The Duggar family, and the problem with “forgiveness” as a core value


Recently the web has been buzzing with the news that the reality TV show “19 kids and counting” was canceled following a revelation that Josh Duggar was accused of molesting five underage girls. If you’re not familiar with the show, it is about a family who are members of the “Quiverfull” cult. Vyckie Garrison, who recently won the American Atheist award as atheist of the year, is a former member of this group, so your best bet for brushing up on their practices is to read her 2006 piece that was just republished in Raw Story.

vyckieandrussell

While I’m at it: Why yes, I WILL shamelessly brag about hanging out with the atheist of the year in Memphis!


 

In a nutshell, Quiverfull members don’t believe in birth control. They say that God will decide when you’ve had enough children. Wouldn’t you know it, it turns out that God’s schedule seems to be that women who are fertile and sexually active, and don’t use birth control, have a kid roughly every 18 months on average until menopause sets in. In other news, the Faithful have noticed that if you jump off a cliff, the Lord decides that 9.8 meters per second squared is the ideal rate of acceleration for you. If for some reason you stop accelerating and get injured as a result, you must not have prayed hard enough.

Anyway. Since this unfortunate incident occurred, lots of Duggar allies have rushed to remind people of what an important virtue it is for Christians to forgive and forget. For instance, Josh’s father in law Michael Seewald wrote:

The Seewald family stands with the Duggar family in solidarity. We stand with the unnamed victims of these incidents. Our thoughts and prayers are for you. I want to say to Josh, hang in there, the shame you feel is legitimate, yet Jesus took your shame as he was punished in your place.

Carrie Hurd, a pastor’s wife, scolded Vyckie Garrison on Facebook, saying:

When I was a kid, it was often called “playing doctor”, there were just as many girls initiating this kind of behavior as boys. Most of those never went on to perp horrible things. The Duggers, who I have never watched — am not a fan, did it properly and the 14 year old boy should probably be left alone to live a good life, just like girls who do the same thing. You troll the news for any little Christian misbehavior. Get a life! Go to Iraq and fight ISIS if you are seriously worried about women being treated well by men and society.

In summary, it seems like some people are paying mild lip service to the victims of the abuse, but mostly they are rushing to protect Josh Duggar from the bullies who are daring to publicly criticize him about it.

It’s kind of understandable because “forgiveness” is often portrayed as the central virtue of Christianity. How many times have you heard that “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven”? It’s kind of the whole point of Ray Comfort’s entire “Are you a good person?” schtick. No you are not a good person, says the evangelist, and you deserve to go to hell. But don’t worry, just say some words about accepting Christ into your heart, and the problem is solved. You don’t even have to do anything. Jesus died on the cross, you are loved unconditionally, the end.

Maybe this is just me, but I’ve always found this attitude to be kind of unsavory. Generally, secular systems of ethics hold that an action is wrong based on how much it harms somebody else. Morality is all about the impact that sentient beings have on each other with their actions. If you kill somebody, the consequence is that somebody who was alive is now dead. That person can’t experience life anymore, and it also makes people who cared about them sad. If you steal something, you are harming the former owner of the property. And if you molest young girls, the young girls are the injured party. Here’s a point which I think is pretty important: Only the victims of the crime really have the ability to decide whether you should be forgiven or not.

Proxy forgiveness really makes no sense to me. If someone steals your stuff, and someone else offers themselves up to receive punishment, justice is not served; it’s subverted. The thief may feel better about being let off the hook, but you are not helped in any way by this other person getting punished. In fact, the thief may actually wind up feeling safe to commit the same crime again, because the message he’s received is that he will just get forgiven again, and his punishment meted out on somebody else.

And sure, Christian morality is all based around the notion of where your eternal soul will wind up, and your earthly life is considered to be just a transient phase that you need to push through and pass the test, so worldly suffering allegedly doesn’t matter. But when Christians ask that well known question, “If there’s no God, why would you be good?” the intent is definitely to scare you about the earthly consequences. Can we punish a Hitler? Can we keep out kids safe from predators? These arguments have no teeth if bad actors like Josh Duggar can count on being readily forgiven and welcomed back into the fold by representatives of the faith, just for being part of the tribe.

When Christians speak of “sin,” they are of course talking about an offense against God; although the nature of the offense tends to be nothing more than “Because He said so.” Atheists, not believing in God, generally recognize that a crime has to have a victim, and the suffering of the victim tends to get completely swept under the rug in the zealousness to protect the guilty from consequences.

Comments

  1. busterggi says

    And yet Hell is at the core of making Christians behave, their god does not practice what he demands they do.

  2. Russell Glasser says

    The stated reason being that God unconditionally forgives you, but you have to accept it. It’s all weirdly binary.

  3. Spinny says

    Michael Seewald isn’t the FIL of Josh. He’s the FIL of Jessa Seewald (née Duggar) who is likely one of the victims. IMO, that makes his statement even more despicable.

  4. davecampbell says

    When I hear Christian talk about forgiveness, it’s all about how they will be forgiven, but rarely is it about being forgiving. It struck me that in the “Lord’s Prayer” the subject is handled this way – “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespasses against us”. Or, if you take out the tresspass parts – “Forgive us…As We Forgive”. In other words, treat me like I treat other people.

    But I never hear that part stressed, it’s always about how they will be forgiven. They forget they have to earn it.

  5. favog says

    Politics, and any idea even vaguely associated with it, has become exactly like team sports in this country. And in a team sport, you’re on my team or you’re not, so I either support you because you’re on my team, or I oppose you because you’re not. So a conservative christian will always get a pass from another one as long as they mumble something about Jesus, and then we’re supposed to move on. If the same thing happens with, say, Barack Obama’s third cousin that he’d met one time in his whole life, conservative christians would frothing at the mouth over it for two months.

  6. frankgturner says

    @ Russell Glasser # 2
    I think it relates to something I heard years ago about Martin Luther and the idea of sola fide. Martin Luther had been a priest and while he had seen the Catholic church become corrupt, at the same time he was very meticulous, particularly regarding morality and sinfullness. Supposedly he would go to confession to another priest and be in there for hours with a notebook confessing every little teenty tiny wrong thought he had even had and walk outside step on a bug have a bad thought then walk right back in to confess the stepping on a bug and the bad thought and the bad thought that related to his bad thought, etc.
    .
    Apparently he thought that god was such a perfect and righteous being that if Luther died with the smallest of sins on his conscience, no matter how miniscule, that he would be condemned to hell for all eternity for the one little bad thought (funny how unforgiving he was of himself). There is some passage about feeling that he must be allowed to commit adultery 100 times per day yet still be granted salvation through faith. So he pushed sola fide (“faith alone”, not his idea though).
    .
    What he seemed to have wanted through this binary system was a guarantee. As Eric Idle says in the film, “Nuns on the Run,” he wanted afterlife insurance.

    Brian Hope: Look, Charlie. Some con men sell life insurance. The church sells afterlife insurance. It’s brilliant! Everyone thinks you might need it, and no one can prove you don’t.
    Charlie McManus: The church isn’t selling anything, Brian.
    Brian Hope: Oh! Well, if the church isn’t selling, how did it get to be so rich? Just remember, wherever there’s a deep human need, there’s more money to be made.
    Charlie McManus: You think so?
    Brian Hope: Of course, look at Kentucky Fried Chicken.

  7. frankgturner says

    @ favog # 5
    There is something to that. I have heard it said many times that a person can be a complete asshole but gets a pass if he is part of the “in” group. It sounds basically like tribalism. It was said somewhere that creationists don’t need evolution, they need to be taught how evolution works from another creationist (or one they perceive to be that way).

  8. Russell Glasser says

    @frankgturner I’ve always loved Nuns on the Run. It is a guilty pleasure.

  9. drken says

    One of my favorite things about the TV show “My name is Earl” was how it handled forgiveness. Sure Earl could treat karma like a cosmic ATM, but he was sincerely sorry for the things he’d done and was trying to make things right. He knew for true forgiveness, he had to go to the wronged party and try to understand how he hurt them before he could figure out what the appropriate act of contrition was. Earl would never want somebody to feel sorry for him because he was ashamed of his past sins. He understood he was supposed to feel bad because he genuinely hurt people, which was why needed to make things right. The Duggers could learn a thing or two from that show. Plus, besides being some of Jason Lee’s better work, it had an amazing supporting cast behind him. I think it was on Netflix, I should check.

  10. lotta joy says

    Not only have I been reading blogs regarding his forgiveness, one blogger noted that DUE TO THE HOLY SPIRIT LEADING HIM TO CONFESS, proves he has already been forgiven. Where was this wonderful holy spirit when the girls were being molested. There was NO mention of the girls anywhere. THIS is how far the religiosity will go to push their loving god in there somewhere….anywhere, then puff their chests out with pride. SICKENING.

  11. JD and Co. says

    @4 davecampbell
    Actually I’ve known Christians who bragged about how forgiving they were of other people. It’s equally as sickening. One woman talked endlessly about how badly her mother treated her when she was growing up, and the minute I expressed sympathy, would chirp, “Oh it’s okay, I’ve forgiven her!”

    @9 drken says

    How interesting, sounds like a thoughtful show. I’ll have to check it out. One of my favorite books, because of how sensitively it portrays betrayal and forgiveness, was “The Distant Land of my Father” by Bo Caldwell. It’s about a young girl and her mother who are cruelly abandoned by the father when the daughter is quite young, but then the father earns redemption, not through empty apologies, but by a real and consistent set of actions.

  12. drken says

    @JD,

    I liked it. It was a comedy, which kept it from getting too preachy. It was about Earl Hickey (Jason Lee), a career petty criminal who gets hit by a truck after winning $100K in the lottery. Then, while recovering in the hospital, he see Ryan Seacrest on TV attribute his success to karma because “do good things, good things happen; do bad things, bad things happen”. So, he makes a list of all the bad things he’s done and sets out to make things right so karma stops hitting him with trucks. It ran for 4 seasons on NBC.

  13. frankgturner says

    @ Russell Glasser
    No no, that need not feel such guilt for which you confess my son. No hail Mary’s for you (unless this is football). 😉

  14. Mr. Dave says

    The Josh Duggar incident is yet another example in a long line of examples, that Christianity doesn’t produce human beings that are morally superior to others on average. Since this is a really high-profile example, there has been a proportional amount of scurrying about to perform damage control to protect the Christian brand and in this case, is only working to convince those on the fence about it, that despicable people use it as a cloak for their true nature.

    To me, a major part of the weakness in the claim that Christianity helps create morally superior people, are the basis for those morals. Looking at the commandments in the bible, I routinely find them to be authoritarian edicts without any explanations to show the rationale behind those edicts. During an argument with a fundie over gay marriage, I pointed out that while the bible says homosexuality is a sin, it doesn’t explain why, other than the god they worship says so, supposedly. I don’t find that to be sufficient reason and I consider anyone who thinks an edict alone is good enough, to be a person that is using no moral reasoning, no thought about what is or is not harmful. Because of that, I have no problem in stating that religion easily creates immoral people by serving its own purposes, before the people that it supposedly helps. That immorality is reflected in how they are handling their own, Josh Duggar. I find it disgusting.

    Of course, I, like many other atheists know that morality developed before any religion or god was fabricated by our species. We reasoned what is and is not harmful, have the empathy to not harm and instead help others, based on thinking through consequences. Our moral reasoning is the basis for secular law that works to help all people. We actually are willing to demonstrate why we find a particular law is needed to address a social issue. Since when has any anti-LGBT legislation had any true reasoning behind it?

  15. says

    The Catholic Church responded to priests molesting kids the same way. Josh and the sisters he molested never received any therapy. Although all teenagers who molest don’t go on to become pedophiles, many do. Repetitive abuse happens in religious families because of the forgive, forget but don’t deal with it beliefs. These problems can’t be cured religious practices. He warrants watching.

  16. says

    What people often forget, I think, is that while punishment is a way of meting out justice, justice isn’t really valuable for its own sake: rather, it’s a way of reducing the number of bad things that happen (murder, theft, rape, abuse, etc.)
    Our internal sense of justice may not be the best policing system in the world, but it’s what we and our pre-human forebears came up with. It basically means that if you do something bad to me, my tribe and I won’t rest until something equally bad is done to you; and disinterested bystanders will tend to side with me, as the aggrieved party; so don’t start anything.
    Now, there’s a place for forgiveness, of course: if a thief has come to repent his actions, and won’t repeat them, then he’s no longer a potential threat to society. That’s what punishment was supposed to accomplish, so there’s no point in actually punishing him; you might as well forgive him and everyone gets on with their lives. But of course that depends on being able to accurately gauge whether he’s truly reformed or not. Forgiveness is vulnerable to the problems mentioned above, like a malefactor who doesn’t reform because he doesn’t need to.

  17. says

    I guess I should also add that forgiveness can play a useful role as a corrective: if you harm me (e.g., break my arm in a fight), and the court or council of elders or whoever decide that you need to be punished, or if I decide to get revenge, then we’re likely to have different ideas of what constitutes a just level of punishment: you might think five lashes is plenty, while I might argue for thirty or fifty (since I can feel my broken arm and you can’t).
    This has the potential to lead to an escalating cycle of revenge and counter-revenge. So throwing in the occasional bit of forgiveness can cool tempers. But, like everything else, it should be applied judiciously.

  18. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @arensb
    Agreed. The idea has the name “theory of justice”.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justice
    The retributive theory of justice is the moral principle that people who do bad things deserve to be punished. That idea is barbaric and evil. However, there are other (good) reasons to punish people, some of which you named, including deterrence, rehabilitation, and confinement for the safety of others.

  19. says

    Another nasty, insidious aspect of this Christian forgiveness ethic is the forcing of victims to forgive. Their own salvation is held ransom until they “freely and completely” forgive what was done to them. Failure to forgive can end up a bigger sin than the crime in this system.

  20. kellym says

    I agree with Peggy @20. Four of Josh Duggar’s victims were 100% dependent on their parents. Josh’s oldest victim was about 12, while his youngest was 5-years-old. Withholding forgiveness was not a realistic option for them. In addition, after the molestations, the victims were required to do chores for the perpetrator. Duggar girls, never their mother, if the show is in any way accurate, did and do all the cooking/cleaning for their brothers and parents. They are punished if they don’t smile or are slow in doing their chores. What must it be like to have to cheerfully launder your molester’s dirty underwear?

    As Duggar girls, they were/are also raised to be 100% dependent on their current/future husbands, but that’s another issue.

  21. ironchops says

    Josh Duggar is a criminal of the worst kind. Preying on children! Really…no excuse. He should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law! No exception.
    We had a similar crime in the church I attend where the youth minister had inappropriate relations (molested) with his under aged daughter and the daughter’s friend. He is now serving a 20 year sentence in prison and rightfully so. The church reported it and then the state took over the prosecution. I think he should be castrated myself!
    @ Russell Glasser article
    “Proxy forgiveness really makes no sense to me.”
    What is that exactly? and Who has ever done that?
    “Christian morality is all based around the notion of where your eternal soul will wind up”
    Not so, where your soul winds up is based on belief in God the creator. If you are a believer you will spend and eternity in God’s presence and if you deny God you will spend an eternity without God.
    “When Christians speak of “sin,” they are of course talking about an offense against God”
    The only sin is not believing in God.
    @JD & CO
    “Actually I’ve known Christians who bragged about how forgiving they were of other people. It’s equally as sickening.”
    I agree. They have their reward and it is shallow.
    @ Peggy
    “Another nasty, insidious aspect of this Christian forgiveness ethic is the forcing of victims to forgive.”
    Show me a church that teaches this and I will show you a church that is just wrong (completely misguided). Forgiving is for the sake of the victim and only for the purpose of moving on to more positive things and not wasting time dreaming up revenge. No one else has the right to forgive and if the victim doesn’t forgive it will not cause any additional punishment to them.

  22. Kudlak says

    @Lori Kaiser #16
    You wouldn’t catch non-Catholic Christians asking for priests to be forgiven though. It’s a good tool for poaching Catholics away from the RCC.

  23. Robert, not Bob says

    @Ironchops, #22
    Proxy forgiveness refers to Jesus forgiving you (or magically removing your guilt) for what you did to harm Joe Blow, when the only forgiveness that could possibly matter is Joe’s. It’s absolutely central to Christian doctrine.

    Your statements about sin remind me of the “not a true Christian” talk. Who are you to say that your definition of “sin” is the “correct” one (whatever that means) than the ones used by other Christians? (Though in my experience Christians tend to bounce back and forth between several definitions, a habit that applies to other words they use too.)

  24. ironchops says

    @ Robert, #24
    Thanks for the help on that definition.
    “not a true Christian” I am not a Christian at all…anymore, so I agree.
    “Who are you to say that your definition of “sin” is the “correct”
    I am nobody (certainly not a scholar of any sort) and the definition is just the best that I can get out of the scripture. It can and probably will change as time goes on. Just like my view on just about everything else.
    I agree, Joe’s forgiveness is the only one that matters and IMO mostly for Joe’s own sake.

  25. frankgturner says

    @ Robert and Ironchops
    I snicker at this whole argument of “not a true sin” as I have had this conversation with Xtians before, about how can you believe in “sin” as an atheist.
    .
    I point out that even in the absence of a deity like Jesus that there is still morality (what is the definition of “sin” to Jewish people?). The morality aspect of “sin” still applies. (This is not to say that “sin” and “immoral are identical, merely that they are synonyms and at times one may be using them interchangeably).
    .
    Oh, @ Robert specifically. EVERYONE bounces back and forth between word definitions. Language is flexible and words have meaning by consensus. Even with a word holding a majority opinion about its meaning does not mean everyone uses the majority definition all of the time. The definition of a word may have to do with context (remember “context clues”?) and the context of a word can change mid sentence.
    .
    It is when the flexible definition of a word is used to muddy and obscure understanding that such flexibility has the potential to become dangerous.

  26. Robert, not Bob says

    Sorry Ironchops, didn’t mean to imply you believed in the talking snake… I ought not to post while tired and annoyed.

    Frank, of course I was talking about the confusing obfuscation. While apologists can be reasonably suspected of lying, I think most Christians, indeed most people, assume that a word like faith or sin is A thing, that has A meaning, without thinking about it. I’m thinking particularly about the Adventists I grew up among, who simultaneously believe in divine command morality-the last sermon I sat through was a defense of ethnic cleansing, because god said to do it-and, ah, real morality. Same sort of thing.

  27. Blue says

    “When I was a kid, it was often called “playing doctor”, there were just as many girls initiating this kind of behavior as boys”

    Is she saying she thinks it’s OK for a 14 year old girl to touch the penis of a four year old boy while he’s sleeping?

    I don’t know why, but I’m always surprised when christians so readily admit their depravity.

  28. says

    @Ironchops22: You responded to my comment by saying: “Show me a church that teaches this and I will show you a church that is just wrong (completely misguided). Forgiving is for the sake of the victim and only for the purpose of moving on to more positive things and not wasting time dreaming up revenge. No one else has the right to forgive and if the victim doesn’t forgive it will not cause any additional punishment to them.”

    I can remind you that virtually all the Christian churches that use the Lord’s Prayer. To my knowledge, actually, they all do. In that prayer, as you know, you are directed to pray as the Lord commanded, and pray to be forgiven for our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. It’s a package deal. Forgive to be forgiven. To be right with God you must forgive.

    This might not be an idea you like, but it’s there. Maybe you’re better than your church and better than the church teachings. Many Christians are. You really can’t explain it away, though.

    I hope you don’t mind my observation that Christians sometimes make a point of saying that whatever non-believers see in the prayers and teachings, no matter how basic to the faith–well–that’s not what things *really* mean. Self-appointed “True Christians” claim the ability to make up a better meaning for anything in the religion. Many of us find that tiresome.

  29. Kudlak says

    @Peggy #29
    I agree that forgiveness is a good thing, but can you at least appreciate our position that this “core value” has led to a culture in many branches of Christianity where there isn’t as big a deterrent against committing serious harm, or even crimes when you know that your community won’t hold it as much against you? If these Christians don’t have as much to lose as those of us who assume that our community won’t be as forgiving, that we probably will lose relationships if we’re caught doing something wrong, aren’t we justified in concluding that we’re more motivated in not causing harm than they are?

  30. says

    @30Kudlak I believe we are in complete agreement, Kudlak. I think you might have mistaken my quote of Ironchops@22 for my own position. (I hope Ironchops didn’t make that mistake. I most certainly do not agree with him/her.) Forgiveness can be a positive thing, sure, but not if it is a requirement of the religion, making the person’s “salvation” hostage to their forgiveness of heinous crimes against them. As an atheist I am much happier and feel I am on much firmer ground than I ever was as a Christian. Hope this helps.

  31. ironchops says

    At Kudlak #30
    Forgiveness is a good core value but not because some god or religion told me so.
    At Peggy #31
    I appreciate all input unless it just mean spirited attacks. I respectively disagree that forgiveness is a condition for salvation however I must say that I am not going to argue over bible interpretations. I read it and I will interpret it my way and cherry pick the good stuff and throw out the BS, and I sleep like a rock!! So with that said we may agree to disagree on this point. I would rather concentrate on being friends and focus on positive things as much as possible. I am just trying to learn for my own personal growth. I hope/need your help and all others who help me gain understanding. I hope not to offend.

  32. says

    @Ironchops, I have no interest or intention to offend you either–and I hope you have not been offended. We can certainly disagree about the degree to which problems arise from the ways that forgiveness is used to silence and intimidate victims. I’ve seen it in action. It’s an ugly thing. Hoping to engage you again on these threads. Cheers!

  33. Kudlak says

    @Peggy #31
    Yes, being a requirement of the religion makes the sincerity of Christian forgiveness highly questionable. With actually being required to forgive your abusers there’s a huge amount of guilt laid upon anyone who even hesitates in doing this, and many can be victimized even more by their church community if they aren’t properly forgiving of anyone who wrongs them. Since their salvation depends upon their being properly forgiving, Christians are actually being coerced into it. So, they learn to be automatically forgiving, which makes it about as meaningful as a rubber stamp.

    To me, forgiveness only means something if it’s freely given, and it would only be meaningful to those who wrong you if they know that it isn’t automatic, and not meant as some requirement. Some Christians seem to be forgiving people for selfish reasons, to benefit themselves rather than those who wrong them, and that’s why I find their sincerity questionable.

    It can be like having a family member who likes to do favours for everyone else in the family, but refuses to be paid back in kind. It may seem like they’re being nice, but after a while you tend to see that person as kinda selfish, like they’re getting off on being “owed” by so many people. See what I mean?

  34. Kudlak says

    @ironchops #32
    All core values are cheapened when someone (not just a god or religion) requires it of you in return for a reward. We wouldn’t equate the good service that a waiter might give you in a restaurant, someone that you are more-or-less required to tip, with the courtesy that a fellow patron might show you by going out of their way to bring you a highchair for your child, right?

    Even the parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates this. It was the person least likely to personally benefit from helping the poor guy who went out of his way to do it. Contrast that with the Christian ethic where everything you do is linked to your salvation. This actually boils down to your being rewarded by God for every good deed you do (and quite a few bad ones supposedly considered “good” by God). No matter how they dress it up as a “free” gift, compliance to the morals of the faith, including being nice to others, are expected of everyone who is “saved” just as much as good service is expected in return for your pay in wages and tips as a waiter. Christians might argue against this, but just ask them if they actually consider someone really “saved” if they make the proclamation, but then go on acting unChristian?

  35. ironchops says

    @ Peggy #31
    I certainly wish you did not have to see/experience that kind of ugliness and I absolutely do not want or mean to down play or dismiss that experience in any way. I guess I have been either lucky enough or sheltered enough not to see or experience that much. I have never been raped, abused, beaten or wronged in any major way and I am extremely thankful for that. I have caused a bit of trouble in my past and hurt others in the process. I have asked for their forgiveness because deep down inside that was the last thing I wanted to have happen and I genuinely care about other people’s wellbeing, perhaps even more than my own. Maybe I just didn’t pay attention. Typically I get over drama real quick and tend to forgive a little too easily perhaps. I just hate dwelling on stupid shit for too long. It seems so counterproductive. Cheers to you too!

    @ Kudlak #33

    I agree with the first paragraph.

    I respectfully disagree with most of the second paragraph. The way I read it is that salvation is complete upon repentance or belief in God/Jesus, period. Arguably it may be already completed even in spite of this but that is a long argument for little gain IMO. All of the directions that follow are part of the great commission, IMO. Incorporating those specific virtues that include love, forgiveness and just being nice as a way to show others the “light” (which is really “hope” according to the ancient Hebrew meaning). I agree with the last sentence but those Christians are wrong….of course. IMO if in a moment of sincerity one makes the confession and then immediately backslides, he is saved, according to most Baptist doctrine, but they (Baptist) would question the sincerity part. Who are they to judge it though? All that said that is just my interpretation that I apply to myself only. Some atheist huh! I am all mixed up! It’s all just bullshit!

  36. Kudlak says

    @ironchops #36
    Ah, but they do judge other people’s sincerity. Otherwise people wouldn’t use the “No True Scotsman” argument to label Christians who happen to have a different opinion about what following the “Great Commission” actually entails. Your average Baptists, for example, may generally feel that the folks over at Westboro are way off base, but if they genuinely believe that they will all end up singing in the same heavenly choir together anyway what would be the point in having these doctrinal differences here on Earth? Why would they care whether some Baptists want to blame all the world’s troubles on gays while others want them to be able to marry in their church if the end result is the same? Nope, that would be like saying that God doesn’t care what you do in his name as long as you believe it’s what he wants, and I just can’t imagine that many Christians actually believe that.

  37. JD and Co. says

    I always wondered what true forgiveness really consisted of–particularly when the person doesn’t ask for forgiveness or take any kind of responsibility. I frankly think it’s foolish to ever trust someone again who betrayed me once and doesn’t express remorse (either to me or someone else) . On the other hand, I don’t dwell on it either. I have ex-friends who I have marked in my mind as “untrustworthy” but am civil to them if I encounter them. If someone ever asked me specifically, blow by blow, what they did to me, I’d have to sit and think about it for a while to remember exactly. Is that considered forgiveness?

  38. Kudlak says

    @JD and Co. #39
    Yeah, and it’s funny when you see pastors plead a tearful mea culpa to their flock (only after they’ve been caught, usually) and are readily forgiven by many of the most vile things, reestablishing their instant and complete trust, while many of these same Christians automatically distrust atheists who have never given them any cause to earn that mistrust. It seems that they can forgive anything, but having a difference opinion about God’s existence.

  39. JD and Co. says

    Re: “forgiveness by proxy”: I frankly don’t care even if the victim forgives the perpetrator. As you all have probably seen, the Duggar daughters have now proclaimed their forgiveness. That means nothing to me except that they’re tragically entrenched in their craziness. Several years ago, a relative of mine was molested by her father when she was a young child, and now as an adult (Christian, of course) she has forgiven him and visits him regularly. There was some pressure on the rest of us to forgive him since his daughter did, but I didn’t give a fuck, especially since he’s never taken responsibility for it (incredibly, he blames the media for “putting the idea into his head”). I also have never forgiven the mother who refused to press charges (also Christian, are we surprised?) in a totally selfish–and crazy and ultimately futile–attempt to save her marriage. Now he’s free to manipulate other women without any taint on his record.

  40. Kudlak says

    @JD and Co.
    Then again, you have to ask yourself what would happen to any of the Duggar girls if they went against their training refused to be forgiving, right? In some weird, ironic sort of way I think that Josh Duggar and other family members would hold that against them.

  41. JD and Co. says

    @42 Kudlak
    I am absolutely certain that they would consider the sin of not forgiving someone to be worse than what the transgressor did.

  42. frankgturner says

    @ JD and Co
    I would be hesitant to state that I was “absolutely” certain of anything among skeptics. Perhaps so confident that for all intents and purposes I would state strong certainty to the point of being considered absolute, but that is different.
    .
    We have to learn to cope with what happens to us and it can be very tough. A lot of wrong has been done to many of us and we don’t see justice for it. Perhaps a lot of forgiveness is about a victim learning to cope. Thoughts?

  43. JD and Co. says

    @44 Frank
    You’re right, I spoke a bit rashly there. Rephrasing: I wouldn’t be surprised if many Christians considered the lack of forgiveness to be a bigger sin than the original transgression. It’s kind of like the crazy “prison code” where snitching is considered to be the worse evil than the original crime. The lady I talked about in @12 told me about crying to her husband over what another woman did to her, and then said that she burst out at the end of the story, crying, anew, “and the worst part of it is that I have to *forgive* her!” As Kudlak said in @34, who values a forced forgiveness?

    So when you talk about coping with an injustice, perhaps it’s when you get to the point after an injury where you’re not re-hashing it over and over in your head, and you come to some sort of peace, this is forgiveness? Interesting thought.

  44. Kudlak says

    @JD and Co.
    I’ve heard it sometimes described as letting go of hate for one’s own benefit, and I can see the benefit of choosing not to hate your abuser for years after the crime. Powerful hate can consume your life, keep you from recovering and may even twist you into being somebody you’d rather not be.

    What I don’t see, however, is how refusing to hate your abuser has to equate to actually forgiving them. You can refuse to hate somebody and come to some apathetic level of feeling about them, and quite happily never see them again, but to actually forgive someone is to act as though the abuse never happened, and that may mean having to feel about and trust someone as much as you did prior to the abuse. That may be too much for many people, and may even be more harmful than living with your hate.

  45. Kudlak says

    @JD and Co. #43
    I wouldn’t say absolutely for certain either. Sometimes these Christians actually do act out of pure human compassion, but in this case I’d be surprised if that were the outcome. Refusing to forgive would likely be interpreted as a slight more against God than the brother, and if we know anything about religious extremists, God’s feelings trump those of any human to them, right?

  46. frankgturner says

    @ Kudlak #46
    And here we get to the heart of the matter with the ambiguity of the English language. It seems that the word “forgive” has different interpretations. There are those who really do recover from having done immoral acts and proceed to be beneficial to society, so punishing them for the rest of their life seems spiteful when we can learn to cope with their past wrongdoings. Refraining from contact with the victim due to the suspicion of regress may be part of that. In that sense we may “forgive” their transgressions in light of current behavior and time since previous transgressions.
    .
    However, some do think of forgiveness as not what was described but “wiping the slate clean”. In that regard forgiveness is dangerous. Part of the difficulty is that words have meaning by consensus and many individuals don’t comply or use words based on the consensus meaning. Some words even change meaning based on context.
    .
    I notice that when it comes to forgiveness, many Xtians seem to prefer it have a fuzzy meaning. Others try to make it more concrete by linking it to “God.” interesting what people will do in that regard.

  47. Robert, not Bob says

    @Kudlak #46
    Yes, exactly. You don’t have to brood in your basement over revenge fantasies, to not forgive.

    Pressure to forgive-and the false dichotomy of forgiveness or stewing in hatred-isn’t limited to a religious context either. In my own case, a school bully. And a principal who punished me for starting the “fights”. And the dozen or so witnesses who never spoke up… Sometimes refusing to forgive can be an act of rebellion.

    @Frank #48
    The Christian dogma of being forgiven by Jesus follows the concept of guilt being some kind of, um, contagion, rather than a moral responsibility. This doesn’t make any sense, though, so modern Christians seem to interpret it as Jesus telepathically changing the penitent’s mind so he won’t do it again. And so to act like Jesus they have to pretend the offender is a completely reformed person now. (‘Course it never works, hence the forgiveness revolving door…) At least that’s how it looks to me anyway.

  48. frankgturner says

    @ Robert, not Bob #49
    I would not say that it “never” works, being a skeptic and having seen evidence of it doing so on occasion. I see your point about modern Xtians though.
    .
    The real issue is the individual learning to deal with “why” they did it. That seems to get missed a lot.

  49. igotjesus says

    Skepticism is deceptive because it is only useful for testing scientific ideas and sometimes for assessing human behavior.

    Skepticism is useful for the physical world only.

    It is of no use whatsoever in the spiritual realm and that is why the bible implies that unbelief is a disease and why we have to lean on God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit for our answers.

    The earthly and the spiritual realm are two different places entirely so we need to take off are physical scientific glasses and don the spiritual glasses when we enter and ask spiritual questions.

    These are different realms with different mindsets so we ought not to confuse them.

    Does the carnal really control the spiritual?

    Of course not….not any more than a dentist controls a lawyer.

    They are simply to different sisciplines entirely and you don’t confuse tool usage.

    If you want to know spiritual things then you have to get to know Jesus because Jesus is the door to all things spiritual.

    All other religions are cheap manmade counterfeits and if you doubt this then you should do your own investigation. Don’t relymon anyone else….Use your own mind and resources because the world likes to render wrong test results like they are an authority on the evidence.

  50. Kudlak says

    @igotjesus #51
    Actually, science is useful for testing any idea which happens to be testable, which is why I’m skeptical that there even is a “spiritual realm.” From all I can gather, anything labelled “spiritual” gets that designation merely on subjective grounds. People think, or feel that something is too mysterious to possibly have a natural explanation, so they rather call it “spiritual” than accept that we simply do not actually know what it is. I just cannot see how this is any path to uncovering the truth about anything.

    The kind of “spiritual glasses” you would like us to don then must involve accepting ideas without testing. Since you claim that Jesus is the door to all things spiritual he must be the source of things like reincarnation, ESP, astrology, and magic as well, right? If you’re willing to accept things without testing what possible objection would you have to accepting these things or the claims of other religions?

  51. Kudlak says

    @ frankgturner and Robert, not Bob
    Would you say that there are incidences where Christians actually “forgive” as an act of defiance? I’m thinking again of something like having a family member, or friend who relishes doing favours for others, but “forgives”, or refuses to be paid back in kind. In it’s own way, this can be experienced as something very negative, right? Such a person may seem like they’re lording their capacity to be generous over others, and that they didn’t see any value in what you had to offer in return. Could it be that some Christians use this automatic forgiveness as a way of denying their abuser the pathway towards making amends, including the step of asking for forgiveness? That would be wanting to hurt that person, and force them to live with the guilt forever, right? That wouldn’t, as they say, be very “Christian”, would it?

  52. oldskoolnyc says

    @ gotjesus “All other religions are cheap manmade counterfeits and if you doubt this then you should do your own investigation.” Follow your own typed words. Maybe you don’t realize but many religions predate Christianity, in some cases by thousands of years. Buddhism, Druidic, Egyptian, Helenist, Hinduism, Zoroastrian, to name a few. oh btw, talk about counterfeit, Abrahamic religions are nothing but copies of older myths.

  53. Thad says

    It has been interesting reading over all of this, I am a Christian, and I will be the first to admit that the majority of Christians out there are only “Sunday Chistians” who only go to church, but couldn’t defend their beliefs if their life depended on it. I would like to state that the central foundation of Christianity is not forgiveness, it is love. I read through this post and the comments and I see many sad truths about how many Christians are but should not be, such Christians give birth to many misconceptions about Christianity. I for one, study my bible, and am learning many new things every time. I would encourage all of you to stop looking at the faults in Christians, nobody is perfect, and many don’t understand what their own beliefs are. Instead, why don’t you all research the God we serve. Learn about how and why he gives us free will and learn it for yourself by studying the bible. That way you aren’t reading the biased opinions of other atheists and actually going to the root of the so called “problem”. As is, you are all coming here with more or less the same opinions, but if you find out for yourselves and come together again with different opinions altogether, then maybe something better would come of this discussion. Key subjects to research for starters: Who is God, Where is Jesus in the old testament, why does he give us free will, why did he allow so many people to die in the old testament.

  54. JD and Co. says

    @ gotjesus “All other religions are cheap manmade counterfeits and if you doubt this then you should do your own investigation.”

    Oh so we’re supposed to be skeptical of other religions, but somehow Christianity is exempt from our everyday common-sense investigation of truth versus bullshit. How convenient!

  55. Narf says

    @51 – igotjesus
    I don’t imagine you’re going to be back to actually defend your beliefs, but here goes, just in case I’m wrong:

    Skepticism is deceptive because it is only useful for testing scientific ideas and sometimes for assessing human behavior.
    Skepticism is useful for the physical world only.
    It is of no use whatsoever in the spiritual realm and that is why the bible implies that unbelief is a disease and why we have to lean on God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit for our answers.

    Here’s the foundational problem with what you’re saying: you’re claiming that this supposed spiritual realm affects the physical world. Believers make all sorts of claims about what their god is doing and what Jesus (in the case of your particular beliefs) did and is doing (for those who claim Jesus is still with us, doing miracles and appearing in burnt toast).

    That’s a very dishonest slight-of-hand that preachers and Christian apologists make. They insist that since there’s an untestable component to what they’re talking about, the whole thing is untestable. That’s bullshit. The testable stuff can be tested, and the untestable stuff can be written off completely, since it’s grossly subject to confirmation bias, wishful thinking, and manipulation by con artists.

    That’s one of the places that skepticism is useful, in fact. It teaches us to disregard unfalsifiable propositions. That’s what science indicates. If you can’t tell me how you could be proven wrong, I can’t ever accept that you’re right. One of the important aspects of science is attacking propositions and trying to prove them false. If you’re not willing to propose a way to test what you say and try to prove it false, then you’re not being honest, with us or with yourself.

    The earthly and the spiritual realm are two different places entirely so we need to take off are physical scientific glasses and don the spiritual glasses when we enter and ask spiritual questions.
    These are different realms with different mindsets so we ought not to confuse them.

    Can you give me any reason to think that what you think about the ‘spiritual’ is more correct than what Hindus think about the spiritual? What about Wiccans? Buddhists? They all have their own, completely contradictory ideas about the spiritual realm.

    For that matter, say you have yourself, a fundamentalist Christian, a Catholic, and a liberal, Oprah-style Christian? The fundamentalist Christian thinks that everyone who doesn’t accept Jesus as his personal savior is going to hell. The Catholic thinks that everyone who doesn’t follow the one true church, founded by Jesus Christ, is going to hell. The Oprah-style Christian thinks that God is Love, and everyone is going to heaven. And you think whatever you think.

    How do we discover which of those people is right? What is your method for testing claims about the spiritual? Praying about something really hard and making up an answer that makes you happy is not a pathway to truth.

    Does the carnal really control the spiritual?
    Of course not….not any more than a dentist controls a lawyer.
    They are simply to different sisciplines entirely and you don’t confuse tool usage.

    This is all word salad. You sound like Deepak Chopra, trying to say deep meaningful things, without saying anything that’s actually meaningful. Can you explain what any of this meant, with precise, meaningful language?

    Also, there’s another issue. Does the carnal control the spiritual? I don’t know. ‘Spiritual’ is a useless term that people use to avoid being clear.

    Reverse that question. Does the spiritual control the carnal? Does the spiritual affect the carnal? Your religious beliefs say that they do, I imagine. So, we should be able to examine the physical world and see the effects of the spiritual, if the spiritual is a real thing.

    If you want to know spiritual things then you have to get to know Jesus because Jesus is the door to all things spiritual.
    All other religions are cheap manmade counterfeits and if you doubt this then you should do your own investigation. Don’t relymon anyone else….Use your own mind and resources because the world likes to render wrong test results like they are an authority on the evidence.Remember what I said earlier, about confirmation bias? You’re displaying it right here. Why should we think that your religion didn’t evolve over time in the same way that you think that all other religions did? How are you going to demonstrate your claim? You just made a testable claim … or at least you better be able to propose a way for people to test it, if you want them to take you seriously.

    You tell us to not rely on anyone else and use our own minds, but you don’t really mean it. What you really mean is that we should accept what you say, uncritically.

    We did use our own minds. We did do our own investigation. That’s why we’re atheists.

    I’ve read the Bible the whole way through, and I’ve been to services of 12 or 15 different denominations. You know what I’ve discovered about Christianity and Judaism? It’s a cheap, man-made counterfeit.

  56. Narf says

    @54 – oldskoolnyc

    oh btw, talk about counterfeit, Abrahamic religions are nothing but copies of older myths.

    Eh, I wouldn’t go that far. The origin of the Old Testament is a lot more complicated than that. There’s definitely the incorporation of earlier myths into the Jewish mythology, though.

    Basically, my primary complaint is your usage of the words, “… nothing but …”
    Taken literally, that’s a bit inaccurate.

  57. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @igotjesus

    Skepticism is useful for the physical world only.

    No it’s not.

    @Thad

    Instead, why don’t you all research the God we serve.

    I don’t serve your god. Your god does not exist. If someone presented sufficient evidence to show that I am mistaken and that your god does exist, I still would not serve your god. If your god is accurately described by your book, then it would be necessary to destroy your god.

    Nuke god!

  58. Kudlak says

    @Thad #55
    You’re right, nobody is perfect, but neither is the Bible, or the God that it portrays. This is most likely due to the fact that both were also produced by imperfect humans, wouldn’t you say? I know this because I have done my research and, as far as bias goes, isn’t your opinion rather biased? Also, where is Jesus specifically mentioned in the Old Testament?

  59. Narf says

    @55 – Thad

    I read through this post and the comments and I see many sad truths about how many Christians are but should not be, such Christians give birth to many misconceptions about Christianity.

    Here’s the problem. How do you know what is true Christianity? How are you going to demonstrate that your concept of Christianity is right, and the people who hate gay people are wrong? I bet that the Westboro Baptist Church has a much better scriptural foundation for their position than you do.

    How do you know that Yahweh doesn’t want us to murder gay people? He seems pretty explicit about it in the holy book he had people write for him. How do you know that women aren’t supposed to be subservient to their husbands and keep silent in church? That’s what Jesus told Paul to write down.

    I for one, study my bible, and am learning many new things every time. I would encourage all of you to stop looking at the faults in Christians, nobody is perfect, and many don’t understand what their own beliefs are. Instead, why don’t you all research the God we serve.

    I’m going to assume that you’re using ‘we’ to refer to Christians, not to all of humanity. Clearly, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, pagans, and atheists don’t worship Yahweh. For that matter, if I had any reason to think that the god of the Bible existed, I couldn’t worship him anyway, unless he had a damned good reason for why he allowed all of those people to write so many horrifying things about him and why he allows so many assholes to go running around doing horrible things in his name.

    And, umm, dude … we have researched the Bible and such, far more honestly than most Christians do … or at least many of us have. That’s really freaking presumptuous of you to say something like that, particularly when there have been polls that have demonstrated that atheists know more about Christianity than most Christians do.

    Another of the problems with what you’re saying is that you guys don’t examine the Bible honestly. You come to it with a presupposition that the god of the Bible is good, and you have to explain away anything in the Bible that seems to indicate otherwise. We read the Bible and see an immoral, jealous, petty god, and we accept what we see.

    Steve Shives said something to this effect, when he was addressing a Christian apologist’s half-assed attempt to deal with the Problem of Evil argument. Christianity does have a problem of evil, but it isn’t the one that people usually talk about. The problem is that the god of the Bible is evil. When we recognize that, we acknowledge it, and you should do the same.

    Learn about how and why he gives us free will and learn it for yourself by studying the bible. That way you aren’t reading the biased opinions of other atheists and actually going to the root of the so called “problem”.

    Holy shit, man. I have read the Bible … cover to cover. Have you? You shouldn’t assume something like this. I know a lot more atheists who have read the Bible than I do Christians. Reading the Bible is what turned some of them into atheists, when they had been Christians, going into the book.

    As is, you are all coming here with more or less the same opinions, but if you find out for yourselves and come together again with different opinions altogether, then maybe something better would come of this discussion.

    We’ve all examined this stuff, and we’ve come to similar (far from the same) opinions about it. Atheists have somewhat of a consensus on the issue.

    Christians, on the other hand, have a wide range of utterly contradictory opinions on the subject of what the Bible is telling them and what their god wants. If a belief is dealing with something real, over time those who hold that belief should come to something of a consensus. I’m not saying that they’ll have every tiny detail sorted out, but at least the broad strokes should reach consensus.

    What determines if someone goes to heaven or hell? That’s a pretty damned broad stroke. Where’s the consensus on that issue?

    You don’t understand atheism, at a fundamental level. We disagree about all sorts of stuff. You’d be amazed. Go check out the massive argument going on in the comment section of the post for episode #918, if you don’t believe me. When we almost all have the same sort of opinion about something, it means that we’ve hashed it out and have figured out that that’s a solid position to hold.

    The arguments that you constantly hear from atheists are widely shared because they’re logically solid, defensible arguments that demonstrate what a steaming pile of nonsense Christianity is. We go back to the original sources and check things. If you want dishonest, intellectually-bankrupt quote-mines, you’ll have to look at Christian apologists, particularly creationist ones.

    Key subjects to research for starters: Who is God,

    A raging, genocidal megalomaniac.

    Where is Jesus in the old testament,

    Nowhere. The Christians shoved Jesus in there, after the fact. I’ve studied messianic prophesy pretty thoroughly. The lists of prophesy that Christians pull out are freaking bonkers. Almost everything on any list is always complete bullshit, because they always pull from poems and other non-prophetic writings of the Old Testament. Many lists of messianic prophesy include utterly stupid things, like, ‘born of a woman’. Yay! I’m the messiah!

    why does he give us free will,

    He didn’t. I have no reason to think that we have free will, within reality, even if you could coherently describe what it means to have free will.

    Within the fantasy world of Biblical mythology, I have no reason to think that we would have free will, either. I don’t see how adding in the concept of a soul would give us this mysterious free will. The whole concept is bankrupt, anyway, in the light of an omniscient, omnipotent, creator-god who uses prophesy. If we had free will, prophesy would be impossible.

    why did he allow so many people to die in the old testament.

    See the answer to question #1.

  60. Narf says

    @57 – me
    Here’s the last chunk again, without the fucked up tag, this time. That might have made it a little difficult to parse.

    If you want to know spiritual things then you have to get to know Jesus because Jesus is the door to all things spiritual.
    All other religions are cheap manmade counterfeits and if you doubt this then you should do your own investigation. Don’t relymon anyone else….Use your own mind and resources because the world likes to render wrong test results like they are an authority on the evidence.

    Remember what I said earlier, about confirmation bias? You’re displaying it right here. Why should we think that your religion didn’t evolve over time in the same way that you think that all other religions did? How are you going to demonstrate your claim? You just made a testable claim … or at least you better be able to propose a way for people to test it, if you want them to take you seriously.

    You tell us to not rely on anyone else and use our own minds, but you don’t really mean it. What you really mean is that we should accept what you say, uncritically.

    We did use our own minds. We did do our own investigation. That’s why we’re atheists.
    I’ve read the Bible the whole way through, and I’ve been to services of 12 or 15 different denominations. You know what I’ve discovered about Christianity and Judaism? It’s a cheap, man-made counterfeit.

  61. frankgturner says

    @ Narf
    To be fair, That may not be like what igotjesus appears to be. I don’t mind so much liberal Xtians that don’t insist that everyone else goes to he’ll and who actually do charity work and behave kindly and unselfishly. I still don’t believe their myths are true (outside of allegory and a few historical references), but they use their religion for themselves as a coping mechanism, not like a narcotic.
    .
    Yeah though, most of us became atheists by reading and studying the Bible. (I almost gave myself away today telling a Catholic how the Book of Job has a disclaimer in it).

  62. Narf says

    Err, could you quote what I said to which that was specifically in response? I said a lot there, and I can’t figure out what you mean.

  63. frankgturner says

    @ Narf
    It is not to one specific part, but to the whole thing. The word “That” is meant to be “Thad”, who does not strike me as a “we are right and you are wrong” type of Xtian (I could be wrong as I have little to go on). On the other hand, igotjesus seems to be.
    .
    What I am getting at is that sometimes a Xtian can be a “this is for me because it helps me to cope and be a kinder person” type of Xtian who is not so insecure that they demand that you be that way too. Yeah they probably have to delude themselves and do mental jumping jacks to make the not so pleasant parts of the Bible seem more pleasant. As long as they keep it to themselves and don’t let it influence their social views (like demanding that homosexuals be stoned), I am ok, for some part.
    .
    I would still prefer a tenacity for what can be proven empirically, but if believing that there are winged apes in the sky helps you to act civil towards people, go ahead, just don’t demand that I do as well.

  64. frankgturner says

    @ Narf
    Oh and the part about the Book of Job having a disclaimer, that was in response to the comments about how as atheists we have read the Bible and may know it better than you principle. Atheists being more familiar with scripture than Xtians despite it being the doctrine of Xtianity is definitely a thing.

  65. Narf says

    It is not to one specific part, but to the whole thing. The word “That” is meant to be “Thad”, who does not strike me as a “we are right and you are wrong” type of Xtian (I could be wrong as I have little to go on). On the other hand, igotjesus seems to be.

    Ohhhhhh, so that was ”To be fair, Thad may not be like what igotjesus appears to be.”  That makes a hell of a lot more sense, yeah.

    Absolutely, igotjesus and Thad look like completely different animals.  Thad strikes me as a liberal theist who holds onto his Christian identity and some of the comforting aspects of it, for emotional reasons.  I’m also catching a bit of new-agey Oprah-Christian off of him, with the emphasis on love, but I don’t think he’s anywhere near as vapid as those guys.  Besides, he didn’t use their clan-affiliation marker, ‘agapë’.

    That’s why I took a completely different tack with him.  He’s abandoned the strictures of his holy book, but he’s still sticking with the divine command theory of morality and has a shitload of other baggage left over.

    If anything, that makes me beat on him harder than I would on igotjesus.  That guy (girl?) is a vapid, anti-science little sheep, preaching some of the most nonsensical stuff I’ve heard on here in a while.

    Thad seems a bit more rational, and we can possibly reach him.  Maybe a conversation about the supposed messianic prophesies, the dodgy origins of the Bible, and a more objective analysis of the god of the Old Testament could snap him out of it, as has happened with so many other Christians, including many preachers.

    Also, I call bullshit on the idea that any version of Christianity could make someone be more civil to other people.  There are too many hateful, bigoted Christians out there who had no problem finding a version of Christianity that works very well to justify their chosen mode of behavior.  Decent people tend to find a version of Christianity that tells them to be decent to people, and hateful bigots will find a version of Christianity that lets them do as they wish.  If anything, I’ve seen too many loving Christians who are horribly broken up about the idea of their gay friends going to hell and who vote against the rights of those friends, because their preacher tells them to.

    In general, I think it tends to be slightly worse than a zero-sum game.  Mostly, you get people choosing a denomination that fits their existing biases, but I see some who are driven to bigotry by their religion.  My friend Gene (who I should really drop an e-mail again, since I haven’t talked to him in almost a year), the ‘ex-gay’ guy, is an amazingly loving person who has been tortured into self-denial by his religious upbringing.

  66. frankgturner says

    @ Narf
    Bingo, Which is why I said that I am ok with it “for the most part.” The difficulty with the belief in mythical things that can’t be proven just to be civil issue is that their big book of multiple choice contains too much potential for bigotry. Unfortunately some people need the baggage.
    .
    What I think it comes down to is that so many people just can’t seem to accept an “I don’t really know” position. Insecurity makes them to terrified of uncertainty and certainty fills a void in their mind. The certainty might be a false certainty that comes with baggage (an illusion of security), but it is certainty.
    .
    Given that James Randi talks about this kind of thing it is almost analogous to saying that some people need to believe that the magician can actually do magic rather than it being smoke and mirrors.

  67. Narf says

    @68 – fgt

    Unfortunately some people need the baggage.
    .
    What I think it comes down to is that so many people just can’t seem to accept an “I don’t really know” position.

    I don’t accept that.  Sure, they prefer the baggage.  They’ve never learned to deal with uncertainty, perhaps, because their parents and church elders always made shit up, anytime the kid asked a question that they didn’t know the answer to.  I think that almost everyone can deal with it, once they get used to the idea, though.

    Sure, there might be a very small percentage of people with an extreme anxiety-disorder who truly can’t cope with it, after 20 or 30 years of having certainty shoved down their throats, but I doubt we’re ever dealing with people like that.  Anyone with that sort of complete lack of coping skills will completely avoid any conflict over worldviews.

  68. Robert, not Bob says

    @Kudlak #53
    What you’re describing sounds a bit like a potlatch (showing how rich you are by ostentatiously destroying things). It also reminds me of a certain phrase I was taught in bible school: “heaping coals on their heads”. It meant deliberately making people uncomfortable by forgiving them in unlikely circumstances-an evangelical tool, of course, like everything else. I hadn’t thought about that in years…

  69. corwyn says

    @68 Frank:

    Unfortunately some people need the baggage.

    Unless one is talking about oneself, this sentence always makes one look like an arrogant ass. People have been saying it for millennia, and been proven wrong for just as long.

  70. frankgturner says

    @Narf # 69 and corwynn #71
    I was a believer to some extent for some time, so I am not against the idea that I may have needed the baggage. I read Narf’s reaction some time ago and I had to think a lot about it, comparing it to myself and thinking about my own experiences. Maybe I did just prefer the baggage or did not know how to get but without it. I had this weird thought brewing in my head about the whole thing that has to do with in but in this weird disorganized way.

  71. Robert, not Bob says

    If people “need” to believe supernatural things, it’s only because they’ve been made that way by a society built around those supernatural things. Round and round the positive feedback cycle we go…

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