Archive for January, 2008

Re-evaluating Policy as an Atheist #1: Capital Punishment

Posted in Ethics with tags , , , , on January 30, 2008 by carriedthecross

When I de-converted from Christianity, I was forced to slowly and thourougly review many of my fervently held beliefs in all aspects of my life. I’ve decided to go ahead and put some of them down on paper… well, sort of paper. The first issue I want to explore is the death penalty. As a Christian, I ardently opposed the death penalty in all forms. Though that put me in the decided minority of evangelical Christians, I came to this anti-death penalty conclusion based on my Christian faith.

In Matthew 5 Jesus repeatedly makes claims that indicated to me that he was opposed to the death penalty. He follows the pattern of, “You have heard that it is said…, but I say unto you…” It signifies to me that Jesus opposed the death penalty. More personally, in John 8, Jesus defends a women from the death penalty. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” Jesus said. For years, I was unable to figure out how evangelicals were so overwhelmingly in favor of the death penalty. Perhaps it is a bit trite, but I was also concerned with the idea of cutting someone off from redemption. Since I believed hell to be a real place, I could not comprehend why Christians would support a policy that would ‘send people’ to hell sooner rather than allowing them an opportunity for salvation later.

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Political Debate: How the Religious Right Stole It

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , on January 29, 2008 by carriedthecross

I’m not old enough to remember the days that Congress enjoyed sustained approval ratings above 70%. I’ve never known a Democratic Senator that was able to debate a Republican on the floor and then discuss strategies for synergy over drinks at night. Instead, I’ve grew up during the era of the so-called Conservative Revolution. American political forces are polarizing: Bill & Hillary Clinton, George Bush, Newt Gingrich, Edward Kennedy. So what happened?

Perhaps I will sound biased, but hear me out. The root of the change seems to be, in my mind, the rise of the religious right. When I listen to many of the Republican candidates speak on healthcare, they are quick to contrast American values with European values. When professors at my university bring up world politics, they inevitably point to Europe as the opposite of America. But there are conservative and liberal countries in Europe. Much like America has “blue states” and “red states,” Europe has “blue nations” and “red nations.”

So what is the x-factor? What delineates between American conservatism and European conservatism? The religious right. For the past several decades so-called social conservatives in America have taken a stranglehold to the Republican party. So why is this important?
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Pale Blue Dot

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 28, 2008 by carriedthecross

I first heard of Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot while taking a Systematic Theology course. distinctly remember his book being vilified for ‘demeaning’ humanity as so small and inconsequential. Though I never fully bought into that point of view as a student, upon my de-conversion, I found an enhanced sense of appreciation for Sagan’s words.

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The Problem With Pastors: Too educated?

Posted in Christianity with tags , , , on January 27, 2008 by carriedthecross

In my time, during my pre-Christian, Christian, and post-Christian days, I have heard people make claims that I have found to be incredibly absurd. From both theists and nontheists, liberals and conservatives, friends and foes, people say things around and to me that strike me as just… off. However, last night I think I might have heard one of the best. “The problem with pastors, I think,” said an acquaintance of mine, “is that they are too educated.”Now, I know that the Christian university I attend is no Wheaton or Calvin College; but, I think my school is fairly representative of evangelical colleges in America. I spent more than two years here as a religion major, studying for pastoral ministry. And I can attest to the fact that the religion majors here are in no way too educated. From my experience with seminarians in typical Christian graduate programs, I feel fairly certain in saying those students are more often than not too educated as well. Perhaps there is some period of academic revival that takes place post-formal education in the lives of some pastors, but it has not been my experience.
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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Posted in Christianity with tags , , on January 27, 2008 by carriedthecross

Last night I tagged along with a church group doing a homeless ministry. Even during my post-Christian time, I respect this church for the moderate views of the pastor and the exorbitant amount of the budget that goes to service projects (upwards of 80%). They have Wednesday and Saturday night ministry in which they pack a couple of vans full of clothes, blankets, batteries, propane, other supplies and hot food and they set out to visit four ‘homeless camps’ in the inner-city. At each camp, they distribute the food and supplies and spend forty-five minutes or so mingling with the homeless.

It’s a great ministry. They pray to wrap up each camp, but speaking as an outsider, I was impressed that the time was not spent trying to preach or convert the homeless. They passed out the food and they brought them dignity by talking to them. One of the men I met, named Tom, was incredibly wise. He somehow has kept up on the 2008 presidential campaign, and so we were able to stand there in the freezing cold and have a conversation about our pet issues and favorite candidates. In the end, I had received an entirely new perspective on things and he had found an audience for his often unheard opinions. I think it was good for the both of us.

So ten points to these Christians for being able to meet genuine needs in their community.

But the night was not all positive. Continue reading

Evangelical Atheist?

Posted in Atheism with tags , , , on January 17, 2008 by carriedthecross

Upon coming to the conclusion that I could no longer call myself a Christian, perhaps the most important question I asked myself was, “What now?” As a Christian, I had a very clear purpose in life. The Great Commandment (Matthew 22) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28) were the guiding forces in my life (in theory, if not always in action). As an atheist, I have no such mandate to change the world. But inaction isn’t in my nature. Being idle isn’t an option.

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Case Studies in Christian Reactions to my De-Conversion

Posted in Christianity with tags , , , on January 14, 2008 by carriedthecross

Below are some “case studies” in the reactions of the students at the Christian college I attend after my “coming out” as an atheist. Some of the reactions have been amusing, some have been frustrating. Some have encouraged me to hope that while I think Christians have a flawed metaphysic, they are genuine. Others have caused me to doubt the sincerity of faith.

Allow me to set the stage: It was only a couple of weeks before move-in day that I decided that I didn’t want to take the route of “faking faith” for an entire year. As a tech-generation college student, the quickest, easiest, and least personal way of disseminating the information about my de-conversion was naturally Facebook. And so in the true form of a impulsive youth, I published my conclusions about Christianity in the form of a series of Facebook notes.

The response was, shall we say, overwhelming. Literally nearly two hundred “comments” on the posts themselves, but that was the tip of the ice berg. The weeks before school were filled with e-mails and phone calls from concerned friends. I even received a few “praying for you” cards. For the most part, the messages were well intentioned. When I arrived at school, e-mails and phone calls gave way to personal conversations. Dozens of people approached me, making awkward conversation, only to finally ask the question: “So why

are you mad at Jesus?” And dozens of times I patiently explained my philosophical convictions that led me away from theism.For the most part, life at my evangelical college remained quite normal. Classes and work dominated most of my time. By nature I tend to know a lot of people, but am close to very few. So my relationships predominantly stayed the same.

There were; however, some notable, and often surprisingly humorous, reactions from my fellow students.

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