Deconverts – Are Christians Really as Bad as You Think?

I read the ‘deconversion‘ blog quite a bit. I find the debate always go back to the uselessness of faith. I find that kind of strange – on a personal level – like Christian faith is ‘bad’ or something. It is this that I want to ‘flesh out’. (Go and read some of the comments to see what I am saying)

How is it Christian faith is something ‘bad’? I cannot find concrete reasons to believe this. Science cannot provide this reason – it cannot because science does not delve into morality and immorality per se. Science is really of no use in this debate. 

(a) The core Christian faith teachings deal with moral ideals – like the ‘do nots’ of murder and adultery or ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. I cannot find places where the teachings actually allow for the immoral behaviour of someone committed to this faith. We know that it happens – but any small reading in the gospels will reveal they have no right to treat people like crap – none whatsoever. 

(b)  The Christian faith, if it is bad, does not produce very many bad people (per capita). I see the odd bad person crop up – that will commit murder in the name of God or picket funerals. However, they are the exceptions to the norm (deviations from the standard). If it was reverse, and they were not exceptions, the news and history pages would be littered with their vicious exploits. This is not the case at all. 

(c) People that join the Christian faith actually can do a 180 degree turn in their life. Now we cannot scientifically prove the change in someone’s life or their 180 degree spin – but for those personally affected by that individual – they can see the change. As much as people do not want to give merit to personal stories of change – it is the best evidence of a person’s actual change in behaviour. No test can exist to show someone has changed – but as humans we can all admit when we have seen it. 

(d) The Christian faith provides (and fills) something in society – a place to belong and find a value system. Most places you attend will not guide you into some type of value system – it’s just not going to happen…and sometimes families fail to fill this role. The church just happens to direct people into values that may help them become a functional piece of society. What they lack in culture, vision, ethical development, attention, community – all these things and more can be given to a person via a church. 

(e) Christians say some strange things – I agree – and hold some strange theologies – I also agree – but how often does what they ‘believe’ make those same people into criminals or shady characters in society? Very, very, very rarely. 

I admit the Christian faith has it drawbacks – namely in some of its weak theological ideas. However, I would not call it a faith that makes ‘bad’ people or makes society inherently ‘worse’ by being there. I admit they have some questionable behaviours – like being overly judgmental – but even within these behaviours they do not commit crimes against you or society. Churches actually help society in many ways – and can in many more. 

I think most of the things said by de-converts about Christians is pure BS and a mass generalization. They have an axe to grind concerning the treatment they received from Christians – and I receive my share also – but at the end of the say I don’t let a few bad apples determine for me the whole apple orchard is rotten.

To Deconvert or to Not Deconvert

The concept of a ‘de-conversion’ – is it possible? 

I have heard this bantered about on a few blogs – and for some reason there is debate over it. People actually believe one cannot de-convert from their Christian faith. I am here to make a case for – ‘yes’ one can deconvert. Here are my reasons: 

(1) Depends on how you define conversion? If conversion happens at the point of one’s confession (or because of one’s confession) – then one can just as easily change that confession later on. 

(2) If conversion has to do with choice (as I believe it does) then one’s choice to follow the faith can be changed at anytime.

(3) I have heard faith described as a ‘marriage’ – which is some biblical terminology we can find in Jesus and Paul’s teachings. Marriage is a commitment – but it’s a personal choice to remain in the marriage. If someone is not satisfied with the state of the marriage – they do have the ability to leave. 

(4) Conversion may have to do with the Holy Spirit – I concede this. However, who actually knows how the Holy Spirit truly functions? Not me. How can one figure that the Holy Spirit will not let someone leave if they so choose to do so? 

(5) It’s sensible and lines up with reality. Many people change personal choices throughout their life – based on their reasoning of the situation. It makes sense that someone may change their mind about their faith – and in turn see it as a not so wise choice. 

I contend a person can de-convert from their faith to that of no-faith. Which is basically the reverse of one leaving their no-faith to have faith.

Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo…

I just finished having a quaint discussion with my younger brother – who is as opinionated as I am – and maybe a bit more. We discussed something I want to blog about – keeping your cultural identity and embracing faith (how I think they can actually work in tandem). 

I am from a First Nations cultural group (and spiritual tradition) and I am a Christian. I am a Canadian but I am also from a distinct culture in Canada – that was actually colonized by Canada. This is where this discussion all begins. How does a culture remain unique and bona fide – in the midst of being colonized? Can it? 

I think the Jewish survival serves as a great example in this regards. Think about it – they retained their culture, writings, and practices for over 3000 years or so – even in the midst of being conquered and without an actual country for many centuries. I thought about their example as my brother and I bantered back n forth about First Nations people groups keeping their culture alive. 

The problem is one of simplicity to me – what keeps a group of people together and communal? A place to meet, land maybe, and the writings and history. My people do not have a good shared place to meet – there is no synagogue of sorts – and we do not have our teachings from elders written down (not a lot of them anyways). We do have treaties that bind us together – but that’s really it. I personally think this is where the struggle lies in keeping a culture vibrant and living. 

I guess this is where oral history (preserved quite well in my community) meets current status of a society – a written society. My culture needs to record these things and put these teachings in writing – like a scriptural text of sorts. This way each generation and every family can read these things and teach them to their children…and know their history/identity. Plus, we need to find our commonality – something that brings us together as a community – a meeting place.

What seems to be happening – and this is my fear – is the Aboriginal people will just become another people group – and lose the unique cultural portions of ‘our way of living’. I think this is happening only because we are losing a grip on keeping the community together – there seems to be mass identity issues and problems that need to be treated. 

In Canada, my people group (Aboriginal peoples) have the highest rates of incarceration, violent crimes, unemployment, suicide, and substance abuse. We also have the lowest mortality rates, educational rates, and income earnings. Basically, as functional as our community can be at times – there are some huge gaping problems that exist. Why do these exist? 

I can see in history the problems that created them – but it is taking a lot of time to weed out these problem areas and find healing. The problem seems to be that my community does not where to turn – for communal support. There are no teachings/standards to turn to; everything spiritual is basically oral in nature. The people have no place to go – no meeting place with all the other people in your community (resident experts if you will). This stuff does not exist – and where it does not exist – people will develop their own rules for functionality. In essence, we start diluting what the idea of being a part of this culture actually means. 

I know for a fact I have more friends that listen to rap than listen to pow-wow or anything even remotely traditional. All of my friends growing up were of non-faiths – had nothing – and never knew their traditional ways (including me). I think about 80% of my friends growing up (maybe even higher) were in jail or juvenile detention 1 to a few times. 90% (or more) dropped out of high school (including me). Most of our parents were single parents – and could not really control us. We were all relatively poor – sometimes extremely poor. But nothing around us offered any hope either – there was nowhere to turn for communal support. These things were unheard of – no teachings I could reference. Most of us just did as we wanted – we really didn’t know better. 

I became a Christian – by choice at 17. What choice was I really left with? No single group was offering ‘hope’ at this period of time – and I grasped at what seemed like a good bet. I was right. I found a place to meet with others (communal) complete with foundational writings for direction. This gave me stability – a place to grow and mature. And that’s what I did – now I own a home, can go for my Master’s if I choose (and I think I will), married, have permanent employment, and many great friends. 

What is missing from my community? Stability and a place for people to come and experience their cultural lifestyle first hand (which includes spirituality as one of its 4 core components). We do not have that – no place to meet and no place to study. University functions this way for many Aboriginal students – but that’s a good 4 to 5 years of it – then back to the world that forgot us. We have community – that’s not the problem so much – but it’s fractured and everyone does as they please (lack of guidance truly exists). It’s not very directed – it seems chaotic…and sometimes it is. 

Final word: The community I come from will continue to suffer if we cannot come to some point where we develop a communal way to keep our culture in tact – meeting one with another – and even studying what it means to be from this culture. If not, we might be slowly going the way of the buffalo.

Christianity Creates a New Antagonist?

Comment lifted from ‘Christians Who Want to Keep God’s Law Righteousness Sake” (Old Adam)

I don’t think Paul got all his theology fron the Torah and the Prophets. I think He got a lot of it directly from the creator Himself” (Steve) 

Logically, there is no way Paul does not get all his theology from Torah and Prophets.

Philippians 3:5-6 “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.”

Everything Paul seems to know about God comes from his background in Torah and Prophets – his Jewish studies. In Paul’s teachings he references (as authority) the teachings within the Torah/Prophets – as proof his message has validity – concerning Jesus.

I am not saying God was not involved with Paul’s change and choices afterwards – I think God was involved. However, the way the church interprets Paul makes for some very questionable things Paul is saying – which I am thinking he himself struggled with – and law was right up there.

Paul’s view of the law seems to be in the ritual keeping of it – to the tee – and this is the measure of a person’s faith (as a Pharisee). Well that view has all but vanished from Jewish circles (and was only one of many views even in its day) – and I am not sure how strongly held this belief is anymore (in Conservative Jewish circles anyways). But all of Paul’s works/letters come from this stringent view of the law – and that’s all we know about the law…but the law is a lot different in Jewish circles than in Christian circles – why? Cause Paul only gave us one limited view of it.

We just don’t rely on the law for our righteousness. That comes directly from God (Jesus).” (Steve)

Oddly enough – so does the law/Torah. I will ask ‘who do you think the Law comes from?’ Man? If the law comes from God – then how can one say we can be righteous aside from it? What standard or measure are we comparing to that we can say ‘yes, this is the right/just thing to do’? Jesus? Jesus is rabbinical in nature and even teaches on Torah law.

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, was lining up for us all the ways in which we are to behave that are virtually impossible for us to live up to as sinful creatures” (Steve)

This line of reasoning is illogical. Let’s say me and you are taking a class in math. All the teacher does is lay down teachings that show the errors in math or math so advanced we cannot even fathom where to start. Then he says ‘well I know it so you can all pass the test based on my knowledge’. Is this a good teacher?

Matt 10:24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master

Jesus lays this teaching down to his disciples – who I may add actually do the same things as Jesus when asked. If we are to follow the example Jesus laid down teachings we cannot follow (only he could) then this teaching above is a ‘lie’. The disciple is a student to the teacher – this is accurate Jewish terminology – and Jesus is asking his students to be like him and this is good enough (if they exceed what he taught even better).

Matt 5:20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

(a) What about Paul – does his life exceed that of his former Pharisee lifestyle concerning righteousness? I would contend it does.

(b) Jesus is seen battling with Pharisees a lot in the gospels – namely in Matthew. He has some harsh words for those guys at times – but what one term does he always fall back on when addressing them? In Matthew alone Jesus calls the Pharisee’s ‘hypocrites’ or what they do ‘hypocritical’ 14 times (that’s once every 2 chapters on average). This is his favorite term for them.

(c) It is no accident Jesus picks Paul to knock of a horse into the dirt – and show him his blindness. Paul is well known to be a zealous Pharisee – an extremist if you will. Paul is the classic example of Jesus picking out a Pharisee that used an extreme interpretation to justify all his actions (including murder).  

In essence, Jesus does not do away with the law – which is the point of Matthew 5:17-20 – but chooses to uphold/fulfill it (its true form). The Pharisees are set-up as the antagonist in the gospels – as the people that were against Jesus all the time. What were they really against except the way Jesus taught? Jesus was not being hypocritical in his teachings – nor making it too hard for others to follow his teachings (which was the essential knock on the Pharisee’s – so they could prove how much better they were than others by following their own interpretations).

If you think about the irony in all this – Christians are now falling into the same trap. They are holding up Jesus as this perfect example that no one can mimic – and he followed all his own teachings – but us poor slobs could never do that – we just don’t have that ability. We have created a teacher that is better than us – and better than everyone else – we are now the antagonists – the Pharisee’s of the gospels.

The whole thing is that the law is good, but Jesus is better. The law helps us, but can never save us. Jesus alone can save us.” (Steve)

Jesus is better than God given Law/words to humanity? Even if Jesus were the ‘word of God’ as some take from John 1:1 – he would have to uphold what the words of God were to Moses at Sinai – or he’d be lying (he would be going against his own words apparently – which is also hypocritical).

The law is not meant to save – it is meant to provide one with the choices to make a good/just lifestyle (to find life) – and to protect/guide society. In one sense it does save – it can save one from making some seriously bad choices in life (ie: like murder or stealing or adultery). It serves as a guide to one’s life – which is how most people use the bible.

The action of saving – is a God thing – like in the Exodus. But salvation and law are not really that closely connected when you think about it. God does not determine His salvation based on the teachings of the law – since there is no law about God’s salvation and when and where it can happen. But what is clear – if there is salvation – it will lead one to respect God and the law/Torah (the words of God). This seems like the inevitable path concerning ‘leaving’ and ‘coming’ to God in the prophets.

When God is Love & Humans Debate Him

I just finished asking ‘who am I?’ But…now back to theology. 

Who is God? 

It’s something we all think about if we hold to faith – or even to no faith. God is or isn’t. But if God is – then questions abound to what God is (all about). 

I have heard many views through-out my days. 

(a) God is all Loving – and determines salvation for all – no matter what – since all is in the hands of God (including your faith). 

(b)  God is Loving – and determined a path to salvation – but this path is dependant on your choice skills and behaviour – there is a judgment of separation in the end. 

(c) God is Loving – and a path has been determined – but only an elect few ever really find that path and God shows His glory in judgment. 

God is many things to many people – and as simplistic as my example is – it shows a variety of Christian thought on God and His plan for humanity. I am not sure people would debate if God is loving – but they will debate what ‘love’ means concerning God and His work with humanity. This is where we start debating. 

I contend God is love plain and simple. Now what is love and how can we define love? The bible is really of little help on the subject – love is something experiential. To define love – we need to have experienced love and what it looks/feels like. So we need to draw upon on our human experience when discussing a God that contends ‘He is Love’ (or at least John says this about Him in his letter). 

So, when thinking upon God – what does a Loving God look like/and do? What does it mean to you and how does it impact your theology?

Letter to My Progressive Self

You know I don’t quite get it – why I write what I write. However, I have always liked acting so maybe that is part of it. Who am I? 

I am a common man with common perspectives and problems. My blog actually is a betrayal of who I really am…I am a very base human being with very base problems. I sit here sometimes and think ‘I talk a really good game, don’t I’? I am nothing like my talk – I am a lot more crude and real than some page with writing on it. I am confusing – I am this one thing on paper – and I am another in reality. 

Don’t be confused – you likely wouldn’t like me in real life (on a blog for some reason I am liked?). You’d likely ignore me if you really knew me. I have nothing in common with you – and you with me – except theology – which means about as much as having a president or country in common. 

I am from a different culture than you…I don’t vote in presidents or prime ministers – I am not a Capitalist at heart – I am not a Conservative at heart – these things have always seemed foreign to me. In all actuality – politics and government have been the bane of my existence. 

I do not look like you – no, not at all. I do not think like you, no not at all. My sense of humour is likely too profane for you to handle – it would be the one thing you could not understand about me. I would be such an anomaly to you and your real friends – I am in a direction you would not look twice in. High school really sucked. 

I don’t really love my parents – I think I do. So what makes me think I can actually love – having not been the recipient of it? I don’t know. Of course I would never hurt – no one gets that close to be hurt by me. I am not a mean person in my heart – but there is a fire/anger there that never burns out. I don’t really look people in the eyes when talking to them. I am not a fan of first impressions. 

I dress like a gangster some times – and have friends that actually are gangsters. I have friends in jail, I have friends in educational institutions, I have friends that deal drugs, I have friends that worked the street, I have friends that have serious addictions, and I have friends that hate you because of what you represent to them. It’s funny I actually have friends like these – are we not the company we keep? 

I am not you.

Duality in the Christian Faith?

In it’s simplest form, to sin is to disobey a commandment believed to have come from God” (Rene)

I do agree with you here – but the commandments exist for the benefit of humanity – not for the benefit of God. So one could argue God’s intention was for humanity to have some guidelines to conduct itself within…basis being humanity’s safety.

So why do Christians not have to follow the same commandments that Israel did? This is because Jesus Christ gave a new commandment which replaces all the others.” (Rene)

I have to disagree here – in some regards. Jesus only gives a new commandment to those whom have never studied Torah – that teaching comes from Torah plain and simple (love one another – Lev 19:18). There is actually nothing new about that teaching.

However, the real problem with your statement is duality. Jesus gives us new commandments which trump that of the God of Israel’s commandments – which evidently came from the very fingertips of God to Moses on Sinai (if we are literalists). Basically, Jesus becomes more important than God himself – and in most cases – God Himself.

Where’s the problem….there are several.

(a) Jesus did not teach against the Torah/Law (Matt 5:17-19) – and actually garnered his authority (which was his message) from the OT/Tanakh. I cannot think of a single teaching Jesus gives that is not based in Torah or Prophets – even his 2 great commandments and ‘treat others’ teaching all come from there – and acclaim authority to the Torah and Prophets.

(b) Jesus, if he were giving a new commandment which usurps the old commandments, is telling God his commandments are weak. Problem solved if Jesus is God – which is very convenient – but then we have God declaring He was ‘wrong’ and needed to ‘right’ that wrong! Basically, it’s no different than when Joseph Smith declared polygamy okay and then later on another prophet declares is not okay – God is in the business of changing His mind it would seem.

(c) You can end up with 2 God syndrome in this case – God of the OT and the God of the NT (which is Jesus). I actually do think this is slightly the case – but not by biblical directive – but later church commentary directive (being non-Jews and all – and looking at it all from a Greco-Roman perspective).

***Taken from my blog ‘What is Sin and How Do We know’