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A Word to Mr. Harris and those who hold similar views:
Posted: 24 July 2007 02:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 76 ]  
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[quote author=“Rasmussen”]Bruce Burleson wrote:

You can be a great American and a great Christian (at least theoretically). We just don’t have too many examples of it. But I could mention Martin Luther King, Jr. (let’s see you get around that one).

I’d agree that Martin Luther King, Jr was obviously a Great man, but my point is that you could easily find Christians, both present day and in his day, who would argue against his greatness.  The fact that he was the descendant of slaves who followed the Buddhist and Hindu teachings of Ghandi (who BTW was quoted as saying, “If it weren’t for Christians, I’d be Christian.”) to lead his peaceful marches against certain written American laws, went against many of the Churches’ teachings.  If he were a good Christian boy by white Christian America’s standards, he would have stayed home and accepted his lot in life as a lesser person and kept his mouth shut. 

It was King’s superior humanity and courage to fight social injustice that made him Great, not his respect for Christian teachings.  White Christian America on the whole didn’t think he was such a great Christian until he blew them all away with his exceptional humanity.

OK, he was a Great Man, a Great American, and a Great Christian (he was, in fact, a man, an American and a Christian, and he was great).  The source of his greatness is debatable. My whole point is that there can be such a thing as a Great American and a Great Christian.  That the majority of white Christianity at the time rejected him only shows that they weren’t great. He has helped expand our understanding of our own faith, and that’s another reason he was Great.

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Posted: 24 July 2007 03:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 77 ]  
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The problem that arises when Christians fight for equal rights is that the fundamental Christian belief that only those who believe in God and follow his teachings are saved in the end segregates the masses into believers and non-believers and therefore is no foundation for true equality at all.

Even if you’re the most humanitarian of Christians, building houses for Habitat for Humanity, marching for civil or gay rights, or a member of the Peace Corps traveling the world helping the poorest of the poor, somewhere at the back of your mind, you believe that the non-believers you are serving (to great earthly benefit for them and great spiritual benefit for yourself) are lesser than you since they won’t be among those who make it into heaven.

If you’re a Christian with half a heart, this thought will probably cause you some level of distress to think that some of your closest atheist friends and family, or the poor little Hindu orphan, are all going to hell, but you still think yourself above them as one of God’s chosen children while the rest of us are just a bunch of God’s rejects.

True Christianity at base does not uphold the equality of all.  True Democracy does.

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Posted: 24 July 2007 04:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 78 ]  
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[quote author=“Rasmussen”] If you’re a Christian with half a heart, this thought will probably cause you some level of distress to think that some of your closest atheist friends and family, or the poor little Hindu orphan, are all going to hell, but you still think yourself above them as one of God’s chosen children while the rest of us are just a bunch of God’s rejects.

True Christianity at base does not uphold the equality of all.  True Democracy does.

Right now, as you are reading this, you are not one of God’s rejects. You are living in a great country, in beautiful Montreal, probably doing quite well overall. The only rejection that I see is your rejection of God.  And you would have to admit, right now, that you reject God.  You would have to say “I reject you God, personally.”  Rasmussen, I haven’t heard God say that about you, personally. Have you?

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Posted: 24 July 2007 05:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 79 ]  
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Bruce the Almighty wrote:

Right now, as you are reading this, you are not one of God’s rejects. You are living in a great country, in beautiful Montreal, probably doing quite well overall. The only rejection that I see is your rejection of God. And you would have to admit, right now, that you reject God. You would have to say “I reject you God, personally.” Rasmussen, I haven’t heard God say that about you, personally. Have you?

Oh, spare me the drama.  I can spot conditional love from miles away and it only destroys healthy relationships.  The world of God is a world of victims (sinners), rescuers (God and his team of followers) and persecutors (Satan and his crew) which is a great recipe for disaster when it comes to relating to others.

People are what’s most important to me and I’m not about to allow one religious fanatic to jeopardize my relations with other people no matter their race, national or ethnic origin, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age or mental or physical disability.

I’m much happier sticking with my Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees equality of rights for all people.  Does your Bible or church doctrine protect the rights of women, gays and non-believers?

I rest my case.

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Posted: 24 July 2007 07:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 80 ]  
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[quote author=“Bruce Burleson”]The only rejection that I see is your rejection of God.

Without speaking for Rasmussen, I suggest it’s not “rejection of God” but a rejection of the idea that we should accept your claims about deity or anyone else’s.

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Posted: 24 July 2007 07:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 81 ]  
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[quote author=“Rasmussen”]People are what’s most important to me and I’m not about to allow one religious fanatic to jeopardize my relations with other people no matter their race, national or ethnic origin, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age or mental or physical disability.

I notice you didn’t include “religion” in your list. I guess even Canadian tolerance has its limits.

[quote author=“Rasmussen”]I’m much happier sticking with my Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees equality of rights for all people.  Does your Bible or church doctrine protect the rights of women, gays and non-believers?

This is an issue of political philosophy.  The concept of equal rights is political in nature - dealing with the relationship between the state and its citizens or between the citizens themselves.  The Bible is dealing with another issue - the relationship between people and God.  They each have their spheres of activity and relevance.

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Posted: 24 July 2007 08:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 82 ]  
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[quote author=“Bruce Burleson”][quote author=“Rasmussen”]People are what’s most important to me and I’m not about to allow one religious fanatic to jeopardize my relations with other people no matter their race, national or ethnic origin, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age or mental or physical disability.

I notice you didn’t include “religion” in your list. I guess even Canadian tolerance has its limits.

The limit isn’t of Canadian tolerance but rather of Rasmussen’s list.  Religion is one of the areas protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom.

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Posted: 24 July 2007 09:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 83 ]  
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Bruce Burleson wrote:

Rasmussen wrote:

People are what’s most important to me and I’m not about to allow one religious fanatic to jeopardize my relations with other people no matter their race, national or ethnic origin, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age or mental or physical disability.

I notice you didn’t include “religion” in your list. I guess even Canadian tolerance has its limits.

I might not have included religion in my list, but religion is included in the Canadian Charter.  Chalk it up to a Freudian slip.

Rasmussen wrote:

I’m much happier sticking with my Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees equality of rights for all people. Does your Bible or church doctrine protect the rights of women, gays and non-believers?

This is an issue of political philosophy. The concept of equal rights is political in nature - dealing with the relationship between the state and its citizens or between the citizens themselves. The Bible is dealing with another issue - the relationship between people and God. They each have their spheres of activity and relevance.

Call it what you like – political philosophy, moral guide, law of the land – the Canadian Charter and all other democratic constitutions still protect the rights of all their people and encourage their citizens to behave responsibly and ethically towards one another, which is more than can be said of your Bible.  The Bible makes a very poor moral guide due to its ambiguity and favoritism for certain groups of people –Jews, believers, heterosexuals, men – over others.  Favoritism is continually weeded out of democratic constitutions.

You belong to an exclusive club that clearly favorizes heterosexual Christian men and you’re surprised to find out that there are many who don’t want to pay membership dues? 

The Bible is dealing with another issue - the relationship between people and God.

Oh.  How quick you are to turf Jesus’ main teaching to love your neighbor as yourself as soon as it becomes inconvenient to try to uphold its virtue.  So since treating your neighbor as yourself is not qualified and should then include all people, even non-believers, it comes into direct conflict with the more important teaching to love God above all else.  That’s quite the predicament, eh?

You’re telling me that you’re willing to toss out the one teaching in the Bible that has the potential to bring us all together in favor of building a relationship with your imaginary friend?  That, my friend, is the big reason why there is strife in this world. 

As long as you, and others like you, are willing to allow your beliefs to interfere with your connection to other people, you will never have peace among men.

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Posted: 24 July 2007 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 84 ]  
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[quote author=“Rasmussen”]Oh.  How quick you are to turf Jesus’ main teaching to love your neighbor as yourself as soon as it becomes inconvenient to try to uphold its virtue.  So since treating your neighbor as yourself is not qualified and should then include all people, even non-believers, it comes into direct conflict with the more important teaching to love God above all else.  That’s quite the predicament, eh?

You’re telling me that you’re willing to toss out the one teaching in the Bible that has the potential to bring us all together in favor of building a relationship with your imaginary friend?  That, my friend, is the big reason why there is strife in this world. 

As long as you, and others like you, are willing to allow your beliefs to interfere with your connection to other people, you will never have peace among men.

Uh, what we have here is a failure to communicate, and I apologize for my part in that.  I think we got off on the wrong foot, so let’s start over.  No, I am NOT willing to toss out the teaching to love one another.  As Jesus said, that teaching is closely connected to the teaching to love God.  I started off by mentioning MLK as being a great Christian, and he certainly attempted to bring peace among men.  I attempt to practice the same thing in my personal life (with significantly less success than MLK), and to my knowledge, I treat everyone I know with love, respect and kindness, including the few gay people I know.  I just don’t conceive of the church as having a specific role in adjudicating civil rights.  That is in the sphere of civil government.  (Don’t you believe in separation of church and state?) The church is supposed to model love for God and love for humankind.  Obviously, we don’t always do a good job.  I sense that you have had a very bad experience with religion, so I apologize if I said something that you considered offensive.  I am all for civil rights, love of people, and random and senseless acts of kindness.

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Posted: 24 July 2007 10:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 85 ]  
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[quote author=“Bruce Burleson”]Rasmussen, I haven’t heard God say that about you, personally. Have you?

You can rest assured that he hasn’t! And if you’ve heard God saying anything, I’d be worried about that.

Heard this young minister woman on NPR yesterday, she said God spoke to her and told her that she was called to serve. She waited through three changings of a traffic light (or was it a railroad crossing—anyway—) while God spoke to her. Isn’t that great? Isn’t that inspiring? It’s perfectly OK to hallucinate, a long as it’s God talking. If the little people from Tralfamador were talking to her, it would be a whole different thing. LOL

Still with us, Vic? There’s a backlog of unanswered questions in my last posts, if you care to address them.

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Posted: 24 July 2007 10:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 86 ]  
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[quote author=“Bruce Burleson”]I just don’t conceive of the church as having a specific role in adjudicating civil rights.  That is in the sphere of civil government.

You young whippersnapper, don’t you know that the mainstream Christian churches (Northern, Southern, White, Black) were a major force in the—get this—Civil Rights Movement (MLK, etc.) of the 1960s? They used to send busloads of people to march and witness. Catholic nuns in habit were a common sight. Later, to a lesser extent, they opposed the Viet Nam War. Today, they seem to be largely silent on the current life-wasting boondoggle in Iraq. Too busy wringing their hands about abortion and gay rights, it looks like. I think their priorities have become muddled.

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Posted: 24 July 2007 11:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 87 ]  
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Jesus proposes a contradiction:

“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”

With ALL effort going into loving the unseen father, what is left to offer thy self, much less thy neighbor? If there’s anything left to offer either, then a man has failed to love the Father as commanded, with his ALL.


Sure, it’s likely this is just a figure of speech; we often say we give our “all” to something, without really meaning it literally. . .  but if you make that claim in the case of the primary commandment, then it too should not be taken literally.

Besides, he contradicts himself:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.” ~ Luke

How does one love a god with ALL that he has, if he in fact hates pretty much ALL that exists within his sphere of existence? If a man does not begin by loving himself, he has no well from which to draw love for others. Even imaginary  others.

Even if you wish to argue that “hate” implies “to love less than”—a claim that requires liberal use of apologetics—it still reinforces the notion that surrender to God comes before even a smidgeon of love for self or others is permitted.

Between a given Christian and a given atheist, the atheist may well be the happier, more self-accepting being, the greater humanitarian, yet the Christian will still be inclined to feel he’s the better man, because he obeys the primary commandment of first hating his wretched self and loving his master. . . which the atheist wastes no effort on. There is no way, all efforts being equal, that the True Christian (true to the commandments) can love his fellow man as the non-believer does, since the atheist is not at cross purposes when it comes to freedom  to aim love where he sees fit.

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Posted: 24 July 2007 01:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 88 ]  
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Bruce Burleson wrote:

I just don’t conceive of the church as having a specific role in adjudicating civil rights. That is in the sphere of civil government. (Don’t you believe in separation of church and state?) The church is supposed to model love for God and love for humankind.

Yes, I do believe in separation of church and state, but that doesn’t mean that religious groups bear no responsibility for what they teach their followers, especially if it contradicts the founding principles of the democracy in which they live. 

If constitutions and charters state that all people are to be treated as equals and then a religious group comes along and says that no, actually, only certain people are to be treated fairly, then there’s a BIG problem as I see it.  You might not see this as a problem because you seem to downplay any of the nasty teachings of the church and focus on loving your neighbor as best you can.  But that doesn’t mean that those nasty teachings aren’t working behind the scenes eroding both the authority and effectiveness of basic principles of democracy.  It’s akin to having two parents sending different messages to their children – recipe for disaster or at least huge confusion.

Obviously, we don’t always do a good job. I sense that you have had a very bad experience with religion, so I apologize if I said something that you considered offensive. I am all for civil rights, love of people, and random and senseless acts of kindness.

You’re not the first believer to assume that I’ve had a very bad experience with religion, but I can assure you that’s not the case.  I’ve had a rather ordinary experience as explained in one of my earliest posts here.  To make a long and rather boring story short, I slowly, over several years, thought my way out of the church.  The last straw for me was the point we’re debating here – inclusiveness.  My thoughts brought me to the point where I saw that religion was actually working against my efforts to become a kinder and more considerate person. 

I can tell by the general tone of your posts that you’re kinder than the average guy and genuinely work at being considerate and you haven’t said (written) anything that I find personally offensive.  I just can’t understand how you reconcile the contradiction of, on the one hand, believing in treating your neighbor well and as your equal, and then, on the other hand, believing that devotion to some imaginary being is more important than those neighbors.

Or as Mia puts it:

There is no way, all efforts being equal, that the True Christian (true to the commandments) can love his fellow man as the non-believer does, since the atheist is not at cross purposes when it comes to freedom to aim love where he sees fit.

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Posted: 24 July 2007 03:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 89 ]  
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[quote author=“g.wood”][quote author=“Bruce Burleson”]I just don’t conceive of the church as having a specific role in adjudicating civil rights.  That is in the sphere of civil government.

You young whippersnapper, don’t you know that the mainstream Christian churches (Northern, Southern, White, Black) were a major force in the—get this—Civil Rights Movement (MLK, etc.) of the 1960s? They used to send busloads of people to march and witness. Catholic nuns in habit were a common sight. Later, to a lesser extent, they opposed the Viet Nam War. Today, they seem to be largely silent on the current life-wasting boondoggle in Iraq. Too busy wringing their hands about abortion and gay rights, it looks like. I think their priorities have become muddled.

Yeah, I’m still wet behind the ears.  I’m a lawyer, and when I say “adjudicate”, I mean “adjudicate” - legal proceedings.  I’m not talking about social activism. Churches can do a lot, but watch out when they get too involved in the political/legal/judicial system.  It’s not good for churches and its not good for civilians.

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Posted: 24 July 2007 03:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 90 ]  
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[quote author=“Rasmussen”]Bruce Burleson wrote:

I just don’t conceive of the church as having a specific role in adjudicating civil rights. That is in the sphere of civil government. (Don’t you believe in separation of church and state?) The church is supposed to model love for God and love for humankind.

Yes, I do believe in separation of church and state, but that doesn’t mean that religious groups bear no responsibility for what they teach their followers, especially if it contradicts the founding principles of the democracy in which they live. 

If constitutions and charters state that all people are to be treated as equals and then a religious group comes along and says that no, actually, only certain people are to be treated fairly, then there’s a BIG problem as I see it.  You might not see this as a problem because you seem to downplay any of the nasty teachings of the church and focus on loving your neighbor as best you can.  But that doesn’t mean that those nasty teachings aren’t working behind the scenes eroding both the authority and effectiveness of basic principles of democracy.  It’s akin to having two parents sending different messages to their children – recipe for disaster or at least huge confusion.

Obviously, we don’t always do a good job. I sense that you have had a very bad experience with religion, so I apologize if I said something that you considered offensive. I am all for civil rights, love of people, and random and senseless acts of kindness.

You’re not the first believer to assume that I’ve had a very bad experience with religion, but I can assure you that’s not the case.  I’ve had a rather ordinary experience as explained in one of my earliest posts here.  To make a long and rather boring story short, I slowly, over several years, thought my way out of the church.  The last straw for me was the point we’re debating here – inclusiveness.  My thoughts brought me to the point where I saw that religion was actually working against my efforts to become a kinder and more considerate person. 

I can tell by the general tone of your posts that you’re kinder than the average guy and genuinely work at being considerate and you haven’t said (written) anything that I find personally offensive.  I just can’t understand how you reconcile the contradiction of, on the one hand, believing in treating your neighbor well and as your equal, and then, on the other hand, believing that devotion to some imaginary being is more important than those neighbors.

The idea is that Christian love - agape - is sacrificial love - the kind that we believe Jesus demonstrated on the cross by giving himself for us.  When we love God first, above all else, the idea is that we become more capable of demonstrating the kind of love that Jesus demonstrated.  He begins to love others through us.  Unfortunately, Christianity today comes with 2000 years of baggage that obscures the original concept.  We have to fight through many layers of religious misunderstanding to get back to the real Jesus.  Some don’t think it’s worth the effort.  I do.

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