Cherry-picking religion: Do some religious people just choose the bits they like?


Hello everyone, I am fairly new to Think Atheist, so thought I would start with a topic that has always confused me. If this has already some up somewhere on the site I apologise, but I couldn't find anything regarding this issue.


I have never been religious. I was lucky enough to have parents who always just told me to figure out for myself what I want to believe. (They are not religious as such either, but are what some would call spiritual, believing in an afterlife, I suspect for comfort more than anything else. I do not have these beliefs).


I have, however, always had many religious friends, most of whom are Christian or Muslim. I have had debates with them about religion, and learnt much from it, but one thing has always confused me, and as of yet, I have never been given a satisfactory answer. Why is it (and I am asking both theists and atheists here) that so many religious people feel that they can pick which parts of their chosen religion they want to believe, and which bits are "just stories" or similar? For example, one of my Christian friends believes in God, heaven and hell, but does not believe in creationism. Is there anyone else out there with beliefs like this, and how did you come to this conclusion of what you believe is true from the Bible (or other religious texts) or not?


I am not trying to anger anyone here, and I realise that not all religious believers are like this. I am merely interested in getting an answer.



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Unfortunately, atheism doesn't necessarily mean skepticism. All it means is a lack of belief in gods. So some people still believe in other supernatural shit.

And your friend might acknowledge that a god exists if given enough evidence. But he still wouldn't want to worship it. I'm the same and many atheists are. Especially if we're talking about the Christian god - who is one of the biggest monsters imaginable


You're are way off base about morality though. Yes, we decide on what is moral based on our instincts, what is good for a group  or society as a whole. But that inevitably leads to the fact that it is wrong to harm other people without their consent. If your friend gives you his ok to eat him, that's alright I guess, but there will never be a world where eating anyone you want is the right thing to do. It's really just a somewhat more sophisticated version of the Golden Rule. Religion and specifically holy books are really piss poor guides for morality - and theists don't get their morality from them either. Most will even admit it when pressed hard enough

Unfortunately, atheism doesn't necessarily mean skepticism.


Closed mind, you mean. 

Hi Steve


Double ouch!  Im definitely not feeling the love on this website!  (im joking).  I would love for you to explain the biggest monster imaginable statement.


Not sure I agree with you about morality.  If survival of the fittest and natural selection are in play, and if as dawkins says there is no meaning and no objective morality, then if eating weaker members of society was benefical then I guess its a goer.  Whose to say its morally wrong.  Why respect the decision that other people don't want to be eaten, on what basis? 

Oh boy. Atheists don't believe in social Darwanism. That's a ridiculous and inhuman concept.

You have the typical Christian misunderstand of evolution, e.g. next to none. "Survival of the fittest" doesn't mean what you think it means. It means that the species best adapted to its biological niche has the best chances. But that doesn't mean strongest, meanest, fastest, etc. A physically weak or small species can adapt well through superior camouflage for example. The phrase didn't even appear in the first edition of "Origin of the Species". Darwin only added it later on the suggestion of a friend - who was, ironically maybe, a sociologist.


Here is Dawkins (since you mentioned him) on the concept of god-given morality and with an explanation where we get our morals instead:


And your god as described in your holy book is incompetent and best and a psychopath at worst. He creates flawed humans and tempts them with knowledge, fully knowing that they will fail his test. Then he punishes them for his own mistake. Then he somehow thinks he has to kill 99,9% of life on Earth and can't come up with a better solution. Later he thinks the only way to save mankind of by torturing and executing a human being in a human variation of scapegoating. Throughout ancient history he commands his followers to attack, kill, rape and torture various other tribes by the millions. He himself indiscriminately kills innocent people all the time, even small children.

He demands unquestioning, absolute, eternal obedience or he will burn you in hell forever. He has an infinite punishment for finite "crimes" (crimes he is again responsible for in the first place). He demands that belief without offering even one shred of evidence for his existence. And even if you get in heaven, the reward is that you're allowed to worship him for eternity.

As for the idea "there are no morals without God" - well, I think you're too intelligent to believe that.  For the record, I believe that "promotes life and health" is "good" and "against life and health" means "bad".  Very simplistic, but an excellent basis for an absolute morality. 

Hi Simon


I didn't say that there are no morals without God, of course there is.  I was trying to say that I see no basis for objective moral absolutes apart from God.


What if something promotes life and health for some people but its at the expense of others.  is that good or bad?  Was the holocause morally evil in itself no matter when or where or among who it happened, and even if the whole world agreed it was ok?

I see no basis for objective moral absolutes apart from God.

Very very good point.  Finally somebody's said it.  I appreciate that as a Christian you are genuinely puzzled on this point, and you are right - so far, atheism lacks a set of objective moral principles.  In the right hands, "What would Jesus do?" makes an excellent objective moral compass.  But too often, and this is the reason I don't trust Christians until proved otherwise, Christians say "Everything I do is perfect because I'm a Christian and that's why everything I do is perfect."  So I suppose I am saying that obviously, good moral theory doesn't guarantee good moral practice. 

Was the holocause morally evil in itself no matter when or where or among who it happened, and even if the whole world agreed it was ok?

Another relevant point.  This is why independent thinking is so important, and why I get so mad when people follow the herd with closed minds - in the wrong circumstances it can be catastrophic. 

This is a short answer on a busy day.  I'll be back.

Hi Simon


Again, I just do not recognise the person / people you are calling christians.  And if you have met people saying they are christians and behave like that then I, as a christian, dislike them and mistrust them just as much as you do.  They certainly haven't read or believed, or felt the gospel - which humbles people and deals with me and what I am like, and it is impossible to come up with the conclusion, I am perfect and everything I do is perfect. 


That person is more credible calling themselves the spagheti monster than a christian.

Absolutely right. Great insight! Any text taken apart line by line, cut into snippets, and pasted together can be made to say anything. One of the Big Lies is the sacredness of all snippets. All the support you need against xian liars can be found in: Michel Onfray. Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (2007) ISBN 161145008X

Lying texts and the liars who use them

No religious work presents an accurate account of any event. Each presents mythologized historical fiction designed for "edification" or conversion, cultic self-justification, pushing a political ideology.

Though so-called sacred texts of the Big-3 Monster Theisms are often set in a historical context, they fail to be reliable in a modern sense of research.

As for the main figures of the Big-3 Monster Theisms, not one of them existed: not Moses, not Jesus, not Christ, not Mohammed. Religious founders are either completely fictitious -- Moses, Christ or fictionalized distortions -- Jesus, Mohammed.

• God is a dummy -- only ventriloquists exist

All 1-god bombast, whether in US right-wing politics or similar theocrats in Iran, derives from comix noir tarted up as divine discourse. To advance their political agendas, today's Big-3 apologists weaponize any “verse” no matter how elided, out-of-context, or perverse.

Written, altered, woven together out of context, and interpreted by countless ventriloquists, the 1-god’s male supremacist lies are endlessly shouted at mind numbing volume by today’s dueling dummies.

Faith, the trusting suspension of disbelief, has always been theater of the absurd.


the anti_supernaturalist

Growing up Catholic, we had a term for all of us...a smorgasbord catholic.  You go up and down the line and choose what looks good to you.  Of course, you leave the other things that are quite palatable to you alone.


For instance, a girl I knew became pregnant during high school.  She came from what I would call a very religious family of 7 kids.  Church every Sunday, but they too followed the parts they wanted.  When I spoke to her about getting pregnant, her reasoning was two fold.  She couldn't use protection because birth control was a no no and of course, abortion can never happen, under any circumstances.  My question to her was, isn't pre-material sex also a no no?  


People twist their beliefs to suit their purpose.  It's whatever actually fits into their life.  To me, they are playing at religion.  I want everyone to know I go to church and I throw god and jesus around, but those pesky little rules aren't meant for me.


Even twisted off shoots, such as radical muslims are the same way.  For all the pious talk, some of the 9-11 pilots were seen in las vegas at strip clubs, drinking.  Strictly forbidden of course, but I am sure that they felt they were exempt.


Don't you find that most atheists you know, have a better understanding of the bible and more knowledge about religion than those who are claiming to be religious?

I really don't get why terms like "cafeteria Catholics" are applied specifically to Catholics. Maybe it's because there is a strict hierarchy and people rarely care what bishops and above think.


But ALL Christians are like that. It's not confined to any one sect

It sounds snappy. 


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