And what a welcome it is!

Via Atheist Oasis, here’s a really powerful video by The Thinking Atheist called “Welcome To This World” — explaining Christianity’s message to newborn babies. It pretty much sums up everything that might typically rush through my head when I hear a Christian say that “God is love,” and I still found it very moving.


(Also, this baby is beyond adorable.)

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  1. I think what I found most moving for me is how, for whomever wrote/produced this video, this is actually what they think the message of Christianity is. Sadly, what is presented here is a random assortment of facts (and almost facts) spun very provocatively and presented as “this is what Christians teach their kids!” It makes me sad because this person has either been taught this false message and now hates it (who wouldn’t?) or they have an “agenda” they are trying to push by distorting the picture with all the spin of a politician trying to get elected.
    Anyone, who reads this who’s interested, i’d love to try and explain what Christianity actually teaches and what i teach to my kids as they grow up.

    p.s. and yeah – that baby is truly adorable.

  2. Hi Wesley,

    The provocative nature of the presentation notwithstanding, please explain what is so wrong about its characterization of Christianity. I say this as someone who was raised quite devoutly Christian who still keeps a Bible more heavily annotated than a work of classical literature in a college seminar on deconstruction.

    As far as I can tell, the claims of this video are as follows:
    1) we are born wicked and corrupts sinners
    2) the wages of sin are death
    3) we must seek forgiveness for our sin to gain salvation
    4) we are responsible for the death of Christ (insofar as it was necessary for our salvation and done on our behalf)
    1-4a) the aforementioned circumstances all occurred far beyond our control or influence
    5) we must tithe to a worldly institution–the Church
    6) you will never have an objectively demonstrable experience of god in this life
    7) you have to study the Bible (which is translated from now-defunct languages) to know god because won’t appear to you and just tell you what he wants from you (related to 6)
    8) you are called to evangelize
    9) in heaven, we will praise god endlessly
    10) infidels qua infidels go to an eternal torment of fire and brimstone (follows from 1 and 2 and is stated explicitly anyway)
    11) we’re supposed to serve god because we love him, not because we’ll be cast into an eternal lake of fire forever if we disobey

    Again, it is put very provocatively, but what about the presentation is wrong?

  3. Rek -
    couple things:
    1. you say you were, ” raised quite devoutly Christian who still keeps a Bible more heavily annotated than a work of classical literature in a college seminar on deconstruction. ” Would you describe yourself as a Christian now?
    2. some of the points you list suggest a certain “bias/axe to grind” of your own viz. ” we must tithe to a worldly institution–the Church” and “you will never have an objectively demonstrable experience of god in this life” and “you have to study the Bible (which is translated from now-defunct languages) to know god because won’t appear to you and just tell you what he wants from you (related to 6)” specifically.
    Quickly: the church is not a human institution, it was instituted by God. More personal testimony than you could number would discount what you say God never does viz. objectively demontrate Himself. Surely Koine Greek is an antiquated language but it was the common language of the day and what numerous other manuscripts/books/poems the world considers legit were written in too and … um, i think some Jews might debate with you wether or not Hebrew is a “now-defunct” language.
    3. Again, it’s not so much the content of what is presented – as i said there are a lot of truths presented as well as part-truths – and it is most certainly the “style” in which they are presented which makes it an unfairly presnted, spun version of those facts, equivalent to someone reading the story of Jesus and the rich young ruler all by itself and then concluding, “SEE! The Bible says if you want to follow Jesus you need to sell everything and be poor!” Context within which statements are placed is essential.

  4. Wesley,

    1. As you probably figured, I am no longer Christian.

    2. By “worldly institution”, I intentionally used a baited term (from a Christian POV) to describe an institution run by humans (often just men) who tend to support themselves quite lavishly and are as likely (if not more so) to be corrupt and wasteful and generally contemptible as the heads of any secular (or other religious) institution (e.g. corporations, governments, NGOs, etc.). Religious testimony to the contrary, there is no objective evidence. Religious people see miracles and the voice/hand of god practically everywhere. I say this descriptively and without malice or irony. Secular people (or more skeptical believers) just see the same natural explanations that explain everything else. I have never known of any verified instance of a divine/supernatural healing or miracle. I know of many people who were sick and “miraculously” (with the help of modern medicine or the simple passage of time) got better. I know of people making vague predictions (or else “prophesying” events that were extremely predictable in the first place) and then praising god when something at least vaguely like what they “predicted” comes true. I even know of people who happened to “predict” or pray for genuinely unlikely things that did occur (without any demonstrable correlation between the supernatural and the unlikely event). I know of no objective, verifiable instances of supernatural activity in any meaningful sense.

    3. As one of those atheists who tries adamantly to give theists all due respect, charity (in the discursive sense), and good-will, I am very sympathetic to indignation at needlessly cruel attacks against others and their worldview. However, I think in the final analysis, it is incumbent upon the Christian who objects to this post (or the atheist who objects to a mean anti-atheist post, like this incredibly stupid article by Ron Rosenbaum) to follow up the indignation with a rebuttal of the points presented, or else explain why the points are valid but misrepresented. This is the main sentiment I meant to flush out in my previous post.

    To conclude, I find this video a bit harsh, yes, but not unfair insofar as its claims about Christianity are not obviously false. The entire point is to stress how cruel and degrading the mythos sounds to skeptics. If this video were only trying to mock a worldview because the author disagreed, then it would be rightly offensive. Since the point is to address why the author finds the Christian worldview to be objectionable, I think it does a reasonable job of getting its point across without being needlessly obscene or excessively aggressive. But I will grant you that it is probably not ideal for winning over the other side.

  5. Rek -
    i appreciate your reply very much, particularly what you had to say in the last parahraph. I too get the sense that this video is not directly mocking Christianity as much as it is expressing how the author views these truths through their worldview and therefore is a fair presentation.
    Can i ask you, what was it that caused you to doubt, leave, and ultimately reject Christianity? Was it an event or the hypocrisy of others or …? Love to know your story behind that.
    As for demonstrable evidences of God’s existence, i guess i see where you are coming from. For me, i take a Rom. 1 apporach that would say firstly that creation itself is a demonstration of the reality of God, however, personally for myself, one clear evidence of His reality is the change in me. Far more than some ‘moral conformity’, my very desires are different than what they once were. Now, if you didn’t know me well, that wouldn’t demonstrate anything, but to me and those who knew me before, the transformation is unmistakable. Beyond that, i have known people who have been healed beyond any physical, medical understanding of why they were scanned and had a brain tumour one day and the day before surgery, were scanned once more for prep, only to find nothing! Juss sayin. I now there are “kooks” out there but there are documented stories of this type of thing. I’ll see if i can find some links though internet is such a hodgepodge of crap and truth ;)

  6. Hi Wesley,

    There’s no need for you to find links about the medical miracles (and your description of the internet is quite apt–I couldn’t agree more). While I have never (knowingly) experienced one, I am fully aware that they occur. My point, however, is that it remains the case that these “miracles” are no more likely among those who pray and those who don’t. In fact, knowing that someone is praying for you has been shown to be detrimental to your health when you are sick.

    But on to your more pressing question, the story of my deconversion is rather long and convoluted, so I will attempt to describe it as succinctly and faithfully as possible, realizing that I’ll probably have to go back later and correct some of the narrative. After all, there is a degree to which all simplifications are lies necessarily, if only by omission, and the longer and more complicated the tale, the greater the break from reality. But that is just poetry.

    Anyway, my doubt first surfaced (in the sense that it must have been there before but I only became conscious of it then) when I was in middle school and I started having rudimentary religious and philosophical discussions with my friends. I was very intrigued by the intelligent Catholic friends I had then (and to this day, my most intellectual astute theistic friends are Catholics), particularly because I was devoutly Protestant (Pentecostal, to be specific). Somewhere along the way I developed this obsession with truth and wanted to know all the secrets and mysteries of existence at all cost. The result of this obsession was that I developed a profound contempt for poor reasoning and the beliefs that came of it. I should mention that I was one of those “insufferable intellectuals” (to borrow from Hitchens, who I only read much later) who was arrogant enough to begin with and became all the more intolerable because I was increasingly finding the people around me to be idiots. (Incidentally, I now go to Yale and have since grown much more humble and not-douchey, so please don’t think less of who I am now.)

    Being an insufferable little intellectual, I took inordinate pleasure in playing devil’s advocate, particularly against people with whom I agreed on a given idea. In time, I became rather proficient at dismantling the reasons other people stated for believing in god. Somehow, however, I managed to convince myself that I always secretly had the answer. Sometimes I did. But most of the time, I just bracketed away the fact that I couldn’t actually answer many of my alter-ego’s objections any better than my (cruelly abused) friends.

    So (some of) the questions alter-me raised:
    Epistemology: What is the epistemological grounding of revelation? I.e., how can we justify taking as sacred and inerrant any book or testimony of fundamentally unverifiable claims? Obviously that the Bible says it is inerrant and perfect is not sufficient. Most fall back on the “leap of faith”, but this is equivalent to saying “I believe it just because I want/have decided to and therefore it is true.” On its face, such a claim is absurd when talking about objective and metaphysical truths. Why on earth should we put any stock in the “testimony” of any of the Gospels or Paul or the rest? It would be one thing if there were demonstrable results of following the Bible—e.g. Christians were wealthier, more beautiful, happier (which the religious are in general, I concede), healthier, supernaturally powerful, etc.—but this is demonstrably not the case. Even then, however, some epistemic questions would remain.


  7. continuing

    Infidels: Why don’t most people believe? Why have the overwhelming majority of people to have every existed not believed? The Bible would have us believe that god loves and reaches out to everyone (at least, since Christ came), yet god has been woefully unable to convince most people and, even among the faithful, has been unable to maintain a single coherent doctrine. How could such an omnipotent, omniscient and personal god be so woefully inept at something that allegedly matters greatly to him?

    This brings us to everyone’s favorite: theodicy. Why is there so much suffering? When I was young (until I was 18, really), I could never shake my profound disquiet at the concept of hell. I think I might say literally and without exaggeration that I was completely traumatized when I first learned this concept, and I had nightmares for years. The most profound bit of doublethink was trying to square the existence of such transcendent violence and suffering and, yes, hatred with the idea of a “loving” god who genuinely wants to save all his children. Then, of course, there’s the problem of the suffering on earth. The OT is truly barbaric and it struck me quite odd how much energy Yahweh spent disregarding (or ordering his subjects to disobey) his own laws. How on earth can a moral agent–who affirms the immorality of killing–justify genocide? Not once but over a dozen times. I’m almost certainly grossly understating the actual number. The sad and horrible irony is that the Nazis justified the Holocaust on the same type of reasoning with which god commanded the Israelites to slaughter their neighbors—that the other was a moral hazard and the chosen people needed more living space. How on earth can an omnipotent moral agent justify inflicting so much suffering on so many people, from both the Hebrews and Egyptians in Exodus, down to the countless deaths adumbrated in the Revelation. Why is a loving god so damn sadistic and cruel?

    Culpability: the cruelest and most immoral element of the Judeo-Christian story enters the picture early on—Cain and Abel bear the curse of their father’s “sin” (which is another question in itself). Thereafter, every individual is subjected to the curses of their fathers’ histories. To address the video that started this discussion, we are sinful by nature and born to be damned precisely because sin and the curse of evil are apparently hereditary (otherwise we would be born as free and healthy as Adam). Indeed, the justification—such as there could be one—for the morality of the OT genocides is that those wretched people (especially the children) had the dire misfortune of being born to the wrong parents. When the circumstances of your birth are regarded as moral decisions on your part, no good can possibly follow, and none did in the OT, and hell did in the NT. Of course, Christianity had to affirm this principle—culpability for your fathers’ sins—or else the entire basis of salvation would collapse. That, however, only proves the point—the whole system is founded upon profound immorality. And to take the cake, god had himself—or, rather, his son (how noble)—be tortured and killed to complete the abominable farce. (Here I am reminding of a near-perfect analogy in Omelas.) And then it doesn’t even work because, as stated above, most people will never believe. To put it quite mildly, how contemptible.

    Anyway, alter-me would pose these questions (and many more), and conscious-me would seek out answers (in vain) and then bracket away the problems because it was so uncomfortable. Eventually, alter-me’s doubts and moral outrage overcame conscious-me’s devotion and I tumbled headlong into apostasy. In the process, I too experienced a profoundly new perspective of life, and my desires, beliefs, behavior, and relationships changed profoundly (and noticeably) and forever.

    Again, this is a gross condensation, but it is the gist of my story. My orientation toward life and knowledge and morality is now such that I do not believe I am capable of religious belief anymore, nor do I desire it. I greatly appreciate your friendliness and your interest in my story, and if I may, I will implore you to return the favor. Have you ever had a serious crisis of faith, and if so, how did you get past it? What denomination are you now, and if it is not the denomination of your youth, what caused the change?

  8. Rek -
    thank you once again for your reply. Man, my heart just aches as i read your story b/c many of the unanswerable “problems” in your faith arguments are not problems that the Bible or God has but whomever your teachers were. What i mean by that is that many of what you state as counter arguments to your friends that became unanswerable to you seem to begin with a flawed or mis-guided understanding of God and the Bible. I kean no denegration to your teachers or the study you must have done yourself but, truly, simple shifts in your understanding would have lined up for you what previously seemed incongruent.
    I’ll take a stab at an example:
    the inerrancy of Scripture. You appear to argue that the Bible’s testimony about itself and a “leap of faith” are the only epistemilogical grounds for inerrancy however this is simply not the case. There is, to be sure, internal evidence as to the reliability of Scripture but there is also plenty of external. Removing all “faith” arguments and just taking textual criticism on its own, there are overwhelmingly more manuscripts of the Bible than any other historical document that we have today. For example – we have 8 copies of Thucydides (History) and 643 copies of Homer’s Iliad in comparrison ot over 24000 copies of the New Testament alone. Now this is more of a ‘do we have a reliable document to begin with’ argument and speaks nothing of what you do with what the text actually says. Beyond that we have external evidence of both religious and non-religious scholars about events, places, people that the Bible speaks of. We have historians speaking of the martyrs death of all but one of the apostles (you’d think at least ONE might have said, ‘ok ok, it’s a hoax; Jesus didn’t really appear to me after he was crucified’). This is just a cursory survey of some of the overwhelming evidence about the Bible that goes far beyond ‘it says it’s true’ and ‘have faith’ arguments.
    As for the “demonstrable results of following the Bible” i dunno – to have that argument you’d have to first assume that what the Bible said was actually being followed (a difficult assumption to make to begin with) and then, we’d get into some of what i said to begin with about wrong assumptions/presuppositions being brought to the Bible. Firstly, the Bible is not primarily about us, it is God’s revelation to us about Himself! Christianity is not a get rich, get healthy, get a big house and car and a hot wife, religion. It is about a personal relationship with Jesus – THAT”s the reward: Jesus. Anychurch or religious leader that preaches anything else is lying to you. If you buy into that lie, you develop this uneralistic entitelement that is unbiblical and antithetical to Christianity. Besides, if the Bible/Christianity did promise those things in return for belief, clearly, everyone would believe/follow for the wrong reasons. Again, i feel that (humbly) you are/were opperating under some bad teaching or mistaken assumptions from the outset. Sad to see how it can ‘spoil the whole batch’ as it were.

    As for my own story, it too is long so i too will condense. I grew up in a Christian/Protestant family and went to a Baptist church most of my life while also doing “youth” stuff at a Charismatic/Pentecostal church. From that, i grew into what i now call a “Bapti-costal” faith which to me just means i have good theology alongside a passionate love for Jesus and a belief in the use of the “gifts” today. My real crisis of faith came just a few years ago when i began to get some good teaching about the Bible and Christianity as a whole and realised that, while i may have conformed to an external moral code and could “sound” spiritual, my heart/desires were not any different and i was not changed/regenerated at all. There was not a “day” or “event” when lighting struck or anything, but simply looking back now, i can see/feel clear evidence (as can others who know me well) of a transformed heart. It was incredibly difficult to think i’d spent my life doing all the “right stuff” but was still unchanged inside. That was before i learned that Christianity (unlike most other religions if not all) is not about what we do for God so He’ll love us but about what God did for us because He already does. i thought if just behaved and went to church and tried to “be good” that meant i was “in”. But i couldn’t “be good” and i kept failing and inside i knew i was a fake; that what people saw on the outside was not true on the inside. And now my testimony is simply that of the blind man who Jesus heals and the religious leaders are questioning him in Jn. 9 25 saying isn’t this Jesus a sinner/fake/liar/blaphemer/etc. and the guy just says basically, “i dunno boys – all i know is i used to be blind and now i can see!”

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