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 take it back:  I now realise that of course, Jesus' teachings can often be very quick, simple and easy to apply when in the thick of real life. 

@ Trevor:  thank you for setting out your world view so clearly and powerfully. 

when I was 7.  Disturbed by my thoughts I went to my dad and asked, 'If we do not know what it is like to be dead then how do we know if we are alive.'

That is totally far out. 

You give an interesting overview of existentialism, which I don't see how anyone ever makes head or tail of before falling asleep.  I suppose it takes mental energy.  - Nietsche, Bertrand Russell and Albert Camus were all barking up the wrong tree in this case.  We shouldn't always believe those depressed over-intellectual confusoids.  I can identify with your description of Conversion, with a capital CONVERSION!!!  I recognize it as a "real-life" psychological process, or at least I recognize the symbolic story.  Kind of like going from abstract knowledge to hard, vivid experience and consequences.  Does that tie in in any way with being "saved" by Jesus?  I am interested in that. 

Hi Simon


Yes it was a bit far out for a 7 year old! 


Yes it is tied into being 'saved' by Jesus, in the sense that Jesus' death was for the purpose of Him taking the penalty for my wrong doing.  Jesus can offer forgiveness becaue He has dealt with the justice issues of my sin.  So when I trusted in Him / asked Him for forgiveness, my perspecive, is that I was forgiven and the effect and point of that was that my relationship with God was then restored.  So I was 'saved' from a life without God and saved from the justice that my life deserves.  Feels like i'm rambling but you probably get the idea.



Are you saying that you become a valid whole person and are then able to start living a real life in earnest

I wouldn't say valid as all human beings, those who believe in God and those who do not are valid.


I would say that life took on new dimensions of meaning and fulfilment.  I am complete and whole as a human being in relationship with God, as all human beings are incompelte without their maker.  In daily life it means the grass is greener, the skyer is bluer, and when I wake up in the morning I know why I am alive.   It makes me an optimist.  I also know the answer to my 7 year old question!


Of course i'm describing my subjective experience I am not offering it as any kind of proof.  And i'm not saying that I am a christian just because it makes me feel good.  I am a christian because I think its true, but it also really makes me feel good!! 

That's very interesting.  I will return to your post and study it.  By "valid", I mean does the person themselves feel like a valid person. 


The experience of ? Being born again, is something I have heard about before but never had described in such glowing detail.  I believe that the experience is not a delusion, as most atheists say it is: it somehow seems too authentic and visceral for that.  The reason I say it is not a [strong] delusion is that it appears to have a logical cause - your belief in your religion and your fresh new awakened life in a new heightened reality, an existence based on joy?  How am I doing?  Most atheists might dismiss this but I don't.  Something there has taken on a life of its own - there is a reality at the heart of it.  I DON'T BELIEVE IN GOD.  As a life-worshipping atheist, I would say that through your religious devotion and religious experiences (*spat the atheist*) you have tapped into the real essence of your living being: hence the authenticity, the energy, the heightened reality, the joy - boy, I wish I was a Christian. 

This is definitely something that atheists could learn a lot from. 

As you have said the usual response to what I have written is to say that I am delusional.  Your response has been fairly unique in my experience, in terms of an athiest taking anything possitive from it.  I appreciate your security in your own position that allows such openness.

What do you think of my theory about it - that it consists of a person somehow accessing and setting free their essential life-force?  When this happens to a person naturally, the result is exactly the same. 


This theory seems to me fully complementary to the Christian view. 

I'm not attached to any position.  I suppose that is a form of security. 

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. 



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