The real meaning of Christmas Day

It’s common knowledge that Jesus wasn’t actually born on 25 December, but the true significance of this date is not often spoken of within Christianity. It is a pagan celebration of the rebirth of the “sun” on the winter solstice. It’s no accident that the Church applied this date to Jesus.

Recommended viewing: Zeitgeist: The Movie.

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94 thoughts on “The real meaning of Christmas Day

  1. Chris says:

    Fr. Robert Barron easily dispenses with the claims of “Zeitgeist”, and the notion that Christianity is simply a retelling of pagan fables, here:



  2. Chris says:

    According to the most recent scholarship on the matter, the claims in your video are untenable.

    The Wikipedia page for ‘Sol Invictus’,

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

    refers to a dissertation by S.E. Hijmans, Sol, the sun in the art and religions of Rome, published in 2009:

    http://dissertations.ub.rug.nl/faculties/arts/2009/s.e.hijmans/

    The above link leads to the individual chapters of volumes one and two, which are written in English. Of most interest is Volume 1, chapter 9, a portion of which I will now quote:

    “From Usener (1905) to Heim (1999), all scholars who argue that Christmas was instituted to counteract the feast of December 25th in honour of Sol emphasize the strongly pagan nature of that feast and the great importance and popularity of the cult of Sol Invictus in late antiquity. Little evidence is offered for the former contention, beyond reference to the 30 chariot races in honour of Sol recorded for that day in the Calendar of Filocalus (the man for whom the Calendar of 354 was made). The latter contention, however, is generally supported by extensive discussions on the nature and importance of Sol Invictus. Heim typically dedicates over half his article to a substantial review of the cult of Sol Invictus in the Roman Empire (pp. 640-645), and the continuing influence of the sun god after Constantine (pp. 645-651). These reviews are invariably rooted in the old paradigm that saw the cult of Sol Invictus as Syrian, introduced to Rome by Aurelian, and of major importance in the next decades. The subtext for this paradigm is the notion that traditional polytheism was by this time moribund and that a syncretistic or henotheistic solar theology was the last, best, and from a Christian perspective most dangerous, pagan response to the inexorable rise of Christian monotheism.

    I have argued throughout this book that the old paradigms for the understanding of the history and nature of the sun god in Rome and the Roman Empire are simply untenable. It is therefore obvious that we must not rely on arguments based on the old paradigms, nor should it surprise us to find that, upon examination, the notion that the cult of Sol in late Antiquity represented a new pagan religion that potentially threatened to thwart Christianity, is not supported by any clear evidence.

    The contention that December 25th was an especially popular festival for Sol in late antiquity is equally unfounded, as is as the notion that this festival was established by Aurelian when he supposedly instituted a new cult of the sun. Aurelian did of course build the sun a magnificent new temple and he raised the priests of Sol to the level of pontifices. A new festival on December 25th would not have been out-of-place in this context, but it must be stressed, pace Usener, that there is no evidence that Aurelian instituted a celebration of Sol on that day. A feast day for Sol on December 25th is not mentioned until eighty years later, in the Calendar of 354 and, subsequently, in 362 by Julian in his Oration to King Helios.

    In short, while the winter solstice on or around the 25th of December was well established in the Roman imperial calendar, there is no evidence that a religious celebration of Sol on that day antedated the celebration of Christmas, and none that indicates that Aurelian had a hand in its institution. One might think that celebrating the sun on the winter solstice is so self-evident that we need hardly doubt that such a festival had a long tradition, but what evidence we have actually belies that notion. The traditional feast days of Sol, as recorded in the early imperial fasti, were August 8th and/or August 9th, possibly August 28th, and December 11th. These are all dates that are unrelated to any important celestial alignment of Sol, such as the solstices and equinoxes.”

    [ S.E. Hijmans, Sol, the sun in the art and religions of Rome, 2009, pp. 587-588 ]

    The author then goes into a detailed analysis in the subsequent pages of the various celebrations and festivals that were held by the Romans in honor of Sol. He makes the conclusion that …

    “… in the early fourth century, when Christmas was established by the church on December 25th, anyone surveying the calendar of festivities in honour of Sol would identify the period from October 19th to October 22nd as far more important than December 25th, and the festival of August 28th as far older. If the aim was to “neutralize” the cult of Sol by “taking over” its major festival, December 25th seems the least likely choice. It is true, of course, that December 25th, the natalis invicti, was the traditional date for the winter solstice and as such the most logical of the three dates to serve as birthday of Christ, if that was the way the “selection process” went. But this leads us to a different consideration. As we have seen, none of the traditional religious feast days for Sol were connected in any way with a specific astronomical date, such as one of the solstices or equinoxes.”

    [ S.E. Hijmans, Sol, the sun in the art and religions of Rome, 2009, pp. 591 ]

    With regard to natalis invicti, the author states:

    “All this makes it clear that the anomalies surrounding the natalis invicti (birthday of the invincible one) on December 25th are quite striking. We have already seen that this is one of only four festivals in the calendar (out of 63) not to have the canonical 24 chariot races. What is more, it is the only race day of the year on which the number of chariot races was not a multiple of twelve. A further anomaly is the fact that the calendar here also does not mention Sol by name, as it does for August 28th, October 19th and October 22nd, but only by epithet invictus. In the calendar the term natalis (anniversary or celebration), which can be used for emperors, gods and heroes, and even events, is invariably followed by the primary name or term used to identify the emperor, god, or event whose natalis is celebrated. The single exception to this rule is here. Add to this that the date celebrated, the winter solstice of the Julian calendar, while astronomically important, had no significance that we know of in the Roman religious practices associated with the sun god, and it clear that the entry for December 25th is in every way problematic.”

    [ S.E. Hijmans, Sol, the sun in the art and religions of Rome, 2009, pp. 591-592 ]

    Then comes the kicker:

    The only other reference to a solar festival on December 25th is Julian’s Hymn to King Helios, and as we have seen, it too is not without problems. In particular, Julian tries rather too hard, and with untenable arguments, to convince us that the winter-solstice Sol-agon had been celebrated in Rome since Numa. This suggests that the opposite may have been true and that a festival for Sol on December 25th was actually quite new. This could explain the anomalies of the entry for December 25th in the calendar of 354, as it may then be a later insertion into the existing template for the calendar. It would also explain why December 25th was the sole festival of Sol to fall on an astronomically significant date. None of this tells us when the natalis invicti of December 25th entered the Roman calendar, but on this evidence we must acknowledge that it is a real possibility that it did not do so until after the bishop of Rome first celebrated Christmas on that day – a pagan reaction to a Christian feast, perhaps, rather than vice versa.

    All this casts doubt on the contention that Christmas was instituted on December 25th to counteract a popular pagan religious festival, doubts that are reinforced when one looks at the underlying understanding of Sol and his cult.”

    [ S.E. Hijmans, Sol, the sun in the art and religions of Rome, 2009, pp. 592-592 ]

    What, then, of the coinciding of Christmas with the Winter solstice? The author makes a very interesting analysis, referring to extant Christian writings of the appropriate time period, and concludes with the opinion:

    “… I would argue that the evidence is clear. In the Roman Empire, the divine nature of Sol was open to broad interpretation. As a heavenly body, the sun was often used – together with Luna – as a cosmic symbol or metaphor for eternity. The astronomical reality of the sun and the moon precluded such symbolism from being exclusively pagan, and the evidence of the De solstitia et aequinoctia conceptionis et nativitatis domini nostri iesu christi et iohannis baptistae, as well as the passages of a wide range of homilies collected by Heim (1999) suggest that it was readily adopted by Christians. It is cosmic symbolism of this type which inspired the Church leadership in Rome to elect the winter solstice, December 25, as the birthday of Christ, and the summer solstice as that of John the Baptist, supplemented by the equinoxes as their respective dates of conception. While they were aware that pagans called this day the “birthday” of Sol Invictus, this did not concern them and it did not play any role in their choice of date for Christmas.

    [ S.E. Hijmans, Sol, the sun in the art and religions of Rome, 2009, pp. 594-595 ]

  3. Darryl Sloan says:

    Okay, things just got very complicated, and I can’t possibly compete with a scholar on the matter. Nor can I, however, accept the findings of one particular scholar when there are numerous highly informed opinions on the matter.

    Deep breath: couple of basic, straightforward considerations:

    1. From what I have read, Sol Invictus is one of many sun gods in antiquity, whose rebirth is celebrated on the winter solstice.

    2. Why are we using Christmas trees and Easter eggs, when these objects are invariably pagan?

    I don’t get it, Chris. We possess a Christianity today that is mixed with paganism in its celebrations. This would not have happened if Christianity had not been fused with paganism in antiquity. And the birth of Christ would not have been associated with the Christmas tree were it not for the pagan celebration of the winter solstice.

  4. Robert Miller says:

    I’m always amused by the notion of taking Christ out of Christmas, which the religious right seem set on defending against. But surely the religious right should be set on taken the Mass out of Christmas?

    Not a sermon, just a thought!

  5. Chris says:

    Nor can I, however, accept the findings of one particular scholar when there are numerous highly informed opinions on the matter.

    Sounds like you’re willing to bet on “historical probability” after all, just as long as the bet appears to be in your favor.

    I don’t get it, Chris. We possess a Christianity today that is mixed with paganism in its celebrations. This would not have happened if Christianity had not been fused with paganism in antiquity. And the birth of Christ would not have been associated with the Christmas tree were it not for the pagan celebration of the winter solstice.

    I think this is a very Puritan view of Christianity.

    Look, one of the great things about the Church has always been its Catholicity, its universalness, its willingness to embrace the whole picture of reality. The Church recognizes that signs and symbols are a kind of spiritual language that speaks to man’s soul, and She isn’t afraid to embrace them and use them to bring the message of Christ’s Redemption to the world so that the world can more easily understand it. God Himself has always availed of signs and symbolic language in His attempts to get through to mankind, and paganism is nothing other than man’s natural religious response to God’s call, and recognition of His authorship of all creation, in the absence of Revelation.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, Christ is the fulfillment of all of these pagan signs and symbols, in as much as they are the result of man’s natural attempts to reach out to God with a spirit of good will. The Church sees the message of Christ inherent in those symbols and accepts them as such while still rejecting the corrupt elements of paganism which are not pointing towards God. This is in contrast with the Israelites, I might add, who always bought into the pagan Gods and religious practices, too (that’s one reason why God told them to stay away from pagans). Again, there is a distinction between using pagan/natural symbols to illustrate Divinely revealed truth, and actually being pagan.

    The Catholic Church will never agree with people like Calvin that man is in a state of total depravity. She has always believed that man possesses a natural inclination to do good and to seek God. Puritanism tries to deny man’s natural God-given inclinations, and brand them as some kind of corruption to be eschewed in favor of an inhuman spiritual rigorism. That’s why Luther called reason “the Devil’s greatest whore”, and why he adamantly rejected St. Thomas Aquinas’s work because it was based on Aristotle’s “pagan” philosophy. It’s why the Puritans have no developments in the arts, and why they have distorted views of morality: sex, food, booze, and all the rest.

    Puritanism is almost a reinvention of Manichaeism in that it sees the physical world and natural order as being inherently evil, and it puts the purely spiritual on a pedestal as being the only thing good. That’s wrong, and the Catholic Church has always railed against this view simply because God created the natural world, He created man as an intertwining of both the physical and the spiritual, He imbued the gifts of reason, creativity, and religion into man’s soul, and whatever God creates cannot be regarded as anything other than good (or at least ordered to good). Yes, fallen man distorts and abuses those gifts in various ways, but they were still given to him by God, and man’s disobedience does not negate the inherent goodness that derives from God’s authorship.

    The Catholic Church’s understanding of everything has always been radically different from that of Puritanical Protestantism. I honestly think this may be what’s confusing you. It’s hard to broaden your mind to a more Catholic — a more universal — viewpoint after being stuck in such a rigid, narrow minded outlook for so long.

  6. Darryl Sloan says:

    “Sounds like you’re willing to bet on “historical probability” after all, just as long as the bet appears to be in your favor.”

    Chris, if you truly believed I was condemning myself to hell for my “erroneous” views, and if you truly had love in your heart, you would be far too grieved to make these “hah! gotcha!” remarks. It’s remarks like these that are so much more telling than the big speeches.

    For what it’s worth, it was interesting reading everything you wrote in the last comment, but when I paused and thought about it, all I could think was, “What he’s describing isn’t Christianity.” It was some form of idealised Christianity that doesn’t match the reality of what Christianity is, or has been in the past.

    I think there’s a sort of suspension of disbelief going on with you, where things like the Crusades, Inquisitions, conquest of the Americas, or present-day paedophile priest scandals, all get minimised in their gravity, as if they’re minor blips in an otherwise wonderful religion.

    For instance, regarding the paedophile priest problem, you will always choose to believe that it’s happening because predators seek jobs where they can gain access too children. To you, it’s out of the question to consider that it might be happening because the priestly suppression of sexuality is actually causing the paedophilic tendencies. However, it’s plain to see that in society today, the word priest is almost synonymous with paedophile, in a way that “teacher” or “day-care worker” isn’t. Not wishing to put words in your mouth, but this is just one example of how you will find reason to excuse the Church, in a way that will not appear correct to others outside it.

    For me on the outside looking in, wish neither to defend Christianity nor accuse it unjustly, it’s credibility is in pieces, for a whole variety of reasons that I delve into in my book.

  7. Chris says:

    I wanted to add some paragraphs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church on this matter. These are from the section on the liturgy.

    “II. HOW IS THE LITURGY CELEBRATED?

    * Signs and symbols

    1145 A sacramental celebration is woven from signs and symbols. In keeping with the divine pedagogy of salvation, their meaning is rooted in the work of creation and in human culture, specified by the events of the Old Covenant and fully revealed in the person and work of Christ.

    1146 Signs of the human world. In human life, signs and symbols occupy an important place. As a being at once body and spirit, man expresses and perceives spiritual realities through physical signs and symbols. As a social being, man needs signs and symbols to communicate with others, through language, gestures, and actions. The same holds true for his relationship with God.

    1147 God speaks to man through the visible creation. The material cosmos is so presented to man’s intelligence that he can read there traces of its Creator.16 Light and darkness, wind and fire, water and earth, the tree and its fruit speak of God and symbolize both his greatness and his nearness.

    1148 Inasmuch as they are creatures, these perceptible realities can become means of expressing the action of God who sanctifies men, and the action of men who offer worship to God. The same is true of signs and symbols taken from the social life of man: washing and anointing, breaking bread and sharing the cup can express the sanctifying presence of God and man’s gratitude toward his Creator.

    1149 The great religions of mankind witness, often impressively, to this cosmic and symbolic meaning of religious rites. The liturgy of the Church presupposes, integrates and sanctifies elements from creation and human culture, conferring on them the dignity of signs of grace, of the new creation in Jesus Christ.

    1150 Signs of the covenant. The Chosen People received from God distinctive signs and symbols that marked its liturgical life. These are no longer solely celebrations of cosmic cycles and social gestures, but signs of the covenant, symbols of God’s mighty deeds for his people. Among these liturgical signs from the Old Covenant are circumcision, anointing and consecration of kings and priests, laying on of hands, sacrifices, and above all the Passover. The Church sees in these signs a prefiguring of the sacraments of the New Covenant.

    1151 Signs taken up by Christ. In his preaching the Lord Jesus often makes use of the signs of creation to make known the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.17 He performs healings and illustrates his preaching with physical signs or symbolic gestures.18 He gives new meaning to the deeds and signs of the Old Covenant, above all to the Exodus and the Passover,19 for he himself is the meaning of all these signs.

    1152 Sacramental signs. Since Pentecost, it is through the sacramental signs of his Church that the Holy Spirit carries on the work of sanctification. The sacraments of the Church do not abolish but purify and integrate all the richness of the signs and symbols of the cosmos and of social life. Further, they fulfill the types and figures of the Old Covenant, signify and make actively present the salvation wrought by Christ, and prefigure and anticipate the glory of heaven.

    Words and actions

    1153 A sacramental celebration is a meeting of God’s children with their Father, in Christ and the Holy Spirit; this meeting takes the form of a dialogue, through actions and words. Admittedly, the symbolic actions are already a language, but the Word of God and the response of faith have to accompany and give life to them, so that the seed of the Kingdom can bear its fruit in good soil. The liturgical actions signify what the Word of God expresses: both his free initiative and his people’s response of faith.

    1154 The liturgy of the Word is an integral part of sacramental celebrations. To nourish the faith of believers, the signs which accompany the Word of God should be emphasized: the book of the Word (a lectionary or a book of the Gospels), its veneration (procession, incense, candles), the place of its proclamation (lectern or ambo), its audible and intelligible reading, the minister’s homily which extends its proclamation, and the responses of the assembly (acclamations, meditation psalms, litanies, and profession of faith).

    1155 The liturgical word and action are inseparable both insofar as they are signs and instruction and insofar as they accomplish what they signify. When the Holy Spirit awakens faith, he not only gives an understanding of the Word of God, but through the sacraments also makes present the “wonders” of God which it proclaims. The Spirit makes present and communicates the Father’s work, fulfilled by the beloved Son. “

  8. Chris says:

    “Chris, if you truly believed I was condemning myself to hell for my “erroneous” views, and if you truly had love in your heart, you would be far too grieved to make these “hah! gotcha!” remarks. It’s remarks like these that are so much more telling than the big speeches.

    That was not a “hah! gotcha!” remark, I was being very serious.

    ““What he’s describing isn’t Christianity.” It was some form of idealised Christianity that doesn’t match the reality of what Christianity is, or has been in the past.”

    I’m afraid that’s nonsense. What you think is Christianity isn’t Christianity, and doesn’t match the reality of what Christianity is or has been in the past. That’s always been one of the things I’ve been trying to tell you since I became Catholic, but you’ve never been willing to consider it.

    “I think there’s a sort of suspension of disbelief going on with you, where things like the Crusades, Inquisitions, conquest of the Americas, or present-day paedophile priest scandals, all get minimised in their gravity, as if they’re minor blips in an otherwise wonderful religion.”

    Ok, you’re going off the rails at this point, and I’m not going to get drawn into a separate discussion. Suffice it to say that I do realize the gravity of those issues, and I do not minimize them. But neither do I subscribe to a Puritan view of the Church, nor the “Ecclesial Angelism” that you’re trying to project onto it. Every time you bring up the matter of abuses in this way, you’re attempting to criticize the Church for being something She has never claimed to be. I recommend watching some of Fr. Barron’s YouTube videos, especially these two:

    Father Barron Against the YouTube Heresies – Part I

    Father Barron Against the YouTube Heresies – Part II

  9. Darryl Sloan says:

    “Sounds like you’re willing to bet on “historical probability” after all, just as long as the bet appears to be in your favor.”

    I actually want to tackle this objection properly. Here’s the thing: The historicity of Jesus is a historical probability. The view I put forward about Sol Invictus is a historical probability. The study of ancient history always involves some degree of guesswork with incomplete info, and joining the dots to get the most sensible picture of what happened. Current views are also subject to change with new archaeological findings.

    So, what I see with the scholar you quoted earlier is this. There is admittedly only one instance of the birthday of Sol Invictus being celebrated as 25 December, and it’s in the 4th century, if I remember correctly. So this scholar maintains “we have no evidence that it was celebrated earlier.” And so he refuses to take a best guess. But I have to ask, what is the most likely scenario? That a god called “Sol”(!) and clearly depicted as the sun, took the birthdate of from Jesus, or from the known winter solstice and the sun’s actual annual rebirth. It’s obvious. Made even more so by the many ancient gods who chose the same date. If historical research drew a blank at every blank space, and drew no conclusions, we would have a much patchier picture of history.

    Now, on to Jesus. Was he a real man? For reasons I go into in my books, I think no. Ultimately, it’s historical probability that I have to weigh as best I can.

    But here’s the rub: Christianity says, “Unless you believe Jesus was real, you will be damned to hell.” And ohhhh, that changes everything. Now the choice is being taken away from me, and I’m being emotionally manipulated down a particular course – a course that cannot be proven and has many things going against it.

  10. Darryl Sloan says:

    I watched the first of Fr. Barron’s videos. What he had to say on scientism I very much agree with, but “Ecclesiasical Angelism” as he calls it, this I don’t agree with.

    The horrors of history done by Christianity don’t happen in spite of the religion, but because of it. Religion has that effect – all of them. All you need is a bunch of people who believe themselves to be on God’s side in opposition to the rest of the world. That has always been a recipe for disaster, especially then those particular people come in contact with another nation who believe exactly the same thing about their particular God.

    Nobody expects ecclesiastical angelism. We just recognise that religion is the causative factor, not man’s natural nature.

    Just look at the anger that my own refusal to agree with Catholicism provoked in you, in the not so distant past. This is a lesser expression of the very same thing. Would you have been this kind of person without the effect of your religion in your life, making you demand that I pay your religion the respect that you think it deserves? I don’t think so. You’ve certainly always had a strong-willed streak (no bad thing), but the effect of religion in your life made a monster out of that trait.

    Sorry to regurgitate our recent past, but I think it serves as a good example of what I’m talking about.

  11. Chris says:

    “The historicity of Jesus is a historical probability. The view I put forward about Sol Invictus is a historical probability.

    The difference, here, being that no serious modern scholar denies the historicity of Jesus based on the evidence, but yet your ‘Sol Invictus’ theory is disputed because there is little evidence to back it up.

    “But I have to ask, what is the most likely scenario?

    Most likely scenario based on what? There’s no evidence for your scenario, and your guesswork reeks of anti-Christian bias. Hardly a credible position.

  12. Chris says:

    “Nobody expects ecclesiastical angelism. We just recognise that religion is the causative factor, not man’s natural nature.”

    Then why does man commit horrors even beyond the context of organized religion? If it’s not in man’s natural nature, and religion is not involved, then how do you account for this?

    “Just look at the anger that my own refusal to agree with Catholicism provoked in you, in the not so distant past.

    I think you’re just grasping at straws now. You can’t blame Catholicism for my anger at your obstinate unwillingness to see anything other than an anti-Christian picture of the world. The whole ‘Sol Invictus’ issue just illustrates this point even more.

  13. Darryl Sloan says:

    “your guesswork reeks of anti-Christian bias. Hardly a credible position.”

    I could equally accuse you of pro-Christian propagandising.

    But admittedly, I do have an emotional bias against Christianity, because of the brainwashing I’ve been subjected to in my life. However, recognising that bias leaves me in a better position to be careful about it, to do my very best to make sure I’m rooting out self-deceit, and to ensure that my criticisms are valid.

    In fairness, could I be convinced that Jesus was a real person? Of course. Am I sure he wasn’t? No. Am I sure that he was as described in the Gospels? Again, no. Just trying to put the jigsaw together.

    As you know, I’ve gone into massive detail about all of this in my book, so I won’t repeat the arguments here. I’m trying to see the truth as clearly as I can, and I think you’ve chosen to back a losing horse here, Chris.

    I remain as mystified as ever about how you came to choose Catholicism. As your friend, I would honestly be really interested to read a full account of what led you down this path. I mean a proper memoir of a few thousand words. Not so I can pick it apart. I just want to know. Becuase you are a mystery to me. What do you think? 🙂

  14. Chris says:

    “I remain as mystified as ever about how you came to choose Catholicism. As your friend, I would honestly be really interested to read a full account of what led you down this path. I mean a proper memoir of a few thousand words. Not so I can pick it apart. I just want to know. Becuase you are a mystery to me. What do you think?”

    Sure, I’m not opposed to it. I’d need to hire a stenographer, though. It would take more than just a few thousand words. 🙂

  15. Robert Miller says:

    Chris said –

    “The Catholic Church will never agree with people like Calvin that man is in a state of total depravity.”

    But does not the Catholic Church have a doctrine of Original Sin, unless that is referring to the fall as described in Genesis – From the all-knowing Wikipedia

    “Catholic teaching regards original sin as the general condition of sinfulness (lack of holiness) into which humans are born”

    Which would certainly indicate a that there is a tendency to sin from the very outset?

    Maybe I misinterpret and perhaps I should actually read more of the posts 😀

    Regards

    Robert

  16. Darryl Sloan says:

    “Then why does man commit horrors even beyond the context of organized religion? If it’s not in man’s natural nature, and religion is not involved, then how do you account for this?”

    There are many causes of “evil” behaviour. One major one (of which religion is a major aspect) is that man is quite a programmable animal. We need look no further than television advertising, and the resulting rampant consumerism to see this. Religion is another strand of this, as is the education system to an extent.

    We become products of our environments – this is, of course, until we see the game that’s being played on us – and we take back control of our lives … which is exactly what happened to me. When I chose my own individuality and claimed my autonomy, what did I become? Did my inherent “evil” nature rise up and make me an even worse person, now that I had thrown off the shackles of religion? Not at all, and quite the contrary.

    The other cause of “evil” is down to free will, which brings with it the ability to help or harm. Overall, I see that man’s natural tendencies are towards the common good. The fact that there is choice means there is always the potential of the other.

    Putting human evil down to a “sinful nature” answers nothing.

    Now, you can say that your religion hasn’t programmed you, and doesn’t program others. But it’s so obvious that people everywhere go to church every Sunday and simply “plug in.” It’s as simple as: “Okay, pastor/minister/priest. I’m here. Tell me what I’m supposed to believe and do.”

  17. Chris says:

    Robert,

    You’re right, the Catholic Church does have a doctrine of Original Sin, but not the same understanding of it as Calvin. Here are some paragraphs from the Catechism which may provide some further illumination for you:

    [405] Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence”. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.

    [406] The Church’s teaching on the transmission of original sin was articulated more precisely in the fifth century, especially under the impulse of St. Augustine’s reflections against Pelagianism, and in the sixteenth century, in opposition to the Protestant Reformation. Pelagius held that man could, by the natural power of free will and without the necessary help of God’s grace, lead a morally good life; he thus reduced the influence of Adam’s fault to bad example. The first Protestant reformers, on the contrary, taught that original sin has radically perverted man and destroyed his freedom; they identified the sin inherited by each man with the tendency to evil (concupiscentia), which would be insurmountable. The Church pronounced on the meaning of the data of Revelation on original sin especially at the second Council of Orange (529) and at the Council of Trent (1546).

  18. Chris says:

    Darryl,

    “Putting human evil down to a “sinful nature” answers nothing.”

    No, it does provide an answer. In contrast, all you’re doing is speculating based on apparent correlations without getting to any kind of underlying fundamental reason why man seems to have this propensity for evil. When you take away 21st century consumerism, the media, state-enforced compulsory education, and religion, history testifies that man still commits atrocities. Your theories simply do not account for this, and they are unable to explain it in any kind of fundamental, ultimate way. Why does free-will hold the possibility for evil? Why do certain forms of conditioning seem to lead to the possibility of evil behavior more than others? What even is evil? Does it actually possess a substance? Where does evil come from? These are all huge philosophical questions, and your theories are utterly useless before them.

  19. Robert Miller says:

    Chris,

    I have always liked the analogy of Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones to our re-birth, nothing that those dry dusty bones could do of themselves to regenerate life were it not for God breathing life into them.

    The other thing is being Born Again – Jesus spoke of this to Nicodemus who understood it as a literal re-birth. We don’t really have anything to do with our birth infact it is quite passive on our parts, until our parents do something to bring it about. Likewise we don’t really have any input into our re-birth do we?

    Darryl

    ” Now, you can say that your religion hasn’t programmed you, and doesn’t program others. But it’s so obvious that people everywhere go to church every Sunday and simply “plug in.” It’s as simple as: “Okay, pastor/minister/priest. I’m here. Tell me what I’m supposed to believe and do.” ”

    I would say that is true, but there are those who seek to live out their faith through action. Now the church provides this structure for people to examine and debate their faith and go from there to live it out. It should be a community of Shalom, but with our whole inherent differing natures things get messed up. Now the best place I feel for me to work out my faith is with people who wish to do the same, just as the best place for me to pursue music is with a group of people with similar aspirations. Church provides that structure whether good or bad for people to do that.

    I don’t think everyone is being “programmed” in church

  20. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    I don’t see the necessity of inventing a special religious reason for man’s nastiness any more than I see the necessity of it in the behaviour traits of any other mammal on the planet.

    I’ve given plenty of thought to what “evil” is. But there are enough worms crawling out of the cans already opened, so I’m going to hush on this one. 🙂

  21. Chris says:

    Robert,

    “I have always liked the analogy of Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones to our re-birth, nothing that those dry dusty bones could do of themselves to regenerate life were it not for God breathing life into them.”

    Yes! This is a brilliant analogy.

    “The other thing is being Born Again – Jesus spoke of this to Nicodemus who understood it as a literal re-birth. We don’t really have anything to do with our birth infact it is quite passive on our parts, until our parents do something to bring it about. Likewise we don’t really have any input into our re-birth do we?”

    Not if you were baptized as an infant, I suppose. Nevertheless, the Church has always believed that it is baptism which effects the literal re-birth of a man’s soul — a regeneration — for the remission of sin, just as how Christ spoke of it to Nicodemus. Be not mistaken: this is not brought about by a mere human work, but by the free gift of Christ’s redeeming grace through the action of the Holy Spirit working in the form and matter of the sacrament of baptism. Baptism has always been held as the normal means through which our re-birth comes to us, and this understanding fits more completely with the whole picture of the Bible.

    I have no problem saying that the God of the Catholic Church and the God of John Calvin are simply different Gods. The Church teaches that we are not totally depraved, predestined automatons, that God is not the author of evil Who predestines some to damnation out of eternity, but that He desires all men to be saved. Calvin, on the other hand, has turned God into an evil, merciless deity, one who’s always looking over your shoulder ready to consign you to hell for the smallest transgression (if he hasn’t predestined you there already). Calvinism is an evil and twisted version of Christianity. No wonder it messed Darryl up.

  22. Robert Miller says:

    Chris, I think you over-simplify Calvinistic Theology there :p . But no matter, I am continuing to try and work out Calvinistic Theology within the structures of a Wesleyan Church and the appreciation of Episcopalian/Catholic Liturgy.

  23. Chris says:

    Robert,

    Chris, I think you over-simplify Calvinistic Theology there :p

    LOL! 🙂 Yeah, I did employ a strong invective. However, I have read through some of Calvin’s “Institutes of the Christian Religion” and I was pretty terrified. Somehow, I think modern-day Calvinists, people like R.C. Sproul, have become distanced from what Calvin himself was really saying. The man was psychotic, and I think that’s putting it kindly!

    Anyway, I wish you well, and I’m glad of your appreciation of liturgy. I have always thought that liturgy, done right, facilitates a very profound encounter with God.

    Merry Christmas… err, ‘Sol Invictus’!

    (Btw, you can take the Mass out of ‘Christmas’, but you can’t take Christ out of the Mass. 🙂 )

  24. Robert Miller says:

    Chris,

    If you have not heard William Crawley’s Documentary On Radio Ulster – Calvin at 500 – you may like it. I can e-mail it to you if you so wish.

    You know I’m going to buy Darryl a Turquoise shell suit for the winter holiday season and maybe a gecko or some other lizard also. Hardy har har!

  25. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    Things are getting light-hearted here again (thankfully), but I have to ask this, because something you said earlier (“I have no problem saying that the God of the Catholic Church and the God of John Calvin are simply different Gods”) alamed me a bit, and I want to know what your position is:

    Regarding Robert, who is admittedly a Calvinist, do you believe he is worshipping a different God than you, and is therefore not on the path to salvation?

    The reason I ask is because I have the memories of the Saturday evening Bible studies you and I did together, and the sense of brotherhood that we shared, regardless of the differences of our brand of Christianity. Do you now see all of this in a different light?

  26. Robert Miller says:

    I would certainly not definitively say I am a Calvinist – what I would say is that I am still working through my faith and that there are elements of Calvinistic/Presbyerian Theology that I am trying to reconcile with my view of the world and God in general. It’s odd because I would certainly not see myself as part of the “religious right” in USA, yet by the same token I feel my faith is not that unorthodox or liberal.

    Labels, labels ….. I’d be interested in how Chris too sees faith and politics intermingled in the US in comparison to NI

    You see we three have been through personal faith walks that have intersected and diverged at differing points along the way and it is interesting to see how they have developed.

  27. Chris says:

    Darryl,

    Regarding Robert, who is admittedly a Calvinist, do you believe he is worshipping a different God than you, and is therefore not on the path to salvation?

    Yes, I think the Calvinist conception of God is, in essence, a different God than Who I worship. I do not worship a God Who predestines men to damnation from eternity, nor a God Who is the author of evil. I do not believe in a Christ Who died only for a few, nor in a Christ Whose mercy is finite. I do not believe in a God that obliterates free-will and imposes Himself upon us whether we want Him or not.

    As to whether Robert is on the path of salvation or not, I simply cannot say, but I do believe that the hope of salvation is available to everyone regardless of where they may be at in life or faith. I believe that God works tirelessly to bring about the salvation of even the most hardened sinner because He desires that all men be saved.

    The reason I ask is because I have the memories of the Saturday evening Bible studies you and I did together, and the sense of brotherhood that we shared, regardless of the differences of our brand of Christianity. Do you now see all of this in a different light?

    No, I don’t view them in a different light at all. I look back on those memories with great fondness, and it grieved me enormously when you turned away from Christianity because the things you now say make those Saturday nights look like a lie.

  28. Chris says:

    Robert,

    I’d be interested in how Chris too sees faith and politics intermingled in the US in comparison to NI

    In a word: tiresome. Personally, I don’t subscribe to any US political labels. My view is quite simply Catholic, not Democrat, not Republican, not libertarian, not left, not right, not conservative, not liberal. I’m glad that the US Catholic Bishops are speaking out about the health care bill and other issues of moral importance, but I take a dim view of those “Catholics” in public office who go against the Church on issues like abortion and contraception. Many here have trouble reconciling their faith with politics, as though politics were a competing religion or something. However, I believe that Christian faith and morality are not things to be put on the shelf or compromised when it comes to politics, business, or anything else. Politics is simply a tool, and not an end in itself. It is subservient to the truth of Christ, not the other way round.

  29. Darryl Sloan says:

    “No, I don’t view them in a different light at all. I look back on those memories with great fondness, and it grieved me enormously when you turned away from Christianity because the things you now say make those Saturday nights look like a lie.”

    Here’s what I’m trying to get at: back then I was worshipping the five-point Calvinist God. How can you reconcile your feelings about our fellowship with your determination that Calvinists are worshipping a different God altogether?

    Our times of fellowship were not a lie. Like some of my Protestant buddies, you’re unable to process the simple fact that anyone at any time can figure something out that changes what they believe. Back then I was honest about my Christian convictions, but asleep.

    Similarly, imagine how Norman Barr and co would gasp in horror if I suddenly announced that I was becoming a Roman Catholic. You would be delighted, but they would be utterly mystified, and would probably ostracise me, just as they have done for my current change.

    Religious exclusivism: “If you’re not in my club, you’re not in THE club.”

  30. Robert Miller says:

    I have to say though in response to Chris that I don’t see the path of salvation wrapped up within a Church like the Catholic Church.

    The whole debacle that Archbishop Desmond Connell fueled with his comments over inter-church communion and remarks that Walton Empey was not the sharpest knife in the drawer on matters theological seem to ring very hollow now in light of institutionalised abuse described in both the Ryan and Murphy Reports.

    I think as Ireland redefines itself and moves away from institutionalised religion, that is a positive step forward. For it is up to each individual to work out their faith with their creator and redeemer.

    See redemption – buying back that which is enslaved – that is what you surely want Darryl – no more mind control, no more being enslaved to the zeitgeist!

  31. Robert Miller says:

    I will say as well that there was certainly poor reaction within the “Evangelical” community when Thomas Howard became Catholic and Frankie Schaeffer became Orthodox. I’m sure there were muttering the other way when Herbert Carson went from Anglicanism to being a Baptist. Something caused their views to change and thus caused others to ostracize them for changing – did they suddenly see the light? Why were people adamant that they did not? For that matter – that doesn’t sound like unthinking blindness either, all of them made decisions about their faith after careful study and consideration – hardly blind, hoodwinked, or closed!

  32. Darryl Sloan says:

    Robert,

    “You see we three have been through personal faith walks that have intersected and diverged at differing points along the way and it is interesting to see how they have developed.”

    Yes! You see, I can appreciate this. I just don’t care how we differ. As far as I’m concerned, your semi-Calvinistic God, Chris’s Catholic God, my Infinite Consciousness, it’s all an expression of the same thing: the creator, the source, the transcendent something-or-other from which the universe springs.

    I’m just sorry to see Chris doing the “exclusivist” thing. Even back when I was a Protestant, I was broad-minded enough to believe that his God and mine were the same being, despite the typical anti-Catholic attitudes of Protestantism that I had been thoroughly subjected to.

    Both you and Chris are allowing religion (the dogma of men) to stand between you and God and to define for you all about God. My approach has been to say, “Question everything,” and to try and figure out the nature of God, and my relationship to him, by means of reason. And for the missing pieces in the jigsaw, I rely on intuition. For me, a philosophically sound idea that I can make sense of carries far more weight that a holy book of uncertain origin or the assertions of men with supposed divine authority.

    It will be a miracle if I’ve got everything right, but learning has now become fun and inspiring, in contrast to the semi-bored bewilderment I often endured as a Christian.

  33. Robert Miller says:

    “The assertions of men with supposed divine authority.”

    And women nowadays 😀

    But you see I find the structure of the church not so much a “religion” as a community, where we can be more pragmatic on some issues and dogmatic on others. It is unfortunate that these lines get confused and crossed.

  34. Chris says:

    Darryl,

    Here’s what I’m trying to get at: back then I was worshipping the five-point Calvinist God. How can you reconcile your feelings about our fellowship with your determination that Calvinists are worshipping a different God altogether?

    You might have had a different conception of Who God is, but I believe that the connection we shared in Christ went beyond all that. God is not boxed in by man’s distortions of Divine truths.

    Our times of fellowship were not a lie. Like some of my Protestant buddies, you’re unable to process the simple fact that anyone at any time can figure something out that changes what they believe. Back then I was honest about my Christian convictions, but asleep.

    No, I do understand that. In hindsight, I wish you had taken the opportunity of those Saturday nights to talk to me about your problems and difficulties with Christianity instead of just hiding them. I can only assure you that I would not have ostracized you for being unsure, having honest doubts, and raising legitimate questions. As I’ve always maintained, I’ve never been mad at you simply for having doubts about Christianity.

  35. Darryl Sloan says:

    Robert,

    Come on, now, let’s call a spade a spade. You are a follower of a religion. As a Protestant, you have given consent for a book, the Bible, to define everything about the nature of God for you, right? That’s religion: unchanging dogma that about which you have no permission to think different (unless you reclaim that, of course, by rejecting it). It’s pre-packaged ready-made truth: the antithesis of real thinking. Take all of it, and we love you. Take only some of it, and you’re a heretic. Take none of it, and … well, you know what happened to me.

    Community is another issue. Something good, to be sure. Hell, I wish there were more people in my life.

    Something I hear all the time is “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship.” Actually it’s both. And the latter does not negate the former.

  36. Chris says:

    Darryl,

    It’s pre-packaged ready-made truth: the antithesis of real thinking.

    From where did you acquire the notion of Infinite Consciousness?

  37. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    “You might have had a different conception of Who God is, but I believe that the connection we shared in Christ went beyond all that.”

    Well, I’m very glad to hear that. I felt the same about you back then, when I viewed Catholicism as distorted Christianity.

    “No, I do understand that. In hindsight, I wish you had taken the opportunity of those Saturday nights to talk to me about your problems and difficulties with Christianity instead of just hiding them.”

    I actually wasn’t really hiding anything – at least, nothing that I could crystallise rationally. At times, these things manifested themselves as me periodically abandoning my faith, only to pick it up again later. It’s only now that I can understand and express how messed up I was – as you’ve read in my book. I just, for the life of me, cannot see the attaction of Catholicism – or any expression of religion. Spirituality, great! But religion, no.

  38. Robert Miller says:

    “As a Protestant, you have given consent for a book, the Bible, to define everything about the nature of God for you, right?”

    I use it as a means wherein I can think and come to conclusions about the nature of God. Like others I want to know what it means and how it can be applied, then after careful consideration I can apply it to different areas or ignore it entirely!

    Now you and I and Chris and anyone else are free to come to different conclusions and ways to act on that – Dorothy Day – now there is someone who looked and came to different conclusions than the Church and it took along time for her to be honored and respected by the church in which she served – hey Chris 😉

    “It’s pre-packaged ready-made truth: the antithesis of real thinking.”

    Like anything else you need to unpack it, study it and see how it can be best used for the purposes for which it is intended.

  39. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    “From where did you acquire the notion of Infinite Consciousness?”

    I think you’re misunderstanding what I mean by “pre-packaged truth.” Religion presents doctrines that you’re just supposed to take. Evaluating the worth of those doctrines is not supposed to be any of my business, because they’re from God (or so we’re told).

    The philosophical idea of “Infinite Consciousness” is pre-packaged in the sense that I had to read about it somewhere, just as we read about anything. But let’s remember, in this case, I was in the driving seat, deciding whether this idea had any worth, whether it needed modification, or needed throwing out.

    In religion, you get instructed in what to believe and you’re expected to simply slot it in upstairs, because it came from a higher authority than your own reason.

    If you think I read the writings of, say, David Icke, in any fashion like I used to read the Bible, or listen to a minister, you’re mistaken. I have to read Icke, and everyone, with my BS-detector on full-scan.

  40. Robert Miller says:

    And so you can do with religious outpourings – you can take what the minister/priest/pastor says and turn your “BS-detector on full-scan.” and take from it what you will. Being married to a Pastor in training and attending a church where I wouldn’t see eye to eye with the senior Pastor means I am certainly using some form of discretion in what I choose to accept or not.

  41. Darryl Sloan says:

    Robert,

    “And so you can do with religious outpourings – you can take what the minister/priest/pastor says and turn your “BS-detector on full-scan.” and take from it what you will.”

    Fair point, but in your case, I was referring more to the Bible (because you’re a sola sciptura dude). In Chris’s case, I’m referring to the authority of the Church’s teachings over his life.

    You know this to be true, Rob. Think how often you quote Scripture as the basis on which to defend something as true. You have given Scripture authority over your mind, because that’s what it means to be a Evangelical Christian. You would think it un-Biblical do deny Scripture that place in your life, would you not?

    Similarly with Chris. If he discovers that he completely disagrees with something taught by the Church, he can either go with his own mind (in which case he becomes a heretic), or submit to an authority of the Church, that he chooses to see as higher than his own mind. Don’t want to put words in your mouth, Chris, so correct me if I’m wrong in this assessment.

  42. Chris says:

    Darryl,

    Religion presents doctrines that you’re just supposed to take. Evaluating the worth of those doctrines is not supposed to be any of my business, because they’re from God

    That’s not true. Christianity only proposes, it does not impose. It is up to you to determine if you want to accept that proposal. The truth makes its own impositions.

    But let’s remember, in this case, I was in the driving seat, deciding whether this idea had any worth, whether it needed modification, or needed throwing out.

    I don’t see how this is any different from someone evaluating the claims of Christianity. Either way, once you decide to accept Christianity, Infinite Consciousness, or whatever else, then you are automatically tied to that philosophy and all of your thinking is defined by it. Within the confines of Infinite Consciousness, you are no more able to regard yourself as being substantially distinct from anything else within the “consciousness computer” than I am able to reject the doctrine of Hell from within the confines of Christianity. Certain conclusions are simply inevitable by virtue of the philosophy that underlies them. If I reject the doctrine of Hell, then Christianity becomes logically incoherent. Similarly, if you reject the notion that we are all aspects of the same Consciousness, then Infinite Consciousness becomes logically incoherent.

    Just because you think you’re the one in the driving seat doesn’t mean you’re able to avoid the necessary conclusions of whatever direction you choose to go in. But that’s an interesting observation, isn’t it? Every philosophical system cannot stand if it is incoherent. This implies a connection between ultimate truth and logical coherency — even an erroneous philosophy has to be self-consistent in order to make sense, right? So it seems that a philosophy doesn’t necessarily have to be right in order to contain truth. What, then, is truth? It appears to have the property of being objective (i.e., existing independent of thought), and knowable by the intellect. That, then, would seem to put you in a bit of philosophical bind since, if you believe in Infinite Consciousness, then you are bound out of necessity to also believe that Thought, Consciousness, is all that exists, in other words, God, for you, is pure Thought as opposed to pure Being. But how can this be if we are able to determine that Truth exists independently from thought?

    Sorry, I don’t expect any kind of answers from you here. I’ve been reading a lot of St. Thomas Aquinas recently, and my mind tends to go on a lot of philosophical meanderings, especially on the matter of idealism vs. realism.

  43. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    “Christianity only proposes, it does not impose. It is up to you to determine if you want to accept that proposal.”

    What I was really talking about was more the matter of the “consequences” for using your own mind, as opposed to accepting what you are being taught by a higher authority. The consequences for you of disagreeing is that you will become a heretic, just as the consequences for me were ostracism, and being put under church discipline for having the audacity to think different. That is most certainly Christianity “imposing”, not “proposing.” And while I have no direct experience of the Catholic way of doing things, it would seem they make a bigger fuss about “heresy” than Protestants.

    You can’t have a big nasty word for thinking different called “heresy,” and say in the next breath that the Church doesn’t “impose” its views.

    In a non-religious belief system, like mine, I am not aligned with any imposed systematised belief system. I am free to modifying anything about it, without consequence.

  44. Chris says:

    Darryl,

    Similarly with Chris. If he discovers that he completely disagrees with something taught by the Church, he can either go with his own mind (in which case he becomes a heretic), or submit to an authority of the Church, that he chooses to see as higher than his own mind. Don’t want to put words in your mouth, Chris, so correct me if I’m wrong in this assessment.

    Yeah, that’s basically right. The authority of the Magisterium of the Church as being from God is one of the fundamental precepts I subscribe to as a Catholic. Another fundamental precept is that truth does not contradict truth, so if I come to a conclusion on a matter of faith or morals that is different from an official Magisterial Church teaching, then either I’m wrong or the Church is wrong. In that case, I would have some investigation to do since I’m not some mindless nodding robot.

  45. Chris says:

    Darryl,

    In a non-religious belief system, like mine, I am not aligned with any imposed systematised belief system. I am free to modifying anything about it, without consequence.

    But there are consequences, and I outlined them in that comment. Your belief system is just as religious as mine, and it is aligned with the systematization that it imposes on itself.

    You are deluded if you think that there are no consequences to your modifications, or that you’re any freer from religion simply because you are your own authority on the matter. If you believe in Infinite Consciousness, then you are automatically within the arena of religion since you are making religious claims. And your religion imposes itself on your mind through the logical consequences of its fundamental beliefs. If you decide one day to accept a philosophically realist position, rejecting the idealist notion that physical reality is an illusion taking place within a “consciousness computer,” then your entire religion of Infinite Consciousness falls apart because it is irreconcilable to any kind of philosophically realist position.

    This idea of freedom that you’ve constructed for yourself is false. You are no more freer in all of this than I am. The real difference between you and me is that I’m prepared to admit that ultimate Truth does not subsist on my whims and fancies, but it requires the submission of my intellect if I am to possess it. You, on the other hand, don’t want to have to submit to anything that doesn’t first submit itself to you. Until you change your mind, you’re just going to be flapping in the breeze.

  46. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    “The authority of the Magisterium of the Church as being from God is one of the fundamental precepts I subscribe to as a Catholic.”

    You must realise how that kind of mental servitute is an immensely tough sell, to my ears. Having emerged from “sola scriptura” and all the harm that it did to me, how could I possibly consider giving mere men the authority to dictate my moral and spiritual views?

    “either I’m wrong or the Church is wrong. In that case, I would have some investigation to do since I’m not some mindless nodding robot.”

    I’m glad to hear it. That will be an interesting day, if it should come. 🙂

  47. Chris says:

    Darryl,

    … how could I possibly consider giving mere men the authority to dictate my moral and spiritual views?

    Either they are endowed with Christ’s teaching authority, or they are not. As Catholics, we do not believe that the spiritual and moral teachings produced by the Councils and infallible proclamations of the Pope are merely the work of men. God is either speaking through the Magisterium of the Church, or He is not. That’s what you have to decide, regardless of the abuses wrought by some in the name of Christ.

  48. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    “Either they are endowed with Christ’s teaching authority, or they are not.”

    I guess that’s what it comes down to. Well, it’s been a long and quite informative session. I think we lost Rob a few hours ago, and it’s now time for me to retire for the evening – which means watching something on telly before bed-time (oh, the shame of it). 😉

    All the best.

  49. Chris says:

    … which means watching something on telly before bed-time (oh, the shame of it). 😉

    Gotta imbibe that subliminal conditioning, eh? 😉

    Have a good one.

  50. Darryl Sloan says:

    “Your belief system is just as religious as mine, and it is aligned with the systematization that it imposes on itself.”

    I’m not defining what constitutes “religion” in the same manner as you. Just because my beliefs have a God concept and a surrounding philosophy does not make them religious. In my view, a religion is an organised, sanctioned, authorised set of beliefs. Dogma, in other words – usually held in check by a religious leadshership.

    This is, in my view, the difference between spirituality and religion. Religion can be spiritual, but spirituality can be non-religious. You can call what I have religious, if you wish. We would only be arguing over mere semantics. In that case, my objection is not to religion, but to religions that impose their “truth” upon their followers.

    “You are deluded if you think that there are no consequences to your modifications, or that you’re any freer from religion simply because you are your own authority on the matter.”

    It’s perfectly plain that (a) me being in control of my beliefs, and (b) my beliefs being held in place by the threats upon me from a religious leadership – the two mentalities are miles apart – make that continents apart.

    Religion is imposed upon its followers by threats. This is a plain to all except those within the religion, who desperately try to mask it with some convoluted veneer of logic.

  51. Chris says:

    Darryl,

    Religion is imposed upon its followers by threats. This is a plain to all except those within the religion, who desperately try to mask it with some convoluted veneer of logic.

    All you’re really saying here is that your system is better since you’re not part of a club. You’re the only member of your own little religion, and you get to call the shots. You have chosen to be an individualist, and you’re happy with it.

    Others have decided to adopt a less individualist position. They realize that others share the same beliefs about ultimate truth, and so they are willing to come together in community with them. So, now they are faced with a whole bunch of management issues, one of which is what to do about those members of the community who suddenly decide to believe things that the community does not share.

    So, what exactly are you criticizing here? Are you criticizing belief systems, such as Christianity, because they don’t want to call people Christians who do not share Christian beliefs? Are you criticizing the heavy-handed approach that some in authority have against members of the community who have decided to believe things not shared by the community? Are you criticizing these communities for really believing what they believe, and trying to convince their wayward members by reminding them of eternal consequences?

    Basically, it just sounds like you’re criticizing people for being (imperfect) people and trying to live communally. You’re also conveniently omitting the fact that religions like Christianity are founded upon the notion that God Himself has spoken to man and given him instructions to follow. That puts those religions in a completely different light than yours where you believe you (and everyone else) are God, and you do not have anything that resembles Divine Revelation.

    If God really has spoken to mankind at some point in time, then there’s a lot more to this whole situation than you are making of it.

  52. Robert Miller says:

    Chris says:

    “Others have decided to adopt a less individualist position. They realize that others share the same beliefs about ultimate truth, and so they are willing to come together in community with them. So, now they are faced with a whole bunch of management issues, one of which is what to do about those members of the community who suddenly decide to believe things that the community does not share.”

    And here is the rub, there are many good things that “the church” and I hope that Chris is not so far gone to Catholicism that he does not embrace other strands of Christianity within that. My faith I trust is robust enough to allow for other expressions and strands of belief within the church Universal, but there has to be an element to a whopping degree of pragmatism that requires being exercised.

    I trust that there are enough elements of similarity between what I believe and what Chris believes to enable us to have a connect between our faith that would allow us to share common experiences together. On the other hand we may come to different conclusions about how we choose to represent that faith.

    I believe a lot of the time the church on the most part is as C S Lewis described, concentrating on fern seeds when there are big elephants standing right in front of it requiring more attention.

  53. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    Interesting points, but putting this all under the banner of “management issues” doesn’t really do justice to the word “heresy” and “heretic” – which are powerful and emotive words, striking a note of dread. “You don’t agree with us, so you can’t be in our club” doesn’t do justice to the accusation of sin inherent in the word, nor does it do justice to the social ostracism, nor does it do justice to the imprisonment suffered by heretics in the past, when the Church had more power.

    I agree with the basic idea that a person who rejects Christianity can no longer be regarded as a Christian. And usually that person will no longer wish to call himself a Christian – my case a prime example. But all opinion-making is controlled by the threat of being branded heretic. Maybe somebody does want to be a Christian, but they’re not convinced that, for example, praying to saints is something that ought to be done.

    Once again, Chris, you erect another smokescreen (“community” this time) to mask the imposed thought-control that religious leadership seeks to wield over its followers.

    “If God really has spoken to mankind at some point in time, then there’s a lot more to this whole situation than you are making of it.”

    Absolutely. But here are a few simple observations, as someone on the outside looking in. In Christianity, I see the fear of hell used to control people. I see the same in Islam. In Christianity, I see children conditioned from birth into seeing life in a particular way. I see the same in Islam. In Christianity, we have the threat of heresy used as a deterrent to free thinking. We have the same in Islam. And Islam flourishes, as does Christianity, for these reasons and others.

    If God does exist in the form of a religious deity, I think it is very unlikely that he would stoop to using the very same techniques of manipulation that allow the other religions on the planet to flourish. In fact, the clear use of these techniques is testament that Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc., are all different expressions of the same falsehood.

  54. Darryl Sloan says:

    Robert,

    “I trust that there are enough elements of similarity between what I believe and what Chris believes to enable us to have a connect between our faith that would allow us to share common experiences together.”

    In discussing Protestantism with me, Chris has never pulled his punches in describing it as heresy, in quite strong terms. So, Robert, that would make you a … Say it, Chris. 🙂

  55. Robert Miller says:

    Fortunately not all Catholics are inclined to the viewpoint that those outside the church are outside God’s plan and purpose for the world. Having fellowship with those in other denominations at Christmas and Easter is an example of how those with different perspectives can come together in a way that says we are different but we do have a commonality in faith.

    Now does that mean that those who come together like this are heretical, no. Do they differ in the interpretations of the scripture, yes. Can their faith deal with difference, sure. Am I a supporter of an ecumenical faith 😀

    I wonder if those leaders in the churches who gather groups together for a common worship experience and do not call the other group heretical should be included in the same boat for being untrue to their faith?

  56. Robert Miller says:

    Anyways, all Chris needs to do is read my collection of Jack T Chick literature to see how mistaken and duped he really is – poor poor boy 😉

  57. Chris says:

    Robert,

    Fortunately not all Catholics are inclined to the viewpoint that those outside the church are outside God’s plan and purpose for the world.

    Right, because that’s not what the Church actually teaches, and it’s not what I actually believe either. No offense, but both you and Darryl are arguing based off of assumptions that you’re making, or things that you’ve heard and haven’t verified, about what the Catholic Church teaches, and it’s clear that you don’t know what the Church actually</i teaches.

    Darryl,

    "In discussing Protestantism with me, Chris has never pulled his punches in describing it as heresy, in quite strong terms. So, Robert, that would make you a …

    Yes, Protestantism is a heresy, but there’s a difference between being born into a belief system or society based on a heresy and being a formal heretic who generates heretical beliefs. The Church makes this distinction. Again, argumentation based off of what you think the Church teaches, not what She actually teaches.

  58. Robert Miller says:

    No, but the Catholic church surely recognizes there is more validity in say the Orthodox Church being part of the church universal, than the denominations within the Protestant faith. Point me in a direction for some recent papal talk on the matter, because surely the two most recent popes have at least described the Protestant church as apostate at best.

  59. Chris says:

    Darryl,

    Once again, Chris, you erect another smokescreen (“community” this time) to mask the imposed thought-control that religious leadership seeks to wield over its followers.

    We’ve already established that there is no real imposed thought-control, and that you’re arguing against the dubious actions of men who made mistakes, implying that religion made them do it when that theory doesn’t seem to hold. These are your smokescreens that allow you to dodge the real question in all of this: are the claims of Christianity really true? Did God condescend to the level of mankind and actually tell us what the Truth is?

    Instead, you make the discussion about how you think the world ought to look, how Christians ought to behave, what the Church ought to believe — you argue based on your own fictions instead of actual realities. To that end, I honestly have to wonder if you’re REALLY interested in the truth — in how things actually are — or if you only care about maintaining your vision of how you think things ought to be.

  60. Chris says:

    Robert,

    No, but the Catholic church surely recognizes there is more validity in say the Orthodox Church being part of the church universal, than the denominations within the Protestant faith.

    Well, it depends on what you mean by “validity”.

    Obviously, the Church looks at what different Christian denominations actually believe. If the Apostolic Faith is that which the Bishops of the Catholic Church, in union with the Bishop of Rome, are in the possession of, and charged with the safe-guarding of, then that is the standard by which we are to judge any contenders to the Church. If the Apostolic Faith is the truth, then, in one sense of the word ‘validity’, it would depend on how closely those other denominations are aligned to this standard of truth. The Orthodox are, by all objective analysis, closer to that standard than a lot of Protestants.

    “… the two most recent popes have at least described the Protestant church as apostate at best.

    Look, I’m not sure what you’re angling at here, but the Protestant ecclesial communities are apostate from the Catholic Church. By my definition above, there’s no way to deny that. Are you trying to imply that the Church does not distinguish between the worth of an apostate faith and the worth of the individuals who adhere to such a faith? If so, then you’re simply wrong.

  61. Robert Miller says:

    Chris – I am not angling, nor do I have intention of so doing…. but, I am trying to determine whether an expression of faith within a church is any more or less valid if it happens within one denomination or another?

    Also whether people who are working out their faith in the context of commonality, are being untrue to their faith, for instance can you have a common faith experience despite/inspite of inherrent differences?

  62. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    “Yes, Protestantism is a heresy, but there’s a difference between being born into a belief system or society based on a heresy and being a formal heretic who generates heretical beliefs.”

    I think you need to give Robert more credit as an active Protestant Christian who believes in promoting his “heretical” faith.

    I realise you might see as being unnecessarily antagonistic here, but you’re declaring your religious exclusivism, then you appear to lack the courage of your convictions to see it through to its inevitable conclusion, which is that Robert is an active Protestant heretic, as was I.

    It’s not that I want you to view him as a heretic, but that this exclusivism is a dark road that many a “Fenian hating” Protestant has wandered down. And I think it’s a terrible mistake, whatever side engages in it.

  63. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    “We’ve already established that there is no real imposed thought-control,”

    What? Listen, I’m just going to let this go. I feel like I’m banging my head against the wall, trying to make somebody see the obvious.

  64. Chris says:

    Robert,

    The validity of an expression of faith within a church is determined by how close it is to the fullness of Revealed Truth. If there is any truth in common between people or communities, then it can be shared. If you’re working your faith out in commonality, then you’re only being untrue to your faith if you’re not seeking God in spirit and truth.

  65. Robert Miller says:

    Darryl,

    Chris has examined the evidence and read and listened to others and arrived at conclusions about the world, how to fit philosophies into it and how to work those out.

    Robert has also examined the evidence and read and listened to others and arrived at other conclusions about the world, how to fit philosophies into it and how to work those out.

    I would say there are similarities and differences in what we believe.

    Darryl has also examined the evidence and read and listened to others and arrived at other conclusions about the world, how to fit philosophies into it and how to work those out.

    You do have that same desire for truth and for it to set you free – it has taken you in a somewhat surprisingly different direction which you have explained and described here to a huge extent.

    Hardly what you would expect from three people being beaten, forced, and cajoled into believing something and establishing a view of the world.

  66. Chris says:

    Darryl,

    I realise you might see as being unnecessarily antagonistic here, but you’re declaring your religious exclusivism, then you appear to lack the courage of your convictions to see it through to its inevitable conclusion, which is that Robert is an active Protestant heretic, as was I.

    If your definition of “heretic” is anyone, regardless of state and station in life, who simply disagrees with the Catholic Church, then yes, you are both “heretics,” along with the other 4.9 billion people on planet earth. But the word “heretic” is not actually as cut and dry as all that.

    … exclusivism is a dark road …

    What about your “exclusivism” of stating that one cannot hope to find any truth without first unlearning everything one has hitherto been told? Obviously, one can be exclusivist without roasting anyone else at the stake. You just can’t seem to get past the fact that people make mistakes, even in the name of religion, even when what they do goes against the central tenets of what their faith actually teaches, not because of what their faith actually teaches (unless you’re a Muslim).

  67. Robert Miller says:

    Chris,

    The other 1.1 billion people within the Catholic Church do not all believe the same thing and unless you are the pope (this I realise may be an extreme bastardization of the truth) then everyone is prone to heretical views/faith. People can be quite happily heretical and remain in the Church?

  68. Chris says:

    Darryl,

    I feel like I’m banging my head against the wall, trying to make somebody see the obvious.

    As you once said to me, maybe it’s only obvious to you because YOU are the one who sees it that way, and this doesn’t necessarily mean that that is the way it actually is. You haven’t convinced me that you’re seeing things as how they truly are.

  69. Chris says:

    Robert,

    People can be quite happily heretical and remain in the Church?

    Apparently so, if Darryl insists that we use his definition of the word “heretic”. It doesn’t seem to matter at all what the Church thinks the word means…

  70. Darryl Sloan says:

    Robert,

    “You do have that same desire for truth and for it to set you free – it has taken you in a somewhat surprisingly different direction which you have explained and described here to a huge extent.”

    Thanks.

    “Hardly what you would expect from three people being beaten, forced, and cajoled into believing something and establishing a view of the world.”

    Good observation, but let’s not forget that (from my perspective) it took two decades of bewilderment before I could escape the clutches of religion and see the bigger picture, and that is why I talk about mind control issues so much, because I have intimate experience of its effects in my life. For every person who gets wise about the con-job being done to him, there are a hundred more who just keep going to their church/temple/mosque, and accepting what they’re being spoon-fed to their dying day.

    The “hypnosis” played upon mankind by religion usually requires no being “beated, forced and cajoled”. People will play along for security, the avoidance of fear, the expectation of family, etc.

  71. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    I’m prepared to give a little ground on heretic issue and not see the whole thing as black and white. But you’ve got to realise that I’ve stood up and given a Bible study to young people about the Calvinistic view of the the sovereignty of God and predestination. Neither Robert nor I were passive about our faith.

    You expressed you’re tolerance of Robert as seeing him as a victim of circumstances of birth. But I don’t think that’s accurate.

    As for my own “exclusivism,” I’m very clear about what that means. I’m free to believe what I want. Everyone’s free to believe what they want. And it doesn’t matter to me if we differ. Differences of belief will never be a reason for me to brand someone as an unacceptable person that I have to ostracise.

  72. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    “Apparently so, if Darryl insists that we use his definition of the word “heretic”. It doesn’t seem to matter at all what the Church thinks the word means…”

    I’m actually trying to accomodate your definition of heretic. I get it that people can be passively heretical in their beliefs and remain part of the Church.

    But Robert and I loved our heresy, treasured it, talked about it, held Bible studies about it, etc.

    I guess I’m asking, at what point does a Christian with heretical views become a true heretic?

  73. Chris says:

    Darryl,

    You expressed you’re tolerance of Robert as seeing him as a victim of circumstances of birth. But I don’t think that’s accurate.

    Based on what? Your own opinion on what the word “heresy” means?

    Everyone’s free to believe what they want. And it doesn’t matter to me if we differ. Differences of belief will never be a reason for me to brand someone as an unacceptable person that I have to ostracise.

    But you’re still willing to ostracize entire belief systems based on the human mistakes of those who adhere to them without any regard to what, or why, the beliefs of that system actually are. Why are you so unwilling to make a necessary distinction here?

    I guess I’m asking, at what point does a Christian with heretical views become a true heretic?

    Well, if you’re genuinely interested in seeing things how they actually are, I leave it to you, then, to go discover for yourself what the Catholic Church actually believes on the matter. In the meantime, I’m going to watch a dinosaur movie with my daughter.

  74. Robert Miller says:

    Dinosaurs are heretical – now stop indoctrinating your daughter!

  75. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    “But you’re still willing to ostracize entire belief systems based on the human mistakes of those who adhere to them without any regard to what, or why, the beliefs of that system actually are. Why are you so unwilling to make a necessary distinction here?”

    There are reasons, and we’ve been over them again and again. You’ve not been able to see my reasons for doing so as valid. And here we stand.

    Chris, there is not one single good reason in my head as to why I should be a Christian. Why you defend it so much is as untenable to me, as my reasons for shunning it appear to you.

  76. Darryl Sloan says:

    Robert,

    “Dinosaurs are heretical – now stop indoctrinating your daughter!”

    Yes! There are no dinosurs and there never were. God put those bones in the ground to test your faith! The world is really 10,000 years old!

    Okay, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek here. But let’s remember there are people who actually believe what I just said.

  77. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    “What about your “exclusivism” of stating that one cannot hope to find any truth without first unlearning everything one has hitherto been told?”

    I’m actually amazed that you don’t see the usefulness and necessity of the “unlearn before you learn” approach that I document at the start of my book. The consequences, for the world, of not adopting that approach are simply that Jews remain Jews forever, Muslims remain Muslims forever, Hindus remain Hindus forever, Protestants remain Protestants forever, etc. If you’re not willing to thoroughly call into question everything that has been conditioned into you from birth, no one gets anywhere.

    Why would those born into Catholicism be exempt from the necessity of doing the very same thing? I hope you wouldn’t expect me to accept “We happen to be the one true religion, so it’s perfectly okay for people born into our religion to accept what they’re told without calling it all into question.” Do you actually believe that everyone else gets indoctrinated while Catholics get taught?

    If you think my approach sucks, how exactly would you ever hope to win a Muslim to Christ without first getting him to question the entire belief system that he has been conditioned to accept since his birth?

  78. Chris says:

    Darryl,

    There are reasons, and we’ve been over them again and again. You’ve not been able to see my reasons for doing so as valid. And here we stand.”

    Yes, they’re not valid because they’re not based on anything valid. All I hear from you is, “this is the most likely scenario to me,” and “this is so obvious to me,” or “I don’t think that’s accurate.” You repeatedly generalize away all opposition, and refuse to take the details seriously. You only present suppositions, correlations, and emphatic hand waving to back up your claims. I understand your reasons, but they are baseless, and you seem to be incapable of offering any kind of solid, convincing evidence or argument to back yourself up.

    Chris, there is not one single good reason in my head as to why I should be a Christian

    But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any good reasons at all. There are plenty, but you don’t want to take them seriously. We’re not all the mind-controlled robots you seem to think we are.

    I’m actually amazed that you don’t see the usefulness and necessity of the “unlearn before you learn” approach that I document at the start of my book.”

    Well, what truth has it led to? Here you are making dodgy videos about Christmas and ‘Sol Invictus’ because you think that your “unlearn before you learn” approach lets you see things more clearly than all of us poor dumb sheep. You’re telling me all this stuff about the apparent “reality” of religious mind-control with no solid evidence to back up your claims. You’ve constructed for yourself a religion of Infinite Consciousness based on nothing other than David Icke and what seems/feels right to you.

    Why is “unlearn before you learn” the necessary approach? Does the learning of ultimate truth necessarily demand a clean mental slate, or simply just an honest, good-will desire to find ultimate truth and then submit to it? How do you know for sure that ultimate truth can’t be reached from whatever starting point people may find themselves at, or from whatever parts of the truth that they may already possess? Is there nothing of use that can be borrowed from religions and philosophies that will help us search for ultimate truth? How do you know that ultimate truth is even knowable? How do you know that the learning after the learning is going to lead to ultimate truth? How do you even purport to know what the truth will look like once you’ve found it?

    The truth is that you haven’t even begun to “question everything.” I find your whole approach and philosophy to be deeply unsatisfying because it answers NOTHING, you don’t have a satisfying answer for any of the deep, serious questions about human existence. After I finished “Reality Check,” I started reading a book called “The Spirit of Mediaeval Philosophy” by Etienne Gilson, which is about St. Thomas Aquinas’s Christian philosophy. Quite frankly, “Reality Check” withers into the ground before Thomas Aquinas.

    You believe you’ve got things figured out, but yet 13th century thinkers blow you out of the water. The more I read Aquinas, the more preposterous seems your philosophy.

  79. Chris says:

    The following sentence in my last comment:

    How do you know that the learning after the learning is going to lead to ultimate truth?

    should have read:

    “How do you know that the learning after the unlearning is going to lead to ultimate truth?”

  80. Darryl Sloan says:

    Well, Chris, all I can say is I gained nothing from reading the above rant.

    If I somehow found it within myself to believe in Christianity right now (Protestant or Catholic version), my head would be throbbing with the massive suspension of disbelief about so many things that I would have to put myself through to hold that belief in place.

    Since you mention Aquinas, I thought I was let you know I actually tried reading a little of Augustine’s Confessions, on your recommendation. Read the first two books and gave up after that. Couldn’t abide the mentality expressed therein.

    You and I clearly beat to very different drumbeats these days.

    Bed-time. Nighty-night. And try not to get so wound up. I still love you. 😉

  81. Chris says:

    Darryl

    Well, Chris, all I can say is I gained nothing from reading the above rant.

    That’s unsurprising. Hopefully, it may come to benefit you at a later date.

    Adios.

  82. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    Until you understand what’s at the heart of my objection to religion, you won’t see why organised religion is so unacceptable to me – all of them, without exception. For instance, it doesn’t matter how little I know about Islam, it’s a non-starter with me from the get-go, simply because it’s an organised religion. Likewise with Catholicism.

    The Protestant experience taught me something about the nature of all religions and how they operate (by conditioning their followers), and I outgrew the entire religious mentality, hook, line and sinker.

    So, when yet another organised religion raises its head (Catholicism), using all the same conditioning methods as the others, it has zero credibility with me from the start simply because of what it is.

    Until you understand where that barrier within me came from, and the reasons why I erected it, you won’t understand why I refuse Catholicism, and you will continue to accuse me of stubbornness, etc.

  83. Robert Miller says:

    But sure Darryl you require organization as an entity of people in general to function.

    Imagine any setting where people get together that is not organized!

    There are things that require to be set before you can function – I think in terms of a band, choir, orchestra as I function in that sphere also – if people came together and did not read the same music it would sound awful. Even when we do read the same music, we individually make mistakes and when those mistakes are made the music can sound less than harmonious. It is only as we gather together to practice and to learn how to make that music that as a group we function well. Sure the conductor knows about music and can help us on the way, but if we don’t put in the practice and work out the nuances daily, we’ll sound pretty stale and boring all the time.

    That’s enough rambling as I am not good with analogies, but I trust you see where I am going

  84. Darryl Sloan says:

    Robert,

    Chris tried a similar analogy somewhere above, and it’s not valid, as I can very personally and painfully attest.

    When I left KEC, I could no longer be a church member, understandably. And if that was all that transpired, then your orchestra analogy would be valid. But then Norman Barr says, “Because you are under discipline by the church, I can no longer welcome you in my home.” And I haven’t set foot over his door since. Gone is my friendship with Norman, Joan, Markus (by proxy), Earl, and for a time with Chris, too. Now, I think that has a little more gravity than your orchestra analogy.

    How would I reclaim Norman’s friendship? Oh, by giving in to his demand to control what I think, of course. Again we are back to the very obvious FACT that religion is imposed, not proposed. In history, when the Church wielded more authority, heretics were not asked merely asked to “leave the band”; they are tried for crime and sentenced to prison.

  85. Robert Miller says:

    Although to be honest if you were not practicing, interested in the music, not wanting to progress as a musician (or at least remain at a certain level of competence) there would be every desire to kick you out of your seat by the other musicians and conductor!

    Would that mean you would not be allowed in a home or have a friendship or for people to seek to keep you interested in music – no way!

    I am sorry you have felt that way about KEC – but please do not base your experience of church on one entity. I am sure you are not …… you may find in other churches that people are more willing to accept you no matter what your circumstances or beliefs than others. Where you find that I am not sure, but I can attest that there are other churches and fellowships out there that would not let your friendship go as you describe.

    Just as a matter of interest, how much contact do I have with KEC? 😉

    Robert

  86. Darryl Sloan says:

    Robert,

    I have no contact with KEC, other than bumping into the occasional person from it. They’re not all alike. I bumped into Andrew in the shop one day and we ended up standing and chatting for about 45 mins, which was good. Another time I bumped into Earl. We exchanged pleasantries, but it appeared he couldn’t wait to get away from me.

    The last time I saw the pastor (Stephen), I made a point of telling him I was resigning fully from church membership.

    Other Christian friendships in my life remain intact and strong.

    Whilst I sometimes feel a bit angry about the way I was treated by Norman and co, part of me knows that these relationships had to end. I was determined to go down the road of publicly exposing the falsehood of Christianity, and there’s just no way that someone like Norman could excuse that. The only thing that surprised me was how little it took for him to ostracise me, because at the time he didn’t even know about my blogging. Chris also ostracised me, but ended up taking it back in the end. However, I’m not sure he’s ever going to be able to properly accept me on my own terms, without demanding that I respect his religion. Time will tell. Ultimately, I’m going to do and say what I think is right, and I won’t be muzzled.

  87. Chris says:

    Darryl,

    Until you understand what’s at the heart of my objection to religion, you won’t see why organised religion is so unacceptable to me – all of them, without exception.

    But Darryl, I do understand it. I have read your book, I have read your blog, I have watched your videos. I have expended a large amount of mental energy thinking and contemplating what you’ve had to say. The bottom line is that I don’t see your objections to religion as being worthy of serious consideration because they’re not based on anything of real substance.

    You see religion as an imposed set of predefined doctrines that people are just supposed to mindlessly accept. There is no room for them to pick and choose according to their own conscience or intellectual whim. You either accept everything a religion teaches without question, or you get on your way.

    You see religion as indoctrination and manipulation by fear. People are brought up from the cradle with indoctrination through their parents and surrounding society. They are threatened with pernicious doctrines like Hell. If they decide they want to believe something else, then they are kicked out of the community, ostracized, sequestered, disciplined, recantation is demanded, words like “heretic” are brought up, torture and death were even on the menu at one point.

    From all external appearances, you’re not looking for something that’s ultimately true, you’re looking for something that you like. You refuse religion not because the teachings are ultimately true or false, but because you just don’t like the idea of religion.

    If you are absolutely determined to find ultimate truth no matter what, then simply disliking the fact that a doctrine like Hell is a necessary teaching, or disliking the fact that human elements have led to corruption and evil acts, are not serious positions against the philosophies and teachings about ultimate truth that religions have to offer. Similarly, believing in “unlearn before you learn” or “Infinite Consciousness” just because you like those ideas is, again, not a serious position upon which build an understanding of ultimate truth.

    And that’s why I can’t take seriously the things you have to say on the matter of religion, or anything else, for that matter, which pertains to the search for ultimate truth. These barriers you’ve put up are simply smoke-screens for you to justify a back of the hand a priori dismissal of religion, and thus avoid having to do any serious critical thinking about what they actually teach.

  88. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    “From all external appearances, you’re not looking for something that’s ultimately true, you’re looking for something that you like.”

    Worded one way or another, this is the usual false accusation that the gospel preacher makes at the world, and I’ve heard it so often. It allows the preacher to always classify the unbeliever’s stance as “rebellion”, as “going against God”, etc., when really, many people, myself included, reject Christianity simply because they don’t find it credible.

    Do I have a dislike for religion? Certainly. Do I irrationally follow my likes and dislikes, rather than striving to work out the truth. No. It’s just a convenient accusation that allows you to stereotype me.

  89. Chris says:

    Darryl,

    Chris also ostracised me, but ended up taking it back in the end.

    Yes, it’s interesting that I ostracized you for being a mean-spirited, dogmatic ignoramus, but it was my religious beliefs which led me to recant that decision and be willing to bear your insults. Hardly the picture of a religious believer that you insist on painting.

  90. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    “Yes, it’s interesting that I ostracized you for being a mean-spirited, dogmatic ignoramus,”

    Need I remind you that you wasted no time in calling me a liar, a narcissist, arrogant, etc. You were incapable of rationally debating your religion without becoming emotional, taking my criticisms of Christianity as personal criticisms of you as an individual, and so you got personal with me in return.

    We’re both very headstrong in our opinions, Chris. And you don’t seem to react well when you can’t make someone agree with you. And you have a tendency to get personal, which does you no credit.

    It’s like I’ve been saying all along: “Religion – no criticism allowed.”

  91. Chris says:

    Darryl,

    … many people, myself included, reject Christianity simply because they don’t find it credible.

    But what is this lack of credibility based on?

    From what I can see, you idolize those two reasons I mentioned in my last comment, which are not serious objections to religion in the search for ultimate truth. You give a completely literal historical reading of Genesis and 1 Samuel 15, and say that the Bible is at odds with science and God ordains moral atrocities, but the only reason you give for your literalist approach is that it seems like the right way to you, and you give any other possible approaches an instant back of the hand dismissal with no good reason. You say that there’s no historical evidence for Christ, but no serious modern scholar of history disputes the historicity of Christ. You say that Christianity is a reinvention of old pagan myths, but Fr. Barron and I have easily discredited that position. You bring up your own failed experience of Christianity as a legitimate reason to reject Christianity — because you didn’t like religion, all of them must be wrong.

    You just don’t have any serious basis for this claim of a lack of credibility, but yet you adamantly maintain that stance. Why?

  92. Chris says:

    Darryl,

    Unbelievable. It seems I cannot criticise your religion without you interpreting it as a personal insult to yourself.

    You’re going off the deep end here, Darryl. Where have I said in this conversation that you cannot criticize my religion, or that I’m taking your criticism as a personal insult?

    What’s irritating me here, in this conversation, is that you’re unable to offer any serious evidence or argument to back up your objections to religion (and Christianity in particular), nor offer any serious defense of your own position.

    If you want to criticize Christianity, then, by all means, bring it on. But if you want your claims to be taken seriously, then also show us some serious evidence to back yourself up.

  93. Chris says:

    Darryl,

    I apologize for the “mean-spirited, dogmatic ignoramus” remark. That was uncalled for.

    Look, I am not sure I want to continue with this conversation. I don’t think you’re taking my questions seriously, and there are many comments where I’ve brought up some big questions and you’ve just brushed them aside. Now, the emotional outbursts are starting.

    If you’re not willing to take my questions seriously, then let’s stop now.

  94. Darryl Sloan says:

    I agree, let’s stop. All I’ll say in closing is that I’m not prepared to wear your assessment of me. You’re free to think what you want about my motivations and arguments. I have a different perspective on it all than the one you project upon me.

    Have a good Christmas. Enjoy yourself. 🙂

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