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Discussion With A Fundamentalist


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I hope this is the right forum for this. I'm in a discussion with a fundamentalist Christian. I don't normally get into these discussions/theological debates because they are typically stupid, involve the phrase: "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.", which obviously means it's pointless to talk to them. But this guy has shown signs of slight open-mindedness so it seems potentially productive. I am not the evangelical sort. I'm not interested in running around deconverting Christians, but if someone approaches me, wants to discuss spirituality and it doesn't seem like it's going to dwindle into the above, I figure a discussion can't hurt.

 

Well, he's gone into how the early christians were horribly persecuted for the first 300 years. I know they were persecuted, though I'm not quite sure if it was as much as this guy suggests. Either way, one can hardly point out the early persecution of one's faith when for over 1500 years after that, they FAR exceeded their persecuters in cruelty and evil. Besides, my issue is that Christianity is morally problematic and has a bloody history... I don't really care what the religion du jour was before that... no one is asking me to believe that religion.

 

But anyway... one comment he made, which I'm wondering if anyone knows anything about is the following:

 

In the midst of this it grew exponentially. Why? Take the Antonine plague of 165 A.D. as an example

of what Christianity is supposed to look like (forget the crusades for a minute).

 

Christianity exploded in popularity not because people were forced into it, but because Christians

stayed behind in a crisis and took care of the sick and needy. Christians literally gave their

lives to care for the sick during a plague that rocked the Roman empire for nearly a decade. Note

that it was no official religion, in fact was still officially illegal, and was growing rapidly in

spite of the fact because of how Christians acted. Which only increases the sadness of the fact that

Christians in America don't act like this today (largely). And I would argue that the whole forcing people to be Christians happens only when Christians forget what it looks like to be Christians.

 

 

Thoughts?

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Well, I'll admit that I don't know anything about the plague itself, but I would ask the guy to produce credible historical evidence that backs up his claim - ie, that the Christian community throughout this period tended to take more care of the sick than the rest of the community. What's he claiming might be true, it might be false, but to be honest, it sounds like the kind of thing that's spoon-fed to the congregation during a Sunday sermon, which is then accepted completely by the said congregation without anyone asking any questions.

 

So yeah, ask him for valid historical sources that provide good evidence for what he's saying. If he can't produce them, then he has no argument.

 

Of course, even if he can then this entire point is still a non-starter, for the simple reason that Christianity is not the only major world religion to have suffered persecution. Muslims, for instance, have suffered horrendous persecution in various parts of the world, but yet Islam has overcome that to become a major world religion. So he must accept that if his point is valid, then Islam must also be 'true', which is an absurd conclusion because Christianity and Islam cannot both be simultaneously true - as they completely disagree on the divinity of Jesus Christ for example.

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Christianity was not illegal at that time. It was viewed as just another relatively harmless cult, and Rome didn't persecute them. What they did do was not allow them, or any other group, to disrupt order. In fact, Christians were serving in the Roman military and government during that period.

 

When the old gods didn't protect the Romans from the plague, naturally they questioned their allegiance to that pantheon. That happens to most societies enduring a widespread disaster. Christianity was becoming more mainstream, and according to several sources, Christians did lead the way in providing medical care and comfort to the suffering. They also promised eternal life in Heaven to those patients who would convert. It must have seemed a pretty good deal to the dying pagans. Christianity made big inroads during that period.

 

I wouldn't argue that Christians have never done any good in the world, nor have they committed all the evil. One must balance the positive against the negative.

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The claims that Christians were persecuted are dubious at best. The only "proof" are accounts by "church fathers" like Eusebius and similar people. (who are hardly impartial) The Romans were very tolerant. There is no historical secular evidence of Nero's "human torches", of Christians being fed to the lions, or anything like that. Marcus Aurelius did have contempt for the christians because they gleefully celebrated the troubles befalling the empire at the time.

 

Even the infamous "persecutor" Diocletian was tolerant of Christians for 18 years out of his 20 year reign. He only did some minor persecution because his co-ruler Galerian influenced him. (Galerian's wife was involved with the christians so it was probably just a personal matter that got out of control) Galerian's persecution only involved sprinking sacrificial wine over the food sold in the markets. All the christians had to do was pledge fealty to the old gods again and all would be forgiven.

 

After Constantine, the body count spiraled out of control when the various christian sects began persecuting each other. The christians have the nerve to blame Rome for persecution when Christianity itself is responsible for more persecution than anyone else!

 

About Christianity providing medical care, that's just wrong. Roman medical science was quite advanced for the time (many of their surgical tools are similar to ours!) yet public health went to shit in the middle ages because of christian teachings and general ignorance. The Romans had running water and sewers... the christians sold water in buckets and dumped their shit in the street. The baths that were partly responsible for maintaining public health were torn down or fell into disrepair because their materials were plundered to build churches.

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I'm not sure why he is arguing that xtianity is true because it grew in the midst of persecution? It doesn't prove that it's true, just that people heard something they wanted to hear (eternal life?). If he's saying that xtians took care of others and sacrificed their lives in the name in Jebus, well, there are kind, selfess xtians today you could say the same thing about. They go into jungles trying to "witness" and feed and clothe people, again, it doesn't prove that xtianity is true, it only proves that the missionaries believe it is. I sacrificed many good years of my life remaining abstinate, not drinking, watching TV, or listening to good music. I wouldn't have done this if I didn't believe xtianity is true. What your xtian is trying to say is that xtianity is true because a small group of xtians in the past cared for people and the religion grew despite being persecuted? If they believed their bibles and the parts about being persecuted then they would find persecution very validating. As far as caring for the sick, I think that some human beings are more compassionate than others, it has nothing to do with xtianity.

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Christianity was not illegal at that time. It was viewed as just another relatively harmless cult, and Rome didn't persecute them. What they did do was not allow them, or any other group, to disrupt order. In fact, Christians were serving in the Roman military and government during that period.

 

When the old gods didn't protect the Romans from the plague, naturally they questioned their allegiance to that pantheon. That happens to most societies enduring a widespread disaster. Christianity was becoming more mainstream, and according to several sources, Christians did lead the way in providing medical care and comfort to the suffering. They also promised eternal life in Heaven to those patients who would convert. It must have seemed a pretty good deal to the dying pagans. Christianity made big inroads during that period.

 

I wouldn't argue that Christians have never done any good in the world, nor have they committed all the evil. One must balance the positive against the negative.

 

 

Oh I definitely haven't said and don't think that they have never done any good in the world or that they've committed all the evil. I just think their balance sheet is too far over in the evil. It makes it difficult to understand why someone would choose a religion with so much baggage. Of course the religion seems to be doing him no extreme harm and he's doing no one else any harm, so no matter what he believes in, it's not my business. And thanks for the info!

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I'm not sure why he is arguing that xtianity is true because it grew in the midst of persecution? It doesn't prove that it's true, just that people heard something they wanted to hear (eternal life?). If he's saying that xtians took care of others and sacrificed their lives in the name in Jebus, well, there are kind, selfess xtians today you could say the same thing about. They go into jungles trying to "witness" and feed and clothe people, again, it doesn't prove that xtianity is true, it only proves that the missionaries believe it is. I sacrificed many good years of my life remaining abstinate, not drinking, watching TV, or listening to good music. I wouldn't have done this if I didn't believe xtianity is true. What your xtian is trying to say is that xtianity is true because a small group of xtians in the past cared for people and the religion grew despite being persecuted? If they believed their bibles and the parts about being persecuted then they would find persecution very validating. As far as caring for the sick, I think that some human beings are more compassionate than others, it has nothing to do with xtianity.

 

 

He's not arguing that Christianity is true because Christians were persecuted. One of my stated explicit problems with Christianity is how immoral it is. (The book is immoral... the actions of the religion were immoral... etc.) So he was using this to pull out the "oh poor christians. we were persecuted first." (And even if that were true exactly as he stated it... 300 years vs. 1500 of their mayhem. They more than made up for it.)

 

@Sirelien and @Will02 Thanks! Very helpful comments. And I'll go back and re-read the jesus never existed site. I didn't realize they also talked about this topic. It's been awhile.

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It sounds, then, that he is using a combination of the no true Scotsman fallacy - if they are true Christians they won't do those things anyway when, in fact, it's their systemic intolerance for people not like them which made much of Christianity the persecuting, exclusive system it has been over the centuries.

 

I don't know what to call the other fallacy I see, but he essentially says, "Christianity is moral because some Christians are moral." I guess I would say it's a non sequitur. Christians may be moral for reasons other than the system of Christianity. Maybe their parents just taught them well how to get along with people? Maybe they want to do the right thing? Shunning, shaming, excluding, blacklisting and even torturing are not moral, yet Christians have, in the name of their Savior and because of their doctrine done this off and on for centuries.

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And I'll go back and re-read the jesus never existed site. I didn't realize they also talked about this topic. It's been awhile.

 

 

That site is huge... it took me three days to read everything on there.

 

I'm not sure if the site is maintained anymore but the guy who put it up properly researched and documented everything at least. My faith was already on the rocks when I found that but the jesusneverexisted site finished it off for good. If I ever meet the guy who put it up I'll buy him a beer as a thank you :)

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It sounds, then, that he is using a combination of the no true Scotsman fallacy - if they are true Christians they won't do those things anyway when, in fact, it's their systemic intolerance for people not like them which made much of Christianity the persecuting, exclusive system it has been over the centuries.

 

I don't know what to call the other fallacy I see, but he essentially says, "Christianity is moral because some Christians are moral." I guess I would say it's a non sequitur. Christians may be moral for reasons other than the system of Christianity. Maybe their parents just taught them well how to get along with people? Maybe they want to do the right thing? Shunning, shaming, excluding, blacklisting and even torturing are not moral, yet Christians have, in the name of their Savior and because of their doctrine done this off and on for centuries.

 

These are really good points! And I agree and was trying to convey to him that my beliefs regarding WHY Christianity has such an ugly history isn't just that it happened to fall into the hands of "evil people", but that the way the religion is set up... the intolerance and exclusivity... it creates that kind of badness. Good people will see right through it and NOT act on the badness (in the same way he wouldn't do genocide just because it happened in the old testament), but people who don't have a firm moral compass "already" are likely to take the religion and use it toward evil means.

 

Though this conversation with him has been really enlightening to me in many ways. It's made it clear that I haven't fully let go of the anger toward Christianity. And it's important that I do so. Not for Christians, but for me. Additionally there seem to be more moral forms of Christian belief springing up like liberal Christianity as well as a literalistic/biblical Christianity that nevertheless doesn't accept hell and believes all will eventually be saved (http://www.tentmaker.org). while we could argue that Christianity is still absurd and illogical... i don't actually have a problem with weird beliefs (I'm a religious Buddhist... as opposed to an atheist with just a moral philosophy), and I'm sure many would consider some of my beliefs weird or illogical to them. And that's fine. That's not even why I left Christianity in the first place. I left because I considered it immoral, it was harmful to me, and it didn't personally resonate. But I was equally miserable in the time I had no spiritual framework.

 

If I believe people can do better, then it's unfair for me to expect Christians to just not follow that path because it's done a lot of bad. I still think it's a very dangerous belief system that can still harm a lot of people, but if Christianity can eventually evolve to something like tentmaker.org as a whole, even though it still wouldn't be my path, I could hardly find fault with it on moral grounds. And I do think there is hope and reason to believe that it can evolve that way as a whole. Most Christians are deeply uncomfortable with the hell part of their theology. It's preached about much less in most of mainstream Christianity. Christianity also once supported slavery, but then supported ending it. This is a clear sign to me that eventually people can move past barbarism and start looking at things in new lights... in the framework of their own internal moral compass (which I dont' believe a "god" is required for, it's just innate in some and not in others given that there are different levels of goodness in the people around us.)

 

But anyway... I digress, lol.

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And I'll go back and re-read the jesus never existed site. I didn't realize they also talked about this topic. It's been awhile.

 

 

That site is huge... it took me three days to read everything on there.

 

I'm not sure if the site is maintained anymore but the guy who put it up properly researched and documented everything at least. My faith was already on the rocks when I found that but the jesusneverexisted site finished it off for good. If I ever meet the guy who put it up I'll buy him a beer as a thank you smile.png

 

It's a wonderful site! And it played a big role in my deconversion especially as I was going through the emotional fear of hell after the intellectual fear was gone. (SCARY phase!)

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I'm not sure why he is arguing that xtianity is true because it grew in the midst of persecution? It doesn't prove that it's true, just that people heard something they wanted to hear (eternal life?). If he's saying that xtians took care of others and sacrificed their lives in the name in Jebus, well, there are kind, selfess xtians today you could say the same thing about. They go into jungles trying to "witness" and feed and clothe people, again, it doesn't prove that xtianity is true, it only proves that the missionaries believe it is. I sacrificed many good years of my life remaining abstinate, not drinking, watching TV, or listening to good music. I wouldn't have done this if I didn't believe xtianity is true. What your xtian is trying to say is that xtianity is true because a small group of xtians in the past cared for people and the religion grew despite being persecuted? If they believed their bibles and the parts about being persecuted then they would find persecution very validating. As far as caring for the sick, I think that some human beings are more compassionate than others, it has nothing to do with xtianity.

 

 

He's not arguing that Christianity is true because Christians were persecuted. One of my stated explicit problems with Christianity is how immoral it is. (The book is immoral... the actions of the religion were immoral... etc.) So he was using this to pull out the "oh poor christians. we were persecuted first." (And even if that were true exactly as he stated it... 300 years vs. 1500 of their mayhem. They more than made up for it.)

 

@Sirelien and @Will02 Thanks! Very helpful comments. And I'll go back and re-read the jesus never existed site. I didn't realize they also talked about this topic. It's been awhile.

 

 

 

Ahhh, got it. I had never heard of the Jesus Never Existed website before reading this thread and I'm so glad I went there...lots of good stuff. I wish every xtian coming to this site would go over there and read every word.

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I'm doubtful about the story. I don't remember anything about a plague like that during my church history classes.

 

 

I'm still not sure if such a plague happened, though I did review the "history of persecution" toward early Christians on the jesusneverexisted site. The information compiled there suggested that Christians were only actively persecuted for about 12 years resulting in close to 2,000 deaths during the entirety of the 300 year period before Christianity became the state religion. I know it's really wrong of me, but knowing what we know now, it's easy to wish they'd been persecuted more successfully at the time. It would have saved the world so much pain and horror. We wouldn't even have the muslim faith now, either.

 

And even though I feel that way, I still feel bad that I feel that way because I'm against actively causing any pain or suffering but it's really hard to look at the devastation this system of belief has caused and the mental suffering it STILL causes, and not wish we could somehow go to the beginning and eradicate it before it could really get going. Of course, this line of thinking is EXACTLY why we've had so much badness to begin with. Even though I say going back in time knowing FACTUALLY what will happen... Christians are SO convinced they have the truth, and BECAUSE they have it, they somehow have the right to force it onto others.

 

So if I could go back in time and eradicate Christianity before it could cause so much harm, I'm not saying it would be right from a perspective of doing no harm, but... I also can't say I wouldn't do it.

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@MudHoney part of me wishes they would, too, but talking with that fundamentalist made me re-commit to the idea that it's not my place or right to try to take away someone else's faith, especially when they aren't suffering or causing someone else suffering. I honestly wish the religion had never come to be. It's caused too much pain and destruction in the world. I wish NO exclusivistic/violence prone faiths had gotten going. But I still feel like most Christians are caught up in a cycle of abuse and I'm not sure that taking their faith away from them (assuming they would let me), would be any more moral. It would be nice if people would come to it on their own, but it would still be a hard road. And I wouldn't wish that pain on them.

 

I spoke to my brother the other day and I hadn't realized that he'd suffered as much emotionally in fundamentalism as I had. He'd just kept his more quiet and I was more vocal about how much it had harmed me. My panic attacks were loud and hard to ignore, lol. Instead of deconverting, he ended up staying in Christianity but finding a less legalistic church. His wife is also Christian so he didn't really have the same support I had to leave. Since my husband has no spiritual beliefs and no strong opinions about having them or not having them, I had a support system and an environment of complete freedom to find what was best for me. I don't think my brother has had the same benefit. He's still in therapy over some of the harm he's been through. He doesn't recognize that it's the beliefs themselves, not just the way they are expressed/taught.

 

It makes me sad, but I'm still not going to try to deconvert him because he could just as easily try to bring me to a "warmer and fuzzier Christianity" (blech). The only thing I can do is stand back, support him, and hope he finds happiness wherever he ends up. But i can't cause him active suffering by encouraging him to get out. If he decides he wants out, he knows I'll support him.

 

But I agree the JNE site is great! The guy also takes a lot of the ideas and encapsulates them in shorter audio recordings. One of my favorites is the Nazareth never existed (before the 4th century A.D.) That's kind of surreal to hear about, lol.

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