Saturday, June 22, 2013

Christian diversity

Ever since I left the church in 1994 I have been writing and blogging about Christianity. I have been doing this not with the hopes of destroying Christianity as a whole since I think that that is an impossible task, but rather to help others who found themselves in a similar situation as myself. I was what you would call an extreme fundamentalist. I belonged to a Hispanic Christian Pentecostal movement. If you happen to know anything about them you will know that there are some things that they do very different when compared to other Christian sects.

First and foremost, Pentecostals are biblical literalist. They take the bible and its many tales as literal and historical stories, this includes the outright ridiculous and impossible tales as well. When challenged stories like Samson defeating 1,000 Philistines with the jaw bone of an ass is simply described as a miracle. They define miracles as God's intervention in world or current events that go beyond the natural laws of nature. The bible is full of such events and Pentecostals have no problem accepting them as historical and literal.

Secondly, there is a great emphasis on what they call the gifts of the Spirit as outlined in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. They believe that the church in general has lost its way due to their straying from their devotion to God and their denial of the gifts of the Spirit. I personally at one time or another have utilized these so called gifts during my ministry and have chalked them up to indoctrination, influence, and find many similarities between how these gifts are cultivated and used in the church to common hypnotic techniques. Basically, I believe that these altered states are nothing more than a trance state which can be induced through the still quiet environment or through the stimulation of the emotions in a loud and enthusiastic service.

Having said that about my background, I find now that one of the most difficult things about arguing or debating Christians is the vast diversity of groups and sects out there. As I stated in a previous post there are approximately 41,000 Christian sects and organizations worldwide according to The Center for the Study of Global Christianity. It is because of this diversity that it is difficult to know what sort of Christian you are actually dealing with. Once you identify that, then you must ask questions to ascertain what it is that they believe.

It's this diversity amongst Christians that makes it so difficult to debate them. These are some of the major differences they have. Catholics have no problem with venerating the saints and they have their system of declaring formerly living people as saints. Their followers pray to these saints to intercede for them in heaven as they make their petitions to God. Protestants think that this is idol worship and that this defeats the purpose of Christ dying and resurrecting when the bible does teach that he is their intercessor or advocate before the Lord and that even Christ prohibits the glorification of man. Catholics baptize children while protestants think that people should only be baptized when they have reached an age where they can understand what the ritual of baptism means and what it is that they are committing themselves to.

Other common issues have to do with the resurrection itself. Did Christ raise bodily from the tomb or was it some sort of spiritual resurrection in some sort of glorified body or state? Some other groups emphasize that hell and eternal torment awaits those that refuse to believe and accept their teachings while others think that there will be no hell and that hell is literally the destruction of the soul after death. Others interpret hell as a place where ones soul will suffer eternal separation from God.

Some theists are very ritualistically minded and not so much about living or trying to imitate the life of Christ. They accept that as an impossible task and recognize that they are incapable of fulfilling that requirement but are aware that when they falter God will forgive them. There are so many diverse discussions amongst theists communities, that although they are all reading the same book they can't come to agreement as to what it says or how to interpret it.

Christianity is one if not the most diverse religion in the world. It is also influence by the cultures and societies it touches. No two churches are alike and it is because of this diversity that it makes it so hard to pin down theists in a debate. Not to mention their extreme efforts of obfuscating what they believe through the use of apologetics and the misuse of philosophical principles. Theists love to play the name game. They take common words from our dictionary and redefine them to suit their worldview and beliefs.

12Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14

Christians are supposed to be united!

Christ taught the unity of the body of Christ (church), but the reality is that the church is far from united. They are all supposed to be led by the Holy Spirit in all truth and understanding but the truth is that they are as diverse as the number of races of people that exist on this planet. They have been fighting each other since the beginning about doctrinal issues and that fight carries on even today. How many times have you been told that you left the church because you were in the wrong church? All these churches fighting for ultimate control that they have stooped to the level of attacking one another as false or heretical. 

The atheist has quite the task when debating with theists because you never know what sort of theist you are dealing with. Not to mention the fringe believers those that make up their own sort of Christianity. I was told by a believer that I did not have an understanding of fundamental Christian beliefs. I asked him which ones are those since they don't all agree as to what those fundamental beliefs are. Christian diversity is not just a problem for believers it is also a problem for those of us that have to stand up to them and keep them at bay. As atheists we can't let Christians take over our governmental institutions, or hinder the advancement of science based solely on their insane beliefs.

Note: All biblical quotations are taken from the New International Version


  1. "As atheists we can't let Christians take over our governmental institutions, or hinder the advancement of science based solely on their insane beliefs."

    An inescapable truth. The good news is that we seem to be making progress, albeit in small increments. On reviewing the proposed program for a local event of an intrnational service club, I noticed that there was in "Invocation" scheduled at the beginning, and raised the issue with the organizer, pointing out that as an international organization we were obligated to either embrace the beliefs of citizens of all nations, or better, of none, including non-believers. The organizer, on thinking it over, agreed, and the invocation was removed from the program. All it took was a courteous but firm stand on the issue.

    Even in Texas, the courts are beginning to understand the importance of issues of conscience and the US Constitution vs. religion:

  2. Another funny thing is how little most Christians even know the Bible. They know some of the good parts, but not much of the bad - the ones no preacher EVER would use in a sermon. Same with the really stupid stuff, like where it says insects have 4 legs.

  3. They cant agree on their own religion, and they cant see that their religion is not much different to other Abrahamic religions either. This is why when I find a real stubborn Christian who cannot listen to rational arguments. I just say until you can prove to me their is a god I am not listening to your irrational arguments anymore.

    As for all the gifts of the spirit. I agree it is definitely a psychological thing. What is also interesting it is self gratifying, as now you are say a healer in the church. So you have your own importance and this just makes the cycle continue.