Liberal Christianity

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Re: Liberal Christianity

Post  Stanley on Mon Sep 28, 2009 1:05 pm

Hello Moses,

So glad you're here. Can you help with this one...

"And the Lord spake to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend." (EXO 33:11)

That must have been pretty lovely for you...and yet

"No man hath seen God at any time." (JOH 1:18)

I'm confused. Did you get the 10 commandments from him or not?
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Re: Liberal Christianity

Post  Moses on Mon Sep 28, 2009 1:20 pm

Stanley wrote:Hello Moses,

So glad you're here. Can you help with this one...

"And the Lord spake to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend." (EXO 33:11)

That must have been pretty lovely for you...and yet

"No man hath seen God at any time." (JOH 1:18)

I'm confused. Did you get the 10 commandments from him or not?

Not only is YHWH my close personal friend (with whom I've spoken to face to face but have never seen), my ancestor Jacob kicked his ass in a wrestling match! (GEN 32.24-32)
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Re: Liberal Christianity

Post  Neon Genesis on Mon Sep 28, 2009 7:24 pm

Moses wrote:
I know many liberal "Christians" of this stripe and while I like them on a personal level and am glad that they don't do the harm that fundies do, I get so frustrated when discussing religion with them. Yes, Jesus taught "love thy neighbor" but it was only the second "greatest commandment," behind "love your God with all your heart, mind, and soul." And for every so-called moral thing Jesus said there was a threat of eternal fire behind it. You can find the golden rule in ancient Greeks, Confucious, etc and there are no threats of Hell, no recommendations of becoming "eunuchs for the lord" and no crazy end-times predictions. Jesus was not a moral revolutionary, as the "love thy neighbor" was merely restating what is already found in the Hebrew Bible. He was a deluded Jew who thought the end of the world was coming- FAIL. Contra-Borg and the Jesus seminar, the liberal Jesus is a fantasy, as schalors since Albert Schweitzer on down to Bart Ehrman will tell you. Socrates is a hella better role model than Jesus.
The argument I've heard is that the Greek word for hell in the NT is Gehenna, which was referring symbolically to a garbage dump outside Jerusalem. Ehrman himself argues in Jesus Interrupted that Jesus didn't believe in hell and hell is a modern Christian invention. There's also debate among scholars if the kingdom of God Jesus is referring to in his prediction is a literal kingdom or a spiritual kingdom and Ehrman again mentions that there's no universal agreement among secular scholars as to what Jesus' life was like. Some think he was an apocalyptic prophet, others think he was a Jewish mystic, and some think he was a cryptic sage. The only thing they agree on was that Jesus was a Jew who was crucified and that the gospels are not historically accurate accounts. I also like how Borg distinguishes between the pre-Easter Jesus and post-Easter Jesus. The pre-Easter Jesus is the historical Jesus that had no supernatural powers and who we might never know who he really was and the post-Easter Jesus is the Jesus that symbolizes what the later Christian communities saw Jesus as. Or as Ehrman explains, Christianity " is the religion about Jesus, not the religion of Jesus."

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Re: Liberal Christianity

Post  Moses on Mon Sep 28, 2009 11:37 pm

Neon Genesis wrote:The argument I've heard is that the Greek word for hell in the NT is Gehenna, which was referring symbolically to a garbage dump outside Jerusalem. Ehrman himself argues in Jesus Interrupted that Jesus didn't believe in hell and hell is a modern Christian invention. There's also debate among scholars if the kingdom of God Jesus is referring to in his prediction is a literal kingdom or a spiritual kingdom and Ehrman again mentions that there's no universal agreement among secular scholars as to what Jesus' life was like. Some think he was an apocalyptic prophet, others think he was a Jewish mystic, and some think he was a cryptic sage. The only thing they agree on was that Jesus was a Jew who was crucified and that the gospels are not historically accurate accounts. I also like how Borg distinguishes between the pre-Easter Jesus and post-Easter Jesus. The pre-Easter Jesus is the historical Jesus that had no supernatural powers and who we might never know who he really was and the post-Easter Jesus is the Jesus that symbolizes what the later Christian communities saw Jesus as. Or as Ehrman explains, Christianity " is the religion about Jesus, not the religion of Jesus."

Good point about Gehenna and all that. Maybe I'm being a bit too harsh on the liberals. The fact that I find apocto-cult Jesus theory very persuasive combined with the massive amount of horrible stuff in the New Testament you have to ignore to get a nice guy Jesus makes that Jesus seem so forced to me. Plus, if one wants a secularized religion, Buddhism seems like such a better choice (or hell even paganism- what fun!). But there's the whole community thing that you don't find with Buddhism (around here at least) that Christianity has. And we have so many nice churches built already...

With the popularity of the 'New Atheists,' freethought has more American exposure than ever. I think the more people distance themselves from the traditional repressive religions, the better. Let's call a spade a spade.
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Re: Liberal Christianity

Post  Neon Genesis on Tue Sep 29, 2009 6:12 pm

Moses wrote:

With the popularity of the 'New Atheists,' freethought has more American exposure than ever. I think the more people distance themselves from the traditional repressive religions, the better. Let's call a spade a spade.
Though to be fair, the liberals are only carrying on the ancient traditions of their religious forefathers. Christians and Jews have always been "updating" their sacred texts and reimagining the stories and their meanings to fit the current concerns of society from the beginning. Even the gospel authors would often edit and reimagine the narrative and teachings of Jesus to fit their current times. Like in Mark's gospel, Jesus is portrayed as a charismatic faith healer who often gets angry at the world whereas in Matthew and Luke they portray Jesus as being more compassionate and downplay the angry side of Jesus. Fundamentalist Christians also do the same thing in the opposite extreme where they over-emphasize the dogmatism of the bible at the expensive of the more loving chapters. Whether the liberals' view of a compassionate Jesus is historical or not, at the very least it's certainly not any less "unbiblical" than the fundamentalists' dogmatic Jesus. But I think one of the reasons why I haven't hopped on board with the New Atheists is because when I was a fundamentalist Christian, I was always taught that anyone who didn't agree with my church's leaders were evil and sinful and you were not to associate with anyone who wasn't a "true" Christian.

I was always taught you had to evangelize the gospel and even other Christians who were also fundamentalists, but didn't belong to our denomination or taught even slightly different from our church even if they were in the same denomination were going to hell. So, we either had to cut them out of their lives or convert them, and I'd rather not repeat that again on the opposite side of the coin. I don't mean to say that you or the New Atheists are the same as fundamentalists but the New Atheists seem too polarizing to me and having spent half of my life being told to be polarizing to everyone, I'm tired of feeling polarized and being told I shouldn't support people that don't agree with my views on God. Also, Buddhism has its own extremists and although they're not as common in the west as fundamentalist, Buddhist extremists can be just as dangerous. I saw part of this really good documentary awhile back called A Year In Tibet and they showed how dangerous extremist Buddhist superstition can be.

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Re: Liberal Christianity

Post  Sosa on Wed Sep 30, 2009 7:19 pm

I find myself arguing alot with a good friend of mine who is a "liberal christian". His social/political views are very progressive and liberal, but he still holds many of the fundamentalist beliefs of the religion; 6,000 y/o earth, 7-day creation, literal interpretation of the bible, etc. I find it interesting that his religious views are fundamentalist and his social views are extremely liberal and he is a smart guy, a Nursing student with a degree in Biology and working on his masters, yet whenever we argue about creationism/evolution he will always use the same old tired arguments that have been "debunked" already. He uses reason and logic well only outside of religion
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Re: Liberal Christianity

Post  Stegocephalian on Thu Oct 01, 2009 10:20 am

Sosa wrote:I find myself arguing alot with a good friend of mine who is a "liberal christian". His social/political views are very progressive and liberal, but he still holds many of the fundamentalist beliefs of the religion; 6,000 y/o earth, 7-day creation, literal interpretation of the bible, etc. I find it interesting that his religious views are fundamentalist and his social views are extremely liberal and he is a smart guy, a Nursing student with a degree in Biology and working on his masters, yet whenever we argue about creationism/evolution he will always use the same old tired arguments that have been "debunked" already. He uses reason and logic well only outside of religion

Wow. Shocked

That's really strange - I wonder how he's managed to hang on to a young earth creationist view AND get a degree in Biology? That's quite some feat. Of course, there are many specializations within biology, and not all focus on evolution, but still, evolution is THE central theory of biology, without which nothing much would make sense. I'm reading a biology text book right now (a huge tome titled "Biology" by Cambell, Reese, and a bunch of other authors) that I believe is the most widely used textbook in colleges, and evolution is woven right into every aspect of it, as an integral uniting thread.

I wonder what it was like for him to study something like this - and how he managed to learn it all the while pretending not to see the obvious implications, and the mountains of evidence?

Some people seem to have nearly superhuman abilities of compartmentalization, it seems.
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Re: Liberal Christianity

Post  Brad on Thu Oct 01, 2009 10:34 am

Sosa,
Your last sentence is quite key, I think.

(Stego posted while I was writing the below. I agree - the fellow you describe is something of a prize winner! A couple of years ago there was a well-publicized story of a guy who was a closet fundamentalist / young earth believer who actually got a doctorate in evolutionary biology, I think it was, thesis and all, then when he received his diploma, "came out" and said he never believed a word of it but just wanted the credential for his proselytizing. Oy!)

People who really believe in their deities or who even really strongly "believe in belief" as Dan Dennett puts it, have by necessity constructed a way of thinking that builds a virtual "Berlin Wall" in their minds, separating their irrational supernatural notions from the way in which they approach the rest of their life.
That's why I think directly arguing with such folk about the existence of their deities is almost certainly a losing endeavor.
Probably the most famous and best current example of what I'm talking about is Francis Collins. On the one hand, the man is apparently a really good scientist and at the very least a highly effective manager.
On the other hand, some of things he's said and written about his god-beliefs are utterly incompatible with a scientific or even logical approach to life and evidence.

In terms of face-to-face discussion with theists, I think the best tack is rather more like judo than boxing.
Try to ask questions that allow the believer to discover the inconsistencies and irrationalities of their views on their own.

I think a good way, generally, to get such questions flowing might be along this line: "So, you believe in God? Well, tell me about your God. What sort of characteristics and traits does He have? (or) Where does He live?
Trust me, you'll be off and running after that. Laughing But you still have to keep a smile on your face and try to be kind, so you don't get the guards up on the wall firing their guns at you.

Or if the Bible is up to bat in the conversation, ask, "Would you say the resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in the Bible?" Do you think the resurrection was the most important event in history?
"Then why do you think God and Jesus allowed the accounts of that event to conflict with each other so much? Seems like They could have arranged to get that one story straight, don't you think?"
But be ready to point out the differences in the accounts - it's easy to do.

Or one more alternative approach is to get down on the floor and wrestle them. As Moses pointed out, it worked for Jacob, why not us? Laughing bounce


Last edited by Brad on Thu Oct 01, 2009 12:16 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Liberal Christianity

Post  Brad on Thu Oct 01, 2009 11:16 am

Stego,
I can’t tell you how much I agree with you about dogma. And I completely agree – in fact, I think no sane person could deny – that a variety of superstitions and beliefs in such things as heavens provide great comfort to people after tragedies and losses of loved ones, to mention only one example. As you say, those are personal benefits. The problem is that those same beliefs have enormously – and highly under-appreciated – damaging and tragic consequences on the social and world scale, which of course, eventually bounce back down to the personal level in horrible, but not always easily traced ways.

Some times I feel quite sad about what I feel is the absolute necessity to argue against ideas that do give people comfort. This is especially true when I pass by little country churches with adjacent graveyards. I think of all the people who have taken respite within those walls, and been married there, and how many dear grandmothers are buried under those headstones...
But in our world today, those comforting beliefs, no matter innocuous they are on their face, support vast insanities which spread through electronic media to people who can make powerful bombs from common items - or stray nukes.
So I feel I have to speak against superstition - god beliefs - as much as possible, even to those whose personal versions appear harmless or even personally beneficial.

And to be brief, I think there are a great many harms that stem directly from irrational beliefs, even when they aren’t accompanied by dogma.
Here’s a thought experiment for you. Spend a couple of days imagining that very large majorities of people in large bits of the world, including in their governments, educational institutions, and science labs, held a fervent belief in cute little leprechauns.
What sort of consequences do you think that would have?

I also commend highly to you this article:
http://www.naturalism.org/epistemology.htm#concessions
It’s a13-page essay on epistemology (and the importance of "intersubjective empiricism" -- seeking evidence to confirm or test belief -- as contrasted with the supernaturalist inclination to automatically grant credibility to internal "feelings" and personal anecdote) by Tom W. Clark at Naturalism.org:

Finally, in my opinion, the answer to your question is that the “secular alternative to history” would indeed be a far less violent and divisive one.
Sure, humanity would still have to outgrow various tribalisms and conflicts of opinion and put aside various charismatic but insane megalomaniacs. But consider how many of those nut jobs throughout actual history claimed the imprimatur of God to rally people to their cause. Do you think that was a coincidence or did they do so because the absolute best way to instill fear and compliance is to say that a supernatural all-powerful being wants obedience? And that if the people march off to war, say, that they’ll get to go to heaven? (That, as you may know, is exactly how the Crusades got started.)
I could write many pages about this, but instead I’ll offer my modifications of a famous quote by the physicist Steven Weinberg:
There will always be good people doing mostly good things, and bad people doing mostly bad things, but for good people to start doing really bad things, that almost always takes religion.


Last edited by Brad on Thu Oct 01, 2009 4:07 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : a bit more clarity)
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Re: Liberal Christianity

Post  Brad on Thu Oct 01, 2009 12:05 pm

Neon,
You’re absolutely right that certain types of beliefs are more dangerous than others, at least on the everyday, personal, level. And what Moses said is also absolutely true – the more people get away from the traditional repressive religions, the better place the world will be.
I just think that we have to look more broadly than that, as I’ve tried to illustrate a bit in my post to Stego above.

Also as I alluded to briefly in my post above, I completely relate to your distaste with absolutism and divisiveness and similar fruits of “fundamentalism,” and I don’t get the slightest pleasure from pummeling anybody, whether in argument or by any other means.
At the same time, I think for non-believers to be only dainty and polite to believers is to stick our heads in the sand and to ignore the realities of our world. And I’m not referring just to the realities of the nuts who would make bombs, as I mentioned above, but to those who would deny proper science education to the nation’s children, or sex education, or who work to stop scientific and medical research, or who just abuse their wives and children based on their interpretation of scriptures. (If you have lots of time on your hands Laughing, you might want to read the world record length rant I wrote on the Christian and an Atheist forum yesterday pertaining to the relationship of belief and sex/relationships.)

So I think the “new atheists,” and their relatively confrontational approach are vital, but that their approach is only one of several that must be taken to make any progress.
We should all take a tack that is available and which works best for us at any given time.
What I mean by “relatively,” by the way, is that you don’t have to look too far to see that in comparison to hordes of religious nuts, the most direct and blunt things the “new atheists” say are almost sweet, near Gandhi or Dalai Lama-like in their politeness and diplomacy.
Also, from what I can tell from their videos and speeches (I’ve met only Dawkins, and very briefly), all the “new atheists” are actually very decent and likable folk, with excellent senses of humor. Of course, Dr. Dennett is quite professorial, and Christopher H. is really blunt, even prickly after a toddy or two, but it amuses me that Christians are so thin-skinned that they can’t deal with that. (Christian “demonization” of Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and others says a lot about the actual value of their faith, but I digress.)
Finally, I agree with Harris and Dawkins, et al, that religion has received a pass for far too long – being virtually immune and protected from any sort of substantive public criticism.
Thank reason that day has passed!
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Re: Liberal Christianity

Post  Sosa on Thu Oct 01, 2009 7:53 pm

Yes, it is so strange to me that such a rational person like him can be so blinded to evidence when it contradicts his religious beliefs. It's hard to argue with him because he uses the "experience" card when talking about the existence of a god or the subject of faith...his spiritual or religious experience cannot be tested by science so there's no way to disprove his belief in god.

Whats funny is that he'll use pseudo-science to argue for a global flood, for a young-earth, etc and claim that science can prove a literal interpretation of the bible, yet he'll try to discredit the scientific evidence that disproves or contradicts his beliefs...claiming that carbon-dating is unreliable and a bunch of other none-sense, he believes in MICRO-evolution but not in MACRO-evolution (which I find hilarious)....other than that, he's a cool guy.
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Re: Liberal Christianity

Post  Brad on Thu Oct 01, 2009 8:12 pm

Yup, he does sound like a prize.
I've known a few kinda like that. I'd guess it'll be a few years before any sort of reality manages to get over that wall.

Until then, sounds like you might have two options:

1) Discuss the weather and sports.
2) Wrestle. Cool Twisted Evil
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Re: Liberal Christianity

Post  Sosa on Thu Oct 01, 2009 8:31 pm

Brad wrote:Yup, he does sound like a prize.
I've known a few kinda like that. I'd guess it'll be a few years before any sort of reality manages to get over that wall.

Until then, sounds like you might have two options:

1) Discuss the weather and sports.
2) Wrestle. Cool Twisted Evil

I think that people like that are in denial, as they feel that the beliefs they've held since childhood are being threatened and they find empty solace in faith, otherwise they feel that they have no purpose or nothing to live for.

1) We mostly do engage in discussion on music and politics
2) I hope not, unless I want to be a pancake
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Re: Liberal Christianity

Post  Neon Genesis on Wed Oct 07, 2009 11:42 pm

Brad wrote:Neon,


So I think the “new atheists,” and their relatively confrontational approach are vital, but that their approach is only one of several that must be taken to make any progress.


I agree that the New Atheists are a valuable part of the debate. Their books were a big help in my deconversion from Christianity and helping me to embrace reason. I think they play an important role in helping atheists come out of the closet and raising awareness about the dangers of fundamentalism. Even if I don't agree with their conclusions, I also think they raise important questions that need to be addressed, like the nature of religion and its role in society. At the same time, I think it's also important to debate the facts instead of spreading misinformation while dismissing complaints of misinformation and stereotyping with catch phrase responses like you don't need to know facts to disprove fairyology or whatever it was Dawkins' response was when he was criticized for not addressing any scholars or whoever. Maybe it's also just because I'm a nitpick for the facts either on the religious or secular side of the debate and it irrirates me when either side spreads misinformation, like when Hitchens claimed Jews had sex through a hole in a sheet and this claim is rarely ever criticisized by his fans even though this is a false rumor that has its origins in anti-Semitism. Of course, Hitchens and Harris have always been my least favorite of the New Atheists authors. I like Dawkins the best of them but I haven't read Dennet yet.

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Re: Liberal Christianity

Post  Stegocephalian on Fri Oct 09, 2009 2:04 pm

Neon Genesis wrote:Neon,

Of course, Hitchens and Harris have always been my least favorite of the New Atheists authors. I like Dawkins the best of them but I haven't read Dennet yet.

I also like Dawkins the best of the three you mention having read - I have read a lot of Dennett though (most of what he's published), and I think you would like him. He's the most "soft spoken" of the "new atheists".

The best of his books I've read I have to say is "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" - it's a really, really awesome book. So if you want to aquaint yourself with Dennett, that's a good place to start.
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Re: Liberal Christianity

Post  Sosa on Fri Oct 09, 2009 11:24 pm

Christopher Hitchens has become my favorite New Atheist spokesman, Dawkins and Harris are a close second and third for me
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Re: Liberal Christianity

Post  Neon Genesis on Tue Oct 13, 2009 12:20 pm

Stegocephalian wrote:

I also like Dawkins the best of the three you mention having read - I have read a lot of Dennett though (most of what he's published), and I think you would like him. He's the most "soft spoken" of the "new atheists".

Thanks for the recommendation. I have seen Dennet in The Four Horsemen video and I thought it was interesting that he pointed out that most of the criticism of the New Atheists has come from other atheists rather than Christians. Over at the Friendly Atheist forums, one of the moderators is a liberal Christian who is also a Dennet fan.

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Re: Liberal Christianity

Post  NedStark on Tue Oct 13, 2009 12:44 pm

Sosa wrote:Christopher Hitchens has become my favorite New Atheist spokesman, Dawkins and Harris are a close second and third for me

Personally I found Hitchens rather dry for my taste. I tried to read God is Not Great and I found it less exciting than a creationist book. Maybe it's because now that I've been an atheist for a few years, I've heard everything the book has to say already so it offers nothing new to me. But if I had read it in the first couple months then it would have been different. Plus, I really don't like Hitchens' dogmatic approach. He seems to cherry-pick a lot; seeking out the absolute worst religion has to offer and pinning it on the entire concept.

Personally I don't like to use the religion-caused-this-atrocity argument because it's often seen as saying atheism regardless of context will always create freer, more productive societies, which is of course patently absurd. The real truth here is any government with a forced belief system is going to lead to disaster, whether that be Medieval Spain or the Khmer Rouge. The nations with the happiest citizenry have a majority atheist/agnostic population, yes, but this is an organic atheism as opposed to a forced atheism, and I think that distinction needs to be made more often (which Hitchens does in a way, but not as directly as I'd like).

Getting back to the 'atrocity' argument, I think the main reasons I shy away from it other than the one I outline above is that it leads to a pointless anecdote war. I'd mention the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Witch burnings, and 9/11, and the theist will mention Hitler (though Hitler was vehemently anti-atheist), Stalin, and Pol Pot. In the end, nothing is accomplished since the discussion about the belief in God's effect on society had absolutely zero bearing on whether belief in the supernatural is true or not. I do think the atrocity argument has its place when falsifying the theist argument that belief in God always results in a better society, and that may have been Hitchens' purpose in writing GING, but I don't think he did a very good job.

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Re: Liberal Christianity

Post  Neon Genesis on Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:09 pm

NedStark wrote:
Personally I don't like to use the religion-caused-this-atrocity argument because it's often seen as saying atheism regardless of context will always create freer, more productive societies, which is of course patently absurd.

I agree that the merits of religion have nothing to do with whether or not their claims are true. It also seems like a double standard to me when people want to blame religious beliefs as being solely responsible for their unethetical actions but when religious people do good things, then it's not the fault of religion but the result of the messiah of secular society. To me, if you're going to use religious beliefs to criticize why religious people act bad, then you have to be consistent and give credit when it's due when religious people are good. Or if religion has nothing to do with morality when religious people are good, then wouldn't that mean religion is irrelevant to their behavior? I also agree Hitchens' arguments seems to be the weakest. In his debate with his brother, Hitchen's argument seemed to mostly consist of he doesn't want God to exist even if he did because that would be very bad, which to me only reinforces the stereotype Christians have of atheists being people who secretly believe in God but simply wish he wasn't real because we don't want to follow any rules and just want to party and have fun. Hitchens also has this tendency to compare anything he doesn't like to religion as if that proves his argument, like with his views on global warming

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Re: Liberal Christianity

Post  2buckchuck on Thu Sep 16, 2010 9:15 am

Another thread that up and died about a year ago.

I guess I qualify as a "New Atheist", although I'm not fond of being labeled. In today's world, where we have the capability to destroy ourselves with weapons of mass destruction, it worries me when more and more people seem to be clinging to religions, even as we in the USA become ever more illiterate, innumerate, and ignorant about science and history. Historically, religions are often invoked by nations and other groups when their opponents in some conflict have a different religion, justifying atrocities in the name of their particular version of a deity.

I find that 'liberal' or moderate believers have to reconcile the violence and destruction sanctioned by their deity in their 'sacred' texts, as well as the findings of modern science. The problem with such moderates is that if polarization escalates, the extremists will press them to join or be ... punished ... for not joining. It's "You're with us, or you're against us." And history suggests many, if not most, moderates with fall in line with the extremists. The few who don't are isolated and ... dealt with. Perhaps most moderates can avoid the worst deeds of the extremists but they implicitly condone them by not saying or doing anything to prevent the atrocities. Thus, the worst part of theist believers of all sorts is their irrational belief in a deity that commands unquestioning obedience, and faith. That habit of unquestioning obedience is the one that opens them up to demagogues of all sorts.

Atheism is not a religion ... atheism encompasses a broad spectrum of folks, who are distinctly inclined toward free thinking, which means we don't agree about everything. Being an atheist is a guarantee of nothing, except that the individual doesn't believe in a deity.
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