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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Hi Simon


I do want to interact with your post on morality soon.  In the mean time I want to explain one other thing, thats important for me as a christians.


The process and experience that I laid out of being born again is what the Bible describes as true of everyone who is genuinely a christian.  Those who go to church but are not born again, are just church goers.  Those who belong to cults that use the Bible in some way are not christians, but cults - according to the biblical definition.


Athiests lump together all sects and cults and church goers, anyone who assents in anyway to the Bible - as christians.  There is not enough tolerance or desire for understanding in those conversations to make any distinctions.  But from this side of the fence if someone is not born again then they are not a christian.  I do not hope at all for athiests in general to understand this, but given our discussion I wanted to mention it to you.


It makes a difference in the sweeping generalisations about all the bad stuff christians do.  Sure, some genuinely born again christians may have done terrible things but they would be the exception not the rule.  I am aware that the US has a different landscape than the UK and that I think it must be much harder there to make any distinctions as so many call themselves christians.


I was appalled watching a Youtube video of a stand up comedian using God and the Bible to make fun of athiests using horrible expletives, f*** etc.  He reminded me that in the same way that going to Macdonalds doesn't make you a hamburger, so going to church doesn't make you a christian.  Jesus himself warned that there would be MANY people who will be utterly shocked on the day of judgment because they called themselves christians but never were - their lives bore witness of their sham religion, they were never born again. 


Well, all I can say is I've been very much impressed with the way you carry on, and you're a good advertisement for born-again Christians. 

It's hard to see how atheists could come up with their own version of this.  The Christian process of "conversion" and "finding Jesus" seems like a very reliable and effective way to get people "born again".  It can happen to people naturally, as part of their lives - so I suppose we should look at that.  I definitely do not want to use Buddhism - although I am sure they have some good ideas on the subject.  I want to look at real people's experiences rather than trying to learn a load of ****** from a book that someone wrote.

It's here.  I would like people to try and find holes and things wrong with it. 

I will try to analyse moral objectivity, using The Bible to illustrate my ideas. 

The Old Testament is unreliable because some of it has to be rejected in the 21st century as barbaric or silly.  How do you decide which parts to keep and which to reject?  That is decided by the times we live in, and some other factors, such as men's eternal desire to protect their power and prestige, and men's traditional rejection of faggots.  Pretty subjective if you ask me.  Very controversial.  All cultural. 

As an atheist, I can assert that the story and teachings of Jesus give rise to an objective moral system.  Do you assert the same thing?  Do you need to invoke the authority of God?  I say it without invoking God. 

How do I justify saying that the moral system of Jesus is objective?  Because I believe it is based on some universally clear, unambiguous and self-evidently desirable virtues.  I can think of six of them:  love, kindness, mercy, integrity, courage, and honest self-questioning.  These could be called moral axioms.  There are others I could list, such as free-thinking, which to me is self-evident and essential but which many would not agree with, and anyway is perhaps not strictly necessary in order to achieve good moral practice;  forgiveness, which is not so simple, or commonly agreed to be always valid;  and justice, which often has to be decided in a courtroom. 

1)  When we try and use these six moral axioms, we are confident of their meanings.  They are simple to define and easy to understand, in the way that Jesus exemplified and taught them.  These meanings are universal and really unchanging throughout the whole history of humanity.  This unchanging, universal nature gives them a great authority as objective standards of behaviour.  When we are thinking about how and when to apply them in real life, there is no need to consult our own dotty opinions, or self-interests, or other subjective bias - especially when, as I'm sure Jesus intended, we consider them together, and they illuminate and complement each other.  (-  Then, they can become an unstoppable force for good.) 

We can easily feel in our hearts whether we are living up to them.  It's difficult to fool ourselves that we are following them when we are not.  Whether we are, is obvious, if we care to open our eyes and look, and be honest with ourselves, and observe our own feelings and conscience on the matter. 

2)  They are universally, self-evidently and unquestionably believed to be good and noble.  Peaceful, well-meaning, unselfish people; i.e. harmless people, have always agreed that they are desirable and necessary virtues for trying to live a good and honorable life.  If we sin against one of these virtues, it is standard to regard this as a crime against God (Christians) or a crime against goodness (atheists). 

These two qualities 1) and 2), taken together, constitute a reliable level of moral objectivity. 

If we faithfully apply one or more of these six axioms to a moral problem, as appropriate, we can be confident that the answer we obtain is a "right" one, from the perspective of human beings. 

Oooh - squeaky clean.  Now I feel like a jolly good sin - don't you?  Maybe I'll just think about it.  That can be pleasurable.  We're all free inside our own heads.

Ok, I had an experience today that really blew my mind. I went in a strip club here in Columbus, Ohio (because... im in to that sort of thing) anyway, all the girls are walking around in their halloween costumes. One girl comes over and sits down with me and we start talking. I mention to her that she's not in a halloween costume like the rest of the girls and she rather emphatically tells me, "I don't DO halloween!" I said, "Oh, ok, why is that?" And she actually replied, "Because I'm a CHRISTIAN!"

Look at this total load of garbage (sorry Nelson):


They take seven pages to say - what? 

So it appears that there are certain values* which human beings have always instinctively gravitated towards, and reached for, as the "highest", "healthiest" and therefore, all things considered, the "best" values.  For the human race, they are eternal and unchanging and always seen as good and noble by the general consensus of the world.  For everything else in the universe apart from the human race, they are meaningless.  It seems that animals enjoy them too, but they are less able to control how much they stick to them - the same way they can't make robots, or talk - they are not as sophisticated as us.  Maybe that's why we love dolphins so much - they are always so sweet - they are like the Bob Marley of the animal kingdom. 

* I can't find a neutral word with no moral connotations.

I recognise that that was unfair - Deacon Duncan's article is not a total load of garbage, it's just that he misses the point.  There does exist a small set of objective moral values - it's just a question of identifying them out of all the many different values there are.  There is an absolute moral bedrock.  We do have ultimate tests by which to determine if our actions are right - or at least, not wrong. 

Replace 'some' with 'just about all' and you'd be right. I'd say all, but them we'd find the one person on the planet who actually accepts every single word as fact and tries to follow them all. (And fails, as some are mutually contradictory.)

You know, cherry-picking isn't unique to Christians. Here you'll find people who recognize the absurdity of a big grey-bearded sky father and yet they take astrology and reincarnation seriously. Hahahahaha!!!



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