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CoI -

Woah, brother.  Take a breath.  I mean it - slow down for a moment. 

My hope, in posting all of the words that I have, is not to damage your faith - I do not presume to tell you how or what to believe, and I am certain you take comfort in your beliefs.  When you go to Church, you are surrounded by people who share your values, who support you when you fall and who at least try to care about the lives of those around them.  Most people are good people, with or without God. 

However, your Church is - by the nature of all Churches - insular.  It isolates you from not only the views of those who do not believe in God at all, but those who have different views about God within the large umbrella that is Christianity.  Sometimes those differences are trivial - Episcopalians have a lot of ritual and focus on scholarship, while (I am making a guess) I think your church is more informal, with an emphasis on a personal god and a spiritual seeking via feelings and intuition.  While your faith and the Episcopalian faith are not directly compatible, you have much in common - inclusivity, the general shape of your society, and more besides.

When you look at the larger pattern, though, you discover that Christianity is far from homogenous.  Your Church insulates you from competing theological belief structures by telling you that people like the Westboro Baptist Church (to use an extreme example) have a flawed view of the Bible and a flawed understanding of the Word of God.  Put in more general terms, your circle of believers uses the insulation of "True Christianity" to say that their interpretation is correct.  They will show you every passage in the bible that supports their views, and they will explain away the ones that do not.  It is a neat and tidy package.

Unfortunately, it is also something that every other faith does.  If you go to a Catholic mass and speak to the priest, you'll discover he, too, has a neat and tidy package that explains Catholicism in the same light, and he will be glad to try to explain to you how your faith has it wrong.  He'll be able to show you bible passages that support his view and explain away the ones that don't.  If you were brave enough to visit Westboro, they would welcome you with open arms - they do.  They're quite nice people, when you get past the "God Hates Fags" signs.  They'll be glad to show you their neat and tidy package of passages and explanations as well.

In fact, every denomination is fundamentally incompatible in some way with every other denomination, and each denomination has a Neat and Tidy Package that explains how they're right and how everyone else is wrong.   From the outside, as I am - as we are! - it seems... fractured.  Schitzophrenic.  These 'minor points' aren't so minor that they are free from strife.  Honestly - to me, the entire patchwork of Christian faiths is just an insoluble knot of apologetics.  You can see the mess, in microcosm, in the story of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7676332.stm

Please.  Check out that link - it's amazing.  It's silly.  It's humanity and faith and pride and nonsense - smoke and noise and doctrine - and it is what I see as you leap to the defense of your own sect. 

Where atheists and theists run into problems is in this Neat and Tidy Package.  In fact, I lost my faith as that Package became less and less neat as I learned more and more; the more I read, the more I walked into other churches and asked questions, the more I realized that the fabled "Brotherhood of Christianity" was anything but?  Well, the more my faith dribbled away.  I began to question all sorts of fundamental things - Who wrote the bible?  Where did it come from?  Why do we accept it as authority?  What about the miracles?

Admittedly, for me, one of the hardest passages is in Exodus.  If you're ever curious, ask and I'll be glad to offer the explanation and why it affected me as much as it did.

Anyway, the point of this is to say that when you say the preacher that tossed out his daughter isn't Christian, I have to look at you and say that, from his perspective, he is.  His church backs him, his neighbors back him, his neighborhood backs him.  His society - his circles of friends and family and support that make up his 'tribe' - thinks that his decision was wholly justified within his own faith, and he would look at you askance for even suggesting he could be wrong.  He'd even show you the bible passages that show how right he is - he certainly did to the social worker.

You cling to the idea that there is a True Faith, and that you have exclusivity on it.  Everyone who is in another denomination than your own does precisely the same thing.  Each circle looks at the others and sighs, and tries to preach to them, hoping that one day they'll see the light and come into the fold - but, in the end, the Neat and Tidy Package prevents it.

CoI, everything you are saying here is a function of your own version of the Neat and Tidy Package. I have no desire to damage it, but I hope you can see how those who don't believe as you do have good reason to disagree.  Moreso, I hope that you begin to see that those of us who have looked at a lot of different packages, who have researched our faith, who fought losing it and who tried to understand what happened.. well, I hope you understand that, to those who have studied in detail the philosophical points you present, it's just another set of dogma, another few points that are backed up by precisely the same evidence (used in a different way) as those who would call you wrong while still proclaiming their own Christianity.

Your arguments aren't wrong - but it is almost impossible for them to be right... or, at least, more right than everyone else using your evidence to different purposes.

Do you see?
Changed Change Reason Date
screwtape good post April 12, 2012, 08:27:38 AM
Hatter23 well articulated and thorough April 11, 2012, 07:29:07 AM
Nick Grimm, I'm glad you are here. Your writing is amazing. April 10, 2012, 08:19:06 PM