I don’t mean to be scaring you girls, but you females have NO IDEA how hard it is to be a Christian guy. The only things preventing Christian guys from looking at you as a sex object are lots of prayer, lots of Bible reading, and going to Church.
I am thankful God has created me to be attracted to women. Campus is a loaded minefield. There are girls everywhere, and it is guaranteed that I will pass some attractive girls as I walk in between classes. I either have to be actively engaging my mind and my spirit in praying, quoting Scripture, listening to worship music, or simply looking at the sidewalk to make it through unscathed…
That’s why you girls have a responsibility to God and to the other half of God’s creation to never ever dress in any way that could be considered immodest. And by all means, please do the Christian men a favor?
All I need to know is that the way she presents herself to the world is bait for my sinful mind to latch onto, and I need to avoid it at all costs… To the girls who are ignorant, please serve your brother, and have your dad screen your wardrobe. Ask him how you can choose holiness more than worldliness. He’s a guy, and he knows more than you do on these issues.
Makes a lot of sense to me. Christian men think with their crotches when they aren’t with God. It’s the responsibility of women to deal with this problem.
So stop it with all your complaining about sexual abuses in the Church. Stop wondering why Christians have all these backwards views about sexuality. You girls just don’t understand.
Salon has a piece by Murray Richmond, a minister who spent his career preaching that homosexuality was a sin. Now he has changed his mind.
As a Presbyterian minister, I believed it was a sin. Then I met people who really understood the stakes: Gay men
These experiences shook my worldview. It became clear to me that none of these men had chosen to be gay, just as I had never chosen to be heterosexual. How could I condemn someone for something that was really not their fault?
I don’t know Mr. Richmond, how could you? Because you thought that a book written by human beings in the desert was divinely inspired and therefore had to have contained truth?
People like Mr. Richmond are initially certain about the truth of the Bible, but once they go out into the real world, when they meet people and look at evidence, when they actually test the truth of what they are taught, their own worldviews are suddenly shattered. How do they reconcile this shock without admitting the obvious truth that Christianity is a human invention?
Free from the constraints of a congregation, I could spend more time actually looking at the biblical texts that deal with homosexuality, and I was surprised to find they were not as clear as I had supposed they were. At this point, I have done a 180 on the topic. And I believe it’s a change for the good.
Tada! People start seeing the Bible as a fuzzy, “unclear” thing, something that needs further interpretation (to align itself with 21st century values). But they only do so after they start to suspect that there’s something terribly wrong here.
It’s a very funny thing, isn’t it? The inspirational for full, equal, and respectful treatment of homosexuals comes from human experience and general humanistic values. It certainly does not come from the Bible; Mr. Richmond’s benevolent heart just makes his reading of the “Good Book” oh-so-blurry.
There’s nothing more entertaining than watching people say what they believe. Pastor Mark Driscoll tells it as it is.
My job is to tell you the truth. Your job is to make a decision.
Yes, apparently as a human being, he knows such incredible details about what happens after we die and what thoughts we must have in order to not get roasted for eternity, and he holds a job for telling us about it. As for the rest of us, we just have to make a choice between keeping ourselves sane and believing in some God who can only forgive you if you believe in a human sacrifice.
But my point is that Pastor Mark Driscoll is absolutely right.
If the Bible is the Word of God and if Jesus was the Son of God, the overwhelming majority of people who have ever lived are in Hell. Most people on Earth will probably end up there too. I’m also sick and tired of new-age Christians who want to metaphorize this reality away. I also don’t want to hear my fellow atheists tell me I’m not studying enough theology, I’m taking the Bible out of context, I’m being as bad as a fundamentalist, or any other excuses that I’ve heard.
My job is also to tell you the truth: the Bible’s message of salvation by faith alone is real, and this message will not disappear no matter how hard you try to study history, theology, philosophy, etc. The only thing people can do is to ignore it and live with the cognitive dissonance.
I tell the truth, and you make the decision. Either you accept Christianity as Jesus says (and live with all the immoralities and absurdities that it entails) or you take my position: religion is a human invention, and it shows.
If an atheist made it to heaven, he would want to be conscious. Some say that people aren’t really conscious in Heaven. They say that only the soul or spirit goes up, and that we really won’t be aware of where or what we are. As far as the atheist can see, that would mean we’re as good as dead, which can’t possibly be the case.
If an atheist made it to heaven conscious, he would want to have free will. Without free will, God could indeed make us act (and even think) perfectly and without sin, but we wouldn’t be us. We would be in terrible pain if we could not control the movement of our limbs or the thoughts in our head. We must therefore have free will.
If an atheist made it to heaven conscious and with free will, he would want his reasoning faculties intact. Without that, he would be incomplete, he would be someone else, someone who could do all kind of crazy, superstitious, nonsensical things. The idea of Heaven as a place without the light of Reason is absurd.
If an atheist made it to heaven conscious, with free will, and with the faculty of reason intact, he would commit the same freaking sins on earth as on heaven. He would doubt and disbelieve in many of the commands and instructions of God. The atheist would still tell white lies, get angry from time to time, and some may even participate in homosexual activities. The atheist would still be himself: created sinful and commanded to be perfect.
That’s why atheists go to hell. Because they mess it up.
Now, what do Christians do when they go to Heaven?
An extremely entertaining guy, Ted Cox showed up at the University of Chicago at an event hosted by the Secular Student Alliance. He is a journalist who pretended to be gay in order to infiltrate multiple therapy camps designed to cure homosexuality. Of course, he’s really straight and an atheist, and he gives an amazing presentation about the history of the religious ex-gay movement and his own experiences.
Here’s a photo tour of our event.
His (beautiful) Powerpoint presentation.
Rubberbands were handed out to all audience members. Pourquoi je ne sais pas.
(Actually they were used in the straight camps so that you could fling the rubber band at yourself each time you had a sinful homosexual thought.)
It’s a crowded room…
Alas, we see him. He gets freaked out by the camera sometimes.
Our SSA President giving a short introduction.
He begins talking. What does he talk about?
He gives a warning/disclaimer to those faint at heart. I was about to leave when I saw “Jesus on a Dinosaur.” Oh the trauma…
“Journey Into Manhood” — the Christian straight camp that Ted Cox infiltrated.
A group of volunteers taking directions.
What they did was re-enact a therapy technique called the “Motorcycle.” It involves giving manly support to the person (via touch) in the middle while singing Christian music. Note: this is not meant to be sexual in any way. Apparently the audience didn’t do it right (we just giggled all the way through), and nobody was cured.
Our graduate student advisor looking very interested.
Scholars on the connection between the status of homosexuality and the role of women in the Bible.
Ted answers questions from the audience.
The post-event SSA dinner. Apparently Ted loves beer.
Is homosexuality a choice? There’s still a massive Christian industry insisting that it is.
That’s why I’m very excited to see the speaker coming to the University of Chicago next week: a journalist by the name of Ted Cox (atheist and straight, fyi) who infiltrated Christian gay-to-straight programs and shared his experiences.
At the core of programs like these is the belief that homosexuality is a sinful choice according to the Bible, that God’s plan for all of us is to be heterosexual, and that homosexuality is caused by factors like a lack of a father figure. The solution, therefore, consists of all kinds of odd activities designed to convert them to heterosexuality. Ted Cox notes that “rather than turning straight, the men and women that I met throughout this project dealt with a cycle of repression, backsliding into sin, then shame, guilt, and repentance.”
This event is hosted by the Secular Student Alliance at the University of Chicago and co-sponsored by Queers & Associates and The Sacred Flame (a religious LGBT group on campus). It will be in Stuart 101 on Friday, March 11.
Hope you see you there!
It is not rare that whenever someone tries to convince me about the apparent truth of Christian claim, he or she begins with a plethora of apologies: apologies for things from the Inquisition to sex abuse to Galileo’s torture to Pat Robertson. And after this long line of apologies for things I haven’t even had time to bring up, he or she then tells me that I should really direct my attention not to what humans do “in the name of religion” but only to what the true essence of the faith really is.
Of course, there’s nothing that excites me more about discussing what the true essence of Christianity really is.
As a prelude, I want to address those people — I call them pseudo-Christians — who say they are Christian but don’t actually believe there is any history in the Bible. They don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead, or that he even existed. I’ve met only a couple of these people in my life, and they say that Jesus, whether he existed or not, was a good person and a exemplary role model, that his message was to love one another and to treat each other well.
Of course, even I take issue with this because Jesus was certainly not the revolutionary who somehow discovered human kindness. Confucius, for example, taught the Golden Rule centuries before Jesus. The values of tolerance, generosity, selflessness are all found, arguably in stronger forms, in many Eastern philosophies. Personally, I think that morality comes not from prophets and tablets, but from a continuing dialectic, a conversation and debate between social creatures that, thanks to evolution, are innately inclined to show empathy and love. Of course, that’s another topic.
What I think is the true essence of Christianity is the composed of the following ideas:
1) We are born sick and imperfect, and commanded to be perfect.
The human condition, according to Christians, is a result of Genesis account of the Fall of Man. Why are we all “really really bad people” as many Christians claim? Because our very distant ancestors (dating back to a couple thousand years ago, as Young Earth Creationists say) decided to sin against God and to disobey him by taking fruit from, of all things, the Tree of Knowledge. As descendants, we all share in the guilt and responsibility for this condition resulting from this egregious rebellion. We are born sinful and imperfect, but in the light of God, we must strive to be perfect.
This is a cruel and unusual set of circumstances to be born into. First of all, children are never responsible for actions of their parents. Also, if it is the case that a person is born a certain way, then he or she is not responsible for that condition. If you are born imperfect, you are not responsible to be a perfect person, although you can and should be expected to be a decent person, which is very different, and much more realistic.
I often hear Christians assert that God can rightfully demand that we be perfect because God himself is perfect, but I think this is a morally bankrupt argument. Having a quality does not enable you to rightfully demand that others have it: I may be able to communicate better than people with autism or walk better than people born without legs, but I have no right to command or even expect people who are born a certain way to be like me.
2) You can suffer an eternity in Hell, depending on what you think.
In the Christian worldview, why is God’s command for us to be perfect so important? Because if you are imperfect, God cannot accept you into Heaven. For your few decades of imperfectness on Earth, you are headed by default to a very very bad place for eternity.
What really shocks me is how Christians rationalize this concept. In a Q&A session called Stump the Chump at UChicago, the speaker said that Hell was an eternal place for those who deliberately say “no” to God; God then merely grants you your wish and leaves you alone, forever.
I personally have never met an atheist (or a person of another religion) who has said “I want to go to Hell and leave you. Grant me this wish.” There is all the difference in the world between saying “no” to someone and not believing in the existence of that someone. The atheist (and non-Christian theist) simply does not believe in the existence of Yahweh or the divinity of Jesus or Hell, similar to how Christians don’t believe in Thor or reincarnation.
But to Christians, this difference doesn’t matter. Children are still going to be taught that they will end up in a place of eternal suffering with no way out if they don’t believe as Christians do.
3) God can wipe you clean, but only after a human sacrifice.
Yes you should know by now that, for the few billion seconds that you have left to live, your private thoughts and opinions about religion matter, and they matter a whole lot. According to Christians, you can only escape this cruel and unusual circumstance by somehow changing your thoughts to a less sinful one: by believing and accepting that Jesus Christ died on the cross for you. In short, the story is that God sent himself in human form to Earth, and then allowed himself to be tortured to death by other human beings. Only then are we washed clean, and this shows God’s forgiveness of our sins across the boundary of time.
This very story shows: how sins can be retroactively and vicariously dissolved, how forgiveness is only possible by punishment (or self-punishment), and how people can only partake in this deal if they are part of the Christian circle, that is, if they don’t have a different opinion about religion.
Most striking is the conditionality. Forgiveness and the cleansing of sin can only come through physical torture, and this torture and pain is not in any proportion to the crime. It does not matter if you are a vegetarian Buddhist or a homicidal Stalinist; either way the correct and just punishment for your very nature is extremely severe — far more severe, interestingly, than what Jesus himself supposedly experienced for a limited time on Earth.
Which brings us to the method. The method for which you may release the responsibility to God for being sinful is by putting the blame on someone else, who is himself God. Christians automatically assume that this process is morally sound and possible, although one can’t deny that this is what Christopher Hitchens calls “scape-goating,” the piling of sins on another object. The other issue with this is the questionable scale of the punishment. If it is true that we are bound for torture in Hell forever, how is it that a temporary period of torture of Jesus can relieve us of this debt? It must be bluntly noted that what Jesus went through was, for example, nothing compared to what victims of the Holocaust or Unit 731 experienced. Christians may argue that a divine being like Jesus deserves less torture, but why then does God need to torture (himself) at all to forgive humans for being imperfect?
Last is the exclusivity. For Christians, it is not enough to say that what is done is done: that Jesus saves all of humanity, and that’s it. Instead, we have a religion that compels you take that leap of faith and believe, on pain of eternal damnation. So exclusive is this arrangement that about 70% of the people on Earth right now are not Christian. Whenever I ask by how much Hell overpopulates Heaven, I never get a serious answer.
Perhaps this is why Christians disagree on what happens to people who never had the opportunity to hear about Christianity (e.g., very young children, people in isolated tribes, etc). The default position in the Bible is that these people will not be saved. Of course, there are countless Christians who protest and insist that this can’t be the case, saying that they trust God that there is actually more fairness in the system (ignoring the fact that the system is stacked against you in the first place). What we have here is the classic case of Christians unable to reconcile what is written down on paper with their common sense and reason. The existence of so much cognitive dissonance amongst Christians, I believe, is not evidence for the soundness of their ideas, but of their problematic nature.
4) Human Beings Can Know the Supernatural
By no means does Christianity have a monopoly on this idea, but it is certainly at the center of Christian thought.
It is always to me a profane and repulsive idea that human beings can claim to know amazingly accurate details about the nature and commands of God. Religious people in general, whenever they run out of arguments, go into “assert” mode, asserting that God wills this and that, that the nature of the after-life is a certain way, that God says this is wrong and that is okay.
I’m being too general, of course. What really happens is that people read their books and find out that God intervenes in this world in all kinds of ways: in the real estate market by promising land to certain groups of homo sapiens, in marriage and relationships by defining sexual boundaries and marriage rights, in dietary habits by making some animals sacred. This of course leads not to greater wisdom or knowledge, but greater conflict and ignorance. So much is at stake in the world that we cannot afford to quibble about theology while ignoring reality.
In conclusion, the true essence of Christianity is compared to the world of science, secular humanism, and reason.
Christians say that, even when lacking reasons to believe, the act of knowing things by faith is a great virtue. In direct contrast to this, Socrates argued that true wisdom is acknowledgement of one’s own ignorance. In other words, what atheists do admit that Christians cannot is that we do not know. We do not claim to know anything about God, including facts about his existence, because no human being can know so much. The moment that human beings claim to know what they don’t actually know is the moment they have religious disagreements.
The true essence of Christianity has at its basis a fanatical obsession with the fantasy of purity and perfection. It holds people responsible for the way they are born, and proposes that a just punishment for this condition is eternal torture in the afterlife. It claims that you can wipe your debt clean and join God in Heaven, but only if you believe and accept the torture of Jesus, who was also God himself. Lastly, it demands that you spread this good news and grow in Christ, that you go out and proclaim proudly to the world that Christianity is real and knowable.
I ask you kindly to think about the alternatives: Humility in the face of uncertainty. A demand for sound reasons and evidence over faith. A real commitment to true fairness, justice, and responsibility instead of the moral outrages in the Bible. That, my friends, is the true essence of secular humanism.