"Loving Our Neighbor" Means Loving Atheists Too!

One of the most intelligent Christian blogs can be found on our sidebar under Christian links called CADRE Comments . In a recent post BK condemned beating, shunning, and threatening atheists. We are your "neighbors" whom Jesus said should be loved.

28 comments:

Bahnsen Burner said...

I was under the impression that, since we're "apostates" (i.e., we woke up from our religious stupor), "those in the know" were therefore exempt from the command "love thy neighbor." Perhaps it depends on which Christian you ask?

Regards,
Dawson

John Fraiser said...

I couldn't agree more John. In fact, I even think we should even love those who use the homynym "our" when they mean "are". See evangelicals aren't so bad after all. It would be a hard thing to accept for you all, what with having a blog about it and all.

Dennis said...

Finally, a post from John that I agree with 100%!

John W. Loftus said...

John Frasier, the "our" to "are" our now corrected in the sentence. ;-)

Layman said...

Dawson,

The good Samaritan parable covered this in a way. It depicted the Samaritan as being the good neighbor over and above the Jews who came by. And Samaritans, in the eyes of Jews of the time, were apostates. In any event, the message was clear. Your neighbor is any person in need, irrespective of their creed, race, or status in society.

Unfortunately, I think part of the reason some atheists experience some disapproval is because of how they show contempt for the devout feelings of others (like it being nothing more than a "stupor" from which they need to awaken). That's bound to give you bad PR, however stupid you think such people are.

Frank Walton said...

Like my comments, girlie man? LOL!

Bahnsen Burner said...

Thanks for your comments, layman. And then there's Frank Walton, right on schedule.

Regards,
Dawson

Frank said...

It's been my repeated experience in various churches that the simple act of going to a different church (a different denominination) is sufficient to get you labeled as a completely godless heretic. One deacon in particular made it abundantly clear that I had made the wrong choice, that god might forgive me if I repented long enough, but that he would never forgive me and our friendship was over permanently. All I did was leave his baptist church for a pentecostal one. You would think I grew horns and a tail, painted myself red, and went into pitchfork sales. I can't imagine what he would do if he knew what I believe now. An atheist get treated right by a christian? I doubt it.

Bahnsen Burner said...

You raise a very good point, Frank. My own experience was that Christians are their own worst enemies when it comes to rival churches and denominations. Down the street from the church I attended was another church, but my church's leadership were always running them down. Of course my pastor completely discouraged me from even stepping foot into the other church (I guess he thought I'd grown the same horns and tail that you speak of, Frank). Naturally, being all caught up in the hysteria of Christian god-belief, I eventually became afraid to even go near the church. The concern was that its members were full of demons and devils and they were looking to "enlarge," and these evil spirits are just as invisible as the god I was expected to worship. So how could I know they weren't there? What a mind-game!

And yes, layman, I do call it a stupor, and for good reason. I was in a stupor, and when I speak of "our religious stupor," I'm including myself in that. I was duped into taking this load of blarney seriously. I eventually woke up because I made the hard choice to finally be honest to myself and admit that I really don't believe it after all, and that I was trying to live a lie. I sensed that all the other congregants didn't really believe it either, which is why they were constantly looking for something to convince themselves. They had made the initial downpayment, but now they were stuck with paying off the rest of the loan, which is supposed to last all one's life.

Do I have "contempt" for devoutly religious people? Goodness no. On the contrary, I feel really bad for them, a mixture of pity and embarrassment for their sakes. I have had numerous co-workers over the years who were openly Christian, and I got along with them very well, just as I got along with those who exhibited no religious attitudes. Of course, I tend to refrain from divulging my atheism to those I know to be religious, for I have seen how this little bit of trivia about myself can change a person's attitude quite sharply, even though nothing has changed. I'm still the same ol' me, but the knowledge that I don't believe in their invisible magic being is offensive enough to them, and they become very uneasy around me. One Christian woman asked me how I could be so happy all the time and not be a Christian. I answered saying that departing from Christianity was a first step on my road to happiness. In the middle of our conversation she was visibly shaking, horrified that I would not believe in her god. But I was patient and explained myself to her, and by the end of the conversation she too started to see the reasonableness of my view, and admitted that she wasn't unlike me after all. A few months later she came to me and confided to me that she had left her "home church" and thanked me personally for helping her break free from the spell that held her for over 20 years. Sometimes it just takes a little courage to be honest to oneself. We're all capable of it, but many are afraid of it for various reasons.

Regards,
Dawson

Layman said...

This: "I feel really bad for them, a mixture of pity and embarrassment for their sakes"

= Contempt.

This: "I sensed that all the other congregants didn't really believe it either, which is why they were constantly looking for something to convince themselves."

= Contempt. You are accusing people of being dishonest. You are claiming to know their hearts and minds better than they do.

"Sometimes it just takes a little courage to be honest to oneself. We're all capable of it, but many are afraid of it for various reasons."

And sometimes there is no little atheist trying to pop out. It's not a lack of courage or honesty or self-awareness. Its a sincere belief in God, Jesus, and the Christian faith.

If you treat people with contempt, even purportedly benign contempt, you are going to experience reactions which you will construe as prejudice.

Bahnsen Burner said...

layman -

Pity is not the same thing as contempt. When I feel pity for someone who has been in a car accident, or someone who just spent his life savings on a house in a bad part of town without knowing it, it is not because of contempt, nor is it an expression of contempt.

As far as my fellow congregants are concerned, I knew them personally, and had plenty of firsthand evidence to form my judgments about them and their character. Yes, I think they were being dishonest to themselves. This judgment was not formed out of contempt or spite for them. In fact, I resisted this conclusion for a long time, because I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. But in fact, I realized that they were deeply confused persons, in many cases privately very miserable. Since they were close to me and I had strong affections for many of them, I felt profoundly saddened for them, hence my pity. Contempt? Not even close.

I know that believers want to think that they sincerely believe in their god. After all, their bible continually stresses the importance of believing its claims. So I am not surprised when Christians bristle at my conclusions. I resisted them for a long time myself. But eventually I acknowledged the truth.

And I do agree with you: "If you treat people with contempt, even purportedly benign contempt, you are going to experience reactions which you will construe as prejudice." This is one reason why I treat people with kindness. Another, more important reason is that I enjoy being kind to people. But this does not mean that I'm going to sanction their folly. As I mentioned, I've had numerous co-workers over the years who are Christians, some more overt than others. I have no reason to treat them or view them with contempt. In fact, many figured that I'm Christian simply because I'm kind and gentle. (Many people apparently assume one cannot be kind and gentle unless he adheres to the bible's mysticism.) Being kind and gentle does not mean I won't have my judgments about people. My worldview does not prohibit making judgments about people. In fact, being a good judge of character is vital to my life. But I realize it makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

Indeed, layman, it is because I stopped having contempt - for myself and for human beings in general - that I was able to overcome my own dishonesty, which was Christianity. It is a very difficult decision to make, especially if one is enmeshed in a community of surveillance. Perhaps you're simply due for a vacation.

Regards,
Dawson

Layman said...

Dawson,

Having pity plus being embarassed for them is a form of contempt and will always be received that way. You are either in denial or not being honest with yourself if you will not admit that.

It may make you more comfortable with your world view to believe that all Christians are in a constant state of doubt just waiting to unlock their inner atheist, but that is simply not the case. I am in the doubt business and my experience is quite different than yours about the sincerity of Christian belief. In fact, many Christians are convinced that atheists are simply mad at God and really believe He exists but try and punish Him through their denial. Its not an argument I ever take up to try and convince atheists the error of their ways, because I know its contemptuous in a way and not likely to persuade.

I try and give people the benefit of their stated beliefs. It keeps me honest and engaged in ideas instead of rhetoric and self-comfort.

paul said...

Layman,
"If [one] treat[s] people with contempt, even purportedly benign contempt, you are going to encounter reactions that you will construe as prejudice."

Not voting on the was he or wasn't he showing contempt debate here. :)

but...that was nicely put, Layman. This is a real problem, especially in a forum such as this one. Just the name "debunking Christianity" has a connotation of contempt to some. If one calls themselves a "Christian" or "atheist," that person is often identifying with the name/label. So, it can be very easy to cross the line into contempt in speech on the one side, or perceive critical words against a belief as contempt on the other side.

I can see how some might construe some of the things I write/say as contempt. Sometimes they would be right and I am just being an arrogant ass. But, one can be questioning the belief and not the believer, and because of the strong identity, the believer (whatever side they may be on) feels slapped...reacting accordingly. Emotion has no barriers, it's not exclusive to either camp, eh?

What do you mean when you say "give people the benefit of their stated beliefs?"

Layman said...

Paul,

I thought about commenting on the name "debunkingchristianity" because it no doubt does leave the impression with many that Christianity is viewed as just so much "bunk." But that would have been nitpicking given that you guys are complaining about a site entitled "atheismsucks." So while I'm not fond of the name and think you might get more thoughtful Christian traffic with a different one, its not beyond the bounds of decency.

In any event, yes of course both sides get overheated. Especially on the internet. I have my opinions about who is more likely to show contempt, but I'd rather not make that an issue so long as the person I am attempting to dialogue with does not. He or she might feel like I'm trying to sweep them into a category that is not justified and in any event it rarely relates to the argument at hand.

What do you mean when you say "give people the benefit of their stated beliefs?"

I mean I tend to accept that people believe what they tell me they believe. I may have my own doubts or opinions or suspicions about their self-characterizations, but it serves no purpose to question someone's integrity or self-awareness. And when it comes down to it, most of the people I meet on the internet I will never know half as well as they know themselves.

It might be easier if I believed all atheists simply had bad relationships with their dads that they choose to take out on God so their opinion can be dismissed out of hand (as I have seen argued), but when dealing with people, I deal with people. Atheists have better arguments than their relationships with their fathers (if its even an issue) so why do I want to dwell on that? Even if something is broadly true when someone tells me such is not the case with them, so be it.

Now there may be a proper place for such inquiries about atheists and Christians and etc., but that's sociology. I find that an interesting topic on occasion, but not usually as a means of invalidating a belief system.

paul said...

Layman,

Thanks. I agree, it makes sense to me also to accept a persons self-characterization, at least initially. Of course, in time and through relationship peoples self image can prove inaccurate. But, to start a relationship with a presupposition or stereotype rather than taking the time to listen to the individual will never facilitate communication or understanding.
Hope you stick around. I look forward to reading your comments.

John W. Loftus said...

I understand about the Blog name debunking Christianity. I wanted to start a blog that argued against Christianity, evaluated Christianity, and offered a critique of Christianity. I also wanted something catchy. Hmmmm. It wouldn't matter now if I changed it, but what else could it be if I did?

Layman said...

Well,

I have to admit a conflict of interest and a general reluctance as an apologist to advise on the renaming of an anti-Christian blog site.

AllergicToReligion said...

How about Deflating Christianity? You know the whole hot air thing etc................

Bahnsen Burner said...

Layman: "Having pity plus being embarassed for them is a form of contempt and will always be received that way."

How is feeling sorry for a person while also feeling embarrassed for him a form of contempt? You simply assert this is the case, but you don't connect the dots. I gave an example of what I meant, and even though you stated that you "try and give people the benefit of their stated beliefs," you seem unwilling to do so in this instance.

Just this morning I was in a meeting with a manager whom I admire and enjoy working with. Unfortunately she made a very obvious blunder when she asked a question that she should have known was actually very silly. I could even hear a few snickers in the back of the room because her mistake was obvious. Did I have contempt for her because of this? Absolutely not. Did I feel sorry for her? Yes, I certainly did. Did I feel embarrassed for her? Of course.

If I actually had contempt for a person, I don't think I could feel either pity or embarrassment for that person. I would feel contempt!

Layman: "It may make you more comfortable with your world view to believe that all Christians are in a constant state of doubt"

I don't think the Christian's state of doubt is constant. In fact, on the train today I sat next to a woman reading a Christian encouragement book (I apologize, but I did not see the front page so I do not know the title or its author). In it I read a paragraph which began with the following sentence: "When we begin to give thanks we forget our doubts and fears." And I certainly think there's truth to this, simply because when the mind focuses on one task, it loses sight of other matters. Similarly, when one begins to look for a birthday gift in a catalogue, for example, he's likely to forget about any doubts and fears he may have. His mind is occupied with something specific, so other matters slip out of immediate awareness.

However, generally speaking, I do think that Christians are constantly trying to outrun their doubts. Some keep running this race (even the apostle Paul used the analogy of running a race at one point), while others finally stop and ask themselves "Why have I been running all this time?" We may "forget" our doubts, but that doesn't mean they go away, nor does it mean that we have those doubts for no good reason.

Layman: "In fact, many Christians are convinced that atheists are simply mad at God and really believe He exists but try and punish Him through their denial."

Yes, I realize this. I've known many like this, and I was even like this myself at one point in my life. I realize now that training my mind to think this way allowed me to put a little distance between myself and my doubts. It was a simple defensive device. But it is merely a temporary painkiller: it may mask the immediate pain, but it does nothing to correct the root affliction.

Thanks for your thoughts, though.

Regards,
Dawson

Steven Carr said...

Gosh, the disciples knew Jesus personally for 3 years, saw him work miracles, saw his prophecies about being arrested, flogged and killed come to pass. They were given the secret of the Kingdom of God in Maark 4. In Matthew 10:8, they were given the power to raise the dead.

Moses and Elijah returned to Earth and appeared before them. They saw the resurrected body of Jesus and were given many proofs.

And Matthew 28:17 still says 'some doubted.'

But Layman assures us he has no doubts, and many Christians today have no doubts.

I guess he has more faith than people who had the benefit of seeing Jesus at first-hand.

Layman said...

Steven,

I never said I have never had any doubts, I said rather that "there is no little atheist trying to pop out. It's not a lack of courage or honesty or self-awareness. Its a sincere belief in God, Jesus, and the Christian faith."

I stand by that.

Chris

yes2truth said...

Sirs,

Mr Dawson said:

"I was under the impression that, since we're "apostates" (i.e., we woke up from our religious stupor), "those in the know" were therefore exempt from the command "love thy neighbor." Perhaps it depends on which Christian you ask?"

In answer to the above point I would like to make these comments.

Men and women of religion are not Christians, they are people whom The Lord has sent a strong delusion that they should believe a lie.

2 Thess 2:7-12 "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

The above passage of Scripture describes mainstream Christianty or what I call churchianity. This includes Rome and all it's off-shoots i.e. the demon-inations or divisions.

The real Church is made up of individuals like myself who, like me, no longer attend any 'church' and those who are still within mainstream but will sooner or later have to leave.

As a Christian I would normally apologise, if I knew a brother had wronged a non-believer, but as these people are not my brothers, I will not apologise for them but would rather ask you to take on board The Truth I have told you, as an explanation as to why these things happen.

Following Jesus Christ is not religion, nor did the word 'religion' ever pass His lips. All Religion is of men and The Devil.

What you will never hear from these people is that all mankind will be saved but not in this age.
The biggest lie they believe is this: Mankind has only this lifetime, and if not converted within it, he or she is doomed and damned. This teaching is a demonic lie!!!

If you want to know more you can reach me at yes2truth@hotmail.com

y2t

Steven Carr said...

Dawson said 'We may "forget" our doubts, but that doesn't mean they go away, nor does it mean that we have those doubts for no good reason.'

Layman confirms that he does indeed have doubts - just like Dawson said that Layman had.

Does Layman doubt the resurrection of Jesus? What exactly does Layman doubt? Does he doubt less than the people who saw the resurrected Jesus at first-hand, and still doubted, according to Matthew 28:17?

Layman said...

Steven Carr: "But Layman assures us he has no doubts, and many Christians today have no doubts."

Before we proceed with the usual games, Steven, perhaps you can show where I assured you and others on this site that I have no doubts?

As for the the quote you parse from Dawson, that was a statement made after all of my responses to him. So obviously it was not the statement I was responding to. Rather, I was responding to Dawson's statements about the religious being in a "stupor" and not really believing in what they said they believe.

So you misrepresented what I said and what I was responding to in one short comment. I would say that is a record, but I've seen too many of your comments. :)

John W. Loftus said...

Steven, just for the record, Layman is probably smarter than you think. He's an exception to some of the usual Christian diatribes we see here at DC. Listen to him here on this issue, for he's making sense.

Steven Carr said...

Layman is smart.

Notice that he totally ducked my direct question of what exactly he doubted. As a lawyer and a Christian apologist, he is well-skilled in word games, and not answering questions.

Layman's lack of doubt is in stark contrast to the Biblical portrayal of people who actually met Jesus face-to-face and were personally given the power to raise the dead.

It is such a stark contrast that Layman has to duck questions about why he has fewer doubts than somebody who allegedly walked on water, yet still supposedly deserted Jesus.

That is what Christian apologetics is about.

Botice that I have no doubt that Christians apologetics is a good thing.

It is however, synonymous with double-talk, obfuscation , word-games, dubious arguments and bad logic.

This does not stop me believing that Christian apologetics is a good thing.

My reasoning is a bit like Paul's and 'flesh' here. Paul thought of flesh as a very good thing, and regarded flesh as synonymous with evil desires, perishability, sin, immorality and fleshly lust. 'There is nothing good in my flesh', writes Paul in Romans 7

Only a very clever person can reconcile such disparate views.

And Layman is a very clever person, as John Loftus points out, and as I already knew very well.

Layman said...

Well, Steven, when you just made two very obvious and serious misrepresentations about what I said and about what another commentor I was responding to had said, why should I give you more material to manipulate and misrepresent?

In any event, it is difficult to take carefully your concern about obfuscation and double-talk when you were flat around about what I said and lied about that to which I was responding.

Steven Carr said...

Unable to answer any points of substance , Layman resorts to calling people 'liars'

He is a lawyer - a proven lawyer, in Peter Cook's phrase.

'When the facts are on my side, I pound the facts'

'When the law is on my side, I pound the law'

'When neither is on my side, I pound the opponent'.

But Layman can still answer the question of why he has more faith than people who deserted Jesus, although they had spent 3 years with Jesus, seen Moses return from the gave, walked on water and had been personally given the power to raise the dead.

Why did people doubt in Matthew 28:17, when Layman cannot name a single New Testament story he doubts as being historical?

Is it because he has mnore faith than people given proofs by the Son of God Himself?