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Feb 09 2014

Conversation With A Christian…

So… I had a long talk yesterday with someone. It was a ranging conversation, in which we touched on some issues near and dear to FtB readers (I doubt, though, that this person knows FtB exists). He lives in Texas, so one topic was what an idiot Rick Perry is, and republican politicians in general. He was at a loss to explain how any poor person (or any thinking person) could ever vote Republican, other than manipulation of religious views and tribalism….

Which led to a discussion of the republican and tea-party views on creationism and evolution—he offered that no one he knew was a short-earth creationist, but did think that people who thought evolution was “how god did it” were clearly a sort of creationist themselves, and misunderstanding important aspects of the theory. And anyone who thinks humans are special creations “clearly didn’t have a good comparative anatomy class”.

He’d been reading about the writing of the constitution—not Barton (he’d never heard of David Barton, and was appalled at the blatant attempt to influence lawmakers with disinformation), but Waldman’s “Founding Faith”, and when I told him of Chris Rodda’s takedowns of Barton, he put that on his list. He has faced up against people who want prayer in school, and found that the moment he starts talking details—which faith gets to pray on which days, for instance—the demands start to wither and die before he even has to tell them “no”. He knows of, and approves of, the Jefferson bible.

Seems to me there was quite a lot more in this conversation—it was nearly 2 hours—but I can’t think of it at the moment.

Oh, yeah, there was one other topic. He’s on three committees for his church, including the search for a new pastor—the current one is retiring. He’s a very active lifelong believer, and as knowledgeable about the history of the writing of the bible as he is about, say, first amendment school prayer cases, or evolution. He has read not only quite a bit of sophisticated theology and apologetics, but quiet a bit of critical history as well. Frankly, I’ve heard him argue against religious positions far more often than for them (he argues the position supported by evidence, and more often the religious view was being argued out of ignorance).

But he is a Christian, and in his experience more Christians are like him than like the stereotypical yahoos like Rick Perry. I am at a bit of a loss to understand why he is a Christian, but he certainly is one. And I don’t know whether his observation—that he is a more typical Christian—is at all true. (His brother, for instance, is a biblical literalist.)

Sorry, no point here, just thinking out loud…

8 comments

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  1. 1
    Marcus Ranum

    I know a fellow who’s similar to what you describe – he’s a mormon elder, intelligent and well-educated, rational about most things but when we’re had conversations about religion I wind up with my jaw hanging because he really does believe in an afterlife where he’ll be a planetary administrator. Because someone in authority told him so. Since that realization I’ve focused more on questions of epistemology and authority – why does he accept some things as truth and subject others to more rigorous doubt?

    After reading Altemeyer’s “The Authoritarians” I now see religious indoctrination as a tendency toward being an authority-follower, which is played-upon when the victim is a child. I wonder how much of it is an inherited trait and whether some cultures effectively selected to authoritarian-followership. After all, if you grease the squeaky wheels, what’s left?

  2. 2
    machintelligence

    whether some cultures effectively selected to authoritarian-followership

    Killing off heretics, apostates and non-believers is a pretty significant selection pressure. If you really meant grease = kill (the fourth entry in the Urban Dictionary), congratulations, you win the thread.

  3. 3
    Trebuchet

    But he is a Christian, and in his experience more Christians are like him than like the stereotypical yahoos like Rick Perry.

    That’s actually my experience as well. It’s a “silent majority” kind of thing. The TeaParty evangelicals are very loud, but there are still a great number of members in “liberal” protestant denominations — and Catholics, for that matter — who go to church on Sunday, take active part, and believe — but don’t buy into the whole “Christian Nation” ideology.

  4. 4
    Trebuchet

    Oh, and as an example, may I offer Ken White, of Popehat? He’s a Christian, active in his (mainstream, I think) church, and a libertarian — but you won’t find him preaching “kill the gays”, promoting the ten commandments in the courthouse, or any of the rest of that nonsense.

  5. 5
    Marcus Ranum

    If you really meant grease = kill

    Yup. Old school selection pressure.

  6. 6
    grumpyoldfart

    He sounds like one of the smarter Christians. Only believes the sensible stuff: Jesus walked on water, Mary was a Virgin, Lazarus rose from the dead.

  7. 7
    jeffreylewis

    My experience is that the majority of Christians that I know are somewhere in between. That’s not to say that I don’t know my fair share of evangelicals and creationists, but most Christians I know haven’t actually given much thought to creationism vs. evolution, think homosexuality isn’t that big of a deal, and basically have a live and let live outlook. However, most of those people don’t study the Bible, very few have ever read the Bible in its entirety, and even fewer read apologetics or theology. They have a vague notion that the Bible is the word of God and somehow a good guide to live by, and a vague notion that they’re supposed to go to church, but they don’t really have a deep understanding of what it’s all about. The few Christians I know personally who do study Christianity more than just showing up at church on Sundays tend to be creationists, not the sophisticated theology types.

  8. 8
    Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach

    It is my experience, that one of the most common traits of all christians is a strong belief that the majority is just like them. The moderates are convinced that the frothing yahoos are just a tiny, but loud, minority and we really don’t need to worry about them. And the rabid fundamentalists believe that behind them is a large, but quiet, majority who hate all the same people they hate.

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