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Old 08-27-2001, 11:46 AM   #1
dmvprof
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Question A pragmatic approach to christianity.

One thing that I have always believed about the SINCERE christians that I know is that largely in part to the fact that they believe, they are very trustworthy, kind, considerate, and accept responsibility for their actions. In fact, I would find it easier to trust a SINCERE christian than an atheist or agnostic. So in these cases, the end result is a good person. This is one reason why I find it hard to challenge them on their beliefs, and I also believe it has helped sustain their beliefs. They are just good and successful people. The values inherant in their beliefs have made them quite a successful segment of our population as a species from an evolutionary standpoint.

As an agnostic, it is easy for me to isolate the downside to theism and christianity throughout history. It is an easy target for satire and ridicule because of its disconnection from reality and the actions of the power hungry and extreme fundamentalists that act "In the name of God".

But as a pragmatist, it is a much harder, but not impossible to look at christianity in a more positive light even when I believe that it is false. I realize how elitist this will sound, but lets face it, christianity is an elitist organization. As a means of giving a common denominator and a common goal to large numbers of people it is very effective.

So for the atheists out there, I want you to hold back your criticism of christianity, and for the sake of discussion, point out the positive aspects, if any, of christianity throughout history.

[ August 27, 2001: Message edited by: dmvprof ]
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Old 08-27-2001, 12:06 PM   #2
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Is this a joke?

This doesn't in any case belong in this forum. It might do better in Moral Foundations, or Misc. Religion.

I know Christians who try to be good, but they have to apologize for the history of their church. Christians who get involved in politics as the Religious Right are completely untrustworthy. They try to get around the laws on campaign finance, and run stealth campaigns (because the end justifies the means).

I would, in any case, rather trust a sincere Buddhist, or a sincere New Ager who thinks that what goes around, comes around.

And I notice that you did not offer any "positive aspects, if any, of christianity throughout history." They are pretty hard to find.
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Old 08-27-2001, 12:21 PM   #3
Ron Garrett
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DMVPROF:

Quote:
One thing that I have always believed about the SINCERE christians that I know is that largely in part to the fact that they believe, they are very trustworthy, kind, considerate, and accept responsibility for their actions. In fact, I would find it easier to trust a SINCERE christian than an atheist or agnostic.
I have problems with your basic premise. My experience as a Christian pastor was that these characteristics were no more in play in the Christian population than the population at large. In point of fact recent studies show higher divorce rates among Southern Baptists than the general population. I actually found all the same vices and weaknesses fully in play, all the more glaring for the way the offender's words contradicted their actions. I have contrariwise found that self-identified freethinkers consider morality to be based, not on any god, but on their own view that it makes sense pragmatically. Their commitment is intellectual, while the nominal Christian's commitment is often based on their own need to remain affiliated and be well though of in their group. This actually causes them to egage in more subterfuge and double-talk to cover self-seeking behavior that is contrary to the groups common stated values of Biblical morality.

Quote:
So in these cases, the end result is a good person. This is one reason why I find it hard to challenge them on their beliefs, and I also believe it has helped sustain their beliefs.
My experience is that good people are good people and remain so whether converting or leaving the faith. It is a matter of their individual character more than their theistic politics.

Quote:
They are just good and successful people.
As compared to what? Among Christians economically Episcopalians, who have a most wide-open theology, have tended to be drawn from the highest economic and more educated strata while Pentecostalists are blue collar are less educated. Agnostics actually tend to be better educated and well paid. Also, your premise does not distinguish, and I'm not sure you can distinguish between nominal cradle Christians (cultural norm) and Christians who actively practice the faith as a spirituality or moral system.

Quote:
The values inherant in their beliefs have made them quite a successful segment of our population as a species from an evolutionary standpoint.
This is simply undemonstrated. The success of Christians you know has all manner of cultural antecedents, most tracable to its becming the state religion of the Roman empire and it's close link to Euro civilization. It has been the state religion of western Europe and its colonies for almost two millenia by punishing infidels and rewarding adherents via the authority of the state. Islam has been successful in exactly the same vein. You meet successful Christians because in your culture it is not acceptable to be other than Christian. I know many Christians who are neither good nor successful. I have fed them out my church's food banks for years.

But as a pragmatist, it is a much harder, but not impossible to look at christianity in a more positive light even when I believe that it is false. I realize how elitist this will sound, but lets face it, christianity is an elitist organization. As a means of giving a common denominator and a common goal to large numbers of people it is very effective.[/QUOTE]

I submit that the coercive power of the state can make citizens part of any religion it wants to make them part of and has in country after country throughout history, but there is nothing withing Christianity that makes it uniquely a source of common goals.

I know that's not what you wanted to see posted here, but that's the way it is.
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Old 08-27-2001, 12:34 PM   #4
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[quote]Originally posted by Toto:
<STRONG>Is this a joke?

This doesn't in any case belong in this forum. It might do better in Moral Foundations, or Misc. Religion.
</STRONG>

Sorry my secretarial filing skills aren't up to par for you, but I am discussing christianity in particular. My criticism is regarding the bible and since I am suggesting a positive criticism, it apparently doesn't sit well with you.

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Toto:
<STRONG>
I know Christians who try to be good, but they have to apologize for the history of their church. Christians who get involved in politics as the Religious Right are completely untrustworthy. They try to get around the laws on campaign finance, and run stealth campaigns (because the end justifies the means).
</STRONG>

You can lump them all together if you like, but I know plain ol' people that aren't political, that just worry about their loved ones and their community and getting by. I am also quite sure that if you met them face to face, you wouldn't be as sharp tongued as you are on this board. If so, your'e just a plain asshole. I for one respect them.

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Toto:
<STRONG>
I would, in any case, rather trust a sincere Buddhist, or a sincere New Ager who thinks that what goes around, comes around.
</STRONG>

Good for you, if you knew the people I am speaking of, from several cities and churches, you would probably trust them too.

Quote:
Originally posted by Toto:
<STRONG>
And I notice that you did not offer any "positive aspects, if any, of christianity throughout history." They are pretty hard to find.</STRONG>
So are you saying that there are none? Is that your answer? If so, that is all I wanted from you. If not, then what are they?

[ August 27, 2001: Message edited by: dmvprof ]
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Old 08-27-2001, 01:00 PM   #5
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Ron,

I think you have responded basically by saying that the 'SINCERE christians' I am referring to are good people and would be with or without christianity. I can accept that and I have no basis on which to argue it accept my own limited experience.

However, IMHO, it does stand to reason though that if a person sincerely believed in the bible and behaved that way, that they would probably be more trustworthy than an atheist that just finished reading Machevelli.

Also, your point about the state using religion is precicely what I am interested in. I'm not looking at it as a religion, but as a tool to the people in power.

EG.
Is it good that Constantine was able to use christianity to unite the Roman empire?

Are we better off or worse off since that after the Empire fell and chaos pretty much ruled europe and christianity gave them a standard from which to build their societies.

You've pointed out a few of the problems of Christianity in your post, now could you elude to the positive aspects. Was your soup kitchen positive?
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Old 08-27-2001, 01:02 PM   #6
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DMV prof:

I am always non-confrontational and polite to Christians when I meet them. It is a strain, and I am grateful for this board where I can get away from censoring myself.

And if you think I'm sharp tongued (as a serpent, no doubt), what is Koy?

So you know some nice Christians. Was it Christianity that made them nice? Would they not have been nice if they had become Buddhists or Muslims or secular humanists or Bahai or Epicureans (or any other system with a set of values?) If so, why does this mean there must be something worth while in Christianity?

It was the fashion in the 50's for the intellectual elite of America to consider themselves agnostic, but think that lower class boobs needed Christianity to be civilized. (They were also trying to avoid the dread label of "godless Communist.") That elitism and hypocricy got us nowhere.
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Old 08-27-2001, 01:15 PM   #7
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DMVPROF:

Quote:
However, IMHO, it does stand to reason though that if a person sincerely believed in the bible and behaved that way, that they would probably be more trustworthy than an atheist that just finished reading Machevelli.
There are many things in the Bible that if sincerely believed would make someone very dangerous, like eye for an eye, killing witches gays and lesbians, killing people for working on the sabbath, prayer heals illness, glossalalia is angelic speech, people can prophesy, etc. etc. I assume you have distilled out a moral behavior code you think is core to all Christianity is some way. It might be interesting to hear what you think that is.

But as to your last question:

I found that most of the churches I've been involved with had somewhat haphazard altruistic efforts going on, but a few were highly organized and ran from building homes for the homeless, to doing upkeep on houses of the elderly poor, to clothes for families in need, etc., efforts that ran locally, nationally and internationally.

The best organized efforts along these lines have United Way agencies. In fact the Women's Shelter I worked at (the only male staff member of a staff of forty predominately agnostic lesbians) has the most effective program for feeding, clothing, employment counseling, drug abuse counseling, etc. that I've been a part of, though interestingly enough it was originally sponsored and founded as part of the YWCA, though it was in no wise Christian.

If you look at the liberal movement of the turn of the century you find US churches leaning toward a belief that the way the Kingdom of God would come into being was by human effort, and most established charities have their origins in this period. Churches are now much more restrictive in who they help and under what circumstances and how much it is or isn't tied to evangelism.

[ August 27, 2001: Message edited by: Ron Garrett ]
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Old 08-27-2001, 01:23 PM   #8
dmvprof
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Toto,

I can't answer that if they would be good without christianity, but I am quite sure they wouldn't have the conviction they have now.

And that elitism you are reffering to is one of the aspects of it I am talking about. Is the society we live in better off because of the "elite peoples" ability to manipulate the lower classed people with this tool.

I'm apparently not getting through because you haven't yet answered my question?

Please don't respond by pointing out other problems of the religion. "there are none" is a perfectly acceptable answer. But if there is a benefit that we are perhaps able to realize today that is due to christianity, what is it? As large a of a part christianity has played on our culture, certainly it has had some impact on how we live today, Is your answer that it is all bad??? If not, what was good about it?

This question may be harder to answer and is perhaps why you aren't doing it. We are all so used to attacking it and so familiar with how to attack it. To identify and acknowledge the positive aspects of it gets you out of that comfort zone. It doesn't seem like your are ready to answer with a flat, "THERE IS NOTHING GOOD AT ALL ABOUT IT", so perhaps you should ponder it for a while and see if any of the outcomes or events in history that fit your values?

[ August 27, 2001: Message edited by: dmvprof ]
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Old 08-27-2001, 01:52 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by dmvprof:
<STRONG>. . .
And that elitism you are refering to is one of the aspects of it I am talking about. Is the society we live in better off because of the "elite peoples" ability to manipulate the lower class people with this tool.
</STRONG>
I don't quite understand this, or why it is an argument for Christianity.

Quote:
<STRONG>
I'm apparently not getting through because you haven't yet answered my question?

Please don't respond by pointing out other problems of the religion. "there are none" is a perfectly acceptable answer. But if there is a benefit that we are perhaps able to realize today that is due to christianity, what is it? As large a of a part christianity has played on our culture, certainly it has had some impact on how we live today, Is your answer that it is all bad??? If not, what was good about it?

. . .</STRONG>
IMHO if Buddhist missionaries had gotten further west and Buddhism became the dominant relgion, and/or if Greek philosophy had remained the primary philosophy of the upper classes, the world would have been better off. Whatever good there might have been in Christianity was lost when it became the official religion of the Roman empire, where its doctrines were corrupted with state power. However, the Protestant Reformation seems to have made things even worse by trying to take the scriptures seriously.

No, I can't think of any major event in world history where the presence of Christianity improved things. Can you?
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Old 08-28-2001, 10:02 AM   #10
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