1. Subscribermoonbus
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    18 Apr '15 12:361 edit
    One frequent and vociferous correspondent to SF has said that she feels she and fellow Christians are often under attack here. I propose a thread to discuss this. In one recent thread, several correspondents considered the activity to be "discussion" and repeatedly emphasized the hypothetical nature of the thesis, whereas several other correspondents considered the very same activity to constitute an "attack" on their faith, an attempt to undermine or destroy their faith, and a few even imputed evil intent, citing 'satanic' passages from the Bible. How can the same activity be viewed so very differently, as open and rational discussion, and as a satanic attack? It bears investigation.

    To start, I propose two theses. Not exhaustively; no doubt others will propose more.

    Thesis 1. There happen to be more active Christian posters to SF than, for example, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Confucianist, Shinto, pagan, wicca, or whatever, so just on the basis of statistics, Christians would probably find themselves fielding more posts of all flavors, constructive, neutral, and critical. Seems plausible, but still does not explain why they feel under "attack" when others feel it is "discussion".

    Thesis 2. The frequently expressed feeling of being under attack is due to the nature of Christianity itself, and distinguishes it from, for example, Buddhism, paganism, and other religions.

    I suggest that other religions are not like Christianity, only with the wrong god(s); they are really fundamentally different. (Whatever else it may be) Christianity is: a) belief-based and b) exclusivist, and these two aspects are relevant to the topic, why Christians may feel themselves to be under "attack" when non-Christians "discuss" what Christians believe.

    A) belief-based: whatever else a Christian must do, he must assent to a body of propositions held to be true. Including: that Jesus was God incarnate, that he died to redeem man's sins, that he was bodily resurrected, etc. Once you assert propositions as truths, and not as edifying stories, then you enter a universe of discourse where claims (not only religious ones) are subject to critical analysis and verification. The techniques and criteria include, but are not limited to, determining historical accuracy and continuity, assessing the credibility of alleged eye-witnesses, logical coherency, compatibility with other empirical evidence, the possibility of errors and corruptions due to transcriptions and translations, the dating of physical evidence (by well-known and repeatable experiments), and so on.

    Ancient paganism, Hinduism, Buddhism (incl. Zen), Taoism, Shintoism, Confucianism, and yoga are practice-based. Practice-based means: it does not matter what you believe, what matters is mastering a technique (performing rites, meditation, mindfulness, purification, tantra, or whatever). The whole ediface of presenting evidence, generating arguments and proofs leading to putative truths is irrelevant to these other religions. Arguments and proofs, eye-witness accounts of miracles, assent to a body of putative truths, all that is peculiarly (Judeo-)Christian. When Christians claim theirs is the only true religion and make claims about the historical veracity or inerrancy of the Bible, they should expect a response in kind, with counter-evidence, counter-claims, and rebuttals. Why? Because that is the intellectual playing field Christians themselves have chosen to play on. 

    There is no such thing as rebutting meditation, or yoga, or tantra, for example. Either you do it or you don't, but there is nothing to argue there.

    Buddhists say it does not matter whether the universe had a beginning or no beginning, so they do not get entangled in arguments about whether it was created 6,000 years ago, and so do not feel attacked by putative evidence that the universe is much older. Buddhists also have no problem accepting evolution, since it is irrelevant to the practice of exercising mindfulness, so they don't feel that their religion is undermined by putative evidence that evolution really happened.

    B): exclusivism: Judaism and Christianity are peculiar in claiming to be the only true or legitimate spiritual path.

    When one party sits down at the table with an attitude which comes across to the others as "I'm the only one here in possession of Absolute Truth, the rest of you nitwits are damned liars whose minds have been poisoned by satanic delusions" [/hyperbole], it is that attitude itself which taints what might have been an open and rational discussion and turns it into an emotionally charged battleground where someone is liable to feel threatened. I think it is fair to say that several Christian correspondents to SF do come to the table with that attitude, even though they may not state it quite so hyperbolically. Equally, quoting divine-threat and damnation passages from the Bible, in essence  saying "If you don't agree with this, you're going to hell and I'm not," seems calculated to provoke a robust rebuttal.


    I close with a verse from the Koran: 'to every people a messenger is sent; it is not needful that you (Mohammed) know who the other messengers were.' By implication, it is not needful to know the content of the other messages or whether they are the same. That is a model of non-exclusiveness which I personally find worthy of being embraced.

    Sorry this has gotten so long.

    Mindful that there might be a storm of protest from one camp and a discussion from the other camp, please accept my personal statement of intention here to discuss an issue in general and not to attack any individual (this means you, Suzi), as genuine.
  2. Hmmm . . .
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    18 Apr '15 13:401 edit
    Originally posted by moonbus
    One frequent and vociferous correspondent to SF has said that she feels she and fellow Christians are often under attack here. I propose a thread to discuss this. In one recent thread, several correspondents considered the activity to be "discussion" and repeatedly emphasized the hypothetical nature of the thesis, whereas several other correspondents conside ...[text shortened]... an issue in general and not to attack any individual (this means you, Suzi), as genuine.
    Pretty good post--I'll think about it more later. And you are right about "being really fundamentally different". As I began to explore my discovered Jewish roots some years ago, I also discovered that Judaism has an almost paradigmatically different approach--and I still sometimes find it difficult to shift paradigms in my thinking. My recent attendance at a synagogue helps.

    Just one correction: Judaism does not claim to be "the only true or legitimate spiritual path". In their single "credal statement", Jews affirm the one-ness of G*d. But that one-ness seems as often taken non-dualistically (with some reservation: "pantheistically" ) as mono-theistically, in the sense of supernaturalist dualism. It is the deliberate and radical openness to a variety of beliefs and interpretations--based on the Oral Torah--that makes it difficult to think of Judaism as "belief-based" in the same sense as more strictly credal religions.

    With regard to other religions, I will just cite (from memory) the renowned Jewish scholar Abraham Joshua Heschel, who said that it was clear to him that G*d wanted people to find different religious paths.

    NOTE: Judaism is not mono-vocal. (Neither are the other religions--which is why generalities can be fraught.) The synagogue I attend is mixed Reform/Conservative. I tend toward Reform. But I have read Orthodox authors as well. The basis of the Oral Torah is diversity of opinion.

    __________________________________

    EDIT: I am a non-supernaturalist, non-dualist, non-exclusivist--and that has a very broad stream in Judaism. Since the principle name of G*d (YHVH) is really a verb, I am also starting to explore process theology in a Jewish (and, again, non-dualist) context.
  3. SubscriberSuzianne
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    18 Apr '15 14:27
    I imagine you have read some of sonship's essays on the question of Christianity and the concept of God inhabiting or indwelling in man through the Son Jesus Christ, a melding of God and man. Now take that, along with the idea that when a believer is in the act of becoming a Christian, he asks Jesus to come into him, to take control of his life, to be saved, to accept this indwelling, this melding of God and man, and you begin to get a picture of my answer to your OP. Now imagine this Christian, who has asked Jesus to come within and guide his life, being told on this forum that his God is not real, that his God is just a figment of imagination, that his God is a mere fairy tale. Is it any wonder that the Christian takes this as an affront, an attack that devalues his God, as well as himself and his life? How can this Christian not be utterly insulted by this?

    This is why the non-believer, or as I like to call them, the un-believer, cannot grasp just what the Christian is getting so upset about. (And on the other hand, there are also ex-Christians who know full well what the issue is, and yet carry on like they're just discussing the time of day.) They literally have no yardstick for measuring the depth of the Christian's offense. So they further insult by having no measure of the disrespect they are flinging at the Christian by claiming that his God is just so much horse manure. There is absolutely no attempt to put themselves in the Christian's shoes, no way on this earth they can feel even the minutest bit of what the Christian feels when his very being is attacked in this way. There is zero empathy for the Christian. This is even more exacerbated by those who feel vehemently that God is not real and start actually calling the Christian names, such as a lunatic, or even "dangerous". The Christian really has nowhere to go under this sort of persecution.

    So the un-believers may wonder why the Christian feels under attack, but the Christian often enters this forum thinking "What new attack will I have to face today?"
  4. Subscribersonhouse
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    18 Apr '15 14:31
    Originally posted by Suzianne
    I imagine you have read some of sonship's essays on the question of Christianity and the concept of God inhabiting or indwelling in man through the Son Jesus Christ, a melding of God and man. Now take that, along with the idea that when a believer is in the act of becoming a Christian, he asks Jesus to come into him, to take control of ...[text shortened]... but the Christian often enters this forum thinking "What new attack will I have to face today?"
    Christians have brought the attacks on themselves due to past atrocities. Sure you will say, we don't do that today (inquisitions, crusades, forced repatriation, etc.) Well most of that, but cultures have a long memory. So as your bible says, you reap what you sow.
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    18 Apr '15 14:36
    I think it is a combination of Thesis 1 and Thesis 2.
    The two main groups here are Christians and atheists. The atheists are not a religion and thus are a very varied group to the point of not really being a group at all.
    Christians 'attack' atheists just as much atheists 'attack' Christians, but I think we generally feel a lot less threatened by those 'attacks'. (thus thesis 2).
    However I disagree that Christianity is in any way unique in this regard. If there were large numbers of any other religion, I think they too might feel threatened if their beliefs were questioned, and yes, every religion has beliefs despite your claim that some religions are just practices and not beliefs. If they are just practices, then they are not religions.
    I also think Muslims react much more strongly than Christians - although this isn't necessarily a reflection of how threatened they feel but rather what they believe their religion tells them to do and what their culture within the religion tells them to do. And to a large extent people are more careful when criticizing Islam for fear of that reaction.
  6. SubscriberSuzianne
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    18 Apr '15 14:43
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    Christians have brought the attacks on themselves due to past atrocities. Sure you will say, we don't do that today (inquisitions, crusades, forced repatriation, etc.) Well most of that, but cultures have a long memory. So as your bible says, you reap what you sow.
    This is ridiculous. Evil is caused *by evil men*, not by religion. We didn't sow this abuse. Those who would blame the religion sowed this. But you force the innocent to reap this abuse that should be targeted at the evil men who propagated the evil.

    I can even meet you halfway on this and say that yes, there are some Christians who don't do the rest of Christianity any favors. But this is no reason to demonize an entire religion full of well-meaning and god-fearing people. I think you're putting the cart before the horse when you present history as a reason for condemning Christians.
  7. SubscriberSuzianne
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    18 Apr '15 14:54
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    Christians 'attack' atheists just as much atheists 'attack' Christians, but I think we generally feel a lot less threatened by those 'attacks'. (thus thesis 2).
    Christians only attack in this forum as a self-defense after feeling persecuted as I described in my post.

    In fact, I've been quite vocal against atheists lately. A while back, I posted that atheists and Christians in this forum should be more willing to see each others' side in the conflict and try to show some respect towards the "other side" because after all, they are human too, and so deserve some respect just for being human. I wasn't saying we should adopt each others' positions or even respect each others' beliefs, but that we should respect the fact that both sides have a position and a belief that their position is right, and so we should take a step back and "cool our jets" as it were and try to yes, discuss the issues here from a common stance of respect and understanding that we will naturally disagree. But then Googlefudge launched into a massive attack upon me for even considering to propose such a ridiculous idea and he wasn't going to respect me no matter what and even that yes, Christians were "dangerous" and should be opposed at every opportunity and with every breath. This caused some atheists to reverse course and say yes, you're right, those nasty Christians should be mercilessly "put in their place" and the persecution stepped up to even more than it was before. This is what started my current campaign against atheists. I was ready to meet on common ground, but when attacked relentlessly, I responded in kind. Plain self-defense, that's all.
  8. Hmmm . . .
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    18 Apr '15 14:593 edits
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    I think it is a combination of Thesis 1 and Thesis 2.
    The two main groups here are Christians and atheists. The atheists are not a religion and thus are a very varied group to the point of not really being a group at all.
    Christians 'attack' atheists just as much atheists 'attack' Christians, but I think we generally feel a lot less threatened by those ...[text shortened]... And to a large extent people are more careful when criticizing Islam for fear of that reaction.
    I agree with a lot of this. I have received more "offensive" (sneering, angry, etc.) posts in the past on here from Christians than from others—but I think that is really just reflective of their “over-representation” on this forum, and is certainly not something that I would generalize from. I have had good relations with most, even as we disagreed.

    With regard to religions [EDIT: necessarily/exclusively?] being belief-based: well, I think you are right if you take some kind of polar dichotomous view of “beliefs-only versus praxis-only”, or something like that. But religion is not necessarily mostly about propositional content, let alone a narrow propositional content. Some religionists certainly are (maybe most), but different religious groups are more open than others. For example, I think that there are a number of literary genres in the (Hebrew) bible—but that much of it is aggadah (story), and very little of it actual history. As a Jew, there would be no requirement that I believe otherwise.

    Those who hold more strictly to a creedal/propositional view of (their own) religion, I think tend to be more exclusivist, and rejective of other religions, as well as other philosophical views generally.
  9. SubscriberFMF
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    18 Apr '15 15:162 edits
    Originally posted by Suzianne
    This caused some atheists to reverse course and say yes, you're right, those nasty Christians should be mercilessly "put in their place" and the persecution stepped up to even more than it was before.

    Can you cite a couple of examples of where any atheists on this forum 'reversed course' after googlefudge's "massive attack" and said 'yes, you're right, those nasty Christians should be mercilessly "put in their place"', or words to that effect, and then "stepped up the persecution"? Can you direct us to the posts where you perceived that this is what they said and the posts that made you think they had reversed course and stepped up the persecution as a result of what googlefudge said to you?
  10. Subscribermoonbus
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    18 Apr '15 15:24
    Reply to vistesd: thanks, and thanks for weighing in. I stand corrected re Judaism.

    Of course, there is a wide spectrum from orthodox to reformed to so-well-integrated-into-gentile-society-that-one-hardly-thinks-of-them-as-Jewish Jews.
  11. Hmmm . . .
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    18 Apr '15 15:293 edits
    Originally posted by moonbus
    . . . to so-well-integrated-into-gentile-society-that-one-hardly-thinks-of-them-as-Jewish Jews.
    That gave me a good chuckle. 🙂 Thanks.

    Last night at the erev shabbat (sabbath evening) service at the synagogue, I unexpectedly ran into a woman that I had not seen for 20+ years. As we reintroduced ourselves, there was a moment of mutual, “What the hell are you doing here?” She had been—in her words—a “hardcore atheist for 35 years”, but had converted to Judaism 12 years ago (she had grown up Methodist). She appears to be mostly in the Reform stream, maybe Reconstructionist , but we only had a little while to chat (there was a lecture by a local university professor on the book of Ruth after the service). Anyway, very liberal. She became one of many people thus far who assured me that this synagogue, anyway, is a “safe place” for me to explore as deeply as I wish (I already take part in a weekly Talmud class, on the encouragement of the Rabbi).

    This is, of course, Shabbat. I am still working out how to personally celebrate that. Thus far, I am allowing myself to play chess and enter into some discussion here—but I am not taking in any news from any media. The key is doing things that contribute to shalom (well-being, peace, harmony) and refraining (so far as possible) from activities that don’t.

    Shabbat shalom.
  12. SubscriberSuzianne
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    18 Apr '15 16:08
    Originally posted by FMF
    [b]This caused some atheists to reverse course and say yes, you're right, those nasty Christians should be mercilessly "put in their place" and the persecution stepped up to even more than it was before.

    Can you cite a couple of examples of where any atheists on this forum 'reversed course' after googlefudge's "massive attack" and said '[i]yes, you're rig ...[text shortened]... had reversed course and stepped up the persecution as a result of what googlefudge said to you?[/b]
    Well, if you must know (you asked), you wouldn't actually know this, but this is about when you came back from some sort of self-administered 'sabbatical' from the forum, and you being you, your natural specific brand of "discussion" stepped it up considerably.

    And that's all I'm going to say on this, because I know you won't quit badgering me over it, just like you do with every topic you "chime in" on, because making people uncomfortable is fun for you. And before you beat me to it, yes, being attacked and mercilessly run through the "word wringer" is uncomfortable for me. You know this, and that is why it's "fun" for you. So I'm gonna head it off right now. And no, you don't get to "discuss" it with me. I don't like your type of badgering "discussion". I hope that answers your question. No doubt, you'll claim it doesn't and so you'll keep asking it in another form until it stops being "fun" for you. Sorry, I'm not playing that game any more.

    And that kind of crap is precisely what I'm talking about here.
  13. SubscriberSuzianne
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    18 Apr '15 16:11
    Originally posted by vistesd
    That gave me a good chuckle. 🙂 Thanks.

    Last night at the erev shabbat (sabbath evening) service at the synagogue, I unexpectedly ran into a woman that I had not seen for 20+ years. As we reintroduced ourselves, there was a moment of mutual, “What the hell are [b]you
    doing here?” She had been—in her words—a “hardcore atheist for 35 y ...[text shortened]... ace, harmony) and refraining (so far as possible) from activities that don’t.

    Shabbat shalom.[/b]
    Well, vistesd, I, personally, am glad that you have found a religion that you can become interested in to this degree. I wish you well in your discovery. 🙂
  14. SubscriberGhost of a Duke
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    18 Apr '15 16:50
    Originally posted by Suzianne
    This is why the non-believer, or as I like to call them, the un-believer, cannot grasp just what the Christian is getting so upset about. (And on the other hand, there are also ex-Christians who know full well what the issue is, and yet carry on like they're just discussing the time of day.)
    I'm an atheist, but i'm not an 'unbeliever'.

    Okay, i don't happen to believe in the big guy (no insult intended) but there are many things in this world that i do believe in. I believe in human kindness and justice, i believe in family and friends. I don't need to have a religion to believe in these things. To wear the label 'unbeliever' implies that, as an atheist, i lack the ability to have faith in something, which simply isn't the case.
  15. Cape Town
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    18 Apr '15 16:51
    Originally posted by vistesd
    But religion is not necessarily mostly about propositional content, let alone a narrow propositional content. Some religionists certainly are (maybe most), but different religious groups are more open than others. For example, I think that there are a number of literary genres in the (Hebrew) bible—but that much of it is aggadah (story), and very little of it actual history. As a Jew, there would be no requirement that I believe otherwise.
    I agree that there is a whole range with grey areas at the edges. In fact, Jews in particular demonstrate this nicely. There are Jews who are Jews more by culture or descent than by belief. And for this reason I would not say that being Jewish makes you a member of a religion. I would want to separate Judaism (the religion) from being Jewish. But even Judaism has so much range that one could probably divide it almost into several religions, but they tend to be called 'sects' due to the fact that they wish to keep the common name. I guess the same applies to Christianity. Is Mormonism a separate religion? Many Christians I know do not consider JWs to be Christian (and vice versa probably). So are they separate religions?
    But ultimately, most people that I would say belong to a religion, have some cherished beliefs that they do not take to kindly to being criticised about.
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