- 04 May 2001 : Simon
- thanks for your web pages which I have found very entertaining. But I must say, also very sad. You obviously have absolutely no idea what the Christian faith is, what it teaches or what it believes, or indeed, what the word 'faith' means at all. Your near fanatical bias shows your own rather unfortunate bigotry. If you are going to argue against Christianity, which of course you are perfectly entitled to do, then please lets have some intelligent, rational and informed argument.
- 09 May 2001 : Simon
- Phew, that certainly was a long reply! Thank you for taking the time to respond to my very short and rather inadequate original mail. As you have realised I am indeed a Christian, having converted to the Orthodox faith many years ago. This was the result of much enquiring and study into several of the worlds religions and philosophies (including atheism). As a graduate in History and Enlightenment Philosophy is was my job for a few years after all! But I am surprised that you lump all religions and superstitions together, as I assume, different expressions of the same neurosis. Why not put evolution and creationism into the same box as they both address the existence of life on earth. Or Fascism, Nazism, Socialism, Anarchy and Communism as they are all expressions of political intent and ambition for 'society'. Perhaps all philosophy should be discarded because Diderot has been shown to be incorrect on certain issues. Clearly this would be absurd, as some beliefs and ideologies have more credibility than others. Some have demonstratable truths, some are more rational, some preach equality. Others say there is none, and never can or should be equality. Some openly preach violence, lies and hate as a means to further their cause whereas others would abhor such methods, even if at times they have degenerated to such an extent as to use them.
The same can, and should be applied to religion. Some faiths are more rational than others. Some, one in particular, have more historical credibility than others. etc. etc. Real faith is based on much much more than 'because it feels good to me'. I believe Christianity is the only really credible religion spiritually, historically, morally and philosophically. I do not believe this because I am a Christian; I am a Christian because I came to believe and this. But those of us who have faith in the Divine should certainly not be shielded from criticism and scrutiny. Indeed we have been battered by the most severe for several centuries now, although I wish someone would come up with an original argument for a change. But keep it up, we can take it! But then if you are so sure God does not exist, why is the atheist lobby always bashing on about Him so much? I makes me think of the Russian man I once met who had become a devout Orthodox Christian. He told me that growing up in the atheist Soviet Union, he was constantly being told God did not exist. He wondered why so much effort and zeal was being put into something non-existent? This made him enquire into his Christian heritage and what exactly all the fuss was about. Hence, to cut a long story short, after a long and very difficult journey he came to faith. Or rather, diverted his faith from non-belief to belief. If so much effort is put into denying religion on the grounds of the misery it has caused to man, as I have heard said, then this seems to me to be a very misguided approach. Anti-Christian/Atheist societies are responsible for the worst abuses of mankind. E.G. Soviet Russia, The French Revolution, Nazi Germany, Maoist China, Pol Pots Cambodia to name but a few. The balance is certainly in our favour. If we want to see a society with freedom and liberty then the best, though certainly not perfect examples, are Christian based societies. (I can hear you scream from here!)
I do however, think you would find that my opinion of some religion would be very similar to your own. Islam for example, I believe it to be nothing more than seventh century fascism based on the fairy-tale ramblings of an itinerant camel trader. If brought up in a fundamentalist islamic society, atheism would I think be the better option. Like yourself I do not believe in the god of islam. I do not believe god of the koran is God and therefore, as god does not exist. Does this make me a semi-atheist? Does this make me a bigot? No because we have to distinguish between faiths. But distinguishing does not mean condemning all its followers to some kind of eternal bonfire. We must remember, and I'm sure you would agree, that there is truth and error, rational and irrational, right and wrong, credible and the incredible. Because 2+2 does not =5 it does not follow that 2+2 does not =4 either! It does not mean I think all muslims, hindus et should be persecuted, forced to be Christian or that they will all go to hell! It is not for me to judge. It is however for all of us to fight against hatred, bigotry and 'believe what I believe or else' religion. Islam is a good example of this, as perhaps so is the evangelical Christian movement, some of whose ramblings are indeed absurd in the extreme. For example the Bible is not, as they would say, a 100% perfect tale of the creation of the earth and the actions of a few people on it. It was not written to be such. The orthodox faith has never seen it as such. The Bible can, if you wish, be used to justify any thing if you try hard enough and twist it accordingly. Because some have done so it simply does not follow that the whole 60+ books of the Bible should be consigned to the waste bin. You can not look at, say TV evangelists and street Bible pushers and then write off two thousand years of Christianity from then on. We really do deserve better.
As for my own faith, and the Orthodox church which I am a part of, I have never seen any attempt to bully people into church or condemn anyone. We have too much to worry about in condemning ourselves through our actions and failures. Missionary activity is on the basis of live the Gospel, pray, repent and worship, and people will come of their own accord. And come they do. The only real missionary activity for a Christian is be to be holy. Something very few of us achieve.
So there you go, a few of my ramblings. It was nice 'speaking' to you.
- 01 June 2001 : Simon
- The 'every one has to believe in something' approach is often used in a very patronising way, implying that the beliefs of a Christian are only held due to some kind of personal inadequacy, or emotional weakness. A crutch to lean on. It is also a very proud view; "everyone has to believe in something…… um… except me of course as I'm 'above' such things". You say I examined what was 'on offer' and made a 'Choice' implying that I take a pick an'mix approach to religion according to my own tastes. This is not the case. My religious conviction is more a question of being unable to deny this and remain honest with myself and the evidence presented. I can assure you, my life would be a lot easier and far more comfortable if I was to abandon my faith. No more long hours standing in church; far fewer moral constraints; no more reading through long, and admittedly sometimes boring prayers; no more confession, I could keep all my money to myself; I could really 'live it up'! Have 'real' fun! Sod everybody else and look after number one! But this is not the way to live. It is not the best course for man individually or communally, I believe. You say I made a choice. In a sense I did as I came to a point where I 'chose' to believe, in the same way that at some stage you chose to believe in the athiest faith. (Yes Athieism is most certainly a belief and indeed a faith. You could even say that the athiest is only one God away from theism). That was your choice. But I suspect, like me, it was a choice that offered you personaly no alternatives. It was not a case of shall I choose this faith or shall I choose that faith, it was and is a question of where else can I go (ie St. John 6:68)? This is truth and so must be acted upon. Not to do so would be to deny yourself emotionally, spiritually, psychologically and intellectually. It would mean basically having to live a lie. And indeed to live without God is doing exactly that. So is my faith 'a system of belief that best suits me'? Well of course spiritually yes it is. But if it is best for me as I suspect you mean in the day to day routine of life, then again yes it is, but not because it always makes me perfectly at peace or floating on cloud of self-righteous contentment. It is best for me because this is how I was created to be, not because it necessarily makes me 'feel good'.
You seem to have a very unscientific approach to religion even though you appear to have trust in the scientific 'process'. Science looks at the evidence, reassess, is willing to change its views, admits it might be wrong, knows that the question is not settled once and for all but has to be constantly re-examined. Science does not say that this is the answer and so the end of the question and any further consideration of it. If I as a Christian take this approach I am condemned as blinked, narrow minded and, of course, a bigot. As you say "it should be tested and, if found wanting, revised and updated". This is good advice that we should all follow. You say that God is an invention of man, but can you tell me when this invention occurred? Can you chart its development? What evidence can you present?
I am sure you believe an Atheist society which forbids public faith and perhaps worship in schools preferable, but I can ask you the same question you ask me; preferable for who? Certainly not for me or millions of others. Atheist societies have an appalling record of intolerance, religious persecution and human rights abuses. Indeed, the history of secular humanism is enough to make many find faith in God. The 'Enlightenment' for example must have been one of the greatest euphemisms ever used. If you examine the development of its humanist philosophy we can thank it for such giving birth to such delights the French revolution, Marxism and the 'freedoms' of Soviet Russia, the breakdown of society we appear to be witnessing as western man adopts the dog-eat-dog live for today Godless appraoch to life. Can you really tell me that society is improved when Christ is abandoned?
I think I need to elaborate on my views of the Bible. I did say that not every word can be considered as infallible in that not every piece of punctuation or use of vocabulary can be considered as utterly perfect. The English Bible is of course after all a translation from the original Greek. However, it is none the less the word of God. It is correct in all areas of faith and doctrine and in fact, extremely reliable in historical accuracy. As I say it is the word of God, yet at the same time infused with the word of man. It is a perfect blend of human and divine revelation. In the same way that Christ is perfect God AND perfect man. I try to look at it this way: Fudamentalist Christians and Muslims see their scriptures as a perfect representation of God; say, like a photograph. The Bible however is more akin to a painting of God. Each Gospel for example, is a beautiful and superbly accurate representation of God and yet as with any painting, it is infused with the style of the artist. Hence all four Gospels have differences, yet all four still remain a brilliant, accurate and true representation of the divine. As such we can rely on them as the Word of God to be trusted, lived by, preached, studied, cherished, read and re-read. Only a an immature and shallow appraoch would write off the Bible as innacurate and full of contradiction and error. The Bible was inspired by God yet written by the church and can only be understood when read in the context of the church and the holy fathers.
I can not let this idea of Hitler being a Christian go without comment. The very idea is absurd despite what he may or may not have claimed. Of course, the Hitler label is a convenient one to hang on your opponents as it instantly demonises them, but it is one which should be treated with the upmost suspicion. Hitler was entirely pagan in his beliefs, obsessed with Teutonic warrior myth and the occult. The Nazi party was very anti Christian and stepped up persecution of the church as they became more secure in power during the 1930's. The Catholic church was seen as one of the great enemies of the Volk along with liberalism, communism and the Jews. However, I would indeed admit that this is somewhat ironic as the Roman Catholic church was a great ally of the Nazis in the Balkans and responsible with Himmler's Bosnian Muslim SS divisions for the genocide of hundreds of thousands of Serbian Orthodox Christians. Incidentally, Himmler believed that Islam was the worlds greatest religion and greatly encouraged it. This should not be surprising as Nazism and Islam share many ideals, e.g. Keeping women in the home pregnant and uneducated, expansionist, militaristic, anti-Semitic and totalitarian, suffering no rivals in ideology. You may say that the church has also been guilty of this, however if it has been it is instantly denying its own beliefs and doctrines. Excommunicating itself you might say. Nazism and Islam however fit very comfortably with these abuses of man and indeed in many places encourage it with the promise of divine blessing and paradise. There is also documentary evidence to show that when the Jewish question was 'solved', the Christian church was to be next. No, Hitler and the Nazis were not Christian. You may think that what I have said is only more reason to abandon religion, but once again I stress that you have to distinguish between beliefs and practices.
As which many areas of life there are fakes and forgeries. A fake only 'works' when it looks like the genuine article, yet it still remains a fake. We have to test the spirits and use decernment. Saint Thomas the Apostle is honoured in the Orthodox church because he was an apostle of Christ, but also because of his initial unbelief! He is an example to us not to blindly accept what is told to us or our own prejudices but to examine the facts and admit with humility if we are wrong.