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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I think your lack of judgment, and unreasonableness is self evident.  By all means give yourself an applause, take a standing ovation and pat yourself on the back for how truly clever and insightful you are, don't mind me if I go and have some more serious discussion with others.  Yes, Rich - your amazing!


And he's right, it doesn't make us look very good.  Manners, people. 


Sorry if this got posted twice.

Doesn't make a difference. Christians already think we are bad people. It's not going to change anything. And his opinion of atheists frankly doesn't matter. Unlike him, there are Christians, who aren't as stubborn and dogmatic and who actually want to learn something:


Come on Steve, be reasonable.  I am trying to have sensible discussions and the only time I have pulled back is when people have resorted to insults and name calling.  Have I really been stubborn and dogmatic?


Lets make a deal, we'll both be polite and we won't right each other off but just talk.  Fair enough?

In a way im glad people cherry pick or I think we would be in real trouble. One of my colleagues was telling me that her son had thought about getting a tattoo... she was disgusted beyond belief by this... as did you know, it says in the bible we are not to get tattoos??? its the devils work??? now very simple example but imagine if this woman didnt cherry pick? Would she stone her son to death for his 'outrageous' suggestion in acquiring a tattoo. The bible is what people want it to be. I believe it gives people reason to justify their bullshit ideals..

NT laws do not include tatoos, and Acts 15 outlays only three categories of Jewish law which are applicable to non-Jew Christians.  Pass this information on, so that atheists can spend their energy on more effective arguments.  But I think you are right Emma.  I think the cherry picking is necessary in order to keep a religion compatible with the society it exists within.  It is a great thing that keeps religion compatible with an evolving society.

I think Trevor has behaved as an adult and has stood up well to people giving it to Christianity with both barrels.  He has a pretty thick skin.  But nobody has to put up with being insulted.  And it just kills the debate stone dead. 

It's not true that Trevor ignores the bad things that Christianity has done.  He said to me he was willing to discuss my complaints.  In the way some of you put it, there's no possible answer or discussion.  

Trevor, you mustn't be surprised if a lot of people are very very angry at the evil that has been done in the name of religion or by religious people hiding behind the legitimacy of The Lord.  People have been raped and abused, wholesale.  That produces rage. 

I for one am glad you're here.  It's boring discussing with people who all agree with each other.  It's good to hear what Christians think, from an intelligent Christian with integrity.  We need the input of people like you, otherwise we're just sterile. 

Let's get back to interesting discussions, instead of just screaming in Trevor's face, which is boring for me and disappointing for him.  (Possibly a bit out-dated by now I know.)

To return to the topic at hand and surely mentioned by others thus far, "cherry picking" is a positive and necessary outcome of reading, that is to say unless you have the capacity to recall every word verbatim. As such we recall (or choose to memorize) part of text which we feel important to us. Cherry picking in this sense is very normal and beneficial. The entirety of a book we choose to read may alter the aspect of the text we have opted to memorize, possibly changing it from a positive to a negative and so on. The problem with cherry picking is it can at times miss the overall point or social, environmental,etc. underpinnings which preceded it. It is therefore important, when quoting someone or cherry picking, to establish the genuine intent and other possible factors which necessitated the quote originally.

I don't have an answer to your question but I have spent the past few years watching my in-laws bounce from church to church. Each time it was because "God called them" to the new church but it always came on the heels of either a dispute over position or differences with the preacher's interpretation. Whenever I point this out or challenge it, I'm simply told I don't understand.

Hi Darrell

As a christian I recognise what your saying all too often.  I think one of the most frustrating things for me has been a consumer approach to church that is then justified by spiritual language.


Our society breeds a supermarket approach to life, and it has definintely infected many christians.  As one, I can offer no defense of that, only share the bemusement.


Another example would be materialism.  I was pained recently with a family leaving our church because a better paid job came up somewhere else.  They played an important role in the church and left a hole.  They already earned 3 or 4 times more than anyone else. 


So absolutely, Christians can cherry pick like anyone else.  I think it has a lot to do with human nature.  i think human beings find it far too easy to hold contradictory value / belief systems depending on the beneficial affect of each system independent of the whole. To err is human.



Hi Darrell - This is the reason there are so many different denominations and peripheral cults - they read the same bible, but different interpretations - and Viola! a new religion is born.


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