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Mar 21 2013

I’ll Take You At Your Word

You tell me you’re a Christian
And I’ll take you at your word
Though you’re quick to note, the bible
Has some bits that are absurd.

In your eyes, it’s not a science book;
No reason to believe
That there ever was an Eden
With an Adam and an Eve

And the flood is just mythology
Not literally true,
(the majority of Christians,
As you know, agree with you!)

And there isn’t any evidence
For Heaven or for Hell
Or an afterlife of any sort,
But hey, it’s just as well.

You don’t really think that Jesus
Turned some water into wine;
And you couldn’t care the slightest
If He really was divine.

If the miracles are hogwash
And the resurrection hype—
If your Christ is just a mortal man—
The magic all is tripe…

Is “Christian” just a label, then?
Is “Christian” just your tribe?
To which beliefs—if any—
Do you Christian folk subscribe?

If your faith makes you a Christian
But you tend to disagree
With the others of your label—
It’s confusing, don’t you see?

You tell me you’re a Christian
And I’ll take you at your word…
But the label you have chosen
Is, I’m telling you… absurd.

Yeah, so anyway… I know full well that most Christians aren’t young-earth creationists. I don’t actually know any young-earth creationists personally. I know a lot of liberal Christians; some of them are related to me (I do know one or two old-earth creationists who are also related to me). My parents, for instance, are Christians, but know full well the history of the writing of the bible, and are (as former science teachers) perfectly accepting of the evidence for evolution. They don’t even argue for the divinity of Christ; I honestly don’t know whether they believe in that or not (and yes, it comes up in conversation, as all of their siblings are very religious).

The truth is, not only are “theists” as varied in their beliefs as atheists, but frankly, any segment of believers–any small portion of the theistic spectrum–are themselves a spectrum (or, more probably, many spectra across many orthogonal factors). People are people, and they vary. It makes perfect sense that no two atheist need share the same beliefs–after all, atheism is negatively defined–but it should not surprise us that any two believers, even of the same sect, need not share the same beliefs. As important as religion is, it is not 100% of anyone’s belief system. Not to mention… the members of any one specific (no matter how specific) belief system do (and must!) differ from one another in the particulars of their belief.

So it should not surprise me at all, but of course there are Christians (I could say “self-described Christians”, but frankly that’s an insult) who don’t believe in Eden, in Adam and Eve. Who don’t believe in original sin (except as a metaphor). Who believe Jesus’s sacrifice was meaningless, if it happened at all. Who don’t believe in the divinity of Christ, in Heaven, in Hell, in sin or redemption. Who laugh at the notion of transubstantiation (this includes some Catholics). And yet, who are Christians, every bit as much as any other group can claim the name (I’m looking at you, Westboro Baptist Church).

Which, frankly, doesn’t surprise or bother me (like I said, I see it in my own family). But… Why on earth would they want to keep the name? Strange bedfellows, Christianity begets–people who disagree more than agree lay claim to the same name. People who make war with one another over these very beliefs lay claim to the same name. My goodness… I’ve known people who legally changed their names to cut ties to parents they disagreed with. Why would good people like my sister, like my parents…like hundreds of thousands or millions more like them… want to share a label with people who believe things they find ludicrous?

Yeah, I guess they’d rather the other folks change their label. And sometimes they’ll pretend that already happened–that those other people “aren’t real christians”. But the thing is, the whole spectrum claims that label. I’d rather not be caught in a “no true Christian” fallacy, so…

I’ll take them at their word.

Related Posts:
Historical Jesus

On Original Sin

9 comments

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  1. 1
    grumpyoldfart

    In your eyes, it’s not a science book;
    No reason to believe
    That there ever was an Eden
    With and Adam and an Eve

    But they’ll tell their children it is true – just to make sure the kiddies get hooked on the religion before they are old enough to recognise it as bullshit.

    And there isn’t any evidence
    For Heaven or for Hell
    Or an afterlife of any sort,
    But hey, it’s just as well.

    They may not have any evidence, but they believe it all the same – or are they saying that Jesus is dead and gone and never coming back?

  2. 2
    Cuttlefish

    Depends on the conversation, Grumps–but yes, I know Christians who think Jesus may or may not have existed, and that if he did he was just one rabbi among many, whose followers started a religion that has changed drastically, many times over the centuries. If they move from one place to another, they’ll look for a church, but the denomination isn’t important–location would be secondary, and the primary concern would be membership, community.

    Precisely why these people consider themselves Christian is a bit beyond me–their beliefs are far more in line with my own than with any prominent Christian figures I can think of. I suspect the biggest reason is… inertia.

  3. 3
    machintelligence

    They call themselves Christians because if they didn’t, people might think they were *whisper it* atheists; and we can’t have that!

  4. 4
    niftyatheist, perpetually threadrupt

    They call themselves Christians because if they didn’t, people might think they were *whisper it* atheists; and we can’t have that!

    I agree with machintelligence.

    I think of it like this: most humans’ default thinking is good/bad or with us/against us. The group with the power (usually the majority) defines “good” as “like us” and “bad” as “not like us”.

    A huge majority in the west identifies as Christian, so CHristian = Good and not Christian = bad

    When fundamentalism is on the rise, being in the “bad” category can get seriously frightening, with lots of social consequences and sometimes economic, legal and safety threats, too.

  5. 5
    Kevin

    I went to a “liberal” church with my family as a kid.

    And it was the telling of the story of Noah and the Ark in the third grade Sunday School class that turned me into an atheist. I listened to the nice lady tell the story (she was wearing a floral print dress), and I thought to myself “no way that happened.”

    Yet here she was — relaying this “wonderful” story about god’s love. Yep, to her the rainbow was the moral of the story — that god loves us so much that he gave us a rainbow to show how he’ll never drown all the children, puppies and kittens again.

    Needless to say, catch an adult in one lie, and a kid is much less likely to believe anything else they say. I never bought into any of it. Either as literal or metaphoric interpretations.

    Because how can you ask someone to reconcile a story about drowning all the children and puppies and kittens into a moral about god’s love? Seriously.

  6. 6
    Carol Lynn

    This! I’ve had Christians insist that god is simply “the greatest good” and that *god’s* morality has *evolved* since the Old Testament day. *Now* god knows, for example, that slavery is wrong when before god just didn’t realize that. Say what?!!? They still insist they are the “Christians” and it is OK under their tradition because that’s how [name of major sect] encourages people to decide for themselves and everyone else is simply doing Christianity wrong. Sweet, but more like a church of one and they would have been burned at the stake a few hundred years ago in the same sect. I’ve asked them the same question, and they insist they are, of course, Christians.

  7. 7
    Leiningen's Ants

    I know exactly what you’re trying to say and I’ll try to do it with a Haiku:

    Fuck Your Labels, Dicks.

    You Know You Can’t Apply.

    You Know What You Are.

  8. 8
    Leiningen's Ants

    Also, Kevin, As Saint Mr. Rogers said, “Kids can spot a liar a mile away” or some such. These so called adults were so busy with their wars, they completely left us with a TV tuned to PBS and missed the so called Second Coming. Now he’s gone and no one noticed.

    Adults lie all the fucking time. I think I really learned it when I was five. And “GROWN UP” is what I’m supposed to be?!

    NO. Not if I have to be a grown-up like YOU, I said to the mirror before five-year-old-me got seven years of bad luck.

  9. 9
    Margaret

    most Christians aren’t young-earth creationists

    Is this actually true? For American Christians? Last I heard 46% of Americans were young-earth creationists. I assumed none of the growing number of “Nones” would be YECs, which would seem to imply that a majority of Christians are YECs. I need to find a breakdown of YECs by religion, but it’s too far past my bedtime to go looking now.

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