Saturday, February 23, 2013

Facebook Faith # 11 - Moral Desolation

I grew up in a Christian culture that valued the preaching of Leonard Ravenhill and men like him - so I have to comment on this poster I saw on Facebook.

Preachers like Ravenhill see the world as a decadent place that is getting worse all the time. The only solution available, from their perspective, is to make you like them. The world they see consists of Christians (who usually are not committed enough), enemies of the faith, and the yet to be converted.

This sour and depressing view of life is simply a carry-over of medieval religious masochism. They have exchanged whipping themselves with the lash, to whipping themselves and others with words and attitudes.

Leonard Ravenhill was born in 1907 and died in 1994. He saw amazing things. Aside from scientific advances, which would cause any person with awareness to whoop with joy, he lived through societal progression that had never been seen in human history. He saw women, children, minorities, and the poor go from being treated as property or second class humans, to becoming people with rights, desires, and freedoms they could rightfully claim. Moral desolation? I call that significant moral progression!

There are still many preachers like Leonard Ravenhill out there. They see Humanism, the desire for humanity to reach its best potential, as a threat to religious control. Religious control needs humanity to see itself as wounded, damaged, and unworthy.

I met Leonard Ravenhill once.  He was busy chastising some female classmates of mine (one to tears) for going out for ice cream together rather than attending his bible study.

I knew then, and believe more so now, that those girls spent their time more wisely by going out for ice cream.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Facebook Faith #10 - What's Good for the Goose...

Accepting the reality of this picture was one of the key items that drove me from my faith.  I grew up in evangelical environments where ours was the dominate religious influence.  When I moved out to Salt Lake City 9 years ago, I had quite an education in what it was like to be a religious minority.

One of the things that struck me is that Evangelicals out here often rolled their eyes at Mormonism, incredulous that Mormons could "believe all that crazy stuff". Mormon practices, scriptures, and beliefs were often snickered at by my Evangelical friends.

Since I had developed so many friendships with Mormons, I found myself getting defensive on their behalf. I didn't believe Mormon theology, but I was becoming annoyed at the behavior of my Christian friends towards Mormons. Somewhere in that process of annoyance, the groundwork was laid for me to look at my own practices, scriptures, and beliefs... and, low and behold, I started to wonder why I "believed all this crazy stuff".

Reading Bart Ehrman's Jesus Interrupted, I came across the reason why any of us believe "crazy stuff".  When religious people read their scriptures or partake in practices, they are doing so devotionally - they are dedicated to the truth of the scripture and practice from the beginning.  A devotional approach, as opposed to a critical one, allows one to bypass items that would normally challenge our reason.  What usually happens is Religion A wants Religion B to observe Religion B's practices and scripture critically... while Religion A continues to observe its own practices and scripture devotionally.

My faith began to crumble when I saw the inherent hypocrisy of applying critical thinking assessments to the religion of another, while being unwilling to apply them to my own.  Once I began to look at my faith critically... it didn't last long.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Facebook Faith # 9: An Atheist and Evangelical in Conversation

The following is a conversation I had with an Evangelical friend of mine on Facebook concerning belief in God. I don't have these as much anymore since many of my Evangelical friends have defriended me on Facebook, or have merely removed me from their Newsfeed. One friend told me she had defriended me so she did not have to "put up with" my negative views on religion. Facebook, she believed, was not the place for me to be making such arguments. Somehow, she did not consider her constant stream of religious cliches' to be in the same "argument" category. :)

This is also a good conversation because Mike and I are cordial and respectful throughout...

I recognize that these discussions tend to be circular, so one might wonder whether or not they are worth having. I believe they are. Not so much because I think I will have any impact with the person I am in conversation with (as Brook makes clear), but rather with those who may be observing. My exit from Christianity may have happened much sooner had the internet been around when I was young. To be sure, my questions and doubts started early, but I had no one to bounce them off of. There were few avenues for questioning available to me as a young person. I think these conversations are worth having because there are still myriads of people who are unaware that there are other stories being told.

  • Ministries that focus on evangelizing children do so under the belief that, the older a person gets, the less likely they are to become Christians.

    So... if you don't get em as kids, you probably won't get em.

    How this realization does not cause a reality check within their organization is mind-boggling....
    Like ·  ·  ·  · Promote
    • Darrin  and Thomas  like this.
    • Darrin  Yep. Blatant brain washing.
      February 8 at 12:55pm via mobile · Unlike · 1
    • Michael  Or as God promises in Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old he will not depart from it. " but I guess you're not old enough yet
    • Andrew Hackman Nothing wrong with training, I educate kids for a living. However, even in many of the more liberal denominations, there is a whole lotta indoctrination going on. In fact, I can think of only one church where I actually saw religious education going on in the children's Sunday school. 
    • Michael  As Christians, it's our responsibility to make sure that our kids are trained in the way that they should go...not a church's or any organization.
    • Darrin  How about, as a parent... its our responsibility. Why does religion have to be in the mix? I believe in freedom of choice, not indoctrination. Isn't that what the god presented in the Bible known as God supposedly wants? Freedom of choice?
    • Michael  Sharing God's love and instructing my kids on Godly/Biblically based principles is a personal choice that we each have whether to do it or for me and my house we have chosen to serve the Lord...No one is forcing you to do so...we each are created with a free will...thereby having freedom of choice...I personally don't understand why anyone would choose not to accept God's gift...but ultimately it is an individual choice. It is my belief, however, that there is never an absence of faith...everyone believes/worships something whether it's God or their own reasoning/intellect.
    • Andrew Hackman You don't understand why anyone would choose not to accept God's gift... my Mormon friends hope everyone accepts the revelation of a living prophet and discovers the truth of the book of Mormon. Hare' Krishna's hope you partake in his love. The funny thing about religion is that one's religion is HIGHLY determined by geography. Most people worldwide tend to stay with the brand, or a sub-brand, of what they were raised with. That is not choice... it is what the guy in the video talked about, it is imperative that religion get you before your 14. Whatever religion your parents are... surprise, surprise, you will most likely be as well.

      I wish kids got a chance for that free will, but the truth is, in the majority of religious homes they simply don't. The world detests the Westboro Baptist folks, but they are just doing overtly what most Christian homes are doing covertly. Children have no more choice in the typical religious home than they do at Westboro.

      Even when I was still a Christian, I let my kids know they were free.
      Andrew- I think you know my story. My Mom is 89 and "worries" about me leaving "the faith". She converses with my conservative, fundamentalist son (my eldest) about the situation, but won't say a word about it to me. I am an only child. Most probably the reason I don't hear about it. To her credit,…
    • Michael  I believe that everyone at some point in their life, myself included, had to decide what they believe regardless of what religious training they're exposed to. I also believe that there's value in being taught to stand for something and to have convictions even if initially kids beliefs mirror their parents. If kids are taught nothing, they will default to the religion of humanism/intellectualism, which is being taught in our public schools. So there is always indoctrination being propagated it's just the one that you choose to subscribe to. That's why I believe that you're always serving/believing in someone/something... Btw I know several people that were raised in Christian homes that are no longer free will ultimately always wins.
    • Andrew Hackman Michael, you make are making a number of wrong assumptions... well, I dont know that they are assumptions, but I know it is what Christians are taught to think... Why do you believe if a family does not believe as you do, the children are being taught "nothing"? Do you believe that Christian families are the only ones truly capable of teaching sincerity, honesty, compassion, determination, etc? Why would you believe non-christian kids are being taught nothing? I can roll out for you Mormons, Atheists, Catholics, Evangelicals, and a Hindu who could testify to you the solid nature under which my children are being raised... so I don't see where that point carries weight.

      You say humanism as if it were a bad thing... all humanism is a determination to to empower all people everywhere to lead good and happy lives. It is a solidarity and oneness.... not any slap to a deity. The fact that my kids love and support each other does not make me insecure... were there an eternal deity, I can't imagine him being put out by such a thing.

      And I can tell you that, as a school teacher, we are much too busy to be involved in any conspiracies to undermine the Christian god... I have enough trouble just making it to staff meetings. I don't have the energy for indoctrination of students.

      I understand that children will mirror their parents beliefs, but I think we can do more as parents to expose them to other choices that are available. I mentioned the one church that actually teaches religious studies to their children. During one term, they cover the Abrahamic religions, than the Eastern religions, then aboriginal and native religions. They even covered agnostics and atheists. How refreshing that they painted all these people as fellow human beings (humanism) rather than the enemy or the yet-to-be-converted.
    • Michael  I'm sure that other families that are taught differing religions may have the qualities that you list, however that does not minimize my belief that Bible is the inerrant Word of God...and since God has said there is only one mediator (Jesus)...that is what I believe...not because I am saying it, but because God is. I am not accountable for what others believe but I am accountable for what I do. I can see why it would be refreshing for a multi-theist or atheist to feel that it's refreshing for all religions to be considered as options for truth, however that's not what the Bible teaches. Bottom line for me is that God is God and I am not...that means I don't get to set the rules and I'm good with that. God came into this world that all might be saved...that is His Will. His message is one of hope, love and my view of non-Christians is not that they're the enemy but rather the mission field to share the good news of the gospel with and to pray for them....beyond that it's up to God to judge...not me.
    • Andrew Hackman ".not because I am saying it, but because God is. "

      But... you did just say it.... and he didn't... and that is how that tends work with religious people.

      you also say you are basing your beliefs on "what the bible teaches" but that is problematic 
      too. The bible teaches many things, and many of them contradictory. What really happens is Christians find a lifestyle that suits them, and then they find a church group with similar tastes, and they focus on the points of scripture that buttress those desires and tastes. The bible is used in varying degrees by over 30,000 different Christian groups... all saying their bible tells them so. Heck... Paul can't even agree Paul (assuming he wrote about half of what is claimed of him). After 30 years in Christendom, I have heard the bible say pretty much everything... and I particularly enjoy the bits that churches never touch.

      I have to say that one of the eye openers for me out here was to learn what it was like to be some one's "Mission Field". In the environments you and I were raised in, we really never got that experience. I wish everyone could feel what it is like to know you are someone's project or mission. I have learned it is just more more fulfilling to enjoy people for who they are.

      I get everything you are saying Michael. I have done it, felt it, said it, and believed it.

      Did you watch the video? It bothers me that they want these children to make "decisions" for Christ. Most kids don't even pick out their own clothes, do we adults really think children have the capacity to make such a decision. We would not encourage them to pick a spouse at 10. Why? Because they do not have the life skills in place yet for such a decision. It should say something about the appeal of a religion that needs to rob the cradle to get a convert.
    • Michael  I was saying specifically that God has said that there is only one mediator (Jesus) 1 Timothy 2:5. Since, I didn't write Timothy I didn't say Through many years of Precept studies, I can definitely say that the Bible in context does not contradict far as church goes, I've attended Catholic, Non-denominational, Pentecostal, and have worked in a Baptist and Lutheran church...I can say that while much of religion is man-made, the core tenets of salvation are there in each denomination. My faith is not dependent on any church or denomination or in any person/ me I have very little faith in any church....but I do have faith in Jesus and His Word. As to the Bible and the bits that churches never really doesn't doesn't matter how you or I view it or whether we like it...God is God and whether He's popular or PC to believe in is irrelevant...because at the end of the day He's God. I'll speak for myself and say it's impossible for me to look at my kids and believe that God is not their creator...or to try to believe that this world and all the intricacies are not designed by Him...and what other purpose are we here for...just for fun? lol Come on  As for your last point, I don't view sharing the love of Christ as exploitive to children...good news is not bad and if they can't understand it then that's ok too no harm done. I would say if you've heard the Bible say pretty much everything then I would say that's pretty sad...His Word is not that hard to understand so if people are using it improperly I guess they'll be accountable...even more reason to read and study it yourself  Don't allow imperfect people to preclude you from believing the Truth.
    • Andrew Hackman - I don't view sharing the love of Christ as exploitive to children...good news is not bad and if they can't understand it then that's ok too no harm done.-

      Fish don't know that they are wet. I would not expect you to think of getting children to min
      dlessly parrot phrases and songs as being bad.... in fact it is rather cute, isn't it? The revealing thing is to show someone a DIFFERENT religion doing the exact same practices to children and suddenly the parroting doesn't look as cute. Show a bunch of kids you know being taught to parrot "There is no God but Allah!" or "The Book of Mormon is true and Joseph Smith is God's prophet". After seeing such things, I have heard Evangelicals refer to it as "brainwashing". Yet they participate in the same practices... I realized after living out here a few years that, if Mormonism is a cult, then so is Evangelicalism.

      -I would say if you've heard the Bible say pretty much everything then I would say that's pretty sad -

      And I would say you are probably pretty typical of most evangelicals who, when it comes to scripture, have studied only the party line. There are verses that you have quoted, used, and heard in sermons COUNTLESS times... while there are a myriad of verses you have never heard before. Subsets of Christianity all partake in a filtering process by which they pedestal scriptures that advance their community narrative, while eschewing verses that counter their core beliefs. The only way you can see this happening is to see the world without your community's filters. Truly not any easy thing, everything in your life has been designed to keep your filters firmly in place. However, as the growing number of "nones" indicates, it is happening more and more.

      -even more reason to read and study it yourself Don't allow imperfect people to preclude you from believing the Truth.-

      It was not a lack of knowledge of scripture that allowed me to leave the faith. My knowledge of the bible is pretty prodigious. I feel like Paul in Corinthians -If anyone thinks they knew their bible... I knew more.  In fact, I highly believe that if more Christians would vigorously study their bibles... and move outside the pre-set studies and plans... there would be less Christians. Few know the origins of their bible, most believe Matthew wrote Matthew and John wrote John. 
      I didn't leave the faith because I did not understand or believe the bible. I left it BECAUSE I understand and believe the bible. I did Christianity for nearly 30 years... I left it because I get it. 
    • Michael  -After seeing such things, I have heard Evangelicals refer to it as "brainwashing". Yet they participate in the same practices... I realized after living out here a few years that, if Mormonism is a cult, then so is Evangelicalism.-
      I've never said that training kids in other religions is I guess I'm not "every evangelical".
    • Michael -The only way you can see this happening is to see the world without your community's filters. Truly not any easy thing, everything in your life has been designed to keep your filters firmly in place.- I believe the whole Bible is the inerrant Word of God...I don't need to be spoon fed in order to believe. If God said it, then it's true...period end of story. God is God and I am not...that means my knowledge base/experiences, what I've been told etc...does not matter. Like I said before, it does not matter how you or I "feel" about it or what our "take" is on it... God's Words are true and every man is a liar" (Romans 3:4)
    • Michael  -I didn't leave the faith because I did not understand or believe the bible. I left it BECAUSE I understand and believe the bible. I did Christianity for nearly 30 years... I left it because I get it.- I will continue to pray for you...I believe that God has a plan for you and a good one!  God is a personal say that believe the Bible, then what are you going to do with Jesus? If this whole world was gone and it was just you and Him what would you say to Him? This world is filled with religions, different belief systems but only one religion (Christianity) worships a living God, why wouldn't you want to? I do believe that at the end of your life that you will not ultimately leave the faith but when you are old you will not depart from it and that's a good thing 
    • Andrew Hackman Well, I honestly think the chances of my talking to Jesus after death are about on par with your meeting up with Krishna... and I give it the same amount of concern you give to meeting Krishna... not much.

      But I have no fear of meeting any deity upon 
      death. I agree with Marcus Aurelius:

      “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”
    • Michael  So your view is that we've been created for no specific purpose and it's better and more reliable to trust your eternal destiny to the views of a man (Marcus Aurelius) rather than God...and you're honestly telling me that you have no fear of meeting God after you die so much so that you're willing to die and then find out?
    • Andrew Hackman I fear it the same way you fear meeting Vishnu, or Joseph Smith (whose ok you will have to get in order to get into heaven) or Allah... or any number of a pantheon of gods whose afterlife judgement men fear. 

      But you don't spend much energy worrying 
      about them do you? Why not? Because you were never taught to. You don't believe in them. 

      If you had grown up Mormon, you would have asked me:

      "So your view is that the Book of Mormon is not true and you are going to trust your eternal destiny to man, rather than the living prophet God placed on Earth in the latter days? You are honestly telling me that you have no fear of being banished to outer darkness?"

      Instead, you ask me the Christian version of those questions.... because you were raised Christian.

      In the end, you and I are both Atheists Michael. We both have a myriad of religious beliefs that we don't fret over, because we don't believe them. The adherents of these religions feel you and I are arrogant, or blind, or deceived, or in rebellion, or ignorant - for not submitting to their faiths. We both have incredibly similar lists of religions we shrug at. My list is just one larger than yours.
    • Michael  I wouldn't consider myself an Atheist simply because I don't believe in someone else's religion...the reason I don't fret is because I don't simply subscribe to any man-made religion but rather to the 1 true God and his Son the only one true mediator Jesus who is alive and is currently interceding for us. It's not arrogance but rather confidence in knowing the Truth and embracing it...again for me to believe that we've been created for no specific purpose is not logical. Once the Bible is no longer considered as the inerrant Word of God, human reasoning and a multitude of differing theories become prevalent and expected since we are all created with a desire to worship the Creator. I do feel that because God has said it's impossible to please Him without Faith and that the righteous will live by Faith and that in the end the enemy is defeated by our Faith...that means to me that to truly obtainable an accurate revelation of God, Faith is required. Human reasoning and logic is not sufficient otherwise we wouldn't need God since we could obtain revelation on our own.
    • Brook  "but these go to 11"
    • Andrew Hackman I know Mike... you think your religion is different and all the others are misfires. I have gotten versions of your last paragraph from many other faiths as well. Each of them special and different from the rest. I remember thinking that as well. It is like the picture of the bunny, that some people look at and see a duck... while others see both. In that sense, I once saw Christianity as a bunny... but because of some of my experiences I then saw it as a duck too.l Once you see the duck, you can't unsee it... and to a person who sees it only as a bunny, they can't understand why I can't see it ONLY in its special, singular form too. Each subgroup religion sees theirs as the one, unique, true item.

    • Michael  So do you want help to see it as a bunny again?  All of those other faiths worship a god that is no longer living...that to me would be a significant difference 
    • Andrew Hackman No, because that would require me to see unreality again.  I have come to regard reality as a friend.

      You say your deity is real/living, while all the others are not. They of course would say the opposite... and have... I have heard all of this "b
      ut the difference is our god is real" stuff from many a religion. To someone on the outside of all of it, none provide a compelling reason to spend any time pursuing it.
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