Are you SURE you are saved?...because if you doubt you are not truly saved and will go to hell.  How many times did I hear this growing up.  Of course I had doubts...as everybody did/does.  The church frowns upon anyone questioning anything, and demands blind faith (gullibility).  I come from a very religious family.  I spent a considerable amount of time in my teen years fearful of a possible hell in my future because I had doubts.  Even after I was "saved" constant interrogation type sermons by the pastor "are you SURE you are saved?"  Walking tearfully down the aisle, doubters admitted they truly weren't saved, socialized to believe something must be wrong with them.  I can't believe I was ever complicit in such nonsense.  Can I get a witness?????

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@ Heather,

Looking through the thread, I see we have miscommunicated.  I was trying to agree with you in my initial comment, but I see we are simply traveling on parallel tracks of thought so it may not be clear for either of us.

I hold no hostility towards you.  Never have.  I have thought that some of your comments were meant to incite me.  If you think I fall into a category of indoctrinating children, you are wrong.  I have worked predominantly with teenagers and at every step have encouraged them to question everything presented to them.  I actually approach theological topics from the perspective of an atheist when I teach, and trust me, this is an effective technique to encourage critical thinking when discussing theology.  How do I know this approach?  From my very close and good atheist and anti-theist friends.  They are a wealth of critical thought that I utilize in my approach.  The only teenagers who walked away from my way of teaching were the ones who could not handle my approach, the rest enjoyed the freedom of thought they were allowed to explore.

You admit that you hold hostility towards a group which you find disgusting, you then place me into that group based on an incorrect assumption because you even say I "fall into that group."  I simply ask that you make not that assumption.  I admire Bart Ehrman's approach - a theologian who you cited yourself in support of your argument.  I do not like at all blind ideologues who force their beliefs on others. 

The only difference between you and me is that you don't believe and I do, but we use basically the same methods to come to our own understanding - no matter how flawed we may see each others rationale.

I personally think what you have to say has value of critical importance, and I encourage you to keep challenging others regarding your convictions.  But, I will admit that my sense of you picking a fight (regardless that I am wrong) is based on the hostility I sense you have for the group you describe.  Hostility is often interpreted as "picking a fight" regardless of intent when it is engaged in word and deed.

Outside of that, I think you have a lot of valid points to be addressed.

@Barry Adamson

Please do not, for a second, think that we use the same 'methodology' to come to our conclusions.  You could not possibly be using my methodology and come to the conclusion that the bible shows us a real creator being who incarnated himself to have himself killed as the only possible means of overcoming his anger that not enough of us were killing and burning animals to tickle his nose.

If I've misrepresented your theological beliefs, then please state them clearly.

Hi Barry - I am a bit confused here. You say that you "approach theological topics from the perspective of an Atheist to encourage critical thinking”. That cannot be correct. If you were able to see things from an Atheists point of view you would understand that theology is the study of nothing. There is nothing to teach and therefore nothing to learn. If you want teenagers to learn critical thinking skills then teach them logic and the Scientific Method as tools for understanding the world. Then try teaching them theology as a Theist and ask them to think critically about what some adults believe to be “divine revelation”. The only way to see it as an Atheist is to be one.
Even leave the monotony of theology aside and get them to think critically about some basics first.


God is great because he made us and everything else. Discuss.


After we die we can live for more than 100 billion years. In fact it’s even better than that– We become immortal. Discuss.


God had a son that was born of a virgin but he died for our sins. Then he came back to life and went to Heaven which is up there somewhere. Discuss.


Babies are born as sinners. Discuss.


Praying in silence in one’s mind can get god to intervene and change the laws of physics. Discuss.

 

Thomas Paine once said - "The study of theology, as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion. Not anything can be studied as a science, without our being in possession of the principles upon which it is founded; and as this is the case with Christian theology, it is therefore the study of nothing." Discuss.

I think there is a problem here, the conclusion in the premises..LOL

@ Reg,

You have a perfectly reasonable question regarding my approach.  What I mean by approach teaching from the perspective of an atheist, is that I challenge every standard answer that you would expect them to give regarding theological topics.  Atheists are among the most/best critical thinkers I know (not to mention more fun to hang around for this very reason).  I love and admire Christopher Hitchens and am sad that he is dead.  The questions I ask are based on discussions I have had with my atheist friends and the questions they pose to me.  I also throw in some questions regarding my own study of metaphysics and scientific knowledge.

Some of the questions you give are examples of the exact questions I ask.  So when I say "approach teaching from the perspective of an atheist," I am using a critical thought on top of the fact that atheists love to challenge theological assertions (why else would there be so many books out there on it - i.e The God Delusion and God is Not Great).  I don't want people to believe in something just because someone has told them to do so, or because "that's what I was taught."


As for me, I once 10 years ago had an experience that drove me to this approach.  It left me scarred psychologically, and I did indeed challenge the doctrines of the religion I grew up in.  I examined everything and realized how short sighted corrupt and controlling churches were.  Where my path diverged from someone who would declare themselves atheist has to do with a very personal experience that under no given circumstances could be recreated to give the same result.  It was absent of the church and no other Christian was involved.  What I came to learn from the experience is that most of what Christianity is today was never meant to be.  The church is much today like the Pharisaic authority Jesus came into conflict with.  I have seen scripture twisted and misused (prostituted even) to win a culture war that Christianity has no business in.  I've seen Christians provoke to anger groups with whom they disagree with, only to be able to protest being "persecuted."  I can't stand Christians who think they know everything there is to know about creation - even though science refutes their very simplistic view, and as for the end times, take pleasure in the idea that they are going to be rejoicing in heaven while others suffer and die.

What I have learned from all this is that arguing about the creation of the natural world doesn't matter.  Why?  We weren't there (though I trust in the scientific perspective) so how can we be so sure about it?  I have also learned that it doesn't matter about what is going to take place in end times.  Why?  It hasn't happened yet and speculation if foolish - not one single Christian has cornered the market on what exactly takes place of during "end times."  The only thing that matters is what we do now with the time that we have while we are alive.


I came here because I can relate to you all - not to proselytize or smack you around with scripture screaming "You need Jesus!"  My only difference is that I do not see faith as a problem, but I do see organized religion and the church as an institution as the problem - after all it's a whore.

I have been watching this discussion for the past few days, hesitating to say anything.  But, I feel that I should now. 

Barry,

I applaud your effort to protect your family and choose them over the church.  I know this must be a difficult and confusing time for you.  Many here can probably relate to a situation where the society we have come to know and trust and view as family turns on us as if they never really knew us all at.  When you have poured so much of your life into a society, dedicating and sacrificing for it out of love and belief, only to have eyes that once looked upon you with warmth and acceptance now glare at you with suspicion and ill-will, the heartbreak and devastation can be enough to break you.  Your world becomes shaken and you will look around you to find a place where you can get your bearings again.  You will look for support, common ground, camaraderie in different places and societies...if you have the courage to do so.  Which brought you here.

You and I....we believe in different things.  But I would bet that the beliefs we share far outweigh the beliefs that we do not.  I would bet that you believe in family, community, equality, freedom, love, strength of spirit, hope for a better future for everyone, friendship.  I would bet that you believe that every child should never know a day of hunger, harm, debilitating disease, abuse, or debilitating stress.  I would bet that you love people of all races, creeds, nationalities, and religions.  I would bet that you hold no ill-will toward LGBTs (though you may or may not think that the act itself is a sin).  I would bet that your daughters, if you have them, would be persuaded to pursue their dreams of education, career, family (or not), etc just as much as your sons.  I am using a contraceptive to prevent pregnancy....I would bet that didn't bother you in the slightest.  My five-year-old son is vaccinated and ready for kindergarten.  I would bet that your little boy is too.  I would bet that you let your son watch cartoons about mythology, or magic.  I would bet you have told him about washing his hands and brushing his teeth.....I would hardly think you have told him that the cold, flu, and cavities were caused by sin rather than germs.  Yes, I would bet that we have alot of beliefs in common.

I respect Heather for her fiery intellect.  Often, theists come to our site looking to proselytize, arguing science, theology, philosophy, and trying to save us all from eternal separation from god.  They often present a polite Trojan horse discussion, but in a couple of posts their motive becomes clear.  You, sir, have been nothing short of tactful, only seeking some discussion, support, and common ground.  You did not come to claim souls for Christ, but I am seeing you being treated as if you are.  Nothing you have said has been insulting to atheists in general, at least to my knowledge, and frankly, I am sad to see you being treated as if you have committed some offense. 

How dare we?  We atheists come here for community, because we feel shunned and isolated in our own world.  Each of us knows how heartwrenching that feels.  To see loved ones turn on us like rapid dogs when we "come out" as atheists.  To lose lifelong friendships, even marriages.  To witness our parents, or children, look at us with disgust and hate.  Mr. Barry, though a believer.....something, I might add, that he CANNOT HELP just as we cannot help our lack of belief.....is living this same plight.  He didn't post up a single doctrine...not even a scripture, a "god bless you", or a "I'll pray for you".  Even throughout his arguments THAT HE DIDN'T INTEND OR CREATE, he has been nothing but courteous, seeking only mutuality.  And for his efforts, he has been called disgusting, abusive, mishonest.

Wow.  Seriously.....wow. 

Barry, I'm so sorry.  I hope you do not see this as the face of atheism.  This stems from distrust of believers' motives, in general, on this site.  I hope that you are not discouraged---there are many wonderful people on this site.  But we are people....humans....and sometimes, we act without class or consideration.

Welcome to the site.

@Kim,

Thanks.  I am not trying to invade this place through a Trojan Horse.  I respect and enjoy diversity of opinion, even though I may disagree with it.  I think a lot of what atheists have to say about theists is justified.  My faith is mine alone, if someone wishes to share it, that is their choice.  It doesn't mean I am going to keep my faith hidden and not discussed, but it does mean I am not going to force it upon others.  If you want to be an atheist, fine.  If you want to be a theist of any stripe, fine.  Besides, usually people in here have already made up their minds.

As for the number of social issues you list for comparison, you would guess correctly about me.

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