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  1. #1
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    The difference between questioning religion and attacking religion.

    As an Atheist it is common place in my conversations with Christians to have the Christian devolve the conversation into, "Why are you attacking me and my religion?"

    I think a lot of Atheists have been in this same situation and find it quite odd when it happens. The general response in generally a look of "WTF".

    I'd also like to point out that it would be dishonest of me to say that Atheists do not attack religion. Folks like Hitchens and perennial whipping boy Dawkins express an almost utter loathing for what religion has become. But I'm not talking about them. I'm talking in general.

    so for example, I might be engaged in fine conversation with a person on why they are a believer in Christ. It may come up as to why I don't share their same fervor for the faith. When I start expressing why I don't agree, complete with good enough reason and evidence, they start to freak out.

    What is worse is when I question them on their beliefs they really think I am giving them the piss.

    So Christians, or any other theist, why do you become so offended when I question your religion, faith, God, etc? IS it wrong of me to expect you to be able to give me a clear answer as to why you believe and if I spot a difference in thinking on that same subject point it out so that we may discuss it further? Is it wrong for me to expect that you as the one that really believes to be able to witness to me and answer queries I may have on the subject?

    I am often asked "Why the would you be an Atheist? Don't you know you will go to Hell?" As infantile as that question appears to be to me, I view it as a teaching moment or at least a moment to open a dialogue up with someone that does not understand my position in life. I don't view them as some ogre or idiot. I just try to relate to them as best I can. I don't take it as an insult if they disagree with me. I work to try to better explain my position so that they may gain insight as to what I believe. It's not a matter of conversion. I'm not trying to make them like me. I just want to explain ME to them. Yet when I expect the same courtesy from a Christian, I often do not get very Christian like behavior.

    Now let me sum this up with this fact, I'm NOT......NOT...saying that all Christians cannot carry on intellectual conversation about their religion. Some of my absolute best friends in the whole world are 100% grade top choice Christians. We are able to engage in super deep conversations about their specific religion as well as other denominations from a myriad of perspectives. My absolute number 1 main man is a uber scholar on all things biblical and I enjoy talking with him on the subject more than anyone else. His brother is a bishop in the Anglican church and is also a wonderful deep resource for me. These guys both have multiple degrees in divinity.....so I can easily hold them to a much different standard than Joe Christian that just goes to church every Sunday. I have yet to ever piss them off or say something "offensive" about their religion of choice. So I know there are "cool" Christians out there. They are not the only ones. I have others. They are just examples....my two favorite examples.

    I just don't get this anger issue that is more common. That or when I start goign deeper with said person they drop out completely and shut down. They do not know enough about the subject to speak on it. I might tell them about something in their bible and they will say, "It does NOT say that." Then I whip out a bible and say, "Would you like to read it or me?" to which they all of the sudden of things to do or, "Why are you attacking me?"

    I don't get this behavior.

    It is my hope that through conversation and PATIENCE with each other that we can ALL try to speak to one another in a more meaningful and engaging way so that we may all learn from each other regardless of theological positioning.

    What say you?

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    Rogue Cardinal, Member of the God-Awful Atheist Syndicate


  2. #2
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    Re: The difference between questioning religion and attacking religion.

    Just as you might get offended when somebody attacks your country and your culture, even though countries don't really exist other than in people's minds and general convention, so religious people get offended when you question the foundations of their life.

    I don't know how much of a geek you are but there are a lot of geeks out there that literally get angry or offended if they see a piece of bad code; or become incredibly defensive when you mock their favorite operating system or text editor or programming language or system.

    So it is with religion. As an atheist, to me it's amazing the lengths people go to in order to justify their faith or to show that their respective gods exist and how their way of life is the only and best way to live. I've talked to Christians that follow Pascal's Wager, pretty much going through the motions in order to get along with the society around them. I've also met Christians that have clearly intellectualized their beliefs so much so that God is the starting point for all their rationalizations.

    What patriotism, geekiness and religions have in common is the amount of effort invested in seeing the world in a particular way is significant. The gain is a self-sustaining system that allows one to go on auto-pilot - you can generate answers for everything.

    So if someone comes along and says that Britain is a pointless small country that has had it's day, or if someone doesn't understand why the editor vi has two modes, or that the Macintosh is a computer for idiots, or if someone claims your gods don't exist then it becomes quite personal.

    You are compelled to defend your point of view not only because you think it is true but because that system has actually been useful and has proved itself as an explanatory system for a large part of your daily life. The more your opponent persists the angrier you may become because how is it they cannot just see things from your point of view? Even for a moment.

    Personally, I'm fine with the anger and rage. It doesn't make you right. It just means that you're angry at being wrong. I'm fine being right about deities not existing and since I don't have a substitute for religious people to live their lives with, I don't need to challenge their basic beliefs. However, I am concerned about the results of the beliefs, which is where I think atheists should begin their discussions but that is probably OT!

  3. #3
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    Re: The difference between questioning religion and attacking religion.

    Having seen this from the Theist side, it seems more often than not that the tone and text of Atheists comes off as elitist and condescending. The all too common "Flying Spaghetti Monster" simile is profoundly insulting from a theist point of view. The tone in person and even here is often one of derision, and the volume of what has been perceived the attacks is likewise off putting to most theists.
    This is of course just a quick and simple explanation, I wish I had time to elaborate a bit.
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    Re: The difference between questioning religion and attacking religion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squatch347 View Post
    Having seen this from the Theist side, it seems more often than not that the tone and text of Atheists comes off as elitist and condescending.
    I don't think that's a fair statement given that you believe your God to be the only one or that Jews believe they are the chosen people. Unfortunately, when explaining science, it's hard to gauge what level to aim at. I've ranged from talking slowly, to starting from basics, to explaining the method and it all seems to come of as condescending. I can tell. Granted, I flip the bozo bit when people who don't understand science claim it to be wrong but I don't go out to annoy people in my explanations.

    Getting angry, or being defensive or feeling condescended to, I think are all just emotions when you either cannot back up your beliefs in kind or feel that your arguments may possibly be wrong.

    As for being accused of being elitist, what exactly does that mean in a practical sense? Being educated? Having thoughts? Wondering about how things work? Curious about the origins of things?

  5. #5
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    Re: The difference between questioning religion and attacking religion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squatch347 View Post
    Having seen this from the Theist side, it seems more often than not that the tone and text of Atheists comes off as elitist and condescending. The all too common "Flying Spaghetti Monster" simile is profoundly insulting from a theist point of view. The tone in person and even here is often one of derision, and the volume of what has been perceived the attacks is likewise off putting to most theists.
    This is of course just a quick and simple explanation, I wish I had time to elaborate a bit.
    Squatch you have jumped right into exactly what I am talking about. I would agree with you that the tone of either side can become elitist and condescending.

    Atheist: There is no God.

    Theist: Yes there is and you're going to hell.

    Atheist: (insert Flying Spaghetti Monster speech)

    Theist: We'll see what's true.....when you're burning in hell.

    No let me break that conversation down from an Atheist point of view.

    1. The Atheist has made a bold statement. That statement strikes at the very soul of the Theist, because of course the Theist is heavily invested in X religion. As the Christian you may not like the remark but does that mean that we have to take it to "You're going to hell" remarks? To the Atheist this isn't really condescending it just shows the the Theist may not be mature enough to handle direct conversation about a particular subject or observation. It's almost like a conditioned response.

    2. The Atheist tries to be reasonable and logically look at the situation making what is no less an extremely valid argument with the "Flying Spaghetti Monster". You claim this is offensive. Help me to understand how so? Is it because it is direct opposition to your beliefs? IF so then how is it not offensive when a Theist goes on a diatribe about how their God is the one and only true god? Wouldn't that make your argument about your god as equally offensive to others from your own stand point?

    I can assure you that as off put as theists can be by Atheists the reverse can be true also.

    I think you also bring up a good point in the tone....I'd like to add to that perceived tone. As all of this is typed I think it is beyond easy for someone to read this with a specific tone in mind as they read it. "Obviously, this Atheist is against my point of view so when I read this it must be in an attacking tone." So we can infer a tone that might not really be appropriate for what has been typed. I am often under the impression that if we were to sit over a few beers and talk about these things we'd end up laughing about the things we say instead of fighting about them.

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  6. #6
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    Re: The difference between questioning religion and attacking religion.

    I think that another large contributing factor is that many Christians have never taken the time to research, ponder, and truly understand what it is they believe and why. It galls me to no end when the colloquially termed "baby Christians" (those who aren't very "spiritually mature" yet) enter a discussion with so much fire and force... and find that they are completely mistaken about a fundamental point of the faith. I am glad that it can serve as a teaching moment for them so that they will grow in their faith... but it is frustrating for someone who *has* thought about the faith a lot and is trying to engage in relatively high-level discussions about theology. (and, btw, Herman et al: I haven't forgotten about the "Everything in His Power" debate... I have just been mad-busy with med school and haven't had a chance to do the appropriate research yet) It's like a child yelling about toys in a room full of adults discussing finance. Except... there's no physical difference between you and the "child," and people often mistakenly take the view that both people are equally valid sources of information on the Christian faith. It does a great disservice to the rich and deep tradition of Christian apologetics.

    I realize that what I have just said must sound incredibly pompous and almost insufferably arrogant, but I think that many of the Christians here will agree if they think aobut it. How much fun is it to be interrupted in a carefully constructed debate about the nature of Divinity by someone storming in and doing the long-winded equivalent of saying, "Jesus is God and you're going to Hell, lalalalalalalalalalalaaa!!" with their hands over their ears and eyes shut? I've recently negged a couple of Christians for doing just that thing, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I also neg atheists - or anyone else, for that matter - for being rude or polluting an otherwise good debate with intellectually vacuous posts.

    That said, I do tend to agree with Squatch - until recently, the tone of many atheists here had gotten downright ugly. I am not going to cast blame; it may well have been the Christians who started it. I don't really care about all that, except to take this opportunity to say how very glad I am to be able to have a polite, enjoyable, intelligent discussion with the atheists here about religion again.

    The point is this: the key difference between an attack and a question is the motive. If you're questioning from a position that is genuinely trying to understand, that's legitimate questioning, in my mind. If you're doing something solely to "make the point" or to "win the debate," that's nothing but an attack. If it doesn't serve to advance a mutual understanding, it's not really a productive debate. That goes for any discussion, though - not just religion. It just happens to be particularly salient to the topic of religion on this forum.

    I would vastly prefer to sit and discuss God and all the rest of it with a polite, well-intentioned atheist than to argue "theology" with a closed-minded, ill-informed Christian who is definitely *not* being Christ-like in his manner of speech and is not interested in some real thinking about his faith. Even if I can't win the debate with the atheist, I've been asked some pointed questions that have helped me determine the "shape of my ignorance." I may well have to concede and say, "you know... I haven't thought of it like that before. Let me get back to you on that." But you know? I may end up doing the same thing to the atheist, if they're approaching it with an open mind and a genuine spirit of inquiry. Maybe nobody changes his mind... but at least we're both doing some good, honest thinking. Isn't that the point of debate in the first place?

  7. #7
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    Re: The difference between questioning religion and attacking religion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Herman's pos rep
    HermanLeadread agrees: Usually in the fray of a debate, Christians often point out that atheists are destined for hell. This, too, comes across as derisive and condescending. That said, you're quite right about atheists' tone. I have certainly been guilty more than once
    Totally agree, hopefully my post wasn't taken as being an apologist for that action either, which it definitely wasn't meant as.

    Quote Originally Posted by SharmaK View Post
    I don't think that's a fair statement given that you believe your God to be the only one or that Jews believe they are the chosen people. Unfortunately, when explaining science, it's hard to gauge what level to aim at. I've ranged from talking slowly, to starting from basics, to explaining the method and it all seems to come of as condescending.
    I would argue the difference here (on ODN) anyway is the aggresiveness of Atheists in counter to Theists. There is a good three or four to one ratio of threads started by atheists about why God cannot exist when compared to the theist stance of God existing. The number becomes even more skewed when discussing attacks on science's morality or the consequences of atheism or whatever could be seen as more aggressive. There is a definitively different posture between, "My God exists and let me tell you why." And "your God most certainly does not exist and let me tell you why."

    Quote Originally Posted by sharmaK
    Getting angry, or being defensive or feeling condescended to, I think are all just emotions when you either cannot back up your beliefs in kind or feel that your arguments may possibly be wrong.
    Which is in itself a condescending assumption. I didn't say or imply that the arguments themselves are condescending, rather that their manner is condescending, much like some of your post. "People just don't get it, or I've tried to dumb it down, etc" That is a condescending position, perhaps it is possible that rather than we "not getting" your enlightened point, that it is you who is not getting ours? Either way, your assumption that we are just not getting it is bound to set people off a bit.

    Quote Originally Posted by sharmak
    As for being accused of being elitist, what exactly does that mean in a practical sense? Being educated? Having thoughts? Wondering about how things work? Curious about the origins of things?
    For everyone else here who might legitimately question what I'm talking about please reference this section about what I mean by elitist, the implication that you are the only ones questioning or educated here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue Cardinal View Post
    Squatch you have jumped right into exactly what I am talking about. I would agree with you that the tone of either side can become elitist and condescending.

    Atheist: There is no God.

    Theist: Yes there is and you're going to hell.
    I'll stop you here, can you mention a main stream debater that has proposed this position?

    Quote Originally Posted by RC
    Atheist: (insert Flying Spaghetti Monster speech)

    Theist: We'll see what's true.....when you're burning in hell.
    Do you really see the theist position as essentially this?

    Quote Originally Posted by RC
    2. The Atheist tries to be reasonable and logically look at the situation making what is no less an extremely valid argument with the "Flying Spaghetti Monster". You claim this is offensive. Help me to understand how so?
    I've had this conversation with a few others so I certainly believe that you don't mean it to be directly offensive, but by deliberately comparing someone's religious belief to something absurdly stupid you are meaning to get a rise out of them, that is the whole point of that example, instead of using a logic format (say X has these traits....), atheists often rely on a purposefully absurd comparison to God.

    Quote Originally Posted by RC
    I can assure you that as off put as theists can be by Atheists the reverse can be true also.
    I can understand that, and as I put forward to Herman please don't mistake my post as a apologetic one for those who are actively out there preaching fire and brimstone.

    Quote Originally Posted by rc
    I think you also bring up a good point in the tone....I'd like to add to that perceived tone.
    Certainly a valid addition. The internet as you point out strips so much of the context away.
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    Re: The difference between questioning religion and attacking religion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue Cardinal View Post
    Squatch you have jumped right into exactly what I am talking about. I would agree with you that the tone of either side can become elitist and condescending.

    Atheist: There is no God.

    Theist: Yes there is and you're going to hell.

    Atheist: (insert Flying Spaghetti Monster speech)

    Theist: We'll see what's true.....when you're burning in hell.
    I'm willing to bet that the ratio of atheists making what I would call non intellectual attacks compared to Christians condemning people to hell is well in excess of 5:1 here on ODN.
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    Re: The difference between questioning religion and attacking religion.

    Quote Originally Posted by chimmychonga View Post
    how do atheists not believe in GOD? i think it takes more faith not to believe
    It doesn't take any faith at all not to believe in things you have never experienced or seen evidence of.

    Moving along....

    In these discussions it is important to try and be polite, but its also expected that you will be challenging. A discussion without challenge is never going to dig below the surface. A good discussion will require some tact by both sides and also some tolerance by both sides to accept a bit of rancor that will naturally arise.

    For me the important thing is both sides have agreed to have the discussion. A Christian who feels its OK to preach their faith publicly but won't tolerate a contrary voice gets no respect from me. Likewise an atheist who is willing to say god is a fiction but is offended when someone says they are going to hell is not impressing me either.

    On ODN you have to expect to be challenged and that cold logic, no matter if it causes offense, is going to be thrown out, and sometimes the examples will be a bit "theatrical" and "rhetorical." Personally I find it entertaining, but sometimes it really can take a debate into the gutter. It never hurts to apologize when you take the topic off track with too much color.

  10. #10
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    Re: The difference between questioning religion and attacking religion.

    Beliefs, even atheistic beliefs, are very personal to a person. As human beings we attach ourselves to something bigger than ourselves: be it religion or the belief that religion is silly.

    I agree, many Christians can become defensive, but it is often a topic people do not like to question. It is scary to think that there is nothing after life, that we are some random freak accident in a vast possibly empty universe. When you look at how the Earth is formed... it is rather "lucky" for us that things happened the way they did. To think we will live out our existence here, and there is nothing better afterward is rather depressing. Lets face it, this existence can be very depressing and bleak at times.

    Some people, many people (including atheists), do not want to intellectually discuss the topic. The response you mention you get from Christians is often, if not ALWAYS the response I get from atheists I know. I never feel like I am sharing ideas with the atheists I know, rather I feel like I am being berated with the same nonsense over and over again; however when I try to make my point its nothing more than petty childish insults.

    I wont discuss religion with ANYONE anymore, even believers (which I is one of am). Believers can be just as ignorant, uppity, arrogant, and all around ignorant as nonbelievers.

    Atheists are not going to change their mind... theists wont change theirs... Whenever one of my atheist friends goes off on a rant I look at them and say "I don't care. You live your life the way you like, and I will live mine. As long as you do nothing that negatively impacts me, I wont say boo to you."

    You are correct, there are times I REALLY hate listening to theists talk... Sometimes I think to myself "how do you know what God wants? Is God not perfect? Are humans not imperfect? Then what in the name of Sweet Jesus are you blabbering on about?!" I hate the whole "God needs us to do..." line. God does not need ANYONE to do ANYTHING for him. Stick it.

    As for atheists, they are really no different. I can get along with them, but I wont EVER discuss religion with them; no matter how they try to rope me in. I wont start an intellectual conversation with many people, for many reasons. It is not worth my time.

    It is PERFECTLY acceptable to question religion, but there is a line you cross when you start to insult someone. There is an intellectual conversation, and you harassing someone. At some point in time you just need to agree to disagree, and I have found with most people that is impossible.

    Believe in what you want, as long as I do not have to deal with it... I could not care less if you worshiped a rat.
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    Re: The difference between questioning religion and attacking religion.

    I can think of a couple of possible reasons.

    1. Religion is rather personal. If you have a Christian that reads the Bible and spends a lot of time in prayer and things of that nature, then they tend to have a more emotional bond with that religion. Now when a Christian encounters an atheist, even if the atheist doesn't mean to be insulting, it could imply something in the mind of the Christian that offends them.

    For example, let's suppose that an atheist gives their whole "Flying Spaghetti Monster" argument. While they're not meaning to be offensive, in the mind of the Christian, it seems like they're saying "All that time you spend praying and stuff is just a waste of time." If they perceive what the atheist is saying in that manner, then it would be an emotional attack so to speak.

    2. They do have some atheist that are outright insulting to religions, just like they have some Christians that are outright insulting to atheist or other religions. But for the few atheist that insult religion in all nature, it's rather easy for Christians to label all atheist that way. It's not very smart to label all just for the few, but people tend to do things like that.
    "You can do anything you want, but be prepared to take responsibility for your actions."

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    Re: The difference between questioning religion and attacking religion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squatch347 View Post
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SharmaK
    I don't think that's a fair statement given that you believe your God to be the only one ...

    I would argue the difference here (on ODN) anyway is the aggresiveness of Atheists in counter to Theists. There is a good three or four to one ratio of threads started by atheists about why God cannot exist when compared to the theist stance of God existing. The number becomes even more skewed when discussing attacks on science's morality or the consequences of atheism or whatever could be seen as more aggressive.
    Existence of deities is the basis of all religions and it's the reason why we are atheists in the first place! Personally, I'd like to see more debates attacking science's morality or the consequences of atheism but I haven't seen too many of those sorts of threads here. As for being aggressive, that's OK too in my book - all ideas should be challenged until they break or stand up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squatch347 View Post
    There is a definitively different posture between, "My God exists and let me tell you why." And "your God most certainly does not exist and let me tell you why."
    I agree, that the latter is more negative and that it is a position of challenge. I would usually prefer to talk about moral issues and whether a religious stance is better than a non-religious one. Unfortunately, a lot of the arguments boil down to 'because it is written in the Bible, which in turn is the word of God'. Once there then we're back to the existence question. It would be nice to have some debates along the lines of the Q-squared ones.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squatch347 View Post
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sharmaK
    Getting angry, or being defensive or feeling condescended to, I think are all just emotions when you either cannot back up your beliefs in kind or feel that your arguments may possibly be wrong.

    Which is in itself a condescending assumption. I didn't say or imply that the arguments themselves are condescending, rather that their manner is condescending, much like some of your post. "People just don't get it, or I've tried to dumb it down, etc" That is a condescending position,
    Dumbing down is not condescending. I constantly have to do this when explaining some computer-related problem. Depending on my audience, I make deliberate and transparent efforts to reduce the problem to make it easier to digest.

    If one cannot get to a common ground then it makes it difficult to see where the disagreement is. In discussions about evolution, for example, there is a great deal of misunderstanding around what science even is never mind that debunking Darwin from 200 years ago is pointless because of what we have learned since. Those coming from a sense of the world where there is a great deal of respect for ancient knowledge and the treatment of men as deities, tend challenge science on those terms and you can see Ray Comfort's introduction to Origin of Species for plenty of examples.

    So before one can have a serious debate one has to explain that science is true whether the scientist is evil or not; that gravity still works even if Newton was a murderer. Once we're on common ground about what science is then, and only then, can there be a rational discussion about particular aspects and theories.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squatch347 View Post
    perhaps it is possible that rather than we "not getting" your enlightened point, that it is you who is not getting ours? Either way, your assumption that we are just not getting it is bound to set people off a bit.
    I usually don't assume that other people don't get my points, if that is true then that is my own fault for not explaining it properly. I think it's interesting to see my own points challenged - even more so than 'winning' the argument.

    And it is very true that I don't get how in a modern society we still have to invoke deities to justify ourselves, or who one can suspend the laws of physics in order to allow for miracles. I understand the emotional side effects, the community with others and the divine pleasure of doing good.


    Quote Originally Posted by Squatch347 View Post
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sharmak
    As for being accused of being elitist, what exactly does that mean in a practical sense? Being educated? Having thoughts? Wondering about how things work? Curious about the origins of things?

    For everyone else here who might legitimately question what I'm talking about please reference this section about what I mean by elitist, the implication that you are the only ones questioning or educated here.
    That's not true at all. Some of my best discussions have been with those that are very curious and very educated. They usually use the god of the gaps type of arguments but they can get quite sophisticated. I don't buy into their arguments but I don't doubt their intelligence just their positions.

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    Re: The difference between questioning religion and attacking religion.

    There have been several interesting things brought up here so instead of quoting everyone as I am on short time at the moment let me respond.

    1. As it pertains to "Well your going to hell" statements. You have to remember tha tI am framing EVERYTHING in this thread in "general". It's not necessary a reflection of things I see at ODN. There have been a few hit and run "your going to hells" mainly by people that don't really participate. I'm really speaking in general.

    2. I think the term "dumbing it down" only appears to be condescending to the listener or reader simply because of the word "dumb". It really doesn't mean that the person that you are trying to help is dumb it just means you are taking some of the perhaps big words out or wordy dialogue and trying to put it in "layman's terms".

    3. I'm still not sure I understand the dislike about the Flying Spaghetti Monster. To me it sounds like a perfectly logical argument. I DO get that someone might find that the intent fo the user of that argument is for silliness....because to a degree it is being used to point out what seems silly to the Atheist. That doesn't mean that it IS silly....it just appears silly to the Atheist.

    Just some quick thoughts for now. More later. Thanks all for participating so nicely thus far! Yeah US!!!!

    In Heaven there is no beer. That's why we drink it here.

    Rogue Cardinal, Member of the God-Awful Atheist Syndicate


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    Re: The difference between questioning religion and attacking religion.

    Quick clarification from me too:

    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue Cardinal View Post
    2. I think the term "dumbing it down" only appears to be condescending to the listener or reader simply because of the word "dumb".
    I think it actually is condescending in the sense of "why don't you know this already?" I battle with this all the time in religious discussions because this is stuff that should have been taught in schools. At the age of 10! This may be a uniquely American problem but arguing from the point of view of total ignorance is unacceptable.


    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue Cardinal View Post
    3. I'm still not sure I understand the dislike about the Flying Spaghetti Monster. To me it sounds like a perfectly logical argument.
    It is because we are talking about Gods exist on the same 'level' as fairies at the bottom of the garden - completely human creations. However, theists see it as mocking their system of belief. So I see their point - it is goading and doesn't help the 'cause'.

    A better set of arguments is to compare deities against each other deities and argue that point. After all, who believes in Zeus any more. That I believe is a stronger and more realistic and less mocking argument.

    Finally, I have to point out that it's particularly hypocritical to claim hurt feelings when religions, and Christians especially in the Western world, try to claim a moral superiority over others. Having a bunch of celibate priests hold judgment over who can do what to whom is ridiculous and insulting. Being told what is 'good' to read and learn and question is criminal.

    It as fine to have done it in the middle ages when we were much less sophisticated and probably fine in those countries who still believe in witch-craft and human sacrifices. For the rest of us 'enlightened', it is just as condescending when medieval morality is being inflicted upon the rest of us.

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    Re: The difference between questioning religion and attacking religion.

    Quote Originally Posted by SharmaK View Post
    Quick clarification from me too:


    I think it actually is condescending in the sense of "why don't you know this already?" I battle with this all the time in religious discussions because this is stuff that should have been taught in schools. At the age of 10! This may be a uniquely American problem but arguing from the point of view of total ignorance is unacceptable.
    I have to disagree a bit here. Keep in mind that I work with children all day long so having to dumb something down is what I do for a living. It is easy for me to get wordy. I have to really think about what I say. I cannot address a Kindergarten class the same as I would my 4th grade class. The terms will just fly over their head. IT doesn't mean the Kindergarten kids cannot learn the new material and it certainly doesn't imply that they are dumb or even ignorant. You just have to approach people where they are at.

    You can take a perfectly good adult and start talking about quantum mechanics but if they don't have a college background chances are they aren't even going to have a clue as to what the hell you are talking about.

    The are so many different "levels" of understanding in say religion that with some folks you can talk about things from a deep historical understanding that includes a heavy emphasis on culture. Some people are just going to understand it as "That's what the Bible says and that's the way it is." and they won't need for themselves any deeper or further knowledge of what they are talking about.

    For example, as an Atheist I see a real large issue with the genealogy of Jesus in the books of Matthew and Luke. To a lot of Christians this is not something that they concern themselves with. Why should they? They are content in knowing that on the 3rd day Jesus rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and sat at the right hand of God the father almighty. It's trivial to them. It's not something they would normally even talk about in church. Though I have been to one Anglican church that did happen to deal with it while I was there.

    It is because we are talking about Gods exist on the same 'level' as fairies at the bottom of the garden - completely human creations. However, theists see it as mocking their system of belief. So I see their point - it is goading and doesn't help the 'cause'.

    A better set of arguments is to compare deities against each other deities and argue that point. After all, who believes in Zeus any more. That I believe is a stronger and more realistic and less mocking argument.
    Again I see what you are driving at but I disagree. To me there is no difference between Zeus, Allah, Buddha, God, Thor, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. When you say it is easier to discuss if I compare God to Zeus all we are doing is changing one fictional character for another.

    Finally, I have to point out that it's particularly hypocritical to claim hurt feelings when religions, and Christians especially in the Western world, try to claim a moral superiority over others. Having a bunch of celibate priests hold judgment over who can do what to whom is ridiculous and insulting. Being told what is 'good' to read and learn and question is criminal.

    It as fine to have done it in the middle ages when we were much less sophisticated and probably fine in those countries who still believe in witch-craft and human sacrifices. For the rest of us 'enlightened', it is just as condescending when medieval morality is being inflicted upon the rest of us.
    I'd have to say that we agree a lot here. But I can also appreciate the fact that while some people can take initiative and make their own decision, some people are sheep and like to be told what to do.

    In Heaven there is no beer. That's why we drink it here.

    Rogue Cardinal, Member of the God-Awful Atheist Syndicate


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    Re: The difference between questioning religion and attacking religion.

    Quote Originally Posted by DevilPup John View Post
    As long as you do nothing that negatively impacts me, I wont say boo to you."
    The problem is that Christianity demands that you "say boo" to people. Many Christians consider it their God-given right to inform atheists, heathens, and other scum of the earth that they will be frying in hell for eternity, and also try to save them by any means possible, culture, free-thinking, and anything else that stands in the way of this be damned. Christians frequently refuse to leave the world alone, so your potential solution is impossible, DevilPup John. They waste billions annually on this pointless endeavor. Given that they're so damn confident about this, it is natural for people to question it them, if only to learn about what they've been missing all these years.

    Of course, questions like this are needles to the Christan Ego Balloon, something the questioners quickly find out when all they get is bluster, threats, and Biblical Babbling (TM) and not answers, causing inevitable conflict. The fact of the matter is that this kind of "Jesus is God and you're going to Hell, lalalalalalalalalalalaaa!!" approach, is anachronistic. It worked centuries ago against uneducated, downtrodden, superstitious European peasants, but as the world gets more and more educated, this approach no longer works in the modern world (except against people in the Third World who are throwbacks for the Middle Ages).

    Quote Originally Posted by RC
    I just don't get this anger issue that is more common. That or when I start goign deeper with said person they drop out completely and shut down. They do not know enough about the subject to speak on it. I might tell them about something in their bible and they will say, "It does NOT say that." Then I whip out a bible and say, "Would you like to read it or me?" to which they all of the sudden of things to do or, "Why are you attacking me?"

    I don't get this behavior.
    Unfortunately, questioning seems to be anti-Christian. If you question the faith, and don't find answers, you leave. And if you leave, you go to hell. Thus, from the perspective of a Christian teacher, it is best to stifle questioning and free-thinking, because it's only good if the answers keep you in Christianity, which they may not. It's better to die a confused Christian than an atheists with all the answers. Hence, Christians don't question their faith, because if they do, they might not believe, and if they don't believe, they fry. To quote Steve Wells, creator of Skeptic's Annotated Bible:

    Quote Originally Posted by Wells
    The problem was that I believed the Bible to be the inspired and inerrant word of God, yet the more I read it, the less credible that belief became. I finally decided that to protect my faith in the Bible, I'd better quit trying to read it.
    They do exactly as Steve did. They don't read, they don't question, they just blindly swallow everything out of fear and ignorance. It doesn't occur to them that perhaps the entire thing doesn't hold water to begin with.

    As education increases globally, the current style of apologetics becomes more and more worthless. Christian apologetics must adapt or die, but given that the only possible solution seems to be anti-Christian, the fate of Christianity in the modern world hangs in the balance.
    Last edited by The Great Khan; March 3rd, 2010 at 04:49 PM.

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    Re: The difference between questioning religion and attacking religion.

    I think that it's mostly a difference of attitude.

    I think if people ask more questions instead of making broad, general statements, debates will be better. Ask "Do you think there's a contradiction there?" or "How does that impact your moral philosophy?" instead of "That's just another contradiction, like Job 32:11" or "So you're just another amoral atheist".

    Getting people to explain their ideas to you in their own terms is generally better than presenting your view of what you think their position is and challenging them to correct it.

    ---------- Post added at 08:12 PM ---------- Previous post was at 08:03 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by TGK
    The problem is that Christianity demands that you "say boo" to people. Many Christians consider it their God-given right to inform atheists, heathens, and other scum of the earth that they will be frying in hell for eternity, and also try to save them by any means possible, culture, free-thinking, and anything else that stands in the way of this be damned. Christians frequently refuse to leave the world alone, so your potential solution is impossible, DevilPup John.
    This attitude is not confined to Christians; I think that you will find it common among people who have deeply-held beliefs that they feel others should share, whether religious, social, cultural, political, economic, or philosophical. Marxists will preach about the evils of Capitalism, Capitalists will preach about the evils of Socialism, Democrats will preach about the evils of Republicans, etc.

    How many Christians actually oppose free-thinking, TGK? Do you understand that that's a very broad, acerbic comment to make?

    Preaching Hell isn't really the point of Christianity. In fact, that isn't even the half of it (consider how much of the Scriptures are given for instructing believers, who have theoretically already avoided Hell).

    They waste billions annually on this pointless endeavor.
    Now that's just gratuitous insult. It's only wasteful or pointless if Christianity's wrong; describing it as such serves no analytical purpose other than to give insult.

    Given that they're so damn confident about this, it is natural for people to question it them, if only to learn about what they've been missing all these years.
    I think it's reasonable for people to question any system of beliefs that makes such important claims (if the claims are unimportant, who cares if they're true or not?). So when someone argues that, say, spending 1.6 trillion on health care is a good idea, I question it. When someone argues that God exists and my prior bad acts could have a serious negative impact on my future, I question it.

    Quote Originally Posted by TGK
    They do exactly as Steve did. They don't read, they don't question, they just blindly swallow everything out of fear and ignorance. It doesn't occur to them that perhaps the entire thing doesn't hold water to begin with.
    You're saying that these "many" Christians have not considered the possibility that the Bible is untrue? That seems hardly credible (that's a lot of very, very uncommonly foolish people).
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
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    Re: The difference between questioning religion and attacking religion.

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    This attitude is not confined to Christians; I think that you will find it common among people who have deeply-held beliefs that they feel others should share, whether religious, social, cultural, political, economic, or philosophical. Marxists will preach about the evils of Capitalism, Capitalists will preach about the evils of Socialism, Democrats will preach about the evils of Republicans, etc.
    But spreading Marxism/Capitalism/Republican party platform/Democratic party platform is not an essential parts of those ideologies. But it is in Christianity. Jesus told his followers to spread the Gospel.

    How many Christians actually oppose free-thinking, TGK? Do you understand that that's a very broad, acerbic comment to make?
    Here's how I see it. Free thinking can either

    1) Strengthen faith
    2) Kill it

    Now, Christian teachers can either support or oppose free thinking. No matter which option they take, their goal is to keep the believers believing. Now, if they allow questioning

    1) Believers faith is strengthened
    2) Believer's faith is destroyed

    If they oppose it

    1) Believers faith is kept at present level of belief (which is good enough for salvation)

    So, they have everything to gain by opposing questioning. They have something to gain by allowing it, but that which they gain is ultimately inconsequential, and there is also much to lose. Thus, I don't see why Christians should support open-mindedness about Christianity.

    Preaching Hell isn't really the point of Christianity. In fact, that isn't even the half of it (consider how much of the Scriptures are given for instructing believers, who have theoretically already avoided Hell).
    No hell and Christianity loses its meaning, not to mention its bite. No eternal, unremovable (without divine assistance) punishment for sin = no point in Jesus showing up. No Jesus= no Christianity.

    Now that's just gratuitous insult. It's only wasteful or pointless if Christianity's wrong; describing it as such serves no analytical purpose other than to give insult.
    If there is no tangible benefit from something, Clive, I call it wasteful and pointless. The only "benefit" from Christians spreading the faith (people converting) is subjective and meaningless ("feeling the love of God" etc.) Any happiness or fulfillment people gain from this activity is offset by the fact that many people become happy when they leave Christianity. So using the same logic (saying its "beneficial" using nothing but subjective evidence), we could set up "reverse-evangelical" centers, and the two sets of organizations could spend millions trying to undo each others' work, which I think we can all agree would be a waste of cash better spent on other things, like something everyone agrees is a problem (hunger, illiteracy, pollution etc.) These activities are neither wasteful nor pointless, because unlike evangelism, they produce tangible, quantifiable results that no one can say are not beneficial.

    I think it's reasonable for people to question any system of beliefs that makes such important claims (if the claims are unimportant, who cares if they're true or not?). So when someone argues that, say, spending 1.6 trillion on health care is a good idea, I question it. When someone argues that God exists and my prior bad acts could have a serious negative impact on my future, I question it.
    Indeed, but what if questioning undermines the belief, and maintaining the belief is essential? That's the question Christians are forced to deal with. Being open-minded makes people leave Christianity. But being closed minded brings accusations of dogmatism, fanaticism, and blind faith. What to do?

    You're saying that these "many" Christians have not considered the possibility that the Bible is untrue?
    Yes. If they found some way to get all their questions answered, they wouldn't avoid confrontation in the way RC says they do. They'd argue and debate over it. The fact that they just get offended and accuse questioners of "attacking their God" proves that they don't have answers; they just cling to the idea that the Bible must be true and don't like anyone trying to deprive them of this idea, so they defend it with hot air as RC describes.

    Remember that you can question all you want, but in the end, you gotta keep your faith, even if it means leaving some questions unanswered. When these questions are repeatedly asked, well...what else can a Christian do but insist that the Bible is true and unquestionable? The only alternative is to leave Christianity, something they've been indoctrinated into thinking is taboo.

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    Re: The difference between questioning religion and attacking religion.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Khan View Post
    But spreading Marxism/Capitalism/Republican party platform/Democratic party platform is not an essential parts of those ideologies. But it is in Christianity. Jesus told his followers to spread the Gospel.
    I don't see why this is relevant. The fact is that people tend to spread their ideology even when spreading the ideology is not part of the ideology.

    Here's how I see it. Free thinking can either

    1) Strengthen faith
    2) Kill it

    Now, Christian teachers can either support or oppose free thinking. No matter which option they take, their goal is to keep the believers believing. Now, if they allow questioning

    1) Believers faith is strengthened
    2) Believer's faith is destroyed

    If they oppose it

    1) Believers faith is kept at present level of belief (which is good enough for salvation)

    So, they have everything to gain by opposing questioning. They have something to gain by allowing it, but that which they gain is ultimately inconsequential, and there is also much to lose. Thus, I don't see why Christians should support open-mindedness about Christianity.
    Why should we prefer an ignorant faith to a knowing doubt? I see no reason to prefer ignorance; of course, this all occurs within the context of my belief that all truth is God's truth (that is, uncovering the truth will never lead you to reject God).

    No hell and Christianity loses its meaning, not to mention its bite. No eternal, unremovable (without divine assistance) punishment for sin = no point in Jesus showing up. No Jesus= no Christianity.
    Of course. Hell is a necessary part of Christianity. But you made it seem as though Christians are super-eager to tell people they're going to Hell, as though that's the crux of their message. Most missionaries (a) do charity work along with spreading their Christian beliefs, and (b) communicate the gospel not as a message of condemnation, but of redemption and reconciliation. So I think you're mischaracterizing at least the missionaries that I'm familiar with; perhaps there are missionaries whose real passion is for telling people that they're going to Hell, but that seems very disturbing and sadistic to me.

    If there is no tangible benefit from something, Clive, I call it wasteful and pointless. The only "benefit" from Christians spreading the faith (people converting) is subjective and meaningless ("feeling the love of God" etc.) Any happiness or fulfillment people gain from this activity is offset by the fact that many people become happy when they leave Christianity. So using the same logic (saying its "beneficial" using nothing but subjective evidence), we could set up "reverse-evangelical" centers, and the two sets of organizations could spend millions trying to undo each others' work, which I think we can all agree would be a waste of cash better spent on other things, like something everyone agrees is a problem (hunger, illiteracy, pollution etc.) These activities are neither wasteful nor pointless, because unlike evangelism, they produce tangible, quantifiable results that no one can say are not beneficial.
    Well, there are studies about the positive value of religious belief, so converting atheists might be argued to confer a real benefit (not tangible, since you can't touch it, which is an odd requirement).

    I think that converting to Christianity will tend to make you a better person. I think it will lead you to make better decisions about how you treat people, and how you treat yourself. If I didn't believe this, I wouldn't be a Christian.

    Indeed, but what if questioning undermines the belief, and maintaining the belief is essential? That's the question Christians are forced to deal with. Being open-minded makes people leave Christianity. But being closed minded brings accusations of dogmatism, fanaticism, and blind faith. What to do?
    The goal is not to maintain belief at all costs. The goal is to find the truth (and God is truth!). If the belief is wrong, you should reject it.

    Yes. If they found some way to get all their questions answered, they wouldn't avoid confrontation in the way RC says they do. They'd argue and debate over it. The fact that they just get offended and accuse questioners of "attacking their God" proves that they don't have answers; they just cling to the idea that the Bible must be true and don't like anyone trying to deprive them of this idea, so they defend it with hot air as RC describes.
    Well, I can't account for the actions of every Christian debater. Speaking for myself, I come from a long line of passionate Scots-Irish Presbyterians who are ready and willing to argue for as long and as loudly as needed.

    Remember that you can question all you want, but in the end, you gotta keep your faith, even if it means leaving some questions unanswered. When these questions are repeatedly asked, well...what else can a Christian do but insist that the Bible is true and unquestionable? The only alternative is to leave Christianity, something they've been indoctrinated into thinking is taboo.
    I completely disagree. The goal is to find the truth, not to maintain beliefs. If God exists (the God of the Bible), then pursuing the truth cannot turn me away from Him. It cannot be error to find out the truth.
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
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    Re: The difference between questioning religion and attacking religion.

    think that converting to Christianity will tend to make you a better person. I think it will lead you to make better decisions about how you treat people, and how you treat yourself. If I didn't believe this, I wouldn't be a Christian.
    Of course I am an atheist. But I hold my morals, the way I treat everyone and my conviction, (that there is no god) alongside that of even the priests I have known or do know.
    I say that free-thinking is what will tend to make you a better person. I think it will lead you to make better decisions about how you treat people, and how you treat yourself. If I didn't believe this, I wouldn't be an Atheist.
    When the power of love becomes stronger than the love of power, there will be peace..........jimi hendrix.

 

 
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