Worlds & Time

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day from Boston

Yes, it's true, I've moved again.


Thursday, March 05, 2009

Understanding Christians and Everyone Else Too

I used to deal with lots and lots of Christians online. I was a moderator for one of the largest atheist message boards and dealt with the largest group of Christians there. I'm also a member of the largest "Christian" message board. Depending on your definition of Christian, obviously.

Renaissance Guy: We do not believe that Christians are good and other people are bad.

Great. That's definitely one of the biggest issues that I've had with Christians over the years. People like Angel4Truth, Emmy, angellica, or ShieldOfFaith absolutely believe that Christians are the only good people. It's really hard to evangelize when you've already set yourself up as perfect and morally superior.

I guess the question that I have for you is: When do you believe that you are saved? (Slactivist's answer is "About two thousand years ago" but his answer avoids a serious theological question that is absolutely necessary to answer before discussion about Christianity between believers and non-believers becomes possible.) When you become a Christian, are you wiped of any desire to sin? Do you stop sinning? Because if you believe this to be the case, the conversation ends. It's obvious that Christians do sin, that they are sinners. They are not more perfect than we are.

There is also the problem of pride, however. It isn't just the attitude that "we know what sin is" but "we know what's best for you." The former is not necessarily harmful during communication but the later is. When you are required, as you have previously said that you are, to tell people they are sinners you are absolutely a member of the later.

As an atheist, I know what's best for you. It's to give up Christianity and learn the Truth. Capital T, Truth.

Notice how your eyes glazed over during the first sentence in the previous paragraph? How you suddenly find me pushy and stupid as soon as I implied that I know what's best for you? And using Truth with a captial T? Ludicrous. How do I know? I'm just an atheist . . .

Right. That's also exactly how I feel when you tell me your Good News with the knowledge that I need to hear it.

The problem is that I have heard it. I know the Bible. Not as well as you, but better than a lot of Christians and I'm definitely familiar with the basic theological arguments and the story contained within the Gospel.

Let's bring this back on track. I said there was a problem of pride and it's the same problem of pride that Chick tracts have: If you assume that your audience isn't familiar with Christianity, you've already lost most of them by failing to understand where they're starting from.

You might be shocked at how many Christians came to the atheist message board where I moderated and thought that posting the story of Jesus would convert people. Or that letting us know that we're going to Hell would suddenly make us realize that we need Jesus in our lives.

I've previously mentioned that there are people that have seriously made me reconsider my atheism. Not a single one of them ever got me to that point by starting by telling me that I am going to hell. Or that Jesus died for my sins.

Rather, they listened. They realized that I am human and have human wants and needs. They listened to me and when I talked about my life they empathized. When I was lonely they were there, when I was sad they were sad, when I was happy they were happy.

They talked about their beliefs too. Never requiring them, never asserting primacy, but offering them up the same way that I would try to talk about atheism: this is what I believe and this is why I believe it.

I think that my point in all of this is that to understand non-Christians, Christians have to understand that to a certain extent we do understand them already. The difference isn't that great. The gulf between us is not vast. In most cases it's only a thin holy (or unholy) line.

I want to go off on a bit of a tangent now.

This is related to the treatment of gay people by "Bible-believing, orthodox Christians."

If you really do accept that all Christians are sinners, then accept that all gay people are sinners as well. They're just not lying about that particular sin. If Christians aren't led away from temptation when they become Christians (and they aren't) then it won't change homosexuals to become Christians. They'll just be gay Christians now, and they'll still have the same problems, inclinations, and sex drives as they did before. Only now they'll be saved in Christ.

It's fairly obvious to me that if becoming a Christian doesn't grant super powers, then one of the sins that homosexuals are going to have to have forgiven is the fact that they're going to be homosexuals. They can try to be the best people in the world and some gay Christians are going to choose a life of celibacy (I'll point them out, if you email me) but there are always going to be gay people for whom celibacy is not an option, just as there are Christians who can't live with celibacy.

So, they've got two options: monogamy or promiscuity. It makes me wonder when these Bible-believing, orthodox Christians are so weirded out by the fact that some people sin in this way that they will actively oppose these people from trying to form stable unions. If you're going to try to prevent sinners from getting married, don't you think that there are a lot of heterosexuals that they should be worried about first?

But they're not. They blithely vote against gay marriage, pat themselves on the back, and then go on to say that they can't support sin when in fact they just did. Support of gay marriage? It's a sin. But opposition to gay marriage also supports sin: more sins.

And to those that want to claim that marriage is a Christian institution that shouldn't be changed? The Jews are over there. Go talk to them about that.

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