Sunday, June 14, 2009

Belief is illogical and powerful

The events of the past two weeks seem to scream this with the full force of "bloody murder." My initial response to each of the recent shootings was sadness and shock. My emotions triggered my confusion and as usual I stared at the ugliness in the hope of understanding its motivation.

Some friends admonished my interest in the sub-text of each murderous event as an unhealthy urge to see conspiracy in the craziness of lone-wolf extremism. Their ability to reconcile these murders as random acts of violence did not and does not satisfy me. I see within the isolated incidents a common mindset. Each psycho-drama's central figures were actors who held as scripture a system of belief honed and hardened through the communal honor of its worship.

I don't believe as my friends seem to believe that the shooter in Arkansas, Dr. Tiller's murderer, or the latest in a long-line of Holocaust deniers were egregious examples of tangential thinking. To me, they were perfect examples of how belief forms faith and conspires against reason to inspire destruction. It seems to me my friends' dismissal of the recent killings as some mad "Catcher in the Rye" theology ignores the calcified and widely held ideologies motivating each action.

Voltaire said, "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."

What do you believe? What atrocities does this belief allow you to dismiss, contemplate or commit?

Does your belief in the necessity of religious respect compel you to argue Islam as a "religion of peace" and the shooter in Arkansas as a wild contradiction to this theology or, do you like Bat Y'eor in his book "Islam and Dhimmitude" see that,
" . . . the ideology of jihad was formulated by Muslim theologians from the eighth century onward. It separates humanity into two hostile blocks — the community of Muslims, and the infidels. According to this ideology, Allah commands the Muslims to conquer the whole world in order to apply Koranic laws. Hence, they have to wage a perpetual war against the infidels who refuse to submit. Its principle is based on the inequality between the community of Allah and the infidels. The first is a superior group, whose mission it is to rule the world. The second must submit."

What are your views on America's heritage?

I don't want to equate the respect for belief or the dismissal of the recent horrendous acts as equal to the acts themselves but, I do see the acts of each killer as a logical action of their beliefs.

The willingness of those who would like to dismiss these acts as craziness seems to me like a weak immunization against the viral potential found in pre-suppositional beliefs. It seems like just another absurdity which will inspire inevitable atrocity.

I don't see myself as immune to atrocity born from absurdities I might hold as belief. I don't see myself exempt from the craziness the recent killings created. I don't see these killers as "lone wolfs" separating from the pack at left or right angles but, instead see them as examples of ideological fitness who sprint to the head of the pack and, in their commitment to the pack, separate themselves as the alpha member. I see myself as willing as anybody to commit atrocities for the sake of belief.

Therefore belief to me is powerful and it is dangerous because it allows us to embrace "knowing" absent of doubt. And in this knowledge we dismiss alternate possible theories of reality as craziness.

I am reading an interesting series by Valerie Tarico on Christian belief through a cognitive lens. My interest in the subject is fueled by the realization of how long-held Christian beliefs I claimed no longer work for me. I had to face the atrocities (akin to dhimmitude) I argued for against my homosexual friends who look for equality under the law. My Christian passion demanded I see their identity as sin and therefore same-sex marriage as a capital crime demanding the substitutional death sentence of Jesus Christ. My knowledge of who my gay friends are revealed to me the absurdity of my belief and the atrocious implications it inspired. My belief unraveled because new evidence introduced doubt. This doubt kept me from taking further action which would demonize my fellow humans for the sake of my belief.

Tarico argues that reason and logic are opposed to belief because,
" . . . belief is not bound to regular standards of evidence and logic. It is not about logic and it is not obliged to follow logic. Arguments with believers start from a false premise—that the believer is bound by the rules of debate rather than being bound by the belief itself. The freethinker assumes that the believer is free to concede; but this is rarely true. At best the bits of logic or evidence put forth in an argument go into the hopper with a whole host of other factors."
What beliefs are you bound by? Do they argue against evidence? How extreme would you become in the fulfillment of them?


Timo said...

I find my own beliefs to be the end of a thought process, and not the beginning. They are the conclusion to my examined life, and not a source for further examination. They are constantly changing. Thus they don't feel like the basis for my choices, but rather my beliefs are more like my life's history inscribed upon my heart.

I find that I am more drawn to examine other sources of what shape us (especially living in a country where religious belief is rather uncommon), as in how exposed we are to violence? Are we shunned because we are different? Do we live in fear? Are we loved? Do we encounter beauty? Are we accepted for who we are?

It would be interesting to look into if any historian has researched the conditions under which ideological movements (religious or otherwise) have formed and under which they continue. Could a child who was truly loved and supported for who they are embrace a violent, exclusionist belief that exists in his/her surroundings? They will parrot their parents and peers while young, but will they when they know better?

My point might be moot. Whether belief is the source of someone's actions or it's justification, it's a chicken or the egg argument, and your point remains; belief is very influential, especially those developed and maintained over time (for good or bad).

I'd like to think that my belief's would not lead me to commit atrocities, but I don't know. I've never been even close a situation where I would have to make such a choice. Or at least I don't think I have been. Some of my yoga friends would say I have committed great atrocity by eating chicken, but they have never so much as raised their voices to stop me from doing it.

- Timo

Anonymous said...

Hi Chuck,

On the Debunking Christianity site:

You said: "That is Christian theology and it leads to dangerous ideas which, as history shows, inspires very deadly and criminal actions."

WRONG theology maybe, but NEVER TRUE Christian theology. These people call themselves Christians, but they are not BEING Christian. Screwed up theology is NOT Christian theology. You are using guilt by association techniques, and that is intellectually dishonest. You are smarter than that.

Anonymous said...


You also said: "If you are a bible believing follower of Christ then, doctrinally speaking, you have to agree with Mr. Roeder and his actions."

What????? What????? Are you serious????? Where in the world did you get that preposterous idea?????

Chuck O'Connor said...


I've read your remarks on DC and if you had a church I might join it but for you to ignore the importance of propitiation as a central tenant of main-line Christianity is to practice a kind of post-modern gymnastics I can't fathom.

Good luck to you. I think we would get along but for you to be offended by my comments when you seem to be a sect of one is silly. You don't identify with Christianity as it is practiced in the States so why be offended when I criticize it.

Sabio Lantz said...

Indeed beliefs reinforce action tendencies.
But then, action tendencies are used to choose our beliefs.
We often choose beliefs that feel comfortable.
Beliefs can be like clothing.
We can change beliefs but still act the same.
So beliefs aren't a great measure of what a person will do.
Did that make sense?

Anonymous said...

Hi Chuck,

Maybe I misread or misunderstood your post. What do you mean that I ignore the importance of propitiation for mainline Christianity?

Anonymous said...

Hi Sabio,

Yes, that makes sense to me. I have changed many of my beliefs recently, but the only thing that changed was that I stopped going to church.

Chuck O'Connor said...


Your Universalist perspective seems to indicate that no one need accept Christ's substitutional death in a "born again" way. All go to Heaven so there is no need to wrestle with the idea of propitiation.

I disagee with you Sabio. I think belief informs behavior. The essence of belief can inform the essence of behavior.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chuck,

Here are some of the key Scriptures:

1 Tim 4:10 - "God who is the Savior of ALL MEN, especially those who believe"!!!! Not "ONLY" those who believe!!!!

1 John 2:2 confirms - He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

Romans 5:18 says - "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there RESULTED justification of life to all men."

Romans 11:32 - "For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all."

2 Corinthians 5:19 - "God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them."

Titus 2:11 - "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men."

John 1:29 - "Behold the Lamb of God who TAKES AWAY the sin of the world"!

None of these Scriptures say that we need to ACCEPT it. It is just a fact that Jesus defeated sin and death, for all men. We did not need to accept the sin of Adam to be included in Adam. Jesus is the Last Adam and will reverse the sin and curse that the first Adam brought to all mankind. The Last Adam trumps and replaces the first Adam, so everyone will be reconcilled to the Father through Christ. It is a done deal and He does not need OUR acceptance of it. We will all receive it automatically.

In the ressurection - everyone will be born again. 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 says - "The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body."

So everyone will be raised incorruptible and without any sin. There is no sin in the next life.

feeno said...

Sir Charles
It is I, your faithful friend Doug.
As I was lapping up my coffee this morning, you gave me a nice loud laugh. Thanx. But how does an Atheist/Agnostic believe that he can tell others how they should interpret scripture?

Also, when someone doesn't see something the same way as you, that doesn't mean they are lying. I may seem to be sending you some sort of mixed message, but I can assure you that #1. I'm a believer. And #2. I think murdering anyone is a sin against God. (Even Abortionists.) I may be somehow contradicting myself in your eyes, but I am not lying.

Peace and hair grease, feeno


Good to see your back, why don't you try to e-mail John again and beg for forgiveness and he'll probably let you back in?

I would love to tell you how wrong I think you are about every one going to Heaven, but you wont get your own blog. Dude, It would be very popular. I have about 50 verses I'd like you to explain. But I will wait for your blog. But maybe you could answer just a few little questions for me?

#1. Why are we called to repent and have faith?

#2. Why did Christ die?

#3. Why did God give us freewill?

And for extra credit, why do we have to be born again?

Shalomie homie, feeno

Anonymous said...

Hi feeno,

We need to repent and have faith to be free from the bondages of sin and evil while on this earth. There is no sin in the next life.

Christ died to defeat sin, Satan, and evil. He is the Last Adam. 1 Cor 15:22 says "As in Adam all die, so also in Christ, all will be made alive." The Last Adam, Jesus Christ, teversed the curse of sin and death over all humanity, yet to be realized until the new Heaven and the new earth.

We have very limited free will. We did not choose when or where we would be born, our parents, race, culture, gender, looks, height, etc etc. Jesus said that He chose us, and that we did not choose Him. I am not a Calvinist, but I do believe in God's sovereign plan, and desires that all men will be saved. His will, will be done!

Everyone will be born again at some point, either now or in the resurrection. God does that, not us. We need to be freed from the birth in Adam, so we will all need to be born again into Christ - the Last Adam.

I do not mind your questions at all, so please feel free to ask as many as you need to.

feeno said...

I have never liked somebody as much as I like you that I disagree with so much. I wish you were right.

Chuck thanks for the space, and if I annoy you for being here I will leave, but tell Den to get his own damn site that we can leave messages on.

OK Den, here goes. What, if anything do these verses mean to you?
Gal. 1:8
2Cor. 2:16
1Peter 1:8-9
1John 5:13
Matt. 25:31-46 especially 46
Rom. 6:23
Psm. 51:4
Dan. 12:2
That is the short list.

Dueces fam, feeno

Chuck O'Connor said...


You made me laugh. Have you seen UP yet? It is right up your alley. It made me cry and hug my wife. Really good stuff.

I apologize for calling you a liar. I was wrong. I believe your sincerity. I just believe that both you and DenCol exhibit for me the problems with Christianity. You both seem to be good, kind and sincere men whose intepretation of scripture leads towards kindness. Unfortunately that is not the meaning I take from scripture. I see a set of primitive and fear-based ideas richly suited for ancient times and not applicable to current realities. It makes no sense to me and the contrary authorities causes me to doubt its truth.

Anonymous said...

Hi feeno,

Thanks for liking me. You are in the small minority!

The Greek word in Gal 1:8 is Anethema. "Anathema (in Greek Ανάθεμα) originally meant something lifted up as an offering to the gods; later, with evolving meanings, it came to mean: to be formally set apart; banished, exiled, excommunicated."

It has nothing to do with going to Hell.

The Greek word in Matthew 25:46 for punishment is KOLASIS. Kolasis is "corrective discipline for the betterment of the offender." That definitiion comes from the "Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament".

These "goats" did not reject the cross or salvation. They were just guily of their not giving to the poor and visiting the sick and imprisoned. This is a judgement of the NATIONS when Jesus returns. These goatts are still alive, so it cannot be talking about Hell. This is not the final judgement.

Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is DEATH - not etrnity in Hell. Jesus paid the death penalty and 1 Cor 15:22 says, "As in Adam all die, so also in Christ , all will be made alive. 1 Cor also says that last enemy to be destroyed is death. So there will be no more death, just life.

I will look up the others later if that is ok.

feeno said...

Good Morning Sir Charles
I haven't seen the movie UP yet. Actually I never heard of it until you brought it up. I took a poll yesterday from a bunch of 10 and 11 year olds from my neighborhood. Turns out Doug is awesome, thank you.

This whole computer thing is still new to me, and the people you meet are strange? Let's look at you and DenCol for a minute. The Atheist goes to church with/for his wife, and cries at movies. The Christian called John a pussy and don't like church.

I hope I don't over use this line, but it's a great song and I hear it all the time, but here goes: "God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy."

Funny thing how a country song can sum it all up in a few lines.

Peace out, feeno

Chuck O'Connor said...


Thanks for reading and thanks for writing. You and DenCol can come and use this blog to dialogue as much as you like. I would encourage DenCol to start his own blog however. D, you have a unique perspective and a passion for it. That is all that writing demands really.

Feeno, Doug is very cool. My wife loved him.

I agree that life's contradictions are excellent. A recent atheist-agnostic who attends church in support of his wife's faith and, if you would believe me, prays on his knees with her nightly; alongside a devout believer with a passionate love for god based on his personal spiritual epiphany who hates church, does sum up our strange human cognition.

I don't drink beer (a sober atheist to boot) but, do think we all are crazy and therefore fail to see any unifying theory in faith.

I think we would get along however and have come to value your kindness and sincerity. You seem like a good guy.

Be well and keep in touch

Anonymous said...

Hi Chuck,

You are extremely kind and patient. Most people are quite upset with my diatribe as is Mr Lofus. You are a rare find. Thank you very much for your allowing me to post on your blog. I do not have the time or energy to start my own, but I very much appreciate you allowing me to post here from time to time.

Russ said...

Hi Chuck,

Thanks for compliments on DC.

I hope to exchange some thoughts with you soon.

A budding fan of yours,


Russ said...


Here is a link to a great exchange involving Sam Harris which addresses many of the same concerns you and I have commented on at DC. What makes it most interesting for me is Sam's interlocutor is not a theist or religionist of any kind.

Allie said...

Hm, interesting post. Homosexuality is SUCH a big issue, and I will readily admit I find it a challenging issue in my faith. As you pointed out in your response to my comment on "Debunking Christianity", I am 22, and I'm hoping that as I grow older, I will find out exactly what I think about it and the Church. I'm not saying that as an excuse - it's more an expression of my desire and determination to come to a firm conclusion about it.

Having said that, I can't see myself following the same course of action as you have. There is so much more to a worldview than how you happen to see homosexuality. I accept that you may see this as an excuse, an ignoring of an important issue. However, I feel that with ANY worldview there will always be issues that are cloudy, and that overall, my attachment to and belief in the Christian worldview is too strong.

Chuck O'Connor said...


It is the presuppositional belief that morality stems from a substitutionary death for a crime I didn't commit.

Malia said...

Hi Chuck,

I've been reading your blogs for quite some time now. Thank you for including me on your updated entries. I've finally decided to take the time to respond, mainly to encourage you in your search for "the truth." I also wanted to share what has been going on in my life to perhaps encourage you to stay the course, because I truly believe that God will bring you to a crossroads. I'm not going to be able to argue very intellectually like you and your other bloggers, that's your gift and theirs, but I'll do my best to contribute.

A few blogs ago you included a reading list, now I would like to give you mine. I've decided to start seminary this summer. In December, I returned after a 6 month sabbatical in France that I took to try and figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life. It was the best thing that I could have done both professionally and personally. I left restless and am still restless, but I trust God is going to reveal His will for my life. You see, as part of my journey to "get away", I decided to live outside of God's will, have fun, do what I want, ignore moral codes, ie., I embraced the secular life in which I was living in France. The whole time, I struggled with God, much like Jacob and knew that there would be consequences. After arriving home, I entered a pretty severe depression, lost 10 pounds, and was pretty miserable, not just because of the relationship that I lost but of the Holy Spirit's conviction in my life.

After six months of a lot of prayer, reading, counsel from friends, and God's leading in my life, I'm slowing being led back to health. Chuck, I'm more convinced of God, His character, His Word and promises than ever before in my life. The life that I chose to live in France (while short) was very unfulfilling, enjoyable for the moment, but a dead end road. My soul was going to die (or at least become cold) if I stayed in that situation.

So, to confirm where I feel God is leading, I decided to start seminary this summer and take a few classes. My desire is to return to France and serve the French people. My first class was "Apolgetics and Outreach" by Jerram Barrs (you can even download his sermons off the internet for free at Covenant Theological Seminary: Worldwide Classroom). This class has rocked my world and opened up my narrow Christian views to how Christianity should be serving the world. We have to read 6 books for the course (I'm still finishing the books even though the course is finished.) If you or anyone else would want to discuss the books, I would be game to do so. The ones that I think you would be most interested in Chuck, (I think )are:

1) The Reason for God by Tim Keller

2) Lost in Transmission by Nicholas Perrin (somewhat of a response to Bart Ehrman)

I'd be happy to list the others, if anyone else is interested.

Tim Keller says in his book in the introduction (page xvi) : "A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tradedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person's faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection."

Anyway, Chuck know that I will be praying for you in your continued search and I look forward to reading how God will be moving in your heart.

Chuck O'Connor said...


Great to hear that you are finding conviction on your path.

I will check out Keller's book. I've heard him preach in NYC and he seems intelligent.

I am really happy by the way and unlike you, I am not challenging my faith to live a life of decadence. Apologies in advance but I find your presumption to be rooted in the need for the external morality Christianity demands. I am challenging my faith because I believe religion and faith motivate group-think and injustice by leveraging unquestioned superstition as absolute truth.

I wish you luck and would love to hear from you. I will keep you in the loop on what goes on with me.

I am happier than I have ever been since I have dropped the superstition that I need to accept the capital punishment of another person simply because my birth was a crime against God (propitiation). That is a barbaric theology I will not accept. It breeds self-hatred. Propitiation is a concept that is illogical, unjust, superstitious and ultimately leads to intellectual tyranny. If your truth demands you take responsibility for the death of Christ as a means to peace with god then I suggest you reevaluate your truth.

Like I said I wish you well. If you feel the need to pray for me that is fine but, I don't believer there is power in prayer.



Russ said...


Sometimes I'm awed by your direct honesty tempered by your genuine compassion and sensitivity to others.

I enjoy reading your interactions with others here and on DebunkingChristianity.

For me, I think I've engendered a personal crass coarseness, too often unwilling to give others the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps I frequent too many sites where exchanges start out as bloody hand-to-hand combat which occasionally wither down to civility out of sheer exhaustion. Not that I'm claiming innocence, mind you. I admit that I draw first blood a bit too often.

Take care, Chuck,


Barb said...

God does not ask you to hate yourself, Chuck --but to humble yourself and walk with Him. A huge difference.

I suppose you struggled with persistent sin --e.g. lust, with which all men struggle. And hatreds, too.

That's why we need a savior and need to be busy doing the compassionate works of Christ, alligned with a church, fellowshipping and reading His Word. Sin is a reality and Sin causes more misery in the world toward others than commitment to Christ ever did. In fact, it IS BOTH sin and guilt which cause the misery.

When you humble yourself to repent and ask His help, He is willing to bathe you in loving forgiveness that is tangible and lift you when you stumble. There is a lot in the NT about being careful lest we stumble --but we have forgiveness whenever we truly confess to Him and He freely forgives those who are drawing close to Him. Seek and you will find--and it will give you more joy and dissolve anger --more than will atheism or agnosticism or distance from Him.