult three or four years having to balance what my humanity told me was good and what the "reality" of Christianity told me. For the most part, deconverting was a pleasure, and I'd have loved to have stumbled across this blog three or four years ago.

Jason said...

Re: What the law is.

The law is not ethics. The two are distinct. For example, there is no ethical rule that says that pedestrians must not jay-walk. The law is a social coordination device, that is all. There might be ethical reasons to obey the law, but that is not the same thing as to say that ethics is the law.

The view that the law is only what is enforced is incorrect. If someone gets away with a murder, has that person not broken the law? The difference between this and the example of the slight speeder is obviously that a lot of the latter are excused by law enforcement even though they could easily be caught. However, there are good reasons for police officers to refrain from handing out tickets to people that are going 5 mph faster than the limit that do not entail that the law stipulating the limit is 5 mph slower than the rate these individuals are travelling does not exist.

John W. Loftus said...

Professor, thank you very much. I put a lot into this Blog, and I wish it were around when I myself was struggling.

Nihilo, murderers are always arrested whenever discovered even though some get away with it, but slight speeding isn't even ticketed. Gambling is also against the law, but no one is ever arrested for betting on a game of pool, or a sporting event. Fireworks are also illegal in the state I live but everyone lights them off on July 4th.

[I've just had a bad day with Sharon, so don't you get stupid on me either. You know what I'm saying.]

John W. Loftus said...

For regular readers of this Blog some comments here were way off the mark so I deleted them. Sharon expressed some misgivings about what I said so let me address them.

My point is that I have the freedom to do what I said I do without the guilt. And while my wife does not like me looking at other women, I do from time to time because I'm a man. Women will never understand it, but they would if they were a man. They don't understand how madly a man can be in love with a wife (like me) and yet still think another woman is sexy.

And as far as going to the bars and playing pool, my wife goes with me! In fact, we're together almost 24/7. We participate in a few pool leagues. She took second in our state as an individual and her women's team took 1st in our state! My team took 4th in our state this year. I write a monthly column for a national billiard magazine, and I wrote a book about how to be a captain of a pool team.

Earlier I had also said:
In my opinion the law is only the law at the point it is enforced. I can drive 5-8 miles over the speed limit in certain areas and pass a cop with a radar gun. But the fact is, I hardly ever speed at all. My point was hypothetical, just like some other points of mine. I can if I want to without the moral guilt of God or the church judging me.

Earlier I had said, So, Kaff, I see you've never been a pastor and you have no clue what he is and isn't responsible for....

Sharon has decided to leave on her own. I just hope she understands what I have objected to here. I wish her well.

Sandalstraps said...

John,

Thank you for your honest explanation of why you do what you do. I've often wondered about your motives as well, though my wondering should be in no way conscrued as a moral judgment. You've helped me to step inside your perspective, so to speak.

Kaff,

I hate to take sides in what is increasingly becoming a personal battle, but I have to side with John on the responcibility of the pastor to the church.

I too am a former pastor, though unlike John I am still a Christian, and am actively involved in several lay ministries, using the skills I once used as a pastor in the service of the church. And, like John, my experience as a pastor was an often painful one, colored by the antics of critics who, while devout in their own faith, often used that faith as a weapon against those who disagreed with them about the nature of God.

Spiritual pride is a very real and dangerous problem in churches of all sizes, shapes denominations and theological dispositions. People have an experience of God, and then too often decide that that experience encompasses the nature of God, so they seek to impose it on everyone else, even the pastor.

When pride and arrogance are the issue, there is very little a pastor can do about it. When people decide that God agrees with them, to disagree with them is to disagree with God, no matter the state and nature of your own spiritual life or relationship with God.

Because I preached against the notion that God caused New Orleans to be nearly leveled by a hurricane and the floods which followed because of its sins and wickedness, righteous members of my congregation, after threatening me with bodily harm, publically called me an agent of the devil sent to deceive the church. This is because, in disagreeing with them, I called into question the belief system in which they experienced God. To them this called their entire religious life into question.

Their theology, and the experience of God which both came out of it and helped to shape it, preceded my arrival in their church. By trying to pastor them out of their arrogant and dangerous position I only cemented my role in their lives as an enemy of God.

The pastor's job is a long and difficult one. He or she is not causally responcible for all of the spiritual disease in the congregation, and cannot by herself or himself cure all of the ills. But he or she can be trampled by them.

John W. Loftus said...

Wow! What a testimony Sandletraps! And while we surely disagree about things, thanks for the help here. People just don't know what it's like to be a pastor, and you described this better than I could.

John W. Loftus said...

One more clarification, when I said I no longer feel guilty for what I think about (hate, greed, lust, and the like)... I'm contrasting what I think about with what I actually do. According to Christian thinking I should feel guilty for what I think about. Now I only feel guilty for what I actually do that is wrong.

Kaffinator said...

That’s must be a painful story to tell, Sandalstraps, thank you for sharing it. And I appreciate your reasoned disagreement (if indeed we really do disagree).

> When pride and arrogance are the issue, there is very little a pastor can do about it.

From what you described, the response of your church to seeing the hurricane as a judgment of God seems to me to reflect a spiritually immature understanding of how God’s judgment works. After all, are we to think there was not one truly Christian congregation impacted by the hurricane? Are we to think even for a nanosecond that our own lives, bereft of Christ’s imputed merit, do not cry out for much worse judgment than a few feet of water?

It sounds like your pastoral response was to flat-out deny that we should smugly sit back and laugh. You’re right, Christians shouldn’t. But it sounds like that approach didn’t go over very well. Acknowledging this, and with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps a better response would have been to establish some kind of link with a church in New Orleans and help them rebuild and actually minister to the people who need Jesus the most—the sick!

> He or she is not causally [responsible] for all of the spiritual disease in the congregation, and cannot by herself or himself cure all of the ills. But he or she can be trampled by them.

Goodness, I never contended that any pastor who finds himself in spiritual authority over a congregation suffering under the sin of pride should carry all the blame for that sin! It’s just that the pastor does have a role to own the problem and start ministering to that congregation’s needs according to it. Nor did I say it was easy, or always guaranteed of success. But the call itself is anything but unclear. Would you agree?

John W. Loftus said...

Kaff: a better response would have been to establish some kind of link with a church in New Orleans and help them rebuild and actually minister to the people who need Jesus the most—the sick!

Oh, so here comes the backseat driver, the armchair quarterback telling someone what they should've done, as if that's what he would've done.

I think Sandletraps did what was right. His role is to tell the truth, and he did. he may not have expected the fierce response, that's all. One never knows exactly how people will react. You get blindsided all of the time in ministry, even when you think you're doing the right thing. Later you may question what you did, but people hit you from out of the blue that you never quite expected they would. And you can't always know what will bring out these kinds of responses, or how intense they will be.

My cousin preaches in Las Vegas, NV. Most of the people in his church earn their living from the gambling industry. Do you think he should preach against it? Naw. He would get fired, and so would any preacher who did. Is it best then not to say anything about it and minister in other ways? Sure it is. But here is a case where he knows what to do. In other cases a preacher doesn't always know, greenhorn.

Kaffinator said...

> Oh, so here comes the backseat driver, the armchair quarterback telling someone what they should've done, as if that's what he would've done.

Didn't you see the part where I said, "with the benefit of hindsight"? Did you skip over the parts in my posts where I frankly acknolwedge the difficulty of pastorage? Do you think I am trying to minimize the challenge that pastors face? I think you severely misread me, John.

>I think [Sandlestraps] did what was right.

Perhaps he did. I wasn't there and I'm not in a position to judge. But from his story it sounds like the ultimate result was not a good one. So I'm curious to hear what he has to say if he chooses to comment.

Sandalstraps said...

When dealing with pastoral ministry (as with all other things in life) there are no absolutely right or wrong answers. Whatever you end up doing, you could probably have done it better. However bad things turn out, they could probably have been worse.

When I gave my sermon attacking the dominant theology of my church, I gave a copy of it to every single pastor that I knew, along with my District Superintendent (a United Methodist office between the bishop and the local pastors). No clergy member found any potential problems in the sermon, so I though that, while it might cause a little stir, it shouldn't divide the church.

But it did divide the church, which was an unintended and unforseeable consequence of telling the truth as best as we understand it. Morally speaking, I would be liable for the division if I would have reasonably been able to predict it. But no one could have predicted what ended up happening, because no one wanted to admit exactly how deep the troubles were in that congregation.

A small church in a rural area, with jobs leaving the surrounding towns left and right, the church was in real fiscal trouble. Attendence had been dropping for years before I showed up, but some people came back to test out the "new guy."

The consciousness of the church was grounded in the mythos of ancient Israel, seeing its history in terms of its relationship with God, and seeing God as the ultimate causal agent for anything that happened to it. When good things happened, God was blessing the church for being faithful. When bad things happened God was punishing the church for its lack of faith.

Because my theology, and the ethics derived from that theology, was very different from that of the congregation, and because so many bad things were happening to that congregation as a result of the socio-economic climate in the broader community, the people felt that God was punishing them for tolerating me.

While this is an extreme case, it is not entirely atypical. Pastors have little real power over their congregations, and what power they do have rests in the consent of the congregation. Their power comes from their spiritual wisdom, their education, and especially their ability to persuade. Each of these areas of power rest in part on the inherant reasonability of the congregation. If a congregation fails to recognize good spiritual wisdom, the value of education, and the validity of the pastor's theological arguments, then that congregation will be unmoved by the pastor no matter what he or she does.

Kaff,

I am concerned about you. I see a great deal of spiritual pride in you, as evidenced by your apparent willingness to make snap judgments based on little evidence. It would do you some good to extent a little bit of charity to people, even and especially those whom you identify as your enemies.

We converse, we argue, not to win or lose, but rather to arrive at the truth of the matter. To do that we must be willing to consider the perspective of our partner, and to listen to them actively and attentively, without initially assuming that they must be wrong and we must be right.

I don't know what you're trying to do here, but whatever it is, from my vantage point it doesn't seem effective.

Kaffinator said...

Hi Sandalstraps,

I genuinely appreciate your concern for me. And again I thank you for sharing your story.

It looks like apologies are in order since I seem to have made a poor impression. Loftus posts his articles and invites comments. Admittedly my first comment on this thread was somewhat less than nuanced or sensitive. I simply wished to point out the hypocrisy that is plainly evident in John's OP: he makes blanket accusations about Christians--that they are horrible because the make blanket accusations. Either my style and tone, or simply the fact that I am levelling a critique, have made me seem the bad guy. So perhaps my approach is ill-advised.

As for the pastor angle, its genuinely an interesting question to me, how much load should a pastor really shoulder. But my purpose here is not really to hash that out with fellow Christians. This is in fact the last forum where I would wish to do so. I was simply trying to test John to see how much ownership he really took of the situations he was in.

Solving interpersonal problems is never easy. I have been involved in my share within the church. But here Loftus is useing the existence of such problems to overgeneralize them to all Christian assemblies in order to cast doubt upon the faith itself. This I simply cannot abide. It is not consistent with my bulk experience as a Christian. It is not consistent with the teachings of the faith. And it is not consistent with the image of God to which Christians, in their present imperfection, do indeed aspire.

As for the pride issue, maybe I should simply stop posting here. It does not always bring out the best in me. If I've hurt you, Sandalstraps, or John, if I've leveled unfair criticism, I do apologize.

John W. Loftus said...

Kaff, listen up. No you have not offended me. You disagree with me, and I invite disagreement. Disagree all you want to here at DC.

Pride is acceptable here, arrogance is not. You should have pride in what you believe.

But here's my point. I can be offensive now without worrying about what anyone else thinks (even though my arguments are what offends people for the most part now), especially church people or a non-existent God. I am responsible to myself now. You feel the need to apologize here for something you shouldn't apologize for in the hopes of being a good Christian and in hopes that God is watching.

Live life. Dance if you want to. Drink a beer or two. Flirt with girls. Don't apologize for being a human, a man.

Kaffinator said...

Hi John,

For some reason it may bug you to hear me say this, but I’m very glad to know I did not offend you.

> You feel the need to apologize here for something you shouldn't apologize for in the hopes of being a good Christian and in hopes that God is watching.

Why do you feel the need to project some kind of false works-based legalism into my mind as the motivation for everything I do? Ah well, you just don’t know me.

> Live life.

Let’s see. Breathing O2. Check.

> Dance if you want to.

Actually DJ’ed a 50’s dance a couple months ago that my church hosted. Got my blue suede shoes out on the dance floor. Check.

> Drink a beer or two.

Widmer Hef in the fridge. Check.

> Flirt with girls.

Does flirting with my wife count? Half-check, I guess?

> Don't apologize for being a human, a man.

It may seem odd to you now but I feel the most alive and the most human when I am serving God. I’m sorry if you never had that experience in 15 years of ministry.

John W. Loftus said...

Alive while a Christian minister? Hmmm. You don't know me either. I live life to the hilt. I just enjoy it more now than ever.

Kaffinator said...

Hi John,

I never did claim to know you, at least not well enough to write thoughts into your head!

But speaking of our respective mental lives, I highly recommend that you should consider a new top-level post about this thesis of yours that it's A-OK to live sin rampantly in your head as long as you at least try to behave properly in an outward way. In other words it might be interesting to see someone defend the idea that what we think has no bearing on what we do.

But until that day at least, I will be doing my best to think only good thoughts about you :-)

In His Name, Kaff

Anonymous said...

I can't see how you can debunk Christianity.

DBULL said...

I can certainly understand why so many people would be turned off to what is being advertised in this world as Christianity, but I would argue that 99% of what is advertised as Christianity is not the real thing. The bible says:

Matthew 7:12-14
13"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

What does this mean? It means that only a few people who are actually claiming to be christians will actually make it through the gate. Only a few find it. I am sickened at what I see in the world (counterfeit christianity) which is discrediting the way of truth. Anyone who sincerely wants to know the truth, who loves what is good and wants to know the Creator of the Universe will find this all powerful, all knowing God. What they do once they find Him is another story.

JE said...

John, very wierd stuff you write. Classic example of the emptiness of a non-believer who needs to numb his life with drinking too much and lewd thoughts, etc.

And you talk about still being an honest person. Where does honesty come from if not from God? If you are not judgemental, then what do you think about the dishonest atheist, the alcoholic, the drug addicted, the rapist, etc.? Since they do not have to answer to God is it OK for them to do whatever they want because they don't have to feel guilty about it?

lovelygirl said...

i didn't have time to read all of this, but i found some stuff especially interesting in your "motivation" section. especially the "guilt free" life you are able to live now.

very well put.

Kinderling said...

Sirs,

I am a little bemused by this website to disprove God.
Far easier to reprove and improve people.
When you socialize people you end up being responsible for them. Why not show them 'The Way'. You did find it didn't you? No, of course not, that would make you equal or better than the fragments of the Jesus character you read about.
All history will pass away but the intelligence before you will remain. Instruct with love, patience and foreboding.
Build not rend. You had the chance to build your churches and blew it. You who stood at the Alter as an example of Christ!
Well, here's a Jesus at www.fhu.com, and another at www.faithfreedom.org
Best wishes.

Kin

Stuart said...

It's not only Christians who are overly judgmental. If you gather people together in any social organization, some are going to look down upon others in the group and condemn them for the wrong reasons. That's just (sinful) human nature.

I've never been to a Sierra Club meeting but I'm sure there are some who are more zealous in their "Save the Earth" religion than others. Most likely, the ones who are recycling their rainwater and filling compost heaps in their backyards look down on those who don't.

And if you think that intolerance is the domain of "fundamentalists," just try telling anyone in any American social group today that you believe white people ought to be separate from blacks, or that you believe women are not the intellectual equals of men. You'll soon find out that "freethinking" is not tolerated by the self-professed devotees of tolerance.

Stuart said...

Consider the medieval monks, for instance. They lived ascetic lives on the bare bones of existence, spending their lives reading a Biblical text that was false, rather than living the fullest life possible. Consider modern day Catholic priests, who live life without knowing the warmth of an intimate embrace in the arms of a woman, and the joys of being a father and a grandfather. Lacking this intimacy some of them have resorted to the crime of molesting altar boys, and have received prison sentences and the disgrace of it all. Consider the fundamentalist Baptist minister who never may know what it’s like to have a few drinks and get buzzed (or if he does, he will feel guilty for this). Consider the many nights Christians spend evangelizing others, when those same nights might be better spent with their families or friends (and as a result many a man lost his family while he was out winning the world). Consider the time many Christians spend reading the Bible, when they could enjoy the great novels of their day.

These are all empty objections to Christianity because the Bible doesn't support the things that you rightly see as misguided thoughts and actions.

It doesn't teach that people ought to live ascetic lives in a monastery, it doesn't teach that men must forsake having a wife to serve God, it doesn't teach that consuming alcoholic beverages is wrong, it doesn't teach that men ought to neglect their friends and family members in order to evangelize the world, and it doesn't teach that one must spend all of his free time studying the Scriptures.

Lucid Phil said...

Why debunk Christianity? Many of my best friends are christians and I love them dearly. I used to be one of them but I read and I thought and I observed and I slowly evolved a more rational (and I beleive honest) position. I am fascinated by the scientific pursuit of the origins of our human (primate) nature. I think it explains a whole lot more than my, very fervent and sincere, christian faith ever did. I think debunking christianity is a negative pursuit that takes my focus off learning more of the truth. Which is awe-ful big and complex and wonderful and...useful. The great thing about science is that you can use it to predict. Something that christianity was not particularly successful at. We have some massive challenges ahead as a species. I'd like to see us use more of our reason and less of our competitive instincts to overcome them. Debunking the beleifs of the unwilling seems a waste of energy. Better to lead by example. Successful memes spread through the meme-pool by definition. My friends beleif in a mythological god only becomes a problem if it leads him/her to act against rational self-interest. Most of my christian friends recycle, moderate their consumption of energy and resources and act ethically in most of the ways that matter to me.
Should they start waging wars based on their beleifs I may be forced to attempt a debunk. No doubt they would seek to reindoctrinate me if they got to that state. But I have faith in them. They are good, humane, caring people who have chosen a christianity that reflects these innate qualities. My point is that it was their essential human nature that chose a loving god to beleive in and not the other way round.

Chris said...

Mary is calling all her wayward children to her bosom.

Get the facts. Decide for yourself.

SoldierOfTheCross said...

You explanation seems to employ many name-calling tactics, sweeping generalizations, and, well, more name-calling tactics. All of these are logical fallacies; I hope they were not the basis of your denial of Christ.

Anonymous said...

Hello Mr. Loftus

I understand your perspective and I also understand your generalized view on "Christianity", and if those people that you called Christians really were Christians than personally I do not believe you would see it the same way. Yes I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and yes I do make mistakes, no not only things that Christians would consider wrong, but things with obvious physical consequence, things that I should take personal responsibility for. I follow Jesus Christ not because I feel that the "fires of Hell" will entangle me if I do not, but because I believe that He has something amazing to say, that He gives an actual physical, emotional, and spiritual health to me a person with many problems, that I believe common belief does not provide.
Every human wants to know that they are either right or wrong, most want to debate simply to win the arguement. And that is what I believe 'Christians" today push more than they do the love that God provides, they (including me) intend to put pride above people.
You can live any way in which you desire, that is your choice as you already know. And yes, you can drink beer, flirt with girls, or think any thought you would like to, as Christians also do. But one essential point that I would like to share with you as a fellow human being is simply that freedom without limits is slavery.
I am almost positively sure that you do have limits on your freedom, but Christians do as well, they can drink beer to a logically responsible limit, they can flirt with girls and talk with them without degrading them. You said that you are living life to the fullest, my only question is then what is it that makes your life "the fullest", the excitement? The fun? I am honestly curious, I am not intending to sound ignorant or arguemental. Is it the freedom from accountability or the belief in the absence of negative consequence? As a fellow human I believe you may have something very important to share if it is something you believe the true teachings of Christianity do not posess.

True Christianity is not a fun stopper, True Christianity is freedom.

I would like to thank you again sir for listening and surely hope that you will take my thought of Christianity into consideration, but live as you would like, I only desire to share with you an amazing love that maybe you have never seen in Christianity before. Also I truly would like to here your belief on how you do things for other people without expecting things in return. Thank you again.

Enjoy life.

Kyle

p.s.
I regret to inform you that I have an error signing in to my user name (that is why I am anonymous). So if you would like you can email me at christianskater88@yahoo.com

I look forward to discussing life with you and possibly being able to further understand its freedoms.

hokie said...

As a christian I can understand your anger because there are times when christians can be down right hateful and I don't blame you for wanting to fire back at them in absolute disrespect and with juvenile sarcasm of which you haven't done but still there are those who lashes out against christians far worse then what you are doing here.
Christianity is not about the person or a group of people trying to control others and bring them to shame,Christianity is about having faith,forgiveness and love.
Christians don't behave the way they should at times but nevertheless you and others should not judge christianity in a negative light just because one or more than one christian or so called christians offended you because by doing so it will prove in the long run that you will cause more harm to yourself and others in the end.

Anonymous said...

Although I've not had time to read through all of this, I hope to come back when I have more time and do so. It is intriguing to me that you are now choosing to give your time and energy towards "debunking" Christianity. As a suggestion you should focus on the resurrection. Just convincingly prove that the resurrection didn't actually happen and you will have successfully "debunked" Christianity. For if Jesus did rise from the dead, you have no leg to stand on - so to speak.

The question is do you really care if God exists and if Jesus was who He said He was? Or do you care more about being able to live however you please?

It's easy to focus on the people within Christianity and have plenty of reason to walk away without regret. In the end, it makes no difference what is concluded by the people within Christianity. Everything hinges on Jesus - did He rise from the dead, and was He Who He claimed to be?

I'm sorry for your bad experience. My family and I have been thoroughly hurt and betrayed by people within the church. And I have found a large portion of those who claim to be believers to be quite shallow and altogether ridiculous. But my faith, passion, and pursuit is not about them. If it were, I'd have left a long time ago too. Rather my faith and passion are to proclaim the glory of God in the face of Christ, which is namely grace and the forgiveness of sins through His death and resurrection.

I could not willingly choose to go the opposite direction, if Jesus indeed died for my sake. I'm convinced that He did, and that it was out of love for me and "whosoever" would believe in Him.

(sorry if this is long)
gary

seekingtruth said...

I wonder if anyone will respond to me, but I'll post anyway.
I doubt anyone here is a Buddhist, and I wonder if anyone has anything to debunk about my religion. Anyway, having a boyfriend who's an Anglican, I try to understand about his God, and I can say, whatever I asked about his God, the bible, Jesus, there's no concrete answer. Hence I can't believe in his belief.
If what Jesus said was true, why are there different version of the Gospel? Why are only four chosen? To cement the turbulent society then? Why say the rest that are rejected are not the real words from God? Who is the person who determine what's right and wrong? Even if the gospels now in the New Testament is supposedly correct, why are they still different? (I'm taking the account of the last dinner as an example. All four gave different views on it.) The Christians may say everyone has different perspectives, hence we have four different gospels. Then why label Judas as the ultimate evil? Aren't Christians loving people? And as some scholars of the Gospel of Judas said, if Judas never betrayed Jesus, then He would not die, and be resurrected three days later. And what are the proofs that He rose from the dead? Isn't it freaky? I can understand that these are things ancient people belived, but modern people? Where science is flourishing? And my boyfriend said, the more he learns about science, the more he believe that God created everything we know. I don't want to be mean, but I really cannot fathom the thinkings of a Christian.
So who is evil? Who are we to say if Judas is evil? And who said the Bible must be true? Who will testify it is true? Or not? (Answering to my own question, the loyal Christians.)
Which leads me to what is true? Really, I don't understand why Christians believe that Jesus died for our sins. How can someone who lived 2000 years ago died for the sins committed by people 2000 years later? Isn't it some kind of joke? If God loves everyone, then why are there cripples, blinds, mutes, wars, and whatever not? and why would non-believers be burnt in hell? Shouldn't God be LOVING? And if everything that happened were part of God's plan, tell me, and all other non-believers/ex Christians, why he planned such a thing. To test human nature? Isn't it kind of absurd?
What I can't stand about Evangelical Christianity is, how they see it as the most important thing to preach, and quoting my Evangelical friends, "share the gospel". Come on, which other religion do we know that actively preach and preach? What first made me embark on my journey to learn about Christianty was learning about Japanese history. I felt disturbed knowing that for a country with rich native and integrated religion (Shinto and Buddhism), the Jesuits had to come and disturb the religious stability (probably not, but still.) I do not appreciate the fact that believers of God/Jesus love to preach and in turn disintegrate the culture of other nationality. It seems to me there is no respect for others' religion. And how Christians love to think theirs' is THE ONLY GOD. And how they love debuking others' beliefs.
To quote a friend of mine who converted (and I was quite disappointed at her), "My God is almighty and there's nothing My God can't do." Oh really? Make him send a million bucks to me now. Of course Christians will say this is not possible. My point is, the things Christians believed in appear ridiculous to me at times. Another thing about Christians is how they seem to have no mind of their own. Coz everything is planned by God. Like how they all love to thank God for every good thing that happened to them.
And tell me, if there is only one God and one Jesus, why are there 45000 different denominations? Did either of them made a point to say the same thing 45000 different times? I cannot believe in a faith where at every turn someone or something contradicts the other.
Ultimately, I believe everyone is their own God. Everyone determines the path he or she goes, the things they decide to do. And I wish my boyfriend can see how I see things, and Christ is really, really NOT the saviour, but we are our own saviours.

j_mart11 said...

What happened? What ultimately broke your faith? You said you read a lot on your own and did some thinking, but what was the event that helped you get away? Just curious about how you go out.

Anonymous said...

Sir,
I just stumbled on this site and I noticed something very intriguing about all that you were saying. I had experienced the same problem from a youth all the way until I January 11 2002. I know very well what you are saying about what you have seen and experienced concerning the christian walk. The only question I have is when you decided to follow christ during your experience, what made you come to him in the first place? This question might answer all the questions and end all the debate. I am going to check this site out just for the next few days to see your reply. If you want you can email me at ev8thdayangel@yahoo.com if your prefer a more private conversation. Thank you for your time.

Anonymous said...

What happened to you to make you turn your back on jesus and all that he has done for you? You have made his death on the cross be in vain. Was it your own selfish ambitions and desires? sounds like you just wanna do what you wanna do, and not do what god has called you to do. It probably didn't matter what book you read or who you spoke to, it was already in your heart to fall away from the faith. No one made you backslide, you did it yourself. Don't you know that your own heart maybe deceiving you right now. Jeremiah 17:9
“ The heart is deceitful above all things,And desperately wicked; Who can know it?

Anonymous said...

you are wrong, God loves you and he wants to see you go to heaven to be with Him!

Manny said...

What strikes me about Loftus, above his dishonesty, is his bigotry.

He will categorized Christians as being racist homophobes who hate science and yet gloss over the massive crimes committed by practiontioners of atheistic philosphies in the past century, crimes that are still going on.

This alone demonstrates that his motives are something other than what he is claiming. Additonally, we know he shit on his wife...a "good woman" he called her...and lied to his congregation, according to his own book.

I would trust a downtown used car salesman before I would give this guy any credit.

Anonymous said...

To those of you who have left the Christian faith, I'm asking you to stop and think for a minute about what I have to say to you. The Christian faith is not about following a bunch of rules, it's not a religion. Christianity is coming into personal, experiential, and intimate relationship with God.
For me it all started when I was thirteen. While outside playing ball, I was running and I jumped up to get the ball and when I came down I fell on a piece of metal sticking out of the ground and it split me open from my waist to my shoulder. My friends carried my bloody torn up body into the house where my mother (a Christian) put a towel over the wound and prayed for me. After a few minutes of silence she took off the towel and in amazement said "My God!!" The wound had completely scabbed over and after twenty minutes it was almost all gone. I was sore for a few days and I still have the scar to remind me this really did happen. I have had several other instances in my life that I cannot attribute to anything less than supernatural.
Christianity is not a philosophy to me nor is it a matter of intellectual debate, It is a relationship with a loving God. I am a Christian because I have experienced God firsthand more than once.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing. Everyone uses personal experiences to as justification for broad, sweeping views of all of Christianity.
John Loftus's claim to be a former Christian seems rather doubtful. He frequently expresses a severe lack of the basic theological principles of Christianity.
Yes, Christianity is dangerous Mr. Loftus. I see that you've forgotten that you life in a place called America. When it was formed, it was radical, and based on judeo-christian values. If you studied the old testament and American history you might realize that.
...Yeah, look what an awful place we live in.
I'll be the first to admit that Christianity has been used for power. Catholics, to be certain, and definately many others. But like any powerful thing, it can go both ways. Look at T.V. As a powerful medium for communication, it can have very negative and very positive effects.
It doesn't seem like you understand the simplest concepts about the world in which you live.
You really think that you can't be a Christian and get buzzed? Or go play pool at the bars? Do you seriously think that Christianity doesn't understand that its normal to fantasize about women, if you are a man? Do you really think God considers it a sin to speed? You are nuts. Oh, and Christians do good because they are inspired by the Holy Spirit. EVEN when normally they would not like to. And you would be a liar if you said that you ALWAYS did the right, or good or decent thing to others. No one is that perfect. But its those times that you failed, because you are human, that God would of helped.
I believe that you were never a true Christian. Perhaps you had bad experiences. Perhaps you truly do not understand what it is.
"If Christianity makes people better why isn't it obvious?" Thats YOUR quote. And the answer is simple. You simply CAN'T know how far that person who you may think is awful has come. You don't know how much worse he would be if he were a Christian. Conversely, you don't know how much better that good atheist you know would be if he were a Christian.
You're lack of understanding is profound. I'm just picking out pieces from your writing as I go. I only found this site on accident.

Anonymous said...

The only way to discuss the pro's and con's of atheism is to do so from a logical point of view. If we are going to assume this to be a rational discussion then we ought to keep the dialog rational.
What is the rational outcome of atheism from a moral point of view?
Since atheism has no moral code of it's own, who's morality must it copy?

Anonymous said...

Hi, do not know if this is still an active discussion list, but thought I would leave my comments anyway. Amazing how the road takes us is it not? I was also fed up with all the "stuffy" people at church and mostly with not being able to live up to their standards up what they "believe" a christian should live up to. Until, somebody one day told me I can not and that is OK. See, other than what you describe in this post, "you want to be able to tell somebody he can go away and mean it" I do not want to do that, but I still did!! Why?
A big problem with Christianity today (and for the past 1700 years) is that whole principal of "Christ in You, the hope of Glory" has disappeared.
We live are born living a life imcapable of pleasing God, but when we become born again, we receive a new live, capable of Living the Christian Life. If you have not lived in This life, I am sorry to tell you, you have actually NOT been on both sides of the fence. Religion is NOT Christianity, Jesus Christ is Christianity. His life is the origin and substance of Christianity, what you experienced as Christianity was simply a religion of morals and a god sorting everybody out.

How do I know that is what you experienced? Well, if it was not, you would not have said what you have said. If the Lord's life gets hold of you, it so overwhelms with love and kindness, you will not even consider being against Him. But take heart brother, the best is yet to come for you!!! Seek and you will find.

Anonymous said...

Wow... Your theology is really twisted. It's no mystery why you have rejected the legalistic "God" of your understanding. Keep seeking.

N Jen said...

Having a wide range of friends, from athiest/agnostic to very devout Christians, I tend to view all humanity in light of Jesus' teaching when he commended some for feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoners, inviting in the stranger, being with the person who is ill - telling those who acted in this manner that they were welcomed into his kingdom. Another New Testament witness comes from James who stated: "Faith without works is dead." In all my dealings with people, as a professional chaplain for the past 13 years, I strive to live as stated above, knowing full well that I often fall short. I have a very dear friend who has suffered greatly at the hands of misguided and overly zealous people within the Church; as much as I am able I walk alongside her in her lonely life experiences, making no excuses for those who have wrongly treated her, and living in our friendship as graciously as I am able. We would all be better served is arguing about issues of faith or lack of it was replaced with genuine concern for our fellow human beings.

Steven said...

External religious worship [ religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need, and to keep oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world.James 1:27.

20For ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature and attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity, have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made (His handiworks). So [men] are without excuse [altogether without any defense or justification],(B)

21Because when they knew and recognized Him as God, they did not honor and glorify Him as God or give Him thanks. But instead they became futile and [c]godless in their thinking [with vain imaginings, foolish reasoning, and stupid speculations] and their senseless minds were darkened.

22Claiming to be wise, they became fools [professing to be smart, they made simpletons of themselves].Romans 1:20-22

Anonymous said...

Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

When you call yourself an "Athiest" it means that you say you know without a shadow of a doubt that there is no God. The word and title debunks itself

John W. Loftus said...

I don't claim to know with certainty God doesn't exist. I just don't think he does, okay?

Steve said...

I've read your entire posting and you haven't convinced me that you've turned completely away from God. Oh, you claim to be a "former Christian" but that very phrase contradicts itself. You are simply a Christian who is trying to shut God out of his life and you're finding that to be very difficult, aren't you? If you simply don't care about Christianity, then why do you waste so much time trying to fight it? You come off as a person who is throwing all of his energy at this one target...and you claim not to care.

You said "I only have to be concerned with what I actually do." If that's the case, then why are you putting so much effort into your writings? You also said "I also love the freedom to think for myself without feeling like I must justify everything I believe in the Bible." Well, your de-bunking efforts are another way of justifying your own life, so where's your so-called freedom? You sound like you're trying to convince yourself of your own beliefs.

Why the obsession? Why not just walk away from Christianity altogether? You claim to enjoy the intrigue and intellectual challenge of a debate. I think that's a joke, because you could join Mensa and get your debate on there. But no, you chose to debate Christianity because you're trying to free yourself of it...and you can't.

You said "I no longer have to waste so much of my time attending church, reading the Bible, praying, and evangelizing."

Well, quite frankly...you're doing that now. I'll bet you spend a lot of time talking to Christians and debating with them. To fight the Bible, I'll bet you read a few verses here and there. You may not pray, but God still hears you. And as far as evangelizing, you prompted me to pull out my Bible and read tonight. So, in reality, you're doing more of God's work than you realize.

John W. Loftus said...

I've read your entire posting and you haven't convinced me that you've turned completely away from God.

Well now, Steve, what would it take then? An exegesis of the relevant Biblical texts? Actually, I cannot help you with this any more than I already have. My goal was to explain, not convince, and I did.

Steve said...

Wow, you responded to my post within about four hours. So, you got up early this morning, ate some Wheaties, and then checked the comments on your site. Now THAT is some sweet dedication to your cause. LOL. Are you certain that you're not obsessed with Christianity?

For a self-proclaimed "freethinker" you sure do rely on a lot of other peoples' thoughts -- like Freud, Funk, Russell, and Nietzsche. They're a virtual "Who's Who in Christian Hate." In what I've read on your site, I have a hard time separating your thoughts from theirs. You seem to have thoroughly researched their work in order to come up with your own justifications. You claim to be free and live a fun, guilt-free life, but everything you write about smacks of extreme effort. If this is the "only reality that is to be had" why are you wasting it on something you hate so much? Why aren't you out having some fun today?

I don't know who upset you in your early Christian days, but it's obvious that you had some bad experiences with the church. It's unfortunate and I'm sorry that it changed your mind about God. But it's done more than that. It's apparent that you deeply hate Christianity and that has turned into an unhealthy obsession that consumes a lot of your time.

You once said "Christians always seem to struggle with thoughts of hate." Well, from the things you write, I can see that you're struggling with hate too. Even though you've read all of those books, I think you're still struggling to this day.

But as I said previously, your story has me reading my Bible, talking to other people and witnessing to them. And I give you credit for that John. When you stir up your debates, you're still doing God's work.

John W. Loftus said...

Steve, I have instant notification when someone posts on my Blog, via email, and I check my email several times a day, especially when I get up and in the evening. What exactly is wrong with that, Steve?

Are YOU obsessed with me? I've spelled out my reasons, isn't that good enough for you? Or are you trying to put some medication on the wounds of my defection from what you hold so dearly?

What are you looking for here?...an admission that I miss Christianity, and that I'm sorry I ever left it, or that deep inside I know it's true?

If that's what you're looking for, you're wasting YOUR time here.

This blog is a kind of support group for others who are doubting the Christian faith. It's meant to help people through such a very difficult time, and it is painful to leave the Christian faith. There is guilt, the fear of hell, and social ostracizing. These people need encouragement, and I'm helping them through this process becaue I didn't have any help in working my way through all of it, okay?

What's the problem?

judy said...

The problem, it seems to me, is that 'church' has replaced 'Jesus'. As in your case, it chased you away from the whole theme without ever knowing the truth.
That's a shame but nothing I can control except to offer up my own experience(s).

You see, Jesus was and is real and what I see and hear around me is all sorts of self drawn pictures of what He was and what He stood for.

Your spirit is a very real thing. Yes, I can prove it. :) Jesus is a very real thing and while I certainly cannot prove that to you, the things He has taught me will definitely strike a chord in you.

For one thing, exactly as you speak....freedom. Jesus never TAUGHT rules and regs, He taught freedom.

Not the same Jesus you were taught about? You betcha. They teach wrongly and the Lord Himself is speaking out to right that wrong.

There's something you should read.
http://judysbookshop.com/freewill.htm
http://judysbookshop.com/youare.htm

You see, the truth is God truly did come here in human form for one reason and that was to set mankind free. Not to put chains on him.

He is the epidemy of fatherhood. All the things that come to mind when one thinks 'father' is what He is: the loving as well as the harsh.

He didn't put you here to while away your hours buried in a book, nor to spend your life nagging people. He put you here to grow, expand, claim, be,experience, share.

Love is not an emotion, although we certainly do feel emotion with the presence of love. Love is power, love is creation and forward going.

Do I realize that's a rare commodity in the church? You betcha. Pretty sad that so many come so close to the reality of truth and yet, like the 'Aw Shit' cartoon, miss the point entirely. They become slaves and slavery is what God hates.

How do I know? He told me so. No not in the Bible, although its all perfectly explained and backed up by the Bible. (people just miss the point)

It's not the Lord that left you with distain, it was the Pharisees. Tinkling bells.

Judy

judy said...

I was just taking the time to read through these comments when I ran across this
"The great thing about science is that you can use it to predict. Something that christianity was not particularly successful at."

and was just plain tickled by it.

Is this person aware that Daniel was shown the satellite? That was a few years before its existance.

That's just one example of a clear and true prediction. :)
judy

Anonymous said...

..."so whose better off? someone who lives a life of delusion doing things because the think it will matter for eternity..or someone who is planted squarely on the ground with the only reality to be had"??? consider some of your "grounded" influences:

Marx: The communist manifesto? Are there really people around who take the communist theory of resource distribution seriously? Marx was a broke philosopher who depended on Engles for his bread and butter. You give up the teachings of Jesus for a philosophy of politics and economics that has ruined millions of lives?

Nietzsche: A giant philosopher and writter, no doubt. But grounded in reality? Went insane prior to his death in 1900.

Sarte: Said of the 72' Munich Massacre: " terriorism is a terrible weapon, but the oppressed poor have no other" hardly a comforting thought for our times.

As for me, I'll stick to the teachings of Christ.

John W. Loftus said...

As for me, I'll stick to the teachings of Christ.

You mean the Bible as humans interpret it, correct?

Rafael said...

www.ExeGia.org

Anonymous said...

Religions... and as far as I know all religions... have about as much credibility as pudding coming out of a moneys rear end. They are all pudding and they all prey on the most primitive of our instincts, fear of death (or end of life if you don't believe in "death").

I wont even bother trying to explain because every time I do a religion joker turns it around as hypocrisy. Well guess what cousin, I have to write it in some form of language and because of that there will always be a way to pick it apart regardless of who is right or wrong but needless to say the same will be true of anything you write as well. But do note, since most intellectual people on the planet agree that religion is full of pudding, then think about this:

In matters of medicine do you trust a faith healer over a trained doctor?

In matters of law do you trust your friend or a trained lawyer?

Then tell me why in matters of philosophy do you trust a book that seems fictional and a priest with a very narrow education over the most intelligent people alive like philosophers, physicists, mathematicians, chemists, or those with more horsepower in their head in general? When an overwhelming majority of them state that religion probably isn't true, shouldn't that raise a red flag to anyone who doesn't have as much power up there? Or are you all really that petty and weak? It really is pathetic to see when a zealot argues and has no proof whatsoever to back anything they say.

ZAROVE said...

Anonymous, your entire posat is hihgly arrogant and, in fact, shallow. Your enture assessment of religion and he religious is not supported by the evidence and is just a repetition of old sterotypes.

No, peopel do not beliv ein Religion just because they fear Death, or even life. In fact, everyone onte planet has a relgiion, even you. Religion is simply the worldview we possess that helps us ot intepret the world aroudn us, and many peopel old ot a spacific worldview base don numeorus reasons.

Yoru oversimplistic explanaiton,of it appelaign to the most primitive of insitncts and makign it baotu fear, is simply ridiculous and unsupported.

Worse, you think that you can dismiss the bile as a Book that "Seems ficitonal" and a Priest who isn't as well trianed as all thos eintellegent Sicentists and Philospphers out there.

Well, not only does the bile not actually seem ficitonal, nor is it even a single book, but it offers very valuable insight sinto the Human condiiton and the wisdom it contians has been rather easily shown time and again.

As for Priedsts, I will asusme you mean either Cahtolic< Orthodox, or Anglican, because, although some Chuhces have Priets besides these, such as some Lutheran CHurhces, most do not.

Nevertheless,y our Charecterisaiton f them as somehow less educated ( and indeed les sintellegent) than Philosophers, Physisissts, Mathematicisns, ect, is complltey wrong.

In addition to the fact thta many Priets actually are themselves Mathematicins, Philosphers, or Physisiscts, the fact is that the Educational requirements for the Pritshood are rather rigerous.

I shudl know, Ive seent he study requirements, and have visited the classes firtshand.

A Prits is expected to know a lot about Philosophy, modern ehtics, Psycology, and even sociology. they are reuired to undergo hours of intense study and training, understand a diversity of views, and show aptitude in understanding human itneractions.

And yet you dismiss their years of schooling and presume they are both less educated and less intellegent than the above listed people?

That alone shows your gross underestimation fo hat it woudl take to become a Priets, and the manhours it takes.

Incedentlaly, about their intellegence, I have met, and know of, numeorus Prists who ar ehighly intellegent, and many Priets have been acclaimed as Intellegent thinkers.

WHo here actulaly thinls Pope Benedict the 16th is an unintellegent an uneducated man? Or that Rowan williams is some simpelton with no horepower in his head, and no educatoon?

Do you honeslty think that the writtings of Austin Farrer are wholly unintellegent? Do you htink we can't sit here and list any number of Scholars who are also well known as beign clerics.

Do you sincerley think that there ar eno Intellegent Prietss?

The clergy in the Catholic Churhc are among the most educated men in the world, and yet they are to be dismissed?

Anglican and Orthodox CLergy have neither education nor intellegence?

And that's just the Apostolic Churhces. Lets nto forget Craig, Lightner, Wright, and other Protestant thinkers hwo have proven conclusivley that they are intellegent, rational men, and who have the accademic accomplishments to prove it.

Your assertion that they of the clergy are somehow less intellegent and less educated than Physisists and Mathematicians and Chemists is absurd, and most of the Clergy are Philosophers.

That said, why woudl I trust advice on how ot lead my lif form a Mathematician? Or a Physisist?

I am not belitting these fine proffessiosn as you do the Clergy, but, to be perfeclty Honest, beign brilliant at mathematics is nto the same as beign wise enough to understand how to help someone in an emotional crisis. Many mathematicians themselves suffr deep rooted Psycological problems, or else , even if not, don't have the deapth of undertsanding of the Human condition to offer much help beyind the average man.

Physics likewise doen't prepare you to offer advice on the problems we face in life, nor does it offer you insight into hwo to comfort those in need of comfort, or to guide other son a path of fulfillign their goals.

I grant that some Physisists, or CHemists, or Mathematicins can do this, but simply by virtue of bign a Physisist, or a Mathematician, or za CHemost, doens't mean you will be able to.

It doens't even mean your intelelgent enough to. Intellegence itsslef is a segmentary thing, and beign brilliant in one area doens't eman your brilliant in them all, as is evidenced by Idiot Savants.

I can be a Brilliant Poet, and not good at Mathematics. I can be the worlds most brilliant Physisist, and have no undertanding of the human mind.

Yoru enture assessment speaks only of your own ignorance of the topics at hand, and not to the reality as they are known.

ZAROVE said...

ALSO-

The claim that "THe overwhelmingmajoiry of intellectual people beleive religion is not true" is not true itsself.

It may be true of some circles, but that harldy means that a majority of intellectual peopel in general think Religion isnt true. ( As you narrowly define it.)

And even if the statement as true, it is also posisble to be intellectual and wrong.

Intellegence itsself is no guranteeor of correct beleifs, it only means that you cna proccess informaiton faster, and can think about it at greater length and deapth. However, such a capacity cn also lead to self-deciet, and since the Intellectual is trained in arguign in favour of their beleifs or agaisnt another, this lead shim to be able to construct arguments ot secure his beleifs. THis doens't mean, however, thatthey are right.

Most educated, intellectual peopel in the 19th century beleive din he Aether. Most intellectuals in the 18th century advocated slavery. ( this includes Atheists.)

Intelectuals of the late 19th century and early 20th cenury by and large accepted the principles of Socialism and COmmunism as undertsood by Marx and Engles.

This harldy means they are correct int he assertions above.

Intellectuals are just as swayed by pomp, peer pressure, and fashion as anyone else. THeir intelelctual attributes do not safeguard them form these human weakensses; and a desire to embrace the beelifs they think is the intelelctuasl, or in fashion, or modern view often exists in them. TH also wan tot fit intot he modern Intellectual scene, which is domenated by this or that overall beleif, which is eer chsanging.

WHy shoudl I, then, surrender t the authority of he Intellectual, with no evidence other than they are Intellectuals?

And which school of Intelelctuals do I listen to? The Cahtolic world has many Intellectuals, and Im sure you'd nt listen to them yourself.

Or do I listen tot he Orhtodox? Or the Anglicans?

Why, in your midn I shoudl listen ot e Ahtiests who have emrbaced modern Humanism, butthey arnet the only Intellectuals in town.


But somehow, I doubt that you'd consier the intelelctuals of other schools, but instead want us ot listen to your intellectuals, as if they have a Monomly on intellegence, and are right becaue they ar eintellegent.

ZAROVE said...

John Loftius-

The current Churhc I attend doens't actually suffer form Pettiness and powr struggles. I attend a small Church of Christ.

We seem to get alogn well. THis last Sunday our Preacher, who is from Canada, and ho wa sonly here to do advanced studies, left.

H took our picture, gave everyone his card, and wants to visit us again. It didnt seem fake or insincere to me.

Now, we are withotu a permenant preacher, but we have those who will fill in, but we can let any Baptised male take over. I'm new so won't be asked, but, hey., Im new.

Ive been to other Chruches in which the petty power struggles wher eminimal.


So it snot really true that all Chruhces are suferign this.

And, even those that are shoudln't really be evidence of much. Its a common thread of the Human life we seem to live.

But to say Christianity makes peopel judgemental because of such things is just plain silly. I mean, cme on! Humanist orginisaitosn suffer the same power struggles and pettiness.

But I bet you'd give them a lot more leeway than CHristians woudl be given. And you can sow the criissm that Christaisn shoudl be better, unelss you want ot admit that Christianity itsself is beter han Humanism and that the peopel who are ptty arne't living it properly.

No one is perfect and such struggles you claim in the Churhc, though preasent, only show that we as Humans are imperfect. Thats why we go to Churhc int he firts place. We gradually get better as we learn.

But its not true to lay the blame for he pettines son Christainity makign peopel judgemental.

As for your side of the fence beign better, I know full well that Ahtietss gossip aou me, judge me, and condmen me. I am ridiculed, scorned, and even mocked outright. You can say I brogn it all on myself with my attitude or whatever, btu I am polite, and not relaly that overtly badly behaved.

I've seen Ahtiets tea rinto Christains, or mock them behidn thier backs.

Athiests are actulaly mor eprone to this, in my expeirnce, than Christain are. At leats Christians have standards that tell them not to.

Sorry, John, your not beign fair or honest in that post.

Instead, its just the usual attemto to find fault wiht Christianity to justifuy your departure form it.

Anonymous said...

see what i dont get about christians is how basicly god is out of the picture , most churches and people seem to pray to jesus. which if u believe in the bible is complete blasphemy. and if u make the argument jesus is god or lord, then how can he be gods son? the story of the whole virgin birth, 12 diciples, miracles has been plagerized since egyptian times 3000 bc. one example is horus. attis of greece, all have the same attributes. its too much information to write in a comment but watch the documentary Zeitgeist. it will make u think

Anonymous said...

http://zeitgeistmovie.com/

I AM ALL I AM said...

"How well we know what a profitable superstition this fable of Christ has been for us and our predecessors."

- Pope Leo X

It is a fact that at no time in history has anyone every proven that Jesus Christ existed ..... for the simple fact that the story of Jesus Christ as presented in the bible is, as Pope Leo X described it, a "fable".

There are over 14,800 mistakes and contradictions within the bibles in circulation today compared with the oldest known bible, the Mount Sinai Bible (held in the British museum). This of course brings forth the question as to which bible is the "Word Of God" ???

At the Council Of Nicaea 53 'Gods' were tabled for debate as to which would be chosen as the official Roman God. These names included Ares, Apollo, Hermes, Artemis, Zeus, Athena, Mars, Jove, Hesus, Mithra, Krishna, Bel (Baal), Attis, Odin, Tamuz, Indra, Prometheus, Hercules, Janus, Sin, Dionysius, Bacchus, Jupiter, Diana, Alcestos, the Divine Julius, Serapis, Isis and Osiris.

Ultimately a combination of Hesus (the Druid god) and Krishna (Krishna is Sanskrit for Christ) was chosen to be amalgamated as one entity and thus form the new Roman God, Hesus Krishna, which when the letter "J" was introduced into the alphabet became known as Jesus Christ.

The admission within the Catholic Encyclopedia, Farley Ed., vi, pp. 656-657 declares that, "the earliest of the extant manuscripts [of the New Testament], it is true, do not date back beyond the middle of the fourth century AD". Which is after the Nicaean council took place.

Further .....

"The titles of our Gospels were not intended to indicate authorship ... it thus appears that the present titles of the Gospels are not traceable to the evangelists themselves ... they [the New testament collection] are supplied with titles, which however ancient, do not go back to the respective authors of those writings ... the Gospels do not go back to the first century of the Christian era."
- Catholic Encyclopedia, Farley Ed., pp. vi, 135-137;vi.pp. 655, 656, passim.

So, considering that each and every christian that speaks of the "Word Of God" and the mythical figure of Jesus Christ (Hesus Krishna) as a truth, then each and every christian is lying.

How can it be then that liars are considered to be "good", as in 'good christians', when in truth they are deceivers perpetuating the indoctrination of a "fable" upon children ???

So all churches, no matter which one that you attend, is full of liars that use the brain washing technique of repetition to indoctrinate children into the cult of christianity. Hence, anything that these church going liars say is for the purpose of maintaining this mental prison so that they will not have to face the truth and can continue to perpetuate the lies that they espouse.

Obviously the 'good christian' is someone to avoid, as any congregation of 'good christians' will be full of deceitful people attempting to manipulate others into sharing their misery, for as the saying goes, 'misery loves company'.

sandy said...

Motivation is the set of reasons that determines one to engage in a particular behaviour. The term is generally used for human motivation but, theoretically, it can be used to describe the causes for animal behaviour as well.
==============================
Sandy
Link Building

Grace said...

John,

I realize this post is pretty old, and chances are you're not around...I've had many of the same negative experiences that you've described also.

But, from my perspective, these things come more out of human brokenness, and fear, or perhaps from spiritual immaturity. It doesn't seem to me this is what Jesus was about at all. Did He go around judging folks, or laying heavy burdens on them? If not, "Why throw out the baby with the bathwater?"

Personally, I'm a much less judgmental, more sensitive, caring person since becoming a Christian. Not that I don't have a way too go. :)

I believe we have a tremendous freedom in Christ. Personally, I don't worry at all about coming under God's judgement. And, when I do something good, or to help someone, it's because I want too, not out of thoughts for a heavenly reward.

Overall, I just think we can relax into our unity with Christ. There is a real sense that our lives are hidden with Christ in God. It's certainly not about trying to control anyone.

I'm going to be honest with you. I'm a social worker, and I work with alot of folks who are secular progressives. And, most of them are wonderful, caring people.

But, here is one huge difference that I can see overall as a Christian believer. Our agency works with some pretty rough cases, people that have become addicted to drugs, who are mentally ill, and who may end up physically, and sexually abusing kids pretty badly.



I honestly don't see alot of compassion for these folks, any real belief that they have intrinsic worth, or can actually change from a good number of my co-workers. In their eyes, they are just these "scum-bags." The emphasis is on helping the innocent kids, not so much in reaching out to the child rapist, or abuser.

But, as a Christian I'm seeing people through a very different lens, someone who is created in the image, and likeness of God, and for whom Christ died, capable of being made like Him, radically changed.

I can see no real philosophical basis in atheism for determining that all human beings have instrinsic worth, or that we should actually care for one another apart from personal interest, or performance.

And, this observation has definitely played out in my personal experience.

John, I hope that I haven't offended you, but I'm being honest.

Thank you for challenging the church with all your concerns, and for encouraging people in general to think more deeply about issues that really matter.