What are your thoughts? In what ways is the church the devil's playground? In my former career as a pastor, I had quietly come to this realization because of the injustices I often saw Christians commit against other Christians within the church, as well as to others outside the church. It was often disheartening to see Christians talk so high and mighty about how worthy they were to "the Lord," and yet all the while be exactly the opposite. It was even more damning and disgusting when I became the target of such ill will, when it came to putting child safety over church politics. So I wonder what any of your thoughts were - particularly those who are former Christians. What say you?
Please note, that I use the term "devil" not in it's generally accepted theological sense of an actual anthropomorphic being, but as a more loosely personification of the concept of evil and the injustices human beings often commit against each other.
Please thank your theist friend for us, for his decision to think for himself, rather than take up his pitchfork and torch and join the crowd. In case it's something you want to publicly admit, feel free to tell him that you know a few atheists, and contrary to popular rumors, we don't actually eat babies - well, not all of us anyway --
Done. Comfort in saying that I "know a few atheists" is something I always have had. People find it odd that I do know you all, and that I have personal friends who are. What I find odd is that they don't do the same.
Henry Thoreau and Ralph Emerson were lifelong friends. Thoreau very adamantly disobeyed laws that he felt were unjust, and often, as a consequence, found himself in jail. On one such occasion, Emerson came to visit, and said, "Henry, I can't understand why you're in here," to which Thoreau was reported to have replied, "Ralph, I can't understand why you're not."
Getting to know theists will not, by any means, result in the conversion of any of us, just as we would not expect theists would be tempted to de-convert by getting to know us, but it wouldn't hurt for us to know more about each other - as far as I'm concerned, Barry, and I can't speak for anyone else but myself, I've come to trust your judgment enough to say, bring over any of your friends that you like. I'll be on my best behavior. Clean underwear and everything - well, given advance notice --
"The righteous have no need of me --"
Snopes says that the woman who wrote this later claimed it was a joke. Snopes also says that it reflects sentiments expressed to Snopes in a plenitude of e-mails over the years. So, even if it really was a joke (which I doubt), the letter expresses the attitudes of many.
Also, I should point out that I have heard these sorts of things said or implied on many occasions. That is why I strongly suspect the letter was not really a joke, and that the writer merely said that it was after she realized how bad it made her look to others.
I doubt that this was a joke too and believe that the woman was merely embarrassed by the negative attention she received for her intolerance. She "reaped what she soed" and karma was a bitch to her.
Besides, I find it hard that anyone could say that such vitriol was "a joke." It all comes from the attitude of "I'm not the one with the problem - you are," which is rampant in the church; the church and it's people are never in the wrong - it's the rest of the world's fault. No wonder Austine of Hippo is credited for admitting "The church is a whore, but she is also my mother." I particularly emphasize this quote to so many of my Christian brethren, to which either shock or denial, or both, sets in.
People with narcissistic personality disorder are never wrong. They would rather die (or kill) than admit error.
Those sorts of views were very prolifically expressed a few decades ago but seldom heard now in the mainstream because of PC pressure. Makes one wonder how much of that is underground versus the effect of deconditioning through less repeation?
While she might have been kidding, any of us can draw up a list of where it was not.
The positive side of that is the drawing of attention to society's reactions.
@Barry - What actually convinced you to become an Atheist. Most christians would probably leave this particular parish and still keep the faith, or suck it up - and continue being a hypocrite.
The excuse "the church is imperfect because it's people are imperfect" - Even my friend Bob was using this one - we are only human, with human foibles etc.
What always got me, they are steeped in their religion every day, pray all the time etc. etc. and yet have the most diabolical behavior, hurting people in their own congregation who are good people. And in your case, they didn't give a shite about your children. Never understood that :(
Suzanne, I am not an atheist; I am very much a theist. I've had personal experiences in my own life that lead me to believe that there very much is a God, but also don't expect or demand that everyone believe as I do. What interests me as a human being, is simply that: being human - the human condition - and I have come to learn and understand more and more of it that less and less theology is needed to excuse certain human behaviors. Am I Christian? Yes, but not in the way we all know "Christians." In fact, I am more often, by others in my life, accused of being Buddhist even though I know very little about Buddhism.
Doctrine and dogma, in my opinion, are crutches used by people who often use the excuse "the church is imperfect..." It helps them cope and gives them plausible deniability about their own personal "sins" and problems and allows them to "blame the other guy." Apparently, that doesn't pass the sniff test with me because I actually have standards, and (don't hold your breath) actually try to live by them without checking them at the door whenever it's convenient.
What I have come to understand is that the church often provides a haven and a reason for people to feel perfect about themselves. Notice I did not say good, because being good and being perfect are two totally separate things. A great deal of folks come to church not to really worship God, but themselves because they put on heirs of greatness in exchange for denying the truth about the human condition - that they are personally responsible and accountable for the human condition of which they are a part. They all wear smiles, and act as perfect examples of God's standard, when in fact they are anything but that, and what's worse is that the church directly and indirectly encourages this behavior through it's shame, guilt, and fear based tactics of "keeping people in line." Forget about really tackling the tough questions about being human and individual experience. Forget about empathy and compassion and truth and justice - "we're all saints here and don't need that stuff."
Sorry if I steered off course, I felt myself beginning to rant. The fact is that what I have come to discover about myself, and about what it means to be human, is something that is most often not discussed in church or even considered. A lot of what the whole Jesus message has become is about excusing bad behavior because, well, "all I have to do is ask Jesus for forgiveness and then all is good - I can escape the reality of what I've done because I am not accountable for it anymore." I don't think it works like that; it shouldn't work like that, and if it did then God is one really sick bastard who no one needs time for. Forgiveness is important, but that comes with true recognition of the wrong committed and expectation and effort to change.
Also, knowing something about humans, and myself being one, I recognize that what most religions claim to know is in fact very little about anything - essentially a grain of sand on the dunes of a vast desert. But then again, that is alright with them because they enjoy putting limitations on people.
I don't know exactly where all this came from within me, but there it is. I am not atheist, not Christian (in the typical sense), but I am jaded about the institution of church and the trappings of religion. I hope this all gives you an answer you were looking for.
Quite coincidentally, I had occasion just the other day to say what a load of crap the whole NT "70 times 7" forgiveness thing is - knowing one is going to be forgiven 490 times, just gives them 489 chances to screw you over before they have to worry about you getting serious.
As for, "I am not atheist, not Christian (in the typical sense)" - you're a bright kid, you'll sort it out, I have every faith confidence in you --
I've actually never taken that passage literally. Certainly, in maybe my first encounter of it, but upon further review, agree with a number of scholars who take a less literal interpretation. In this, the passage simply means to forgive abundantly the wrongs that others commit against you. Now, I know that in some ways that sounds like a lot of bunk - especially when you don't want to become a door mat for a schmuck. However, what I would interpret from it is to forgive abundantly to those who are genuine in seeking forgiveness, and also to the one person that matters most to you: you.
As a side note, the whole "70 times 7" passage has also been translated "77 times," which makes a huge numerical difference if read literally, thus why a number of scholars have taken a less literal meaning.