Pragmatic Compendium

inspiring the pragmatic practice of intimacy with Christ

#GoodNews – the Christian faith isn’t about being “good.”

JSMGospelMeansGoodNewsThe Christian faith isn’t about being “good” and trying not to do anything “wrong.” ‪

#‎Jesus‬ wasn’t just a good man Christians should strive to emulate.

If I believe the eye witnesses, He was God himself, in the flesh. He came to restore my relationship with Him – a relationship severed by my rejection and indifference.

I suffer when I am separated from God. Without Jesus, that separation would be eternal.

Any parent will tell you they wish they could take their child’s place when the child suffers.

If you believe what Jesus said, that’s what God did. ‪#‎ibelieve‬ ‪#‎GospelMeansGoodNews‬

December 21, 2015 Posted by | apologetics, Christian, Jesus, pragmatic communion | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Are you saying Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses agree about who Jesus actually is?”

I only opened the door because I thought it was a delivery. I’ve been doing a bunch of online Christmas shopping.

There was no smiling Amazon box on my porch.

It was a smiling guy wearing a tie, holding a zippered book and what appeared to be a Bible tucked in his armpit.

Thought Bubble: “AAACCK! Julie! What have you done!?”

After his jovial icebreaker comment about how the vine on my porch reminded him of the grape vines he used to swing on when he was a kid, he abruptly launched right into his spiel with a question about politics and the end of the world that I literally couldn’t make ANY sense of, much less answer.

“Have you ever wondered about whether the world blahblahnonsensicalblahblah.”

Thought Bubble: “um, I can honestly say no. Because I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.”

I told him I was sorry but that I only discussed politics with close friends and he said, “Me too! We have something in common!”

Thought Bubble: “ummmm. no. I don’t think so. I’ve never met you before. You are standing on my porch, not sitting in my living room. We are not close friends. We’re not even acquaintances. and you just asked me a question about politics.

Then he asked me something as equally nonsensical as his opening question, which he seemed believe was a natural conversational bridge from politics to God and once again, I couldn’t make sense of what he was trying to say. In all honesty, it’s very possible I didn’t care enough to put any effort into deciphering the question.

Thought Bubble: “Jehovah’s Witness.”

He was looking at me expectantly.

I was completely frank: “I’m not really sure what you’re asking…This is a Christ-centered home.”

He said: “We have something else in common!”

Thought Bubble: “I know he knows that’s not true.”
Quick Prayer: “Lord, do I go there or not? Please help me follow your lead.”
and Memo to Me: It would appear that Jehovah’s Witness canvassers are trained to find and call to attention something they have in common with their targets – even if they have to invent the commonality.

JW: “Let me give you a tract that addresses politics from that standpoint.”

Thought Bubble: “? huh? What standpoint?”

He unzips what turns out to be an actual book FULL of tracts, all organized in plastic sleeves. Flipping through, he pulls one out, opens it up and points to a quote referenced as Daniel 2:44

“In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed. And this kingdom will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it alone will stand forever. (emphasis his)

As he slowly read the verse out loud, he followed along the text with his finger and I remember him being completely oblivious to the fact that I was actually looking at his face and not the tract, thinking, “I wonder if he’s been trained to do that. I can’t be the only person who finds it condescending.”

Quick Prayer: “Okay Lord. I REALLY need you to tell me what to say. NOW.”

I took the tract out of his hand, turned it over, looked at the bottom.

My tone of voice was neutral: “You’ve misrepresented yourself.”

He looks surprised. Confused. Hurt. Acting is not his forte.

JW: “I didn’t misrepresent myself! How did I misrepresent myself?!”

Me: “There’s a significant difference between Jehovah’s Witness and Christianity.”

JW: “There are lots of differences between Christian religions! For instance, Baptist’s believe…”

Me, softly interrupting: “I’m not referring to doctrine.”

Silence. I couldn’t believe it. He didn’t have an immediate response.

Quick Prayer: “okay God. Now What?”

JW: “I don’t understand what you mean.”

Dont Have to Attend Every ArgumentImmediately, the thought popped into my head: “Don’t explain. It’s a trap.”

Me: “I’m having trouble believing you don’t know what I’m talking about. You must have engaged in conversations about the difference before.”

I’m not sure exactly what he said next. But I remember thinking “Tangent. Distraction. Non-essential doctrinal difference.”

Me: “I’m sorry, I’m really not interested in debating non-essential doctrine. There’s a single significant difference between Jehovah’s Witness and Christianity.”

I continued, looking at him quizzically: “I’m finding it difficult to believe you don’t know what I’m talking about.”

JW: “What’s the difference between Jehovah’s Witness and Christianity?”

I looked him straight in the eye and slowly shook my head:We don’t agree about who Jesus actually is.” (click the link to see a 2 minute explanation of what JW believe)

Another brief moment of silence.

A woman, obviously his canvasing partner, who had been walking up my driveway, stepped close enough to him so that he noticed her presence and realized he was being observed.

JW: “Well, who do you believe Jesus is?”

Again, I thought: “Don’t explain. and only focus on this one issue.”

Me: “I’m having a difficult time believing you don’t already know who I believe Jesus is. You must have had conversations with Christians about this before.”

another pause.

Me: Are you saying Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses agree about who Jesus actually is?

JW: “well…no….But…”

Thought Bubble: “I KNEW he knew what I was talking about.

and I LOVE the Socratic method. loveitloveitloveit.”

Me: “I’m not going to try and convince you to believe what I believe about who Jesus is. But I do believe you misrepresented yourself. Jehovah’s Witness is not a Christian religion.

JW: “But…”

Me: “I respect your beliefs. Please respect mine.”

He thanked me for my time and I respected his beliefs again by not wishing him a Happy Thanksgiving.

As I think about it now, I realize why they were canvasing on a Tuesday morning. They know it’s likely there are a lot of people who’ve taken the week of Thanksgiving off.

Smart.

the words calculated and predatory also come to mind. but still. very smart.

November 24, 2015 Posted by | apologetics, Christian, Jesus, pragmatic communion | , , , | 1 Comment

Richard Dawkins acknowledges the possibility of Intelligent Design…

Richard Dawkins on the Possibility of Intelligent DesignHow did I not know this?

Anti-theist, Richard Dawkins believes in the possibility of intelligent design:

“It could come about in the following way. It could be that at some earlier time, somewhere in the universe, a civilization evolved, by probably some kind of Darwinian means, to a very, very high level of technology and designed a form of life that they seeded onto, perhaps, this planet. That is a possibility, and an intriguing possibility. And I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the D cells of biochemistry and molecular biology you might find a signature of some sort of designer. And that designer could well be a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe.”

Doing the math…

That’s: 3 “coulds” 1 “somewhere” 1 “probably” 1 “perhaps” 3 “possibilities” and 2 “mights” all adding up to

– if I understand him correctly –

Aliens.

from outer space.

or more specifically, from “somewhere” in space, at “some earlier time” in history.

perhaps. He supposes.

He makes this statement in an interview with Ben Stein, who comments:

“So, Professor Dawkins was not against intelligent design. Just certain types of designers. Such as God.”

Aliens are a reasonable scientific theory.

But a different kind of transcendent being,

such as God,

is not.

Here’s two data points I will remember forever about Richard Dawkins:

1. When asked, without even a hint of argument, he immediately acknowledged the possibility of intelligent design:

“It could come about in the following way.”

2. Without any citing any scientific evidence, using words like could, probably, perhaps, possible and might, he believes aliens are a reasonable scientific theory to explain intelligent design.

“And that designer could well be a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe.”

And then there’s his quote about “people who claim to be religious” from my post yesterday:

“Mock them. Ridicule them. In public.” Religion “needs to be ridiculed. With contempt.

April 17, 2015 Posted by | apologetics, Christian, pinterest, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Richard Dawkins on Christians: “mock them. ridicule them. in public. with contempt.”

[Background Photo Source and Prints Available to Purchase from: http://navitz.deviantart.com/art/Wings-of-a-Broken-Heart-32783712 ]

[Background Photo Source and Prints Available to Purchase from: http://navitz.deviantart.com/art/Wings-of-a-Broken-Heart-32783712 ]


Been thinking about something Richard Dawkins said
when he spoke about
meeting someone who claims to be religious:

“Mock them.

Ridicule them.

In public.”

Religion “needs to be ridiculed.

With contempt.”

And the crowd he addressed laughed and cheered and applauded.

I don’t agree.

I can’t fathom a single situation in which contemptuous ridicule is “needed.”

Public or private.

Everybody is ‪#‎justadifferentkindofbroken‬ ‪#‎edify‬

April 16, 2015 Posted by | apologetics, Christian, pinterest | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

We can’t trust the Bible. It’s been “re-written” too many times.

Re-written is one way to say it. But the word “re-written” tends to imply the Bible has been edited and re-interpreted multiple times over hundreds of years, resulting in an irretrievable loss of the original content. The implication of the word “re-written” is widespread error and intentional manipulation by the fallible humans who did the re-writing. The implication of error and manipulation is that in a cross-check, the manuscripts don’t match up.

After looking at the available facts instead of relying the assumptions, I believe a more accurate word is “copied.”

Hand copied isn’t the same as re-written.

What’s interesting to me about the assumption that hand copied scripture results in an untrustworthy source is that, in reality, the multitude of copies actually serves as proof for reliability of ancient manuscripts. And not just Biblical manuscripts. The “number of copies” criteria for reliability doesn’t originate with or even apply only to Christian writings.

It’s a history thing.

Historians who could give a flyin flip about proving or disproving Christianity believe that the number of copies and whether they cross check for accuracy in content is an important factor in determining whether ancient documents are reliable.

(To clarify. I’m not referring to the truth or meaning of the words in these manuscripts, just their historical authentication and accuracy.

Here’s some facts about the ancient documents we have:

There are presently 5,686 Greek manuscripts in existence today for the New Testament.

From what I can find, after the New Testament, the highest number of copies of ancient writings is:
643 copies for Homer’s Iliad,
49 copies of Aristotle’s writings,
10 copies for Caesar and
7 for Plato.

Meanwhile, in addition to the 5,686 Greek manuscripts for the New Testament, there are over 19,000 copies in the Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic languages. Add non-Biblical manuscripts and the supporting New Testament manuscript base is over 24,000.”

Maybe I’m misinformed, but my understanding is that reliability of the writings of Plato, Caesar, Aristotle or Homer are not disputed.

Pragmatic Faith Manuscripts Span of YearsIn addition to the multitude of copies, another criteria historians look to in confirming the reliability of ancient manuscripts is the time between the original writing and the earliest copies known to be in existence. (Notice we don’t have originals of ANY of these documents.)

Sticking with the five examples given above, the approximate time between the original and the earliest copy we have is:

Plato’s writings – 1200 years (7 copies),
Caesar1000 years (10 copies),
Aristotle1400 years (49 copies) and
Homer500 years (643 copies).
New Testament70 years (5,686 copies in Greek alone)

So…just looking at the math.

If critics, doubters and naysayers of the reliability of Biblical manuscripts acknowledge the historicity and writings of Plato, Caesar, Aristotle and Homer, it seems logical that they should also acknowledge the historicity and writings of the New Testament authors.

April 3, 2015 Posted by | apologetics, Bible, Christian, pinterest | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Dear Atheist, I support your right to vote, in full awareness that your feelings about God and religion influence your vote. Respectfully, A Disciple of Jesus Christ

Dear Atheist I support your right to vote Freedom of Religion

September 22, 2014 Posted by | apologetics, christian living, conversations with an atheist, pinterest | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

toxic concoction.

Doubt and Faith Toxic Concoction Mark Buchanan Your God is Too SafeI got cocky.

I thought I could logically justify my faith in God.

You’ll find some Christians who’ll tell you they can do it.

not me.

not anymore.

When someone told me my faith was illogical, irrational and unreasonable, I bristled. Or should I say, my ego bristled? I challenged them to prove it.

They couldn’t. (Their emotionally charged reasoning was circular and redundant and they completely ignored me when I poked questions into the holes in their arguments.)

But in the aftermath of those discussions, I discovered I couldn’t disprove it either.

Science and logic have limits. There are some things that can’t be understood or explained (and a definition isn’t an explanation).

Like what causes gravity.
Like human consciousness.
Like quantum entanglement (what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”).

Like God.

Doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Just means we don’t understand why. Or how.

Somewhere along the way, I forgot that God cannot be completely understood. I forgot that a God I can understand is a God I create. Confine. Any God I can completely understand is limited by time and space and the extent to which I can understand.

Any God who is limited by my understanding is not transcendent.

I was reminded – the hard way – that I don’t want a God I can understand.

It was a season of extreme paradox in my life.

My faith had never been stronger and I had never been more aware of my weakness apart from Christ.

My faith had never been stronger and I had never been more intimately and desperately dependent on the Holy Spirit.

I prayed daily for wisdom and discernment and empathy and compassion. I prayed daily for Him to continuously make me aware of opportunities to be the hands and feet and voice and ears of Christ. Watching and listening for the promptings of the Holy Spirit had never been more in the forefront of my awareness. I prayed not only for the Holy Spirit to prompt me when to speak and act, but when to be silent and still.

I prayed for Him to equip me in what I honestly knew to be beyond my capabilities.

and then.

The person who told me my faith was illogical, irrational and unreasonable asked me a simple question:

If God is sovereign, why pray?

You’d think I would have considered that question before, me being all spiritually “mature” and everything.

Turns out, I had never really thunk it through. I had dismissed it, thoughtlessly citing Biblical platitudes like “I pray because Jesus prayed.” and “I pray because the Bible tells us to pray.”

When I finally looked at the question straight on, my entire relationship with God came to a screeching halt.

I couldn’t pray.

I wanted to turn back the clock. To unthink what I was thinking. I wanted the faith of a child.

I wanted stronger faith.

Suddenly and overwhelmingly, I identified with Philip Yancey when he wrote:

“I envy, truly I envy, those people who pray in simple faith without fretting about how prayer works and how God governs this planet. For some reason I cannot avoid pondering these imponderables.”

What was so different about this question this time? It came at a critical juncture in my life. After arguing with God for months, I had finally taken the terrifying step of obedience by sharing something I believe God was revealing to me. Something I tried to ignore. Something I didn’t want to see: That I was part of a church which marginalized grace, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, prayer and relationship with Christ. That we forgot 1 Corinthians 2:2-5 and were ignoring Matthew 28:19.

I was genuinely repentant and prayed desperately for God to bring revival. Heartbroken, I asked for people to pray with me. I was blindsided by how angry people were, how fast and how much they misunderstood what I said and how vehemently they rejected not only what I was saying, but me.

I had argued with God, finally doing what I believed He was prompting me to do and I was faced with closed hearts, closed minds and slammed doors.

So I did what anyone “mature” in their faith would do. I ran into a cave and hid.

A dark cave.

“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
1 Kings 19:4-9

Go ahead, sing-song it with me.

“Julie and Elijah, sitting under a tree, w. h. i. n. ing.”

I prayed.

and then I couldn’t.

Because God is sovereign and God’s gonna do what God’s gonna do.

And then I prayed because I couldn’t help it.

Because a life void of intimacy with Christ and utter dependance on the Holy Spirit was vastly empty. and hopelessly dark.

Desolate.

I prayed because I couldn’t help it while at the same time believing that praying to a sovereign God who’s working a plan and doesn’t need my help was…pointless.

Not logical. Not pragmatic.

And that’s where faith is required.

And where doubt came in.

I never doubted the existence of God. I never doubted Christ or the Cross or the redeeming power of His blood. I never doubted my salvation.

I doubted the point of me.

If God is sovereign, why pray?

If God doesn’t need me, why would He even bother with me? Why did He even bother with me?

And that’s why I say I can’t logically justify my faith.

In my darkest night, when God was completely silent, when the logical, rational and reasonable foundation for my faith was beyond my sight,

I still had faith.

I still have faith.

April 10, 2014 Posted by | apologetics, books, Christ-Centered Church, christian living, pinterest, pragmatic communion, praise team music, prayer, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

conversations with a born-again atheist: abandoning Santa.

faith and reasonIf you’re new to the party, HERE are the previous posts in this series. If you want to skip the history and prefer the twitter version, I’m having an ongoing conversation with a born-again atheist. When I say “born-again atheist” I mean he was a born again Christian, but is now an atheist.


Note: Wrapping up the “Santa tangent.” (Before I could reply to the “Shotgun” email, AtypicalAtheist asked me for my thoughts on his comparison between Santa and faith in God.

Here’s his question:
comparing belief in God to belief in Santa. and faires. and WibbleFoo.”

and Here’s my response:
the Santa Comparison.”

Below is his reply.


AtypicalAtheist:

Hey Julie,

I love the analysis, and I think you’re absolutely correct in some respects. I’m not trying to be condescending. I do attempt to speak by example though, and that may come off as condescending. In fact, my wife has made that statement before, so I know that, in spite of my attempts to not sound condescending, I come off as such anyway. Bah!

If I had said “Well, 1.6 billion people believe in Islam, and 1.4 billion people believe in Buddha. Just because people believe in all their hearts that something exists or something is right, doesn’t necessarily make it exist or make it right”.

My point is – belief that it exists is irrelevant to whether it does in fact exist. People believe a lot of stuff, but that doesn’t make it so.

A minor quibble along these lines then is that we disagree is the statement “Look at the sheer number of people that believe in God – they clearly can’t all be wrong…” is a valid LOGICAL point (your emphasis). I believe that to be a statement of feeling, not a logical point. A logical point is based on facts and based on reasoning. As I said above – just because you wish, think, or believe something is there, doesn’t make it there.

Regarding the Santa thing in that finally, I think you know now that I was trying to show an example of where it’s an absurd conclusion so as to block off the exit. Because it was Santa though, your critique was spot-on in that built into “belief in Santa” includes “child-like” and “ignorant”. So the larger part of the argument is completely overlooked. I won’t belabor the point – your criticism is quite right, and I’m happy to abandon the comparison.

One more (not trying to beat the dead horse again), but how would you feel in a debate, not that we’re having one, if I had instead chosen Astrology, Voodoo, or John Smith? Now, before you disagree with me for listing those things specifically, according to a Harris Poll released in 2008, 31% of Americans believe in Astrology; there are millions of people in Haiti, Africa, and Brazil that have faith in Voodoo; according to various sources, nearly 14 million people are baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints worldwide.

The sustaining goal being to point out that the # of believers doesn’t contribute one iota to whether a proposition is true. That was the point I was trying (and failing) to make.

Thank-you for the constructive criticism – it’s well received.

AtypicalAtheist


Click HERE to see all “conversations with a born-again atheist” posts.

NOTE: All comments will be held for approval. This blog is a no-hate zone.

May 6, 2013 Posted by | apologetics, books, christian living, conversations with an atheist, learning curve, pinterest, pragmatic communion | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

conversations with a born-again atheist: some behind the scenes banter

faith and reasonIf you’re new to the party, HERE are the previous posts in this series. If you want to skip the history and prefer the twitter version, I’m having an ongoing conversation with a “born-again atheist” as we continue to explore my original questions:

Why do you believe faith in God is unreasonable, illogical and irrational?

and

How did a born-again Christian become an atheist?


Note: This is some in-between/behind the scenes conversation between AtypicalAtheist and myself. I’m including it in the blog series because I want to remind readers that he and are actually friends in real life – even though we hold very, very different beliefs about God.


AtypicalAtheist: Actually… one thing at a time. I’d love to get your opinion of my prior e-mail before I get your input from my last e-mail. Sorry – – – didn’t mean to overload the queue.

JSM: “One thing at a time.” NOW you say that? :)

Seriously. You called yourself a “free-thinker” but I would also describe you as a “shotgun thinker!” Following those first few emails was like trying to watch a bullet in a steel room. This might be a personal question, but all the coffee you drink…do you have ADD? Because if you do, you are very good at it. Meanwhile, I’ll try to keep up.

For my own clarity, I need to break up my responses into more manageable pieces. I’ve got so much written and it’s all starting to blend together. The pages are growing and there’s no reason not to start sending you the responses I have written. Unless you load up another shotgun…

Later,
Julie

AtypicalAtheist: Naw … I don’t have another shot…

Oooh – Squirrel!

Uh, where was I?

Yeah – I was diagnosed with ADHD way back before it was common-place. I was on Ritalin for years until I worked out that Nicotine was a great substitute. Nicotine – what a fantastic drug … it just has a crappy delivery mechanism. Anyway – I smoked from the age of about 14 to about 40. I am proud to say though that my kids never saw me with a cigarette although my middle child did find an empty pack of smokes in my car once. But alas, I digress. I now treat my ADHD with a pot of coffee and 3 hits of crystal meth every day whether I need it or not (uhh, just kidding about the crystal meth) ;)

Hope you’re still retaining your sense of humor,
AtypicalAtheist

JSM: lol! Definitely. In that vein, here’s a little atheist music for you:

Later,
Julie
p.s. I’m loving this. You are really making me think. But I’m far from convinced that faith in God is illogical. :)

AtypicalAtheist:

[… snip …]
“I’m far from convinced that faith in God is illogical”
[… snip …]

I’d just like to reiterate that I have no intention of trying you convince you of anything. My past attempts to wrest my wife’s faith from her were misguided and completely unfair – she’s a theist, and I’m an atheist – live and let live. My experience indicates that it’s not really possible to convince you (or any other thorough-going theist) of anything regarding your beliefs. I will happily present the things that convince me that theism is absurd and the product of a time when mysticism abounded. That said, I don’t believe that there will be any argumentation or force in the presentation – that’s not the point of our fun discussion. If this were a proper debate, I would have started the discussion with something like “So – if I am able to demolish your evidence for theism, are you willing to immediately relinquish your belief in God?” Of course, about 99.9770233% of the time, the answer is No. So why bother really.

I did receive your book, and the admonition to not read it cover-to-cover. [Note to blog readers: “The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict” It’s GIANT]

Regarding my book, I have located a PDF version of “Atheism, the Case Against God” – the one I’d love you to read cover-to-cover/ Would you like me to send you a PDF, or do you want a physical book to thumb through?

Love the conversation,
AtypicalAtheist

JSM: I got a copy of “Atheism: the Case Against God” from an online book swap. It arrived today. My yellow highlighter and I need the freedom to explore (and to ruin the resale value of the book).

I’m a “thorough-going theist?” ooooo. I like that label. And I know I can’t convince you of anything either. My focus for the conversation is still on digging through your statement that belief in God isn’t logical, reasonable or rational. As well as my continued interest in how you went from born-again Christian to atheist. For me, that’s by far the most intriguing part of all this.

And right back atcha. If and when you come to a place where you no longer think that my belief in God is irrational, illogical or unreasonable, I do not expect you to instantly believe in God yourself. I’ve met more than a few people who believe in God but are not a Christian.

I have the exact same copy of Evidence that Demands a Verdict, so if we discuss it anything in it, our page numbers will match up.

Later,
Julie


Click HERE to see all “conversations with a born-again atheist” posts.

NOTE: All comments will be held for approval. This blog is a no-hate zone.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | apologetics, books, christian living, conversations with an atheist, learning curve, pinterest, pragmatic communion | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

conversations with a born-again atheist: the Santa comparison

faith and reasonIf you’re new to the party, HERE are the previous posts in this series. If you want to skip the history and prefer the twitter version, I’m having an ongoing conversation with a born-again atheist. When I say “born-again atheist” I mean he was a born again Christian, but is now an atheist.


Note: Santa tangent ahead. Before I could reply to the “Shotgun” email, AtypicalAtheist asked me for my thoughts on his “Santa Comparison.” [snip] “Also, do you have a suggestion of better language or terms that I could use, knowing how I feel about the topic, and how you feel about having your beliefs seemingly trivialized?”

or CLICK HERE to read what he said about Santa in the last post, entitled “comparing belief in God to belief in Santa. and faires. and WibbleFoo.”


JSM: AtypicalAtheist,

We have ourselves some apples and oranges here. When you used the Santa comparison with me, your premise was:

“I don’t believe in Santa, but I respect your right to believe in Santa.”

When you used the Santa comparison with your wife, you said:

“just because millions of people believe that something is real, doesn’t in any way mean that it is real.”

You were using Santa to make a completely different point with me than the point you were trying to make with your wife.

Santa did not serve you well in either situation.

You asked:

“do you have a suggestion of better language or terms that I could use, knowing how I feel about the topic, and how you feel about having your beliefs seemingly trivialized?”

Now you’re tapping into my formal education and training. I was a communication major and later taught a business and professional communication course at UCF for 7 years before I started training and coaching back in 2001. Learning about interpersonal communication and conflict resolution is something I do for fun.

So, I have two answers to this question, based on (1) how I reacted to the comparison and (2) how “normal” people might be offended by it.

How I Reacted to Your Comparison of a Belief in God to a Belief in Santa, Fairies, etc.:
I promise you, I wasn’t “touched (irritated / annoyed / pissed)” at your language. Seriously. Not trying to smooth anything over. Not even a little. You are such a phenomenally nice guy, I know you probably don’t believe that’s possible, but if we’re going be authentic in these conversations, we have to get you to a place where you believe that what you say will not hurt my feelings or make me mad, or whatever.

I’ve alluded to my “issues” before, but here’s a peek into my “normal.” It’s very, very rare that I react emotionally. I won’t say never. In the last year, I can remember only two occasions:

January 2012 – dealing with people after my mother passed away.

April 2012 – an intentional communication experiment that only lasted a few weeks before I abandoned it for my normal.

Both situations were exponentially bigger than an inference that I have the reasoning capacity of a small child. So, again, I promise, the Santa/UFO/Fairy/God comparison didn’t hurt my feelings or insult me.

However, because of both my background and my issues, it’s possible my actual response may irritate, annoy or tick you off: When you used inflammatory language (good description, btw) with me, your credibility took a hit. Your argument was weakened. You told me in our initial conversation that you were a logical person and that was one of the reasons you didn’t believe in God. I asked you to explain why you don’t believe faith is logical (or reasonable or rational) and then you compare belief in God to things most grown-ups don’t believe in. My honest reaction when I read that?

“hhhhhhhhhhhh”

Why Might Other People Take Offense to the Santa Comparison?
With your wife, your point was not “I don’t believe in Santa, but I support your right to believe in him.” Your wife said “Look at the sheer number of people that believe in God – they clearly can’t all be wrong…”

and you compared all those people to children.

young children.

Here’s the thing. She had a point. A LOGICAL point. And the logic of it has absolutely nothing to do with whether God (or Santa) exists.

NOTHING.

A gallup poll published on January 9th states “Only 5 or 6 percent of Americans say they don’t believe in God”
http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/lifestyle/55584689-80/religious-religion-gallup-church.html.csp

With that very recent poll in mind, let me restate her point:

All these people who believe in God? They are not ALL stupider than you.

When you compare God to Santa, it’s NOT that the other person’s beliefs are “seemingly trivialized” by your comparison.

You’re calling them ignorant.
You’re telling them they have the reasoning capacity of a small child, while assuring them at the same time that you support their right to continue thinking like a child. The only way it could be more condescending and arrogant would be if you were to pat them on the head at the same time.

Everyone who believes in God is ignorant and has the reasoning capacity of a small child? It’s not plausible. Can you see it? When you (albeit unintentionally) set up a statistically improbable premise like that, you become the unreasonable one.

and now you’ve added elves, leprechauns and “WibbleFoo”

So the Christian communication coach is going to give the atheist some advice on how to strengthen his argument. (who’da thunk it?)

Don’t compare faith in God to any of those things. Too many people don’t believe in any of the things/entities in your list. Too many people think they are fiction.

For those times when you might use “The Santa Comparison” to make the “just because lots of people believe something, doesn’t make it true” argument, just don’t. The negative connotations far overshadow the point you are trying to make. Some might call it sibling rivalry. You’ve got two points in your statement and one of them (the unintentional one) is clobbering the other (intentional one).

For those times when you might use it to tell someone that you respect their right to believe, use politics instead:

“We don’t agree. I don’t respect your candidate, but I respect your right to support your candidate.”

Can you see how much more respectful and logical you would appear by saying something like this instead? With politics, people have strong opinions about both sides, but because everyone agrees the issues actually exist, the foundation of the disagreement – first and foremost – is about a difference of opinion. Sure, underlying, spoken or unspoken is the assumption by each person they are right and the other person is wrong. But, by comparing political views, you are using an example that most reasonable and intelligent people would view as a difference of opinion instead of a verbalized inference that they had the reasoning capacity of a small child.

I understand you think you’re making a good point, but it does more damage than it does good – both in a discussion and a relationship.

In writing, there’s a saying. “kill your darlings.” Here’s how one writer explains it:

“I should be taking a good, long look at my “darlings” and analyzing whether their presence . . . was the result of necessity or just my smug enjoyment of my own supposed brilliance.

If this is arguably the most painful lesson an author has to learn, it’s also arguably the most valuable. Self-editing is the keenest blade in a writer’s armory. Too often, we fall so much in love with . . . [our darlings] . . . that we miss the bigger picture. We fail to see that our darlings are actually stumbling blocks, both to our writing of the story and certainly to the reading of it.

K.M. Weiland at WordPlay-kmweiland.blogspot.com

My advice to you as a communication trainer and coach? Kill your darling. Ditch the Santa/God allegory (along with all the multiple choice gods and fairytale creatures on your list). It doesn’t strengthen your point, it just makes you come off condescending and arrogant. And that shuts down communication. Because interacting with someone who is condescending and arrogant is unpleasant.

Later,
Julie


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NOTE: All comments will be held for approval. This blog is a no-hate zone.

April 7, 2013 Posted by | apologetics, books, christian living, conversations with an atheist, learning curve, pinterest, pragmatic communion | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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