Easter Sunday and the future of organized religion

botticelliEaster is the Super Bowl of church, the weekend when people who ordinarily pay no attention to religious matters file into the pews in their Sunday finest before enjoying a nice ham dinner. However, even that tradition of occasional, ritual observance of religion is in decline. America may remain the most “spiritual” place in the western world, but organized religion is in its death throes.

As we ponder the mystery of Easter, maybe there is a new resurrection in the air. Is it possible that the death of organized religion with all its attendant trauma may be bring a hopeful new birth in its wake?

The number of people who claim no religious affiliation has been climbing steadily for more than a generation, but that’s not the startling statistic. There is an earthquake building as fully a third of young people now belong to the “nones.”

In his article in The Week Damon Linker asks “Why would a young person today be religious?” and finds few answers.

In responding to the indifference of the nones, religious institutions face two challenges. First, convincing the nones to recognize and respect their own religious longings. Second, persuading them that what the churches teach and demand can truthfully satisfy those longings.

My own view is that the first should be relatively easy to accomplish, but that the second may well be impossible.

If religion is supposed to provide us with simple, straightforward instructions on how the world works, then it’s easy to understand why each new generation has less need for it than the last. It’s getting progressively more difficult for anything to compete with science as a method for understanding reality. In a post-modern setting religion as Christians and Muslims in particular have generally understood it, can seem a bit ridiculous.

Take a look at some of the criticisms leveled by religious fundamentalists against the recent movie Noah and you can get a sense of the scale of the problem. Noah is a Hollywood movie based on a 4000 year old story about a man who built a boat and loaded it with a pair of every animal on Earth.

He then rode that boat for a month through a flood so severe that it killed off everyone else. As a result, every land creature on Earth supposedly descends from that Gilligan’s Island adventure. And what was the fundamentalist criticism of this movie? Apparently it contained “historical inaccuracies.” In an age in which information of any kind is available on your cell phone we shouldn’t be surprised that this religious vision is collapsing. As Linker explains:

Perhaps the most daunting obstacle to getting the nones to treat traditional religion as a viable option is the sense that it simplifies the manifest complexity of the world. Yes, we long for a coherent account of the whole of things. But we don’t want that account to be a fairy tale. We want it to reflect and make sense of the world as it is, not as we childishly wish it to be.

The tendency toward oversimplification is a perennial temptation for all forms of human thinking, but it’s especially acute in matters of religion.

Easter can be the peak of this sort of simplistic denialism; the most explicit and stubborn rejection of a world based on observable facts and empirical reality. And for most that’s what it will be, but there has always been an alternative. Ironically, our oldest and least embellished account of Jesus’ life describes the Easter story as a tantalizing mystery.

The Book of Mark actually ends at Mark 16:8 with this remarkable passage:

And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

There’s your Easter. In place of certainty it gives us awe. It is an account so frustratingly complex that early scribes could not resist adding a crudely tacked-on sequel to tie it all up.

Mark’s ending isn’t the only example of this ambiguity. Let’s not forget this tantalizing nugget in Matthew’s conclusion to Jesus’ story:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.

In the final paragraph of the book the author of Matthew feels compelled to acknowledge that some of the disciples weren’t buying it right down to the end. The story was not as neat and tidy as they told us in Sunday School. Doubt was there from the beginning and it never went away.

Why mention this on Easter Weekend? Because there is no better time. Linker describes the challenge facing organized religion:

Until religion comes to grips with and responds creatively to the facts of pluralism, it will find itself embroiled in a battle against reality.

And that is a battle it is bound to lose.

In fact, the battle between science and religion over who can better explain reality is effectively over. For religion to remain relevant to the mainstream of our culture in the next generation it will have to surrender its rivalry with science over the world of empirical facts and focus on its strength – its superior ability to deliver meaning.

The maddeningly strange ending to Mark and the doubt expressed by the disciples over the resurrection are only threatening to a religion that seeks to reduce the complexity of our lives to a single, authoritative reality. Christianity as the pursuit of a tidy answer for each of life’s questions is an absurd fantasy, growing more irresponsibly childish by the day. Christianity as a means by which to wrestle with unanswerable questions and find peace in the presence of the infinite is as powerful and relevant as it ever was.

The death of organized religion, at least as we’ve practiced it over the past century and half or so, may be traumatic, but it need not be tragic. Easter is a story of resurrection and transformation. Perhaps that theme may be more relevant than ever for a religious establishment in deep need of a new birth.

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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158 comments on “Easter Sunday and the future of organized religion
  1. CaptSternn says:

    Hope everybody had a great Easter weekend. Not nearly as important, but today marks the 178th anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto where the Texians defeated Santa Anna and the Mexican Army. Remember the Alamo, remember Goliad. For those of us still living in the Houston area, the site is just a stone’s throw away. The monument is visible from I-10 going east out of Houston.

    • kabuzz61 says:

      I had a great resurrection day. I have visited those sites. A great victory that shaped the spirit of Texas to this day.

    • way2gosassy says:

      We go every year, it is sort of a family reunion for us as we lost relatives at the Alamo, Goliad and on the Runaway Scrape.

    • DanMan says:

      I was in Goliad on Thursday. One of the gateways to the Eagle Ford area. That area is hopping.

  2. rightonrush says:

    Ya’ll have a good week-end/Holiday whatever your faith or non-faith. My wife is home from visiting our son in Haifa so all things are right in my world.

  3. kabuzz61 says:

    Let me just say, Christians need to get away from setting aside certain dates to express our faith. Everyday you faith should be expressed.

    And to those that love God and commune with Him daily, you are a blessing.

    To those who are unbelievers, you always have the prayers of the faithful. Even when you do not believe, but have to deride and minimize those that do. To compare God, the focal point of many faiths like a dog, goes way beyond snarky and enters the realm of evil.

    Bless you all. Have a great resurrection day.

    • CaptSternn says:

      Amen to that, Kabuzz.

    • Anse says:

      The thing about people of faith is that faith is not knowledge. Belief is not knowing. Religious people want to press the notion that faith is a valid replacement for knowledge. It isn’t. If you are going to hang your eternal soul on something, doing it by faith is a pretty risky endeavor. But this assumes the whole conception of sin and salvation makes any sense at all, when it of course does not.

  4. rightonrush says:

    I believe in the Easter Bunny that brings an abundance of Peeps each year. I’m sorta like Gandhi, I like your Jesus but not so much your nutty evangelist foaming at the mouth preachers.

  5. texan5142 says:

    Eostre , the Pagan equinox festival as with all other Christian holidays was co-opted by the church.

  6. texan5142 says:

    Mass delusion, there is no God.

  7. flypusher says:

    Another take on the topic:

    http://jezebel.com/this-is-why-were-the-atheist-generation-1564727569

    If organized religion wants to continue to be relevant, 2 things it could do that would help a lot would be to dump blatant hypocrisies like the “prosperity gospel” and stop fighting with science on science’s turf (I.e. How the natural world works).

  8. Bart-1 says:

    “The Book of Mark actually ends at Mark 16:9 with this remarkable passage:

    And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” REALLY? What version of the Bible do you use?

    • CaptSternn says:

      Bart, did you expect anybody to really accept that as fact? Maybe Lifer didn’t think people actually had a copy of the Bible, much less the ability to pick it up and read. I didn’t bother to address it, but you are right and we should have.

      Mark 16:9 says, “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils.

      The book of Mark ends with Mark 16:20, “And they went forth. and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. A-Men.”

      Where does that leave Lifer when it comes to reality and facts?

      • Bart-1 says:

        Sternn, It is well known by those who know anything about the Bible that the Book of Mark had an ending added by Church scribes in the 2nd and 3rd centuries (vv. 9-20) that line up with the latter written gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John. Chris rarely answers my queries, but was wondering if he actually uses a version which ends at v 8 or was being intentionally misleading and inserting the “doubt” factor..

      • CaptSternn says:

        Bart, really? Lifer quotes Mark 16:8. I didn’t know that more was added.

        Well, a little bit of research shows that there is some disagreement. I will stop at that.

    • CaptSternn says:

      Bart, I know Lifer watches his blog and reads and sometimes responds. I wonder if he did any actual research on this entry, and if he is running for a Bible to check what he said? I wonder if he might delete this entry, or these replies, or edit it to cover his tracks? We have been waxing philosophical, but now Lifer has to deal with all the egg on his face.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Well he certaily deleted poss between you and Dan.

      • bubbabobcat says:

        Because there were back and forth sniping comments that weren’t germane to the blog topic at hand and had NOTHING to do with “covering his tracks” or a point of view he disagreed with.

        Jeez, get a damn clue already Cap and live in the real world.

      • Bart-1 says:

        “Back and forth sniping comments that weren’t germane to the topic at hand”? Say it aint so Bubba! Has he never deleted yours?

      • GG says:

        Yes, bart, he has deleted bubba’s posts before.

      • bubbabobcat says:

        And bart has now been deleted. Thought you were “done” bart?

    • goplifer says:

      ***What version of the Bible do you use?***

      In this case, I’m using the one that the author of the Gospel of Mark wrote. The original book either ended at 16:8, or it continued with material that was too offensive to early scribes to retain. Most likely it ended at 16:8.

      Almost all modern translations now include a note indicating that this was the original ending.

      • way2gosassy says:

        The ending of the Gospel of Mark is still controversial as the oldest manuscripts end the Gospel as you indicated at 16:8 but biblical scholars believe that it ended to abruptly to have been completed. Some 300 years after a longer version was written that scholars also found did not blend well with the original script. The family bible that I inherited does not include the longer script. However my Aunt did write a footnote on the page that her Pastor of the time talked about the controversy between the two texts.

      • Bart-1 says:

        I didn’t know anyone used a version that was from pre-3rd century. While it is BELIEVED to have ended there(v 8) by many, it no longer does. The “doubt” existing in the believers continuing to the end is very “doubtful”. They were all (with the exception of John) brutally tortured and executed for their refusal to recant beliefs.

  9. CaptSternn says:

    By the way, Lifer, we have a name for the people that only show up on Easter and Christmas, Christers. But it isn’t just lip service to be a Christer, it can be people that are not active in a church but are still devout believers and part of the organized religion of Christianity.

  10. rucasdad says:

    “Christianity as the pursuit of a tidy answer for each of life’s questions is an absurd fantasy, growing more irresponsibly childish by the day. Christianity as a means by which to wrestle with unanswerable questions and find peace in the presence of the infinite is as powerful and relevant as it ever was.”

    I honestly think you couldn’t have said it better.

  11. CaptSternn says:

    Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” – John 20:29

    There is much more about doubt in the Bible. Here are some examples … http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/bible-verses-about-doubt-20-scripture-quotes/

    So I really don;t get where you think doubt is something newly discovered? There are a lot of people that take the Bible literally, and some of it is, some of it isn’t. It isn’t about religion or science, as if one excludes the other. There are a lot of people that are complacent, that feel they don;t need God. Like the story of the scientist that confronts God …

    “One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him.

    The scientist walked up to God and said, “God, we’ve decided that we no longer need you. We’re to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don’t you just go on and get lost.”

    God listened very patiently and kindly to the man and after the scientist was done talking, God said, “Very well, how about this, let’s say we have a man making contest.” To which the scientist replied, “OK, great!”

    But God added, “Now, we’re going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam.”

    The scientist said, “Sure, no problem” and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.

    God just looked at him and said, “No, no, no. You go get your own dirt!” ”

    As a percentage of people in the States that are not part of organized religion, it may be growing. But the number of people in churches is also growing.

    The proof of Creation is the Creation, the very fact that we exist. Science is finding the antikythera mechanism and trying to understand it, not the idea that is simply evolved randomly. That is the same with trying to understand the Creation. One does not exclude the other.

    I wrote a lot more then deleted it. Personal stuff. Let me just say that the verse I opened with is very personal to me.

    • Anse says:

      It’s not so much a matter of whether there is a god. For me, it’s about which god. You better choose carefully. Eternity is a long, long time.

      • CaptSternn says:

        There is only one God.

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        How on earth (or heaven) could you possibly know that?

        You think there is only one god. You believe there is only one god. You do not know there is only one god.

      • CaptSternn says:

        HT, read the verse I opened with.

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        And……

        My accountant is named Jesus…I’m blessed that he seems like a fine accountant and he give me great guidance as well, but I know there is more than one accountant.

      • Tuttabella says:

        HT, There may be many accountants, but over all accountants is the god known as “Accounting.”

      • CaptSternn says:

        You follow the multiverse theory, HT? It is an interesting theory, but I really don’t believe it. Do you believe based on faith?

      • Tuttabella says:

        HT, it doesn’t matter what acounting program or numbering system is used. It is still “Accounting.”

        The concept of “Accounting” itself does not change.

      • Tuttabella says:

        Reminds me of Plato’s Theory of Forms or Theory of Ideas.

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        So Tutt…god is math? I could probably get behind that.

      • Tuttabella says:

        HT, or maybe god is grammar, as Wittgenstein might have said.

    • rucasdad says:

      You shouldn’t have deleted the personal part so some of us could actually look at you as a person rather than a frozen software program.

      Your story was littered with inconsistencies and you simply answer the most important question with a biblical verse, your faith, etc.. No credibility.

      • Tuttabella says:

        Right. Leave in the personal part so we can really come after you, so we can get you where it really hurts. Got it. No, thanks.

    • rucasdad says:

      I sense a bit of projection, Tut. Why so negative on Good Friday?

      • Tuttabella says:

        Well, Good Friday is the most somber day on the Christian calendar, so it’s not entirely inappropriate to be negative today.

      • way2gosassy says:

        I don’t blame her or see that as projection Rucas. From my own experience of letting out something personal I have been hit by both the right and the left in less than charitable ways. Sometimes it just isn’t worth it to make your point.

    • rucasdad says:

      “There is only one god”.

      Why?

      “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” – John 20:29

      —————————————————————————————————————————-

      Biggie Smalls was/is the best rapper.

      Why?

      “Biggie Smalls is the illest, your style is played out

      Like Arnold wondered, “What you talkin ’bout Willis?” – Notorious B.I.G. – The What

      Same difference.

    • rucasdad says:

      Riiiight….I forgot that no one has gotten personal on here before. My bad.

      And honestly, if someone feels that if they are too scared to share something personal, something unfortunate that has happened to them for the simple fact that they may be insulted or attacked by the very same people they converse with on a daily basis, then I honestly have to ask – Why are you here?

      • way2gosassy says:

        Because it is perfectly plausible to have substantive discussions about the issues that we believe in without having to make them personal or setting ourselves up for the kind of vitriol we have often seen on these boards. Yes, we have all gotten personal to one extent or the other and yes we have all been beaned over the head in one way or the other but some of us are more immune to the bullshit than others. By the way, I’m here because I choose to be. How about you? Are you only here to start a fight with those you don’t agree with or are you here for substantive discussion of the issue at hand?

      • rucasdad says:

        “Are you only here to start a fight with those you don’t agree with or are you here for substantive discussion of the issue at hand?”

        The latter. Hopefully you too…no?

      • way2gosassy says:

        Me too! Yes.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Well darn, Way. Very well said.

      • way2gosassy says:

        Careful there Sternn, DanMan will be accusing you of moving to the left if compliment Wayto insipid…=)

    • rucasdad says:

      Projection, assumptions, call it whatever makes you happy.

    • way2gosassy says:

      There are millions of people in the world that would disagree with you Sternn. They may think their “God” is the one true God or they may believe that there is more than one God. I respect that you believe that there is only one God but that would be an opinion not a fact.

    • CaptSternn says:

      For those replying to Rucas, just remember that he has admitted to only wanting to upset people and get an emotional response. He is like Bubba, but more subtle and cunning.

      • rucasdad says:

        Oh Capt, you give me far too much credit!

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        Hmmm…just wanting to upset people and get an emotional response?

        Unlike the fact-laden, rational dialog to which we are so accustomed.

        “Obama is petty, petulant, self-serving and greedy (that can describe almost all democrats, RINOs and other leftists).”

      • CaptSternn says:

        Not at all, Rucas. You are an intelligent, subtle and cunning troll. And admitted troll, but not to be “misunderestimated”. The personal info that I decided not to post was about myself and about others. I left it out in respect for those others.

      • CaptSternn says:

        What part of that is not fact, HT?

      • Tuttabella says:

        Sassy, I think Cap is gently scolding us for falling into Rucas’s trap. 🙂

        By the way, Sassy, thanks for your support.

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        Stern…your apparent definition of “fact” calls into question lots of things, and probably gives some insight I likely would have have otherwise.

        We’ll round down to make this easier, and we’ll go with 300 million folks live in the US.

        Many of those folks didn’t vote in the last election, so let’s whittle this number down to 125 million folks, of which about 65 million voted for Obama.

        Now, it would not be hard to say that most of that 65 million were “Democrats, RINOs, or other leftists”, but hey, let’s make it easier for you and assume 60 million of that 65 million were good conservatives who punched the wrong button when voting.

        So, we are left with only 5 million Democrats, RINOs, or other leftists. Even if we go with this very, very tiny percentage of folks, I find it moderately difficult to imagine that you know “almost all” of that 5 million well enough to know for a fact that they are petty, petulant, self-serving, and greedy.

        However, the fact that you think this is a fact is pretty illuminating.

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        Why can’t it be that there are good, rational, thoughtful, patriotic people who simply have very different ideas about how things are and how they should work?

        When you let this crap slip out, you are an online avatar representation of the blowholes on Fox and MSNBC.

      • rucasdad says:

        Well, sounds like a cop out to me Capt but if that’s the truth then good for you since it’s NEVER a good idea to share other peoples’ personal information on the internet.

      • CaptSternn says:

        HT, how about Obama saying tha republicans need to sit in the back (of the bus)?

        How about his telling republicans, “I won” and not discussing the PPACA, calling the law a “prop”?

        Tell me those things didn;t actually happen, that these are not facts.

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        Stern…let’s go back and re-read your comment.

        I’ll even give you that at some point in his life, Obama himself as said, “I’m petulant, greedy, self-serving, and petty”.

        Let’s just work on the assumption that yep, Obama is all those things.

        Then, let’s go back again and re-read your statement and talk about the “facts”.

      • Tuttabella says:

        HT, i’m over there trying to have a serious philosophical discussion with you about god as math or god as grammar, and you’re over here wasting your time bickering. What happened to your Lenten vow to be snark-free?

      • way2gosassy says:

        You are welcome Tutt but I suspect that you don’t really need my help. =)

      • Tuttabella says:

        Cap, big difference between Rucas and Bubba. Rucas specializes in the blitz attack. He shows up out of the blue after being gone for weeks, plays nice for a bit, and then comes in for the kill, quickly apologizes, and then disappears again.

        Bubba just WEARS on you.

      • Tuttabella says:

        However, Bubba is an animal lover and takes time to feed strays in third-world countries, so he is totally okay in my book.

      • bubbabobcat says:

        Why thank you Tutt. I am impressed that you remember that. Yes I am an inveterate animal lover.

        And yes my wife will concur with you that I will WEAR on you. 🙂

        And I appreciate your balance in acknowledging my love of animals as a good point. 😉

        Sorry that was tooooo tempting to resist…

    • rucasdad says:

      Awesome.

      And please, I’m not here to start a little tussle with you nor Tut. I’m simply saying that Capt should have left the personal part in. Therefore, some of us would have had the opportunity to empathize with him. That was all. Geez, you guys have gotten a bit edgy around here lately…

      Chill guys, it’s 4 20.

      • Tuttabella says:

        You want the opportunity to empathize with a “frozen software program?” You are just oozing with empathy, Rucas.

      • rucasdad says:

        I’m a push-over on Fridays. Hell, I can even deal with Capt and his defunct ways on Friday which is why I was/would have been really interested to hear something personal from Stern. I have respect for him. I may not agree with him AT ALL but I do respect the fact that he’s so consistent with being wrong…I don’t know, there’s something slightly admirable about it.

        But I know how to press his buttons the same way he does with others via his bullheadedness. And he doesn’t like that so he has deemed me as a “troll”. Albeit a good one but a troll nonetheless. I’m still a bit hurt from that but I think time heals all wounds. 🙂

    • Tuttabella says:

      Or maybe god is grammar, as Wittgenstein might have said.

    • CaptSternn says:

      Here ya go, Rucas. Part of what was not posted. Let’s see what happens …

      I opened this comment with a specific verse because it is very personal to me. I was once in a very low place and having hard times (not depression, but other issues). I was saved at a young age, always just took it for granted as any child would when adults tell them something is so.

      As an adult I strayed. One night when I was really down I asked God to help me, to save me. Not in salvation because I knew I already had that, but in this world, to carry me and lift me up, give me something to pull me back to the right path.

      That night God reached out and touched my soul, and I knew all would be right again. Scoff if you want, there is no way to describe it.

      • way2gosassy says:

        Sternn, if your “faith” is what gets you through whatever troubles you are experiencing then more power to you. I don’t think any reasonable person would find fault in that, or at least they shouldn’t. It tells me that you are at least human enough to admit you have failings like the rest of us and sometimes needs a little help to get beyond it.

        Now maybe you could do something about that “frozen software program”. =)

      • CaptSternn says:

        This is part of the point, Way. It isn’t just faith. I KNOW! I have seen. And even having seen and knowing, I still have doubts. Doubting Thomas?

        Lifer goes on an on about doubt, as if even the Desciples had no doubt, or followers had no doubt. But we do have doubt. I wish I could post my full reply to Lifer but only have it read by certain people and not totally public. Doubt is not something new, it is not something that the Bible doesn’t cover.

        I don’t know what kind of church or Sunday School class he attended, but the fact that there was always doubt and rejection is deeply ingrained in the Bible and in respectable and responsible teachings.

        I have not seen the movie “Noah”, nor the “Passion of the Christ”. I have no interest is such movies. I know that science can explain Biblical events, but they can’t explain why they happened at those exact times and in those exact places under those exact circumstances. I view evolution as part of the Creation.

      • rucasdad says:

        Hey, I won’t scoff at anyone if I believe they’re being 100% sincere or sharing an admitted personal story. I respect you for posting that and I’m happy that you’ve gotten out of that rough time in your life.

        I myself am not a religious person as I’m sure is fairly obvious at this point. Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t a god or a higher being, I’m just saying that faced with science or faith, I’ll take science any day. I need evidence. But I will say that there are things that can’t be explained and that in my opinion, is where religion comes in.

        I think that we don’t need religion to tell us what’s right and what’s wrong – that comes naturally to anyone with a normal functioning mind. We don’t need it to be content in our lives. I also don’t believe in heaven no matter how wonderful it sounds. As much as I would love to see all my family, friends and pets again, I just don’t see it happening. As sad as it sounds, I think we go back to which we came; complete darkness. Nothing. Certain people can’t deal with this so we’ve come up with stories to tell ourselves so that we feel better. Now my wife…totally opposite which creates some pretty intense/emotional yet very interesting discussions. But I’ll spare you the time and details on that though.

        We all have different beliefs that help us deal with our uncertainties and the supernatural so I try and be as respectful as possible regarding those matters. Politics and other things though, that’s fair game. You see, Capt, even trolls like me have boundaries and morals!

      • CaptSternn says:

        Rucas, you belive in science? Have you not learned about the universe? The galaxy? The Hubble looking deep into a dark part of the sky and seeing so many galaxies? How can any person look at that and deny God?

      • kabuzz61 says:

        Captain, don’t forget the math in the Bible that lines up with the universe. It is quite compelling and amazing.

        I also know what you mean about ‘knowing’. I was raised an agnostic. Never really had a faith or belief. When my son was born, I had promised the minister that married us that I would attend that religion. As merely an observer, I decided to challenge the sermons and scripture with my own study. That started my walk with God. Then along the way, one day I just knew there was a God. Since then I went to school to study the Bible.

        I don’t know if you have children, but I tell my grown son that I learned more about me raising him then anything he received from me. He now has a son and knows what I mean.

        It is the same way with studying and believing. You learn more about yourself then anything.

        ‘The heavens proclaim the glory of God’.

  12. Anse says:

    What’s killing Christianity in America is information. It’s not the demands placed on believers; I’d argue that the modern American church demands very little of believers compared to the faith of our ancestors. In fact, making more strident demands might actually turn the tide a little; it might actually appeal to those who tire of the crass commercialism and race for material wealth that defines American culture. Those radicalized denominations of our history–the Puritans, the Mormons, the Amish, the Shakers, etc–were driven by a desire to separate themselves from the world. Their original focus was to distinguish themselves as the faithful by at least some measure of self-denial. Today’s Christians are the opposite of this. Now they build churches that look more like shopping malls than solemn places for the intense contemplation of the soul.

    But the unholy and unprecedented embrace of material wealth by today’s American Christians (I have actually read Christian pastors argue that capitalism is the only true and God-ordained system of economy, and they’re not all “prosperity gospel” hustlers, either) may not matter all that much. I grew up in a devout Baptist home, but my eyes were opened wide by leaving my tiny home town and going off to college. For the first time I met Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and atheists. I met gay people and people who lived apparently happy and fulfilled lives not worrying about sexual morality or the concept of god at all. It was head-spinning and enlightening. How is it possible that this Buddhist classmate of mine, this genuinely good and honest person from an Asian family, could go to hell? How does he deserve damnation for embracing the religion of his ancestors? These kinds of experiences chipped away at my own faith to the point where it simply vanished.

    The information age won’t kill religion. We’ll have religion for many generations to come. But it will kill the discipline instilled by a fundamentalist devotion to doctrine. Religion will be around for a long time, but it will not be anything like the kind of religion we tend to think of.

    • CaptSternn says:

      We all deserve Hell, Anse. None are worthy of Heaven. None of us are good enough to earn our way into Heaven. It is only through the Gift of salvation that we can be saved and enter Heaven. It is only through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God and the Resurrection that we can be saved.

      • kabuzz61 says:

        Amen my good Captain. Well said. Thank God for grace.

      • flypusher says:

        “We all deserve Hell, ..”

        I couldn’t disagree more with that sentiment. By that line of reasoning, there is no difference between the worst of humanity, such as Hitler and Stalin, and people like Gandhi, Socrates, Buddha, etc., who made positive contributions to humankind, but too bad, so sad, they weren’t Christian. I fully understand that Christians believe such things; I personally don’t consider it to be even remotely just.

      • Bobo Amerigo says:

        Everybody does not deserve hell.

      • GG says:

        That’s the most negative thing I’ve heard for some time. That is what turns so many off of christianity.

      • way2gosassy says:

        You can go to Hell if that is where you want go, me I think I’ll just stay here!

      • CaptSternn says:

        It isn’t negative at all. It is positive, all we have to do is accept the gift and be saved. What a great blessing, the Blood of the Lamb washed our sins away.

      • Anse says:

        For the record, I find this entire conception of reality to be laughably absurd. Heaven, hell…which is worse? To quote the Talking Heads, “Heaven is a place / where nothing ever happens…”

  13. way2gosassy says:

    I may be an outlier for my age group but when asked I also answer none. I speak for no one but myself but in my opinion organized religion will eventually go the way of the dodo bird. More people today than ever before live in the reality of life as it is in the world and not in the fantasy of some great reward in an afterlife if you behave in a certain way.

    I live my life according to the laws of man and I treat my neighbors as my conscience dictates based on my belief that way you treat people will be the way they treat you in the end.

  14. geoff1968 says:

    Like Joseph Campbell said “Just because it’s a myth doesn’t mean it’s a lie.” So while some things in the Bible are myths it doesn’t render them irrelevant. The flood story is told across the globe. It is a fact that humanity was nearly wiped out at some point in time in its pre-history. There’s something there.

    Religion, on the other hand, I’ve had to struggle with. A cult is a cult is a cult. I’m not going to participate in practices I don’t believe in and I’m not going to lie. God can manifest himself to whom he will. Church always made me feel like Tommy.

    • Tuttabella says:

      Is it really that humanity was nearly wiped out by a flood, or could the “flood story” simply be a series of “flood stories” — various hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons — occurring throughout history during countless hurricane seasons over the years — in which people just THOUGHT it was the end of the world, in which perhaps their own small world as they knew it was vastly transformed and its population reduced?

      So maybe what is universal is not the exact same flood story, but the human tendency to see the end of the world in various catastrophic events.

      • geoff1968 says:

        Bryan Sykes believes that all of humanity is descended from 7 females. He claims to have proved it by his analysis of mitochondrial genetics. So we “know” that humanties’ roots are in very small numbers.

        I’ve read “The Seven Daughters of Eve.” It’s fairly slim and not too heavy on the scientific lingo.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Seven_Daughters_of_Eve

        Wiki also has a nice article on flood myths worldwide.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flood_myth

        We’re just beginning to find out, not finished. What of the multi-verse?

      • way2gosassy says:

        Tutt from what I have observed every religion both modern and ancient, Pagan, Christian or Muslim have common threads. They all have a creation story, destruction story, good and evil “Gods” and all of those stories are very similar. I believe those stories came about because the people of those times did not understand how certain things came about whether good or bad and so from superstition these stories were created to explain what they could not and to give credit to some invisible hand for those things humans had no control.

      • Tuttabella says:

        Sassy, that reminds me of what I posted recently about the same stories cropping up in different parts of the world at different points in time, independently of each other. It’s like we’re all on the same mental wavelength, all of us wired to come up with the same basic concepts and explanations for things.

      • Bobo Amerigo says:

        In an Apache creation myth, Changing Woman floated on an abalone shell until the waters receded. Shellfish were larger then.

      • flypusher says:

        Definitely there have been catastrophic floods, 2 hypotheses for big floods that could have inspired the Noah and other great flood stories:

        http://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/climate-weather/storms/great-flood1.htm

        Both of them make predictions that are actually testable. But neither is a worldwide flood that killed off all life except 8 humans and just 2 of each species of other animals. That is a gross exaggeration of a real event. Catastrophes leave scars. Huge catastrophes leave huge scars. The expected scars from an event such as the Biblical version just aren’t there.

      • way2gosassy says:

        Bobo of all the Native American creation stories I think I like the Navajo the best.

        http://www.navajolegends.org/navajo-creation-story/

      • Bobo Amerigo says:

        Sassy, that’s very poetic, isn’t it.

        The Apache story features twins, too. After the waters receded, Changing Woman mated with the son and the moon and had twin boys. Each twin started a separate branch of the Apaches.

        As Changing Woman goes through her life, her hair turns white.

        Eventually, her life at its end, she walks toward the rising sun, where she meets her dark-haired younger self walking toward her. They merge.

        Presumably, the cycle begins anew.

        I think that’s lovely.

      • way2gosassy says:

        It is very beautiful as is most of the beliefs of the Native Americans. What I find interesting is that most of them believe that all life comes from the woman who was created first and that they should be treated with reverence and great respect. Very much the opposite of Christian religions.

      • Bobo Amerigo says:

        I hear you, Sassy.

        Christians talk a good game when it comes to respecting woman, but that’s about all.

    • Tuttabella says:

      Along the lines of what Joseph Campbell said about myths, I do believe that even lies contain grains of truth, because truth is still the starting point, and from there you embellish or distort.

      I’m not saying that myths are “lies,” though.

      • flypusher says:

        The problem isn’t the myths, it’s whoever declared that everyone had to believe that they were 100% literally true. I do not believe the story of the Garden of Eden actually happened, but I think it is an insightful commentary on human nature. Allegories and parables have there place for teaching; they were certainly good enough for Jesus.

      • flypusher says:

        Bloody autocorrect- “their place”.

  15. kabuzz61 says:

    I differ in the definition you use here between religion and faith.

    I agree religious institutions are declining but not due to science but due to their own self destruction. Most have gotten so carried away with big buildings and building funds, they pass over most of the needs of the potential congregants who need ministering now.

    I prefer those that believe in Christianity as people of faith. True people of faith. Where easter has no special meaning due to our relationship every day with our Creator. The numbers of people who are considered spiritual but don’t belong to an organized religion is growing. There is a thirst for most to fill the void.

    People of faith believe in the harmony of three. Spirit, soul and body. All three have to be fed and maintained to have a great balance. Soul in this sense is from the Greek-psych. So take care of your spiritual needs, your mind and your body. So contrary to what you have been taught people of faith believe in expanding the mind through education but also seeing it through the spiritual prism. Father, Son and Holy Spirit is another balance of three.

    Whether your belief in Old Testament stories as real or metaphor’s, there is a scriptural basis in the Koran, Talmud and Bible. The complaints mainly about the movie you sight is that it does not mention God and at times drifts into the fringe. I haven’t seen it and won’t, because after all, Hollywood is not my idea of a good spiritual teacher.

    There are many things to learn in the Bible but most if not all is a meditative book on the self. It is a guide to self improvement and the more you improve the more you can give to the world around you.

    ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’. It is all based on faith. If you do not possess faith, you wouldn’t understand.

    The hand picked scriptures you used to try to buttress up your hit piece isn’t unusual. Doubt is expressed through all the gospels. It just depends on who.

    I am glad you mentioned resurrection, because that is the key. Without that, there is no Christianity.

    • texan5142 says:

      kabuzz61 says:
      April 18, 2014 at 10:09 am
      “Most have gotten so carried away with big buildings and building funds, they pass over most of the needs of the potential congregants who need ministering now.”

      Could not agree more kabuzz.

    • Tuttabella says:

      I think of spirit and soul as one and the same.

      I see the harmony of three as something like:

      1. Spirit/Soul
      2. Mind/Intellect
      3. Body

      What category would emotions fall under? Spirit/Soul? Emotions somehow seem too base to be categorized under something as lofty as Spirit/Soul, but they would be the complete opposite of Mind/Intellect.

      • kabuzz61 says:

        Actually as I pointed out, soul comes from the word phych. I believe emotions are subsets of the mind based on how one is raised, educated and has life experiences to a certain point. My emotion of fear may be very different from you.

  16. fiftyohm says:

    ” its superior ability to deliver meaning.”

    I don’t get it, Chris. While devilishly difficult to define, religion – all religion – when stripped of the ritual and physical structures, requires belief in one thing: the supernatural. We also call this mysticism.

    By “meaning” I guess you are in reference to the attempt to ascribe the occurrence of physical events to the intentional actions of a supernatural agency of some sort.

    There is, of course, a 800 pound gorilla perched in the pew; that in the 20,000 or so years of recorded human history, there has not been collected a single shred or scintilla of evidence that the supernatural exists at all. None. No experiment. No reliable observation. Nothing our hard-won methods for determining ‘truth’ would even remotely categorize as proof.

    It is then, curious in the extreme that we humans have such a tendency to seek and find meaning through mysticism. Our brains, I guess, are so finely adapted to recognize patterns, to suck signals from noise, that we see things that, objectively, just aren’t there.

    • bubbabobcat says:

      A “spiritual” Rorschach test? Sounds about right to me fitty.

      Notice that all these different religions (that hate each other for the most part and denounce the others as heretics) all have the same basic symbolism and purpose. As Chris noted, they attempted to explain to the best of their rudimentary capabilities at the time the world order as they understood it and to self soothe and explain that which they could not understand. “It was God’s will”, etc. And to conveniently absolve themselves what they know deep down is inappropriate behavior. “The Devil made me do it”, the serpent tempting, Eve, etc.

      I guess self determination and free will was too much responsibility at the time to absorb.

      In my best Jack Nicholson, “You can’t handle the freedom!”

      • fiftyohm says:

        Yeah – but my comment wasn’t so much addressed to the sociopolitical ramifications of religion, but rather the psychological foundations of it.

        To my mind, the most significant issue is the requirement for rational people (who also happen to be religious) to isolate, sequester the mystical portion of their belief system from the rational that allows them to function in the real world. When there’s ‘leakage’ around that wall, bad things happen, as you have stated.

    • flypusher says:

      “It is then, curious in the extreme that we humans have such a tendency to seek and find meaning through mysticism.”

      Knowledge of your mortality is a tough burden to bear.

      • Tuttabella says:

        “Knowledge of your mortality is a tough burden to bear.”
        ——————————————–
        Not reallly. I find the idea of living forever, or at least living “too long,” even more overwhelming.

      • fiftyohm says:

        I think that’s a fair comment, FP. But like most things, it gets easier with practice.

      • flypusher says:

        “…it gets easier with practice.”

        I agree that it can. Everybody has to wrestle with it in their own way. I like the way one good friend put it- that she had come to terms with possibility that the universe was a totally impersonal place. That notion doesn’t bother me either, but lots of people can’t bear that thought. If religion helps them cope that is specifically no skin off my nose. The trouble has always been the people who go beyond that with their beliefs.

        Tutta, I agree, living forever is more likely a curse than a blessing. But I’d be willing to go in 100 year increments with options to renew ( which is obviously contingent on being healthy and functional!).

      • way2gosassy says:

        I agree Fly, for most people the idea of death of the body as the finality of the existence is more than they can accept. I believe that a person lives on in the memories of those who go forward. But that is just me.

      • Tuttabella says:

        Fly, sounds like you favor reincarnation.

      • Tuttabella says:

        Sassy, i agree wholeheartedly that we live on in memory, in our descendants and in those whose lives we’ve touched, who carry our example forward.

        The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen!

      • flypusher says:

        “Fly, sounds like you favor reincarnation”

        The concept is interesting, but since my current existence is quite good, I’d rather keep that!

    • kabuzz61 says:

      Bubba, you are so wrong about different faiths hating each other. Disagree in some areas yes, but hate no. I do agree it is too easy for some to say it is God’s will. I won’t profess to know the will of God but I certainly know he is not responsible for children being murdered, etc. Most ills in this world are caused by man due to vanity, selfishness, envy and power.

      • bubbabobcat says:

        Buzzy, how many traditional major faiths accept other religions as equals? We even see Cappy already here declaring vehemently “there is only one [Christian] God”. And then there is all the proselytizing and conversions to “your faith” by the fervent of whichever religion. I think Buddhism is about the only truly chill major religion out there accepting of others and other religions. But they are all sinners and heathen if they don’t follow your religion right Buzzy? Or at least “wrong” and not equal to your faith, right buzzy? Isn’t that taught at church? It’s what I hear from a lot of churchgoers.

      • texan5142 says:

        Bull, walk around a children’s cancer hospital and tell me what ills they have done. I take one look at the suffering of children and know in my heart there can be no God. If he/ she is a loving God, he/ she is doing a piss poor job.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Bubba, the one true God is the God of Abraham. That covers Jews, Muslims and Christians, not just Christians.

      • bubbabobcat says:

        So Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, etc. are all heathens and their religions are not worthy Cap?

        And Hindus have many gods by the way.

        And I think Muslims beg to differ about the “same God”.

        And apparently so do quite a few “prominent Christians” like Billy Graham:

        “Muslims do not speak of God as their heavenly Father. In the Islamic faith, Allah is not only a different name for god; the deity it designates is far more impersonal than the God of the Bible. Father—the very name that Jesus gave us as the designated name for use in prayer—is a name that simply does not fit Allah as depicted in the Quran.

        The God of the Bible is not Allah, and Allah is not the God of the Bible. Any confusion about that undermines the very Gospel we preach.”

        http://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/december-2013/do-christians-and-muslims-worship-the-same-god/

        Would you be willing to call God, Allah instead Cap? Billy Graham would not, and bart would not as he dismissively mocks my invocation of Allah.

        And that is what is wrong with “fervent” religion.

        “I am right, everyone else is wrong, my way or the highway, etc.”

        And lots of people have died unnecessarily as a result.

        Why can’t there be multiple gods just because you don’t believe it Cap?

      • CaptSternn says:

        That is not for me to judge, Bubba. You will have to ask God when you see him.

      • bubbabobcat says:

        So now you’re conveniently all out of answers?

  17. texan5142 says:

    Happy 4 20

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