Name : Harry
Date : 09.13.04
Email : email@example.com
City : toronto
Country : Canada
Your bit on the atheist versus the christian benefactor has got to be a low point of your website which I generally have always respected.
You sound like the flip side of Ravi Zacharias picking on a few atheists and proposing this as how all of them are. There\'s good and bad in ALL human undertakings and selectively highlighting only those to make your case is rather pathetic. I personally know of many religious people in business whose ethics are impeccable (and some not). You dropped the ball big time!
Thanks for writing. That article you read may be from an email I sent someone a while back, but I don't think we disagree, because you perceived my point exactly. I am NOT trying to say all Christians are as bad as the worst ones. Nor that all atheists are as bad as the worst ones (as Ravi Zacharias apparently thinks). I am merely levelling the playing field and pointing out that Christian claims of superiority above and beyond all other people and their beliefs, are false. Pious people can be just as bad or act just as ignorantly as other folks. But what's unusual about Christianity is the claim to have a perfect instruction manual, God living inside them, and a Holy Spirit that "leads" them "into ALL truth." Yet with all of those things, Christianity fails to impress with any degree of blazing superiority throughout history. Christianity even admits it can't keep a single family together, but is liable to break them up as well, and just think of how divided early Christendom was, or how divided Europe became during the Reformation leading up to the Thirty Years War, which was relatively speaking perhaps the bloodiest most brutal such war Europe has ever seen, depending on the historian you speak to, and during a time when all the nations of Europe were Christians and agreed on Jesus' divinity, the Trinity, and creationism.
Or as Dr. Albert Schweitzer once put it: "For centuries Christianity treasured the great commandment of love and mercy as traditional truth without recognizing it as a reason for opposing slavery, witch burning and all the other ancient and medieval forms of inhumanity. It was only when Christianity experienced the influence of the thinking of the Age of Enlightenment that it was stirred into entering the struggle for humanity. The remembrance of this ought to preserve it forever from assuming any air of superiority in comparison with thought." Also in the same book, Schweitzer cautioned against "the crooked and fragile thinking of Christian apologetics." [Albert Schweitzer, Out of My Life and Thought: An Autobiography (New York: The New American Library, 1963)]
Lastly, think of Christian sectarianism:
CHRISTIANITY RUNS THE GAMUT
From silent Trappist monks and quiet Quakers -- to hell raisers and serpent-handlers;
From those who "hear the Lord" telling them to run for president, seek diamonds and gold (via liaisons with bloody African dictators), or sell "Lake of Galilee" beauty products -- to those who have visions of Mary, the saints, or experience bleeding stigmata;
From those who believe the communion bread and wine remain just that -- to those who believe the bread and wine are miraculously transformed into "invisible" flesh and blood (and can vouch for it with miraculous tales of communion wafers turning into human flesh and wine curdling into blood cells during Mass);
From those who argue that they are predestined to argue in favor of predestination -- to those who argue for free will of their own free will;
From those who believe everyone may (or will) eventually be saved -- to those who believe nearly everyone (except themselves and their church) will be damned;
From Christian monks and priests who have gained insights into their own faith after dialoging with Buddhist monks and Hindu priests -- to Christians who view Eastern religious ideas and practices as "Satanic;"
From castrati (boys in Catholic choirs who underwent castration to retain their high voices) -- to Protestant hymns and Gospel quartets -- all the way to "Christian rap;"
From Christians who reject any behavior that even mimics "what homosexuals do" (including a rejection of fellatio and cunnilingus between a husband and wife) -- to Christians who accept committed, loving, homosexual relationships (including gay evangelical Church groups like the nationwide Metropolitan Baptist Church);
From Catholic nuns and Amish women who dress to cover their bodies -- to Christian nudists, and even born-again strippers;
From those who believe that a husband and wife can have sex for pleasure -- to those who believe that sex should be primarily for procreation -- to those who believe celibacy is superior to marriage (i.e., Catholic priests, monks, nuns, and some Protestant groups like the Shakers) -- all the way to those who cut off their genitals for the kingdom of God (the Skoptze, a Russian Christian sect);
From those who believe sending out missionaries to persuade others to become Christians is essential -- to the Anti-Mission Baptists who believe that sending out missionaries and trying to persuade others constitutes a lack of faith and the sin of pride, and that the founding of "extra-congregational missionary organizations" is not Biblical;
From those who believe that the King James Bible is the only inspired translation -- to those who believe that no translation is totally inspired, only the original "autographs" were perfect -- to those who believe that "perfection" only lay in the "spirit" that inspired the writing of the Bible's books, not in the "letter" of the books themselves;
From those who believe Easter should be celebrated on one date (Roman Catholics) -- to those who believe Easter should be celebrated on another date (Eastern Orthodox). And, from those who believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (Roman Catholics) -- to those who believe it proceeds from the Father alone (Eastern Orthodox view as taught by the early Church Fathers). Those disagreements, as well as others, sparked the greatest schism of church history (the Schism of 1054) when the uncompromising patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, and the envoys of the uncompromising Pope Leo IX, excommunicated each other;
From those who worship God on Sunday -- to those who worship God on Saturday (Saturday being the Hebrew "sabbath" that God said to "keep holy" according to one of the Ten Commandments) -- all the way to those who believe their daily walk with God and love of their fellow man is more important than church attendance;
From those who stress "God's commands" -- to those who stress "God's love;"
From those who believe that you need only accept Jesus as your "personal savior" to be saved -- to those who believe you must accept Jesus as both savior and "Lord" of your life in order to be saved. (Two major Evangelical Christian seminaries debated this question in the 1970s, and still disagree);
From those who teach that being "baptized with water as an adult believer" is an essential sign of salvation -- to those who deny it is;
From those who believe that unbaptized infants who die go straight to hell (or at least risk hellfire) -- to those who deny the (once popular) church doctrine known as "infant damnation."
From those who teach that "baptism in the Holy Spirit" along with "speaking in tongues" are important signs of salvation -- to those who deny they are (some of whom see mental and Satanic delusions in modern day "Spirit baptism" and "tongue-speaking");
From those who believe that avoiding alcohol, smoking, gambling, dancing, contemporary Christian music, movies, television, long hair (on men), etc., are all important signs of being saved -- to those who believe you need only trust in Jesus as your personal savior to be saved;
From pro-slavery Christians (there are some today who still remind us that the Bible never said slavery was a "sin") -- to anti-slavery Christians;
From Christians who defend the Biblical idea of having a king (and who oppose democracy as "the meanest and worst of all forms of government" to quote John Winthrop, first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, with whom some Popes agreed, as well as some of today's Protestant Reconstructionist Christians) -- to Christians who oppose kingships and support democracies;
From "social Gospel" Christians -- to "uncompromised Gospel" Christians;
From Christians who do not believe in sticking their noses in politics -- to coup d'etat Christians;
From "stop the bomb" Christians -- to "drop the bomb" Christians.
All in all, Christianity gives Hinduism with its infinite variety of sects
and practices a run for its money.
Live long enough and you'll encounter a lot of folks who say you are not really a Christian for a host of reasons. I've found the "no-true-Christian-would-or-wouldn't-do-or-believe-XYZ" game one of the more popular among... well... Christians.
In my journeys in Christianity both in America and abroad I've run across a myriad of believers, a mosaic of Christianity:
I remember a converted Christian who used to be a "Satanist ," saying, "What's the big deal about smoking marijuana?"
A Pentecostal pastor in Holland sat crying at a street side cafe worried that one of his woman parishioners was going to hell since she had stopped coming to church and was now wearing make-up. And as he cried, his tears rolled off his cheeks into his beer. (Many Pentecostal Christians in the U.S. ascribe to an ethic of absolute abstinence from alcohol.)
I've known Christians who won't own a TV. Others who won't allow playing cards into their house. And others who drink alcohol liberally and have every material possession imaginable. Others who attempt to memorize the Bible to such an extent it blocks most of their own original thoughts about anything. Others who are social activists who take up causes like opposing abortion or picketing a Marilyn Manson concert. Others who are simple and humble and feed the poor and house the homeless. Others who are missionaries in third world countries suffering hardship for the "cause of Christ." There was a sub group, however, in my institute who were King James Only -- they believed the KJV was the only true inspired Bible for today and that all other versions were corrupted. As a group, they were radically enthusiastic and were proud to be KJV ONLY, and often fueled arguments over alternate translations. Something like the Living Bible, which is a paraphrase, was "the Devil's work."
- Karl Arendale
THE WORLD'S NEED
So many gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind,
Is all the sad world needs.
- Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919)