I Was Traumatized by Christian Dogma: I Won’t Do the Same to My Child

By Bill Moeller

Before I became a father, at the age of 36, I never suspected that adopting a young child, Nathan, would so powerfully dismantle my fortress-like evangelical beliefs. Nor did I anticipate the storm of turmoil, anger, and grief I would soon experience, as I relived my own childhood and confronted the dogmas I grew up with.

Nathan’s exuberant ADHD personality challenged and enchanted me and my wife from the day we first saw him. Nathan lived most of the first five years of his life in a dimly lit orphanage in western Ukraine. I will never forget the frigid November morning we first visited him at the orphanage. Although Nathan had never seen us or had any contact with us before, he dashed toward us with raised hands, exclaiming “mama, tata!” and kissed us on our cheeks. He instantly melted my heart.

Nathan was an unstoppable dynamo. For two weeks leading up to a court hearing on our petition to adopt, we visited Nathan for two hours a day. He was not still for a moment. Two weeks after the court hearing, we were allowed to pick Nathan up from the orphanage. For the next several days, Nathan hardly slept. Exposed for the first time in his life to a world outside the orphanage, Nathan was hyper-stimulated. After an epic transatlantic journey back to the States, with Nathan kicking the airplane seat in front of him and me unsuccessfully trying to restrain him the entire 10-hour flight, Nathan was home.

From day one, Nathan’s innocence, mischievousness, inquisitiveness, explosiveness, and affection fascinated and challenged me. He was so different from me, so much livelier, so able to live in the moment, and so unstunted in his capacity to enjoy life. Yes, Nathan desperately needed to develop communication, social and behavioral skills. But I didn’t want to destroy his spark. On the contrary, I hoped to learn from Nathan how to enjoy life and live in the moment.

58 COMMENTS

  1. I find such images of children upsetting, but I suppose their elders, who tell them all this nonsense mean no harm, nonetheless they cause it.

    I went to a nephew’s wedding last Saturday, an affair to which his father had expressly not been invited, because of the abuse, both mental and physical, that his religious parent had heaped upon him, his siblings and his mother.

    His father is an opinionated bully and hypocritical adulterer, but now that he has departed the scene, I think the family are closer than ever.

    It was a very moving, joyous and sumptuous secular event, a point touched on by the groom as he fought back tears, saying that at least it wasn’t happening in a church.

    This is the second time I’ve come across this kind of thing in a family, but last time was in someone else’s, I never thought it would happen in mine; once in a lifetime is more than enough.

  2. I hadn’t realised this mechanism before, he’s spot-on:

    Evangelical Christianity employs the Stockholm Syndrome to full
    effect. God gains obedience and worship by reminding humans of their
    utter unworthiness, dangling them over hell, and then “saving” them,
    in exchange for submission, from the very torments he threatens.

    I feel sick thinking of all the children that continue to be subjected to this torture. On the other hand it’s very inspiring to see a man ridding himself of this burden and changing his neck of the woods for the better. What a guy!

  3. One of the great learning experiences came when I realized not everybody around me was a “believer”.
    Here in the US, you don’t go around asking if you don’t believe.
    I always felt isolated and didn’t really connect with anybody, I thought there was something wrong with me ……….or them. And there were more of them. So logic told me, I was defective.
    Thanks to Richard Dawkins and my favorite group of scientists, I understand now.

    Can I come to Europe to live?

  4. It’s unfortunate that the author apparently could not conceive of a different way to introduce his child to religion. By way of disclosure, I am an evangelical Christian and I have seen how religion can hurt others. I have also seen how kids who had no exposure to religion can come under the sway of destructive groups or movements more easily than others. I can appreciate how hard it must be for non-theists to raise their kids in an atmosphere filled with theism as in this country.

    • Hello David, and welcome.

      I think that to prevent youngsters going off the rails they need to be given natural love, care and attention, and the stimulation to think for themselves.

      Then, with sensible sensitive monitoring, the rest will follow as day follows night.

      Further, I think secular societies offer the best chance for the myriad of religions to live together; I certainly see no evidence of them doing so in any theist ones.

      Indeed, and this is not a rhetorical question, please tell me, do you know of any theist or deist communities where the underlying divisions, conflicts and hatreds are not religious?

        • To the degree of cross community group-murders, including suicide bombings, on an almost daily basis, the willful targeting and destruction of places of worship, and the subjugation of women along doctrinal lines?

          Please name a secular community in which such crimes occur.

          To be flippant, when suicide bombers fly planes full of people into buildings full of people they shout God is great; what do secularists shout?

          • Are we talking about religions or are we talking about True Believers as in Hoffer’s book on the subject? True Believers can be both religious and secular. If you are familiar with Russia’s revolutionary history, then you are already aware of how secular persons were more than willing to blow themselves up and others as well.

          • I have personally found religion to be a destructive force in my own life and especially in the lives of my family members who still are believer in Christianity. However, for a secular community that feels the need to commit violence against others based on non-religious reasons, you don’t have to look any further than the ghetto. You will find people on a regular basis either getting jumped (beat up without provocation) or killed for things as simple as being from a different part of town.

        • Secular AND religious. Being secular is what the American constitution is all about, you’re not suggesting that American isn’t religious too are you?

          Secular is what religious and a-religious people do when they’ve had too much of religion in politics, that’s all.

          As was recently shown it is far more likely for a child that has been brought up to believe unbelievable things to believe unbelievable things.

          kids who had no exposure to religion can come under the sway of destructive groups or movements more easily than others

          …is precisely the wrong way round, and to no ones surprise either. There isn’t a space reserved for silly nonsense in a childs head until you make one, please stop!

    • I also welcome you David Graf but I’m sorry I need to go for a bit more jugular than Stafford or Reckless. This in your initial post lit me up. Also, I’ve just watched some of Jesus Camp, which also lit me up. Stick around. It’s fun. Read this next line in Darth Vader’s voice. “You’ve come to the dark side David.”

      By way of disclosure, I am an evangelical Christian and I have seen how religion can hurt others. I have also seen how kids who had no exposure to religion can come under the sway of destructive groups or movements more easily than others.

      Proof required. Can you cite a credible scientific study to support this statement.

      The Jesuits were famous for saying, “Give me the boy till 8, and I will give you the man.” They didn’t know why it worked, but they new it did. I won’t bore the readers…. again, with the science, but in dot point. If you practice the violin regularly, you change your brains chemistry and wiring. If you practice anything, you change your brains chemistry and wiring. The brain wants to help you do what you do regularly. If you inculcate a child with religion from an early age then that’s child’s brain will lay down supportive neural networks to soak up this religion. If you give them dose after dose of religion, it makes it almost impossible to escape in adulthood. This story is an example of that. This is what the Jesuits new.

      Is it morally and ethically correct, to do this to a child, before they have reached the age of consent. Before their brain has matured around 18 years of age. Before they have come to an age where they can make informed and rational choices about what they want to believe. If the subject matter was fascism or racism, their would be a hue and cry across the USA. STOP THIS CHILD ABUSE. But because it is religion, everyone averts their gaze, and draws circles with their toes in the dust. You sentence your children to a life of irrational belief and life threatening guilt and sadness. Hitchens argues this is child abuse. I tend to agree.

      If you want to see this effect in action watch the short trailer from the documentary Jesus Camp, be prepared to be terrified. Click on Watch Trailer

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0486358/

      Religion should be practiced by consenting adults in private. No children allowed. Religion is rated MA+ / Mature Adults Only.

      Damn smart those Jesuits.

      If you want to read my argument and the science, see the 1st Runner Up post under my name at this link.

      https://richarddawkins.net/2014/07/question-of-the-week-july-23-2014/#comment-148454

      • I’m not sure that a scientific study is even possible. How could you ethically do a study where you assign participants to groups that you believe could cause harm to them? My comment was based upon my experiences – nothing more. One benefit of having some knowledge of religion is what I call the “inoculation factor”. Over time, you come to understand that religion and religious people are not always right or even live in a way consistent with their beliefs. That, in turn, helps put you on your guard against others who may be seeking to take advantage of you.

        Regarding children and religion, I think you simply give them what they are capable of dealing with at their intellectual level. You also demonstrate a respect for those who disagree with you and help your child learn how to think for themselves. I do not think it practicable to do nothing until they have reached some age like 18 because it leaves them open to manipulation by truly destructive groups. And, you need to be aware that just because someone is under the age of 18 that does not mean that they are not going to have to deal with issues of pain and sorrow and the meaning of life. Religion gives many people comfort and aids them in dealing with the world around them.

        I have seen “Jesus Camp” and wasn’t too pleased either with how I saw kids being treated at the camp. However, based upon what I’ve read in Shermer’s books, it seems that we are almost “wired to believe” something. Parents can try to guide their child’s beliefs but in the end they have to respect their child’s choices when it comes to issues of belief.

        • David, of course, as parents we have to give our children guidance, but they also need to be given the freedom to grow up in their own way and time and to find out about life’s perils themselves.

          And a time comes when we have to let them go; but, if they’ve been led to believe from an early age that life can’t be dealt with and lived to the full without religion, it makes things that much more difficult for them when they eventually have to become independent of their parents.

          Religions provide crutches, and staying on them for too long can delay and sometimes even prevent strengthening.

          Life can be tough; but, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”.

          Ooh, I’m a hard man!

        • david.graf.589 Aug 14, 2014 at 9:59 am

          I’m not sure that a scientific study is even possible. How could you ethically do a study where you assign participants to groups that you believe could cause harm to them?

          You would not conduct a study like that. A study would look back historically at the numbers and backgrounds of members of undesirable groups.
          Such sociological studies are sometimes carried out in prisons, where the percentage of atheists in the populations is extremely low – both in absolute terms, and in terms of the percentages of atheists in the feeder populations.

          My comment was based upon my experiences – nothing more.

          At best a small sample without detailed analysis.

          One benefit of having some knowledge of religion is what I call the “inoculation factor”.

          This works best where there is a broad spectrum of religious beliefs – as explained here – http://richarddawkins.myshopify.com/collections/frontpage/products/the-magic-of-reality-paperback

          Over time, you come to understand that religion and religious people are not always right or even live in a way consistent with their beliefs. That, in turn, helps put you on your guard against others who may be seeking to take advantage of you.

          Indeed it does, – but most religious people have a mental block when it comes to their own religious dogmas and doctrines, although many seem to have no problem in dismissing the religious claims of other religions.

          Many atheists have good understandings of religion(s). – Frequently wider and deeper understandings than those immersed in one of their own.

          • I thought that we were talking about an experimental study. Before I went into IT, I went to graduate school in Social Psychology on a NSF Graduate Fellowship. After a few years, I noticed how few people were graduating from the program. Eventually, I figured out that expectation of getting tenure was pretty much zip. However, I gained some understanding in why studies involving people are often problematical. That’s why I think that even if we did as you suggested that the result would not bear much fruit.

            There’s the basic problem with getting the data needed to do the review. For example, how would you identify members of a destructive religious group who came from a background denuded of religion? You would need to get their consent and probably that of the group they belong to in order to identify them. There’s a high likelihood that they will not cooperate given their aversion to anything that might result in negative publicity for their group. That’s one reason why social scientists often envy their counterparts in the physical sciences. When you attempt to determine the boiling point of water at sea level, you don’t need to get a consent form from the water. :-)

            One thing that I often see missing in discussions of science is that there are subjects in which we can’t come up with meaningful answers.

          • david.graf.589 Aug 15, 2014 at 2:08 pm

            I thought that we were talking about an experimental study.

            There’s the basic problem with getting the data needed to do the review. For example, how would you identify members of a destructive religious group who came from a background denuded of religion?

            Religious fanatics are usually more than keen to explain how they were “saved” from a life of crime, depression, apathy, poverty etc. in attempts to convert others, so it should be fairly easy to conduct a survey once a membership of the organisation has been obtained, or a meeting place identified.

            You would need to get their consent and probably that of the group they belong to in order to identify them.

            Surveys usually do not publicly identify the individuals giving information, so unless the group has been informed in advance and ordered its members to maintain secrecy, information should be available from individual members.

            There’s a high likelihood that they will not cooperate given their aversion to anything that might result in negative publicity for their group.

            How would they know the outcome of the survey before the data was collected, processed, and published? Surely it is a matter of the competent conducting of scientific surveys, that interviewers do not bias the questions or influence the answers.
            Propagandists and advertisers on the other-hand .. .. ..

            http://natskep.com/only-0-07-of-prisoners-are-atheists-according-to-a-2013-federal-bureau-of-prisons-report/
            Federal Bureau of Prisons responded and sent the Frequency of Religious Affiliation of inmates in the federal prisons figures, as of April 27, 2013. The data proved that atheists made up only 0.07% of the prison population, even a lower number that was previously thought.

          • Alan4Discussion,

            My experiences in conducting surveys have been very different than yours. I still think you underestimate the difficulties of doing a study in this area.

        • Regarding children and religion, I think you simply give them what they are capable of dealing with at their intellectual level.

          I wonder what that intellectual level would be for a human to contemplate or rationally understand the complexities of religion. To believe in something in the absence of evidence, or contrary to the evidence, which is called faith, and then to make life changing and sometimes life threatening decisions based solely on that faith. I suspect the test you pose, “When is a child capable” excludes all children immediately, and probably a fair percentage of adults, who also will never be capable of such intellectual rigour.

          I do not think it practicable to do nothing until they have reached some age like 18 because it leaves them open to manipulation by truly destructive groups.

          I agree. You don’t do nothing. This paragraph could go on for months, but inspire the child to wonder. Before my grandson goes to bed, rugged up in his pyjamas’s, coat and a beanie, we go outside to look at the moon and stars. We look at Betelguese hoping it might go Supernova while we watch. Occasionally we see a satellite or the space station. “AWESOME BARBAR.” A child needs to understand the Golden Rule. “First, do no harm.” A child will learn the morals and ethics of tribal living. Reciprocal altruism. Sometimes taking some pain for a greater good. A child needs to feel safe and confident asking the “Why” questions, in the knowledge that the recipient of the “Why” will respect them and supply the best available answer. The child needs to wonder and feel awe as a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, or follow one particular ant for as long as they can. The child needs to feel loved safe and secure in the arms of responsible adults. To hold and stroke a puppy. A child needs to know that its cool to achieve at school, and that cheating at anything hurts them more than it does anyone else. A child needs to marvel at this wonderful world we live. A child who can make their own rational decisions doesn’t get mixed up with “destructive groups” ( BTW. Who are you thinking of here.) And on and on.

          And none of the above requires a child to feel like a sinner, threatened with eternal damnation if they tell a lie. A child does not need to be told that problems can be solved by magic, or asking or pleading for a third party to solve their problems. An inquiring child can solve their own problems. A child should be left alone to enjoy childhood.

          If a child, at some time later as a mature adult, wishes to investigate one or many brands of religion, and choose one to follow, that decision should be for that person and that person alone. This, removes the abuse from children brought up in a religious faith, particularly those who are treated like the kids in Jesus Camp.

          • Have you ever considered how much of what you consider to be good and right follows from the influence of religion in our society? Even Dawkins has said that he is a cultural Christian. As a skeptic, you embrace many ideas that I would agree with as well. However, atheism in itself says nothing about values or how to live one’s life. It is simply a statement that there is no God. Skeptics have to go elsewhere to find value and meaning in their lives. I’m not saying that they have to go to religion but atheism in itself does not provide that.

          • Skeptics have to go elsewhere to find value and meaning in their lives. I’m not saying that they have to go to religion but atheism in itself does not provide that.

            I know that you are knew here but this argument has been disposed of ad infinitum in this and other secular forums. There is a belief among the religious that you can only have morals and values through god. There is a belief among the religious that you cannot have a meaningful life without religion. Both are demonstrably wrong. Others will probably jump on this too, but with limited time.

            Ask yourself this question. What did the Israelites do the day before Moses came down from the mountain and delivered the 10 commandments. With the rules on morality and how to behave. Where they murdering, raping, stealing and coveted their neighbour’s ass. for the previous 2000 years?? No. They were living in tribal communities, following the commonsense rules for tribal living, developed in part through evolution, because Homo Sapiens, with a propensity to be able to live in communal tribal settings, did better that loners who murdered, raped, stole and coveted bulk asses. Tribes all over the world developed these very same rules for living. They’re nothing special. They’re not handed down from god. They are just commonsense. So the claim made by the religious that they and they alone have a monopoly on morals and values is just wrong. The 10 commandments were just one example of this commonsense code for tribal living, written down by preliterate societies. The secular world has superseded the religious Golden Rule with “First, do no harm.”

            And as for a meaningful life without a god… Where does one start. Do I not have meaning in my life. When I hold my grandson and look at the moon, am I not expressing values. When I donate from my meager retirement pension to good causes, some of which are administered by religious organizations, do I not have values. When I care for my 102 year old neighbour who’s family all live interstate, do I not have values. When I retired and it was said in the speech about me that my gravestone would have the epitaph, “Here Lies an Honourable Man.” Do I not have values. Being a good person doesn’t require a god with a gun to your head. Being a good person is just the right thing to do. Again, commonsense. My children, both are “good” people. Both went to religious schools. Both are highly respected professionals and neither believes in god.

            The mistake you have made is a common one. A mistake that has been shouted from the pulpit for time immemorial. The religious like to think that only they can wear the White Hats. But it’s not so. Anyone can wear a White Hat.

          • @David Graf 589

            . Skeptics have to go elsewhere to find value and meaning in their lives. I’m not saying that they have to go to religion but atheism in itself does not provide that

            That’s not the province of atheism. What are you recommending? That we go to the atheist rulebook for guidance? There are adequate guidelines in the secular world in case you need clarification on the standard of acceptable behaviour.
            When it comes to personal meaning and value, that’s up to the individual. I can assure you it’s better this way. Do you wish to have autonomy in your own life or do you need to be told what has meaning and value? As long as there’s no conflict between your needs and the law of the land, you’re able to chart your own course through life. This takes maturity. Are you up for it?

          • @david.graf589
            What everyone is at pains to point out is that we’re Good people. We don’t commit crimes in large numbers; nor to we mean harm to our fellow humans. We work, contribute and have agreeable interactions with others, (not restricted to other parishioners). I can see that you’re furrowing your brow, ‘ this.does.not.compute’. If anything, our basis for morality is set higher than the believer because we usually leave the judgements at home.

          • David R. Allen,

            You may have read too much into my comments. I did not say that you needed God to have morals and values and a meaningful life. That’s obviously not true. My point was that atheism in itself does not supply that. It is simply a statement that there is no God. Atheists have to go elsewhere for those kinds of things in contrast to religion which provides guidance on all three. Whether the guidance provided is of any value or simply absurd is a different topic.

          • Nitya,

            I think we’re in basic agreement. However, being an atheist does not in itself mean that one embraces an authentic individuality working through issues as you do. Atheists can be just as dogmatic and embrace values that would horrify you and me. I have encountered some and you may have as well.

          • My point was that atheism in itself does not supply that. It is simply a statement that there is no God. Atheists have to go elsewhere for those kinds of things in contrast to religion which provides guidance on all three.

            An excellent point of contrast between a person who through intellectual rigour can find “morals and values and a meaningful life” (As I have done without god) and a person who is religious, who accepts the “morals and values and a meaningful life” as told to them by a third party. The consequences of this contrast are informative. If you blindly accept the third party without question, then you have abrogated your responsibility for your behaviour. If you question the third party, then you and I are one. We have applied intellectual rigour to a question before us, and either accepted, modified or rejected the proposition. But importantly, we have decided.

            The danger with religion is that the unquestioning or lazy followers will act without thinking. And the dangers inherent in this behaviour are obvious to all around the world today. That is why a world of questioning thinkers is better than a world of blind followers. Thus endeth the sermon.

    • I registered to leave you a comment David; as I think other posters may not have been fair to your idea.

      I completely agree with you that some exposure to religion can help youngsters identify other examples of persuasion and indoctrination.

      However I have to insist that that exposure has to be reasoned, rational and not judgmental. My own family are very Roman Catholic; however I was never presented with a “threat” of do this or go to “hell” and should I ever ask as a child “will i go to hell” because I perhaps pinched a chocolate bar or argued with my sister they would tell me no “Hell is for evil people.”

      They used the moral stories of religion to show how people should treat each other and to guide my own sense of morality; as far as I am concerned that’s fine.

      The problem isn’t and never has been Religion it is a sub-sect of religious practice; extremism. Unfortunately the silent majority of Religious people who are not extremists are the cover, the proverbial human shields, for these extremists.

      You yourself are a fine example you say “I have seen how religion can hurt others” yet you identify yourself as “an evangelical Christian” you may not indoctrinate your children, you may not support the indoctrination of children you may indeed have the exact same attitude to using moral guidance as my own family however you support an organisation that does indoctrinate children that does use fear to control.

      Until that organisation routes out those responsible for this vile hatred it is a problem unfortunately so are you for supporting it.

      PS I decided God wasn’t real when my parents admitted neither was Santa or the tooth fairy. If there is no mystical bringer of presents or remover of teeth then a slightly unhinged man in the sky who said “go” makes no more sense.

  5. david.graf.589

    Hi david.graf.589,

    Welcome, first I very much appreciate when religious people take the time to come onto the site to discuss religion, I also appreciate that churches do supply a community and that this is something that secular groups may wish to consider pursuing (although from a personal standpoint I find belonging to clubs and organisations provides much the same support). You might be interested in what Dan Dennett has to say about this. However I am interested in what you mean by

    come under the sway of destructive groups or movements more easily
    than others.

    Out of the group of middle class kids I went to priesthood class with a number who I also went to the same high school as most were doing the same stuff secular kids I knew were doing drugs, pre-marital sex, breaking and entering (one broke into our house to steal cash for his drug habit). The group I hung out with at high school where secular and yet fairly innocent (we numbered arty farty types and nerds – so that may sway the data) none were bullies or beat their girlfriends, most including me at the time virgins – arty and a nerd in my case. Anyway this is my personal experience which is clearly different from yours, so how do we establish what is at work here. Could be your religion is right and I was just lucky, could be I have better taste in friends than was on offer at my church, could be to do with the neighbourhood (mine was a rough school by Australian standards – probably tame in comparison with some US schools never had or herd of any school shooting in OZ)? However I suspect that neither of our experiences meet the test in that we both have confirmation bias at work. Do you have any other evidence to suggest that religious upbringing offers protection from the world of destructive groups or movements. Oh and it would help if you gave some definition of what you mean – gangs? drugs? new atheists? 😉

    cheers

  6. Given my knowledge of religion and history, I would make no claim that belonging to a religion necessarily says anything at all about how a particular individual lives his/her life. Ditto for atheists. My point was that having some exposure to religion can help one avoid getting involved with a destructive group like some that were common during my time in academia such as the Children of God. Having already been exposed to hypocrisy, you are more likely to see it in other groups and avoid their tentacles. It’s just my opinion based upon what I’ve seen in life. Of course, the real issue is that we do not teach children how to think for themselves. I suspect that teaching kids how to use reason and logic would cause a great deal of “wailing and gnashing of teeth” in certain communities if the kids started to ask questions that their elders found disconcerting.

    • Hi David, The problem with being born again is that no evangelical Christian has given us a clear definition of what it means to be born again. For example, Billy Graham, the most famous born again Christian of modern times has a disgraceful record of racism and anti-semitism.

      • Billy Graham actually integrated his crusades long before others took the same step. He also contributed money to help bail MLK Jr. out of jail. No one that I know of says that BG is a racist or an anti-semite. However, he has made statements that make you wonder. In my opinion, his big problem was politics. I appreciated in his autobiography how he admitted it. Once you conflate conservatism with Christianity you get a weird kind of thing where you can even find Christians coming out against aiding the poor because it leads to “dependency”.

        • Hi David, Billy Graham was ordained to preach in 1937, and it was sixteen years later, in 1953, that he resolved to never participate in a segregated crusade again. Perhaps the sixteen years were his silent protest? In 1968, Graham was stll a member of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, where the pastor, W.A Criswell was still preaching racial segregation. Graham’s anti-semitism was proven when the White House tapes were released. Graham can be heard making despicable remarks about the Jews to Richard Nixon. According to Graham, racism and anti-semitism are not sins. If they are, he’ll end up in the cosmic concentration camp with the rest of the rabble.

          • Aaargh! I accidentially hit the “Report comment” button. I wish there was a way on this site to take it back. My apologies.

            I don’t know how old you are but it was a big deal back in the early 50s to desegregate religious meetings. If that doesn’t seem that important to you, be grateful that things have changed so much for the better since those days. Criswell did change his tune in 1968 on segregation surprisingly after being elected President of the SBC. How much of that was sincere, I can’t say. However, I don’t blame Graham for Criswell considering how Graham demonstrated through his actions and money that he was not a segregationist. I can’t disagree with you regarding the anti-semitism. I’m not sure that BG ever said that racism and anti-semitism were not sins.

            Other devout Christians have similarly embraced things that we recognize today as not just wrong but plain stupid. I don’t take pleasure in that but see it as a warning. What is it today that I believe about some subject that is going to make me look like the rear end of a donkey to later generations.

          • Hi David, I probably dislike Billy Graham’s idea of racism because I have lived in England all my life. I agree with you when you say that Graham probably never said racism was not a sin. But, the fact is, he remained loyal to Criswell until 1968. Can you imagine Graham staying loyal to Criswell if Criswell had been a practising homosexual?? Graham has far more sympathy for the racist than the homosexual.

    • Oh yes indeed, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings…”. So, honest answers are deserved. One such is – I don’t know! Followed by, shall we see if we can find out together? Usually did the trick for me.

      But if, as you say, in certain communities particular types of question may cause ripples, then I submit that those groups have brought it upon themselves, by accepting unquestioningly what they’re told in the Holy book they happen to subscribe to.

      My old mum used to say: “God helps those who help themselves.” She only employed it as a figure of speech you understand; and she didn’t mean by, “those who help themselves”, them what nicks stuff neither. There’s a touch of the London vernacular for you.

      Incidentally David, that reminds me of something you’ll probably be familiar with. I once worked part-time for an undertaker, and Bert the manager was a very witty guy, who, when we bearers were standing at the back of the the chapel at the crematorium and the Vicar intoned “God help us”, followed by, “Christ help us”, for the congregation to echo each time, Bert would do so very loudly, so as to be heard above the congregation, and with a tone of desperate cynicism. I don’t think the Vicar appreciated the joke!

      Ah happy daze.

    • Hi david.graf.589

      Thanks for the reply, I see what you are saying. Yes, in my case being a Mormon and having discovered I was being lied to inoculated me against Christianity in general. There’d need to be some pretty good evidence to tread down a similar path again. Additionally I’d agree that atheists can fall prey to any manner of destructive behaviours like anyone else. I ultimately think that all behaviours are secular in a sense, because I don’t believe there is a god therefore all behaviours good and bad happen in the absence of god or the devil the instincts are inside us. If all Christians were open to rational thought and questioning as you suggest I suspect this site may not exist, I certainty wouldn’t feel the need to seek out a rational oasis, mind you I also suspect that religion wouldn’t exist in any serious manner either. This may sound rude (I don’t intend it to be so) but your reply seems to imply you are willing to question and don’t follow blindly everything that Christianity teaches – that this has inoculated you from cults. I’m curious why it hasn’t inoculated you against Christianity in general?

      All the best

      • For myself, Christianity best describes the world that we live in where bad people can do well and good people get trashed. It’s not polyannish about who we are and how our best and worst desires compete against one another. Plus, the idea that you should love even your enemies is still one that resonates with me.

        • Hi David, When did evangelical Christianity become an unrivaled source of human goodness, where evangelicals love their enemies? It was even possible for the most venerated patriarchs of the evangelical faith, like Martin Luther and John Calvin, to conclude that the New Testament advocated the wholesale murder of heretics, apostates, and witches. Even the two greatest born again Christians who led the Great Awakening in America – George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards – both advocated and owned slaves. Many people have been born again for years and still remained as evil as Satan (Whoever he is).

          • Ooops – I almost hit the Report comment button again. There’s something about a button being on the right side of a page that makes me want to click it. Regarding how Christians can still be stinkers, I guess my thought is: “How much worse would they have been if they had not been Christians?” On the other hand, I have seen with my own eyes and read about incidents in which love truly flourished.

            I make no claim to be a saint. As an IT consultant, I have regularly wondered aloud about which circle of Hell would be appropriate for Bill Gates according to Dante’s vision of Hell. It still amazes me how bad Windows is for use by ordinary people. And, don’t get me started on several of the less than nice things he did to make Windows a success. Ditto for Jobs and Apple. However, I do enjoy the idea of Bill Gates reaching the Pearly Gates and seeing St. Peter holding an IPad. :-)

        • Hi david.graf.589,

          thanks again for the reply, I’d like to unpack some of what you have said. I’d like to first re-iterate I don’t intend offence (you seem fairly reasonable) but as as a Christian who seems to be treading your own path a bit I’m curious where you stand on things. That said…

          For myself, Christianity best describes the world that we live in
          where bad people can do well and good people get trashed.

          I suspect you are saying that Christianity acknowledges these tendencies in us both good and bad – we’re all miserable sinners etc. I hear this a lot but it seems often to be mixed with conservative political views and mistrust of science and horror that we might only be animals. I also find this difficult considering the amount of Christian ministers involved in deliberate deception and fraud, such as Ted Haggard and his ilk. I’ve always found that looking at our evolutionary origins sufficient to explain and understand the origins of our more negative aspects, understanding this, helps me to guard against similar instincts in myself and allows me to exercise my empathy more.

          Plus, the idea that you should love even your enemies is still one
          that resonates with me.

          Yes it resonates with me too, although I find the tit for tat game theory explanation more useful in that it doesn’t allow you to be trodden all over. What I would like to know is how you get around things like biblical support in the old testament for slavery and acceptance of slavery in the New Testament, the Bibles position on women, homosexuals, disobedient children being stoned to death and so on. How can you accept some of what the Bible says in say ‘The Beatitudes’ but not accept other horrors? In short, as reasonable as you seem, I can only conclude you are either cherry picking from scripture and self defining your religion based upon your morality (which presumably does not believe naughty children should be stoned to death) or you have grown up in a religious upbringing that did similar picked out the good bits and put the bad bits to one side. Can you clarify this for me?

          • Volumes have been written on biblical interpretation. For me, I find it telling the statement by Jesus that some things were there because of the hardness of our hearts. You need to distinguish between what is cultural and that which is meant to remain constant. You are dealing with a patriarchal bronze age society in much of the Bible and a set of books which were written in prescientific times. I see the history of the OT in a different light than many. I think that it demonstrated that you cannot “baptize” a nation or force everyone to believe the same thing. That’s why there has never been and could never be a “Christian America”. I’m sorry that I can’t clarify my thinking in greater length but volumes have been written on these subjects.

          • Hi david.graf.589,

            An I.T. consultant eh, I too dislike Windows, I like Apple but find the walled garden approach even more annoying (for ethical reasons) hence I’m a Linux man myself. If there was a heaven I suspect it would be Tux waiting for me at the pearly gates in all his penguiny goodness 😉

            Anyway pleasantries aside… I’d like to keep pressing you on your reply if that is okay.

            For me, I find it telling the statement by Jesus that some things were
            there because of the hardness of our hearts.

            I remember the old testament talking about god hardening Pharaohs heart several times when he had agreed after the demonstration with the snake walking stick to let his people go and again after the killing off of the Egyptian first borns who’s only sin was to be born under a dictatorship (well two if you count Gods). This is quite clearly stated in fact Gad tells Moses he intends to do this before he sends him to Pharaoh.

            You need to distinguish between what is cultural and that which is
            meant to remain constant. You are dealing with a patriarchal bronze
            age society in much of the Bible and a set of books which were written
            in prescientific times.

            Agreed, how do you do that and remain consistent. The problem you have if you ignore the OT is still the hideous things in the NT. Such as support of slavery, continued sexism, all of revaluations, threat of hell in addition to this you have Jesus clearly stating that he had not come to remove the old law.

            Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

            In addition to this the whole concept of original sin goes out the window if you don’t believe the Adam and Eve story, so there goes the reason for needing to be saved. If you can’t count on the OT you can’t count on its predictions of the Messiah in any case. What foundation do you have?

            So it seems to me you are left doing the same thing I am, having to work out what is moral yourself. Sure there are many parts of the Bible with inspirational stuff (although huge reams of it read as little more than hateful rant – I read it again last year and recently finished the Koran – It’s frankly just one big hateful rant).

            In fairness to you it seems you are doing this already, even the fact that you are on a site that many Christians think is the domain of the Devil speak volumes for your open mindedness. It may be that it just feels right to you that it would be a huge loss to let go of the whole thing for me this was actually pretty easy as Mormonism is pretty controlling and cult like, I has massive levels of guilt that lifted the moment I left so for me leaving was very easy.

            I suppose what I asking could be put simply what is it you are getting that you couldn’t get without belief in God. You could still follow all the sensible Christian teachings and you wouldn’t have to tie yourself in knots trying to find the nice bits of the bible to follow. I’ve found since I left faith my prejudices have faded, I’m more empathetic, more broad minded and more humble, I’ve done some studies in the sciences (particularly astronomy) and the filter I view the world through is so much broader than the members of my extended family that stayed in the church.
            Regards

          • Reckless Monkey,

            We could easily spend years going through some of these issues. But, ask yourself this question – do you sometimes have to take people as they are instead of what you wish they were? Slavery was part and parcel of civilization for thousands of years. How far do you think any religion which outright banned slavery would have gotten back then?

          • david.graf.589 Aug 16, 2014 at 11:25 am

            Slavery was part and parcel of civilization for thousands of years. How far do you think any religion which outright banned slavery would have gotten back then?

            Isn’t that kind of the point, why people should not pretend to be taking their morals from bronze-age writings, when they are actually cherry-picking the multitudes of contradictions the in bronze-age writings for confirmation of choices they have made for themselves about moral issues?

          • Hi david.graf.589,

            Again thanks for the reply, I know I’m putting you on the spot, and you have been a tremendous sport about it. Know that I really do appreciate the fact that you are willing to go to this site and do this. I am genuinely interested in what you have to say, the only way I know that I can test my ideas is to challenge them it is much harder for me to challenge them myself because I have a personal background which gives me a bias in favour of non-belief and secular values, however I know enough to know this is a weak argument from personal experience and I should therefore seek others to challenge my positions on these things. I have a father-in law who is an Anglican minister, I would very much like to have these issues out with him and while I would be fine doing so I know it would damage the relationship. So when religious people come onto these sites I genuinely appreciate the opportunity to test my ideas out. That said…

            ask yourself this question – do you sometimes have to take people as
            they are instead of what you wish they were? Slavery was part and
            parcel of civilization for thousands of years. How far do you think
            any religion which outright banned slavery would have gotten back
            then?

            First any religion back then that banned slavery would immediately have a huge proportion of slaves as its adherents, as these where largely the people doing most of the work I’d say it would be a good move.

            Secondly Abraham is told by God to show his servitude to God by sacrificing his son, he sets out ready to do so but his hand is stayed having proven the point that he is prepared to gut his own son because of voices in his head. Now I clearly find this an abhorrent act by all parties particularly God who presumably knew that Abraham would have done so anyway and could have avoided traumatising the poor boy. Instead God tells Abraham he must circumcise himself, his son and all his slaves. I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty hesitant to take a knife to my genitals and I’d bargain away a lot to avoid this, likewise Abraham was prepared to gut his own son. If god commanded you to gut your own son or give up keeping humans as property, which would be the harder? I submit that unless you are a psychopath the latter would be far easier. Likewise the most religious including the ultimate Jesus all were prepared to give their lives for God. The rest of Christianity is taught to admire their martyrdom yet they cannot manage to pay their workers?

            Additionally your comments are very much showing that you cannot trust religion as a method of deciding what is moral. Who knows what we will consider moral ethical behaviour in 200 years that is the religious will use similar arguments that you use here. I imagine in the next decade homosexual marriage will be legal in every civilised nation on Earth, the generations of Christians to come will have to make similar arguments that you are making now. Now play this out over time you will be left with only those commandments that make perfect sense in a secular world anyway, do not steal, do not murder, etc. As these are prohibitions in every society (at least among the members of the society if not those considered outside -the other) that has lasted any period of time many of these pre-dating the Bible, and its clear to see why they would be followed without Biblical warrant.

            You started in your first thread by stating that religion limited poor behaviour in the young, that seems to me reliant on deliberately either not exposing children to much of the bible (that which is clearly evil) or finding some justification for it. I was shocked for example when I was re-reading the bible last year the passage in which Elisha has God sent two she bears to tear apart some boys who are teasing him because of his baldness.

            23 Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!” 24 When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number.

            Why was I shocked? Because in many years of sunday school and preisthood classes (Mormon priesthood is different from regular religion all boys and men end up holding the preisthood) I had never heard of it or had I heard about Lot offering the mod hungry to rape the visiting angels his daughters, or many other acts of evil that fill the bible to the brim, why not? Because actually reading the bible faces you with the question, how can I trust its authority?

            One last point on slavery, you ask how they would have fared in their time? Well there is an answer to that question. There were many at that time that owned no slaves. How did they fare? God promised wealth and prosperity to many in the bible in exchange for following him, he regularly offers protection, other peoples land and any manner of things in exchange for following his commandments. In such a case if god exists then there seems no problem with following any commandment he gives (unless he is not all powerful). In addition to this I’d argue that any civilisation that embraced its slaves as citizens, educated them, paid them a living wage for work done would have in a couple of generations been far more powerful than any other at the time as the evidence shows today, no culture that supports slavery is flourishing or has the potential to when a good proportion of its population are kept down, how many Newtons, Einsteins, Richard Feynmans were kept ignorant, illiterate and wasted as slaves, where would we be today if they had not? Why can I ask this question and God not? This speaks powerfully to me that God is man made not the other way around. How do you reconcile this patent evil condoned by God?

          • Reckless Monkey,

            Given what I know of the history of that era, civilization as we understand it relied upon slave labor. It’s almost anachronistic to talk about the possibility of a civilization that had no slaves. Prior to the advent of labor saving machinery, humans filled the bill. I don’t know how you get around that until technology advances further.

    • Hi david.graf.589,

      Thanks again I’ll keep this one brief have to go to work.

      Given what I know of the history of that era, civilisation as we understand it relied upon slave labor. It’s almost anachronistic to talk about the possibility of a civilisation that had no slaves. Prior to the advent of labor saving machinery, humans filled the bill.

      A) Are you suggesting that is not for the development of labour saving technology it is okay to keep slaves?
      B) God presumably could have provided inspiration for labour saving technology is he needed to.
      C) God presumably could have provided for those who didn’t as he did elsewhere in the bible. When Moses had his people freed from slavery at the cost of many innocent Egyptian lives did not god provide for them?

      Your answer relies on dis-empowering God.

      I don’t know how you get around that until technology advances further.

      Pay them.

      Regards

  7. Hello all. I have also created an account to comment on this. My oldest brother and I were both born Jewish and both have Christian fathers. (We are 8 years apart in age) Our mother raised us with both Holy days so we could know our own heritage and understand to the best of a child’s ability that being aware of multiple religious views was healthy. Growing up nothing ever seemed wrong or bad about it. It was only as an adult or young adult that I was told you can’t believe both. ( as is said often, the world could learn from children.) She also encouraged me to go to many different churches with friends and their familoes. I must qualify this information by saying none of us was truly RELIGIOUS. Just that we were exposed to it. My oldest brother did become more involved with Judaism as he grew as I became less interested in being anything. ( Though I love my heritage and the culture of Judaism.) Our mother thought us to think, to question, to acknowledge without acquiescence and be respectful of others. The best thing I can think of from Mom’s teachings was that everything was just as it was. If there was something about homosexuality on television it just WAS. So we never thought of anyone as evil or sinful. Those weren’t words we even used. Growing up I went the route of rebellion while my brother was very straight and narrow ( affiliation wise, drugs, drinking, daily life) now as adults neither one of us is religious ( Though again proud of our heritage and cultural histories, Jewish and Americans and DAR and everything) Neither of us belongs to or ever belonged to cults or gangs or any of those elusive “things” you mentioned and are both happy, in long term committed marriages ( he with a child) and productive thoughtful members of society. We never once were told that we needed to do or be something because of God or heaven and we’re thought morals and courtesy without the use of religion. It is, in my opinion, unnecessary to have religion as I have never felt the need to be good or bad based on a magical sky God. Children will truly, medically proven, believe what they are told. They are sponges. Especially by parents who in their minds know all. Teach to think. To ask. To wonder! To say thank you because it is polite. Not because God said so. Get children into extracurricular activities to absorb time after school is out. Have friends of all kinds and let them SEE that everything is fine. That’s just my experience.

    • Hello Marcella.

      As far as I know I don’t have any Jewish antecedents, so perhaps I shouldn’t comment on Judaism, but I have to say that it has a whole range of traditions which I find fascinating, and which embrace a host of activities over and above religion, and sometimes exclude it, in that there’s an underlying tradition of questioning and discussion, which, when individuals start to josh one another can be hilariously funny.

      Generally speaking, religions discourage questioning, and lack comic profiles.

  8. “All of my indoctrination, prayers and Bible study had not made life any fuller or more enjoyable, or my character any more empathetic and soft-hearted. Rather, the shame with which I was indoctrinated robbed me of the ability to enjoy life at an early age. It had made me super-sensitive to perceiving “sin” in myself and others, hardened me to much of humanity, and made me quick to misjudge outsiders. The fear of hell and the devaluation of earthly and present things made it impossible for me to live in the moment.”

    Often times I am swayed by liberal philosophy and cultural relativism to ignore the consequences of religious fundamentalism. Moderate or reasonable Christianity is a harmless, and maybe even helpful, view of Creation. But in line with ‘evangelistic’ faith, the outright rejection of science and dogmatic acceptance of the Bible being a literal recording, there comes a point when tolerance is not the correct path. I’m, of course, not advocating harassment or anything– but it should be challenged consistently by free-thinkers as often as it can be.

  9. I have been expressly disinvited to weddings because of my beliefs. Much of my extended family is comfortably culturally catholic. Now that we all have young children, I think they dread me contradicting them. It makes me sad to see my nephews and niece burdened with this nonsense, but my faith in the human mind tells me that they will figure things out in their own time.
    I am so glad that my daughter is not going to have the kind of baggage that I did. Hopefully, she can focus on a positive, calm attitude, critical thinking, and a kind and generous spirit. The best thing I can do is to be an example. If I want her to volunteer in the community, I have to make time to do it myself.

  10. Now getting down to what church-going is really about!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-28820573

    The Diocese of Truro has a total annual spend of about £6.5m

    The Diocese of Truro is facing a shortfall of more than £1m in the next financial year, a bishop has said.

    It comes as new figures revealed Anglican churchgoers in Cornwall currently donate 20% less than those in any other diocese in England.

    People in the county give about £5.80 per week, compared with a national average of £8.40.

    The Bishop of St Germans said unless urgent action was taken, such a level of debt was unsustainable.
    ‘Under-investing’

    The Right Reverend Chris Goldsmith said in a financial report: “If we continue to chase down declining income by reducing costs we risk an organisational death spiral from which it would be difficult to recover.”

    Those poor austerity suffering, west-country folk will have to dig deeper, if they listen to the bishop’s ideas for helping them keep him in a job!

    Xtian ceremonial woo in England is in a declining spiral from which it will be difficult to recover! Who would have thunk it?

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