Revolution in Jesusland: building bridges between progressives and born-agains

Discuss

55 Responses to “Revolution in Jesusland: building bridges between progressives and born-agains”

  1. noen says:

    Of course there are many Christians who are able to make common cause with progressives. They are not the problem although joining with them may give us an advantage. The problem is not the majority of Christians or Evangelicals. It is the Robertsons and Falwells, the Dominionists and the ultra fundamentalists and the Corporatists who are the problem. It is the white racist authoritarians who are the problem.

    It is the Bush crime family and it’s use of Soviet mafia style rule that is the problem. It is the Dominionists who would literally bring back slavery and make being gay a capital offense who are the problem. It is world wide corporate hegemony that is the real threat.

    There can be no compromise with them. Opposing cultures do not “compromise”. One or the other emerges as the winner while the other is exterminated. And that is usually the one that is the most violent and aggressive.

    “The meek shall inherit nothing” — Frank Zappa

  2. bricology says:

    anonymous wrote “Some of us are on your team, guys, and it would make a whole lot more sense to embrace us as sharers of a common cause against the REAL fundie nuts, than to alienate us completely.”

    Perhaps this has crossed your mind before, but how exactly are we secular folk supposed to be able to distinguish between you supposed teammates, and the “REAL fundie nuts”? Most Christians I’ve known have looked, acted and sounded like nice folks, at least on the surface. How do you suggest we differentiate between the “fundie nuts” and “progressive teammates”? Is there a litmus test we should apply? Because the “does he or she base their life around the belief in an artificial deity construct?” test isn’t going to be of much help there. I prefer my teammates to at least be willing to separate reality from wishful thinking and folklore.

  3. bricology says:

    mrintolerant wrote “Richard Dawkins is small minded. He is just as bigoted and trapped in himself as the worst of the “pound you over the head with a big King James Bible” Christians are.”

    Please explain how Dawkins is “small minded”, bigoted, and “trapped in himself”. I’d like to read your justification.

  4. bricology says:

    bobolikebeer wrote “…I’m just going to say that there is a big diference between doubt and disbelief. I doubt my faith constantly. I don’t see any problem with that. I feel it strengthens it.”

    See, this is a pretty good example of why I can’t take any of this profession of progressive Christianity seriously. You admit that you doubt your faith — faith being “the belief in things unseen”, as Paul put it. OK, you doubt your ability to maintain your belief in things you haven’t seen; seems a pretty reasonable state to me. But then you say that such doubt is a *good* thing, and that this doubt strengthens your faith. In other words, the absence of evidence gives you more faith.

    I’m sorry, but this was either confusedly parsed by you, or it is madness. To argue that the absence of evidence should somehow reinforce belief is, I’ve no doubt, an essential element in the mentality that allows fundamentalist Muslims to blow themselves and innocent people up in the hopes of earning paradise. Even in people such as yourself who would never think of harming others, it is a profession of the most shocking sort of credulity. Of course, religion thrives on credulity. I cannot.

  5. edgore says:

    Does anyine have a blog that helps progressives better understand and work with adults that believe in Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy?

  6. bricology says:

    “Having faith doesn’t imply anything about one’s social values.”

    But of course it *does*, unless we’re talking about “faith” in the stock market rebounding or some such figurative use of the term. Religious faith is the belief in the supernatural claims made in the central stories of each respective religion. What are the articles of the Christian faith?

    1. That Jesus was the son of god who, born of a virgin, took on human form.

    2. That Jesus was killed, was resurrected and lives today.

    3. That humans need salvation — “the unmerited grace of god” — or they will face eternal damnation.

    4. That the Bible is the authoritative word of god.

    5. That there will be a physical resurrection of the dead, a judgment of the righteous, and that the righteous will live for eternity in heaven while the unjust will be condemned to an eternal hell.

    Every one of these is a supernatural claim, and every one relies upon faith, since none have any good evidence to support them. If you have faith in these assertions, then it’s a fairly straight path to the following corollaries:

    1-2. That our scientific models of both the origin of Life, the Universe and Everything (including reproduction) are wrong. If science is so fundamentally flawed as to have overlooked the existence of a god and the possibility of virgin birth, then it cannot be trusted in any matter.

    3. That humans are inherently sinful (in need of salvation), and deserve death for things that are not crimes, but matters of subjective moral determinations. This has and is used to justify killing countless “sinners” throughout history. An accurate “faith” in the edicts of the Old Testament should result in children being put to death for disrespecting their parents.

    4. That the “history” of the Bible is right and the results of scientific study of the past are wrong where they contradict it, and that moral codes formed millennia ago, filtered through Elizabethan sensibilities, should be today’s moral authority. Consequently, wives are to obey their husbands, homosexuals deserve the fate of Sodom and Gommorrah, etc.

    5. That the standard for “righteousness” is Biblical, and again, that death is the appropriate result of morality that doesn’t meet that standard, especially for those who reject it rather than seeking forgiveness from Yahweh, through Jesus.

    More social values that are logical (well, that’s probably not the best term) conclusions from the Christian faith? That women are of secondary status, unless they happen to be the virgin mother of Jesus, or penitent ex-whores, that animals are ours to exploit in any way we choose (such as I pointed out above, with Jesus allegedly killing a herd of pigs), that people should follow their government’s orders (“render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s…”), and so forth.

  7. Alan says:

    @ Bricology – I’m not going to get into that arguement. The point of my post is that black & white viewpoints in politics and religion are incorrect, that labeling someone as “Christian” doesn’t take into account their politics, and labeling someone as “Progressive” doesn’t take into account their religious beliefs.

  8. bobolikebeer says:

    @#30: Your ignorance about Christianity is astounding. I would attempt to inform you, but as you obviously did not even bother to read the blog which this was a link to, it would be a waste of my time. Do all of us a favor and read the material in question before you comment on it.

  9. Alan says:

    I’m a Christian. I’m also a progressive, in every sense of the word. So is the pastor of my church congregation. Many members of my church congregation vote Democratic, Republican or both. The mainstream denomination I belong to doesn’t take the Bible literally, and doesn’t have any problem with evolution. My denomination is also notorious for not prostelyzing, which might explain it’s shrinking membership.

    There are secular conservatives. Dick Cheney has as much interest in religion as the big rock in my front yard, unless it gets him some political gain. In fact, the neo-con movement is almost entirely secular.

    My point? Religion is a broad spectrum, politics is a separate broad spectrum, and they overlap in some places and don’t in others. Just because there are some loud conservative Christians (that inappropriately claim to speak for all Christians) doesn’t mean all Christians are like them. There are secular progressives, religious progressives, religious conservatives and secular conservatives. It’s not all as black and white as everyone wants to believe.

  10. x says:

    You know I am very ashamed of how I have previously expressed my faith. It wasn’t at all like Jesus. Non-violent, peaceable, full of love and wonder. I was on a track that led me to be pro death when that was so opposite of my faith. Someone earlier expressed suspicion that accepting “progressives” with faith would not work because eventually they would try to convert you. There is some merit to those concerns. However, myself and some good friends have come to some vast change in how we perceive and express our faith and respect and wonder for others who do not share these beliefs. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cory and those here at boingx2- not just because they are smart and entertaining, because they are good. The willingness to stand for those oppressed has always endeared me despite our spiritual differences.

  11. American Scot says:

    Well said MYCOPHAGE!

  12. Nick D says:

    I resent the implication that if you don’t think Christianity or religion in general is good for society, that you must think all Christians are rednecks or fascists. Please stop misrepresenting the views of reasonable agnostics like myself.

    I understand intimately what it’s like to be a believing Christian. Hell, I used to be a hardcore Catholic. Until about the age of 12 when I realized I could no longer buy what the church was selling, and opted for reason over faith.

    As for the fundamentalist movement in the US, ill lich says it very nicely in his first paragraph.

    Then there’s the fact that we are asked to believe that the world is 6,ooo years old, that evolution is a myth, that homosexuality is a sin, and that God loves the US more than any other country. (All beliefs, except for the last one, that the Catholic Church shares as well.)

    And if I think that’s all hooey, I’m close-minded? C’mon.

  13. noen says:

    bobolikebeer, I don’t know what planet you are from but on this one what bricology (#30) gave was pretty much the Nicene Creed. Restated a bit but it’s mostly there.

    Studies have shown that fundamentalists don’t actually read their Bibles as much as they say they do. When they do they are more likely not to read outside of a few narrow verses. They rarely read the social gospels for instance.

    Would that be you?

  14. MrIntolerant says:

    The problem that many Christians have with people they refer to as “liberals” is that the people who call themselves “progressives” are seen as bigots.

    Yes, bigots.

    Devout Christians who are committed to the Word of God, those derisively referred to by bigotted “progressives” as “born-agains” or Fundamentalists (even “Fundies”), do honestly believe in the same things progressives do. They just believe for different reasons and with different solutions.

    I believe that if “progressives” would just give up the bigotry and hatred (including cutting out the Tooth Fairy and Santa Clause references or anything that small minded idiot Richard Dawkins writes) then many of the stated goals of “progressives” would be more effectively reached.

  15. bricology says:

    bobolikebeer, as a matter of fact I was raised in a devout Christian household, went to church every week and prayer meeting every Wednesday, went to a Christian school from first grade through college. My father is a deacon and elder and my mother is a deaconess, I’ve read the *entire* Bible cover to cover no less than 3 times, and probably know Christian doctrine more thoroughly than 99% of Christian laypersons. You’re free to point out anywhere that my posts are in error. Unless and until you do, I’m confident that I’m correct.

    Yes, I read the first page of the linked blog. It has some very nice things to say about whom I presume to be some very nice people. But I’ve no doubt that there are close parallels within Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and even Wicca or Paganism. So what? It seems to me that the whole thing is an elaborately constructed PR campaign: “see? We’re not so bad after all!” I’m unimpressed.

    The fact is that Evangelical Christianity, Protestantism, Christianity, Yahwehism, theism and superstition in general are *antithetical* to social progress. Did you read that? Antithetical. Social progress is the product of widening the circle of inclusion. Five centuries ago, slaves were excluded from protection. Guess what? The Bible condones slavery. Two centuries ago, women were excluded from most rights. Guess what? The Bible condones the subjugation of women. A century ago, gay people were criminalized. Guess what? The Bible condones their criminalization. Unless Christians are willing to regard the Bible as no more important to their morality than the Encyclopedia Britannica, they’re stuck with a foundation document that’s rotten at the core. But they’d hardly be recognizable as Christians then, would they?

    The point is that Yahwehism isn’t something that can be “prettied up” by making it more inclusive and progressive. Yahwehism is *inherently* exclusive and regressive. Judaism asserts “there is but one god and we are his chosen people”. Islam asserts “there is but one god and Muhammad is his messenger”. Christianity asserts “there is but one god (three gods), and through his son is the only way to be saved from the consequences of your sins.” What could be more exclusionary than monotheism?! “Take THAT, Hindus, with your absurd pantheon of heathen gods!” is the subtext that underlies all monotheism. “Take THAT, Shinto infidels! ONE god (three gods), NOT millions of them!”

  16. Nick D says:

    @#12: Again: disagreeing with someone is not “bigotry” and does not make you “small-minded.” That’s just more name-calling.

    I agree that mocking Christians for believing in the Tooth Fairy is offensive and isn’t going to win over anyone, and I would hope I would never do that.

    But the underlying statement is valid: we don’t believe in God because you can’t prove to us that He exists. On the other hand, I can’t prove to you that He does. That’s why it’s called “belief,” and not “fact.”

    And what’s with the quotation marks around “progressives” and “liberals.”? If someone identifies themselves that way, respect that. I was under the impression that Born Again is what that group of Christians called themselves. Correct us if we’re wrong on that score. Practice what you preach, please.

  17. Nick D says:

    I nominate this for the most erudite discussion I’ve read on bOING bOING yet, despite the almost constant background crackle of flames being hurled. (Hellfire, maybe?)For what my humble opinion might be worth to anyone.

    I’d like to offer a thank you to the participants.(And no, I’m not being sarcastic.)

  18. Chris L says:

    I don’t think religion will lead society to doom as some chicken-little progressives fret. As long as there is a strong counterpart in the intellectual, scientific community and a well-informed counter-culture society will be fine.

    HOWEVER! While there are people who are religious and genuinely good people, Religion, itself, brings nothing new to the scientific table, offers no advances in human rights, resists cultural change and so on. It is not so much something that could bring about the collapse of society (in that it is already a side effect of society) so much that it is a hinderence on the ongoing movement to improve the human condition.

  19. BlackAndy says:

    Hey everyone, stop reheating the same old argument. Sheesh.

    Believing in a higher power and having an open mind are not in fact mutually exclusive, nor is having an open mind and being a member of a religion. (To some degree inconsistent – maybe, but then I don’t know anyone or anything carbon-based who is 100% consistent always.) Denominations of any religion have a vast spectrum of variation in what they think, thus there are denominations, and that’s why some people belong to one, others a different one, and others yet to none at all.

    The whole point here is a) secular groups ought to identify which groups within the majority religious culture have similar goals and b) then extend a hand to them in order to form coalitions to achieve these goals. It’s a marriage of convenience, sure, but that’s politics, folks.

    (And I’m irreligious, if it matters. Was raised midwest Lutheran though, so I’ll tell you, if you’re secular you want to talk to the ELCA more and Missouri and Wisconsin synods less.)

  20. Keneke says:

    More and more, I am seeing an invective on the side of secularism to match the existing extremes present in religion. Meanwhile, there are a large group of moderates on both sides of the aisle who already get along. (Think of liberal Christian denominations, searching agnostics, Buddhists, Apatheists.) I think this bridge-building effort is good if both sides feel that a full-blown culture war needs to be avoided, but many of us plain old Americans (of any mode of belief) simply watch from the sideline, curiosity aroused, like watching a bitchfight in a bar.

  21. bricology says:

    Alan wrote “The mainstream denomination I belong to doesn’t take the Bible literally, and doesn’t have any problem with evolution.”

    Alan, does your denomination believe that Jesus is literally the divine son of the one god? If not, why? If so, what objective standard did they/you use to accept the Biblical claim of his divinity that at the same time justified the exclusion of the Biblical claim of creation, and its other supernatural claims?

  22. Fredshome says:

    People who have conversations with (or seek counsel from) their imaginary friends make me nervous.

    Some of them certainly are nice people though.

  23. Nick D says:

    @#14: I admire your evenhandedness and respect your right to watch from the sideline, but you must be a little tempted to get involved or you wouldn’t have posted, no?

    Anyway, like I said, namecalling and invective is useless. Having said that, I think that we’re not used to seeing secularism being represented at all, so a book like Dawkins really stands out.

    I mean, our currency says, “In God We Trust.” In the past, if you were an agnostic or atheist, you were wise to keep your mouth shut about it, and just go along with the dominant religion. Christians have long been free to voice their beliefs, and it’s only recently that agnostics and atheists have been, too. Freedom of religion means freedom from religion for some of us.

    And before anyone chimes in with arguments about prayer in school being persecution of Christians, let me just remind you that that battle is not about Christianity, it’s about the seperation of church and state, which is a cornerstone of American legal tradition.

  24. bricology says:

    mrintolerant wrote “Devout Christians who are committed to the Word of God, those derisively referred to by bigotted ‘progressives’ as ‘born-agains’ or Fundamentalists (even ‘Fundies’), do honestly believe in the same things progressives do. They just believe for different reasons and with different solutions.”

    No, we don’t. That’s like claiming that scientists who accept evolution and theists who claim creation “believe in the same things”, because both “believe” that we are here and that we got here somehow. That perspective ignores the (IMO) irreconcilable differences between causes, methods and goals.

    Many atheists, such as I, assert that humanity is doomed if we continue to allow the religious strife that has caused so much harm througout recorded history, to continue to exist. How can we work with born-again Christians without reinforcing the friction they have with other religions (to say nothing of interdenominational conflicts)? And what of the born-agains whose objective is to “hasten the second-coming” by setting in motion “pre-apocalyptic events”?

    The reality is that secularism is now undergoing a huge boom at the same time that theism is undergoing an overall decline. In a generation or two, the US is going to be significantly more secular than it is now, and born-agains will be a small camp, looked upon with bemusement, as we now view flat-earthers. By co-operating with them now, I suspect that we will only delay that transitional process and prolong their existence. We don’t need to enable the rest of their agenda any more than we need to co-operate with fundamentalist Muslims or Raelians or followers of the Cargo Cult. Their world-views are all equally doomed.

  25. bricology says:

    Alan wrote “The mainstream denomination I belong to doesn’t take the Bible literally, and doesn’t have any problem with evolution.”

    Alan, does your denomination believe that Jesus is literally the divine son of the one god? If not, why? If so, what objective standard did they/you use to accept the Biblical claim of his divinity that at the same time justified the exclusion of the Biblical claim of creation, and its other supernatural claims?

  26. Tommy says:

    I’ll take evangelicals seriously when they start taking Russell’s Teapot seriously.

    Teapotarians like myself have suffered for far too long.

  27. bobolikebeer says:

    @Noen#33: Since when did “theist” become “Fundementalist Christian”? This is exactly the point I am trying to make here. It seems that every time a progressive individual says that they believe in God or the teachings of the Bible, they get labeled Fundementalist and Anti-science. I love Science and Logic and Rationality and think it’s all freaking awesome! I also love God and Jesus and some of the beautiful poetry and lessons in the Bible and think all of that is freaking awesome as well!

    The Bible, Koran, Torrah, and every other religious text, are not all moral preaching. A lot of it is poetry, genaeology, history, oral tradition, politics, the list goes on… And in the same way, theism is a whole hell of a lot more (excuse the pun) than just trying to come out on top at judgement day.

    @Bricology: I’m sorry I said you were ignorant about Christianity. What I should have said is that you are presenting a very limited view of Christianity. It’s a very similar argument to the whole “feminist-lesbian-baby-killing-man-hating” argument. In other words, it’s not an argument. You seem to have had a rather bad experience with Christianity in the past. Not everyone has. And not everyone who believes in God is delusional. There are some really cool and fascinating movements in the evangelical church. Even if you disagree with them or hate them, I hope you can at least see that they’re doing something new, and stepping outside their own box quite a bit. I wish everyone did that more often.

  28. Binaryloop says:

    I have no problem working with Christians, born-agains, evengelicals, whatever……. the problems start when they begin prostelitizing.

    The way I see it, you get to ask the question one time: “Do you believe in Jesus?”. If my answer is “No.” then it stops right there. Don’t ask about it again. Don’t bring it up in conversations. Don’t try to preach to me or force your religious beliefs down my throat.

    That is my ONLY problem with Christians. Some of them are very nice people but they are intent on clubbing you over the head with their beliefs.

    I think that Mahatma Gandhi said it best:

    “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”

  29. noen says:

    #38 posted by bobolikebeer — I didn’t label you. I thought I was pretty clear about who I consider a threat and who I don’t. One thing that happens a lot is that people do not reply to what they agree with but what they disagree with another post. In my case I wanted to spell out my concerns and I am very glad you are not one of them.

    I am GLBT and highly aware that the people now in charge, the religious groups on the ascendency today, would like nothing more than to make my very life a crime punishable by death. Not kind of, not sort of, but for real.

    I am happy for Zack and wish him all the best but my life is on the line. I’ll believe it when I see it.

  30. Michael Sider says:

    2 core problems in this discussion that prevent clear communication…

    problem #1: “Christian” means different things to pretty much every person in this discussion, ranging from exclusivist literalist homophobic right-wing hellfire + brimstone “fundamentalism”, to inclusive activist feminist vegan left-wing “progressivism”, and all points in between

    problem #2: as in any discussion that involves Chrisianity in the US, focus immediately strays from any original question or discussion to range freely among the myriad implications and effects of Christianity in the US

    I say any attempt at prolonged discussion of “Christianity” is doomed to increasingly murky spirals of logic and vehemence, leading to mud.

  31. Scott Lenger says:

    Whoa! a link from boingboing that portrays Christianity semi-positively… time to send Satan a winter coat.

    In all seriousness, thanks Cory!

    I have to admit that even I’m surprised (and pleased) to hear some of the dialogue taking place among mainstream evangelicals. As an example, check out the this Shane Claiborne clip from the aforementioned site.

  32. bricology says:

    bobolikebeer — The “bad experience” I had with Christianity in the past was simply endemic to the Christian experience, and the way in which young people are indoctrinated into it. Sorry, but I didn’t have any kind of dramatic negative experience that set me against Christianity; I can’t be written off as some bitter and vindictive reactionary. Likewise, the thing that made me drop Christianity was nothing but a closer inspection of its claims and its morality. It contains its own poison pill.

    Unless we’re talking about some new offshoot of Christianity that dispenses with the notion of salvation v/s damnation, then the endemic negatives are still part of the process of inculcating children into Christianity in this generation, and will always be so. Even the most nominally Christian denomination has to admit that Jesus believed in heaven and hell. To tell a child that there is an invisible super-being who knows everything they think or do, and that the child will be damned or rewarded relative to that, after their own lifespan is over is, in my opinion, a particularly perverse form of child-abuse. It’s no different from teaching children that there is a deranged killer hiding outside their window and following them wherever they go.

    Of course, if we’ve dispensed with the omniscient, omnipresent god, then what manner of “god” is left, and how is he distinguishable from Santa Claus? And if we’ve likewise dispensed with Jesus’ belief in an afterlife (which would also preclude his resurrection), then what kind of special person is left? A “role model” who was born to a virgin, of whom we know nothing of his life between boyhood and the age of 30, who never engaged in any non-platonic relationship, who had no livelihood, who was apparently delusional about supernatural things, who performed miracles, who mistreated pigs and fig trees, who believed himself to be the king of the Jews, who “comes not to bring peace, but a sword”, who offered himself up to die? Sorry, but I don’t see much value in praising such a person, especially given the competitors in the moral example role, from the Buddha to Bertrand Russell.

    It seems to me that you’re postulating some sort of nominally Christian belief system that picks and chooses which supernatural attributes it prefers, while dismissing others, as well as the considerable negative stuff that is inherent in the system. My two questions are, what makes you think that what’s been cobbled together is “Christianity”? -and what objective criteria did you use to compare this belief system with its competitors that led you to accept its supernatural claims as valid, but at the same time caused you to reject all others?

  33. bobolikebeer says:

    Progressives always ask me why I hate Richard Dawkins so much…. Thank God (or whoever) that someone else out there gets it! Religion and religious people are not the enemy of progressive causes. Closed-minded progressives often are. If we could stop believing that all believers are ignorant rednecks, maybe we could get something done for once.

  34. Jason Pitzl-Waters says:

    “By learning to work together with “progressive” evangelicals, secular progressives will stand a better chance of achieving their goals and also learn an enormous amount from these remarkable people and their organizations that will help secular progressives strengthen their own movement.”

    I am neither hostile to, or ignorant of the evangelical movement(s), but “learning to work together” isn’t so simple as recognizing we have some common ground. There are quite a few serious issues that separate “progressive” evangelicals and secular “progressives”. Things like equal rights for LGBT folks, safe and legal access to abortion services, questionably ethical “missional” activities, an undercurrent of adversity towards the “Godless” culture of America that can be every bit as “hostile” as the most rabid atheist, and an often ingrained notion of themselves as an embattled minority that needs to push for “equal rights”.

    I say this as a religious minority who is in active dialog with “progressive” evangelical Christians. I know they aren’t the “enemy”, but I also know that any political alliance will be a limited affair, and that such alliances can often come with expectations towards future dealings that we may not be comfortable with.

  35. Michael Sider says:

    hm I remember the conferences from my previous life as an evangelical… if something’s actually happening, people are too busy to have a conference about the idea. There have always been progressive Christians, Greenpeace was co-founded by a Quaker and built on the Quaker principle of witness, the underground railroads during the slave trade and various waves of draft-dodging were largely run by churches, and today there are western Christians putting their bodies between Israeli troops and Palestinian civilians… meanwhile there’s a flashy multimedia presentation leading a mob of upper class Americans through a litany that may or may not lead to any actual behaviour… less talk, more rock.

  36. phasor3000 says:

    Meanwhile, there are a large group of moderates on both sides of the aisle who already get along.

    Good point. Of course it’s easier to get people to buy your book, vote for you, give you money, etc., if you can demonize the “opposite side.” Many Christians and many secularists are guilty of this.

    The way I see it, you get to ask the question one time: “Do you believe in Jesus?”. If my answer is “No.” then it stops right there. Don’t ask about it again. Don’t bring it up in conversations. Don’t try to preach to me or force your religious beliefs down my throat.

    I agree completely, as long as the same rule goes for the “proselytizing atheists” like Dawkins. Please don’t force your atheism down my throat.

    FWIW, I’m not a Christian, although I used to be, and I know a lot of good people who are Christians.

  37. MrIntolerant says:

    This is so far down in the comment stream that it is going to be generally useless, but that fits in with most of my life so here goes.

    @ #13 Nick D And what’s with the quotation marks around “progressives” and “liberals.”? If someone identifies themselves that way, respect that.

    I was referring to labels used to separate people. just as people labeling themselves as “progressives” call “born-agains” bigots, people who call themselves “born-agains” consider some “progressives” to be bigots. A “born-again” would likely consider a “progressive” to dead in sin while a “progressive” would likely consider a “born-again” to be regressive.

    And you can use a term like “born-again” in an insulting way to a Christian just like a conservative Christian would call you “liberal” as an insult. Just because someone proudly calls themself a “nigger” does not mean you aren’t a jerk for then calling them that derisively.

    Richard Dawkins is small minded. He is just as bigoted and trapped in himself as the worst of the “pound you over the head with a big King James Bible” Christians are.

    @ #5 mycophage As I see it, the problem with welcoming collaboration with evangelicals per se (as opposed to ‘religious people’; let’s take a moment and reflect on the definitions of these terms before proceeding) is that their belief system will, in the end, lead them to attempt to convert the nonbeliever.

    And the problem with them working with you is that in the end you will try to convert them. You are, per se, the same type of person you condemn.

    @ #16 bricology Many atheists, such as I, assert that humanity is doomed if we continue to allow the religious strife that has caused so much harm througout recorded history, to continue to exist.

    I assert that religion, nationalism, tribalism, and even secularist belief systems are not typically the primary cause of that strife. They are typically just rallying cries made by power hungry leaders who would have used anything to consolidate their power. They just picked the most convenient. The most heinous regimes of the the 20th century we either secularist or outright atheist. Atheism and secularism did not make them bad, they were just tools at hand.

    @ all For the record, I am agnostic in many areas of religion, science, and sociology. I don’t believe you can know as much about any of these areas as many people claim they do. I will end up arguing back to center on most topics. I am intolerant of extremes.

  38. Johne Cook says:

    The problem begins when we Christians spend more time trying to sell ‘decisions’ and tracking them like sales quotas than living as Jesus lived, and paying attention to the twin directives we were left with; the love our neighbors as ourselves, and to create disciples.

    Note that last word. It is something accomplished one-on-one through love and sensible living, a mentorship of something that works, not a political landgrab.

    As a centrist pragmatic Christian, I feel more ostracized and outcast by many fellow fundamentalist Christians than I do out in the ‘world’, and that’s wrong.

    Some of us have been trying to do what we believe is right despite being abandoned by the major denominations. It’s comforting to see there are a remnant of practical, centrist, pragmatic believers out there trying to make a difference one by one.

    Thanks for posting this link.

  39. seamus furr says:

    I was at a house party in San Francisco a few months ago where Zack announced his idea to move to a new strategy — to leverage the Christian resurgence in America to improve the world, not just get Republicans elected on abortion and gay rights, and then govern on tax cuts and war and deficits. Great idea.

  40. bricology says:

    “FWIW, I’m not a Christian, although I used to be, and I know a lot of good people who are Christians.”

    And perhaps some of your best friends are black.

    You accuse secularists of “demonizing” Christians. Seems to me that theists do a fine job of demonizing *everyone*, which is hardly suprising, given that demons are a construct of theists. Remember Matthew chapter8?

    “And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.”

    There is your textbook case of not only theists demonizing others, but in using their demonizing to harm others. Demons are the province of Christians, not secularists. Read Carl Sagan’s brilliant “The Demon-Haunted World” for ample proof. All secularists do is hold a mirror up to theists to demonstrate how utterly absurd their superstitions are. In what way can theists do likewise to atheists? Show us as being too rational?

    And in what way do atheists “proselytize”? We don’t ask theists to “believe” anything. We ask them to use their minds in sensible ways, rather than to allow superstition to control them. That’s no more “proselytizing” than it is for a pilot to ask his passengers to accept the scientifically proven physics that allow him to fly them through the skies. Even if the passengers don’t understand how it works, the pilot’s not asking them to believe it’s performed miraculously.

  41. Anonymous says:

    Hi. I’m a Christian. I’m also a feminist, an environmentalist, a vegetarian concerned with animal rights, pro-choice, pro-GLBTQ rights, pro-separation of church and state, and I believe in evolution. I’m not the only one out here, either, you know. I’m the first to get angry with all of the fundamentalist assholes out there, but I get equally angry with secular “fundamentalists” who so snidely deride the faith of those like me and insist on lumping all evangelical Christians together and brushing us off. I’ll gladly side with any secular progressive against Christian fundamentalists any day, but I’m tired of the insults. Some of us are on your team, guys, and it would make a whole lot more sense to embrace us as sharers of a common cause against the REAL fundie nuts, than to alienate us completely.

  42. phasor3000 says:

    I think you need to work on your bridge-building skills, bricology.

  43. phasor3000 says:

    Second (and we know how difficult this is to believe) there is an incredibly large and beautiful social movement exploding among evangelicals right now that stands for nearly all of the same causes and goals that secular progressives do.

    They just can’t quite let go of that condescending attitude towards religion, can they?

    Breaking news: There are Christians who aren’t racist, misogynist, redneck gun nuts! Incredible but true!

  44. mycophage says:

    Cory — your post made me sad. I’m sorry to hear that you see this as a good thing.

    Bobo — To assert that “religion and religious people are not the enemy of progressive causes” is to deny a good deal of history, much of it on the civil rights front (from slavery through integration to the modern struggle for gay equality). I think that “religion and religious people are sometimes the enemy of progressive causes” seems a much more defensible statement, certainly more defensible than “closed-minded progressives often are” enemies of progressive causes (examples?).

    Painting anti-religious thinkers as “believing that all believers are ignorant rednecks” seems to be the same sort of straw man argument that it purports to warn against. Speaking for myself, I don’t think all believers are ignorant rednecks. I think they all believe in something that occupies the same epistemological ground as Santa Claus and Zeus. I disagree with them. I don’t have to call them names to do that, and I generally don’t.

    As I see it, the problem with welcoming collaboration with evangelicals per se (as opposed to ‘religious people’; let’s take a moment and reflect on the definitions of these terms before proceeding) is that their belief system will, in the end, lead them to attempt to convert the nonbeliever. My fear is that eventually, allying with them will result in something bad happening. Witness what happened to the GOP when they allied themselves with evangelical Christians in order to achieve power. For a time the common goals were the focus, and then…

    And by the way, Bobo, I’m sure Richard Dawkins loves you, even if you hate him.

  45. Crosius says:

    Secularism isn’t a closed society. There’s no entrance exam or rite of passage. It’s not like secular society doesn’t welcome evangelicals right now. Any evangelical that wanted to help with a science-fair or a school play or a barn-raising would be welcome to do so by any secularist already.

    Further, secular organizations are not spiteful – they don’t deny access to the religious simply because they are religious. Access to respected status is secular institutions is denied for other reasons : foolishness, ignorance, villainousness or incompetence. Any person, secular or religious, may exhibit these other traits in addition to their secularity or religiousness.

    What the religious seem to want is secular groups to admit that their religious institutions have a special merit. That the structure of their church is sort of a social “machine for goodness” in some way that means it’s worthy of some extra respect for this innate “goodness”.

    But churches are not “machines for goodness”. They make about as many bad decisions as any large, long-lived organizations who set policy by fashion and public opinion.

    As long as finding the “middle ground” requires all to acknowledge the “special goodness” of religious institutions, it will never happen.

  46. bobolikebeer says:

    @Bricology: As this conversation is becoming incresingly polarized, I’ll try to keep this short. In answer to both your questions I’m just going to say that there is a big diference between doubt and disbelief. I doubt my faith constantly. I don’t see any problem with that. I feel it strengthens it. And if you keep reading on the “Revolution in Jesusland” blog, you’ll see that much of the conference which they’re talking about involves really serious and pointed doubt regarding many core aspects of Christian faith. The ‘rejection’ you talk about, whether in terms of tenets of Christianity, or in terms of other religions, is disbelief, not doubt. Disbelief can be doubted just as easily and productively as belief can.

  47. bricology says:

    “I think you need to work on your bridge-building skills, bricology.”

    Only if I believed that a bridge needed to be built from here to Neverland.

    Seems to me that theism is terminally ill and it’ll die a natural death soon enough; I don’t see the need for well-intentioned, heroic measures in the meantime.

  48. idealord says:

    I’ve been telling my progressive friends for years that evangelicals weren’t clones and that many (Jimmy Carter???) were on our side! And that Christianity wasn’t the problem. People not reflecting on what their leaders say and do is the problem.

    Wow!

    IdEAL ORDER Psychic TV

  49. Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little says:

    Hello! Non-Christian theist here. Please stop using “theism” as a synonym for “the very worst Christianity has ever had to offer.” I’m sure I won’t be the only one to appreciate it.

    By their fruits ye shall know them, right? If someone is on your side with their social values and ethics, get off their case about their imaginary friends. Save your ire for the ones whose imaginary friends do actually tell them to act unethically.

    Oh, and #43? You’re wrong. You are so wrong, your very wrongness is offensive. No self-identified Christian has any obligation to adhere to your worst-case-scenario idea of what it means to be Christian, and you don’t have a damn leg to stand on judging the sincerity of their beliefs.

    I, personally, am glad that the Christian feminist vegetarian animal-rights-activist at #41 spoke up. I would like to hear from more people like her. And less from people like #43 with your “Sorry, either you’re not a real feminist or you’re not a real Christian” crap.

  50. bricology says:

    A few other things I disagree with in Zach’s post:

    “First, progressives will never achieve their goals as long as they are hostile toward and ignorant about the faith of 100 million of their own people who are born again Christians.”

    What proof do you have that we’ll never achieve our goals without co-operating with theists? I’m guessing none, since you didn’t offer any. Also, I doubt that many progressives are truly “ignorant about the faith of” theists; quite the contrary — progressive atheists tend to be better informed about *most* of the world’s competing religions than are most theists. Ask 100 theists at random if they can describe the basic tenets of say, Tibetan Buddhism, Jainism or Baha’i. I’d wager that many of them have never even heard of these religions; all of the progressive atheists I know could give a pretty accurate overview on them.

    “Second (and we know how difficult this is to believe) there is an incredibly large and beautiful social movement exploding among evangelicals right now that stands for nearly all of the same causes and goals that secular progressives do. Those goals include: eliminating poverty, saving the environment, promoting justice and equality along racial, gender and class lines and for immigrants–and even separation of church and state.”

    For every evangelical you can point to who is actively advancing these goals, I’ll bet I could point out more who are dug in against them. “Saving the environment”? A huge percentage of Christians are dominionists who believe that humans have the right to exploit the natural world, whereas another sizeable percentage believe that an apocalypse will wipe out the surface of the world anyway, and that Yahweh is going to re-create the Garden of Eden in its place, so why try to improve current conditions?

    Also, what percentage of evangelicals support equality for those who aren’t strictly hetero? Survey says: very few. Gender equality? Abortion rights? The church has been the single largest impediment towards both aims. Wiping out poverty? Again; a tiny minority. The fact is that most Christians have no intention of following Jesus’ edict “sell all you have and give the money to the poor”. Christianity has more resources tied up in real estate holdings and other assets than are contained in most industrialized nations.

    “By learning to work together with “progressive” evangelicals, secular progressives will stand a better chance of achieving their goals and also learn an enormous amount from these remarkable people and their organizations that will help secular progressives strengthen their own movement.”

    Wrong, and wrong. We will stand a better chance of achieving our goals by disspelling taboos against being nonbelievers, learning to co-opearate with our fellows, and demonstrating sound ethics. If we gain the high ground — WITHOUT the baggage that all theists carry — we will succeed. And what is “remarkable” about evangelicals (or more broadly, Christians or even just theists)? That they have invested their lives in serving something no less preposterous than the Flying Spaghetti Monster (praise be upon him)? How can any progressive nonbeliever feign respect for these “remarkable” dupes? Really, I’d like to know what is so “remarkable” about them. Anyone have any idea?

  51. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Bricology, you’re being obnoxious. Back off.

    Is it your intention to play straight into the hands of the hardline religious right? Because that’s exactly what you’re doing here. The last thing the hardliners want is rapprochement between political progressives and progressive evangelicals. If they’re not paying you to post, they should.

    Let’s talk about freedom of religion. You’re free to not believe. Please extend the same freedom of conscience to the rest of the participants here. In particular, stop attacking the existence of religious belief. You don’t understand it? Fine. You don’t understand it. That doesn’t mean religionists are lying or insincere.

    They’re not going to vanish into the mist. They’re also not going to smack their foreheads and say “Gosh! I’ve never thought about those arguments before!” and abandon their beliefs. You want to do real politics? Deal with them. Find common cause with them. Because if what you’re doing isn’t intended to connect with other people and make real changes in the world, it may qualify as personal therapy or community theatre, but it sure isn’t politics.

  52. tehmoth says:

    #41: You can’t be both a sincere Christian and one or all of feminist, believer in evolution, supporter of GLBTQ rights and pro-animal rights. At least the misogynistic, meat eating, homophobic, creationist believers are consistent. Your “progressive christianity” seems to just be an excuse to not give up the crutch of your faith and is not supported by your religion’s holy books and leaders.

  53. ill lich says:

    The biggest problem with Christian fundamentalists in the USA is that they wield too much power and are de facto political organizations– consider megachurches, they rake in huge amounts of money, dictate very strict political views (which are “sinful” to oppose), and yet are tax free– no wonder the GOP is beholden unto them, a powerful ally who can only get stronger as they prey on peoples fears about death. Sure, I hope for cooperation between progressives and Christians, but I also dislike the fact that it’s just another case of church and state being intertwined.

    I know, I know. . . ALL Christians are not “Jerry Falwells”, but it sure seems like most Christian fundamentalists spend too much time reading the book of Revelation, and not enough time reading the four Gospels (hence the joy they felt when Israel began bombing Hezbollah positions in Lebabon last year; the promise of the “last days” trumps “do unto others.”)

  54. Dillo says:

    I can’t help but applaud this guy for his effort, but it’s going to take a lot more than just a semi-cheerleading blog to convince me that this is anything other than whitewashing or astroturfing for the religious right. I see a lot of apologists here and elsewhere saying “Oh, but we’re not ALL like that”. To which I say “How?”. How are you getting the message out other than not participating in the more egregious acts of the “Christian” political base ? Where are the ads in the New York Times and Newsweek and on CNN.com for distancing yourself from the actions of the James Dobsons and Pat Robertsons? You certainly seem to be capable of producing them when legislation for abortion or GLBT rights comes up.

    Simply standing by and not participating is tacitly giving approval. This is not just a Christian trait, it’s a human one. We all know that for every 2 people involved in a fight or assault, there are usually dozens standing around watching doing nothing, silently approving of the activity.

    This is where I find myself in agreement with Sam Harris. It’s not enough to just stand there with your arms crossed and say “But SURELY you must know we’re not ALL like that”. That’s tsk-ing and throwing up your hands while a bunch of power-mad psychopaths take us ALL over the cliff because we’re all in the same bus together.

  55. bobolikebeer says:

    @Mycophage: Love the name. Yes, I generalize, one must on a comment thread.

    I don’t think anyone is suggesting that secular progressives ally themselves with homophobic anti-abortion movements within the evangelical community. As hard as it might be for anti-theists to believe, evangelical America is no more monolithic than White America, Black America, Middle-Class America, or any other America. There are some (by any standards) progressive and liberal groups within the overall evangelical movement. These groups are important allies.

    That said, I am a theist and I have (quite litteraly) laid my life on the line doing abortion clinic defense. Having faith doesn’t imply anything about one’s social values. Many of the most radical social movements in history have been religiously based. It’s time that secularists stopped being anti-theist and were just atheist for a while.

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