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March 2018



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Only 9% of Christians have biblical worldview

Church doesn't think like Jesus
For the purposes of the research, a biblical worldview was defined as:
[1] believing that absolute moral truths exist;
[2] that such truth is defined by the Bible; and
[3] firm belief in six specific religious views.

Those views were:
[1] that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life;
[2] God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and He still rules it today;
[3] salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned;
[4] Satan is real;
[5] a Christian has a responsibility to share their faith in Christ with other people; and
[6] the Bible is accurate in all of its teachings.

A whole list of reasons I'm not a Christian
I believe:
[1] that moral truth (like all truth) is real but subjective.
[2] that truth is arrived by every individual through inspection and reflection.
[3] my firm beliefs are based on my inspection and reflection and so are subject to chage on further inspection and reflection.

my beliefs about the Christian claims:
[1] I don't believe that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life.
[2] I don't believe that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, ubiquitous being outside of the universe itself.
[3] I believe in divine love that is offered freely, but believe that is incompatible with the concept of "sin" or "salvation".
[4] I do not believe that "Satan" is real.
[5] I can understand why Christians feel the need to push their faith on everyone but I do not share that need.
[6] The Bible in an interesting and education book that contains many worthwhile ideas, and many that are less worthwhile. It is no more accurate than any other book about faith.


Christian belief # 1

I suppose I could believe Jesus led a sinless life. If I were arguing from a christian viewpoint I would say as the son of god Jesus was exempt from sin (it really is who you know, after all). He literally could not sin. This is not to say he could not commit acts that would be considered sinful if another person did them.

Speaking from my own viewpoint, I could say Jesus led a sinless live but I could also say the same thing about you. There are very few things I consider sins and I’d be willing to bet neither you or Jesus have engaged in them.

What, in your opinion, is the difference between sin and evil?

Re: Christian belief # 1

I'm glad you are back. I have missed you. You ask such good questions.

I'm fine with defining evil as "harm" which is why evil is subjective.

The problem with "sin" is that it means so many different things. One definition is "violation of God's law" which is the idea that there are actions which are sinful and if you do them you are a "sinner". I've definitely broken some biblical laws. If one believes that "God" is "good" then violating "God's laws" must be "evil"

klsiegel made a great post about "sin" as separation from the divine which I can totally agree with. There are definitely times when I am farther from the divine than is good for me. I don't know about seperation from the divine being "evil" it is definitely unpleasent.

And the kind of "sin" I was thinking about was one a friend of mine told me about some times I fail to do things that I know I should do and sometimes I do things I know I should not do. The idea of sin as a failure to live up to one's own internal standard for right behavior. I know I'm not always the best person I can be. None of us are. "Evil" seems a bit harsh of a label for that kind of "sin".

Re: Christian belief # 1

Suppose that instead of labeling the sin itself (the failure to live up) as "evil," one labels the results of that failure as the doing of evil? I don't know, I'm just posing the question. It's the direction I'm leaning, but I'm persuade-able.

Also - I tend to think of sin and evil as a continuum; that's what gets me in such terrible trouble with fundamentalists who insist that no sin is worse or better than any other, that you're just as guilty if you steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family as you would be if you stole a car. They probably also believe in a flat-rate income tax! [grin]

Anyway - I tend to think that bad things are relative, and that some things are definitely not as bad as others. I also think intention matters; it's worse to do harm intentionally than to do it by accident - doesn't make it okay to do it by accident, just less bad. Because it's at least possible if not likely that the doing of harm by accident happened through a lack of awareness, a departure from one's natural shape...it all gets rather circular. Which I suppose is why the road to hell is paved with good intentions: I'm doing this "for your own good," except I'm so blinded to my subconscious motivations that what is intended for good turns to evil (this, by the way, is exactly the temptation of the One Ring for Gandalf and Galadriel - think how powerful they could be, think how much good they could do...).

Anyway - I don't think it's that a person is "evil" because he or she departs from his own internal standard (which is all we really ultimately have to go on, anyway, realistically). I think a person who departs from that standard and from his or her natural shape gradually may become evil, unless something or someone (including the person involved, though this gets harder over time) corrects the course and realigns on that standard.

I've encountered at least one person in my life who had gone way far down that path; he might not be beyond correction, but he surely was beyond anything I could do; and he was truly frightening to behold; gives me cold chills just thinking about it.

Re: Christian belief # 1

Sorry if I'm not responding to much. But you are being so reasonable and I agree with so much of what you are saying that I don't have much to add.

I'm fine with evil = bad things happening

And I agree with the continuum. Being rude to someone is not as bad as hitting them, and hitting them is not as bad as killing them.

I also agree that intent is important. Intentional harm is worse than negligent harm which is worse than accidental harm.

The thing about religion is that an internal moral compass is not a good external legal standard.

One can not judge other people's behavior by one's own standard. One does not know what is going on inside other people.

I'm generally against saying anyone is evil or is a sinner. I don't think assigning an identity is productive. One can sin or do evil but it doesn't help anyone to be labeled.

Everyone is so eager to take away "rights" from "criminals". They forget the right to due process is the right of innocent citizens to defend themselves from false charges. If just being labeled a criminal takes away your rights then we have no justice at all. But I digress.

Re: internal moral compass vs. external legal standard

Too true. I think that's exactly the huge mistake a lot the conservative Christian politicians make: you cannot - simply cannot - legislate morality. Neither can you make "one size fits all" laws - because in morality, one size most definitely does not fit all.

I think you're right that labeling people evil or sinful is counterproductive, particularly when somebody is up on a soapbox labeling somebody else</b>. What's more useful is identifying in oneself that a state of sinfulness exists (i.e., a state of disharmony, of disunion with Divine), and in courageously naming those parts of oneself that are in need of change.

Again - all of which doesn't do squat for any kind of external legal standard. Then again - what good does that standard do, really? I mean, those who are so departed from their natural shape that they are killers or thieves or rapists are going to do those things, regardless of the fact that there are laws against them (not to mention which most folk can agree that those are generally Bad Things To Do). The law doesn't prevent the acts from happening, the evil from being committed. It only provides for some kind of compensation to the victim(s) and punishment for the perpetrator...and I'll digress and say that I think we're way the hell too eager to get into punishing people instead of understanding that people who commit heinous crimes are damaged and in need of help.

There's the streak of vindictiveness, in our culture and I think maybe also in our nature, that wants to see "bad people" punished. Something bad happens to us, or someone we love, and we want blood. Now. Anyone's will do, if we can't get at the person who actually committed the crime.

So yeah - it makes my blood boil when people tout "victims' rights" and want to make it ever more difficult for an accused person to get a fair trial or a fair sentence. They don't want justice - they want vengeance, which is a radically different thing.

[And [blushing] re: 'being so reasonable' - I do my best.]

Re: internal moral compass vs. external legal standard

Sorry - missed an end tag on that underline...is there any way to get in and edit that? [really blushing now]

Re: internal moral compass vs. external legal standard

To my knowledge the only way to correct a comment is to delete it and repost it. (That is what I do when I make a big mistake. For small mistakes I just let them slide.)

The person you are posting to gets an e-amil of both but at least the one in the journal is correct.

Re: internal moral compass vs. external legal standard

Well...I took a copy of the text before leaving this comment, so if you want to go ahead and delete it, I'll try reposting without all the obnoxious underlining...meant to hit preview, really I did...

Guess it depends whether this counts as a big mistake or a small mistake. Funny - it's probably just one character off (which is small) but it's a lot of underlined text (which is bigger, at least, if not truly big.

Depends on definitions...

If you define "sin" as "separation from God," then it's perfectly possible for Jesus to live such a life. A point often made in sermons I've heard is that Jesus was at one with God the Father; that he demonstrates the proper relation of creature to creator.

The mistake I think many people make - and I think fundamentalists are particularly prone to this - is thinking of "sin" as "bad things you do" and turn God into a kind of Santa Claus-like person, who knows "who's naughty and nice."

Sin is about separation, about departing from one's natural shape, about being bent into unnatural directions. That's why the old D&D concept of "lawful evil" always seemed moronic to me. People don't run around saying "I'm going to get in my evil acts, now." People depart from the right path, and get into trouble.

Sin is also about damage; the reasons people do bad things - when they do bad things, when they cause harm to others and themselves - usually trace back to damage that was done to them (one might sin of which they are victims). And it is necessary at least in part to understand one's motivations - why one is doing whatever it is - to discern whether one is engaging in a sinful activity or something harmless.

Let me take a very personal example. Everybody has a foundational issue, a thing that they deal with and struggle with more than any other, and for me that issue is abandonment. If I am unreasonably upset about something, and it appears to be entirely and completely irrational, the best question to ask is "What does this have to do with being abandoned?" And to keep asking patiently until I can and will give an answer.

That issue warps me out of the shape I was intended to have. It enslaves me, and makes me unfree, to the extent that it operates without my awareness. When it operates unconciously, it causes me to do all manner of things I ought not to do, seeking the security that some part of me is afraid I can never have. That flaw, that damage, causes me to sin - causes me to be separate from the free, intelligent, loving creature I was born to be.

And for me - God helps. I turn to God and say, "I can't deal with this alone; my vision is too twisted by confusion. You've got a better map - you drive." And for me that is salvation; I forge, link by link, day by day, a better and clearer connection to the Divine who created me, who shaped me to be free and loving, and try day by day to pare away anything that keeps me from being that. And that, to me, is what salvation means.

I'm not sure how clear I'm being; I'm running on short sleep. In summary all I'm really saying is that the concept of sin/salvation isn't as clear or as cartoonish as the fundies seem to make it out to be.

And if they want to get back to a fundamental biblical worldview - well, St. Luke's used to have a t-shirt that said:

"Let's get back to basics:
Feed the hungry,
Clothe the naked,
House the homeless,
Love your neighbor."

This, too, is a "biblical" worldview.


I love that you bring things like this up, and are willing to open-mindedly discuss them!!! I wish I could get more of that from fellow Christians!

Re: PS

I love your input on these issues and appriciate your willingness to discuss.

Your essay on sin is very insightfull. I agree that it is a matter of definition. The questions about "sin" and "salvation" where the hardest for me to answer for just that reason.