Thursday, April 1, 2010

Reverend Jon Weyer's talk at Purdue

So as you all know, last night Reverend Jon Weyer came and gave a talk at Purdue called Kicking the Christian Strawman: What Christians are really like. It was nice to have Jon come to Purdue, since we met at the Secular Student Alliance conference and have chatting since then. It was really interesting, especially to us atheists who weren't raised in Christian households. I kind of live in a self-reinforcing atheist bubble here at Purdue, so it was great to hear what Christians were really like from an actual Christian, not a raving atheist.

During the course of the night, he went a bit into why he believes what he believes. I have to say, this was the most enlightening part. A member asked about people who take the Bible literally, and his response was the first answer I've heard that finally made sense. That parts of the Bible are meant to be metaphorical, but they aren't just arbitrarily choosing what parts they like - that there are contextual clues to help us figure that out.

The more he talked, the more...I don't know, it felt like something had clicked. Like that spiritual experience everyone says they feel? Like how they say if you just open your mind a little you'll see the way? I...felt that. Maybe I hadn't felt it all along because I was raised atheist, but I realized that Christianity isn't all about people riding on dinosaurs and Jesus performing magic tricks.

...I dunno, I'm feeling pretty confused right now. I need to do some introspection before posting any more. It's just strange - for the first time ever, I had that nagging feeling in my gut that maybe this God stuff is right.

39 comments:

  1. "I had that nagging feeling in my gut that maybe this God stuff is right. "
    April fools' prank spotted... ;-)

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  2. Sebastian,
    You had to spoil her fun that quickly?
    :)

    I was at the talk as well last night and I enjoyed it. Jon seemed like a really nice and funny guy. I am glad he is trying to break the Christian stereotypes I come across all the time on the internet. I wish I could have stayed for the dinner but senior design is basically consuming this entire week.

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  3. Jen, you totally had me worried. I am such a sucker for April Fool's Day pranks. I was gearing up to give you a pep talk!

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  4. lol! this post was the one that made me check the calender. bravo jen!

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  5. AHAHAHAHAHAHA, er, um, bully for you ;-)

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  6. I've never liked April Fools, but this was well done. You had me quite worried... of course, that's why I don't like it.

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  7. I'm pretty sure that's just heartburn, Jen. Happy April 1!

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  8. Should have asked him what the hermeneutics is in Genesis that shows it's metaphorical. No expert I have heard of thinks it was written to be metaphorical.

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  9. Godlessons,

    I can suggest quite a few, if you are interested.

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  10. . . . what if she's serious?

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  11. If she's serious, there is the Easter Vigil on Saturday and she can be baptized on Easter Sunday. I know of one church which does a very nice Easter breakfast.

    The mass conversion of those attending the west coast SSA leadership conference key note speech in Stanford Memorial Church has led the Christian evangelical groups at Stanford to offer the church as the site for the next big Atheist conference.

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  12. Even though I knew it was the 1st when I started... this still got me worried.

    (What would've been better would've been starting the wordpress blog, and having this be the first post, and it being like "JEN'S JOURNEY INTO CHRISTIAN LIVING; 365 DAYS OF LIVING IN CHRIST" or something. Gaaaaah. Scary.)

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  13. Quite possibly the best honey pot I've seen. Looking forward to the comments.

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  14. Godlessons said...

    Should have asked him what the hermeneutics is in Genesis that shows it's metaphorical. No expert I have heard of thinks it was written to be metaphorical.

    Wow, tell me this is another April First joke and that you really aren't that stupid, please?

    For the interest of those actually interested (repetitive sentence is repetitive). Hebrew poetry is big on parallels, synonyms and imagery.

    Day 1 parallels Day 4, Day 2 parallels Day 5, Day 3 parallels Day6

    Do I have to go over the multiple synonyms of creation throughout it?

    Same as the synonyms, the imagery is of course obvious.

    The first creation account is a poem, written during the Babylonian exile.

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  15. hahahaha - you had me going (and worried!) with the third paragraph, but the fourth paragraph was the April Fools clincher, lol.

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  16. THE DEATH OF ATH*ISM - SCIENTIFIC PROOF OF GOD


    http://engforum.pravda.ru/showthread.php?t=280780




    Einstein puts the final nail in the coffin of atheism...


    *************************************

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7vpw4AH8QQ

    *************************************



    atheists deny their own life element...




    LIGHT OR DEATH, ATHEISTS?

    ********************************
    ***************************LIGHT*********
    ************************************

    ___________

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  17. "That parts of the Bible are meant to be metaphorical, but they aren't just arbitrarily choosing what parts they like - that there are contextual clues to help us figure that out."

    Yeah, that's a load of crap. Sure, there's some parts of the bible that are pretty obvious that they're not to be taken literally. For example, jesus spends a lot of time speaking in parables. Obviously there wasn't really a foolish man who built his house upon the sand, and a wise man who built his house upon a rock. There's also, however, quite a few spots where there's no reason to believe things were written as a parable or metaphor. The laws passed down from God to Moses, for example. Just about every christian I know accepts the ten commandments, but ignores the rest of the rules set down at the same time. You know, the ones that tell you things like if you rape a woman, you have to pay her dad a fine and then marry her. The biggest problem with the bible isn't whether it's literally true or not. The biggest problem is that the lessons it seems to be teaching are a mixture of good advice that existed long before the books in the bible did, bad advice that you'd be stupid to follow, and pure, unadulterated evil.

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  18. Easter is canceled - They found the body.

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  19. Well done. It took me a second or two of going "huh????" before I remembered the date. Good show.

    Sunioc:

    "Yeah, that's a load of crap. Sure, there's some parts of the bible that are pretty obvious that they're not to be taken literally"

    I don't think they're entirely off base here. I haven't ever really had a big problem with those who find some things metaphorical and others literal, because I do get (having been there myself in the distant past) that there is a sort of methodology to making that determination. I don't believe this would really apply to the parts that are just outright ignored such as the abhorrent Levitical laws, which are ignored on grounds other than being labeled "metaphorical". I think this is more applicable to sections such as a very large chunk of Genesis, which while taken literally by some, do have contextual reasons for concluding that the original audiences probably did see these as metaphorical. I think it makes sense to give them this and not be too entrenched in insisting that they take literally some of these things which they have reasonably concluded are metaphorical.

    On the other hand, if items such as pieces of the Jewish law are labeled as metaphorical (which I haven't seen happen), we should rightly give them a figurative beating for it.

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  20. yez jEN cum to teh lite !!! we haz cookiz in heav4n

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  21. Um, don't mean to spoil the fun, but . . . those aren't cookies.

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  22. But..but Jesus loves us! Why would he keep cookies from the people he loves?

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  23. The biggest problem is that the lessons it seems to be teaching are a mixture of good advice that existed long before the books in the bible did, bad advice that you'd be stupid to follow, and pure, unadulterated evil.

    That is a marvellous summation. Last year it suddenly occurred to me that the Nazi Aryan thing was stolen from the Pentateuch -- you know, we're a special people and so we get to exterminate anyone with resources we want. Claiming that someone else's myth or ancestor or holy book is really one's own is an old game. Then I found that Hannah Arendt had said the same thing.

    Yes, Sunioc, the moral law is pretty well universal, but with the idea of the genocidal Chosen People, something new and very evil entered the world.

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  24. ahahahah!
    nicely done :D

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  25. Happy first of April, Jen.

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  26. Good joke, Jen. So the good Reverend has figured out what reasonable people object to in contemporary Christianity and has eliminated it in his presentations. So what? Every other Christian we talk to is just as rabid and unreasoning as those he calls no true Scotsmen. As one of the students asked, "What is your criteria for saying X is not a real Christian?"
    I still think we are safe declaring a plague on all their houses. I was unimpressed!
    His 'hatred' of Sam Harris was naturally to be expected. If someone examined my profession and found it not only silly, but downright dangerous, I'd probably hate them, too!

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  27. He said he "hated" Sam Harris? What did he say specifically?

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  28. ElGordo,
    Would you be interested in dialogue with any religious person?

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  29. One of the big factors of my deconversion was the realization that my (at the time) liberalized, borderline Universalist Unitarian faith, didn't stand up as well biblically as the fundamentalist upbringing of my youth. When I realized that I couldn't biblically justify the things I had come to view as the metaphorical parts of the bible my faith died, and died quickly.

    When you see a christian say that some unpleasant or indefensible part of the bible is 'metaphorical' what it often comes down to is that said christian is rationalizing away the aspects of their holy text that they can't justify based on their modern sense of morality. Those claiming that there is some standard whereby you can tell what was meant to be metaphorical by a bronze age people really have a high burden of proof, one which I have yet to see met.

    As someone who spent 26 years as a christian and is only about a year and a half out of that tradition, I think Jack Black (as Jesus) said it best in Prop 8 The Musical, "you pick and choose". (http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/c0cf508ff8/prop-8-the-musical-starring-jack-black-john-c-reilly-and-many-more-from-fod-team-jack-black-craig-robinson-john-c-reilly-and-rashida-jones)

    p.s. I can't help but notice this was posted after my facebook status. Did I perchance start a trend of atheist conversion April fools jokes?

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  30. El Gordo,
    As I recall, I didn't say anyting about "no true Christian". I said a lot about being a bad Christian, including myself in that number. The only judgement call I made was on the Westboro people.

    As for Harris, same thing. If atheists rely on Harris to make their arguments, atheism is in serious trouble. Dennett makes ten times better philosophical arguments. Hitchens is fun to read and listen to while Dawkins has some great scientific writings. I keep trying to think of why Harris gets any play in the atheist community. As a Christian, it's probably none of my business, but it's just my opinion.

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  31. Jonathan Weyer: it seems to me that Harris' central contribution to "new Atheism" is the insight that religious moderates act as enablers for religious extremists.

    Given that the primary reply to the Dennetts and Dawkins of the world -- let alone our more sophisticated philosophical arguments -- is the Christian's reply of "oh, but no *real* Christian would do that...," I think Harris remains relevant.

    His stuff about mysticism is a little weird, I'll give you that. Not "talking snake brings sin into the world" weird, of course, but weird nonetheless.

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  32. On the general subject of reconciling Christianity and sanity, perhaps it's time I posted a link to this (which I originally wrote in 2007 for a now-deconverted Mormon, and haven't substantially revised since).

    Jonathan Weyer: which specific arguments of Harris's do you object to? They all seem pretty sound to me, but I've only read a smattering of his columns.

    I especially like his recent fielding of the idea that yes, science can help guide us morally -- paralleling my own arguments that all morality must ultimately be grounded in what is probably best summarized as "minimizing harm".

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  33. @Camels with Hammers:
    I quote: "I hate Sam Harris"
    @Jake:
    If you have the temerity to suggest that in this limited space, I come on a bit too strong, well, then you are...ahhh, probably right. On the other hand, the man is an ordained minister, and most of them know full well what they are doing - as described in Woozle's link.
    @Jonathan: Sorry that you think you are a bad Christian. From what I saw, you are a great guy and have a good sense of humor. My point is - and will remain - that Christianity's principle of atonement teaches children that they are intrinsically bad, but that it is perfectly all right to allow someone else to take the punishment for whatever they do wrong. This is a foundation of sand, and arguably teaches that no one need assume any personal responsibility for what they do. I give you David Vitter and John Ensign.

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  34. Elgordo,
    Well, as for the bad Christian, I just wanted to make sure that I wasn't being overly critical of my fellow Christians, if you get my drift. But, I appreciate your words.

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  35. @Jonathan: Do I take it that your distinction between "bad" and "true" Christian is grounded in a distaste for the Invisible/True Church game?

    @Andrew: Remember what Paul said about religious moderates? :-) "Extremists" suggests that it is the moderates that are the real deal, whereas it could equally well be maintained that the extremists are the real deal, the paradigm, the norm, and moderates are simply wusses who are playing for low stakes.

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  36. /me notes that Jonathan Weyer did not answer the question about Harris...

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  37. You do know that if you become a theist, this will greatly hurt the atheist/satanist/darwinist plot that we worked on for so long, right?

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  38. @Woozle, I will note it is holy week for Christians. Many Christian pastors find this to be a very busy time (Maundy Thursday service, Good Friday service, vigil on Saturday, Easter Sunday service [and sometimes multiple services on each day]) so I suspect answering blog posts gets pushed to the back.

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