Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Masochism Of Christianity

I've always felt from an early age, that Christianity was an extremely masochistic religion. It seems rather obvious to me, that at some level, religion is a product of the sadomasochistic aspects of the human personality. The desire to be a slave, the desire to be humiliated, degraded, denied pleasure, and subject to the will of someone else's whim, characterizes much of religion, but especially in Christianity. This is evident in self-flagellation and crucifixion rituals, perverse obsessions with chastity and sexual regulation, guilt-ridden feelings of unworthiness, and many more. This is all somewhat counterbalanced with the natural solipsism and ego gratifying beliefs that the whole entire universe is human centered, that we are in the spotlight, that it is all created with us in mind and that we are all loved by an invisible being. Christianity paints a picture that plays perfectly upon the warped conditions that the human mind endures.

I've never had any doubt that all religions are man made. Their obvious contradictions, plagiarisms, and child-like observations of the natural world around them convince me beyond any reasonable doubt to their falsity. With Christianity, we are told that we are sinners from the moment of conception, that we are born sick and commanded to be perfect, that we don't deserve the life that we didn't even ask for, and that we all deserve the Christian hell by default. Now to me the masochism here is obviously apparent. This guilt ridden wallowing on one's knees in shame and terror of one's natural state, is tantamount to the slave who enjoys being urinated on and whipped.

Not that there's anything wrong with wanting to be urinated on and whipped, but when your whole life outlook concerning human nature, sexuality, desire, and existence, is from the point of view of the self-loathing masochist via the Christian mindset, and you are promoting this view towards others, that is when it becomes a problem. As atheists we do not believe in an inherent state of "sin", and we don't need to feel guilty of natural desires as long as they are not harmful to others. There is no need to seek approval from some invisible authority that we can't see, hear, touch, feel or measure in any way to justify our very existence.

The freedom involved with being an atheist is something that makes some theists anger. While they shackle themselves psychologically in manacles submitting to an invisible master, they see us laughing and enjoying our lives free from a harmful masochistic complex in our outlook on life and nature. They see us indulging in activities they consider sin, and sometimes boil with rage as to why we are not also swimming in guilt. Many Christians also want to export their Christian guilt onto us so that we too become self loathing and submit to their invisible god. The atheistic outlook does not necessary sanction a totally hedonistic indulgence for one to engage unmitigated in every desire because every rational person understands that we have to live in a society with rules. The problem is that the rules of Christianity are not based on reason, they're based on the ignorance and superstition of masochists.


  1. What you say is, in the most part, perfectly true... of many visible Christians as they are encountered.

    But Christian theology, that is, the worldview of Jesus of Nazareth, is not what you describe at all. I trust we can separate "what Jesus taught", and "what Christians have learned", because that is important in this matter.

    It's hard to pick just a couple of strands here, but suffice to begin with this:

    Christianity does seek to expose that certain sense of "guilt". But the purpose is to relieve it, not to perpetuate it (of course, it has suited powerful church heirarchies to perpetuate it for their own purposes!). The meaning of the term "Salvation" has a few facets, but the primary one is "saved from one's sin", which means, in secular terms: no longer bound by primal and other potentially unhelpful urges, but free to exercise self control over them as appropriate. In Biblical terms, this is to be delivered from the phenomenon of "sin and death".

    It is true that the Christian machine has taught loudly and often that we are all born deserving hell, but I suggest this is not what the Bible actually says. It is medieval Christianity that was obsessed with avoiding hell (hence Dante and others, producing their terrifying depictions), not the Biblical writers. I recently wrote an article demonstrating the theological folly of suggesting that humanity could be under a curse (arising from the Genesis 3 text). The Bible actually doesn't say that, it's a middle-ages anachronism.

    In fact, in completely secular-humanist terms, the "sin" phenomenon can be usefully demonstrated thus: Imagine the perfect community. Picture it's mores, it's values, it's rules, and it's behaviours. Now perform two simple tasks: 1) Attempt to live exclusively according to those behaviours, and 2) create a community of individuals who will live exclusively to those behaviours.

    Of course, it's been tried before and it doesn't work. You don't have to call it "sin", to see that whereas we are capable (without reference to any deity), of describing superlatively "good" behaviours and values, those are the very behaviours and values that we seem incapable of personifying. That phenomenon is equivalent to, in Biblical language, "sin".

    You say, "The problem is that the rules of Christianity are not based on reason". Are you able to offer a "rule of Christianity"? If it falls outside of "love" (of God, one another, and all humanity), and "believe" (that Jesus of Nazareth is whom he claims to be), then I suggest you are mistaken, because I'm not aware of any others. What you may be thinking of is "rules of the Christian church". I am willing to predict that any other "rule of Christianity" which you feel might arise from the Bible will actually exist in a context which renders it somewhat less than normative.

    While it seems, from what you write, that you may never previously have met a Christian who understands their faith, you now have. You seem
    genuinely to be interested in "understanding the mind of the theist". I offer mine.

    1. Well doesn't the doctrine of original sin come from the Bible? Didn't Jesus speak against thought crimes such as having lust in your heart and anger? Coveting what another has? This is what I mean when I say "the rules of Christianity are not based on reason". Do you say these rules are no longer applicable to us? If so, how, when and why?

      Christianity takes human nature, makes it a disease, and then offers a cure. This is the problem that I have with it. Well one of many problems.

    2. These are fantastic questions. It is fair to say that many Christian apologists are unable to answer them. But I have a watertight case that, not only does the Bible say that humanity was *not* cursed in the Genesis account, but that such a curse would have been theologically impossible:

      Furthermore, the meaning of "Original Sin" is demonstrably not (to those who wrote down, treasured, and considered as authoritative, the Genesis text...) what Christian theologians across the ages have supposed:

      Your reference to "thought crimes" is precisely the reverse of what you suppose. Jesus was criticising people for hypocritically observing the letter of the (Moses) law without taking it to heart. In other words, he was deconstructing the "rules" and teaching something akin to "situational ethics".

      Just scan over Matthew 5-6 one more time...

    3. Would you agree with me that if you take the moral teachings of Jesus literally (that is to say without extracting a deeper metaphor from them in many interpretable contexts), than they would be immoral themselves?

    4. This question depends on the definition of 'moral'.

      Some of his hearers frequently found his teachings immoral because they contradicted the traditions of the community (that was their measure of morality). Others applauded him because the same teachings directly confronted an entrenched system of entitlement, power, and unequal wealth (perceived as an immoral system).

      Perhaps you could give an example of a teaching of Jesus that could be considered immoral...?

    5. OK, let's define moral as that which seeks to prevent unnecessary harm to human beings. Do any of Jesus' teachings violate this when taken literally?

    6. Not that I can think of. Can you?

      But I take issue with the definition. If you encountered a hunter-gatherer culture which practiced circumcision, tattooing, or other violence on its young men as part of a rite of passage to manhood, would you consider it immoral? I wouldn't. The question is not whether it harms the individual, but whether it harms the community. Usually, those things are tightly aligned, but sometimes they are not.

      The other area is criminal justice. In Australian Aboriginal tribes, a criminal would have a spear thrust through their leg or shoulder (It non-fatal, as long as there was no infection). That harm could be considered "unnecessary" by an observer, but for the community it was very much necessary.

    7. Well I would consider things like circumcision immoral and other scarification procedures done to unconsenting children. Imagine a culture that had a religion that said "Every third child shall walk in darkness." So in this society, every third child born has its eyes removed at birth so it is blind. The culture does this for religious reasons. Would you go so far as to say that this practice is OK since it is culturally relative? Harming the individuals does harm the community. Where would you draw the line?

      Now onto Jesus' teachings I have a few examples. Jesus said:

      1. "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44)

      If we actually love our enemies and do good to them, then no society would ever exist, and perhaps no individual also. To aid your enemies ensures your own destruction.

      2. Jesus also condones slavery and comments on how slave masters should treat their slaves (Luke 12:45-48). Say what you want about making the case that slavery was just indentured servitude, it is a fact that true slavery did exist in the ancient world and Jesus never once repudiates the institution of slavery. Aren't his teachings suppose to be universal and for all time?

      3. "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on ... Take therefore no thought for the morrow." ["Matt. vi, 25-34.]

      If we do not care about tomorrow, care for ourselves, our children and families and friends, then wouldn't that also ensure the destruction of society? Can you imagine leaving a helpless infant to starve?

      Remember the question is are these teachings moral when taken literally or not.

    8. Of course you can make judgements about what you consider immoral, but if its in the context of another civilisation, that's an ethical minefield. Is the removal of the unconsenting child's very life any better or worse than the blindness you describe?

      In other words, is abortion OK, just because the majority of Americans vote for it? (Because this is a hot-button topic in your country, I'll qualify that: I support legalisation and regulation of abortion. Not because it's "ok", but because it happens anyway, and I'm pragmatic enough to see that if it's legalised, it is better for the community). But the Biblical principle here is, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone". It is incredibly easy to judge others, and profoundly difficult to judge one's self.

      Jesus didn't teach "circumcision". He was Jewish, and culturally normal for him, but he certainly did not teach it as a normative practice. Paul taught that Gentiles ought *not* be circumcised when coming to faith, because of the association with the obligations of the Mosaic law.

      Your point 1: Indeed, to aid your enemies *does* ensure your own destruction. Jesus put that one into practice against the Romans. Today he has 2 billion adherents. Where is the Roman Empire? But what he was doing in that very passage was describing civil disobedience and non-violent resistance of the Roman occupation. From verse 38-42, Jesus details several specific cases where such resistance can shame an oppressor: Being face-slapped, being stripped of assets, and being dragooned into carrying a Roman soldier's possessions. In each case there were cultural/legal limits to the oppressor's behaviour and Jesus shows how to drag that person into transgression.

      Your point 2: Luke 12:45-48 is elaborating on "Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives" (v43). Jesus is not saying (as he does in parables), "The kingdom of heaven is like..." What he is doing here is pointing out, from an example of people's real cultural setting, that bad behaviour deserves bad treatment. The lesson is, "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded" v48. Jesus is certainly not endorsing the behaviour of the slave master. He is observing it and using it to make a point.

      Your point 3: I think you even know that's a long shot. Do you suppose Jesus is telling people not to feed their babies...? Suffice to say that it is part of the discourse which begins at 5:1, "When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying..."

      These are instructions to his disciples. The one you cite is consistent with many others in which he warns that they must be prepared to forsake their normal life in the community, in order to spread the gospel message. This is not some kind of universal "Hakuna Matata". Just look at his own life! He was driven and highly focussed on getting to Jerusalem to fulfil his destiny. Luke 12:50, for just one example.

      Incidentally, this reveals a key aspect to Jesus' teaching which is often overlooked. Jesus chose very few to be his representatives, and on a couple of occasions actively sent people away. Some are called into ministry and others are not. This pattern is repeated in Paul's writings, but again, not often noticed. Paul talks a lot about "we" (the apostles), and "you" (the believers). In short, the apostle suffers so that the believer can be blessed. It can equally be said that in a macro sense, the church suffers so that the world can be blessed.

      The teachings you mention are far from immoral, when understood in the spirit and the context in which they are intended. Is it fair to judge them in any other light?

    9. When it comes to abortion you make a good point, but I would consider removing a child's eyes worse than abortion because that child will have to live many years without sight and thus their lives will suffer. An aborted fetus suffers nothing, especially when done very early.

      On circumcision I wasn't using that as something immoral Jesus said, but he never condemns that practice or its female counterpart to my knowledge.

      1. Christians have never really practiced the moral of doing good to their enemy, that is why they have so many adherents. If they actually literally practiced that moral, Christianity would have been dead almost from the start.

      2. Jesus still never repudiated slavery or even indentured servitude. In that case shouldn't we still have those laws on the books today? Or are we allowed as a society to morally progress without reference to any holy book?

      3. If you "Take therefore no thought for the morrow" you will not be able to procure the resources you need to feed yourself and your children. So yes Jesus is literally saying we shouldn't care for future needs. You say "The teachings you mention are far from immoral, when understood in the spirit and the context". But remember I'm not considering their context, I am considering them as literal statements taken on their own. That is what I claim is immoral.

    10. How many blind people do you know? Have you asked them whether there is any point in life?

      In fact, people with disabilities frequently complain about this. Others see "you are less than 100% human", and conclude that their life must be less than 100% worth living.

      I just know that's not the kind of attitude that you would like to be associated with. You really haven't thought it through.

      Isn't it ironic that a "humanist" worldview can lead to a lower assessment of the intrinsic value of an individual human life than a "theist" worldview. Even as an atheist I was always shocked and saddened by abortion, but now I have a rationale for that, from my worldview: That human person is made in God's image, and is therefore infinitely valuable. By contrast, the humanist dogma runs the risk of characterising a human as "just another animal", and even (as a midwife friend of mine reports being told) "a bag of cells".

      The humanist worldview does not *need* to end up there, but all too often it has. That's sad.

      On female circumcision, why would Jesus comment on it? There is little reason to think he ever encountered the topic. It is certainly *not* something that comes from the Hebrew legacy, which is explicitly and exclusively a matter of male circumcision.

      Point 1: It is well documented by secular historians, including exasperated reports by Roman governors, that Christians most certainly *did* practice "doing good to their enemy". It mystified the Romans, who brutally persecuted them to greater and lesser extent in various times and places. In many areas the Romans grew so tired of killing otherwise good citizens (but who intransigently refused to pray to the Emperor), that they made a policy of "don't ask, don't tell"!

      Point 2: Jesus was not interested in repudiating Roman customs. He was focussed on the Jewish faith, and was critiquing *that*. What business would Jesus see in commentating Roman customs? They were a foreign, oppressive regime, subjugating his people!

      Point 3: You are "not considering their context". That's ok, but an epithet like "The Thinker" implies the willingness to do so. By your (badly flawed) logic, your Founding Fathers were implicitly decriminalising paedophilia buy assigning to those people the "inalienable" right to "pursue happiness", etc.

      Context matters. It matters because a person should be held accountable for what they meant, and how their teaching would have been understood by their audience. Jesus is not accountable for how you choose to interpret his words. That is your own business.

    11. I have no doubt that people with disabilities can lead fulfilling lives, but some are very depressed. Remember, in my example we're talking about forcibly removing eyes, not natural or accidental blindness.

      The humanist world view is not by definition pro-choice. You can be a humanist and be pro-life.

      Isn't it ironic that a Christian world view can lead to limitations on compassion? For example, proclaiming "god hates fags/adulterers/muslims/jews/liberals"?? I've have met many Christians full of hatred and scorn towards other people who exist a certain way through no choice of their own.

      On circumcision, I didn't realize Jesus' moral teachings were so relevant only for a particular time and place in history.

      1. Where are the Christians loving and doing good to radical Islamic terrorists and communists? The more religious a Christian is, the more likely they are to want an endless violent war against their enemies.

      Also, if you recall from history, the Catholic church did officially help the Nazis during WW2. This is certainly a case of helping your enemy. Or, were the Nazis their friends? In either way, please explain to me how loving and helping Nazis is moral.

      2. Slavery existed in virtually every culture in antiquity. Jesus' job was suppose to give universal moral examples, for all of humanity. If Jesus' job was to reform Judaism, then his moral teachings bare no relevance outside of it.

      3. As "The Thinker" of course I take into consideration context. After all, we just had a discussion on moral situational relativism. In my example, I want to simply ask you whether or not you consider Jesus' teachings moral or immoral strictly when taken literally. I feel that they are immoral, and I like asking Christians whether or not they feel the same way. It is strictly a moral exercise not meant to be a final conclusion on Christian morality.

      I think you are avoiding addressing the question in these terms because you feel his teachings, when taken literally, would lead to unnecessary harm, but are afraid to admit it. So let me ask you again bluntly. Would some of Jesus' teachings when taken literally create and foster unnecessary harm, and if so, isn't that immoral? Yes or no.

    12. Ok, now we're talking about people who have been harmed by other people. By your logic we should euthenize them...? I spend a lot of time with people who have been harmed by other people. Some of them suffer terrible depression. Am I wrong, that there is still hope for them? What would *you* do with someone who was repeatedly gang-molested for 4-5 years of her childhood, and now has substance abuse problems? Should she be put down? That would sure save a lot of effort...

      We're a long way down the rabbit hole here. Why not just agree that a culture which accepts abortion as morally neutral is no better than one which accepts any other sort of harm to children?

      >> "The humanist world view is not by definition pro-choice. You can be a humanist and be pro-life."

      Well put. I was thinking the same thing after signing off last time. Indeed, my anecdote implies that, because that's my experience.

      >> "Isn't it ironic that a Christian..."

      I agree that Christian behaviour can also be deeply ironic. No argument there. But as with the humanist, it needn't be.

      >> "I didn't realize Jesus' moral teachings were so relevant only for a particular time and place in history."

      I'm not surprised. There are many who say otherwise. They're wrong.

      Not that the teachings are *exclusively* relevant to that situation, but they are addressed in it, and to it. The respectable method of applying moral lessons from the Bible is as follows (with many minor variations):

      1. What did the text mean in its original context?
      2. What does that reveal about the character of God?
      3. How do those aspects of the nature of God bear on the present situation?

      When done in this way, Biblical teachings can be highly relevant. Taken out of context, any teaching can be twisted to mean even the opposite of what was intended.

      Point 1: There are many hotspots of brutal and systematic persecution of Christians around the world under the Jihad. In the vast majority of cases, Christian pastors call for restraint, prayer, and patience; and they denounce any violent retribution. Here's a resource (there are thousands of others):

      The Catholic Church was tricked into helping the Nazis because the Nazis were duplicitous (with the intention of deceiving the church). The Lutheran Church (more relevant directly to Germany) also took time to wake up to the truth of the nightmare. But it was a devout, radical, self-sacrificing Christian minister by the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was the earliest, loudest, and most strident voice in opposition to the Nazis. I wrote a short essay on his efforts:

      2. "Jesus' job was suppose to give universal moral examples, for all of humanity." No. No, it wasn't. It was to redeem Israel. The "universal" part of his teachings could be said to be the principle of laying down one's life for others. As you intimate above, that's a teaching you have trouble with. That's ok. He predicted you would...

      3. You say I am avoiding the question. Not so. I'm only avoiding your conclusion. I do that because it is incorrect. You have not yet been able to demonstrate any single teaching of Jesus which, properly understood, would "create and foster unnecessary harm". In fact, what you have done is to start with that assumption as a dogmatic position and try to support it with pseudo logic. As a result, the arguments you have had to resort to have been demonstrably flawed. At what point does a free thinker reassess his assumptions? I put it to you that you value the assertion more than you value truth.

    13. When did I ever imply that we should euthanize the disabled? Those are your words, not mine. People horribly abused need treatment and help.

      "Why not just agree that a culture which accepts abortion as morally neutral is no better than one which accepts any other sort of harm to children?"

      Do you mean to say that accepting abortion is the moral equivalent as accepting child abuse and pedophilia? I have been very clear in my position on abortion. I believe it to be worse to intentionally harm an already born living being knowing that it will have to live with the effects and suffer. Fetuses, especially in the early stages are not even conscious yet, and are an extension of the mother's body and are therefore not independent human beings. If aborted, the fetus will never even know it existed. That is why I do not consider it worse than child abuse or rape.

      1. The only Nazi Catholic that was ever excommunicated for immoral behavior was Paul Joseph Goebbels because he married a divorced Protestant. It must be glad to see the church upholding its moral standards during such difficult times.

      If religion has to learn like the rest of us as to what is and what isn't moral, then what the hell is it for? At the very least, religion forfeits all authority on morality.

      2. If Jesus was all about Israel, then he's irrelevant to us today and at best is just another philosopher.

      3. I ask again: Would some of Jesus' teachings when taken literally create and foster unnecessary harm, and if so, isn't that immoral? Yes or no.

      You are not answering the question on the terms mentioned in the question. If your answer is no, please explain to me why literally leaving no thought or care for tomorrow, and physically helping your enemy (Nazis, Islamic terrorists) is not immoral.

      The longer you avoid answering, the more I will assume you think they are immoral. The more you avoid addressing Jesus' teachings with in a literal context, the more I will assume you think they are immoral. You keep saying that Jesus' teachings have to be taken in context, I agree. I'm just asking you to take them literally for one moment, and tell me if they are moral or immoral and why.

    14. I understand your view on unborn children. I can see, given your view, why you consider early term abortion to be morally neutral. I just disagree with it.

      As to physically blinding the nth child of every family, that wass your example, not mine.

      1: You seem to think that religion is all about "morality". It isn't. Morality inevitably forms part of religious contemplation, but you are simply extrapolating the dogmatic assertion that "man created God in his own image". I disagree.

      2. If you can find no relevance in Jesus' teachings, nobody is asking you to pay them any attention. Why the angst?

      3. This is your accusation, not mine. I ask again: give me an example of a teaching of Jesus which, in the terms he intended it, create and foster unnecessary harm. There's no point asking me to come up with one. I have said already that I can't think of any.

      You can assume I'm immoral if you like. That's your prerogative. This is your blog, so do as you please. You are demonstrating that you are not actually interested in reason; you have dogma to defend!

    15. Religion of course is not all about morality. I think religion should exist solely as charitable organizations, which seems to increasingly be primary role it plays in society.

      When it comes to the moral question on Jesus' philosophy, I want to use to to enter into further discussions about morality that I think would be interesting for both of us, but you do not seem to be interested in going by the terms I set. You seem to be saying that you can't take Jesus' teachings unless they are within a certain context, that's my whole point.

      You must understand that with Christians you get so many varieties that when I encounter one, I never know what their personal interpretations of it are, and therefore I sometimes make false assumptions.

    16. No problem. A misunderstanding.

      The Abrahamic tradition is, in a vastly macro sense, supposed to be the ultimate charitable organisation. God chose to make a particular nation of people through Abraham, but explicitly *not* because they were any better or worse than anybody else. The *purpose* of this people was that though them, God would bless "the nations" (Genesis 12:1-3). They would intercede with God on behalf of the world, and serve the world on behalf of God: like a "priest" nation (Exodus 19:6).

      In Jesus' time, the Jews had forgotten this role of service to the world, and were thinking of their status as "God's people" as a privilege. Furthermore, they had an entitlement mentality, based on their ancestry back through Abraham. (More than anything, they were concentrating on their own fall from grace in the Exile, which was not over because they were still subjugated under a foreign power. It was a national pity-party.)

      Jesus confronted both of those dimensions of their self-perception. For example he demonstrated (from the Scriptural narrative), that God had been blessing non-Jews at key moments in history (Luke 4:25-27). The immediate response of the people, who knew precisely what he was saying by it, was to rise up in fury and attempt to kill him (verses 28-30).

      Jesus' innocent death at the hands of the Romans then redeemed Israel's honour before God, placing Jesus as spiritual "king".

      The explosion of church membership out among the Gentiles in the Post-Jesus period was commanded, comprehended, and understood as a fulfilment of the "outward-facing" dimension of God's will. It is precisely because of that "service" dimension of the faith that Christian monastic orders have been the pioneers of our modern concept of hospitals, orphanages, and so on. Those concepts arise from a contemplation of the faith.

      In the modern church, many Christians have an entitlement mentality which is functionally the same as the Jews of Jesus' day, on the grounds that they are "saved" by their profession of faith. They are in error, just as Jesus' hearers were (Matt 25:31-46). Their Salvation is supposed to put them at the service of the church, which is at the service of the world, on behalf of God. That's a blessing in itself, but the blessing isn't "the point".

      So in a sense, I think we agree. The role of the church is to serve the world, as a palpable expression of God's love and benevolence.

      The expectation/hope is that this will help the rest of the world to comprehend that there is a good God, to whom they are ultimately accountable, and that they will therefore to live according to good conscience (Romans 2:14-16).

    17. Well certainly good can come from religion, but so too does a lot of negative baggage. My position is that we should keep what is good and discard the bad. I would technically include all of the supernatural aspects of religion as bad as they can lead to ignorant interpretations of history and science and biology and can lead to the masochistic mentality that I described in my blog.

      Some people say that because Christianity may have gotten us or helped us get out of barbarism, then it should have a valued place in society. I disagree. The horse got us to the point where we could have the industrial revolution to invent the car, but now that we have the car, we don't need the horse. We don't need to worship, or pay homage to the horse.

      The only parts of Christianity that I am willing to accept, are some of its moral principles that make sense in light of modern philosophy and science. Therefore for me, religion is really just a set of philosophies on ethics. No religions are historically or scientifically accurate, they were not meant to be so. What you have left is moral principle, such as charity, and the dignity of human life.

  2. The only parts of Christianity that you should really be expected to encounter are the ones you describe.

    Of course, just as when someone who discovers exercise and good diet can become very annoying to their still sedentary friends, a Christian who has found their exciting new life can get similarly irritating. That's human nature. It happens with ex-smokers, too.

    That's because Christianity is not *only* the charitable organisation you describe. To those who enter into it, the "charity" aspect is no more than an outworking of something much more profound. The faith is a *spiritual pursuit*, which produces charity.

    So again, as with someone who has discovered fitness, the main point is not that they *look good* (although that does happen when you get fit). It's about what is happening on the inside. Similarly with the Church, although spiritual fitness *looks good*, in the form of charity, etc., that's just an outward sign of something going on inside.

    God is not interested in competing with philosophies, sciences, or even with charities. God is interested in spiritual fitness. There is a personal aspect, a community aspect, and a global aspect to that program. From your vantage point it should be expected that you would view the Christian community from the outside, and notice that it is charitable. This is not designed to make you feel like being especially charitable, nor necessarily to join that community, but to ponder the possible nature of God and live accordingly.

    As I pointed out earlier, this faith actually involves the antidote to the masochistic phenomenon you describe. There are always Christians visibly demonstrating that they haven't grasped some of these things, but then, that's because Christianity is open to *anyone*; there are no "entry conditions". This ensures that Christianity will never be "neat and tidy". It really does go with the territory, however, when your imprimata arises from the teachings of Jesus, because nobody is to be excluded if they wish to come.

    1. If only it were the case. Here in the US we have our share of religious fanatics and fundamentalists who are trying to get their nonsense taught in public schools and laws passed based on their strict interpretation of the Bible.

      As long as this persists, and it will for some time, there will be a need for a voice of reason to argue against them. Let's hope for a future where all the religious embrace science and rationality and focus on helping those in need rather than regulating the sex lives of consenting adults.

  3. I think it's a travesty when the religious 'focus on helping those in need'. For one thing it gives everyone else an excuse to slack off.

    rather, churches should focus on the spiritual fitness of their members and their faith community. This will result in the alleviation of suffering, but that is not actually the point. Charitable works are a visible mark of the faith, not a purpose.

    Spiritual fitness certainly could impact on the sex lives of consenting adults, just as it impacts on all other areas of life, but this is not in the form of 'regulation'. It is about developing maturity, decency, and self control. These things should be understood in the context of the surrounding culture. If that culture is regulated, then so be it. If not, then not. What the sexual practices actually *consist of* is not the point. Decency is the point.

    What Christians need to grasp is that we live in a not-Christian culture. Christianity is a sub-culture. In reality, that has effectively happened in just a couple of generations.

    1. I'd prefer religious organizations stick to doing good deeds towards others. If they focus on "the spiritual fitness of their members and their faith community" you will get fanatics preaching from the pulpit about hell and sin and how in order to be a good Christian, one must accept that he/she is a sinner unworthy of the life they didn't ask for.

      I think you're a bit more progressive than that. As long as you don't try to legislate your religious-based morality over me, we're cool. I think we all want to live in a decent society.

  4. I'd prefer *everyone* to stick to doing good deeds towards others instead of assuming that it's the job of Christians. As I say, it's not the job of Christians to do it, but it comes out of who they are. Frankly, it should be simple to set up competing organisations. Many have tried, but those organisations tend to fill up with Christians anyway.

    There are plenty of fanatics in all walks of life. Christianity scarcely has the corner on that!

    My "religious-based morality"...? Isn't that the opposite of what we've been discussing? But it seems you're comfortable with your preconceptions. By all means keep them. I'm glad we're cool.

    1. I agree, we should all be doing good deeds towards other regardless of our religion, or lack thereof. At the very least, we should all be preventing unnecessary harm towards others.



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