Q. Why Do Liberals Still Profess to be Christians? A. Because "Religion is Not About God"

That's what liberal Timo S. Paananen argues. In addition he gives six reasons he finds compelling enough to continue to be a worshiping liberal Christian. See what you think. I do have a certain affinity toward liberals since we stand together against ignorant evangelicals, yes. But I am not a sympathetic atheist, unless one means by this someone who understands how easy it is to be brainwashed to believe and/or someone who sympathizes with believers, because I do.

22 comments:

Shane said...

I have certain sympathies with the sympathetic atheists. I sometimes describe myself as a Christian Atheist, in that I wouldn't be where I am now if I hadn't gone through the phase of belief and all its trappings.

I'm not an accommodationist - I think the belief aspect of Christianity has to be challenged - what passes for "Apologetics" is universally utter dreck, and if you're really committed to the Truth, it has to be called as such.

But a lot of non-believers are trapped, willingly or unwillingly, within their churches or religious social circle - that is why I started a very sparse blog: htp://churchofjesuschristatheist.blogspot.com to throw them a bit of a lifeline.

I do think atheists can work with Christians without compromising their "belief in doubt". I'm cycling from Amman to Nazareth next month in aid of a Christian charity (see http://answersingenes.blogspot.com for more info on THAT), and although I have promised the organisers that I'll be on my best behavioour, I don't have a problem with mixing with a predominantly "believer" crowd.

But that is not to say that I think the "militant" atheists have a wrong approach - I simply think we need several approaches. We are all different cats, and
Herds Rn't Us. There is no unified Big Red A, and many atheists feel more comfortable (at least at the moment) within their churches. That's cool - let's support them and give them the tools to get by in that environment.

No?

Sabio Lantz said...

John, thanx for linking to my site albeit as a slam. Question: Have you read Bruce Hood's book "SuperSense" -- curious if you see a similarity between what he wrote and what I hint at?

John W. Loftus said...

No I haven't read that book Sabino, but I haven't read most things although I'm sure it would not change my mind in the slightest. I imagine with the late John Lennon that there is no religion. And therefore there is no reason to hold on the the symbols of religon or it's language or rites or rituals.

My comment was not intended as a slam on your site or views. I was just stating a fact about myself.

BTW: Robert Price calls himself a Christian atheist.

Sabio Lantz said...

Well, Johnny, we wouldn't want you to change your mind. But then I really don't know what you'd be changing from since only only declared that you were not a "sympathetic atheist" without telling why or to which part of my points you disagreed the most strongly. I shouldn't imagine that you disagree with all my points, but I could be wrong.

Hood distinguishes between secular and religious superstition. I agree with him that we can't hope to get rid of the secular version -- it is to strongly wired in. It is wired strongly into both your head and the conservative evangelical's.

Actually, as I think of your comments, maybe you did not read my post, you just disliked those two words put together -- "sympathetic" and "atheist".

John W. Loftus said...

Sabio, why the disrepectful tone? I DO agree with much of what you say, of course. Those things do describe me. But I am not going to identify myself with Robert Wright or some other believer so in the end this does not describe me [I reviewed his book on amazon].

I am an atheist. I am going to be a consistent atheist. There are no spiritual entities as far as I know. I think YOU need to read David Eller's book "Atheism Advanced" linked in our sidebar. He wants to advance atheism and we will not do it with your kind of approach. We must distance ourselves from belief.

Sabio Lantz said...

John -- The tone was in response to being called:
"Sabino"
and then being told
"I'm sure it would not change my mind in the slightest" when I asked you about a book.
I was wondering where your tone was coming from, actually?

Anyway I am please to see you DO agree with much I say (though your comments hinted otherwise). I will indeed look at the book you recommend. It may alter my opinion.

I do repeat that learning to see how superstitious thinking is an unavoidable aspect of even John Loftus' mind, is an important insight. Whether you read it in Hood or any other cognitive scientist. BTW, I find several aspects of Robert Wright's book objectionable too but do enjoy much of his data.

I will look at Eller's book after I read your fine book. I must say, your "one-approach-to-theism-fits-all" prescriptivism seems a bit naive, at best. Thanks for replying !

Sabio Lantz said...

John, I looked over Eller's book and read your excellent review (darn, you write well). It looks superb -- it is on my list. But again, only as a reward after I finish yours.
Keep up the great work.
-- Sabino

John W. Loftus said...

Sorry, Sabio, I merely mistyped your name is all.

Anthony sent me an ebook of "SuperSense" and it looks like a great book. I hope to take a good look at it soon.

Cheers.

edson said...

For once, I'm agreeing with you John.

The attitude of Liberal christians is that of wussy cowardice and they would rather not appear as oddballs of either side.

And in my opinion the so called-sympathetic atheists are really interesting. I do not see how are they symapthetic when they have already denied God. Who is not on the side of God is against God, and to aggragate themselves as "sympathetic whatever" is a sign of being confused losers. They better choose a side.

Timo S. Paananen said...

Thank you, John, for highlighting my post. Like Shane says above, I am also at ease with different approaches to the same questions. If I have learned anything notable about the study of history at the university, it is the curious fact that people can come to very different conclusions even when they are all using the exact same evidence - arriving at different conclusions should be, I think, the normal state of things.

I can also understand the wish to distance oneself from the belief, if one concludes that the best way to oppose religiously justified ignorance is to break all the ties with it. Personally I am not convinced that this is the case, but this may be due to the differences in the religious organizations we have in mind. I understand that a former state church, as is the case in Finland, a mega-church with millions of members, with a democratically elected General Synod that has the power to turn the whole doctrine of the church upside down, that offers your normal democratic processes, with possibilities e.g to lobby particular decisions regarding the church's stance; this is too good an opportunity.

We may want to label ourselves as simply atheists, sympathetic atheists, Christian Atheists, or simply Christians, but I think we have one thing in common, a reason to have a certain affinity with each other, as John said, the concern of the use of religion for ill, for opposing "life, freedom and unity" - the very things that many would identify as the core values of e.g. Christianity.

I think, as it is the case in science, that it is profitable to have people tackling this concern from as many different backgrounds and from as many different mindsets as possible - diversity in thought means that every detail is viewed from every possible point of observation.

Vinny said...

I see no reason to doubt that man's propensity for spirituality is an evolutionary adaptation hard-wired into man's psyche to help him deal with the profundity of consciousness. Unfortunately, science is still a long way from telling us how it happened and whether or not there is still some deep psychological need that needs to be met somehow. What we know with any certainty about how the mind works is very small compared to what we don't know.

So while I may be impressed by your reasons for concluding that there is no God, I don't think if follows at all that "We must distance ourselves from belief." I remain a sympathetic agnostic.

Sabio Lantz said...

Excellent John. I look forward to your review of Hoods book if you feel it worthy. Especially, I look forward to how you see the pervasiveness of superstition even outside of religion and what prognosis you have for it in light of its various sources.
I am ordering Ellers and will try a review myself, especially seeing if it addresses the ways you feel my approach to be deficient.
Again, thanks for your writings!

Sabio Lantz said...

So, John, concerning Shane, myself, Timo and Vinny:
Are we all mistaken?
Are we harming the world with our compromised soft-mindedness?
Should we all form our approaches to religion to be like yours?
Will thinking like you make us happier and better citizens and better lovers?
Will thinking like you improve the world much more than we do (if at all) now?

Shane said...

Hi Sabio,
I'm not sure I regard John's approach as necessarily *against* a different view; I think the cut-all-ties road is a valid one, and has to be available to people. I also think that these different views *do* deserve to each be argued for vigorously, and occasionally we'll fling a few brickbats at each other, but we're still part of the same herd of cats ;-)

John W. Loftus said...

Sabio Lantz, are you asking me if I think people should think more like me?

Don't we all think this to be the case? Isn't that why we argue our cases, so that people will agree with us?

Yes, of course.

Now ask me if I enjoy learning from others and whether it would be a boring world if people actually did think just like me and you'll get a different answer.

;-)

Sabio Lantz said...

John,
Your hyperbole of "how easy it is to be brainwashed to believe" in your post makes it hard to discuss the issue. People belong to faiths for many reasons, and I would wager that most are not theological in their beliefs. They simply don't address the logic and evidence of their theologies because their faith serves them well in many areas of their lives.

As to your question, I know you would agree that we can't argue about taste in food, music, literature, movies, sexual partners, friends, hobbies and the like. And I am sure you would agree that we are largely born with our dispositions. I contend that approaches to those who have different tastes than us also varies between those of different personality dispositions.

I don't want everyone to have my approach to religion. So perhaps we disagree when you say, Don't we all "think people should think more like me?" I don't want others to think like me in all things. Yes, in some, you are right. But certainly not about tastes, which I am sure you agree. And also not about methods on how to change the world for I think that choice of method must match disposition and skills. And I am not as sure of exactly what the best way to change the world, for it is a complex system with often untoward consequences ("Externalities" in economics, "side effects" in medicine) to otherwise apparently well intentioned methods. So I think you overreach a bit your desire to get people to agree with you. IMHO. It is funny how our dispositions stay with us our whole life time no matter how our ideology changes.
- Sabio

John W. Loftus said...

Sabio wrote:

As to your question, I know you would agree that we can't argue about taste in food, music, literature, movies, sexual partners, friends, hobbies and the like. And I am sure you would agree that we are largely born with our dispositions.

What if I disagreed? Would you then want me to think like you do?

Sabio also wrote:

I don't want everyone to have my approach to religion.

You seem to want to argue your case with me here such that you wish that I think like you do, correct?

Sabio wrote:

I don't want others to think like me in all things.

Neither do I. How did you conclude that from my brief comment? A brief comment cannot possibly make all the necessary distinctions I would have to make about this, so the best thing to do is to be charitable with what I write and grant it the best possible interpretation. Not to do so is to look for something to pick at. When someone is looking for something to pick at he will more than likely be able to find fault, even if the author would probably not disagree with him if given the chance to clarify himself with a much longer comment.

Cheers.

Sabio Lantz said...

I will try to not mince words John.

I think it simply comes down to you wanting to prescribe how all atheists should treat all religious folks - with distance.

Whereas I am advocating for Atheists, including yourself, to not have your restriction but to each have their (often disposition inclined) method of dealing with religion.

Am I mistaken on your position? (seeking clarification and trying to be generous - you make good points)

John W. Loftus said...

Sabio, would you please tell me why I cannot argue for that which I think? That's what you are doing and I find that, well, ignorant. I indeed have the right to argue for what I think, just as you do. I'm not saying you shouldn't do that. Why do you insist on telling me I shouldn't?

Sabio Lantz said...

John, absolutely ! Of course I want you to argue what you think? I am only trying to establish what you think? (I think, smile)

I am just trying to stay focused on the purpose of our dialogue and not get sidetracked.

I was just trying to be clear on what you think. I assume then that my last summary was accurate?

If you will remember, this is all springing from my question: "[Do you desire that] ... we all form our approaches to religion to be like yours?"

And I guess you are saying , "Yes, I would like everone's approach to religion to be like mine. What is wrong with that desire?"

And I am saying that approaches to people are much more complicated than opinions on ideas. That is all. So it seems we hold different opinions on that. I guess we have clarified that. No?

I think clarification of differences is a fruitful endeavor. Please correct me if I have been inaccurate in any of these summaries. Thank you.

John W. Loftus said...

Sabio, atheists will each have their own method of dealing with religion. This is non-controversial. So you're right about this being more complicated and all. It's just that I think atheists should have the same approach toward religion that I do. What's wrong with the fact that I make this argument knowing that atheists will not all adopt it? Nothing I can see. So I make it.

I have nothing more to say here since it isn't a frutiful dialogue and I have better things to do.

Cheers.

Gandolf said...

I think most people think their way might be the best,if they didnt well why would they bother with it.Most people tend to have to make some choice in some direction or even directions,those that dont maybe dont yet know what they thinks the best.

For instance their will be those who think religion should always still be around,as their thoughts might suggest it seems good.Those that think it shouldnt be,as their thoughts might suggest its a bad thing.

If any of these folks happen to discuss what they personally think,why would either of them be bothering unless (they both) happen to think maybe they are right and their way might be the best.Or even wondering if maybe they might be wrong,and want to hear others opinions before deciding about it in case they decide they might like to change thoughts.

Some will feel more passionate in thinking maybe more people should think the way they do too.

Others wont feel this way and might think folks should be left totally alone to decide for themselves.

Does this mean that either must be absolutely wrong or right?.

Still sounds a little kinda religious to me if so,but then again thats (my opinion).


I think on blogs it just hard to explain exactly what we mean,when we have so little space and time to explain properly.My opinion again.

Our thoughts can easily be thought to have been said as orders,just by doing something like not saying its a opinion of ours.

And anyway some medical/scientist folks might even feel they happen to be more correct and argue for it.Does that make them rude or disgusting or somebody to be ignored etc?.

Some might say oh well it depends on their experience and expertise etc and only those coming up to mine or other people standards should be speaking etc .

But then thats only another opinion or opinions,unless we want to all go getting all religious about it and decide there is some absolute guru somewhere we should all be following.

Personally i think this world has become so used to faithful religious leadership crap,that when anyone says anything we often feel they are suggesting themselves to be some authority.Religiousness has evolved us to always feel a need to be looking for authority.

Some folks will say what a load of bullshit, and good on them!they might be right.

Im certainly not gonna let it make me personally lose any sleep if they happen to think so (have an opinion),hell i left religion 30+ years ago thankfully.

Because they suggest its bullshit should i be expected to keep totally quiet and allow them there religious rights to try to shut me up?.

No my personal (opinion) is religious type folks are hopefully slowly more and more becoming a dieing breed.

And fuck em!,ill say what i want(my opinion again).