sent in by "likeafish"
I haven’t been around this web site long, but long enough to witness some of the ugliest behavior I have ever seen out of those who claim to represent the Prince of Peace. With only a handful of sites on the entire WWW dedicated to the subject of leaving the Christian faith, and perhaps thousands out there for the purpose of propagating the same, believers choose to seek this site out and attack Dave for what he is doing. And ATTACK is the operative word here. I dare say they’d burn him at the stake if they could.
So what is he doing? For one thing, contrary to what most Christians who come here perceive, he is NOT out to change anyone’s mind. He is out to free his own mind and to help others to do the same. He does not ask anyone to think what he thinks or adopt any particular take on truth other than what one finds for them self. This is difficult for a Christian to comprehend because of the theistic and dualistic perspective that guides every thought process. Everything, every idea that is not with them, that cannot be somehow subjugated or rendered neutral, is against them. Either there is a god, my god, or there is apostasy, unbelief, and everything is meaningless. One is either hot or cold, as the Lord put it, remember?
This limited epistemological framework does not allow for other possibilities, and consequently, little, if any, room for dialogue. Sure, Christians come here proclaiming their interest in what people who have left their faith have to say. They say they want to engage in conversation, sharpen their “debating skills” and listen. They often are out to prove the validity of their faith by presuming to be the one Christian who makes sure to tell them how much god loves them, while ever so kindly reminding the unbelievers that Hell awaits them.
Yet they end up complaining that they are misunderstood, that people are mean because they don’t have much patience for proselytizing, and that they are arrogant because they demand that any arguments be solid and well-reasoned and not filled with bible verses and an unimaginative repetition of things they have heard all their lives.
This place is like a library. Granted, it has a specific catalogue of material, but that is certainly not a fault. In fact, as a former theological student, I can see where this web site could be a valuable resource for materials to study regarding the Christian faith. There is nothing here to fear, unless knowledge is to be feared. But even better it is a forum in the best sense of the word. In the days of the ancient Greeks, or even Jesus and Paul’s time, cities usually had places, forums, where subjects were debated passionately. If you couldn’t hack it, if you didn’t come studied and prepared, with some skills and some imagination, then tough. Could it be that the claims of Christianity just don’t cut it in a reasoned debate anymore? Or that it doesn’t inspire imagination any longer?
Still, Christians find this place on the web to be a threat. Why is that? A faith that has lasted for 2000 years, survived the collapse of the Roman Empire, the 18th century Enlightenment (sort of) and suddenly one little old web site deserves such vitriol and hatred (yes, hatred, all you Christian readers) leveled on an almost daily basis toward Dave the webmaster for posting what he sees as a whole lot of stuff about Christianity that just doesn’t pass as loving, or even good. For what does this say about the strength of Christian convictions, of the confidence Christians have in the goodness of what they believe, or of Christianity itself? By its own standards Christianity is condemned, over and over, throughout history and by the witness of its followers who arrive and post here
In the 16th century the greatest minds in the world were all religious. In the west, they were all Christians. Let’s face it, they had to be or. . . (he draws an index finger across his throat). This web site is filled with information about why that is not the case any longer in the 21st century. The reason for bringing this up is that not once, not yet, not anywhere, not with any precision or honesty or thoughtfulness has a Christian come to this site with anything remotely resembling a well-presented theological argument for why Dave isn’t justified in speaking his mind, in working out whatever he needs to work out on his own web site that he pays for, in questioning god, the bible, the voracity of Christian claims, etc. OR offered any compelling reasons why he, or any apostate who has thought it through, should rethink their position. Furthermore, I have seen so little humility, so little graciousness, so few acts of kindness and mercy (if any at all), such a lack of love for the neighbor, and such an unwillingness of ANYONE to admit that Christianity is based upon faith and promise and NOTHING ELSE (not evidence, not proof, but faith--a word, a story, a truth claim based on religious authority) that if I were still a Christian I would be ashamed. Instead, it only confirms my own realization that Christianity is a fool’s errand and I can only feel a measure of pity and sadness for those who still cling to its delusions.
The violence in some of the responses to Dave’s site is troubling. Ye shall know them by their fruits indeed. It is disturbing to me that dissent is so feared these days that it almost seems that, not unlike the treatment of gays and illegal immigrants in the US, there are those who would hunt down anyone who thinks differently, and do whatever they can to eradicate them from sight (site?). And the Christians that come here would do so without even giving the accused a fair hearing. Most, it is clear, read very little of what is presented, and then unleash Hell. Hell, not Heaven mind you. So little love, so little time. They’re certainly not saying much for Christ’s sake.
When I was a kid, the Sunday school teachers told stories about persecuted Christians. We played games in youth group in which we hid out and had secret bible studies as if we were living in the former Soviet Union. All of this was designed to get us to think we Christians were a persecuted lot. I hear this silly notion repeated here and elsewhere by Christians. Every time government monies are blocked to fund a religious social program, or the Ten Commandments are removed from a public school, the Christians whine about persecution. They whine about it here when someone simply doesn’t agree with their poorly reasoned arguments. But who is trying to squeeze out whom? Like I said, this is one of only a handful of sites, if not the only site, that provides a forum for Ex-Christians.
Maybe it is not persecution at all. Maybe it’s just fear and panic, plain and simple. Maybe those clay feet of legend are the very foundations of the Christian faith itself. Maybe somewhere, deep down, those vituperative Christians who crash in here sense that the clay feet are cracking, and the whole thing is teetering precariously on the brink of oblivion. Maybe they know, like a man who leaves a seminary because learning is beginning to challenge his long-held beliefs, that if you think about it too much, it won’t hold water. Let’s face it, when faced with having to get out of the boat, do you try to walk on water or do you start swimming? What world are WE living in?
What is certain is that intolerance abounds these days. And even with all the information readily available on the web, so does ignorance. What is also clear is that, based upon the witness of the Christians who visit here, one could only conclude that they are, on the whole, insensitive, merciless, arrogant, smug, supercilious, fearful, neurotic, mono-maniacal, often unintelligible, seldom honest, lacking in empathy, and filled with their own self-righteousness. That’s what I see. I know many Christians—friends, family members—who do not fit these descriptions, and some others who do.
My point is that many Christians who arrive here do not obey the dictates of their own religion. They post on this site with beams in their eyes howling at Dave to remove the speck in his. They claim a loving god and can neither give a convincing argument for the claim based upon the contents of their faith nor the example of their own behavior. They call Dave hateful and promise him nothing but Hell.
So what is Dave doing? For me, he has provided a place to flush out of my mind a lifetime of religious training, indoctrination, anxiety, fear, and confusion that has plagued my existence with ideas that are irreconcilable with the person I am. What does that last statement mean? Well, it is personal, but it has to do with honoring the gifts I have and the way I have come to see the world around me, something that I could not do within the confines of Christianity. I have found that it is possible to have a sense of the good, the true and the beautiful without god. (If not, how could we ever determine god’s goodness in the first place? I digress). I realize now I am in good company in having felt restricted by the Christian faith. There is a case to be made for the idea that many, if not most creative events, inventions, and works of art in human history have, in some way, happened in opposition to Christianity. But I’m not interested in arguing that point. I still like Bach. Freethinking means I can still have that, and I can also appreciate .Buddhist poetry, or Muddy Waters. But in any of those cases, I am my own person, and I can take what I find appeals to me, what is useful, what agrees with my sense of humanity, and leave the rest behind. Christianity, if it is to be believed, and if Jesus is to be followed and the words of scripture to be put into practice, does not allow for that, in my view.
But I did not begin this essay to explain why I am no longer a Christian. My intention is to say that Dave is a person to be admired. He stands up for what he thinks against a plethora of personal, daily attacks, keeping his cool, and all the time providing for others who need a place to clear their head from their own daily assaults upon their individual psyches. Where Christianity is conformist, Dave’s site is turning over the proverbial tables in the temple and calling bullshit on the lot of it. Where it is repressive, Dave’s site sets captives free. In other words, from what I can see, even though he doesn’t buy all the truth claims of Christianity, he sure models the ethos it has made its reputation on. He uses what power he has and offers it to others so that they may find a measure of freedom for themselves.
I feel confident in using such an example because I can tell from this site that Dave has done the work. He has studied Christianity and taken it to heart. He gets it. And even though he finds 99% or even 100% of it abhorrent now, and I don’t blame him, he is also smart, sensitive, and compassionate enough, and has a sufficient sense of irony and humor enough to appreciate a compliment that is formed out the very material he has worked so hard to shake off.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”
Funny, I think Dave is a better Christian than all of you wankers.
"likeafish" is a regular participant in the Open Forums area of the site.