Thursday, March 29, 2012

How I feel about Athesits, as a Christian

People have asked me why I am so tolerant and accepting of Atheism. My answer is simple. Because I am not afraid of it. I do not mind people who think different than me. As I have stated before, I do not need prayer in school or "In God We Trust" on the dollar bill to teach my children about the Lord. I don't need the 10 commandments in the courthouse to teach my children about them. I can honor and appreciate what other people think and believe (or don't believe) and I hope others would do the same for me.
That being said, I am still committed to speaking the truth about The Lord. I just don't feel I need to shove it down peoples throats or tell them how wrong they are, to speak God's truth's in their lives. I believe I speak the most about God's truths when I say NOTHING and simply live my life the way God intended. If an Atheist is curious as to why I behave a certain way or do certain things I will never forsake an opportunity to share how God has changed my life.

If they want me to stop talking at that point, I will. I will respect them as a person. If they ask me questions, I will do my best to answer them.

I will apologize for the wrongs that my fellow Christians have done in "God's" name. I will apologize for the crusades and the Spanish inquisition and explain that I do not believe that those acts were committed by men who knew God's love, but rather men with an agenda who needed justification to do bad things, and used my Father's name to do so.

If they want me to stop talking at that point, I will. I will respect them as a person. If they have any questions about those terrible acts, I will do my best to answer them.
When they say things like "I cant believe in a loving God that would spend thousands of years creating people He claims to love, and then only let a small select few spend eternity with Him" I will say "I don't believe in that God either." I believe that God sent His only son to die for our sins because He knew that no matter how hard we tried, we will always screw everything up. I will share the "Good News" that Jesus died for our sins and you can come as you are. God will make any change He wants in you. And He may not make ANY change in you right, now. Yes, that's right, God may want you to stay an Atheist for now. When HE is ready for you, HE will call you. YOU will not call upon Him. Some Christians would chastise for saying that God may want you to be an Atheist right now. And I would only respond with "Hasn't there been enough wars, bloodshed, and suffering, because men tried to claim that they knew God's will?"
If they ask me stop talking at that time, I will. I will respect them as a person. If they have questions about that, I will do my best to answer them.

If they ask me to explain how God created everything, and if evolution is so wrong then what "really" happened, I will answer "I don't know." I will tell them that I don't know how God did it, and I don't know if evolution is wrong. I truly believe that evolution is the best answer we have right now, but I am no scientists. I will explain that when I was a child, I didn't know how my parents made me, but I didn't feel the need to know, because I knew they loved me. I don't know how God created the universe and all of it's glory. But I don't need to know because I know He loves me. If one day, we learned everything about how we got here, and that evolution was an undeniable fact in all facets, and all scientists around the globe agreed that we discovered it's deepest secrets, my response would be "cool. Let's go get some ice cream or something." My God is about "love" and "love" doesn't ever have the need to be "right." It just "loves."

If they ask me stop talking at that time, I will. I will respect them as a person. If they have questions about that, I will do my best to answer them.

I have never intended to "convert" an atheist to Christianity. I think Christians are very arrogant and self righteous when they think "they" are going to convert anybody. I only attempt to give them a different perspective of Christianity than what they currently have. I want them to realize that "most" Christians do not judge, do not hate gays, do not condemn, and do not kill in "God's" name. Most Christians are very much like me. Respectful of others beliefs (or non beliefs) and just wanting to be treated with the same respect.
This makes perfect sense to me.
And it seems totally reasonable.
The Christians who spew hatred, condemnation, judgement, and the such are very much the "loud minority." I have moved 17 times in my adult life and attended over 50 different churches. I have never once heard a sermon on why we should hate gays, or judge our neighbors, or slaughter people who don't believe in our God. The idiot Christians that do those things to annoy atheists (and me) are just being louder than the majority.

The intention of this blog is to speak up for the quiet Christians, and try to be louder than the ignorant ones.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What if atheists were just as loud as christians

People say that atheists are really loud and I disagree

What if atheists were as vocal as christians? Oh, I know some christians will argue that they are louder than christians but please let's be real. What if atheists demanded the dollar bill said something like "There is no God and never has been?"

What if political meetings began with an open proclimation that "God isnt real and those who believe in Him are fools?"

What if the court houses had signs that told you "NOT" to believe in God or you would be alienated from society? 

What if atheists were THAT vocal about their beliefs? What would we, as christians do? Well, I would think that we would fight like crazy for our voice to be heard. I would hope that we would shout from the highest mountain top that we have the "right" to believe in God, and the govt should not make us feel "small" for believing. I would think that we would probably even be "angry" and "outspoken" towards atheists. We would probably organize groups to have our voice heard. I can't say exactly what I think we would do, but I would hope we would not just lay down and allow a "non belief" in God forced down our throats. 

Now, let's reverse the roles. What if christians did everything I just listed above?

Oh, wait a second............

What we need to witness

My point in all this, is that I attempt to witness to atheists almost every day. It is extremely difficult because I am starting off, in a 6 feet deep hole because the atheist has been made to feel "small, lesser, insignificant, dumb, and even criminal." 

I don't need my money to say "In God we trust." I don't need the 10 commandments on the court houses. In fact, if removing them from public, would ease tensions between atheists and christians then I say let's take them down. 

As christians, WE should accept the responsibility to share God's love with people and not money. WE should be the ones leading by example, and showing people how to live a Godly life, NOT a lifeless, soulless piece of rock with engravings. 

We should be bold witnesses for Christ in our day to day actions, not by trying to force God onto people by creating public proclimations of God. 

Want to influence an atheist? SHOW them Jesus in you!!

Don't sit back and try to "propaganda" them into a relationship with Christ.

It's not how He taught us.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mr. Deity

An atheist friend of mine sent me a link to this video of Mr. Deity. The clip is part of a series of short films put together by a guy who takes what he considers christian contradictions and makes parody videos of them. Not everything is a contradiction, sometimes, he makes videos on topics that atheists typically disagree with, or just don't like about christianity.

I can appreciate the humor in the videos and have even used them in my outreach to atheists. The videos have given me a great insight into the mind of the skeptic, atheist, and agnostic. The videos quite often make very valid points and when you watch them with an open mind, it makes it easier to understand the views of a non believer.

I think if christians want to reach out to non believers to either share the gospel with them, or simply to break down barriers like I hope to do, they have to first understand where the non believer is coming from. These videos do a great job of doing that and I think it would be good for christians to watch them so they can better understand the atheist, skeptic, and agnostic.

Speaking from experience, most christians are completely wrong when they think about atheists. After spending some time with them in my atheist club, I realized how many preconceived ideas I had, were completely wrong.

I would highly encourage christians to watch a couple of these videos so they can understand where atheists are coming from. If we have any hope of influencing an atheist, we need to know where they are coming from. And when I say "influence" I don't mean "convert to christianity." If that is your goal, I will tell you that you have a huge task ahead of you and you will most likely not succeed. When I say "influence" I only mean to show atheists that not all christians are gay bashing, hate spewing, judgemental, and condemning. That is the first step in breaking down the barriers.

My son showed one of these videos to his youth pastor at church and the youth pastor said it was inappropriate for him to bring that in church. Then in youth group, he called on my son to answer a question and said "Let's hear what Steven's atheist answer is." Now, my son wasn't upset and I knew he meant it in a joking manner, but he really missed out on an opportunity to engage in some good dialogue with my son on some real issues.

I showed the videos to my 16 year old and 14 year old sons and asked for their opinions. They both said they were funny but asked me why I would show them these videos. I explained to them that my faith in God was an important part of my life, but it was "my" faith, not theirs. I told them that I wanted them to believe in God but I didn't want them to believe in God because their mother and I believed in God, or because the church told them to believe in God. I wanted them to believe because it made sense to them. I told them I never wanted them to be afraid to challenge their faith because if they are afraid to challenge it, then they probably don't really have it. My sons said they appreciated my outlook on it and continued to watch some of the videos.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Struggling with Christianity

I am a Christian and I struggle with it

I have been a Christian for about the last 11 years of my life. Lately, I had this feeling that something was wrong. I couldn't put my finger on it, and one day found myself reading hubs written by atheists. One in particular, was written by a guy named Mark. His hub talked about how self righteous and hypocritical Christians are. I found myself strangely drawn to this hub and the several hundred comments that followed. What was the most fascinating to me, was that I agreed with almost everything he said. I found myself trying to empathize with this atheist and actually cheering him on, in spite of his vile and hate-filled statements. As vile and hateful as he was; he was right on almost everything he said. I am going to come back to this but I want to lay a foundation for my struggles as a Christian?


Who is really right?

How many different religions are out there? Does anyone really know? Here is a harder question. How many different "Christian" doctrines are out there? You have the main ones like the Catholics, the non-denominational Christians, Jehovah's witnesses, Mormons, the Born again Christians, Baptist, Southern Baptists, Nazarenes, and forgive me for the ones I left out. Within each of the above named "major" Christina religions, each of them contain several different "doctrines" that have different beliefs. For arguments sake and the sake of easy math I am going to say there are at least 50 different doctrines that all wear the title "Christian" in some way or another. But here's the thing. They all say "their" doctrine and beliefs are correct and the others are wrong. Some of them (like the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and Catholics) are so adamant that they are right and everyone is wrong that they believe the other 49 doctrines are all going to hell. Even though they all read from the same Bible, follow the same God, and believe in the same Jesus. Is it any wonder why so many atheists look at us like we're the crazy one's? We can't even agree among each other.
So how does one decide which "doctrine" is the "right" doctrine? Bible scholars have agreed forever, that the Bible was meant to be interpreted. If anyone wants to argue this with me, then please tell me when was the last time you gave someone a "Christian Kiss?" It is clearly in the Bible that when we meet other Christians we are to greet them with a Christian Kiss, so why don't we do this? Because somewhere along the way, as society changed, someone decided that it was not necessary. What about the sabbath? How is it defined? Even in Jesus' day, there was much debate about what could be done on the sabbath and what couldn't be done? Some rabbi's said you could walk one mile on the sabbath, but no more. Another rabbi would say that you could walk 3 miles, but no more. Are we to believe that whether or not I spend an eternity in hell is based on how far I walked in a day? In the Bible Jesus said his "yolk" was light. What a lot of people do not realize is that a "yolk" was a particular set of beliefs that individual rabbis held. See my example about walking on the sabbath above. Each rabbi had a certain set of beliefs and that was described as his yolk. My point in that, is that if you have not studied Judaism, then you would likely not know that. That verse in the Bible would very little meaning to you, or you could easily miss the entire point. The Bible was written mainly in Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic. If you try to read the Bible in modern day English, then you will miss almost all of the major points in the Bible. If you don't understand Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and the culture of Jesus's day then you cannot understand the Bible the way it was intended. How do you say that "your belief" is right and someone else's is wrong when you can't even understand the original context in which the Bible was written in?
People typically base their belief system on what they learn in their Church. Did you know that Rabbi's have the entire Old Testament memorized? In fact, they have it memorized by the time they are 15 years old. When Rabbi's want to get a better understanding, they get other Rabbi's together and they pray and meditate for days, sometimes weeks at a time. Then they discuss it together as a group to try to come to a collective agreement on the scripture. Does anyone know any Pastor in our modern "Christian" Churches that do that? I have been to at least 30 different "Christian" Churches and I have never known a Pastor who had the entire Bible memorized and regularly met with other Pastors who had the Bible memorized to study a particular scripture for weeks at a time. So, how can I put a whole lot of faith in what my Pastor says? Especially when I can find several thousand Pastors that completely disagree with him? Again, how do we know who is right and who is wrong? Especially since some Pastors claim that my Pastor is so wrong that I will be going to hell because I listened to him.
I am sorry but I really struggle with that.


The authority to decide

Where do these Pastors and experts get their "authority" to put out doctrine that determines who goes to hell and who gets heaven? Is is The Bible? Well, I have already discussed that these experts and "Church Leaders" can't even agree on a single interpretation of The Bible, so that's out. I don't know where they get it, but I am here to say I don't have it. I am fan of Rob Bell. Rob Bell has a unique outlook on Christianity. He has studied Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and Judaism extensively. He is also one of the most criticized Pastors in the country right now. He preaches messages about God's universal love for everyone equally. He questions the religious interpretations of all doctrines and cautions people about being too judgemental and harsh. Yet, he is constantly being bashed in the media for teaching the "wrong" message. I believe people are entitled to their opinions but if you are going to criticize Rob Bell, then wouldn't it make sense for you to be an expert in Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and Judaism? What if you don't know anything about those things? Should you even be opening your mouth? By what authority can someone criticize someone who is an expert in his field when you have never even studied the field like he has? What do you call that person? Should a person who is morbidly obese, and extremely deconditioned really be slandering a fitness expert? Should a homeless person really be qualifying whether or not Bill Gates really knows anything about computers?
The Bible is very clear that "all have fallen short of the glory of God." So who gets to decide who fell too short and who fell short, but they were close enough? It is a common theme for Christians to say that homosexuality is wrong and if you are gay then you are going to hell. Why is that? Does God put "varying degrees" on sin? I am pretty sure He doesn't. In fact, I am pretty sure that to God "sin is sin." If that is the case then how is the homosexual different from the person who looks at another woman with lust in his eyes? Is he condemned because he struggles with that sin? What if he never cheats on his wife? What if a guy has angry thoughts? The Bible says angry thoughts are like murder in God's eyes. If the homosexual has to go to hell then wouldn't these two guys also? So who gets to decide which sins are ok and which ones will absolutely keep you in hell forever? There are only two references to homosexuality in the New Testament. One in Romans and one in 1 Corinthians, and neither one of them say you are absolutely going to hell for it. In fact, the Bible speaks more about greed, money, and power than homosexuality so why don't we place more emphasis on those? I know several homosexuals that are loving, peaceful, God fearing people. I know several Christian groups that are hate spewing, condemning, criticizing, judgemental, vipers. Am I to think the hate spewing Christian has a place in heaven but the good hearted homosexual is cast out? Sorry, but I don't think so.


The cosmic Quiz

The way most "Christian" religions treat salvation, is like a cosmic quiz that you must answer correctly or spend an eternity in hell. The problem with the quiz is that the study materials are so ambiguous, there is no way to know if you are studying the right material. Especially since the study material was written over the course of 4000 years, more than 2000 years ago, by over 40 different authors, in more than 4 different languages, and was written for a culture that I cannot possibly begin to comprehend. But if I fail the test I go to hell forever? I am sorry, but I just don't think that is what God had in mind.
How is that something that is so ambiguous like the Bible can be the road map for something so eternal and final like my eternal salvation? Don't get me wrong, I completely believe the Bible. But I believe "MY VERSION AND INTERPRETATIONS" of the Bible and so do you, if you are a Christian. And so do the Mormons. And the Catholics. And the Baptists. And the Nazarenes. And the............ you get my point.


What I learned from the Atheists

I want to start this by saying I have a new found appreciation for Atheists. Most of the ones I talked with were quite civil and willing to engage in meaningful conversation with me. One thing that I found similar with Atheists and Christians is that they both mistake faith and facts. They both have a belief (even though Atheists claim they have no belief) yet claim them as facts. The problem is neither side can prove their "facts." Christians cannot prove that God exists, just like Atheists can't prove God doesn't exist. And before some "hell, fire, and brimstone" Christian wants to try and tell me their "proof" that God exists, you can't. Because if you could prove that God existed then it would no longer be faith. It would be fact!
It seems to me that in the Bible, when God wanted people to know "He was real" he came right out and showed them. He made bushes burn, He spoke, He blinded them, He raised people from the dead, etc. He made it abundantly clear that there was no mistake who He was. Well, He hasn't done that for me yet. It doesn't mean I don't believe in Him, because I do. It just means I don't think I have all the answers. I am also not an expert in Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and Judaism so I can't possibly think, with any integrity that I even comprehend half of what God wanted me to get. What I learned from Atheists is that I ma not going to convince anyone that God is real, based on facts. And I'm ok with that. It's my faith that allows me to believe in God, and that's enough for me.
I don't understand God. I don't "get" Him. And I am ok with that, because if I could truly understand and comprehend God then He would cease to exist because I would "be God." And if you know me at all, you know that aint happenin.


So, what does Victor believe?

First of all, I believe in God. I believe in Jesus, and I believe in the Bible as best as I can understand it. I am constantly trying to grow in my faith and learn more. I don't know if homosexuals go to heaven. I don't have a problem with them. It's not for me, but I am not bothered by them. In fact, I know some pretty cool people that are awesome and are living in same sex relationships. I don't know which doctrines are right. If I was forced to choose which one was right, I would say "none of them are." They all have some flaws in my opinion. Sometimes I think God is up in heaven saying "Holy Crap! These people don't get it at all!" and other times I think He is lovingly looking down on us saying "Guys, stop sweating the small stuff and just love each other." I honestly don't have the slightest clue and I am not going to act like I do.
I hope I get to see everyone I know and love in heaven. I hope pop tarts are not unhealthy for you in heaven. Oh, I miss pop tarts so much. I hope I see all my homosexual friends that I love in heaven. I hope I figure stuff out in heaven that stressed me out on earth. I hope I see all my enemies, and can be completely reconciled with them in heaven. But ultimately, I don't know what to expect.

So, in the meantime I am going to continue to do as many things as I can in the name of God. I am going to keep feeding homeless people every Saturday. I am going to keep volunteering in my Church elementary Sunday School class. I am going to keep being a foster parent and rescue as many children out of that horrible system as possible. I am going to keep trying harder and harder to forgive those who hurt me. I am not going to do these things because I think I am righteous or because I am trying to "earn" my way to heaven. I will do them because I am so grateful for my faith in God and what I believe He has done for me in my life. If I could live a hundred years and be completely perfect, I couldn't make up for all the wrong I have done. I am grateful for the second chance I believe God gave me. I am grateful that God could love someone as terrible as I once was, and sometimes still am. And since I can't pay Him back for my salvation, all I can do, is what I think He wants me to do. And I think He wants me to do these things.

No, I can't prove it, but I don't care. If you don't agree with me, fine. But shut up, and let me help people. Don't try to convince me that I am wrong and there is no God. I don't care what you think when it comes to my God. But know that if you ever need help, I will be there for you.
because it's what I think God wants me to do.

Welcome to my new blog

Let me start this first post with a brief introduction of who I am and what my intentions are for this blog. My name is Victor and I am a christian. I have been a christian for about 10 to 12 years. It was a long journey for me, that I really can't identify the "day" that my life was changed. I am married to my best friend and have been married to her for the last 18 years. We are foster parents and are currently raising 8 children. 3 of the children we had together (although she did the hard part), 1 we adopted from foster care, and 4 are current foster children.

About 2 years ago, I started really having some issues with my faith. Upon further review, it wasn't my faith I had issues with, it was my religion. There were several questions I had with my religion and I was having a hard time getting the answers I needed to satisfy myself. I am not sure exactly how I came to the conclusion that I could find my answers in the atheist community but late one night, I found myself in an atheist forum. That will be a blog for another day. Interestingly enough, I started to find alot of the answers I was looking for. After about a year or so, of atheist forums, I joined the local atheist club. I paid my dues and attended meetings on a regular basis. Then my whole world changed. This blog will provide the insights that I have gained while engaging in deep discussions with my atheist friends. Not all of the atheists like me, or appreciate that I am there but most of them get along with me and quite a few of them really appreciate what I am trying to do.

My Goal

My goal in this adventure is to change how christians view atheists and how atheists view christians. And that might even be a poor choice of words. If anything, I am attempting to break down the barriers that exist between atheists and christians. I have engaged in many late night debates on this topic and ironically enough, I find myself arguing with christians, more than atheists. It isn't my intention to "argue" as much as it is to open people's minds to different perspectives. It is never my intention to "convert" an atheist. In fact, if I converted them, I would have to find new people to hang out with to get my data. And I don't expect to convert any atheists because I really suck as a christian. I really try hard to be what Christ wanted us to be, but I am nowhere near where I should be. That wasn't a self pity statement, just the truth. I strive to be a better person everyday. Sometimes I do ok, sometimes I suck out loud.

Please feel free to give me feedback along my journey. I have had some heated discussions with some volatile atheists, and have been called some crazy stuff. In addition to that, I was a U.S. Marine, so you aren't going to hurt my feelings. This blog is moderated and I will always allow comments that are in complete disagreement with me as long as they are not hateful or obscene.

Here's to breaking down walls,