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“What has changed everything?” asked the apologist from Campus Crusade for Christ International as he spoke on “Unshakable Truth, Relevant Faith” at the Billy Graham Center in Asheville, N.C., Friday evening. His answer was, the Internet.
“The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have… whether you like it or not,” said McDowell
[…] “Now here is the problem,” said McDowell, “going all the way back, when Al Gore invented the Internet [he said jokingly], I made the statement off and on for 10-11 years that 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].”
You know what? He’s right. Faith largely thrives on ignorance. If you don’t know what caused something to happen or how something came to be then it’s pretty easy to accept “Goddidit” as a viable answer. The more you know the smaller the gaps that are left for God to hide in. With knowledge there is little need for faith. Which is a good reason why the Church (as a general thing) has so often over the history of mankind worked so hard to suppress scientific advances in knowledge if it has even a remote chance of contradicting official religious teachings. Can’t have some uppity scientist with his facts and evidence saying that the holy literature has got it all wrong! That stuff comes straight from God, dammit!
McDowell, who lives in southern California with his wife Dottie and four children, said atheists, agnostics and skeptics didn’t have access to kids earlier. “If they wrote books, not many people read it. If they gave a talk, not many people went. They would normally get to kids maybe in the last couple of years of the university.” But that has changed now.
Around 15 years ago, the apologist added, when Christian youth ministries were raising money for youth projects, the big phrase was, “If you don’t reach your child by their 18th birthday, you probably won’t reach them.” What is it now? “If you do not reach your child by their 12th birthday, you probably won’t reach them.”
Again, he’s right. Which is part of why there is so much focus on getting ’em when they’re young. You gotta start fillin’ those empty heads up with nonsense as soon as you can before they’re exposed to all those facts and theories and shit. Indoctrinate them early enough and teach them to disrupt their classes with stupid questions about the curriculum and chances are good you’ll have an True Believer™ for life! But if you let those poor little bastards onto the Internet where all those nasty skeptics and atheists are just laying in wait to pounce on them with science and facts before you’ve inculcated them they’ll stand little chance in ignoring reality. Worse, they might grow up to be Liberals!
Fortunately, Mr. McDowell says there are things you can do to combat this great menace of our time:
“First, we have to model the truth. If you don’t model what you teach your kids, forget it. If they don’t see it, they won’t believe it… Second, we have to build relationships.” Just as truth without relationship leads to rejection, rules without relationship lead to rebellion, he said. “Kids don’t respond to rules. They respond to rules in the context of a loving, intimate relationship.” And third, he said, we have to use knowledge. “You better arm yourselves to answer your children’s and grandchildren’s questions…no matter what the question is…without being judgmental.” Kids’ greatest defense, he said, was the knowledge of truth.
Surprisingly enough, I again agree with him. In fact, I think his first point is very important. It’s one thing to talk the talk and another to walk the walk and I think a lot of Christians fail to practice what they preach. If more of them followed the teachings of Christ found in the Bible then Christians probably wouldn’t have as bad of an image among everyone else. Christ had some decent ideas that started with the old standby of leading by example. Having a good relationship with your kids is good advice regardless of your belief system and it definitely helps when trying to install your values in them.
The last one is amusingly ironic to me, but I do agree with it. Granted, what he considers to be proper knowledge and what I consider it to be are probably vastly different things, but it’s still good advice. And it’s not like there aren’t plenty of Christians who wouldn’t benefit from reading their Bible a little more closely. At least if they’re serious about actually doing what Christ said to do.
So, yeah, the Internet has made all sorts of knowledge — good and bad — available at the click of a mouse and it can and does lead to an undermining of faith. It’s also allowed us atheists and skeptics a much broader platform to present our views and arguments in direct competition with the theists. Without the Internet I’d never have the reach that I do when I decide it’s time to blow some hot air around and I’m only a modest blogger compared to many out there on the Net. It’s a good time to be a member of the loyal opposition. Not only is our message getting out to more than ever, but it’s being listened to.
The longest running thread (in terms of comments) on SEB is the A Christian Asks thread, started by DOF, which as of this writing is topping out at 949 comments. Near the end, the pastor who participated in much of the thread finally gave up trying to understand why Christians are often seen as the bad guys.
Perhaps he should chat with retired pastor Kirk Minor:
“We’re finding more and more that there are a lot of people out there doing a lot of talking and protesting and bellyaching, but fewer people actually walking the walk,” said Minor, author of Journey Across The Tiber: My Many Rooms. “We have extremists protesting funerals of gay soldiers, pundits decrying the use of abbreviations for the word Christmas and activists campaigning for prayer in public schools. These are all very divisive issues, and have little to do with the good works the Bible wants the faithful to perform.”
Minor bemoans that the Bible has become a book with which to bludgeon people.
“Too many people are using religion as a sword to fight those with whom they disagree, instead of as a plowshare to help their fellow neighbors tend the land and form a community,” said Minor, who retired as a United Methodist Church pastor after 23 years.
[…] “Shouting louder than the other guys only results in more shouting, which never gets anything done,” he said. “The key is to go about your life, as one of the faithful, and to make sure you actually do at least one thing each day that reflects the faith in which you believe.”
He’s a United Methodist Church pastor? No wonder he seems so reasonable. They’re probably my second favorite sect of Christians next to the Episcopalians.
Still, the point remains: If more Christians followed the actual teachings of Christ they’d have a much better image. It’s hard to argue against people working to improve the lives of others without beating them over the head with theology. Feeding and clothing the poor? Helping the downtrodden? Leading by example? Hard to be upset with any of that whether or not God does exist. So many of you claim that Christianity makes you a better person.
Well, prove it by walking the walk. It’s a shame so many seem to do the opposite.
God makes a lot of questionable demands of his followers. Demands like, “Hey, take your kid up on the mountain and sacrifice him to me!” Or “Hey, strip down to your trunks and swim to Liberty Island!”
The latter order was given to an unnamed 29-year-old man in New York city who ended up having to be rescued by U.S. park police as a result:
“When we got to him he was shivering like a leaf and the tides were taking him away from Liberty Island,” United States Park Police Officer Kurt Zeil, who helped respond to the call, told the Post. “He said God told him to swim to Liberty Island. He said he would rather drown than get on the boat.”
Eventually, the beleaguered swimmer agreed to board the rescue ship. He was taken to Jersey City Medical Center for psychiatric evaluation. His condition is unknown at this time.
Again I have to wonder why anyone would think this man would need a psychiatric evaluation. Did anyone demand that Abraham be given a psychiatric evaluation after he almost sacrificed his kid? Of course not! He was only doing what God had demanded him to do and it’s not his fault that God was only kidding. That God, such a joker.
I seriously doubt the folks that arrested this young man were all atheists. In fact, I’m willing to bet that many of them were Christians. Presumably they accept the story of Abraham as true and this demand is nowhere near as nasty as the one Abraham was given, though it is just as nonsensical. How do they know that God wasn’t testing this man’s devotion like he was Abraham back in the day? They may have fucked up his chances of going to Heaven by interfering!
Or maybe the guy’s just a nut and his fellow Christians recognize the fact despite what they claim to believe about the Bible.
If you’re still looking for Jesus Christ then perhaps you should plan a trip to Australia:
“Just a little over 2000 years ago, we arrived on the Earth for the first time,” Miller says on his website. “Because of my personal desire and passion for God, as I grew, I recognized not only that I was the Messiah that was foretold by ancient prophets, but also that I was in a process designed by God that all humans could follow, if they so desired.”
Miller, 47, and Luck, 32, have drawn in between 30 and 40 disciples since moving to the Wilkesdale region of Queensland in 2007, the Courier Mail reports.
“I don’t want to be Jesus. Who wants to be Jesus?” Miller told his followers. “But I love the divine truth.”
Apparently Jesus and Mary have been living as Alan John Miller and Mary Suzanne Luck to avoid all of the autograph hounds that living under their real names would’ve caused.
To say that reading Jesus/Allen’s website is fascinating would be a major understatement. It contains all manner of revelations such as the claim that Mary Magdalene was/is Jesus’ soul mate and that they were married and expecting a daughter at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. They have returned because it wasn’t long before the Divine Truths™ they had taught their followers back in the day were corrupted by those who would use Jesus’ message to obtain power. It took awhile, but Jesus found a messenger to try and correct these errors:
In the early 20th century, myself and many other Celestial Angels, and spirits on other paths of spiritual progression, managed to convey many of the Truths to a man named James Padgett. We expected that these Truths would grow on earth once Padgett received these Truths, but unfortunately, no-one really fully understood the message that was given. In addition, Mary, myself, and some other spirits by the late 20th century had found a way to return to earth to demonstrate these Truths, along with many more Truths obtained over 2000 years of spiritual progression. So, in the later half of the 20th century, 7 soul pairs, or 14 people, made plans to return to earth and teach the Divine Truth again.
You’d think Jesus wouldn’t have to “find a way” to return to the Earth, what with being God and all. You’d think he could’ve come back at any time he felt like it, but apparently being a God isn’t as easy as you might think.
Yes, I’m poking fun at a clearly deluded couple of Australians and I suppose it’s nice to know that America isn’t the only place with religious nutcases, but there is a bigger point to be made here:
I have as much reason to accept the claims of these two idiots as I do the claims about Jesus made in the Bible. For all I know they really are Jesus and Mary Magdalene returned to Earth to tell us how best to live our lives. They may even have a personal hotline to God for all I know. They’ve managed to attract enough followers to have an impact on the local economy:
Divine reincarnation or not, the holy couple has worked wonders for local real estate. Miller and Luck’s move to Wilkesdale reportedly sparked an “unlikely property boom,” as their followers aggressively purchased much of the surrounding land.
In 2009, followers pooled together $400,000 to purchase roughly one square mile of land, where they currently hold weekly meetings and plan to build an international visitors center.
So apparently there are folks willing to believe them enough to congregate around them. Granted, that’s not saying much when folks like Harold Camping can convince thousands of people the world is going to end, but the point remains. I have just as much reason to believe them as I did Camping or the Bible. They all have equal amounts of evidence backing them up (read: none, beyond some folks willing to vouch for them/it). You can’t prove that they aren’t Jesus/Mary Magdalene.
So why aren’t you believers flocking to him? If it really is Jesus then you’re missing a great opportunity to hear his message first hand. What if he’s right and his message was distorted shortly after his death and what you’ve been reading as the Gospel Truth is corrupted and wrong in many ways? Wouldn’t you want to make sure by asking him directly? What basis do you have to reject his claims?
Silly me. I was dumb enough to think that Christians actually believed in that Ten Commandments thing they’re always promoting as the Ultimate Guide to Morality that deserves to be emblazoned in court rooms and classrooms everywhere. Much like the fabled “Pirates Code”, it appears they may actually be more guidelines than actual rules. At least when it’s politically expedient.
That’s the lesson I’m picking up on in this news article about a documentary called Question One about the vote to ban gay marriage in Maine back in 2009. It seems the folks making the documentary got permission from both groups that were campaigning for and against the proposal to allow their efforts in pushing their positions to be filmed so long as the film wasn’t released until after the election. Probably a wise stipulation given the following revelation that was made by Yes on 1 campaign chairman Marc Mutty:
We use a lot of hyperbole and I think that’s always dangerous,” says Mutty during a Yes on 1 strategy session, at the time on leave from his job as public affairs director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine.
“You know, we say things like ‘Teachers will be forced to (teach same-sex marriage in schools)!’ ” he continues. “Well, that’s not a completely accurate statement and we all know it isn’t, you know?”
“No,” interjects a woman off-camera. “We don’t say that.”
“Let’s look back at our ads and see what we say,” Mutty persists. “And I think we use hyperbole to the point where, you know, it’s like ‘Geez!’”
In the interests of giving credit where its due, I should point out that Mutty was at least ethical enough to voice concerns over statements in their advertising that were flat-out lies. It’s just a shame his ethics didn’t compel him to actually do more than voice his concerns:
Mutty admitted that what they were doing was the equivalent of slamming people over the head with “a two-by-four with nails sticking out of it,” adding, “it’s the only thing we’ve got — it’s the only way. That’s the way campaigns work.”
In short, we had to lie because we couldn’t pass the legislation if we told the truth. But hey, such moral relativism is easy when you have an all-loving God who’ll forgive you so long as you sincerely repent. I’m sure the Big Guy will understand that this legislation to deny others equal rights was just too important to allow a little thing like honesty to get in the way.
Which isn’t to say that his lack of ethics won’t have some consequences:
Mutty now regrets allowing the filming, worrying that “what impact it will have on my professional life remains to be seen.”
You’ll note that Mutty doesn’t regret the lie. He regrets letting himself be filmed acknowledging the lie. Because it may have an impact — not on his mortal soul mind you — but with his professional life here and now.
But at least those nasty gays won’t be allowed to get all the benefits of being married. That’s something to be proud of, right?
Hat tip to the Box Turtle Bulletin.
Yeah, I’m still trying to wrap my head around how that works if the central definition of being a Christian is believing in Christ. Of course you can start all manner of arguments among the believers by trying to nail down a definition of what a Christian is. It can be endlessly amusing if you’re bored.
Rice apparently made the announcement on her Facebook page:
For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.
As I said [above], I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.
[…] My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.
I stumbled across this over at Alan Colmes’ Liberaland and, while I’m not an Anne Rice fan by any stretch of the imagination, thought it was interesting in terms of another thread we have going here on SEB titled: A Christian asks; “I’m the bad guy? How did that happen?” Clearly she feels that associating with Christianity makes her look bad and so she’s decided to quit the religion itself while keeping the faith in the mythical deity at its heart. I tried to do a couple of Google searches to see if there’s a growing trend of people who believe in Christ but don’t consider themselves to be Christian, but I wasn’t able to find anything with the search terms I tried.
According to her Wikipedia entry Rice was raised as a Roman Catholic and she left the church when she was 18 only to return to the fold after the death of her husband, who was apparently a passionate atheist. However she disagreed with the Church on a number of issues including gay marriage, abortion, birth control, and priestly celibacy and allowing women to become priests. One might assume that the cognitive dissonance involved in being Roman Catholic while at the same time holding these beliefs that run counter to Church teachings may have played a rolled in her decision to declare herself an un-Christian.
I am particularly intrigued by her statement that she refuses “to be anti-secular humanism” as secular humanism is, by definition, nonreligious espousing no belief in a realm or beings imagined to transcend ordinary experience. How you can be a secular humanist believer in Christ is beyond me, but apparently she considers herself to be just that.
I tried doing a Google search to see if there’s a trend of people believing in Christ but refusing to call themselves Christian, but I was unable to come up with anything based on the search terms I tried. Based on the number of commenters on Rice’s FB page who expressed similar feelings, however, I’d suspect that it is indeed a growing trend. One person even said: “I think we should start a non-Christians for Christ group.”
It’ll be interesting to see where she goes next with this. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she once again ends up as an atheist. Some people cycle back and forth throughout their lives as they struggle to figure out what they believe.
Here’s a video that’ll disturb you. It shows the Answers in Genesis folks trying to counter what small kids have been taught about Evolution:
I especially love the woman who talks about how most Christians are perceived as ignorant and then proceeds to demonstrate said ignorance by saying that she prefers the Biblical explanation for life because it’s “just easier to explain to your children.”
It’s clear most of these kids barely grasp the concept of Creationism, let alone Evolution, but that doesn’t matter so long as these folks can convince them that the former is true and the latter is false. Some of them will grow up and change their minds as they’re better able to grasp the concepts and are exposed to the science, but for too many of them the nonsense they’re being fed now will stick with them throughout their lives.
And, yes, the rest of us will consider them ignorant.
Where God shows up with yet another brilliant idea:
I have to admit that I’ve become a big fan of That Mitchell and Webb Look. I particularly enjoy the recurring bit called The Surprising Adventures of Sir Digby Chicken Caesar. Shame it’s not running on BBC America yet. Perhaps a letter suggesting it would be in order…
Found via Atheist Media Blog.