Monthly Archives: August 2011
In a world where fancy hats and holy robes mean absolutely nothing and where arguments must stand by themselves, Christians are not feeling quite at home. Some Christians are admitting that the internet is a great threat to Christianity.
Christian apologist Josh McDowell put it succinctly:
…the abundance of knowledge, the abundance of information, will not lead to certainty; it will lead to pervasive skepticism. And, folks, that’s exactly what has happened. It’s like this. How do you really know, there is so much out there… This abundance [of information] has led to skepticism. And then the Internet has leveled the playing field [giving equal access to skeptics].
… The Internet is weakening Christian witness and “we better wake up to it because it’s just beginning.”
Nothing is more damning to religion than the greatest library of information ever assembled in the world. With just a few clicks, people everywhere can look up everything, from common logical fallacies that Christians use to the latest news on evolutionary science. A database of knowledge on such a gigantic global scale, built on top of a a free marketplace of ideas, is exactly the kind of environment where religion does not flourish.
While Christianity enjoys a robust online presence, the edge still seems to belong to its unbelievers. ChristianForums.com, online since 1998, boasts a quarter-million members. But with an Alexa ranking of almost 12,000 in the U.S. and only 68,000 unique page views per month, it lags behind the most popular forums for the irreligious. The web’s largest atheist forum is a subcommunity of the social media site Reddit, launched in 2005. Its Alexa traffic ranking puts it in the top 50 sites in the United States with 2 million unique visitors per month, many of those to its “Atheist” subcommunity of 154,000.
The secular community indeed has a huge presence online. And it’s a testament to our success that we’ve made it this far. The evidence and arguments have always been on our side, and by all means, we are winning the hearts and minds of millions of people around the world whose minds had previously been enslaved by religious nonsense.
We should be proud of our position on the internet, but at the same time, we should humble ourselves about reality on the ground. Over 10% of public high schoolers are still taught creationism. In poor communities especially, graduation rates are low, religiosity and crime rates are high. Access to quality education is lacking.
That’s why atheists and secularists should make education reform our number one issue, possibly higher than church-state issues. It is the ultimate civil rights issue, and it’s an issue that is going to affect millions of youth for the rest of their lives. We already know that improvements to education is correlated with rates of atheism, which is natural, but that’s not why it should be our issue. It’s our issue because we stand for things greater than statistics; we want to open people’s minds and have them come to their own conclusions.
Supporting the internet and fighting for children’s opportunity to learn more about this world. Inspiring generations of people with science, history, literature, and world cultures. This is the issue of our time.
You hear this argument again and again. Some of these arguments are even used as comments on this blog.
It goes like this: True Christians don’t commit evil. They can’t. If they murder, kill, rape, etc., they aren’t Christian.
True Christians ™ are always good. The bad ones don’t count.
Few of you may know that I absolutely love church architecture. Here are some pictures I’ve taken in Germany. They range from the mundane to the stunning.
First up is Mainz, a small suburb town on the Rhine near Frankfurt. They have a central cathedral, but it was closed when I got there. I did get a look into the courtyard.
Next up are some picturesque views along the Romantic Rhine. Small towns, castles, and grapevines line one of the most beautiful rivers in the world.
These are just some of the churches I encountered…
I see a castle too!
I also encountered the wonderful Romerberg, Frankfurt’s old town square. There’s a small church right next to it, and the main Cathedral is less than a minute away.
A peak inside the small church.
Forgive the quality of these pictures. I forgot my camera that day and had to settle for a compact one. But the interior is no less intimidating.
Lastly, I have the king of them all, the mother of all cathedrals. I’m talking, of course, about the Cologne Cathedral, one of the tallest in Europe. It took over 600 years to build, and it was the tallest structure in the world from 1880 to 1884.
As you can see, it dwarfs not just the human body, but the human imagination.
I hope you’ve been inspired. See you all soon. Auf wiedersehen.
It should be clear to you that religion is deeply embedded in culture. Religion, as part of culture, are often the circumstances that we are born with–the set of behaviors, customs, values ingrained into us by the time we are 12 years old. Religion influences the way we not only understand the purpose of life, but also how we handle everyday things like time, work, and money.
It’s no surprise to researchers like Milton Bennett that we live in a world where cultures too often clash violently. We as human beings are so immersed in our own ways that we fail to see the entirety of what makes us who we are; we only see the tip of the iceberg when most of the submerged material is crashing into each other underneath.
Bennett’s Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity challenges us to go beyond the American ideal of “tolerance” and “diversity.” It challenges us to be intercultural wizards, able to fully grasp, understand, and adapt to religious differences. Applied to religion, the model seems to have the following stages:
Stage 1: Denial
This stage is marked by the belief that all people are like me. In this world, people may or may not be Christian (for example), but they certainly see the world in the same framework. They value the same things as I do.
Stage 2: Defense
This stage is a Us vs. Them setup; it is marked by the belief that while there are others that don’t believe as I do, their religion or belief system must automatically be wrong or inferior. It is upon us, therefore, to convert them or to “pray for them”. Taken to the extreme, people of other religions may be seen as less than human.
Stage 3: Minimization
There are important religious differences, but that’s okay as long as they are not discussed in public. In this stage, all human beings are basically the same: we all have the same basic necessities like food, drink, shelter, and love. Outside of these core principles, religion should not matter.
Stage 4: Tolerance
Individuals at this stage are adequately educated to understand religious differences and why they matter. They are able to see and understand others’ point of view to a limited extent, but will generally not like or agree with others.
Stage 5: Adaptation
Individuals at this stage are able to take their knowledge and experiences of different religions and shift their own worldviews to acknowledge the overwhelming influence of religious culture. Often, people wind up adopting beliefs and values that are not particular to any religion, and they are able to navigate different cultures easily.
So the inspirational challenge to you is this: Where are you on this scale, and how can we be good citizens in this globalized world?