Question from a Friendly Christian

22 Mar

A Christian who occasionally comments on this blog asked if I would be willing to post a question on his behalf. Please help him out by posting your answers in the comment thread. I think we can have an interesting discussion about this:

Non-Christians can only draw conclusions about the Christian Church from the church’s collective public attitudes and behaviors. I believe much of the Christian Church wants to play a vital role in the health of their communities, but many churches are currently struggling with an identity crisis. If churches are not going to ‘go away’ (and I do not believe that is going to happen), they need to know how the greater community could see itself benefiting from the presence of the church. I would like to hear from the non-Christians: “If you were given the opportunity to speak from a public platform that reached a large constituency of Christian leaders, and you could say just one thing to them, what would you like to say that might make their presence more acceptable and their ‘love/grace’ message more authentic?”

Thanks to my commenter for submitting the question and thanks in advance to all who engage in the discussion.

— the chaplain


Posted by on March 22, 2008 in humanism, religion, society


48 responses to “Question from a Friendly Christian

  1. mattcario

    March 22, 2008 at 1:33 am

    Focus more on helping meet the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs of individual people rather than issuing campaign slogans and constructing more buildings.

    This is coming from a youth minister.

  2. Quester

    March 22, 2008 at 1:33 am

    Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Welcome the stranger. Care for the sick, sorrowful and imprisoned. Stand for justice. Fight for equality. Love your neighbour as yourself.

    If you believe that God created us, Jesus saved us, and the Holy Spirit can work in our souls, then leave the spiritual side of things to God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. In this mortal, physical, present realm, there is work to be done and love to be shared.

    I’m not sure if I entirely count as a non-Christian, but this is what I’d like to share.

  3. Brian

    March 22, 2008 at 1:41 am

    I think the problem with this question is that there not one monolithic type of Christianity. My message to liberal christians would be very different than the one I would give to a bunch of fundamentalists.

    Speaking to the fundamentalists/evangelicals though, I’d say the biggest problem is biblical literalism because it usually leads to intolerance and the rejection of science and evidence-based knowledge. Oh, and the “love/grace message” would seem a lot more authentic if you didn’t consign everybody to Hell who believes differently than you.

    How could the greater community benefit from the church? Churches do some good (some more than others), but I just feel like all the good works that churches do is tainted by the fact that they are usually only doing it to try and convert people to their religion. Strip away the religion and save the social networking and community service aspects.

  4. The Exterminator

    March 22, 2008 at 2:13 am

    What a stupid question. I don’t accept the assumption that a Christian presence could be made more acceptable.

    Well, maybe it could. Here’s how: Stop asking us to sanction your presence. Most of us atheists aren’t asking that you disappear; in fact, a lot of us would vociferously defend your right to believe whatever nonsense you choose. But stop asking us how your superstition could be made more acceptable. It can’t — unless you agree to keep Jesus out of our government and our courts and our classrooms and our public venues, unless you get your offensive god off our money and out of our pledge, and unless you stop trying to spread ignorance far and wide. If you do that, your presence will be more acceptable.

  5. paulmct

    March 22, 2008 at 3:51 am

    I tend to agree with The Exterminator on the “making their presence more acceptable” aspect. I guess I could say to them:

    “If you really want to help people, do you need a god and a religion to do it? Can’t you reach that conclusion on your own? And, why do you insist on spreading the word? Why can’t you just keep it to yourself? Why do you link the two? If you want to help the poor, feed them – but don’t ask them to pray or convert in return. That’s not charity, it’s marketing.”

    I’ve written several posts on this theme on my own blog, including ‘Charity With Strings Attached’, ‘God’s Free Gift’, and ‘Preying For God’ (which includes a news clip that should put any ethical person off religion).

  6. Infidel753

    March 22, 2008 at 5:03 am

    Take a stand against — and actively work against — those of your fellow Christians who are trying to impose Biblical taboos on all of us through legislation. If Christians privately believe or even publicly preach ideas which I consider self-evident nonsense, I’m not too concerned about it because it isn’t an actual threat. Efforts to restrict access to abortion, funding for embryonic stem-cell research, legal equality for homosexuals, and so forth, are a threat to the freedom and health of the entire community, non-Christians included. Until that kind of thing stops, I will always look upon Christianity primarily as a menace. It’s not enough for your church to merely refrain from contributing to such threats — it needs to take an active stand against them.

  7. PhillyChief

    March 22, 2008 at 11:13 am

    My first reaction is comparable to Ex’s. Then I would have to face Brian’s point. Which church am I going to speak at? That would dictate my response because I might tell the catholics, “stop fucking children” or the Amish, “make more pies”.

    I suppose if I were to say anything to the christians en masse, I’d give them a speech about the Golden Rule like on my blog and show them how theirs is offensive and urge them to adopt a more respectful position towards those not of their beliefs because if that happened then I think it would address countless other issues (including the fucking children maybe).

  8. RBH

    March 22, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    I’d say “Give up your tax exemptions and advantages because I’m tired of paying for the mere presence of churches. Pay your fair share of the costs of public goods.

    “Quit pretending that you have a lock on morality. Not everyone needs an imaginary invisible being monitoring their thoughts and acts to be a good person. And stay the hell out of other people’s bedrooms. What adult humans do in private is quite literally none of your business.”

    Or put more directly, tend to your own knitting and stay out of that of others.

  9. weemaryanne

    March 22, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Um, wouldn’t a “more authentic” Christianity involve more stonings, enslavings, public whippings, and genocides?

    Thanks, but let’s stick with the semi-authentic version. It’s easier to take.

  10. psychodiva

    March 22, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    please DO NOT focus on meeting the mental and emotional needs of the peole- leave that to us professionals who are actually trained to do it- please leave counselling to counsellors and just stick to the God stuff – and please do it in private and stop sticking it in everyone’s face

  11. burntmaze

    March 22, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    make their presence more acceptable: if there is a god then relations with him or her should be kept private. don’t preach, don’t judge and don’t assume that people are interested in what you say. to many there is no difference between you and the person who thinks that aliens are due here any day.

    your ‘love/grace’ message more authentic: don’t preach tolerance, forgiveness etc and then establish yourself as an organisation of haters who judge people because they are different. don’t abuse children by telling them stories of what will happen to them unless they follow your teachings and don’t DON’T assume that you are more morally capable than someone who is an unbeliever as the chances are that they are actually of better moral stock than you.

    in short, i would say hang your heads in shame for hundreds of years of moral bankruptcy and disappear from the lives of the good people of the world for whom literature would form a better moral guide than your cooked up savagery.

    NOTE: i wonder if you will publish this comment….especially at easter.

  12. sarahemc2

    March 22, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    I think the ambivilence toward the idea of “being church” that is clear in some of the other responses speaks volumes. I was raised in a Jewish home, although in mid-life I have become a Mennonite, and I can only speak to the things which used to make me uncomfortable with Christians.

    Some suggestions:
    1. Witness through action, not through words. Don’t insist on broadcasting your church’s — or even your savior’s — name.
    2. Hold other’s beliefs in as much reverence as you hold your own.
    3. Acknowledge that the word “Christian” comes with a lot of attached cultural baggage, and that it’s earned baggage. Don’t be surprised when other people assume those who preach hatred also speak for you. Expect to earn back a trust that others have squandered, mostly in the pursuit of money or power.


  13. petersonion

    March 22, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Christianity is indeed at a cross-roads where it could soon perish. I think it needs to take a lesson from Judaism, and that is to permit a derivative, interpretive literature like the Talmud to grow from the New Testament. The Rabbis understood that commandments written in the 10th century bc could not be totally relevant for the experience of Jews in the 2nd century bc, and so on. Nevertheless, the wanted to preserve the foundation of their tradition, as they should. So they re-interpreted the Torah, which created the life giving Talmud and the life giving Kabbalah.

    Christianity needs to free itself from literalism. Not completely, but enough to inject vigor and creativity back into the tradition, so that once again it can attract great thinkers, artists and creators. Christianity is certainly lacking these days in the culture department.

  14. michellespagefornonni

    March 22, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Wow, and they say Christians are intolerant! This sounds pretty harsh to me. Did you know that when the Red Cross sets up a tent city after a disaster, all the cooking is done by Christians who come at their own expense, and put themselves up at their own expense? Did you know that most homeless shelters, are run by Christians, mostly at the expense of supporting churches? Habitat for Humanity is Christian? The Salvation Army is Christian? Volunteers of America is Christian? Seems the media has really given Christians a bad rap–much as Christians are accused of doing to others. If I had food and thought you needed some, and I offered it to you and you were offended, am I bad for offering it? Somebody probably offered you their faith because its their most precious gift and you were offended. Should they have cared less about you and ignored the sharing? I do everything you say as far as helping in the community, and often share my faith as the best thing I have to give. I often get figuratively slapped across the face for it. Would I be a better person in your eyes if I cared less about you and kept the best for myself?


  15. Kagehi

    March 22, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    Try listening to the believable words of the smartest people in your faiths past, not the dumber things they believed, without placing as much thought into them, or the dumbest of the church, who never think, but just spend their time finding lame and irrational reasons to reject good sense. And, more to the point, learn the tell the difference, instead of just guessing, based one what makes you feel better. Nothing you have **ever** learned in your life has ever come from lack of challenge, or self gratification, save for those things for which you later found there where hidden costs (some serious). Why the heck should truth, justice, morality or ethics be any different? Yet, the #1 message that even the “liberal” churches like to push is that morality, ethics, truth and doing right is simple. All you need to follow a convoluted set of often contradictory rules in some book, while often being forced to be completely situational in there application, then make up what, to the rest of us, are lame, silly, absurd, or self contradictory excuses for how it **wasn’t* situational, and the rules clearly stated what the answer should be.

    –As a commentary in this mess–

    What has got to be the funniest example of this is that there is a fairly good sized Christian naturist group in the US (nudists, but using a different name to disassociate themselves from the adult only places and groups that use the more general terms), who have both historical data, statistics, and Biblical examples to show they are right, vs. some other Christians, whose own past and recent history show a close correlation (and hardly positive one) between fear of negative behaviors and how often people in their communities are in fact committing them, but often have a view on the subject not too far off that of radical Muslims.

    Yeah, it really matters “which” type you are talking about. What most of us have learned is that you have a few kinds. Those that would, like Atheist Jews, call themselves Atheist Christians, if the two terms where not considered so directly opposite each other, those that are fairly agnostic about it, and those that believe, but just think the Bible is a lot of silly stories, not fact, on one side of the fence. On the other side are those that fell as far as agnostic, where so scared by the sudden discovery that they didn’t have rock solid foundations to stand on any more that they dove back in. Such people *may* be reachable, but not by any but a Christian that is agnostic, and then they will probably never willingly step off the high dive. Then there are those that can’t imagine being without it, and so can’t imagine anyone else without it. Their main world view is projection of their own imagined and real sins on everyone else. These people are almost always lost. Nothing short of something that shatters the very foundation of their view will change their minds about anything. Finally, there is the last group, who just don’t know any different, don’t believe anyone who claims to know different, are either afraid of, learning different, or believe its a trap to break them, and probably never will learn anything different. They would be the same as the former group, save that to be in the former group you have to *know*, more or less accurately, what the other people’s views are, and actively reject them for not being the same as yours.

    Nothing anyone has ever said to those final three groups has ever done “anything” to change their views on anything, unless its so radically shattered some aspect of their world view they either a) realized they could be wrong and started looking, or b) buried their heads deeper into the sand. They are too isolated, too ignorant, and/or too well supported by people who can give them comforting excuses for why they should ignore the little voice in their head saying, “But… What if they are right, and your have been wrong all this time?”

    A lot of smart people, from as far back as St. Thomas Aquinas, or Francis Bacon have made rational, good and useful observations about the world, and how we should really try to understand it. All of them have, to one degree or another, been so invested in their belief system that their own great incites where completely ignored when ever the conflicted with what they *thought* had to be true, according to their understanding of their own faith at the time. But, they had important incites never the less. Modern Christians either don’t have a damn clue what the rational things these people said where, confuse it with the irrational stuff they stuck to anyway, or play lip service to how the church has gotten better at, “understanding the world”, while the simple truth is that the church has “never” gotten better at doing that, and most arguments churches as organizations make about the world invariable reject these incites, in favor of reducing everything to faith all over again.

    Bacon said we must wrest the truth from the world. Aquinas said that a fool should keep their mouth shut about things for which they don’t know anything, lest they make entire church look like idiots, since the real experts are not going to stay silent about all the BS, lies and irrational gibberish the fool come up with to defend their unfounded views.

    Bacon probably wasn’t too happen when the truth wasn’t quite what he liked. And Aquinas broke his one rule every time some expert pointed out a fundamental contradiction between church dogma and reality. So it was then, so it is now, and so it will continue to be, so long as people listen to the nitwit in funny robes that hasn’t read a damn thing but the bible in 50 years, instead of the guy that spent the last 50 studying DNA, or geology, or physics, etc. The only thing that has changed in all that time is that the majority of believers now know the difference between a comet and a chariot ridden by Apollo (or some equivalent silliness). Yet, most would also prefer to listen to the guy babbling about how he read that Apollo was going to come back on Oct. 1, 2024, than the guy describing landing a remote probe on the damn comet. Worse, a small number of them won’t believe the later, even if the comet landed in their backyard pool, but would start packing their bags to await Apollo tomorrow, if someone said he was going to show up and take them to Asgard. (Yeah, I know, wrong mythology, but some would just conclude that Apollo was really Jesus, and that Asgard was actually Heaven, anyway).

  16. Spanish Inquisitor

    March 22, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    If … you could say just one thing to them, what would you like to say …?”


    You people talk too much. 8)

  17. the deacon

    March 22, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    Among many other faults, the fundamentalist and, by and large, the evangelical church, uses platitudes to cry out answers to questions that those outside their walls are not asking because they fail to listen with their hearts and heads. Rather than keeping to themselves and engaging in navel gazing, those who attend these churches need to get a life and become part of life.

  18. Brian

    March 23, 2008 at 2:13 am

    Nonni, you’re missing the point. Christians often do many good works, but usually with strings attached. Somebody else said it best that that is marketing rather than compassion. After the tsunami in Indonesia many churches went in to help and one tried to make the deal that they would rebuild a village if all the elders promised to convert everybody to christianity. The people refused and the christians moved on to try a different village. That was on the news.

    Good works done with ulterior motives are not as meaningful. You even make the comment that sharing your faith is your most precious thing to give. Thanks, but no thanks. Try doing the good works without expecting converts in return (or a reward in heaven).

  19. PhillyChief

    March 23, 2008 at 8:45 am

    Somebody probably offered you their faith because its their most precious gift and you were offended. Should they have cared less about you and ignored the sharing?

    Classic example of why the christian variant of the Golden Rule is flawed and how that flaw causes more harm than good and is a powerfully divisive meme. Essentially because YOU find your belief of value, you think you should share it and then can’t understand why your “gift” was rejected, even going so far as denigrating those who either refuse your “gift” or those of us who complain about you sharing it. If you truly cared about others Nonni as you claim, you would take time to understand them and hopefully then, respect them. Once you accomplished that, then you’d see how your “gift” is not only unwanted but often your offering of it can be seen as offensive and intrusive.

  20. vjack

    March 23, 2008 at 9:45 am

    First, it is simply untrue that non-Christians “can only draw conclusions about the Christian Church from the church’s collective public attitudes and behaviors.” Some of my conclusions come from close examination of Christian doctrine (e.g., the Christian bible). It is safe to say that an important part of what I believe about the Christian church is based on their willingness to accept irrational beliefs.

    I am skeptical of your claim that “much of the Christian Church wants to play a vital role in the health of their communities…” because I think the primary mission of most churches is simply to sustain themselves. In all fairness, I think many do want to play a role in their communities, although I’m less willing to accept the notion that they are truly interested in the health of the community.

    I agree with you completely that churches are not going to go away, at least not anytime soon. Their identity crisis is really a struggle to remain relevant in the modern world. To their credit, many are evolving to do so. The problem, from my perspective, with your question is that I am not convinced that the community does benefit from the presence of churches.

    In my opinion, the church as an institution is obsolete. The good works they provide (and they do provide good works in many communities) can and should be provided by secular agencies so that assistance will not be contingent on acceptance of irrational dogma.

    I suppose my message to Christian leaders would be that they need to get out of the way of reason, science, and secular education. They need to be energetic participants in the struggle to strengthen separation of church and state. They have a right to believe what they will, but they must recognize that merging religion and government is bad for both. I do not buy their “love/grace message” one bit because it smacks of hypocrisy and seems to apply only to those who believe as they do. As for making their presence more acceptable, I’m honestly not sure. Encouraging people to believe claims without evidence is unlikely to be acceptable to me.

  21. Ubi Dubium

    March 23, 2008 at 11:52 am

    From Quester:

    “Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Welcome the stranger. Care for the sick, sorrowful and imprisoned. Stand for justice. Fight for equality. Love your neighbour as yourself.”

    I agree with the above. But my further message is – focus your churches efforts on these things (things we all hold in common), and provide them with no strings attached. Do not put your energy into trying to force your message on the unbelievers; by doing this you only drive us farther away from you. Put your energies into doing those things that help the community, and do it because it is right, not because you are trying to win converts. The more time and money you spend on trying to insert your religious beliefs into public schools and other public forums, building multi-million dollar mega-churches, trying to force politicians to kowtow to you, and proclaiming that those who do not share your beliefs must be “evil” people, the larger the wedge you drive between us.

    Lead by example, not by words.

    (I still won’t believe in your god, but I would welcome the presence of such a church in my community.)

  22. Brett

    March 24, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    I guess I’d start with this:

    “If god did make my brother, he made my brother gay. He doesn’t deserve your hate or anyone else’s.”

    There’s more, but it’s all complicated, much of it is emotional, and some of it is hostile and condescending. So I’ll leave it at that. It’s a good place to start.

  23. plonkee @ the religious atheist

    March 25, 2008 at 8:29 am

    Stop making out that in Western democracies, Christianity is unfairly persecuted and ridiculed.

    It’s true that people who are trying to be good and do the right thing can ve unfairly ridiculed for it but this is unrelated to Christianity (or whatever). As an aside, you can stop assuming that only Christians (or only people of faith) are good people. This is so patently untrue, I don’t know why you think you can get away with it.

    It is true that organised Chrisianity is ridiculed and dismissed by mainstream media. This is not unfair, you are simply reaping what you have sown. Get over it.

    Like others have said more eloquently, do the good things that you claim to stand for, and leave the rest of us alone.

  24. bullet

    March 25, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    I’m leaving this comment before reading the others, so forgive me if I repeat anything. I didn’t want to be influenced by anyone else as I try to sort through this.

    A Christian Church is always giving that message of love and grace in order to convert the listener. As long as Christians believe that it is their God-given duty to bring people to Christ through evangelization, I don’t see secularists reconciling with Christians or determining that presence as acceptable.

    If Christians could simply live as examples of the grace and love of Jesus instead of condemning those who won’t believe, their presence would be easier to bear.

    As far as authenticity: The message is only authentic for those with faith. As long as it is espoused as “Truth,” there can be no reconciliation with secularist philosophy.

    Having said that…

    After the Storm, a great many Christian groups came in and helped with the clean up. As far as I’ve heard, witnessing was at a minimum. The Methodists still send groups every week and I’ve occasionally interacted with them without even the mention of Jesus or faith or salvation. A lot of the ones I’ve been friendly with absolutely refuse to drink alcohol, though. I just can’t get behind a system like that. And there’s also the possibility that they all just assume that everyone here is also a Christian.

    I, personally, never went to the Christians for help because I didn’t want to be a big fat hypocrite. “You are all laboring under an irrational delusion, but if that makes you want to cut the trees off of my roof for free, then ‘Praise Jesus!’” :) My wife thought I was being silly, but I wouldn’t budge.

  25. Tony

    March 27, 2008 at 8:06 am

    OK, lets get real….

    “Did you know that when the Red Cross sets up a tent city after a disaster, all the cooking is done by Christians who come at their own expense, and put themselves up at their own expense?”

    UNTRUE – The red cross is not a Christian organization, it’s an international group and many of the volunteers are Atheist/Agnostic…. me for one!

    “Did you know that most homeless shelters, are run by Christians, mostly at the expense of supporting churches?”

    UNTRUE – The homeless work in our area is supported, funded and staffed almost entirely by Atheists. Me for one!

    “Habitat for Humanity is Christian? ”


    “The Salvation Army is Christian?”

    TRUE – I watched, to my great shame, as they tore apart an elderly gay couple that needed home help, got one of them to sign over his property and evicted the younger of the two.

    “Volunteers of America is Christian?”

    UNTRUE – It’s “spiritully based.” – Many volunteers are Atheist, Agnostic, Muslim etc.

    Why make false or exaggerated claims. It’s cheap and it looses the argument.

  26. ED

    March 27, 2008 at 8:51 am

    In attempting to be relevant, the church makes itself, irrelevant. Today many denominations and church’s, in an attempt to be relevant and, “minister” God’s grace to a new generation, are so focused on making the “worship experience” on Sunday morning palatable to the unchurched, (seeker sensitive) that they never seem to realize that the focus of worship, the polarity of why people meet on sunday has been changed from a theocentric to anthropocentric purpose. If sunday morning is only another form of entertainment with a “religious context”, what’s the point. Being a non-believer does not necessarily mean that I am ignorant as to who, theoretically, God is, and the reported attributes of His character and nature. If you have ever read the bible and then attended a modern church service you would never be able to make a connection with the concept of His immutability.

  27. PeterM

    March 27, 2008 at 9:07 am

    I can’t put it any better than Marcus Brigstocke. :-)

  28. theprofessor

    March 27, 2008 at 9:17 am

    Actions speak louder than words. If your lord’s message is as powerful as you claim then you don’t need to speak it, we will understand it from your actions.

  29. kb9aln

    March 27, 2008 at 10:27 am

    What would I say?

    I’d say that they should do as they say. Do take care of the less fortunate with no strings attached. Not like the Salvation Army, which will make the recipients of their good will sit through a sermon before getting the “goodies”. Not like the “Crystal Cathedral” crowd that has a pastor who gets caught with a hooker and crystal meth in a hotel room.

    In our town, we have a full spectrum of churches and beliefs. Their actions speak volumes.

    On the one hand, we have a Catholic church that has a homeless shelter that they are willing to operate in defiance of city ordinances. This is admirable, in my view. They also operate a thrift store. Of course, the local Catholic establishment has also been subject to the pedophilia scandal. But at least some of them are trying. Understand that this is not any endorsement of Catholicism by me, I consider myself lucky to have escaped what can only be considered a draconian belief system. 7 years of parochial school was hell for me.

    On the other hand, I can cite two Christian establishments that go quite the other way. One local church spent the day, some time and some money to give roses to shoppers leaving a local food store as a “planned act of Christian kindness”.

    WTF? Here they are giving away roses to people who have no problem feeding themselves when they could have taken that money and time and used it to feed the hungry (which there are in this community). The rose dipensers were quite happy with themselves, too. Of course they also gave you a card with the name of the church and service times on it. This was nothing more than an opportunity to advertise and make themselves feel good at the same time. This is also the same church with a large sign that has nice Christian slogans in view of a well-traveled street. “Jesus is the rock, let Him roll you” and nonsense like that.

    We also have the local “mega-church” that spent thousands upon thousands of dollars for a huge “church” featuring a basketball court, state-of-the-art sound system and several projection televisions for the balconies. I never hear of them helping the homeless and feeding the hungry. They are, however, one of those “tsk-tsk” churches that are more than willing to help us all become more “moral”.

    In short, I’d say that they should not be hypocrites. Do good without dispensing doctrine. And leave me and my beliefs (or lack of them) alone.

  30. bernarda

    March 27, 2008 at 10:59 am

    As RBH says, PAY TAXES like other businesses.

    Why should churches get police services or fire services since they don’t pay for them, even when they are extremely rich. No exceptions. Profitable businesses pay taxes(not enough granted)and churches are businesses. If they continue to exist, they make money and so are profitable.

    Just because the church business provides imaginary goods doesn’t change anything. Charity work is a another thing. What percentage is in actually helping people and what percentage is proselytizing?

  31. K

    March 27, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    After reading, “The Exterminator’s,” response, I didn’t even skim the rest. Yup, that’s it.
    BUT, I’ve thought of this in the past, if churches actually want to give to the community, then why not actually, you know, DO it ? Why does every town need several churches? How about 1 community building that all the sects rent out and perform their nonsense in and ALL that money collected stops going to gilding the statues and preacher’s bank accounts but goes to beautifying the streets (picking up trash, planting flowers), outreach programs for the homeless, soup kitchens, afterschool programs for working families…? I’d like to see utterly NO money go to the preachers and church buildings but actually go to the community they claim they want to hold a vital role in, that would impress me.

  32. Jake

    March 27, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    Churches are essentially businesses. Some will fail and others will thrive based on the popularity of their doctrines and the way they sell their products (redemption, goodwill, sympathy, etc.).

    I would be much more sympathetic to the christian plight if they were regulated/taxed and audited; especially when they are an unnecessary middleman taking in millions in faith-based initiatives for social services that could be met by secular institutions more efficiently.

    I mainly want churches audited though because I believe very little of the donations by the vast majority of churches go to the services that they were intended for by the donors. When I stop seeing multi-millionaire preachers on TV asking for more money to help the poor while they make much more than the president’s base salary or even many professional athletes, then I’ll feel like maybe churches care. But as is, churches need the poor and needy to have an excuse to exist in the first place.

    Christianity has had almost two millenniums to eradicate poverty and society’s ills and they haven’t even put a dent in the problems. I would go so far as to say they are the cause of many of our problems today or at the very least contributing to them.

    There are over 400 churches in the city where I live which has about 250,000 people. Churches are still going up all the time. I’m tired of driving one mile in any direction and seeing ten churches along with all of the billboards advertising faith (nice use of donater money there). I’m tired of seeing “The Nation of Islam” church across from my wife’s high school.

    I can’t take any religion seriously that has hundreds of different sects in my city alone because none of them can agree on which delusion is the most relevant in our modern society.

  33. Interested

    March 27, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    My suggestion is that you should follow your on code of conduct, the bible. If you wish to pray or worship, do so in private. Don’t make a spectacle of yourselves in restaurants and in the street. Keep your emails about religion to yourself or send only to those bent in your direction and finally get out of our government. My 2cents worth.

  34. Ben Abbott

    March 27, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    Focus the claims of religion on the spiritual. The ridiculous material miracles only serve to poison religion and breed fanatics.

    If material evidence exists (whether we poses knowledge of it or not), then it can be sought out by material efforts. It is not necessary to speculate about it, we only need do the investigative work.

    Making claims of divine supernatural knowledge regarding material phenomena only serves to appease those without the ability or patience to seek out the knowledge and latter to pit those who do against dogma.

  35. Crudely Wrott

    March 28, 2008 at 12:37 am

    Dear Chaplain,

    Your first statement is incomplete. “Non-Christians can only draw conclusions about the Christian Church from the church’s collective public attitudes and behaviors.” I am washed in the blood. According to the word of god I am counted among the elect. And I am apostate to a degree that would cause you alarm. Yet I am considered by many to exemplify attributes that you could be interpreted as claiming cannot come from me alone. You are wrong. There is no god in me.

    Your second statement, “I believe much of the Christian Church wants to play a vital role in the health of their communities, but many churches are currently struggling with an identity crisis,” is heartfelt, I know, but my experience in the church showed me not people concerned with those who suffer. I was shown people who merely thought the suffered; because someone pointed out stupidity. I have been on both sides of this squabble, but there is a twinge not unlike causing someone pain. I console my guilt by realizing that the pain felt by the other was well earned by means of their willful (or innocent if there is such a category) ignorance. Oh, my brother.

    To respond to your question I would, and do, tell people who load their whole bag and baggage onto one wagon drawn by whimsy, or youthful credulity, that they have not yet learned other, more amazing and instructional lessons from actual observation. An assumption that the same facility that allows you to drive at 65 mph while witnessing to a sinner is the same as the facility that I used to solve a problem at work (which worked, saved time, made money for my boss and I and saved the customer money; real time shit here that actually worked) is as foolish as me telling you that your respect for father god can cause cancer to go into remission in a small, photogenic child.

    May it help you if I say, with a deep sincerity that does not permeate the universe but that comes naturally to me, by way of happenstance and will, you would be much better off meditating on what does happen rather than on what you would like to happen.

    After all the noise and calumny, I can say that I love you. The resemblance is uncanny!

    Sign me, Walking With You.

  36. Crudely Wrott

    March 28, 2008 at 12:53 am

    Forgive for not mentioning that I do in fact eat babies, puppies, kittens, grandmothers and anything else that’s helpless. As a heathen atheist I would like to see you live a rewarding life. Rewarding to you and those who are privileged to observe and be instructed thereby. Inasmuch as the natural world shows great diversity and inasmuch as people do too, I can only declare that we are similar and different and prosper together or apart. If you catch my drift.

  37. bbk

    March 28, 2008 at 3:53 am

    There really isn’t much that I need to ask. But…

    I’d ask… if all the families at their church have to pay taxes, work full time jobs, and volunteer their time to their church then why are they, as church leaders, exempt from having to live the same way? Shouldn’t they want to lead by example?

  38. Anfractuosity

    March 28, 2008 at 5:03 am

    Your formal question of how to:
    “make their [your] presence more acceptable and their [your] ‘love/grace’ message more authentic?”
    is betrayed by your earlier question:
    “how the greater community could see itself benefiting from the presence of the church.”

    From this I can tell that your question is just another marketing survey and that you do not really wish to, nor do you have any intention of changing any of your behaviors or beliefs. You simply want to know how to position yourselves better within the community. In other words, a typical market analysis.

    To this, all I can say is that you can’t position yourselves better without some fundamental- oh sorry, deeply rooted- changes in your dogma. That is to say, get rid of it. Dogma is not well-tolerated by anyone except those who already agree with you.

    Many, if not most of us here have not always been outsiders to religion. I have only just come to the mind-blowing freedom of unbelief in religious dogma after over 50 years of faithful worship. What has finally opened my eyes to the harmfulness of organized religion, and even to religious belief in general, is the current state of the formerly free United States of America. Through religious meddling in government, the media and public education, “the church” has literally poisoned public discourse and caused the deterioration of the intelligence of our citizenry and of life in general.

    Forcing untenable dogma and outright untruths into legislation, public education, and the media, as well as our private bedrooms is tantamount to overthrowing our democratic society. Examples: ID/Creationism, stealth legislation pertaining to women’s medical decisions (among other things), abstinence only education, public funding of religious proselytizing, Fox TV, talk radio, etc, etc Unfortunately, the list is interminable. These are tangible results of false dogma’s effect upon all of us.

    Churches have long waged a concentrated, well-orchestrated and lavishly funded battle to mold public perceptions of Christianity through the most deceitful means. You do this by way of so-called “think tanks,” propaganda films, religious media outlets, “educational” institutions and materials, clubs, internet sites, medical facilities, government agencies, private and corporate businesses, etc, etc.

    You create hate campaigns against unbelievers and anyone who is different. Campaigns which claim victimhood, while in fact, dominating everyone else. Campaigns to deprive the gullible of their money and their will. Campaigns to incite the passions of voters in order to insert more of yourselves into positions of power. Campaigns to create “straw man” enemies and evildoers in order to claim righteous indignation against them. Again, this is only a smattering of the attacks I could name, and does not include the actual crusades and wars conducted for the furtherance of a particular dogma.

    And now, you want us, the “evil doers,” to tell you more ways to insert yourselves into our lives — and how you can make us like it?

    I don’t think so.

  39. concerned citizen

    March 28, 2008 at 7:10 am

    Right on, Anfractuosity!

  40. Rainey

    March 28, 2008 at 11:34 am

    You wrote: “Non-Christians can only draw conclusions about the Christian Church from the church’s collective public attitudes and behaviors.”
    Well, what are we supposed to draw our conclusions about the christian church from? We humans are what we do and what we say far more than we are a name, a face, or a place of birth. The only thing we as people can be responsible for is what we do and what we say. I was raised in a devout christian household. I haven’t been in a church siince childhood for the very reason you cite: the church’s collective public attitudes and behaviors.
    I agree with much of what Joshua son of Mary taught, but I’m repelled by the actions and words of that good man’s followers. Attitudes and behaviors based on unprovable dogma quickly lead to abominations such as witch-burning, persecution of non-believers, the Holocaust, a pope who wears $3,000 custom-made shoes and designer sunglasses, televangelists in Mercedes and bespoke suits, and — worst of all — at the core of every religion: an “us” versus “them” mindset.
    If churches of any and all faiths want to “make their presence more acceptable and their ‘love/grace’ message more authentic” in the community then they need to be the change they want to see.
    Stop trying to spread the good word and focus on doing good works. Split up the group and go one-on-one where the need is greatest. Say not a word about anything you can’t prove scientifically, and trust other humans to make the best choices for themselves based on your quiet example.

  41. Her-issy

    March 28, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    “I believe much of the Christian Church wants to play a vital role in the health of their communities”

    Great. Then use every dollar you save with your tax-exempt status and apply it to community programs in the name of your church.

  42. Pockets

    March 29, 2008 at 12:38 am

    Be meek.

  43. storm

    March 29, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Offer one iota of (verifiable) evidence of the existence of a god.

  44. Vol008

    March 30, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    How about growing up? To me, a sign of maturity is the willingness to look around, see what IS, and start from there. Believers, to me, have as much credibility as kids who swear by Santa and the Easter Bunny. Just operate from a position of objective reality. How about, “I have an impulse to help the poor.” Then go ahead and help. How about “I’m not sure I have the ability to make a difference all by myself.” Then STUDY ways to do it, join with others, and give it your best try. I promise you, the results you get will be EXACTLY the same as if you’d spent several weeks on your knees, praying for the spirit in the sky to help.

    Don’t accept misery as “God’s will.” Misery sucks. Do what you can to make it go away. If someone’s in an abusive marriage, HELP THEM GET OUT OF IT. Don’t encourage them to waste their time praying and accepting.

    Focus on behavior, not belief! Christians will look at a non-believer who is basically kind and just, and tell them with a straight face that they are going to hell, while encouraging a mass-murdering sociopathic pedophile in the belief that he’s going to heaven because he got down on his knees and prayed with a prison chaplain. Puh-lease!

    Admit that “where we’re going” is something NOBODY knows. And it doesn’t matter. We don’t know “where” Hitler is, but we certainly do know what he did while he was here.

    Throw away the crutches and live to your full potential, by your OWN power, supplemented by the help you get from others. People are basically good, even those who don’t rely on non-existent entities. Focus less on “how we got here” than on what we’re doing now that we “are here.”

  45. Matt

    March 30, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Atheism is theism grown up… many have imaginary friends as children and grow out of it as the age – those that stay around are generally considered mentally ill…

    You want an authentic message of love? How about you project that love through huminist principles, and not under the guise of a supernatural power? Those acts of kindness performed by members of a church come from their own desire to help – and if it instead comes from a place where they think their aid will give them favour in the eyes of their own mythical creator, then that isn’t authentic at all.

    Authentic actions are peformed in the absence of self interest (or realistically, self interest is in the minority of reasons to act) so its a paradox to make a church’s message if love “more authentic”. Consider why you want an authentic message… to gain more members to your faith, which is in itself self interested and not at all authentic.

  46. Aquaria

    May 28, 2008 at 8:45 am

    If you were given the opportunity to speak from a public platform that reached a large constituency of Christian leaders, and you could say just one thing to them, what would you like to say that might make their presence more acceptable and their love/grace message more acceptable

    I could go on a long diatribe about the very serious problems Christians need to overcome, what with their hubris and their sanctimony, their hypocrisy and their delusions. But, in the end, here’s the only way to get me to find Christianity acceptable:

    Prove the existence of your 3-in-1 deity, once and for all in an indisputable way. I don’t want “signs” or “omens” as filtered through the fantasies of your priests. I want open up the heavens, God and Jesus AND the Holy Ghost materializing before everyone and saying whatever the hell it is they think we need to hear. No bullshit. No filters. Just the big guys, talking directly to one and all.

    Do that, and we’ll talk.

    P.S. Don’t take offense. I’d expect the same from Muslims with Allah and Mohammed, the Hindus with Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva (and whoever else they care to present–lots of gods there), Buddha, Thor, Odin, Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite, Isis, Ishtar, Inanna, the Flying Spaghetti Monster–the whole lot of them. Any of them that makes the clear-as-day worldwide message, I’ll believe in ’em. Until then, they’re all fantasy beings to me.

  47. G. Davis

    June 17, 2008 at 3:32 am

    The thing the christain leadership can do is fight the hypocrisy. Once the false christian are faced with being exposed they will abandon the church and return back to the world where they belong. The church will be nothing but a joke until the hypocites both in the pews and in the pulpit leave.


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