Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Debunking Christianity

Thanks to the good folks at Habakkuk's Watchpost I've found a blog called Debunking Christianity. I have added a link to it on my sidebar.

In the little time I spent there I found a couple of very interesting pieces. If you've got some time and don't mind burning a few brain cells in the pursuit of truth and its limitations, I suggest you check it out.

To the good folks at Debunking Christianity, as well as to their culturally evangelical enemies, I would say this:

There are more than two reasonable options. You needn't be an arrogant and mindless zombie parroting lines that stopped working centuries ago to be a Christian. And you needn't abandon all faith in God or the church in order to think freely and abandon certain patently false assumptions made by many Christians.

But I guess my faith was almost as inspired by the Buddha as the Christ: constantly seeking that "middle way," the Aristotelean mean between two extremes.

19 comments:

exbeliever said...

SS,

Thanks for the link.

It is very challenging for us to discuss Christianity in all of its different varieties. Most of the team members at our blog have Evangelical backgrounds, but I have a foot in fundamentalism, Evangelicalism, and progressive Christianity (I was a member of a well-known progressive Episcopal church).

While our primary "target" (if you will) is Evangelical Christianity, there will definitely be some posts that you find directed at belief in god per se.

Normally, when we speak of "Christianity" we are referring to Evangelical Christianity. That might be irksome to you (as it was to me when I was more progressive), but that's just the way it works in American Christianity. If you want people to speak to your specific belief more, then it is your responsibility to convert more people to that belief so it registers on our radar. Otherwise, we can only argue against what we see most often.

Best wishes.

Sandalstraps said...

exbeliever,

My contention is that in challenging Evangelical Christianity you are misidentifying the term "evangelical." I left a comment to that effect on your blog.

Evangelical Christianity is a term which is most frequently used to describe a cultural movement which started with a change in approach by people like Billy Graham, who while fundamentalist in their belief system, did not side with the funadmentalist movement when they withdrew from public life after the Scopes Monkey Trial.

But Evangelical Christianity predates that cultural movement, and is not of necessity fundamentalist in its belief structure. The key component of evagelical Christianity, properly understood, is not propositional but personal. It rests not in a series of statements about God and religion which are to be accept or rejected, but in a kind of religious experience which must then be shared with others.

This evangelical emphasis on experience and the sharing of experience was a kind of radical critique of deism and its emotionally empty, purely rational approach to God. Cultural Evangelicalism, in its emphasis on the "rationality" of the message as the primary religious concern, often falls into the same traps which snared deism, giving rise to the evangelical approach in the first place.

Principally you are challenging fundamentalist Christianity, as am I. I welcome your contributions to that effort, and look forward to seeing the cases in which we overtly disagree on something less trivial than the term "evangelical."

exbeliever said...

SS,

As soon as you get self-proclaimed Evangelicals who you proclaim to be "fundamentalists" to stop using the term and when you get all of the media and Christian magazines to accept your defintions, we'll change our moniker. Until then, we'll go with the definition that everyone who isn't you and your few progressive friends uses. Deal?

Sandalstraps said...

You needn't change a thing to please me. My contention is that they are making the error. You are merely repeating it.

However, my contention rests not on the consensus of my "progressive friends" but on a matter of the historical record. As a matter of historical fact there were evangelical Christians before the movement which you call Evangelical Christianity, and which I (and others) call cultural evangelicalism.

And please don't patronize me with nonsense like your comment, as though I had any power over that. Just because some Christians treat you as though you are a snot doesn't mean you have to act like one.

I thought the goal of your blog was to encourage reasonable and polite dialogue, not to act petulantly when someone corrects you on the use of a term.

Sandalstraps said...

Incidentally, my definition of "evangelical" comes from outside the Christian tradition rather than inside it. The definition I use came from one of the many religious studies classes I took while getting my degree in philosophy from Indiana University. As best as I can tell, based on its usage in those classes, my definition reflects the way in which scholars of religion use the term.

But again, how one defines "evangelical" is trivial.

Sandalstraps said...

exbeliever,

I have a great deal of sympathy for you when you say

It is very challenging for us to discuss Christianity in all of its different varieties.

It reminds me of something that one of my favorite philosophy professors, an atheist, and one hell of a logician, said.

He said that the difficulty with being an atheist is that one has to smash each instance of theism wherever it arises. And there are so many forms of theism, each of which rest on different assumptions and arguments.

It would, of course, be unfair of anyone to expect you to, in your advocacy of atheism, to account for each theistic expression. It would be similarly unfair to expect you to, in your refutation of Christianity, to account for each individual expression of Christianity.

However, it seems to me that you have no moral imperative on the basis of your atheism, to do either one.

I can see why Christians are evangelical. They believe that they have a message on which both the immortaility of their souls and the immortality of each of the souls with whom they interact depends. But I don't see that same imperative for atheists.

I can certainly see why someone would wish to be an atheist. I have seriously flirted with it at times myself. But I don't see the means by which one becomes, for lack of a better term, an evangelical atheist; that is an atheist who seeks to spread their absense of faith.

This of course does not discredit your project, and as I've said, I have a great deal of sympathy for it. Many of the arguments on your blog are very similar to arguments which I've made from time to time. Amd I mean no disrespect when I say you've misidentified the term evangelical. That misidentification reflects an error made by our entire culture.

But I really don't understand the moral imperative on an atheist to evangelize for their lack of faith.

Former_Fundy said...

SS,

I agree with your point about the term "evangelicalism". My understanding is that it originated with the Lutherans in Europe. In the US, evangelical and fundamentalist were essentially synonyms until the 1940's when Harold Ockenga of Fuller Seminary coined the term "new evangelical."

As for promoting atheism, I am not sure thats the purpose of the Debunking Christianity blog. Rather, the purpose is, as expressed by the name, to debunk Christianity (the conservative, evangelical variety). Personally, I am not an atheist. I am agnostic.

Sandalstraps said...

former_fundy,

Thank you for reminding me of the Fuller connection. I had forgotten that.

Also, thank you for clarrifying your purpose. Perhaps I assumed wrongly that you have the same project as my former professor.

Agnosticism is a very healthy perspective, but it was of little comfort to me. I guess you could say that in a sense I am an agnostic, since I don't know that God exists. But God is for me an operational reality.

exbeliever said...

SS,

You wrote: "And please don't patronize me with nonsense like your comment, as though I had any power over that."

Bummer, comment sections suck at good communication. I really didn't mean that to sound patronizing. I was smiling when I typed it if that means anything ;-).

I still much prefer progressive Christians to Evangelical ones. We probably share 98% of the same beliefs--e.g. support for homosexual marriages, near-(if not total) pacifism, etc.

I consider progressive Christians, inconsistent humanists ;-).

My point is simply that our use of the term Evangelical to describe what you call "fundamentalists" seems more appropriate at this point in time. Words change over time. I don't envy anyone who feels that they need to keep language from changing.

I, for instance, would love to revive the word "liberal" to describe my politics. It's such a beautiful word--giving, generous, etc. But, I see the writing on the wall, so I am a reluctant "progressive."

More later. In the future, if I seem patronizing, lend me the benefit of the doubt, I'm probably just coming across harsher than I mean to.

Best wishes

Sandalstraps said...

One more thought on the use of "evangelical":

While it is tempting to do, one out not use the terms "evangelical" and "progressive" as though they are necessarily opposed. There are in fact progressive evangelicals. I am one such creature.

In this case "progressive" refers to the belief system (seen in opposition to "conservative" or "fundamentalist"), while "evangelical" refers to disposition and methods.

Interestingly, even the neo-deist John Shelby Spong once described himself as an evangelical. According to his autobiography, Here I Stand, he stopped using the term not because its denotation had changed, but because of its connotation.

Much like we've seen with the post-Enlightenment change in the use of the word "myth," when a word like "evangelical" is misused and abused by people who don't understand it, its cultural definition (independent of its denotation) changes. And yes, I would say that those who identify themselves as Evangelical Christians (as though they were the only ones) misuse and abuse the term.

Just one more reason why they need to be refuted.

Sandalstraps said...

The last comment was typed before exbeliever's last comment posted. We must have been typing at the same time.

Sorry for the misunderstanding.

By the way, I don't try to keep language from changing, but I do from time to time critque they way in which it changes. And, I'm still a liberal, even if that word is used as an insult now.

But I live in Kentucky. Mark Twain once said that if the world ever comes to an end he'd move to Kentucky, because everything happens ten years later there.

Sandalstraps said...

typo alert:

Comment 10: "out" = "ought"

I still need a secretary

Squirrelly said...

I still need a secretary.

Only if you pay me by the word, Chris. :D

Tom said...

I'd do it by the word, too. Although I very much doubt that Chris would be able to afford anyone at any rate per word, longwinded as he is. That's why I proof read Princess Pinky. She's nice and concise.

Sandalstraps said...

Squirelly,

Where would I get money, much less the amount needed to pay anyone by the word?

Tom,

Sorry, I won't take your bait today.

John W. Loftus said...

Debunking Christianity: "not for the faint of faith"

I liked it, and thanks for the dialogue.

I myself flirted with liberal Christianity for a while.

I tried to defend John Hick's views, but in the end just couldn't do that either.

Tyler Simons said...

That's a rather cryptic comment, Mr. Loftus. Where did the Hick reference come from? Sandaly probably knows exactly what you're talking about, but I'm a little slow.

Sandalstraps said...

John Hick

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