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Atheism

Guest Post: Athol Kay

I’m very honored to have a guest post today.  Athol Kay is a fellow atheist and blogger who has what I think is a very unique and useful website.  Check it out at Marriedmansexlife.com.   Unlike so many websites dedicated to using Game and Pickup Artistry to “pick up hot babes,” Athol takes the same principles and uses them to teach men to be better husbands, and in the process, get laid like lovebugs in Lower Alabama in June.  A lot of his material goes along with the evolutionary principles I talk about here.   I’m especially happy to have his contribution now, since I’ve been interested in the “human side” of atheism recently.  It helps to be able to empathize with and get to know individual atheists, I think.   So, thank you Athol.

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Firstly a big thanks to Hamby for this opportunity to guest post here. I write a fairly closely themed blog about positive steps to take for married men to have a good sex life and while I do have an atheist perspective, my blog isn’t “about atheism”. It really doesn’t matter how well I wrote this post, on my own blog it would be out of place. My thanks.

My name is Athol Kay. I’ve been an atheist for around 14 years now. This is my story.

I had a fairly normal nominal Christian family and I probably went to church maybe half a dozen times before I was seven years old. The traditional “hatchings, matchingsand dispatchings” of christenings, weddings and funerals accounting for every visit. Then I fell off the second story of the school fort, landing on my head and was basically left concussed and sitting dazed in a classroom for hours before my parents were contacted and I could be seen in a hospital. I remember nothing of that day other than after the fall I had an odd taste in my mouth and my face was numb like I’d been to the dentist. In disgust at the school my parents switched me to a private Anglican (aka Episcopalian) school called St Mark’s for the following year.

At St. Mark’s I first ran across Christianity seriously. It was basically a day school version of Hogwarts but with churchly content instead of magical content. Though to a young boy there was little difference in effect. There were Divinity classes, two church assemblies a week with singing, choir and a great library stuffed with books on Christianity and religion. I remember reading a large children’s encyclopedia of the Bible during lunchtimes when it rained – soccer in the Birdcage when it was sunny of course. Mr. Kirby did double duty as Reverend and Headmaster and was no less an imposing figure of benevolence and authority than Dumbledore. Likewise his unexpected death (I forget what of) left no less a vacuum. All in all I loved St. Mark’s and discovered that I was a natural at understanding the stories and putting together the history of the Bible. I really have very little negative to say about St. Mark’s. I loved it. The only problem was that it stopped at the end of Middle School.

Come High School and it was back to the world of the secular. Without the constant surroundings of St. Mark’s my awareness of religion shifted to the back burner. I was a Christian, but others weren’t and that was okay. I wasn’t like the kid in the Closed Brethren that had to eat by himself at lunchtime and couldn’t watch films in class. That was odd, but at the time it simply seemed logical. He was Closed Brethren, so he was excused from class if we were doing something sinister like watching a documentary on weather patterns in science. In retrospect… wow.

Towards the end of High School I stumbled across the parachurch group Youth For Christ and what up until this point was a fairly benign experience of exposure to Christianity suddenly accelerated. This was an aggressive fundamentalist evangelical group and I was an easy convert seeing I already had all the background information from St. Mark’s stored in me like a sleeper cell and the call to action, to make a personal commitment to God, to be Born Again, activated me and my mission began.

After that it was a roller coaster nine years from becoming Born Again at age 16 to my final decision to simply disbelieve in Christianity by age 25. Rather than rehash everything I’ll simply state some of the evangelical merit badges I’ve earned, and then we’ll head into the why I no longer believe…

Merit badges: Dozens of camp leadership experiences for youth groups and Youth For Christ. Worship leader for youth group, short term mission in Fiji, full time worker for the Bible Society for 15 months, preaching in evening service. All in all I think I was one of the best and the brightest of my church peer group.

But there were also terrible problems as well. I was shoved into accepting a literal biblical worldview of angels and demons, while at the same time I was studying for a degree in sociology. Plus I was also studying world religions at college. The internal mental conflict was extreme; I did consider suicide upon occasion as a way to just stop it all. I badly wanted sex as well, but that was forbidden. Essentially all my girlfriend relationships imploded over this issue. I found myself despising my quite loving parents for their failure to be Born Again. For a long time I was determined to become a minister and that destiny seemed set and I would have become a good one… except in the back of my mind I had concerns about my ability to not lose my faith… and I could foresee that a minister that looses their faith is a very bad place to be in. The choice of faking it all until you die, or walking away from everything with no marketable skills seemed absolutely appalling.

Now as to the “why”.

I find the conflict between a liberal and a literal approach to the Bible a key problem area. This isn’t limited to just Christianity but all the “holy book / scripture” based religions. Once you take scripture as “100% holy / inspired / true” you run into a problem of having knowledge and culture to advance beyond that which was accepted at the time of the writing of the scripture.

I find fundamentalist approach to scripture essentially quite logical, but they can be quite objectively wrong about factual things. Pat Robertson for example claiming the earthquake in Haiti was the result of God smiting them for their sin is monstrous, but also quite logical from a literal framework from reading the bible at face value. In half of the Old Testament God was doing just that sort of smiting. Likewise if you accept that the Bible is 100% literally true, then it’s a logical thought to proceed with the idea that if Jesus cast out demons into a herd of pigs, then demons are real.

Faced with some objectively wrong statements – the earthquake in Haiti was for example caused by the natural phenomena of plate tectonics, and that there are no objectively observable demons to be seen – it becomes tempting to reassess some “Biblical Facts” in light of modern knowledge. This is called the liberal approach to studying the Bible.

The Liberal approach is very good… at first. However after you start deferring the Holy Scripture to modern science you slowly start whittling away the foundations of faith until the entire religious construct is left swaying in the air like a game of Jenga that is ready to fall. Once you master this approach you end up with the ability to make the Bible say whatever you want the Bible to say. An objective literal reading of the Bible would suggest that something like gay female church leaders would be a terrible sin on a multitude of levels, but using a liberal approach to interpretation you can easily find a framework that supports it as not merely non-sinful, but in fact a brand new divine freedom to be embraced. Simply ignore that bit as historical for the time period, downplay that bit, revise the way we look at that, and lo and behold God is cool with that.

In the end the liberal approach to understanding the Bible as a believer renders the basic text as putty to mold into whatever you want it to say. In my mind this renders the basic text as meaningless as something to base your life upon. If you want to do whatever the hell you want, you may as well just dispense with the middle man and save time and effort. But the fundamentalist approach to understanding requires you to believe things that are obviously untrue. So there is no winning solution possible here.

Furthermore religion is supposed to explain and provide meaning to the way the world is. To the early Romans the idea that Zeus makes thunder is actually helpful and makes sense of the world. As it is, science has repeatedly pushed back the frontiers of knowledge, and “God does it” explains less and less as the ages roll past. We now know that thunder is caused by weather patterns, and is an electrical discharge, which is where electrons leap from atom to atom. So poor Zeus just becomes a failed theory, and is placed with other failed theories in the museum if he is lucky. Modern science explains more than any religious viewpoint can ever hope to and the killer app of science is the way that it is self-correcting over time. A theory may be partially right for centuries, then adjusted in the light of a new experiment or information. Religion struggles forever with the original text as the handbook for all eternity.

Even worse, then you discover the text is troubling in and of itself. One of the first shakings of the foundations of faith for me was Numbers 12:3 “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth”. Instantly I knew that it was simply not possible that Moses would have written that about himself. Yet the fundamentalist and historical viewpoint is that Moses wrote all five books of the Pentateuch. It seems clear that a later editor has slipped something in here. On it’s own it’s not to worrisome, but then you start to wonder what else has been slipped in that isn’t so obvious. It completely undercuts the notion that the Bible is divinely inspired if God tells Moses what to write… and then it goes to the editors for a final polish before marketing designs a cover for it.

Then I discovered that it took centuries of meetings to even decide what books should be included in the Bible anyway. Then I discovered that the different branches of faith can’t even decide how many books are canonical. Protestants claim 66 books in their canon, Catholics 73 and Eastern Orthodox 81. There’s no way to know who is correct as to what is the true scripture, I suppose one must make a leap of faith that God worked best through the committee process of the church of the country you were born into. So when I was struggling to believe in the Protestant view of God, the casual factor was falling off playground equipment when I was seven and being sent to an Anglican school.

Now all this is lovely logical rational thinking, but still kind of abstract to think about. Our minds are upon occasion so slippery with us wanting to believe in something that we are capable of expending great energy at convincing ourselves that what we want to believe is true. This is called apologetics and there are both Christian and Atheist rock stars of faith or lack of faith that make their living off defending those viewpoints. In the end I found after all was said and done, the Bible became a distracting annoyance that on one hand could be viewed from the fundamentalist perspective as divinely inspired but then required having to force yourself to believe that which was clearly untrue, or as a vital historical artifact that was merely quite interesting and culturally influential.

In the end it all came down to what I wanted to believe about Jesus. The turning point for me came once I started really paying attention to the failure of his return. When Jesus speaks of his return, he is explicitly clear that it will happen in the lifetime of his hearers. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. It’s so vital it appears word for word in three of the Gospels; Matthew 24:34,Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32.

Furthermore if there is any confusion in what Jesus said, we can look to the actions of the early church to see that they clearly believed in a literal and imminent return by Jesus. What we have Jesus saying in the text is mirrored by the actions of the early church. There’s no confusion over what he said, Jesus has communicated very clearly. He’s just badly wrong… and if Jesus is badly wrong about something so critical to the entire theological framework of Christianity. Well there we go. Game over. Keep tugging on that string and the entire tapestry of faith will unravel at your feet in time.

Once I came to that understanding, that Christianity simply wasn’t true, it was a short process to divest myself of church attendance, Bible study, prayer and all the other trappings of belief. Since then I’ve found myself become a far happier, more relaxed and kinder person. Ironically I’m more “Christian” now than I ever was before when I believed. With going into the ministry deep sixed, my Plan B turned out to be Nursing and I’ve spent the last fourteen or so years providing nursing care for the developmentally delayed in group home and day program settings. I’ve stayed married, I’ve got kids and pay my taxes. It’s a quiet but happy life. It’s hard to describe the freedom from religion. Everything seems brighter and more hopeful afterwards. Plus you can sleep in on Sunday.

Importantly I’m not particularly an anti-Christian and I’m certainly not a non-Christian. I guess post-Christian is fine, but even that isn’t an adequate description for what I am. Even atheist seems troublesome at times as that seems to imply a theistic belief as some sort of default setting that I am lacking. I’m secular and pro-science. Disbelief in God is as meaningful to me as disbelief in Santa.

I’m also the same person I always was, just some of the content has changed. I didn’t sprout horns, hooves and a forked tail when I disbelieved. I still feel an intense connection to people and want the best for them. I still feel the pastoral mood (for lack of a better word) and caring for others is important to me. I’m still the same little boy that delved into encyclopedias in the library at St. Mark’s when it rained, just now more than ever I’m excited by science and my quest for knowledge and understanding continues on.

I find myself drawn more and more to dealing with relationship and sexuality, particularly marriage as a topic. My ongoing project is at Married Man Sex Life and you are all most welcome to come pay a visit.

Discussion

21 thoughts on “Guest Post: Athol Kay

  1. Wow! I am in awe of your articulate and profound testimony! As Hamby may tell you I am known for cutting and pasting portions of his blog for my comments. I do not know where to start with yours. It is as if you told my story as well, so I will just humbly say DITTO! Thank you for your sharing this and trust that more will see it and be personally moved by it.

    I would like to invite you and Hamby to join me at a discussion page on Face Book. I did not create it, but was honored to become an Administrator. It is called The Bible: Truth or Fiction. Our goal is stated:

    This is a page designed for open-minded Christians and non-Christians alike to gather and explore the bible.

    Please abide by the following guidelines:

    1. Keep comments respectful and friendly.
    2. Try to back up statements with proven facts.

    We already have a few Christians who are sharing ideas with Atheists, and I think that both you would be able add an interesting, and as yet untapped, opinion to the discussions there! Why can’t the link be pretty and appealing? The facts seldom are.

    http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fpages%2FThe-Bible-Truth-or-Fiction%2F116108181733834%3Fv%3Dwall%26ref%3Dmf&h=b930691d8b7221ffb198981ed4935474

    Posted by PaigeB | April 12, 2010, 7:59 pm
  2. Athol, thanks for this post, yours is an interesting story. I don’t know many atheists, or if I do I’m not aware of their belief system. But I’m struck that both you and Hamby ultimately rebelled from a very fundamentalist view of the world. Your description of being completely submerged in Biblical study for years, worrying about your parents, and swearing off sex sounds absolutely torturous.

    I was raised Catholic, and I recall being confronted in high school by what we called “Jesus Freaks,” who told me that Catholics were not Christian, and that if I didn’t recite the Four Spiritual Laws and accept Christ as my savior I was headed straight for hell, along with the rest of my family. It was quite unnerving.

    I am curious about the backgrounds of atheists – I don’t know if statistics exist? It seems to me that most Catholics just sort of fall away and lapse. Catholicism is much less Bible-focused, and the Book of Revelation is rarely mentioned, indeed is treated as a sort of hallucinatory rambling.

    Fundamentalist views are by definition the most extreme, and I wonder if they produce the most extreme form of rebellion – that of complete disbelief.

    Posted by Susan Walsh | April 12, 2010, 8:21 pm
  3. Well I covered all the ground from nominal family interest, to Anglican, to evangelical and turned into a very hard angry atheism that has resolved into a very peaceful understanding atheism.

    Atheists are just the same as Christians, except we disbelieve in just one more belief system than they do.

    Posted by Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life | April 12, 2010, 9:25 pm
  4. I just wondered if the transition from evangelical to hard angry atheism was the significant cause/effect.

    Posted by Susan Walsh | April 12, 2010, 10:13 pm
  5. Yes and no.

    Yes in the sense that when you realize you just to all intents and purposes you wasted nine years of your life with nonsense, and that while a good deal of what was done to you was by your own hand, some of it was also done to you by others who knew better and were purposeful in there actions. I think anger is a natural reaction to that. Bear in mind that I essentially lost 5 or so years of the start of a career path, so this is non-trivial.

    No in the sense that I am both intellectually intense, and emotionally intense. I naturally tend to extremes so if not this maybe it would have been something else.

    The silver lining is that my overall scope of knowledge *now* is fairly immense compared to what I likely would have done if I had not headed down this road. There may yet be a payoff.

    Posted by Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life | April 12, 2010, 10:40 pm
  6. Susna: I fail to understand your distinction between Catholicism & evangelical Christianity as ‘extreme’? I mean, the Vatican doesn’t mobilize people with ‘GOD HATES FAGS!’ signs, but they certainly are currently scapegoating homosexuality for the inexcusable cases & cover-ups of child rape. I hardly need to mention the Inquisition or the Iconoclast, I should hardly need to mention that the creation of Vatican City itself was the result of a pact between the church & Benito Mussolini or the missions throughout the African continent design to reinforce local superstitions & prejudices so that Africans will not use contraceptives or take medication.

    There’s also, of course, the ugly sectarian violence in Belfast to complain about.

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | April 12, 2010, 11:37 pm
  7. “There’s also, of course, the ugly sectarian violence in Belfast to complain about.”

    As an atheist with Irish roots, I’d like to point out that the Irish Republican Army was a secular organization. They even cooperated with the PLO, hardly a Catholic organization. It’s true that the Irish take Catholicism somewhat seriously, but to say the violence was motivated by religious differences is just ignorant. It was the British Protestants who starved off one fifth of the Irish population in Potato famine. It was the Protestants who gerrymandered Ireland to strip Catholics of their voting power. It was the Protestants who started the violence, attacking peaceful demonstraters with clubs.

    The Irish Catholics can tolerate other religions. But when you start shitting on their basic civil rights, they get angry.

    Posted by GudEnuf | April 13, 2010, 1:35 am
  8. I really appreciate your story, as I’m always interested in hearing about others with life paths similar to my own. I was expecially interested in your thoughts on the second coming, as that was the first thing about Christianity that really started me thinking. Christians so easily explain it away, but even as a child I couldn’t understand why the Bible would say that it would happen during ‘that generation’ if it really meant our generation – 2000 years later. Oddly enough – I’ve never heard anyone else raise this issue before. Maybe I’m just talking to the wrong people!

    Posted by One Soul's Journey | April 13, 2010, 8:29 am
  9. I remember wondering the same thing, OSJ, but that’s the funny thing about compartmentalization. When you’ve decided that the Bible is true, logic stops working properly because we’re going from conclusion to fact. It should go like this:

    * Hmmm… The Bible says, “this generation,” but that generation has obviously passed on. The Bible is probably wrong.

    But it goes like this:

    * Hmmm… The Bible says, “this generation,” which seems odd to me, but since the Bible is always right, I must be interpreting it incorrectly.

    Posted by hambydammit | April 13, 2010, 8:49 am
  10. Kevin, I think we’re talking about apples and oranges here. Far be it from me to excuse the horrors throughout history perpetrated by the Catholic church. They have been extreme, and include many that you haven’t even mentioned. Let me also say that I am not a practicing Catholic, dating back to the sexual abuse scandal in Boston several years ago.

    So yes, the Catholic church is extreme, but about different things. I view the all-male hierarchy and celibacy, as extreme, as well as the church’s position on birth control. However, in other ways the church is quite tolerant. Many parishes have LGBT groups. Many services include prayers for Jewish brothers and sisters at the time of important holidays, and there is no implication that Jews are not saved, for example. Today, one will not hear in the pews that Catholicism is the One True Church. In fact, one will not even hear that “No man comes to the Father but through me.”

    The Bible has always gotten short shrift in Catholicism, which in some ways has been a very good thing, as it is not used to judge behavior in the same way that it is in some Protestant churches.

    In short, the difference is fundamentalism. It is interesting to note that many in Latin America are leaving the Catholic church for more fundamentalist Protestant faiths. The strict adherence to rules and dogma is something that some people crave, and regret Vatican II and other relaxations that the Catholic church has let seep in during the last 50 years.

    Posted by Susan Walsh | April 13, 2010, 1:16 pm
  11. Susan, I think a post on fundamentalism/extremism/moderation in religion is long overdue. I’ve addressed it before, but I think I have new things to say about it. I can’t claim to answer for Kevin, but keep an eye out and I’ll see what I can do to put my thoughts on the subject down soon.

    Posted by hambydammit | April 13, 2010, 1:45 pm
  12. Thanks, Hamby, I’ll look forward to that. I’m curious about the link between extremism in religion, and the corresponding nature of rebellion to it. My guess is that the break from fundamentalism is harder to make. Catholics sort of lapse and fall away all the time without much of anyone noticing. In part this is because with several masses on a Sunday, no one really knows who is practicing and who isn’t, and people are likely to be strangers anyway. It’s a much looser knit congregation.

    Posted by Susan Walsh | April 13, 2010, 2:59 pm
  13. Lifelong nonreligious person here, and I find this blog fascinating. I was once a very hard-headed atheist, and then agnostic, and today I am more in the mystic category.

    I really appreciate and love science, but I do not think it can offer all the answers. There are certain aspects of religion that can be very interesting, and when read allegorically can be rather “truthful” as well.

    I definitely am not a fundie in any way, as my views are always changing. I know both atheists and theists see “spiritual” people as weirdos, but this is where I found my happy middle between a purely material world and a world of Jesus and Allah.

    Posted by Hope | April 13, 2010, 3:16 pm
  14. I think Susan is basically correct in that you can fade away from the mainline church groups and no one really notices. And you can fade back in as well. The evangelical groups are far more black and white and you are either “in” or you are “out”. The unforgivable sin in their eyes is vocalizing you have moved from the “in” group to the “out” group.

    @ Hope – I do agree with this in a sense, I certainly think “things are happening” when religious people do certain things, but these are real world physical effects happening and they seem to happen across all religious groups so the content of the belief system isn’t important. Mediation for example does result in physically observable effects like reduced blood pressure, but what you mediate on doesn’t really seem to matter.

    There is more going on in the universe than our science can currently account for, but that is not to say that The Flying Spagetti Monster is really doing anything either.

    I find Gravity to be the most astounding thing for example. Christians worry about Darwin too much, they should care far more about Einstein.

    Posted by Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life | April 13, 2010, 5:42 pm
  15. I agree, Athol. The belief system is secondary to the spirituality itself, the core so to speak. You can actually get to that meditative/zen state through playing sports, writing, making art or performing music. It’s a “higher” state of being, of excellence, etc.

    I enjoy reading more about esoteric quantum mechanics as well as different faiths that are not mainstream (Native traditions, pagan beliefs, or ancient Egyptian religions that Christianity borrows from). If you like Einstein, you should read what physicists after him have come up with (one book I’m reading is called The Holographic Universe). Einstein himself was a bit of a spiritualist, although he came at it from a very much rational perspective.

    The scientific way of viewing the world is quite useful and certainly intellectually appealing. It is one I subscribe to still, in most ways. But it has limits and can be too caught up in the cause-effect linear system of logic. So I try to keep an open mind toward the “other” possibilities.

    Posted by Hope | April 13, 2010, 7:23 pm
  16. Many parishes have LGBT groups. Many services include prayers for Jewish brothers and sisters at the time of important holidays, and there is no implication that Jews are not saved, for example.

    And yet as recently as last week we had word from the Vatican that it was ‘the Jews’ who were responsible for the recent ‘defamation’ of the churck & Pope caused by the outbreak of coverage regarding child rape & conspiracy to conceal it.

    Not every parish takes it’s marching orders from the Vatican, of course, and it would be wrong to dismiss or omit the work of people like, say, Father Aristide (whom the church excommunicated for betraying their interests in Haiti) – but I will simply have to disagree on the point that Catholicism is not as dangerous & reactionary as any evangelical movement (the evangelists just aren’t as good at presenting the veneer of legitimacy).

    The Irish Catholics can tolerate other religions. But when you start shitting on their basic civil rights, they get angry.

    Scream, condemn & bitch about the Protestants all you like; I’ve no doubt their ridiculous mythology contributed every bit as much as Catholicism did to the deteriorating situation in Ireland. Don’t pretend, though, the ‘right answer’ to give to any gang of thugs that stopped you on the road when they asked you for your religion was, ‘Protestant’.

    The children in the Catholic side of religiously segregated communities taught their children that the Protestants were all damned abominations, as surely as the Protestants taught the corollary. Don’t bother trying to lie to me; a great uncle on my mother’s side worked for MI5 during the conflict in Ireland (I tend to sympathize with the aims of the IRA, but their methods were barbaric – and it’s hard to call it ‘secular’ when it’s assassination branch called themselves ‘the twelve apostles’).

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | April 13, 2010, 7:31 pm
  17. “Scream, condemn & bitch about the Protestants all you like; I’ve no doubt their ridiculous mythology contributed every bit as much as Catholicism did to the deteriorating situation in Ireland.”

    I doubt many people could tell the difference between a Catholic Sunday service and an Anglican one. Again, religious differences didn’t stop the IRA from cooperating with the PLO.

    “Don’t pretend, though, the ‘right answer’ to give to any gang of thugs that stopped you on the road when they asked you for your religion was, ‘Protestant’.”

    Look I’m not denying that there was (lots) of Catholic on Protestant violence. But you implied that it was Catholic bigotry that provoked the violence, when in fact it was 400 years of systematic oppression.

    “The children in the Catholic side of religiously segregated communities taught their children that the Protestants were all damned abominations, as surely as the Protestants taught the corollary.”

    And what would you tell your children if the Anglicans had:

    -forcibly annexed your country
    -starved off 1/5 of your people
    -denied you the right to vote
    -forced you to pay thythes to church to a church you didn’t belong to
    -violently attacked peaceful demonstaters

    Do you think if all this happened to you, you might carry a little grudge?

    “Don’t bother trying to lie to me; a great uncle on my mother’s side worked for MI5 during the conflict in Ireland (I tend to sympathize with the aims of the IRA, but their methods were barbaric – and it’s hard to call it ’secular’ when it’s assassination branch called themselves ‘the twelve apostles’).”

    It was secular in the sense that they had purely political goals: independence and civil rights. You don’t have to be Catholic do want to those things.

    Posted by GudEnuf | April 13, 2010, 9:32 pm
  18. Look I’m not denying that there was (lots) of Catholic on Protestant violence. But you implied that it was Catholic bigotry that provoked the violence, when in fact it was 400 years of systematic oppression.

    No; I said that there was sectarian violence to complain about. Whether or not the Catholics ‘started it’ or not isn’t particularly relevant to me (the Arabic states provoked the violence & paranoia from Israel on almost every occasion; that hardly justifies the policy of collective punishment or the gratuitous destruction & body count the IDF trails behind it).

    I doubt many people could tell the difference between a Catholic Sunday service and an Anglican one. Again, religious differences didn’t stop the IRA from cooperating with the PLO.

    Cooperating with the PLO doesn’t make a particular organization secular, anymore than the inclusion of Speer & Bormann made the philosophy of the Third Reich ‘secular’. Now, granted, the IRA’s overall goals had little to do with Catholicism, but it’s members were quite eager to mete out violence against any Protestant they came across (including school children, who it’s tough to argue had been participating in the systematic oppression).

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | April 13, 2010, 11:18 pm
  19. “No; I said that there was sectarian violence to complain about.”

    From your original post:

    “Susna: I fail to understand your distinction between Catholicism & evangelical Christianity as ‘extreme’? [...] There’s also, of course, the ugly sectarian violence in Belfast to complain about.”

    You were trying to blame The Troubles on Catholicism. But there was nothing uniquely Catholic about how to the Irish Catholics acted.

    If you pick out any group of people and start to oppress them, the will bump back. And if they feel they have no other option, they’ll use violence. They will rally around thier Catholicism/blackness/femininity or whatever they have in common. And yes, they will overreact sometimes.

    It’s story as old as human psychology. Certainly older than Catholicism.

    Posted by GudEnuf | April 14, 2010, 12:31 am
  20. Athol – As a fellow Christian-turned-atheist I really appreciate your account. Your biblical knowledge lends great credibility to your position and, I imagine, makes you a venerable debater. If only I had your pointed insights when the Campus Crusaders came to call! ;o)

    Given the Bible’s poor credibility (as you deftly pointed out) and its questionable relevance, I’ve often wondered if using its text to argue against Christianity is as pointless as using its text to promote Christianity.

    I realize however, that regardless who you are speaking to, it helps to use the listener’s language… and on this point I’m glad to have you on the Atheist team.

    Thanks for the good read.

    Posted by Dick | April 20, 2010, 10:24 pm
  21. Oh I rarely debate with Christians. For the most part people believe what they want to believe and debate just frustrates and angers them.

    I do think using the Bible to argue against Christianity is ultimately the only way to get through to them. Often you can find someone that basically disbelieves in the Bible, but still believes in Jesus… so you have to undercut Jesus to break them from their thinking.

    The best way to do this is to ask them to explain how he said he would be coming back, but then he doesn’t. Say “yes I want to believe, but I came across this problem when I was reading the Bible and stopped, perhaps you can help me with it.” Most Christians will fall all over themselves to assist you lol.

    Posted by Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life | April 21, 2010, 8:35 am

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