January 2007

Names have been deleted from the below correspondence.

This will be a little long because I’m reposting the discussion I had with some guy a little while ago. On my space, I posted an article about “Why Christianity is fake” or my theory rather as to the point of why Christianity , though fake and known by the founders as fake, spread it to the rest of the world. Well, a man was offended by this and said this to me.

That is actually a little offensive. I mean how can you call christians fake etc. when you do not obviosly understand or know what a Christian is. So not knowing what a Christian is. how can you call it fake. is it fake according to you definition.

I am 29 yrs. old I grew up in a crappy family , abused etc. who cares though right.

I am a recovering alcoholic, drug addicted ex gang member from North Little Rock, have been shot at stabbed, and even drug down the highway on my head. i was also involved in Celtic withcraft as well as satanism for a while even roomed with a pagan priest.

Yet nothing has ever seemed as real as GOD does to me.

I am not talking about some pansy religious idea of GOD I am talking aboput the real thing.

i never had any one really care about me growing up Yet i know God does.

See most people do not give GOD a chance they form opinions and ideas around what they have seen and heard. When in fasct if they actually took the time to really get to know GOD for who he is they would relize that what they think he iws or is not is not really true.

Most people just don’t care including a lot of so-called CHRistians

so the ? is do really care or are you happy with your pseduo beliefs about what is and is not real. Who is and is not fake. Etc.

Please reply to this message.

In my reply, I stated this.

Exactly, why are you a christian? Because you didn’t have the best of a life, so you were sucked into Chrsitianity because if gives you a false sense of hope that no matter what, this fake messiah of yours will always guide you and give you strength. I don’t give god a chance, because its nothing more then a word to me. You’re brainwashed with a sense of hope that it offers to wheel you in, and by making Faith such a high priority, you become so dedicated that you cannot be convinced other wise. And HAHAH! You have no right to call my beliefs psuedo. I refuse to debate with you, for the reason that I will not debate with my group counsellor or any Christian for that matter. You are so blinded by your fake faith, that no matter how much logic and proof I use to debate with you on, You will continue to argue..With nothing..Claiming your book is evidence, when it’s not in the slightest bit. You can go on believing in Fairy Tales for the rest of your life, but I’m going to life to the fullest, and give out my opinions to life to anyone who wants to hear them. You don’t like my space, you should have read it before adding me. Jesus gained a following through a term known as Routinization of Charisma, (A sociology term.) Another man who we all know gained a following the same way, Adolf Hitler(Who was brought up as a Roman Catholic, but we won’t get into his religion.) Even though he had a large following in the past, he’s nothing worth worshiping to this day, buuut, Hitler didn’t try telling people he was the son of god now did he? Though, it seems as if he could have gotten his followers to believe this since he virtually had them eating out of his hands during his reign. Often other men who have gained a small amount of a following have been able to even get their followers to ceremonially all commit suicide. So in terms, people who strongly believe in a charismatic leader, will often believer anything, as Jesus disciples did, and passed it down onto us to this day. So you can continue your beliefs if you want, but I’m going to keep my article about my thoughts up on My Space reguardless.

I bid you adu,

P.S As stated above in my message, I refuse to back in forth debate my and your psuedo-beliefs. But remember, A great mystery such as death can never be found so easily.

And then lastly, he responded with this.

Believe it or not I respect your beliefs and I do not wish to debate either what you beliee is really no concern to me. However you did say that christians are so bound by faith that it is useless to argue with them because they are close minded. the only thing I did is try to point out that in your message you come off as close minded to me as i do to you. I am not a Christian because I had a bad life. Who cares life sometimes sucks yet it goes on. I did Not become a Christian because I was suckered in etc. For i do nothing on a whim I am very carefull to believe or not to believe in something. and as far as faith goes. My faith in GOD only comes through experience with him. So No i did not jump into somereligion or some form of it because of my past life etc. Yet because of my experience. Besides I feel that religion itself is pathetic and week at best. And is alienating and prejudice among other things. See my fatih is not blind that is foolish yet it is stems from relationship and esxperience.

Anyway I was not wanting to debate only to point out that it seems you are just as narrow minded about God as you feel everyone else is just a different stand point. So as you stated kind of maybe don’t be so close minded.

i will never debate religion with you that is stupid.

and it accomplishes nothing. yet only say even though we do not see I to eye can we not still communicate. reply please

Do you believe I debated in a bit of a “Wrong” manner, as with his last comment, he was right about me being as close minded as most Christians are (Which is why you can’t get them to believe otherwise, despite any Scientific proof you could possibly pull out.)

This is a very interesting correspondence, and I am flattered that you thought to ask my opinion. Here are my thoughts:

First off, even though I haven’t seen the details of your argument that Christianity was knowingly started as a false religion, I’m going to guess that you have no overwhelming evidence for this (at least, those I have heard argue this point before had none). Christianity as we see it today could very easily have begun in complete sincerity, and many people continue to practice it in sincerely. Since sincerity makes Christianity no more or less true, I believe it is a good practice to assume the best in people unless confronted with evidence to the contrary. To do otherwise will generally either get you entangled in nasty arguments that boil down to differences of opinion or make people think that you are malicious, closed minded, or both. Neither of these is conducive to convincing others that your point of view is correct.

If your argument is only that Christianity’s originators were insincere, then the first response you shared with me really does not address your argument at all. It’s a complete straw man, since the feelings of a Christian today have nothing to do with the origin of Christianity any more than the workings of the U.S. government have anything to do with whether Betsy Ross really designed the country’s flag (it’s a weird analogy, but try and see my intent).

What is important, though, is that the respondent says that, to him, Christianity is a very real thing. He feels in his heart that it is true, and it has helped him through difficult periods of his life. It is how you react to this type of statement that helps define what kind of atheist you are.

Here is how I would respond.

He says that nothing seems as real to him as God. That’s fine. You can’t argue against belief by personal revelation because it’s based on nothing but how a person feels inside. On the other hand, personal revelation can’t be used to convince others that God exists. So as long as this person is saying that he believes in God because of how he feels, and isn’t trying to convince me that I should believe in God because of how he feels, then there’s no harm and no foul. I’ll tell him that I have no such feelings, and he may hope I have them some day, but that’s as far as it can go. We should be able work together with mutual philosophical respect.

If he pushes a bit about “giving God a chance,” I might say that I have given the subject a lot of thought and done a lot of “soul searching,” but that nothing makes me feel like something supernatural is out there and I’m very happy with my view of the world. Again, we should be able to move on in peace from here.

As for your response — I’m going to be brutal here and say that, in my opinion, it was a big mistake. Please stay with me while I go into this in some detail.

I would never use the “you are a Christian because you had a bad life” argument, no matter how incredibly appropriate it seems. The reason is that there are tons of religious people who say that atheists don’t believe in a deity because they had a bad childhood, etc. I don’t want to perpetuate this kind of argument, because it can go nowhere and is inherently insulting and condescending.

You then talk about how he and those like him cannot be debated with because they are so blinded by faith that no amount of evidence will make a difference. This person isn’t saying that his faith is based on any kind of physical or historical evidence; he’s saying his faith is based on his feelings. You can’t argue against that, because until he tries to prove his religious viewpoint in a scientific manner, you can’t debate him with facts. Frankly, I wish all religious people were like this, admitting that religion is based entirely on how they feel and their level of comfort with the universe instead of trying to tell me that there is some kind of objective proof for the divine. That’s honest and clearly divides the realms of religion and science. In fact, if someone has a “proof” for their religion and I’m not in the mood to debate, I’ll often ask them, “Is this argument the one that convinced you your religion is true? If I refute it, will you abandon your religion? And if not, why are you using this argument instead of the one that convinced you?” In most cases, this will get the religious person to say that they believe in their religion for personal, emotional issues, and since I don’t have those issues I have no reason to share their religion.

You say you are unwilling to debate with people “blinded by fake faith” because they refuse to accept your arguments and keep relying on the Bible when it isn’t evidence for anything. I think this might be a sign that you need to either choose your battles more carefully or examine your debating skills. If you are debating against people who have completely faith-based (as opposed to rational-argument-based) religion, then you really shouldn’t be, unless you are arguing about how they should behave toward the rest of society. If you are arguing against someone who is trying to rationally prove to you that their religion is true, then you should be able to either find common ground for discussion or get them to realize that they have no argument.

And as for the Bible — you’re wrong about it not being evidence for anything. It’s a historical document, and therefore is evidence. The debate should be about what it is evidence of. You do yourself a disservice by dismissing the Bible and then saying that Jesus gained followers through Routinization of Charisma (or, perhaps more colloquially, a cult of personality). Where are you getting your evidence if not from religious texts? And in my opinion, making such a strong statement about how Jesus gained followers is a mistake, since there is a lot we don’t know and (to my knowledge) a number of other likely possibilities, none of which involve the supernatural.

Your response is written in a very inflammatory and defensive way, and I don’t think it needed to be. In particular, bringing up Hitler was disingenuous, and by Godwin’s law should have ended the debate. The tone of your whole response is of someone wanting to defensively beat another into silence, and it will do nothing toward convincing anyone reading it that you are sincere, well meaning, thoughtful, or anything but a philosophical bully. It also makes your opponent sympathetic. I’m sure that’s not at all what you intend.

The second note from the respondent was pretty much on the mark. You did come across as closed minded (and mean spirited), and you did seem to completely miss his point. I think that, unfortunately, most people reading this correspondence will end up with a good feeling toward the religious man and a bad feeling toward you, and any negative stereotypes they had about atheism would be reinforced.

In your closing, you say that, “he was right about me being as close minded as most Christians are.” That might be something worth working on. An atheist can — and should, in my opinion — be completely open minded. If you have particular beliefs about the origin of Christianity that you are unwilling to examine in the light of scholarship, then you should ask yourself why you are holding on to them so tightly. I have done massive amounts of reading on the origins and workings of Judeo-Christian religion, and it has given me quite a bit of insight into religious thinking and development without denting my atheism in the slightest. It has also given me some perspective on why people have religion, which I think is very valuable.

I recommend that in the future you keep in mind that there are many people who don’t see many atheists and therefore will tend to think that you are a representative sample. For this reason, I suggest that you go out of your way to try and understand and accept the sincerely held beliefs of others while being politely forthright about your own beliefs. Don’t back down from a discussion when a religious person says they can prove religious issues through a rational process, but respect the religious person who believes only on the basis of personal faith and does not try to impose their beliefs on others.

By remaining calm, polite, and respectful while not hiding your atheism, you will do more to convince people to at least respect atheism (or perhaps “give it a try”) than you ever will with the type of correspondence you showed me. I think this is a worthwhile goal, and if all atheists behaved in this manner, I think we could pave the way for a future where people no longer feel the need for faith and can accept the world with eyes wide open.

Thank you very much for writing.

Posted on January 30, 2007 at 11:13 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Dealing with religious folks

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