This is a for real text message, sent by a friend who was being hounded after already having his life utterly messed about with and to a degree destroyed by a particular church. The only bit changed from the original is his name. He is a great bloke.

Feel free to use it or any part of it if you too find yourself hounded disturbed or generally messed about with.

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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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54 Responses to 1087

  1. the sad part is that i don’t find this odd…sad, but have seen so many people (including me and my family) hounded by people with no idea what it is they are challenging! your friend is definitely not on their own.

    in the book Heavenly Man (written by Brother Yun) a statement is made defining the difference between the eastern and western church – in the east persecution comes more in the form of physical persecution – beatings, threats and so on. in the west persecution comes more from Christians slandering us and (in my words) emotionally and mentally torturing us…certainly seems to be true to me…maybe i’m weird, but in reality i’m fairly confident i am not and that the divide of persecution is actually fairly accurate…i’ve had more damage done by churches/christians than anybody outside of it combined.

    mercifully, i’ve stayed true to Christ despite the best efforts of some

  2. Hugh says:

    Too often the church becomes and organisation you join instead of somewhere to experience real relationship with God and other people.

  3. subo says:

    it’s so outrageous and destructive that church’s carry on this stuff, I wish I knew how to fight back. My faith has bought me so much hope & healing, I wish churches were better at making this available

  4. I love “the God I believe in does the reaching out directly.” Good thing He does! The only thing I know is that I can’t rely on anyone else to make the church reflect this God to others. I must be that person at my church. Am I?

  5. dianewoodrow says:

    Sad bit I found was that I was afraid to click the facebook like as I didn’t want those I went to church with on a sunday to read it, and yet I totally understand where this is coming from. Having been through some major pain and been supporting a Christian friend though the suicide of her Christian husband we have heard some real rubbish. God doesn’t make sense so don’t try to give us answers but He is God Almighty and you know He is still there for us. (sorry little preach there :) )

  6. Simon says:

    I’m more “within” the Church to be honest (PK), but I’ve seen such ugliness, directed at those I love. People who were once some of my Family’s closest friends turning against us to further their own agenda while doing so under the guise of “growing the Church’s ministry”. But God is still with us, and the cracks are already starting to show in those plans they have. But I don’t need them, my God is bigger than their childish plots and egos.

  7. soniamain says:

    The people who are running this supposedly church that your friend was attending are not running a church, it is a cult. What is frightening is the number of people who have been hurt, and the lack of accountability of the leaders. Other people in the area/ city know that’ bad’ things are happening there and yet they seem to continue to get away with it, what will it take for them to be exposed ?, what will it take for them to be stopped?.

  8. subo says:

    good point Sonia, and yet after hearing story after story, I wonder if Christians have lost a sense of knowing where the limit should be? and what can we do, as Christians who are distressed to hear this stuff.

    having joined a group of Christian’s who live by a rule, (in the Iona Community,) what would it be like if more of us chose to do this?, by supporting accountability structures similar to these, could we create a norm?

    not that the Iona Community, or other Christian communities are ever perfect, or free from damaging behaviour, though I do think there is in some systems an acknowledgement of the need for carefully thought systems and a knowledge of what makes a group ‘healthy’, perhaps we should actively promote this approach.

    I did once, have the opportunity to belong to a group who went through the process of checking their health as a group, meeting and looking at the questions provided, and following though changes from these discussion, perhaps this should be seen as normal, biannual community practice?, yet frustratingly, when I’ve been part of a Christian group trying to engage with this work, it’s seems to have become fragile and abortive, rather than honest and prepared to change

    now I’m wondering what other people’s experience are?, has anyone been through a process of looking at how healthy their church is, or do people have experiences of living by a rule?

  9. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Reading that text, I have to admit that I was starting to feel a little sorry for the guy…..until “The only reassurance of salvation I have needed in a while is that the liars and false prophets will burn in the lake of fire”. WHAT THE HELL! Please, please, will one of you explain to me how you could possibly get any reassurance or comfort in the thought of a fellow human being (or his/her ‘soul’, but if it feels pain then there’s no real difference) suffering the agonising torture of being burned alive for eternity? And for so ‘great’ a crime as telling lies or exploiting the gullible! I only ask because the whole idea sounds utterly cruel, repugnant and inhumane – not to mention totally disproportionate to the crime – to an atheist like me. In fact, I would go so far to say that anybody who wishes that, and remember we’re talking about eternity in a sea of fire, on any animal, never mind a human one, is at worst a dangerous psychopath, at best in need of a good look at himself. Maybe I’m missing something, but please try to make me understand how wishing eternal agony on somebody is deemed to be acceptable.* In my humble opinion, if I were to choose a room-mate, and the options were either a con artist or somebody who wants his foes to spend forever in flames, I’d go with the con artist every time.

    *Or even convince me how a god capable of acts of such savagery and cruelty can also be worthy of love and worship, because I’ve got a notion that a lot of people stay religious because they fear what may happen post-mortem if they seriously begin to entertain doubts. Whisper it quietly, but keeping the flock chained to a god through fear was why the idea of Hell as a real place with real suffering was invented (actually, it’s largely how religion itself evolved, but that’s going too far off-topic). It appears to still be working in some quarters.

  10. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Whoops, I forgot something. See, I’m not infallible after all :-)
    In his message, does Jim actually mean a salvation ‘brokerage’ house? ‘Brokeridge’ sounds like a mountain in the same chain as ‘Brokeback’.

  11. charvaka says:

    A good point well made, and those who find Acolyte’s reasoning attractive can discover more from him and others in similar vein, in the vibrant discussion forum at http://www.jesusandmo.net

  12. jonbirch says:

    it’s an okay point well made, let’s not go overboard. :-) i think it’s a text message reflecting real and deep anger. anger and exasperation. anger at having your family ripped away from you. under the circumstances and in the heat of constant attack and interfering, reflecting the theological views of your attacker right back at them is pretty neat. not attractive, but neat… and funny (i laughed). in that respect it reads like a psalm… raw, honest, not pretty. i think it is a shame that compassion for the victim runs out when real anger is expressed. anger needs a way out, an expression… so much better to express it in words than to take up arms.
    anyway, i’m sure we’ll agree that he probably won’t be hearing from them again in a hurry, so in that sense, job done.

    re. ‘brokeridge’… you’d have thought auto correct would have picked that up. :-)

  13. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Jon, reflecting one’s anger and pain is one thing, and there are many ways of expressing it, but an eternity of real, physical torture is overkill, if you’ll pardon the expression. The problem I have with the way that ‘Jim’ expressed himself is that presumably he believes in the literal concept of Hell – it does after all come hand-in-hand with the concept of Heaven – so his desire, or even belief, that those ‘liars and false prophets’ will burn for eternity isn’t so much raw, honest and ugly, it’s downright sadistic and goes far beyond any attrocity commited by any earthly tyrant. I fervently wish that anybody who hopes for another to be condemned to Hell would just consider exactly what it is that they are asking for and what that says about them, not to mention what kind of god would grant it. Could any of you honestly say that you’d be prepared to pour petrol on an enemy and light him up? Yet that’s exactly what ‘Jim’ hopes happens to his foes, and it’s what he expects his god to do on his behalf. We stopped burning ‘witches’ at the stake because it was an inhumane punishment, yet the few minutes of agony endured by those unfortunate people before death is as nothing when compared to the eternal punishment that the religious so often wish on others.

  14. jonbirch says:

    hey there AoS… “literal concept of hell”… i’m not sure he does believe in a literal concept of hell. i don’t.

  15. Mike says:

    Very sad indeed. It’s a shame there are so many of these organisations with self obsessed leaders that call themselves churches. Been to one, and left when I realised what it was. These organisations are basically Multi Level Marketing / Pyramid scammers in that they recruit a congregation who pay up each week while they do very little and receive a much greater than average wage from the takings. If you hear phrases such as ‘not giving 10% is stealing from God’, ‘what you give shows what you think God is worth’ and ‘pay your bill (10%) and give a tip’ run a mile. Don’t get me wrong here – I’m not against giving and yes I do give. Churches have ministers wages to pay, and buildings to light, heat and maintain so a cash flow is required. I pray for these people to correct their ways, and for healing to those affected by them.

  16. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Morning, Jon. How can you be a Christian yet not believe in Hell? Or are you one of those ‘Not the god that I believe in’ believers who cherry-pick from the Bible the bits he wants to believe is true, and puts the nastier parts – which are usually the bits that don’t fit fit the image of the N.T.all-loving deity, or that don’t fit in with an individual’s or splinter-group’s particular idea of what a god should be – down to good old analogy? If so,then that would make you as much an atheist as I. The Bible is supposed to literally be God’s word to man; once one starts to interpret it any other way than it was originally intended then one is openly declaring that the word of God was wrong, and a god that can be wrong is not, by definition, a god. Also, if there really was a god, then it wouldn’t be down to the individual to decide on the properties of that god, He is what He is, and mere mortals have no say on that. The Bible clearly states that God made man in his image, not that man created God, so, once you veer away from the literal meaning of the original holy book, you can no longer claim to believe in that god, and as God himself also stated that He is the only god and you shall worship no other, then whatever it is you worship cannot be a god. Ergo; atheist. :-)

  17. Kim says:

    atheists clearly use ‘Christian’ methods these days :-)

  18. bry21167 says:

    Kim, what do you mean by that?

  19. markk says:

    speaking on behalf of Kim, who i don’t know, i would say that the method referred to is that of deciding what another person thinks based on a lable we have put onto them. but all Kim’s think like that. ; )

  20. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Thanks, but I still don’t get it. I don’t decide what anybody is thinking, nor do I label them. What I do know though, is what the Bible says you should think, and how you should act. What interests me is how people who don’t follow the Bible literally to the letter, but rather choose what to believe or obey and call the rest ‘analogy’, can still claim to believe in a god, so I ask the questions. So if somebody believes in a ‘literal’ Heaven, but not in a ‘literal’ Hell, I’m intrigued as to how they manage to balance what they believe or fear with what the Bible says to believe or fear. There’s nothing better to reduce friction between opposing views than trying to understand the other’s argument.

  21. Kim says:

    I was referring to the comment of AoS when he/she said “How can you be a Christian yet not believe in Hell? Or are you one of those…..” which seemed to me to be telling someone, whose beliefs you don’t share, what it is they should think, based on what you think a Christian ‘should’ believe. It did seem like trying to put someone in a box, regardless of the truth about them, which Christians are at times accused of doing (fairly)

  22. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    But Kim, surely a Christian should believe what the Bible says they should? It doesn’t say “Here’s a list of rules, but if you don’t agree with any of them then it’s OK to ignore them”. So yes, having read the Bible I do have a pretty good idea of what Christians should be doing. I also think that those who identify themselves as Christian yet don’t live according to scripture have recognised the fact that religion is a man-made construct, alterable according to the beliefs, morals or ethics of the individual. What I don’t get is why they can’t or won’t accept this very simple, logical and indisputable fact.

    By the way, I am a ‘he’.

  23. DD says:

    Absoloutly hilarious

    Especially some of the comments,

    AOS, I think you may be taking things a little too seriosly here, while the Bible does indded preport that liars and false prophets will be thrown into the lake of fire, (Check out the Book of Revlelation for the N T “All loving God’s” mandates on that one) I definatly detect a hint a sarcasm in “Jims” message. You may think that that is wrong also, your yes should be yes etc etc but really there are people out there claiming sainthhood whilst running amok amongst us, trying their very best to manipulate and control, usually when others are at a low vunerable ebb.
    Do they mean to do it, no, probably not, they are most likely sociopaths, narcissists or ego worshipping fantasists. Is “Jim” a psychopath suggesting that they should be doused in petrol, it doesn’t read that way to me, merely someone who has had their fill of deception and is feeding some of the heresy back to its purveyors????

    Or perhaps as you suggest “jim” was just gullible and derserved what he got, maybe but if we continiue in that vain we may as well just let the cards fall as they may and let society govern itself withiout any protection for those within it….

    And as for feeling sorry for these earthly tyrants, if they are the ones I understand Jim to be refering to, they are the ones preaching a “gospel” of hellfire and damnation in the first place. Where anyone who doesn’t believe the same as them and adhere to their particular codes is week after week assured of Gods eternal wrath. So mirrioring this back to one of these tyrants is hardly wishing for an attrocity, its merely requesting some reflection before spouting the next round of prejudiced hate filled trite to the elect.

    Its just an opinion

    As for this littel gem………….
    “The Bible is supposed to literally be God’s word to man; once one starts to interpret it any other way than it was originally intended then one is openly declaring that the word of God was wrong, and a god that can be wrong is not, by definition, a god.”

    well where do I start…………………

    Maybe I just shouldn’t!! Suffice to say I don’t know anyone who can interpret a dense multilingual multi millenia old collection of 66 books give or take the ones that may or may not have been adapted or phased out………………. in the way it was originally intended?


  24. DD says:

    And for good measure here are some quotes I’ve enjoyed, not necessarilly a total viewpoint or anything like that, just enjoyed!!!

    [They must find it difficult…
    Those who have taken authority as the truth,
    Rather than truth as the authority.
    -G. Massey, Egyptologist]

    “Because I gotta tell you the truth, folks, I gotta tell you the truth. When it comes to bull****, big-time, major league bull****, you have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims, religion.

    “Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time!

    “But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, you talk about a good bull**** story. Holy ****!”

    – George Carlin

  25. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Yet despite acknowledging the nonsense of the collection original writings (and the ongoing nonsense spouted by religions’ most fundamental, or most crooked followers, but that’s another conversation; here I’m taking about ‘moderates’), people still choose to believe any one of a thousand or more watered down versions of a god.
    I’m telling you what I think and giving you the reasoning behind it. You’re telling me THAT I’m wrong, but not WHY I’m wrong. You’re doing exactly what I said in an earlier post, namely saying “Well yes, God of the Bible is a cruel and dictatorial tyrant, but that’s not the god I believe in”. How can humans decide on the attributes and qualities of a god – quite literally make God in their own image – and still insist that their god is real? I just don’t get it, so please don’t just tell me that I’ve got it wrong; tell me why.
    We are an exceptional species that has evolved to do incredible things. Why can’t we take pride in that, rather than attributing our achievements to an invented deity? Modesty’s fine up to a point, but sometimes one has to accept credit where it’s due.

  26. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    By the way, I never said that ‘Jim’ deserved what he got; what I said was that the hoped-for punishment of Hell was out of proportion with the ‘crime’ of exploiting gullibility.
    Having said that, I would question how he managed to let the situation get so desperate, but that would only be a question for ‘Jim’ himself; nobody else could presume to speak on his behalf without knowing the exact circumstances.

    But I have noticed that ‘Jim’ himself uses the phrase ‘the God I believe in does…'; a classic example of choosing the attributes of a god for oneself. Personally, I think that when one devises a god to fit in with one’s own ethical values, one is simply deifying oneself, and to me that sounds just a tad arrogant.

  27. DD says:

    I think that you are right in many ways, not wrong. I personally am not coming from a place (ANYMORE!) where I think that any person should be telling another what is right or wrong when it comes to faith, beliefs etc. I respect your right to atheism as much

    What I personally find overbearing is when we start to judge and condem, I’m sure a retort hrer is that that is what Jim has / is doing. However the way I read it is that He’s just a guy who’s had enough of interference in his life and is letting people know they should back off.

    As for how the situation got so desperate, the experience I have is that many enter into “communities” with the best of intentions only to realise that they are actually involved in a cult like organsiation. They may choose to leave, but what if their families don’t? they are excommunicated etc etc.

    That may sound far fetched and one rightly questions what kind of person exposes themselves to that kind of manipulation. Its valid but I have seen many many intelligent people of seemingly sound mind be taken advantage of. Its closer than you think. From what I have seen most citys have a number of groups operating in this way

    As for self deification for one’s own ethical pleasure, I think that arrogance is just the start of the problem there!! From my understanding of this thread I think that that is actually part of Jim’s subtext. Persons claming to be the elect and anointed of the “almighty” making proclamations of what faith and belief should be, who god is etc etc. Its just not on because despite their whooping, clapping, beastings and bombings, does anyone actually know?

    And who is God? the universe, love etc? Surely that is for each member of our exceptional evolving species to discover and realise for themselves hopefully with a goal achieving even more incredible things?

  28. DD says:

    for even more good measure here’s a Bill Hicks quote, about as close as I see myself getting to a statment of faith for a while!!

    The world is like a ride at an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it, you think that it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly coloured, and it’s very loud and it’s fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time, and they begin to question – is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us. They say ‘Hey! Don’t worry, don’t be afraid, ever, because, this is just a ride.’ And we…kill those people. Ha ha ha. ‘Shut him up! We have a lot invested in this ride. SHUT HIM UP! Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account and family. This just has to be real.’ It’s just a ride. But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. But it doesn’t matter because: it’s just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings, and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourselves off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one. Here’s what you can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defence each year, and instead spend it feeding, clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, for ever, in peace.
    Bill Hicks

  29. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Ah, DD, that last part was so reminiscent of a passage in the late Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos’ (a beautifully written and illustrated book, perfect for those who want to understand the universe and our place in it, but don’t want to wade through pages of dry, boring technical stuff and a million equations), where he argues that if all the money spent by governments worldwide on finding ever-more efficient ways of killing our fellow humans, and in defending nations from largely non-existant threats, were instead used to fund urgently needed medical and other scientific research, not only might we now be rid of many major deadly diseases, but we would also almost certainly have become a true space-faring species well on our way to the stars.
    His final book, the autobiographical ‘Billions and Billions’, published posthumously (the cancer was too impatient to wait for Sagan to finish his book), is one of the most truly moving and inspirational books I have ever read, and I don’t mean inspiring as an atheist, but as a member of the human species. What he has to say transcends religion, politics, and all other petty squabbles that hold us back, and focuses instead on our potential, and on how blindingly simple the solutions to our self-imposed miseries can be. The final chapter, written by his widow Ann Druyan, genuinely moved me to tears.
    Right, hero-worship over, normal service is resumed :-)

    You said “Persons claming to be the elect and anointed of the “almighty” making proclamations of what faith and belief should be, who god is etc etc. Its just not on because despite their whooping, clapping, beastings and bombings, does anyone actually know?”.
    Well, no; but that’s been my point all along. I see all these people professing a belief, all with their own ideas of what their god is or isn’t, or of what it does and doesn’t do, and I have to wonder just how many gods there are looking down on us! Yet for the most part, all these believers will say that there is but the one god, and it’s usually the one that has just the same ethics and values and morals as themselves. What I want to know is how they can come to those conclusions, how they can make those assumptions about their god, without even the flimsiest bit of evidence that they’re right.
    To return to your earlier point of “Suffice to say I don’t know anyone who can interpret a dense multilingual multi millenia old collection of 66 books give or take the ones that may or may not have been adapted or phased out………………. in the way it was originally intended?”; I’d wholeheartedly agree, yet those old scrolls and poorly translated manuscripts still form the foundation of the ‘big three’ world religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and I’ll bet that everybody here can trace their own particular belief back to them (unless there’s a Scientologist here, in which case I’d recommend therapy!). One only has to think about the situation honestly for a while to realise that gods are really no more than our own reflected hopes and wishes. They might make an ideal scapegoat for when things go wrong, or become a comforting ‘friend’ when solace is required, or perform one of a million duties, but disregarding ‘gut’ feeling, and ignoring what the heart tells you, surely the logical, rational part of your mind recognises that they have these roles because we made them that way, and that no amount of wishful thinking will make them any more real.
    Maybe it’s because the stories never rang true with me, and because I’ve always had a rational, no-nonsense mind that accepts nothing without at least some corroborating evidence, but I have never understood why anybody with a modicum of intelligence would believe in any of the so-called ‘supernatural’, and as a consequence I suppose I’ve always seen religion as just another set of superstitions, albeit probably the most adhered to superstition worldwide and throughout history. It was, I suppose, understandable that religion was believable when it was the only known explanation for the Cosmos, what isn’t so easily understood is why so many still cling to it, especially in those countries where the scientific explanation is available for all to see and learn from. That’s not to say that science knows everything; if it did there’d be no more need of it. But what it does give is simple, logical and proven answers to most of the questions that once were the domain of religion alone. I accept that science hasn’t disproved gods – it’s impossible to prove a negative – but it has made their existence highly unlikely, if not totally unneccesary. Yet people still believe in gods, and I still cannot find anybody who can tell me, in plain English, why they do. An even bigget mystery to me is those people who claim to accept the science as right, but still have to shoehorn a god in there somewhere.

    And I’ll keep pestering you all until one of us breaks :-)

  30. theGreatFuzzy says:

    AoS, I too love the scientific method, but, being a bit of a pedant, would like to nit pick this statement “But what it does give is simple, logical and proven answers to most of the questions that once were the domain of religion”. It’s the word “proven” that bothers me. I see science as a way of building a model of how we think the universe works. It contains theories such as Newton’s Theory of Gravity, well it did, only it’s been superceded by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity[1]. But then that’s science for you, it never actually proves its theories, it only ever disproves them – that’s its strength – that way we’re always improving the model.
    I expect you already know this, AoS, but I’ve found many who have not studied science seem to think it’s all about proving stuff and so they deduce that scientists have closed minds, when it’s actually the other way round.

    As for why people still cling to religion, I think Dan Dennett explains it well in his book “Breaking the Spell”. He also does this talk, related to the book, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_9w8JougLQ&feature=related. He’s also done other talks on where he thinks religions might be headed. I find his talks a pleasure to listen to, he’s a great communicator.

    [1] But even when a theory is dispoved it’s generally the case that the theory remains useful. So, for instance, you’d use Newton’s Theory of Gravity to get to the moon and planets in our solar system as it’s accurate enough for that purpose. But you need to use Einstein’s Theory for GPS to work (as clocks on the earth run more slowly than those in synchronous orbit above the earth).

  31. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Good point, GreatFuzzy. I should have said ‘simple, logical, and falsifiable’. But it was very, very late. Why does insomnia only happen when you want to sleep?
    (If this post has some funny, out-of-place symbols, it’ll be because I’m trying to type HTML italics, and I’ve got the code wrong. On the other hand, if the word ‘want’ appears in italics, then Yippee! it worked).

    But to get back to the point, it’s science that is prepared to accept new evidence and adapt – or drop altogether – current thinking in light of that, so if in another thousand years scientists still use the theories of Newton and Einstein, it won’t be because we’re too dogmatic or resistant to change, but because nothing has come along that falsified them. And that won’t be for wont of trying.
    If, however, in a thousand years the priests are still reading from the N.T./O.T/Koran/Book of ‘Hatface’ (thank you, Author, for that wonderful nickname) or what have you, it will be despite, rather than because, of evidence to the contrary.

  32. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    theGreatFuzzy,re. your mention of why people cling to religion, and of the book that answers it: Well, it’s a quiet night and I’m bored, so I have a little story, along with a massive confession, which kind of relates to your comment. I think it may amuse you, and I hope some of the regulars here too.
    Before I start, I want to make it absolutely clear that I’m not aiming to insult anybody here. The story involves that very antithesis to evolution by natural selection known as Intelligent Design, and its fundamentalist parent, literal Creationism as per Genesis. I’m getting the feeling that you folk here have pretty much rejected those hypotheses, at least in part if not totally. To be absolutely honest, the concept of a ‘prime mover’ that started the process and left it to itself, as unlikely as it may be, is still on the table, albeit clinging right on to the edge.

    I have a personal collection of over 2000 books, the vast majority of which are on my main topics of interest; biology, natural history, physics (as long as it’s more words rather than equations) astronomy and cosmology, anthropology and zoology, with a smattering of architecture, geology, history, mythology and the ‘supernatural’ of many flavours. There’s also a lot on my – and my wife’s – semi-professional interest in antiques and collectibles, and I have some theological and religious works, including a very handsome 19thC bible with stunning illumination. There is very little fiction of any kind, with the exception of a few Arthur C. Clark’s, Assimov’s Foundation series, all five of Douglas Adams’ Hitchiker’s Guide trilogy, and a handful of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster novels.
    I tell you all of this so that my impending confession will have some kind of context. So here goes. Forgive me, Sagan, for I have erred! I have a weakness for those damned Creationist / I.D booklets and pamphlets that ‘explain’, depending on who published it, why evolution by natural selection, or ‘Darwinism’, as it’s been labelled, is either totally false, or simply mis-titled. The ‘better’ one’s even ‘teach’ one how the Universe itself came to be!
    I have loads of the things,and almost all have two* things in common. First, they are chock-full of brightly coloured – and undeniably well printed at no little expense – photographs: shots of golden sun-sets and inspirational sunrises, majestic mountain scenes, and always, but always, lots of.beautiful animals, all with some ‘irreducibly complex’ feature. Second, they are written by idiots with no idea what science is; by liars carefully mis-quoting respected scientists, or simply making up the ‘facts’ as they go along. I have one somewhere that contains the astonishing claim that ‘scientists admit that they cannot explain neither lightening nor rainbows’, and it was printed only ten or-so years ago.
    So, you may be asking, what’s the point of all this?
    Well, I see these publications as a kind of antidote to lazy thinking, a set of ‘how NOT to do science’ pamphlets; as useful a tool of education as Dennet’s work on why people cling to religion, being the perfect argument for not doing so, at least when it comes to factual education. I’ve used them to teach my kids about evolution, and the scientific process, by letting them compare for themselves the pseudo-science with the real thing, and I’ve delighted in bringing them out when I get God’s own sales teams at the door and explaining the inherent faults contained within. By the looks on a lot of their faces, I’d make a guess that they’d never been taught even the basics of natural selection, and I’d swear that a couple of them were actually taking in what I was saying. Sadly, they’re the ones that I never saw again. Probably switched them to a new area before the bad man could plant a little knowledge in their minds.

    *Actually, three things in common. Although I’ve never received a free copy (I believe that they are handed out for free by the shiny suited ones on recruitment drives) they can always be found in the ’10p box’ in charity shops, so I’ve built quite a collection of very easy on the eye (if uneasy on the brain), endlessly funny** and, despite the content, educational wee tomes for pennies.

    **An atheist, admitting on a Christian site, that religion has the power to cheer him up, and has educational uses to boot! Call the Pope, it’s a miracle :-)

  33. theGreatFuzzy says:

    Interesting confession, AoS, I don’t know what the penance for that is! Of course proving evolution false (which is possible, else it wouldn’t be scientific theory by definition) does not prove I.D. true, which is what I.D. supporters seem to think, or at least suggest, it does. It just means that evolution isn’t true, and we’re back to the drawing board.

    Eugenie Scott’s talk “Why Creationism isn’t Science” http://www.youtube.com/user/NatCen4ScienceEd%5B1%5D is related, and was an eye opener for me. She argues that science supports neither atheism nor theism, nor any other ideology, but is open to use by all ideologies. Also, that critical thinking is not owned by science, but underlies it and can be used by all ideologies. And she says it a lot better than I do.

    She gives the link http://ncse.com, and I found this http://ncse.com/religion of interest. I feel I ought to make greater effort to see the theists point of view. I say that, in part, because I’ve lately been talking with some theists (and some non theists but who believe they have a spirit that lives on) and have come to realise that both sides see the other as having a closed mind. I have an idea as to why this might be, but won’t bore you with the details here.

    I feel I’ve learned a thing or two from posts on this sight. It seems civilised debate (or just lurking) with those of a differnt view brings out points that don’t get aired when debating with those of your own view. So thanks to all who take the time to post on this site.

    [1] At about 9.18 it seems to lose the sound for a minute or two. I fiddled about rewinding and got the sound back, not sure what’s going on!

  34. theGreatFuzzy says:

    Sorry, the link to Eugenie Scott’s talk is broken, so I’ll have to send you through RD’s site http://richarddawkins.net/videos/646348-why-creationism-isn-t-science, or you can google on her name and the talk’s title.

  35. Kim says:

    There is such a ferocious energy behind some of the comments that I am put off joining in. There are lots of sorts of writing in the Bible and it isn’t all to be taken literally – but here’s the thing. More of it begins to make sense once you journey with it, try and live it alongside relationship to the One who inspired it and is its object. It isn’t going to make any kind of experiential or any other kind of sense to someone who isn’t approaching it in that way. I can’t justify my journey and my attempts to live it to anyone who think they can tell me how I should be doing something that they don’t themselves even agree with, let alone are joining in with.

    There are many different views expressed here every day, most of them with a great generosity of spirit and respect for difference, and I hope that can continue and this not be a place for ridiculing the views of others that they are unwilling or unable to understand. Some things are best understood by doing, not arguing.

  36. jonbirch says:

    thank you, kim.

  37. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Am I really ridiculing anybody? Well, except those who knowingly write deliberately misleading and blatantly dishonest I.D. and creationist propaganda, but liars and charlatans deserve ridicule, don’t they? And I don’t think that anybody here falls into that particular group. Take a look at my comment #32 above. Did you see where I said “Before I start, I want to make it absolutely clear that I’m not aiming to insult anybody here.?
    Please don’t tell me that I am unwilling or unable to understand the views of others. I’ve made it perfectly clear that I do not understand why people, especially intelligent people, continue to believe in a gods. I’ve also made it perfectly clear that I want to understand why they do. But for reasons best known to themselves, nobody who does believe is either willing or able to explain why they believe what they believe. I thought that I was playing fair; I have been very honest in explaining not only my position but the thinking behind it, as clearly and unambiguously as possible, so that anybody who may read it should be able to understand the what and the why of my atheism, as one does in a civilised debate, and all I’ve asked is for the same in return. Non of this qualifies as insulting or offensive behaviour. Sadly, all I’ve been able to discover from the responses to my posts is that apparently I’m wrong. Not why I’m wrong, just that I am, and that gods are real. Not why they’re real, just that they are. So of course I don’t understand. I don’t understand because nobody can explain it. I know that you believe in gods. I know that none of you believe in the literal gods of the holy texts. I know that you all have your own ideas of what your gods want or expect of you.
    What I don’t know is how, once you’ve fine-tuned your own particular deity to fit in with what you want god to be – or custom built one using your own moral and ethical values as a blueprint, if you will – and therefore have recognised, if not implicitly acknowledged, that man makes gods rather than the original, opposite belief, you can then still insist that your god is real. And the reason I still don’t know is because none of you either can, or will, or both, show me the same courtesy I have shown you, which is to explain the reasoning behind the belief. In every other walk of life, if one asks a question of somebody, and instead of an honest answer one receives evasion tactics, the assumption is that they don’t actually have an answer. The questions I’ve asked are very simple, yet not once have I had a response that even begins to answer them. One could be forgiven for thinking that you’ve never been asked so directly before, or that even if you’ve had cause to doubt your faith, you’ve never gone as far as doubting the existance of gods. Or maybe you’re not ready to contemplate my questions for fear of where the thought process may lead. I hope that I’m wrong, but the deafening silence in the answers department doesn’t exactly convince me otherwise.
    If you have read all of this post so far, you would have to agree that if anybody here is being insulted, it’s me, in the part I’ve highlighted in bold text in this sentence from Kim There are many different views expressed here every day, most of them with a great generosity of spirit and respect for difference, and I hope that can continue and this not be a place for ridiculing the views of others that they are unwilling or unable to understand
    Unwilling or unable? I think that I have demonstrated time and again that I am willing to understand; it’s hardly my fault if nobody is willing to explain that which I don’t understand. I also feel that by now it should be patently obvious to you that my cognitive skills are still functioning quite nicely. Yet because I dare to present logical, thought-out and concise arguments which might make some feel uncormfortable or just plain scared to contemplate honestly, it is I that is labelled rude, offensive and thick-headed.

    Jon, do you recall my first visits here, to #1056? I felt feathers being ruffled even then, and said to you

    I would love to continue this debate; with your apparently conflicting views you sound like the kind of chap I enjoy verbally sparring with …but I do hope that our voices will not be drowned out by tutting from the sidelines.

    You replied

    what i try to do here is offer a safe place….to question, debate and think about those things we have been brought up with, subject to, influenced by, have problems with, etc.thanks for your thoughts… not much tutting goes on in these parts,

    It seems that not only are the tuts indeed making civilised debate impossible, but you, by thanking Kim for her unwarranted verbal dig at me and my sensibilities, have just joined in with the chorus. You really should have made it clear that you only wanted questions and debate on the finer details of religion, and not on the veracity of religion itself.

    Ah well, you live and learn.

  38. jonbirch says:

    hey there AoS… you’ve misunderstood me. i was thanking kim for commenting regardless of feeling put off by the manner of the conversation. i felt, as host, that she warranted my gratitude. i am, after all, grateful for her having done that. likewise, i hope you have not found me to be an unreasonable or rude host. i am interested in the views of others, the loud and the quiet and i hope that comes across… i don’t know if it always does.
    and i haven’t noted much tutting. in fact i’ve been engaging with you myself, if not in the way you are seeking, but i’ve been making a faltering attempt. i left a long, and rambling comment on a more recent post about myself for you which reveals a lot about me and how i tick. it doesn’t present hard fact or proofs of god, it just tells you more about me and how i do and don’t tick, so you can guage what kind of person i might be. i’ve made myself vulnerable by mentioning openly some of my own struggles with my life, health and faith. it says, albeit briefly, why i choose christ as a model for living and also how in practical terms my belief makes life a better experience for me. (i also believe it makes life better for those around me). i hope you get to reading that.
    we agree on so many things… charlatans, sales people, power mongering, etc. etc. our difference, as i see it, is that i believe in god and you don’t. many scientists working with hard fact every day believe in god… it’s not a rare thing. i’m not interested in throwing the carpet over bad behaviour, of the church, of government, or any other man made institution… in fact i’d prefer to be one who is taking up the carpet. my belief in god is simply that… belief in god. i know of no method by which i can prove to you god’s existence. i simply can’t do it in scientific terms. when i look at the beauty of a sky and say ‘thank you’, i believe i am connecting with that which is far greater than me, the sky, or anything else in the cosmos. i can’t prove it… hopefully my actions are a testament to my god… but my actions are flawed and there are a million ways in which someone like me can be found wanting and open to valid criticism. man, how do you describe an emotion or a sense? (yup, i know about serotonin, the amygdala, electrical impulses etc) but how do you describe it… and harder, how do you prove it’s meaning? i can’t. would i die for it? i hope so. would i kill for it? no.
    from the tiniest newborn hand, to the biggest star in the sky, i see a purpose… i don’t see chance, i know others do. i see the infinite order in the chaos and i’m awestruck by it, as i believe you are… but i believe there is something greater at work, no accident. i can’t prove it.
    i really have to go to bed, but i would like to refer you to the opening of my paragraph you quoted, where i said ‘i try’… i do try. maybe i should have said ‘try and fail’.
    and i don’t believe for a second that you weren’t deliberately ‘ruffling feathers’, so of course you noticed. :-) your entry on to this site was cheekily feather ruffling… i do it all the time in my cartoons, so i know it when i see it. :-)

  39. “from the tiniest newborn hand…..” amen bro, just awsome, we live in a world invested with love and potential

  40. Kim says:

    *sigh* AoS the problem is it appears you are in a paradigm of ‘modern’ thinking that needs faith/everything to be fully explainable with only one set of statistics and graphs and facts, (perhaps so you can debate and explode by the methods of your own paradigm, I don’t know). Many of us who have faith here are operating in a postmodern mindset where we question, ponder, and are aware of all the different interpretations of a bit of scripture and its historical context. Combined with the apparent failure of religious institutions to live up to their beliefs, we maintain some space and flexibility about how we understand our belief system and our God, not through the lens of a fixed list of beliefs any longer – we are small and limited in understanding and He is not, so we leave space. [If you are *really* interested in this, read Pete Rollins ‘How not to speak of God’] I wonder if you labout under the mistaken idea that if we state our beliefs, you will disprove them by force of intellect and then we will choose not to believe any more?

    I think the issue is – as I said previously – that this cannot be explained in one soundbite just for your convenience as it is only understandable through living in relationship with God. This is not to be deliberately obtuse, but is true. Do you want it to be outlined to you so you can critique and pull apart the arguments? People believe because they choose to believe at the end of the day. I can’t prove to you that there is a God, You can’t prove to me that He doesn’t. If you really want to have a robust argument, find a Christian apologist – Amy or Frog Orr Ewing or John Goddard. They will give you what it is you appear to be after.

    If you want to know what I belief as definate and stateable, read the Creeds. These are the sufficient statements of the Christian faith. Life is short – please go and enjoy it and don’t worry so much. We all get a free choice what to believe and how to live.

  41. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    I don’t want to try and make anybody justify their faith, nor do I want to beat anybody up with facts and figures. All I was asking was for somebody to be honest enough to tell me how, for example, they can tailor a god to their own moral or ethical values but still insist that that god is still ‘real’. That’s not insulting or ridiculing anybody, it’s asking for a little clarifcation of something that I don’t understand.
    I am currently in the middle of composing a full reply to your earlier post – the one attacking me not for what I said, but for what you decided were my underlying motives. It’s taking some time because I want to explain my position very carefully, and one cannot do that in soundbites. I only hope that, once I’ve finished and posted it here, people will actually make the effort to read and understand what I’m saying and asking, rather than just assuming I’m taking the piss.

  42. subo says:

    just to say there is a warm community of people on this blog, who enjoy reading different view points, and look out for each other. blogging’s a tricky thing sometimes, idea’s that can successfully be discussed face to face seem to become brittle and painful. I am often aware when a debate arises, that it can all just get too personal, so hope you all know there’s lots of support here, and a little fun to be had, and perhaps this blog, with it’s irreverent and cheeky cartoons, might not be the place to sort of finer details?, though it’s a great place for sharing tippets of wisdom, a wry look at life, and alternative views.

  43. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Can I assume that’s a thinly veiled hint that I’ve outstayed my welcome? If so, fine, I’ll be off. I’d have preferred it to come from Jon; it is his site after all, but I can see that a lot of you are uncomfortable with my opinions so I’ll take your hint, rather than having to put Jon in an awkward situation. You’re not the first believers I’ve come across that would rather not be asked something if it means making an honest assesment of their beliefs. I just wish you’d have been honest from the start, rather than letting me think that you were open to debate, I needn’t have wasted the time and effort I put into composing my response to Kim, but as I hate waste, I’ll leave it with you.

    Jon, thanks for the clarification @#38. I did indeed mis-interpret your thanks to Kim as tacit agreement with the sentiments expressed, and so I apologise for that part of my post specifically directed to you.
    I cannot, however, aplologise for the main content of my post. I really do object to the suggestion that I’m unwilling to understand when that is exactly what I’m trying to do, as I’ve made clear from the start. As for me actually being unable to understand, well that was simply insulting. Understanding comes from information; if you can explain it then the chances are I will understand it. I might not agree but I will understand. The trouble is, nobody is prepared to explain. So how dare you say that I cannot understand your reasoning behind aspects of your belief when you refuse to answer my questions about it?
    So, let me explain my position; all I ask is that you take the trouble not just to read it, but to understand it too.
    I’m not asking for proof of the existence of gods; I think that the one thing we can all agree on is that there is no proof. If there was, there’d be no need to have faith, which at it most base level can be defined as a belief in something despite lack of supporting evidence. Neither am I trying to prove the non-existence. I can’t. Nobody can. It is impossible to prove a negative. After all, if such evidence were available we wouldn’t be having this conversation; the mattter would have been decided one way or the other.
    All that I’m trying to get my head around is why people believe what they believe, especially those who believe in a god other than the one in the holy texts. Yes, we all know that the Bible was not literally written by God, and that it’s a curious mix of legends and myths passsed down orally through the generations by pre-literate humans; of half-remembered wars and natural disasters and towns and cities, the details changed by generations of re-telling and mixed with those of other cultures met and absorbed or conquered, but still with a core that can often be corroberated by architectural evidence; of a collection of carefully selected writings chosen from a larger field by people with their own agendas; writings that we all know were, despite being written in the first-person as if by the characters in the stories themselves, actually written long after all those characters were dead, and that the writers were trying to gain some momentum for just one out of thousands of minor religious sects; and, of course, of pre-scientific, pre-literate, and pre-technological explainations of natural phenomena.
    Yet this book is still used as a source of absolute truth by many. The Book of Genesis is still thought by far too many believers to trump established scientific theory over how the Unverse, and all contained within, came to be. But that’s because of a basic misunderstanding (often deliberately, when it helps their cause) over what scientific theory actually means. Scientific theory is not ‘best guess'; it isn’t hypothetical. It is evidenced, testable and falsifiable, giving the best explaination for natural phenomena that fits all available evidence, and accepted as so by the scientific community. An hypothesis can ONLY become a Theory if there is not a single shred of evidence against it. Similarly, if new evidence comes to light that contradicts a current Theory, and that evidence can itself be proven by the scientific method, then it’s “Bye-bye theory”. That’s how science works. Nobody refers to gravity as ‘just a theory’, but then that particular theory doesn’t conflict with religious belief, unlike the Theory of Natural Selection. A bee in my bonnet? You’d better believe it!
    Again, I know that nobody here is that fundamental about the Bible. I’m sure that most, if not all of you accept evolution as the mechanism behind the variety of life on Earth, and I think we all accept by now that the story told in Genesis was simply the Bronze Age thinkers best guess at how things came to be. We appreciate they had no previous information to build on; we can’t blame them for not knowing what we now know. But I’m equally sure that most of you that accept evolution also give God a role in the evolutionary process, despite the Theory of Natural Selection working perfectly well without that added complication. To me, it seems pretty arbitrary to decide that although they were so obviously completely wrong about the mechanism, they were right about the cause, yet this is exactly what happens. How does one get to decide that? Have any of you read Darwin’s On the Origins..? Or Dawkins’ Greatest Show on Earth or Selfish Gene? If not, what was it that led you to the conclusion that Natural Selection is a flawed theory?
    It isn’t a science v religion, no-holds barred scrap I’m after. I’m not here to beat anybody down with facts and figures and I’m not here to mock your beliefs. I’m here because a regular of this site issued an open invitation to us at http://www.jesusandmo.net , posted under the pseudonym ‘m’. to come and take a look here so we could learn how to do humour about religion based on a real understanding of religion, the tacit suggestion of course being that J&M’s Author and regulars laughed out of ignorance. A perfectly understandable view I suppose, given that us nasty atheists can’t possibly know anything about religion….or can we? Well, I’ll let you into a little secret. Most of the atheists I know are atheists because they do understand religion. Many were once believers, and they didn’t give up their faith on a whim. Me, and others like me, never ‘got’ religion, but wondered what everybody else seemed to understand that we didn’t. Both sets of people have studied religion of all flavours in great detail, some in an attempt to bolster their faith when they began to doubt, others to try to find faith. As it turned out, there’s nothing like seriously studying religion to make one realise that it’s a castle in the sky, a towering edifice with no solid foundation. When one really understands religion, one has no option but to reject its core idea of gods. So just because we don’t believe it, please don’t make the mistake of assuming that we know nothing about it. Whether our starting point was as a believer or agnostic, most of us became atheist by studying religion in detail, either with an open mind from the start, or with one that was only opened once they began to dig beneath the surface. The conclusion we all reached can probably be summed up thus; when you really understand religion, believing in it is impossible. I’m sure that you all think the opposite, but that’s not the issue here. My point is that understanding religion is not the same as understanding why individual people believe the things they do. I understand why somebody would want to believe in Heaven but not in Hell, or that God isn’t responsible for human suffering, but wanting something to be true doesn’t make it true, so I’m curious to know how one goes from wanting to actually believing.
    So, when people say that the god they believe in does this or doesn’t do that, they are creating a god around their own personal beliefs of what a god should or shouldn’t be. What I’m asking is how they can go on to insist that their god is real and so worthy of prayer and worship, rather than just a self-created psychological comforting tool? Or if you know that the Bible can’t be taken as literal truth, that Bible-God was itself evolved from the gods invented by Man in his attempts to explain what he didn’t understand, how can you understand that gods are a human construct yet at the same time believe in one?
    Again, I don’t want to be told what the theologians or philosophers or psychologists or anthropologists, etc. etc. have to say on the matter; I’ve read enough of them to know their views. I’m interested in the thought processes that individual believers have gone through to arrive at their own particular beliefs. I’ve shown you mine, complete with the rationale behind them; anybody willing to play nice and show me theirs?

    So long, and thanks for all the fish!

  44. jonbirch says:

    hi AoS… i’ve been trying hard to answer your question as best i know how as to why i believe in god, on this post and the following one. i’ve said why i’m a follower of jesus and how i respond to the universe around me… how i see something bigger than all we see at work. other than that all i can say is that maybe it’s about my need… i need to believe it all means something. am i predisposed to believe in god? i don’t know… am i a product of having been brought up into a faith? most certainly, although i’ve questioned and go on questioning every aspect of it. my faith is my own.
    experience has also taught me that belief in god is good for me. an example would be when i was in a very desperate state over the break up of my first marriage. even though there was no possibility of salvage i was hanging on to the relationship like a rabid jack russell on an ankle. at one point i lay down and said something like ‘i’m tired, i’m ill, and i can no longer carry this burden. god, i give it to you.” i was on my own, my palms upturned and if anyone had wanted to attack me it would have been an opportune moment for them, as i was in a defenseless position. at that moment i felt the weight lift from me. it was the beginning of complete change and a re finding of confidence, self respect, strength and letting go of the aching need for my lost relationship.
    it is positive experiences such as this, (again, i’m aware of the mechanics of it and how to explain this change in me scientifically), that have encouraged me to see belief in god to be a healthy thing for me.
    that’s one personal tale among many of something i experienced adding to my list of reasons to believe in god.
    i’m willing to respond to you on this thread re this question for a good while. i’ve been trying to cover all angles i can think of in a genuine attempt to answer your question. i have revealed much about myself in the process and will continue to do so.
    “So long, and thanks for all the fish!” i loved the first hitchhiker book… couldn’t enjoy the others as much so never quite made it to the end. but that first book is an all time favourite read of mine. although 1984 is still the best book i ever read.

  45. jonbirch says:

    AoS… i am worried that i may not have answered your question again…
    can i ask a favour? … give me a question at a time. a specific question that allows me to focus on that one thing and answer you as thoroughly as i can. i will answer honestly.

  46. subo says:

    Hi AoS, dunno if your comment here is a response to my prev. post? – ‘Can I assume that’s a thinly veiled hint that I’ve outstayed my welcome’, if so, in fact I’d meant the opposite. i enjoy finding a range of views on Asbo, let’s look at all these idea’s and challenge stuff. I just felt there was a danger someone might be getting hurt when discussions become so personal. to be honest I don’t think it’s useful to try to ‘answer’ every question, though the questions need to be asked. perhaps we need to let a little uncertainty hang and just listen too each other?

  47. Kim says:

    I don’t think anyone is giving you the cold shoulder. I think we (I) are trying to think of ways to express what we believe, and why – but hugely importantly also is how we believe. And it is this that perhaps is difficult to understand. What makes the conversation hard is that these are intensely personal matters for those of us who do believe – we are unlikely to be apologists who believe purely because of hard doctrine, as I tried to explain to you earlier – postmoderns hold their belief system differently.

    This may cause you frustration, as you would perhaps like me to hold my beliefs in the way you hold yours, or in a way that makes sense to you. I find the intensity of the conversation & the degree of frustration very strange, and difficult, and I am sorry if I don’t communicate in a way that suits you.

    I believe because I have encountered God. Heard from him. Been overtaken by his love. Had my life saved by him, literally, when I was about to die and couldn’t get medical care. Had things illuminated by the holy spirit that I didn’t understand. Been healed by him – after a long series of miscarriages I now have a daughter, after being prayed for very simply for healing. I believe precisely *because of* things that cannot be explained – which I understand may be unfuriating. There is a spiritual realm which adds another dimension to life, and when we open up to it, we also allow that not everything can be explained as physical phenomena. As I said before, faith makes sense experientally. If you were to try an experiment, maybe we could all pray for you for 40 days and you could agree to being open to see what might happen?!

  48. subo says:

    oh Kim, thanks for sharing so much. I find I recognise many of the thoughts and feelings you’ve noted here

    I work in Inner City Bristol, where many of my Muslim colleagues bring a sense of inspiration, warmth and faith to their work, there is a significant number of them, so they enjoy mutual support

    whilst I feel my faith is disrespected and I need to be very careful of what I say, my Buddhist and Islamic friends are given protection and respect

    however, I believe my faith shapes the way I work, and I also long for opportunities to contribute along with other Christians, to the development of health care within my work place, (I’m a medical receptionist). sadly this just feels impossible, and yet like yourself, I can testify to the power of the Holy Spirit’s work in my life.

    oh, maybe one day. at least Asbo provides a kind of meeting place

  49. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Kim, I could tell from your earlier messages that you were feeling very uncomfortable with the way the conversation was going, and your very personal post above has convinced me that I was right in backing off from my questions. You see, although I can’t agree with Subo’s assertion that “I don’t think it’s useful to try to ‘answer’ every question,” – the very idea is anathema to me; I’d rather have an uncomfortable or unwanted answer than ignore the question – I know that this is not the place to ask them. My intent was to discuss religious belief with the emotion and what I would call ‘wishful thinking’ of everyday belief put aside, and although Jon was willing to have a stab at it, it wouldn’t be fair on you to see your beliefs subjected to such a critical examination. I said in a post elsewhere that it isn’t my intention to ‘convert’ anybody and I meant it. There are so many comments here that the rational, atheist me wants to get stuck into, but not at the risk of causing real pain to those not yet ready to give their faith the sort of critical examination that answering my questions would entail.
    Faith may indeed make sense experientally, but that doesn’t make it right; it’s merely one person’s individual interpretation of experiences. This is actually at the hub of the point I’ve been trying to make, but I’ll leave it there before I get carried away. As for your suggestion of a prayer experiment, they’ve been tried many times under proper, double-blind conditions; as of yet, prayer has not been shown to be any more efficacious than chance would suggest. I’ve no problem keeping an open mind, but isn’t it a little hypocritical to ask me to keep my mind open to your beliefs while telling me that yours are off-limits?

  50. Kim says:

    I think I need to be clear that I didn’t choose to disclose my own personal stuff as a way of stonewalling a conversation, but to make an attempt to show you that there are lots of personal and emotional factors involved in faith decisions. As we are humans with a range of senses and emotions, it doesn’t seem problematic to me that we use those. I understand that you would see my interpretations as ‘merely one person’s’ subjective experience, of course, but isn’t it odd to you that many millions of people also make the same faith commitments and decisions, all over the world in different cultures, on the basis of all kinds of different personal and subjective experiences? Evolution cannot explain many of the things that make life worth living, such as love, hope, human creativity and kindness. The idea that these are memes or distant echoes of some throwback reflexes that were once necessary but now superceded is far fetched I think.

    I think I’ve been clear with you that we don’t all believe on the basis you would perhaps prefer us to – on one set of prescribed beliefs and interpretations – which you could conveniently argue against – and I have directed you towards some other Christians who will microscopically deconstruct and argue with you on all of your points.

    I still am bemused by the degree of frustration you express, which I also noted appeared in the ‘debate’ between Richard Dawkins and the Archbishop of Canterbury. There is what may be an intellectual superiority that appears at times in these kinds of conversations, that will not allow any room for any other belief that is not justifiable according to your own paradigm. Yet if you read ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn’, you will see that most advances and breakthroughs in scientific understanding have come about by accident or by people thinking outside of the rigidity of the box they could logically assume – so its always worth allowing space and room for a range of conflicting views. In this country, there is currently freedom of thought and expression of faiths and no faith, however found or put together. They do not have to be justified. Many people are feeling their way on these matters, and are allowed the freedom to do so – preferably without hectoring. See John Humphreys’ ‘In God We Doubt’ for this plea. You may personally find this weak or illogical, but Jesus thanks the Father that he has revealed himself to the unwise or uneducated, characterised as little children, and that works for me.

    I’d like to know the site that you mentioned in one of your earlier posts so that I can come at my leisure and read and engage there, as you have felt free to do so here, please?

  51. Kim says:

    Subo – sorry I didn’t respond to your post. Thanks for your kindness. I’m sorry your faith isn’t given the same standing and respect as your colleagues, I hope that shifts and improves and I hope you find an outlet for your passion for spirituality in healthcare. (I believe there is a supplement in the Church Times today on that subject.)

  52. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Kim, the site I referred to is http://www.jesusandmo.net , and all are welcome. The cartooons go straight to the heart of the matter and pull no punches, so may not be suitable viewing for the easily offended, but they’re authored by one with a real understanding of Religion (an understanding shared by many of the regular contributors to discussions there) and a sense of humour bordering genius, albeit a very dry humour at times. And please note, I only felt free to engage here because of the invite left at J&M by the mysterious ‘m’, along with the suggestion that we atheists haven’t a clue about religion so are laughing out of ignorance, and also by Jon’s welcome and willingness to engage in open debate. Sadly, that will never happen until you see that;
    a) logical, rational questions are not the same thing as hectoring, and
    b) (this to Subo) all questions require an answer, even if it’s one you’d rather not hear.
    Kim, when you say “Evolution cannot explain many of the things that make life worth living, such as love, hope, human creativity and kindness. The idea that these are memes or distant echoes of some throwback reflexes that were once necessary but now superceded is far fetched I think.”, why do you think that? Have you read up on the science? But then, science also explains greed, hate, violence and destruction; I don’t see you crediting your god with those particular human traits.
    Now, I offered very gracefully to back away from the logical approach that was making you uncomfortable, and we could have left it at that. But you insisted on carrying on, even threw in a little preaching (“Jesus thanks the Father that he has revealed himself to the unwise or uneducated, characterised as little children” makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, by the way. I know what the words mean, as individual words, but in that particular order make the Caesar of word salads), so let me ask you this. If you truly believe that it was your god that saved your life and gave you a daughter, do you never wonder about the kind of deity that would do so much for one individual, yet ignore the needs of millions of others, many as religious as you. Or why He thought you deserve a child, but allows a mother to lose a child to disease and starvation at the rate of one death every three seconds in the developing- and third-worlds? I wouldn’t for a second deny your right to life, much less to a have a child, but when you look at the bigger picture, do you never think that you may just be overstating your own importance in the grand scheme of things?
    All I wanted to explore was the leap of logic required to believe in the Christian (big g) God whilst simultaneously accepting that the localised (small g) gods that merged and eventually became Genesis God (the root of all Abrahamic faiths, remember) were in fact invented by humans, first as explanatory tools, later to become justifications for laws and wars.
    One more thing, Kim. Your comment about millions of believers: millions of people avoid walking under ladders or cross their fingers for ‘luck’. Do the sheer numbers make it true? Or just hard-to-shake passed down superstitions?

  53. theGreatFuzzy says:

    “A stitch in time saves nine” and “the exception proves the rule” are both memes. The first is true the second false (in modern usage). Those two are examples of simple word memes. A tune you can’t get out your head is a meme. So some memes are true, some false and some neither. Memes range from simple ditties through to whole ideologies. Memes infest human minds and get passed from person to person and so down through the ages. Memes can get distorted during this process, similar to genes. Some memes are useful, some harmful and some benign. Some memes die out, others get better at surviving and better at infesting minds.

    Q. How do you know your mind doesn’t harbour a meme that’s false or harmful?

  54. Kim says:

    Sorry didn’t make it back for further discussion. Popped over to the J&M site a few times AoS. Interesting! Probably done now for a while so nice to meet you.

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