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Everything posted by sethosayher

  1. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/05/22/pope_at_mass:_culture_of_encounter_is_the_foundation_of_peace/en1-694445 So the pope made a splash yesterday when he stated that even non-believers could go to heaven, including atheists and members of other faiths. People reacted as if the Pope had singlehandedly revised one of the ancient tenants of Christianity, but Catholics well-read in the theology of their church know that this has been the official stance of the Church since Vatican II. Growing up in a Pentecostal Church meant I was exposed to a very different view of salvation. It was caustic, exclusionary, and declared that one had to be "born-again" and have a personal relationship with Jesus to warrant eternal life. I always thought it was crazy that a person with genuine love for his fellow man could be condemned to eternal hellfire for the "crime" of not professing belief in Jesus. I see absolutely no moral value in the mere act of believing in Jesus, and cannot fathom how Christians can rationalize good non-christians being condemned to eternal suffering because of their decision to not believe. So I've always been partial to the Catholic view. What do you guys think?
  2. Grew up in a pentecostal congregation, catering to an indian-american community. Over time, youth have advocated reforms to make worship and the service more...contemporary? What I've noticed is that services are a lot more bland. I mean, I didn't like the holy-roller days either, but you could at least say they were passionate, speaking in tongues and making a whole lot of hoopla. Now, things are just...meh. On occasion a well-spoken and interesting preacher will stop by, but modern day evangelical christianity is just so...uninteresting. At least catholics and orthodox have beautiful churches and music to enjoy. If I'd sum up the contemporary evangelical experience, it would be "slick slide shows and lots of coffee & refreshments." But it just can't compete against secular culture. From the music to the art to every other element of evangelical counter-culture, it's just a pathetic pastiche of better, more compelling secular counterparts. What do you guys think?
  3. I grew up in an ethnic (South Indian) pentecostal church that was unambigiously fundamentalist in its bent. Fire and brimstone was a frequent subject and we were frequently enjoined to never step into that haven of inquitity, the cinema. The women wore no make-up and to be cought listening to rap or rock could incurr censure. Fast forward to today and my church is far milder, though it has traces of that old fundamentalist spirit. Now the women wear nail polish and lipstick and kids listen to Taylor Swift and Rick Ross without much raising of eyebrows. The worship music is bland, uninspiring tripe, a shoddy pastiche of alternative rock. The messages alternate between the generations, with the older pastors still decrying the evils of gays and liberals and the younger pastors feeding the congregants with vague and theologically unsophisticated warnings about being too individualistic, too selfish, too independent. I feel like this evolution from Fundamentalist to Evangelical is happening across the country. Has it happened in your congregation? What do you think? Is Evangelical christianity 'better'? I have mixed feelings. It's slightly more palatable and less overtly repressive... but if you scratch beneath the surface you can still find sexism, homophobia and other ugly elements of christianity in many quarters (perhaps most). At the same time, I have the feeling that Evangelical Christianity might be (as the anglican-turned-catholic John Henry Newman once stated) "a Trojan horse for an undogmatic religious individualism." When Cardnal Newman meant was that Christianity beyond the confines of a well defined, apostolic church tended to become highly subjective and variable in doctrine, to the point that nearly every believer could define what Christianity meant for themselves. Protestantism always had this problem but it's becoming especially acute in our post-demoninational age. Believers feel little to no need to belong to a church with well-articulated dogma. Ask an evangelical his opinion regarding any issue (gay rights, movies, war, etc) and you can get a different standpoint that depends entirely on the whims and experiences of that person. I believe it was Robert M. Price who noted in one of his articles (can't find the source) that increasing amounts of evangelical christians state that premarital sex is permissible. Maybe Christianity won't look like anything we'd recognize by the end of this century.
  4. Meaning, you didn't have profound spiritual experiences, or felt dissatisfied, bored or not particularly impressed with the experiences you did have? Growing up in an pentecostal church (one that I still attend due to family pressures) it's clear that feelings are a powerful tool employed by xians to justify and substantiate their faith. A calming feeling, or an intense emotion is often all a christian needs to "know" that God exists, or that he is working in a particular meeting/gathering. Despite being an atheist for 5 years now, I still occasionally feel "pangs" of spiritual sentiment that I'm tempted to attribute to the holy spirit, despite knowing it's all hokum (It helps to have loud music, a boisterous preacher vamping for God, and social/family pressure all working towards pushing you to religion). But I've also heard stories of devout, hard working and sincere christians who felt and heard nothing from the Lord when they prayed, worshiped and read the bible. Was this you? How did it make you feel? Were you guilty, angry? Are you mad at people who essentially blame you for not doing enough to 'deserve' God's touch?
  5. Just want to say that I've been reading all of these and I hope they keep coming. What is it about Churches that brings out the scandalous in us all? Maybe we all have a propensity for error but our mistakes become all the more horrifying when we are told to strive to be holy.
  6. So my church had a retreat last weekend. All in all fairly fun, especially when you skip 90% of the meetings/devotionals/bible studies. But the entire excursion was marred on the last night by an explosive controversy involving young girls and late night movies. You see the retreat organizers (who are respected members of the pentecostal church I attend) wanted to show an extremely lame movie about Fathers and Sons called "Courageous" on Saturday, at the well-know licentious time of 9:30 pm. We all know that nothing good happens after 9:30 pm. Basically a very conservative member of the Church (let's call him "Jack") started yelling at around 9 that he wouldn't let his 15 year old daughter watch a movie that late with horny boys from our church. Ignoring that Courageous is probably the least sexy movie of all time and that there would be tons of watchful adults. So one of the retreat organizers (an intimidating but ultimately good-hearted adult, let's call him "Larry") found about this and blew up, jumping in his car to drive back to the retreat center to confront Jack about this. Larry and John met and spent three hours discussing this situation. Thankfully, Larry kept his anger in and the exchange was fairly civil. Basically what happened was is that the pastor of the church (a relative of mine) conspired with more conservative members of the church to bring their daughters back to the retreat center if the movie was past 9:30. They did this in an extremely underhanded and secretive way. They knew that Jack was hot-headed and told Jack months in advance to go nuts and demand his daughter not attend the movie. They essentially used him as a pawn, instead of just being upfront about their beliefs/intentions. My pastor was essentially exposed and now things are very tense. It's fucking amazing how scummy and immoral some believers can be. These sanctimonious pricks walk around like their God's gift to man, and imply that their possession of the holy spirit makes them moral people. Bullllllshit. The Holy Spirit doesn't seem to do jack shit in most people, most congregations, most denominations. So what's the craziest Church Drama you've experienced?
  7. ...or maybe a little bit of both? Were you happy as a Christian? Was it a source of consistent joy, or did it make life miserable for you? I know people who were utterly in love with their faith and spent every waking moment basking in prayer and worship. Far more typically I found that believers could be as happy or depressed as a secular joe, though they may have a moment of deep spiritual joy once in a blue moon. In my case, Christianity made me miserable. Pentecostalism completely (and continues to) eat into my time, energy and freedom. It constrained me in countless ways and I was frustrated, especially as a teenager, by Christian strictures on sex, music, nightlife and the like.
  8. This topic is really bringing up memories. I especially remember the songs about fountains of blood. I used to quote the lyrics to my ex-girlfriend, who was a pretty atheistic jewish girl. She always grimaced. Now I get what she means.
  9. I've made topics before discussing why I think Christian music tends to be so awful. The lyrics are always on the nose, the metaphors few and far between (or awful when implemented) and the music is almost universally never memorable. So lets list the worst of the worst. My vote: "I am a friend of God." The most inane part is bolded. The lyrics (from here) Every time my church plays this I want to scream.
  10. Some great perspectives on this issue. I'm loving these comments. The more I think about it, the more I think that the preoccupation with a "personal" relationship with Jesus is a little selfish. It's definitely reassuring sometimes and even beautiful, but it seems to make a lot of Christians think about themselves.
  11. It's sort of amazing how much a "relationship" with Christ figures in evangelical life. It's especially astounding because it's a rather new phenomena, born out of pietism in the 18th century. It's also kind of silly. I mean, it's a rather one-sided relationship to begin with. Besides that, I don't know of any friends or fathers who may decide to toss me into hell if I don't live up to expectations Two questions: 1. Are there any similar understandings of God in other faiths? I know many xian missionaries/evangelists tout how only in Christianity God is your friend. 2. Did you have a "relationship" with God when you were a christian? What did you like about this supposed friendship? What did (or do you now) find frustrating, ridiculous, crazy? Just looking to hear your thoughts.
  12. Ken Daniels (author of Why I believed, a memoir about his life as a former missionary) has written a great post on his blog, deconversion desert: http://www.kwdaniels.com/1/post/2012/01/the-deconversion-blues.html? The article is about the depression that many believers experience when they deconvert. I myself am battling this as we speak, and I'm sure some of us feel the same way. Life after God can be daunting and scary, but its very possible. Not only possible but potentially remarkable!
  13. So lately I've been reading about biblical morality and looking at Paul's comments regarding slavery. There is no doubt that Paul is less harsh than most Old Testament prescriptions regarding slaves...but that doesn't change the fact that Paul never speaks out against the institution! Sure, he tells slave owners to never threaten their chattel and to regard them as brothers...but he also tells slaves to obey their masters and returns Philemon's slave back to him. It's been interesting reading apologetic rationalizations for slavery. Some have argued that the roman empire could not have handled a recently freed population of slaves...that the economic and social infrastructure would buckle and break under so many slaves receiving their freedom. This seems like a lack of faith on the part of Christian Apologists! Also the bible isn't afraid to unequivocally defend many other causes...isn't it strange that it would compromise in an area modern moral sensibility condemns?
  14. Tim Tebow is a pretty divisive player. He's seems to have become the focal point of a debate in our society (U.S.) about public faith. I don't know what to make of him. I'm not a huge football fan at all (though recently I've been getting into it thanks to the efforts of my more sporty friends) so I don't know exactly how much he flaunts his religion during games. I have seen footage of him kneeling after touchdowns and singing christian songs when prepping for plays. I kind of feel its ostentatious. And almost a little pushy. He has the right to express his faith...but I feel that many Christians like him cannot conceive that sometimes faith can be a private matter. He seems almost like a foot solider in a P.R. assault on america. Didn't Jesus tell his followers not to flaunt their faith in the streets like the pharisees anyway?
  15. Ditto. I NEVER liked that Christian music shit - it was all so cheesy and all sounded the same. I used to hate going to church and having to pretend to like that shit when someone would be on stage "performing". I'm still forced to attend my pentecostal church and holy christ do I HATE the music we have to sing. It's all the more insufferable because all my friends are in choir and practice all the time. It blows chunks.
  16. Hahaha...."shama laba kooribata" sounds EXACTLY like 80% of speaking in tongues. You hit the nail on the head. Sometimes I feel so awkward and awful standing there with my eyes half-open, not saying a word as everyone whips themselves up into a frenzy. I just want to stand up and run away. (I actually did this tonight...I ran out the sanctuary to the sunday school room...but my friend asked me where I went so I obviously can't do that too often).
  17. As a former pentecostal still forced to attend meetings by a devout mother, I encounter people speaking in tongues on a nearly weekly (sometimes semi-daily) basis. I myself have spoken in tongues in my youth (when I was about 17)...I wanted to discuss our experiences with speaking in tongues (known as "glossolalia") and how we understand those experiences now. I was "given" the "gift" of glossolalia at a meeting devoted specifically to filling the youth of the church with the Holy Spirit. In fact, if I recall correctly, we had had meetings in this vein all that week. The meeting lacked any cohesive structure beyond groups of people praying together (many in tongues, as expected), with church leaders running around, praying for random kids and individuals. I still remember the build up to my first (and really only) glossolalia experience. My friend (really a mentor who I still admire) started praying for me. He began emphatically telling me to just speak in tongues...essentially telling me to just do it. And...I did it. It took about two hours of fervent cajoling on my friends and elders part (as well as about 17 years of being around other tongues-speaking Pentecostals) but I did it. It's hard to describe, but it was both semi-guided by me and semi-improvised. A word-like sound would pop into my mind and I would deconstruct the syllables, re-arranging them and transforming them into new words. It's kind of like jazz or scat. You just jump from syllable to syllable, sometimes taking detours to repeat an interesting sound or combining two pseudo-words together. You know what's funny about all this? While I was engaging in glossolalia I had only one thought in my brain the entire time. This is purely psychological phenomena. By this point in my life I was already on the road from agnosticism to atheism. So maybe my glossolalia experience isn't as valid as a believers. I don't know, it certainly sounded the same. And I did feel a burning in my chest (or was it my brain, or tongue?), which many of my friends claimed was proof of the holy spirit coming to dwell in me. So please...share and discuss your experiences =)
  18. From my experiences with protestant, evangelical Christianity, a person can only be saved by believing in Jesus Christ. What always bugged me about this was that it seemed to me that faith in Jesus Christ has no moral value in and of itself. It's just a particular theological assertion you hold to be true. Why does this merit entrance to heaven? Because God says so? I'm trying to figure out the logic here. Could it be that belief in Jesus Christ is a form of subservience to God? Is that why God feels justified to roast whole swaths of humanity in eternal hellfire?
  19. Does anyone remember an article earlier this year about a Megachurch being forced to pay taxes on a gym they charged money for? The church tried to worm out of it by deeming the gym one of its "ministries."
  20. You are completely right. I'd also like to point out that many Christians use that phrase (or idea) to goad people into accepting or doing things they normally wouldn't do. I remember when my aunt guilt-tripped my cousin into playing the piano for a prayer meeting with "Jesus wants you to play! Do you want to make Jesus sad?" Like he'd give two shits.
  21. I smell bullshit. You need to give us some specific answers here, like a liberal professor giving you a shitty grade for a well-argued conservative position. And conservatism has its strongholds in economic and foreign policy theory. And how would conservatism influence the study of the sciences or mathematics? In my experience academics are pretty tolerant of opinions that differ from their own.
  22. Fascinating. I'm only 22 years ago but I've always been deeply preoccupied by romance and marriage. Even though I'm a sappy romantic at heart, I am afraid of marriage because I've seen how two people in love can find their passion atrophy into...a horrible, empty, grinding ordeal.
  23. I grew up listening to Christian music and hated all of it. Especially as I started getting into music as a teen. Suddenly every worship song sounded like the same vacuous acoustic piece of shit with the same mindless lyrics. So glad I listen to what I want now.
  24. I don't know how it is in Australia, but some dollar stores in the US have Bibles for $1. Anyway, if you're interested, feel free to check out a very detailed letter I sent my parents a few months ago, dealing specifically with several categories of Bible problems. You can download it from post #13 in the following thread: http://www.ex-christ...__fromsearch__1 I read your letter while I was at a prayer meeting my mother pressued me attend tonight...It's phenomenal, and does a job of summarizing some of the best contradictions in the bible. By the way, how did your parents react to the letter? Thanks. How did those at the prayer meeting respond to you reading such a letter, or were you able to conceal it? So far not much has been said about religion between us since I sent them the letter. What little has been said is posted in that thread. I plan to be there in a few days for Thanksgiving weekend, so there may be some interesting details to add to that thread afterwards. I read it on my iphone. I need to keep myself occupied during that boring shit somehow!
  25. I don't know how it is in Australia, but some dollar stores in the US have Bibles for $1. Anyway, if you're interested, feel free to check out a very detailed letter I sent my parents a few months ago, dealing specifically with several categories of Bible problems. You can download it from post #13 in the following thread: http://www.ex-christ...__fromsearch__1 I read your letter while I was at a prayer meeting my mother pressued me attend tonight...It's phenomenal, and does a job of summarizing some of the best contradictions in the bible. By the way, how did your parents react to the letter?
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