• An Atheist teaches evangelism skills
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    Top Ten Tips For Evangelizing (From An Atheist).

    1. Be Like Jesus: Hang With The Sinners and Judge The Judgers

    2. Form Genuine Relationships With People, Don’t Treat Them As Projects.

    3. Actions Speak Louder Than Words.

    4. When Talking About Religious and Philosophical Matters, Ask More Questions And Do Less Preaching.

    5. Don’t Give Unsolicited Advice or Judgments. Support People and Wait For Them To Ask For Your Input If They Want It.

    6. Appreciate That Nominal Christians Are Still Christians.

    7. Don’t Try To Force Others Into Christian Participation.

    8. Understand Atheists and Embrace The Opportunity Confrontational Atheists Afford You.

    9. Respect Other Religions Even As You Evangelize Their Members.

    10. Love Your Enemies, Not Just Your Tribe.

    The most admirable part of the story of Jesus, even to an atheist like me that thinks that both Christians and non-Christians give Jesus an overblown reputation, is the way that the Gospels portray him as a morally condemnatory preacher who focused his sermons against those who abused their wealth and religious power, rather than against those demonized already by his religion, while he spent his time hanging out with the outcasts loathed by his community. From his use of a hated Samaritan as a role model in his story about what kind of love God most demands of us, to his reputation for hanging out with the hated tax collectors and the prostitutes who were held in so much contempt, to his endless attacks on the rich and on the self-righteous religious leaders, the Jesus of the Gospels is a role model of how to simultaneously have strong opinions about morality without being a judgmental and alienating person.

    We do not have stories in which Jesus rails against the tax collectors and prostitutes. We do not have stories of him sitting around with them haranguing them about how they must change their lives. Yes, we have the moment where he tells the woman caught in adultery to “go and sin no more? but the crux of that story is his heroic effort to save her from a bloodthirsty mob of self-righteous people. We live in a society that has more than filled up its quota of Evangelical Christian Pharisees organizing contempt and condemnation for the sinners. We have plenty of highly visible Evangelical Christians invested in saying “sin no more?. They should be vastly outnumbered by Christians who stand up to them and say, “let ye who is without sin, cast the first stone?. We should have many more Christians who leave it to Jesus, presumably the only one with a right to judge on Christian doctrine, to be the one to tell the sinner to “sin no more?. The end of that story was not that those equally guilty of sin as the woman put down their stones and then stood in a circle chastising her and telling her not to sin lest next time she gets stoned for real. The end of that story was that the fellow sinners shut up and meted out no penalties nor condemnations. And Jesus alone dealt with the issue of her sin.

    From an outsider’s (and former insider’s) perspective, nothing is more corrosive right now to the church than your obsession with being acknowledged, with being powerful, and with drawing tribal lines. It is killing your ability to spread the Gospel. Too many in the church are placing whatever creates a hard distinction from “the world? at the center of Christian identity instead of a spirit of love. Hard right wing politics over gays and abortion are now becoming definitive of Christian identity rather than the belief in the Gospel. When I was a believer, I know we weren’t like this. Most of our time was consumed with loving Jesus and each other, not hating anybody–even if what the media paid primary attention to was our political stances. But I hear in the rhetoric of too many Christians a strange attitude that turns opposition to recognizing the validity of gay relationships into the ultimate test of orthodoxy. There is little biblical justification for overblowing the importance of this, especially as you show little desire in forcing remarriages of divorced people (Jesus was actually unequivocally against divorces when there’s been no adultery) or in living by the book of Leviticus in any of a hundred ways. It looks self-serving when the ethical views the church is most insistent upon are those that the older leaders of the church are least affected by. The church is sneering at young people’s sexual experimentation in a way that serves the monogamously married elders, it sneers at gays in a way that does little to challenge the heterosexual majority.

    Rather than loving your (perceived) enemies, you are claiming persecution every time you are asked to treat them equally and civilly under the law and in polite society. You are looking for ways to have antagonisms with feminists, with gays, with those who cry out against hundreds of years of systemic racial injustice, with atheists who plead for a secular government that doesn’t favor your religion. Rather than learning to appreciate those who force you to mature in your faith and learning to respect their admirable traits even in the midst of adversity, you’re participating in the politics of resentment and zero sum games.

    You are becoming known for your preferences for only people like you, for your unwillingness to so much as accommodate others different from you without crying persecution, and for your petty intolerance of the poor, the weak, the feminine, and all the marginalized in our society.

    You publicly identify whole groups of people as your enemies and wage legal and social war against them and their dignity. You leverage your considerable power with closed mindedness against everyone who lives in a way outside traditional boxes. And, all the while, you cry persecution when you’re not able to impose the ethics that only your faith justifies on those who don’t share your faith.
    If you want to effectively give the Gospel, you must repent and start loving your enemies as Jesus commanded, before you lose all credibility outside of the tribal boundary markers you are so fiercely asserting and defending.

    A lot of the Atheists out there are more rabidly doctrinaire then many members of the Evangelical right — and just as annoying. But this guy, I could easily like…

    He doesn’t get the Gospel nearly as well as he thinks he does — but his grasp of evangelism is easily twice as good as anything I ever got anywhere else. Really, what he is calling, Evangelism,” is nothing more then his grasp of how to love and be decent to others — which so much of the Church has lost.

    So worth the read!

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  • The real roots of mental illness
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    Psych Central

    But no matter how comfortable it is, no matter how much Warren, Venn, NAMI or Big Pharma, or anyone wants it to be THE cause, it’s not.

    The facts are clear: the majority of people in treatment for substance use have histories of childhood trauma. And as many as 90% of the people receiving care in the public system have histories of childhood trauma, most notably abuse and neglect. An even bigger truth is that there are lots of things in addition to abuse and neglect that overwhelm children—and parents – leading to what is frequently diagnosed as mental illness.

    And that, Pastor Rick, NAMI, and Bishop Vann, is something you desperately need to add to your beliefs. Traumatic experiences before birth, after birth, growing up—all change how we respond to ourselves and others, and rewire the brain. For generations.

    There’s a whole body of Christians out here, and many people of other faiths, who are or have been diagnosed with mental illness and are disenfranchised because of their religion’s primary erroneous belief that brain chemistry alone shapes illness. It’s easy and it’s safe: when we settle for “chemistry in the brain? we can overlook so many things that Pastor Rick Warren and Bishop Kevin Venn would call sinful whether they are sins of omission or commission.

    This perspective allows us to turn away from what is uncomfortable. And yet it continues to disregard the truths that a pill isn’t always the answer, that the easy culprit of chemical imbalance isn’t always at the root of illness, and that the messy lives we lead or the messy experiences into which we are thrown are so often at the root of a mental health diagnosis. In any organization, the way in which we continue to turn towards health through prescription and practice reshapes our lives.

    I watched Rick’s speech after the death of his son — torn between two opposing responses: One response was compassion for his loss. The other response was simple anger. Anger because, whether he knew it or not, he was spreading falsehoods.

    There are three layers of falsehood he spread in that speech: The first is the story that his son died because he had a issue with chemicals in his brain (instead of the chemicals in his brain showing evidence of the issues in his life.) The second is the story that false grace touting, shame and judgment infused, “Purpose driven lives,” adhering to rules and goaded by a fear of the wrath of a suspiciously human-looking god had nothing to do with the depression and then self-induced death of his son. The third is the assumption that, “Oops, we just messed up the only cure — drugging him.”

    And the truth?

    The truth is that many people do need drugs — and many don’t. But, almost all of those who need drugs need them only temporarily. They need them to mask the pain just enough to allow them deal with their hearts and fix the real problem: How badly they have been hurt and how dark what they believe about themselves really is.

    So often, when evangelical mood disorders strugglers finally grasp the core message of all-out-war on religion that Christ came to launch and the magic of what he came to replace that decaying system with, they can cry for weeks. It’s quite remarkable what happens to levels of depression when the sufferer walks away from hating the self, feeling condemned, fearing punishment, hiding from others and desperately trying to look good while shredding the self with anger turned inwards.

    The tears?

    They are tears of freedom to live, freedom to finally admit to the harm and freedom to simply grieve. It’s how the human heart heals — with or without a chemical lift to get things started…

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  • Losing my [economic] religion?
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    Business Insider

    The Pope Just Published One Of The Most Powerful Critiques Of Modern Capitalism That You Will Ever Read.

    …here a few lines that really stand out.

    On the importance of remembering those who are less fortunate: “We can only praise the steps being taken to improve people’s welfare in areas such as health care, education and communications. At the same time we have to remember that the majority of our contemporaries are barely living from day to day, with dire consequences.”

    On the seriousness of economic exclusion: “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.”

    On the failure of traditional economic dogmas: “… some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”

    On exploding inequality: “While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few.”

    On the world’s obsession with money: “We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.”

    On the dangerous mix of inequality and consumerism: “It is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric.”

    On the role of the state in providing for the common good and regulating the economy: “This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. “

    The above summary text and link is from Business Insider but the full text may be found at the Vatican itself. It’s so worth the read!

    But really, this is shaping up to be the boxing match of the decade…

    Think about it. Religion has always been a strange and twisted place.

    For example, modern Evangelicalism is certain premarital sex is wrong, and anything, like contraception or STI protection, that may encourage it (Contraceptives actually discourage teen sex) should be kept out of the hands of children. The children, of course, have sex anyway and end up pregnant with STIs and then learn that abortion is also bad and a shotgun wedding between two unprepared children is the choice of the day. The result is a divorce rate twice that of atheists (Which is also bad) and children with broken lives everywhere.

    Somewhere in that spin cycle of chaos, there’s a rather obvious solution but, to the true ideologue, the only answer is abstinence only education — a faith based ideology discredited so many times it’s not worth counting.

    Another equally strange and twisted place of religious beliefs is economics.

    Economics holds that the root of all good is trade. Trade is simply the ability to get things back in exchange for giving your resources out to another country. And, free trade is good while barriers to trade are bad because you can not get things back as cheaply and cheap is always best. Therefore, barriers to trade must be removed so consumers can buy cheap good and then everyone wins — right?

    Except for the guy who is now in charge of training his new replacements in Bangalore (All of whom are named, “Bob,” claim to live in America and barely speak English) because the shareholders of his company care not at all for protecting the quality of life we have here, are uninterested in the race to the bottom the culture with the non-existent human rights system/fair labor market creates and are even less concerned about the poverty his family will now experience because the, “Good hand of the market will prevail,” and everyone will eventually live in luxury — someday…

    Just as obvious in this spin cycle is the simple fact that a government of the people, for the people and by the people is supposed to make it hard for companies to destroy our standard of living and way of life but, to the true believer, the magical/divine force of the market is better.

    It’s really just another religion — but it’s been treated as pure science since forever.

    But, finally, we’ve now all got the very best seats in the house for the showdown of the century:

    On the left, we have a religious leader of such remarkable integrity, intelligence and leadership skill he could almost make me consider Catholicism — almost…

    On the right, we have our NeoCon overlords, blind faith in the good of the market and the intrenched ideology of our global economic religion of gambling with other people’s money.

    When Business Insider sits up and publishes this sort of thing, it’s ON!!! And, I honestly can’t think of a better opponent for one religion then the leader of another — and this Pope gets it better then nearly anyone out there.

    Now, I need to go make popcorn…

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  • The need for two kinds of truth.
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    Big Think

    I think it would diminish the hostilities, which are bad for our culture if more scientists were, in fact, willing to stand up and say that faith and science need not to be in conflict because right now that’s a minority view that doesn’t get heard very much and it’s apparent to some people that we are having more of a cultural war – a war that seems to imply that some worldview needs to win and some world view needs to lose.

    I would not want to look forward to a culture where science lost and religious faith became the dominating force for truth. I would not want to live in a culture where faith lost and science, with all of its reductionism and its materialism became the sole source of truth.

    I think we need both kinds of truth. I think we need both kinds of world views to the extent that scientists can help with that realization of a dual ways of finding answers to the appropriate kinds of questions that each world view can ask, then I think that would be a good thing.

    Francis Sellers Collins is an American physician-geneticist noted for his leadership of the Human Genome Project (HGP). He currently serves as Director of the National Institutes of Health. He has been elected to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences. He has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science and has written a number of books on science, medicine, and spirituality, including the New York Times bestseller, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.

    In other words, this guy is the absolute defining antithesis of the term, “Idiot…”

    But, the most interesting part of the write up is not so much his words — it’s the comments below.

    I can just imagine Dr. Collins sitting there as he wrote the above thinking, “You know, what I need is the perfect foil to show how true my words are. I need someone who can ignore the validity of the ontological, epistemological, axiological, methodological and the rhetorical elements of science and knowing. Someone who is so rabidly hostile to religion, loaded with contempt for even the social sciences and blindly sold out to the idea that science knows everything that he or she will spew venom like the most crazed Imam or right wing Evangelical fundamentalist. Someone who will never be able to grasp how well the spittle running down his or her chin is proving my point. Yep, I need an atheist Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory sitcom — too bad he is just a character…”

    Or, not… 🙂

    (Apparently, he has two handles, “Common Sense,” and, “Mike.”)

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  • The most sensible thing I have read all day.
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    Andrew Sullivan

    Read the whole thing, but here are two quotes:

    [Francis] is great because he is everything. He is a man who wants to do things, wants to build, he founded an order and its rules, he is an itinerant and a missionary, a poet and a prophet, he is mystical. He found evil in himself and rooted it out. He loved nature, animals, the blade of grass on the lawn and the birds flying in the sky. But above all he loved people, children, old people, women. He is the most shining example of that agape we talked about earlier…

    Francis wanted a mendicant order and an itinerant one. Missionaries who wanted to meet, listen, talk, help, to spread faith and love. Especially love. And he dreamed of a poor Church that would take care of others, receive material aid and use it to support others, with no concern for itself. 800 years have passed since then and times have changed, but the ideal of a missionary, poor Church is still more than valid. This is still the Church that Jesus and his disciples preached about.

    The above is from the pope himself. This is from a comment on the above from Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry:

    The problem here, as always, is pride. We think like politicians. We parse words for whether they help the Republican Party of the Church or the Democratic Party of the Church, whereas we should be humbly receiving the teachings of the Vicar of Christ. When those teachings seem shocking to us, common sense alone dictates that, instead of rending our garments, we should, with humility and charity, check ourselves to see what we can learn.

    On the one hand we have the Republican Party of Fundamentalist Evangelicalism trying to shut down the United States Government – and on the other we have the Pope sounding like one of the most sane and reasonable Church leaders I have ever heard.

    This proves it. Quantum theory is true – and I’ve somehow landed in an alternate universe…

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  • The little people
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    Richard Rohr

    The point that must be remembered is that most of political and church history has been controlled and written by people on the Right because they are normally the people in control. One of the few subversive texts in history, believe it or not, is the Bible. The Bible is a most extraordinary text because again and again it legitimates not the people on the top, but invariably the people on the bottom or those who move toward those on the bottom—from Abraham to Moses to Jeremiah to Job to John the Baptist to Jesus. It has taken an amazing degree of denial and selective attention to miss this quite obvious alternative pattern.

    After a while you might get tired of the rejected son, the younger son, the barren woman, the sinner, the outsider always being the chosen one of God! It is the Biblical pattern—which we prefer not to see. It takes away our power to exclude “the least of the brothers and sisters? because that is precisely where Jesus says he is to be found (Matthew 25:40)! If indeed women, blacks, other religions, gays, and other “outsiders? are “least? in our definition, it seems that gives them in fact a privileged and revelatory position! They are not to be excluded, but honored. Jesus takes away from us any possibility of creating any class system or any punitive notion from religion. Unfortunately, thus far, it has not worked very well.

    Some quotes need zero commentary…

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  • Why Freedom can’t be partial…
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    Medical News Today

    “Our findings show that when individuals are forbidden from everyday objects, our minds and brains pay more attention to them,” says lead author Grace Truong, a graduate student in UBC's Dept. of Psychology. “Our brains give forbidden objects the same level of attention as our own personal possessions.”


    The next time you run into a well intentioned but only partially reformed legalist who wants Freedom in Christ to be mixed with just enough of the rules to make things nice, polite and comfortable (Because, you know, it's for the children…), just remember that there's nothing more efficient at making people permanently attached to stupid things then telling them that being attached to such is an awful, no-good, very bad thing that will send them straight to hell…

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  • How to get rid of religion
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    Ok, first of all, I’m not going to live link to this guy — but here’s the source:


    It’s definitely worth a read — mostly because of how strikingly similar it is to the awarenesses Jesus had about what is so ugly about religion…

    In the end, I think more studies like this will ultimately explain much of the variation of religious belief among the world’s nations. And it tells us something important as activist atheists or secularists. We can’t get rid of religion simply by pointing out that it’s false, disenfranchises women, fosters guilt, and so on. Yes, those are important things to do, and do make converts, but in the end religion will be with us until we create more just, more egalitarian, and more caring societies.

    He lists a whole set of stats about how religion is strongly associated with utterly messed up societies and advocates the creation of what is pretty much the opposite of neo-conservative utopia as a means of ending religion. In doing so, starts to sound almost identical to this guy: Bruxy Cavey — the pastor of one of the largest Churches in Canada and a man who is also bent on the end of religion.

    I had to think: How much do true believers not share with the atheist community?

    We all want to:

    – End superstition.

    – Cancel fear, shame and guilt.

    – Erase injustice.

    – End war.

    – Stop the abuse of women and children.

    – Equalize inequality for women etc. and stop exploitation.

    – Stamp out homelessness and hunger.

    And, yes, get rid of religion.

    The only real difference: Atheism wants to replace religion with a faith in secularism and it’s systems of corporate ideological control while followers of Christ want to replace such with a faith in the power of the love of Christ flowing through the lives of those filled with His Spirit.

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  • So, what’s a woman good for anyway? (Part #5)
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    So many times I get couples in my office where the unspoken message is simply, “If you could just make him a little more like me, everything would be just fine.?

    In other words, make him just like the men I see on X soap opera or in my favourite romance novel and everything will be fine. Just make him a bearer of feminine power and I’ll be happy…

    It puts me in a strange spot as, on some level, I can’t help but agree. C. S. Lewis once stated:

    “There ought spiritually to be a man in every woman and a woman in every man. And how horrid the ones who haven’t got it are: I can’t bear a ‘man’s man’ or a ‘woman’s woman’.“

    And, there is incredible truth there and some of it has to be realized on a personal level. However, on another level, I simply can’t go there for the other expression of such was created by God to be formed in the oneness of marriage. There is simply something fundamentally different about men and women and they were supposed to function as a unit – not blend into androgynous homogeneity.

    Both are profoundly relational, fully equal and exactly 50% of the whole equation — but quite different. If one does not do his/her part, the other’s is insufficient to make a relationship into what it should be.

    Yes, a man has some power. He can recognize the emotional shift in a child — if he is not fixing the sink and focused there. (A woman would see it regardless and instantly know what to do.) He can put on lingerie and take his best shot at seducing a woman — but mostly he will look like an idiot. He can draw out her heart — but she will do much better at bringing out her own if he just pursues her enough for her to believe he wants it. He can bring up deeply intimate subjects and subtly guide a woman to ask questions and explore him — if he spends half the day planning it and she could figure it out in seconds. He can be so enticing she will eventually demonstrate authority and ask him out — and she will be throughly infuriated she had to do so.

    Yes, you may want some of the above — but what you really need:

    A man to be outward directed and face the world head on. You need him to be relational by doing together — to draw you along side of him into the passionate force of a journey into life. You need him to pursue his world, to climb, to challenge, to be forceful, to be passionate, to be principled, to carry authority, to weigh and chose, to be captivated by you, to focus on you, to passionately want you, to call you and your children to life, to speak truth, to have courage, to physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and sexually initiate towards you and then follow through with a passionately forceful taking of you on every level that never stops. (Please don’t imagine even the remotest implication of rape here…)

    Yes, in Christ, we potentially have all and do need to grow up into at let some of the fullness of both. But, if he would just fully express ONLY that authority, any woman could quite easily fill in ALL of the power and things would function to at least a 90% level of perfection. The opposite of that would be an utter disaster.

    A church pursuing the feminization of men is a church pursuing the dissolution of the passion that makes a marriage bond what it was intended to be – not a church pursuing the improvement of marriage.

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