Tag Archives: Christian

Do Hindus & Muslims Talk to Demons?

Of course they don’t!  But sadly enough, in my Christian days, that took me a while to understand.

Hindus_Praying

As I traveled across Asia and met devote, kind, thoughtful, loving people who believed things very different from my Christian view, I began to doubt my version of Christianity. Many Hindus & Muslims claim to feel the presence of the Divine, or the presence of God but my Evangelical Christianity would not let me believe that. Sure, they may feel it for a moment, but if they constant worship someone other than Jesus, that presence can’t be the real God.

Simply put, here are the beliefs I was told and which I came to partially believed that led to that conclusion:

  • there is only one god, his name is Yahweh/Jesus/Holy Spirit.
  • there is only one way to heaven, that is by right belief in Jesus
  • religions are all-or-nothing: right or wrong
  • Christianity is the right religion and all other religions are wrong
  • Part of the privilege of being Christian is communing with the true god.
  • Non-Christians may claim to commune with god, but they are self-delusional or talking to an evil spirit or a demon.

After my trip across Asia, I realized that the wonderful Hindus & Muslims I knew could not be doing anything much different in their heads than I was doing in my head. See here how my own prayer shocked me into understanding this. So after I decided that my dear Muslim and Hindu friends must also be communing with God, my Christianity began to change.

Muslims_PrayingBut most doctrinal Evangelicals believe Hindus & Muslims must be talking to demons. Yeah, that is shocking, but I think I have part of the answer for why they jump to this strange conclusion.

One of my refreshingly honest Evangelical commentors, clapham, when asked by myself and MichaelB why he was sure Hindus must be talking to demons, he said:

“I suppose in either case i don’t think that otherwise sane [persons] are prone to persistent delusions of that sort [talking to an imagined presence]. So if it persisted i’d be inclined to think its not a delusion, but something real [a demon or evil spirit].”

You see, I think this is clapham’s inner Evangelical logic [with my comments in brackets and red]:

If a Hindu feels, like me, that he/she is communing with the Divine then there are only three possible explanations:

  1. they are talking to Jesus under a different name [but the beliefs listed above exclude that].
  2. they are delusional [but as he says, if they seems sane for a long time, they can’t be delusional]
  3. they are talking to a demon [yep, that must be it, below I explain that jump]

This thinking is obviously faulted and it is common. But obviously these exclusive Christians have forgotten option four:

4. They are talking to themselves, though they explain it as talking to a god. As they surrender their worries and their burdens to a felt listening presence, they sense an emotion of peace and love which they call “God”.

Why do they miss that option, well, I’ve written about the two main causes of such faulty reasoning before.  Here they are with links to longer explanations:

  • Partitions: people have partitioned minds and can easily have inaccurate beliefs while otherwise carrying on very sane, social lives.
  • Many Selves: people who say they are communing with the divine are often having a very real subjective, deep experience but that is because they are talking to themselves.  I explain this in terms of many selves — which explains why we often don’t know ourselves and can be surprised by insights that seem to come from outside ourselves.

But there is a third reason that an Evangelical immediately consider option four?  Simply put, because option four could clearly implicate the Christian.  Option four easily explains what an Evangelical Christian is possibly doing when they too claim to talk to a divine presence.

Theology_KnotFor an Evangelical and other exclusivist Christians, it is easier to believe that Hindus talk to demons than to wonder if they themselves may be sane and yet talking to themselves too.  Their rationale, of course would be that the Bible demands that they believe such an unpopular belief, and they are pursuing truth and not popularity.  But I think the reason is simpler than the theological knots they weave.

Acknowledgement:  My thanks to clapman for his honesty on this blog and trust I have represented his statements faithfully, though I am sure he’d want to disagree with my interpretations.  I look forward to his challenges or those of other exclusivist Christians on this thread.

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Non-Exclusive Christians

Over the last 2 years of blogging, I have learned much more about the variety of Christians that exist.  Due to this learning, I have a post which considers “My Favorite Kind of Christian” which I constantly update.  I am fortunate to have several personal Christian friends and on-line Christian friends who hold almost all the qualities I list on “my favorites” list.

But I must say that my MOST IMPORTANT favorite Christian trait is Non-Exclusivity — a Christian who does not feel that non-believers are going to necessarily have a different fate than themselves after death.  In theology, this position is called one’s “soteriology”.

There are two qualities that I feel natural flow from a non-exclusive soteriology:

  1. an open view of others (women, homosexuals, other races).
  2. a missionology where the believer seeks to serve others well before they even contemplate converting others.

Following in second place of favorite Christian traits behind Open Soteriology (along with its tolerance and kindness) is a strong value for science.  I would hold these traits as my favorite for all religions.  All other theological issues (unless I have missed something) fall far behind in the theological pack.  For I care not what a person calls themselves, but how they live and how they use their thoughts and beliefs to anchor and connect their lives.

Question to Atheists:  What are your favorite types of Christians?
Question to Theists:  What are your favorite type of Atheists?

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God Slapped Them Down

Jesus Slaps YouTwo of my friends clashed with Christianity this week.  Sometimes when writing on this blog I write abstract essays so I feel an occasional concrete story may help anchor some of the essays. For that reason I have shared stories of my past. But here are two recent stories of the impact of Christianity on the lives of two of my friends.

Rejected Home-stay Host

A friend of mine is a very liberal Christian, at best. But she is sympathetic with Christianity and even attends a weekly prayer meeting with colleagues from her office. Her husband is an atheist and the family does not go to church.  Their son is a good friend of my son.  Anyway, they recently applied to be a home-stay family for a local organization but got rejected for not answering correctly on the phone interview when she told them she was faith-friendly but would not preach in their home. My friend was very hurt and disappointed. Good news, however, it possibly pushed her closer to realizing she might as well be an Atheist.

God Censored Their Love

A young woman friend of mine is casually dating a local seminary student. I actually met the aspiring minister once when he was my bartender at a local bar.   Anyway, he has been dating this girl on and off for about a year.  I’ve been told by mutual friends that all her friends disliked the budding religious professional because of how poorly he treats the young woman.  On the nights he would come over to her place after a long absence, he was usually drunk. Last night was no exception. And last night was my friend’s birthday party.  At her party he took her aside and told her that God had told him he should not date her anymore. And without even saying goodbye, he left. She had a horrible evening.   I kind of felt sorry for her but at least God seems to have made a good decision — for my friend’s sake.

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Bible Manipulations

This is an expanding index of my posts illustrating biblical texts which have been manipulated.

Jewish Texts

Christian Texts

  • Matthew 6:11 –> “daily bread” should be “supernatural bread”
  • The Last Supper –> a later addition which disobey Jewish blood prohibitions?
  • John 7:53 – 8:1-12 –> Adulteress Pericope, added to John’s Gospel
  • Romans 3:28 –> Luther’s adds “alone” to “save by faith”
  • James –> maybe it was written by a Jew to Jews and not to Christians

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Note:

I began this index when reading Avalos’ book on Biblical Studies which made me pause and re-read Ehrman’s book “Misquoting Jesus.  I wanted to use posts as notes so I can remember some of the contended Bible passages but more importantly to learn about how myths are formed.  Here is a link from Common Sense Atheism discussing William Craig’s criticisms of Bart Ehrman’s view of the Bible.

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Do Christians need to be cured?

From my series:
How to Cure a Christian

Before beginning this series, I want to repeat some of the basic positions which I have written before.

My starting points:

  • No one is perfectly healthy.  We all need curing.
  • There is no theist god.  So Christian Theology, in pure propositional form, is wrong though it may serve adaptive purposes.

No need to De-Convert

I use to be a fervent Christian, and now, from a Christian perspective, I am certainly an Atheist.  But I happen to think that, just like other religions, Christianity can offer a great deal of benefit to believers and others.  I feel many people are actually better off being a believer than being an Atheist.  So I am a pragmatist who understands that even false beliefs can serve us well.  So often I feel there is no need for a Christian to de-convert.

However, I also believe that though a given faith may benefit a believer, on the other hand, it may be harmful to those around them.  Likewise, some beliefs benefit the believer in the short run but often hurt them in the long run.  For this reason, we all need to watch our beliefs and see how to improve them.  Likewise, we can sometimes help others by moving them toward healthier beliefs.

Learning from a Christian

No one is perfectly healthy and we can all stand to learn from each other.  Our first reflex should be to understand.  That understanding may benefit us far more than anything we think we can offer the other person.  The discipline to truly listen, reflect and act kindly is far undervalued.

De-Converting a Christian

There are a huge varieties of Christianity and I feel some are more healthy than others.  In my post “My Favorite Type of Christian“, I have a table which lists some of the categories of Christian doctrines and state which forms of these doctrines (even though mistaken) are healthier than others.  By “healthier” I mean positions which I feel are offer better long term benefits to BOTH the believer and others — a sort of utilitarian view.

So, I think challenging a Christian to move toward these other positions can often be more important than trying to convert a believer into an atheist.

Cocky Atheist

Yes, to Christians, all the above is still offensively paternalistic.  But in my model, a believer can lead a healthy, wonderful, full, meaningful life but in the eyes of many Christians, my live and the lives of other Atheists, are worthless unless we accept Jesus in our hearts or we will all burn forever in hell.  So tell me, which view is more paternalistic?

But arguing dogma, doctrine, beliefs and the like are often not the only effective ways to change.  In my next posts, I hope to illustrate the complexity of changing our ourselves and others.

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How to Cure a Christian

This is an index post for an up-coming series.  Medicine is my profession and so the “cure” metaphor comes easily to me.  I realize that such a title is naturally offensive to Christians, but what can I say — this is an Atheist site.  At least I am being honest.  Many years ago when I deconverted from my Christianity, I started writing essays which I entitled “Debunking Christianity”, but now there is a website by that name.  And besides, as I gained distance from Christianity (which was easy since I lived in Asia), I realized that it was person-by-person that we affect each other.  And I realized that cures are complicated because a person’s beliefs are intimately tied into their lives and are not simply composed of a list of propositions.  So rather than debunking an abstract thing called “Christianity”, these essays will focus on the individual Christian.

Well, this is suppose to be an index post, so let’s just start the list.  I will link up titles as I post.  But here are some titles I am imagining:

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Translation Pathways

This diagram illustrates how we get “The Bible”.   The process starts (lower left) with competing versions of Christianity (“competing schools”) and flows clockwise with bias entering in throughout the various steps.  The process is similar for many traditions.  Bias is inevitable in all traditions, religious or otherwise.  But it is important to understand bias which many believers try to ignore.  Below the diagram I explain a few details.



Bias & Religious Agenda

Bias is inevitable.  And most transmissions of the Biblical texts where done by those with strong religious preferences.  These preferences often influence the transmission: intentionally or accidentally.

Canonization

A political process where competing schools of thought are limited or eliminated to establish a Canon.

Extant Texts

We don’t have the Original texts, just scraps, much later texts and translations.  With recent discoveries in the 1900’s our knowledge drastically improved.

Textual Criticism & “Original” Text

Textual criticism is the methods developed to try to improve the probability of approximating the actual original texts.

Hermeneutics

Hermeneutics is the story of interpretation.  This happens after Textual Criticism in order to get a text to translate.  Hermeneutics can happen moving a text into another language (Translation Hermeneutics) or can be at the simple level of making sense of something in your native language — done by specialists or the lay reader.   “Exegesis” is sometimes used similarly, but Hermeneutics is rather broader and contains the theory of translation. (wiki , Sanford)

Original Intent

Translations privileges taken by the translator who feels they understand the intent of the writers.

Word-for Word vs. Dynamic Equivalence

Two methods of approaching translations.  (see wiki article here)

Translation Distortions

More in coming posts.

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Grace

“Grace” is a word Atheists can embrace.  Make it your own, take it out of the hands of those who perversely proclaim that we are born disgusting and deserving of torture and torment with our only hope being grace granted from a praise-lusting vengeful god.  Take grace back from narrow minds!

Grace is unexpected kindness from others.  Grace is the humble interdependence we have with fellow humans and all of nature.  Grace is a gift we give without expecting in return.   A thankful heart is one that realizes that we live by grace — we live by the kindness of others.

Don’t let the religious steal this beautiful concept.   Make “Grace” a word you are proud of.   Grace is an important understanding to living in this world where no gods, spirits or spooks exist.  Grace is caring for each other.

  • Proto-Indo-European: gwer:  to praise, welcome
  • Sanskrit: grnati: sings, announces
  • Greek: karites: one of the three sister goddesses who were bestower or charm and beauty
  • Latin: gratia: agreeableness, charm; favor, good will, kindness
  • English grace:
    1) Elegance and beauty of movement or expression
    2) Consideration of others
    3) Disposition of kindness and compassion
    4) to decorate and make attractive
    5) a short prayer before a meal
    6) (Christian theology) : the free and unmerited favor or beneficence of God

triangle_end_tiny

See other “Word!” posts, here.

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Sliding into Heresy: the dotted-line of damnation

Christian Sliding into HeresyI crafted this image to illustrate the ‘amusement’ I get out of hearing Christians chastising other Christians for sliding into heresy.  These Christians watchdogs must envision their sliding colleagues as leaving behind angelic clouds and descending self-deceptively and happily into hell.

But where do the guardians of orthodoxy put the blue-dotted line of damnation? (see the line on the sliding board)  Where on that sliding board do they see their colleague as no longer being a Christian?  The orthodoxy watchdogs have no trouble knowing people like me are apostates, because we tell them we are.  We tell them we aren’t Christian.  But what about the many Christians sliding down the board while all along joyfully still considering themselves to be Christians.

“A relationship with Jesus” is a test by some Christians of someone being a “true” Christian.  This test is common, for instance, among Evangelical Christians.  But do Christians really have a relationship with Jesus?  When I talk at any length with most of my reasonable Evangelical (or other) Christian acquaintances, they admit that they don’t hear Jesus, touch Jesus, see Jesus, bowl with Jesus or watch TV with him.  It doesn’t take long to agree that they don’t have a “personal relationship” with Jesus in any normal sense of the phrase “personal relationship”.  But I understand how these Christians have an awe and reverence for God and how they see Jesus as God incarnate and how such imagery helps them to personalize God in their life.  I get that.  But that is a Jesus made of select gospel stories, Christmas holidays, church dinners and warm fuzzy feelings.  So when I point out that they don’t have a “personal relationship” with Jesus they are uncomfortable admitting their defect in the touchstone doctrine in their version of Christianity.  They are not comfortable with the explanation I gave — that is not enough for them, though it may be for some progressive Christians, who they consider sliding into heresy.

Relatively few Christians really understand their sacred texts – Evangelical or progressives.  Most Christians could easily be exposed for holding some heretical views even when judged only by the doctrine of their own sect.  But they rightfully don’t care, for most Christian do not hold together the Jesus-in-their-head with theological propositions.  So those orthodoxy Christians, the doctrine watchdogs who worry about heresy, are sort of unique.

These heresy watchdogs know that their Christian sect is a believist sect — a sect which maintains that correct belief is what wins a person a ticket to heaven.   But when accused of being a “believist”, they will try to deny it.   Nonetheless, their believist mentality is blatantly obvious when they are patrolling for heretics.  The contradictions to me are humorous, if not sad.

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I don’t want to convert you

OK, that is partially a lie. I do want to convert some of your ideas into other ideas. Heck we all do that.  But I don’t want to convert you away from how you identify yourself.

One reason it is hard to have a true friendship with many Christians is because, in the end, many have a strong desire to convert us non-believers into Christians.  They look for moments to discuss the gospel, to witness to us, to see if the Holy Spirit is moving in our lives.  Worse, they look for every misfortune in our lives to be God’s mysterious way to speak to us and bring us into his fold.  Such a relationship can barely be called a “friendship” — well, unless you really believe that disbelief results in eternal damnation and torture.  But since I don’t, I don’t want those sorts of friendships.  Fortunately, many Christians don’t act or think that way and thus there are several Christians I call “friend”.

Likewise many Christians feel uncomfortable about how I approach them as an Atheist — they feel I am condescending and trying to convert them.  I have thought about this issue and can honestly state that I don’t necessarily want them to stop being a Christian.   This is because, unlike many Atheists, I believe there are all sorts of Christians and with some types I have no disagreements in any meaningful way.  See my post on “My Favorite Kind of Christian“.

Though many Christian friends and I just stay clear from religious conversations,  with others, when we do debate, I try to make it clear that I am not trying to argue them out of Christianity.   Sure,  I may be trying to argue them away from some positions within their version of Christianity — but not necessarily out of Christianity in general.   This may sound pejorative and self-righteous but it is far better to consider your friend mistaken than to consider them damned for eternity for their beliefs.  And besides, I am not really trying to take them outside of their identity —  I feel they can remain Christian and be a fantastic person.  And further, I try to only have this dialogue when we mutually agree to engage.  I am not looking for moments throughout our relationship to sneak in my atheist agenda.

So, I can honestly say I am not trying to convert people out of Christianity but into a better version of Christianity.  If they feel there is only one version of Christianity (theirs!), then I can see why they feel I am trying to talk them out of Christianity.  But they would be mistaken.

I think Christians should considered approaching Atheists in a similar way — focusing on how to make them an Atheist with better belief sets without trying to get them to believe in a god.  I think such evangelism is potentially healthy.  I think such dialogue is useful and can help improve the lives of both friends simultaneously.  Such an evangelism does not look to convert but to effect deep pre-doctrinal ways of thinking.

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