When Does a Faith Become a Culture?

This morning on Fandango’s This, That, and the Other blog, I read a post of his called Share Your World — Coffee and Climate. He was responding to a Share Your World challenge on another blog.

One of the questions was If you drink coffee, how do you like it best? Hot, cold, iced, with cream, with sugar or black as black?, however it was Fandango’s answer to Global warming? Reality or myth? that I focused on. His answer was:

Global warming (aka, climate change) is reality. The Bible is myth.

He used the photo below to emphasize his point:

bible myth
Found at the “This, That, and the Other” blogspot – Photo credit unknown

I thought about his answer while I was getting ready for work, and then crafted this response:

Interesting that you brought the (Christian) Bible into the mix since the question had absolutely nothing to do with it. I can only assume that you deliberately were taking a shot a Christians just because you could.

Now I would never try to convince you regarding my belief system. You’re not interested, it would take too long, and adopting a faith in an all-powerful Creator is as much a metaphysical experience as it is anything else.

However, you probably didn’t think through the ramifications of your statement. I mentioned the “Christian” Bible before, but the first two-thirds of it, what Christians call the Old Testament, make up the Jewish Bible.

The writings in the Jewish Bible are the very basis for the existence of Israel and the Jewish people. I know liberal, secular Jews who would disagree with me, but given that my wife is Jewish and I’ve had extensive experience in both some churches and some synagogues (I know you might not believe this, but not all Christians and not all Jews are the same, and in fact, there are churches and synagogues, even here in red state Idaho, that are highly progressive), so my opinions are not entirely uninformed.

So in calling the Bible a myth (and that’s your right), you may well be invalidating every single observant Jewish person in the present and for the past 3500 years, as well as the Jewish people as a whole. I know you didn’t consider the implications of all this, but the Holocaust tried to do the same thing (and I’m absolutely not accusing you of being anti-Semitic or a Holocaust denier).

Yes, I’m going to extremes but to make a point. Whether you believe in something or not (speaking of Colin Kaepernick), it doesn’t mean those who do are invalid. The Bible, once you study it (and Bible studies are complicated) is an incredibly nuanced and complex document, and I’m the first to admit that most churches don’t even know how to study it (I’ve argued endlessly with many Christians on this point).

I am curious about your opinion of the Koran (it’s transliterated from Arabic, so it can be spelled different ways in English). Is it myth as well? Would you stay that on your blog if you know Muslims were reading it?

I know you made the comment casually, but words have power. As writers, we should be aware of that.

Oh, I take my coffee black, nothing else in it.

Now, I wasn’t the first reader of his to object, and his response to her was:

You’re right. I was expressing my opinion. The nature of the Share Your World prompt is to get people to share their opinions. And yes, Christians are entitled to believe whatever they want to believe. It was not my intention to mock and scorn. My philosophy is “whatever floats your boat,” and I wasn’t taking a dig at your beliefs as much as I was expressing my own, personal opinion in a post on my blog that the stories in the Bible are mythology. If you choose to believe in and accept that mythology as your religious truth, go for it.

As I was composing this missive, he did respond to me directly:

Whether the Bible (Old or New Testaments), the Koran, or any other religious text, they are all, in my opinion, myths. I assume at least some Muslims have stumbles across my blog, but perhaps not. So while I used the Bible as an illustration, I was not intending to limit my belief that all religions are base [sic] in mythology to Christianity.

Why did I bring it up at all? Just to offer a contrast between those who deny climate change and those who eagerly embrace religious mythology. I also don’t think you need to be religious in order to believe that the Holocaust happened and to be embarrassed by the inhumanity that humans perpetuate against one another in the name of their favorite god, for “ethnic cleansing,” or for the whatever religious beliefs to which they adhere. Is all that part of GOD’s infallible plan? That millions of people — his children — shall be killed and persecuted in his name?

I am not a religious person in any way and I believe that all religions are based on made-up bullshit. But I don’t deny that there is much to be learned by reading religious tracts and that if it helps people make it through their lives, then who am I to be critical of them? But that doesn’t make me believe that the Bible is any more true than Tolkien’s Middle Earth, for example,
or other fantasy tales. It’s great literature, but it’s mythology at its finest.

Okay, enough of this meandering response to your comment.

As if all Christians or people of faith are Luddites and don’t believe it’s possible for human beings to damage the global environment.

I suppose I should just drop it at this point, but then there’s my original intention in crafting this blog post, plus another concern Fandango’s most recent comment brought up. I’ll take the latter first.

I also don’t think you need to be religious in order to believe that the Holocaust happened and to be embarrassed by the inhumanity that humans perpetuate against one another in the name of their favorite god, for “ethnic cleansing,” or for the whatever religious beliefs to which they adhere. Is all that part of GOD’s infallible plan? That millions of people — his children — shall be killed and persecuted in his name?

Ah yes, the fallacy that people only kill other people, at least on a large-scale such as war, because of religion, and if there were no religions, we’d all love each other and there’d be peace forever.

Okay, I’m overstating the matter, but to make a point. John Lennon’s classic Imagine (YouTube video) makes this point as well, along with doing away with the concept of nations (sort of like Katy Perry’s more recent no borders comment). Lennon’s lyrics also suggested having personal possessions as a problem, so I suppose anyone agreeing with his “no religion” statement should advocate for dismantling all national borders and the laws pertaining to them (good luck with that), and should give away all of their possessions thus eliminating want and greed everywhere (I don’t see that happening either).

But I digress.

Blaming all forms of mass violence on religion denies the vicious acts of Stalin, Mao, and others who ran secular, atheist, totalitarian regimes. The only problem with an organized worship of God (or governments for that matter) is people. People have a tremendous capacity for twisting any institution to their own needs, so yes, in the name of God, millions have been enslaved, tortured, and murdered.  Whole cultures have been destroyed forever. For centuries, the Roman Catholic Church and wider Christianity have been doing such to the Jewish people. The early Christian Crusaders murdered Muslims as well as Jews (which some say has led Islam to develop a fundamental hate of Christianity that persists to this day).

This also denies the tremendous good Judaism and Christianity have done across their respective histories. For instance, according to numerous sources including Bible Mesh, CNS News, and Breakpoint, the modern institution of the Hospital owes its existence to both Judaism and Christianity.

Beyond all that, I refer interested parties to William T. Cavanaugh’s book The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict (84% of the reviews on Amazon are four and five-star if that sort of thing matters to you).

However, my main point has to do to my original response to Fandango. At what point does a body of faith become a culture?

It’s an interesting concept. Various aspects of Judaism or collective bodies of Jews are certainly cultural. While I don’t believe most reasonable people would object to differing groups of human beings behaving out of and celebrating their cultures, should they object to a culture based on that body having a covenant relationship with God? This is an especially poignant question given that during this week, millions of Jews all over the world are celebrating the festival of sukkot, many eating and sleeping in a sukkah, celebrating the protection of God over the Jewish people and nation.

Let’s use a specific example. I was once online friends with a person who was an atheist. We had a shared interest in the Linux operating system and performing charitable acts toward disadvantaged children. However, he posted a meme on Facebook several years ago ridiculing the practice among Orthodox Jews of having young boys wear Payot (click the following link to learn more about this and Upsherin) and even calling it a form of child abuse.

payot on yemeni boys
Source: Zio Mania

We “discussed” it, he was unrelenting, and this was the first and last straw for me as far as his opinions were concerned.

Is Christianity a culture? On first blush, it certainly doesn’t seem that way, though even among Jews, not all Jewish groups have uniform practices and beliefs (but at the end of the day, they’re still all Jews), particularly between the observant and the secular.

My last experience in a church taught me many things (one of them being that I don’t belong in a church), but one important realization was that the church had a sort of “culture,” a collection of ideations, beliefs, and practices that, however subtle, were unique to that group. Of course, I can’t make the same case for Christianity being a culture (and as a whole, I doubt it is) as I can for Judaism, so again, I digress.

I can understand that plenty of folks out there are atheist and believe anyone who is religious must be brain-damaged or incredibly superstitious. Having known plenty of Christians and observant Jews over the years, I can attest that isn’t true (for the most part…there are always outliers), but let’s roll with this. Okay, you believe an all-powerful, intelligent, creative being is impossible and even mythical. I really don’t mind. I don’t mind that you make your beliefs public. After all, your free speech rights are my free speech rights.

But at what point does that become denigration, especially if you also value a diversity of human beings in your environment? Does diversity hit a brick wall when religion comes into play?

I may be chasing a cat up the wrong tree, so to speak, and my commentary is probably all for nothing, but when does a religious person get to say, “I respect you as a human being though you disagree with my beliefs, but when will you respect my humanity and worth as well?”

No, I absolutely don’t believe Fandango intended all of that. He was merely speaking his mind. But as I told him before, words have power. We know that for an absolute fact. This is why you don’t casually lace your speech and writing with racial or ethnic slurs. Because they can cause emotional pain. As people of faith, we are commanded to treat others, especially those who are not like us, with kindness and compassion. Being human though, we sometimes don’t obey that command, and in my experience, Christians can be pretty biased, both relative to secular people as well as to each other (you have never been in a contentious community until you’ve been involved in religious blogging).

I’ve been an atheist, so I know how that looks and feels, and I know religious people who have left the faith, so I know how strong their feelings and viewpoints are as well. However, if you have been a life-long atheist and never, ever have had a faith in anything outside of yourself, society, or some other human construct, then you can’t possibly imagine how or why an intelligent, competent, educated, and accomplished person could also have faith in God.

If you don’t understand us, try not to judge us. Chances are, you’ve only met the worst, and most “fringy” Christians. You don’t know the rest of us.

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58 thoughts on “When Does a Faith Become a Culture?”

  1. I like your last paragraph that sums everything nicely. The rest of your piece was fantastic too, but I think there is this myth that Christians or even those of Jewish faith, are less flawed or should be more perfect than others. This baffles me as sometimes we are the worst b/c of our faith & knowing better, but as we are imperfect people too — just like an atheist an agnostic or whatever. Humanity as a whole is flawed, makes wrong choices, & the world is imperfect, so you can’t expect anyone of any faith to be model citizens. But, you are right a lot of those of faith are good people, they aren’t judgemental, & if they’re sharing their faith or sharing through belief in the truth of the Bible, than they are doing so from an honest and intelligent perspective. It’s not just a blind faith. Not to say blind faith is always a bad thing, but I learned more so that faith and Christianity/ Judeism is something you learn/study/discuss & benefit from because when worst comes to to worst, unbelievers have nothing. Believers have faith, they have God to hold onto. They also benefit throughout their lives from their faith in ways those who are atheist would not understand. Conversely, we are still human & face the struggles other humans do, but we have hope & we have backup & that’s a very important truth.

    Second when you look at Fandagos piece I kind of thought through we’re trying to get attention by making such bold statement saying “In the beginning” was the same as “once upon a time.” If he’s talking about Climate change etc. Isn’t the mention of the Bible to begin with a fallacious argument. A faulty parallelism I think it’s called. One does not relate to other in his argument. He could’ve picked a better comparison than using this comparison as sensationalism.

    Third, I agree with your statement that you can blame our current religions for all violence or terrorism. Much of the Bible can be backed up historically as different books from different times Support each other, & also there are Historiabs who have record of many Biblical event. And if we look at violence throughout history, everyone of any ruling culture had a part in its religious or not. Pagan, Christian, Babalonian, Greek, Roman, wars btw Protastant Christianity & Catholicism, ISIS, Saddam Hussein, Hitler & the Nazis, the 100 years wars (there are a few I think), the Ottoman Empire, Turkish History, many Catholic popes, Stalin and beyond, some Christian, Muslim, Pagan or Atheist. War is part of the human condition of being flawed. It’s never justified, but sometimes necessary b/c the world can be messed up. Sometimes war is for the sake of war such as pagan Christians or the Mayan culture, or today’s ISIS, abs Taliban, it’s fundamentalism in Islam, and fundamental Talise in any religion or group, is never a healthy thing. It’s more brainwashing and terrible choices than anything else.

    Last point, while I agree people can & will believe what they like Athiesm. Doesn’t a belief in no God suggest there has to be some kind of God not to believe in? So if you were to say, ‘I don’t believe in Him, this God, other’s could as likely and as reasonably say, well I do believe in Him.’ Just a closing thought. Fascinating write & response James. Great logical arguing too.

    1. Wow, Mandibelle. That was a fantastic response.

      I don’t know about Fandango, but a lot of atheists not only don’t believe in God, but express a great deal of hostility toward Christians specifically. Some of it, I think, is based on the perception that religion (specifically Christianity), is the cause of all human suffering. It is true that the Catholic Church allied with a lot of nations and their colonial efforts, including here in the U.S., decimating Native culture, as well as participating in slavery, torture, and genocide.

      However, as you point out, that’s not an effect of religion so much as it is of human nature. Religion was just a tool to manipulate said Native populations not to mention African slaves, making them believe that they were inferior and that their fate was a consequence of God. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, but even today, some groups use religion as a took to manipulate others, usually by taking their money.

      None of that is God’s fault, and it’s not the fault of the overarching Christian faith, it’s the fault of certain individuals and groups.

      Other people don’t like the mandate in Christianity to evangelize, and I myself don’t like strangers coming to my door. Christians can be “holier than thou,” and so appear self-righteous and obnoxious to atheists.

      Since many Christian oppose the practice of abortion and a large number have issues relative to the LGBTQ+ community, if your social and political views support said-community as well as “women’s reproductive rights,” then that makes Christians look pretty bad, even when Christian groups express those viewpoints in as benign a method possible.

      I know people can be very passionate about those matters, and that could go a long way to explaining atheist hostility toward Christians. Some Christian beliefs are very threatening, and people tend to respond to threats either by running away or fighting.

      Put all together, I can see why atheists tend to not only stereotype Christians, but come out of their metaphorical boxing ring corner with their dukes up. If they got to know their Christian neighbors as people instead of a presumed ideology, things might be different.

      1. @James You wrote, “…a lot of atheists not only don’t believe in God, but express a great deal of hostility toward Christians specifically.” Really, James? “A lot of atheists”? You have called me out more than a few times for making generalizations about Christians, and yet you make that kind of broad generalization about atheists. That would be like me saying that a lot of Christians not only believe in God (true), but express a great deal of hostility toward atheists specifically (probably not true…but maybe).

      2. Okay, that one’s on me. I actually don’t know the statistics regarding how many non-believers actually express hostility toward Christians. I only have my general perception on social media and in the news, of hostile comments being made about Christians. Oh, the hostility is real, and I suspect for the reasons I outlined.

        There is probably some pushback among some Christians relative at least to very vocal atheists, but again, I suspect it’s because each side feels threatened by the other. Most churches teach compassion for “the lost” and the need to reach out in love. This results in evangelism, which can be annoying to some, but from a Christian’s point of view, it’s something they are commanded to do. Unlike Judaism, which doesn’t evangelize and which believes a person or people groups can be “right with God” without converting, Christianity believes that the only way to be reconciled with God is through faith and devotion to Christ. That’s their motivation, whether you agree with it or not.

      3. “Christianity believes that the only way to be reconciled with God is through faith and devotion to Christ. That’s their motivation, whether you agree with it or not.” And that is my biggest problem with Christianity. I don’t believe there is a God, so I have no interest in or need to be “reconciled” with God. But that doesn’t seem to be acceptable to some Christians (and not just evangelicals). If I don’t have faith in and devotion to Jesus, I am a lost soul who will be condemned to eternal damnation. I can’t be a good, decent, moral person because goodness and morality are only granted through God. I resent being judged to be inferior and amoral because I don’t believe in someone else’s mythology. So perhaps I do have a little bit of hostility toward Christians, especially the “holier than thou” types. But it’s not because of what they believe, it’s because of how they behave. And, by the way, the hypocrisy of Christians in the way they not only accept, but embrace Donald Trump, possibly the most amoral and un-Christian president we’ve ever had, for the sake of political expediency, is abhorrent.

      4. As far back as I can remember U.S. Presidents (Kennedy), no so-called Christian President (and they all have claimed to be Christians, even Hillary Clinton amazingly) has lived what I consider to be a Christian lifestyle. I’m not even sure it’s possible to be a politician on any level, but especially at the Federal level, and live a truly Christian lifestyle (although I’d like to take a closer look at Pence). I’m amused when I see memes on Facebook of Trump hugging a glowing, seven foot tall Jesus in the Oval Office, because Trump doesn’t have a shred of humility, and we should all experience humility in the presence of Christ (or Rav Yeshua if anyone prefers).

        Yes, some Christians are hypocrites and obnoxious. That’s not God’s fault. Some Christians are the victims of bad teachers who tell them they are superior to the unsaved. Others may have good or at least adequate teachers, but they aren’t particularly sophisticated enough to explore their faith outside of attending church every Sunday and maybe going to a Wednesday night Bible study. I’ve even found some Christians to be shockingly naive about their faith.

        As far as a secular person doing good, of course secular people can do good and Christians can do evil. Free will wasn’t cancelled by God (although many Christians would disagree with me). Being devoted to God isn’t a matter of being a flawless human being and never doing wrong. Christians make mistakes all the time, either on impulse or willfully. The bar is set higher for us and the Jewish people (in my opinion) because the latter have had a binding covenant relationship with God which began 3,500 years ago (every Jew is born into that covenant whether they want to be or not), and the former, although there is no specific covenant that applies to Christians (and tons of Christians disagree with me on that), through God’s boundless mercy, He has allowed any of us who have devotion to our Rav and who have transformed lives to be reconciled to Him. From there (at least as I see it), it’s a matter of living out our faith, setting ourselves apart from the world and working to improve our lives and the lives of others as best we can. We don’t always succeed, but it’s the journey of continually drawing closer to that ideal that matters.

        Most evangelists use the opening line, “If you were to die tonight, do you know where your soul would go?” In other words, the initial focus of evangelizing is the idea of going to Heaven or Hell when you die. It’s pretty short sighted, but unfortunately, for some Christians at least, that’s the main motivation for faith: being saved. Jews almost never talk about the afterlife, although they believe in a life in the world to come. In Judaism, it’s all about living a certain lifestyle, one pleasing to God, one that involves giving to charity, helping your neighbor, and so forth. In other words, it’s more about how you live, not where you go when you die.

        I like Judaism’s take on faith. Judaism isn’t an all or nothing religion. They believe that a relationship with God and performing the mitzvot (commandments, good deeds) is a lifelong process of development and that it is not necessarily linear. I believe some Christians, maybe many Christians have this outlook as well. A person of faith’s first and continual challenge is themselves. I think if Christians had a more Jewish view on their faith, they would be better off, but that’s just me.

        I know my friend PL will disagree with part of what I’m about to write, but whether it’s a Christian kneeling beside their bed fervently pouring out his or her heart to God because they have failed Him one more time, a Jew wearing tefillin, a kippah, and a tallit continually bowing before the Almighty as they muster as much intent as possible to observe His commandments and live devoutly, or a Muslim on a prayer mat, bowing low, desperate to commune with Allah, from an outsider’s point of view, imagine that each one of these people is trying to connect to something larger, and greater, and more beautiful than we are. To borrow from the film “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,”, it’s the search for the Divine in all of us.

    2. @mandibelle16.
      You asked, “Doesn’t a belief in no God suggest there has to be some kind of God not to believe in?” The simple answer is no. Believing that God does not exist does not in any way suggest that there has to be some kind of God to not believe in. That would be like saying belief in no unicorns suggests that there has to be some kind of unicorns to not believe in. Logically, that makes no sense.

      1. Just b/c you choose not to get on the lifeboat doesn’t mean it was never there. Or was never there. It just means you refused to believe what was in front of your face.

      2. Mandibelle, it takes an act of God to turn someone’s heart. Debating in the comments section of a blog isn’t going to do it. My goal isn’t to convert Fandango, it’s only to try to get him to see that we aren’t evil just because we’re different. I don’t think he believes all of us are evil, but he does admit to a certain amount of hostility because some Christians present as holier than thou and flaunt being superior. That said, some liberals do the same thing using themes of social justice and what I’ve heard called virtue signaling. Again, I’m not suggesting Fandango of this, but I can’t absolve at least a few leftists of this behavior.

        In the end, it re-enforces what I’ve been saying. Arrogance or being unkind isn’t a religious, ideological, or political trait, it’s a human trait, and equal opportunity character flaw.

      3. True, God alone. But I have a mission to help others through my faith, even if they reject it — their choice. I didn’t really think he’d look at my comment on your page. I answered him again, you can delete. But, I won’t write more. I know it won’t change his heart, that was my last point – 5 minutes ago that whatever I say, faith isn’t something physical or understood by all. But, I prayed as I wrote, so I hope it’s not terrible. And I guess you always hope something sticks. I sense the hostility. Not trying to be arrogant. Just I guess, to plant a tiny seed or an ability for Him to see our perspective as you in particular, are able to identify with his, from the past. Sorry James. God can use people to slowly turn a heart. That was my thought.

      4. You’ve written nothing I feel necessary to delete. It’s all good. I expressed my personal reasons why I won’t get into a debate with Fandango regarding the existence and nature of God or my faith. He is in no position to be receptive, and it would end up as another endless, fruitless argument on the internet about who is “wrong.” In my experience, I find that God prepares people to be receptive to His Word from His people, such that when we speak and share our testimony, those people, even if they don’t listen at the moment, are affected. We may never know who we have helped change for the better by what we speak and write, and how we behave. As you say, we plant tiny seeds, and sometimes we are only one link in a long chain of people and events that turns human hearts.

      5. “He is in no position to be receptive, and it would end up as another endless, fruitless argument on the internet about who is “wrong.” James, I would be receptive if you…or anyone…can definitely prove that God exists and is not a figment of your imagination. And again, it’s not a matter of right and wrong. If believing in God is right for you, then your believe in God is right for me. I don’t believe that God exists and that’s right for me. What I really wish is that people who do believe would stop saying that I am wrong and would stop feeling the need to pray for me, praying that I will embrace their mythology as truth.

      6. Good to know James, thanks. I agree with your thoughts, well we don’t know how God works perhaps these little moments build in ways we don’t know. And I agree fruitless arguing back and forth doesn’t help. I read all the comments on your post. Fascinating to discuss & Read all these perspectives on this topic 🙂 Cheers, enjoy your weekend.

      7. A lifeboat exists. It is physical. You can see it, feel it, step into it. Everyone can see it. Someone can choose to not get in a lifeboat, but that doesn’t mean they believe it doesn’t exist. There is no question that it is real. So your lifeboat analogy doesn’t work. Where is the evidence that God exists, other than inside your own mind and/or imagination? Show me the evidence that God is real and I will gladly change my mind.

      8. Your description of a lifeboat reminds me of the 1999 film the Matrix. I once read a statement that said science can only examine that which is in our universe, but by definition, the Creator of the universe exists outside, thus is outside of direct examination.

        I would never try to convince someone of the existence of God, because people don’t do that. Ask any Christian why they came to faith, and they’ll have to describe a metaphysical experience, which is outside the experience of the five senses. I know it doesn’t make much sense to you and that’s fine. All I ask is if you can’t understand my reality, try not to discount it so much, at least as far as my subjective experience goes. My guess is you accept other people’s subjective experience, which you can’t examine, fairly readily.

      9. Again, James, it’s not personally directed towards you. I accept your “subjective experience” to be your reality. It’s not mine. But so many people misunderstand atheism. I do not hate God. You can’t hate something that doesn’t exist. And I don’t hate people who believe in God; I just don’t share their beliefs. I believe that God is a creation of man in order to provide answers to the unanswerable. And since that is my belief, by definition, I belief that religions built around the belief in a nonexistent God (or gods) is mythology.

      10. It Works as good as your analogy. That was kind of half my point. I can go at this from many angles & you’ll try to refute them, some successfully, some not as much. I can tell you the Bible, but you’d say circular reasoning. That’s your greatest proof. You’ll call it stories or something, but you don’t try to see how Christianity and the existence of God could be true. You only look for how He could not be. When I think of your view, I think of how your view could be true, so that’s not really fair is it? I five you the benefit of the doubt, but you don’t give me the same courtesy.

        How do we know real love exists? How do we know hope does? We see signs in others from the present, the past. The wind exists, but we just feel it. Can’t step in it grasp it and understand it. We Have science about it, hypothesized scenarios, but b/c those are true doesn’t mean atheism is & Belief in God isn’t — we can’t argue in circles – tautologies.

        Many of of us feel love, hope, the visceral knowledge of God, an intelligent designer, and the continued existence of people’s belief in a God have or a built in knowledge of God in their humanity — very similar to how we feel the wind. I could tell you Faith, but you would not understand the definition. “Now faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.” There is much beyond the explainable, physical etc., b/c I have faith in a God doesn’t make me wrong or mean my imagination is vivid. Perhaps, I merely experience something you do not, or close yourself off from. You do not put yourself in my shoes or that of other believers. The proof is Biblical, the proof is innate within us, but when it comes down to faith, you either get that or you don’t. I know many who do, even just the concept.

        What you can’t experience or choose not to, doesn’t make that concept imagination. Doesn’t prove there is no God. But there’s always hope for everyone I think. So, I will pray for you, that you feel these things that aren’t easy to explain but are yet humanly experienced — like faith, yet they somehow exist. After all, if there’s no God it won’t mean anything?

  2. Um. My goodness. How fascinating a read! And all from a truly innocent “do you believe global warming” question. Just bolsters my personal belief that I never know what’s going to set off a really great discussion. Thank you for sharing your views! And for allowing me to read them.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting, Melanie.

      Oh, you just followed my “Old Man’s Gym” blog which is different from my “Morning Meditations” blog. I have three separate WP blogs because I compartmentalize my interests.

  3. Let me just add that many people see mythology as a good thing (at least in high forms, not everything anyone attempts). Global warming as a myth wouldn’t be good or elevating. All that said, we can consider the view that the greatest mythology might be true (and can be uplifting either way). [I don’t know if the author you are responding in reference to sees the word that way, but I would refer you to a writer like Campbell.] Yet, I personally do believe the Bible is a relayer of truth. (I also believe we have to bring our humanity and understanding — via help through the Holy Spirit {is one way to look at it} — into the matter.) Finally, I ask if Jesus just afforded respect or if he said salt that has lost its savor isn’t good for much. There is a greater clout that is brought to bear over people in a voluntary (not always with legal force but still controlling) manner over people within belief systems like religion. It could be considered quasi-voluntary.

    1. @Marleen: It is true, many people do see mythology as a good thing relative to moral lessons they teach, but mythology is seen as unreal, while faith in God is a very real experience for millions of people on the planet, and untold billions across time.

      I also agree that the Bible is a relayer of truth, and more specifically as a record of God’s relationship with human beings, almost all of those humans being Israel (Jews), but with implications for the rest of us. Through a number of excellent teachers, my own research, and the Holy Spirit, I experience the Bible as the most informative and complex document I’ve ever encountered. After over twenty years in the faith, I continue to learn new things from its study. I am limited by my inability to study it in its original languages, but again, some very fine teachers who are linguistically capable have been invaluable.

      When you said “clout,” did you mean “cult?”

  4. To answer your title question, James, a faith never actually *becomes* a culture. Faith may engender religious behaviors, which in turn may become embedded *within* a culture as intrinsic characteristic elements. Faith also invokes characteristic values that are deemed representative of the central object or objects of faith. That is why polytheistic belief systems develop multiple “gods”, each responsible for some natural phenomenon or behavior. Consequently one may have a god for rain, and one for fertility, and one for lightning, and one for erotic love, and one devoted to trees, and one to grain, and one to seafaring activities and perhaps the behavior of the seas themselves, one for travelers and one for warriors, and a host of others. Each of these is characterized by not only a phenomenon, but a personality of attitudes about their phenomena of responsibility and how humans should address them or respond to them. In other words, each god represents one or more “values”. Somewhat more modern gods or idols or values are represented by various “-isms”, like, for example, multiculturalism or multilateralism or Stalinism or Nazism or Fascism or globalism or humanism. Not all values are elevated to godhood, but any of them might be so deemed by some individual or group. The distinctive view originally emphasized by Judaism was that the operations of the world and humanity were more integral and not in conflict, because all life-affirming values were represented in a single unitary God Who had created all things — including all humans who thus were all brethren and essentially equal rather than only some elite class or race of them being significant or having value above others; and that all things fit together into a balance that was intended to accomplish some Divine Purpose. Belief systems like polytheism and atheism and existentialism lack that intrinsic sense of overriding Purpose and meaning.

    Elements such as I’ve just discussed, in one mixture or other, characterize a culture. As culture develops greater complexity, it may develop into an entire civilization that influences behavior and outlook for large masses of humans, their interactions with animals both wild and domestic, and their interactions with their environment.

    Now, while the notion of “global warming” was invoked as a supposed contrast with myths, no elaboration was discussed regarding the myths which surround the phenomenon itself — such as whether it is caused by natural processes or by human activities, or what percentages of either might influence or control it. Likewise the biblical description of cosmological origin was dismissed as myth, without analysis of how its language and style express an actual historical truth. Such dismissal was also so broad-brushed as to ignore the majority of material in the literature which has been corroborated archeologically as historically accurate.

    At this point I have a question about prior elements of the current discussion. Did Fandango invoke the outlook of conflict defined as between Christianity and Atheism, characterized as myth versus science, or were those religious outlooks solely James’ characterization? James did add into the discussion other belief systems such as Islam, and particularly Judaism which is the actual originator of the biblical literature being dismissed as myth. I attempted in my previous paragraph above to point out that what was dismissed as myth was rather a nuanced overarching philosophical approach to real cosmological events that science has called popularly the “Big Bang”, even if this is separated out from the material that addresses later corroboratable historical events that include the formation of Jewish peoplehood.

    1. @PL: Yikes. That’s a lot to absorb.

      To respond to your questions relative to Fandango and me presented in your last paragraph, you can go to his blog post to read the original content and then my comments and his. It wasn’t my intention to present Fandango with a scholarly or otherwise argument supporting knowledge of and faith in Hashem. My message was more simple. Something like, “Just because you don’t believe doesn’t mean faith = mythology. Faith in God has been part of the human condition for thousands of years, so please accept it as such.”

      I also deliberately didn’t address the climate change issue as it wasn’t the focus of my message.

  5. James asked: When you said “clout,” did you mean “cult?”

    I meant clout.

    clout

    [klout]

    NOUN
    informal
    a heavy blow with the hand or a hard object.
    “a clout on the ear”
    synonyms: smack · slap · thump · punch · blow · hit · knock · bang

    [more]

    informal
    influence or power, especially in politics or business.
    “I knew he carried a lot of clout”
    synonyms: influence · power · pull · weight · sway · leverage

    [more]

    VERB
    informal
    hit hard with the hand or a hard object.
    “I clouted him on the head”
    synonyms: hit · strike · punch · smack · slap · cuff · thump · beat

    [more]

  6. I’m not sure why you chose to put your response to Fandango as a comment on my blog. No damage done. It might get you more readership otherwise I don’t understand the purpose.

    1. I thought I was responding on Fandango’s blog. Can you give me a link to the blog post in question? Also, feel free to delete it. Don’t know how it got there since I’ve checked multiple times and I recall responding on his “This, That, and the Other” blogspot.

  7. Fascinating discussion.

    I’ve known both indifferent and hostile atheists throughout the years. The hostile ones, I’ve never quite understood. On one level, yes, I understand the spiritual aspect of the vitriol; they are negatively responding to God, not me. On another, larger level, it doesn’t make much sense. I’ve had some tell me that teaching children about God should be considered child abuse. But what parent isn’t going to pass on their worldview to their children, whatever that worldview is and whether or not the children actively take it as their own? It is impossible to raise any child in a vacuum.

    Look forward to reading more about this, should the exchange continue.

    1. I don’t think anyone raises their child in a vacuum, and yes, we all pass on our values to our children (but whether or not that sticks when they grow up is another story). As I mentioned in the body of my blog post, atheists can experience hostility toward Christians for many reasons. I sometimes wonder if one of those reasons, though no one would admit it, is that God sets the standards for good and evil, not man.

  8. James brought up the Holocaust. That’s pretty rough in a confrontational context. James got a response — that a person doesn’t have to be religious to be against the Holocaust. [Meanwhile, it is the cases that religion was used to carry out the Holocaust.]

    1. To elucidate: I didn’t mean the obvious here — that Jewish people (and people with any hint of Jewish background, by the way) were targeted. What is often forgotten is that the oppressors appealed to Christianity (or said background).

  9. I agree with ProclaimLiberty that faith does not actually become a culture. However, I do think that religion, and perhaps more specifically, religious practices or religious traditions can become a culture to the point of blurring the lines between the religion itself and the culture of the religion. I’ll try to explain my thinking. As usual, it all makes sense between my ear holes, but may not translate well through typing.

    Judaism, Muslim, Buddhism, Native American, and most other world religions, except for Christianity which I will discuss later, all have a fundamental element of action to please, obey, prove loyalty, {or insert the appropriate word here} their respective god or gods. This action is typically visible in everyday life translated into clothing, prayer time, hair styles, even tattoos, etc. To me, that is the culture we see.

    I think the distinct difference between Christianity and other world religions is that most traditional Christian denominations reject the theology that one must *do* or *act* to please God. Christianity, at it’s core, is a belief system in which belief alone is enough. Because of that, I do not think Christianity expresses itself as a uniform culture in the same way the other religions do.

    Interestingly though, I think Christianity is becoming a culture instead of a religion. In my opinion, the lack of any requirement to *do* or *act* to please, obey, prove loyalty, {or insert the appropriate word here} God, has in fact created a culture in and of itself. Proclaiming one’s belief in God by wearing a cross, pointing to the sky, or casually saying “My prayers are with you,” has become as much a part of our culture, at least in America, as sukkot in Israel. These gestures can be used by a scantily clad hip hop artist, a vulgar actor, an athlete, or a church attender, all being lumped into the same category. I do not think that is really faith becoming a culture as much as it is more a status symbol.

    I am intrigued with your question: “…when does a religious person get to say, ‘I respect you as a human being though you disagree with my beliefs, but when will you respect my humanity and worth as well?’”

    Perhaps the answer to this question lies in the deep-rooted history of fighting about religion. One must be right, thus the other wrong. Wars have been fought over religion since the beginning of time. As long as a religion requires a specific set of beliefs, thus acceptance or rejection, there will be emotionally charged arguments. I could spend hours discussing this subject, but in my experience the conversation never really brings anyone closer to a definitive answer.

    1. I was thinking about some of the differences between Christianity and Judaism, Terry. I agree that Christianity tends to need to be “right” about everything as well as needing absolute answers to some pretty tough theological questions. Judaism, in contrast, seems to be okay with the dynamic tension of not knowing absolute answers, or debating between several possible responses to any question. It’s why I’m more attracted to Jewish thought than mainstream Christian perspectives.

      Another thing to consider is that both Christianity and Islam absolutely requires the individual to join them and embrace the totality of their theology and doctrine (varying between differing sects), and otherwise you are “damned.” Both religions have practiced torture and even murder to achieve this end. Judaism, on the other hand, does not require conversion, and has a lesser set of requirements for non-Jews to achieve a relationship with the Almighty. To the best of my knowledge, Judaism has never persecuted or otherwise harmed non-Jews for religious (or any other) purposes (and I know someone will bring up the “occupation” of “Palestine” by the Jews and how they are “persecuting” the resident Arabs, but I trust I’ve made my views on that clear in previous blog posts).

      I do think some Christians have gotten past the “acts vs. faith” puzzle they put before themselves and realize that while they are not “saved” by what they do, once coming to faith and devotion, they live transformed lives by behaving according the the mitzvot required of Gentile believes, to do charity, visit the sick, defend the downtrodden. My parents lived out that sort of Christian life for many decades without realizing it was “Torah.”

  10. Good point about Judaism. It is part of their culture (or faith?) to have open discussions and even disagreements over the details of biblical interpretation with mutual respect for the other person despite the argument. Perhaps that is their version of “iron sharpens iron.” In my experience, Christianity generally does not adhere to the same mutual respect over theological disagreements. Like you, this is also what at tracts me to Jewish thought rather than traditional Christian perspective. Which causes me to land squarely into no mans land when it comes to religion. But I digress…..

    What seems to make Judaism unique from your examples of evangelism is that the Jewish people have historically wanted to remain unique and set apart, not necessarily all inclusive.

    I thought of more examples of faith, or perhaps religion, becoming culture. Amish, Hutterites, and Mennonites are arguably some clear examples of faith becoming a culture.

    1. I think ProclaimLiberty’s comments about faith and culture were pretty spot on, but especially in Judaism, it all tends to blend into one because, as you say, the Jewish people are commanded to be unique and set apart, Terry.

  11. Not to nitpick, Mandibelle, but your analogy doesn’t work at all. I contend that God does not exist. I also contend that unicorns don’t exist. Lifeboats DO exist. Do you see the difference? I feel love, I feel hope, but I feel those very human emotions without having to believe that God exists. If I could feel God as I feel wind, I would believe that God exists just as the wind does. But I don’t. And as I said to James, I don’t consider your belief in God to be wrong…for you. So why do you consider my lack of belief in God to be wrong for me? Again, show me proof. Let me feel God like I feel the wind. Then I will believe. Let God reveal himself or prove with some irrefutable truth that he exists and I will believe.

  12. Before categorically saying an analogy “doesn’t work” the nature of analogies needs to be considered.

    They are NOT perfect reflections of reality. They are a limited, but often effective, illustration intended to communicate the experience and understanding of the one using the analogy in an almost poetic form.

    Fandango said

    ” I don’t consider your belief in God to be wrong…for you . So why do you consider my lack of belief in God to be wrong for me?”

    A puzzling question steeped in relativism and not objective reality.

    Whether someone believes in God or not makes no difference at all to the objective facts related to God’s existence (or not).

    If God exists then His creation is ultimately accountable to Him, regardless of whether He and that accountability is recognised in the immediate term.

    1. From Fandango’s perspective “objective” reality says God does not exist, so I don’t doubt he feels pretty sure of his position. On the other hand, people of faith are certain of the existence of God, and thus in the end, all of mankind, believing and otherwise, will be held accountable to our ultimate judge.

      1. From Fandango’s perspective “objective” reality says …

        The fact that you refer to “Fandango’s perspective” shows it is a SUBJECTIVE reality.

        “Objective reality” refers to what actually is; what is TRUTH, regardless of human assumption and perception and despite what we prefer to believe.

  13. Peace be to all and a good health.
    Hello guys, although many could not still get the importance of the information we shared. But to those that have read it seriously can now clearly analyze other truth of the gospel that was not properly taught in these covenants in this New Plan of God. But before we tackle it, we would like to reveal that this New Covenants Plan of God is also known as the New Testament Gospel Book which is also an applied literal and spiritual Universal Final Judgment of God to both covenants for all the people of the world! So, when this first covenant judgment was applied in the 1st Century, the majority of most of the messages essence context were to believe to Yeshua M. and to those that does not believe is already condemn judged! And what to the already executed Universal Final Judgment to all the gentile nations in Mt. 25:31-46! Making the truth of the translation of this Messianic Covenant subtitle as the Days of the Lord’s Judgment and not just the Lord’s Day, they corrupted in this modern translation of the scriptures. Anyway, this also help in the concealment made by Yeshua M. in Mt. 24:36, of not knowing the truth of this whole Plan of God. And the other truth that the world major religion did not taught and also of not really knowing that this fulfilled Messianic Covenant in reality is the fulfilled ratified promise covenant salvation of God from their forefather Avraham, for the sake of all the Covenantal Israelites which from this Yeshua M. have established the Lone Religion of God in earth unto the end times 1Tes. 4:16-17! Which already took end last 1993! Which also revealed the whole condemnation of all the major religions of the world.

    Then follows the transition of the 2nd Covenant also known as the Parousia in Greek and 2nd Advent of Christ in the universal language, which begun in 1994 up to date of 2018. And the whole world and so with those world major religion for not also knowing of this transition that they were already affected of this automatic judgment executed by Yeshua Messiah. Making all the people now condemn judged or transgressor to Yeshua Messiah! But from this fact there is an exception, and these were those already accounted for chosen call out Israelites that were preserved by God and some were still remaining alive original Messianic up to date, that were now all consider as the only holy people that was scattered in different countries. So, this is now our present faith status of all the people that were still unqualified to Yeshua M. order faith believe. And this is for not really knowing him and not observing all his teachings which he advised as last farewell to all of us in Mt. 28:20. So, where will this people now go? When the promise covenant salvation of God is still intact written ratified in this holy gospel book as the sole mediator to God and men and no to other name or neither any religion could mediate to God! May our living lord God Bless us all.

    LOVE : New Jerusalem-Holy City

  14. Most progress in human material well being was achieved DESPITE opposition from the religious world. Human material well being comes from using reason and science. The spiritual world is not testable and falsifiable.

    1. Human material well being comes from using reason and science. The spiritual world is not testable and falsifiable.

      I’ve recently been looking into a lot of “true crime” cases where “reason and science” were allegedly used, with the results of cases leading to false convictions and imprisonment of the innocent, due to falsification of evidence, and manipulation of grossly flawed legal systems.

      Too often, the conclusions of “Reason and Science” are entirely subjective, influenced by preconceptions, and merely confirming desired outcomes.

      Many things championed by “Science” are not testable, and there have been many cases where “evidence” has been falsified.

      1. And you would have better results using faith in those cases? Really? I didn’t say reason and science are flawless, but that they are the only tools for material progress.

    2. When an atheist asks me to prove God’s existence, of course, they mean on their terms. Since God exists outside the universe, and since science can only study whatever is inside the universe, science is of no use at all, since God is not scientifically observable. It’s sort of like David and Goliath. If David had put on armor and picked up a sword, Goliath would have easily killed him. But David fought on his own terms using his own weapon. Goliath had no defense and was killed. In the sharing of faith, context is extremely important.

  15. This may be small comfort, but virtually everywhere on earth, homicides have been decreasing for at least the last 20 years.

    Try telling that to the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen…

    To dismiss the killings in those places in the last 20 years as “not homicide” would merely be semantics.

    1. Look at the data. In the macro, what I said is true. The long term trend is downward in the aggregate. Of course there a places and times that go above the trendline, but they are also ones that go below it.

  16. And you would have better results using faith in those cases?

    Better results would be attained if there was reason to have faith in the system to work ethically and achieve justice.

    Maybe it would be worth learning what “faith” actually is before dismissing it as some kind of airy-fairy desire to believe something without evidence.

      1. Correction:

        they are the only tools for material progress.

        Quite a dogmatic assumption!

        And is “material progress” the great desire, the be all and end all?

  17. I earlier referenced an author by the name of Campbell. Here is another look at the terminology concerned. I find it interesting.

    https://www.britannica.com/topic/myth

    …..

    As with all religious symbolism, there is no attempt to justify mythic narratives or even to render them plausible. Every myth presents itself as an authoritative, factual account, no matter how much the narrated events are at variance with natural law or ordinary experience. By extension from this primary religious meaning, the word myth may also be used more loosely to refer to an ideological belief when that belief is the object of a quasi-religious faith; an example would be the Marxist eschatological myth of the withering away of the state.

    ….

    The word myth derives from the Greek mythos, which has a range of meanings from “word,” through “saying” and “story,” to “fiction”; the unquestioned validity of mythos can be contrasted with logos, the word whose validity or truth can be argued and demonstrated. Because myths narrate fantastic events with no attempt at proof, it is sometimes assumed that they are simply stories with no factual basis, and the word has become a synonym for falsehood or, at best, misconception. In the study of religion, however, it is important to distinguish between myths and stories that are merely untrue.

    ……

    [Italics added.]

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