Day 278. 20 Things You Want to Hear a Christian Say

Saturday, November 26, 2011

On October 2, 2006, Charles Robert IV went to the Amish community in Bart Township, Pennsylvania where he had often gone before often as a milk tank driver. On this day, however, we went to the small community and entered the one room school. He sealed off the exits, and for about an hour stayed in there with ten young girls, having let others go. Police arrived, but before they could stop him, he shot and killed five of them, execution style and then himself.

The first thought for everyone who heard the story is of vengeance and for justice to be done, it’s just natural. Yet, the horror of the situation was met instead with an unequal show of compassion. The Amish community showered Robert’s family with compassion and love usually reserved only for loved ones and victim’s families. The family of the man responsible for the ruthless killing of the Amish children was met with comfort, forgiveness, and even a charitable foundation set up by the Amish themselves.

This story is one of the most remarkable stories in my lifetime because it goes against every cause/effect, injustice/revenge, eye for an eye scenario we are accustomed to witnessing everyday. Their response doesn’t make sense, and I find that inspiring.

It stands out in both compassion and rarity.

These were people digging deep and acting out a “Christian” response that we so rarely see from Christians.

I am a Christian, I just am. I often cringe saying it, to be totally honest, maybe I’m just a weenie. Whenever I say that to someone, I almost immediately follow it up with, “but I’m the loving kind.” Not that I have the capabilities that I just wrote about, but because the prevalent voice of Christianity in America is just the opposite. The prevalent voice is harsh and judging with no room for compassion, and I hate it. If I wasn’t Christian, I would hate it even more. I get why people do.

With that in mind, I’m going to present, “20 Things You Want to Hear a Christian Say.” Now, these are my own thoughts, I don’t think any of them are offensive, but you never know when it comes to religion. I wrote about politics awhile back and a friend joked that I should do religion next, well, here it is. After this, I guess I will have to tackle race.

20 Things You Want to Hear a Christian Say

1. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the big things like the Crusades, The Catholic Church’s handling of sex abuse, the Protestant church’s handling of various abuses. I’m sorry for the small things like individuals acting horribly in the name of Christ. They were wrong, and very hurtful.

2. I’m still sorry.

3. I don’t think that science and religion are incongruent. Boy, Christians have been on the wrong side of science so many times. All it does is communicate insecurity, in my eyes. The Earth being 4 billion years old doesn’t change anything to me.

4. We have really, really, really screwed up the homosexuality thing. What percentage of homosexuals feel loved by Christians? 9%? 3%? 2%? That is 91%, 97%, and 98% too low. Rarely do opportunities come along where love can shine, and we, instead, do the opposite.

5. Using the Bible to prove points to people who don’t believe in the Bible doesn’t make any sense intellectually.

6. A lot of the backlash in our society against Christianity is not about persecution towards Christians, it’s about the fact that Christianity became The Man. There is not much backlash against Buddhism, Buddhism is not The Man. Becoming The Man is one of the byproducts of being integrated into society and power. I don’t like most aspects of The Man either. Christianity was initially anti-establishment and things have gotten a little wonky when we became establishment.

7. The “best” Christians out there are the ones that you will never see in the media. Humility and TV appearance rarely fit together. Humility and behind the scenes volunteer work do.

8. The belief that God had a son who came to Earth and died for the sins of the world sounds crazy. Listen, I’m a Christian, but I just want to affirm that, yes, objectively, that sounds nuts.

9. We’re all hypocrites. Christians or not, we’re all hypocrites to some degree. Christians are often the worst because we profess very lofty things, while we often do the very base things that are the opposite. People who don’t profess lofty things don’t reach the same degree of hypocrisy in their failings. What if every time we profess something lofty, or are critical about a person’s failings, we immediately follow it up with ways that we personally don’t live up to it either. I think people could respect that. Hey, I’m writing a fairly critical piece about Christians who are critical, as we speak. Hypocrite!

10. We are rarely humble.

11. Using religion to divide is egregious. There are differences, but what if Christians emphasized the things we have in common as opposed to emphasizing the things that make us different. We’re all walking this road together, right?

12. We could stand to listen more and talk less.

13. A lot of the kindest people I know are not Christians. Some of the biggest jerks I know are.

14. On the whole,we have become known for the direct opposite of what we want to be known for. I think that for a lot of people if you were doing word association with them and you said, “Christian,” their response would be, “judging.” I’m not okay with that, and I don’t blame the person. Listen, there is an inherent tension in the Christian’s role. Along with grace, the Bible does talk about high standards for morality. So, the Christian is always walking that line. I’m just arguing that we are always going to err on one side or the other. I believe that on the whole, we’ve been erring on the side of morality judging for a long time. We could take the next 50 years to err on the side of grace and we won’t have gone too far. Christians believe that grace ultimately wins, so what if that was the word that came up in the word association?

15. If someone doesn’t believe in God, it doesn’t make them a bad person by any stretch of the imagination, yet we make them feel like it does. I can completely understand and respect people who come to an atheist position, we shouldn’t make you feel bad for it.

16. People’s negative feelings toward Christianity start with me. I’m probably the most spiteful, non-humble, not turn the other cheek person, hypocritical person I know. I do one thing and say another. I am the best at being hypocritical. Here’s an example. I work in retail right now, and sometimes I have to be in charge of the line for appointments for people to get their computer repaired. People get so impatient and rude toward me at times. In my head I’m thinking, “How are you so upset? Don’t you see there is a line, and that we’re working as fast as we can? Are you so spoiled that you can’t understand that? You are a bad person. I do not like you.” Yesterday, I was getting a prescription filled at a CVS and it was taking longer than I thought it would. In my head I was getting upset, thinking, “You should have this done by now, are you even working back there? How about showing some hustle? You are a bad person. I do not like you.” As a result, I was very cold and short to the woman. My hypocrisy list could stretch for miles. Miles, I tell you, miles.

17. Often times people argue Christianity more for the sake of their ego than for the sake of love. They want to prove that they are right, and lose sight of what it’s all about and that is hurtful to people.

18. I honestly don’t know if the Founding Fathers were setting up America as a Christian nation, that was a long time ago, all we have are hints on either side. If we are a Christian nation, then based on how we act, like me, we do a pretty good job of hiding it at times. The Founding Fathers did give us freedom of religion and I think that’s good enough.

19. Jesus talked about caring for the poor a lot, and we talk about it very little.

20. I’m not judging you, honestly, I’m not. I’ve tried it a few times and I sucked at it, so I gave up a long time ago. A lot of us have.

Bonus. Finally, on the whole, Christian music is not as good as regular music. There, I said it.

So, there it is. People can disagree, I probably got some stuff wrong, I can own up to that. Again, I’m no theologian, I’m just interested and vested in the intersection of Christianity and society. It would be great if society associated Christianity with the things that we profess. It would be mildly upsetting if things were just a little off base. It is crazy to me that, in fact, society associates the opposite with what we profess. I don’t blame society.

I recognize, I’ve been painting in broad strokes here, which I’m not entirely comfortable with. There are a ton of amazing Christians doing amazing work. I wrote this to address the overall sentiments of Christianity and society, and Christians’ role in that. What if people read the Amish story above and the compassionate response wasn’t rare? What if they read it and said, “Oh yeah, that’s how Christians handle things, they forgive.” What if that’s how I handled things? That would be amazing.

.

Note: Here is the link to my response to the overwhelming response of this post, published 12/16.

Editor’s note again:

Much of the time I write humorous things on this blog, but this post has proven most popular. Here are some other more sincere, heartfelt posts you might like if you liked this one.

I Actually Talk Politics. The UC Party || Open Letter to All Women || My First Appreciation of Memorial Day ||On Moving Home and Dreams ||  My Best Friend Matt || Could Have Done You Better || Letting it Happen || Two Types of Hikes

185 Comments

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185 responses to “Day 278. 20 Things You Want to Hear a Christian Say

  1. Brad

    They should make those into commandments…

  2. James

    Calling oneself a Christian doesn’t make anyone any more of a Christian than someone calling themselves a basketball player, because they love and watch basketball. Loved the post. Keep up the good work.

  3. csrster

    No, no, some of your music is very good – the Bach Mass in B Minor, for example.

    • This is very true. However, modern Christian music generally sucks. For instance “Our God Is An Awesome God” I nearly peed myself laughing the first time I heard that song. Dude, God is totally awesome! Eesh.

      • Stacy A

        However, if you know much about Rich Mullins, who wrote that and a ton of absolutely awesome music, you can be more forgiving about “Awesome God.” A lot of Christian music sucks for the same reason a lot of secular music sucks — it’s trying to sound like all the other “hit” music out there. One “hit” song generates tons of other songs that sound just like it. That’s why I appreciate Christian artists who are a little bit different in their approach, style, whatever, than the vast majority of artists. I would tell you who my favorites are, but based on your above post, I’m afraid you’d judge me for my taste.

      • lynn

        i really appreciated your “liberal” 20 things. i am the left-most person in my church (my pastor would agree w/ me). and i love modern christian music. our worship team plays it, and the one time i was late and missed it, i didn’t feel right thru the whole rest of the service. i play it on the car radio constantly. please listen to more of it.

      • Alyssa P

        Christian music played on the radio tends to be one-note and all kind of the same. I agree that it serves a purpose, but that purpose tends to be more worship-y than I prefer when I’m, say, driving in the car with my friends. However, if you listen to other music (such as LeCrae, Skillet, Kutless, etc), you hear a different side of Christian music: one that is fun, upbeat, and higher quality.

  4. jenksie

    I’ve been thinking a lot of the same things lately, too. So we are now on the same blogging page re: the internet & Jesus. Cool.

  5. Richard R. Andre, C. S. P.

    Thank you for such a great reflection! I am sharing this with my friends on Facebook.

    One of my professors said that “theology” is literally talk (logos) about God (theos). By that definition, you are a brilliant theologian.

  6. Found this through a friend on Facebook. Thank you for sharing what I think that many progressive Christians feel. Wouldn’t the world be amazing if we were all more humble and more compassionate!

  7. Tim

    Speaking as a former Christian turned Atheist I can say that you have pretty well hit most of the important points.

    I might suggest a couple of additional thoughts —

    1 – Don’t “push the message” on people in the public space. The reason for the Separation of Church and State is to protect everyone and has nothing to do with being anti-religion but rather to do with tolerance and inclusion of everyone without favoritism to any one view.

    2 – Admit that “the teachings of Jesus” are not exclusively Christian. The messages of love, tolerance, charity, respect, etc. are either so obvious as to be universal or were hijacked from other moral and ethical systems. Let’s face it, a good idea is a good idea no matter where it came from and every moral/ethical system is capable of recognizing it and saying “hey, that’s a good idea! We should adopt it!”

    3 – Remember that ‘atheist’ does not automatically equal ‘satanist.’ We don’t believe in God. How can we possibly believe in Satan? That doesn’t even make sense.

    Finally, I would say this — The most honest Christian I have ever talked to was the one who said to me “I know there is no testable evidence for the existence of God and Heaven. I choose to believe anyway.”

    This is a position rational people can agree on. It’s when the Christian (or Jew, or Muslim or [insert belief system here]) makes fantastic claims and insists that I’m wrong/evil/doomed/immoral/unethical because I don’t believe them that we start to butt heads.

    And those are the kinds of arguments that lead to very dangerous things sadly.

    Thank you for your post. It’s very thoughtful and honest.

    It gives me hope.

    • Thank you for your insightful response. Important things to consider!

    • Ed

      Why weasel your Atheistic ideals into this post?

      Jesus says: ‘go forth and make disciples of many nations’. How can we do that if we dont approach people publicly about their faith?

      I do absolutely agree with your third point

      • Tim, thank you for your perspective (and civility in commenting).

        Ed, I hope that in the future you would show people like Tim more respect. Yes, we are called to make disciples, but public, bullhorn-preaching style pronouncement seems to often be more detrimental than helpful (at least in my town). If it works where you are, then great.

  8. Anne

    Reached this through a facebook post. Thank you for your thoughts! They articulate very nicely what I think / feel / believe. Reposting…

  9. Good stuff ! Also Tim, good points as well.

  10. I love it! And there is so much to say, where to start. It is interesting how long you and I have known each other and have not really talked about this subject.
    I am not an atheist, I don’t even know if I just spelled that right. I am not even sure if I am an agnostic. I have already been deeply immersed in Catholicism, having been baptized Catholic, and even an alter boy at one time. I am currently reading the bible, but i cannot really base my life on it, nor do I feel it is appropriate for children to read. I cannot believe my kids take that book to church each Sunday! If it were a movie, they would not be allowed to watch it!
    I have always had questions about the bible, beliefs and faith. I can say that I am content at my position in life, which I am doing a lot of learning and reading for myself rather than having someone tell me in a church what to believe, and this time around, it is very different.

    I don’t think of you as a “Christian” because I have met too many of them, and you are much better than that. I consider you a person that believe in Christ and his teachings, but “Christian” to me would mean all the negative things you mentioned in this blog. “God hates fags” and the whole 9 yards.
    I love reading this blog, and this is one of my favorite posts because it is: deep, dark, humorous, insightful and inspiring all in one.

    This is an interesting documentary (I know you like your Indi-Docs) that adresses exactly what you blog references, also written by a Christian: http://www.hulu.com/watch/177536/lord-save-us-from-your-followers?c=News-and-Information%2FDocumentary-and-Biography

    • Isn’t it sad that the word “Christian” has such a negative connotation now? It’s supposed to mean “little Christ” — guess we pretty well messed that up, huh?

      • Margaret

        Yes, that’s what we’re good at… :-)

      • KZ

        Don’t forget that the world hated Jesus, found him utterly offensive, and crucified him. He was no Mr. Popularity. Not saying that a Christian who offends is always being a good Christian – but it is possible that they are just being a reflection of Jesus and the world doesn’t get down with that. If as a Christian, someone takes offense at you it could be because you are being a jerk, or it could be because you are doing as Jesus did. You gotta search your heart.

  11. Scoot

    Yeah, everyone should be so self depreciating to their beliefs just because others don’t like them.

    • Cary

      If I understand you correctly, it sounds like you totally missed the point. He’s not diminishing Christian beliefs – just the opposite – he’s upholding them by demonstrating the many ways in which Christians fail to embody what they claim to believe.

  12. You can thank Frank for driving a crapload of traffic to your site today. I’m really glad I read this post. It exemplifies what, to me, ought to be the norm. While I have philosophical differences with your stance on the “god/no god/which god” question, I can appreciate your viewpoint as compassionate and thoughtful.

    I agree with nearly everything you wrote and would heartily second Tim’s comment above. The question is, where do we go from here? You and I are the same in that we are part of a minority group overshadowed by some unrecognizable, hybrid monster that calls itself Christian. The funny (sad) thing is that you are just as likely to be persecuted for what you’ve written here as I am when I say, “There’s probably no god(s) at all.” How do you reach the larger portion of Christians who persecute others and give Christianity a bad name?

    I’d also add that “atheist” doesn’t mean “nihilist.” Atheists believe in all sorts of things and don’t always agree with each other except on one point: there’s no evidence to suggest that any of the 2,000+ gods throughout history have ever been anything more than the product of imagination, wishful thinking, or power-mongering.

    • Chris

      Please don’t believe that the larger portion of Christians persecute others.
      Unfortunately, the “larger portion” is mainly lazy/clueless/busy/afraid to get involved/afraid of offending/_____(fill in the blank)/tired….. I like to think I fit in with the busy/afaid to offend/tired crowd, but mainly I’ve always been a lousy debater and I’ve just given up. A coward, I know, but most of the Christians that I know, do not go along with the Fundamentalist Religious Right any more than I do. The people that I call friends & family would be as impressed with the list of 20, as I am. And I can’t believe that I’m actually going to post. I’m a first timer at 61, so go easy…maybe there’s hope for the “larger portion” yet….

      • Having grown up in a Christian family (all of whom are still believers) and having been surrounded by Christianity of various forms and denominations my entire childhood, I saw firsthand how a congregation can be so civil and friendly in person but back-stabbing and petty after the service. I know that not all Christians are like this, but you must realize that the ones who get noticed are not the ones who are kind and meek — because often those Christians don’t advertise their faith anyway and may as well be humanist — but the loud, judgmental, fear-mongering ones. The ones with fire and brimstone messages and prophecies, who single out individuals and groups upon whom to bestow their personal god’s (invisible, intangible) wrath. Jeff’s point #7 conveys this exact sentiment. The Christians who exemplify Christianity all work quietly, behind the scenes and go unnoticed.

        Jeff’s blog post is excellent but it could have been written by an atheist (apart from apologizing for religious tyranny, in which Jeff had no personal role anyway). I personally know of at least four believers who would condemn Jeff’s views as “Not True Christian™.” Those are the types of people with whom I grew up and attended church. That’s all I’m saying.

        My question still stands, though. How do you get the loudmouth Christians to see things Jeff’s way?

  13. Chris

    Found this in a facebook post and I am really humbled by it. As a Christian man who is in love with Jesus it grieves me to see so much evil done in the name of a man who was perfectly innocent and loving. Thanks for posting this. I do want to add, that as a Christian, I believe that God came into the world to save the world from itself and to be the sacrifice we needed to reconcile the evil we have done to God and to each other. I believe without Jesus as my sacrifice I would have no way of reconciling with God. If I truly believe that, the most loving thing I could do is share this truth. There is no judgment in sharing this truth but simply one messed up person telling another messed up person about the love of God and His salvation. I do believe that there are times when the message, not the person, is what we we feel judged by and that is something we need to wrestle with in our own hearts.

      • I too, believe in the power of His Holy sacrifice and not because it can be proven but because it can be experienced. I too, would love for everyone to experience, even for a brief moment, the wholeness of being reconciled with the Light of God. It is LIFE.

    • wendy

      I love this blog post and if all Christians were as insightful my life would be much easier.

      It is not the sharing that offends. it is the insisting that I must believe as you do or I will not be whole or saved, It is the condemnation, pity, disdain you name it that gets lavished on me when I hold to my own truth. It is the constant pressure on my child to believe and his confusion when our beliefs cause others to make fun of him at school. It is having to deal with the principal at his school telling me he needs to “get over” his belief in the sanctity of ALL life because bugs don’t matter. I know that it is very hard for the majority in a culture to be sensitive to others but these things still deeply offend. I am not messed up. i am not evil. I am not ignorant. God does not need you to communicate his will to me. If you are doing what you “think” God wants you to do then you are not listening to God. Yes the “message” that Jesus is the only way to salvation is offensive because it denies the legitimacy of all the other faiths in the world. But it is definitely the messenger doing the judging. We all make judgments and it is not inherently evil to do so. However, it is willfully ignorant to deny that you are being judgmental. And yes I am being judgmental in my belief that many Christians are being willfully ignorant.
      .

      • Dana Kinsey

        My belief that Jesus is the only way to salvation is offensive to you, but the principal can’t be offended by your belief that bugs are an integral part of the sanctity of life? Sounds like you pride yourself in making judgements. You’ve missed the point here.

      • Austin Hoover

        I don’t understand. You believe all faiths are legitimate? Either one religion is true, or none of them are true.

  14. I don’t know how you did it Jeff. This is the first of anything written about religion where I have read people of different backgrounds all nodding their head in agreement. Typically, (every one I have ever read) when you post about religion, it becomes a big and heated debate quickly. But not you! – you have believers and non-believers all giving thumbs up to your post. Bravo my friend.

    -Frank

  15. Pingback: Jeff Houghton’s “20 Things You Want to Hear a Christian Say” | Beyond Bryn Mawr

  16. I’m not sure how I missed this yesterday, and I’m sorry you’ve felt neglected by my lack of comments lately. I love Frank’s comment about how everyone from all angles like this post – you did a great job writing an unbiased look at some of the inconsistencies with *being* Christian vs. *acting* Christian. I am bothered by the same things you wrote about. And I am always humbled by amazing examples of people acting in true “Christian” form by showing nothing but love and forgiveness in the most difficult circumstances – like the story you related about the Amish. My goal is to grow up to be like that someday. :)

  17. philosophotarian

    I’m another former Christian who appreciates this post. I was one of those judging, jerk-Christians (Christianity and perfectionism do not mix well; wish someone had lovingly told me that). Although I currently find it impossible to believe, even if I could, I’d be too afraid to call myself a Christian lest I slip into my old self-righteous, less loving ways.

  18. Christine

    Thank you.

  19. Beautifully said. I am a former evangelical, now an agnostic who practices Buddhism. I have to say that many of the things that drove me to a hard examination of my faith, you have stated very clearly and well. I don’t think the Christian Right is christlike at all, and when I was still practicing Christianity and leading worship, etc., when identifying myself as a Christian I too felt like I had to qualify it. It’s amazing to me that utter lack of compassion, grace, and lovingkindness is displayed by the most public of Christians. You’re the kind of Christian Christians should be, i think. And there’s probably more of you out there than you think. Cheers :)

  20. Anonymous

    My friend posted this on FB and I re-posted it. Thank you for such a wonderful and thoughtful perspective. As a born-again Christian turned atheist, you have hit many of the frustrations I have felt growing up with this religion. I wish the world was filled with rational and loving Christians like you. You have truely embraced the real message behind Christianity. PS- thank you for the note about music… finally someone admits it out loud.

  21. Thanks for writing this. It all needed to be said!

  22. Chelsea

    Wow, you managed to put words to many of the ideas floating around in my head. One thing to add, why do we have to differentiate “Christian” music? It seems to me that rock music is rock music, regardless of what the lyrics are about.

    • Julie

      Yeah, totally agree with that. I really dislike that music done by artists that claim Christ is automatically labeled “Christian.” I mean really? There are good artists out there that are Christians and good ones that aren’t. Take Switchfoot for example. They don’t hesitate to say they’re Christian & they don’t hesitate to sing about God in their music, but they haven’t fallen into that dumb idea that “if your song doesn’t say *something* about God, you’re not a good Christian.” They have a great sound. Their sound isn’t “Christian.” It’s whatever genre they pull from.

      However there are bands that are “Christian” that suck. But I’m sure you’ll find just as many non-Christian wanna-be-bands/singers that suck too.

  23. I loved what you wrote, thank you!

  24. Mike

    That all sounds good except number 18 . . . the founding fathers did not intend America to be a Christian nation, but you wouldn’t know that because textbooks are edited to teach the opposite since religious fanatics want to run our country. I don’t care if you’re Christian or not, but religion has NO place in collective society, be it in business, politics, or education.

  25. P5-66_FPU-Error

    Bingo.

  26. Julie

    I Lived in Hollywood…been there done that…I tried it “my way” (use your imagination) I thought it would make me happy or content in life. After all, I was a tall, beautiful, signed, LA model, and perhaps rather good at my part-time job as ‘gold-digger’… it was not long before misery crept in… you know – the kind that makes you feel heavy, cold and lonely.

    I specifically remember being in my apartment; on La Brea, above Franklin – I could see Hollywood Blvd from my window… it was there… I remember talking to God the first time and asking for help…help did come rather quickly – in the form of a brave young lady who approached me in a grocery store; out of nowhere, she invited me to her church. Weird right? Although, this may seem like a quick remedy, it was not! I had a long journey – mostly studying. I spent hours, day and even weeks, pouring through bible texts, commentators, religious speakers. All kinds of faith, beliefs and teachings. I will have you know that I am the biggest rebellious skeptic of them all – I grew up hating God.

    Now, I stand on the other side, what is now so obvious to me – yet, still a journey everyday. My biggest problem was lack of correct information. I was full of observations, educated guesses, well-meaning individuals and current media trends…but, none of it was the perfect, unadulterated truth. For me, It was the access to good, solid, empirical information:
    http://gotquestions.org/
    is a good place to start. Only because it’s just easier to sort through the information quickly. I especially appreciate your honest thoughts and your beautiful heart for all God’s people. I love my journey and now have a clear direction for my life, although challenging at times, I have always come out a better person at the end.

  27. Katt

    A friend of mine re-posted this on FB…thank you for your insights…I am not Christian, I was raised Catholic, but am no longer…I am also not atheist nor agnostic…suffice it to say that my belief system says that everyone is equal regardless of what they believe…I applaud you for your honesty…this was a great post and I enjoyed reading it…it is a breath of fresh air for me as I am constantly being hounded by my in-laws because I am not of their faith…my children are being raised to honor all belief systems, and when they are of an age to choose, they are welcome to choose whatever works for them.

  28. Wow. That was an eloquent and very well-crafted, nicely-put narrative. Although I’m a Christian, I have many friends who are atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, Shinto, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and pagan. I’ve always tried to be understanding and accepting of my friends’ beliefs–and I don’t judge them. (I probably have more issues with their political leanings than with their religious views.) And yes, I am also a hypocritical, muchly failed Christian… and am always humbled when I realize my failings. Thanks for expressing your excellent point of view!

  29. The catholic church was responsible for the crusades. Not followers of Christ.

    • Andrew

      The Catholic Church was the only church in the West at the time of the Crusades, and they were (and are) followers of Christ.

  30. Marthy

    Great post, Jeff! I’m all for loving and not judging. But if I did judge, I’d start with myself and realize I’m not getting into heaven based on being a ‘good’ Christian. Goes along with my all time favorite – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrLzYw6ULYw
    (Or Google: Good O’Meter)
    It is under 3 minutes – mentions donating blood – and the American Express guy looks kinda like you, so should be right up your alley!

    • Iamian314

      That is so sad. You honestly think Timothy McVeigh is going to Heaven and I’m not.
      Also, I think you’re missing the author’s point. He wants Christians to be good, not be good Christians. He doesn’t like good Christians, he wants Christians (people who believe in Christ) to be good.

  31. Misty

    You are a genius! :)

  32. I have said many of these, though in my own words, at some point over the last few years. But, now that I am thinking that, I am feeling rather proud of myself and ruining the whole darn thing.

    PS Can I add, the majority of “Christian” fiction sucks? Cause, it sort of does.

    • I completely identify with your comment! And with your PS too ;) C.S. Lewis, Veggie Tales, and the Mandie series are the only exceptions I can think of off the top of my head, lol.

      • Oh, and Frank Peretti’s spiritual warfare trilogy! Can’t remember the name right now, but powerful and excellent plots as well.

      • I enjoyed Dekker’s Circle books and for a sweet easy read, I like Robin Jones Gunn’s Sisterchick series. So, there are some worthwhile reads out there. But, in general, Christian publishing houses seem afraid to let their writers be real. There is no story without conflict, and when I write fiction, my characters face real-life conflict. That isn’t always pretty and tied up neatly in happy-ending bows.

      • I’ve read Peretti’s books. They were kind of fun in a supernatural fantasy kind of way but I disliked how much it seemed at times he really tried to keep it clean when it didn’t seem it should have been. It was a little too puritanical at points for my taste.

        I also remember my mom reading the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to my siblings and me when I was much younger. I enjoyed it then but I was also a kid. I’ve been meaning to read some more of Lewis’ stuff but haven’t gotten around to it.

        Aside from that I really haven’t read much Christian fiction so I can’t make a really informed assessment.

      • Lewis’ Space Triliogy is awesome. You have to remember that he was writing in a time before the science we have today, so his theories have been proven wrong, but the books are fabulous. Especially the middle one, Perelandra. That one haunts me still.

        I read Narnia has an adult, and I loved them. I also like George MacDonald. And, Tolkien, of course. ;) Both Lewis and Tolkien have said great things about the importance of fantasy and imagination in our faith and our lives.

  33. Kelly Knauer

    No. 18. Trust me, the founders did not think of the U.S. as a specifically Christian nation …. they were well aware of the senseless doctrinal and sectarian wars that had ravaged Europe for centuries …. they were trying to set up a nation that was free of these restrictive old ways of thinking …. the division of church and state was one of the defining elements that set the U.S. apart from Europe’s corrupt old order.
    Men like Ben Franklin and Tom Jefferson had no use for religious cant … in their eyes, most religion was just another form of tyranny over the mind of man … these folks were rationalists who were excited by the promise of science rather than the platitudes of the pulpit.

  34. Mike

    Jeff — I’m an embarrassed Christian, just like yourself. When I reposted this on facebook, I wrote “I remember the Amish response to those killings. It was the first time in my life I stopped viewing them as “weirdos” and started loving them for everything they’ve stood for, for centuries.” They’re not exactly friendly to their gays either, so I had my own personal issues with them going…

    I also wrote: “I should have written this article.” My dad’s a Methodist Bishop, I grew up with S. Baptist missionaries, blah blah blah, I am the epitome of what it is to be disgusted by people “acting Christian”. And yet, I would have added #21: if you act and believe the way you really know how Christian’s are *supposed* to act, it’s amazing how it has the power to change everything. It changed that Amish community, probably more so than the killings. It changed how children of white racists in the 50’s felt about humanity. It will change how gay people feel loved by Christians, and how we’ll coexist with our Muslim Arab neighbors, and even (as you’ve already shown) how people respond anonymously on the internet. Thank you for making us all more “Christian”.

  35. I thought this was fantastic! I am in Germany and liked that you hit the point here about USA Christianity. Europe is only 2% Christian because it saw throught the duplicity of empty religious Christianity. Don’t talk to Europeans about church! Talk about Jesus and most will talk about Him.

  36. Debra

    How elegant! I am a teacher working with my students at the moment on argumentation/persuasion–this is one of the best “fresh” (not canned in a book) examples in a long time that I have seen of someone looking at the many sides of an issue without judgment. ACTUALLY crafting a rational argument. And it’s an issue very difficult to talk about for the reasons you gave. I wonder if PRIDE is the central problem for human beings? Isn’t pride the worst of the Seven Deadly Sins? Doesn’t it go before a fall? When any of us invent a glory for ourselves that is unmerited, we stop seeing the world the way it really is. We become blind. Could it be that infusing our atmosphere with Humility Gas would end war, hunger, and jerk behavior on Black Friday? I’m re-posting this on my Facebook and am considering using it in class. Would that be OK with you? Thanks for a lovely intellectual turn.

  37. I agree with most of this — especially number 5 and number 7. But would tweek a couple of others.

    Anyway I’m not sure you are fairly comparing secular music with Christian music. You may be right in your assessment, but I still think MOST secular music sucks (as does most secular fiction). Just try listening to a top 40 station for a while. So maybe we should just compare the best with the best.

  38. Tim

    Jeff you need to trust Christ as your savior and study the scriptures for help in understanding the things of God. The worldly man cannot grasp spiritual things and the Bible is spiritual truth. Christians are not perfect by any means and some who profess to be christian or do things in the name of christianity are not true believers. I was greatly saddened to read your post because once again the evidence of deception and lies continues to lead people astray or blind them from the truth. There is hope for all those who believe in Jesus Christ and abide in him. Apart from Jesus Christ there is no hope for anyone and that is not mean spirited or uncaring, it is just the opposite. It is the truth that sets people free from bondage to sin and death. I hope you will meet and trust Jesus Christ as your savior and that will make all the difference.

    • Rhonda Jamison

      Tim-
      You’re busy judging another Christian, how Christlike of you! You are obviously one of “those” Christians that I hope I never have the unfortunate opportunity to run into. Your post greatly saddens me.

    • Iamian314

      Sounds like you’re calling Jeff a liar. He clearly said (many times, I think) that he is a Christian. He only wants fellow Christians to live up to the teachings of Christ. How is he being led astray? Maybe you need to re-read the post, especially the “Twenty things he wants to hear a Christian say” part, and ask yourself, “How am I being led astray?”

    • Trolololo

      Are you fucking kidding me? You’re the perfect epitome of what this post is about.

    • Matthew

      I read Tim’s response and it seems like little more than one exhausted trope piled on another. For instance, where exactly is the “evidence of deception and lies” in Jeff’s post? I’m a Christian and I see nothing here but an honest and faithful attempt to come to terms with the contradictory nature of American Christianity. I see faith there; I’m pretty sure I don’t see faith in your response. Blessings, brother.

  39. I’m a Christian too… “one of the Loving Kind”. Thank you for the opportunity to share these statements. Friends of mine have experienced the harshness that sometimes comes along with Christianity and this is a great opportunity for healing. I believe it would make Jesus “smile”. I’m focusing on the virtues of Grace & Humility and the fact that you referenced these virtues leads me to believe that God is working on all of us… for the greater good. Well Done.

  40. katrien

    I’m from Belgium, a catholic country. I’m pretty sure that we have more non believers here than believers. In our country we look with unbelieve to the United states and the horror that happens over there in the name of a God. Since internet things go around the world pretty fast, i have american friends on FB, that is how i found this blog.

    First a big bravo for the post.
    Second for me everyone is the same, believers, non believers, colored, white, handicap etc…
    Third I don’t believe that a God would accept any agression on his behalf.
    Fourth if there is a God or more than one God i don’t think they want us to judge on any religion.
    Fifth in my humble opinion i think that religion is to often beeing used as a cover.
    Final if we believe in a God or not that doesn’t really matter. What matters is how we act in our life, the standarts we use !
    Love and happiness to all of you
    K

  41. Honestly none of this is what I want to hear from a Christian. I want silence. I do not want to hear about your personal beliefs. As an atheist I hear them enough. I may care about you individually but as I am a stranger on the net? Yes I actually still do.

    I want to see the acts of kindness, not in the name of a god that I have decided is fictional after years of abuse in his name, years of nothing but hate, but just so that you are doing good. Good for the sake of good, not good for the sake of pleasing a deity that may or may not exist.

    I want to see you question your faith. Regardless of your conclusion being the same as mine, regardless of your being happy or not questioning faith can for some strengthen it.

    Writing fiction I have learned it is more powerful to show than tell, and this extends to reality too. I want to see the actions not hear how you might maybe do them.

    Christians as a rule blather on too much about their god and how awesome he is. I do not want to hear how your god can beat the Buddha up. I just want to see you exist in the moment, in space, with joy, with life, with happiness and with peace.

    I want to see you live without fear, self hatred, or doubt. Without the omnipresent worry that if you eat another piece of cake you will die and go to some firey pit of doom.

    I want to see you research your religion and learn it inside and out. I did. I did that for as many religions as I could, and I still do this. I question my lack of faith, yet, the question comes up with another answer, and the answer is never the one that the Christians want to hear.

    I want you to go a day without having to mention your faith. Its not a requirement for conversation, for knowing, its not a justification for action or in action.

    Nor does your religion mean you need to carry the guilt of the actions of the criminals that run your religious organization. If you commit the crime? Then yes, feel the guilt. Feel the sorrow for their crimes but you cannot repent for sins that are not your own, to borrow the parlance of your faith.

    It doesn’t always make news when people do not react with hate to the families of criminals. Often, no one notices. This may be rare for Christians, who do control the media (Else we’d have lots of nice gay sex on the telly in equal measure to the straight sex, and perhaps less racism!) but that does not make it rare for those who are outside your faith.

    I feel sorrow reading about your perpetual guilt. Your faith has taught you to hate yourself. Why? You were born? Being born is not a sin. Breathing is not a sin. The Church teaches this but it is not so.

    I want you to question why you are a Christian. Don’t answer this for me. Answer it for you. Why are you a Christian? Just because, isn’t a real answer. Its an avoidance of the question. Yes its questioning the identity you have, but its also choosing who you are.

    You are welcome to email me for further private discourse.

    • I like your response, I really do. I feel you just judged as you criticize others for doing. I feel it carries a bit of condescending tone to it also, as if you figured it out and that is the only way to do it. Your method is working for me also. Reading the bible solo, learning more about religion from an outside perspective. And yes, my belief systems have changed, and often I feel that EVERYONE should believe the way I do. But that is not the case. My wife that I love dearly is a believer, and I never leave her side. As she says “Frank believes others have the right to be wrong”. Too true, haha.
      My favorite portion of your reply is “Good for the sake of good, not good for the sake of pleasing a deity that may or may not exist.” I agree 100%. When my children were taught “Do a good deed and you will be paid back with god’s blessings”. I added. Or just do a good deed expecting nothing in return. That is how you KNOW you did a good deed.
      Again, thanks and I enjoyed it.

      • Cary

        I’m confused by the notion that one should do ‘good’ just because it’s ‘good’. What makes something ‘good’? How do you know what is ‘good’? What if I think something is ‘good’ and you think it is ‘bad’? You claim to live as if morality is a matter of preference (gay sex, straight sex, who cares?) and yet you assume there is an absolute something out there called ‘good’ that we can all recognize and agree on? Where did that ‘good come from? Christians believe the ‘good’ is defined by God. Who do you believe defines the ‘good’?

    • Why am I a Christian, in spite of wrestling with doubt and a severe distaste for “Christian” subculture? It’s not a short answer, but let me explain with something I wrote for myself a few months ago in an attempt to answer that more fully:

      We live in a broken world. West African girls are promised education in a new country only to find themselves living in squalor and working as slaves while the suburbanites in New Jersey who use their hair braiding services remain blissfully unaware. Farmers who have remained on land in the Middle East for generations, tending their now 200-year-old olive trees, find their ancient fields destroyed by settlers with full governmental protection. Yet at the same time, the people under that government live with the very real fear of non-existence on a daily basis, witnessing the horrors of a world determined to wipe them off the map. And on an individual basis, we hurt the people that we love, failing even our best intentions. We experience this brokenness in our lives, in the things that we do and don’t do, the things that are done to us, and in the cultural and societal structures that are larger than we are.

      But it was not always this way – God created the world as something beautiful and whole. We were created as beings that were naked and unashamed, fully able to share our vulnerabilities with each other and God without feeling the need to hide.

      But we – humanity – fell, and all of creation fell with us. We have a problem the ancients called sin that alienates us from ourselves as we were meant to be, from each other, and from our Creator – and it’s a problem that permeates everything that we do, even when we try to do good. Sin – it’s in all the ways that we hurt each other, all the ways we fail ourselves, all the injustice that can govern institutions and organizational structures. Yet God is not an absentee landlord – he loves each of us individually, actively, and wants a relationship with us, so he was not content to allow this situation to remain.

      God sent his son, Jesus, into the world in order to announce that his Kingdom is coming, a realm of possibility where you and I can be more fully human, more fully ourselves, a realm where evil no longer has the final word. Jesus, both fully God and fully man, died in order to free us – and all of creation with us – from sin, from evil and decay. He died to begin the project of reconciling us with God, each other, and the world. He rose from the dead as an announcement for all time that death has been decisively defeated, evil has been decisively defeated – it no longer has control over this world. It’s like the Chronicles of Narnia, when Aslan returns to bring spring to a land stuck in the frost of winter, freeing it from the control of the White Witch. The moment he came back to life, her reign was over, even if it took a little while for that beginning to come to full fruition.

      Jesus invites us to join his Kingdom, the beginning inklings of it, to have a part in renewing and restoring the world, to have a part in bringing justice, hope, love, truth, and beauty. He invites each of us to a relationship with him, that we might be renewed and restored as individuals, that we might we renewed and restored as a community. This is an invitation to live not for ourselves, not in slavery to our own sins and desires, but to renounce all of that and follow Jesus to become more fully alive, more fully human, more fully who we were meant to be.

      Every piece of music I write is somehow a part of this restoration. Every time someone feeds a hungry person, every time someone welcomes an outcast, every time someone rescues girls who have been trafficked – that is building the Kingdom, contributing a small piece to the ultimate restoration of Creation. It’s not a project that requires us, but one that we are invited to join, one that will continually change us as we are a part of it – and one day, Jesus himself will return to bring this redemption and reconciliation to completion and fully establish the Kingdom of God. One day, I will see the world that my music, that others’ music and love and fighting for justice has had a part in bringing to life – it won’t be some distant heaven, but our world and our reality, now healed.

    • Julie

      I definitely like parts of your post. :) Christians SHOULD research. We should know our faith, the teachings, and the facts that do support it inside & out. If only more Christians could see that….
      And I agree that every Christian should question themselves & their faith. We will only know our faith well when we seek answers & that only starts with questions.
      Yet I don’t get why you say he has such guilt? It doesn’t look to me like the horrible guilt you speak of; just a moment of honesty & of feeling sadden by the misrepresentation of Christ. I feel the same way. It’s not guilt. I am definitely a hypocrite at times, just like he describes, but that doesn’t mean I hate myself. Also, I dunno what church you’ve been to, but the Bible doesn’t teach that being born is a sin & neither has any church I’ve ever been to. Tho whatever church you went to was probably a “church” that doesn’t teach the Bible…. -_-
      Also I’m wondering why you think Christians control the media? We *could’ve* controlled media, film, etc. but then there were Christians who were pansies & said “It was *potential* for evil, which automatically makes it evil (which is such stupid reasoning btw) so we’re going to try to ignore it (even more stupid reasoning).”

      On another note, I do understand that you might feel annoyed by Christian that can’t seem to shut up about their faith. Sometimes we need to learn enough’s enough & back off. But I hope you also understand that some of us really do love Jesus & are passionate about it, & when you’re passionate it’s hard to turn it off. Like I love techno & video games & art. I LOVE to talk about it. It’s the same with God. It’s fine that you don’t have the same interests, but it’s unfair to insist that we never talk about it just to make you comfortable. But maybe I misunderstood you…
      Another thing I don’t get: Why the comment about living without fear? We’re just human. Circumstances that make you afraid are generally things that make us afraid too. I think one can be afraid & still be courageous & brave.

      Though I would like to add that I *want* to do good things to please the God I follow. Why does that bother you? If you have someone you love, don’t you want to please them???

      Sorry this is so long. I have agreements, points, & questions, so it was next to impossible to make short ^_^ I do hope you respond.

      • Derrik

        Christians may not control media, but unfortunately Christianity is pushed on people right and left in our society anyway. We know you’re excited about your religion – but keep in mind that if you’re living in the USA in 2011, there’s approximately zero chance you haven’t heard about Jesus. So for a lot of us, if we wanted to be Christian, we already would be.

        It’s exactly what the original article is talking about. Blathering about how awesome you think god and Jesus and such are isn’t going to convince anyone – those who aren’t already convinced have already gotten an earful. If you want to show people what’s so great about your religion, less talking, more doing. Instead of giving a speech, set an example.

  42. I find my journey as a Christian problemmatic – I am so sure and steadfast in my belief, yet alter and amend that belief on a regualr basis. How can Christians be so solid in their faith when faith itself cannot be measured, studied or proved as one can tire pressure or the boiling point of water?

  43. chris

    Like many other people who commented, I found your post on Facebook. Love everything you said, I think what is honestly admitted (if not explicitly) is that as a Christian and a hypocrite you are part of the problem. I know that I am part of the problem. I have a slight criticism, but please understand that overall I love what you’re doing here…

    I heard an amazing speaker a few years ago (Carl Medearis), who changed my perspective on Christianity. He points out that Jesus was decidedly anti-religion, yet his followers created a religion, named after him, and used it to commit atrocities which Jesus would never condone. I too cringe as I admit to being a Christian. Like you, what I tend to do though is make excuses and say “I’m not like those other Christians.” But honestly, I am. Even though I know Jesus loved the sinner, and came to be a doctor for the sick, I am Pharisaical, and judge everyone else. This especially extends to the non-believer. Even though I too admit that some of my beliefs sound crazy. So we decide to back them up to the non-believer with biblical evidence. (A la 1 Corinthians 1:18). And as I read comments from atheists or agnostics I have this self righteous attitude like I know something they don’t. I’m sorry! (perhaps its the other way around, I hope not).

    Yet, I would say your attitude is nothing new to me. As a Christian its become popular to debase the religion of Christianity (deservedly so), as well as call the common Christian believer in to question(maybe not so deservedly). It’s easy to admit that I am a hypocrite, sure, everyone is a hypocrite, but an apology from an outsider is hollow. You apologize for the crusades, the church’s transgressions, and the harsh judgments of Christians, but I don’t think you can make an apology for all Christian believers, yet claim to be a more loving version of them. Donald Miller did in Blue like Jazz, and it sort of worked.

    I guess my criticism is this: change the qualifier. Christians aren’t Christ like, and we won’t be in this broken world. A few Christians have gotten it completely wrong and given Christianity a bad name, but who cares. Christianity is just a religion. Love people like Christ did, and then instead of claiming to not be like other Christians, admit: “Hey I’m a Christian, BUT I don’t do a very good job of living that out.” I’ve been trying to do this, but I don’t do a very good job of it. I’ve found that you’ll never save the image of our savior by claiming to be loving like Him. Claim the truth instead, that in reality he was a billion times better at loving people than I ever will be. I just do the best I can.

    This is sort of my post secret, because I hate internet debates, and I hate how people can hide behind their anonymous posts (yes, I’m a hypocrite). I don’t mean to be confrontational either. I could never write anything half as honest or well spoken as you did, and I would receive much more criticism if I tried. I’m not even sure if any of this will make sense (it may just be rambling). God bless you for clearly having so many friends who can attest to the way you love people in your everyday life. I pray for the very few haters.

    • Shane

      I completely disagree with Carl Medearis’ statement because of his lack of knowledge of the life of Christ. If Jesus was “decidedly anti-religion”, then why was he such a devout Jew who participated in Jewish customs such as celebrating the Passover and partaking in his Bar-Mitzvah? He observed the Jewish Sabbath and even read from and preached from the Jewish scriptures. Jesus, by his actions, thought that associating himself with a religion was important because He himself was a devout Jew.

      • chris

        Shane, thanks for your input. I have to amend my previous statement. First I don’t think I paraphrased Carl very well, which is a great injustice to him. “Decidedly anti-religious” was extreme over statement, and to my knowledge Carl never said that. I would hate to accidently slander him.

        Backing off my more extreme statement above. Sure Jesus followed important Jewish customs (he flipped over tables in the temple, because he didn’t want His Father’s house to be desecrated). He was clearly very passionate about Judaism, and I don’t deny at all that he was a devout Jew. At the same time Jesus was more annoyed by and hardest on the Jewish leaders of His day.

        My main point is that it wasn’t the religion that he was passionate about it was the God behind the religion. He gave a new commandment, to Love God with everything. He knew the other commandments, and those rules were all summed up in one simple commandment: love God, and if we still need further clarification, also: love people. Then He lived that out.

        I’m not trying to get into some big religion vs. relationship debate. I’m just saying what is most important is to love God, and then secondly to love other people. What I was trying to get at in my original post is that if we are to be like Christ, we should first be humble, and admit that we are nothing like Him, not pretend that we are some how better Christians because we are more loving, or more like Christ than other Christians.

  44. Wow. Thank you so much for this. I plan to share this with as many of my friends that I can!

  45. Christian to Christan : YES. You are dead on.

  46. Barb Bara

    The foundation of ALL music is Christian music because the Christians wrote it down; created notation. Think of chant, polyphony, Bach, Handel, Mozart…that is GREAT Christian music. This article is really mixed up.

    • Judi warner

      I am a professional musician… and I agree that Classical Christian music is great like Mozart’s and Bach’s, but most contemporary Christian music is mediocre. I can hardly stand to listen to it. Western Classical music is indebted to the early church with it’s chants and development of polyphony. That was great music and it still is. Hardly anybody can perform it anymore because there aren’t very many trained musicians left. So people are satisfied with simple, mediocre music now. To make a classical musician it takes 1-2 hours of practice a day for at least 10 years. People don’t dedicate themselves to this kind of work anymore, thus, we don’t have the musicians available like we used to 30 years ago.
      The article I believe refers to current Christian music, which is average at best in the musical world in my opinion.

  47. Lisa Guedea Carreno

    YES. Very well-spoken and insightful!

  48. Amy

    Hey there…. Just a random stranger taking 2 minutes to leave my thoughts. I’m no one special and I don’t have an expertise so I’m literally just sharing from my heart. When I read your post, I immediately thought “No, no, no.” This is all wrong. FAITH is not about PEOPLE. My faith in Jesus Christ as Lord of my life is not about people. It’s not about the other people who agree or disagree with me. It’s not about the behavior of people. It’s not about what groups of people claiming to know Jesus do or say in our times or hundreds of years ago. My faith is an exclusive relationship I have with Jesus. My feelings about Jesus and my trust in Him aren’t changed by what other people do. And thankfully so! People are always going to fail. It’s our nature. There isn’t any person who has never hurt another. We do it all the time. I choose to treat people with kindness but if the guy sitting next to me in church next Sunday is a jerk, this doesn’t change God. He’s just a guy with issues and faults like the rest of us. Even if a big ol’ group of jerks get together and say a bunch of jerk things and at the same time claim to love Jesus, it doesn’t define Jesus. We are supposed to be defined by Christ. Christ isn’t defined by us. Almost every comment on here that is from a person who dislikes Christians or Christianity listed their reason as being that someone who claimed to be a Christian hurt them or hurt someone else. Again, people screw up. God doesn’t have to apologize for our bad behavior. (Hmmm…. guessing this won’t be too popular….I think I’ll hit “post” anyway.)

    • Where in the Bible does it say Faith is an exclusive relationship? If the two greatest commandments are to love God and love neighbor, then how can you follow Christ and it NOT involve other people?

      • Amy

        That’s not what I was trying to say. I seek to love others as Jesus loves every day. I was trying to say that my faith exists because of who God is. God is unchangeable and so my faith is unshakeable. My faith is not strengthened nor weakened by anything that people do or don’t do. As some of the examples above- if a priest or pastor were to do something horrible to a child, I would be disgusted with that behavior. But it wouldn’t change who God is simply because the perpetrator claimed to know Jesus. It would be reflective of that person’s character, not the character of Jesus.

      • I had a feeling that is what you probably intended to say, and I apologize if my reply seemed rude. So many Christians try to live life with their head in the sand though, and the biggest problem with the American church, in my opinion, is neglecting to truly love all people in action. It’s a bit of a soapbox for me.

    • PS No, God does not have to apologize, but we do. Repent, confess your sins to one another…

      • Barbara

        AMEN Heather – very well put. My reply to him would be: There are some true points and some not – but as he said, he’s talking in broad strokes. He has some valid points, but if we are “Crazy Love” (Francis Chan) Christians he wouldn’t be able to write this article at all. He talks about hypocrites but my word would be sinners – and yes we are all sinners. If all Christians followed the 2 main commands that Jesus Christ (who after all we are supposed to be modeling) gave us – to love the Father above all and then love each other – then again this article wouldn’t need to be written. But alas we are sinners and unless we let Jesus reign in our hearts, we will continue to be the kinds of Christians that make others cringe. Just my opinion.}

      • Matthew

        Amy, if you’re a Christian, you have a responsibility for what the Church – in all it’s diversity – says and does. For better or for worse. We might not be able to change it all, but we have to accept our part in it.

    • Julie

      I understand your comment, but he wasn’t saying that our relationship with God is dependent on other people.
      You’re right. Christ *isn’t* defined by us. That’s why he’s the Rock, forever faithful, the great I AM, and ever unchanging.

      What he was saying was the great point that we are ambassadors for Christ & so we should live like it. When ambassadors are rude, what do people think of the country they’re from? They think “That people-group must be so rude!” because that ambassador *represents* that country & it’s leader(s). It’s the same with us. Like when we get all defensive for the sake of our ego & not in love, those we’re arguing with will think “Wow, I don’t want to follow a god who has followers like THAT” not “Wow, I want to follow this god! He must be great even though his followers are jerks.”

      How we live is our greatest testament to the unsaved. We can’t afford to be careless about it.

  49. Ryan

    Dude, you need to read your bible again brother.

  50. Great points here, Jeff. I completely agree with most of them and as a huge lover of Jesus (and Christian music – it’s MUCH better than it once was, I tell you) it pains me as well that we as a whole have not represented who we love the most (Jesus) very well. And yet.

    We are all sinners – we as Christians are no different in that regard from someone else. We have a responsibility to be obedient to Him once we choose to follow but that doesn’t remove the flesh. Just because I am a Christian doesn’t mean I’m going to do everything perfectly yet I feel that sometimes people are looking for us to screw up so they can make a case for why they don’t believe.

    I recently read somewhere that churches should have a sign at the door that reads “This is a hospital not a country club.”

    That pretty much sums up the church – a hospital of hurting people.

    Lastly, I just want to say that most of these points are not about faith -they’re about religion. Religion is one of the worst things that has happened to Jesus in my humble opinion…

    I admire your honesty and willingness to throw it all out there – great post!

  51. I don’t really like to discuss Religion mostly because it just tends to make people uncomfortable. So i’ll just put this out there once. Yes, I am a Christian by choice. I can’t help what has happened in the past and I can’t help how other christians use this title to spread beliefs that they really have no authority to spread. I believe science and religion can exist hand and hand. And I WHOLE HEARTEDLY believe that it is not my place to judge anyone in their choice of life style.
    That being said, I have many friends and family that would fit this very same description.

    We all have our radicals and extremists and I find it troublesome that the 90% of us that are not these extremists get clumped in with the worst of them 100% of the time.

    That may not be exactly what you wanted to hear but it’s the best i’ve got.

  52. Thank you for your comments. I myself feel the same way and agree wholeheartedly with you.

  53. My dear friend, Jeff, I do want to leave a comment. First, i want to thank you for the things you got right. It was awesome. Christians are considered judgmental because we are. Christians are considered non-loving because we don’t love. Christians are not associated with grace, because we are not filled with grace. EVERY command in the Bible is directed towards believers. As the Holy Spirit said through Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, we are called to associate with those in the world who do not know Christ, and we are not permitted to judge people who don’t know Christ. How can a person who doesn’t have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of them possibly obey the leading of that same Spirit!? I like some of your points, brother.

    Some of them, however, I have to take issue with. 3 – If the earth is billions of years old, it changes EVERYTHING. Christ, then, when He speaks of Adam as a real person is wrong. If Christ is wrong, then He doesn’t know everything. If Christ doesn’t know everything, then He can’t be the Messiah. If He isn’t the Messiah, He can’t be God. If He’s not God, we believe in a lie. I urge you to pick up a subscription to Creation Magazine!

    5 – We are to preach Christ crucified. It is a stumbling block to the grace-less religious, and foolishness to the self-thought wise men. But, in truth, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God. There is no other source THAN the Bible to impart wisdom, and therefore it must be used. We, as Christians, can show that if people live according to the Bible, lives would be better; and, we can show, through the Bible, how the Bible is the exact opposite of what the world or any other religion can promise.

    11 – Christ Himself said that “I am the way and the truth and the life”. There is no other way to God than through Christ. Yes, many people BELIEVE they are on the same journey; but, their journey takes them to self-righteousness and a salvation based upon works. That salvation is useless, because God accepts ONLY perfection. God accepts ONLY His Son. And we are saved by that sacrifice applied to us.

    15 – Not make them feel bad, but we should make them scared; or at least try to lead them to Christ. Without Christ, hell is the only alternative!

    4 – Going backwards briefly. People in the gay community are treated horrendously by many Christians. However, the gay community has two problems with Christians: a) those Christians that hate the gay community (it is a sin to hate gay people); b) those Christians who preach the truth in love. Even if Christianity preached ONLY the truth about homosexuality, that homosexual acts are, in fact, sin…the gay community would still hate us. Christians DO need to get rid of the hate speech against gays…but not the truths of the Bible. That is the only truth that IS truth!

    18 – Doesn’t matter what the founding fathers intended. Race-based slavery was not outlawed from the outset, though some founding fathers wanted it outlawed. That, in itself, makes America not able to be called a Christian nation.

    Dude, I love most of your post, and I do pray that all Christians focus more on love of God, and then love of people! But, always, God first!

    • 3 – What’s the alternative then? That god is deceitful and made the world look like it’s billions of years old in order to confuse people? That doesn’t make any sense coming from a deity who supposedly wants people to know him. The fact is that science produces consistent, tangible, useful predictions while throughout all of history gods have yet to produce even one. You typing your thoughts to Jeff’s blog post on a computer via the Internet for people around the world to read is testament not to the power of gods but the viability of science.

      4 – Show me one place in the Bible where Jesus condemns homosexuality as a sin. He focuses more on pride, judgment and arrogance than on what Christians deem abominations. Maybe Christians would be wise to focus on the real message and stay out of other people’s bedrooms, huh? Perhaps then they’ll be free of that nasty pride and arrogance and change the world’s perception of their beliefs.

      Also, what’s your benchmark for truth? If the Bible says it, don’t question it? Why is the Bible’s “truth” any more true than the Epic of Gilgamesh or Harry Potter? And where in the Bible’s “truth” does it say that two people of the same sex cannot share a deep, meaningful, lasting love?

      5 – You can preach the crucifixion all you want, it’s never going to make sense to someone who doesn’t already want to believe it. I love that Jeff admits it sounds insane, because it does. Since what you’re proposing is that the Bible’s message revolves around a detestable, immoral, and unjust act of brutality I feel justified in rejecting it.

      15 – Who would be scared of something so ridiculous as the notion of Heaven and Hell? If you’re relying on fear to win converts then your god doesn’t have much to offer.

      18 – The Bible was widely used to justify slavery. Not only is the Old Testament chock full of justifications for and rules supporting slavery, St. Paul (what a holy, wonderful man) himself condoned slavery by speaking specifically to those in bondage and commanding that they be obedient and patient with their masters. As if that weren’t bad enough, he paints all of humanity as slaves to god, bond slaves in return for god’s wonderful “love” and “mercy.”

      Honestly, there are about a billion other (actually valid) reasons why this country wasn’t founded as a Christian (or even slightly religious) nation.

      I have a problem with people (notice I didn’t say “Christians”) who put god(s) first because it means they have less empathy and love for their family, friends, neighbors and fellow humans than they do for an invisible, enigmatic being from outside of space and time who by definition doesn’t need anybody’s love or respect.

      • Michael

        18 – I’m sorry, but what you said is simply wrong. The type of “slavery” that the Bible talks about is utterly different from the new world racist slavery that you’re thinking about. The Old Testament STRICTLY forbids kidnapping people for any reason or purpose. The Hebrew word translated as “slave” also means “worker”. The slavery laws, refer to people who offer service in order to pay off a debt. It is not slavery for life and they are released from the service once they’re done paying of their debt or seven years pass from the beginning of their service. They are allowed to build a family, have their own possessions and they can even choose to stay with their master beyond their required service time! In the New Testament it’s also a different case. The slaves you commonly found in the Greco-Roman world were house servants who were better educated, better fed and better treated than most people on the outside. Paul by no means is trying to encourage slavery. He’s telling the slaves to live the Christian life even in their circumstances. More importantly, people conveniently overlook the fact that he talks just as much about masters treating their servants kindly and justly (just as people bring out every verse talking about wives submitting to their husbands while neglecting that husbands must love their wives and be ready to give themselves up for them).

      • RE: 18 – I haven’t studied the customs and culture of the Hebrews but I think it’s a stretch to say that “slavery” means “indentured servitude” in this context. Read your Bible and tell me that “purchasing slaves” means “allow people to voluntarily work for you.” The problem with your line of apologetics is that I’ve seen it used to demonstrate why abolition was wrong – that black slaves in the South were healthier and treated better than free blacks so they’d be insane to want to leave their masters. Beatings and rape aside, they had it pretty good, right?

        The Bible specifies periods of indentured servitude for *Hebrew* slaves (Exodus 21:2-6, which, I’m sure, could mean “workers”). That is, unless he has children during his time in service and doesn’t want to leave his family since his wife and kids belong to his master forever. The Bible allows no such concession to foreigners (new world racist slavery, anyone?). No time limits are imposed (Leviticus 25:44-46) and standards for beating them (Exodus 21:20-21, as long as you don’t kill them or put out an eye) were deemed acceptable. They were designated property that could be handed down from generation to generation permanently – the Bible says so, and this was supposed to be coming directly from the mouth of this loving god.

        You mention that Paul admonishes masters to be kind to their slaves in the NT, but here you’re fully acknowledging Paul’s stance on slavery: that is, it’s perfectly OK. Regardless of how you position this and whether or not it’s identical to our current vision of slavery, it’s wrong. We know that owning people – and even today, indentured servitude is socially unacceptable – is and has always been wrong. The god of the Bible didn’t get that memo.

    • Michael

      I don’t really follow your logic about no.3. Why should it have any implication on Adam being real? I don’t know if you do, but I as a Christian never believed in a 6 day creation. I don’t rule out the possibility but I personally see no scientific OR scriptural reason to support that view. The creation account in Genesis is neither written or intended as a “scientific report.” The language and the structure are both poetic, not historical. The correct understanding of the days is not 1-6 but two columns of 3 days in which God creates a “kingdom” and then a corresponding “ruler.” Thus you have day 1 (light and darkness) and day 4 (sun and moon), day 2 (sky and sea) and day 5 (creatures of air and sea), day 3 (land and vegetation) and day 6 (livestock and men). The account isn’t intended to tell you HOW God created the world but WHY.
      As far as I’m concerned there’s ONLY one standard to use to validate the claims of Jesus – did He die on a cross and was raised from the dead? If you establish the Resurrection as an historical fact then indeed, everything that Christ said is true.

      • Conversely, if he wasn’t resurrected, then is the entire Christian faith a lie? Out of curiosity, by what standard do you evaluate the truth of Christ’s death and resurrection?

      • Michael

        You’re absolutely right CoderHead, and Paul agrees with you as well. After all, it was he who wrote “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith… If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 19)
        Essentially the standard is to establish the fact that the four Gospels are based on eye witness account.
        First, you have to see that it is at least as reliable (and in some ways more) as other contemporary historical accounts. For example, one of the most important events during the first century BCE was Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon River. We know about this event from four historians, none of them was even born when Caesar was murdered. On the other hand, all the New Testament claim to have been present at the events they’re describing or at least to personally know someone who was there. Another example, there are 9 first century non Christian historical sources referring to Tiberius Caesar (the emperor at the time of Jesus) and 10 referring to Jesus (including well known and respected historians such as Josephus and Tacitus). When you add the Christian sources you have 10 referring to Tiberius (the Gospel of Luke) and 77 referring to Jesus. And this is only in the few decades following the events. I find that most events that we view as historical facts have much less textual credibility (less sources, less early sources, less complete sources, etc.) than the Gospels. So why are they different? They don’t talk about God…
        The Gospels name several important contemporary figures (emperors, governors, high priests, etc.). It would have been very easy for these powerful figures to refute the validity of the accounts. In addition every single geographic location mentioned has been validated and found.
        Second, and more importantly the Gospel are not (as many people try to claim) written as legends. The Gospels contain details that would have never been there unless they were true and have been witnessed:
        1. There are random details that are completely irrelevant to the story like the hour of the day, distance of travel, number of fish caught, etc. which you simply don’t find in legends. My personal favorite is in Acts 28 where Luke describes in detail the vessel he and Paul boarded in Malta.
        2. In all four Gospels the first witnesses to the empty tomb are women. At that time the testimony of women was not considered valid at court. If the Gospels were fictional, you would never find a woman as a witness.
        3. If the apostles “invented” Christianity and established themselves as leaders, the Gospels serve as very bad PR. They are all described as cowards, hypocrites, and at times ignorant. Peter, the leader of the Church, denies Jesus three times and is called “satan” by Jesus. Others were racists, greedy, and violent.
        4. In the same way that you can’t explain the presence of these descriptions, it’s equally mind boggling what could have utterly transformed each one of them. Peter the coward speaks boldly in front of the same authorities from whom he tried to hide and eventually chooses to die crucified upside down. Matthew, the tax collector, writes a Gospel in which love of money is often rebuked. And of course Paul, the greatest enemy of the Church who becomes it’s greatest servant.
        5. Every single one of the apostles and early Church leaders (with the exception of John who survived being boiled alive before he was sent to exile on the island of Patmos) died a terrible death and went through unimaginable tortures. Yes, through history many people of different religions died to protect their faith (and I’ll be the last to deny the blood shed by the crusades and inquisition). But rarely, do you find a group of people dying to protect something they know to be a lie. All it would take for the apostles to save themselves was to say “Jesus is not the Son of God and didn’t rise from the dead” something they knew for a fact to either be true or false. Let’s assume for a second that they did protect a lie. The way they lived and died, was so genuine and goes so contrary to the corruption and pride that you find throughout history in the leaders of “newborn” religions, that it will take a lot of faith (yes, faith) to believe that they all lied.
        6. At the end of several of Jesus’ sermons we are told that many who were there believed, but there were also many who rejected the teaching. We find the same statement at Pentecost, at the end of Peter’s first great sermon. How many stories have we heard when supposedly hundreds or thousands of people saw a vision of the Virgin Mary (or any other vision) and all of them were converted? Well, you don’t find these stories in the Bible. Instead, you have people watching Jesus performing a miracle and immediately after that asking Him “what miraculous sign can you give us to support your claims?” In the Bible seeing is not believing, believing is seeing.
        7. There are multiple places where the authors challenge their leaders to talk to the original eye witnesses. Paul writes that on one occasion 500 people saw the Risen Lord, and many of them are still alive (at the time of the writing). Mark directs the readers of his Gospel to find “Rufus and Alexander” (the sons of Joseph of Cyrene who helped Jesus carry the cross) as well as a reference to the youth who ran away naked when Jesus was arrested (many scholars believe the youth was Mark himself). Luke mentions several times the eye witnesses he interviewed. Find me one other legend/myth/scripture where you are told “go ask them if you don’t believe me!”
        8. And finally, we might think that the ancients were more inclined to believe in the resurrection of the dead than we are. Actually, they had even more reasons not to believe in it! Many Jews believed that the resurrection of the dead is possible, but it will be a general resurrection after the coming of the Messiah, not one individual. They didn’t believe God could be incarnated as a man, and they didn’t believe in a suffering Messiah. The Greeks believed in dualism, and were convinced that the spiritual realm is greater than the physical, and a resurrection would simply make no sense. That’s what Paul means when he writes that the Gospel is “a stumbling block for the Jew and foolishness for the Greek.”

        We see that there are countless of details and statements that not only don’t seem advance the message of the apostles but sometime can even go against it. These details would only be there if they are based on faithful eyewitness accounts. C.S. Lewis, who knew a thing or two about history, literature, and mythology wrote that he can only think of two explanations for the style and content of the Gospel – either four people woke up one day and were fully trained in the style of the modern novel, or the reported what they saw.

      • 1. Detail doesn’t equal truth. Every Stephen King book I read is chock full of details, both significant and insignificant, but I know them all to be fiction. Besides, there are significant details left out of the narratives like what Jesus was doing from ages 12 to 30 and who the 500 witnesses to the resurrection were. In addition, some of the details are just plain wrong. For example, Quirinius wasn’t governor of Syria until after Herod’s death and the census that required everyone to travel to the hometowns of their ancestors has no historical support.
        2. One of the gospels also says that the women ran from the tomb and never told a soul about what they had seen. While all of the accounts may have placed the women there first (probably due to burial traditions at the time), they aren’t exactly consistent. The details of Jesus’ appearances after the resurrection don’t jive either.
        3. It seems like some of these character flaws were par for the course during the time period described. I can’t really speak to the intent of the authors, but if all of the apostles were portrayed as flawless the story wouldn’t be very believable, would it?
        4. We don’t know what these people were actually like and only have the Biblical accounts for reference. Were they transformed? I don’t know. If the story is fictional then it doesn’t matter.
        5. Another option would be that they believed it whether or not it was true. In the same way you read the Bible as view it as truth (and it may very well not be), they may have wholeheartedly believed it. Another option still is that these stories were embellished after the fact and it has nothing to do with the apostles’ willingness to die for a lie.
        6. How would they set Jesus up to take a fall if every single person who heard him accepted his message and converted? The Bible also has more than one passage that says many people will reject the gospel and view the scripture as foolishness. That speaks no more to its truth than somebody relating a story that begins with, “A good friend of mine knows a guy who…” It speaks more to its unbelievability than anything else.
        7. Back on the subject of eyewitnesses, it’s not all that convincing to say that there were some when the accounts of those eyewitnesses don’t exist. We’re supposed to take the word of the author that (a) there were actually eyewitnesses, (b) they actually saw what the author was relating, and (c) somebody apart from the author actually spoke to these people and verified the story. I have no credible evidence that any of that happened and the eyewitnesses – if they ever existed – are all dead now.

      • Michael

        1. I think you misunderstood my point. I don’t think that the mere presence of details is an evidence of truth. The point was the the TYPE of details you find in the details is incompatible with the type of details you would expect to find in a legend or a myth. Legends only incorporate details that are relevant to the point or the progression of the narrative. When they do include these sort of details they rely on exaggeration (in Hindu myths for example, you’ll see statements such as “and then Kali stood on her left leg for 10 million years and her right leg for another 15 million years) or generalization (“there was a great crowd”) or simplicity (“his robe was purple”). You are not going to hear statements like “After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli.”
        The argument about what happened to Jesus between ages 12 and 30 is common but irrelevant. The three most important events in the life of a common Jewish man were being circumcised 8 days after his birth, legally becoming an adult at age 13, and being allowed to start a public ministry at age 30. You are not told what happened in between because it’s irrelevant. To start a public ministry before the age of thirty would have been a blatant rebellion against tradition and in the eyes of some even a sin.
        As for Quirinius, while the historical records show that he wasn’t appointed governor of Syria until a later date, we do know he was active in the middle east area as early as 12 BC. In addition, we do know of censuses the type describe by Luke around 20 BC and 6/7 AD with historical sources indicating that it was customary to conduct a census every 14 years, which would place the census Luke refers to around 6/7 BC. Since Luke mentions this census as the “FIRST under Quirinius” he was probably aware of the one from 6/7 AD as being the second. It is possible that Luke was more concerned of making a connection to the man Quirinius (who would have been well known to his readers) being active in the area rather than to the title of governor. And though unlikely it’s possible that Quirinius served two terms as governor.
        2. You are referring to Mark 16:8 “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” But listen to verses 9-11: “When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magadalene, out of whom He had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen Him, they did not believe it.”
        3. Do you really want to tell me that if you were trying to make up a new religion and establish yourself as its leader, you would include passages saying that you betrayed your Lord, denied Him, and consistently failed to understand what He meant, while living a life completely contrary to the one you are preaching? I don’t think so…
        4. We do have historical accounts of these “characters”, and we do know how and when they died. After all, 21 out of the 27 books of the New Testament were letters written to Churches and individuals by these “characters”. And even if you want to reject the Biblical accounts, we know that Paul persecuted the Church and died protecting it. We know that James denied Jesus during His lifetime. In his death, he was thrown from the top of the Jerusalem Temple and survived the fall. During the time it took his prosecutors to get to him, he praised God and Jesus until he was beaten to death.
        5. It’s very easy to come with such alternative, I only want to ask, would you have done it if the Gospel accounts didn’t have references to God or miracles? Do you question other historical accounts (some of them have VERY unreliable sources) in the same way? Dostoevsky addressed this much better than I ever could:
        “Oh, of course, in the monastery he believed absolutely in miracles, but in my opinion miracles will never confound a realist. It is not miracles that bring a realist to faith. A true realist, if he is not a believer, will always find in himself the strength and ability not to believe in miracles as well, and if a miracles stands before him as an irrefutable fact, he will sooner doubt his own senses than admit the fact. And even if he does admit it, he will admit it as a fact of nature that was previously unknown to him. In the realist, faith is not born from miracles, but miracles from faith. Once the realist comes to believe, then, precisely because of his realism, he most also allow for miracles. The Apostle Thomas declared that he would not believe until he saw, and when he saw, he said: “My Lord and my God!” Was it the miracle that made him believe? Most likely not, but he believed first and foremost because he wished to believe, and maybe already fully believed in his secret heart even as he was saying: “I will not believe until I see.”
        6. You are correct. Yet again, it doesn’t explain the same phenomenon described in the book of Acts. If you were making a religion you would want to present its message as irresistible not doubtful.
        7. Again, would you say this if we were discussing a secular historical account? Remember, that the early Church was MUCH more persecuted than it is today. Both Jews and pagans had a strong interest in invalidating the claims of the apostles. And that is why the authors point to the eye witnesses. Maybe I can’t give you an indisputable evidence that Jesus rose from the dead, but the fact is that at the time nobody was able to point to a body, nobody denied that the tomb was empty, nobody denied the involvement of figures like Pilate, Herod and Caiaphas, and nobody denied that Jesus Himself was an historical figure.
        Every ancient religion was tribal, national or racial. So for Paul to write something like “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” was totally unheard of. Add to that the aforementioned theological and philosophical problems that the Jews and the Greeks had with the Gospel and you get a religion that made less sense to them than it does to us. Assuming that at least some of the people were intelligent and critical, like the two of us, they would look for any reason to discredit Christianity (and there are MANY testimonies of early believers who did just that before coming to faith). Unlike us, who are left to doubt or historical sources, someone living at 30-60 AD would be able to know firsthand if some of these claims were true or fictional.

  54. Julie

    Thank you for this! Found it via Facebook.

    One thing really worth saying in response to this: I see you, and have seen so many other Christians (some of them having commented here), lamenting about how we all fail so much, saying things like “If only we would_____”

    Why don’t we?!

    And I don’t mean tell me the logical totally thought out reason. I mean that we say “If only we would_____” but we so often think “It’s hopeless, I’m only one person.” You know what that translates to, really? “No one else is as God-focused or spiritual as me, so I’d be the only one.” (I’m guilty here for sure. Thankfully my mentor showed me my flawed thinking).

    Start doing it people!

    Now I know you just talked about us being hypocrites (I definitely can be one too… sorta comes with being a Christian, to one degree or another), but we *can* change how Christians are perceived. Get a few close Christian friend who are really committed to God, set goals, & hold each other accountable. Find an older wiser man or woman to be a mentor who can give you advice & help guide you on the right path.

    God commanded fellowship for a reason. Part of that is because it’s extremely powerful. So let’s change the perspective people have of us. I’m *not* saying it’s easy. Just that it can be done…

    • I’ll +1 this comment. Although, while this would change the perception of believers by non-believers, it wouldn’t do anything to validate the concept of god(s). It would only show that when people work together for good, good things happen. Agreed?

      • Julie

        Thx :)
        Yeah, I can see your point, but people will likely view my God, or at least my faith, the way they view me. If I really live it out, wouldn’t that at least leave you feeling better about the Christian faith?

      • Coderhead, meet my High School Christian classmate Julie. Julie, meet my Atheist friend/previous tenant Coderhead. Thanks!
        You two will get along great when you meet in person because you both possess the same “fun loving” and “lots of smiles” attitude :)

      • Julie, to be honest if you really live out your faith (and it’s exemplary of a compassionate, intellectual life) then it would make me feel better about you, not about Christianity. The problem as I’ve stated is not that we have anything against god — we don’t believe he exists — but that we’re afraid of and leary of his followers and how they treat people who believe/live differently than they do.

  55. Melissa

    Great article. Read this earlier and then came across this news article perusing the internet later: “Small Ky. church votes against interracial couples”: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45499321/ns/us_news/#.TthPMvIkKSo

  56. Tony

    I think your comments regarding hypocrisy are valid but that goes for the Christian and non-christian alike. On the points of the non-christian feeling judged I think often times this comes from within themselves. Either they know they are not living right or they just come in with their own preconceived notions of what Christians are thinking about them. As for myself their are very few people who are in deeper sin than when I first got saved.

    On the issue of emphasizing the things we have in common, there is way too much that we do not have in common to ignore. If you believe the Bible the unsaved (non-Christian) is on his way to Hell. I believe the most compassionate thing the Christian can do is warn others. Christ and his disciples were all about warning the lost of their predicament. Soul winning should not be about pestering someone who wants nothing to do with what the Bible offers. It’s for the 1 or 2 percent who are ready to accept. If I go to someone’s door to give them the Gospel and they become irate and cuss me out I just move on and laugh about it later. Interestingly the most abusive people toward soul winners are typically “religious” people.

    As a side note I noticed that many of the atheists who have posted believe that the Christian should have no right to speak to others regarding Christianity. One even mentions it should be completely shut out from public life (business, politics, education). It would seem to me that it is not just the Christians being judgmental. I absolutely believe in freedom of religion whether it be Christianity or a false religion, these atheists only believe in freedom of religion for the atheist.

    On a side note even though the Catholics hate to hear this, in the days of the crusades they were really more of a mix of Christianity, paganism, and political power. They were responsible for the slaughter of millions of Christians as well as muslims.

    1. “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” Rom3:23
    2. “The wages of sin is death” Rom6:23
    3. “Christ died for our sins” ICor15:3
    4. “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” Rom6:23
    5. “whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” Rom10:13

    • I seriously doubt that any atheist posting here would say that people don’t have the right to speak to others about Christianity. To what most atheists take exception is the privilege placed on the topic of Christian beliefs as though they’re somehow above scrutiny and can’t be discussed like any other topic. I fully support other people’s right to speak about their beliefs so long as they respect my right to criticize them.

      You say that atheists only believe in freedom of religion for atheists, but I posit that American atheists are mostly upset because Christians only believe in freedom of Christianity. You’re fine with religion mixing with politics, education, science, and history so long as it’s the Christian religion and it bolsters the beliefs you already hold. How would you feel if the Hindu creation story was taught in science class instead of the Biblical creation? How would you feel if morality from the Koran were used to make laws?

      An atheist’s position is more honest because we don’t give a privileged position to any one set of beliefs. They all (even our own) have an equal opportunity to be voiced and to be criticized in the public forum. Can you say the same?

      • Tony

        Actually one of the prior posts said that religion had no place in bussiness, politics, or education and at least a few others agreed. It’s there words not mine. And I do believe in freedom of religion no matter what religion. Not because I believe non-christian religions are valid but because I believe in freedom of religion. Christ never forced people to join Him. He certainly preached to the masses and tried to convince people to repent and get saved but never by force. If fact if you look at the catholic church, compelling people to join is what brought paganism into the catholic church. I think more than just Christians would be upset at the use of the Koran or other Islamic texts to base law on. Instead of law based on restoration and mercy you would have law based on chopping off limbs and heads.

        I am not opposed to atheists or others professing their views. I wouldn’t become offended or upset if a hindu or an atheist showed up at my door to try to convince me of their way.

      • I have to admit to adamantly agreeing that religion has no place in politics and unless it’s a history, comparative study, or mythology course it has no place in education either. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think people have the right to voice their beliefs. As I said before, you have every right to voice your beliefs and I have every right to criticize them. Tit-for-tat.

        Of course more than just Christians would be upset if our laws were suddenly based on the Koran. Everyone who isn’t Muslim ought to be upset! Please don’t tell me you can’t see the converse of this situation with the Christian influence in the U.S. government. Are you saying that discriminatory laws against homosexuals are based on restoration and mercy? What about anti-bullying legislation that allows religious people exemptions due to their beliefs? Is that mercy?

        How many times have you had an atheist come to your door to convince you to be an atheist? I’d feel safe saying zero. That’s just it though, atheism is a reaction to an oppressive culture of missionaries and proselytizers who actually DO walk around door to door trying to convince people that they know more than we do because of an antiquated collection of books. So yeah, you probably wouldn’t be upset. But then, you’ve never had the opportunity because Hindus and atheists just want to be left alone.

      • Tony

        So if you agree religion has no place in politics would you agree that an atheist running for office has no right to say there is no god? I disagree I think regardless of your religion you should have every right to free speech no matter what. A truly open minded person does not mind hearing a variety of opinions on a matter. Only then can one make an informed opinion. I do not mind those who have false religions trying to speak to me about them at all. I’ve never had an atheist at my door but I’ve certainly had other false religions come to my door. And being in the DC area I’ve had plenty of humanist/atheist organizations give me their literature on the streets.

        I’m not sure what homosexual laws you are referring to. If you are talking about the fact that two of the same sex can’t be officially (recognized by US Government) married then my question would be why would you care? There are a whole bunch of humanist churches that will marry homosexuals. If the federal govt said they weren’t going to recognized my marriage the only impact it would have on my life is that me and my wife would file seperate tax returns.

        On the bullying issue, if someone is physically beating/hitting someone than call the police there is no exemption for Christian or otherwise. If what you mean is someone is expressing their freedom of speech and you don’t like it then I would recommend that you become more open minded and consider other points of view other than your preconceived notions.

        I’m a fundy Christian living and working in DC. If having to hear a point of view that you disagree with is bullying than I get “bullied” multiple times a day.

        1. “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” Rom3:23
        2. “The wages of sin is death” Rom6:23
        3. “Christ died for our sins” ICor15:3
        4. “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” Rom6:23
        5. “whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” Rom10:13

      • You’re completely and utterly missing the point. Why would a candidate for President ever need to comment on the existence of gods? If I were running for office I would have no need whatsoever to stand in front of the nation and say anything at all about god(s) because it simply has no bearing on the job to be done. I’m trying to convey to you that a person’s religion should be wholly separate from their political views and, more importantly, their actions in government. Do you honestly think a President ought to base his decision to go to war on what his invisible friend told him? I sincerely hope you’d answer that question, “No.”

        On the issue of legislation against LGBT rights, I find it frustrating that you’re blissfully uninformed. Gay marriage doesn’t just mean that they have to get married in a “humanist church.” And the government not recognizing the marriage means so much more than filing separate tax returns. Is that honestly your take on the situation?? There are issues surrounding every aspect of a married person’s life (and death) affected by the government’s recognition of their union. Do some research, you’d be surprised at just how disadvantaged a gay couple is in the majority of this country right now. And why do I care? Why don’t you? We’re talking about human beings and citizens of our country who are being discriminated against because fundie Christians like you think that they’re “living in sin,” as though you have room to talk. That’s why I care. Because I have compassion for my fellow humans.

        You also seem to have no idea as to the implications of the anti-bullying legislation being passed recently. We’re not talking about someone saying something you don’t like, we’re talking about violence and emotional abuse. We’re taking about persecution so persistent and brutal it drives children to commit suicide. Yet, because somebody can drag out a Bible verse to justify it, the lawmakers seem to think they should get a pass. Again, do some research. You seem to be living in a bubble.

        In case you didn’t catch it, you’re the kind of Christian for whom Jeff is apologizing in this blog post.

      • Tony

        I think a mans faith or lack thereof is part of the package it may or may not influence whether I vote for him and he should have every right to express it just like any other citizen if he chooses.

        Accept in rare circumstances homosexual marriages have never been accepted by governments. Marriage itself has been a religious ceremony so I again don’t see why an atheist would care about a religious ceremony. Outside of that it is a different type of relationship then traditional marriage. There are no children except in rare cases of adoptions. If you want to redefine marriage there’s no shortage of possibilities, group marriages, animal – human, child – adult. So if the government is going to continue to recognize marriage (I really could care less if they do at all) I hold to the traditional form of it. Being freedom minded I also believe hospitals should be required to allow whoever you choose in when your dieing. Most of the items of “persecution” can be handled with legal or administrative documents. A pain maybe but a bit short of persecution. Do I believe homosexuals are living in sin? Absolutely. Just like the adulterers, murderers, thieves, liars, those who lust. In other words everyone. Homosexuality is a bit more difficult because while I can lie and then repent. If your in homosexual relationship if you repent it means leaving the relationship. But there is nothing worse about that sin than others. And for the record I do not claim to be leading a sinless life.

        Back to the bullying. If your talk about violence call the police, carry pepper spray or do what you have to. Its not legal know matter the religion or lack of one. Freedom of speech is freedom of speech, though.
        If I get off at Union Station everyday and an activist argues with me that there is no God, then on about the tenth day I believe him and become distraught because my whole world view is shattered and throw myself in front of the nearest train, should he be held accountable for me killing myself? Absolutely not. He contributed to me making the decision but how I dealt with the information he gave me is not his fault. What about when a teenage boy likes a girl and she doesn’t like him back, perhaps even says “he’s ugly”. Should that speech also be outlawed because it could in some cases cause the boy to go kill himself?

        One thing that has surprised me in reading the comments by atheists on this board is the hatred they hold for religion. I always thought they had an indifference to it rather than such a hatred. Along with that there seems to be support within the atheist community to legislate their worldview just like they complain the Christians or other religious groups want to do. Could atheists be hypocrites as well?

      • You’ve illustrated my point precisely. If a candidate advertises their religion (which has nothing to do with their ability to perform the job) you might be inclined to vote for them even if they have policies and practices that won’t ultimately be good for the citizens of this country (all of whom are not Christian, BTW). When you take religion out of the political picture entirely, what you end up with are people who would be good Presidents and people who wouldn’t, period. I stand by my earlier statement.

        You seem to be reading my comments but not understanding them at all. You’re admitting that homosexuals aren’t being treated equally and have to jump through hoops that heterosexuals don’t even have to think about in order to gain even the slightest semblance of equality. Then you’re saying that it’s not even a big deal and nobody should be complaining (and more so, that I shouldn’t even care). How can you acknowledge inequality so freely and at the same time wave it away as inconsequential? That doesn’t make any sense. Although, since the inequality works to your favor I suppose it does make sense.

        Your take on the “sin” of homosexuality is disgusting and here’s why: you’re saying that you could rape, kill, or brutally beat a person and ask forgiveness from god and it will be wiped away so long as you never do it again. But in your mind, living with a member of the same sex that you love and with whom you want to share the rest of your life is worse (you can say you don’t think it’s worse all day long but look at your words and you’ll know that you’re lying) than murder or rape because the homosexual won’t ask god for forgiveness and stop being homosexual. You’re a scary person.

        You’ve again completely missed the point about bullying. This isn’t someone saying, “You’re ugly.” It’s not someone disagreeing with you. It’s not someone refusing to date you. All of those examples you gave are 100% invalid and ignorant of reality. I’m talking about persistent abusive behavior — both physically and emotionally — by people who feel justified by their religion for doing so. Do the people being bullied seek help? Yes. Do they always get it? No. Why not? Because the people in charge feel that bullying on religious grounds deserves a pass. Then, when they end up killing themselves to get away from the bullying, people like you sit back and say, “Those people are weak! Why didn’t they just tell their teacher/call the police?” I’ll link an article for you:

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/michigan-anti-bullying-law-protects-religious-bullies/2011/11/06/gIQAhZIdtM_blog.html

        Could atheists be hypocrites? Absolutely! We frequently are but that’s not the issue here. Atheists aren’t trying to legislate their worldview; they’re trying to keep religion from legislating its 2,000-year-old skewed morality on the citizens of a country made up of hundreds of different cultures, religious beliefs, and non-beliefs who don’t all subscribe to the “timeless” wisdom of ancient, nomadic goat herders in the Middle East. Our movement is reactive to theists like you, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, et al. who want to institute and maintain a theocratic government that can and will oppress minorities, discriminate against non-Christians, extradite all immigrants, remove women’s rights, shut down public welfare programs, destroy education and science, continue endless wars, give each other pay raises, and set Jesus up as head-of-state.

        You want to know why atheists are so angry? Greta Christina said it better than I can in this comment box. Here you go (though I doubt you’ll watch this video or even give it a moment’s consideration):

  57. Michael

    I enjoyed reading many of the posts here, and though I don’t agree with everything at the very least I can sympathize.
    I was born and raised in Israel to an atheist family and most of my life was told directly and indirectly that I should reject all forms of religion and despise religious people (especially Christians).
    I’m also the sort of person who is always logically and intellectually, analyzing everything and never getting myself into anything without having (or at least believing that I have) all the answers.
    Which is why when I became a Christian in college it was (and still is) a huge shock for anyone who knew me before.
    Ironically, I had more questions than answers when I first believed and went through many of the doubts and thoughts described by both the Christians and the atheists in this discussion. Over the past few years I have made an extensive study of the historical validity of the Scriptures, the claims of Christ and many of the opposing views to Christianity and the idea of God in general. It is quite incredible that the first ever use of the word “atheist” was addressed to Christians by the Romans. Early Christians had not priests, no place of worship, they didn’t sacrifice, and they didn’t believe they were saved by works. For the pagans that was seen as not having a religion.
    The early Church believed in doing good works not in order to be saved but BECAUSE they’ve been saved. And it was precisely this attitude that helped the early PERSECUTED church to explode. In 360 CE the Roman Emperor Julian wrote “Why do we not observe how the benevolence of Christians to strangers… has done the most to advance their cause? For it is disgraceful that…the impious Galileans [Christians] support not only their poor but ours as well, while everyone is able to see that our own people lack aid from us!”
    And THAT is what the Church today lacks. When you look at history, in every place where the Church is persecuted they show love to others. As soon as it becomes an institution, as soon as it’s “safe” to be a Christian, this is where you find pride, hypocrisy and judgment. And so the persecuted become the persecutors. That is why in places like China, Japan, Iran, Pakistan, and others, where the Church is either very small or violently persecuted, Christians show nothing but humility and genuine kindness to each other and those who surround them. While in America, or places that are “culturally Christian” you find ignorance and pride.
    Being ethnically Jewish, I understand more than most Christians about the atrocities that were carried out in the Name of Jesus. I know what happened and continues to happen when people misinterpret and abuse the Bible to serve their own selfish agendas. And that is NOT because of anything that Christianity or religion represents, it is because of human nature.
    For example, did you know that all 6 crusades combined killed 1 million people, while the French revolution alone killed nearly half a million people in the name of “liberty, equality and brotherhood” as well as “reason?” Atheist regimes in the 20th century killed dozens of millions in Europe, Russia and China.
    Please, don’t take this as propaganda against atheists, I just want you to understand that it’s simply erroneous to single out Christians.
    When Christians such as Jeff and myself express our sorrow over the dark history of the Church, it doesn’t come of guilt, self hatred or doubt. Rather it comes out of a desire to see the Church the way it was meant to be.
    One of the things the Church is meant to be is a “body.” It represents a community. I want to briefly address the view that one’s faith has to be or can be private. From the Christian point of view, this is very problematic. In both the Old and New Testaments, God calls out people to be a community. He calls the NATION of Israel. He gathers Jews and gentiles to be part of the BODY of the Church. Though He can and does work through individuals, He cannot be known apart from community. If like me you believe in the Holy Trinity, you believe in a God who has always known community! How then can you know Him if you’re not part of one? Secondly, to say “one should keep his religious views to himslef” is a self contradicting statement. By making that statement, you are making a public statement about religion yourself! And I would even dare to say that fierce advocates of this statement are themselves trying to “convert” others to their view. Once again, this isn’t an anti-atheist statement. You have to judge yourself with the same standards that you judge others. That is the error that BOTH Christians and atheists often make.
    I also want to address that statement that Jesus’ claims are not exclusive to Christianity. It’s true that almost every religion has some teaching about helping the poor, loving others, being humble. But that’s not the focus of Christ’s teaching. First and foremost, Jesus claimed to be God. Jesus claimed to be the one and only way to salvation. You can either accept it or not, but please, don’t regard him merely as “a good moral teacher.”
    Finally, in the spirit of the article, even the great St. Paul, always viewed himself as the “worst of sinners” for his early persecutions of Christians and his ongoing personal struggles. But that conviction did not lead to self hatred, but rather amazement at the depth of God’s grace that He can ever love somebody like Paul. Similarly, we Christians should never assume to be better than those around us, but be constantly amazed that God would love somebody like us. And only he who understands that he’s undeservedly loved and forgiven can truly show this attitude towards others.

  58. If all Christians thought and acted like this, we atheists wouldn’t mind them so much. We still wouldn’t be Christians, but there would be no reason to be activists. Unfortunately, only about 1% of the Christians I’ve met are like this. And that’s probably exaggerating.

  59. Ana

    Saw this through a friend. Great points, especially the first two. To say I’m sorry, one has to be really humble, and that’s something that’s difficult for all of us (at least it sure is for me!).

    I’m passing along this link because I think the people reading and posting here would appreciate it. There’s two response posts as well.

    http://www.danoah.com/2011/11/im-christian-unless-youre-gay.html

  60. Anonymous

    You can keep your imaginary heavenly absolutist monarch and his magical eternal prisons to yourself, christians. You chose your religion, a religion based on the idea of persecution and humilliation. Now deal with it.

  61. bobbie jo

    OMG u SOOOOO hit the nail on the BRAVO BRAVO

  62. Jeff, I think I agree with about 98% of this. Having said that, it’s all a bit much at one time. May I present a bit of a palate cleanser in the form of a quote by Robert Murray McCheyne: “For every one look at your sins, take ten looks at Christ.”

  63. Pingback: Friday Morning Catch-Up | BeckyDurham.net

  64. Mike

    Thank you. You managed to put into words what many could not.

  65. Lex

    According to John 18:37, Jesus said “…for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

    Jesus is saying here that there are other sides to the truth….
    There’s a spiritual battle between God’s truth claims (reality) and the lies (illusions) of the world, the flesh, and the devil. The warfare is over our minds and personal worldview.

    If your thought life in general does not line up with God’s perspective according to the Bible, then you are not on the side of truth, even as a self-proclaimed Christian.

    Worldviews have tremendous influence on your thinking, decision-making process and ultimately your behavior.
    If you claim to be a Christian, then you need to make sure that your blelief system is grounded in the Bible.
    A biblical worldview is based on the truth found in Scripture. To be more specific, it should reflect the proper understanding of Biblical principles and making them fully authoritative in all areas of your life.

    What side are you on?

  66. Stephanie

    As a non-Christian, can I just say thank you for this. It is refreshing to hear from a sane. rational, compassionate Christian since so much of what we hear in the media is from the judging, preachy, intolerant kind. Thank you!

  67. Shane

    I think I understand ultimately what you were trying to say with this article… Christians should ultimately be known for their love and compassion for all of God’s creation, most importantly for people (specifically the most marginalized and poorest).

    The highest virtue of a Christian is Love. Loving is the greatest and most important thing we can do on this earth.

    The thing about Christianity is that it is not just another religion on the earth with basically the same values of all other religions. It is different because its founder claimed to be “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” and is the ONLY way to get to God (no man comes to the Father but by Me). What other religion claims something like that? Either Christ was crazy, lying, or He was exactly right, and if he WAS right, that has very serious implications on how we need to CONFORM our life to His teachings and commandments.

    Because of this claim that Christianity makes, it doesn’t matter how “nice” a Christian is to a non-believer, a message like that is going to make others feel like you are being “judgmental” or “intolerant”. But that is OK. As a Christian, the one of the best ways you can love someone is to show them Christ, who we believe to be God, who we believe to be Love itself, by trying your best to live your life life according to Christ’s teachings and commandments. And if you mess up (which we ALL do!) then thank God for the sacrament of Confession!

    Christ said “first take the beam out of your own eye, THEN you can see to take the speck of sawdust out of your brothers eye.” He never said don’t correct people! We just need to correct ourselves first! Living, and helping others to live a moral life that Christ mapped out for us through His own words and teachings of His holy Catholic Church is the sure way of being with God (and those we have loved) for eternity in Heaven.

  68. Awesome, and should be required reading for any Christian!

  69. FEw replies to replies-

    @Barb Bara- So no music existed at all until suddenly a diety existed and was worshipped in the format of your choice? Various types of notation exist, and have existed for a lot longer than your religion. Thus the entire BC thing. I like to think of it as Before Christianity but either way the definition of Before remains regardless of the C. Please do some research. There has been music since likely before man evolved into what we think of as man. If you are a creationist, then before man discovered religion. Music in fact existed way before Bach, Handel and Mozart.

    @Julie- Why should I respect your passions when your passions infringe on my right to not believe in anything at all? If people treated Christians the way they treat others, especially atheists regarding their religion you lot would be horrified. The CHURCH teaches an awful lot that is not in your bible, and your bible actually conflicts itself. Bad editing I suppose. 300AD, maybe later editions when things were added in and taken out? Tons of contradiction. Even if you do not take the bible literally that can be an issue.

    You don’t see the compulsive apologizing as a symptom of guilt? Well I do. I have been in many churches and the bible does in fact state being born is a sin. Are you not taught in church you are BORN a sinner?

    Try Psalm 51:5, Romans 5:12-14, 1 Corinthians 15:22… just to start with. I figure this is where you can test my memory of your book. I have attended a great many churches and over all I have found many repeating messages. You are a sinner. You are sin. Anything in the right circumstance can be twisted into sin.

    As far as why I say that Christians control the media? They do. That is why YOUR religion is the one that matters when it comes to offensive things like gay people kissing on TV. (What about the children who are gay and might want to see some people who are gay making out too?) Should I bring up the fact that Religion actually helped create racism and hate, and that racism is the basis (as well as greed) for the Crusades? I can. If the christians did not control the media it would not be tailored to them. ITs less so now, but most programming is dictated by that moral code. This may be the loudmouthed variety of christian and I DO presume it is so, but its still people who use their faith as a bludgeon using the media to do so.

    I am automatically annoyed by Christianity. I come preaggrivated when it comes to people justifying how awesome their god is. If you are so passionate you cannot turn it off, that’s finebut we won’t sit down and talk. If you cannot have a conversation without resorting to praying, idealization of your diety, etc? Okay, but you are not the sort of person I want around me. If I go on and on about how awesome my Nothing is, well it makes little sense. Think of it this way, I pray to my Nothing for everything, forgoing the fact people have to learn skills. I thank Nothing for everything. I say everything happens for Nothing’s will. That is what your religion sounds like to me. It makes no sense. I dislike nonsense and want to talk about REAL things. I do have friends who are religious. We even discuss religion, but it is not omnipresent and they know that they CANNOT convert me. Save the energy.

    I was raised that sin means you go to hell. If you repent, you might not but over and over you sin again and again. I want, need, and feel. Those wants needs and feelings are demonized. Lets use sex as an example. I like it. I’m single, and I may go fornicate my brains out. The church taught me that even wanting sex was a sin. Hunger? a sin. Those seven deadlies are correlaries for basic human needs. Not even in the bible but a basic building block of religion. The goal was moderation. People took that and trained people to repent for everything. Confess. Beg forgiveness. So any act may count against you, so you can either spend all day whispering platitudes to your diety or risk doing it once a day and dying before you get the chance.

    Thus, shedding religion was an act of shedding fear. I no longer have to waste my energy begging to be worthy of each breath. Yes, I know my answer will shock a lot of people but, if you do not fel that way you are lucky. The secret is, Atheists want to believe in something, but we also have questions and dig. Some people do not end up as Atheists, they may change religions, they may go to Paganism. Most Atheists have tried a myriad of religions to find one that fit and through that process shed in baby steps the need or want for religion.

    There are moments when I wish I could believe in a god. That fast fix of make it better because the invisible diety will fix it would be very pleasing. That fast fix is fictional, and I am okay with that. I would rather trust in the years of training that an engineer had to make a bridge rather than that an invisible giant hand holds itu p. That is part of who I am.

    As far as doing good, because God says so? If god did not say so would you do it? I do good because it makes me happy. Good here is defined by my personal morality. Stealing food while homeless was good because I lived. Helping someone who is homeless now is good because they live. Good feels good. Stealing because of greed would make me feel guilt. My morality does not align with what I was taught by my parents and their religious friends. It lines up with what my experiences have shown me. When people say they do good to please God, I am left thinking that they would do evil if there was no diety for them to worship. That makes me sad, and yes that is a generalization. If I know the person I may know them well enough to know they would not but, doing good for yourself holds more power than doing it for someone else. That is why people cannot stop smoking for someone else, but they can for themselves. Insert other addiction. There will be failures and successes around that on either side, but more often the act of self comes first.

    I do not try to convert people to atheism, though a few people have become atheist after years of discussion. I go and talk to ministers and priests of many religions. I ask questions. That is an activity i do often. I am a person who has read way more than the bible. Thus, I do think all religion equally flawed. It is respect of myself to have people not cram it down my throat. Your religion may feel omnipresent for you but, you don’t have to scream it to be passionate. My passion for my cats, for example, comes through in a million ways. There are people who know I am a cat person in ten minutes without my mentioning my cat. It could be the cat themed jewelry (allegory cross necklace or somesuch), it could be a bit of fur (Palm sunday ashes), it could just be my outlook is exceptionally feline (statements in line with your religion). Your religion can come out in the same way too, and people can ask and discuss. Its an option. This is relating to why I think that religion needs to stay out of schools and out of Government. Its one thing for the President to believe in a diety but another for him to hear voices and act on them. If Bush Jr hadn’t been a Christian proclaiming Christ with his visions, he would’ve been sent to a mental hospital AND no one would’ve heard about it.

    @Heather – Why shouldn’t your diety apologize if he does something wrong? For a diety so infallabile the bible showcases examples of mistakes.
    @Natlaie- you should look up the care given by Mother Teresa. No modern medicine, people dying in agony, and the money not all accounted for. Its interesting stuff. That fits in with the hospital of causing pain statement.

    @Michael- how do you reconcile early Christian kindness with the editing of the bible in 300Adish, the crusades, and all the other “believe at a point of the sword” moments including the Catholic Church (and yes Catholicism IS Christianity) supporting Hitler? (Who was a Catholic)?

    @Dawn- Well I cannot agree with your argument since I believe in evolution on certain aspects so bear with anything that doesn’t make sense I am trying to word around the basic theological differences with a question for you.

    In the Garden of Eden, why would an all knowing diety put temptation (The Fruit of KNowledge of Good and Evil), if he knew people would succumb to their innate curiousity? Why are basic human instincts deemed sinful? If you go against your urge to survive to not be a glutton, but misunderstand and do not eat, isn’t that just as bad as overeating?

    What presence aside from a feeling have you had from your diety? Did they stop a rapist dead in his tracks and smite him when you asked? Or do that angry bears thing when some kids bullied you like happened to Elisha? (I think it was Elisha… the one after Elijah).

    I love the Chronicles of Narnia, but, its been more than a littlewhile since the Christ person supposedly existed. What does your diety give you except happy feelings if you are lucky (not everyone ever feels God, and I am sure it feels very nice but its suspicious to me) and social acceptability?

    The problem with your every time someone bits is “outcast”. People choose to make others outsiders. I am an outsider for being disabled, a woman, intelligent, bisexual, and an atheist. This does not fit into your tribe’s views so I am outside. Outcasts getting welcomed is very much a fantasy made for hollywood. In rare cases it happens but over all? Until I can turn on the TV or go to a movie and not see the people who reflect bits of myself as the villains? Those are rare anomolies. We’re closer every day so yes progress is made but not by people praying for it. Its made via actions, social advocacy. So yes, that needs to continue but why not in the name of Humanity instead of someone who is dead. (if he must return from the dead he is currently deceased, ergo, dead)

    @All the people here- A big bone of contention I have is this and I question it daily. How can you worship a diety who purportedly supports a book where women are told to not speak, where there are laws dictating how to rightly rape a woman, and where women have less value than men even as slaves? The bible dictates you are a baby factory. If we were meant to live as in the bible why did we evolve with brains? Tongues? I seriously considered in all of my replying this question. How do you bring your religion into the modern era? It doesn’t appear to be working very well as YOUR religion is being used to hamper basic civil rights for an awful lot of people.

    @Coderhead- THank you for being more eloquent than I on the topics of atheism and the like here. My passion for being able to believe in nothing carries through no doubt but that passion often confuses the issue for people who expect passion to mean secret beliefs.

    @Shane – Regardless of his religious persuasion if Christ was real to not partake in a form of religion would likely get him killed, thus belief or not he acted the part. This is also very real for a lot of people.

    • Julie

      Um wasn’t trying to convert you… Just talk…
      I don’t see it as compulsive apologizing. We’re sorry because we’re saddened that ppl used God as an excuse to go after their own stupid gains, becuz it has ruined any interest in Christianity for lots of people even tho it was a crime committed 100s of yrs ago by other ppl. It’s like how ppl will say “I’m sorry” at a funeral. They’re not guilty. It’s just sad.
      I get that it’s annoying when ppl say “Well the Bible says” esp. becuz they sound like kno-it-alls. But if you asked what my passions are I wouldnt hesitate to say God, art, horses. Personally I’ve always wanted to ask what people of other religions/ideas think.
      Those verses don’t say that the act of being born/existing is sin. They say we’re born w/a sinful nature. I am a sinner, but from how you say it it sounds like I’m sinning every second just by being here, instead of only when I do something wrong. Also the Bible does actually say God made sex so theres nothing wrong with wanting it. There’s just a right way to go about it. Same w/hunger. If hunger was sin, Christians would be GONE, lol. It’s just that *gluttony* is sin. Besides it’s logical: it’s not exactly healthy.
      About doing good, certain acts, like helping someone you see on the street or such, I would still do even if I wasn’t Christian cuz people do good things for good feelings/cuz they’re sympathetic/ empathetic. But I also kno certain good acts, like doing things my parents say despite the fact that they might seem nit-picky to me, I likely wouldn’t since I only had a desire to do things like that once I became a Christian. Make sense?

    • Lex

      Militant atheists of the 21st century delight in accusing the Judeo-Christian God of condoning the most heinous immoralities. They insist that the God of the Bible, especially of the Old Testament, was a murderous villain guilty of far worse than His human subjects.

      Your statement accusing God of being misogynistic is, unfortunately, indicative of a widespread ignorance of biblical texts dealing both directly and indirectly with the subject of the treatment of women in the Bible.

      How do you explain the 20th century being the bloodiest century in human history, all in the name of non-religion and anti-God, anti-family, anti-individual, anti-freedom, Communist and Nazi ideologes that necessitate elimination of “inferior” races?

    • Michael

      I want you to know that I admire your openness and curiosity to learn about all world views. I’m sorry to hear about your negative experiences with the Church, and feeling like an outsider, something I can strongly identify with. Growing up in Israel I was an outsider because at the time I was anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian AND an atheist. Now when I go back I’m even more of an outsider because I’m a Christian. Oh yes, and everybody else in the world hates me because I’m Israeli.
      I’m a little bit disturbed (as someone else mentioned) by your expectation that your views will be respected but your refusal to respect the Christian views. Believe me, I understand if you had negative, maybe even traumatic, experience with the Church, but aren’t you doing exactly what you’re blaming us of doing?
      Regarding the “editing” of the Bible, you’re referring to Council of Nicea in 325 AD. The idea that the Bible has been heavily edited or embalished has become popular thanks to Dan Brown and co, unfortunately it is wrong. The council CANONIZED the Bible, but there was no editing. We have references as well as quotes by Church fathers as early as the 2nd century to all New Testaments books (including referring to the four Gospels by name and stating them to be the ONLY four Gospels), but no references to the so called apocryphal Gospels (Thomas, Mary Magdalene, Judas, etc.). The council was necessary because for the first time the Church became a centralized institution, after being scattered for years. Not all churches were using ALL 27 books, so the council’s agenda was to make an official cannon. The criterias were very strict and were based mostly on reliable tracing to the apostles, not content. If, as usually claimed, the purpose was to establish Church doctrines and put it in a positive light, they made a very poor job, as there are many passages that put the Church in a very negative light, and many doctrines that never appear in the Bible, as you yourself pointed out (and that is why Martin Luther later came with the sola scriptura, or “Scripture alone” rule).
      Sin isn’t merely the sum of all our actions, it is ultimately the breaking of a relationship with God. You can obey every command in the Bible and be just as much as a sinner as a murderer in the eyes of God. When you make anything other than God to be an ultimate goal (this can even be something positive, like your career or your family) it’s sin. Paul wrote that anything not done through faith is sin. The Bible sees no hierarchy of sins. When a Christian is taking an unloving judgmental stance it’s just as much as a sin as murder or sexual immorality. If we as Christian fail to obey even the smallest part of the law (and we do so daily) it is as good as breaking the whole law. That is why the Bible teaches we cannot EARN our salvation through the law.
      The idea of original sin, of being born as a sinner, doesn’t mean that by being born you’ve committed a sin. Rather, it is being born into a certain condition. If prior to your birth your family has experienced heavy financial difficulties, you’re born into debt, but your birth didn’t cause the debt. That debt will always accompany your family until you can pay for it. Either you pay for it, or someone else pays for it. The same is with sin, either you pay for it, or God does.
      As for the seven deadly sin (which you’re right, they’re not in the Bible), again it doesn’t represent things that are necessarily bad in themselves, but things that become an absolute. Food is good and necessary, but when it becomes an idol it’s sin. Sex was created as a blessing (there! I said it!), but when it becomes an absolute it’s sin. Pride, is putting yourself above all things. And so forth.
      You stated that good is based on your personal morality. How then can you call what other people do evil? If everybody’s morality was personal, then we would have no justification to call anything evil and will just have to expect to live in complete anarchy. After all, your personal morality tells you one thing, mine might tell me another. So unless you’re going to make an argument that your morality is superior to someone else’s (which doesn’t sound like you’re trying to do), it just doesn’t work. Morality has to be dictated from something higher than the individual man or woman. Call it king, society as a whole, or God, but if you don’t view morality as applying to all men, you have no grounds to criticize anyone for doing evil.
      I don’t think of doing good simply because “God says so.” I view my relationship with God not as Master – servant, but Father – son. When you’re in a relationship with someone, you find out what makes them happy. You want to make them happy because you love them, and seeing them happy makes you happy. Similarly, if I’m in a relationship with God, I delight in what He delights (or at least I aspire to). I did “good works” even before becoming a Christian, but back then I did it ONLY to make myself feel good. Now I see it as service, not only to God but also to those I’m helping. Do you help a homeless person just so you can feel better about yourself or because you want to see them changed?
      An important aspect of the Christian life is to share our faith with other people. There are plenty of examples of people who do Bible-bashing and forced preaching, that doesn’t equal sharing, and I hate that as much as you do. I STRONGLY believe in the importance of separating Church and state. Nevertheless, there’s a difference between separation and isolation. When you are voicing your view that religious affairs should remain private to someone who believes he must share his faith with other people, you are arguing that one view is superior to the other and expect the other person to convert to your view. You might not go around telling people they should become atheists, but as long as you are presenting some view of religion and expect other people to accept it, it’s essentially the same as converting.
      In response to the question directed at me, I’ve actually done it already. As I stated, the Church acts utterly different when it’s a persecuted minority and when it’s a ruling majority. There is a difference between Christian faith and Christian culture. A person with Christian faith, lives out the Gospel, and is changed by it. Christian culture on the other hand (as you see in Europe in the Middle Ages, and in some parts of America today), you may talk like a Christian, and claim to be one, but you live quite differently. The Bible makes a distinction between the visible church (those who claim to be Christian) and the invisible church (those who are actually changed by the Gospel). So when I see a persecuted church living in line with the Gospel, and a ruling church becoming corrupted it doesn’t surprise me at all. It saddens me, but doesn’t surprise me. For human nature never changes, and if you are hungry for power you will use any method to get it (yet I don’t see anyone arguing that democracy is bad because Hitler abused it to gain power). And since I already mentioned Hitler, he may have been born in a Catholic country, but Catholics WERE persecuted by the Nazis and the Vatican had to play their cards very carefully during the war.
      Finally, you might be surprised to know but the Bible is EXTREMELY progressive when it comes to women. No creation account at the time of the Old Testament will say “and He created them male AND female”. No set of laws will say “honor your father AND your mother.” Actually the laws you are talking about actually PROTECT women. If a woman is raped the MAN must suffer the death penalty. If BOTH are caught in the act of adultery, BOTH are guilty. Ancient cultures were extremely chauvinistic, and the Bible gives women MORE rights than any other culture of the time. The New Testament takes it even further, though women are told not to preach (and that is in a passage where Paul probably addresses a specific issue in the church of Corinth), but there are MANY accounts of women who were leaders in the church and are frequently commended by Paul and the other apostles. One of the main problems I see with a feminist approach, is the desire to not merely have equal rights but to obliterate any differences between the sexes. No matter how much you try, there are physical, emotional, intellectual differences between the genders. The New Testaments commends women who hosted churches in their houses just as much as the men who preached. Paul writes that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
      There is a problem with expecting the Bible or Christianity to adjust to the modern era. The Bible has ALWAYS been counter-cultural. The things you might like in the Bible (compassion for enemies, racial equality, humility, etc.) were absurd for the ancients and still are for many traditional societies (for example, look at where I come from, and try to preach love your enemies to the two sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict). In the same way, the things you might hate about the Bible and see as regressive (sexual morality, Biblical justice, etc.) were taken as granted by them. The best example for a passage that both cultures fail to grasp is “eye for an eye.” Today we say “how brutal and primitive.” But the law came in a society where people believed “eye for two eyes” or “my brother’s life for your entire family” and were in endless cycles of blood vengeance. So let me ask you this. Let’s assume there is an all knowing, all powerful, eternal, infinite, perfect God, what makes you think he is going to think like a 21 century liberal? (or for the sake of the argument, a conservative) It is pure arrogance, to expect God’s truth to depend on us “liking” it. I don’t know about you, but for me the fact that the Bible challenged and will challenge every single culture increases its credibility rather than decrease it.

  70. Loved this post!! Some really good thoughts. Appreciated your honesty.
    @Autistic Zombie, fascinating input, thanks for being honest.

  71. momtron

    Thank you for saying what I have believed for years. When people ask what I am (religion-wise), I usually say I am not anything. I cannot think of any theologic or non-theologic group or category I would properly fit into.

    Any group, if it becomes large and popular enough can be corrupted by it’s leadership and it’s followers. People are too willing to accept easy answers to difficult questions… It becomes quite frightening to me how often people profess such total faith or loyalty to an ideal (or whatever) without any curiosity or inspiration to question the basis of those beliefs. So many people with so much potential, lost to easy answers and the comfort of being on the “right side” of the fence.

    Imagine, investigate, question, empathize and respect.

    God gave us great brains….. I really don’t think he would punish us for using them, do you?

  72. I am a Christian,and I do not say that enough; however that is not what I want say I must agree with you Christians as whole are a lot of those things you wrote and I’m not the exception either; however I try to do what is right and ask for forgiveness when I fail. I am not trying to make you feel bad or even judge you, which even as much as I try not to is an area where I need to do better in. What wanted to say is thank you for calling all Christians to repentance even if that was not your intention. I for one will try and work on these areas.

  73. K

    All in all, I agree with most of your list.
    It is a totally different world or poverty that we live in today. The people in the Bible were surrounded by families who were literally eating their last meal before they died of hunger. Today, most of the poor in our society probably suffer more from a lack of medical care than food. And the cost of medical care, especially to chronically ill, indigent patients, is enormous.

    There are tons of people who are poor, like in-the-Bible-poor, but most of us very seldom come in direct contact with these folks.

    It really makes a Christian think, what should we be doing for people? And who should we help? Do we help the guy losing his house down the street? The child starving in Africa? The homeless guy down on his luck begging for a few bucks?

    These become really tough questions in an extremely disconnected but global world where communities exist online as much or more than they do in proximity.

    • Marthy

      I’d recommend two excellent books on this topic – “Same Kind of Different as Me” and “The Hole in Our Gospel”.

  74. Peter Rudd

    Jeff thanks for the post and good luck in Hollywood. Have you ever read Rene Girard? When I read the bit about the Amish reaction to the murders I thought of his essay ‘Are the Gospels Mythical?’ which describes how grace and turning the other cheek etc. dispels the world’s ceaseless cycle of scandal and rivalry and killing. I recommend it; you can find it online.

  75. Suzanne

    You may be interested in reading books by Marcus Borg (Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, Reading the Bible Again for the First TIme, and the Heart of Christianity are just three). I think you’ll find his thoughts are in line with yours. He is a Jesus scholar, so his work is both intellectual and spiritual. He explains a different take on what it means to be the “Son of God” and why biblical laws existed back then but don’t make sense now, etc. There is so much more he discusses. Fascinating stuff.

  76. Nellie

    This is so spot on…so much so that I sent a copy of it to some members of my legalistic/conservative Christian family. Not with any accusatory intent at all. But merely a more well-said explanation for how I would like to live my life. I received some very angry emails from those who were “offended” by my finger pointing (via this link apparently). I’ve learned one big lessons as a result…the biggest hints I can drop are through my lifestyle…and the fruits thereof. Some fights are not worth the energy.

  77. I love what you said about us all being hipocrits….because we are all striving for something we haven’t reached yet. If we weren’t hipocrits, we would be Christ-like and perfect.

  78. Jen

    Love this. Well said!

    *note: I laughed out loud and agree about the Christian music.

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  80. AdamT

    I heard a priest once sum up Christianity in four words: Avoid Bad, Do Good. Unfortunately, so many people only focus on the first two words and fail to “do good”. Manyof your 20 points are in reference to people who are trying to “avoid bad” pushing that onto others in a way that is not “doing good”.

    The truth is that 99% of the time most people are doing good and only a small percentage of the time do we do bad. Yet so many Christians spend most of their time trying to persuade others to avoid bad but yet never encouraging them to do good. If Christians spent as much time speaking about doing good and encouraging others to do good, I don’t think the negative sentiment would exist. I think that as Christians, we should try to spend more of our energy doing good and encouraging others to do likewise.

  81. Sojourneer

    This is all so very American, and doesn’t resonate with this christian. I guess your issues come with being The Man in your corner of the world.

  82. Pingback: Day 278. 20 Things You Want to Hear a Christian Say | The Mystery Year | Thoughts from a GAY Christian

  83. @Lex-

    Wait, how is the bible which has passages about the right way to rape women, the inferiority of women even as slaves, and oh should I say it? I think I shall… A bible with passages about how women should not speak, have a voice etc NOT Misogynistic? Denying something you do not want to hear does not make it untrue. I also have read many versions of the bible in my attempt to find God. For me that is a personal journey. This includes exploring religions past Christianity in it’s many splintered segments.

    To me I am stating a fact. Your diety, if the Bible is indeed the word of said Diety and not a bunch of people writing something down? Misogynistic. Cruel. Hateful. That is an opinion you will not change, because it is based on a life time of study and first hand experience with the worst of said Diety’s followers. Note I did say the worst. This implies I know that not eveyrone is as bad as they are.

    I am not militant. I don’t own weapons, I don’t go out to convert people. I pretty much keep to myself since where I live being an atheist could get me killed. I am very quiet about these things out of the need to survive.

    The bloodiest century in human history? Well, that is something which may not be true. This is a modern position many historians take but we don’t have an accurate body count for a lot of the previous centuries. An accurate census isn’t even something managable now and I do not think this is the bloodiest century. For the sake of semantics I will say it is. Its bloody because there are more people, weapons which kill from longer range, faster and farther, and oh… how is this not in the name of your RELIGION? How was Hitler killing Jews for not being what he wanted not an attempt to please your God?

    You don’t want to hear it so I am going to save my keystrokes from here on out. Nothing I say will sway you because you do not want to RISK being wrong. I asked you to question your faith, not my lack of it. I have seen people rape in the name of your god, murder in the name of your god. I have seen people denied basic needs in the name of your god. In order to get help if you have a crisis? Many times its just a church between you and an abyss, because churches aren’t all bad. Just mostly. That is my OPINION. You can disagree, and you will.

    My opinion of all religion is equally dismal. It is a waste of space and resources. While there are atheists who are criminals there are those of us who do good for the sake of good. When Christians state they do good in the name of their diety, this scares me. For if that is all that makes you good? You are the things of nightmares.

    Murder and rape don’t get washed away, just because you say sorry.

    To anyone else I missed, I had no net due to a snow storm so I am skimming. To our fine host, I hope that you have had plenty of food for thought and are still hungry for more.

    • Tony

      Getting killed for being an atheist? Sounds like someone is a bit paranoid.

      1. “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” Rom3:23
      2. “The wages of sin is death” Rom6:23
      3. “Christ died for our sins” ICor15:3
      4. “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” Rom6:23
      5. “whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” Rom10:13

    • Lex

      @Autistic Zombie
      Your accusations are empty and meaningless unless you provide scripture references as evidence. It’s very likely that you’re injecting personal speculation and attempting to deconstruct and reinterpret the biblical language.

      A “militant atheist” according to the Dictionary is “one who is hostile towards religion. They differ from moderate atheists because they have the desire to propagate atheism and also hold religion to be harmful.”

      More innocent people have been murdered by anti-God ideology in the 20th century than ever before in history.,,,
      Joseph Stalin = 42,672,000 murdered
      Mao Zedong = 37,828,000 murdered
      Adolf Hitler = 20,946,000 murdered
      Chiang Kai-shek = 10,214,000 murdered
      Vladimir Lenin = 4,017,000 murdered
      Hideki Tojo = 3,990,000 murdered
      Pol Pot = 2,397,000 murdered
      … and the list goes on…

      How can you justify the atrocities committed in the name of non-religion in the past century?
      If man is the measure of all things to include an atheistic moral-framework, than the logical question is which man:
      Hitler or Hugh Hefner? Joseph Stalin or Oprah Winfrey? Michael Jackson or Mother Theresa?

      An atheistic universe does not have an absolute standard of right and wrong. Instead, its ethics come from need, want, lust, greed, power or political interest.
      My question to you is what moral framework allows you to judge rape or murder to be wrong? According to Darwinian evolution, it’s ‘nature’s red tooth and claw’ at its best!!

      That is why, according to Hitler’s autobiography: Mein Kampf, he terrorized, hated and murdered not in the name of God, but for ideologies such as survival-of-the-fittest and racial superiority, advocating social Darwinism. How do you explain all this from an atheist point-of-view?

    • Chris

      I know where the references to women not speaking comes from, it’s in some of the New Testament letters from Paul, most notably 1 Corinthians and 2 Timothy, but where in the Bible are the other two examples: How to rape women, and women should be slaves? I have not found them and would like to know. Not because I don’t believe you, I just want to read them for myself.
      I too have studied the Bible in great detail and, as far as I can tell, the comments concerning women being silent in the church are more cultural imperatives and not overarching for all Christian history. We forget that Paul was writing letters to churches, not books of the Bible (at least in his mind). I am sure many of us don’t write letters assuming people thousands of years later would be interpreting them. With that said, there are great insights into Jesus and God the Father found throughout his letters, so I am thankful to have them.
      Nonetheless, the emphasis of the passages that those commands were taken from is not that women should shut up, but that men should grow up and teach their families about God correctly. Paul was aggravated that, due to the lack of men properly teaching their families about God, the women instead were interrupting church services to ask questions that their husbands should have already supplied. Paul was aggravated that the women desired to know more of God, then the men in the church, even though they were the ones responsible to lead. It is not an indictment upon women but rather an indictment upon weak, passive men who did not live up to their responsibilities.
      I would also encourage you to look at verses such as Ephesians 5:25-33, which says that a Godly husband is one who serves his wife as Jesus has served us, sacrificially and with no regard to our own comfort. Or 1 Peter 3:7, which says that a man who treats his wife harshly or abusively does not have his prayers heard by God. In both sections, you will read of women as being submissive or “weaker” but that is not a derogatory position or term. It is meant to be a term denoting loving support from the wife and one of gentle character. (We often forget we are reading translations of Greek text and sometimes our best English words do not interpret correctly the Greek meaning). I would also implore you to read 1 Timothy 3:8, that says that a man who does not provide for his family is worst than someone who has never believed at all.
      God despises weak, passive, pathetic men who shirk responsibility. And most of the situations where men are challenged to step up in the scriptures are where they are reminded of areas where women have had to step up in their absence. You still may read those and not feel this to be the case but in my time studying the Bible daily, I have found this to be the case. It is our culture and times that have misinterpreted these parts of scripture to demean women, not the original authors.

      Thanks.

  84. You, my friend, are a) my favorite person and b) a really good person.

    Thank you so much for writing this. I think that, especially for people like me (in the LGBTQ community), we forget that there are Christians who don’t think we all deserve to die horrible deaths. And unfortunately, I think there are liberal people who forget that, too. And there are atheists who forget this.

    So, thank you for reminding me that just because someone comes out as a Christian, it doesn’t mean I have to be ready to fight with them. This was a great read.

  85. BuddhaClaus

    Wonderful, compassionate post! You got one thing somewhat wrong, though: Not all Christian music is bad. As a Buddhist, I can objectively and authoritatively state (heh) that Christmas Music is some of the most beautiful and moving music ever written. I started listing all the Christmas songs that move me, and I had to stop, because it got too long, and I couldn’t decide which to list. I know of nothing like Christmas Music in any other religious tradition.

    Okay, I have to go listen to “O Holy Night” now. :-)

  86. @Lex-

    First by your definition I am not a militant atheist, since I do not actively try and convert people. Second, have you even READ your bible? Go find the verses, since you want them so badly. I am not going to spoon feed you when you decide that because I disagree with your religion, and all religions, I must go and find quotes from you when you can do the same thing yourself.

    Your list of “Evil atheists” is also incorrect.

    Hitler was a CHRISTIAN. He had the backing of the CATHOLIC CHURCH. If you want to make lists of dead people, it is doable but at least verify that people really are atheists before claiming it. This is a silencing tactic meant to make people go away. You do not want the disagreement and are just trying to bait me into a long drawn out drama wah wah. So go learn some history and go read your bible then come back and try again.

    I do not justify any actions other people took for I am not responsible for THEIR actions. I am responsible for mine. I actively persue equal rights for all people. This means accessible side walks, gay marriage, and your right to believe in what you want so long as I also have that right.

    The fun thing about atheism is there is no absolute standard, the ethics come from our personal experiences, our choices and our beliefs based on experience and what our parents teach us. In my case also what they did not.

    Fun fact: My father was an active member of the church, a rapist and a murderer. All in the name of God. I could espouse his morality and do evil or I can choose my own. I choose to do what I deem is good. I also know at the end of the day there is no invisible god man to wipe away my crimes and make me feel better. I have to live with the concequences of what I do on a daily basis. This means when I am mean to someone, I am responsible and it DOES NOT GO AWAY just because I say sorry.

    I am not going to try and explain Hitler to you, how laws work, or any other basics because you do not want to hear it. You want me to waste my breathe. You can google these questions and the ThinkingAtheist and find them all laid out for you in terms even you can understand. Yes I am implying you are close minded.

    The replies on this list, aside from a few however have been open, caring and regardless of what the people believe very interesting. Its a shame you chose to be that one guy who has to bring it all back to the same inaccurate claims.

    I do not need a diety to tell me what is right. I am fully capable of deciding that on my own. In fact even the bible implies this with the existence of the tree of good and evil, by knowing both we then must actively choose.

    Did you ever consider, Lex, that someone might believe in something or not believe in anything and it might be belief or lack there of without an agenda? My not believing in your god is not an act of politics. It is an act of life. It is an act of existence.

    @Chris –
    Judges 21:10-24
    Numbers 31:7-18
    Dueteronomy 12:10-14 and for the laws bit 22:28-29
    Dueteronomy 22:23-24
    One of the worst for me is 2 Samuel 12:11-14
    Judges 5:30
    Exodus 21:7-11
    Zechariah 14:1-2

    You get the verses because you actually are curious unlike Lex. You want to know. The problem with the things like Paul’s letters being cultural imperitves? People are still taking them literally and trying to foist them on society. That is the real issue, when does this piece of literature become dated? When does the religion update? The answer to the last one is it updates when people start to shy away because things are clearly wrong.

    That is an interesting perspective on Paul’s letters and I think is probably closer to the intention but through time and mistranslation it is a lot harder to tell. Yes, mistranslation like you said is rampant. The issue is which parts?

    Submissive is not derogitory as long as the submission is consentual, the children are not raised to believe they have no voice, and people are actually happy.

    The original culture is in my eyes demeaning to women. During the time in which the bible was written women were bought and sold as property. How is that not demeaning? You buy or rape to get a wife. She is property, chattle.

    • Chris

      Thanks for sending me the verses, I have read them and would like to reply. First, most if not all of the verses deal with cultural standards of the times, specifically the ones of Exodus and Deuteronomy. We find it hard to accept these because our culture has changed so much but in order to fully understand the command of the Lord in these verses, we need to understand the context.
      First, there is an ordered way in which we have been created. Man was created to be responsible for the creation of God (Gen. 1:26-27) and Man was created as two separate entities, man and woman. In Genesis 2 we get a closer look at the creation of humanity and realize that God created man first and then woman later. Woman was in answer to the great loneliness of man and was God’s gift to man to be his companion. Notice that God made Eve out of Adam’s rib. She is to be at his side; not his feet. It symbolizes the complimentary nature of man and woman, not dominion or hierarchy. I go back to this because I notice your biggest contention with God is not Him but the way the Bible portrays men/women relationships. In this relationship there are roles, the man is the one held responsible and the woman is the one who helps and supports his leadership to make good decisions. Once again, they are equal because both have been made in God’s image. In chp. 3, everything goes wrong and it is after this that the relationships between man and woman goes down hill and wrong.
      The verses you have given are displayed in the case of a fallen world, where relationally, nothing is what it is suppose to be. There are slaves and prostitutes, but that was not the design. If you notice in Exodus, the verses on slavery are given so that women are not thrown away as used property, that they are kept and taken care of as the men were. The verses in Deuteronomy are so that men will know that raping a woman is the same as committing to marrying her in God’s eyes, and throwing her away is a sin as grievous as adultery, which is punishable by death. This is a practice of that time that was never thought about or held until then.
      If you read Judges, you will notice that the whole book showcases a slow disintegration of the Israelite people from the time of Moses until the time before Samuel. Without Moses to lead them, the people moved away from their God and did what they wanted and fell into the trappings of the idolatrous word around them. That is why the last verse in Judges is “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” The people had abandoned God and it ended up with them performing the detestable acts of slaughtering a woman and taking and raping the women of whole tribe. Just because people in the Bible act a certain way, does not mean it is condoned by God. Most of the time, it is not.
      As far as God commanding whole nations to be killed, there has been a lot of contention about this but it is for His great love for them that he commands this. He does not want them to fall into the idolatry of the nations around them and specifically commands them not to intermarry with other nations for this reason. God knows that men are easily seduced by sex and would rather see the full physical destruction of other nations, than the spiritual decay and decomposition of his people Israel. I find it weird that as hard as it is to read this about God, the authors of the Bible do not shy away from it. This is not a made up God in our image but one who is real and asks for hard things out of us.
      Finally, in 1 Samuel 12, God responds to David in this way for this reason: David has taken another man’s wife, raped her, and then murdered him when she became pregnant. After this man’s death, he then takes her to be his wife. God tells David essentially that the same thing he did will happen to him. You talk of consequences and being responsible, that is exactly what God did to David: He made him suffer the true consequences of his actions. Otherwise, as the king, David would not have ever felt any consequences.
      I could go through them all but I think it is best to stop, not because I am afraid you are right but because there comes a point where it is futile. I pray that you will see that God loves you and all women. That he created women to be image bearers of Himself and not slaves or sexual toys for men’s enjoyment. These are all products of the evil in man’s heart to make himself God and to discover his own happiness and pleasure outside of how he was created.
      Jesus came to redeem us from this not to cement it. He came to challenge these standards not to give us license to continue. Your frustration is with evil, immoral men and to cite them as examples is a waste. Because other than Jesus, no man can ever give us a glimpse of how God loves and sees women. I encourage you to read John 4:1-45, John 8:1-11, Mark 5:24-34, and Mark 14:3-9. There are more, but notice how God, in the flesh, treats women who the rest of society despises with patience, love, and compassion. Notice also that the only ones at the cross when He died were women and the first ones who saw Him after He was raised from the dead were women as well.
      You sound as if you have been hurt and for that I am sorry, even though I have done nothing. God loves you even though you hate Him. Jesus died for you, even though you do not believe He did. And Jesus can restore you if you trust in His death and resurrection. Thanks for your patience with this letter. With much love,

      Chris

    • Michael

      Just to get Hitler out of the picture (you wouldn’t expect an Israeli to do anything else, haha….), by his time the focus of antisemitism was not religious. Over the 19th century, as many Jews were assimilating to the Christian religion and culture, they were still hated and persecuted. The focus was more financial and cultural, as Jews were often more educated and successful than many of their Christian neighbors. When Hitler came along, antisemitism received a racial focus. Abusing the writings of Nietzsche and Darwin, the Nazis actually argued that Jews were BIOLOGICALLY inferior. Hitler wasn’t supported by the Catholic Church (in fact Catholics were persecuted during the war, and early on were considered as political rivals). The more complicated side is that of the German Protestant Church which was divided to two camp. One camp said we are German before Christian. Their message centered on German nationalism rather than Christ, so obviously they supported Hitler. The other camp said we are Christian before German and actually stood up against the atrocities of the Nazies. This camp produced remarkable people like Kurt Gerstein (who died in prison after trying to save as many Jews as he could) and Dietrich Bonhoeffer also (who was actually connected to the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler and died in concentration camps, many of his writings are influential in the Church to this very day). Finally, Hitler’s long term plan was to destroy the church, exchange the Cross with the swastika and the Bible with Mein Kampf. One needs only to read Romans (chapter 9 especially) to see what the New Testament really has to say about the Jews.
      I don’t want to be presumptuous, but it seems to me that Lex was merely trying to say that you can’t single out religion when it comes to evil.
      I’ve long believed (as you have suggested yourself) that one of the most dangerous things people can do (Christian and atheist alike) is to take Biblical passages out of context. The example from Paul is often taken out of historical/cultural context by Christian. But many of the passages you gave as example are taken out of context of Scripture as a whole:
      -Judges 21:10-24: The thing that strikes me about this passage is the fact that God is absent. The people are asking for council and God doesn’t give it. The whole story illustrates what Israel looked like without taking guidance from God (as illustrated in the one verse you didn’t include, verse 25 “In those days Israel had no king;everyone did as he saw fit). In fact Judges 17-21, which illustrates the disintegration of Israel following the death of Samson as the last judge, has very few occurrences where God speaks to the people.
      Numbers 31:7-18: This one is a bit complicated. The women of Moab and Midian bore a heavy responsibility in the offense committed against Israel in enticing them to idolatry (Nu 25). Since the whole situation was caused by Israelites sleeping with gentile women, it is unlikely that Moses permitted the whole situation to repeat itself. Perhaps the virgins were not regarded as guilty of the crime and were taken as house servants, rather than sex slaves. Another way to view it, is that if Moses indeed permits the men to sleep with the women, we don’t have an account of God ordering him to do it (and Moses DID disobey God in other accounts).
      -Dt 22:28-29: This one actually PROTECTS the woman. In a culture that didn’t approve of pre-marital sex, a woman who wasn’t a virgin wasn’t allowed to marry. This law forces the man to either take her as a wife or give heavy compensation for her family, which will allow the woman to survive without marrying. It is important to recognize that this law (like many others) tries to warn from getting into such situation rather than provide a way out for the rapist.
      -Dt 22:23-24: In this law (as I mentioned before) the man and the woman are seen as equally guilty. The law presupposes that the woman consented to the act and that’s why she didn’t call for help (see 25-27 for comparison).
      -2 Samuel 12:11-14: The context of this passage is following David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah. This is actually a very important passage, because it illustrates (again as you’ve suggested elsewhere) that sin isn’t just a one time thing that can be easily forgotten. Christians obviously believe in forgiveness of sins, but there are always consequences to sin (and please don’t take this as preaching fire and brimstone). David as the head of the household introduced adultery and rape into the family. The following chapter introduces David’s son Amnon raping his half-sister Tamar. The prophecy by Nathan is a reference to David’s son Absalom who rebelled against his father, partly as a reaction to the rape of his sister. So if anything this passage shows the long-term consequences of sin, and is definitely not giving a divine prerogative for rape.
      -Judges 5:30: This one actually refers to the Canaanites, not the Israelites.
      -Ex 21:7-11: Again, this actually protects the woman. It describes a situation where a father is selling his daughter to pay off his debts with the intention of her marrying the son of her “master”. If she marries she becomes part of the family, if she doesn’t she must be released or treated well.
      -Zec 14:1-2: Again this is not a divine prerogative for rape. God is using the nations (Assyria and Babylon most notably) to judge Israel. These prophecies describe but not condone their actions (which was their common practice at war). There are many prophecies against these nations that condemns their brutality.

      The point I’m trying to make is that while the Bible describes certain attitudes (polygamy is another for example), it doesn’t mean it permits them. And in fact more often than not illustrates the brokenness and suffering that results from such behaviors (since I mentioned polygamy, Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon all show how while polygamy was common it rarely resulted in anything good).
      I admire greatly your willingness to investigate the Scriptures instead of hurling empty accusations as I’ve seen so many atheists doing (and as I’ve done myself as a youth). I strongly believe Christians should similarly investigate history and other world views and try to understand them. Having said that, when you’re looking at Scripture trying to find something specific you can always twist the words as you see fit (and this applies to all parties involved). We rarely do justice to Scripture when we take it out of scriptural, historical and cultural context. One of my biggest struggles in the early days of my Christian walk was not that much about evil in general, but evil done in the Name of God. But the more I studied Scripture, I saw that not only in most cases they give no indication that these actions are acceptable, but almost always condemns them.
      As I said before, I’m really sorry to hear about your experiences with Christians and with the Church, and I can easily see how and why you’ve developed your views towards religion. I sincerely hope that one day you will be able to see the side of Christianity that has changed my life and the lives of many that I know.

  87. Niam Krawt

    I can certainly appreciate that you are a Christian who is trying to get along in the real world, and i can appreciate that you want to do so. However, you are missing two points in a much bigger picture: moderate Christians only exist because Christianity has been dragged kicking and screaming into the secular age we now live in. And this kind of soft religion only enables the actions of those who do terrible things based on faith.

    Once one acknowledges that the literal version of *any* religious text is not true, the natural flow is toward acknowledging that it is *all* made up. Anything in between is an attempt to resolve the cognitive dissonance of what is taught vs. what happens in the real world. Your points on science and homosexuality, while I welcome them with open arms, are perfect examples. The bible teaches that the earth was blinked into existence in a week using golem spells, and that homosexuals should be stoned to death. Christians don’t do that anymore because *society* has deemed it to be wrong, not because the bible has to say about it.

    The bible says a few good things (but nothing original/divine), but many more bad things. This move toward a kinder, gentler Christianity is welcome, but doesn’t excuse anything the bible says or anything that people have done in the name of religion.

    Everyone wants to see the good side of religion, but now acknowledge how horrible the concept really is. How many people alive today would lock their own child in a basement for the rest of his/her life just because that child refused to say “I love you”? Yet that is exactly what the bible teaches: love me, worship me, or be punished for eternity.

    How sad that people cling to such nonsense. And for what? To make people feel better about the injustices in the world, or to feel better about the fact that life eventually ends? Millions of people have died over the years just so the survivors could feel comfort about a supposed afterlife?

    Horrendous. And trying to justify it by saying “I am not like that” does not absolve anyone from anything, it just enables those who are terrible to do terrible things in the name of religion. This goes for Christianity, Islam, Judaism, hell almost religion for that matter.

  88. Great article, loved it! I agreed with so many points. I do say I’m a Christian but I usually try and qualify myself too. Like adding comments about being anti-religious.

    My husband wants to add a sidebar… about music we can blame radio stations playing only the mild and milk-toast music for the easy listening crowd.
    A few great musicians to take note of: Switchfoot, Flyleaf, Fireflght, Pillar, Numerous bands that have crossed over to mainstream because we as a people are desperate for music that says something. There is some great Christian music, you have to dig for it and find a good radio station that will actually play it. :)

  89. jeffhoughton

    Hey folks who are subscribing to the comments on this post, I’ve posted a response to the comments as a whole in a newer post.

    Thanks for reading, and thanks for all the great comments!

    http://themysteryyear.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/day-294-my-response-to-the-20-things-christian-response/

  90. Dear wannabe Christian,
    Have you ever read the New Testament? No, really have you ever read at least the four gospels? Christianity is about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It isn’t about a particular religious denomination. You would know that if you had actually read the first four books in the New Testament. Read it, you might be surprised. Many people want to say they are Christians because Jesus did so many wonderful things. But you can’t be a Christian unless you do what Jesus says to do (Luke 6:46). Notice, that I was able to actually reference a scripture. Since “the belief that God had a son who came to Earth and died for the sins of the world sounds crazy”; how about Hinduism? There are literally thousand of gods and goddesses in Hinduism. Surely one of the them would represents your core beliefs. If that doesn’t work, you always have the option of just worship yourself?

  91. Dear wannabe Christian,
    This simple video from you tube will answer all your many questions about man made religion versus a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

    • Niam Krawt

      Rebecca, maybe *you* should watch the video again: “Just because you call some people blind, doesn’t automatically give you vision.”

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