Atheist Jew Meets Churchy Jesus Girl: a discussion

Steve is a non-religious Jew, and I am an observant Episcopalian, but we both value irreverence. Recently, Stevie wrote this to me in an email:

“As you might guess, the only thing I know about Vestry is that the word ‘rector’ is hilarious. I would love to sit down and discuss religion with you at some point. Religious discussions in this country are all about ‘me versus you, and I’m right.’ People who are religious genuinely fascinate me. I often envy them their beliefs. However I tend to infuriate the believers, with my rampant joke-laden atheism.”

Steve drafted a list of topics, and we both promised not to get all huffy. What follows is a transcript of our virtual “sit down.” I hope we don’t offend, and that maybe you’ll share your take on God, Life, and Whatnot, too.


I call myself very Jewish and not religious. That’s what I like about Judaism. It’s à la carte. My Bar Mitzvah was in a Unitarian church because my temple was still under construction. I call myself a “Jewnatarian.” If I were Christian, I’d go with Unitarianism. It’s hip to say “I’d like to be Buddhist,” but that requires meditation, and there’s stuff on TV.

I like Jewnatarian. Unitarians don’t subscribe to a divine Jesus, seeing Him more like a moral Michael Jordan: a bit super-human in his awesomeness, and thus, someone to emulate. Being Jewish is a birthright you cannot escape… but God gifted His chosen people with good bagels, Yiddish-spewing grandparent hilarity, and irrepressibly sexy teenage girls. Adding the “religious” component of Being Jewish with all that Hebrew-learning and rule-following is exhausting, and gets in the way of a good bacon cheeseburger. So although Zealot Sister will balk at your à la carte approach to religion, as… well… not very religious, I understand being choosy. I found all of the beauty and tradition of the Catholic Church over in the pews with the Episcopalians. But this crowd of Christians aims for the broadest interpretation of Scripture to include all of us… especially our fabulous gay friends.


We believe in One Holy Catholic (meaning everyone) and apostolic Church. It’s right there in The Creed… and I wear a cross to remind me of The Big Picture. Being a responsible “religious” person also means a perpetual auditing of Bible 101. Only by attending Church and Bible study sessions can we learn what God’s teaching means in this world. The Bible was never meant to be studied in isolation. Faith needn’t be blind, and for thoughtful people, “religiousity” will likely wax and wane.

I followed your first paragraph, but you lost me on the second. Why must one attend a given building and the meetings therein to relate to meaning in the world? It’s true, Judaism has the whole Talmudic tradition. But even there, the goal isn’t to find answers – it’s to ask more questions. It’s nice to be part of a faith where a perfectly good “answer” ends with the suffix “-ish.”

I don’t want to lose you. One mustn’t do anything to know God! However, to understand how Bible teachings relate to today (or to your life), that is most responsibly done with some sort of guidance– maybe from someone with a PhD and a snazzy white collar? An example: with sufficient smarts and determination, one could possibly learn everything a medical student learns… but would you go to the “homeschooled” doctor? Why should the study of a religious practice be any different?


Faith is the sticky wicket. For those of us who claim to be religious, it would seem that Faith should be as constant as a heartbeat. But, it’s not. The religious people I relate to (drink with) tend to work on this part the hardest. On the other hand, those with the arrogance to dismiss Faith entirely sound sadly unenlightened to me (this article in particular drives me bonkers “Why I Raise My Children Without God“) Those with no Faith at all should be a great deal funnier about it. Also, many of these same people sanction Santa and tooth fairy lies with a near religious zeal. Admittedly, if you think they’re all fiction, you gotta go with the ones that deliver iPhones and cash.

I don’t know if we’re funnier, but we do have more fun. Why is religion so full of rules against fun? Plus they are so anti-women. The Catholic Church won’t allow female priests– or contraception. No premarital sex. And as anyone who has had post-marital sex will tell you, if you can’t have premarital sex, there’s not much left on your horizon. Jews kept the women upstairs in the sanctuary before they realized “Hey– there’s women here. Maybe get them a seat we should?” Then there are the religions that, well, you know, kill the women for behaving like women and… why isn’t Britt making this argument?

The topic here is Faith, not Religious Rules. So, here’s a quote from a rabbi: “Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that there is even the slightest chance that there is a God. Then wouldn’t learning about Him be the most important thing to do?” The key here is learning. That’s why I go to Church: to learn, even if what I take away on any given Sunday is something-ish.

I have little faith in a community that scorns Faith: even a faith-less community is more agreeable one that is all shout-y and against it. Religion attempts to access Truth as much as science does, just with fewer t-tests and, unfortunately, more than a handful of loud, unreliable reviewers.

But please don’t caught up in arbitrary rules of religions you don’t study! The Catholic Church, at times, leans more heavily toward tradition than Scripture. So what? You’re not Catholic. Leave them be to have all of their married sex and gazillion babies. It’s not your religion. In our country, women have the luxury of finding a religion that honors their participation. I cannot explain why Zealot Sister chooses to follow such difficult rules any more than I can explain why Jason (our favorite Orthodox Jew) has two sets of plates. I don’t know enough about any religion to criticize people who follow them, but I have great respect for Zealot Sister and Jason who study their religions and try their best to honor their guidelines.

The rules are easy targets for dismissal of Faith, so let’s be clear: The Bible is not a rule book, but a record of God’s presence and the life of Jesus. Paul offers this regarding strict adherence to dietary guidelines (e.g., arbitrary rules): “eat the food or not, as you please, but give no offense to others and do all for the glory of God.” You do your thing, I’ll do mine, and let there be no quibbling. I like that.


A considerable improvement on the alternative, but in need of a rewrite.

Really, Stevie… On Life? All I know is that those Life Is Good products are more irritating than people who can’t shut up about politics. I have no idea why this condescendingly simple message delights the masses… and yet a God is Good coffee mug would have people giving wide berth around your cubicle. And isn’t there all sorts of “life” that is no good at all? Mushy brain on a ventilator? Not so good. No stick figure t-shirt for that.

This is so, so wrong... so obviously I think it's oddly funny.

I imagine Jesus is wicked funny, totally has this t-shirt, and looks great in yellow.

I also tend to think a little God infusion wouldn’t hurt when someone’s Life seems empty, sad, broken, ill fated, unfairly difficult, or about to end. I don’t believe prayers are answered, exactly, but moments of real humility on my knees asking for guidance have been instructive to me. And if you feel it, the Holy Spirit is fantastic at reminding you of the beauty and connectivity of the Life in all of us. What makes this worldview palatable (and you and me friends) is admitting that people who talk like this sound utterly insane.

OK, even I should have been less flip. Life is pretty great. Neat stuff. Arrogant to think that we’re the center of it and that we’re the only ones who invented the sandwich. For every billion planets, I bet there are thousand variations on corned beef. Some may be silicon based, but even a, well, sand-based sandwich could work.

There are still religions that insist that you take literally that we are the center of the universe. Or – again – they will kill you. Just try to get corned beef then. Even dry corned beef.

A sandwich-eating alien is only ever one click away.

On her planet, she’s the Queen of Sandwich… and a Lutheran.


The end. Game over. Not to happen again. Like being asleep, except without worrying about forgetting about finals. Kind of the ultimate final, actually. Terrible invention. That’s what I mean about needing a rewrite.

Oh, Steve. I hate that I agree with you here. But then my Faith creeps in (and also C.S. Lewis with The Great Divorce) with the slimmest possibility of something more. Scientist Britt can’t argue it well, though.


Cathy George, our rector (hee hee) advised us at Lenten time not fixate on trying to be holy. “You are already holy.” God’s love makes us holy, and God loves all of us. A Ma often cites evidence of God’s love for our family, but I don’t think that way. Good luck is not God’s love. There’s no such thing as circumstantial confirmation that we’re in good with The Big Guy. God’s love is constant, and the proof we’re looking for when our Faith is flagging. For me, it’s something I actually feel. Unfortunately bad writers have been making believers sound stupid and corny for ages (like this nonsense).

I don’t like it when people shoehorn “God” as a metaphor into things. As in “‘God’ is really about the love you feel when…” or “You see God in the face of a newborn child.” I don’t see any such thing. I see beauty, yes. I see something wonderful and amazing. But it seems that calling that “God” is stretching the original description rather than admitting it’s a different concept.

But it’s not entirely different. I’ll admit it’s an easy explanation to a complicated theological question. But as a small child, those giant cloth banners embroidered with God Is Love put an earthly tag on something indescribable. Moments of beauty aren’t God, per se, but they do summon the teeniest essence of Him… and are, thus, divine!

I need to throw this back at you as a question – how do you feel God’s love?

Brace yourself for the crazy, but remember that you know me to be a smarter than average blond girl with all sorts of science degrees and a good degree of skepticism. I also love to make fun of just about everything. But you asked, so here goes. God’s love is unsullied belief in your own worth. For me, ironically, it means getting on my knees and admitting my complete incompetence to understand anything. Regarding God, we’re all idiots. But in those moments of prayer (meditation? begging for impossible things?), God’s love feels warm, calm. Do you know deep down– in spite of school shootings and war and Kardashians– that people are inherently good (that you are inherently good)? That’s God’s love. It’s omnipresent and free, but in our busy, angry world, it’s easy to overlook. Plus, there’s stuff on TV.


“The wonderful thing about science,” said Neil DeGrasse Tyson, “is that it’s true whether you believe it or not.” You may have seen this quote floating around Facebook. He said it on “Real Time with Bill Maher” in response to someone saying he didn’t believe in something scientific. I love this quote and it summarizes my relationship with religion perfectly.

I loathe Bill Maher. He argues so smugly (and so poorly) against religion, and also thinks people like me are loons. Picking through the Bible or highlighting any number of religious beliefs out of context is just poor journalism. Back in college I thought science and religious beliefs were at odds, so I dismissed the latter to embrace what I could see and prove. Now I realize that they can co-exist. And now, I might even put forward this: “The wonderful thing about God, is that He exists whether you believe or not.”

I'm right... you crazy!

I’m right… and you crazy!

OK, Bill Maher is a dick. Given. Atheist zealots are every bit as irritating as religious door-knockers. But we’re talking proof, not faith. A star cluster exists, demonstrably. Life evolved – and did so over millions of years. This is not up for discussion. I can look in a sky and see such wonders that the founders of religion couldn’t have imagined.

“There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” – Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5. Great line, but dammit – he had to put “heaven” in there.

If “God” and his scribes knew all His wonders, surely He would have thought to include them in his teachings: “Not only is man an amazing creation of Mine – but whoa! You have got to see the work I do with galaxy clusters, quasars, collapsing stars, dark matter, and – oh yes – a few planets right near by.” He might have gone on less about fish.

Laughing too hard to comment. And God in quotations is killing me.


I take no comfort from otherworldly things. That’s scary. That’s something I envy in religious people. I can find comfort in my children, loved ones and friends. But I gather it’s not the same comfort.

God isn’t otherworldly. He’s right here.

You’re not mentioning comfort.

The comfort: I’m never, never alone. Strip away Bernie, my kids, my pretty stucco life and ask me if I still have the Comfort of God? I dunno. But last year, when there were moments when I didn’t know if I’d be here to have this discussion, my sole comfort came from God. You can’t knock that.


Blech. Religious fanaticism always excludes, hurts, even kills.

I love people who have faith and kindness. (Although I don’t see why you need faith to be kind.) I do dislike fanatics – those who say their way is the only way. When you go from belief to fanaticism, that’s when the Holy Hand Grenades tend to come out. Fanaticism also leads to hooligans and tedious, low-scoring soccer games.

In these hats, we trust.

In these hats, we trust.

I completely agree that Faith has little to do with kindness, or even human decency. Faith is a personal matter. Kindness is a public one.


Oh God, it fucking rocks. Wait – I just invoked God. Maybe there’s something there.

Of course there is. Make fun all you want (I insist!), but there are other Jewnatarians out there just waiting to set up folding chairs with you in some temple basement. In the meantime, I’m going to drag you to the Redeemer. There’s a whole Bible study group of women who have been praying for you. (Can you feel it?)

I like that. Can they pray for me to have less back hair?

Half atheist?

Results may vary.

(DP Challenge)


201 responses

  1. Well then. THIS may be the best blog I have a read in five years!
    Give us more. Favorite line: If “God” and his scribes knew all His wonders, surely He would have thought to include them in his teachings: “Not only is man an amazing creation of Mine – but whoa! You have got to see the work I do with galaxy clusters, quasars, collapsing stars, dark matter, and – oh yes – a few planets right near by.” He might have gone on less about fish.
    You two are magic. Great discussion. Much wisdom. Let us know how Steve’s visit to The Redeemer Church family goes. Now THAT will be an interesting post indeed….

  2. The death thing will come, Steve, when you’ve lost a close relative, and you are constantly reminded that this person is still with you. Always. Every minute. And ready to prove it if you ask specifically. And, if you believe that person is with and part of God, then it proves that God is always with you. Didn’t know it till my first and favorite Steve left but decided to hang around, talk to my two year old and leave me nickels.

    BTW Britt, we’ve been hanging with the Episcopalians, too. Like their all-welcoming attitude and their willingness to go without to take care of those who are needier.

    Wonderful discussion. Worth sharing.

    And you’re right, Bill Maher is a dick.

    • Beautiful, Beka. I want to read the rest of that story. Steve and I had fun with this… but I think a Part II might be in order, with input from Zealot Sister and Jason!

    • “And ready to prove it if you ask specifically. ”

      I’m sorry, but this line is dangerous. Not because I begrudge you believing that your deceased relatives still exist. If you want to believe that, that’s fine.

      However, I have had family and friends who have died. And when I was still religious, I did try and speak to them. Sincerely. As I did try and speak to a god.

      I got zero reply.

      I realized that no reply just meant the things I believed probably weren’t true. But it’s just as easy for that to lead down a path of ‘I’m not worthy, I’m a horrible person, why won’t my dead relatives/god talk to me?”

      • I hope we established that one needn’t be “religious” to speak to God. He’s there for all of us: believers and Jewish atheists alike. There’s an entire novel, a theology dissertation, a broken heart, and a thousand acts of desperation in that one line: “I got zero reply.” But this bears repeating: everyone (everyone!) is worthy. Everyone is worthy. Everyone is worthy.

    • Steve, if you read the English in our prayer books (God who keeps faith with those who sleep in the dust, etc.), passages are filled with pieces to show a Jewish belief in the afterlife. Reincarnation is also a Jewish concept. What you believe and what Judaism preaches are opposites. You have a right to believe in whatever you want, but don’t pass this belief off as Jewish because it isn’t.

      • Here’s the meaty stuff, Stevie. What exactly does it mean to Be Jewish? I know that even the most observant Jew we know wouldn’t deny you the honor of calling yourself Jewish, but maybe thoughtful followers like Joyce here might? If you’re not a “religious Jew” does that mean you’re only Jewish-ish? Then again, you did claim from the get-go that you’re really more of a Jewnatarian.

  3. “Everyone is worthy.”

    And yet, when I prayed sincerely, I was never spoken to by anyone who wasn’t me.

    Which means, either, that your god exists but doesn’t want to speak to me…a god exists that doesn’t want to talk to anyone…or a god doesn’t exist.

    • “Everyone is worthy.” Except in the eyes of certain religions and even sects within that religion. This is entirely subjective, and what I find difficult about religion. There are rules – yes rules – that will determine one’s worthiness for heaven or Hell.

      @Beka: People close to me have died. Indeed, they are in my memory and they are fond memories. But I do not attribute that to a higher power. I attribute it to my synapses. But suppose people were “kept alive as long as we remember them.” So, in three generations or so, are they then dead?

      A friend of mine read this and said she felt she learned more about Britt than she did about me. My response: “(Britt) has something of an unfair advantage – people who deeply believe in religion have more to say on the topic. Those who don’t have a fine line to walk without seeming like a dick or a bully.” It’s tough to expand upon not believing in something others believe in. It’s kind of one note.

      • Do you think it’s possible that there’s a religion out there that would agree with your sensibilities? Or does the existence of religions that exclude and hurt and generally sanction dickhead behavior cast a shadow over all of them? Or is it the honest to goodness disbelief in God that makes your arguments sort of “one note”-ish? I think it’s entirely possible to be an atheist without being a jerk about it. You’re not trying to dissuade me from my belief in God any more than I’m trying to convince you that He exists.

    • “And yet, when I prayed sincerely, I was never spoken to by anyone who wasn’t me.”

      As a stranger who does not know you, I heard great sincerity behind what you just shared, which is a version of prayer. And I am responding.

      Sometimes we are spoken to in symbols, in thoughts that seem to be our own, or in occurances that can be mistaken for banal coincidences – like a friend calling and interrupting our grief. Subtle and non-invasive answers, as gentle an innocuous as a breeze.

      (Frankly, when messages are louder than that, history has a long track record of people’s lives being thrown into enormous turmoil. So thank you God, for not burning all the bushes in my front yard every time I pray. The neighbors would talk!)

      For me, it was only once I realized that Messages are frequently hilariously, maddeningly ordinary, that I realized and began experiencing the Guidance that is everywhere. Even in anonymous blog posts.

    • Why would it need to be anyone but you who speaks back?

      “”I am seated in everyone’s heart as the all pervading Supersoul and from Me comes remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness.” – the gita.

    • The Bible teaches that no one is worthy, not one. However, we are made worthy by the blood sacrifice of Christ. Blood sacrifice was taught to the Jews by God as a precursor to Christ’s arrival and subsequent sacrifice. That’s why he came, to reconcile us to God. This could only,be done with the shedding of blood.

      God does speak today through His Spirit that lives in us. There are three ways to hear from God. Through the word of God (the Bible), through the people of God (folks that have an actual relationship with Him, not just attending church and professing to be followers. See Christ’s own teachings on this subject), and finally the Spirit of God.

      If these concepts are foreign to you, I would he happy to illustrate them further for you.

  4. Pingback: Writing Challenge: image vs. text | Flickr Comments

  5. Two of my favorite people and writers in one blog post! Best thing since god created humans so that they could invent ice cream and peanut butter and combine them into something truly divine.

    Britt, I like the framing of faith in terms of the striving for knowledge. There is a great mystery going on here, regardless of whether it was authored or not. At the inevitable point where knowledge fails us, it is entirely appropriate to express our sense of that otherness in terms of god.

    Steve, I tend to think of religions as paths to spirituality (defined as the experience of the world as eternal, one and interconnected, rather than as individuated and finite and therefore perceived in terms of the individual struggle). Though it is ironic that following prescribed rules would lead to that place where rules no longer matter, I can assure you that it is one tried and true method. Contemplation, meditation, prayer, deep study of deep learning (like the Bible) – all of them can lead to that great non-linear, amazingly deep breakthrough to a vision of the world in all of its interconnected glory. And if those things don’t work for you, I hear mushrooms work quite nicely as well. Humor too.

    Whether I believe in god or not is less and less relevant to me. It is absolutely certain that the world is a much cooler place when we have access to the bigger picture, however we come to see it. That bigger picture must necessarily encompass god and the devil, love and hate, finitey and infinity, right and wrong and all the rest. People who use religion to judge and draw lines are just not ready to use it for its greater purpose. What a shame, for all of the strife and suffering that has caused for so long.

    Later skaters,


    • Yes yes yes! “People who use religion to judge and draw lines are just not ready to use it for its greater purpose.” I like the idea of religion as a tool in the search for God’s presence in Life. You’ll need to find the one that fits in your hand… and many of them will just botch the job if used improperly.

  6. This is a great post (and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!). I love that you’ve started a respectful discourse that takes the subject matter seriously without taking yourselves too seriously–more people should learn from that example. And purely selfishly, as an Episcopalian, I’m glad to see that my denomination is still living up to its reputation as open-minded and all-welcoming. Keep rockin’ it, you two!

  7. It’s rare to have civil, insightful discourse between believers (is that supposed to be capitalized?) and atheists. I appreciate you both having this conversation and staying respectful and fun. I think I even sent a chianti infused email long ago to Britt saying that someday we’d have to have a similar discussion. The next day, I awoke foggy headed thinking, “Yikes, boundaries are not my strong suit.”.
    I remember the poor frustration of my Mom when I refused to be confirmed at whatever episcopalian church we visited on C&E in Kennett Square. She even resorted to saying there would be a whole group of new girls for me to meet. It almost worked.
    I was not so lucky to escape mandatory cotillion at the Kennett Square Country Club as a penance. I can only imagine my Mother’s reasoning that if I was going to hell, I’d damn well better have some social graces and know the fox trot. If you ever need proof there is no god, just imagine a 12 year old boy in cotillion class.
    Keep it up, kids.

      • Interesting how a believer is requesting proof, Mrs. Lee. 🙂

        It get’s worse, I had to repeat the cotillion course. It was too difficult to make eyes and pass on subtle innuendos in a receiving line. Much like many things, it didn’t bode well that I was forced to take cotillion, but my lovely wife who is a phenomenal dancer did manage to make me a fairly competent swing dancer.
        Steve, my parents were stunningly good lindy hoppers until a wet foor and white wine at a wedding resulted in a knee replacement. Even still, on occasion when the right mix of wine and music collide, they can still impress.

        • Some might describe the Episcopalian tradition with the same bunch of words: collision of the right mix of wine and music! And I’m totally dragging you to the Redeemer, too, Drew. Between you and Stevie, I can start my own Bring-Your-Own-Atheist program.

    • Drew, I feel your sweaty dress shirt pain. We Midwesterners did not have cotillion but we did have ballroom dance classes in the middle school lunchroom after 7 and private modeling classes for teens. Only thing I took away from modeling was A: I have a medium-sized everything perfectly positioned on my face and body to excite Merle Norman cosmeticians and bring them running, B: high heels are the only tangent, irrefutable proof of the existence of a Devil, and C: don’t look down when you walk, find the horizon line.

      I didn’t fair so well in Sunday school. I was only sent there by tired, agnostic parents as a cheap (read: free) alternative to children’s programs and I was kicked out after only one day. Apparently, “Children, do you have any questions so far?” actually means “Sit still, shut up, and nod like idiots.” Also, encouraging a group tree climb on the church playground was another no-no. And running. And laughing loudly. And picking up worms. And…wait, this WAS for children, wasn’t it?

  8. (smiling) it’s been awhile since I’ve visited FP and I’m glad I did today! I love this post and I love these types of conversations when we can share our experiences without blowing a fuse with mutual respect and love…yes I said LOVE!

    • I ain’t gonna pound you, Steve, I’m gonna lock arms with you and march into the nearest hamburger joint for a bacon cheeseburger, my treat. Your point about how laconic atheists are compared to all the rest is a good one. Our silence is kind of the point: to us there’s literally nothing to debate. It’s difficult to rally a march of thousands about the right to do nothing on Sundays and change the subject at cocktail parties. Indeed, when you’re completely, utterly certain of something, debate makes about as much sense as a space heater in Death Valley.

      How many talks have you attended lately about where the sun is going to rise tomorrow? I mean, since December 21, 2012? Ever seen two people come to blows over whether or not they were going to just detach from the Earth and float up uncontrollably in to space? Been to any panel discussions about how all those mysterious transmissions from cell phones, radios, and satellites are taking up all the space in the air? No? Well, you missed them. Those verbal altercations all really did happen but they happened many, many years ago when we didn’t know any better. Now, we know. And when we know something for sure, we stop debating it and just get on with making breakfast.

      • I like so much in here… especially “change the subject at cocktail parties.” When you are, like me, sort of secretly super Jesus-y, I feel the same way sometimes. (We love talking about Church and whatnot.) Although my Religion tells me to be more evangelical about it, I probably still live my Faith more in parentheses.

      • You make some excellent points here, but I’d like to use them to open you mind a bit. You laid out a laundry list of things that just are. You believe them because they are true and they don’t need debate. I can agree with that.

        However, do you really understand why the sun rises every day, why gravity exists and how it really works, how do all those transmissions from cell phones, radios and satellites go through the air and get translated back into things we use and understand? Yet you’ll accept them as fact. I’d argue that you are a person of deep faith.

        What if you actually took a look through the Bible and did a little research on what it says? Try to understand who the writers were, what they were trying to convey and how you might apply what you learn to your own life? What do you have to lose?

  9. **Britt? You rock! Beautiful in every way was this fact alone..You didn’t feel the need to defend Faith or being a Believer; just simply laid down the facts. Absolutely loved it..And this segment alone you said MORE than a mouthful@”But please don’t caught up in arbitrary rules of religions you don’t study! The Catholic Church, at times, leans more heavily toward tradition than Scripture. So what? You’re not Catholic. Leave them be to have all of their married sex and gazillion babies. It’s not your religion. In our country, women have the luxury of finding a religion that honors their participation. I cannot explain why Zealot Sister chooses to follow such difficult rules any more than I can explain why Jason (our favorite Orthodox Jew) has two sets of plates. I don’t know enough about any religion to criticize people who follow them, but I have great respect for Zealot Sister and Jason who study their religions and try their best to honor their guidelines…” >Has always amazed me in this life WHY folks spend SO much of life’s precious moments doing this…Honestly, I’d not have read this were it not front page in the fresh pressed section. Glad I did. Confirmation indeed! But thats another topic for another time…Stay UPlifted & blessed!

      • **Thats cool; then the shoe doesn’t “fit” you …But it does for alot of NON-believers that I’ve been exposed to. I could take far longer than I’ve got right now though to explain all the particulars. Or what my take is on it..My motto? Live and let live! I wake up, live, and go to sleep a Believer; but I don’t beat people over the head with it. I just don’t have the time nor the interest in doing so…Again, enjoyed the read 🙂

    • Wow! Thank you so much for this comment. I sent the link to my rector (hee hee) who dubbed me a fedei defensatrix, which I like almost as much as Stevie’s nickname for me: shiksa goddess. Darling friend Nancy dubbed the pair of us as Inclusivers… an absolutely made up word that means all viewpoints welcome here.

      • **Lol! The last one works for me..This is my brief take on it..I honestly think most folks, anywhere or regarding any issue, take issue with things they do NOT know about..So what they’re really doing with their so called “bias” or issues with said topic; is questioning it because they don’t understand IT. Put anything into the empty space______..religion, race, political views, same sex relationships….Least that is what I’ve learned in my life journey. The solution? OPEN and civil discussions usually solves a multitude of issues and curiosity. I really dig your format of dialogue when discussing “polar opposite” viewpoints.

  10. Funny read, lol.

    I’m an agnostic myself, mostly because I don’t care enough to be anything else. (We’re the lazy sloths in the religious spectrums)

  11. Very funny and well written. I do think that there is something fundamentally wrong with faith – the idea that one should believe in something despite all evidence to the contrary – but you can’t argue people out of it. I hope we just all grow out of it in time, as little kids grow out of poo jokes.

    • Not true! There’s oodles of cross-wearing, Bible-studying, sit-stand-kneelers who waver in their Faith every day based arguments in their very own noggins. But Faith and “should” never belong in the same sentence. I can’t convince someone to have Faith any more easily than I can get my boys to stop playing Minecraft (or telling poo jokes).

    • I’ve read this blog before, which btw, is excellent, but I personally believe the best commenting of all is the part where Andy (I ran into Ginny and Bob in KSq last night and we unanimously agreed Drew is actually Andy) not only attended cotillon but had to repeat it.
      Resume religious debate please….

      • If I’m telling a high school story about him, I totally slip into Andy mode, too. I cannot get the image of Charm-Your-Pants-Off Wiedemann requiring repetition of cotillion.

  12. “In college I thought science and religious beliefs were at odds, so I dismissed the latter to what I could see and prove. Now I realize that they can co-exist.”

    Sorry, Britt. But the statement above says this about your current intellectual standing:

    1. You privilege religious belief
    2. You have a superficial knowledge of science

    Not a convincing combination.

    • WAIT WAIT WAIT…. I’m stepping in for my churchy friend here. I don’t for a moment believe Dr. Lee has a superficial knowledge of science. She’s wicked sciencey and all that. She may believe one informs the other. But it’s getting a little mean for my taste to call her intellect superficial. The point of this exercise is respect.

      • One can be wicked sciencey and still rewrite the tenets of scientific inquiry with one’s desire for permanence and comfort (i.e. immortality). The fact that we die has a remarkable influence over even the most clear-headed scientist. To unify a faith in the church with a faith in the scientific method is to do injustice to both. The former is “eternal,” the latter “temporary.”

    • Obviously, my blondness is showing. Opinions like those of LotH-LotM here also deserve airplay! I wonder if my undergrad thesis advisor might be stifling those same sentiments. And this comment illustrates quite well why it’s difficult to have funny conversations and real discourse about God. As Steve said, it often comes down to “me versus you, and I’m right.”

      And I don’t think you’re wrong to think I honor religion above science after reading through this back-and-forth (thanks for reading, by the way!). Doesn’t mean I don’t, you know…like… KNOW STUFF about science. (If I had hair to flip, it would be here.)

      • Do not darken your hair but do flip it as suggested. I do admire a head of blond hair flipped.

        Here’s one by a real sciencey guy. I am certain you have read him:

        “A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

        Max Planck

  13. This made my day! I love the fact that you two could “sit down” and talk about things that most people couldn’t. I’m telling you from seeing it in real life, I once saw a glass of wine thrown at a girl, and the girls response was to throw her bible at the other girl. I like you. So I will be following your blog. HAVE A FANTASTIC DAY!

  14. If I didn’t have to work right now, I would be finishing this. It has been pinned for later, but I am still so uplifted that I may struggle being serious with with my work. Which is not a bad thing at all.

  15. Well this certainly was a fun read.

    I personally can’t understand why on earth anyone would need to invoke the G-word in order to describe transcendent experiences; to me, it seems merely a sort of intellectual laziness. Which seems kind of ironic in discussions like this, where the both of you are quite clearly bright, well spoken and super well read. I mean, what is the word God but a simple, albeit simply mind-boggling, abstraction?

    If you replaced the word God with Universe – with a capital U – then in my mind, we’d have solved the dilemma in its entirety. Which is Spinoza’s version of God, I s’pose.

    One thing I simply cannot fathom though, is why God must necessarily be reached through a biblical doctrine? If God can be experienced by anyone, religious or irreligious – like you mentioned He can – then why must your point of reference remain in a book written by nomadic desert wanderers? Surely there are better fables – like the works of Blake, for example – that highlight His message with greater perspicacity? I get the whole talking about it and stuff, collaborating with different minds – like you also mentioned – but why limit the discussion to a book written probably by people that were under the influence of severe dehydration? And yeah, what’s with all the fish?

    God = sweet, whatever, semantics (in my feeble mind, at least). Religion = where the problems begin.

    Again, thanks for the discussion. I chortled, but didn’t chuckle. I mean . . . ergh? Ahh, semantics, where the fun begins.

    • I think many of these ideas are shared by Steve. And, yes… MY point of reference may be the shenanigans of that wacky band of nomadic wanderers (because I am a Christian), but yours needn’t be. But this civil discussion about Faith and Fish has God in it, for sure.

    • I disagree that given a common label to an often shared experience is intellectual laziness. We need a lingua franca that can be used, even as the names, experiences and interpretations are different. After all, it was only by the concept of God that Britt and I could start this conversation in the first place. It becomes a common starting point for dialogue in both her religion-informed life and my less deistic one. Also, the Oscars are on. Intellectual laziness, indeed!

      • It’s a great method of identification, sure, but what is it really identifying? Britt’s conception of God, as far as I understand it, is one I can relate to; insofar an ‘atheist’ – though I don’t have much time for that term either – can relate to a notion of God. But there are many understandings of God that I think are horrible. You know what a tree is when I say tree. There are many different trees, but you get the general idea. Does the word God have the same effect? I don’t think so. That’s all I was getting at re the intellectual laziness. Nothing more, nothing less. And I think your tete-a-tete highlights that point; God offers an almost infinitely broad platform for discussion, but the word in and of itself, in isolation, means very little as far as I’m concerned.

  16. I liked this blog. I think there is a whole book in the idea of bringing two people of contrasting religious opinions to have discussions that aren’t about insulting eachother, or is that a book already? If it is, I would like to read it. I was raised Catholic but am now just a deist, like my boy Voltaire. I do like the idea of a Christain faith dedicated to using the bible and Jesus as things to model, not making them magical. Great blog today.

  17. As an unconfirmed Episcopalian turned agnostic, now full blown atheist, I have zero issue with people and their faith. I find it intriguing, even sometimes enviable, when I meet someone with a deep, peaceful faith. In fact, of the close friends I have that are religious, I’d say they tend to be more devout than most but without an ounce of judgement (at least not outwardly). They have their faith, I have my lack of faith and we all like barbecues (the summer, Miller High Life variety, not the eternal damning ones).
    For example, I have no issue with donating to a church christmas bazaar run by a certain churchy jesus girl or photographing a bat mitzvah, also arranged by a certain churchy jesus girl. I respect both the customs and satisfaction each gives the believers and I easily can trust in my friendly, churchy jesus girl, not to lead me to a pack of wolves just as she can trust me to deliver groovy pictures. And it’s nice, warm, funny, and friendly for all involved.
    That said, I don’t think the problems arise from reasonable believers and reasonable atheists of the world. I think each can enjoy and respect the other just fine (knowing one of them is going to have the last laugh, if only in the it’s-kinda-too-late-but-I-told-you-so fashion.). There are, however, many problems when we get away from reason and unfortunately that where I draw my line in the sand.

  18. This is the way all of life’s most important questions should be discussed. In a non-argumentative, non-combative conversation focused on understanding one another and actually building relationship instead of a well thought out argument. Awesome.

    • Thanks for stopping by, fellow Human. The wonderful thing about these types of discussions is that they never end (if your intent isn’t to convert), and go very well with wine (although I’m currently off the bubbly for Lent). xoxo

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  20. Wonderful post – in all ways. I found the term ”His people”just did not intellectually meet the rest of the text, as it was used in the context there. Really a riveting discussion; open, but focussed as well (using Christianity as religion’s representation, which ,made it easier).

  21. I am not a religious person, but I belive in the All Mighty Creator, and His perfect son Jesus Christ, to be real.I don’t go to church, but I read my bible, as often as I get spiritualy hungry.
    Religion was made by men, that was the way of institutionalising every thing a man touches, there is no diference at all between Britt and Steve, when it comes to, understanding a TRUE RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST.
    If Jesus Christ would have been walking, on earth TODAY, Steve would continue doing the same style of life, He does now, and Britt would continue going to the temple to be tought, by the rabi just like in the days of past, 2000 years ago.
    Because acording to Britt the son of a carpenter would not FIT, HER QUALIFICATIONS, of Jesus Christ, in order for Her to even bother to lisen to Him,
    Jesus was not a scholar and defenitly had no doctor degree, that could prove, He knew what He was talking about,yet at the age of 13 was already devating with the intelectuals of His day,.that wisdom comes from above, and that the message, He given to humanity, was based on His personal understanding of what His father, and ours was all about, with out adding or substracting anything to the message, since Jesus Christ was the same PERSONAL WORDS COMMING OUT OF OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, that is what most individuals that claim to know God, don’t understand nor are willing to BELIVE. much less the ones that already reject Jesus Christ with out bothering to TRY.
    Jesus Christ doe He came in the flesh, His esens, was not the same. we humans were created, by the esense of a man and a woman that is sperm and and egg.
    Jesus Christ was created, by the LIVING WORD OF GOD THE FATHER,, WHICH FERTILISED, MARY’S HUMAN EGG. with out the contact of any MAN.That was what made Him Jesus Christ a HALF GOD/HALF HUMAN in order for us humans to understand His basic esense,

    So here we see and read a perfect exemple, of what Jesus Christ said, regarding the “BLIND LEADING THE BLIND”
    Did not Jesus Christ said to His followers, all of them, locked a university doctor degree, THE hOLY SPIRIT WAS GIVEN TO THOSE THAT CHOSE TO BELIVE IN JESUS CHRIST MESSAGE.
    The Jews of today are NO LONGER, “the chosen people” God Himself divorced Himself from the jewish people, over 490 yers prior to the comming of our SAVIOUR, God the Father knew his Son, was going to be REJECTED AND KILLED BY THE JEWS.
    They were not with out knowledge of God’s promise, made through out the SCRIPTURES ALL THE WAY FROM THE BOOK OF GENSEIS.

    • I, for the most part, agree with your sentiment. But you lost me, and everyone, when you laid on the CapsLock. Please…don’t be “that Christian”. You can make your point without attacking and “yelling”. There was some truth in your comment. But your delivery was lacking. And that’s coming from someone who mostly agrees with you. Imagine had I not. I would have looked over your statement and chalked it up to just another Christian being pissed off on the internet.

      • We knew there would be some of this. Fewer people are trying to get you to Believe than they’re trying to get me to stop going to Church to find God, though. I love it ALL. (Especially the bits about angel sex and giants… it’s very Game of Thrones, and I’m reading that with near Biblical zeal.)

    • Also, God did NOT divorce Himself from the Jews. You’re repeating anti-Semitic rhetoric. Classic “Christian” move. God is not anti-Semitic. And true Christians aren’t either.

    • This is fabulously shout-y. And you lost me a little with the very very tall people. However, you are absolutely CORRECT when you say I would probably arrogantly ignore all of the signs of a savior among us. I’m snobby and sarcastic and flawed. I go to Church and study the Bible for all of those reasons I told Steve… as an explanation for what I do. This is NOT a prescription for how all people should know God… or even believe at all!

      I do take issue with the idea of God divorcing Himself from anyone. The sun falls over all of us equally. Everyone is worthy. Everyone is worthy. Everyone is worthy.

  22. My husband and I left church 6 years ago and have never returned, and have no plans to. Our faith in God has been strengthened by this decision. We’ve taken a very proactive approach to our faith walk and Bible study, and find learning and fellowship with other Believers outside the walls of a church.

    The problem, and I DO mean problem, with the “would you see a homeschooled doctor” argument is that faith in God and divine inspiration can NOT be bound by classroom hours, college credits, and fluffed up resumes. That is to say this: going to Seminary absolutely does NOT cause one to know MY God better than I do. You know who thought that? Pharisees. Jesus’ absolute favorite people. There’s a reason they’re mentioned so frequently during Christ’s time on Earth. Consider that when you tell yourself that only preachers/priests/vicars/rabbis and so on can TRULY teach you about God. He is so much bigger than seminary, a very man-made system. Don’t forget too that Christians invented the Inquisition, all in His name. And that went over well.

    The internet has made for a wealth of knowledge. I don’t actually *need* a guy with a seminary degree to teach me some unsearchable truth. I have a wealth of knowledge at my fingertips, and moreover, I have the discernment of the Holy Spirit to guide me. Unlike many, I DO believe the Bible and God have an answer for everything. And I believe He loves me enough not to deny me access to His answers just because I don’t have a degree in Bible-thumping and tithe-begging. He is SO. MUCH. BIGGER than that. Again…the Pharisees. Consider also who Jesus chose as disciples. They weren’t of the religious order. For a reason. Search your heart for that reason. You’ll get there.

    That being said, I believe you have every right to believe as you do. Furthermore, if your church attendance absolutely strengthens your faith and knowledge of Him, I applaud you and absolutely agree it is right for you. But it is NOT right for many of us. For my family and I, a home church (or an Acts Church), is right. To each his own.

    God’s big enough to look beyond religion, doctrine, theology, and rhetoric to reach us. He really does love us all that much. We should love each other so much as well. And one of the first steps is not assuming your way is best.

      • I thought for sure we’d get some Maher enthusiasts to tell me how delusional I am. Largely, though, the people chiming in are those we’d love to share a drink with. Thanks, Jessica!

      • OK, I’ll chime in. I actually like Maher but I’m a bleeding heart liberal atheist, so yeah. I thought Religulous was mediocre at best & had hoped for better. I think his show is a bit exaggerated, a bit too purposefully inflammatory, and he’s not comedically strong enough to pull it off.
        I feel that he’s the over reactionary product born from there being a great amount more insidious people on the “faith based” side that are actively pushing ignorance, intolerance, and indoctrination. He’s a very small yin to that yang.

  23. It always amazes me how a Jew cannot be a worshiper of God. For a Jew to not acknowledge God, especially with the powerful evidence of recorded history – how God kept and continues to keep the Jews from completely be wiped out- the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments, the Prophets, and the New (Jesus, God’s Son, was a Jew) – it amazes me how Jews so willfully forget their place in the history as pertaining to God and man.

    God is still using the Jews to achieve his will, but most Jews refuse to recognize their place in God’s plan of salvation, so God has turned to the Gentiles.

    Through Jesus, God has turned to the Gentiles and now offers them salvation by His grace and the faith in Jesus Christ. Not all Gentiles accept Christ. Most also reject God and Jesus Christ and have come up with their own ideas, and have designed their own ways to have salvation.

    But, the invitation goes out to all – Jews and Gentiles. God loved the world and gave His one and only Son to be the sacrifice for sins. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He was buried, and He was raised on the third day. God holds this simple message out to both Jews and Gentiles. Believe, Be Baptized, Be Saved.

    • “God kept and continues to keep the Jews from completely be wiped out.” Yes. But also see: Europe, 1939 – 1945. And I suspect there are Christians who do not worship God in the same way you do. “Most Jews refuse to recognize their place in God’s plan of salvation.” This is true . This is why we have a different religion. And this is the point of the article – to debate, not insist.

  24. Reblogged this on multicolouredsmartypants and commented:

    This is a great discussion. Thank you Steve and Britt.

    ‘It is, of course, a lie. As someone in the middle of a divorce, I can tell you the paperwork would have been simply impossible.’ Literal laugh out loud! I have tears in my eyes!

    I dislike fundamentalism in all hues – and I’ve got so fed up with reading ‘Christians’ bashing atheists or atheists mocking believers. I am unashamedly a follower of Christ (and my own blog is of that bent), but I would never dream of shoving my beliefs down someone else’s throat, or of mocking anyone who disagrees with me (after all, ain’t that the point of free will?). How can anyone possibly agree in every respect with another person, about everything? I can’t even agree with my husband, and I think he’s great… Mutual respect = key to a happy second marriage 😉

  25. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this intelligent discussion on religion. Not enough people feel comfortable enough to have conversations like these (especially civil ones). This is important dialogue and I hope to see it continue. Thanks for being so brave and sharing both points of view with the world.

    • It is a difficult topic to take on, but such an important one, right? Who are we and why do we believe what we believe, and how do we make each other understand that just the teensiest bit better. Thank you for these kind words.

  26. Jewish by heritage here. With regard to religion – agnostic.

    I’ve encountered individuals that claim I cannot be agnostic, that I am actually atheist. I reject that classification on principle. I don’t not believe in “God” – it’s a good theory, but one that I decided isn’t worth pondering. Way too much emotion without any real benefit coming out of it all.

    Anyway, I have one concern with regard to religion. Beauty, love, even the bit about newborn babies you mention in one of your responses – all of that kind of diminishes a bit when its written off as something created by a divine being. It diminishes in a similar way worldly things do as we grow and lose our naivete.

    As we grow some things lose their magic, simply because we can explain it away with science. But science has a saving grace: it’s virtually infinite in scope. We understand one thing a little better, only to have a million more questions pop up. When you explain everything away with God, or a greater force, it kind of makes the universe a boring place – maybe even a mean one (a playground for God? Sounds a bit like testing beauty products on animals…).

    We get our humanity from our embellishment of the random. Yes there is danger, there are hardships, and the world is so, so, so unfair. What makes living things amazing is we chose to keep living – to try and overcome even the most unfair obstacles. Fighting against all odds for no reason but to fight, I think that’s quite amazing.

    When you introduce God, the world loses its luster.

    • This is such a beautifully written missive, I’ve forgotten it’s not about God at all! To your argument, one could say that Faith helps us hold a more child-like worldview, full of wonder and luster.

      Beauty, love, and babies are created by the divine: Us! God made us. We create beauty, love, and babies. All connected. That said, Darwin is my hero. Science is my passion. The world is scary and unfair. All that. But the fight is what blows my hair back, too.

    • Interesting viewpoint. How about if I offer you an alternative?

      Take a look back through your own heritage and compare it to what science offers. Ask the most amazing mathematician on the planet what the actual odds are of everything aligning just right on this planet to produce life from nothing. If you choose to believe in those scientific odds, you have more faith than I do.

      Take a look throughout science today and you’ll see a growing crowd of scientists, yes actual scientists, who are supporting intelligent design. Take a look through the writings from your own heritage and you’ll see that your ancestors help the same view of God that you hold of science. That he is infinite is scope. We don’t explain away things by claiming this is a playground for God, rather, that God had a plan from the beginning.

      Again take a good deep look through the Torah and the Prophets at what was written about the coming Messiah. Things that have been scientifically proven to be written centuries before Christ’s arrival and how Christ fulfilled them. Ask a mathematician what the odds are of one person fulfilling every one of these 351 prophecies is.

      I would present that after using the great brain you have to carefully weigh the scientific, archeological and historical evidence, it will take less faith than you think.

  27. At the risk of losing the sobriquet of “zealot”, I will repeat what I always say about faith and the practice of same: “you have to go where you get fed…”

  28. Just cruising the internet looking for a reason why genitalia is so very interesting to the religious (well, interesting to everyone) but more specifically why they are so interested in condemning genitalia. Could you touch on a that and a few other points for me?
    -Difference between identifying as “spiritual” vs. “religious”
    -why masturbation is the worst of the worst or even to go as far as being “sexual debauchery”
    -How the religious can reconcile having many version of the bible written, edited redacted and etc overwhelmingly by white men (of course Mormons and Islam got around this by saying the stuff came directly from The Man himself, instead of allowing The Word to be messed up by humans-very sneaky).

    I’m having a few problems lately. I kinda thought I always leaned agnostic, but now realize recently from having a girlfriend who has identified as “spiritual” but has a solid foundation of religion. It’s because of this, and those whom she attends church with that I swing closer towards atheism every day.

    I realize faith is illogical. The thing is that I don’t care what people think- if it’s working for you, go for it. But I’m always lost when those who identify as “Christian” start laying that old bag about them living a certain way and morality blah blah blah. I’m sure there are more people such as the blog writers around, but it seems the less educated a person is, the worse they are when discussing religion or applying it to everyday life. Or maybe they are educated, but haven’t even taken the time to think about what they believe and end up spewing up the same junk that they get from EWTN. I hate to generalize, but the offenders in my life are good enough people to each other, but the best they got is sitting around a circle chatting about the Good Book two or three times a week with their white middle class fellows instead of actually getting out into the world to walk the walk so to speak. It’s easy to be saintly in a church basement, but much more difficult to donate time for tending to the needs of the Have Nots. And it seems there is always time for these people to talk about how others aren’t living their lives in accordance, instead of how they could live their own lives closer to how their Jesus did. I think there is a quote floating around purported to be from Ghandi about that.

    I don’t need religion to be a good person, or to be good to people, or to try and treat people as I would like to be treated. Those are just good rules for people to adopt for society to work. I don’t think the only morals we develop are those garnered from a Sunday service.

      • Of course it’s cool.

        However, to get the reasoning behind why some abstain (from themselves!) I defer to those who follow that rule. Zealot Sister should be chiming in soon, and she’s taught a Theology of the Body course. My recollection is that the theory has less to do with self-loathing and sexual repression than saving all of that pent up good stuff for your spouse.

        JV, you’ve touched on so many reasons that smart people decide religion isn’t for them. I felt the same way so many times… which is why “church shopping” is so important. Maybe the girlfriend’s Church isn’t for you. It’s a question I have for Steve, too. Do you think ANY religion would appeal to your sensibilities, or have too many spewed nonsense and done evil things that the search for one that fits seems futile? And Community Outreach should be an absolutely vital part of organized religion… you’re right on there.

      • As Woody Allan said..”..don’t knock masturbation, it’s sex with someone I love…”
        He went ont to say that sex without love is an empty experence, but as empty experiences go, it’s the bestthere is! 🙂

    • Great points, as a matter of fact, these are the same points Jesus himself made. A real trick for us humans is not to look to other humans for our faith. We are all imperfect beings. God on the other hand is not like us, he is perfect. Look to Him to prove His own existence, not to people sitting in pews.

      You spoke of the educated and the uneducated. So here’s a challenge for you. Take some time to do a thorough study of the Bible and see what speaks to you. Try a program like Bible Study Fellowship that is decidedly Christian, but one where men and women all around the globe set aside their “denominational devisions” to do one thing, study the word of God together.

      I’ll even offer a guarantee. If after one year of serious study of God’s word, you are not completely satisfied, you can have your old life back.

      • I can’t speak for anyone else here, but I spent about 20 years studying the Bible and Christianity.

        And I’m not a Christian any more.

        Perhaps you should spend a year on Islam? And a year on Buddhism? And so on…?

  29. Britt: I answered the “are there any religions” question before, but wonky WordPress comment service lost it. It was brilliant and witty. In essence, “no.” However, there are 4,000 religions out there (so sayeth Wikipedia). That’s a lot to audit, and there’s TV on. What the main ones have in common are 1. Creation stories 2. Religious Laws 3. Practices 4. Belief that something that cannot be proven is somehow controlling/responsible for/caring of/watching our behavior. It is unlikely I would hit that Superfecta. I had Danica Patrick winning the Daytona 500.

  30. that had me crackin up.

    Okay, I could care less about my nonexistent stats, so please don’t take this as ‘advertising’ my blog on yours- but I gotta analysis about this man named Jesus – you might get offended if your definition of faith contradicts analytical deduction, reasoning that partly relies on postulates or hypotheticals, or to give myself more realistic credit- just plain paranoia. follow the link below if your interested.

    • Thanks for the link, Eric. (The etiquette for link sharing could probably be another post, right? I have over 12,000 spammy comments in my box since this went live.) The arguments in your essay line up well with the discussions going on over here. Faith, if you have it, is an ever-changing thing… and questioning is GOOD. You sound, frankly, a little bit Jewnatarian. I like it.

  31. Was reading this mere coincidence? I stumbled across your blog….or did I..

    Read every word. Loved the honest interchange
    Favorite takeaway was an amusing one. I too like gatherings, particularly ones with “religious” people, who leave with more questions than answers.

    More, please:-) Write more….

  32. I’m sorry, I really tried to take in your comments and arguements, but folks that are Biblically Illiterate should not quote or comment on what they know nothing or very little about. It is like a grade school child of average intelligence talking about the Theory of Relativity and saying it makes no sense.

    I would be happy to prove to you facts from Bible or the Torah. Study them and you’ll see they answer question in a very specific fashion. There is no “ish” about them.

    For example stars are mentioned over 40 times in the Old Testament. David writes in the Psalms about the heavens and always credits these to the Lord as His creation.

    Faith and kindness are different? Obiously you haven’t understood Christ’s teachings on Love. “The greatest commandment is to Love the Lord your God with all you heart, with all your sould and all your strength. And the second is like it, to lover your neighbor as yourself.” Christ said these are the two most important things we do. Kindness is inextricably a part of a Christian’s faith. They cannot be separated.

    Religion isn’t about rules. As a matter of fact, Christ was very much against religion. If you take a look, you’ll see him say often that the religious leaders of his day were missing the point, it isn’t about rules, it’s about relationship. A deep abiding relationship is what we’re to be after. Look to the actions of Christ and women. In His day, He was a radical. He talked to women and hung out with them, something unheard of. So, the fact that Catholics don’t allow Women priests has very little to do with their “rightful” place and mor to do with the rightful place of men to be the spiritual leaders of their families and places of worship. If mor men were the spiritual leaders of their families, there would be a lot less of the junk that exists in families today.

    I could go on all day, all I’m really suggesting is that the two of you do a little more homework before you comment with such authority…

    • Nick : I strongly respect your views and am saddened you don’t respect mine. (“Do your homework” is not a terribly respectful thing to write to someone with whom you disagree.) I have difficulty with the argument that “The Bible is true, and I can show you where it says so in the Bible.” To say so holds that about 6-7 Billion other people on the planet are wrong. I find that untenable. But I strongly defend your right to say so. Thanks for contributing. other people on the planet are wrong. I find that untenable. But I strongly defend your right to say so. Thanks for contributing.

      • Hi Steve,

        My apologies if my language came off as disrespect. I would never suggest that we use the Bible to prove the Bible. I would suggest that we use science to prove the Bible. The more we dig and unearth facts from our history, the more true the Bible becomes.

        Someday I hope you will take a look at the archaeological evidence that shows what the prophets said over 600 years before Christ arrived that later happened just as they said. This is what I build my faith upon. Christ was the only one claim to be God. Other religions are about an individual man’s view of the world.

        I don’t think this is a question of right or wrong, but of truth. Can two competing truths both be true? I believe that there can only be one truth on a given subject. The truth that Christ expressed was that there was, and is, only one way to be reconciled with God and that is through himself.

        This does not make the rest of the people on the planet wrong, or bad people. It does mean however that there is just one way to be reconciled with God. That way, is through the grace of God. There is nothing we can do to earn it or make it happen. It is simply a gift from a God who loves us all!

    • It is impossible to type on a iPad! But, goodness… did we claim to be Authorities? I said with great enthusiasm that I’m an idiot, a work-in-progress, and still learning. But I do think you’re right, the kindness stuff is really encompassed by the Golden Rule. My point there was that atheists could be kind, and the faithful unkind, and all of the other permutations.

      Thanks for chiming in, Nick. You illustrate well why some people get so prickly when religious discussions arise, and frankly, I expected more responses like yours.

  33. Funny stuff. And funny comments. On stars — yeah, we’ve been able to see them for a long time. (The light from some of them is 10+ billions of years old, it seems). And I read that we can see something like 3,000 of those babies and maybe more given that the air was clearer and there were only fires and candles 2000 years ago.

    But we now KNOW that there are like 100 million million stars in each galaxy (The Milky Way is a small one and we are WAY out there from the center) that that there are a 100 million million galaxies. They estimate 60,000,000,000 planets in our little Milky Way.

    This gets funnier as I am pretty much a Non-Vengeful Atheist and a scientist who reads a lot of different stuff. My latest interest is Gobekli Tepe, a Stonehenge kinda thingie that is a lot more complex and was covered up intentionally about 2.000 years after its construction. AND, it is maybe 14,000 years old.

    So that plus a discussion of Dawkins, “The Greatest Show on Earth” occurred when we shared a table on a cruise last week with a couple who believe in the inerrancy of The Bible and the reality that the earth is only 6000 years old.

    The other person in the party was the wife of a fundamentalist minister of Baptist faith who has shifted stances a good bit as she learns more about the world. I also brought up the Mary as Wife of Jesus controversy, with the couple taking the case that Scientists were doing all that and that it was bullshit and biased — it was kinda funny when I mentioned that the person doing the lead investigation is religious; that kind of took away the argument.

    What I find ironic is that the fundamentalist Total Believers can see a whole incredible bunch of information that supports the Big Bank and the existence of the Universe and know about the evolution of Darwin’s Finches on The Galapagos Islands and know about Carbon 14 but they have the ability to ignore the science of it and then use one or two goofy examples to prove that all the science is wrong, like mentioning some tree that goes through different geological strata (polystrate fossils) as proof. (See for debunking that proof)

    Guess it is just funny that they can see only those three or four “proofs” and ignore tens of millions of other data. They talk about science not sharing Creationism as a science, as if there is something that can be proved or tested as in Evolution, and that “theory” is not a scientific concept but a social one…

    My friend kinda asked them why some people simply choose to be stupid. She phrased that a lot better, but that was the question. Oh, they also cited some book written by a Lawyer that I should read because, after viewing the research, he is now a believer, too.

    May we live in interesting times… Funny stuff.

    (And why is it that the religious right want to cut social security, cut aid to indigent families, rant against increasing the minimum wage, be against universal healthcare, be against environmental protection, not support research on climate change, support the belief that the government wants to take our guns, and be against voting rights for all people? I mean, What WOULD Jesus do about all these things, ya think?)


    • For now, let me ignore the science vs faith debate and focus squarely on your final question regarding the religious right and what would Jesus do?

      Fist you’d need to spend some time actually researching the life and teachings of Christ. Christ did not come to make social changes. In his own words he talked about the spiritual kingdom that is not of this world. He was hardest on the religious leaders of his day. I believe that the religious right has become just like the Pharisees. Religious and legalistic, with very little room for Grace. This was Christ’s message a message of grace.

      Christ’s teachings are those of a personal relationship with the father, not at all political in nature. Of being one with the father, one with the son and one with the spirit just as Christ was one. As we have tried to morph his teachings into something that suits our world, it seems like many of us have lost their deeper meaning.

      I would rather not argue science as a means of discounting the existence of a Creator. Whether or not it took six literal days or 6 billion years, the miracle is
      the same. Do you believe that something can be created from nothing? If so, where did nothing come from? In your mind is it possible that carbon dating, an invention of man, is or could be in accurate? These things for me, are all a distraction.

      My faith is in the word of God. Have you ever done an extensive study of the Bible and use science to see whether or not what the Bible says is accurate? It seems to me that the more we on Earth and uncover, the more accurate the Bible becomes.

      • Nick,
        i would appreciate a better argument than “if you study it, you will find the answer.” Believers lose me because I think they mix up (sometimes I believe purposefully) fact with belief. I think believers need to realize that they are dealing with a different type of person and should tailor their arguments accordingly. Something I heard to describe the difference is the “doubt-test” person vs. the “faith-trust” person. I think I would most appreciate specific examples of where the Bible has either historical or scientific accuracy. Could you point me to a few examples? Also, as I mentioned before, the Christian Bible was written by men and heavily edited over the years to fit belief and dogma, as you say “to suit our world.” How can I trust that? Don’t get me wrong….I don’t think the Bible is all bad- we can find great wisdom in any religious text. it’s just that I don’t believe that The Word came from God And I think it’s a means for society to get along. Who could really disagree with the ten commandments (five through ten anyway) as general rules for people to live together?

        I don’t believe that Carbon dating is an invention of man, but rather an observation of nature. If there is a God, this is the way He set up our physical universe. I think that’s the argument the faithful should get onboard instead of saying that we can’t trust it because we thought it up. “God made science up” would be a good argument I think.

        I also find no comfort in Christianity’s, in my opinion, poor way of dealing with when things go wrong. Saying that something is “God’s plan” works very well in good times, but comforts nothing in the bad. Someone told me the reason things go bad is because we have a choice between good and evil i.e. God vs. Satan. Could you go into that please? I tried to describe it like this: If God, the all powerful, all knowing, omnipotent God has a plan, and we have no way to understand it since we could not even begin to fathom it, then no matter what we do, our actions must be in accordance with that plan somehow. I was told that isn’t how it works. Please discuss amongst yourselves.

        Finally….I especially dislike the lack of struggle with Faith the majority of religious I have encountered. Like I said before it’s easy to know the answers when you’re in that suburban church basement among the faithful. These are the same people who don’t know that the God of the Jew, Muslim, and Christian is the same, you know, with a twist.

  34. I just wanted you to know how much I have enjoyed this discusion and may it long continue.

    So refreshing that opposites can talk and listen. So often the babble, the rage and the hurt that follows. There is a marvelous story by Heinrich Boll called “Murke’s Collected Silences” about an editor at a radio station working in the religeous department. During the complex and sometimes heated studio discussions about God Murke notices that the particpants take pause to breath, or sigh or think. He would then clean up the recordings by cutting out all those silences and he would take the little bits of tape home, splice them together and listen to the long silences; bringing him nearer to God.

  35. Thank you all for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Especially grateful to WordPress for featuring us – twice. Britt is your host, I’m kind of a maitre d’, and we welcome you to the party. We do ask only two rules: 1. Keep it respectful. 2. Acknowledge something that “the other side” (such as it is) brings to the table. The spirit of this discussion is to acknowledge each other’s beliefs, not to prosthelytize for one’s faith not discount another’s beliefs. (Inappropriate jokes are always welcome.) I ask one other thing – read more of this blog. It’s really about Britt’s amazing last year and her victory over breast cancer. I’ve kind of hijacked my own column out of it, but this it her home, and the rest of us are guests. Wipe your feet, take off your jackets and take a book off the shelf. There’s a Bible for those who want, some Dawkins and Hitchens if you prefer, and Mad Magazine for the rest of us.

    • I love all of this God talk, and there’s-no-God talk, and just-read-the-Bible, and I-don’t-need-the-Bible… just look at all of the different ways we’re trying to make sense of the world, striving to be better humans. Nick, once I got through reading all of your posts, I understand your (initial) annoyance with us. And I’m happy you stuck around offer a point of view I’ve never encountered. Bill, you are a kindred spirit! Thanks for dotting the discussion with charming bits of insight.

      And Stevie, my dear friend… my maitre d-lightful… isn’t this a hoot?

  36. My Dear Friends representing different views about religions and atheism,

    I came from a communist Poland where people were indoctrinated by communist propaganda. According to their ‘teachings’ religions were for simple and uneducated people. They were doing everything possible to destroy religions as traditions and family values. I was feeling lucky to escape this system in 80’s and landed here in North America. The point is that now I see here implementation of almost the same policies with only superficially changed rhetoric: religions are similarly attacked when portrayed as dividing people and causing wars, national traditions are ridiculed and local histories are reduced in schools, traditional models of families are also mocked and those discrete for ages about their different ‘orientations’ become now the most proud people on our planet and the best supported politically/financially in their aggressive attacks on …. .
    I was able to understand the communists’ motivations in their policies as they wanted to gain more of manipulative power over the masses. The same wanted Hitler sending clergy to concentration camps, but who is behind such similar policies today?
    Some religious people will be fast describing ii as work of Satan, but I see more behind it a new Politburo of a small group of better organized the richest that with their financial dominance can easily control politics/media/education with many other factors influencing our social lives.
    What are your interpretations for such similar today (as in former communist regimes) policies of promoted eradication of religions, national identities, erosion of traditional family values and regional habits? I want to here it from you representing religious and the atheist wings.

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