Opinion

When belief dies, can it be resurrected?

“Why I Left, Why I Stayed: Conversations on Christianity Between an Evangelical Father and His Humanist Son” by Tony Campolo, front, and son Bart Campolo. Book image courtesy of HarperCollins. Photo courtesy of Bart Campolo

(RNS) Losing his religion cost Bart Campolo a career as an evangelical ministry leader and threatened to alienate many of those he held dear — especially his beloved father, the well-known evangelical educator Tony Campolo.

Why would anyone choose that?

Well, it turns out, he didn’t.

“I didn’t choose not to believe in God,” Bart Campolo writes in his new book, “Why I Left, Why I Stayed,” co-authored with his father. Campolo, now humanist chaplain at the University of Southern California, adds: “Like so many other post-Christians, I didn’t manufacture my own de-conversion on purpose; it happened to me.”

The Campolos’ book is hardly the first conversation on the degree to which we control our beliefs. But coming at a time of growing religious disaffiliation, it casts helpful new light on why belief dies (or is never born) and, perhaps more important, what happens afterward.

Given the demonstrated benefits of religious participation, both for individuals and the larger society, wouldn’t it be better if all the ex- and not-yet believers went to church?

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat thinks so.

In a piece published on Easter weekend, Douthat, a conservative Catholic, urged the nonreligious to start or resume going to church. Accurately describing the political and cultural compatibility between progressive churches and the liberals who swell the ranks of the nonreligious demographic, Douthat suggests that church participation would not require much of a leap for these theoretical new attendees.

“I understand that there’s the minor problem of actual belief,” Douthat writes. “But many of you do believe in the kind of open Gospel that a lot of mainline churches preach.”

But for many, this “minor” problem of belief is actually quite major, especially when it comes to supernatural phenomena that are such a focus of worship. And Christianity, as a religion that hinges on core beliefs (more than actions) to a degree unseen with other major religions around the world, is uniquely vulnerable to this problem.

Whatever the hurdles, Tony Campolo argues someone who wants to believe can believe.

It’s a matter of making a choice, he contends, and then immersing oneself in “plausibility structures” that reinforce that choice and fend off doubt.

Such structures are, of course, the tried-and-true practices of contemporary Christianity: daily habits such as prayer, study groups, retreats, close social ties with fellow believers, and the like. Evidence — the existence of millions upon millions of sincerely believing Christians in this country — suggests that these belief-nurturing strategies work.

But not for everyone. And the number of those who cannot, or will not, make the leap continues to grow.

Increasingly, believers’ and prospective believers’ walks through life expose them to more secular people and social dynamics. As these pesky reminders of nonbelief become more frequent and conspicuous, the social penalty paid for being an “out” nonbeliever weakens.

All this points to another problem with plausibility structures: Why would nonbelievers feel compelled to strive for and nurture belief in something their thoughts and experiences tell them is not true?

As religion writer Jonathan Malesic pointed out in response to Douthat, “The biggest reason people have left the mainline is not sociological. It’s theological. People simply don’t believe what the churches teach about God. No social or material inducement may make a difference.”

Blame it on the secular zeitgeist, and the advance of a scientific mindset that makes people more suspicious of supernatural claims. Whatever the cause, belief is harder to muster than it used to be in the Western world, and for lots of people, no amount of wishful thinking will help.

Considering the testimonials of believers and nonbelievers, one begins to see that this is a debate with no clear resolution. It’s as likely to yield a final answer as that better-known conundrum about what comes first, the chicken or the egg.

What is clear is the imperative for people to navigate their clashing convictions with care and compassion, something the Campolos have done inspiringly well.

In the conclusion to their book, the father and son describe how, rather than denouncing one another and ending their relationship, they found a way to accept each other and celebrate all they continue to have in common, even after Bart’s de-conversion:

“While we come to it differently,” the Campolos write, “each of us always reaches the same conclusion about this life: Love is the most excellent way. Moreover, each of us is both sure and content that the other has found that way. For now, at least, that is enough.”

It certainly is. And if each debate about the existence of God and nature of faith could end on this gracious note, we’d all be better for it.

(Tom Krattenmaker is a writer specializing in religion in public life. His latest book is “Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower”)

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Tom Krattenmaker

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  • Christian – means ‘Christ follower’ – one gives allegiance to Christ, asks Him to forgive their sin, and to fill them with His Holy Spirit. In exchange, Christ will use you to help others to come to a knowledge of His love, He will forgive your sin, and grant you a wonderful life in the hereafter.
    So, it means that if he says “adultery is a sin”, you don’t form committees to see how He is wrong, you accept it and let Him change you, rather than you, expecting Him to change. Pretty simple really and He made it that way because most of us are silly sheep.
    You don’t want to work with Christ, He allows you that also. Upon death, He doesn’t allow you to be any closer to Him than before. He respects your wishes.
    Coming to Christ and expecting him to approve of your excessive drinking, whatever else, is not following Christ and hence, if you aren’t willing to change, one should not fool ones self that they are a follower of Christ – a Christian. Pretty simple.
    If you are attending a credible church that can maintain it’s assertions scripturally, then you should follow that. If they need to dance around scripture, add information not given Biblically, and they try to twist the words around, run from that assembly as fast as one can.
    There is more to Christ than just love. He requires obedience and He is just. If you don’t like what He teaches and His justice, and want to live the way you want to, again, don’t fool yourself that you are a Christian, a Christ follower.
    Satan will allow you to do whatever you please, and he’ll back you all the way to your perdition, and then laugh at you afterward. Christ has requirements for His people.
    I don’t hear a lot of that in this article.

    J. Vernon McGee said:

    “We get a warped view of Him when all we hear is, ‘God is love, God is love.’ It is true that God is love, but don’t lose sight of the fact that God is also holy. He is righteous and He will judge. You are not rushing into heaven on the little love boat today. If you reject His salvation, there will be nothing left but judgment.”
    That is the bottom line.

  • Every person I’ve ever met who fell away from the Lord did so because of immorality. They simply didn’t want to be morally accountable to God. C. S. Lewis said there were very few intellectual reasons for atheism, and since BC couldn’t articulate one and he doesn’t want to expose his “dirty laundry” he said it just happened. Kind of like pregnancy. My opinion – he was never soundly converted to begin with. But he wants evangelicals to buy his book, so he isn’t against making money off of his apostasy.

    Hebrews 3:12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 14 For we are made partakers of Christ if we hold the confidence we had in the beginning steadfast unto the end,

    Hebrews 6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
    5 and have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the world to come,
    6 if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance, seeing that they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh and put Him to open shame.

    Heb.10:26 For if we sin willfully after having received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
    27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.

  • ““I understand that there’s the minor problem of actual belief,” Douthat writes. ”But many of you do believe in the kind of open Gospel that a lot of mainline churches preach.”

    Stated without a shred of evidence, logic, or credibility. And this is precisely why I rarely bother to read douthat, and can remember just about none of what I have read. HE takes vacuity to an art form. What he is really saying is get the butts into the pews, and we can pretend we are still dominant in the culture, instead of rapidly losing our market share, our hegemony, and our assumed superiority.

    I have so many better thangs to do on Sunday than go to a church to engage in worship of a deity I don’t believe in who has a story to sell that I see absolutely no point in buying.

  • More nonsense. You must know lots of immoral people. It wouldn’t surprise me.

    I know lots of very moral people who left religion because they thought it was nonsense. I know others who left conservative religion because they thought it was comprised mostly of money grubbing, dominionist, insecure, frightened hypocrites.

  • Interesting that you quote Lewis who was an atheist for much of of his adult life. I would imagine many evangelical churches wouldn’t think highly of a convert who then married someone 20 years younger, of a different faith and a divorcee with 2 children to boot.

  • Four words from Hebrews 3:12: “evil heart of unbelief”.
    Therein lies the problem: defining “unbelief” as “evil”.

  • Yes and I am impressed by all of the atheist charitable organisations. Lets list them:
    1. Ummmm
    2. Uhhhhh
    3.???????
    Hey BO you got a list of atheist charitable organizations? I’m sure there is one or two out there.

  • When I was a kid growing up we went to church on Sunday mornings and the lady sitting behind us sung:

    Then thangs my soul. My Saviour God, to Thee…

    “And if each debate about the existence of God and nature of faith could end on this gracious note, we’d all be better for it.” I would just add we might work on our enunciation along with that gracious note.

  • Thanks for the “gracious note.”

    If I understand what you are saying, I think you might be mistaking me. I am an atheist of a sort. But I don’t care if people believe in god, or think that their faith is the one true one. It’s what one does with faith and that “truth” that interests me. I have said here many times, if your (a generic you) faith makes your life better and you a better person, then it is nothing I can argue with.

    But how many people who post here use their faith as a weapon? how many display the lowest kind of despite towards others? How many think that their faith is just one more political tool in their arsenal? How many values voter voted for Grabby McPussy, and excuse their malfeasance and abandonment of their alleged values with some blah blah about god choosing imperfect people to work through?

    My comment about evidence and credibility was not a reference to faith, but a reference to douthat making the claim about what “many of you” believe. The problem I have with devout catholic douthat is that he baldly states it doesn’t matter what you believe, if only you go to church– whether for that aforementioned hegemony, to keep the churches open, or simply to give him some sort of support and make him feel better.

    I hope I understood what you were saying, and I hope I clarified myself to you.

  • Mr. Douthat, where other-believers practice other beliefs is as “minor” a “problem” as “actual belief”.

  • Nothing you just wrote is any kind of evidence for Christian claims. It’s a fallacy through and through. But it’s easy to see why you’re dishonestly trying to redirect attention to charity (itself erroneous, but it wouldn’t matter if you were correct in your assertions). You literally can’t address the actual meat of the response to your blather, and this is all you’ve got.

    I’ve never met an ex-Christian who deconverted from anything but realizing that the religion’s claims were untrue. Considering the dishonesty I’ve already seen out of you, I don’t believe your assertions about a group you clearly don’t understand.

    In case you were wondering, you made your religion look worse here today. Good work! Really! The worse Christians behave toward others, the better the chance some Christian will read or see that behavior and finally start wondering why it is that their tribe is so full of hateful, judgmental, nasty people when it really should be the opposite. Keep it up!

  • Most of them are fine with divorce. Their divorce rate is at best about as bad as that found outside their culture, and they don’t tend to care about sins that they themselves commit all the time. But woe betide the evangelical who dares to openly support equal marriage!

  • Exactly! To a dizzy woman, the roomful of people she’s in is spinning. This one sugar coats ”
    “misguided followers,” calling them “silly sheep.” She and the people she surrounds herself with ARE woefully misguided “silly sheep.” Anti-theists not so much.

  • It takes more courage and effort to be anti-theistic. Believing in the existence of a deity who loves me is easy, and very suitable for the spiritually lazy among us.

  • I wasn’t addressing you, but C’mon, your comments are purposely vague, ambiguous and sloppy, you dodge questions, state untruths constantly, answer questions with questions, and use fallacious arguments ad nauseum. Put another way, when you engage others, you play and fight dirty. That’s why I stopped engaging you and am surprised when sharp people do. You’re nothing if not a muggle, Harry.

  • Malachi 2:16 For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the Lord of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.”

    Maybe most Christians are fine with divorce – but God isn’t. And there are consequences for sin.

    As for sins: Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,
    And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.

  • Yes he was an atheist but upon thinking through his atheism he changed his mind and believed on Christ. As for the rest of your post, why don’t you read a good biography of Lewis. More there than meets the eye.

  • Correction. “…had stopped…” Actually I thought I had blocked you. Evidently not. I’ll try again…

  • Your comment to me was removed, so I will respond here.

    Yes, I will on occasion engage someone like dirtyH. I don’t do it for him, of course. I long ago concluded that one never reaches people irretrievably poisoned by toxic religious belief, but convinced they are sucking on a sweet, sweet lollipop, or something. That’s the definition of irretrievably.

    But there are people who are on the fence. They are the ones I write for. And, as captain Cassidy notes below, there is always THIS:

    “In case you were wondering, you made your religion look worse here today. Good work! Really! The worse Christians behave toward others, the better the chance some Christian will read or see that behavior and finally start wondering why it is that their tribe is so full of hateful, judgmental, nasty people when it really should be the opposite. Keep it up!”

  • This isn’t a comment on you, but a comment on me.

    I don’t block anyone, not even the unrepentant bigots. I think that the answer to bad speech is more speech. I don’t have to read the vileness some people feel free to post. But I do think that rewasoned responses, where appropriate, show those In the middle where the vileness lies…

    Or where the vile lie.

  • Indeed, and the older and longer a thread gets the fewer people there are following it. Id much rather have you up on the front lines, discussing fresh stuff with far more open minds, than engaging mentally disgusting and creepy Harry. Tip ffrf posts press releases about religious battle s at schools all the time on it’s tb page. Many stories make their local media. Go to the local media forums and join in those discussions. That’s like freshly tilled soil.

  • “…your comments are purposely vague, ambiguous and sloppy, you dodge questions, state untruths constantly, answer questions with questions, and use fallacious arguments ad nauseum.”
    You are my role model for how to answer questions.

  • The onlY issue I have with FFRF is that I’d be preaching to the choir there.

    There are plenty of dirtyH’s on these pages, and people who are in the middle. I’ve been in this fight for 45 years. I’d like to think I am doing some good.

  • Apparently Jesus would be one of the “worse Christians.” He constantly took the scribes and pharisees to task. Don’t like it when someone is disrespectful – don’t be disrespectful. Have someone delete their comment – well, two can play that game.

  • No, for instance ffrf posts about the newly formed Fellowship of Satanic Athletes group at Richmond High School. Go to the media comment forums in Richmond. High schoolers may not read comment section much. They’re much more likely to if the article is on their school. And the mothers chime in with the usual stuff. It’s lively sometimes.

  • Pay attention to the article’s title. But if you want evidence, I can give you some evidence.
    The theists position:
    “…if God exists, then the objectivity of moral values, moral duties, and moral accountability is secured, but that in the absence of God, that is, if God does not exist, then morality is just a human convention, that is to say, morality is wholly subjective and non-binding. We might act in precisely the same ways that we do in fact act, but in the absence of God, such actions would no longer count as good (or evil), since if God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. Thus, we cannot truly be good without God. On the other hand, if we do believe that moral values and duties are objective, that provides moral grounds for believing in God.”
    contra the atheists position:
    “…the atheistic hypothesis. First, if atheism is true, objective moral values do not exist. If God does not exist, then what is the foundation for moral values? More particularly, what is the basis for the value of human beings? If God does not exist, then it is difficult to see any reason to think that human beings are special or that their morality is objectively true. Moreover, why think that we have any moral obligations to do anything? Who or what imposes any moral duties upon us?”

    Talk amongst yourselves.

  • “Religion” IS nonsense, Ben in Oakland. What’s that got to do with Jesus the Christ?

  • Wow,Ben…45 years.Really? That’s almost as long as I’ve been, to use Biblical parlance: A Born-Again Blood-bought Spirit-Filled child of Almighty God in Christ Jesus! (I was saved/Born-Again on October 4th,1976 at the age 22 in a jail cell in Mississippi about 1:30 in the morning. I’m 62 now, and have been a student of Biblical Theology and Ecclesiastical History for the past 25 years or so.)—By the way,returning to your 45-year journey, have you ever heard of Sisyphus?—-PEACE IN CHRIST, ALWAYS!! ?.

  • Campolo Sr. misses a huge point. If we choose to believe something and then immerse ourselves in the “plausibility structures” we may indeed end up with belief. But any honest “believer” will recognize that the process was rigged. And a belief arrived at by a rigged process deserves to be doubted. Paschal missed this point also.

  • “A Born-Again Blood-bought Spirit-Filled child of Almighty God in Christ Jesus!”
    Brother Ringo! I was born again while driving my car from Hanover, Germany to Neu Ulm, Germany back in 1973.
    Welcome.
    I like your allusion to Sisyphus. Apropos.

  • Just the smallest of notes: For some women, a guy using the P-word in a public discussion, is like a guy using the C-word in a public discussion. Really doesn’t come across well, regardless of belief system or political party.

  • Belief should be no problem at all. It isn’t a requirement for participation in mainline churches.

    In the past non-Christian religions did assume belief int he supernatural–in God or gods. Socrates was charged, and executed for, among other things, ‘impiety’. More recently, Spinoza was excommunicated from the Amsterdam synagogue for non-theism.

    But religions changed. Now 52% of Americans who state their ‘religious preference’ as Jewish don’t believe in God. And that’s ok. 48% do and that’s ok too–I assume that the stories and ceremonies provide that 48% with a way of articulating their religious belief.

    There’s no reason why Christianity shouldn’t have gone that
    way too—as, in effect, belief-optional. If you believe in some supernatural or
    other the Church provides a language to articulate your beliefs. If you don’t,
    it is a package of cultural products—stories, music, art, ceremony—that are
    enjoyable and locate you to in your history and culture. That is, in effect,
    the way that mainline Protestant denominations have gone. I would guess that in
    my denomination about 10% of lay people and a larger percentage of clergy are
    atheists, and that’s fine.

    But the general public don’t seem to have noticed: most assume
    that Christianity is necessarily uniquely doctrinal and imposes doxastic
    requirements on participants that other religions don’t. And that it’s somehow
    uniquely demanding, and toxic.

    There’s no reason for this. We are all agnostics now: we don’t know. And there’s no reason why we shouldn’t enjoy the ceremonies and culture whether we believe in the supernatural or not in the way that Jewish people do Sabbat dinners and celebrate holidays whether they’re religious believers or not. Why hasn’t the message gotten out that Christianity is like that: if you buy the metaphysics, fine; if you don’t, also fine.

  • Had you been interested in discussing rather than insulting, we may have had a nice conversation, as at other times.

  • Actually when I read where you wrote “thangs on Sunday” it made me think back to Sunday’s past and-then thangs my soul-in a very high falsetto, popped into my head.
    As far as understanding you I think I do. More importantly, I respect your differences with me. As a matter of fact I have more respect for the thought put into your difference with me than I do for the person who might sing-then sings my soul-beautifully behind me on a Sunday but not really mean a word of it. My thinking goes something like this.
    You self proclaim to be an “atheist of sorts” I respect that, but I don’t buy into that. I can’t, a genuine belief will not allow me. I self proclaim to be a “Christian” I would like Ben in Oakland to respect that even though he might not buy into it. I say that, and I fully realize, the responsibility to live a Christian life that can be respected is on me. You meet the standard of living a life that can be respected that I set for myself. I respect that, and I disagree with you often. I see no reason that would keep us from agreeing on many things that will hold me accountable to the beliefs I claim for myself.

  • Most church going religious Christians are not fed with the broken body of Christ even though they have eternal life (IONOS ZOE), they don’t have abundant life (ZOE). They don’t lift up the Christ in their sermons in their dark, sleepy and safe holes. They don’t see Jesus to heal, to bless and to defend their persons and households. They only preach why not, how come, how best, who with, who how sad about themselves with their pea brain blind guides. Now like Peter, they don’t see Jesus they just see the stormy sea. There is no supernatural spirit (eagle faith) in their natural science minds (flat earth belief) while Jesus our Lord so patiently protect them from the 10 commando prosecution in spite of their self condemnations every moment. Have you wonder why the religious Christians have their share of sex scandals in every house just like all the world religions on this globe as if they are also ruled by the accuser of brethren?

  • Careful Sandi – you know who may have your comment deleted. He is very sensitive. In fact I’m thinking he may have this comment deleted very quickly.

  • Thank you Harry. The mods are pretty good on this site with my comments – no matter how many dislike some of them. I appreciate the warning though. 🙂

  • You meant C-word…”Christ”, right?

    Agreed, sometimes it is rude and does not come across well in public discussion.

  • I wonder if the following criticism, 1 of 2, from secular humanists apply to Tony Campolo and progressive Christians like him. And if so, how did this article writer, Tom Krattenmaker, address them, supposing that he did?

    (1) CHURCH IS IRRELEVANT, WHAT’S THE POINT? – “When one’s orientation and values have become so secularized, why even bother with the church? After all, neither the Bible nor worship, nor prayer are really necessary for lefty political activism. … Theologically secularized ‘progressive Christians’ could demonstrate integrity by simply leaving their churches for a local humanist club.” (Source: John Lomperis, “Bart Campolo’s Slide Through Progressive Christianity to Godless Humanism”, Christian Post, October 22, 2014)

    Never mind “integrity”, I can hear Tom Krattenmaker now, in defense of Campolo against secular humanists like his own son, Bart Campolo. Choose “plausibility structures”, instead. Start by choosing to believe in order to believe, “then immersing oneself in (such) ‘plausibility structures’ that reinforce that choice and fend off doubt … as prayer, study groups, retreats, close social ties with fellow believers”, etc. Believers do it all the time, and so should non-believers – so as to at least “fend off doubt”, if no longer true to themselves!

  • I wonder if the following criticism, 2 of 2, from secular humanists apply to Tony Campolo and progressive Christians like him. And if so, how did this article writer, Tom Krattenmaker, address them, supposing that he did?

    (2) GOD IS DEAD, WHAT’S THE POINT? – “‘Progressive Christianity’ is already so secularized that (there’s no longer any) substantial difference between that faith and … atheism.” (Source: John Lomperis, “Bart Campolo’s Slide Through Progressive Christianity to Godless Humanism”, Christian Post, October 22, 2014)

    Never mind “atheism”, I can hear Tom Krattenmaker now, in defense of Campolo against secular humanists like his own son, Bart Campolo. Let’s not “debate about the existence of God and nature of faith”. Let’s just “end (it) on this gracious note”, what do you say, hmm? – by “reach(ing) the same conclusion about this life: Love is the most excellent way” – with or without God.

  • The “atheistic hypothesis” you cite is strikingly similar to a set of very good questions and common assumptions presented to me by another commenter almost a year ago, so here is my response, lightly edited here for clarity:

    1.) “where did your moral code come from, you say that you developed it yourself?”

    In 2009, I found out that the previous 42 years of my life had been a mistake (due to a misdiagnosis and rather extreme and counterproductive treatments ever since 1967). Of course, I was devastated, but realized that I had an opportunity to start a new life (damaged goods notwithstanding), which included the opportunity to choose my own values and moral code.

    So, firstly, I acknowledged that I’ve never believed in God, and that it was dishonest to pretend otherwise. Secondly, although I’d long ago learned from my parents to respect other people and their personal, spiritual, existential beliefs, I realized that I needed a more comprehensive moral compass.

    I experimented briefly with selecting different guiding values, but the ones I picked were kind of disjointed, and didn’t produce the coherent and growth-promoting compass I sought. I determined that, first, I needed a foundation, a basis for choosing values, and that the basis would be found by answering, “What’s the most important thing in life to me — what do I care about more than anything else?” Given my past, plus what I’ve observed about people and what I pay attention to in the news reports, the answer was obvious: I care more about how people treat each other than about anything else.

    From there, I focused on how I thought people should be treated, how I wanted to think of others vis-à-vis myself, and what values would support those considerations most effectively. Noting that I am most bothered by (1) seeing people treat others as their inferiors, (2) seeing those same people dismiss others’ proprietary rights (privacy, beliefs, choices, etc.), and (3) seeing those same people willfully yet mindlessly obstruct, insult, emotionally abuse, and even act violently against others — i.e., I’m most disturbed by inequality, trespass, and cruelty — I decided to choose 3 counteractive guiding values: Equality, Respect, and Empathy.

    Those values soon led me to realize how important it is for “Us” to get to know “Them”, because, contrary to the old and odd saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt”, familiarity actually breeds solutions.

    Lastly, I revisited what I admire most about Christianity — The Golden Rule — and embraced it with the belief that it means I should respect other people’s boundaries, beliefs, belongings, bodies, bedrooms and business, along with their rights, freedoms, privacy, and equality, as I would have others respect my own. And I recognized that my beliefs, values, and morality are mine and mine alone: they bind me, not my neighbors.

    2.) “Is this code different for each person?”

    I can only answer for myself; but I imagine people differ in their moral codes as much as they differ in their individual upbringings, life experiences, worldviews, and spiritual/existential beliefs.

    3.) “Do you believe in moral absolutes: Say, everyone on Earth believes that rape is part of nature and therefore a perfectly okay thing to do, there is not one person on earth who believes rape is bad. Would rape then be okay?”

    I’ll skip your example, because it has no place in Earth’s reality (and, these days, reality is especially important to me).

    I do believe in some moral absolutes. I believe that genocide is absolutely wrong; in fact, I believe it exemplifies the “evil” extreme of “bad” (see #5).

    But I believe that many kinds of acts which are generally considered to be wrong are, under certain circumstances, not wrong at all, as in the case of stealing food when the only (emphasis) alternative is starvation.

    4.) “You seem to value humanity a whole lot, but where does this intrinsic value come from? If naturalism is true, we are nothing, from nothing, and will end up nothing. We are simply highly evolved apes doomed to perish along with the rest of the universe.”

    Yes, I most certainly do value humanity a great deal. As an atheist, I believe we’re all we’ve got, and that alone makes us valuable. Spiritual/existential beliefs are not the determining factor when it comes to how individuals value humanity. From my observations, I’d say that, religious or not, most people in our society care about others, but some don’t; most people respect others’ beliefs, but some don’t; and many people (I can’t say most) consider others their equals, and some don’t.

    And Yes, I believe that we, as living persons, “will end up nothing”, but I don’t believe that we “are nothing” or come “from nothing”, even in the sense of your question. We each leave behind what we have done in our lives and with our lives, for better and/or for worse, alone and/or with others.

    I personally place great value on making positive contributions to society. Because of my past, I rarely leave my apartment, so my options for contributing are limited; but I seem to have two “no-how knacks” that let me contribute what I can. One is for composing music. (I can’t functionally read or play anything, but I make music up in my head without even thinking about it; so I spend many months “downloading” [“uploading”?] each composition, sound-for-sound, note-by-note, instrument-by-instrument, from my head into a program called Finale, which I then use to play the resulting scores and to burn CDs, so that other people can hear what I hear between-the-ears). And the other “knack” is what I’m doing right now: writing social commentaries, both in postings and more formally on paper.

    As for the “rest of the universe”, I’m working with my best friend on a music video about that very subject.

    5.) “For all the evils committed in the name of religion, without God there is no good or evil, there is simply nature.”

    As you no doubt realize from my previous answers, I couldn’t disagree more. There most definitely is “good”, and “bad”, which, at its extreme, becomes “evil”. (I can’t think of a word for “good” at its extreme, but I imagine that you and many others would call it “God” — and I think that idea is lovely.)

    6.) “Christianity is the basis for which you have developed your view to respect others regardless of their race or religion, Jesus said not only to love our neighbors, but to ‘love our enemies’ as well.”

    As I said earlier, I love Christianity’s Golden Rule, and I personally believe it means more than what some Christians believe (e.g., respecting others’ beliefs, choices, privacy, etc.). I understand that many other belief systems, religious and non-religious, have their own variants of the Golden Rule, which makes perfect sense to me. It’s a beautiful standard for living!

  • You said that you do believe in some absolute moral values. Why? You gave rape as an example. As you know some people do believe rape is ok. Eg. Isis terrorists. And tho I know you hold these moral values as absolute you cannot say they are absolute for everyone.
    I’m sorry you have suffered for many years. I would recommend you look to the Savior who suffered too, and see your suffering as Paul the Apostle did in Colossians 1:24 “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.”

  • That’s what the Bible says. When you know what you need to know to believe in Christ but choose not to believe in Christ, then the Bible calls it an evil heart of unbelief. You may disagree with it, but it is the human condition. And we’ve all had it at one time or another.

    “I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but rather, I believe in order that I may understand” Anselm

  • “You may disagree with it, but it is the human condition.” Actually, “That’s what the Bible says.” Which is my point: Doesn’t make it so. Especially for those of us who freely and rightfully disagree with your freely and rightfully chosen beliefs.
    Humility, not hubris. Coexistence, not conquest. And equal — not “evil”.

  • 1.) “You said that you do believe in some absolute moral values. Why?”

    You choose to believe in God; I choose to believe in some moral absolutes. Note that our legal system is designed (supposed) to enforce many moral absolutes — crimes against which violate others’ lives, rights, and safety — e.g., “murder is wrong”, “slavery is wrong”, “falsely shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater is wrong”.

    2.) “You gave rape as an example. As you know some people do believe rape is ok. Eg. Isis terrorists. And tho I know you hold these moral values as absolute you cannot say they are absolute for everyone.”

    Actually, the commenter to whom I originally posted the above reply is the one who gave rape as an example. But, in response to your query, I imagine you and I agree that universal agreement is not a prerequisite to moral absolutes regarding rape by ISIS terrorists, genocide by German Nazis, etc. — atrocities which, again, egregiously violate others’ lives, rights, and safety.

    3.) “I’m sorry you have suffered for many years. I would recommend you look to the Savior who suffered too, and see your suffering as Paul the Apostle did…”

    Though I don’t share your beliefs, DirtyHarry#1, I sincerely appreciate your thoughtfulness in recommending Bible verse. Your concern reminds me of my mom, who accepted my atheism AND prayed for me. I will always treasure her response as a beautiful example of parental and spiritual love.

    And, though I lack the wisdom, common sense, and think-on-your-feet speak-in-the-moment presence of mind that come from a lifetime of healthy experiences (and that people in our society naturally take for granted, and understandably expect of others), I communicate fairly well in writing, still have my inner-8-year-old’s humor, and can now offer original music along with an outsider’s perspective that is, shall we say, “rarely encountered outside the psychiatric profession”.

  • Religion puts boundaries around what a person can explore and question. Religion says “You can go this far, but no further in your inquiry”. If a person says “I don’t believe this is true” they eventually are labeled a “heretic” and are booted (if they don’t leave first). Religion says “Deny what you know (and the facts) and accept what can’t be proven”. Religion ultimately demands submission and the tamping down of questions and doubts.

    As human knowledge increases, more and more people are starting to realize that religion isn’t based on provable facts, but superstition. It’s why many of us cannot be religious or even make a pretense of it. Our numbers increase every day.

    I was the “little heretic” as a kid in Sunday School because I already figured out that religion was nonsense. I asked too many questions and was told many times to either “be quiet” or “that’s what the Bible says and we believe it”. Well, I didn’t.

  • It’s not what I think that matters – it’s what God thinks. That’s between you and Him. Just know this: God loved us even when we were dead in our trespasses and sins.

  • I havent wondered about it at all. The Bible doesn’t make someone moral, just like no Bible doesn’t make people immoral.

  • Thank you. I think we understand each other quite well.

    Sorry it took me so long to respond.

  • Reading it now and I think it’s a great book. Their love and respect for one another is palpable.

  • God bless you,”DirtyHarry#1″!! May the Holy Spirit be the very breath of the life you live In Christ—PEACE IN CHRIST JESUS,ALWAYS!!! ???.

  • It’s also easy to say that secular thought and naturalism puts boundaries on what we can know of reality, and limits us intellectually.

  • Every one has his own religion. If moral is your religion, it is as meaningless as going to pew talking about DIY faith. You look at people and you said vanity even in the religious Christianity because they do not lift up Jesus and no miracles and signs. If one said there is no true religion, one is worshipping one’s own brain. And one’s word would be the measure of one’s life, meaningless chatter.

    Moses said this “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.”

    One is like a blade of grass, strong in the wind and wither overnight unless the HWHY find you with His true lamb of true God.

  • Men use all kinds of ways to try and convey their essence of God. Hence the supernatural references to try and describe the sheer power, magnitude and timelessness of God. And the irony is the humanist non-believer son in fact declared God “is the most excellent way.” God is love. It’s so simple, so pure.

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