genuine question from atheist - view on Christanity and personal responsibility

(1000 Posts)
kentishgirl Fri 21-Mar-14 11:26:32

Hi - promise this isn't just Christian-baiting.

I've come to the conclusion that Christianity is a substitute for having a personal conscience or taking personal responsibility. Being a Christian is like having a 'get out of jail free card' in that you are taught God will forgive you anything. So you can do anything, as bad as you like, go and pray for forgiveness and move on, slate wiped clean, feeling great about yourself. So it doesn't matter if you do wrong. As an atheist, if I do something wrong, it's always with me, it's always on my conscience, so that makes me always try to do the right thing.
I didn't always think this way. It's the only way I can make any sense of something that happened to me at the hands of a couple of serious, committed Christians. One of them even works full time for a church. They did something terrible to me but have shown no remorse, no guilt, and made no attempt to make things right with me. I'm positive they prayed for guidance at the time and then forgiveness afterwards, and now all's good in their world, while I'm still dealing with the fall-out.
Am I really wrong in interpreting Christianity in this way? Isn't it true that it enables horrible behaviour by teaching you that if you do wrong, all you've got to do is pray for forgiveness afterwards, and you are ok, never mind the effect of what you did? Basically if God is your only judge, and forgiveness is guaranteed, it gives you permission to act like a right bastard as long as you say sorry to God afterwards? there's no personal responsibility for what you have done.

capsium Wed 09-Apr-14 17:50:12

Can't remember exact reference. This came up on search though.

*Add message | Report | Message poster headinhands Fri 15-Nov-13 14:50:19
It's funny how free thinking slips in through the side door. My foray into atheism started through star gazing in the back garden with DH. I then wanted to unearth the old 'Cosmos' series with Carl Sagan that is watched as a child. It was some of his thinking that prompted me to explore why and how I believed what I did.*

capsium Wed 09-Apr-14 17:51:17

^that comment to head re. Carl Sagen.

capsium Wed 09-Apr-14 17:57:34

*Oh and the stargazing thing too. Thinking about cosmology led me to dig out Sagan's 'Cosmos' and other works, including The Pale Blue Dot which led me to think about religion. I've probably got some of that out of order but you get the gist of it. It was more like a tide coming in and out gradually as I felt ready to explore.
Add message | Report | Message poster*

Here it is.

BigDorrit Wed 09-Apr-14 18:25:02

We can all have hope. We don't need faith for that.

headinhands Wed 09-Apr-14 18:33:45

I don't think I believe anything Carl Sagan says as such. I like his thoughts on humanity but I would have still left faith behind without revisiting Cosmos. I'm guessing you can still enjoy Sagan and be a Christian the same way I enjoy the poetry and drama of the bible as an atheist.

headinhands Wed 09-Apr-14 18:36:23

Is anyone watching the new Cosmos with Neil Degrasse Tyson?

headinhands Wed 09-Apr-14 18:38:59

If faith brings hope why don't Christians commit suicide less often than non-believers?

capsium Wed 09-Apr-14 18:48:47

The reason I refer to my Faith with regards to Hope, BigDorrit, is that I can appreciate how psychologists can argue against Free Will, which is a depressing thought. Individual differences in brain physiology can affect the way people perceive things, impulse control and in turn behaviour. These differences can be passed on to any offspring.

This is referenced in the Bible in terms of the corruption present since The Fall.

However the Bible also tells us we can be 'free in Christ', which gives me Hope. This is reflected in real life in terms of brain plasticity and the metastable nature of gene expression.

The opposite of being 'free in Christ' is described as being a 'slave to sin'. I understand this as being reflected in life, in terms of dysfunctional patterns of thinking, leading to changes in brain physiology (brain plasticity, gene expression) which leads to predispositions towards certain behaviours. So as the psychologists are discovering, Free Will, is indeed compromised.

Although there is brain plasticity and metastability in gene expression, reproducing the scenarios to affect positive change, and indeed what positive change looks like, ie how well it is adapted to an individual's circumstances, IMO, is a minefield.

I believe Christian belief allowed us navigate our way through.

capsium Wed 09-Apr-14 18:56:50

*Add message | Report | Message poster headinhands Wed 09-Apr-14 18:38:59
If faith brings hope why don't Christians commit suicide less often than non-believers?*

Different starting points. Some come to the Faith very damaged already. Without enough knowledge and understanding of Christ a Christian can still be deceived. Working out Faith is a process, we have our part to play in responding to Christ, receiving and accepting His message.

headinhands Wed 09-Apr-14 19:31:30

So most people that are damaged become Christians and this damage offsets the benefit of faith. You need to prove this with some data. You need to show that the suicides among Christians happen to new Christians with difficult pasts. It's all just made conjecture though isn't it caps.

capsium Wed 09-Apr-14 19:44:36

head my point is that everybody comes to Christ damaged. People have different strengths and weaknesses. It can take time to be changed by Christ. Someone potentially could be struggling for years, change can happen at different rates.

No data could ever prove this, scientifically, there are too many variables, I am talking about what I believe in Faith. I wouldn't fancy setting u an experiment, either. Talking of which, this is an interesting book, when dealing with deconstructing a person's beliefs in terms of what they appear to have experienced.

www.amazon.co.uk/Magus-Vintage-Classics-John-Fowles/dp/0099478358/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1397068974&sr=1-1&keywords=john+fowles+the+magus

However I have said before, I am not concerned with evidence in the scientific sense. The way belief affects people's lives interests me more.

headinhands Wed 09-Apr-14 20:28:58

If you're not interested in data why are you setting out an explanation? There is no data to back up your assertion because you've just assumed haven't you. The same way cups assumed Christians didn't commit suicide. Aren't you the least bit interested in validating what you believe?

capsium Wed 09-Apr-14 20:35:59

If you're not interested in data why are you setting out an explanation? There is no data to back up your assertion because you've just assumed haven't you.

Because there is one. I believe Christian witness is valid. My explanation is my witness, comparing my experiences and what I know concerning other's observations, with what is written in the Bible. It is experiential, anecdotal evidence though, rather than scientific.

capsium Wed 09-Apr-14 20:36:59

And assumptions are a necessary part if life. Without them we could never plan for the future.

capsium Wed 09-Apr-14 20:37:27

^ of. Typo.

BigDorrit Wed 09-Apr-14 20:41:10

It's not even an assumption. It's a theory no more valid than my earlier one about Lucifer and the evil Yahweh.

Although I actually think that the available evidence suggests that mine is more likely to be true...

headinhands Wed 09-Apr-14 20:45:17

Yes and when assumptions don't fit the reality we change/discard the assumption. (Is that Piaget?)

capsium Wed 09-Apr-14 21:01:31

Sort of*head*. My experience is that Biblical principals have fitted my life though....hence I haven't discarded them, as Piaget would say the new information is assimilated according to my pre existing 'schema' (eg Biblical knowledge). As I come across new information it informs me and my schema develops accordingly, As Piaget describes, it is accommodated, as I grow in understanding of what Biblical principles can look like, when manifested in life. smile

I like to think I will be able to internalise Biblical thinking into a schema, from reading and hearing the Bible read, allowing for the 'insight' and creativity, which Piaget noted.

capsium Wed 09-Apr-14 21:16:22

You can see how you go with your theory BigDorrit, but I know which one I prefer (I choose life and Christ).

BigDorrit Wed 09-Apr-14 23:42:29

Or, you're choosing eternal damnation and the devil. In your world you've probably got a 50:50 chance.

Fortunately, in my world neither exists and you've just got to make the most of this one life we have...

capsium Thu 10-Apr-14 07:35:41

BigDorrit I certainly aim to the most of life too. grin

headinhands Thu 10-Apr-14 08:08:50

cap who do you think wrote the gospels? You do realise it's well established that it's either unlikely/obvious it can't be/isn't the disciple each is named after?

capsium Thu 10-Apr-14 08:15:58

head Explain..

capsium Thu 10-Apr-14 08:19:48

BigDorrit That should read above

I certainly aim to make the most of life too.

Typo.

capsium Thu 10-Apr-14 08:20:58

head Oh and I do believe the Gospels were written by the disciples and don't know why you think it is obvious or unlikely that they didn't write them.

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