God the Macguffin

Up until this point, I’ve mostly left my arguments against religion/God out of these posts.  I’ve made snide remarks, mentioned my own lack of faith and such, but never really went out of my way to explain what exactly I feel is so weak about religious belief.

Two recent things have made me decide to say something.

Most recently, it was coming across this site: Rapture – Fall 2009?.  Let me spare you the suspense:  Yes, according to this site, the rapture is going to be Fall 2009, no question mark about it.  Or, more accurately, September 21st, 2009, the last day before Fall and, as it so happens, today.  That’s right, if you are reading this right now, look out your window, you should see a big pile of clothes where your Christian neighbor had been mowing the lawn.  Mowing the lawn and silently judging you with those eyes….

But he’s gone now.  And so are the billions (or maybe just millions… or thousands) of True Christians.  And the rest of us have been left behind to divvy up their stuff.  I call the Amy Grant CDs!

Of course, you may also look out the window and notice that all those WWJD bracelets are still attached to those same bulbous, rich, comfortable flag-waving wrists.  In which case, we should still divvy up their stuff.

But now, the complaints come up from the Christians who I have personal ties with, the ones who aren’t waiting around to be raptured, the ones whose faith is about loving their neighbors, all neighbors, and sharing their faith but not about judging.  Some of you don’t believe homosexuality is a sin.  Good for you (welcome to the 20th century, now catch up).   Some of you don’t even believe in hell.  Except in that “Hell is other people” sort of way.  Ooh, that’s witty.  For you, Jesus is comfort, God is a fatherly figure and all either one wants for you and for me and for all of us is to know peace, to live in harmony, to play Beatles Rock Band.  Hey, God is hip!

Which brings me to the second recent event (yeah, I hadn’t forgotten).

A few weeks back, the girlfriend and I were invited to a good old fashioned Midwestern barbeque with all the food, beer and protruding guts you could wish for.  Plenty of good food and lots of Corona later, we headed home… or made the attempt.  We were walking to the bus stop when we saw our bus fly by.  Swear words were uttered.  When we finally got to the bus stop we sat down, annoyed that we knew the next bus would be another half hour.  Oh, we were so naive.

20 minutes later, another man joined us at the stop, a rotund black fellow with an affectionate, genuine smile and a ‘not-too-bright’ look on his face.  To be fair, this is my bias:  I think most people look dumber when they smile.  Anyway, our new comrade, let’s call him Tony, struck up a conversation with us (I can’t tell you how many times strangers have talked to me at bus stops; in Philly I had an enjoyable conversation with a very large woman who turned out to be a phone sex operator).  After a few minutes of conversation about what we had each done that night, my Spidey Sense began tingling.  “Ruh Roh, this man is Christian.”

Now, my issue wasn’t that Tony was a Christian*, but rather that I knew he was going to be the type of Christian to turn the whole pleasant conversation into an opportunity to proselytize.  Sure enough, at one point Tony called himself a ‘minister’ (considering that just minutes before he had admitted to being unemployed and looking for a work, I took it to mean he was a ‘minister’ in the ‘fishers of men’ sense, not that Ordained sense).

Keep in mind, Tony’s tone is ingratiating and cheerful the whole time, even as the half hour passes and we are fast approaching an hour of waiting for a bus.  He begins to tell me and my girlfriend that A) We should marry and B) We should start going back to church.  Both statements I found particularly rude and invasive.  But, I was a Christian once, I know how it works, and instead of starting a diatribe on why I don’t have faith anymore, I simple nodded, smiled and gritted my teeth.

Approaching an hour and a half of waiting for the bus, Tony begins to change his message from what we should do to what he ‘believes’ we will do.  He has a ‘feeling’ that we’re gonna start going to church soon and ‘get right’ with God.  He also  believes I’m gonna buy a diamond ring for my girl.  He’s getting downright giddy by the idea and he’s confident of it.  I smile and avoid eye contact.  I can’t help but shake my head a little, but I’m not going to fight this man on it.

After nearly 2 hours of waiting, a bus finally comes (it would have been nice if Tony’s prophetic ability could have predicted when the bus would come; I could have run and used a nearby restroom.)  That ended our conversation with Tony.

For the record:  There isn’t a chance in hell of me attending church again.  And as far as marriage is concerned, well, let’s just say, pffffffffffff.

Now to my point.   Both Tony and the Rapture website share something in common:  A confidence in statements they are making on pure faith.  The Rapture site will obviously be proved wrong in less than 24 hours and then the site will just revise what they have to say and pick a new date.  It’s exactly how the Seventh-day Adventist began, so for those who want to dismiss the writers of this site as kooks, keep in mind that kooks start religions.

As far as Tony, we parted ways and we will never see him again, and he went on his way believing he made a difference in our lives, ‘sharing the message of Christ’ and his ‘good feelings’ will never go disproved to him.  As far as he knows, the girl and I are married and happily attending church, and he will never have to know otherwise.  His work was done and he can feel a false satisfaction, based on the deluded idea that he did a good deed.  (This is nothing against Tony, specifically, as I actually liked him well enough and generally enjoyed conversing with him when it wasn’t a subject of faith.)

Two examples of faithful people, both completely wrong, yet neither will lose their faith for it.  The rapture-ready sites and those predictors who set dates (and they are legion) see the date come and go but never say, “You know, I was completely wrong about this and I had a lot of faith in it; maybe my entire faith is false.”  One of the big factors in my own deconversion was the idea of the ‘end times’.  Those who knew me when I was a Christian knew I read the Left Behind books.  I even pushed them on friends.  I never finished the series though because I lost my faith in that period, plus the writing was terrible.  Terrible!

What bothers me about end time prophecies, and I mean all end time prophecies including the dumbasses who think 2012 is going to be the end, is that they have existed for thousands and thousands of years and have obviously been wrong Each and Every Time.  When I started to look into the history and prophecies at the root of the Left Behind series, I found that a great deal of Christians had believed the end times were going to be in the 1970s.   Before the Left Behind series came, there was a book called The Late Great Planet Earth.  Same song, different verse.  The apocalypse has been predicted so many times that I can’t understand how any sane person takes it serious.  And I know intelligent people who still believe in the possibility of the apocalypse.  You know, just in case.

Has no one ever heard of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”?

Now, before people protest and say, “I don’t  believe in the end times, I’m not one of those types” let me return your attention back to Tony.  Tony represents the other kind of faith.  The kind of faith that doesn’t make giant prophetic statements about the world but still allows faith a place in their life.  This faith is the tiny kind of faith, the one that praises God when they get the job they were wanting or when the Chiefs win a game (haha, who am I kidding), but conveniently ignores mentioning God when they lose their job or find out a friend died.  Or, if they don’t ignore God, they say it’s all part of His Plan, can’t be explained.  This sort of faith is pleasantly shallow and ineffectual, but it also isn’t all that invasive.  It might annoy me at a bus stop, but it won’t blow up a building or kill an abortion doctor.  So, you know, kudos to you for that.

But this kind of faith gets proved wrong all the time, too.  Tony doesn’t know it, but his faith was misplaced.  And if you’re a Christian, you can’t dismiss Tony.  He wasn’t crazy, he wasn’t a heretic, he wasn’t just some ignorant slob (funny that there seems to be a movement in liberal, scholarly Christianity that dismisses the uneducated masses as rubes; it’s like two degrees removed from the Dark Ages Christianity where the Church leaders had all the knowledge and the followers just had to listen and agree).  Tony was just a Christian like everyone else, faithfully convinced of something that was flat out wrong.

Except, your faith is never wrong.  Instead of admitting that God didn’t do what you expected him to do, you say “Sometimes God answers a prayer with ‘No'” which is basically saying, God is gonna do whatever the hell he wants and occasionally your wants line up with what he wants.  And really, that’s just another way of saying, life is a bunch of random events, completely at the whim of a capricious Ultimate Being and you just better hope he likes you.

And how about those intelligent, educated Christians in the crowd who dismiss the untenable aspects of the religion:
Only idiots don’t believe in evolution, so you accept the fact of evolution (Macro, even) into your faith.
And Hell is an unsavory idea.  It makes you sound bigoted and ignorant.  Okay, you don’t believe in Hell anymore.
And homosexuality is fine.  No worries.
Jesus said help the poor, so you donate money to the poor.  (Ignore the part where Jesus said give away all of your things and follow him; I mean, Jesus didn’t mean you, and he would obviously think that iPhone is the shiznit.)
And you don’t want to be dismissive of other religions; from a logical point of view if you dismiss a thousand other religions as manmade, what really distinguishes yours?  So, all religions have some truth and can lead to God.  (Ignore the part where Jesus says no one comes to the Father except through him or the other place where he says the road is narrow and few will follow it; maybe just spin it in your handy-dandy exegesis until it means whatever you need it to mean… Exegesis sure sounds like “Exit Jesus” to me.)

When you’re done making concessions to your intellect, what does that leave you with?

God is a Macguffin.  He’s the ultimate meaningless plot device, the overly complicated, contrived piece of plot expository that made sense in the first act of human history but has grown less and less necessary as science explains that the flu isn’t demon possession and the stars aren’t angels.  Go back 400 years, and the number of things in nature that could only be explained by God would be ten thousand fold more than now.

Are there unexplained things in nature?  Certainly.  Are those things going to remain unexplained?  Some will remain so for a few more years and then a breakthrough will show us the truth.  Others may remain outside of our reach for hundreds of years, but that doesn’t mean “God” explains it better.

Faith is a failed hypothesis, constantly coming back with the wrong answer.  Faith tells people to expect the rapture; they are wrong.  Faith tells Tony that he helped lead two strangers back to God; he is wrong.  Faith tells you that God is necessary to the story of human existence; every day, new facts prove you more and more wrong.

If you’ve gone through tough times, and we all have, faith can certainly help you through.  But if that is its only quantifiable benefit, is that really a reason to hold onto it?  May I suggest good music?  That gets me through tough times a lot.  And vodka.  God, I love vodka.

If you are a person whose faith leads you to make decisions about the world when contrary facts are right in front of you, ask yourself, are you really any different from Tony.  And, really, are you any different from the Rapture nuts?  Really?


*While this post deals with Christianity, I could just as easily substitute in the New Age wackos and anyone whose faith leads them to irrational opinions

12 thoughts on “God the Macguffin

  1. Hey Man,

    I know you have heard this all before, but just because someone calls themself a Christian does not mean they are one. Christianity is more than a title.

    The two instances you mentioned have another thing in common. They were both false prophecies. The Bible address the issue of false prophecy many times.

    Please don’t take any offense to this, but I don’t think you know the real definition of Christianity. If you have some time, take a look at my blog. I have written about this and many other topics.

    God Bless,


  2. Actually, I vehemently disagree. I say if one calls him/herself a Christian, that is what makes them a Christian.
    Who gets to decide who is a Christian? You? The Pope? Billy Graham?
    Your response will be simple: God. As the Bible says, “In the last days there will be those who come to me and say Father we did miracles in your name and I will say, away from me, I never knew you.”
    This verse is often used by Christians to assert that there are those who are “true” Christians and those who are fake, false prophets.
    But since you are obviously convinced that you are a ‘true’ Christian, that means you personally have a means of determining what is and isn’t a true Christian. What is that means? You call the people running the Rapture site false prophets, and maybe they are. But is Tony? He was just a nice guy enthusiastically speaking his faith. Does the fact that he was wrong make him a false prophet? Should he be cast out from your religion?

    Have you ever spoken something you believed to be from God only to later see it to be wrong? Are you thus a false prophet? Or maybe you’ve always believed exactly what you believe now (never revised your stance on any issue) and you have never been wrong and you are batting a .100. Either you must lie and say you have never been wrong about anything you’ve believed, or you must admit that Christians (true and otherwise) all make mistakes and maybe your cellphone to God isn’t getting all its bars.

    Don’t doubt that I know the real definition of Christianity. I spent many years in it. I find it interesting that after you say I don’t know the definition of Christianity, you tell me to read your blog. The obvious assumption is that you are telling me you know the true definition. That’s an awful lofty place to put yourself. Careful, God likes to bring down the proud.

  3. I don’t claim to have found the answer of what makes a person a true Christian on my own, but I do claim to know where that answer lies. It’s in the Bible.

    You can define Christianity anyway you want, but the only definition that counts is what the Bible says.

    “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”–John 14:21

    “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”–Matthew 7:23

    Christianity is more than believing in God’s existence. It’s a relationship. As God says in Matt 7:23 “I never knew you.” Keyword: knew.

    I don’t know Tony or the people who made the rapture site, and I don’t know there hearts, so I cannot definitively answer whether or not they were real Christians. But we obviously know the rapture site was wrong, and we won’t know whether Tony was right for awhile. Who knows? Maybe 20 years down the road you will decide to go to church. Maybe you and you girlfriend will get married someday. Who knows!

    In the case of the rapture site, it was a false prophecy. It was prophecy that was false. People prophesy incorrectly all the time. That doesn’t even necessarily mean they aren’t a Christian, because Christianity is not defined based on whether or not you can prophesy. It is determined on wether or not YOU KNOW God. So I ask you this. When you were a Christian, can you absolutely say you KNEW God? I assume the answer to be “no” because otherwise you would have never left Him.

  4. Well, let’s see.
    When I was a Christian, I prayed daily, sometimes for hours at a time. I fasted multiple times, including for an entire week. I went to church multiple times a week, I listened to Christian, “uplifting” music, and as a young child I went to a Christian school.
    Oh, and I read the Bible, a lot. Besides for reading it entirely through multiple times I have read portions of it countless times, in my personal time, for Bible Studies and so I could preach lessons and the sort.

    The ‘relationship’ thing is so funny to me, because it’s the Christian “Get out of the debate free” card. You see a person like me and you say I obviously didn’t ‘know’ God and that’s it. I can’t argue the point. I can’t say I did know God, because that proves your point that there is a God. And if I say I tried to know God but never knew him and thus know there is no God, you’ll say I just never had true relationship. It doesn’t matter how earnest I was (I gave my life to Christ when I was 5 or 6 and reconfirmed that commitment many times over the years).

    What it came down to was that God and Christianity were empty belief systems and peace and happiness came from rejecting their lies and searching out real, scientific truth.

    You don’t ever have to really engage with me about this because you can always protect yourself behind the intangible wall of “Relationship with God”. Here’s the thing, everything you’re writing, everything on your blog reads like the sort of stuff I was saying when I was 16. I know your beliefs and views are just parrot views because they are the same ones I once held. I challenge you to make a new point, something revealed to you by God. I admit that my current views aren’t new or revelatory. But I’m not claiming to have God speaking in my ear. If God is really on your side, pray that he’ll give you the words to say to sway an atheist as hardened as me.

  5. I think we both know what happened here.

    God said NO!

    I totally get this blog.
    Any Christian that tries to use faith as an argument here, will not win(even though he will think he has.

    Blissful ignorance? Maybe. Insanity? Probably.

    Mind you, I believe there are different kinds of Christians – ones who are Christians because they were born that way (as in they were told by their parents they were Christians and they just went with it), and those who were re-born that way (those who find Jesus later on and ask him to forgive them and come into their heart).

    Look out for the latter. They usually find God in jail or directly after committing a deadly sin and they will show up knocking on your doorstep, fist bloodied from wife’s face and try to sell you on Jesus (as if more asses on the pews will ensure these ex-cons, drug addicts and abusers will see heaven) with the whole, “I was a sinner once, too . . .” bit.

    Yeah, buddy you were. Those “Born-Again Christians” need someone to forgive them and Jesus is like a god-damned forgiveness superhero that these guys can lean on when they start to hate themselves as much as everyone else.

    How does one get born again, anyway? Do they seriously believe that they become someone else? They look the same, sound the same, have the same job, the same friends, the same prison record . . . how does giving it up to Jesus make you into another person?

    Just want to share with you my Christian experience:

    I was born a Christian (Southern Baptist)but soon decided if there was a God he hated me at age 9 so I denounced him.

    I became a Christian again when I got married the first time (because he said I had to). After I put him in Jail for Domestic Violence, I eventually married another non-denominational Christian, who was also a Republican and a member of the NRA. How’d I get so lucky to find a catch like that? He didn’t care what my beliefs were, which is surprising given his affiliations.He believed there’d be people from all religions when he got to heaven.

    He was also an alcoholic – but he was mild tempered. What puzzled me about him was that he was afraid of death.

    What true Christian with that much faith in their God would fear something as small and impermanent as death?

    I divorced him over our extreme difference in opinions, even though they didn’t really seem to stand out much, we just didn’t fit together.

    While I was still with him I met someone who asked me what I believed in, and when I couldn’t give a straight answer, I decided I needed to figure that out.

    My brother has always been agnostic, and he’s the only family member who’s opinion I give a shit about, so I was safe to look into other things without any debate from family members.

    I found what I believe in, but I can’t share it because that would be a second hand revelation 🙂

    What I can say is that any person who has a scapegoat for their actions has the wrong idea about religion and life in general.

    YOU are responsible for every fucking moment in your life. Every effect in your life came from a decision YOU made.

    You control your destiny with every decision. There is no room for faith in that – but that is just too much for some to confront.

  6. You know, what’s interesting is that your experience (and mine) are often dismissed as ‘personal situations’ where we didn’t experience ‘relationship with Jesus’, yet when Christians are backed up into the logic wall, they so often rely on their own ‘personal revelation’ as justifiable evidence for their faith.

    So the lesson is: Personal experience is relevant if it ‘proves’ there is a God and if that experience is based on positive reinforcement of their faith. Personal experience is obviously irrelevant if it suggests no God exists and undermines their faith.

    Sounds like good logic to me.

    • My goal when I meet a Christian is to make them question their faith – is that evil? Maybe . . . but life made me question it, and if a person isn’t questioning it, something is wrong with them.

      Since I moved to Florida I have had many opportunities to experiment with Christians, and every time I ask them to describe their revelation to me, they answer with . . . “well, the Bible says . . . ” and then I cut them off.

      I guess they hadn’t expected I was a Thomas Paine fan, so they were not prepared for my speech on second hand revelations . . .

      I left my poor hubby standing on the front porch with a Christian who I had just stopped in his tracks and I also took one down in the Mall.

      It’s fun to watch their heads spin around. I also had a room mate who I worked over pretty quickly that basically stated that she was a Christian because she felt it was the easiest and that she didn’t have any “revelation” and wasn’t sure that it was real or not, but that it was better to be safe than sorry . . . really?

      I’ll be though, if you remove every reference to God from the bible and replace it with your own name it would make more sense – I dare you to do it.

  7. Well, I’ve read this and must say….

    Jesus was not a Christian.

    Churches have become institutions rather than a place of worship.

    I love God. I love Jesus. I believe there are certain “laws” we should abide by…..

    Yet, people like Tony, are lost. They get this need for “ministering”. They feel they have to go out and approach people with “the word”.

    I’ve recently started to get deeper into my spirituality (I call myself spiritual rather than religious; I feel there is a difference) and I’ve found contradictions to the way “Christians” carry themselves in today’s time. Solomon says not to speak. “They honey goes under the tongue; not on the lips”.

    I read into “The Emerald Tablets” where Thoth says almost the same thing as Solomon, only in a different metaphorical language.

    “Ministering” people does not necessarily mean you have to speak. It means you have to listen.

    I don’t mind people who have a different point of view than my own… but I don’t want somebody to try and deter me from the path I have set for myself.

  8. Joseph…when someone argues with another point of view, that argument must be against the best representation of that point of view- which you’re not doing. To argue against Christianity (in particular) because of the Left Behind series- and an unemployed dude with a lot of time on his hands- is the equivalent of playing ping pong with a 2 year old and being thrilled that you kicked his butt. (Funny… but oh so mean)

    (for those besides Joseph reading this, I’m the only one of his 4 siblings who is a Christian…as far as I know…and much of what he writes here makes at least partial allusion to many conversations we’ve had in the recent past…enough, actually, to be insulting…par for the course, though, if you’re a Fonseca :).

    I just finished reading Richard Dawkins ‘The God Delusion’ in full. (which you asked me to do). I’m sure (as Dawkins’ preface to the book states) you were hoping that once I finished reading, I would be an atheist, or at least see the insanity of my ways. Sorry to disappoint…I’m still insane.

    I have also read Daniel Dennett’s ‘Breaking the Spell’, and large parts of Christoper Hitchen’s ‘God is Not Great’…among many other essays for non-belief from the world’s most prominent atheists. Great authors, fun books…but they are simply not saying anything that other atheists haven’t already said since Hume. And the vast majority of the positive arguments they make for science can be embraced and enveloped within Christian thinking. (As you know I have done)

    I could argue that I have no great need to read their writings (and I of course do disagree with their writings in relation to atheism). But as one open to the evidence, wherever the evidence may lead, I am obligated to read the best views on hand about atheism. Having done that, I find those views not nearly as compelling to me as the (orthodox) Christian view. We now have 2000 years worth of brilliant writings represented by Christian thought. In recent years, consider modern authors such as Rowan Williams, N.T. Wright, Alvin Plantiga, Karl Barth, etc…I am quite certain you have not read any of these authors (on your own admission) though they represent a few of the best Christian thinkers in the world…and every one of those names are orthodox, as opposed to liberal, thinkers (as you seemed to be bashing liberal Christianity). I’m sure you will provide many reasons why it is unnecessary for you to waste your time reading them, or reading ‘fairyology’ (as Dawkins calls theology). That is your choice. But then you simply cannot say that you really understand the best of Christian thought. You can’t rail against Christians for their simplistic, stupid views, then, when confronted with better, sophisticated Christian ideas, accuse those Christians of being ‘snobbish’ because (to paraphrase your above thoughts) they ‘think they must know more than the ignorant masses’.

    Consider your own words from one of your replies to a commentator: “Here’s the thing, everything you’re writing, everything on your blog reads like the sort of stuff I was saying when I was 16. I know your beliefs and views are just parrot views because they are the same ones I once held…”

    To accuse Christians of being prideful and condescending, and then writing this, is disingenuous. Every one ‘parrots’ someone else’s views, or they aggregate a combination of views. This is normal. You yourself clearly are doing the same thing. For example: a couple of years ago, you told me that publicly admitting your atheism was like ‘coming out of the closet’. At the time, I thought this was a clever analogy of your own creation. Well imagine my surprise to find (after reading about Dawkins) that he launched a ‘coming out’ campaign for atheists several months before your own admission. And imagine my interest when I found that nearly all of your arguments for atheism are found- including your favorite ‘God of the Gaps’ arguments- in Dawkin’s ‘The God Delusion’. Now, perhaps the other commentator WAS parroting instead of aggregating different viewpoints. But you can’t pretend you’re not doing the same thing, albeit with atheistic literature.

    In addition, your comment to that guy indicates that the Christianity you’re fighting against is the Christianity you believed at a young age. You stated earlier that you ‘stopped believing’ during a time in which you were still actively interested in the Left Behind series (which of course is fictional…even in its theology). I will not assume: have you read anything more in depth than Left Behind (besides C.S. Lewis)- in support of Christianity- SINCE you stopped believing? If so…who/what? If not, that’s fine. I’m not going to convince you that Christian thought is the way to go (obviously). But you really can’t claim, then, that you’re making a strong argument against Christian belief. I never believed all the ‘rapture’ ideas or end times beliefs (along the lines of those books). Perhaps if I had, I would feel as duped as you apparently do.

    Though Christianity is (to you) just another version of the flying spaghetti monster, it is actually a robust, legitimate, and fulfilling way of viewing the world (an understatement). The fact that over 2 Billion people embrace some form of Christian belief also means that you cannot so easily ridicule it as ‘silly beliefs for children’. I respect your atheistic views (and you know that I have never made fun of them…further demonstrated by my willingness to read anything you ask me to read)…but you seem unwilling to even respect Christian views, though you really are unfamiliar with the best of them- a fact, not an insult- (and stop pretending that’s not the case). That you ‘used to be a Christian’ is not proof of expert credentials…as though you were the ultimate insider coming forth with a scathing expose. That would be an exaggeration of the truth.

    I would not be surprised if you accused me of being condescending simply because I’m responding to your arguments with equal force, or because I say that there are many thing you do not know (or are misrepresenting) about Christian beliefs. If a willingness to respond to a rhetorical attack on my beliefs means I’m a snob or inherently condescending, then I don’t know what means I would have to state my point of view. However, I think I am being fair.

    God is the ultimate Macguffin? Perhaps for you.

    For many, though…he is beyond a concept to debate, or a literary device. For us, He is the one ‘In whom we live, and move, and have our being’.

    • Daniel, welcome to the internet. It’s a scary place. You want to come out swinging, and fair enough, as it is your faith under attack here, as well as that of so many more.

      Bully for you finally reading ‘The God Delusion’. I obviously didn’t expect you to become an atheist having read it. I came to my own atheism through self-reflection and personal experience (I used the term ‘coming out’ well before I knew about that movement, thank you; you forget that sexual identity is one of my main areas of interest). No author can convince you to change a point of view so fundamentally rooted to who you are. I know your conversion story or whatever you would call it, I also know that your faith in God helps you through tough times and good times. Your faith and belief in God is a powerful force in your life. Which is why there is absolutely no way in which you could be convinced against it, even with thought-out, logical arguments. That is the nature of faith.

      I find it funny that you call your beliefs ‘orthodox’ as if that gives them more weight. What you really mean is, they are accepted by the respected authority of your religion. Which is basically saying, “These beliefs are better because they are believed by the wisest of the faith. And we know these people are the wisest of the faith because they believe these beliefs.” Can you explain to me why an orthodox belief is better than a newfangled one? By orthodox view, homosexuality is a sin. Don’t try to say it is not (and don’t get too caught up on that one; it’s just an obvious example).

      I know you think when you list those names (Rowan Williams, N.T. Wright, Alvin Plantiga, Karl Barth) you are listing an impressive list of Christian thinkers. But those just happen to be the teachers you most greatly admire. What you never understood is that your greatest condescension isn’t towards me (who could care less), but towards other people who supposedly share your faith. You proudly align yourself with the 2 billion Christians in the world while simultaneously dismissing the beliefs of 90% of them. Who you call great Christian thinkers, most Christians in the world would simply think, “Who?” These are the Christian thinkers who are actually having an effect on real Christian theology, the kind that is practiced by the people who make up the largest part of the religion: Joyce Meyers, Max Lucado, Joel Olsteen, Creflo Dollar, Kirk Cameron (my god!)… the list goes on. You can dismiss these people as not real theologians, but the truth is, it doesn’t matter what the latest meeting of Christian Eggheads concluded. The Christian majority listens to the people on the bestseller list. It doesn’t even matter that the Vatican has an official stance that evolution is fact, a large percentage of Catholics (and other Christians) don’t believe in it. You dismiss Tony as a homeless guy, but all you’re really showing is the creation of factions in the church. Tony was a nice guy, an earnest believer, just as much as you. So he doesn’t have the benefit of the plush job and house that you have and the church members who have given you money over the years so you can read up on the latest theology and teachings. No, he has to go on what he knows and understands through his personal devotion. You like to dismiss the embarrassing aspects of Christianity, but who are you to say who is an embarrassment.

      (And, Daniel, sidenote: “The fact that over 2 Billion people embrace some form of Christian belief also means that you cannot so easily ridicule it as ’silly beliefs for children’.” .. this is plainly illogical and wrong. The number of people that believe in a thing doesn’t make it any less ridiculous or subject to criticism. Whether there is 2 or 2 billion Christians, the belief has to prove its merits. Christianity does not.)

      I know you Daniel. I know you’re decent and well meaning. But in the process of trying to refine your personal belief to be more ‘orthodox’, you have cut off ties with a great deal of Christianity. I’m sorry, but you cannot keep claiming that the extreme fundamentalist Christians are a fringe when they are the most politically powerful, the most vocal and the fastest growing. I remember being a Christian and being frustrated by how Christians were portrayed in the world, always as wackos. But once I left the religion I realized two things: A) I had been one of the wackos and B) No matter how intelligently and logically I tried to make my arguments for Christianity, there are just aspects of the religion that will remain irrefutably illogical and flawed.

      I am not trained to argue with a theologian about Christianity. I am not a theologian, I did not study theology. If you want that sort of debate, you should set up one of your favorite guys against someone like Christopher Hitchens (oh, wait, he’s already demolished everyone he’s ever debated; google it).

      Your lists of names don’t impress me. Until I actually meet a real life Christian who practices the faith you claim is ‘orthodox’ then I’ll be willing to debate that person. But instead, I came running into all these illegitimate Christians over and over again who clearly don’t represent true Christianity even though they are the majority of the population.

      Tell you what. You think I’m only debating against “Straw Man” Christianity? Then come out from hiding and tell me what you believe. I’ve never known a Christian who was so evasive about just putting down on the page (so to speak) what he believes. We started to discuss this at one point on the phone and I actually think I started to get you to admit that belief in God was essentially no different than alcoholism or sex addiction (just less fun). Sadly, I had to have lunch and we couldn’t finish.

      So, here it is, my challenge. No side topics, no tossing out random names, no meaningless statistics. Just lay out the tenets of your personal faith. I’ll take you on your word that they’re ‘orthodox’ but I don’t care what you call them. I just want to know what they are.

      And then I’ll debate them. And I’ll keep my asshole tendencies to a minimum.

    • By the way:

      Alvin Plantinga: Anti-Natural Selectionist, pro-Intelligent Design. Pfff
      N.T. Wright: Homophobe who says homosexuals should not act on their sexual desire for each other
      Rowan Williams: Respectable enough theologian, I can admire some of what he says, but he also says this about your precious orthodoxy: It is “a tool rather than an end in itself… old styles come under increasing strain, new speech needs to be generated”.
      Karl Barth: “The best theology would need no advocates: it would prove itself.” Christianity certainly does not, even in its best form.

      (I give you this not to give any false implication that I know much about these guys, but just to show that they have views that aren’t compatible, not even within each other; Rowan and Alvin markedly disagree on Evolution, for one.)

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