Addicted to Christianity?  Former Christians Say Yes and No 

addicted-to-jesus-t-shirtYour results may vary.

A generation ago, most people—even those who were not religious—thought of religion as mostly beneficial or at least harmless. But these days opinions are more mixed—with good reason. On the political stage, conservative Christians quote chapter and verse to justify bigotries that they call religious freedom, while conservative Muslims quote chapter and verse to justify beheadings and rape that they call jihad. Both groups of true believers seem determined to turn back the clock on secularism and modernity.  Meanwhile, at the individual level, conversation has opened up about psychological harms of Christianity—everything from damaged self-esteem or stunted curiosity to sexual hang-ups to depression and anxiety to full-blown religious trauma syndrome.

Why do people persist in beliefs and practices that seem obviously false and harmful from the outside?  How do religions compel decent people to say and do things they would otherwise find troubling or worse? Why are some people more protective of their religion than even their children?

Cognitive scientists and social scientists are just starting to examine religion as a natural phenomenon. In the meantime, recovering believers must draw on analogies to describe their experience. A number of writers have suggested that religion may be addictive, at least certain variants; and some addictions treatment programs now offer recovery from toxic religion as part of their services.

A brief scan of the internet leaves little doubt that religion can be harmful to both societies and individuals, but how well does the addiction model fit?  I asked former Christians what they thought, based on their own experience. Some said the parallel between religion and addiction resonated. Others balked, and offered other analogies that more closely fit their experience. Rather than distilling their comments, I have chosen to share them in full so that readers can weigh the relevance to their own religious experiences and draw their own conclusions.

Some Say Yes

Some of the most messed up folks I’ve known who “got religion” never seem to be satisfied with just the Methodist church down the street. They invariably go for the mega-church charismatic leader type experience. I feel it is a substitute addiction. – Megan Sheppard

Charismatic Christianity certainly is [an addiction]; that’s my background. You live for the high of having a metaphysical encounter with God, but more than anything you hope to have that experience in the presence of other believers. . . .  From conference to conference, waiting to see or hear the next great prophet or miracle worker. The substance of their message is often secondary to their “spiritual anointing.” It can make your Christian career if one of these celebrity pastors singles you out during a service, so you attend each & every one. –Nate Zimmer

I know only that religion has contributed to the ongoing destruction of my life. I consider it as damaging to my mind and behavior as alcohol. I’m 61, and I’m trying very hard to wean myself from the habit of thinking God is real. I’ve struggled through fundamentalism, and “relapsed” many times. The “habit” started when I was around ten, when I became convinced I had committed an unpardonable sin. Periods of sanity have been interrupted by alternating waves of self-loathing, fear, anger, and irresponsible behavior. Taking some control of my life through deliberate rational choice is helping, but I still rage at a God I don’t believe in intellectually. It’s a crippling way to live. Like an addiction, religion has facilitated the worst, not the best, aspects of my personality. —LB

Religion perpetuates a dependence on identifying as broken and needing to be fixed. [It] teaches codependency from the earliest memories, and codependency is a form of relationship addiction, something I talk about quite extensively as a method of coercive persuasion used by evangelical religions. My position is that without the indoctrination (and internalization) of codependent behaviors (it’s a relationship, after all!), religion wouldn’t continue from generation to generation. –Sarah Morehead

I think David Brin is onto something (here): people use these states of consciousness to release endorphins etc in a very addiction-like process. If you are indignant all the time, you stay boosted up on brain chemicals. —D.B.

I would say the similarity between religion and drug addiction is that, in both cases, you relinquish self-control to an external controller, whether that be a god/clergy or drug/dealer. Once that hierarchical structure is established, blame for things gone awry can be blamed or attributed to the controller in either case. –DS

As one who has many experiences with both religion and drugs, I can draw parallels. The initial visitation to a church where established members are loving and accepting of you, or the recitation of the sinner’s prayer – the acceptance of Jesus into your heart – would be analogous to a marijuana high… a brief light headiness, joyfulness, giggling, a smile that can’t be wiped away.

Likewise, the deep dive into Christian apologetics, daily devotional time, obedience to clergy, literal interpretation of the Bible, rebuking and being rebuked, and baptism by the Holy Spirit would be parallel to taking LSD, an intense trip that can last 4 to 12 hours. Your brain tries in vain to rationalize and align reality with feelings, your body appears to be disjointed with your mind, you may experience uncontrollable muscular twitching, and at times you just want it to end but there’s no way to stop it. It is simultaneous pleasure and pain, good and bad, desiring both continuance and completion. –Daniel S

It does have withdrawal symptoms.  –Alan Chidister

I noticed the withdrawal when I realized I had to quit church to survive. The peace on a quiet Sunday morning continues to be incredible but it was such a lifelong habit. – BS

Some Say No

It’s like an elaborate stage play, and when the house lights come on, you see it for what it is. – Nate Zimmer

My experience of being a Christian was more like an episode of The Office. People were all crazy. They seemed crazy from the get go. But the reading and the love of philosophical debate was what engaged me, and the idea of having a moral core. None of the people, especially the priests and nuns were people I could say I looked up to or admired. They were mean and weird…with some very rare exceptions. The only hard part about leaving was the disappointment of my mom. Otherwise, it seemed a natural part of becoming an adult. –Andrea John Smith

It is a core identity, an ingrown family business, a mutual admiration society, a competition, and a self-aggrandizing platform for ego-stroking. And yes, it is a system of codependency so fragile that anyone leaving it is treated like an enemy. I cannot decide if it is an addiction for some; I do not think it was for me. (Christian from birth through age 55. Now atheist.) – Linda File

I was a very dedicated Christian for 38 years. I thought what I knew was the truth and was not afraid to face the hard issues head on. Once I left Christianity I was a Wiccan for a while then agnostic before realizing I was just a plan ‘ol atheist after all. I didn’t become a pagan because of addiction but because of left over brain washing. I believed believing in something was healthy.  – Lorenakoran

I would guess [it was not an addiction], for me, since there was never any temptation to go back to it. Once I was willing to admit that it was all bogus and a waste of my life, there was no danger of taking up the old habits. No need for a 12 step program or the encouragement of fellow apostates; the disgust at having been self-deluded was more than enough disincentive. –Matthew Snook

In my experience it was more like an infection; one that leaves lasting scars…like pockmarks. Once I learned to think differently I was able to clear the infection. —Tony Debono

It’s more like an abusive relationship. United Methodism, at least, teaches you that you are worthless without god, and that they are the gatekeepers. –JS

Christianity was actually a self-loathing guilt-ridden drudgery for me. Sure there were high times and good fellowship throughout yet it was an extreme burden trying to please our deity. Prayer and Bible study were daily struggles and being a deacon and leader in my church were intertwined with feelings of inadequacy.—Ryan Burton

For me it was the introduction of fear into what was once a simple life of love and birth and death.—Charlene VanNattan Hohulin

Not an addiction but an abusive relationship. – Bethany Brittain

It’s perhaps as pernicious as an addiction, but in my case, it was: my family, my extended family, my social circle, my ethics, my safety net, my idea of science, my outline of history, my eternal future, (and my compartmentalizations, rationalizations, judgmentalness, prejudices and secret anxieties!) – simply my whole world. – David Fitzgerald

It’s not an addiction. it’s more of a prison that you can’t really escape from. They’re everywhere. – HK

I was born into it — my parents were missionaries. It was socialization, education, indoctrination, the matrix within which my mind and sense of self developed. That’s not addiction; it’s brainwashing from birth. So when you leave it, you’ve got to remake yourself in basic ways. –RI

I feel I was brainwashed. Not addicted. Herded into church like a dumb animal without questioning anything. I had to step back and rewire my brain so I could think for myself. —Quinn Hoesli

During intense Bible sharing and prayer with a friend in the 80’s he confessed to me, “If I ever find out this is not true, I will commit suicide.” I told him, “Not me, If I found out this was not true I would fight it for the deception it has been”… I still feel like i was deceived…and it still pisses me off…I hate seeing children being deceived. –RZS

I would say more brainwashing than addiction. I didn’t suffer any withdrawal symptoms when I decided I had been the recipient of my mother’s sad, dangerous thinking. When you are born into it, and spoon fed all of the Christian thinking/stories/Sunday School/prayers, etc., you are bound to be stuck for a while. But there IS light at the end of this tunnel. For some of us, sooner than others. —DK

It was forced upon me. I had no choice. By my teens I was tired of it and just quit going. My life is no different from any Christian. I get up, work, support my family, help others by volunteering. I don’t need a crutch to lean on or someone to tell me right from wrong. —SM

It was a nightmare since I was about 15 years but the pressure and indoctrination was crazy. I vowed when I was that young I would not let my children go to church almost daily and 3/4 times on a Sunday by well-meaning parents. I kept my vow. My children are 26 and 15 and they’re just awesomeness defined.—Isaac Jansen

Addiction/dependence being defined in terms of tolerance, withdrawal, and growing investment of psychic energies to obtain the depended upon substance, I have to say “No, it’s not an addiction.” I see it more as what Erik Erikson would have likely termed fanaticism, the result of a failed attempt at identity formation (unhealthy resolution of the identity vs. role confusion stage of psychosocial development), evidenced by cult, hate-group, terrorist-group, or other fanatical group affiliation and involvement. —D Henderson

I think of the film ” A Beautiful Mind” which portrayed so well the hallucinations still following the schizophrenic even AFTER he realized they were not real. These images that were once held so tightly with such passion and love do not always fade so easily… plus there is always the self-doubt–“maybe I’m wrong”…so it has been a wrestling match within…though, I’ve seen too much to ever go back. The god I once loved is too petty, too self-absorbed, more interested in serving “justice” than offering Grace….I think I can see through these theological quagmires now…and when I get glimpses I feel deceived and angry. –RZS

Some Say Kind-Of or Maybe

I’d say it was more like a talisman that helped me deal with life and make sense of it, although religion can certainly become an obsession with addictive qualities. —Erik Olson

For me, it wasn’t quite like an addiction. It was more of a community-based activity that became a habit. My family and many of my friends attended the same church (Lutheran), and it was our “social circle.” I was very involved in the music, and that was what kept me involved after I no longer believed in most of the rhetoric. I think most people who don’t leave “the church,” stay because of family/community ties that are hard to break. There is often nothing equivalent to replace that feeling of community that a church provides. –Katharine Bressler

I think it’s kind of like an addiction that you make yourself have, because you’re afraid you’ll lose it if it isn’t all encompassing, and the consequences would be dire (eternally, in this case). For me it was like learning to be bulimic from hearing other people’s stories. It wasn’t something I was drawn to, but if I didn’t cultivate it, I’d get fat. And then . . . you keep at it even though it’s destroying you because it’s RIGHT. And all of the people who say you’re taking it too seriously just don’t understand that everything hinges on it. –Elexis E

I was born in an evangelical Christian home. My parents were ministers that started a church in the basement of their home. I wouldn’t say it was an addiction for me, but definitely was for some. I really think it’s why you see alcoholics and drug addicts “reform” in that faith. They need the euphoria. For me I followed out of fear of rejection and hell. I left when I realized that I was actually a hostage with an open door. —CC

Your Results May Vary

It goes without saying that religions vary widely, and given that Christianity has fractured into more than 30,000 denominations and non-denominations it should come as no surprise that former Christians describe their experiences in different terms. Some former believers point out that their Christianity offered pleasures that they miss to this day or now pursue through other channels: music, wonder, community, clarity of purpose, a sense of belonging.

Can the euphoria of worship or relief of confession, or even religiously-induced guilt and shame create a biologically-based compulsion that keeps people coming back for more? The answer likely is yes. In everyday vernacular, we use the term addiction when people pursue pleasure to the point that it causes harm, either to themselves or those around them—when the drive to seek that pleasure trumps good judgment and good health.  And yet if we consider even highly-pleasurable neurotoxins that create clear physical dependency—cocaine, for example, or alcohol or narcotics—most users don’t become addicts.

As the study of religion as a natural phenomenon progresses, scientists no doubt will clarify the areas of overlap between biological or psychological addiction and religion; and criteria for clinical forms of religious addiction may crystalize.  In the meantime, believers and former believers will need to judge for themselves whether their spiritual quest has become simultaneously compulsive and harmful. What is your own experience?

——-

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel.  Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.

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About Valerie Tarico

Seattle psychologist and writer. Author - Trusting Doubt and Deas and Other Imaginings. Founder - www.WisdomCommons.org.
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67 Responses to Addicted to Christianity?  Former Christians Say Yes and No 

  1. Sha'Tara says:

    Behind Christianity is “god” and whatever that force is and whether it exists independently of its adherents (I tend to think of it that way) or it’s being constantly re-created in the minds of believers, this I can say of it: it gets off on hating, and being hated. Religion propagates hate wherever it passes or resides. For some weird reason Donald Trump reminds me of what it was to be in Christianity. Nothing but lies and not allowed to fact check! :-)

    Liked by 4 people

  2. John Pozzerle says:

    I believe the best way to get rid of christianism, it’s to get people to read the whole bible, not the pieces of it that preachers and priests feed people on weekends. It would show them the truth, which is there, but it’s not mentioned by the preacher/priest.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Gunther says:

      You hit it on the nail, Mr. Pozzerle. I never understood why even in Christian schools, people were spoon fed the same stories of the Bible instead of being made to read the whole Bible while attending those schools.

      I would say that many of us became addicts to Christianity because we had no choice at the time to accept or reject it because as young kids we had no say in the matter.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Explains why churches are keen on promoting ‘Children’s Ministries and Sunday school. Years of reinforced creeds, doctrines and stories at a developmental age when a child’s brain is an empty clean sheet waiting to be programmed, has not yet reached a maturity to develop rational abilities and is instead in ‘trust the parent’ mode, a throwback to our early human ancestors where not acting on what the parent taught could be a life or death survival scenario. I’ve even heard Christians deliberately talk about the importance of ‘getting them early’ before the world has a chance to corrupt them and turn them against God.. If you repeat the lie enough times you can get people to accept it as the truth, even despite the evidence. Same with schools and religious indoctrination or patronising morning assemblies. Repeating the lie every morning by an authority figure in the form of the head teacher. That is why many of us could believe, because another important thing we have to do with religion is ‘suspend our disbelief’, just like we do when we watch a sci fi movie – we know there is no real death star, or Force, but you switch off in order to enjoy the movie and the story, even though you know most of it is complete b*ll*cks. This is exactly what we do when confronted with reality and evidence that our beliefs are false, we suspend our disbelief.. I think with children, stories about miracles and supernatural beings appeals to their imaginations, hence another factor as to why it might be easier to indoctrinate them at a younger age.

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  3. godfreydebouillon says:

    I already had plenty of guilt and shame heaped on me as I grew up in a rationalist/agnostic household. Becoming an in-process Christian (for all my adult life) is what has lifted, and continues to lift, that shame and guilt from me and, as C.S. Lewis wrote, makes way for surprising joy! Have you the courage to print this?

    Liked by 1 person

    • john zande says:

      Curious, what made you experience guilt and shame in exercising rationalsim?

      Liked by 1 person

    • rorys2013 says:

      You do not say why you had guilt and shame heaped on you. Was it because you sensed that there was something, intangible, more to life than just the mechanics of living and your family only accepted the mechanics?

      Like

    • eolandeeliva says:

      godfreydebouillon…a number of people have asked you a similar question. You can add my voice to those. Why have you not replied. It is unusual for a person who’s grown up in a more “rationalist household to have guilt and shame heaped on you.”..Hence all the people asking you to elaborate I imagine. I hope your lack of reply is merely because you haven’t been notified. I do hope you feel safe enough to return here and clarify what your experience was.

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  4. allanmerry says:

    Good Gravy, (immediately above)!! I am curious how guilt and shame is heaped upon one in a “rationalist/agnostic” household. Really; why & how? You somehow acquired and manifested ideas that were offensive to rationalists? Shame and guilt for what? Warrants some further explanation, in order to understand you.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. metalnun says:

    It was my attendance at fundie private schools that caused me to become an atheist at age 12 because even at that tender age their dogma made no sense. I began doing yoga and investigating comparative religions at age 13. Many years later after a university education which gave me the opportunity to spend time with people of various traditions including Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, etc., as well as a serious daily yoga/ meditation practice, I was able to appreciate Christianity from a new perspective and ended up joining the Episcopal Church – “All the pageantry, none of the guilt,” and no need to leave your brain at the door. As discussed at some length in my blog, I don’t call myself a “believer” for technical philosophical reasons. I do enjoy the subjective and yet shared experience of God in the rituals, sacraments, music and meditation, but religion is not an addiction for me. Meditation practice probably could be considered an addiction, but a healthy one.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. rorys2013 says:

    I have been a convinced and practicing Quaker for over 50 years. Quakers recognise that experience trumps belief. Beliefs are formed of concepts and concepts are just mental models. Models can never be what they are modelling but some models can be closer to what they are modelling than others. The religious belief model is a failure from get-go because it presumes a being out there separate from the Universe and thus ourselves. In Quaker Meeting and elsewhere I sense an all pervasive benign energy greater than myself. There is no external physical proof, there is just my experience. In my life I endeavour to respond to its urgings within me as best I can because to do so brings me increased satisfaction in life.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Theology-related quote for the day | Civil Commotion

  8. Jamie says:

    I think a less inflammatory comparison would be between religion and endorphin-releasing activities like vigorous exercise — painting religion as a neurotoxin is an indication of bias that weakens your conclusions. (In fact, this comparison dates from the earliest days of the Church; St. Paul proposed the analogy himself.) It’s possible to pursue exercise in a disordered way, so that it becomes a source of fear and self-loathing (or smug and alienating certainty). It’s possible to get so focused on exercise that you disregard the needs of your family or your job. And yet that doesn’t mean we should all shuck our inherently self-destructive running habits and acknowledge the intrinsic evils of the triathlon industry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is true, but you may find my actual perception of religion even more inflammatory. I don’t actually think of religion as a neurotoxin–rather as a family of infectious agents, naturally selected meta-organisms that are socially transmitted and that rely on human minds as hosts. Some may be relatively benign or even symbiotic, while others are more wholly parasitic. All, to varying degrees alter cognition and affect, triggering the release of pleasure-related neurotransmitters in the service of self-replication of the religion itself. To this end, some may mimic the effects of pleasing neurotoxins like alcohol or heroin, creating a degree of compulsion or addiction that prevents human hosts from exercising normal cognitive and behavioral defenses against falsehood and harm to self and others. This is not to say that religion always or even usually causes harm (although I think this is increasingly the case for those that emerged during the Iron Age and the Abrahamic religions in particular); simply that the pattern is dependent on what serves the wellbeing and self-propagation of the religion itself.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Lowell Bushey says:

    Hi, Valerie,

    IMO, you’re spot on with your analysis! It certainly was true with my ex. She quite literally got high on God three times per week (Wednesday, and twice on Sunday.) Worse yet, she had withdrawal symptoms during the deprivation period between her thrice weekly “religion fixes”.

    There were other issues as well. She occasionally “preached to the neighborhood” at 3 AM. The cops never came to our house; presumably either she didn’t preach loudly enough to disturb the neighbors or they ignored her.

    My expertise is Economics, not Psychology, so I’ll leave it to the mental health professionals to decide whether religion was a cause or a symptom of her craziness. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Karen M. says:

    The biggest regret I have from my 30 years of faith is… all that tithe, wasted! I still get PO’ed about all the vacations, savings and material goods we could have enjoyed. I’m pretty sure we did more for God than he did for us.

    Liked by 2 people

    • rorys2013 says:

      I guess the point is whether the tithes went to help one’s fellows or not. If the latter then I guess they were wasted expenditure.

      Like

    • Gunther says:

      My regret was all that time reading the Bible and preparing for these religion tests did not help me with dealing with life nor did it help me with getting better grades in other subjects that I was struggling with. The time could have been spent getting tutorial help for my other classes.

      Like

    • Karen, sorry to learn of your epxeriences with tithing.
      Tithing hits a raw nerve with me as I hate seeing people being deceived and blackmailed with the Malachi 3:10 and Hebrews 7:4-8, Genesis 14:14-20 ‘proof texts’ deliberately taken out of context and maliciously misapplied to fill the church coffers. This is theft by deception and no different to a con man with a false investment prospectus looking to scam people out of their life savings. It is a huge scam people with no basis in the New Testament community!’

      I’ve seen many devout believers ripped off and conned out of their money by churches who were not practising their Christian religion, but instead playing at being Jews (minus the cock cutting rituals and anti-bacon mantra of course) instead of Christians when it suited their financial advancement. Instead of paying bills and buying food, the pew fodder are emotionally blackmailed into giving what they cannot afford, with many getting into serious debt, no food, and experiencing serious mental health problems like depression. Valerie can probably confirm this from her own experience of dealing with people ejecting from religion.

      Tithing belongs purely in the Old Testament and only applies to land owning Israelites living in ancient times, not to gentile Christians living outside ancient Israel. The tithe was taken as a form of ancient social security to look after the Levites and priests (both from the tribe of Levi) for they could not own land as they had to be ministering in the temple. So next time you are in a church and they come to that point where they “take up the tithes and offerings, then the person collecting the tithes must meet ALL of the following strict requirements set out in the Old Testament: they must be a male member of the Tribe of Levi, one of the 12 tribes of Ancient Israel, therefore Circumcised, living in the land that Yahweh promised to Abraham and his descendants, living under the theocratic rule of Yahweh, taking up every tenth animal that passes under the rod or every tenth bushel of crop grown by landowners living in the land promised by Yahweh. You must also be an Israelite land owner living in the land promised by Yahweh. Tithes from regions outside the land promised by Yahweh are NOT acceptable.

      If every single one of these requirements cannot be met (and I can tell you now that there is no way they possibly can) then you are not to give them anything because if you do, both you and the usher collecting the tithe are breaking god’s covenant with ancient Israel. Just proves that these Christian churches have either not read their old testament, don’t care to read it (full of divinely commanded atrocities so I guess most steer clear of it to avoid them), or they read it but deliberately misinterpret and misapply it for their own gain.

      Like

  11. allanmerry says:

    Responding to “Metalnun” (several comments above): Hey, there’s one I can understand and respect. My foremost objection to “Religion” (as it is widely conceived) is that it strongly discourages, and offers permission to avoid, learning about the Real World. That is, the Universe, the Cosmos, in which we are simply and fully on our own, with our “big brains.” To “figure out” collectively how to go on evolving “successfully.” I.e. without our uninformed self destruction. For you, Metalnun, I suspect that it does not.

    Like

    • atheosastronos says:

      Allan, this was what ultimately triggered me ejecting from Christianity. I got sick of well meaning Jesians (as I call them) telling me that what I knew about Astronomy, Theology and the real age of the universe was ‘just head knowledge and not heart knowledge’. I generally found that Evangelicals (not all of them fortunately) mainly place higher priority on the bible account of the reality of the cosmos than on scientific accounts, especially when science contradicts religion. Only religion can make people reject reality and overwhelming evidence against a primitive superstitious bronze age myth adopted from other more ancient cultures.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. thanks Valorie, an interesting array of experiences and thoughts you gathered here!

    Like

  13. Daniel R. Widders says:

    I was born into Methodism. Boring. During the Jesus movement in 70s, I switched to Baptist. Then moved out of home to college involved in InterVarsity Xi’an fellowship. But that was mostly buying their doctrine paperbacks and visiting clubs. That and church were mostly curiosity but didn’t get much close friends except for a few. Even they weren’t so much spiritual as just good people. There was no real addiction, (well, some status climbing), but there was the really annoying bullshit task of “Finding God’s Will”, to include should I marry (before sex of course). I did not have the emotional personality for xianity to do much for me, but I didn’t want to go to hell. So I blame these groups for mostly wasting my life, waiting for his Nibs to tell me what to do.
    Addiction?, FOR ME, NO. But I think it would depend on your personality.

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    • rorys2013 says:

      Yes waiting for his Nibs to tell you what to do is a waste of precious time and unnecessary because we know in our heart of hearts what we need to do. We just have to discover it from moment to moment.

      Like

  14. James Warren says:

    Christians today would rather worship Christ than follow Jesus. We can dispense here with the Gospel of John who presents a theology-spouting Jesus who is 180 degrees different than the other three gospels describe.

    The God of Jesus played no favorites, blessing “the good and the evil…and the righteous and unrighteous alike.” He did not think of himself as divine (“Why do you call ME good? Only God is good” and “Friend, who made me a judge over you?”). He referred to himself as “son of [the] man,” which simply translates as “human being.” He did not believe in a strict jealous God of retributive justice but a God of mercy who asks for repentance and a contrite heart.

    He did not believe in a blood sacrifice of a human being for sin: “Go and learn what this means: [God] desires mercy and not sacrifice.”

    The idea of a blood sacrifice for sin in the gospel writer John’s theology of Jesus as the Lamb of God to be slaughtered is what Christians use for their theological ideas of sacrifice and salvation.

    In fact, to make sure his sacrificial lamb theology made sense, John moves the day Jesus was killed to 24 hours BEFORE the day the other three gospel writers claim as the day Jesus died.

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    • rorys2013 says:

      Jesus and his teachings have been dehumanised by much of the Church, why? To serve the purposes of some of that I am sure but who exactly I am not sure. Perhaps those involved in Christianity for purely worldly reasons not for the spiritual development of humankind.

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      • AtheosAstronos says:

        Rory you raise a good point. Whilst the very first Christians were more concerend with Jesus’ teachings than who he was, today the emphasis is on the opposite, that is the church generally is more concerned that what people beleive about the person Jesus is what determines a beleiver, not whether they follow the teachings. The whole Trinity nonesense for example didn’t appear in more or less the form we have it today until at least 3 centuries after Jesus. The early proto-orthodox leaders were far more concerend with right doctrines than whether or not someone actually did what Jesus instructed. Today many Evangelical and pentecostal churches have a sort of doctrinal basis of theri core beliefs and doctrines, yet most of it is concerned with beleiving specific things about God, the person of Christ, The Holy Spirit and the Bible.

        The sad thing is many texts were deliberately and maliciously changed during the manuscript copying process to support theological agendas, or remove contradictions or counter any rival interpretation of the text.So when people quote the bible to me I wonder how many Christians just don’t know that their text is made up from a composite or patch-quilt of multiple manuscrits so therefore is not a direct copy of any single ancient surviving texts like Codex Aleph Sinaiticus, Codex B Vaticanus, Codex A Alexandrinus, Codex E Ephramus or my personal favourite Code D Bezae Cantabrigiensis, each with variant readings that pose theological problems.

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  15. Ed says:

    Again…Valierie does a good objective job of presenting the downsides of Christendom. But she does not make the delination between Christendom and Christianity. The posted comments also do not see the difference. The writer and the commentors make the same fallacy: because the Ideal is often not met, therefore the Ideal must be invalid. Granted, Christendom has massive failings, and its effects are far-reaching. But….the central “philosophical” tenents of Christianity’s transcendent and immanent God still stand, despite many believers falling out with the many methods of Christendom. Persons honestly wavering with the traumas of faith must ask themselves two questions: 1. Is the person presented in the Gospels as Jesus overwhelmingly worthy of one’s faith in Him?; 2. Did the physical Resurrection of Jesus actually happen?
    Whatever a person’s spiritual trauma is, if he/her can answer yes to those two questions, then they can consider themselves Christians. If they have discovered, however, the method they have used to pursue God has failed them, then they should not commit the familiar fallacy of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sha'Tara says:

      Hi Ed, As an ex-Catholic, then ex-evangelical born again Christian, I can empathize with what you are saying. But yours is the faulty argument. Jesus said, and quote: “Mt. 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good
      for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
      Mt. 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.
      Mt. 5:15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
      Mt. 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
      The “world” has no need to justify either Christians, Christianity or Christendom. That is the exclusive task of all those who claim to believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord (and saviour). As a Christian you are asking those who for lack of evidence of faith, and lack of support in trying to express the real faith which is entirely self-sacrificial have abandoned it in order to seek their life where it would make more sense to them, to justify, to believe again, in something that proved false to them (and to me personally). It’s up to all “real” Christians to read that famous “sermon on the mount and learn to PRACTICE

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sha'Tara says:

        (posted before I finished my line!) their faith in full view of an expectant and needy world. This hasn’t happened since that Manchurian candidate and false apostle, Paul of Tarsus, took possession of the Jesus movement and turned it into an organized religion. Christianity or Christendom: it’s the same thing. There is no evidence of any obedience to the actual commands of Christ. Christianity has no works to boast of, unless they are evil, and if your read the letter of James, you’ll see that faith without works (that would be good works, nor evil deeds) is dead.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sha’Tara
        I’m afraid some of your comments about Paul and the commands/teachings of Jesus are at odds with the consensus of scholarly opinion. Early Christianity is the fastest growing area of Theological study and for good reasons, mainly due to recent discoveries (like manuscripts at Nag Hammadi and the Dead Sea Scrolls) of other gospels and documents that shed new light on the origins of Christianity.

        “There is no evidence of any obedience to the actual commands of Christ.” needs qualifying as it goes against the current scholarly consensus that the very first followers were predominantly concerned with following the teachings/sayings of Jesus. If you study Early Christianity today you will be introduced to the Sayings Gospel of Thomas that contains some 114 verses/statements with many of these having direct parallels with material found in our surviving copies of the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke). Cameron and a significant number of scholars are convinced that much of the material in the Gospel of Thomas appears to pre-date the material contained in the 4 gospels that were accepted as part of the New Testament Canon.

        Your comment about Christians not following the teachings of Jesus is very applicable to later Christianities. Porphyry, a highly educated 3rd century critic of Christianity, often used Jesus’ own teachings to undermine Christian doctrine. Whilst Porphyry generally had a high regard and commendation for Jesus, of Christians he said “whereas the Christians, by their account are polluted and contaminated and entangled in error; and there are many other such slanders they issue against them.” (Fragment of Porphyry preserved in Augustine, City of God 19.23). Porphyry was critical of the disciples and apostle Paul.

        We also need to re-examine our previous assumptions that Christianity began with everyone believing the same core things and that what they believed gradually diverged over the decades and centuries that followed. Documents from early church fathers like Irenaeus, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Origen writing during the mid to late 2nd century, confirm and acknowledge the existence of several main flavours of Christianity with vastly opposing and contrasting views. This is also supported by a cursory reading of Paul’s letters where he frequently mentions rival groups of Christians preaching ‘Another Gospel’, or a ‘Different Gospel” to Paul’s own thinking. Paul was writing from the 40’s to the early 60’s so barely a decade after the execution of Jesus we already find tensions between Jewish Christians who followed Torah and Gentile converts who did not. This is not just a simple Jewish Christians verses Gentile Christians schism, but more fundamental as we see early forms of gnostic Christianity and Christian syncretist groups (Christian-Pagan hybrids) also challenging Paul.

        Now regarding your comment that the “false apostle, Paul of Tarsus, took possession of the Jesus movement and turned it into an organized religion.” Pauline Christianity with its Gentile friendly face was only one flavour of Christianity, whilst the main flavour was predominantly Jewish Christianity. You might recall that according to Acts churches had already been set up in Antioch well before Paul began his missionary journeys. So instead of thinking about Christianity as a singular movement, scholars are now thinking more in terms of ‘Christianities’ (Plural) because there were several competing and conflicting flavours, not just Pauline or Jewish Christianities. During the early part of the second century, I can point you to several main communities that all considered themselves Christians and yet had conflicting beliefs. You have what we call the Proto-Orthodox that are forerunners to the Orthodox Christianity that survives as the dominant form of Christianity today. They believed Jesus was divine and human. There were various groups of Gnositics each with their own variations of beliefs. The pro-Jewish Ebionite Christians embraced Judaism along with all the legal requirements of Torah and believed that Jesus was human and not divine. Marcion and his anti-Jewish Marcionite Christian churches believed in 2 god’s (a supreme god who sent Jesus to save people from the inferior, evil Jewish god who created the world), rejected any Jewish influences, but regarded Jesus as divine. You could not get more divergent theologies and practices than Ebionite and Marcionite Christianities, yet both professed to be ‘Christians’.

        You might be interested to know that the Ebionites, along with other Jewish groups accused Paul of lying about being born Jewish, and instead claimed that Paul was a gentile who converted to Judaism to marry the daughter of the high priest, and only turned against Jewish law when his plans were frustrated (Ephiphanius, Panarion 30.16.8ff; cf. 30.25.1).

        My main area of research is why early Christianity lost its Jewish roots and Pauline Christianity won the day, so whilst there is ample evidence to support my hypothesis, this is my own opinion from my own personal ongoing studies. Why did Pauline Christianity become the predominant part of Orthodox Christianity and the influence of Jewish Christianity disappear altogether? In a nutshell I have identified 3 main reasons that I will attempt to summarise:

        1) Jewish Christianity that embraced Torah, presented obstacles to gentile masses, like dietary requirements and circumcision. Paul’s Gentile-friendly gospel was far more appealing.
        2) Jewish Christianity suffered major setbacks when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD during the first Roman Jewish War. This along with 2 further Jewish revolts that were brutally put down by Rome, effectively decapitated, decimated and displaced the Jewish Christian movement. This created a vacuum that allowed gentile Christianity to become the dominant, more populous flavour of Christianity.
        3) Marcion of Sinope – was a huge fan of Paul, was the first to begin collecting New Testament documents by collecting letters attributed to Paul. In 140 AD Marcion produced his canon of texts that consisted of a gospel (Luke minus the genealogies and infancy narratives) and 10 letters attributed to Paul. Marcion was the catalyst that galvanised the proto-orthodox churches to create their own canon of texts in response to Marcion and begin to define what beliefs were acceptable and what was considered heresy. The importance of Marcion and his impact upon the development of proto-orthodox Christianity and Pauline Christianity in particular cannot be underestimated. So it is thanks to a ‘heretic’ called Marcion that Pauline theology is a dominant component of Christianity today. It is fair to say that Christianity today would be very different had Marcion not collected (and preserved) Paul’s letters.

        So some time during the first century, Christian beliefs transitioned from adherents of Judaism initially following the teachings of Jesus, to gentile adherents who followed theological teachings about Jesus. The religion of Jesus (Judaism) was transformed into (a) religion(s) about Jesus (Christianities).

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      • Sha'Tara says:

        Appreciate the effort here, Atheos, but being of the relatively speaking “uneducated” classes myself, much of that’s over my head, and quite frankly I never had any use for high-brow theologians trying to figure out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin at the same time. I wrote as off-the-cuff, my experiences within Christianity versus the teachings of Jesus as stated in the 3 synoptics. It doesn’t matter to me whether any of it is authentic – it could be (and probably is) all complete bull shit from the get-go, including the reality of a “Miracle Max” they called Jesus. But it’s not up to me to defend Christianity, it’s up to its adherents, promoters and proselytizers. They’re the ones on the hook for claiming that salvation is only available through belief in their Christ. So, if there’s discrepancy between their lifestyles and acts versus the teachings in the books they use to push their so-called faith, then they need to address that first. I’m not asking for much, I just want to see all Christians, bar none, living by the commands of the gospel of Luke, chapter 6 starting with verse 20 to the end of the chapter (verse 49). I want to see all Christians publicly renounce all of their riches, unload all their collective possessions, from Rome on down to the lowliest of lowly chapel. I want to see all Christians publicly embrace their enemies – all their enemies without relying on the State to protect them should it turn into a blood bath. I want to see all Christians completely and publicly eschew all violence and use of violence – including (and of first necessity) complete withdrawal from all military, security and police forces. I want to see all Christians withdraw from all organized (institutionalized) political processes. Do that and you’ll get no more negative arguments from me. I still won’t join, but as a member of the LGBT community, I’ll feel a whole lot safer.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sha Tara, Sorry if stuffs is technical, I’m a hybrid of Theologian, Astronomer, Musician and IT nerd. Most Christians are completely ignorant about how their religion started and evolved. Many don’t realise that the church, beliefs and practices we see today are light years from where it was at when the Jesus movement started.

        I’d love to see some of Luke enacted by the church, especially the conmen TV evangelists who sell Jesus and tell their congregations the that God has told the pastor that the church members must buy him a jet, Porsche, multi million dollar pad overlooking the ocean to help the leaders reflect on god’s word to reach the poor and lost of course.

        If Christians today did what the early church did by pooling their possessions as recorded in Acts, there would be no poverty, no starvation, no child born to die in the first 24 hours of life, possibly a better world but it would all depend upon who got the say in how the amassed wealth should be used.

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  16. Atheos says:

    Sha’Tara, I’d have to disagree with you that “There is no evidence of any obedience to the actual commands of Christ. ” When tracing the origins of Christianity if we accept that the ‘Sayings’ Gospel of Thomas (Nag Hammadi) possibly predates the 4 accepted gospels in our present New Testament, then it was the teachings or sayings of Jesus that were important to the first generation of believers. The gospels of Mark, Matthew, John and Luke came decades later. There is strong evidence that Luke-Acts in its present form dates from the mid second century for the prologue show evidence that the author was familiar with the works of Josephus (names the same 3 trouble makers as Josephus does),. The prologue also contains theological polemic that is clearly aimed at countering Marcion (active between approx 125 -150 AD) who was later denounced as a heretic by Irenaeus and Tertullian (wrote a 5 Volume work called “Against Marcion”) towards the end of the second century AD.

    You are quite right to some extent with your comments about Paul offering a different flavour of Christianity to the Jerusalem movement, since we can see the tensions between Paul and James in Paul’s letters. Acts presents a harmonious church that is at odds with Paul’s letters. If Paul’s first letter was to the Thessalonians about 44-48 AD then, just 11 to 15 years after Jesus was executed (assuming 33 AD and Paul’s conversion in 34 AD) then, we can already see different gospels being proclaimed and the tensions between Paul with his gospel of Grace and James of the ‘circumcision Party’ and his gospel of adherence to Torah.. If it were not for Marcion collecting Paul’s letter’s and being the first person we know of to create a Canon of texts read in churches, then it is fair to assume that Christianity would be very different today without Paul’s influence.

    The letter of James, along with many documents in the New Testament, is a forgery, most likely from the 2nd century AD. Evangelical scholars prefer to use the term ‘Pseudopigraphy (writing inscribed with a lie) as this does not sound as incriminating or wrong as the word ‘forgery’, The more honest scholars will call it out for what it is …A FORGERY!!! That is an unknown, highly educated person wrote the letter pretending to be James an uneducated Judean, to promote their own theological agenda (countering Paul’s gospel of Grace – faith without works), and ensure that it stood more chance of being accepted by churches if it bore the name of a famous apostle that would no doubt add more credibility and carry more authority than if the author went under their own name. How do we know this? James the brother of Jesus who became leader of the Jerusalem Church (Not Peter as erroneously believed by many Christians) was an illiterate Galilean peasant who would have spoken Aramaic and would have quoted the Hebrew or Aramaic Old Testament, yet in this letter allegedly written by James, the author uses the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament instead. The author of James writes fluent rhetorical Greek that is typically the preserve of the highly educated ruling elite classes, that is completely at odds with the literary abilities of an illiterate peasant.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Did anyone else experience Church fatigue?
    Where you got to that many meetings ‘chasing the blessing’ that you sort of burn out, a bit like when you over do it at the gym for weeks on end?

    I wouldn’t say I was addicted but I definitely got a buzz or euphoric feeling. It was later when I got the same euphoric sensation listening to trance music that I began to suspect that what I had been feeling had nothing to do with the presence of the Holy Spirit, but was manufactured by my own moods and mental state. That music could induce such sensations and emotive responses got me analysing the service structures where music is used deliberately to put people in the mood. Notice how they always sing a rousing number to get you high before the collection plate comes around? For me it was the music that gave me the buzz. The music manipulated my euphoric sensations. This proved to be yet another crack joining the mountains of evidence I had compiled that proved beyond doubt that my religion was false and not real. I held out for years hoping for a blinding revelation to resolve all my evidence and reconcile it with some great spiritual insight, that never came. I did not lose my faith, I actively rejected it.

    Did this constant seeking of euphoria have negative impacts?,Yes, across many areas of my life,

    Liked by 2 people

    • Religion is not harmless, it is toxic! For me the most damaging part of attending more weekly Christian events is that you are placing yourself increasingly more so in harm’s way, especially if you are developing serious doubts about your faith like I was. I went to church for the Euphoric feelings during music and worship time, as this was where I hoped that “Today is the day!” when God will give me the blinding revelation that answers all of my questions, doubts, and growing mountains of evidence that challenged my core beliefs. I’m a Theology post graduate from an academic university (not a bible college), where questioning the evidence is part and parcel of the subject, so I had a lot of questions. The song “Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find” began to ring hollow.

      The more I was exposed to having to trust ‘in faith’ something that was not true, the more I poisoned myself by having to suspend disbelief for even longer periods of time. This ultimately created a dichotomy between religion, blind faith, personal testimony and anecdotal evidence on the one hand, and, reality, science, empirical evidence and reason on the other. I tried, like the late Stephen J Gould, to keep my faith based religious thoughts in a separate mental compartment to my rational thought and theological knowledge. Unlike Professor Gould, I could not take holy scripture as priority over scientific fact if the two disagreed. Either the universe is 13.5 Billion years old according to science, or, no more than 10,000 years old according to Christian creationists! It cannot be both! I was feeling more like a schizophrenic, or a double agent, clinging on to faith by my finger nails.

      There comes the inevitable tipping point where something is either true or it isn’t. There can be no more taking religious teachings in faith that blatantly oppose common human decency, empirical facts and reason. How can something that is not true possibly be true in a spiritual sense? No more making excuses for the man/woman at the front when they demonstrate their appalling lack of knowledge about their religion, its origins and their chosen texts. There comes a time when “all will be revealed in God’s timing” eventually doesn’t cut it anymore and you cannot go on making excuses for God, the pastors, the church and the bible. No more excuses! No more lies! No more living a lie! I am now “Ex Jesia” to use my own invented expression.

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      • Sha'Tara says:

        I totally identify with your path and your final choice. Yes, a thing either is true, or it’s false. If it’s true, then it will perform according to claim (promise). If it does not perform then it’s a lie. Nothing can be simpler than that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Gunther says:

        If God has not shown up after 2,000 years, then I agreed with you about God’s timing, God’s plan for us, etc., just doesn’t cut it anymore.

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      • rorys2013 says:

        The idea of a God out there derives from a dichotomous view of life. There is no God out there who will deliver answers, everything is one. The answers are inherent in the universe.

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  18. rorys2013 says:

    Conventional religion is based on beliefs. Beliefs are mental constructs or models. A model is just that, it can never be what it is modelling. Not only that but models can be created which actually model nothing. Conventional Christianity models a God out there somewhere and there is actually no discernable God out there to model. What we can have however is a personal experience, if we open ourselves to it, of a sense of a benign presence/power greater than ourselves and we can seek to humbly align ourselves with what we sense that power is calling us to do. This is a completely personal and private experience not mediated by any outside agency whatsoever. We Quakers in our silent meetings for worship create a community context which enables this experience to happen for the individual. There is no outward coercion of any kind, if anything happens for an individual it is solely between the individual and the presence/power within themselves.

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  19. Sha'Tara says:

    To me that is the mystical aspect of being human and it can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. For me that “presence” is simply my own mind set free from Matrix thinking and bondage.

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    • I like your Matrix analogy, as that is one film that got you thinking.

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    • rorys2013 says:

      Sha’Tara absolutely.

      Like

    • For Sha’Tara and Rory
      I’ve witnessed some strange things and had some inexplicable experiences, that I would previously have said was a miracle or coming into contact with the divine, but just because I cannot explain these experiences no longer automatically means “therefore God!” When I used to wrestle with why prayers were sometimes answered but the really vital ones you needed God to come through on never were, The gospels contain the following statements allegedly made by Jesus regarding prayer:

      Believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. [Mark 11:24]
      Ask, and it will be given you. [Matthew 7:7]
      Nothing will be impossible to you. [Matthew 17:20]
      If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. [Matthew 21:21]
      If you ask anything in my name, I will do it. [John 14:14]

      Jesus is stating quite unambiguously to “Ask and t shall be done”, no excuses or ‘Jesian Constructs as I call them, then either it is true that you can ask and get anything done by praying as these statements clearly indicate, or it is a lie. This means that either Jesus was a deliberate liar, or, he genuinely believed his own b*llsh*t and was deluding himself when he said things, or, some later Christian scribes made up the text and inserted words in the mouth of Jesus that he never said himself.

      Typical Jesian Constructs, (this is my own invented term for things said by Christians to try and explain or justify why something may or may not happen when god does the opposite of what the text says) might go like this regarding why prayer is never answered would be “You didn’t have enough faith”, “you have unconfessed sin in your life”,”maybe God is telling you to wait – God answers prayer with either a ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘Wait'”, “maybe what you are asking for is not in god’s plan or will?” But all of these go against what the text says should happen, hence the Christian has to go to great lengths to create an elaborate mental construct whereby these statement can be regarded as true ‘in faith’ since ‘all things are possible to God, even the impossible’, even though the reality is that they are false.

      I often joke that when a Christian claims that Jesus answered their prayers, I ask them “How do you know it was not Vishnu being mischievous to have a laugh and play mind games with these Christians?” I invented my own fake religion called ‘Pokey-Do’ where I am the Earthly representative of a deity called ‘The Great Poke of Do’ and the religious text is ‘The Book of Do’, the holy relic is ‘The broken radiator at Dysart refuse tip’ mostly to demonstrate that religion is nothing more than superstition dressed up as pseudo-philosophy, pseudo-science and, sick morality, but mostly for entertainment purposes when in dialogue with Christians. Most of the time, when Christians claim that God has answered a prayer, I deliberately get all upity and state that it wasn’t their god that did it but ‘The sacred broken radiator at Dysart Tip” who answered the prayer instead.I know I am not being helpful am I, but sometimes I just cannot resist the temptation to have a laugh. When they turn the tables on me and tell me that my religion was made up, I tell them that their reason for rejecting my religion is the very same reason I reject Christianity.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sha'Tara says:

        Bottom line for me is, I did everything I knew how, and followed the gospel instructions to the letter to make it work and it did not. I reject out of hand anything that claims to work a certain way, whether it’s a dishwasher or a god, when it does not. If someone could show me how they make it work exactly as claimed without misdirection, and if I could also make it work, I’d certainly re-think my current position. It would be great to be able to do some of those things, although I’m not sure the powers that be would be thrilled if I ordered our local Mount Cheam to uproot itself and throw itself in the Pacific ocean. I may hold off on moving mountains, at least until there’s a good reason to do so. :-) But healing people with the touch of a hand, now that I would enjoy. It may freak out Big Pharma and the banksterized medical profession. I would need extra bullet protection. I wonder if 2000 year old spells work on bullets? Or hit and runs?

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      • rorys2013 says:

        ” I reject out of hand anything that claims to work a certain way, whether it’s a dishwasher or a god, when it does not.”
        My philosophy too.
        There is nothing but this universe of which we are part. There is no separate God out there. It is just a fable or fairy story. On the other hand we certainly do not know all that there is to know about our universe. Consequently it has always been convenient for those who wish to manipulate others to bulk the unknown together and label it ‘God’ which God then, of course, has mysterious powers. And you have access to God if you really believe in God’s existence. No access means you do not have a strong enough belief in God that is all. In other words the proof of God’s existence is totally reliantIt seems to meon the strength of the believer’s belief. It seems to me that this argument is logically flawed.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Sha’Tara
    Your experience with prayer not being actioned echoes mine and no doubt that of many believers even now as well as former believers. There came a point where my own discoveries from reading texts, often side by side, revealed that nowhere does the text say “Ask and it shall be done, unless it is not in the will of my father”, Nor does the text say that God will say “Yes, No or Wait” when things have been asked in prayer. Yet these is the most popular Jesian Constructs (excuses masquerading as explanations) used by many pastors, leaders to try and reassure someone who is beginning to doubt the verbatim instructions given allegedly by Jesus in the text..

    I also heard some believers offer an apologetic answer that “Our understanding of how God works in this particular text must be wrong because God cannot lie”, when they are confronted with evidence that God does not operate as the text states. This is one of many places the church lost credibility in my eyes, by constantly referring to their own little closed system along with its man made dogmas, dubious text selections, cherry picked proof texts. You can probably see how I invented the term ‘Jesian Constructs’ for the excuses given, because believers have to construct an elaborate set of mental constructs, reinterpretations.and explanations to try and make any of the contradictions between the text and reality appear as ‘apparent contradictions’ (non-contradictory in the face of logic, reason and irrefutable evidence.

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  21. Lowell Bushey says:

    IMO, the concept of “answered prayers” is due to confirmation bias. For example, to this day, I can’t believe the number of intelligent, college educated people who believe that the full moon affects human behavior. Apparently, when someone “acts crazy” and the moon is full, it’s attributed accordingly, but when that same person “acts crazy” at some other point in the lunar cycle, they fail to notice the contradiction.
    I make many decision by inserting data into my hand held calculator, and “praying” for it to give me “divine guidance” by spitting out the correct probability. As long as I follow this “divine guidance” my “prayers” will be answered far more often than not. :)

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    • rorys2013 says:

      From what I understand of evolution I deduce from our existence that the universe has a general evolutionary bias towards increasing consciousness. The spiritual front runners of humankind are evidence of this to my mind. Evolution promotes life forms which survive so I think its natural tendency, at every level of existence, is to support life affirming activities. Thus if we open our consciousnesses to its guidance then we will be pushed towards activities which are generally life affirming in the long run even though in the short term they may not appear to be so.

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    • Lowell
      Like your observation on the moon and crazy people, especially when there are conrtadictions.

      Speaking of contradictions, recently I came across one great example of prayer apparently being answered when a believer faxed a prayer request to his house for god to save his house from a bush fire. His house was spared, so on the surface it might look like his prayer request was answered when the other 39 neighbouring houses in the suburb were burned down. However all is not as it seems. As the critic pointed out 39 house burned down so this is only a 3% success rate and 97% failure rate, since we can assume that most of the neighbours will also have prayed a similar prayer to save their houses. So from the persepctive of the 39 other home owners their prayers were not answered. The critic asked the following questions:

      Was god only accepting prayer reqests by FAX that day?

      Would other houses have been spared if any of the 39 neighbours who lost thier homes had sent their prayer request by FAX to their homes?

      If the man who’s house was spared had not prayed salfishly to save his own property but instead asked god to Save his suburb, would all 40 houses have been spared?

      Coming form a bush fire prone country Australia, I have it on reliable authority from a Tasmanian Fire Chief examining our properties for bushfire readiness, that at the end of the day, despite great preparations there was no reason or rhyme to why some houses burned and others in the direct path of the blaze somehow survived. In his experience he had seen houses (that on paper should have been firewood) spared, whilst neighbouring properties all around (with excellent fire defences) got incinerated. It was random and the luck of the draw as to how the fire and the winds driving them behaved at the time.

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      • Sha'Tara says:

        Sorry Einstein but I think god does play dice, at least on the local scene. The universe may be a bit much to handle but small, individual events can be fun to play with, if you’re a psycho divinity. Is god psycho? I think the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament) make that abundantly clear.

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      • Lowell Bushey says:

        Hi, Sha’Tara,

        You’ve touched an argument that made me extremely skeptical of religion, even as a teenager. As you pointed out, after reading many Old Testament accounts, one could only assume that god was psychotic. In addition, according to most religions, “the righteous”:, i,e,, those who do despicable things in god’s name, will be the ones who go to heaven. When I was still an agnostic, it was obvious that religion and god (even assuming such a being exists) had nothing in common.

        This situation invites a further paradox: Humans would rather not believe that events in their lives are the result of pure chance, even though, as you point out, “divine actions” roughly follow the laws of probability. It seems to me as though our time is better spent figuring out the best course of action, rather than praying to an idiosyncratic and psychotic god.

        I rather like Epicurus’ famous quote:
        “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
        Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
        Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
        Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

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    • Sha'Tara says:

      I never thought of God as a hand-held device!

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      • Lowell Bushey says:

        Hi, Sha’Tara,

        Obviously, I was being facetious. :) My point is that “going with the probabilities” will nearly always result in the best outcomes in the long run. No other course of action can make such a claim.

        For example, when playing the roulette wheel, “the house” has only a 2.7% advantage, but still makes millions!

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      • Sha'Tara says:

        Hi Lowell… yes, I know you were being facetious. I don’t play games of chance, never liked them (one could stress that and say I hate them) and I absolutely have no understanding of “odds” (except as oddities :-) ) so I don’t understand how losing can mean winning. I never understood the “flip a coin” deal. I think my “moral” nature is totally averse to any sort of gambling. That is probably why, as I plunged into the concept of “god” ever deeper I finally opted out: faith is nothing more than an ‘in your face’ gamble that only pays off when other things are in your favour, like, if you have a lot of money to waste in a gambling casino chances are you will “make” more money than the one with little money to “invest” in the machines. (I’m picturing this in my mind, I’ve never set foot in a casino.) God is much more likely to answer the prayers of the rich than of the poor.
        You have to know how to play god’s game, like the Catholic kid who prayed for a red bicycle for his birthday and didn’t get one. But that’s OK, he went and stole one, then he prayed for forgiveness. That second prayer was automatically granted. The basis of faith.

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      • Sha'Tara says:

        In keeping with the theme… a quote: Suppose the hellfire of the orthodox really existed! We have no assurance that it does not! It seems incredible, but many incredible things are true. We do not know that God is not as cruel as a Spanish inquisitor. Suppose, then, He is! If, after Death, we wicked ones were shovelled into a furnace of fire- we should have to burn. There would be no redress. It would simply be the Divine Order of things. It is outrageous that we should be so helpless and so dependent on any one- even God. ― W.N.P. Barbellion, Journal of a Disappointed Man.

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  22. Gunther says:

    “If, after Death, we wicked ones were shovelled into a furnace of fire- we should have to burn. There would be no redress.”

    I was brought up to believe that purgatory was kind of place where if you weren’t good enough to get into heaven, it was kind of like being put on probation/pardon until they decide that you were good enough to get into heaven.

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    • Gunther says:

      I meant parole not pardon.

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      • Sha'Tara says:

        Purgatory was an after death stage with the same horrible suffering as described for hell, but with the hope that eventually you would get out. It was invented by the Catholic church in order to sell “indulgences” that is, the more money you gave to the church, the more the church would intercede with god to shorten your loved ones’ sentence in purgatory. Of course the church denies having ever sold such pig in a poke so you’d have to ask the fat monk, Martin Luther, how he was so successful in using the claim to fire up the Protestant Reformation, not a small accomplishment if rather bloody. And, the church is busy reintroducing the concept now, and if anyone believes it isn’t about money, I’ve got a golf course on Mars I’m willing to sell them.

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    • rorys2013 says:

      Absolutely. As the whole edifice is purely a human invention it is open to any desired modification and the modifications that have the most human clout behind them will be the ones that are accepted that is all. Acceptance does not mean anything other tan that the fiction has been tweaked.

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  23. Gunther says:

    “Purgatory was an after death stage with the same horrible suffering as described for hell, but with the hope that eventually you would get out. It was invented by the Catholic church in order to sell “indulgences” that is, the more money you gave to the church, the more the church would intercede with god to shorten your loved ones’ sentence in purgatory.”

    Well, I was never told that by the church authorities. Church intercede with god to shorten a person sentence in purgatory? Many people would say that is more of a bribe if purgatory really exists and the church authorities really could talk to God. Of course, if you were rich you could easily bribe the religious authorities, but if you were poor, well that is kind of like being in debtor prison or jail because you couldn’t pay bail let alone pay the court costs.

    Here areLast Week Tonight with John Oliver episode on Jail and Municipal violations:

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