Family and faith: 7-31-09
A source of antisemitism: 8-3-09

Late summer faith reading: 8-1/2-09

My, oh, my, do the books about religious subjects just keep on coming.


I'll be mentioning a stack of them here this weekend for you to consider, but as I've said before it's impossible for anyone to keep up with all that's being published in this field. So this is just a sample. And just because I mention a book and describe its contents a bit doesn't mean I agree with everything the author writes. Heck, I don't even agree with me sometimes -- and I have two new books coming out this summer (see the list below my photo on this page).

Some of these books, like my own, won't officially be published for a few weeks, but they're available for preordering now.

* The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith, by Mark A. Noll. The author, now a history professor at Notre Dame, is one of the most articulate voices among evangelical Christians today. This book is an excellent companion to one written a few years ago by Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom, which described how Christianity in North America and Europe has become a minority voice in the faith and how the growth of the faith is taking place in the Southern Hemisphere. Noll suggests that such a reality requires a new approach to Christian history to take all that into account, and he provides a quite readable effort toward that end here. Anyone who wants to understand the current state of Christianity in the world and some background on how things came to be that way will need to read Noll.

* The Rising of Bread for the World: An Outcry of Citizens Against Hunger, by Arthur Simon. This is the engaging story of the man who founded Bread for the World, a great agency dedicated to fighting hunger. He's the brother of the late Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois, and both have been excellent public servants in different ways. Arthur Simon explains here not just his own story but also how Bread for the World grew into such an effective worker against hunger.


* Calvin, by Bruce Gordon. What is left to say about Protestant Reformation leader John Calvin in this, the year of the 500th anniversary of his birth? Plenty, and this Yale professor of Reformation history, makes it readable and brings us a fresh sense of why Calvin matters. It's not just because of how Calvin saw himself, though Gordon delves into that in some detail. Rather, it's the way Calvin helped to shape the Protestant world of today. Even people who think they know Calvin will learn things they didn't know. 

* The Recalcitrant Imago Dei: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism, by J.P. Moreland. In this compelling book, the author, who teaches philosophy, takes on the proponents (think the New Atheists, especially) of naturalism, that materialistic explanation of the world that leaves no room for God or spirit. And he employs withering fire. The result is a book that helps us understand what it truly means to be human. This is not a pop culture book for beginners. Rather, it raises the level of debate to a higher plane, which is where the battle should be fought.

* When Athens Met Jerusalem: An Introduction to Classical and Christian Thought, by John Mark Reynolds. The author, an educator at Biola University in California, examines the ways in which Christian thinking and Greek thinking originally encountered each other, then suggests that in our time these two streams -- faith and reason -- are not enemies. Indeed, they should not be, though extremists often promote such conflict. The author is also connected with the Discovery Institute, which promotes the Intelligent Design movement.

* The Seven Faith Tribes: Who They Are, What They Believe, and Why They Matter, by George Barna. The author is a well-known pollster who focuses on Christians, especially evangelicals, with whom he identifies. He argues that these seven groups -- "casual Christians," "captive Christians," skeptics, Jews, Mormons, pantheists and Muslims -- must find their common ground and work together to help America survive these troubling times. I'm not sure I'd have identified his categories in quite this way, but it's an interesting read.


* John Brown's War Against Slavery, by Robert E. McGlone. Was famed abolitionist John Brown just a religious fanatic? Well, not exactly, this author writes. Nor was he crazy. Those explanations for his efforts to free the slaves of the South by violence if necessary are too simplistic. As McGlone writes, ". . .that Brown was religious is in itself no explanation for his path to Harpers Ferry." This Cambridge University Press book no doubt will be viewed as the definitive Brown biography now. It is not, however, written in stilted academic prose. Rather, it's like reading the transcript of a "Sixty Minutes" report, only much longer and more nuanced. And, in the end, it helps all of us understand what religious zealotry is and isn't.

* Wrestling with our Inner Angels: Faith, Mental Illness, and the Journey to Wholeness, by Nancy Kehoe. This is an important book by a woman who is both a nun and a clinical instructor in psychology at an institute affiliated with the Harvard Medical School. She makes the much-needed argument that people who work with the mentally ill need to understand religion and its importance to their patients and clients. She's a careful, observant writer with a message that simply must be heard.

* Mortal Follies: Episcopalians and the Crisis of Mainline Christianity, by William Murchison. What's wrong with the Episcopal Church and how can it be fixed? The author is confident that he knows. He suggests that the church has gone astray by looking for political -- not theological -- answers to the problems of the world it is seeking to serve. Even people who think Murchison gets it wrong would do well to understand his arguments and discern which of them might at least be aiming at the right target.

* Pocket Guide to the Afterlife: Heaven, Hell, and Other Ultimate Destinations, by Jason Boyett. Ah, nothing beats fun at the old Pearly Gates (or, for that matter, the gates of hell). And this almost-never-serious-but-educational book is lots of fun, especially if you're not easily offended. It describes some of the bazillion ways religions and other sources describe and think about the afterlife, if any. It's like a walk through a Museum of Heaven that's equipped with funhouse mirrors.

* Testimony of Light: An Extraordinary Message of Life After Death, by Helen Greaves. First published in 1969, and now reissued in a Jeremy P. Tarcher Penguin edition, this is the account of a woman who insists she was in regular contact with a dead nun. And not just contact, but extensive conversations. This book turns out to be a direct challenge to the traditional Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the body and an affirmation of the competing Greek idea of the immortality of the soul. If read with the previous book mentioned here, you'll have a wild ride through the afterlife.


* Kabbalah for Inner Peace: Imagery and Insights to Guide You through Your Day, by Gerald Epstein. The author, a physician, draws on an ancient strain of Kabbalah, a mystical path of Judaism, to move readers toward strategies for dealing successfully with the everyday stresses of their lives. Do you have Inner Terrorists? This book offers a way to overcome them.

* The Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal and Social Transformation in Our Time, By Marilyn Ferguson. First published in 1980, this book describes the many currents that eventually merged into what has been called the New Age movement. It's now been reissued as part of the Tarcher Cornerstone Editions, and it remains an intriguing read about ideas that sometimes were wonky, sometimes creative, always intruiging.

* The Jesus You Can't Ignore, by John MacArthur. This well-known pastor and radio personality contends in this book that it's wrong to think of Jesus as just meek and mild. MacArthur isn't worried about Christians seeming arrogant in their certainty about the rightness of their beliefs. Indeed, he thinks Jesus provides a confrontational model that Christians ignore at their peril.

* The Sistine Secrets: Michelangelo's Forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican, by Benjamin Blech and Roy Doliner. This popular book, previously issued in hard back, now is available in paperback. It's an intriguing mystery tale that seeks to uncover various messages Michelangelo left in his art. It's not the silly fiction of Dan Brown but an authentic effort to discern what the artist meant.

* The Sant'Egidio Book of Prayer, by Andrea Riccardi. The Sant'Egidio Catholic community was started in 1968 in Rome, and today has more than 60,000 followers in 70-some countries. This book describes the community's approach to spirituality and then shares a series of prayers used by members. It's a reminder of how many dedicated people of faith there are in the world and how they carry on with their commitment even when not many of us may know about them.

* Born of the Eucharist: A Spirituality for Priests, edited by Stephen J. Rossetti. The Eucharist, or Holy Communion, is the center of Catholic worship. The faithful come from east and west and south and north to gather at table and experience Christ's presence in a special way. With that understanding, this book of essays seeks to encourage priests and lay people alike to understand the many meanings to be drawn from the sacrament and not to dismiss it as an empty ritual.


* 50 Ways to Help Save the Earth: How You and Your Church Can Make a Difference, by Rebecca Barnes-Davies. In recent years more and more faith communities are taking environmentalism seriously, and this book is aimed at Christian churches trying to figure out what that means for them. It 's got plenty of good, practical ideas, but all the green ink seems like overkill.

* Women Writing for (a) Change: A Guide to Creative Transformation, by Mary Pierce Brosmer. The author founded the organization after which this book takes its title. Her goal is to help women and girls understand how to write because, as she herself writes, words "do create the world we live in." Just as the Bible says God used words to create, so we can use words to shape our own world and, what's more, to make our world better because it has heard our prophetic voices -- those of both women and men.

* Prayer for Beginners: Discovering the Language of Your Soul, by Richard Webster. Another in this author's "For Beginners" series, this book will be most useful to people who would like to develop the spiritual discipline of prayer but who don't quite know where to begin. It takes a broad view of prayer and seems more concerned with where, how, when and why to pray than exactly to whom one should pray.

* The Spiders of Allah: Travels of an Unbeliever on the Frontline of Holy War, by James Hider. This British newspaper reporter has encountered some astonishing things in his work covering al-Qaida and other terrorists, and he offers his useful insights into what he has seen. He acknowledges that he is a man without any religious commitment at all and then he seeks to understand religious fanatics. My guess is that readers might well have benefited more from an observer who takes faith seriously in his or her own life and then seeks to explore why faith has run amok in others. I sometimes felt as if Hider sensed he was shooting fish in a barrel and was happy to do it.

* Why We Love the Church, by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. Although this book seems addressed to evangelical Christians, its message is appropriate for any faith community. And that is that faith is not a game of solitaire. Rather, it requires a community -- even one that is inevitably flawed. Being a religious lone ranger ultimately is unsatisfying  and, in the Christian and Jewish traditions, even unbiblical. And the church is not a building. It is the gathered community.


* A Book of Wonders: Daily Reflections for Awakened Living, by Edward Hays. The man who directed the Shantivanam retreat center not far from Kansas City has produced a lovely little book of daily meditations that can inspire readers to take life and faith seriously. I especially liked his April 20 advice to become a writer and his entry for Aug. 1 about the mystery of light.

* Compassionate Fire: The Letters of Thomas Merton and Catherine de Hueck Doherty, edited by Robert A. Wild. Any of Thomas Merton's millions of fans will be delighted with this newly released collection of letters between the fascinating -- if sometimes troubled -- monk and a social activist named Catherine de Hueck Doherty. They offer a new glimpse into the man's heart and mind and teach us anew about true friendship and about how to discuss intensely important matters with calm and reason and insight.

* The Compassionate LIfe: Walking the Path of Kindness, by Marc Ian Barasch. With Buddhist sensibilities, the author seeks to understand what it takes to engage everyone one meets with kindness. It's an idealistic book, to be sure, but also realistic about the human condition as well as the human capacity for good. What a lovely world this might be if everyone lived out what the author discovers and proposes.

* Spiritual Evolution: How We Are Wired for Faith, Hope, and Love, by George E. Vaillant. If you read this recent cover piece in the Atlantic monthly about the life and fascinating work of George Vaillant, you'll be eager to read almost anything he writes. Vaillant, a Harvard professor, here argues that humanity is built to be open to spiritual experiences. He thinks that what he calls "the human capacity for positive emotions is what makes us spiritual. . ." And he surmises that the great and long-lasting religions have emphasized "the positive emotions of faith, forgiveness, hope, joy, love, and compassion. . ."

* We Get to Carry Each Other:The Gospel According to U2, by Greg Garrett. Nearly everyone -- even those of us who rarely listen to rock bands -- knows that U2 is, as the author says, a Christian rock band on its own terms. Its appeal is universal, even though you may have seen lead singer Bono show up as a speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast. In this small book, the author, an English professor at Baylor University, seeks to unpack the theology that undergirds U2's music. Anyone who has any interest in the state of music in the church nowadays would do well to understand U2's approach and appeal, and this book can certainly help with that task.

* Buddhism: A Christian Exploration and Appraisal, by Keith Yandell and Harold Netland. The authors, both Christians, offer a quite thorough and useful look at Buddhism, the places at which it connects with Christianity and the places at which the two traditions are in tension. It is a respectful approach that could lead to some useful interfaith dialogue between Christians and Buddhists. And its publication gives me a chance to remind you of a blog called Interstices about Christianity and Buddhism, written by a Christian friend of mine.


* The Tibetan Book of Meditation, by Lama Christie McNally. This is a how-to book that will help people who want to understand and experience this kind of meditation. Some techniques of meditation, of course, are found in various faith traditions. This is written from a Buddhist perspective with the goal achieving a more mindful, satisfying life.

* The Cross: 38,102 Miles, 38 years, 1 Mission, by Arthur Blessit. Some people can be obsessed with religion without degenerating into violent extremism. The author is an example. Starting in 1969, he walked all over the world carrying a cross, trying to persuade people to be followers of Jesus Christ. It's a pretty astonishing tale, no doubt most appreciated by Christians who consider themselves quite theologically conservative.

* The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, by Matt Baglio. This is written by a journalist about a priest who goes to the Vatican to receive training to be an exorcist. The journalist is a careful observer and someone who also takes faith seriously, though not unskeptically. His descriptions of what Father Gary Thomas goes through in his training and his later exorcism work may well require you to rethink what you believe about a spiritual world and even about evil.

* The Darwin Myth: The Life and Lies of Charles Darwin, by Benjamin Wiker. Not many people get others' juices flowing like Charles Darwin. He's a saint. He's a demon. He's brilliant. He's wrong, wrong, wrong. And on and on. This book, written by a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, which promotes Intelligent Design, takes the view that Darwin was "a very good man" with countless good personal qualities. Darwin's problem, the author suggests, was "his strange insistence on creating an entirely godless account of evolution. That evolution must be godless to be scientific is the Darwin Myth, so profoundly misleading that it must be called a great lie. . ." Those sound like fightin' words.

* When the Good News Gets Even Better: Rediscovering the Gospels Through First-Century Jewish Eyes, by Neb Hayden. The idea behind this book is not just good but incredibly necessary for Christians -- to understand Jesus in his Jewish context. So such explorations are to be encouraged. But if you want to read a book that really does this in a scholarly but approachable way, I'd go with Amy-Jill Levine's The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus. Hayden's approach, which seems geared toward people who need lots of graphic tricks to get through a book, at times seems to do exactly what Levine says shouldn't be done -- "Judaism becomes. . .a negative foil: whatever Jesus stands for, Judaism isn't it; whatever Jesus is against, Judaism epitomizes the category." I'd love to read a Levine review of this book. Hayden, by the way, is a member of a group called The Fellowship, or The Family, subject of Jeff Sharlet's excellent 2008 book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.


*A Case for the Existence of God, by Dean L. Overman. This interesting lawyer once wrote a book arguing that the world could not have been created by accident and what he called "self-organization." He follows that up here with an argument that draws on both science and religion to say that God exists and there are many reasons to believe it. He offers intellectuals scholarly cover for faith, in a sense, but he goes beyond that to suggest ways people can have a transforming relationship with this God. 

* Did the Resurrection Happen? A Conversation with Gary Habermas and Antony Flew, edited by David Baggett. Anyone interested in a lively discussion -- even debate -- between someone who believes passionately in the resurrection of Jesus (Habermas) and someone who has moved from atheism to Deism but who has all kinds of trouble buying the resurrection (Flew), this is your book. Habermas serves as a Christian apologist here while Flew is a reluctant semi-ally who is willing at least to consider the evidence and even engage in a discussion about what should count as evidence.

* The Three "Only" Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence & Imagination, by Robert Moss. In various places in the Bible, dreams play a key role. Was that just ancient superstition or is there really something important that our dreams are trying to tell us? The author, who has studied and written about dreams for a long time, thinks they matter. And, he says, so do what we call coincidence and imagination. He offers his reasons here as a way of helping people better understand and shape their lives.

* Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge, by Dallas Willard. The author is a widely read voice for Christians who seek to take discipleship of Christ seriously. His contention here is that a lot of people don't understand the difference between opinion and knowledge, and he suggests that spiritual knowledge is reliable and trustworthy. To Pontius Pilate's question to Jesus, "What is truth?" all kind of answers have been given. Willard's new book is another engaging answer in this long conversation.

* Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others, by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky with Connie Burk. All people of faith are called on in various ways to be caregivers for others. The problem can be that the pressures of doing this can drain the caregiver of energy and spirit. This book seeks to offer help so that caregivers can continue responding to their calling without giving up. A lovely touch to this serious book is that scattered through it you'll find some excellent and funny cartoons that reinforce the words.


* First Be Reconciled: Challenging Christians in the Courts, by Richard P. Church. Many Christians know that the New Testament urges followers of Jesus not to take each other to court but to settle their differences through reconciliation outside of court. With a Mennonite perspective, the author, a lawyer, describes why that advice makes sense today and how to achieve such resolution. He also offers some good history of how this approach has been used over the centuries.

* Healing into Possibility: The Transformational Lessons of a Stroke, by Alison Bonds Shapiro. After  suffering two strokes, the author of this helpful book figured out how to adopt an attitude that would help her recover. Although the focus here is recovery from stroke, many of the lessons (like "cultivating gratitude") are applicable to the various illnesses, injuries and ailments that clergy find every time they visit members of their congregations in hospitals.

* A Lover's Quarrel with the Evangelical Church, by Warren Cole Smith. From inside the evangelical Christian branch of the faith, the author looks at how things are going and raises troubling questions about what has gone wrong. It may be overstated to say that Smith has turned state's evidence here, but he does suggest that things inside evanglicalism are not what they might seem from outside. His goal is to fix things. Probably all faith communities would do well to have articulate inside critics.

* What Else but Home, by Michael Rosen. Well, look, this isn't directly a book about religion. To call it that would be a stretch. But it's about something religion teaches -- the value of family and the worth of every person. It's the story of how a group of boys from a low-income housing project in New York become part of the life of the author's family. Writing street dialogue is no easy task. Rosen has captured much of that well without seeming to be making fun of it. Still, there were times when I wished he had toned down that language-capturing effort.

* When Doctors Become Patients, by Robert Klitzman. Like the previous book, this one is also not directly about religion. But this one is about one of the religious virtues -- empathy. I met the author a few months ago at a dinner and had a great conversation about his own experience of speaking with lots of physicians who themselves became ill and, in the process, learned what good medical care and good doctor bedside manner looks like. Klitzman teaches clinical psychiatry at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. Had I known about this book when it first was published in late 2007, I'd have recommended it then. Glad I can do so now.

* * *


And just for fun this weekend, someone on this blog has made up religions for celebrities. Suggest some others, if you like.

* * *

P.S.: In a comment left here Friday, someone said Islam had more followers in the world than any other religion. Not so. Christianity is the world's largest religion. The figures vary from source to source, but puts Christians at 2.1 billion and Muslims at 1.5 billion, while has Christians at 2.039 billion and Muslims at 1.226 billion. I often hear people say there are more Muslims in the world than Christians, but the best evidence suggests that just isn't so. The most reliable American statistics on religion can be found on the site of the American Association of Religious Data Archives.



I find this many god books on the market absolutely amazing. I realize there are more. Just think if this much effort was put into the real world. We would be living much longer and better - and our children.

How many people do you know believe like Palin and many clergy that dinosaurs existed 60000yrs ago? What has happened to common sense?

I saw on a license plate yesterday Prayer solves everything. Really? All of you who believes in god pray only and see what happens. People, get people through everything. We help on the road side, we help at the grocery store. We are helpful people. Why? Because it is to our own advantage. We grow, the society grows. Let’s see what science can do for us. Let’s see what weakness does for us. It was , and still is, trial and error. We learn, so we live longer and better, together…

Wis. man testifies he expected God to heal child

Peace For the Sake of Goodness Cole

Homeopathic ER:

Atheist miracle:

Here's another one that's pretty funny:

Peace For the Sake of Goodness

Dolores Lear

"In a comment left here Friday, someone said Islam had more followers in the world than any other religion. Not so. Christianity is the world's largest religion."

That was me. I thought like Bill, that I had heard this statement also. Later after I posted this, I did look it up and I was wrong. I usually check this, but did not this time..

I have corrected my post, and made some adjustments. I do post these same posts on other Blogs. I also added this reference. I think I have used it before on Bill's Blog.

Sorry. I hate to post errors because of being too hasty to check it out. And that was a big boo-boo. I do appreciate for people to correct me when I make an error.

I was kinda excited because I had another 'new idea', that I get every so often from posting here. This time it was about Generic Gods.

Now I can Post about the Religious God out there, that made the Universe and Life as we Know it, as GOD.

And all the Man-Made Gods on Earth, in our Image, that Created Life on Earth, I will post as Generic Gods. Generic makes all the Gods on Earth Equal.

But None are Equal to GOD, 'the Real Thing", that Created Life Elements and the Universe.

Generic is an interesting word, and I do have generic pills equal to the real pill.

But none of the Earth Man-Made Supernatural/High Tech Gods, in our Human Image, are Equal to GOD.

Anyway, Thank You Bill.

Dolores Lear

Bill, A new view of the Holocaust, to go along with your new book.

It seem this Killing History will never end, at least for 100 years. Or maybe this event is like some of the past massacres in the Bible and other Holy Scriptures.

I can understand how your book list grows, with the Population explosion in the last 100 years from 1 billion to 7 billion.

What is Planet Earth going to do, with all these Explosions of books and people? What are all these people going to do on a Planet the same size in 1900 as today?

Have a Nuclear War, and a Planetary Judgment Day Fire?


Bill, what I had heard about Islam about 10 years ago in my old church, was that Islam was growing faster than Christianity, so if we Christians didn't get more energetic in our evangelistic efforts, there would eventually be more Muslims.

From yesterday -- interesting debate about whether being anti, or against, a particular belief is the same as being against the believers themselves. Is disagreement with, say, Atheism the same as being opposed to Atheists? In other words, if I'm not an Atheist does that mean that if I had the means, I'd organize a bunch of gulags to kill off all the Atheists?

While on the one hand, I really believe that all Iggy's comments about "religious crazies" needing to die and be replaced, are just part and parcel of his love of shocking rhetoric -- on the other hand, I must concede that maybe people thought that about Hitler, too (that he was just saying shocking things to grab people's attention) -- and yet when he got the chance he did indeed implement his programs of mass extermination. So I'm not saying that the people upset over Iggy's comments are being totally unreasonable, even though I honestly don't believe he's the next Hitler.

What I DO find unreasonable though, is the propensity of so many of my fellow believers to keep pointing the finger at others when asked to look at them/ourselves. And we really need to take a HARD look at the fact that when a believer here talks about the Jews being under God's wrath, this believer isn't just spouting off his own intolerant opinion: he's referencing Paul's words coming straight from the book that many of us have been taught should be our total authority in life. Can't we just look at this for a moment, without rushing to say, "Well, what about what IGGY is saying?"


******Secular invocation at Cobb County, GA Board of Commissioners meeting by President of American Atheists*******

He said as part of his speech - “Because we all know that the only supreme power in Cobb County is the citizenry…”

God did not strike Cobb County with locust plagues, earthquakes and flooding - yet :o) The Dover, PA creationism trial was several years ago, and Dover is still standing, despite Pat Robertson’s predictions of doom and gloom - but it can change any time?

Apparently not invoking a “baby je-zeus” and affiliated BOVINE SCATOLOGY can work, though this can piss off some legilators and members of the community collectively called "crazy" Christians.

At least, the prayers and magic incantations would not be an act of the government, just the local nutjobs who would like to speak their piece "outside" official government business.

A case for "no invocations" is a pretty clear cut one to me - why in the world would commissioners need a prayer and religious invocations? - what they cannot pray at home before the meeting? Or in the car sitting waiting for a red light to change?


***Homeless Atheist leaves $4 mln. to a Catholic mission in Phoenix, National Public Radio, and other non-profits***

An interesting comment from a Catholic who knew him - "He was an atheist and I'm a very profound practicing Catholic, and I'd never met an atheist," Belle says. "And that just blew my mind that somebody could not believe in the Lord."

It appears to me that if a person was "blown away" she needs to get out more often and mingle with people outside the Catholic church a bit more?

Or maybe atheists need to come to their Bible Studies more often? - Monday 7 p.m. is Bible Study that 3-5 athists will be attending. If anyone is interested to attend, please, e-mail [email protected] for instructions.

I am glad that you don't see me as next Hitler :o) People should not get upset about my comments when I say religion has to die out or morph into something "more managable" or that "Christian crazies" should die out - the fact of the matter they will die - #1. #2 they are "dying out" - i.e. their "crazy" Christian branch of merging reality with supernatural is also giving in.

Stats, polls indicate again and again that there are between 12-20% of Americans who are non-religious, agnostic/atheists/apatheists. Up 200% from 10-20 years ago. About 40-50% of young Ameircans age 19-40 according to research of conservative Christian organziation are completely irreligious and it is not going to change any time soon. The logarithmical/nuclear chain reaction on non belief/freedom from mental stagnation and "space alien" Yahweh (aka god, father of Je-Zeus) is bound to win over anything that is "old" and "stagnant" like Christianity in our case.


Iggy, I think I get what you are saying about religions morphing over time -- as you know, I don't have so much problem with that, being continuously-evolving myself. But what we all need to keep in mind, is some folks are so attached to their religions as they know them today, that any talk about certain aspects of their dogma dying out or morphing into something else, is a direct attack on THEM and also on their GOD.

So, how to discuss and dissect the various beliefs and attitudes that affect our lives today, without people feeling that we are attacking them personally? I ask this because in my mere attempts to explain why I no longer believe the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God, I myself have been accused of making fun of the Jewish people.

Of course, I don't even know if any of the people posting here are actually Jewish. I have a feeling that the majority of Jews probably wouldn't be all that bent-out-of-shape over my criticisms, since many of them would agree with me about not believing the entire Hebrew Bible was inspired by God. Also, from my understanding from conversing with some Jewish mothers on a mothering discussion forum, Jews see their religion as less about belief and more about action -- so you can be a practicing Jew, fully-involved in the life of your synagogue, and also openly Atheist -- and it's not seen as any kind of a conflict.

I could be wrong about this -- maybe Red Biddy will set me straight if I am. (Continued)

adam harrison


Only one problem.

You won't say where it is.

We already tried that meeting in the parking lot with the blinkers on crap when you sent message that you couldn't make it and wanted to reschedule for NEXT WEDNESDAY...although now it is Monday...and then later said you could be there after all, but, of course, too late for us to double back.

If you want us to show up, SAY WHERE IT IS!

Prediction: YOU DON'T really want competition, so you will keep up this SECRET Bible Study charade.

adam harrison

Susan, could you reference us to exactly which words of Paul you are refering to?

Thanks in advance.

adam harrison

As to there being no conflict between being Jewish and an atheist, I would say that if atheism is correct, then God certainly gave no message to the Jews, the prophets were liars or insane, like Iggy claims, and their whole national identity is founded on a lie, as the atheist lunatic Nietzsche claimed in The AntiChrist.

And Susan, I don't believe you are making fun of the Jewish people simply by criticizing...we have explained that repeatedly but you continue to want to pretend otherwise.

The ones who are making fun of the Jewish people are the atheists who repeatedly smear and ridicule the Old Testament by WILLFUL misrepresentations and quote mining.

You know this.

Why is it that they can say the most vicious...even dangerous...things and you always find an EXCUSE FOR IT but anything we say is subject to repeated attack.

You are operating on A DOUBLE STANDARD Susan...why, I don't quite know but I have my suspicions.


(Continued) And since I brought up Hitler again, and also since some other posters make frequent reference to gulags and the like, I thought I'd share my growing ideas about the REAL cause of these horrible atrocities. I honestly don't think it's the very expression of bigoted ideas that is so dangerous -- but rather it's the propensity of many to place blind faith in dogma, and also in respected leaders who are seen as having a deeper understanding of God's will.

It's this tendency toward establishing hierarchies and thinking some people have a God-given mandate to tell others how to live their lives, that is extremely dangerous. If we all saw ourselves as equal to everyone else -- even equal to "big names" like Billy Graham or St. Paul or James Dobson or "Bible Answer Man" -- we'd be able to pass off their biases as simply evidence of their human limitations.

And if we are open to the possibility that even the people most different from us may have some sensible things to say, and if we are willing to listen to them, our philosophical "opposites" will probably greatly aid us in looking at our own biases, and finding a balance that protects us from the extremism that can sometimes be an outgrowth of people who believe a certain way interacting only with others who think the same way, such that there's nothing to balance out the errors.

The main thing I'm trying to say here is that simply having these discussions and attempting to understand one another better, isn't the next step toward another Holocaust or another series of gulags. Actually, if we can increase our dialog and decrease our human propensity to blindly listen to and obey the monologues of respected leaders, I think we might achieve the OPPOSITE of tyranny: a situation where there's a great deal more mutual respect and willingness to live and let live.


Cole, there are a few 0ther funny ones -

Godless Comedy from That Mitchell and Webb Look - Abraham and Isaac

Mitchell and Webb Write the Bible

Bad Vicar



Is scripture inspired by God? "all scripture is given by inspiration of God." 2 Timothy 3:16 compared to: "But I speak this by permission and not by commandment." 1 Corinthians 7:6 "But to the rest speak I, not the Lord." 1 Corinthians 7:12 "That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord" 2 Corinthians.
Had anyone ascended up to heaven before Jesus? Elijah went up to heaven: "And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." 2 Kings 2:11 "No man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven, even the son of man." John 3:13
Can all sins be forgiven? (Acts 13:39) All sins can be forgiven. Great, I’m happy to know God is so merciful, but wait (Mark 3:29) Cursing or blaspheming the Holy Spirit is unforgivable.
Is Paul lying? In Acts 20:35 Paul told people "to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" Since Jesus never made such a biblical statement, isn’t Paul guilty of deception?
Can one pray in public? (Matthew 6:5-6) Jesus condemned public prayer. (1 Timothy 2:8) Paul encouraged public prayer.
In 1 Corinthians 1:17 ("For Christ sent me [Paul] not to baptize but to preach the gospel") Paul said Jesus was wrong when he said in Matthew 28:19 "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them…" Clearly one of these people is wrong, either way, it’s a contradiction.
Was it lawful for the Jews to put Christ to death? "The Jews answered him, we have a law, and by our law he ought to die." John 19:7 "The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death." John 18:31


What a monumental undertaking and list, Bill! There are so many books here that I don't know where to begin. Thanks for all of the work and insight.


Crazy Christians on this blog (adamh/Will Graham, Just Thinking, DW, and James Christensen as well as others who consider themselves "true" Christians of any color and denomination or "non Christian/normal/liberal Christians) are invited to come today to the 7:00 p.m. Meeting of Skeptics on Transhumanism.

As always, there will be blaspheming, excercising Je-Zeus demons, picking Old and New Testament apart with the eye on the future.

Transhumanism is an international intellectual and cultural movement supporting the use of science and technology to improve human mental and physical characteristics and capacities. The movement regards aspects of the human condition, such as disability, suffering, disease, aging, and involuntary death as unnecessary and undesirable. Transhumanists look to biotechnologies and other emerging technologies for these purposes. Dangers, as well as benefits, are also of concern to the transhumanist movement.

Check out what Transhumanism is all about -


adamh, in answer to your question as to which specific words of Paul I was referring to (in my previous reference to Paul expressing some anti-Jewish sentiment), why don't we start with the passage DW used last weekend to support his idea that the Jews "killed Jesus, displeased God and, as a result, are now under God's wrath."

I Thessalonians 2:14-16:

"For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved -- so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God's wrath has come upon them at last!"

And here I need to point out that I have tremendous respect for Paul and the way that he worked to bridge the gaps of racism, sexism, and classism -- here I am speaking of his assertion in Galatians that in Christ there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female ... Paul did indeed share some wisdoms straight from God -- even in the midst of having some definite sexist attitudes which I've addressed before -- he had his erroneus human biases and yet he could hear wisdoms from God. So can we all.

The danger is not in Paul's biases against women or against his fellow Jews who didn't accept Christ: the danger is in cannonizing these biases and calling them "God's Word," which leads to believers such as DW concluding that you can't be Christian without being anti-Judaism, and also leads to extremists like Fred Phelps openly harassing those he disagrees with, and of course some extremists go beyond harassment to actual murder.

Jim Christensen

Susan, rather than just sharing your ideas about what you feel are the real cause of atrocities like the Gulags, you might actually investigate what happened.

It has been mentioned here by others many times, and ignored by atheists, that the Nobel Prize Winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn proved beyond any reassonable doubt that the Communists killed millions of believers because of their atheistic hatred of religion and desire to see it die out.

It wasn't political, and it wasn't even economic because most of the believers who were killed had no poltical or economic influence anyway. It was because the atheists in charge WANTED them to die.

You can ignore Solzhenitsyn's work if you wish, but when that got out and began to spread and when John Paul II confronted the atheists in Poland about their atheism, it was the beginning of the end.

Now, I am certainly open to the possibility that people with view diametrically opposed to mine might have some sensible things to say, I think a number of people at the Community of Reason would back me up on that, but when an atheist tells me bluntly they are not interested in discussing ANYTHING with me I think THEIR true motivations are exposed.

Just look at the 11:13 post. Can you honestly say that this person is interested in the type of discussion you suggest?

The other poster was right, Susan. You need to quit making excuses for them, because it hurts your credibility.

Jim Christensen

By the way, Iggy. I would like to come to your Bible study too!

IF YOU WOULD SAY WHERE IT IS! So, dump the James Bond stuff and have some guts and tell us where to be.


adamh, about double standards: Yes, we all have biases that cause us to be more predisposed toward assuming the best about some people and the worst about others. So I will admit here that I am biased toward assuming the best about the Atheists here, because of my experience of them as being friendly and accepting toward me and my views, whether they agree with me or not.

In contrast, I'm somewhat biased toward assuming the worst about you and Will because, ever since shortly after I began posting here, you guys have been assuming the extreme worst about me, and I strongly suspect Dan and Julia are either your alter-egos, or else good friends of yours from First United Methodist (I base my suspicion on a comment Julia made). Dan and/or Julia seem to feel compelled to go onto any thread they discover I've posted on at the K.C. star, to present me in a negative light to anyone who may be reading.

It's a free country, so you/they have a right to keep doing this. But of course such hostile behavior on their part, as well as the allegations you guys make against me here, leads me to assume that the other things you say are also reflective of your bias against anyone who thinks differently from you.

And I'll admit that I'm not immune to the childish tendency to feel pleasure when someone who's been saying bad things about me "gets theirs" -- and I'm also not above sometimes giving into the childish tendency to retaliate against someone who's been quick to assume the worst about me. At the same time, I earnestly want to do better -- I just can't promise I'll always follow through on my resolution to turn the other cheek.

Now, are you and Will willing to admit that you also operate on a double standard when it comes to looking at things in our Christian history that we should be ashamed of -- and that you tend to want to deflect attention by talking about what Sam Harris or some other Atheists have said or done?

Red Biddy

I don't think I'm really the person to "set you straight" on the Jewish question you asked, but I will try !
There are so many factions in Judaism now - like Christianity which has split up into many different sects, that it really depends on which we are talking about ! There are for instance the strictly Orthodox, Reform and Conservative to name just three.
I don't think that you have it quite right in your comment that it is more about action than belief, I think the traditions, like Christmas festivities for Xians are important to Jewish people whether religious or not but, not to all by any means.
From my own personal experience of two very different Jewish husbands, my first wouldn't have been seen dead in a synagogue or have participated in a religious ritual of any kind, whereas my second taught me how to actually prepare a Seder and under protest, light a candle and say a prayer every night during Hanukah - I still have the Menorah !
My son once said to his father "Why are we saying a prayer when we don't believe in God ?" Answer: Well it's in Hebrew so you don't understand what you are saying !
This light hearted approach to religion is common especially among Jewish people I've found ! My point is that it seems to be the TRADITION that counts even though the basis for the particular tradition is long gone.

Red Biddy

As for anti-semitism I learned from my first husband that there is no one so anti-semitic as a Jew. He positively hated those guys with the long prayer curls and black hats and used to call them parasites ! They are the Hasidic jews who do nothing other than study the TORAH. "They toil not, neither do they spin !" These are the guys who thank God every morning that they were not made women. The very, very Orthodox.
The only thing that made my first husband feel anything about his jewish heritage was finding out that a family in Holland he used to spend holidays with, had been killed in the Holocaust. (George, though British born, had been sent to Canada by his father when the war started so had no idea what had gone on in Europe until he came back as an adult)

There were many non-religious Jews from Europe who had so assimilated into the country they had lived in that they didn't even know they were Jews until the Nazis started to persecute them so George was not unusual in his detachment from Judaism as a religion.

My second husband (a New Yorker) knew both halves of the Bible very well which surprised me as he wasn't a believer but still maintained a deep emotional attachment to Judaism. He was an English Literature scholar and like me viewed holy writ as literature not in any way to be interpreted as the Word of God.

Adam, I’m not sure why anyone would not like the game charades. I think that was our first form of communication. I can see a cave person explaining hunger, pain, want sex, want to sleep, shut up, go away, come, stay, - pass the eyeball, please. Makes sense to me. Dress up as cave people and have fun.

Adam said, “Susan, could you reference us to exactly which words of Paul you are refering to? Thanks in advance.

Adam, it’s in 2 Timothy 3:16. Oooops. That can’t be correct because Paul was dead when it was written.

ASterling said, “What a monumental undertaking and list, Bill! There are so many books here that I don't know where to begin. Thanks for all of the work and insight.”

ASterling, here is an educational book. Very insightful: “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond. It’s about the real, natural world. You know, where we live.

JC said, “It wasn't political, and it wasn't even economic because most of the believers who were killed had no poltical or economic influence anyway. It was because the atheists in charge WANTED them to die.”

JC, mmmm, Jim C, JC, Jesus Christ. Interesting. Anyway, as I have told your disciples, followers, before, comparing my atheism with others, especially from the past, doesn’t work with me. I have my own mind. This is not what I want- I don’t have imaginary ghosts telling me how to think- Atheistic or X.

I prefer it stirred, not Shaken, James – Iggy - Bond. Funny Videos.

Peace For the Sake of Goodness Cole

Dolores Lear

Galatians 3:24-29. KJV. "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to being us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."

If we accept Christ, do we become of Abraham's seed? Does this mean Israeli/Jewish? Abraham's seed also became Islam/Muslim from Ishmael and his 12 sons, from Abraham's 6 sons with his wife, Keturah, and from his grandson Esau.

Who are the heirs according to the promise? Paul also says there is neither Jew nor Greek in Christ.

Was this even how Paul meant these verses, or from later translations this became the Word of God?

Humans do have what is called Holy Scriptures and Myths, to search for Truth. And Men usually decided what was Scripture writings, or not.

Genesis 1:26a,27. "And God said, Let us make man in our Image, after our likeness: - So God create man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."

So Humans are in the Image of God/Us, male and female. What was the Ethnic Heritage of God/Us?

Genesis 2: 21.22. "And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man."

These Humans were Free, not Jew or Greek, etc., and in the Human Image of God. I accept this can be done by High Tech Science today.

When you are 'not' born by Body Birth, do Humans have Ethnic profiles, or All are Equal?

Males and Females became Bonded, or in Human Bondage, with Genetic and Ethnic Heritage, 'after' Children were born by Body Birth.

Today this supernatural act by God/Us is called Cloning. That is what it was then also. And Creating Life on Earth was Colonizing a Planet, both are Supernatural Acts to Natural Born Humans, without High Tech Science, who wrote or translated all these writings.

Dolores Lear

About Paul.

Acts 17:16-18: KJV. "Now, while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection."

Acts 17: 22,23. "Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you."

Acts 17: 24, 26. "God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things:"

This is the UNKNOWN GOD, that I call GOD, the Creator of the Living Invisible LIFE Elements, that make our Visible Universes.

GOD, cannot be a Human 'Person'. A Person cannot make the Elements of LIFE.

An Earth God, in Three 'Persons' , nor Jupiter, Mars, Osiris, Yahweh, or all the Past Human Generic Gods of Religion and Myth, cannot make GOD/LIFE Elements.

Acts 17: 26-30. "And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the race of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation: That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent."

Humans should not think of the Godhead as Human, nor gold, silver, stone graven by art and man's device, including temples made by human hands.


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