Last week, there was a fascinating opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times titled, How Secular Family Values Stack Up. The author, Phil Zuckerman, is a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College.
When I say “fascinating,” I mean that as in, “there are so many misconceptions about religion and morality in one article that it makes for a fascinating case study–a case study that Christian parents really need to read.”
I rarely pick apart a single article on this blog because I like to focus on bigger picture topics. But this particular piece is worth looking at in detail because it hits on so many subjects that are misunderstood by non-believers, and often times by Christians as well. If you have older kids who can read and understand the original article, it would make a great piece for them to evaluate from a Christian perspective (and you can use this post as a discussion guide).
Quotes from the article are in bold, and my response follows.
Zuckerman starts by providing data on the increasing number of American adults and young people who claim to have no religion (a sad but true fact). After establishing that there will likely be more and more secular people in this country, he poses the central question his article seeks to answer:
So how does the raising of upstanding, moral children work without prayers at mealtimes and morality lessons at Sunday school? Quite well, it seems. Far from being dysfunctional, nihilistic and rudderless without the security and rectitude of religion, secular households provide a sound and solid foundation for children, according to Vern Bengston, a USC professor of gerontology and sociology.
As a Christian, I find this to be a most bizarre characterization of the purpose of religion and the nature of the spiritual life.
Why does Zuckerman think religions assert that secularists are dysfunctional, nihilistic and rudderless? From the Christian perspective, a person without Jesus is spiritually dysfunctional (not in right relationship with God), but not necessarily behaviorally dysfunctional, which is the subject of this article.
Here’s what so many secularists (and often Christians) don’t get. God gave everyone a moral compass (Romans 1:18-23). From a Christian perspective, anyone can exhibit good behavior in relation to that objective standard. That means a person does NOT have to believe in God in order to acknowledge and act according to those moral standards. The moral compass is within people whether they choose to believe in the Source of that compass or not. This misunderstanding underlies the entire article.
What about “nihilistic” (believing life is meaningless) and “ruddlerless” (lacking a sense of purpose)? Again, there is nothing in Christianity that suggests a non-believer can’t develop their own Earthly meaning and purpose. In fact, Jesus spent a lot time warning us that it’s all too easy to get caught up in the pursuits of the world when we should instead be pursuing God (e.g., 1 John 2:16). So Christians may disagree with secularists on the ultimate value of Earthly-based meaning and purpose, but they don’t deny that non-believers can create some kind of personal meaning and purpose.
Finally, from the Christian perspective, “prayers at mealtimes and morality lessons at Sunday school” aren’t conducted for the primary purpose of creating “upstanding, moral children.” Praying is to develop a relationship with God and Sunday school lessons (including “morality lessons”) are to teach people about God and their relationship to Him.
I’m sure Zuckerman is knowledgeable enough to know that’s what Christians believe. But he clearly presupposes that God doesn’t exist and therefore (condescendingly) boils the value of religious practices down to whether or not they result in “upstanding” children. This seriously misconstrues religious belief and sets him up to deliver an argument against a claim that doesn’t exist.
[Bengston] was “surprised” when he found high levels of family solidarity, strong ethical standards, and moral values that had been “clearly articulated” to the next generation.
Again, from a Christian perspective, there is no reason for Bengston (the researcher) to be surprised that secular families can have strong relationships and good values.
A note must be made, however, about “ethical standards.” Someone who does not believe in a moral law giver (God) has no objective justification for declaring that anything is right or wrong. In a purely naturalistic worldview, morality can be nothing more than a matter of opinion (as many secularists indeed acknowledge).
So, if we’re celebrating the “ethical standards” of secularists, I have to ask: What standards are we celebrating? If morality is a matter of opinion (as would be consistent with a naturalistic view), why would we praise anyone’s standards? Indeed, why would it even matter how “secular family values stack up” on subjective moral values?
As one atheist mom who wanted to be identified only as Debbie told me: “The way we teach them what is right and what is wrong is by trying to instill a sense of empathy…how other people feel. You know, just trying to give them that sense of what it’s like to be on the other end of their actions. And I don’t see any need for God in that. If your morality is all tied in with God,” she continued, “what if you at some point start to question the existence of God? Does that mean your moral sense suddenly crumbles? The way we are teaching our children…no matter what they choose to believe later in life, even if they become religious or whatever, they are still going to have that system.”
This mom assumes that the highest priority in life is giving your kids a good value system (see my last post for why that’s seriously off-base for Christians). She is worried what will happen to her kids’ values if they stop believing in God! But if God is real, there’s a lot more to worry about when they stop believing than if they lose those precious values.
That said, as I already explained, no Christian would (rightly) suggest that when you stop believing in God you lose your values. They are always there, whether you acknowledge their Source or not.
Many psychological studies show that secular grownups tend to be less vengeful, less nationalistic, less militaristic, less authoritarian and more tolerant, on average, than religious adults…Recent research also has shown that children raised without religion tend to remain irreligious as they grow older—and are perhaps more accepting. Secular adults are more likely to understand and accept the science concerning global warming, and to support women’s equality and gay rights.
Zuckerman is not simply stating that this is what the data shows, with no implied value judgment. Given the tone and conclusion of his article, he is clearly suggesting that these are negative differences for religious adults. Assuming that’s the case, consider the uncritical (but common) logic. He’s saying it’s better to be “tolerant.” But tolerant of what? Is all tolerance good? Should we be tolerant of racism?
He’s also saying it’s better to be “accepting.” But again, accepting of what? Should we accept every idea that comes our way (including scientific hypotheses)? Or should we use the “rational thinking” secularists frequently espouse to determine what should be accepted and what shouldn’t?
Similar questions could be asked about the implied value judgment of each data point.
Could I possibly be making a mistake by raising my children without religion? The unequivocal answer is no. Children raised without religion have no shortage of positive traits and virtues, and they ought to be warmly welcomed as a growing American demographic.
Could you possibly be making a mistake? Well, yes, if there’s a religion that’s true. If Christianity is true, your eternal soul hangs in the balance and there would be no more important parenting objective than raising your children to know and love Jesus.
At no point in this article did Zuckerman even raise the question of whether or not a religion could be true. Obviously, if he believed one could be, there would be much bigger questions on the table than whether or not one needs to believe in God in order to have “positive traits.”
By implicitly dismissing the possibility of God, he ends up grappling instead with a question that is of little meaning to either religious people or secularists. Religious people don’t really care how “secular family values stack up” because they never claimed those values wouldn’t stack up in the first place–and whether or not values stack up is meaningless to them without a belief in God. Secular people with a naturalistic worldview shouldn’t really care how their values “stack up” because, in that view, morality can only be a matter of opinion–why bother evaluating opinions of good and bad when there’s no objective standard by which to judge them? Is it just to prove to religious people that they’re wrong in claiming secular people are “dysfunctional, nihilistic and rudderless” (something religious people aren’t even claiming)?
When your kids are old enough, helping them work through the thinking behind articles like this can be invaluable preparation for confronting a secular world. I’d love to hear your thoughts–what is your reaction to Zuckerman’s article?
75 thoughts on “How Secular Family Values Stack Up: A Response”
So many people bring religion into things that have nothing to do with it whatsoever i.e. this article you are posting about.
I have Muslim neighbors who keep saying “it’s our religion”; things like fasting, or dating for example. I keep saying, “It’s not your religion, it’s your culture”.
People really seem to get mixed up about this, and thereby be fooled by an article such as the one you are describing, and not think it through logically.
Very interesting post, Natasha, and loved reading your reply to each of the statements made. 🙂
One of my friends posted the original article on her Facebook page, and when I read it, I knew it “didn’t sit well” but couldn’t articulate why. Your article is great that it explains the whys of why it didn’t feel quite right as an article, and how we can respond as Christians. The only response I had thought of at the time, was about the claim (I don’t have the article on hand to look at,but it was something to this effect) that people who commit crimes are more likely to be “religious”….and my thought was, what do they mean by “religious”, because anyone can say (and even believe) they are Christian or Muslim or whatever, but if they aren’t active believers, it doesn’t make sense to categorize them as “religious” at all! I’m not saying those who are active believers are perfect and never commit a crime, but there’s a big difference between someone who believes (as their religion teaches) that stealing is wrong and therefore is not likely to steal, vs someone who just claims to be some religion and doesn’t actual believe it(maybe their parents were that religion or their culture is predominantly that religion), which actually just makes them secular, so any statistics about whether someone is “religious” or not needs to be taken with a grain of salt, because there are Lots of people who Generally might lump themselves with Christians, but don’t actually go to church, or pray, or read the Bible and don’t even believe it. I hear of so many parents looking to have their kids baptized, but don’t go to church so they are looking for “a church that will baptize my kid, without us being active participants in the church”. They might still call themselves Christians and their kids might too, but they may not actually be believers, and thus would skew results of any statistics that claim religious vs secular.
Anyway, thank you for posting this, this is great to have some talking points and you pointed out some great reasons why this article just doesn’t hold weight.
One has to see the long-term results. Communism, especially in Russia, reared a whole generation or two of secularists and found their society lacking fundamental moral roots.
Without a standard there is no way of judging what is “good” If a child chooses to go a different route ie. selfishness, there is no ground to judge that child’s choice. In the short run of time it selfishness may be more beneficial for the child.
It goes without saying that the a-religious hold to a chance existence where there is no such thing as ethics or morality but only what one can get away with. There is no moral basis for the law, but only what is expedient for the majority.
Atheism refers only to what one DOESN’T believe. Its says nothing about what one does believe. Communism (is, I suppose) an affirmative belief in a specific model of economics/politics. Whatever else they may or may not have been, Lenin and Stalin were not secular ethicists.
“For secular people, morality is predicated on one simple principle: empathetic reciprocity, widely known as the Golden Rule. Treating other people as you would like to be treated. It is an ancient, universal ethical imperative. And it requires no supernatural beliefs.”
The Golden Rule came directly from the mouth of God in Leviticus 19:18!
The Golden Rule predates the bible ND sprang up in China and other places without needing the bible
So where does the Golden Rule originate from then?
Paul, let’s say that you are right. Then so what? If there is no OBJECTIVE standard for morals (that is, no moral law outside of ourselves) then the Golden Rule is arbitrary and ultimately meaningless.
Atheists typically want to have it both ways: they want to have objective morality, but then reject its existence. That is one of the many reasons why I reject atheism.
Rob, I’m not disputing faith or the importance of relgion-based morality. But what you say is as insulting as it logically indefensible. The Holy Grail (so to speak) of objectivity casts unnecessary doubt on the authenticity of our conscience. Empathy is natural and, unlike other natural (sometimes negative) instincts, it has social value. The Golden Rule isn’t arbitrary at all. It is not only intrinsically satisfying, it’s adaptive. By your line here, morality is objective because God tells us that certain behaviors are good or bad. But how can we objectively assess the truth value of what God tells us? In other words, how do we ultimately know that what God tells us is good is, well, good? It is either blind trust — a dangerous thing, I’d argue, since the devil himself could call himself by another name — or it is something that we understand intuitively. Indeed, I’d argue that the reason why the simple ethical messages of Jesus have so much universal power is that they resonate with us on a secular level. What makes Jesus so appealing (whether one is a Christian or not) is that he refines an otherwise puzzling set of ancient nationalist laws into a profound message of compassion, charity and forgiveness. I don’t know if God exists but, as a secular ethicist, I know that if God matters, it’s because love matters.
Just a few comments, if you’re interested –
>Why does Zuckerman think religions assert that secularists are dysfunctional, nihilistic and rudderless?
Speaking as a nontheist, I would say that this is by far the most common characterization of my beliefs that I hear when speaking with religious people. By FAR. The idea that “life is purposeless without God” and “nihilistic relativism is the necessary result of atheism” have been repeated to me by Christians, Muslims, and Jews in a multitude of different contexts and conversations. Likewise,
>from the Christian perspective, “prayers at mealtimes and morality lessons at Sunday school” aren’t conducted for the primary purpose of creating “upstanding, moral children.”
is somewhat disingenuous. The point of teaching them religion is to bring them closer to God, etc, *so that* they will become upstanding and moral. If you’re trying to claim that religious people see no connection between piety and moral correctness, I beg to differ. Quite the opposite; one frequently hears that the former is a prerequisite for the latter.
>At no point in this article did Zuckerman even raise the question of whether or not a religion could be true.
Yes, because Zuckerman’s article is about secular parenting and why it’s not causing specific moral harm by virtue of its lack of religious component. No one religion gets any special consideration for truth value that the others don’t get – the issue here is whether parenting without *any* of them is somehow worse, truth values aside. Of course one religion or another being true changes things; if you found out tomorrow that Islam is the only true religion, wouldn’t you immediately convert with your family? It’s not, though, it’s make-believe and we both know that. That’s why this issue isn’t addressed – religious truth isn’t a convincing argument except to people who already believe in that religion, and are therefore not secular parents.
> morality can only be a matter of opinion–why bother evaluating opinions of good and bad when there’s no objective standard by which to judge them?
One might, for example, point to watershed moments in human moral thought wherein we changed our minds about various practices. This idea of “it’s all relative so who cares, do what you want” is a perverse caricature of how actual subjective morality is applied in society. You can judge things by subjective standards – is there an objective standard of “which clothes look good?” No? Then by what do you judge your options when you go shopping?
>Is it just to prove to religious people that they’re wrong in claiming secular people are “dysfunctional, nihilistic and rudderless” (something religious people aren’t even claiming)?
Again, speaking as someone who’s personally be on the receiving end of those statements countless times for more than a decade of nontheism, yes, that is an important thing to show our religious neighbors. If you don’t believe me, try this – pretend to be an atheist for a month or so in your community. Really, do it. Say you’ve lost your faith and will be withdrawing your children from church. Say you’re putting your trust in science and reason and that you now believe Christianity is made up by humans. See how you’re treated for it, and see what’s said about you. Trust me, you might change your perspective regarding what religious people do and don’t say regarding their nonreligious peers.
Christian parents teach their children to pray and take them to church to bring them into a knowledge and understanding of, and hopefully, faith in, God. Moral living is the fruit of such a knowledge and faith. Thus it is incorrect to say that the sole purpose of bringing children to Sunday School is to make them moral. Otherwise one might as well just bring them to a community club. The ultimate purpose of Christian practices (praying, worshiping) is to develop intimacy with God. Through that intimacy, God reveals our sins (our immoral actions) to us, and because we love Him, we are spurred to be ever changing and correcting ourselves. However, the Bible clearly states achieving perfection on this earth is impossible, so we know that bringing our children to Sunday School will NOT make them perfectly moral people. They will still sin and misbehave. The purpose of Sunday School is to teach them God’s standard so that they fully understand it and their own relationship to it (which is that they fall short of it and are in need of a saviour).
Certainly nonreligious parents teach their children morals. But the Bible says all people have an understanding of God in their hearts, and so when atheists practice morality they are utilizing an understanding of good and evil that has been set in their hearts by God. They simply deny this connection; they deny their goodness originates in God and that their moral compass has been set their by God. That, I think, is what is meant when Christians say that atheists are “rudderless.” Atheists are still floating on a boat of morality, but it is without a rudder, and thus liable to float in any direction of the wind of culture. And indeed, you can say that atheists are still moral, but actually, while Christians and non-Christians share many morals, we also differ on many things, such as sexuality, abortion, divorce, even swearing. So, many practices that an atheist has no problem with I actually find immoral, according to God’s law.
Secular ethicists are not rudderless. Those of us who have given serious thought to questions of morality are firm in our convictions. We don’t, in fact, tend to sway with popular culture. In fact, many of us are as critical as you are of the crassness, uber-materialism and disrespect in our culture. We believe that, to anchor our moral framework in what is, to us, a precarious belief system is precarious at best. Basing it rather on a nutured natural empathy has made me a better man. I strive to be good to others because I want to be good to others — not out of fear of some supernatural punishment. Sex? Since it’s consequential behavior that involves other people, it is clearly ethically significant. Divorce? Again, since this involves persons other than ourselves (especially children), divorce is ethically significant. Abortion? Because the life of the unborn is real, it is ethically significant. Swearing? I don’t get stuck on particular words, but our words do have ethical significance since they can be respectful or disresespectful. They can hurt or they can affirm. We simply conclude that empathy is a sufficient source of ethical behavior. If God instilled that in us, very well. If it matters that we know that, then God should perhaps use a more reliable, direct messenger than the very flawed beings of flesh that the Bible itself warns us about and counsels us to transcend.
Please forgive my typos.
I do not find the position that morality or empathy is just “natural,” and therefore God does not (or need not) exist, persuasive whatsoever. We possess instincts/tendencies for both good and bad, and often the most loving, compassionate actions can feel the most UNnatural, and we have to force ourselves to do them, because we know it is right. For example, it is easy to be moved to compassion by an abandoned baby or a helpless child, but way harder to feel compassion for someone you hate. Yet the Bible says to go against our “natural instinct” and love our enemies. The Bible describes this as a war within us, and for a really good discussion of this topic read “Mere Christianity” by C. S. Lewis.
If your beliefs are not in line with current culture, then where do they come from? Your nature? Does everyone possess a different nature then, since the general culture has come to different conclusions about morality than you, as you claim? And yes, actually, culture does change its views on morality constantly – name your social issue and we can talk about its revulotion in the last hundred years.
If I only did moral deeds out of “fear of some supernatural punishment,” that wouldn’t be real love, would it, and that supernatural punisher, who forces people to feed the hungry and give to the poor out of sheer terror and sheer terror alone couldn’t really be called the source of love, could he? I don’t believe in that kind of a God (who only instills fear and nothing else) – although I do believe in eternal punishment. But it is not because of a lack of good deeds. Salvation is not a matter of good works. Salvation comes from putting one’s faith in Jesus, and true faith inspires and compels one to good works, as I said above.
“God should perhaps use a more reliable direct messenger than the veryflawed beings of the flesh that the Bible itself warns us about and counsels us to transcend.” – Uh, that would be Jesus…. Jesus was perfect and transcendant. And if we were all perfect we wouldn’t need a Saviour and there would be no point in Jesus coming or the Bible being written at all….
To clarify, if there is not an ultimate and eternal destiny then ultimately life is eternally pointless. Sure, we impact future generations, but if it all ends in nothing then none of it really ultimately matters. And the issue is not if religious truth is convincing or not. Our belief does not make it true or not anyway. But our beliefs do determine what we stake our eternal souls on. And sure, ‘you can judge things by subjective standards.’ But who is ultimately right? Subjective standards is ultimately a ‘free for all’ whether or not you want to see it that way. And I am sorry if you have been judged harshly by Christians. But it is not their judgment you should be concerned about.
Life NOW — the love we have now and the impact that my actions now have on real people today and tomorrow — is the point. It is what matters. There is nothing “free for all” about secular ethics. As for judgement, I’d rather not base my morality on selfish fear.
Will, don’t agree sorry. Many have become atheists and have been treated well by Christians — in my personal experience.
As for the meaninglessness stuff that you have heard from theists — well, do you have an answer? If you are an atheist, it is logical that you can have made-up meaning here and now, but ultimately your life is meaningless. Many atheists acknowledge this fact.
As for the science/reason versus religion — it is nonsense. I have a science PhD and I am also an evangelical Christian. I have fewer issues that Dawkins and his fellow clowns like Lawrence Krauss who abuse science. Consider this post for example: http://robward.org/sure-science-is-self-correcting-but/
Will, are you comparing clothes shopping with moral values? “You can judge things by subjective standards – is there an objective standard of “which clothes look good?” No? Then by what do you judge your options when you go shopping?” I believe your analogy actually helps make the Christians point. I shop for clothing based solely on what I think fits my personality and preferences. You think suits are best suited for you but I like hot topic, or making my own just to rebel against societal norms. If we apply this same reasoning to moral values then you like to live a good moral life and be an upstanding citizen. I however reject that notion I dont want to be a sheep like you, I want to make the biggest splash possible with my finite amount of time. I determined the best way to achieve this end is by the countless slaughter of as many “sheep” as possible my name will live on for centuries! Is this wrong or is it really reduced to something as trivial as you prefer a suit and tie and I prefer the exact opposite.
Your analysis of this article and your points contrary to those of the author are definitely very thought-provoking. Thank you for sharing your perceptions on this. I might have missed some of his implications otherwise. Thanks!
Your reaction to this article is interesting to me. You seem to be taking issue with how Phil Zuckerman mis-represents Christianity. I partially agree with you. But where he seems to be spot-on is in his representation of Christians themselves.
I spend a lot of time with Christians, and to say that they see Atheists as “dysfunctional, nihilistic and rudderless” is putting it mildly. In fact, a lot of Christians see no meaningful distinction between an Atheist and a satan worshiper. (Indeed many claim that Atheists literally do worship satan).
Mr Zukerman may be mis-representing the faith somewhat, but my experience says he’s correct about Christians.
Morality…I have to bust your chops here a little bit. You are TOO smart and TOO well read to be peddling that old trope that Atheists have no basis for objective morality. For the uninitiated, here’s the problem.
First, there is no objective morality in the bible. Morality is defined be god’s nature, or his commandments (depending on what you believe), but biblical morality is *completely* subjective to god. It is absolute, but subjective, and changes over time.
For non-believers, morality “can” be objective. Both Sam Harris and Matt Dillahunty have laid out pretty detailed frameworks for objective morality. I prefer Harris’, which can be boiled down to “the concern for the well-being of conscious creatures”. No god required.
And there’s certainly no need to invoke moral relativism, which is an idea that no atheist in my circle of friends supports.
Having said all that, I agree with you that mis-representation is a huge problem. 90%+ of the time I spend online with Christians is spent tearing down the Strawmen and defining terms. We barely ever actually get to discussing the truth values of Christian claims…
Why is “the concern for the well-being of conscious creatures” a good thing?
Because, at some point, all discussions of morality are reducible to how we treat other creatures and the accountability associated with that.
Unless you completely buy into William Lane Craig’s Divine Command Theory, which would abrogate any personal responsibility for the individual.
But I have to admit to not fully understanding the question. Are you suggesting that from an Atheistic worldview that you shouldn’t care about the suffering of others? Or are you suggesting that in your particular worldview you don’t care about the suffering of others?
Do you know what ‘objective morality’ really means? Because it is not two guys writing up what they decide objective morality is. The very fact that they defined it themselves makes it subjective. Objective morality is about a moral code that comes from outside of man, handed down by someone above us. We can disagree with it and not like it, but it does not change the fact that this objective moral code stands and that we will be held accountable to it. While all of life and time is subjective to God, His moral code as spelled out in the Bible quite consistently is objective for man. It is above us and we cannot change the truth one bit, regardless of how much we disagree or how fancy and wordy our arguments are against it.
” Objective morality is about a moral code that comes from outside of man, handed down by someone above us. ”
The idea that something comes from somewhere else doesn’t make it “objective”. Like Nadine, above, you’re simply re-packaging Divine Command Theory. And “might makes right” is not an objective moral force.
I’ll be the first to admit that we don’t this issue all figured out. But going back to Natasha’s original comments, it doesn’t mean that Atheists have no basis for objective morality, and it doesn’t mean that biblical morality is, in any way, superior.
If there really is a God of the Bible – and I believe there is – then biblical morality is indeed superior. You are simply not willing to accept the possibility in a real God, and you will get what you want in the end … An eternity without God. Just remember in the end that you consciously chose it.
This discussion is simply descending into semantics. Christians believe morals are absolute and transcend any given person’s feelings or thoughts. This is the dictionary definition of the term. If you want to call God’s moral standard “subjective” when what you really mean by that is what we mean when we say “objective,” go right ahead. How about we call it “God-originated”? In the end it is just semantics, and you still have not explained why atheists should be concerned with “how we treat others and the accountability associated with that.” Why?
People without the same faith as you – including atheists – are concerned with “how we treat others and the accountability associated with that” because we are human. Humans are a long evolved creature of social accountability and reciprocity of kindness. I don’t know if you accept the science of evolution but your “beliefs” are unimpressive compared to the long history of humankind’s journey on this planet. If you want to know why I as an atheists chose not to kill others or cause them harm, the answer is simply…the thought never occurred to me – I love people and am tolerant of their individuality even when they are obsessed with some supernatural idea of human birth and languish on the notion of their own beliefs and superiority. I have never had the impulse to hurt and that is not given to me by GOD, it is handed down to me through a long evolutionary history of surviving as a social animal.
Paul, in order to adequately respond a definition of what constitutes a “conscious creature” is in order. However I will respond under the assumption that all animals are considered conscious. “For non-believers, morality “can” be objective. Both Sam Harris and Matt Dillahunty have laid out pretty detailed frameworks for objective morality. I prefer Harris’, which can be boiled down to “the concern for the well-being of conscious creatures”. No god required.” The first problem here Paul is you “prefer” Harris. What makes your or Harris’ preferences more valid than mine or anybody else’s? What standard (objective or not doesn’t matter) did you apply to determine the validity of your preferences? Second 70% of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty with little or no access to useable drinking water or reliable food sources. Should we create access to water, clear land for farming, raise animals solely with the intention of slaughtering them for food? Do they not have the right as conscious creatures to live? When we clear land for farming do we not reduce their natural habitat and thus decrease their survival? What makes humanity superior to the needs of these other species? Are we not all evolved from a common ancestor? Wouldn’t the best course of action be to exterminate this 70% or maybe just 30% to ensure mutual survival for the majority of conscious creatures?
I gave the original article to my 16 yr old son to see if he could find fallacies. He found several, but his funniest comment was concerning the “cool kids” mentioned in the original. “The secular kids are the cool kids.”
You are absolutly right, his motives behind this article are very strange. We are a civilized nation, why wouldn’t people teach their children some degree of morality? Whether you beleive in God or not, we all have to be ” upstanding” citizens and follow the laws, or suffer the consequences. The Ten Commandments just happen to have a few good suggestions.
His motives behind the article may just be that he is trying really hard to find evidence to support the fact that he does not want to believe in God or a godly morality. That would mean he has to admit that he is accountable to Someone and he is not his own god. Funny how atheists spend so much time and energy to disprove the existence of God. If they really think there is no God or possibility of a God then they spend their time fighting against something they think is not even there. They are fighting against and for nothing, in their arguments. What a waste of time and energy for an atheist. Although I think deep down they do know and wonder so they have to do all they can to convince themselves and others that God is not real.
“If Christianity is true, your eternal soul hangs in the balance and there would be no more important parenting objective than raising your children to know and love Jesus.”
This is your interpretation of Christianity, but not the only one. Any number of versions of God–or Christ–may exist, and not all will not punish people based on their religion. The best objective, then, is to raise your children to be thoughtful, responsible and loving.
Oh, and I too have had Christians call me “dysfunctional, nihilistic and rudderless” for my lack of belief, as well as immoral, evil and dangerous, and my critics have used the Bible to justify their claims.
Actually, since there are so many versions of God that say different things, the best objective is to find the truth and help your kids find it.
I don’t see how that’s different. Teaching kids compassion and critical thinking IS helping them find the truth, even if they end up disagreeing with your beliefs. Birds leaving the nest need to learn to fly on their own.
I agree with the need to teach compassion and critical thinking, and I agree that they need to fly on their own. I just mean that we cannot stop at teaching them to be ‘thoughtful, responsible and loving.’ If one ‘version of God’ is true and if eternity hangs on your belief, then it is of utmost, eternal importance that you find the truth, instead of just focusing on being a good person. Being a ‘good person’ is a great thing and worthwhile, but according to the Bible it is not enough to get into heaven. But no one has to agree with the God of the Bible if they do not want to. But if He is real and if it is true that only Jesus is the way to Heaven, then not believing in Him will cost you your eternal soul. If the Bible is true! And I have chosen to place my faith in the Bible because nothing else makes as much sense or holds as much hope, in my estimation. That being said, I do wish more people taught their kids compassion, regardless of spiritual beliefs. We could use more of that in our world. 🙂
Which version, though? If God rewards intellect or compassion, then there’s no problem when we “stop” at raising smart and kind children. If your interpretation of the Bible is true, then thoughtfulness, responsibility and critical thinking should lead them to that anyway. I see no reason to teach children what to think, when we can teach them how to think.
I,J you are using words like “Which version” or “your interpretation” I was confused as to what you mean by this. Granted there are some passages that are ambiguous which does lead to different interpretations such as young earth creationism vs old earth creationism and Calvinism vs arminianism to name a couple. However with that being said no Bible believing Jesus follower disagrees on the main points such as humanities need for substitutionary atonement, the brokenness of mankind, who Jesus claimed he was, the things he did to prove it, who his followers believed he was after the resurrection, the reality of hell and so on. In fact Jesus spoke more on hell than anyone else in the entire Bible, 2/3’s of his ministry focused on it. So I’m just a little confused by your wording there’s only one way to interpret the claims He made about Himself either there true or false, either the Bible and the claims it makes about the nature of realty are true or there not. Now I would be glad to discuss these things in further detail with you, however I don’t think the owner of this page would appreciate us using her page for something not related to its intended purpose. If you would like we can continue this conversation via email mine is [email protected]
Hi Ben, Thanks for your consideration. But feel free to continue the conversation here – it provides a great public reference for this topic. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time right now to engage in the comments, so I really appreciate fellow believers jumping in to reply. 🙂
One of the most important things to become a thoughtful, responsible and well-educated person is to meet people who aren’t like you. Just because you haven’t met Christians with different interpretations of the Bible doesn’t mean they don’t exist. In fact, here are just a few:
I’m not giving you these links to convince you of their arguments, but to let you know these arguments exist among Christians. You can disagree with these interpretations all you want, but they still exist. Saying these people aren’t Christian would be arrogant: if someone believes they are worshiping Christ, they are Christian by definition, even if they don’t worship Christ the way you do.
Thank you for your response. First it seems you have a misunderstanding of what the word Christian means. It means “little Christ” so you are incorrect when you say “if someone believes they are worshiping Christ, they are Christian by definition.” Secondly this is an example of faulty logic I can “believe” im a billionaire all day long that doesn’t make me one. I read a study awhile back that stated 80% of American’s claimed to be Christians but when asked questions regarding the bible only 20% or less actually held to a biblical worldview. (I apologize the numbers are not exact as I read this study a few years ago but they’re close.)
Also im aware that there are many religions and people who misrepresent what the bible teaches. Universalism, LDS and Jehovah’s witnesses to name a few. That missed my point I said “no Bible believing Jesus follower” you can take anything out of its context and make it say whatever you want that doesn’t make it true. For example lets look at some of the verses used by one of the articles you posted a link to. Timothy 4:10
Says “In fact, we labor and strive for this, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of everyone, especially of those who believe.” But if you put it in context it says “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. 6 If you put these things before the brothers,[a] you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive,[b] because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”
Romans 5:18 (I would actually recommend reading the entire chapter or book for that matter in order to get a complete picture)
“12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men…15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass[f] led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness[g] leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
When put into the proper context theses verses in no way support universalism and do try and make them do so simply because you don’t like or agree with what they actually say doesn’t make it true. “I developed a deep-seated terror of the idea of an eternal hell. Because of this, I eventually suffered a devastating mental breakdown” this quote saddens me greatly.
1 John 10-13
“10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”
We can know with 100% certainty so there is no need for terror if we have The Son.
Additionally here are some thing Jesus had to say about hell.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats . . . And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-46)
The man in Luke 16:24 cries: “. . .I am tormented in this flame.”
In Matthew 13:42, Jesus says: “And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
In Matthew 25:41, Jesus says: “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire . . .”
In Mark 9:46, Jesus speaks about Hell: “Where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”
Revelation 20:15 says, “And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Please look up and read more than just the snippets I posted so you get a good grasp of the context. Thanks.
Once again, that is your interpretation of the Bible. The moment you understand that other people are different, and are not required to think what you do, you will understand what I’m talking about.
Hi I, J,
It seems that what you’re missing is that the existence of multiple views or interpretations of something says nothing about whether one view is true or not. For example, hopefully you would agree that 2 + 2 = 4 is absolutely true whether people want to agree on it or not. You’re right that no one is “required” to think that’s true, but just because no one is “required” to think something is true doesn’t mean truth doesn’t exist! My 6 year old isn’t required to think 2+2=4, but that doesn’t mean 2+2 doesn’t equal 4. I hope you can see that just doesn’t logically follow. There could be 123,458 interpretations of the Bible, but that doesn’t mean one isn’t right. Again, that conclusion doesn’t logically follow. It doesn’t matter that people are “different” either. None of these things have any bearing on the truth. You’re simply describing the state of the world, but that description doesn’t say anything about whether or not Christianity is true. I hope you’ll consider looking for EVIDENCE of whether or not the Christian worldview is TRUE. Evidence for God’s existence (e.g., the cosmological, moral and design arguments), the possibility of miracles given God’s existence, the historical data around the resurrection (look up “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Gary Habermas), and the reliability of the Bible. If you are interested in any resources for these topics, let me know.
Brother I love you, but I didnt interpret anything I simply quoted directly from the bible the passages in there entirety to show the context the author intended. The fact that you claimed its “my” interpretation only shows that upon reading theses passages in there intended context you reached the conclusion the author intended the reader to reach. Therefore although you may disagree with what these authors are suggesting you have no doubt as to there intentions and the ramifications.
Natasha, I’m saying that assuming you know the truth does not make it so. I understand that people don’t like to hear that what they believe may be wrong, but societies that consider this possibility tend to be better off than those that don’t.
Ben, if you had looked at any of the links I’ve provided, the people who disagree with your interpretation also quote from the Bible.
I completely agree that they are quoting from the bible. However you your using faulty logic specifically what’s known as the “straw man” fallacy your attacking an argument I didn’t make. So to be clear, I agree 100% that they are using quotes from the bible to support their position, this has nothing to do with the point I was making.
For example lets say you write a paper on what the economy of the united states looked like when slavery was legal and supported by the constitution. And lets say that somewhere in this paper you had some statistical data saying that during this period the economy was stable, growing, and there was also a boom in agriculture. Then lets say I read your paper, I use your statistics even quote them out of their intended context to say that you I, J are a racist and a avid supporter of slavery.
Would my assessment of you be accurate? No! The very thought is a ludicrous proposition and has nothing do do with the intended purpose of your paper. And yet this is the same reasoning your using to support your position. I pray this illustration brings some clarity to this issue, and causes you to delve deeper into what the Bible says in its intended context.
Ben, be careful not to “straw man” me. You were originally “confused” about what I meant by your version and interpretation, and you claimed that no “no Bible believing Jesus follower” disagrees with major Biblical points. Therefore, I showed you that some did disagree. You responded that they were mistaken in their context, which is certainly your opinion, but it does not prove that they do not believe the Bible, but that they interpret it differently from you.
My position is that there are multiple interpretations of the Bible, and everyone claims and believes their interpretation is true. That is what I mean by “which version” and “your interpretation.”
Very insightful blog. I enjoyed it.
I thought that in some of my previous post your position is exactly what I am arguing against. People can claim whatever they want it doesn’t mean it’s true. For example I can claim to be a United States Marine Cpl. I can buy a uniform at a surplus store, pin on all kinds of ribbons and metals, talk like a Marine act like a Marine, get a Marine haircut even tell stories of my time in the Marines but until I’ve met the requirements to become a Marine i.e. boot camp, a school, and service in the fleet no matter how much I wish to be, believe I am, look like, act like a United States Marine I never was nor will I ever be until I meet the requirements set forth by the Marines.
In the same way if anyone takes a text out its context and then intentionally uses it to support their opinions and beliefs because they dont like what is actually stated then said person is NOT a Bible believer. They’re a believer of their own opinions and are simply misrepresenting what the bible teaches to justify their belief. That in no way makes them a “Christian”.
I,j, you are right that there are different interpretations of the Bible and that just because we believe our interpretation does not make it true. As a Christian, I admit that I might be wrong about which ‘version of God’ is the true one. All of our versions in this world could be wrong. But they cannot all be right. And as truth-seekers, we all have to decide which version of truth we want to stake our eternal souls on. At least you are giving all this a lot of thought. I think it is sad when people do not give this eternally-significant issue the thought it deserves.
But earlier you said ‘if God rewards intellect.’ There is no evidence in the Bible that God rewards Intellect, but He rewards those who seek Him. And intellect is not the path to truth. A lot of smart people fall on all sides of the ‘Which God is the real God’ argument. We can analyze and debate all we want, but at some point we all have to decide if we really believe Jesus is God and the way to salvation, or if He is not. Intellect is not the sure-fire way to truth. At some point, faith has to kick in. and intellect is not a basis for eternal rewards.
I am putting a challenge out for all Christians reading this. . . Pray for I,J. For the next month, I am going to pray that God does something bold to show I,J, that He is real and is callling. God-willing, it will be a positive thing, but I have found that God oftens calls us through hard trials.
Will any Christians join me in this?
And, I,J, keep your eyes open. I pray God shows you how real He is and how much He wants you to believe in Him. However, it could also be that He does nothing because He has already called and called so much to you. At some point, He does turn people over to the hardness of their hearts. I pray that is not the case for you. May it be an exciting, eye-opening, HEART-changing month for you.
Heather I will join you in prayer
You’re wonderful, Heather. Thank you to you and Ben for sharing your faith graciously and truthfully with I, J and others who will read this. I really appreciate you taking the time to do so here. I wholeheartedly join you in prayer.
Thank you, Natasha. I love your willingness to talk about the hard things in your posts. God bless you and your book writing.
I too will join you in prayer and am faithful to know that HE is always full of grace and mercy to all that believe.
Thank you, Luke. May I.J. experience that grace and mercy, too. It is amazing. Thank you, and thank you to Ben, for joining me in praying for this person. Every soul matters.
I have kept my eyes open for my entire life, and have invited everyone to provide evidence that their religion is the correct one. And so I wait.
People can give you all the evidence they have but unfortunately what convinces one person is not always what convinces another.
I could tell you about how convinced I am that there is a spirit world because I once did ‘light as a feather, stiff as a board’ and we really made my brother levitate (a demonic game . . . Don’t do it). I could tell you about the five months of demonic harassment I went through – waking up feeling electrocuted and hearing screaming and feeling heavy things on my chest and then finally having something invisible walk up the bed toward me when I was fully awake (all of this is in the post, Supernatural Stuff and the Armor of God at myimpressionisticlife.blogspot.com). I could tell you of clear answers to prayer. But while all of this is enough to convince me, it may not be enough to convince anyone else, because it does not strike you to the heart and break down all earthly logic unless it happens to you.
And this is why I want to pray for you. You seem to have a keen mind and a desire for answers and truth. And God can work with that. It is a resistant heart that He cannot convince because He will not violate the right He gave each person to choose what they want to believe. Jesus had the same problem in the Bible. They saw all the miracles and evidence but still refused to see the truth because they had other ideas. It may be time to stop waiting and listening to other people. And instead ask God out loud, ‘God, if you are real, please show me. I will watch but show me if you’re real.’ If you really want to know, He will show you. He promises to be found by those who sincerely seek Him. I will keep praying for you, that you get the answers you seek. God bless you.
What kind of evidence would you except man. How about the over 300 fulfilled prophecy’s Psalm 22, Isaiah 53 to name 2. Psalm 22 was written 1000 ys before Christ by king David 300 yrs before crucifixion was even thought about. Isaiah 53 700yrs before Christ (I will not quote it due to space but if you really are a seeker of truth as you claim I’m sure you will look it up for yourself.) How about the over 22k archeological digs that support the biblical claims. (again check it out for yourself.) Or the fact that the New Testament was written by eye witnesses during the life time of other eye witnesses, is historically collaborated by outside biblical sources such as Josephus, Tacitus and Pliny the Younger. We can trace sections of the new testament back to within a year or to of Jesus resurrection and assention. We have around 15k fragments, and whole sections of ancient new testament documents in Greek and Hebrew (not to mention Coptic, Syriac, and Latin prices) how about the fact we could destroy all theses ancient text and every Bible on earth and still make a complete new testament from the letters of the early church fathers ( except 11 verses) Or the fact that every other world religion can be traced back to a single individual. Buddhism to Buddha, Islam to Mohammad, LDS to Joseph Smith and so on. However the bible can be traced to over 40 different authors from kings to fishermen. It’s a collection of 66 books spanning 2000 yrs and yet it has one single unified theme. Please explain how this is possible? Does this help in your search?
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? 2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. 3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises. 4 In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. 5 To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. 6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads. 8 “He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.” 9 Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God. 11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
15 My mouth[d] is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. 17 All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment. 19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. 20 Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. 21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen. 22 I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you.23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. 25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you[f] I will fulfill my vows. 26 The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise him— may your hearts live forever! 27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, 28 for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations. 29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—those who cannot keep themselves alive. 30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. 31 They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!
I’ll continue to pray for you I, J as you diligently search for answers and truth.
I will accept evidence that holds up to scrutiny. You haven’t presented any arguments that haven’t been addressed by scholars across the world, Ben, and if you are a truth seeker, you can look up their counter-arguments for yourself.
God, of course, is welcome to show up at any time. Until that point, I don’t understand the need to criticize parents that dare raise their children without your religion.
‘God is welcome to show up at any time.’
I pray you get what you ask for. However, I wonder if you would even notice it or admit it or find it all that pleasant. God is a lot more untame than we act like He is. Is He really welcome to show up in your life? I hope He takes that as an invitation.
I.J. It may not matter to you, but I have prayed for you this month, like I said I would. I pray that God puts Himself and His truth in your path in obvious ways. But I know that He does not force us to see it. Most people I know refuse to acknowledge Him, no matter the good times or trials. Yet I do believe that God always does His part to knock on the door of everyone’s hearts. It is up to us to open the door and let Him in or to ignore the knocking. I pray that you heard it. Take care and God bless you.
Forgot to mention that Natasha is currently walking through other evidence’s and arguments for the existence of God in general (to which I anxiously await with great expectations). (They don’t point to the God of the Bible directly but they do get you in the vicinity). The Moral argument, Cosmological argument and the Teleological or fine tuning argument all point to an all powerful, personal, intelligent and moral being.
Congrats on the book Natasha I look forward to reading it.
I, J you said “I will accept evidence that holds up to scrutiny. You haven’t presented any arguments that haven’t been addressed by scholars across the world.”
Does this statement include evolution which is scrutinized by scientist? Macro evolution (the change of one kind of animal into another) has never been observed. If your gonna say it takes millions of years that’s why its unobservable then please explain the Cambrian “explosion” where all the major phyla show up in a geological instant. Natural Selection doesn’t create, it “selects” from species aready in existence. So where did the species to select form originate? Dawkins seems to think the original species where brought here by aliens (because that’s more believable than God.) Any of the dating methods used to determine ages of rocks and fossils such as carbon and potassium argon have been proven inaccurate on items of known dates and origins but assumed accurate on items of unknown origin and age. (they date items based upon where they are found in the geologic column) Dont believe me? Dig up a rock in your back yard and bring it to get tested. On the form they will ask where you found it, what else was found around it and how old you think it is.
So I,J have you personally look closely at both sides? I have. I’ve read Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, Hawking, Harris and my personal favorite John Gray who wrote Straw Dogs. What makes theses guys more credible than say Lennox, Dembski, Zacharias, Behe, Craig, Qureshi, or Damadian who invented the MRI. My point being is that nothing is without scrutiny. The Bible has been scrutinized for more than 2 thousand years and is still going strong if you ask me that’s “holding up” and then some.
I,J I sincerely ask that you look closely and weigh the evidence from both sides not just from the side that confirms your existing presuppositions.
I ask the same of you.
I haven’t seen where anyone did criticize parents who raise there children without religion. Natasha and others did criticize the article in question but not the parents. If I’m mistaken please show me and ill apologize as I’m sure that wasn’t anyone’s intentions.
“If Christianity is true, your eternal soul hangs in the balance and there would be no more important parenting objective than raising your children to know and love Jesus.”
No more important parenting objective. Here’s the criticism; that parents send their children to hell if they don’t teach their children Christianity, even when they don’t believe in it. I believe this is where the conversation started.
I don’t think this conversation is productive at this point. I didn’t say parents send their children to hell. You are misquoting or misunderstanding. If Christianity is true, then it is a FACT that your kids’ eternal souls hang in the balance of their decision about Jesus. That’s not a criticism. It’s a logical statement: If Christianity is true, then X is the case. You could hardly argue that that would make teaching them about Jesus the most important objective. If Christianity is not true, then X is NOT the case, and it’s NOT the most important objective. These are simply logical statements and have nothing to do with criticism.
If you would like any book recommendations, I would suggest this post: http://christianmomthoughts.com//16-book-recommendations-for-studying-apologetics/ In particular, give Cold Case Christianity a read.
So you’re fine with parents teaching their children to be thoughtful, responsible and loving, even if they don’t teach them about Jesus? If so, that’s good.
Jay Warner Wallace is the author he was a Los Angeles cold case homicide detective. He uses his cold case experience to put the new testament to the test btw was not a Christian when he started his investigation.
Having been raised Christian, and as a person who continues to work on my relationship with the Lord, I have to say that both articles intrigued me.
Religion, regardless of which one, is complex. There’s a lot that goes into having a belief system. As Christians, we work on our relationship to God and use his teachings as a guide to get closer to him and thus hopefully lead better lives amongst our brothers and sisters in general.
However, we have seen throughout history that religion (to include Christianity) has been used to manipulate and control people. In fact, the current incidents that are occurring in the Middle East are evidence to how extremism works. To say that a person who is religious is automatically moral is incorrect. In fact, as religious people we know that we are all sinners and carry our own crosses and though we have been saved, that does not equate to us being holly.
As for the part about people who are in prisons being religious, I can understand that. I don’t know what it’s like to be imprisoned, but having that much time on your hands I’m sure makes you reflect on your actions. God reveals himself to us when we are at our weakest and our lowest. Perhaps this is why many people who are incarcerated are indeed religious.
Zuckerman’s article, as I interpreted, was not a reproach on those of us who believe, but a sense of relief that Secular Parenting isn’t a bad thing. Though it’s not my personal belief, I can understand secular parents wanting to know that the way they’re raising their children isn’t detrimental, after all isn’t that what all parents hope for? In my life I was allowed to question and even move away from my faith. I wasn’t forced to believe or understand something I wasn’t ready for, but I was given a good foundation. I found my way back to God and as I stated earlier, I continue to work on my relationship with him.
I have secular friends and I occasionally talk to them about religion. I’ve found that it’s better to lead by example and show God’s word rather than just saying it; actions speak louder than words after all. I hope that by being a good person and helping out my brothers and sisters it will shine a light that others are attracted to and that they shall seek Him as I have. We can’t force non-believers to believe, but we can pray for them. We can also show tolerance, patience, respect, and love just as our Lord shows us each and every day.
I’m so glad I found this page. It’s rare on the Internet to find a place where ideas and faith are discussed with tolerance and respect on both sides without degenerating into the hurling of insults etc.
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