I post mostly messages and commentary about religion and politics, and the scary occasions when they collide.
I am a: Liberal, Green, Christian, Math teacher
Lover of Math, Philosophy, Animals, Civil Rights, and Arguments of all kinds.

24th February 2014

Link reblogged from Brute Reason with 77 notes

Religion vs. Mental Illness, A Bit More Concisely This Time →

brutereason:

Chris Stedman, author of Faitheist and blogger at the Religion News Service, asked me to comment on why atheists should stop calling religion a mental illness for a piece he published today. I ended up giving him a way longer comment than he necessarily wanted or needed (#bloggerproblems), so I thought I’d publish the full thing I sent him since it’s nevertheless a way more concise explanation of my views than my huge post on this was.

Equating religion with mental illness is harmful for a number of reasons. First of all, when done to make fun of or put down religion, it also puts down by association people struggling with problems like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, or schizophrenia. People with these serious mental illnesses already face plenty of stigma and discrimination, so derogatory remarks about how religious people are “all crazy” or “belong in a mental institution” are harmful.

Second, this comparison ignores the fact that religion and mental illness are different psychological processes. Religion largely stems from cognitive processes that are essentially adaptive, such as looking for patterns, believing in things that are comforting, and getting joy out of connecting with others and feeling like a part of something larger than oneself. Mental illnesses, by contrast, are fundamentallymaladaptive. People who cannot leave the house without having a panic attack, who feel a compulsion to wash their hands hundreds of times a day, or who are convinced that everyone hates them and they are better off dead, are experiencing symptoms that interfere with their ability to go about their lives. Except in extreme cases, religion does not operate this way. It is important to point out when religious beliefs and observances reach a level at which people cannot function normally, but we do the secular movement no favors by focusing on these instances to the exclusion of the vast majority of religious people who are healthy, happy, productive members of our society.

Third, calling religion a mental illness keeps us from asking serious questions about what actually does attract people to religion. Often, it’s the sense of community, the support available to people who are struggling financially or emotionally, the quick way to make friends, and the opportunity to mark important life occasions such as births, marriages, and deaths using traditions that feel meaningful. Although some of us are trying, atheists are still not that great at providing these types of communities. Many refuse to even acknowledge that most people value–even need–such communities. Calling religion a mental illness is a convenient way to avoid thinking about what we could actually be doing to make the secular community more welcoming and inclusive, and what sorts of resources we are lacking that people can find in religious communities.

Finally, claiming that religion is a mental illness obscures the fact that we all–yes, atheists too–regularly engage in irrational thinking. Religion is a type of irrational thinking, but it is not the only type; introductory psychology textbooks catalog dozens of biases, fallacies, and other ways in which our minds trick us. While it’s impossible to become entirely free of cognitive bias, we can become more free of it by learning to notice it. If thinking irrationally is a mental illness, then we are all mentally ill, and the term loses its meaning. As a survivor of mental illness myself and as someone who plans to work as a therapist, I think we should save that term for situations in which people are truly suffering and having trouble going about their lives.

Don’t forget to go read Chris’s piece!

And incidentally, I’ve been quoted by journalists a bunch of times and it has almost always come out sounding weird and out of context and not like what I meant at all. Chris avoided this issue entirely and even let me see a draft of the piece to make sure he wasn’t misrepresenting what I said or getting anything wrong. If he ever asks you for a quote, say yes!

22nd February 2014

Question with 11 notes

Anonymous asked: Are you pro life or pro choice? And why?

I am pro-choice. No human being has the right to use the body or organs of another human being without their willing consent- not even to preserve their own life. If one believes that a fetus is a human life, then they are no exception to this rule. 

Beyond the legalistic understanding, pregnancy and childbirth is a deeply personal experience that cannot be adequately understood by anyone who isn’t in the situation. The fetus/unborn baby, however we want to name it, is intimately connected to its mother in a way that no other two humans ever are. It is a part of her body, and yet also separate. For all the difficulty that I might have when thinking about someone else’s abortion, it has no more affect on me than someone else’s pregnancy would. In my situation, it is very easy to say that abortion is wrong and ought to be avoided- but do I also have an obligation to provide a ‘home’ for a fetus that is unwanted by it’s own mother? If I care about preserving life, it seems that I might be required to say yes, if that baby has as much right to life- superseding the desires of the woman who carries it- as those on the pro-life side tend to believe it does.

But I wouldn’t volunteer for that job. Most people wouldn’t. The inconvenience it would cause me would always be far more of a concern than the life of that fetus. The only moral difficulty that abortion causes me is the question of what I would do if it were -my- fetus. And I don’t know what my choice would be, regardless of the circumstances behind that pregnancy. I’m not sure I could ever go through with an abortion… but then, I’ve never been in the position to find out.

So I can’t help but see the moral outrage against someone else’s abortion as judgment against the mother, not concern for the unborn life. A person may recoil at the thought of abortion, judging on what they think they would do, if it were theirs… but they have no feelings of tenderness for a life that does not yet exist and is not a part of themselves- only the mother can, and so only she should get a say in how that life is brought into existence.

All that said, I am all in favor of addressing the causes of unwanted pregnancy and eliminating the need for abortion of a healthy fetus. Why a woman may make that choice, I believe, is a far more relevant question for Christians than whether or not she should.

Tagged: religionabortionprochoiceprolifechristianity

22nd February 2014

Question with 1 note

Anonymous asked: Hi I have a question thats been bothering me. (Btw, I am kind of returning to religion) Ive been struggling with depression and some other issues. While going through this time I looked for verses to try to help me and I was wondering how do I know that God is willing to do any of the things that He did for the people in bible for me? I'm not sure if I am being clear, but will He really deliver me? What if His blessings were just for them, and I am destined to be miserable? Can that happen?

Christ’s sacrifice was made for all people, as a new covenant between them and God. No one is forgotten or abandoned by God. Here on earth, though, it can be difficult to remember this, and this leads to doubt or feelings of worthlessness. It’s understandable that you might feel that way, as I struggle with depression myself, but you are still among those who were destined to be reconciled with God. Nothing can change that.

God bless! :)

Tagged: religionchristianity

21st February 2014

Post reblogged from with 6 notes

desperately-seeking-helena:

liberalchristian:

desperately-seeking-helena:

I wish that were the case with the people I know.

Most of them think that anyone who isn’t a Christian is unhappy. And if a non-Christian says “no, I am happy!” they say “you don’t understand happiness until you know god”.

It’s like, to them, we’re all just lying to ourselves about how we feel or something…and it always surprises me because I don’t know more than two people who have ever been anything other than Christian, or probably ever will be. 

Well, some people are like that, Christian or not. I know many parents who say things like, ‘you’ll never know love until you have kids!’, which implies that all childless people live bleak, loveless lives. Problem is a lack of perspective, and the strong desire to share something that really did make a significant impact in their lives… so much so they might forget what it was like before, or can’t imagine living any other way.

And it’s frustrating, but I’d try to view it as them doing their best to share happiness with others, even if it’s a bit arrogant at times.

21st February 2014

Post reblogged from with 6 notes

desperately-seeking-helena:

A common view among Christians is that being a Christian makes your life significantly better. I’ve heard people talk about having some kind of “peace” or “happiness” or whatever else that they didn’t have before they were religious.

I personally believe that this is bullshit. I would like to invite Christians to tell me why they think their lives as Christians are so much better than mine as an atheist.

I think the misunderstanding is that when Christians say this, what they usually mean is that being a Christian makes their life better. It gives them peace and happiness or whatever else they didn’t have before they were religious. 

If you don’t need any of these things in your own life, you aren’t likely to see the value of Christianity. But just as you might tell someone, ‘hey, this flavor of icecream is really good. You should try it’, those who are Christian and happy with it tend to want to share that happiness with others. They’re not saying that you’ll never be happy without it, anymore than you would say someone must try that icecream or they’ll never be satisfied with any other flavor- only that they think it’s a good idea.

21st February 2014

Question with 102 notes

Anonymous asked: I came to this blog because I have recently found myself praying a lot more to God. I have found the last few months as very stressful as I have been recovering from an eating dissorder. I want to look into being a Christian and seeking solace in God but I am a lesbian, I don't believe I can pray this away because I have already tried. I asked God to take away the feelings but he either can't or won't. I don't know if it's right for me but i am being drawn towards the values and general comfort.

Christianity is about salvation and love. Christ’s sacrifice was made unconditionally- for atheists, for homosexuals, for those who broke the commandments, and for those society deemed outcasts- no one was overlooked, and no one was denied His love or mercy. Thus, no one can deny you the right to seek God… not even yourself. Christ’s love and forgiveness overcomes all else.

Not all Christians view homosexuality as a sin. Your feelings of discomfort from sexual attraction are most likely inspired by prejudice from those around you, not from God. If you really, honestly, believe that your feelings are wrong, and that this is not based on social pressure… then accept yourself as no more or less sinful than anyone else, with no more to be ashamed of than anyone else. We all struggle with sin and difficulties in life, and we all fail sometimes. It doesn’t matter: Christ’s forgiveness is eternal. Prayer will not take any of this away, it can only enable you to become closer to Him.

I don’t personally believe that homosexuality is sinful or unnatural, so I’m not surprised at all that God hasn’t attempted to fix what isn’t broken. I would say that celibacy is always an option- for your own peace of mind- not for anyone else and not for God. He doesn’t need you to be straight or  celibate, else, you would be called toward that already.

If you’re drawn toward Christianity, then it is right for you. No one else can say otherwise, as it is only between you and God. Plenty of online resources and community are available for gay and lesbian Christians, too. God bless, and please feel free to ask if you have any other questions or need references to other sites that might help :)

Tagged: religonchristianityhomosexuality

17th February 2014

Quote reblogged from Myths of Modernity with 115 notes

"I already told you, I believe in science, not God," he interrupted. In his mind they were mutually exclusive. I stopped. I wanted to ask what he thought about science and spirituality, the new physics, Einstein and Bohm, who operated with a sense of order and wonder at the universe itself as a great mystery of divine proportions. I wanted to, but I didn’t because I realized he didn’t want to engage with the questions; he already knew the answers. He wasn’t interested in a discussion. That’s when I got it. I was talking to a fundamentalist. What I was saying threatened his very identity and construct of life. My lunch companion knew who God was, and he didn’t believe in "him." It was a Santa sort of God, the kind that a small child believes in and then is disappointed by when he doesn’t get a pony in his stocking.

17th February 2014

Post reblogged from Princess Tiana with 6 notes

thepianogirl1:

Blaming wars on religion is like blaming legos for the pain in your feet.
You stepped on the Lego. The Lego didn’t magically come to life in the middle of the night to stab you in the foot because it had nothing better to do.

17th February 2014

Link reblogged from природа with 4 notes

Is it wrong to teach children about God? -€“ Michael Ruse -€“ Aeon →

15th February 2014

Post reblogged from with 125 notes

idreamofgiygas:

liberalchristian:

idreamofgiygas:

liberalchristian:

the-unpopular-opinions:

[…]

 

i asked you (not very kindly, mind you) to go through your posts *for* me.

Ok. Request denied.

I believe that the metaphysical evidence supports the existence of God more than it does atheism. I’ve argued this point many times, just not specifically in that comment. If you have a question related to the specifics of my beliefs, I’d be happy to address that.

i’m interested in reasons (or “arguments”…or “metaphysical evidence”) why you think a god exists.

And the reason why your request is denied is because I make a policy these days to only discuss the arguments for God with people who are genuinely interested in understanding how other people think who do not share the same beliefs. I do not discuss arguments for the existence of God with people who insist that I prove God to them, to their satisfaction, because I don’t really care if you believe in God or not. It has zero impact on my life, but obviously, my beliefs(and those of many other Christians who are largely minding their own business) are a matter of *great concern* to many internet atheists.

Based on your blog, you are not interested in the former. I am not interested in the latter. Thus, we have nothing to discuss.

If you have a *specific* question, then address it to my inbox, and I’ll answer. 

Tagged: religionatheistsatheismchristianitychristian

Source: the-unpopular-opinions