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My Take: Don’t blame college for young people leaving Christianity
The author says the politicization of Christianity is responsible for young people leaving church.
February 28th, 2012
12:39 PM ET

My Take: Don’t blame college for young people leaving Christianity

Editor's note: Tim King, the communications director at Sojourners, blogs at sojo.net. Follow him at @tmking.

By Tim King, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Christianity in America is in danger. As former Senator Rick Santorum recently pointed out, young people are leaving the church in droves.

In the mid-1980s, evangelical 20-somethings outnumbered those with no religious affiliation – the so-called “nones” – by a ratio of more than 2 to 1. By 2008, those proportions were almost flipped, with young “nones” outnumbering evangelicals by more than 1.5 to 1.

An entire generation, my generation, is leaving the church. What’s the cause? Santorum blames higher education, telling Glenn Beck last week that "62% of kids who go into college with a faith commitment leave without it."

The “war on religion” has become a frequent bogeyman among Christian and political leaders. But the reason church leaders have failed to stem the tide of a generation heading for the exit door is that they keep looking for an outside enemy to blame when the biggest problems are inside the church.

The years young adults spend in college aren’t causing them to leave their faith; those college years are exposing the problems with the faith they grew up with.

The exodus has little to do with liberal college professors, which insurance plans should cover contraception, where mosques are being built, or whether or not the Ten Commandments are hanging in courtrooms, even if many religious leaders act as if these are the greatest Christian “battles” of our lifetime.

In doing so, they are actively pushing young people away from religion.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think young people are leaving the church in record numbers just because some Christians are Republicans. There are a lot of wonderful Christians who happen to be conservative and who are great witnesses for the faith. Many of them are in my family.

Rather, the exodus is about hypocrisy.

Last year, we saw Christian leaders raising the alarm about the encroachment of “radical Islamists.” They call for the restriction of Muslims religious liberties to practice their faith and build houses of worship. But this year, when it comes to contraception, the rallying cry is religious freedom.

Last week, Franklin Graham was asked whether or not he believed President Obama was a Christian. He gave a fair answer when he said it wasn’t his place to judge.

But when asked the same question about the faith of Santorum and Newt Gingrich, Graham’s standards changed. He answered that yes, he did think those men were Christian because of “political interests” and “spiritual interests.” Graham later backtracked, but the message was already out.

What did a lot of young people hear? To be a Christian you need to look like, talk like and vote like Franklin Graham… Oh, and something about sinners and grace.

Such political spectacles are driving a generation away from faith. It almost did for me, an evangelical Christian in my 20s who attends church on an almost weekly basis.

Most of my life I went to private Christian schools or was homeschooled. I had some wonderful examples of faith that inspired me. But as soon as I heard Christians on the radio or saw them on TV, I was ashamed to call myself a Christian.

The Jesus I read about in Scriptures taught love, acceptance, peace and concern for the poor, but the Christian leaders on TV and radio always seemed to be pro-rich, pro-white, pro-America and anti-gay.

By college I was getting ready to leave it all behind.

Thankfully, I had found meaning in work with the homeless and tutoring refugees. I heard Jim Wallis, for whom I now work, speak about God’s heart for the poor and oppressed. I sat in Scot McKnight’s North Park University classes in Chicago and learned about a Jesus who didn’t think like me, talk like me or live like me but who presented a radical challenge to be a disciple of this one they call Christ.

By 2004, I realized that the highest Christian calling in my life might not be to vote Republican. I still casted my ballot, but what was most significant to me that November was inviting 15 homeless men and women into my campus apartment to celebrate Thanksgiving with some other students and spend the night indoors.

I like politics. I think it’s important. Public policy matters because it affects people’s lives every day in ways we often don’t realize. But my primary concern for it comes because it affects the people Jesus called me to love and that the Bible tells me to be a voice for. This is why the use and abuse of religion during this election season is so troubling.

When Franklin Graham sets up double standards of faith for Republicans and Democrats, when Pat Robertson intones about a coming “secular atheist dictatorship,” when the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins goes off about the dangers of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and other “anti-family, anti-religious, anti-Christian policies,” when the great test for the next President of our country is who has “real” theology and who has “phony” theology, it might make for good sound bites.

But it’s bad faith.

Blaming colleges, like Santorum did, is a lot easier than reforming the church. Finding an enemy outside of your religious faith might keep some young people in line for a little while and is probably great for fundraising. Heck, it might even mobilize an important voting bloc and win a few elections.

But it’s hastening the decline of Christianity for an entire generation.

I have a simple request for our nation’s religious leaders who keep finding “enemies of the faith” at every turn without ever looking inward. For Christ’s sake, stop talking.

Spend some time in prayer and think about what you say before you say it. Ask yourself, is the political gain, the next spot on cable news or the notoriety I can achieve really worth the damage to the church?

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tim King.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Politics • Rick Santorum

soundoff (1,729 Responses)
  1. Reality

    Putting the final kibosh on religion in less than a 1000 words:

    • There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    February 28, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Dave

      One large difference between Daoism and Christianity is that it doesn't matter whether Laozi existed or not; moreover, in its more philosophical forms it would be hard to call Daoism a religion.

      The more popular forms are a different matter, of course.

      February 28, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Ian

      Wow, I finally found it! Someone who knows everything!

      February 29, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • Hayden71

      Yes...and man didn't reach the moon, the holocaust didn't happen and 911 was actually a government conspiracy.

      I hope you can sense my sarcasm when I state those things.

      History (yes even secular historians) supports the fact that Abraham and Moses truly existed so the only thing that falls apart is your ridiculous attempt at a logical argument to disprove Christianity.

      March 1, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  2. Reality

    Only for the newbies:

    Dear Timmy,

    It is not polarization but the following reasons why the younger generations are leaving their religion especially Christianity:

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life (e.g. Do No Harm ). No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.

    Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.

    February 28, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  3. TheRationale

    The problem is that faith is believing something on no rational basis, or in many cases in the face of one.

    Once you see that faith of this nature is a very primitive and unsophisticated way of thinking, it's easy to see why one would leave a religion.

    February 28, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  4. Mark

    I completely agree with your article, Tim. What's more, I just wrote a paper on this subject as part of my application to seminary.

    The loss of membership in "mainline" protestant denominations (Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Disciples, etc.), a trend charted since 1960, has very little to do with college education, as Rick Santorum erroneously suggests. (In fact, college-educated young people stand a greater chance of being involved in church, so there, Rick.) While there is no one specific reason to point to, the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the church. Hypocrisy, as you rightly mentioned, is certainly a contributer to why youth leave the church. Princeton Seminary Professor Kenda Creasy Dean, in her book, "Almost Christian," argues that the church's failed youth ministry model is to blame. Dean suggests the church teaches a watered-down spirituality that has nothing to do with true faith. Other reasons I've pointed to are (a) a loss of missional focus, (b) a misunderstanding of faith, and (c) a lack of diversity.

    Bottom line: we, the church, Rick Santorum's and ours, have work to do. Education has nothing to do with a loss of religiosity.

    February 28, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Bruce

      If diversity is the key, why did God make the people at Babel diverse in order to hinder their work?

      February 29, 2012 at 3:29 am |
    • acting out

      Bruce, if God is all knowing and all powerful then the Babel reference only tell you he wanted diversity. God created diversity in the Babel story, so who are you to question God's design?

      February 29, 2012 at 7:54 am |
  5. jimmywitz

    Whenever religion replaces a spiritual connection with The Divine with dogma, religion becomes meaningless. Rick Santorum and his other little fundamentalist friends are dogmatists, and they and what the believe in has become meaningless and hypocritical. And it is this that students reject as soon as they start to seek some deeper meaning in their spiritual lives.

    February 28, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  6. Salero 21

    Of course Not, do Not blame the Colleges or Universities for that matter. Many of them are even call "Christian" this and that.

    The blame should ALWAYS be placed where it really belongs. In this case, on the Individual himself. To become a christian is a choice, a decision of the Will. To abandon, apostate and backslide is also a choice, a decision of the Will. That's why is call Free Will, thought that could be somewhat be questioned.

    February 28, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • m

      Making a conscious choice is not "abandoning" anything. Who says that the individual wanted to have those beliefs put on them to begin with? Also, who is to say that there are those who choose religion when they get out on their own? Free Will is just that to make choices that an individual wishes. Your point makes it sound like we are born to have to accept some religious doctorine and to believe otherwise is a failing of self.

      To also say that an individual is to be "blamed" for making their own choices goes against your "Free Will" argument. If there is blame it is on society and mankind in general for continuing to mentally enslave the majority for the whim of a very, very, very slim minority in charge. This goes not only for religion but politics, corporate or any organization where a few make the decisions for the majority.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • CD

      You realize that, by asserting this, you are proclaiming a dogma?

      February 29, 2012 at 12:58 am |
  7. momoya

    @ Russ

    A person can be upset about something even if she doesn't know the cause of what's upsetting to her. Atheists can be upset over suffering, and many are. We seek to lessen suffering in a variety of manners, but not by repeating a mantra to an invisible being.

    God seems to rather enjoy suffering. The central pivot of Christianity is the blood sacrifice of christ; this hangs upon the blood sacrifice concept that was in vogue at the time and place of Abraham's life. God commanded genocide and r.a.pe when he wanted "his people" to steal land that wasn't theirs. God wants non-believers to suffer in dam.n.ation. God's a sadist. It's no wonder that the inquisitors thought they were doing god's work.

    February 28, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Russ

      @ momoya: i like that you are taking the step of interpreting God's actions through Scripture. that is appropriate. but if so, I hope you'll consider the fullness of what is being said/claimed:
      a) we are responsible for this, not God (Gen.3)
      b) since we deserve our suffering, God would be just to leave us in it
      c) God, despite every right to leave us to it, chooses to extend mercy
      d) since to give mercy without justice would not be just (for the wronged party), and God (who has chosen his own character also) chooses to uphold his own justice, the only way to save without compromising who he has chosen to be is to suffer in our place. God chooses to 'pay the cost' for our injustice.

      now, i recognize that many will have disdain for several points of that biblical narrative. but please also recognize that this argument you are levying against Christianity is one that is from within (objecting to the logic of Christianity on its own grounds). as such, the whole picture must be kept in mind.

      which leads us to the opposite extreme conclusion, as Paul notes in Rom.8:32:
      if God didn't spare his own Son, but gave him up for us, how will he not also take care of everything?

      In other words, Jesus took the worst suffering on himself. if he was willing to do that, surely we can trust him in awaiting a final, permanent end to suffering & death. (again, logic from within Christianity. i expect objections from outside.)

      February 28, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • momoya

      @Russ

      a) God did not have to include suffering (or maybe great suffering) in his plan. He included it as a possible outcome, and its scope implies his enjoying of suffering.
      b) God does leave us in it (suffering) God believers might do things to lessen suffering, but never god. God is invisible in that he cannot be tested and verified. If god could be tested and verified then perhaps we could make judgements about how much suffering is our fault versus his.
      c) God's mercy is invisible, as are all god's actions. God cannot be proven to act, period, much less act to have mercy or not
      d) God sucks at taking away suffering, seeing as how much of it is in the world and existence.

      My only argument against christianity is that its god cannot be shown to exist; it's magical body parts cannot be shown to exist (soul); it's eternal rewards or punishments cannot be shown to exist (heaven/hell). It makes sense to withhold belief on what cannot be shown to exist. Example: it makes sense to not believe that a '96 Buick is orbiting Saturn, until it can be observed that a '98 Buick is orbiting Saturn.

      It's a stupid move to have your child tortured and killed. That god supposedly did it to his son proves his willingness to use suffering for his purposes; thus, he is a sadist.

      Jesus "taking suffering on himself" doesn't prove anything except that god is likes to work through suffering–anybody who is alive knows that suffering is certain, so that's no big revelation. If a friend of mine abused their child, I would NOT come to the conclusion that he wants an end to suffering; I WOULD conclude that he's an abuser and has a tendency to be a violent jerk. If he'll do it to his own son, he'll do it to anyone.

      p.s. Your logic is weird. God causes suffering so that means he wants to end it. ?!?!?!!?!?

      February 28, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Russ

      @ momoya: several of these items are re-treading the ground from our disc'ussion a few days ago on a previous article. rather than do that again, i'll take your main objection:

      this is not cosmic child ab'use.
      a) Jesus is not 'childish' in his decision to do what he does (Php.2:6-10).
      b) your objection goes to the nature of the Trinity – one God in three persons. instead of attempting to pa'rse the entirety of the central but complex Christian belief in the Trinity (which I'd be willing to do if I thought it was your point): suffice it to say that God makes a united (not coerced) decision in his actions. he is demonstrating his heart for a rebellious loved one (several images here in Scripture: sheep, child, bride, etc.).

      again, God did not cause suffering. we did. he will ultimately end it. the cross & resurrection are the demonstration of that.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • BD

      @Momoya
      In your explanation you miss the central meaning of Christianity, which is not blood sacrifice. If you look at the to the Torah you see animal sacrifice or blood sacrifice is needed for atonement. The central meaning of the Christian gospel is that after Christ no more blood is required, so God himself takes upon himself the sin of his people and extends atonement for sin to them through their belief. Christianity centers around grace and forgiveness.

      But to be honest I'm not sure why atheists are worried about what anyone thinks about faith. Or why they read the belief blog.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Russ wrote, "since we deserve our suffering, God would be just to leave us in it"

      This cuts to the heart of the matter. When you believe that pain and suffering is justified because of a belief in a deity, you've already lost.

      Sorry.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • momoya

      @ BD

      I don't know why other atheists come here to comment on a belief blog, but in my case it's because I am unable to be an open atheist where I live. If I speak out about my atheism I am treated like I have a horrible, catching disease. It's extreme, extreme prejudice and hate. I speak out here because the bigoted believers in my community would crucify me for merely stating my opinion.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • J.W

      The world would suck if we could not suffer a little bit. Would you really want to feel perfect all of the time? That would be boring.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • J.W

      Where do you live momoya?

      February 28, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • momoya

      @Russ

      a) I don't remember saying anything about jesus being childish.
      b) No, my objection is that god is so invisible as to be nonexistent for any practical purposes.

      Again, god may not have caused suffering, but he's the author of the whole shebang. If he didn't want suffering, he didn't have to put it in the recipe. If I put razor blades in my cake mix, people gonna' get cut. Again, the whole world uses the same math and chemistry but utilize all sorts of different gods and dogmas. If god can't be as obvious and verifiable as math and chemistry, he wants to stay hidden, and we should honor his unwillingness to be visible.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • momoya

      @ JW

      Below the Mason Dixon line. I didn't know how mean "nice people" could be until I came out as an atheist. Now I hide it.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Russ

      @ momoya: how is that not like blaming the Wright Brothers for 9/11?

      February 28, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Primewonk: careful, we all can be hoist on that petard.
      again, that leaves atheists to embrace the reality of suffering as just a part of reality that must be accepted. and yet you are still morally outraged by great societal evils like the Holocaust – why?

      February 28, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • momoya

      @ Russ

      The Wright Brothers didn't make the rules of physics, they engineered according to them. God's the cake maker; he put razor blades in the batter.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Russ

      @ momoya: good extension of the analogy. but recognize the limitations of a cake. it can never act on its own. God didn't make robots, he made finite beings capable of free thought. he instructed them on the way to have life. and they chose to misuse their finitude.

      God is not culpable for our misuse of the gift of free thought.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • momoya

      @ Russ

      God doesn't have limitations. He didn't have to include "suffering," he chose to make it an option. Think about this example, he didn't have to place the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the garden, but he chose to. Had he not put the tree there, Adam and Eve would not have been able to sin in that manner.

      God included suffering in his design, and nobody has a choice to chose a different paradigm. That's not only putting razor blades in the batter, it's telling people that they MUST eat the cake–and then telling them that it's their fault if they chew to fast and slice the inside of their mouth.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • Russ

      @ momoya: you're mixing the metaphors a little. (sorry for the pun – couldn't resist).

      free thought is the key. and if the razors were put in only on option out of thousands – and clearly stated, why would a finite, rational being choose to harm himself? if given the gift of freedom...

      the exciting part of your conclusion to me is this: yes, God knew suffering would result when a good, finite creature chose (in misusing its freedom) to self-destruct. and yet he chose not to destroy us (even though we were good & made ourselves bad). not only that, but he chose to take the hit of the inevitable destruction our decision brought upon himself.

      in other words, yes – God set the stage. but it was completely our fault. and yet he willingly went forward *knowing* that expressing his love would cost *him* immensely. that's why I'm a Christian. there is no other love like this.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      Momoya, I don't believe that you are really an atheist but perhaps someone angy at God for whatever reason. I say this because most of your retorts acknowledge that God is the creator of the world yet allows suffering, injustice etc. As many have stated, God did not create sinfulness but did develop a plan for salvation that conquers sin should you accept his mercy, forgiveness and grace. The suffering on earth is a consequence of our fallen nature and rejection of his love. Despite that, he humbly came to earth as Jesus Christ and suffered for our sins out of his unconditional love for his creations. This life is but a small moment in time and we will live eternally as we were intended if we simply love him back.

      February 28, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • LOL

      "in other words, yes – God set the stage. but it was completely our fault. and yet he willingly went forward *knowing* that expressing his love would cost *him* immensely. that's why I'm a Christian. there is no other love like this."

      Wow the delusional imagination of people is just amazing. The crap they have to tell themselves in order to love who they are is pathetic.

      February 28, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • momoya

      @ Russ

      Yes, free thought is the key. Free thought leads to the exact same function of mathematics and chemistry, yet it leads to thousands of different views of god and acceptable worship. Because it is possible to believe so many different and contrary things about god, the issues is NOT clearly stated. Little infants dying for lack of clean water and nutrition didn't chose their suffering. Don't make such stupid statements.

      The completely disparaging part of your conclusion is this: yes God knew that millions of young women would be ra.p.ed, billions of non-believers would swim in the eternal lake of fire, billions of young babies starving–and yet he chose to allow all that suffering. And all for what, exactly?!?

      If God set the stage, then he decided what set pieces to include, and choose to include nasty viruses and bacteria and horrible methods of suffering. If anybody could actually prove that all this suffering has some redeeming value, perhaps we could find a way to tolerate him. As it is, he appears to be completely invisible regardless of what humans say about what he does and wants–and they all say something different, anyway. That's why I'm an atheist. There's no apathy like god's.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Russ

      @ LOL: it's much easier to swing an axe than build a building. what do you have to say that is constructive?
      or to be more direct: philosophically, what are you going to build in place of the theological world you presuppose to have smashed?

      February 28, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • LOL

      "it's much easier to swing an axe than build a building. what do you have to say that is constructive?
      or to be more direct: philosophically, what are you going to build in place of the theological world you presuppose to have smashed?"

      Well duh moron – you're living in it. LMAO! Keep making excuses to yourself because you can't just love yourself for who you are, you need the crutch of a false god, we don't.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • Leo

      Momoya, You are full of soup.. you claim "We seek to lessen suffering in a variety of manners," that is such bologna.. Why are the Atheist on a Belief Site???

      False claims like "God commanded genocide and r.a.pe " really? Give me a verse so I can educate you!

      Have you ever even read the Bible?

      February 28, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • momoya

      @ Spa Knight

      I describe god as a being the same way that songs describe Santa as a living being. It's just for the semantics of the argument. The rest of your post is just dogma, so enjoy that on your own, I guess. The argument that god did not create death, but left loaded guns in every square foot of a nursery is quite stupid.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Really?

      "False claims like "God commanded genocide and r.a.pe " really? Give me a verse so I can educate you!"

      Numbers 31:17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man,

      Numbers 31:18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.
      ________________________________________
      Deuteronomy 7:2 and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.
      ________________________________________
      Deuteronomy 20:16 However, in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes.

      Judges 21:11 "This is what you are to do," they said. "Kill every male and every woman who is not a virgin."

      February 28, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • momoya

      @ Leo

      God commanding genocide and r.a.pe is in several parts of the OT. If you have trouble finding it, try google. As to atheists lessening suffering, you can also find proof of this with google. Also, most scientists are atheist, and they are the ones responsible for the plethora of new high-tech medical machinery and using evolutionary science to produce new drugs to combat disease. Dipping a live bird in a dead bird's blood and sprinkling the infected party may have been great for curing leprosy in the old testament, but now we use combinations of drugs that fight the disease at it evolves to overcome our old remedies.

      p.s. I probably won't carry on a discussion with you because your comments aren't very smart or engaging. There are plenty of atheist sites out there, and I'm sure you can find someone out there to argue with you on these topics.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Russ

      @ LOL: are you purposefully dodging my question?

      on what basis are you morally outraged at suffering? or do you accept it as merely part of your existence?

      February 28, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Russ

      posted in the wrong place above...

      @ momoya: i hear you. i agree that the suffering in this world is a horrible reality.

      but again: we did this to ourselves. God granted us this freedom, and we used it to do this to ourselves. It is *our* fault. It is terrible. but it is humanity's fault, not God's.

      God is not apathetic. Entering time & suffering in our place demonstrates a heart that is anything but apathetic. it is a benevolent mercy that would, in the words of JRR Tolkien make "all the sad things come untrue." and it's exactly why faithful Christians should be seeking to emulate God's heart & see life flourish: whether the poor or a green earth or ending societal structures that are oppressive, etc.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • Jesus

      "on what basis are you morally outraged at suffering? or do you accept it as merely part of your existence?"

      Poor Russ doesn't love himself enough so he has to use the crutch of a false god. Seeing as religion has killed 480 people in history where is your outrage in religion.... DUH! Religion is what causes suffering moron.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  8. DC

    @ Russ.

    No offense, but your first point is patently false. There are any number of examples of dieties suffering as mortals/alongside mortals, including those found in Hindu, Greco-Roman, and many meso-american religions. Before we discount this, keep in mind that the difference between religion and mythology is nothing more than its current popularity.

    Your second point pre-supposes that morality is the sole providence of religion. Morality can and does exist without the presence of organized religion, or even spirituality as it is commonly defined in our society. You're describing a particularly unsympathetic shade of nihilism, not humanism.

    Your third point is really just an, "I have a black friend" defense. Not to be rude there, but while I have tremendous respect for her perserverance and achievements, the lynchpin in this debate is not what Joni believes.

    Respectfully,
    DC

    February 28, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Russ

      @ DC: i appreciate your reasoned reply. a few responses:

      1) i disagree with your definition of myth on literary grounds.

      as CS Lewis (an expert on the subject) has noted in his famous essay "Fern Seeds & Elephants," the Gospel narratives can be many things, but they cannot be myth. among many other reasons, ancient myths never contain such realistic detail. that was a modern innovation in the 1700s. you never read Homer & hear "Odysseus caught 153 fish" or "Odysseus left the Cyclops cave around 3:30pm and rowed out to sea about 3 or 3.5 miles." But that's exactly what you find in the Gospel accounts. it is clearly the authors' intent, as well (Lk.1:1-4; 1 Jn.1:1-3; etc.). so, either these writers created a genre that wasn't copied for almost two millennia, or they never intended to be heard as myths. literarily, that is in stark contrast to your other examples.

      in sum, either this is eyewitness reportage or it is flat out lies. literarily speaking, it does not fit the myth category. as Lewis says, "the reader who cannot see that simply has not learned to read [myth]."

      2) no, i do not think morality is solely the province of religion. but i do think morality necessarily requires a metaphysical conversation. many atheists object to religion without admitting their own metaphysical "leaps of faith." science has no comment on ethical questions. it requires metaphysics. many so-called atheists refuse to admit they are making the very leap they are criticizing in theists.

      3) you are right to note that philosophically this argument is not a final statement on the matter. my response was aimed at the nature of Marshall Brain (author of that website) & Bob's appeal to amputees as evidence there is no God. you are pointing out the fallacy in their argument. my intent was to give them an example of the very thing they were claiming could not be the case.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Primewonk

      @ Russ – there is no contemporaneous writings concerning your Jesus. Everything was written well after the fact. Many examples theists like to posit as writings confirming the miraculous nature of Jesus – such as Josephus – have been edited after the fact.

      Additionally, the science of evolutionary psychology explains the evolution of morals quite nicely.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Primewonk:
      1) even the most liberal scholars recognize 1 Corinthians as genuinely Pauline. Paul died in AD 64. Most date 1 Corinthians around the mid-50s. In other words, 1 Cor.15:1-3 makes claims about Christ within 20 years of Jesus' death. There he claims 500 people saw the risen Jesus at once. So, when Paul is making this claim, many of those folks were still alive. Those claims could be verified. To think the ancients were any less skeptical than us is ethnocentric. There version of snopes was correspondence & travel – which would have been very easy in the Roman Empire.

      That's not even to recognize the unique, pre-diaspora knowledge of Jerusalem that the Gospel authors demonstrate. since Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70, late dates for the Gospels becomes increasingly problematic. See for example the pool of Bethesda.

      2) the problem with evolutionary morals: are you willing to embrace that what you find reprehensible now might be completely acceptable in future societies? or are there any crimes which are *always* wrong (racism, pedophilia, etc.)? sociological evolution cannot make such an objection.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • .....

      Russ = Fred = chad = how many other handles.

      February 28, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Russ

      @....
      despite your conspiracy theories, "Russ" is the only handle i have ever used on this site.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  9. CoJo

    Santorum would totally disagree with this article.

    February 28, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • sam

      That's part of what makes it so great.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  10. MarcTTF

    I blame (credit) the internet. People in this day in age have access to information that couldn’t have been imagined a generation ago. Someone questioning their faith 25 years ago did not have easy access to the material required to properly research things they were unsure of. As a result they just didn’t bother, and continued to believe, or were sucked back in by their circle of believers. I predict that by the time the current batch of first graders have gone through college, believers will be a minority.

    February 28, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  11. DC

    I agree with the writer, and I think his logic applies to more than just religion. The reason that young adults' views on religion and a myriad of other topics change during college is simply because it is the first time most of them are really able to experience and study things without an overbearing outside influence telling them what to think. In the case of religion, politics, social issues, etc, they are able to step away from what they have always been taught and make up their own minds on where they stand on these things.

    I would disagree with the writer that it's just a matter of bad Christian role models because I do think that higher education is a catalyst for these new experiences and insights. Regardless of what you study, the most important thing you learn in college is simply how to think- how to examine an issue, consider options and opinions, and come to a logical conclusion. The theology and trappings of the Christian faith simply do not make any rational sense and are full of self-serving contradiction, and thus do not stand up well to this kind of reasoned scrutiny. When you take that skill, and it is a critical learned skill for success in life, and you pair it with the natural skepticism that comes with being that age, it's not a surprise that Christianity is unappealing to many young college students.

    February 28, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • AGuest9

      It's ironic that I hear so many complain that "recent" college grads (I've heard this stuff for nearly 30 years, now) don't develop critical thinking skills, but boy, when they start asking real, hard questions, and "look behind the curtain", how fast they are told that they are wrong to do it!

      February 28, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  12. m

    It's very simple that we see a huge change in religious views with college students. In the majority of cases it is the first time in their lives that they get away from smoothering, narrow minded parents and family. That they see the world around them doesn't revolve around a church or even care about it. The far right has always blamed colleges for these changes because it is the point where they lose their daily mind control over people. Teens & twenties begin making their own daily decisions not based on some outdated book filled with fairytales but based on the real world around them.

    What makes it even more noticable is that for society in general the true evils of relgion in all of its forms is coming to light. That religion is based today on hate and intolerrance of others that do not believe the exact same as you. If you don't believe it look at all of the major world religions. Each of them have several "sects"' that believe their brand of the religion is the "true & only" version.

    It is a good thing that people are beginning to put these fairytales to rest and live in the real world. I can only hope that in my lifetime we will see religion die a quick but painful death. The same kind of death and destruction that religion has damaged mankind with since the beginning of time.

    February 28, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Mavent

      Ever notice that all Atheists are loudmouth d0uchebags?

      February 28, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • AGuest9

      No more than those who claim to be "christians".

      February 28, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • m

      Mavent

      I don't think at any point I gave my personal religious preferences so to make an assumption is a perfect example of problems in the world. My points were made from critical observation over several years. Other than the sewer, where did you opinion come from?

      February 28, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • sam

      Hmm, pretty much we just noticed you, Mavent, and your failure to troll successfully.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      @Russ,

      so you do embrace the possibility that the next version of Hitler may be morally right, regardless of what our society says now?

      I'm always amused when Hilter is invoked in arguments regarding morality. Hitler was, by and large, mentally ill. Many mental diseases make a person unable to conceive morality.

      Conceivably a day might arrive in the very, very distant future where everything we believe was immoral about Hitler is seen differently, however the catastrophic changes that would have to take place within society are innumerable and beyond my ability to conceive.

      notably, the very things you are citing are the reason I think the cross made a definitive, unchanging statement about such human activity. all of our self-destructive behaviors are killing us – and God is justified in showing us what he did at the cross:

      1) i'm worse off than i want to admit (I deserve to die)
      2) i'm more loved than i ever dared to hope (he was willing to die in my place)

      I will, of course, disagree. On point one, I once believed this. Whole heartedly. But then I objectively looked at my life and realized that nothing I have ever done, said or thought made this true. I am worthy of the life I have, and i live my life to make that continue to be true.

      As to your second point, atonement theory leaves me cold. It is sickening to me to think of allowing anyone to take my punishment for me, even in a finite, earthly manner. How much more disgusting is it to think that only by allowing this, accepting this, even wallowing in this am I acceptable to the god who made it so?

      February 28, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  13. Russ

    @ Bob: ok. one for & one against...
    1) Christianity is the only religion wherein God actually enters his creation & suffers. If any religion is equipped to deal with unjust, inexplicable suffering, it is Christianity.

    2) secondly, and more problematic for a secular humanist: without God, there is no basis to be upset about suffering. it's simply a fact of our existence. you have no ground to be morally outraged because no such objective basis for moral outrage exists.

    and again, i renew my initial thought. Joni Eareckson Tada has spent her life living through being handicapped and made a ministry out of it. if anyone is qualified to speak to your 'concern', it is her.

    February 28, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Russ

      wrong place... meant for below

      February 28, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Bob

      The right place for your vacuous statements above was actually the wastebasket.

      February 28, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Russ

      @ bob: didn't you ask me to respond with an argument? i welcome your side of that discussion.

      February 28, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • think for yourself

      What a close minded "argument" from Russ. According to Christianity, god's son suffers, so that means Christians are more equipped to deal with suffering? Give me a break. Talk about "unjust, inexplicable suffering", that is the eternal punishment that your loving god is going to unleash upon over 70% of the world's population.
      To imply that without a god, there is no basis to be upset about suffering, is absurd.

      February 28, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      @Russ,

      I think you are taking a highly simplistic view of a very complex issue.

      1) Christianity is the only religion wherein God actually enters his creation & suffers. If any religion is equipped to deal with unjust, inexplicable suffering, it is Christianity.

      Actually no. History is filled with dying and resurrecting gods. Christianity was just the last of them. Suffering is not inexplicable. All suffering has a cause. Recognizing that there is a cause and that the cause is "nature" does not eliminate the moral desire to reduce or eliminate suffering.

      2) secondly, and more problematic for a secular humanist: without God, there is no basis to be upset about suffering. it's simply a fact of our existence. you have no ground to be morally outraged because no such objective basis for moral outrage exists.

      Also false. In a society of no religion there is still a moral compass that forms around the common morality of those within the society. It may not relate to that of a society formed with religion, necessarily, other than along the basic human common mores that seem to be rooted in our self preservation, however you would still find the development of customs and laws aimed at the greater good, at reducing suffering and causing the society to flourish. No god is required for this to happen.

      and again, i renew my initial thought. Joni Eareckson Tada has spent her life living through being handicapped and made a ministry out of it. if anyone is qualified to speak to your 'concern', it is her.

      Many live with tragedy and disability. Joni Erickson Tada is not alone. She made a name for herself, yes. She credits the Christian god with her ability to cope, yes. Look at Stephen Hawking. His disability is as profound, and yet he survives, and made a name for himself, without god.

      Where then is the benefit of faith?

      February 28, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Russ

      @ weight:
      on your first & third points, see my above response to DC's comment.

      on your second point (that morality can exist without an objective ground):
      in appealing to a common, subjective morality, how do you perceive the wrongs of a given culture? is it ever possible to judge that culture from the outside? if so, on what basis?

      are there any crimes which are *always* wrong? or could it be, given an evolutionary dialectic, that Hitler was just an earlier manifestation of a later successful evolutionary step in the development of a master race? if there are no objective grounds upon which one can claim such morality is wrong, then a secular humanist must logically embrace that possibility. most people aren't willing to go there. are you?

      without objective grounding, bearing the nature of sociological evolution, there is nothing precluding a society from declaring what one generation found to be abhorrent as the next generation's acceptable practice.

      for example, when the Nazis took over Holland, they forced the doctors to withhold treatment from the handicapped & physically infirmed. the doctors objected that they would never do something so barbaric. that was 1945. in 2002, Holland legalized doctor-assisted suicide. the very thing that had been called a war crime in one generation was regarded as compassion in the next.

      mustn't a secular humanist embrace the same possibility with racism, pedophilia, etc.?

      February 28, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      in appealing to a common, subjective morality, how do you perceive the wrongs of a given culture? is it ever possible to judge that culture from the outside? if so, on what basis?

      In a purely objective world (which is an impossibility), the answer would be no. In a purely objective world each culture must be judged from within, it's mores and morality attuned only by those who live within the culture.

      And I would argue that subjective morality is all that we have, religion or no.

      are there any crimes which are *always* wrong? or could it be, given an evolutionary dialectic, that Hitler was just an earlier manifestation of a later successful evolutionary step in the development of a master race? if there are no objective grounds upon which one can claim such morality is wrong, then a secular humanist must logically embrace that possibility. most people aren't willing to go there. are you?

      Given that nearly all human cultures eventually develop some very similar moral guidelines, I would say that yes there are actions that can be taken by either an individual or a society at large, that become accepted as absolutely wrong (though true absolute is not reasonable, even for the most commonly agreed upon crime). For example, murder.

      Name me a society that did not treat murder as a crime. I can think of none. Now, how we deal with those that break that law is a different matter and subjective to the motive, the extenuating circ.umstances, the society in which the murder occurs, even who the murderer is and who the victim was.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      without objective grounding, bearing the nature of sociological evolution, there is nothing precluding a society from declaring what one generation found to be abhorrent as the next generation's acceptable practice.

      It works both ways. One need only study history to see that. Slav.ery. It was ac.cepted as normal and natural part of society for time im.memorial. It was used as a means to s.ubdue a c.onquered people, as a way to repay debt, and in darker incarnat.ions of it, as a means of cheap labor and racial do.min.ation. It has not been very long since sla.very was an a.ccepted practice right here in our own country.

      Does the society we live in today co.ndone or allow slavery? No. Of course it doesn't. Our morality evolved.

      At one time it was considered wrong to marry outside your own race. Today it is accepted. At one time a committed lesbian or gay relationship that equated to marriage would have brought about mobs and violence, and yet every day we come closer to that being a reality.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Russ

      as i stated elsewhere on this page (regarding a sliding definition of murder):

      for example, when the Nazis took over Holland, they forced the doctors to withhold treatment from the handicapped & physically infirmed. the doctors objected that they would never do something so barbaric. that was 1945. in 2002, Holland legalized doctor-assisted suicide. the very thing that had been called a war crime in one generation was regarded as compassion in the next.

      how could the same not be said of racism, pedophilia, etc.?

      and that's simply to avoid the hot topics of abortion and capital punishment in our current society...

      February 28, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Russ

      @ weight:
      and yet your very example draws out certain questions. how did we get rid of slavery? who were the primary catalysts for ending racial abuses & bringing civil rights?

      Though not exhaustive, the great majority of catalysts were religious (making a objective claim of some sort as the basis for societal change): Ghandi, William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc. They were seeking to apply the objective moral claims of their faiths to a society which largely did not adhere to them.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      With.holding treatment and easing a dying person into the next life are not the same thing.

      mustn't a secular humanist embrace the same possibility with racism, pe.do.philia, etc.?
      We are an evolving sp.ecies. There was a time we allowed fathers to sell their daughters into marriage once they began having a period, (as young as 10 and 11 in some cases) to some older man.

      Is this not pe.dop.hilia? Do we condone this today?

      Morality is not, and can not be stagnant.

      If it were, we would still be marrying off our children, when we didn't stone them for disobedience before they reached the age of maturity.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Russ

      @ weight: so you do embrace the possibility that the next version of Hitler may be morally right, regardless of what our society says now?

      notably, the very things you are citing are the reason I think the cross made a definitive, unchanging statement about such human activity. all of our self-destructive behaviors are killing us – and God is justified in showing us what he did at the cross:

      1) i'm worse off than i want to admit (I deserve to die)
      2) i'm more loved than i ever dared to hope (he was willing to die in my place)

      February 28, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      @Russ,

      and yet your very example draws out certain questions. how did we get rid of slavery? who were the primary catalysts for ending racial abuses & bringing civil rights?

      Have we ended them? One could argue that in many places in this country we haven't. And civil rights...have they been extended to all? One might ask a few minority folks before you answer that question.

      Though not exhaustive, the great majority of catalysts were religious (making a objective claim of some sort as the basis for societal change): Ghandi, William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc. They were seeking to apply the objective moral claims of their faiths to a society which largely did not adhere to them.

      I didn't say that morality developed in a vacuum. The morality of a society is informed and affected by the people within that society...which means, by necessity that the religions embraced by those people will influence the development of that morality. My argument does not preclude that.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      Ooops, put this in the wrong place...

      @Russ,

      so you do embrace the possibility that the next version of Hitler may be morally right, regardless of what our society says now?

      I'm always amused when Hilter is invoked in arguments regarding morality. Hitler was, by and large, mentally ill. Many mental diseases make a person unable to conceive morality.

      Conceivably a day might arrive in the very, very distant future where everything we believe was immoral about Hitler is seen differently, however the catastrophic changes that would have to take place within society are innumerable and beyond my ability to conceive.

      notably, the very things you are citing are the reason I think the cross made a definitive, unchanging statement about such human activity. all of our self-destructive behaviors are killing us – and God is justified in showing us what he did at the cross:

      1) i'm worse off than i want to admit (I deserve to die)
      2) i'm more loved than i ever dared to hope (he was willing to die in my place)

      I will, of course, disagree. On point one, I once believed this. Whole heartedly. But then I objectively looked at my life and realized that nothing I have ever done, said or thought made this true. I am worthy of the life I have, and i live my life to make that continue to be true.

      As to your second point, atonement theory leaves me cold. It is sickening to me to think of allowing anyone to take my punishment for me, even in a finite, earthly manner. How much more disgusting is it to think that only by allowing this, accepting this, even wallowing in this am I acceptable to the god who made it so?

      February 28, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Russ

      @ weight:
      yes, your argument didn't preclude that – and yet there is a dearth of atheistic examples. do you appeal to a low percentage of atheists in history? of course, that would make one question why we haven't 'evolved' away from theism...

      and – right – we have not ended racial abuses entirely. but i was noting the *catalysts* for such major change based their passionate appeal for change upon an objective moral basis. i recognize you have an interpretation of history which allows for that – but what do you do with the lack of such atheistic catalysts? doesn't it pose a problem that possibly atheists are ill-equipped to bring about such changes?

      February 28, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Russ

      @ weight:
      amused at Hitler as an example? even if he was 'mentally ill,' do you make the same claim for all such leaders throughout history? Stalin, Pol Pot, Ghengis Khan, Alexander the Great, etc.?

      "I am worthy of the life i have" – how can a secular humanist come to that conclusion? why even feel the need to make such a statement. if we are merely the aggregate pinnacle of a lengthy evolutionary chain, certainly there is nothing "worthy" about the random fluxes that led to your existence on the planet.

      and yet, if someone were to have recorded all of the various times in your life that you judged other people & the basis upon which you judged them, would you have even lived by your own standards (not even "God's)? i have yet to meet an honest person who thinks they have consistently fulfilled their *own* standards for existence.

      atonement – literally means "covering."
      when I think of parents who have covered their children, taking the hit for them in tornadoes, etc., i am far from "left cold." isn't that the pinnacle of love? but for that matter, if love is just a survival instinct, it wouldn't be beautiful, would it? just a function of survival.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      Russ, one last quick one before I run away (my lunch hour is over).

      I think perhaps you are operating on a couple of false ideas. For one, I am not an atheist.

      Does it matter to me whether the "person" to champion a change to the moral fabric of the society is a theist or not? Not particularly. What matters to me is whether the change is in the "best interest" of the society, if it represents the "majority".

      And, we have to also recognize that while the visible name who "causes" change may in fact be a theist, or even a particular sect or denomination, they do not act alone, they do not bring about changes alone.

      Take the slavery example. There were Christians on both sides of that argument.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Russ

      @ weight: again, "best interest" implies an absolute, moral objective basis. and it claims a preference – even though you state you are unbiased on the a/theist discussion. who decides the best interest & why? until we are honest about our foundational assumptions (faith claims), we cannot really advance in that discussion.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      amused at Hitler as an example? even if he was 'mentally ill,' do you make the same claim for all such leaders throughout history? Stalin, Pol Pot, Ghengis Khan, Alexander the Great, etc.?

      Amused that everyone pulls that card, as if comparing me to Hitler automatically means you win the argument. And yes, I'm sure we could get into a long conversation about ethics, morality and mental illness, but I think that's beyond the breadth of this thread.

      "I am worthy of the life i have" – how can a secular humanist come to that conclusion? why even feel the need to make such a statement. if we are merely the aggregate pinnacle of a lengthy evolutionary chain, certainly there is nothing "worthy" about the random fluxes that led to your existence on the planet.

      Again, you assume too much about me based on our limited conversation. I come to that statement having come from a place where I believed it's opposite. It was a very long road for me to find love for myself, to come to the truth that I am who I am and that is good. I never said my life or any life had no purpose or was completely random.

      and yet, if someone were to have recorded all of the various times in your life that you judged other people & the basis upon which you judged them, would you have even lived by your own standards (not even "God's)? i have yet to meet an honest person who thinks they have consistently fulfilled their *own* standards for existence.

      No I haven't, but as a part of my spiritual practice, I work to identify those times and in cases where possible I rectify my error. I seek forgiveness, not from some god who was not a part of my error, but from those whom I have harmed by my actions (if indeed said judgment led to adverse action). I work very hard to meet each person where they are, and operate with the knowledge that I do not know their story, their life and to offer whatever it is they need in that moment, whether it be a friend, or someone to rail at, or someone to give them a hand up, or someone to merely leave them alone.

      atonement – literally means "covering."
      when I think of parents who have covered their children, taking the hit for them in tornadoes, etc., i am far from "left cold." isn't that the pinnacle of love? but for that matter, if love is just a survival instinct, it wouldn't be beautiful, would it? just a function of survival.

      This is not the same thing. Saving a life, particularly an innocent life from an accident or a storm or what have you is not the same as going to the electric chair in the place of a killer. To think otherwise is delusion.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      I really do have to get back to work. I shall attempt to return later to address your question regarding "best interest".

      February 28, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Russ

      @ weight: in regard to the middle road it appears you are pursuing... (between classic Christianity & atheism)

      i rather enjoy both Nietzsche & Hitchens on these issues. they are boldly honest about the impossible 'middle' here. either there is or is not an Objective being out there (God). if there is, then these moral outrages actually do have an objective weight. if not, there are merely part of the evolutionary process. as Hitchens would note: "sure, we don't enjoy it, but so what? it's reality." and we are just a placeholder in the process.

      you're right, we haven't talked extensively – but i was giving you the benefit of the doubt. either there is a God who has spoken into our subjective existence (in which case we submit to what He/It has said) or there isn't and all our constructs (theistic & atheistic alike) are merely self-projections. you appear to want to object to the basic claims of religion but want to hold a line that would still somehow uphold the Objective.

      on what basis do you see a need to "rectify your error" or seek "forgiveness" other than as part of the subjective, evolutionary process? or do you agree that there is an Objective reality? if so, how has he/she/it revealed reality to you?

      all the classic examples of megalomaniacal dictators (as illustrations of human evil) draw out a basic concern: either there is an evil worth objecting to (appealing to an objective moral reality, e.g. God) or this is just part of the process. there is no middle ground here.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      @Russ, there really is a much bigger world out there than just the dichotomy that you pose. It isn't black and white, Christian or atheist. There are many other philosophies to explore.

      I wouldn't say that I am trying to walk a middle ground. That would presume that duality.

      i rather enjoy both Nietzsche & Hitchens on these issues. they are boldly honest about the impossible 'middle' here. either there is or is not an Objective being out there (God). if there is, then these moral outrages actually do have an objective weight. if not, there are merely part of the evolutionary process. as Hitchens would note: "sure, we don't enjoy it, but so what? it's reality." and we are just a placeholder in the process.

      I'll admit I haven't read much Nietzsche and probably won't. You're stuck on this word "objective" though, when nothing in human experience is objective. We can only perceive it through the subjective lens of our experience.

      you're right, we haven't talked extensively – but i was giving you the benefit of the doubt. either there is a God who has spoken into our subjective existence (in which case we submit to what He/It has said) or there isn't and all our constructs (theistic & atheistic alike) are merely self-projections. you appear to want to object to the basic claims of religion but want to hold a line that would still somehow uphold the Objective.

      In actuality, I don't object to the basic claims of religion, I merely consider religion to be a man made construct, subjective to our understanding of the world around us and that which we claim as Divine. For the record, I am Pagan and my belief about deity and divinity is complicated, at best. On some level it is similar to Deism, on another is more akin to pantheism and on still another is much like polytheism. So, I am a theist. I just do not follow your definition of god.

      on what basis do you see a need to "rectify your error" or seek "forgiveness" other than as part of the subjective, evolutionary process? or do you agree that there is an Objective reality? if so, how has he/she/it revealed reality to you?

      Because my words or actions have caused harm. Is that not enough of a reason? I may not even need to believe that what I said or did was "wrong" to feel the need to apologize and make peace.

      all the classic examples of megalomaniacal dictators (as illustrations of human evil) draw out a basic concern: either there is an evil worth objecting to (appealing to an objective moral reality, e.g. God) or this is just part of the process. there is no middle ground here.

      Evil exists. It is man made, just as good is. Just as every other step along the spectrum of human behavior is. One does not need god to have evil.ccc

      February 29, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • myweightinwords

      @Russ,

      @ weight: again, "best interest" implies an absolute, moral objective basis. and it claims a preference – even though you state you are unbiased on the a/theist discussion. who decides the best interest & why? until we are honest about our foundational assumptions (faith claims), we cannot really advance in that discussion.

      "Best Interest" does not need some absolute moral objective. It does, indeed claim a preference, one that moves the society in question in one direction or another.

      Who decides? The people. Sometimes it is a conscious decision. Sometimes it isn't. Sometimes it happens easily. Sometimes it's a struggle.

      I don't remember claiming to be unbiased, only that the faith of those involved doesn't matter to me for the purposes of this discussion of morality and social mores. I do hope my previous comment on the subject at least offers insight into where I stand on the subject of faith.

      February 29, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  14. snagglez

    Studies have shown that people who actually have a wide understanding of theology tend to be the most accepting and moderate. The group tested were Muslim, and it was found that those who had a shaky understanding of their religion where much easier to manipulate when given dogmatically incorrect information and therefore most likely to carry out attacks. That is the problem with most major religions. People receive teachings through the filter of individuals who might have strong prejudices or underlying agendas. I was raised Catholic and I can understand why they are against birth control – the more children, the more future Catholics. But unlike a century ago, families are not able to support a dozen children due to the move away from agriculture, the decline in childhood mortality, and the expectation of college education. The veil has been pulled away and most people now know that pastors, priests, and clergy are not the mouth piece of G-d; rather, they are just people who come with all the sins and weaknesses of anyone else.

    February 28, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  15. paul

    Questioning religion is a sign of an active inquiring mind. Yeah I guess if you educate your kids thats a consequence that may occur. Its a good thing though, active inquiring minds lead to the future. When I was a young student I came to not believe in God for a time, but it was because I didn't understand religion. I was looking for imperical evidence of God and it doesn't exist. The reason they call it faith is you have to take it on faith. No one explained that adequately to me as a child. I was told everything in the Bible was factual. No one said these facts cannot be proven.

    February 28, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Nancy

      If your faith and religious beliefs cannot withstand the scrutiny and examination, how strong is it really? Or is it because you don't want Dorothy to look behind the curtain and see the reality of some religious people's hypocrisy?

      February 29, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  16. momoya

    Every High School should require students to take Mythology and Critical Reasoning. Fantastic courses regardless of whether or not a believer would be compelled to change the mode or object of her religious belief.

    February 28, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Russ

      @ momoya: i'd add that every church's biggest critic should be themselves. churches should welcome honest, self-critical discussions. certainly Jesus had that sort of thing in mind when he said we should deal with the canoe in our own eyes before trying to remove the speck from others.

      hypocrisy is (literally) being less critical of ourselves than of others.
      we Christians need to be the first to admit that our sins are the biggest problem we've got.

      February 28, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  17. The Central Scrutinizer

    God's plan" is the way that Christians traditionally explain things like amputations, cancer, hurricanes and car accidents. For example, if a Christian dies a painful and tragic death because of cancer, she dies as part of God's plan. Her death has a purpose. God called her home for a reason. Even if something bad happens to a Christian, it is actually good because it is part of God's plan.

    You can see how pervasive "God's plan" is by looking in Christian inspirational literature. For example;
    Because God made you for a reason, he also decided when you would be born and how long you would live. He planned the days of your life in advance, choosing the exact time of your birth and death. The Bible says, "You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!" [Psalm 139:16]

    There is also this:

    Regardless of the circ.u.mstances of your birth or who your parents are, God had a plan in creating you.

    Under this view of the universe, God plans everything.

    Take a moment and think about this, "He planned the days of your life in advance, choosing the exact time of your birth and death." Let's examine one simple implication of this statement. What this means is that God has pre-planned every abortion that has taken place on our planet.

    February 28, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      I think any educated critical thinker would find this ridiculous and not want to be associated with it.

      February 28, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      If the concept of "God's plan" is true, you can first of all see that God wants us to be aborting children. Every single abortion is planned by God, so God must be doing it for a reason. Second, you can see that both the mother who requests the abortion and the doctor who performs it are blameless. Since it is God who planned the abortion of the child (God chose the "exact time" of the death, the mother and doctor are simply puppets who are fulfilling God's plan, are they not? What about all the Christians who are fighting against abortion? If abortion is part of God's plan, why are they fighting it? God is the all-powerful ruler of the universe, and his plan is for more than a million children a year to die in the United States through abortion

      If God's plan is true, then each one of those abortions was meticulously planned by God.

      If God does not intend for us to perform abortions, is it then wrong that God has a plan? If God has a plan, is he not the direct cause of every abortion? Simply think it through, and you will begin to see the problems in this proposition.

      February 28, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      I have a very close friend who was a non believer and he became interested in my faith and asked me some very tough question. For example, if God is in control why does he allow bad things to happen? Or, if God love’s everyone why does he allow some to go to hell? I believe what it comes down to is that God did not create robots. He allows us to choose. What if someone never hears about Christ? I believe someone who dies without the opportunity to accept Christ may be no different than an innocent child to God. God may know what you will choose and has the power to alter your choice. However, I don’t know if he does in all cases. I don’t believe that God is the cause of all abortions. He may allow them, just as he allowed the devil to have his way with Jobs family, but he doesn’t cause them.

      February 28, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Robert Brown wrote, "God may know what you will choose and has the power to alter your choice. However, I don’t know if he does in all cases. I don’t believe that God is the cause of all abortions.

      Point 1 – if god alters your choice, free will is a sham. If god is omnipotent and omniscient, then he knows if you will go to heaven or hell. He kneew this before he created you. He knew before he created the universe. If god knows you will go to hell, there is no way you can trick god and show up in heaven. Otherwise god would not be omnipotent or omniscient. And if he isn't omnipotent and omniscient, he isn't much of a god is he? And if god knows – before you were born – that you are going to hell, with no chance of tricking god and going to heaven – well then, your god is a sick sadistic twisted god who creates humans for the sole purpose of torturing them for all eternity.

      Point 2 – 50% of all pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion – most before the woman even knows she is pregnant. Your god, again claiming omnipotence and omniscience – is responsible for each one of these millions and millions of abortions

      February 28, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  18. Captain Obvious

    Tim Tebow did not approve this story. Thus it doesn't exist.

    February 28, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  19. MissusPowell

    I want to thank the author for a truly sane article on this subject. I also think Brad's comment above is excellent. Thank You Much.

    February 28, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  20. Bob

    "Young people leaving Christianity in droves" is fantastic news. Keep it happening!

    Look into the eyes of a suffering victim of any of the multiple disfiguring, debilitating, painful diseases that "loving" Christan god has purportedly created. Then it should become clear that Christian god as described in the bible is not loving, doesn't give a hoot about human suffering, and in fact does not exist.

    Ask the questions. Break the chains. Be free of religion in 2012.
    http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

    February 28, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Russ

      @ bob: do your homework. talk to/read about an actual disabled Christian's beliefs.
      straw men are cheap distractions.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joni_Eareckson_Tada

      February 28, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Bob

      Nice try, Russ. Not. Next time, try to present an argument.

      February 28, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Bob: ok. one for & one against... [accidentally posted above]
      1) Christianity is the only religion wherein God actually enters his creation & suffers. If any religion is equipped to deal with unjust, inexplicable suffering, it is Christianity.

      2) secondly, and more problematic for a secular humanist: without God, there is no basis to be upset about suffering. it's simply a fact of our existence. you have no ground to be morally outraged because no such objective basis for moral outrage exists.

      and again, i renew my initial thought. Joni Eareckson Tada has spent her life living through being handicapped and made a ministry out of it. if anyone is qualified to speak to your 'concern', it is her.

      February 28, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • AGuest9

      "without God, there is no basis to be upset about suffering. it's simply a fact of our existence."

      How do you figure that? Anyone can be upset about suffering. I'm more than a bit disgusted by this whole "atheists can't relate or have morals or ethics or laws since they are godless" nonsense. It really is getting old, is incorrect, and makes anyone who spouts that drivel took like a fool.

      February 28, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Russ

      @ AGuest9: help me understand then.
      an atheist believes either a) there is no such thing as the "Objective" (God/s) or b) objective reality is simply what we already live in (which most call our subjective existence).

      the latter argument (b) is making an objective claim by a subjective agent. or bluntly put: "faith" – what atheists frequently criticize in theists.

      the former argument (a) – aside from other problems – necessarily also claims that there is no objective basis for moral appeal. ergo: no higher ground to which one may object to our current existence as problematic/upsetting/broken/etc...

      if the world "is what it is," doesn't science take a clinical view of suffering? it, too "is what it is." no basis for being upset.

      February 28, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Tom

      Ok, so another thick headed one here.

      Actually you miss the point Russ. You are correct,t here is no Higher ground to object, but that doesn't mean there is no concern about suffering, That means it is up to man to try and do something if man wants to do something about it. Morality is the individual point of view of a social contract of what is considered right or wrong. What is moral has constantly and will always change across times, cultures, regions, etc. Then we go a step further to turn those morals into laws, which then they become ethics.

      No god is required. Although social morality has been often tied to the particular belief system prevelant, it only shows a correlation, not a causation.

      Just because that is "what it is" doesn't mean we don't have to try and change that. It's called progress, something that, ironically, religion continues to fight. It's the difference about complaining about suffering and doing something about it. The only way something will be done about it is if people do something about it.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Primewonk

      @ Russ – many gods entered their creations and many gods suffered. Where are you getting your information?

      Also, the most moral people I know are the godless heathens. Some of us choose to do the right thing, simply because it's the right thing to do. We have ne need for a magical sky-daddy to threaten us to do the right thing.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Primewonk: see my above discussion with DC on the nature of myth versus the claims of Christianity.

      your second statement make several metaphysical assumptions. to whom or what do you appeal to find what is "right?" without your 'magical sky-daddy' or some other objective ground, an evolutionary dialectic demands the very real possibility that what is "right" for one generation may be the exact opposite from the next. On whose/what authority do you base your claim?

      February 28, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Tom:
      it is not thick-headed to recognize the difference between the objective and the subjective. on what do you base your moral appeal? if it is subjective, do you also admit that such morality can shift?

      more practically, are there any crimes then which you believe to be *always* wrong, or do you embrace the idea that sociological evolution may mean the next generation accepts those practices (whether they be the next Hitler or not)?

      February 28, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Primewonk

      @ Russ – again, there are no contemporaneous writings concerning your Jesus. Claiming there is, is wrong.

      Morals are not static. They are dynamic, chaning over time and culture. The SBC was formed because these folks were just positive that your god wanted them to own black people. In the 1990's, however, they officially apoligized. The words of your god did not chane in those 150 years. Rather it was how those people chose to spin the words in your bible that changed.

      Your problem is not with me. Your problem is that you choose to be ignorant about the science of evolution. I would suggest that you take the time to crack open a science journal or 2 or 20.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Primewonk:
      ironically, your appeal to science is self-refuting. science can make no such ethical judgments. and the moment we appeal to science in order to make such assessments, we have turned science into a faith (scientism, not the disciple of subjective human observation that is its definition).

      as Nietzsche said in criticism of his fellow atheists: "it is still a metaphysical faith that underlies our faith in science." In other words, to appeal to science for ethical answers is to be guilty of the very thing atheists object to theists over: faith.

      "contemporaneous" – it sounds like you're making a false distinction. Christians never claimed that Jesus wrote books. It was his disciples – in the same generation – who later wrote. they spent the majority of their lives sharing face to face. only when they approached death did they feel the need to write their stories down.

      having said that, to be clear, are you objecting to the accepted dates for Paul (d. @ AD 64) & his writings?

      on the issue of the SBC (of which I'm not a member), many churches have done evil in God's name (e.g., the Crusades). and yet I hope you'll note the basis for their decision to apologize ('repent' in their own language): the Bible – which, you rightly note, had not changed.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.