conversation with a moderate

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conversation with a moderate

I'm not sure what this will go under, so if it needs to be moved, anyone feel free to do so.

I subscribe to OpEd News, an online syndication that has an enormous wealth of articles written by many well-informed people. Recently I noticed one that was written by a religious liberal who ranted against Bush and his cronies and how they didn't stand up for "true" christianity and that christians are finally getting upset about this. In response, a gay man mentioned how the article missed the overall point, that being whether you're liberal or conservative, the lack of free-thinking in religious ideology condemns him as a sinner and that anybody who was rationally critical would have come to the conclusion of what Bush was at the beginning, but religion stopped their ability to be critical. Responding to this, many other moderates, including the author of the article, railed against him as not understanding what was said. Reading all this, I had to step in and say something, not only because it's fun, but a lot of people are reading this article and so I thought to engage in the debate.

Here it is, it's still ongoing and getting rather long, but I thought to put it out there to show just what is going on with moderates and that debating them doesn't have to devolve to calling them names. I've put the man's full name here, because it's on the OpEd site and therefore public property.

Anthony Wade: You took my writing early on when i needed a platform. We have learned alot from each other.

Jesus is love, redemption, and forgiveness. Too many Christians forget that in their pursuit of worldly matters. It has been a long ride these past three years. I am praying that stability and sanity is restored this fall and congressional oversight will come back to this country.

Me: I'm going to have to write here in full support of Pappy, as so many of you moderates are condemning him. Whether or not Mr. Wade personally denounced Bush from the beginning is beside the point made by Pappy, that being the blatant power-mongering that is integral to the christian ideology. Pappy is a homosexual, I am bi and an atheist, together we create the absolute worst thing that christians can ever hope to see, and we both, according to your bible, should be put to death, denied salvation and sent to hell to be burned in our personal holocaust for all of eternity.

It is precisely this moderate ignorance about the truth of religious fundamentalism that has crippled the nation. And the arrogance born out of such ignorance in thinking that somehow you have the truly true understanding of the bible. Jesus may have preached forgiveness and love, but he also came only for "the lost sheep of the house of Israel", condemned the gentile woman to eat the scraps from the Jewish table, and preached that brought "not peace but the sword." This type of selective reading is precisely what shows the religious ideology to be ridiculous and merely a tool for the power-hungry, for it can be used by anybody who wishes to justify their thinking.

This country got what they deserve for the past 5 years because in a nation where over 60% believe in the imminent return of Jesus in the next 50 years, what does it matter that the environment or the poor are ignored. All that matters is being right with god. Christians might be disgusted with the republican sex-scandal but do you really think the so-called moral majority will support a democrat who wants to give homosexuals the right to marry? HA!

Anthony Wade: That was some rant. I must have done a bad job in this article of being clear. I did not vote for Bush, either time. I found him to be a wolf in sheeps clothing. I was not deceived. I am writing about the experience alot of Christians are finding themselves in today, used by the GOP. I am sorry if that angers you, but people make mistakes in this world. The issue is that if a mistake of ignorance is corrected when knowledge is acquired.

I am sorry there is so much anger inside of you. I pray that you resolve it and realize that God loves you.

Me: No, you didn't do a bad job of being clear. You simply did a great job at being selective, like most moderates. Speak all you want about praying for Pappy to be saved from his anger, but the last time I checked, your christian ideology condemns him as no less than an animal (read Romans and Leviticus) to be burned alive for eternity along with the rest of our sinners. Perhaps the anger you should be praying for is your god's.

Me: Quote: "Personally, I believe that a cardinal rule for all religions is to respect other religions."

I'm sorry, but what world are you living in and what bible did you read? While I personally agree with this statement, it does not at all convey the truth about religious ideologies, especially the absolutist kind of christian, islam and judaism. You do realize that Jesus said "no one comes to the father except through me"? Where in that is found any respect for other religions? Do you realize that islam preaches the complete humanness of jesus and that to believe in his divinity is to dwell in heresy and thus deny yourself heaven?

I understand and even appreciate your, and others', attempts to speak about tolerance and understanding, but don't do at the expense of missing what is really going on. In point of fact, it is precisely the moderates who get it wrong when they preach an "all paths go the same place" ideology, because the very holy books that are the foundation of those paths say something completely different.

Anthony Wade:
We are all sinners, but some are saved by grace. One man's sin is no worse than anothers. If you break one law, you have broken them all. It is only through grace can you not be condemned. I understand that the pride man has often gets in the way of believing that there might be a God, and he might have rules. I know that propensity for humanism to infect our mindset. If you think you are your own God, or that you merely evolved from monkeys, that is your business but God still loves you and desires for you to be reconciled to Him. No matter how much you don't believe in Him, He will still believe in you.

"Perhaps the anger you should be praying for is your god's."

Clever but no, i think i will trust my God. If someone came into your home and killed your family, would you epxect justice? Maybe even revenge? Does society provide a remedy for you because a law has been broken? Of course. Why then do you cringe at the thought that God might also have rules, laws and a certain code of behavior we are to adhere to?

Me: Like most believers, instead of actually answering the real questions, you resort to personal piety. Thank you so much for telling me that I'm a sinner and that a man who died 2000 years ago in a heinous death that we would all see as despicable, paid the "penalty" for a sin, adam's, that I didn't commit. And yes, that's sarcasm. Preach to me all you want about salvation, but as is usual you'll never try to actually justify your belief because it has nothing to do with reason.

Which brings me to my point and the point that I made earlier. Your religious ideology is such, as it is not based on reason, that it can be used by any crazy fanatic or liberal pansy out there. All you are doing is picking and choosing which scriptures to believe, which is no better than what Bush and his cronies are doing. Try answering this: what makes you right and them wrong? What source do you have that makes you correct and them wrong?

What it boils down to is that you have a personal morality and, like those you rail against, you use the bible to justify it. And this isn't becuase you believe in the bible, it's because you believe you're right. But see, here's the problem, by invoking an imaginary omnipotent being, you have shut off any discussion, relegating it to mere theological rambling where there is no clear-cut answers.

This is why religion shouldn't have any place in the discussion of politics, because democracy is about reasoning together and religion is about being right regardless of what anybody else says. The first relies on public reason and the ability to be wrong, the latter says god supports you and thus you must be right.

Anthony Wade:
I would suggest actually reading the Bible, which it appears you have not seriosuly done. The only person in this exchange who sounds intolerant is YOU.

I believe in the above verse but that does not mean that i am intolerant. I have my beliefs and an atheist has theirs. I happen to think they are wrong and they happen to think i am wrong. That does not preclude me talking to them or being friends with them. Given my beliefs, i would be remiss to not try and convince them, with love, that they are mistaken in regards to there being no God. I would welcome the debate, allow them to speak their beliefs and counter with what i believe. In the end, you must understand that if i believe that people who die apart from God are consigned to eternal separation from Him, then it is a far greater insult if i did NOT try to convince you. The issue is in how you approach people. If you do it from some sense of moral superiority, then it is intolerant and too many Christians make that mistake. I try to keep the mindset of the Apostle Paul, who despite the fact that he wrote 2/3 of the New Tetstament always said "of these i am the least".

All paths do NOT go to the same place. If that was the impression you had of me, then i apologize. I do believe there is a heaven and a hell. I do believe in the one path of Jesus Christ. That being said, it is imperative that i represent Christ as best i can, with His love, redemption, and patience. I do not despise people who believe somethign else. I do not blame them for anything. I do not feel i am better then them. I simply think they are mistaken and it is imperative that they hear the Word of God and ultimately free will, will decide what they do with the Truth they hear.

Me: As a perusal of my bio would tell you, I graduated with honors from a Bible College and majored in both theology and psychology. Telling me that I clearly havne't read the bible is both a sign of your own ignorance concerning myself and also a point concerning your clear inability to allow criticism of your beliefs, since instead of proving how I was wrong, you simply declared I was an idiot.

As you believe in the verse where Jesus said there is no other path except through him, therefore condemning any who don't believe in him to an eternity in a personal holocaust, then what about that is tolerant? Perhaps you need to look it up in a dictionary. If you believe that your beliefs are the only correct ones, as you say, then anyone who believes otherwise is therefore wrong and morally despicable, as they refuse to believe the supposed self-evident truths of christianity. Where is tolerance to be found there?

In going on and on, ad nauseum, in declaring yourself to be tolerant and loving, etc. you have yet again refused to address the point that I have made; that being, on what grounds do you think your particular choices of scripture are right and those of Bush and his lackeys are wrong? You have not once addressed this. Taking everything I say as some personal attack merely shows your victim mentality, indicative of your religious ideology that claims Satan is in control of the forces of the world and you, the lonely believer, are being persecuted. As with taking some kind of moral affront to intolerance, this thinking again allows you to dwell in your personal piety and not actually address on reasoned grounds, why you're right.

This isn't a religious conversation, I am not debating with you the fine points of systematic theology or biblical criticism. I am simply pointing out that your thinking doesn't answer anything and in fact, by not seeing how wrong absolutist ideology is, you undermine the ability of the rest of us to get rid of a thinking that is antithetical to democracy.

Anthony Wade:
I'm sorry do i know you? Do you know me or what i believe? Again, try asking me before you assume anything because it sure sounds like you do not have a clue what i believe.

My fear is confirmed, you do not understand what i believe. I do not pick nor choose. I believe in the entire Bible, word for word, as inerrant truth. You stand a better chance of scoring cheap points for mocking that, then in assuming oncorrectly what i do and do not believe.

The Bible of course. I base my beliefs on the Word of God. You already have stated that you base them on "reason". Man's reason has been proved to be horribly flawed throughout history. Man once thought the earth was flat. Man once thought the universe revolved around the earth. Today's "reason" is tomorrows old wives tales. I prefer to trust the word of God, which has survived intact for centuries. You can mock that if you like, but at least i base my beliefs on something. I specifically do not pick and choose with a salad bar mentality, discarding what makes me uncomfortable. Are there parts that make me uneasy? Sure, but faith is knowing in whom you have believed.

I rail against the unjust and the untrue. I do not rail against people who do not share my religuious beliefs.

The Bible is right. I am a sinner saved by grace. It sounds like you are advocating that once someone decides what they believe, they should somehow represent those beliefs in an unsure manner. It sure sounds like you are confident in your non-belief but you do see me railing against you for your confidence in those beliefs.

I think it is ok to say what you believe, but not to make public policy solely on religious reasons.

You keep getting it backwards. God is right. If i believe in God, it is HE that is right and righteous. What this is really about is your refusal to believe that you could be wrong about your own prejudices and disbelief.

Me: I'm going to ignore most of what was said because again, much of what you said was about your particular theological bent, not anything to do with why you think you're right and the conservatives are wrong in their interpretation.

"I do not pick nor choose. I believe in the entire Bible, word for word, as inerrant truth."

This doesn't prove anything. Do you think that the conservative religious thinker doesn't believe the same thing? Of course they do. The point I made still stands, that the problem is that you are both using the same book to justify completely different ideologies by quoting different scripture verses. You have yet to say how it is that you know you're right and they are wrong. Simply declaring to me that the Bible hasn't changed is not only your belief, but it doesn't even hold up in history. Which Bible? The catholic or protestant one? What about all the texts that claimed to be inspired but weren't added? But this gets off the point and I'm not talkign about biblical criticism.

"I rail against the unjust and the untrue. I do not rail against people who do not share my religuious beliefs."

This is quaint, but doesn't get you off the hook. You do not have to rail against someone in particular, by simply standing up for an ideology that decrees anybody who believes otherwise will burn alive for eternity, you ARE railing against everyone who doesn't believe you. By standing up for bigotry, even if you never say anything particularly against someone, you are implicit in the condemnation that your religious system heaps on anyone who disagrees.

"I agree (surprised?). I think it is ok to say what you believe, but not to make public policy solely on religious reasons."

You aren't saying anything here that is different than the conservative. No republican would say that religious reasons are the SOLE source of their thought, only that it informs them. Again, you have yet to address why you are correct and they are wrong in the interpretation of christianity.

"Riiigggghhhht... and the last time anyone in politics admitted they were wrong was when exactly?"

This is a non sequitor. My point had nothing to do with whether politicians admit they are wrong. Rather, the democratic system has as a cornerstone the fact that knowledge isn't absolute and judgments are fallible. Religious ideology has no such point.

"God is right. If i believe in God, it is HE that is right and righteous. What this is really about is your refusal to believe that you could be wrong about your own prejudices and disbelief."

This proves my above point and actually goes to the heart of the matter under discussion. By saying "if I believe in god" you implicitly agree that it is YOUR judgment that determines the fact that god is righteous and right. Your belief comes first because you have determined, based on your own moral and cognitive thinking, that what you read in the bible is correct. Hence, you don't believe in the bible, you believe in your belief of the bible. Therefore you are using it as a justification for your belief.

As to your psychological evaluation of me, it's amusing, but again, like your ignorance concerning my educational background, it shows your continued ignorance about my own beliefs. The foundation of my ideology is that of the uncertainty and fallibility, for I do not believe in my ability to understand anything perfectly. Debate, for me, is the place where my thoughts can be hashed out and shown, by reason, to be wrong, if that is in fact the case. Your ideology, of which I have made no particular claims to what you believe, only generalizations based on the study of various systematic theologies. I have read Aquinas, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Lewis, Clark, Henry, Schaeffer, and others. Ignorance of systematic and biblical theology (and yes, those are different) is not my problem.

Wade: You're a liar.

Every one of your relationships to man and to nature must be a definite expression of your real, individual life corresponding to the object of your will. -Erich Fromm

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Are these "religious

Are these "religious moderates" carbon copies of what Sam Harris describes? I must say, I despise them truly.

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carbon copies

Harris does get it pretty damn right in describing the destructive power of religious moderates. What I find so curious is that the moderates tend to fall into two categories: one, those who due to extreme ignorance simply wash their hands of anything having to do with truth and two, those who merely stylize themselves as moderates but who are in fact just as dogmatic as they claim their opponents are.

Religious ideology at its core is antithetical to reason, for it has no place for it. The consequence is one of an inability to grasp the finer points of criticality and a numb acceptance of anything that sounds similar to what they identify with.

Every one of your relationships to man and to nature must be a definite expression of your real, individual life corresponding to the object of your will. -Erich Fromm

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I agree. If you're going to

I agree. If you're going to pick and choose what parts of the Bible (supposedly the (at least inspired) word of God) you are going to believe in, you might as well throw the whole damn thing away.

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I was totally pulled in by

I was totally pulled in by this exchange. Thanks for posting it. My favourite part was the "You're a liar." part.
It showed his complete inability to believe you are a rational human being. It's just so much easier for religious people to believe that unbelievers are simply "angry at god", or "haven't been exposed to the good book yet".

If they accept your arguments at face value, that you are in fact, being honest about what you are saying, then he would have to accept that you may be correct. Which would be him questioning his own faith. Which is not allowed. Which is (possibly) SATAN tempting him, depending on whether his is a sect that believes in Satan as an entity.
In his eyes, if you did, in fact, read all that biblical literature, then you know there is a god, but you're just angry and intolerant. And something really bad must have happened to you for you to "hate god so much".
I get that a lot.

Great debate, reason. I agree that moderates make it a big problem to criticize dogmatic leaders. Merely saying, "Oh well, he's not interpreting the bible correctly", misses the point. Because all religious people believe they are the ones interpreting it correctly. That's why we have all these little offshoots of sects and cults and they all disagree with eachother.
But getting them to see it? Possibly a losing battle, I fear. But to not question it is unthinkable to me and many others, so I guess we're in for the long haul.

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glamourkat wrote:
But getting them to see it? Possibly a losing battle, I fear.

I agree that getting religious believers to question, especially moderates who don't have a handle on what they actually do believe, is extremely difficult. However, what this exchange shows is a way of doing it. If I had started quoting verses as a means of showing a different interpretive position, the whole debate would have devolved into ridiculous theological wrangling. If I had called what he believes an indication of some mental disease, I would have been dismissed. Instead, by going to the heart of the matter, the issue concerning that he doesn't actually believe in the bible, but believes in the belief, his anger shows the true contempt he has for reason and splinters his psyche with a dialogue that he will not soon be able to dismiss.

I am not tooting my own horn here. There are many things I would have done differently in this debate. What I am saying is that to truly try and win over the religiously minded, then argument must go to the core of their beliefs and not accept their basic foundation and argue against that. The christian has had 2000 years of tradition to combat arguments when the opponent implicitly agrees with the existence of the bible and the efficacy of the concepts god and faith. By undercutting these basics, the christian has only to fall back on incredulity and that will shock them far more than name-calling, historical references and scripture quotations ever will.

Every one of your relationships to man and to nature must be a definite expression of your real, individual life corresponding to the object of your will. -Erich Fromm