Rian wrote:Are you talking about me? (just to be clear) because I don't deny that bad things have happened in the name of Christianity. What I do think is that these bad things happen because:
1) there are people who claim to be Christian for their own selfish reasons because they see it as a way to have power, and they abuse this power. These would be those of whom Jesus spoke of as calling him "Lord" but are not actual followers of him.
2) there are people who are Christians but who are really messed up and make mistakes. Remember, Jesus said that he came for those who are sick!
IOW, Christianity (i.e., Jesus' teachings) doesn't have any garbage in it, only flowers. Christians, OTOH, do have some garbage among the flowers. But the cool thing is that Jesus makes mulch out of that garbage in our lives to make the flowers even stronger and more beautiful.
The problem with this logic is obvious, separating the idea of Christianity from the believers themselves isn't really feasible. I think most people could agree that many of the ideas of Jesus and even many of those in the OT are useful and valuable ideas, though not entirely novel. So, as ideas, they stand up under their own power. But when you converge those ideas with the concept of the supernatural, you create something entirely different. It goes from a grouping of good ideas that people may or may not engage in, or may engage in successfully or unsuccessfully, to something mystical. Within every flavor of Christianity except possibly UU or UCoC, there exists the belief that the supernatural element of Christianity transforms people in some mystical way, in a way that they themselves could not achieve. This is what makes Christianity different from Humanism, and very little else. In Humanism, you see many of the same ideas you see in Christianity, but there is no declaration of a mystical or supernatural transformation. People are free to accept the ideas of Humanism or reject them, or to engage in them in whatever way they see fit. In Christianity this is not the case. True(TM) Christians are expected to behave in such a way that demonstrates that they both understand and have internalized the tenets of Christianity, something that is only possible if they have experienced a transformation of the soul or spirit. (Of course there's some built-in hypocrisy here, in that no two Christians totally agree on what all those behaviors should be...but that's beside the point).
Here's where the problems arise. Christians fail as often as everybody else at upholding their beliefs. Yes, some of the time it amounts to people abusing the trust and faith others have in any Christian leader. Some of the time it amounts to truly good people simply losing their way and forgetting why they were Christians in the first place. And some of the time it amounts to people who truly believe that what they are doing is the right, just and Christian thing to do, while other equally devout Christians denounce them as heretics. All of these, and possibly more, exist, and I could easily make a list of examples, some of them rather personal. But the underlying point is this, if there is truly anything supernatural or mystical about Christianity, then I see no way for so many of it's followers to find such creative ways to fail. If Christians are really undergoing a mind and soul altering experience, then I fail to understand how this experience so often lacks staying power. I have three explanations for this observation.
1. That there are truly VERY few people who truly experience this supernatural transformation and all others are merely faking it.
2. That many people experience this transformation, but that the transformation is not permanent and has the potential to simply fade away if not properly cultivated by the person.
3. That no supernatural transformation exists, and what people actually experience is an emotional surge combined with cultural cues that result in a perceived religious epiphany, but could just as easily be described by apophenia.
Of course I'm way outside scientific grounds here and all of this is merely conjecture, so I'm not claiming to know any absolute answers, but I do believe that my observations hold water and my hypothesis is pretty solid. I tend to rule out #1 because this would likely cut out the vast majority of Christians, most of whom would argue that they are indeed True(TM) Christians because they feel that their experience was authentic and they have for the most part lived the role well. And if a person is truly giving it their full effort and is fully trying to BE a Christian, yet is not
, then how can anyone (except perhaps a Calvinist) blame the person and not the deity, for this failure? I also rule out #2 because Christians themselves tend to reject this one, arguing that no True(TM) Christian ever rejects his/her religion. I disagree, of course, but there's absolutely no way to test this, so any apostate is branded a faker by most Christians. I think there are likely many fakers, people who embrace the culture of Christianity for many different reasons, but silently hold no real belief, but again, this is mere conjecture because the percentage of these people is naturally difficult to determine. But #2 does hold some truth because people can and do fully embrace Christian beliefs, then later reject them entirely. But the question of whether it was a supernatural transformation remains unknown. And that leaves us with #3, which I obviously embrace completely. Mind you, I don't embrace it because I am an atheist, but I became an atheist because I long ago came to embrace this concept. This is crucial to me to being a Christian. If no real supernatural transformation exists, then Christianity is merely a collection of ideas. And to follow up with Rian's garden metaphor, I think it is the human race that has found ways to "take the garbage out", so to speak, regarding religion. Discharging the supernatural elements and embracing the real ideas, I think, puts everything into proper perspective. Doing this removes the father figure and places responsibility for all our actions on us. If we fail, for whatever reason, to uphold ethical ideas, then it is our fault and not some failure of mystical wavelengths.
The fine print:
Please understand that I am in no way trying to offend, or place any meaning or any ideas into Rian's mouth. I merely saw a line of commentary that I found interesting and these ideas I posted are the result of what my mind conjured. In no way am I suggesting that Rian was trying to lead, guide or direct the conversation into an area of this nature, or that my ideas are a direct, point for point, argument of her ideas. Her comments were merely a starting point and nothing else. And any misquotes or misrepresentations of her ideas that I may have presented are entirely unintentional and not to be taken seriously by anyone reading this. Simply post a comment revealing any such mistakes and I will fully and completely apologize. Thanks you and Salaam.