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Atheist pastor keeps job because 15% of pastors are atheist





Indi
i could summarize this article in Ekklesia magazine... but i really think it has to be experienced to be believed.

So here's the rub, and i'm going to try and explain this as straight-faced as i can:

An openly atheist Dutch pastor named Klaas Hendrikse faced disciplinary action for his beliefs. He rejects the existence of God (he's a strong atheist). He believes in God... he just doesn't believe that God exists. In other words, he thinks God is a useful fiction.

Now the Dutch church was understandably upset by this. They started an inquiry into what to do about Hendrikse.

What that inquiry found was that "one in six clergy of the Protestant Church were either not sure about or did not believe in the existence of God", and that the longer you've been a member of the clergy, the more likely you were to be atheist.

Well... now they had a problem.

What they opted to do is give Hendrikse a pass, saying that his atheist beliefs "are not of sufficient weight to damage the foundations of the church".

-------------------------------

Now, usually what i'd do in a situation like this is pick a specific aspect of the issue to discuss. But... holy monkey balls... where do i begin?

How about... what do you think are the ethical implications for Hendrikse: to be teaching in his sermons a fact that he himself holds to be false? What about Hendrikse's so-called philosophy, where he openly admits that God wasn't necessary to create morality (because God doesn't exist, according to him), yet apparently thinks that God is somehow still necessary for morality (for example - there are hundreds of contradictions with Hendrikse's position)?

Or, what about the position of the church itself on the matter: while asserting a fact as true as part of the core of its very foundation, it is willing to look the other way when people just pretend to believe so long as they play ball. Is that ethical? Is the church's position in any way not hypocritical? Is it true that asserting a fact in direct contradiction to the core teaching of the church doesn't count as an act "of sufficient weight" to "damage the foundations"?

Or let's take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Is there anything ethically wrong with allowing people to be pastors when they don't believe in the religion? Could i be a pastor? What about the statistics of disbelief among pastors... is this reasonable? Should one expect more experienced pastors to be less likely to believe than ones fresh out of the seminary? Why?

See... i don't even know where to start. So... go nuts.
SonLight
I have to agree that the Atheism of the pastors is "not of sufficient weight to damage the church". Their churches are clearly performing little function than to entertain a few people on Sunday mornings.

Throughout history, there have always been a significant number of pastors who preached because they considered it a convenient occupation, not out of strong desire to share the gospel. In some cases, they have honed their craft well and may be a substantial influence for their congregation, in spite of their weak or entirely absent faith.
ocalhoun
On a related note, who knowingly attends an atheist-pastored church?
What's the point?
Indi
SonLight wrote:
I have to agree that the Atheism of the pastors is "not of sufficient weight to damage the church".

The quote was not "to damage the church", it was "to damage the FOUNDATIONS of the church". There is an enormous difference. The foundation of the church is its teachings about God. Now you have a guy who says that's all just fantasy, and the church's response is "well, that's OK".

Put it in perspective: imagine a club whose entire reason for existing was to teach that Sasquatch exists. Now imagine a member of that club publicly walking around saying Sasquatch is just a myth. And the club says that his doing that is not in contradiction with the club. LOLWUT?

SonLight wrote:
Their churches are clearly performing little function than to entertain a few people on Sunday mornings.

Throughout history, there have always been a significant number of pastors who preached because they considered it a convenient occupation, not out of strong desire to share the gospel. In some cases, they have honed their craft well and may be a substantial influence for their congregation, in spite of their weak or entirely absent faith.

Is ≠ ought.

Yes, clearly churches are almost socially useless, and what little use they may have, the (dis)belief of the clergy really makes no difference. But that's what is. This is philosophy - what is is of little interest... what matters is what ought to be. Studying what is is the job of sociology. What is right - ethical - in this situation? And if the church really is just faking it all, then does society really need them?

ocalhoun wrote:
On a related note, who knowingly attends an atheist-pastored church?
What's the point?

... and given that 15% of churches are apparently atheist-pastored... kinda makes it shitty to be a real believer. If you want to hear about God from someone who actually believes - not someone who is just faking it for a paycheck - (which is a reasonable request), you're pretty screwed. It's a craps shoot.
spinout
I really do not go nuts over this - it is probably completely normal!!!

Because they are looking for an old man with a big white beard Smile and where is that to be found??

also it is a powerposition to have!!??
c'tair
Well, I guess it's a job like any other. And they may still feel like the shepherds of the people, utilizing a fictional character as a way of conveying care over the "herd". They may still try to positively influence people, you know, like reading a good fiction book may influence you. Especially when you are able to directly speak to people.
Xanify
Out of curiosity, are you Dutch?
handfleisch
Indi wrote:
i could summarize this article in Ekklesia magazine... but i really think it has to be experienced to be believed.

So here's the rub, and i'm going to try and explain this as straight-faced as i can:

A crisis of faith and period of doubt is not uncommon for religiously active leaders like priests. Such people as Mother Teresa had them. I would say one out of six at any one time sounds just about right.

If you asked them again in 30 years, you might get a different answer -- renewed faith, deeper faith than before, etc.
deanhills
Indi wrote:
Or let's take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Is there anything ethically wrong with allowing people to be pastors when they don't believe in the religion? Could i be a pastor? What about the statistics of disbelief among pastors... is this reasonable? Should one expect more experienced pastors to be less likely to believe than ones fresh out of the seminary? Why?

See... i don't even know where to start. So... go nuts.
Isn't this typical human behaviour however? And very widely practised. I would say about 90% of people have beliefs that they are not really sure about, or that they are sure about, but are really fiction. A very small percentage of human beings are truly devout in their beliefs. This applies to atheists too. There are many atheists who do not know what atheism is about. Quite a large number think it gives them a special status and peer privileges for bashing people with religious beliefs. For others it is a fashion and something to share at tea parties along "Have you read Richard Dawkins" lines. I'm almost certain that there are people who call themselves atheists who have been religious to start off with and now and then have pangs of doubt. "What if" .... as it goes both ways, there is no empircal evidence for the existence of God, but neither is there against. Probabilities don't make for beliefs that are 100% certain.
Afaceinthematrix
For starters, this certainly does surprise me. All of the pastors that I have dealt with in my life (several family members and family friends growing up) I personally believe have a genuine strong faith and belief in the god that they worship. I do not think for a second that there's even a remote chance of them being atheists. But... I've only gotten to truly know about 10 U.S. pastors - about, according to these statistics, 3/20 pastors are atheists... so I'm not that statistically amazing.

Now on a psychological note: this does make sense. You once told this forum (this is directed at Indi) that you have never believed in God in your life (is there anything that you can compare this with so that you can understand my viewpoint?). I have. I've only been an atheist for a few years. Let me tell you, it's extremely difficult to give up your religion. This isn't just for me. I have plenty of atheist friends that were raised in a religious household and they were Christians at one point. It truly becomes ingrained in you. I remember always doubting God's existence and I would force myself to shove those thoughts out of my mind and tell myself, "God exists! God exists! I can't go to Hell!" You start to battle with yourself and the religious aspects of your life slowly start to decay and you slowly start to chip them away. Now, I have absolutely no problem admitting to myself, or other people, that I am an atheist. At all. I have no fear over going to Hell. To prove this fact to people, I've raised my middle fingers towards the sky and screamed "[swear word] you God!" The point that I'm trying to make is that for a couple of years before I became an atheist, I was a "Christian Atheist." I was truly an atheist but I tried so hard to be a Christian*.

So does this really surprise me afterwords? Not really. I think that if 15% of pastors are atheists then 20% of Christians are probably atheists... Maybe not 20%... It's too hard to poll this because I was an atheist as a "Christian" and if you had polled me back then, I would have told you that I was a Christian...

*This is often an argument I use towards Christians. How could God send someone to Hell for not believing in him when really it's not your choice if you believe in God? It's not like a good deed, where I can choose to do it or not. I have no choice in my atheism, as I proved by trying so hard to believe in God when I really didn't believe in him...
Indi
handfleisch wrote:
A crisis of faith and period of doubt is not uncommon for religiously active leaders like priests. Such people as Mother Teresa had them. I would say one out of six at any one time sounds just about right.

If you asked them again in 30 years, you might get a different answer -- renewed faith, deeper faith than before, etc.

Perhaps you should have read the article. The actual trend is the exact opposite of you what you claim. It's right there in the last paragraph. The older the pastor, the more likely they are atheist.

deanhills wrote:
Isn't this typical human behaviour however? And very widely practised. I would say about 90% of people have beliefs that they are not really sure about, or that they are sure about, but are really fiction.

We're not talking about "typical humans" or "90% of people". We are specifically talking about people who have a career preaching that X is true while believing that it is not. i can't imagine how that wasn't clear from the context. All of your ranting about "doubting atheists" and the probability of God's existent is completely irrelevant, bizarrely pointless, and hardly interesting. If there were such a thing as "atheist proselytes" - and if some of them were preaching that everyone should have atheist beliefs while in actuality they themselves were theists - then we'd have something to discuss. But "atheist proselytes" don't exist. There is no such thing as an "atheist pastor". Even if Richard Dawkins himself occasionally harboured theist thoughts, so what? He neither claims that God does not exist, nor does he insist that you should believe that, too. Clerics (such as pastors) do both of those things (for the other side of the coin), and make a living doing it to boot.

Afaceinthematrix wrote:
For starters, this certainly does surprise me. All of the pastors that I have dealt with in my life (several family members and family friends growing up) I personally believe have a genuine strong faith and belief in the god that they worship. I do not think for a second that there's even a remote chance of them being atheists. But... I've only gotten to truly know about 10 U.S. pastors - about, according to these statistics, 3/20 pastors are atheists... so I'm not that statistically amazing.

Bear in mind that this is an article about the Netherlands - one of the most atheist countries in the world. There's no reason to believe the same statistics would apply in the US.
Afaceinthematrix
Indi wrote:
Afaceinthematrix wrote:
For starters, this certainly does surprise me. All of the pastors that I have dealt with in my life (several family members and family friends growing up) I personally believe have a genuine strong faith and belief in the god that they worship. I do not think for a second that there's even a remote chance of them being atheists. But... I've only gotten to truly know about 10 U.S. pastors - about, according to these statistics, 3/20 pastors are atheists... so I'm not that statistically amazing.

Bear in mind that this is an article about the Netherlands - one of the most atheist countries in the world. There's no reason to believe the same statistics would apply in the US.


I know. That's why I made the important distinction that the pastors I do know are U.S. pastors. I made sure to post that distinction because I do not know any Norwegian, Swedish, or Dutch pastors (I think Sweden and Norway are pretty big atheist countries)...
deanhills
Indi wrote:
We're not talking about "typical humans" or "90% of people". We are specifically talking about people who have a career preaching that X is true while believing that it is not. i can't imagine how that wasn't clear from the context. All of your ranting about "doubting atheists" and the probability of God's existent is completely irrelevant, bizarrely pointless, and hardly interesting. If there were such a thing as "atheist proselytes" - and if some of them were preaching that everyone should have atheist beliefs while in actuality they themselves were theists - then we'd have something to discuss. But "atheist proselytes" don't exist. There is no such thing as an "atheist pastor". Even if Richard Dawkins himself occasionally harboured theist thoughts, so what? He neither claims that God does not exist, nor does he insist that you should believe that, too. Clerics (such as pastors) do both of those things (for the other side of the coin), and make a living doing it to boot.
OK. Let's rephrase it then. There are very few people in the world today who are really rock sure in their beliefs. Priests in the Netherlands may feel safer today to voice those doubts than before. These doubts have always been there in all religion and belief systems, including atheism. Not being rock sure in my opinion is a good sign, as that person is obviously investigating all the alternatives and may have an open mind.
Indi
deanhills wrote:
Indi wrote:
We're not talking about "typical humans" or "90% of people". We are specifically talking about people who have a career preaching that X is true while believing that it is not. i can't imagine how that wasn't clear from the context. All of your ranting about "doubting atheists" and the probability of God's existent is completely irrelevant, bizarrely pointless, and hardly interesting. If there were such a thing as "atheist proselytes" - and if some of them were preaching that everyone should have atheist beliefs while in actuality they themselves were theists - then we'd have something to discuss. But "atheist proselytes" don't exist. There is no such thing as an "atheist pastor". Even if Richard Dawkins himself occasionally harboured theist thoughts, so what? He neither claims that God does not exist, nor does he insist that you should believe that, too. Clerics (such as pastors) do both of those things (for the other side of the coin), and make a living doing it to boot.
OK. Let's rephrase it then. There are very few people in the world today who are really rock sure in their beliefs. Priests in the Netherlands may feel safer today to voice those doubts than before. These doubts have always been there in all religion and belief systems, including atheism. Not being rock sure in my opinion is a good sign, as that person is obviously investigating all the alternatives and may have an open mind.

Again, we are not talking about "most people", and nor are we talking about people who believe X but occasionally have doubts. We are talking about people who explicitly disbelieve X, but continue to hold a job where it is required that they make people believe X.

These pastors are not theists with doubts. These pastors are explicitly atheists. They say outright that they don't believe God exists, and that that is not a temporary situation.

i don't even see where being "rock sure" in your beliefs even comes in to any of this. Obviously anyone who believes something without ever questioning it is a fool. i mean, duh. This has nothing to do with being open-minded or closed-minded about your beliefs. It has to do with taking a professional position that requires a certain belief that you do not have. Worse, a belief that you actively disagree with. It's like a PeTA animal rights supporter taking a job training slaughterhouse workers. Whether or not the PeTA member occasionally has doubts about their position on animal rights is utterly irrelevant.
deanhills
@Indi. OK. Now that you have defined the parameters specifically:
Quote:
Again, we are not talking about "most people", and nor are we talking about people who believe X but occasionally have doubts. We are talking about people who explicitly disbelieve X, but continue to hold a job where it is required that they make people believe X.

These pastors are not theists with doubts. These pastors are explicitly atheists. They say outright that they don't believe God exists, and that that is not a temporary situation.
In my own perception that has to be hypocritical. To serve in a job where I preach religion when I am an atheist. I'm also puzzled. How could the Church have come to the conclusion that his atheist views would not be damaging to the church. That seems almost a turnaround of what they had been accusing him off in the first place. And equally hypocritical.

From a larger picture and more objective point of view, there could also be a debate made out off whether it is only a person who is religious who can preach religion. In a country with a great level of tolerance of different views, including atheism, perhaps people may not have a problem with someone who holds atheist views, to preach God. Some, especially in the middle between the two, may even think that he is better qualified for the job.
nam_siddharth
It makes the church in question a business, and there is nothing moral or religious about it. For example an employ of a brand can keep its job as long as he advertise and market its product regardless of his personal believe about its products.
handfleisch
Indi wrote:
handfleisch wrote:
A crisis of faith and period of doubt is not uncommon for religiously active leaders like priests. Such people as Mother Teresa had them. I would say one out of six at any one time sounds just about right.

If you asked them again in 30 years, you might get a different answer -- renewed faith, deeper faith than before, etc.

Perhaps you should have read the article. The actual trend is the exact opposite of you what you claim. It's right there in the last paragraph. The older the pastor, the more likely they are atheist.


That last paragraph doesn't quite say so sweepingly what you say it does. It says "The survey also found that clergy aged 35 years or younger tended to be the most certain of Gods existence, while clergy aged between 55 and 65 years were the most unsure." This would indicate that older than 65 were more sure than those 55-65.

My point still stands. They could still be going through a period of doubt, which is normal for religiously active leaders.
Indi
deanhills wrote:
@Indi. OK. Now that you have defined the parameters specifically:

Actually, the parameters were specifically defined in:
  1. The outline at the beginning of the first post.
  2. The suggested questions i offered at the end of the first post.
  3. The original source article.
  4. The title of the thread - which actually contains the words "atheist pastor".

deanhills wrote:
From a larger picture and more objective point of view, there could also be a debate made out off whether it is only a person who is religious who can preach religion. In a country with a great level of tolerance of different views, including atheism, perhaps people may not have a problem with someone who holds atheist views, to preach God. Some, especially in the middle between the two, may even think that he is better qualified for the job.

A pastor is not like a teacher. A teacher does not need to believe what they teach - they just need to share the facts so that the student understands the topic (the student doesn't need to believe either - they just need to understand). A pastor is very different. Their job is not to make their congregation know the religion, or understand the religion (as a teacher would), their job is to make their congregation believe the religion. Now, logically it's clear that a teacher that does not understand a topic well has a poor chance of making a student understand it well. Isn't it the same for a pastor? A pastor who does not really believe a topic has a poor chance of making their congregation believe it - maybe you can fool them for a while, but eventually they'll clue in.

And of course there's more to a pastor than just sermons on Sunday. A pastor lives a certain lifestyle that is supposed to be leading by example - they're not expected to just show up, give a sermon, then go back to their lives where they have nothing whatsoever to do with the church. No, pastors are expected to live their lives around the teachings of the church - for example, celibacy (in some denominations) - and then the standards of what is "good" are judged by what the pastors do. They're supposed to be community leaders-by-example. So now, let's say that one community has a really good, selfless, hard-working, all-around-awesome atheist pastor. What is the community supposed to think about the religion now? It's clearly not the religion making him good (which is the point of pastors being good community leaders - it reflects back well on the religion). What if the atheist pastor then turns around and sexually assaults a child? Now what is the community supposed to think? A pastor can't possibly be a role model for the religion if they don't believe it.

This is not an issue of tolerance. You wouldn't hire someone who doesn't understand physics to make other people understand physics, and you wouldn't call someone intolerant if they refused to hire a physics teacher who didn't understand physics. So how could it be intolerant to demand that the person who is supposed to be making people believe something should believe it also?

handfleisch wrote:
Indi wrote:
handfleisch wrote:
A crisis of faith and period of doubt is not uncommon for religiously active leaders like priests. Such people as Mother Teresa had them. I would say one out of six at any one time sounds just about right.

If you asked them again in 30 years, you might get a different answer -- renewed faith, deeper faith than before, etc.

Perhaps you should have read the article. The actual trend is the exact opposite of you what you claim. It's right there in the last paragraph. The older the pastor, the more likely they are atheist.


That last paragraph doesn't quite say so sweepingly what you say it does. It says "The survey also found that clergy aged 35 years or younger tended to be the most certain of Gods existence, while clergy aged between 55 and 65 years were the most unsure." This would indicate that older than 65 were more sure than those 55-65.

My point still stands. They could still be going through a period of doubt, which is normal for religiously active leaders.

The last paragraph says it explicitly and precisely. "... clergy aged 35 years or younger tended to be the most certain of Gods existence...". You can't get any clearer than that. If you ask them again in 30 years as you suggest, you will find them less certain - no matter what age group they are in, 55-65 or otherwise. Your point does not "stand". ^_^; It is been explicitly refuted by hard evidence. Whether or not they have "periods of doubt", the fact remains: if you ask them again later, you do get a different answer... they tend to be less religious - that's stated explicitly in the survey conclusion quoted.

(Incidentally, the survey probably doesn't go any further than 65. That is the retirement age, after all. But if you really do care about whether reality conforms to your theories, it seems to me the logical thing to do is to try and find the survey results, rather than just assuming they are what you think they should be. For the record, i would imagine that if the survey results did show an upswing in belief after 65, it would have been commented on, rather than just saying that "overall the younger generation is more pious".)
deanhills
Indi wrote:

Actually, the parameters were specifically defined in:
  1. The outline at the beginning of the first post.
  2. The suggested questions i offered at the end of the first post.
  3. The original source article.
  4. The title of the thread - which actually contains the words "atheist pastor".
Possibly because it was so long, I must have lost the specifics. It did not look as though you were sure which questions to discuss and then at the bottom of the list it said that we could go nuts, so maybe I did go nuts. The part about the "atheist pastor" I did get from the beginning, as well as "15% of pastors are atheist". But thanks for reminding me.

Indi wrote:
A pastor is not like a teacher. A teacher does not need to believe what they teach - they just need to share the facts so that the student understands the topic (the student doesn't need to believe either - they just need to understand). A pastor is very different. Their job is not to make their congregation know the religion, or understand the religion (as a teacher would), their job is to make their congregation believe the religion. Now, logically it's clear that a teacher that does not understand a topic well has a poor chance of making a student understand it well. Isn't it the same for a pastor? A pastor who does not really believe a topic has a poor chance of making their congregation believe it - maybe you can fool them for a while, but eventually they'll clue in.

And of course there's more to a pastor than just sermons on Sunday. A pastor lives a certain lifestyle that is supposed to be leading by example - they're not expected to just show up, give a sermon, then go back to their lives where they have nothing whatsoever to do with the church. No, pastors are expected to live their lives around the teachings of the church - for example, celibacy (in some denominations) - and then the standards of what is "good" are judged by what the pastors do. They're supposed to be community leaders-by-example. So now, let's say that one community has a really good, selfless, hard-working, all-around-awesome atheist pastor. What is the community supposed to think about the religion now? It's clearly not the religion making him good (which is the point of pastors being good community leaders - it reflects back well on the religion). What if the atheist pastor then turns around and sexually assaults a child? Now what is the community supposed to think? A pastor can't possibly be a role model for the religion if they don't believe it.

This is not an issue of tolerance. You wouldn't hire someone who doesn't understand physics to make other people understand physics, and you wouldn't call someone intolerant if they refused to hire a physics teacher who didn't understand physics. So how could it be intolerant to demand that the person who is supposed to be making people believe something should believe it also?
Agreed and well said thanks Indi. I tried to make it work for these guys but you are right on the number. This is a mission of faith, and if the pastor does not have any faith in God, how can he get someone else to believe in God. That would have to be a very futile mission. All of it has to be very hypocritical in the extreme. I don't understand how congregations could put up with this, although on the other hand perhaps they are not aware of it? And now possibly will be looking out for the 15% atheist pastors?
handfleisch
Indi wrote:

The last paragraph says it explicitly and precisely. "... clergy aged 35 years or younger tended to be the most certain of Gods existence...". You can't get any clearer than that. If you ask them again in 30 years as you suggest, you will find them less certain - no matter what age group they are in, 55-65 or otherwise. Your point does not "stand". ^_^; It is been explicitly refuted by hard evidence. Whether or not they have "periods of doubt", the fact remains: if you ask them again later, you do get a different answer... they tend to be less religious - that's stated explicitly in the survey conclusion quoted.

(Incidentally, the survey probably doesn't go any further than 65. That is the retirement age, after all. But if you really do care about whether reality conforms to your theories, it seems to me the logical thing to do is to try and find the survey results, rather than just assuming they are what you think they should be. For the record, i would imagine that if the survey results did show an upswing in belief after 65, it would have been commented on, rather than just saying that "overall the younger generation is more pious".)


You are jumping to a whole lot of conclusions based on a tiny amount of data from one poll. That's not "hard evidence", that's a small handful of numbers. You cannot really claim anything except that the older the priest, the more chances of uncertainty. So what?

Obviously there is an agnostic-priest movement going on there, indicated / inspired by that guy's book. But we would need more info before we start making sweeping generalizations about what the numbers of one small poll really mean. "55 and 65 years were the most unsure" really tells us very little.
Indi
handfleisch wrote:
You are jumping to a whole lot of conclusions based on a tiny amount of data from one poll.

Mm, and you would prefer that i do like you, and jump to a whole lot of conclusions - not only without even a tiny amount of data, but that blatantly contradict all data you do have, tiny though that amount may be?

For the record, this study is not the first time i have heard of this problem. There was a documentary on the topic - and for some reason i recall the title was Doubt or Doubting, or something like that. And of course it was widely discussed when the revelations about Mother Teresa that you mentioned came out - but you misrepresented the truth; she did not have a "period of doubt" so much as she just didn't believe any more, and never came back. In fact, she died still doubting, although she asked the person she was confiding in to destroy the evidence so that she would be canonized. It's no secret that well over 90% of clergy in the US either just give up at some point, or stick with the job even though they don't believe any more because they have no other job skills. Google it and see for yourself.

handfleisch wrote:
That's not "hard evidence", that's a small handful of numbers.

Actually, that is hard evidence. ^_^; Literally. That is literally the definition of hard evidence. ^_^; It is evidence. It is relevant. And it is not circumstantial. It is literally hard evidence.

handfleisch wrote:
You cannot really claim anything except that the older the priest, the more chances of uncertainty. So what?

What do you mean, "so what"? ^_^; That is exactly what i am claiming... and it is exactly the opposite of what you are claiming. You claimed that if you found a doubting cleric, and asked them 30 years later whether they still doubt, you would find they have "renewed" their faith. The evidence shows the opposite. It shows that if you find a doubting cleric and ask them 30 years later whether they still doubt, they probably do... and if you ask a currently believing cleric in 30 years, they will probably have doubts.

handfleisch wrote:
Obviously there is an agnostic-priest movement going on there, indicated / inspired by that guy's book. But we would need more info before we start making sweeping generalizations about what the numbers of one small poll really mean. "55 and 65 years were the most unsure" really tells us very little.

There is nothing wrong with demanding more evidence. Thing is, you haven't demanded any evidence, and the only evidence that has been presented to you... you dismiss.

As i said, there is a ton of evidence out there in addition to this one survey. i'll be frank, nothing about the information that older priests have less faith is news to me. The only thing news to me in the article was that the church openly condoned explicit atheism in its clergy. But if it is news to you that faith fades in the clergy with age, fine... you learned something new. If you doubt the new information, again, fine, but then the responsible thing to do is go out and seek the truth... not sit here and accuse me of poor information gathering, when i'm the only one who has gathered information, and used it.
handfleisch
Indi wrote:
handfleisch wrote:
You are jumping to a whole lot of conclusions based on a tiny amount of data from one poll.

Mm, and you would prefer that i do like you, and jump to a whole lot of conclusions - not only without even a tiny amount of data, but that blatantly contradict all data you do have, tiny though that amount may be?
...
If you doubt the new information, again, fine, but then the responsible thing to do is go out and seek the truth... not sit here and accuse me of poor information gathering, when i'm the only one who has gathered information, and used it.


You don't have to be so defensive. I didn't accuse you of anything. My point is simply that a single item of statistical data is not "hard evidence". Large amounts of clear, in depth statistics, that all point in the same direction, would be.

You said you have tons of this other evidence. That is interesting. You might be right in your general argument, and I would like to hear more about the background and facts of the issue that you say you know a lot about.
deanhills
Well at least one can say that the religious community in the Netherlands is really small. Only 20% of its citizens are attending church. 15% of congregations serving 20% of the people has to be a very small number of people. If my calculations are right, out of 16.5-million people in the Netherlands (refer Wikipedia link below) 20% is approximately 3.3-million of the population (less than 20% go to church). 15% of those going to church is 495,000 people? Or 3% of the total population? Religion seems to be on the wane, so possibly people of the Netherlands are not very much into persecuting pastors in the Netherlands?
Quote:
The Netherlands is one of the most secular countries in Western Europe, with only 39% being religiously affiliated (31% for those aged under 35). Fewer than 20% visit church regularly.

Wikipedia
Indi
handfleisch wrote:
My point is simply that a single item of statistical data is not "hard evidence".

And your point is simply nonsensical because it is not a "single item" of statistical data. It is, in fact, 860 items of statistical data, aggregated and analyzed for patterns. The findings and trends are clumped together as one conclusion, but they are certainly not just one item of data.

But even if it were a single item: a single item is hard evidence. It may not be a lot of hard evidence for most purposes (although, for some, it's plenty), but it is absolutely literally hard evidence.

handfleisch wrote:
You said you have tons of this other evidence. That is interesting. You might be right in your general argument, and I would like to hear more about the background and facts of the issue that you say you know a lot about.

An excellent attitude to have! It is always better to want to hear more about a topic than it is to just assume you already have all the facts.

Feel free to share what you find.

deanhills wrote:
Well at least one can say that the religious community in the Netherlands is really small. Only 20% of its citizens are attending church. 15% of congregations serving 20% of the people has to be a very small number of people. If my calculations are right, out of 16.5-million people in the Netherlands (refer Wikipedia link below) 20% is approximately 3.3-million of the population (less than 20% go to church). 15% of those going to church is 495,000 people? Or 3% of the total population? Religion seems to be on the wane, so possibly people of the Netherlands are not very much into persecuting pastors in the Netherlands?

You're suggesting that because the Dutch aren't interested in religion anymore, that religions should water themselves down in order to cling desperately to the few last scraps that are interested?

Look, either there is truth in what the church is selling or there is not. If there is, then you are doing a disservice to that truth when you allow people to subvert it or lie about it just so you can get more popular. If the church actually believed what it is selling - and i don't just mean that they say they believe it, i mean that they really believe it - then they are tolerating people lying in order to keep butts in the pews. Now, sure, lots of organizations tolerate lies being spread about their product if it gets them more sales... but few organizations claim to fundamentally exist for the sole purpose of spreading "the Truth", and it seems a little back-asswards for one of those organizations to play loose with truth for the sake of popularity.
handfleisch
Indi wrote:
handfleisch wrote:
My point is simply that a single item of statistical data is not "hard evidence".

And your point is simply nonsensical because it is not a "single item" of statistical data. It is, in fact, 860 items of statistical data, aggregated and analyzed for patterns. The findings and trends are clumped together as one conclusion, but they are certainly not just one item of data.

But even if it were a single item: a single item is hard evidence. It may not be a lot of hard evidence for most purposes (although, for some, it's plenty), but it is absolutely literally hard evidence.

handfleisch wrote:
You said you have tons of this other evidence. That is interesting. You might be right in your general argument, and I would like to hear more about the background and facts of the issue that you say you know a lot about.

An excellent attitude to have! It is always better to want to hear more about a topic than it is to just assume you already have all the facts.

Feel free to share what you find.

Wait -- you mean you don't have any more?
Indi
handfleisch wrote:
Indi wrote:
handfleisch wrote:
My point is simply that a single item of statistical data is not "hard evidence".

And your point is simply nonsensical because it is not a "single item" of statistical data. It is, in fact, 860 items of statistical data, aggregated and analyzed for patterns. The findings and trends are clumped together as one conclusion, but they are certainly not just one item of data.

But even if it were a single item: a single item is hard evidence. It may not be a lot of hard evidence for most purposes (although, for some, it's plenty), but it is absolutely literally hard evidence.

handfleisch wrote:
You said you have tons of this other evidence. That is interesting. You might be right in your general argument, and I would like to hear more about the background and facts of the issue that you say you know a lot about.

An excellent attitude to have! It is always better to want to hear more about a topic than it is to just assume you already have all the facts.

Feel free to share what you find.

Wait -- you mean you don't have any more?

No, i mean: "Feel free to share what you find." In other words, if you really do care about the facts of the issue, you should be looking for them. Even if i were inclined to just hand them to you, how would you know i didn't make them up or distort them?

You don't really expect me to go out and get more data for you when you haven't done anything but come up with half-assed dismissals of every bit of data that has already been dropped in your lap - mostly by me - do you? If you really care about truth, seek it.
handfleisch
Indi wrote:
handfleisch wrote:
Indi wrote:
handfleisch wrote:
My point is simply that a single item of statistical data is not "hard evidence".

And your point is simply nonsensical because it is not a "single item" of statistical data. It is, in fact, 860 items of statistical data, aggregated and analyzed for patterns. The findings and trends are clumped together as one conclusion, but they are certainly not just one item of data.

But even if it were a single item: a single item is hard evidence. It may not be a lot of hard evidence for most purposes (although, for some, it's plenty), but it is absolutely literally hard evidence.

handfleisch wrote:
You said you have tons of this other evidence. That is interesting. You might be right in your general argument, and I would like to hear more about the background and facts of the issue that you say you know a lot about.

An excellent attitude to have! It is always better to want to hear more about a topic than it is to just assume you already have all the facts.

Feel free to share what you find.

Wait -- you mean you don't have any more?

No, i mean: "Feel free to share what you find." In other words, if you really do care about the facts of the issue, you should be looking for them. Even if i were inclined to just hand them to you, how would you know i didn't make them up or distort them?

You don't really expect me to go out and get more data for you when you haven't done anything but come up with half-assed dismissals of every bit of data that has already been dropped in your lap - mostly by me - do you? If you really care about truth, seek it.


You must be joking. But this is the internet where any, let's say, confusion is possible, so:

About point one, I would know you didn't make it up or distort it, because you would link to the source, or if it's a source you can't cite, relate the background to the info in a way that makes it seem credible to the average, reasonable person (though there we get back to that internetS thing...)

About point two, scroll up and you can see I did not dismiss "every bit of data" but asked for more than one brief incomplete report of one poll. You said you knew a lot about the subject and so I welcomed more info on it. Since you supposedly know a lot about it, it would be a lot easier for you to give us a quick overview. Is that so unreasonable? Or is there some other problem?
Indi
handfleisch wrote:
You must be joking. But this is the internet where any, let's say, confusion is possible, so:

About point one, I would know you didn't make it up or distort it, because you would link to the source, or if it's a source you can't cite, relate the background to the info in a way that makes it seem credible to the average, reasonable person (though there we get back to that internetS thing...)

About point two, scroll up and you can see I did not dismiss "every bit of data" but asked for more than one brief incomplete report of one poll. You said you knew a lot about the subject and so I welcomed more info on it. Since you supposedly know a lot about it, it would be a lot easier for you to give us a quick overview. Is that so unreasonable? Or is there some other problem?

Oh good grief you were serious. -_-

About point one, i call bullshit. You won't look into any references i give you. You just want to make me work to get the references. My proof? Have you looked into anything you have been given so far? You've already been given one direct reference - the VU study - plus a couple other statistics. But let's take the VU study as an example, because since you've spent several posts dismissing its conclusion, logically that implies that you took the time the look it up so you wouldn't just sound like an ignorant fool, right (because only a fool would criticize a study they are completely ignorant of)? Well, have you looked into it? Can you share with us who did the study, how many surveys were sent out or what the actual numbers of the results you claim to be so interested in are? You complained that ""55 and 65 years were the most unsure" really tells us very little", but did you do any research whatsoever to find out precisely how much or how little it actually does tell you before making that dismissal?

About point two, you have dismissed every single bit of data you have been given. Every single one. You started out with your mind made up, and when contradictory facts came you didn't even consider the possibility that maybe you were wrong - you didn't budge a millimetre to go out and check on the real facts. You've just sat back dismissing every single thing i've given, while saying you want more. i am educator, but i am not an idiot, and i do not believe in throwing pearls to swine. i have already given you plenty places to start researching on your own if you really care about the truth as much as you are pretending to. If you just want more data to dismiss out of hand, you can bloody well go out and get it yourself.

Your justifications for why i should do all the work for you are especially silly. Since you heard me say that i've seen a lot of data on the topic, that means you should just sit back and let me give you "a quick overview"? Uh huh, so since there are tons of people out there who claim to have a ton of evidence that God exists, i should take their word on the conclusion? If you really believe that it makes sense for me - the one holding the viewpoint you disagree with - to do your research for you, then you must either have no real interest in seeking the truth... or you're a complete fool (who really lets their opponent, in any kind of face-off, prepare their equipment for the challenge? "Yes, old boy, i know we'll be duelling at dawn, but would you do me the favour of looking into which pistols are the most accurate and preparing one for me before the duel? There's a good lad!"). i'm not going to speculate on which is the case, because whichever it is, any knowledge i put together would just be wasted on you. If you really believe that collecting together a set of references (or a "quick" overview!!!) is "easy", then you have no appreciation for how much work goes into actually doing real research, and you would benefit from the exercise anyway.

i've seen the data, and don't need to look for it again because his new data doesn't contradict what i already knew. And i really don't care whether you want to accept reality or not. So i have nothing to gain from the exercise. On the other hand, you hold to a belief that has just been blatantly contradicted by raw data. The onus is on you to do something about that, not me. You can choose to ignore the evidence and hold to your beliefs, or you can choose to ditch your beliefs in the face of the evidence in front of you or you can choose to go out and seek more evidence. Do what you like. And feel free to share whatever you find.
handfleisch
Indi wrote:
handfleisch wrote:
You must be joking. But this is the internet where any, let's say, confusion is possible, so:

About point one, I would know you didn't make it up or distort it, because you would link to the source, or if it's a source you can't cite, relate the background to the info in a way that makes it seem credible to the average, reasonable person (though there we get back to that internetS thing...)

About point two, scroll up and you can see I did not dismiss "every bit of data" but asked for more than one brief incomplete report of one poll. You said you knew a lot about the subject and so I welcomed more info on it. Since you supposedly know a lot about it, it would be a lot easier for you to give us a quick overview. Is that so unreasonable? Or is there some other problem?

Oh good grief you were serious. -_-

About point one, i call bullshit. You won't look into any references i give you. You just want to make me work to get the references. My proof? Have you looked into anything you have been given so far? You've already been given one direct reference - the VU study - plus a couple other statistics. But let's take the VU study as an example, because since you've spent several posts dismissing its conclusion, logically that implies that you took the time the look it up so you wouldn't just sound like an ignorant fool, right (because only a fool would criticize a study they are completely ignorant of)? Well, have you looked into it? Can you share with us who did the study, how many surveys were sent out or what the actual numbers of the results you claim to be so interested in are? You complained that ""55 and 65 years were the most unsure" really tells us very little", but did you do any research whatsoever to find out precisely how much or how little it actually does tell you before making that dismissal?

About point two, you have dismissed every single bit of data you have been given. Every single one. You started out with your mind made up, and when contradictory facts came you didn't even consider the possibility that maybe you were wrong - you didn't budge a millimetre to go out and check on the real facts. You've just sat back dismissing every single thing i've given, while saying you want more. i am educator, but i am not an idiot, and i do not believe in throwing pearls to swine. i have already given you plenty places to start researching on your own if you really care about the truth as much as you are pretending to. If you just want more data to dismiss out of hand, you can bloody well go out and get it yourself.

Your justifications for why i should do all the work for you are especially silly. Since you heard me say that i've seen a lot of data on the topic, that means you should just sit back and let me give you "a quick overview"? Uh huh, so since there are tons of people out there who claim to have a ton of evidence that God exists, i should take their word on the conclusion? If you really believe that it makes sense for me - the one holding the viewpoint you disagree with - to do your research for you, then you must either have no real interest in seeking the truth... or you're a complete fool (who really lets their opponent, in any kind of face-off, prepare their equipment for the challenge? "Yes, old boy, i know we'll be duelling at dawn, but would you do me the favour of looking into which pistols are the most accurate and preparing one for me before the duel? There's a good lad!"). i'm not going to speculate on which is the case, because whichever it is, any knowledge i put together would just be wasted on you. If you really believe that collecting together a set of references (or a "quick" overview!!!) is "easy", then you have no appreciation for how much work goes into actually doing real research, and you would benefit from the exercise anyway.

i've seen the data, and don't need to look for it again because his new data doesn't contradict what i already knew. And i really don't care whether you want to accept reality or not. So i have nothing to gain from the exercise. On the other hand, you hold to a belief that has just been blatantly contradicted by raw data. The onus is on you to do something about that, not me. You can choose to ignore the evidence and hold to your beliefs, or you can choose to ditch your beliefs in the face of the evidence in front of you or you can choose to go out and seek more evidence. Do what you like. And feel free to share whatever you find.


Jeez! Look at this long post -- you could have written the same size post calmly summarizing your view and supposed knowledge of the subject. Like I did for "yagnyavalkya" for his question here: http://www.frihost.com/forums/vt-114931.html. You say I have rejected your evidence, when you have cited exactly one article (which I did click on and read) that only mentions one survey (there is no link to the survey itself). I have even said you may be right and just want to know more, but all you can do it rant, insult and throw a childish temper tantrum.
deanhills
Indi wrote:
deanhills wrote:
Well at least one can say that the religious community in the Netherlands is really small. Only 20% of its citizens are attending church. 15% of congregations serving 20% of the people has to be a very small number of people. If my calculations are right, out of 16.5-million people in the Netherlands (refer Wikipedia link below) 20% is approximately 3.3-million of the population (less than 20% go to church). 15% of those going to church is 495,000 people? Or 3% of the total population? Religion seems to be on the wane, so possibly people of the Netherlands are not very much into persecuting pastors in the Netherlands?

You're suggesting that because the Dutch aren't interested in religion anymore, that religions should water themselves down in order to cling desperately to the few last scraps that are interested?

Look, either there is truth in what the church is selling or there is not. If there is, then you are doing a disservice to that truth when you allow people to subvert it or lie about it just so you can get more popular. If the church actually believed what it is selling - and i don't just mean that they say they believe it, i mean that they really believe it - then they are tolerating people lying in order to keep butts in the pews. Now, sure, lots of organizations tolerate lies being spread about their product if it gets them more sales... but few organizations claim to fundamentally exist for the sole purpose of spreading "the Truth", and it seems a little back-asswards for one of those organizations to play loose with truth for the sake of popularity.
If only 3% of the people in the Netherlands are attending church, I would imagine that the majority don't really care what the truth is. Also, if any of the majority of non-believers would be approached for comment, I would imagine that they would equally question the findings of the survey as much as they would question religion. They will also deliberate about the survey for a maximum of 5 minutes, anything more than that would be regarded as a waste of time.
Indi
handfleisch wrote:
Jeez! Look at this long post -- you could have written the same size post calmly summarizing your view and supposed knowledge of the subject. Like I did for "yagnyavalkya" for his question here: http://www.frihost.com/forums/vt-114931.html. You say I have rejected your evidence, when you have cited exactly one article (which I did click on and read) that only mentions one survey (there is no link to the survey itself). I have even said you may be right and just want to know more, but all you can do it rant, insult and throw a childish temper tantrum.

i don't know how much more summarized my answer can get than "google it and see for yourself", which i already said, or "if you really care about truth, seek it", which i repeated several times. Those didn't seem to sink in, so i tried something a little more verbose to hammer the point home. It appears to have worked, at last.

i don't really care whether you think i am right or not. (i've said that before, too.) But if you really do want to know more, then - and here i find myself repeating myself yet again - look for it. i found the survey source via Google. Assuming you have access to Google, why is this something you can't do for yourself, too?

deanhills wrote:
If only 3% of the people in the Netherlands are attending church, I would imagine that the majority don't really care what the truth is. Also, if any of the majority of non-believers would be approached for comment, I would imagine that they would equally question the findings of the survey as much as they would question religion. They will also deliberate about the survey for a maximum of 5 minutes, anything more than that would be regarded as a waste of time.

i have no idea what any of this is supposed to mean. If the majority doesn't care about the religion, how does that make it okay for the religion to falsely represent itself?

And i don't know how you figure that the majority of non-believers would question the survey, or that they even question religion. And i really don't know how you would figure that they would consider the survey a waste of time. You certainly seem to be presuming a lot on the part of the non-believers.
handfleisch
Indi wrote:
i don't really care whether you think i am right or not. (i've said that before, too.) But if you really do want to know more, then - and here i find myself repeating myself yet again - look for it. i found the survey source via Google. Assuming you have access to Google, why is this something you can't do for yourself, too?

Why do you go on a public forum and make claims and say you know something and then refuse to even say what you know? I call BS. I could summarize my knowledge on various subjects in a paragraph or two, and give pointers on good places to go for further research, but you refuse to do the same. You make wild claims like "well over 90% of clergy in the US either just give up at some point, or stick with the job even though they don't believe." 90% of clergy in the US are atheist or agnostic? I kind of doubt it. Bullpucky has been called.
Indi
handfleisch wrote:
Indi wrote:
i don't really care whether you think i am right or not. (i've said that before, too.) But if you really do want to know more, then - and here i find myself repeating myself yet again - look for it. i found the survey source via Google. Assuming you have access to Google, why is this something you can't do for yourself, too?

Why do you go on a public forum and make claims and say you know something and then refuse to even say what you know? I call BS. I could summarize my knowledge on various subjects in a paragraph or two, and give pointers on good places to go for further research, but you refuse to do the same. You make wild claims like "well over 90% of clergy in the US either just give up at some point, or stick with the job even though they don't believe." 90% of clergy in the US are atheist or agnostic? I kind of doubt it. Bullpucky has been called.

What i claimed was that i had heard many times that clerics' belief wanes the longer they are on the job, and that that fact in the survey did not surprise me. That is what i know. i don't know where you got the idea that i am refusing to say what i know, because i said it explicitly and clearly right from the start.

What you have been whining about is that i will not give you direct links to corroborating evidence. i have said over and over that if i wanted to get such links i would have to out and hunt them down, which you are just as well capable of doing as i. i don't need to see the data again because i already saw it long ago, and i don't care whether you believe it or not, so i have no motivation to go hunting down links for you. i said that, too, clearly. If you care about the data - and i said this, too - then go and look for it. You have access to precisely the same resources i do. Google is your friend.

Take the case of the 90% of clergy just giving up at some point. You don't believe me? Fine. Ignore my claim and go on believing what you like, or get on Google and hunt down the evidence to see for yourself. That's where i got it from in the first place anyway.

Why do you sit on the Internet and bitch at a total stranger about not having data handed to you on a platter, when with a couple clicks and keystrokes you could get that data yourself?
handfleisch
Indi wrote:
Why do you sit on the Internet and bitch at a total stranger

LOL. Psychological projection, thy name is Indi
xalophus
Indi wrote:
to be teaching in his sermons a fact that he himself holds to be false?

Is there anything ethically wrong with allowing people to be pastors when they don't believe in the religion?

Well, I can't say exactly, but a good many science teachers who teach evolution in school probably believe in Creationism.
I don't see anything wrong with either, as long as they don't implicitly discredit their teachings because of their own beliefs.
liljp617
xalophus wrote:
Indi wrote:
to be teaching in his sermons a fact that he himself holds to be false?

Is there anything ethically wrong with allowing people to be pastors when they don't believe in the religion?

Well, I can't say exactly, but a good many science teachers who teach evolution in school probably believe in Creationism.
I don't see anything wrong with either, as long as they don't implicitly discredit their teachings because of their own beliefs.


I believe this was already addressed by Indi:

Indi wrote:
A pastor is not like a teacher. A teacher does not need to believe what they teach - they just need to share the facts so that the student understands the topic (the student doesn't need to believe either - they just need to understand). A pastor is very different. Their job is not to make their congregation know the religion, or understand the religion (as a teacher would), their job is to make their congregation believe the religion. Now, logically it's clear that a teacher that does not understand a topic well has a poor chance of making a student understand it well. Isn't it the same for a pastor? A pastor who does not really believe a topic has a poor chance of making their congregation believe it - maybe you can fool them for a while, but eventually they'll clue in.

And of course there's more to a pastor than just sermons on Sunday. A pastor lives a certain lifestyle that is supposed to be leading by example - they're not expected to just show up, give a sermon, then go back to their lives where they have nothing whatsoever to do with the church. No, pastors are expected to live their lives around the teachings of the church - for example, celibacy (in some denominations) - and then the standards of what is "good" are judged by what the pastors do. They're supposed to be community leaders-by-example. So now, let's say that one community has a really good, selfless, hard-working, all-around-awesome atheist pastor. What is the community supposed to think about the religion now? It's clearly not the religion making him good (which is the point of pastors being good community leaders - it reflects back well on the religion). What if the atheist pastor then turns around and sexually assaults a child? Now what is the community supposed to think? A pastor can't possibly be a role model for the religion if they don't believe it.
xalophus
liljp617 wrote:
I believe this was already addressed

Oh, I was under the impression that forum members' opinions were invited.
And that such invitation didn't close as soon as someone had "addressed" a question with their own opinion.
My bad. d'oh!

Maybe if I wrote tons of text instead of being brief or flamed other thread participants, I could have made a better contribution to the thread. Idea
liljp617
I don't know what you're getting butthurt about...

You can have whatever opinion you like. Post to your heart's content. I was merely quoting the obvious rebuttal to what you said rather than have someone type it out again. The opposing view in respect to your post is that the job/duties of a pastor are very different from those of a teacher.

You weren't flamed. The discussion wasn't closed. It was simply an attempt to show there is an opposing view to what you said in your post and that it was already discussed. I thought perhaps you would be interested in the opposing argument. Perhaps not. Enjoy.
deanhills
Indi wrote:
You certainly seem to be presuming a lot on the part of the non-believers.
So do you apparently Indi on the religiosity of Dutch pastors. On the basis of a single survey.

liljp617 wrote:
You weren't flamed. The discussion wasn't closed. It was simply an attempt to show there is an opposing view to what you said in your post and that it was already discussed. I thought perhaps you would be interested in the opposing argument. Perhaps not. Enjoy.
I doubt xalophus meant that he was flamed. If I understand it corrently he meant that "flaming" in general (confrontational type comment) together with tons of text seem to be seen by some as a sign of a superior contribution.
Indi
deanhills wrote:
Indi wrote:
You certainly seem to be presuming a lot on the part of the non-believers.
So do you apparently Indi on the religiosity of Dutch pastors. On the basis of a single survey.

Oh? What - exactly - am i presuming? What exactly do you think i have presumed about the religiosity of Dutch pastors? Seriously, if you're going to accuse me of something, you'd better be ready to back it up. So what am i presuming?

You see, somehow you went from "there are only a small number of people who are really religious (in the Netherlands)" to "they question religion", to "they question everything" and finally to "they would think a survey about religious beliefs is a waste of time". Do any of those leaps seem reasonable to you?

By contrast, these are more or less the only points i have made or by in this whole thread:
  • It is illogical and unethical for a person to proselytize things they don't believe. (Posted in response to you and requoted by liljp617.)
  • An organization that is based on the claim of having Truth is being hypocritical when it accepts pastors who don't believe the Truth. (Posted in response to you.)
  • The survey says that Dutch pastors are less religious than they ought to be, and grow less religious as they age. (Well, isn't that what the survey says? i am not presuming anything here, just repeating the survey results. If you have any rational reason for doubting those results - and "i don't like them" is not a rational reason - then share it.)
Where are my many presumptions?
xalophus
liljp617 wrote:
I don't know what you're getting butthurt about...

I'm not. That would require physical contact, or whatever that's called in colloquial talk.
It's just that, like you, I can't help but make sneering remarks on every available opportunity on the internet.
liljp617 wrote:
obvious rebuttal
The opposing view in respect to your post is that the job/duties of a pastor are very different from those of a teacher.

Their duties may differ, but I don't believe they are very different in how their beliefs affect their duties.
It's been said that a teacher's job is merely to impart knowledge, not worry about if the students "believe" it. I beg to differ. For example, in a science class, the theory of evolution is not merely "worth a read".
A teacher who says - "now we know better, but your textbook here has some amusing tale called evolution..." is not doing his job.
Perhaps I'm just thinking about it differently from everyone else here.

Because you either think of their duties as more than just "work" or you don't ...

I think the difference lies here -
Quote:
These pastors are explicitly atheists
Quote:
organization that is based on the claim of having Truth is being hypocritical when it accepts pastors who don't believe the Truth
Quote:
It is illogical and unethical for a person to proselytize things they don't believe

All that, in my opinion, matters only if they are "explicit" about their own belief while discharging their duties, and let their belief affect their work.
I may dislike peanuts myself, but still be a darned good Snickers salesman.

liljp617 wrote:
You weren't flamed. The discussion wasn't closed.

I was referring to the bunch of posts before mine.
liljp617
xalophus wrote:
liljp617 wrote:
I don't know what you're getting butthurt about...

I'm not. That would require physical contact, or whatever that's called in colloquial talk.
It's just that, like you, I can't help but make sneering remarks on every available opportunity on the internet.


It wasn't a "sneering remark." I was attempting to bring your attention to a post that you may have overlooked that directly addressed what your standpoint was/is. Nothing more, nothing less.

xalophus wrote:
liljp617 wrote:
obvious rebuttal
The opposing view in respect to your post is that the job/duties of a pastor are very different from those of a teacher.

Their duties may differ, but I don't believe they are very different in how their beliefs affect their duties.
It's been said that a teacher's job is merely to impart knowledge, not worry about if the students "believe" it. I beg to differ. For example, in a science class, the theory of evolution is not merely "worth a read".
A teacher who says - "now we know better, but your textbook here has some amusing tale called evolution..." is not doing his job.
Perhaps I'm just thinking about it differently from everyone else here.

Because you either think of their duties as more than just "work" or you don't ...

I think the difference lies here -
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These pastors are explicitly atheists
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organization that is based on the claim of having Truth is being hypocritical when it accepts pastors who don't believe the Truth
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It is illogical and unethical for a person to proselytize things they don't believe

All that, in my opinion, matters only if they are "explicit" about their own belief while discharging their duties, and let their belief affect their work.
I may dislike peanuts myself, but still be a darned good Snickers salesman.


Can we agree on the primary functions of a pastor/teacher?

A pastor's duty is to convince people to become believers or convince people to continue believing whatever religion they're preaching.

A teacher's duty is to state the facts of [insert subject] and be sure students understand said facts. A teacher's duty is not to "sell" the facts or make others believe in the facts, as a pastor's duty is.

Do you take issue with either of these statements?

If not, how is it that a pastor's beliefs aren't important to his/her duties? Is it ethical for someone to continue carrying out the duty of making others believe in something they don't believe in*?


*I think it would be helpful if this question were kept in the context of religion. Analogies don't go well with religion.*
xalophus
liljp617 wrote:
Can we agree on the primary functions of a pastor/teacher?

A pastor's duty is to convince people to become believers or convince people to continue believing whatever religion they're preaching.

A teacher's duty is to state the facts of [insert subject] and be sure students understand said facts. A teacher's duty is not to "sell" the facts or make others believe in the facts, as a pastor's duty is.

Do you take issue with either of these statements?

If not, how is it that a pastor's beliefs aren't important to his/her duties? Is it ethical for someone to continue carrying out the duty of making others believe in something they don't believe in*?


*I think it would be helpful if this question were kept in the context of religion. Analogies don't go well with religion.*

I have never disagreed with the fact that their duties differ.
What I have been trying to say is that both their beliefs can affect their "primary functions", but only if they allow it.

You say an athiest pastor could do a bad job ? I say, so could a creationist science teacher -
Quote:
"One student, when asked what he had learned about science from Mr Freshwater, testified that what he learned was you can't trust science."

"Freshwater was teaching what the text taught age of the Earth, fossils and then would add an overlay of creationist material that cast doubt on what the text said."


You say a creationist science teacher could do a good job teaching evolution ? I say, then so could an atheist pastor proselytizing.
I don't see anything wrong in making others believe in something that I don't believe in personally, if that were my job.
Indi
xalophus wrote:
It's been said that a teacher's job is merely to impart knowledge, not worry about if the students "believe" it. I beg to differ. For example, in a science class, the theory of evolution is not merely "worth a read".
A teacher who says - "now we know better, but your textbook here has some amusing tale called evolution..." is not doing his job.

No, they're not. Because they are there to teach the facts of evolution. Their opinions have no place in class.

Incidentally, your link to the Freshwater case is another example of this. The fact that the teacher actually taught what he was supposed to does not excuse the fact that he also taught what he should not have. A person assigned to teach that "X is the best scientific explanation available" is not doing their job if they then turn around and (falsely) claim that it's really not the best scientific explanation available.
palciere
OK, suppose you have a nice job as a pastor. It is the only way you know to make a decent living. You have always accepted the existence of God, of the gods, or whatever your religion is about, just because all your friends believed, and you never questioned it. Then somebody suggests it might be a myth and you realize you have never seen, or even looked for evidence for your belief. How do you justify continuing to collect you salary? You have to tell yourself that the church serves some good purpose even if God does not exist.

There was a 19th Century German political figure, whose name I do not remember, who said he considered the church a branch of the Police Department, because the fear of Hell reduced the crime rate. That could justify being an atheist pastor, and would explain why there used to be so many Hell-fire sermons. Now that there are lots of atheists who don't commit crimes, that argument does not carry as much weight as it did then, although crime has increased quite a bit since fewer people believe in Hell.

Other pastors probably decide the church is a nice social club, so that makes it worthwhile. "Brave New World" described possible future churches like that. That might explain the emphasis on community, fellowship, quality music, beautiful church buildings, and relief from the stress of worldly activities nowadays. The trouble with this is that no church can compete with the nearest barroom for fellowship and relief from stress. That may be why the churches that de-emphasize faith are losing members faster than the ones that stress it.

My church had a lot of priests and nuns leave in the '60s and '70s, and a lot of priests molested altar boys, which was a serious breach of the law and against the fundamental teachings of the church. Some of them have died. Maybe they didn't believe in Hell anymore, or maybe they didn't believe the teachings of the church about homosexual rape were true.

I had a crisis of faith myself when I was a young man, but I was not a pastor, so it was a personal problem only. There was only one sure way to find out. I got down on my knees and asked God to show me whether he existed. The next day I read about a miracle. Since then I have read about and witnessed many miracles. A miracle, by definition, is something only a god could do, so now I believe. If God had not existed, of course I would not have got an answer. There would have been nobody on the other end of the line.

Paul Alciere
deanhills
palciere wrote:
Since then I have read about and witnessed many miracles.
This must be along the lines of what we focus on, we attract into our lives? What we believe in, we become? Good to read about this ... and thanks for the positive message ... Smile
Bikerman
palciere wrote:
OK, suppose you have a nice job as a pastor. It is the only way you know to make a decent living. You have always accepted the existence of God, of the gods, or whatever your religion is about, just because all your friends believed, and you never questioned it. Then somebody suggests it might be a myth and you realize you have never seen, or even looked for evidence for your belief. How do you justify continuing to collect you salary? You have to tell yourself that the church serves some good purpose even if God does not exist.
Does it not strike you as a bit 'odd' that someone who had decided to take on a life-role as a follower and representative of Jesus, might not really have thought about it much? That is like a surgeon deciding to retire because he has realised he doesn't actually know where any of the organs are. I mean surely a priest in waiting has got THAT ONE thing to sort out in their own mind - and precious little else since the entry requirements and interview are not generally regarded to be overly demanding.
Quote:
There was a 19th Century German political figure, whose name I do not remember, who said he considered the church a branch of the Police Department, because the fear of Hell reduced the crime rate. That could justify being an atheist pastor, and would explain why there used to be so many Hell-fire sermons. Now that there are lots of atheists who don't commit crimes, that argument does not carry as much weight as it did then, although crime has increased quite a bit since fewer people believe in Hell.
Err...'increased', 'now', 'used to be'?
That sounds like you may be saying that you think atheists might, in the past, have been more likely to commit crime - as your German politician clearly thinks.

WRONG. This argument has been repeated endlessly throughout my life and beyond. I researched it when I first heard it (30 years ago) because it worried me. It is untrue and, as far as I can tell, it never was true.

a) Atheists are not over-represented in any of the stats one could possibly associate with being 'bad'. Prison populations, divorce, teenage pregnancy - you name it. Nor have they ever been for any of the stats I managed to collate - going back about 120 years.
Of course when you stop to think about it (rather than just accept it because it is repeated so often) then it makes no sense. We know, for example, that the death penalty does not work at all as a deterrent. This is shown by numerous studies in the US and is now largely conceded even by the 'pro death' camp.

b) We also know that being an atheist is, for most people, a bit harder than not being. Most atheists I know have had to think long and hard before rejecting the religion of their family and sometimes it has cost them quite highly in terms of family distress and community reaction - particularly in the US.
Declaring you are an atheist is not something done lightly by most. I spent years and years working it all out for myself and I know many others who have done the same. I think it is actually more likely that such people will be LESS criminal/immoral than others precisely because they have had to think deeply about these matters.

c) The idea can be completely junked by just examining history. Look for a correlation between the number of religious believers in the population and the crime stats (or divorce stats, or abortion stats or whatever takes your fancy). It isn't there. What is more, a little introspection and reading tell us that when the Church DID have pretty absolute power (say between about 100BCE and 1600BCE, we have a name for the periods - the dark ages. Most religions define themselves by defining 'other' - ie those who are NOT us. That is the only way you can have tens of thousands of sects of Christianity. The 'other' for most religions is damned. That is a pretty poor basis for trying to build a caring and responsible society I think.......

Quote:
Other pastors probably decide the church is a nice social club, so that makes it worthwhile. "Brave New World" described possible future churches like that. That might explain the emphasis on community, fellowship, quality music, beautiful church buildings, and relief from the stress of worldly activities nowadays. The trouble with this is that no church can compete with the nearest barroom for fellowship and relief from stress. That may be why the churches that de-emphasize faith are losing members faster than the ones that stress it.p
You are now describing the Church of England pretty precisely. It has been variously known as :
Christianity lite
Religion for atheists
The Upper class at prayer
The establishments way of controlling religion

and so on...
Of course the churches have a dilemma. Science has made a lot of what they used to preach untenable. They can't tell us that God will strike you down, nor can they actually say anything meaningful about ANY physical manifestation of God at all. Anything we can test is now out of bounds to the honest preacher.
So, yes, I agree - those that have, like the C of E, tried to move with the times are not the most popular at the moment. The most popular in the C of E is the evangelical wing (basically the fundamentalists). Back to basics Christianity - fire brimstone, hell and damnation etc etc.
I suspect this will actually fail longer term, as it ALWAYS HAS. There is nothing new about a sudden return to basics in religion (or in other spheres of life - remember Major's 'Back to Basics'?).
It works short-term until people realise that it is a new day but things haven't got better.*

* I explain why this is in detail in another posting in which I develop by 'heroic reminiscence' hypothesis a bit more. Basically people always remember the past as better even though we have incontrovertible evidence of just how beastly it was. I call it Heroic Reminiscence syndrome).

Quote:
My church had a lot of priests and nuns leave in the '60s and '70s, and a lot of priests molested altar boys, which was a serious breach of the law and against the fundamental teachings of the church. Some of them have died. Maybe they didn't believe in Hell anymore, or maybe they didn't believe the teachings of the church about homosexual rape were true.
Well, here we get to a very important hub.
Let me ask you this straight out. Do you think that there has ever been a time when a large percentage (I won't even say 'majority') of Christians have REALLY believed in heaven and hell?
I tell you that I do not think so - certainly not since the 'enlightenment'.
Most of the Christians I know have barely thought about the issue, let alone made it central to their existence. When you DO start to think about it, the absurdities and paradoxes start to appear thick and fast. Thus the Catholics had to invent 'purgatory' when the average church goer got a bible in their own language, rather than Latin, and could see that the notion of absolute sin is a complete invention, but one which results in new-born children going to hell if not baptised.
Most Catholics could not accept that. Hence we get purgatory - still nasty but time-limited (and also a good chance for the other corruption of that institution to show itself - avarice. The clergy made fortunes selling twigs and old nails as 'relics' and then really hit gold when they started selling 'time off' from purgatory.
This annoyed Luther and a few others, and the rest is history. Now I am seriously saying that I don't believe that most Christians have seriously and carefully considered the afterlife since roughly that time - the late middle ages.
Quote:
I had a crisis of faith myself when I was a young man, but I was not a pastor, so it was a personal problem only. There was only one sure way to find out. I got down on my knees and asked God to show me whether he existed. The next day I read about a miracle. Since then I have read about and witnessed many miracles. A miracle, by definition, is something only a god could do, so now I believe. If God had not existed, of course I would not have got an answer. There would have been nobody on the other end of the line.
LOL - and you are happy with the logic of that 'reasoning' are you? You don't see any problems?
palciere
First, lets go over a statement I believe you misunderstood.

"Now that there are lots of atheists who don't commit crimes, that argument does not carry as much weight as it did then."

I was saying that lots of atheists do not commit crimes, and therefore belief in God and Hell are not necessary to keep the crime rate down. It appears that atheists were much more rare in the 19th Century, or if there were a lot of them, the general public was not aware of how many there were.

Second, there are degrees of belief. There is casual belief, which consists of accepting what someone has told you and not examining it because you do see a need to question it. Most of us have a lot of beliefs like that, especially if believing does not cost us anything. If a lot of people express doubt about the belief or belief is an impediment to something you want to do, that is a different story, and since you have never bothered to research the subject you can suddenly find yourself not believing or not believing as confidently.

As for my belief based on miracles, consider the following syllogism:

1. The power light on my laptop can only light up if electrical power is flowing through it.

2. The light is lit.

3. Therefore there is power flowing through the bulb.

It's conceivable that some heretofore unknown phenomenon could light the bulb. It's conceivable that I am only dreaming that the bulb is lit, but I feel reasonably confident that my laptop is turned on. So would any technician trying to diagnose the cause of some malfunction.

Likewise when someone says a simple prayer and his fractured femur heals instantly and he gets up and runs for a bus something most people would call a god has answered that prayer.

I signed up with Frihost yesterday to get the free website but I think these forums are going to be even more of a nice thing than the website.
Bikerman
palciere wrote:
First, lets go over a statement I believe you misunderstood.

"Now that there are lots of atheists who don't commit crimes, that argument does not carry as much weight as it did then."

I was saying that lots of atheists do not commit crimes, and therefore belief in God and Hell are not necessary to keep the crime rate down. It appears that atheists were much more rare in the 19th Century, or if there were a lot of them, the general public was not aware of how many there were.
OK, I obviously did misunderstand and I can't find anything wrong with that reading of it, so fine, let's agree.
Quote:
Second, there are degrees of belief. There is casual belief, which consists of accepting what someone has told you and not examining it because you do see a need to question it. Most of us have a lot of beliefs like that, especially if believing does not cost us anything. If a lot of people express doubt about the belief or belief is an impediment to something you want to do, that is a different story, and since you have never bothered to research the subject you can suddenly find yourself not believing or not believing as confidently.
Well I would want to say that, yes, there are degrees of certainty within beliefs for sure. BUT the trick is to know what you don't know. Thus I have a couple of non-rational (not irrational) beliefs - one being that the universe is ultimately explicable to us in principle. That is a HUGE leap of faith - using a brain evolved to hurl insults at the monkey in the next tree to explain 'everything'. Secondly would be belief in various axioms of humanism - for example - the axioms of the universal ethic.
Now, the thing about both of these is that they are 'held in lieu'. That means that I will drop them when there is evidence to do so, and I will also be clear about what evidence is required. That is a scientific approach to belief. Simply knowing the difference between what you believe and what is almost certainly true is an important step. In the case of 'lots of people expressing doubt', my response is, and would be consistent - I would do the research if it mattered. I frequently find myself about to teach a lesson and then suddenly realising that I don't actually understand it on some level. That is familiar to all teachers I suspect - which is why it is often said that a teacher is their own best student. Here again my approach is fairly simple and consistent. I work it out, using the best evidence available, rationally. The crowd does not normally cause me much of a problem - in that I am not conscious of wishing to fit in, and therefore not conscious of being influenced. That doesn't mean, of course, that I am not influenced - a lot of very expensive and extensive research is being done on influencing me subconsciously, and 'no man is an island'.
Quote:
As for my belief based on miracles, consider the following syllogism:
1. The power light on my laptop can only light up if electrical power is flowing through it.
2. The light is lit.
3. Therefore there is power flowing through the bulb.

[/quote/A reasonable hypothesis.
Quote:
It's conceivable that some heretofore unknown phenomenon could light the bulb. It's conceivable that I am only dreaming that the bulb is lit, but I feel reasonably confident that my laptop is turned on. So would any technician trying to diagnose the cause of some malfunction.
Maybe, or perhaps the technician would know something that made it not only explicable but actually mundane. Perhaps that particular model had a battery fitted as a spare which was later changed? If the answer to the above is no and no reasonable alternative exists, then I would tend to lean towards 'user error' unless I could reproduce the fault.
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Likewise when someone says a simple prayer and his fractured femur heals instantly and he gets up and runs for a bus something most people would call a god has answered that prayer.
It has never happened in the literature, and never been reliably reported. That is the thing - no such healing has ever been shown reliably. There are plenty of cases of people 'healing' from less obviously physical injuries, but amputees, broken bones, the blind, the severely mentally impaired - these do not attract miracles, and the occasional report to the contrary is very poorly evidenced.
The placebo effect is real and much work needs to be done. For example - give someone Diazepan (Valium) and don't tell them. Guess what? Nothing happens. This has been shown in many trials. Diazepan, a strong tranquilliser, only has an effect if you know you have taken it.
The same is true to a lesser extent for just about every medical treatment and, almost certainly, for most mechanical/surgical intervention as well. It is only recently that people have seriously began to look at this whole area - largely because of the emergence of technology that enables is to look at the living brain working. The implications are very wide-ranging.
BUT here's the thing - non of it should be regarded a-priori as something miraculous. Some people want to attach the word 'miracle' to anything THEY cannot explain. Given that nobody is an expert in everything and most people are expert in nothing, then this is a little ego-centric.
At this point we have, I would say, gone from belief to faith. Whereas belief has some basis - even if that is largely opinion and wishful thinking - and is generally amenable to change - faith often has little or no evidential support and is even often contradicted quite strongly by such data we do have. There is also little change of the truly 'faithful' changing their mind...whether that faith is in spirits, miracles, homoeopathy or whatever.
So there is, I think, the key discriminator of reasonable belief and faith. Belief in the things we cannot demonstrate or even argue strongly to be true is fine, if it is the best you can do at the moment. it isn't enough for serious decision making, of course - there you must do some work and learn what there is to know.
If that belief is held-on to inspite of credible and reasonable argument and evidence to the contrary then we drift into faith. Belief is fine, but I'm not at all sure I could say the same for faith...
Quote:
I signed up with Frihost yesterday to get the free website but I think these forums are going to be even more of a nice thing than the website.
LOL..quite a few people find that.
palciere
The miracle I described was thoroughly investigated by the Medical Bureau of Lourdes.

Pierre de Rudder was struck on the femur by a falling tree, causing a compound fracture. About three quarters of an inch of bone were shattered. This was in the 19th Century, and the only thing the doctor could do was remove the crushed shards of bone and offer to amputate the leg. De Rudder refused treatment and went about with the useless leg swinging about. It got infected. He joined a pilgrimage to a place in Belgium named Oostacker, where he prayed at a replica of the grotto at Lourdes. He walked back to the bus, completely healed.

In 1953, when I had decided that I had not seen enough evidence to convince me that there is a god, this was one of the miracles that convinced me that there was sufficient evidence that I would not be intellectually imprudent if I believed in God. There have been about 150 so far.

I belong to a small group that meets every Tuesday evening to pray for people and things. We have had people tell us that our prayers have been answered miraculously.

The most recent was my friend, Bill, who has been in a nursing home for many years. He was given an overdose of a psychiatric medication and lost the use of his tongue. He could not speak, or swallow without food going into his lungs instead of his stomach. We took him to a neurologist who said there was a treatment he could try, but it would cause Bill a lot of suffering and would almost certainly fail. A speech therapist friend of mine told me this condition is generally considered permanent. We prayed over him several times and now he is speaking fairly clearly and eating whatever he wants.

Miracles are unusual, nevertheless. Sometimes God says "NO." or "Not yet." Sometimes we find out why He doesn't do what we ask for. Here is an example.

On February 18th, 1999, I was scheduled for my regular cancer check. It was the anniversary of the first apparition at Lourdes, so I drove to a church where there is a replica of the grotto at Lourdes in the parking lot. I prayed for negative results from the test. God knew that was not what was best for me, because I had cancer. The cancer did not show up on the ultrasound, so you could say I got negative results, but at nine o'clock that evening the doctor called to say one of the six random needle biopsies had hit a tiny cancer. Radiation completely destroyed the tiny cancer. I was a little tired toward the end of the treatments, but otherwise I suffered no discomfort. If that needle had not hit the tiny cancer we would not have found it for another year. Sometimes there is a reason why God says "No".

Best wishes,

Paul
Indi
i'm reminded of an anecdote from Anatole France. He and a friend were touring some religious hospital. Along one wall there were dozens and dozens of crutches. Each crutch was allegedly from a person who had been lame, but whose lameness had been miraculously healed when it was not expected to be. France's partner looked at all the crutches, and this was essentially his comment to France:

"A single wooden leg would have made their point much more succinctly."

------------------------------------------

Now for the other side of the Pierre de Rudder story.

De Rudder's injury was not an injury of the femur. Nor was any bone shattered (certainly not three quarters of an inch worth of bone). It was, in fact, an injury of the lower leg. The tibia and fibula were broken - not shattered. Pictures of the bones (they were preserved by Lourdes) are available online if you don't believe me. You can see the breaks.

The doctor did recommend amputation, but the shard thing is pure fiction.

Now, the bit about walking about with the leg "swinging about" is partially true, and critically important, so i'll get back to it. First, let's look at Mr. de Rudder.

Pierre de Rudder was a worker for some count or another, and he busted his leg when a tree fell on it. That much is not in dispute. What is also not in dispute is that once he was hurt, the count gave him worker's comp - and a handsome sum, too. Mr. de Rudder was, therefore, now living comfortably sitting on his ass. Several people accused de Rudder of milking it, saying that he was faking a lingering injury that had long since healed to stay on his welfare. None of that is in debate - it is all included in the Lourdes report.

For years, when someone asked to see his injury, here is what de Rudder would do. He would twist his foot all the way around to show that the bones were still broken. But... he did this without taking off his pants. He never showed the actual break to anyone for years. Now this is a point of contention, because the Lourdes conclusion was that he did, but all of the physical evidence says he didn't. Lourdes claims that doctors saw the injury, but the same doctors' letters explicitly say they did not. According to all documentation from people who wrote about it at the time, no one saw the injury except de Rudder and his family. When Lourdes did their "investigation" decades later, they met people who claimed they saw it... but no one at the time saw it. The "proof" appeared decades after the miracle, in the form of people "remembering" seeing the injury that no one wrote anything about at the time. (And, it had grown in the telling, from a gash, to an open wound where you could see the bone, to an infected open wound with shattered bits of bone in it.)

And it gets better.

The count died. His heir believed de Rudder was a fraud, so he cut off his welfare. Again, this is not up for debate - that fact is in the Lourdes report. It was a few weeks after that that de Rudder was praying for a miracle because he was (allegedly) broke and unable to work... and then he emerged completely healed. From the injury no one had seen for years.

Ah, but not completely healed. The scar remained, and, according to the doctors who examined it after the fact, looked like an old scar. That fact is also not up for debate: Lourdes not only agreed that the scar looked old, they use that as evidence for the miracle!!! They said that it could only be a miracle that a wound just healed had a scar that looked years old. i shit you not. Those are the facts. Literally. From Lourdes - not from a hostile source.

So let's review. De Rudder gets injured, and his leg is examined by a doctor who suggests amputation. De Rudder says no, he'll just weather it out and hope for the best. The count starts giving him compensation pay for his injury. After a few months, people start saying that de Rudder is not really hurt anymore, and is just milking it to keep getting compensation, so he starts doing this thing where he twists his foot all the way around... fully clothed... without showing people the wound. After years of this, the count dies, and the new count doesn't believe de Rudder is really hurt anymore, so he cuts off the welfare. Weeks later, de Rudder walks out of a shrine miraculously healed. Doctors examine his leg, and note that he has a scar, but that it is years old. All of this is fact. All of it is included in the Lourdes report on the case except the part in green. Decades after this incident, Lourdes starts doing their research, and now people start claiming they saw infected wounds and such. The letters written by people at the time saying flat out that no one ever saw the wound mysteriously disappear (but we know their contents because for years they were pressed between other pieces of paper, and left tracings).

And that my friends, is the best evidenced miracle they have.

------------------------------------------

There is a lesson to be learned from the de Rudder incident. i have heard tales of miraculous events from several religions, and from many non-religious beliefs (Sasquatch, aliens, etc.). i get told these fantastic, amazing stories, and at the end challenged: "explain that".

And then, i do the research.

And all those fantastic, amazing stories start to fizzle out. One little strand at a time, the whole tapestry comes undone. What was, in the story, hundreds of witnesses, turns out to be three or four witnesses, all believers (see the de Rudder case for that... not only were the few witnesses believers, they were also family with a vested interest in the story). What was, in the story, an undisputed phenomenon, turns out to be heavily disputed by dozens of sources - or, quite often, people write one thing at the time and say something different years later.

i see here someone who claims this particular fantastic story convinced them that "there was sufficient evidence that {they} would not be intellectually imprudent if {they} believed in God"... yet they didn't even get the injury - the focal point of the whole thing - correct. Oh, they get the name of the shrine right (Osstakker), and they don't fail to mention the authority of the Medical Bureau of Lourdes... they just flub the most important parts: the nature of the injury that was so miraculously healed, and the suspiciously fortuitous nature of this injury that stays bad so long as the money comes in then gets miraculously healed when it stops.

Frankly, if you really cared about evidence for your beliefs as much as you pretend to by rattling off this miracle as justification, you should really have done a better job of looking into that evidence. If you really needed this evidence to convince you to believe in God - if you wouldn't have believed in God anyway without this evidence - then how can it make sense to just take the word of the Domain without bothering to ask how "thorough" their investigation was. Were you even aware before just now that the investigation took place decades after the fact? Did you know that counter evidence mysteriously vanished? i'm guessing not. i'm guessing you were a believer regardless, and this "miracle" provided nothing more than support for your already entrenched beliefs - you felt no need to look any deeper into it because it agreed with what you already believed.

Well, some of us are still searching for truth, and stories like this are opportunities to discover more, not simply bias confirmation. For us, this "miracle" is... underwhelming.

This god you claim miraculously cured de Rudder of a bone he broke like ten years before is apparently the same god that created the universe. i don't think i'm being unreasonable to say say that de Rudder's discarded crutch doesn't impress me as much of a display of this god's ability, and that i want to see a discarded wooden leg instead.
palciere
Sorry about the femur / leg thing. I was writing that post from memory long after I had read the book from which I first read of this incident. The book definitely says "leg". More later.
deanhills
palciere wrote:
Sorry about the femur / leg thing. I was writing that post from memory long after I had read the book from which I first read of this incident. The book definitely says "leg". More later.
Perhaps this could be symbolic of the change in the role of religion and medicine. People might have been more open for wishing to believe in miracles at that time, and medical doctors, feeling obliged to support this as the socially correct thing to do. Current day medical professionals don't have as much pressure on them, and obviously are looking for factual evidence from science to back this up. And they don't have to hold back on digging for evidence and revealing the facts any longer.

For me miracles are not a prerequisite for faith. For me faith is a blessing and miracle in its own right.

PS: Indi's posting was really excellent, a keepsake for this Forum I think. Regardless of where one stands, it felt really good reading something that obviously comes from careful thought and preparation and a gifted mind.
Bikerman
deanhills wrote:
palciere wrote:
Sorry about the femur / leg thing. I was writing that post from memory long after I had read the book from which I first read of this incident. The book definitely says "leg". More later.
Perhaps this could be symbolic of the change in the role of religion and medicine. People might have been more open for wishing to believe in miracles at that time, and medical doctors, feeling obliged to support this as the socially correct thing to do. Current day medical professionals don't have as much pressure on them, and obviously are looking for factual evidence from science to back this up. And they don't have to hold back on digging for evidence and revealing the facts any longer.

It doesn't need a complex explanation. In the 19th Century most people were religious - on pain of pain. The Church was still relatively strong and therefore there was implicit pressure on people not to question such 'miracles' too closely. What evidence have you to support the notion that current medical professionals 'don't have as much pressure on them'? I would have thought the pressures would be greater, given the range of treatments available and the financial consequences of making a mistake.
deanhills
Bikerman wrote:
deanhills wrote:
palciere wrote:
Sorry about the femur / leg thing. I was writing that post from memory long after I had read the book from which I first read of this incident. The book definitely says "leg". More later.
Perhaps this could be symbolic of the change in the role of religion and medicine. People might have been more open for wishing to believe in miracles at that time, and medical doctors, feeling obliged to support this as the socially correct thing to do. Current day medical professionals don't have as much pressure on them, and obviously are looking for factual evidence from science to back this up. And they don't have to hold back on digging for evidence and revealing the facts any longer.

It doesn't need a complex explanation. In the 19th Century most people were religious - on pain of pain. The Church was still relatively strong and therefore there was implicit pressure on people not to question such 'miracles' too closely. What evidence have you to support the notion that current medical professionals 'don't have as much pressure on them'? I would have thought the pressures would be greater, given the range of treatments available and the financial consequences of making a mistake.
Perhaps you misunderstood what I was trying to say Bikerman. Seems to be happening quite often:
With regard to the first part of your posting, that is exactly what I said as well, the church had lots of power in previous centuries and physicians would have to be very brave to confront the church's findings of a "miracle" during those times. With regard to the second part of your posting "don't have much pressure on them" I had been referring to pressure from the church on revealing information that would not be in favour of the church. The power of the church is much less than what it used to be in previous centuries, so physicians would be much bolder to investigate "miracles" and to openly announce their findings when they have found evidence to denounce the miracles.
Bikerman
I was confused by the words.
You mentioned religion, not the church, and said people might have been more 'open for wishing', which implies........in fact let's not go there. I agree with you.
palciere
Anyway, after I had read about Lourdes and some other miracles, I tried praying for things, since there seemed to be evidence that prayers are sometimes answered. I asked God to help me find a good wife, and a few days later I met the most fantastic woman in the whole world. A few years later, iin 1956, she and I asked God for help in finding a new and better career. Within a few days a guy in another part of the National Security Agency begged me to try my hand at programming their new-fangled computers, even though I protested that I had no qualifications. 1956 was a good time to get into programming.

For the last 35 years or so I have been in a prayer group that meets weekly to praise God and pray for people, animals and things. Usually we don't encounter miracles, but once in a while we do, at least in our opinion and that of the doctors in charge of the cases.

The latest miracle I have seen was about a month ago, when two of us prayed over a friend who had Tardive Dyskinesia as a result of an overdose of Haldol. We had gone with our friend to consult with a local neurologist, so see whether there was any chance of restoring his ability to use his tongue properly. The nerve that runs from the brain to the tongue had been badly damaged so that he could not speak and sometimes when he swallowed food would go into his lungs, so he had to be put on a feeding tube. Speaking and eating were important to him, so we asked whether he could be cured. The neurologist said that there were treatments available, but they would subject our friend to a lot of suffering and would almost certainly be unsuccesslul, so he recommended not doing anything. We agreed.

We did, however, pray over him each time we visited him, and in about a week he began to be able to speak. His speech therapist also managed to train him to swallow correctly, so now he no longer has to communicate by pointing to letters on a board, and he eats solid food regularly again.

I strongly recommend you try prayer. It is inexpensive, can be done anywhere, and you can do it without your atheist friends knowing you do it. If you don't happen to need any favors from God right now, there are people in Haiti, Darfur, New York and elsewhere who could use some miracles.

You don't need to join a church in order to pray. You only need a church if you want to pray with other people in inclement weather, or if you decide God would like you to join a particular church.

Best regards,

Paul
Bikerman
OK, a few points.
a) Placebo coupled to increased optimism in outlook is a potent mix.
b) The only thing I would say was unlikely is the last story but it doesn't really make the case for a miracle. Why would God make him slowly better - in fact I'll bet it is pretty well correlated to other things, like physiotherapy, self-motivation and some professional help from speech therapists.
Surely God would just sort it out, straight away, wouldn't he?
Add to that the lack of data available (ie we have one anectodal source) and I find the miracle explanation to be much less likely than any number of physical explanations.

It is also a very strange belief, because it relies on such an ego-centric approach. You must know intellectually at some level that millions of people pray just before reaching a horrible end. Were these prayers not worthy?

What you are basically saying is that you think prayer has worked for you. I'm happy for you...really. But my Grandad attributed his long life (he died two years ago at 100) to smoking. Now, I'm pretty sure that everything you think was a result of prayer was in fact a result of a positive mental outlook on your part, a basic human inability to remember events accurately, and a misunderstanding of basic probabilities which leads to you 'calculating' that certain events were extremely improbable without prayer.
You say that you do a lot of praying..and I'm guessing some of it is for people you know. So the basic question then becomes : do nice things happen to people in the normal run of things? Do unexpected things happen? Do you think you might have been ready to get married and therefore relaxed enough to talk to a woman who liked you and eventually married you? Statistically some people are going to have long relatively happy marriages. You are one of them. There is no way to know what would have happened without the prayer, but it seems odd to attribute that to the suprnatural when it is really just a perfectly normal life as enjoyed by many who pray and many who don't.

The basic problem is what I call the blade of grass fallacy. You are playing golf, and you hit a great 200 yard drive. Now, the ball lands on a particular blade of grass, inevitably, but as you approach the ball you think 'surely the chances of that ball landing on that particular blade of grass must be quite remote'? So you do some estimating (say a 50 metre square landing zone where you could expect to hit the ball on most attempts, multiplied by, say, 4 blades per square cm) and you arrive at an extremely improbable situation - the chances of you having driven that ball onto that blade of grass are over half a million to one. Surely a miracle?

If you believe prayer works, and you spend a lot of time praying, and you tend to attribute any nice happenings to prayer (whilst conveniently forgetting that the same logic holds the other way - all the improbable bad things that happen must be God getting bit miffed), and you live a relatively long life, then how unlucky would you need to be to arrive in later years with nothing you could attribute to prayer? You'd have to be some sort of unlucky person not to be able to remember a half dozen wonderful things in your life...
atman_ninja
Isnt there a difference between believing in "something" and believing in an existent god? "Something" is an ontological "in-between" (between "thing" and "no-thing"), where an existent god is a real ontological case; a real, living thing.
I think the point is exactly this in the case of the dutch atheist priests... They have simply done their homework in a different way, saying: everything cant depend on a resurrection nor an incarnation. There is much more to this story, but it will always be an individual affair. We can believe and speculate, but there is a little chance that we'll get to see anything else than life here and now. Our world shows us every day what our poor premises are: we live, we (perhaps) cease what it means to be alive, and then we despair, because of the grounding premise: everything must come to an end.

This dutch priest (Klaas Hendriks) takes a responsibility for that. He says: I understand this despair, I am human, I feel it too! People who loves to take consequences will then say: but then you are a fraud; then you don't believe the Bible. Is believing in the Bible more important than studying it - debate its sayings in your mind, question them? Isnt that more honest than a fundamentalistic (blind) belief in its words? The bible is a canon (dan brown has said that also) - it was decided which texts should appear in it on the nicean councels. This doesnt tell us anything - but it tells us that debates and different points of views in approaching "god" and "world" has always been a human issue. Religion is older than us. As a parent we must listen to it. But never blindly. We are children of it, we a allowed to debate, to re-form, to try be even better than our ancestors. We have to listen to atheism as well. Especially if we have faith - faith must also be exercised and challenged like in sports - only a pneumatic sport Smile

My point is: stand by your despair no matter if you are a priest or not. Despair will take over your world, if you ignore it or lie about it or try to make it into something that it is nort. Then it grows stronger - why wouldnt it - since you let it win. I would rather use an honest priest than a perfect "exemplum"-behaving demi-god, that hides all his worldly pleasures to convince you that love is to be something completely different than you already are. That is bullshit - that is why I dont go to church. I dont want other people to remind me and judge me about my sexual behavior, I got enough cultural neurosies to fight as it is. It is a liberation that a priest want to meet people in despair.

Didnt Jesus say: The healthy dont need a doctor, but the sick. If you already believe, and believe strongly, why on earth do you need a priest then?
Bikerman
Quote:
snt there a difference between believing in "something" and believing in an existent god? "Something" is an ontological "in-between" (between "thing" and "no-thing"), where an existent god is a real ontological case; a real, living thing.
Not really. I have never heard a believer define God in sufficient detail to assign any of those characteristics (living, thing, real) with any degree of clarity.
Start with the idea that God is a spirit - what the hell is one of those? Material? Immaterial? Then try to reconcile 'living' and 'eternally existing'. That is just scratching the surface of the contradictions and definitional problems that are quickly apparent.
Indi
I see no evidence that Hendriks has any notion of "despair" involving his beliefs. In fact he seems quite comfortable with his conclusions, and that they are based on reason - so much so that he wrote a book about it. He has simply looked at the teachings of his church and found they are bullshit. That's all there is to it. That's certainly all there is to it according to him, anyway.

The problem, then, is that after finding the teachings of the church to be bullshit, he continued to teach them. For years. And note: he didn't just teach them as matters of fact, but as matters of faith - not just things that are to be known/understood, but things that are to be believed.

How is that not fraud? That seems to be clear-cut a case of fraud as you can imagine: dude continues to preach that which he believes to be false in order to keep getting a paycheck. That's freaking fraud, pure and simple. A fraudster does not magically become an honest person simply by being upfront about the fact that he's defrauding people.

Furthermore: how can it possibly be ethical for the church to just admit that one in six of its pastors... pastors... doesn't believe the church's teachings, yet just shrug and motor on as if that doesn't matter. Remember the church is an entity whose sole reason for even existing is to peddle faith, yet here it is tacitly admitting that true faith doesn't matter so long as you just fake it just enough to look like a member of the church. They obviously don't really care about whether their congregation actually believes their doctrines at all, they just want to keep their numbers up. For what? Status? Political influence? Whatever the reason, it's certainly not Biblical. Ain't nothin' in the Bible says "it's okay to not really believe this shit, just play along".
nickfyoung
Interesting usage of terminology around the world. Here in Australia we tend to call the 'pastor' of a local mainline church a minister and he is known as Rev. so and so. To earn that title he had to go to seminary for 3 years and do a degree in theology at a seminary aligned to his particular denomination. Some seminaries and denominations wont accept you unless you have already done a degree in something else so at the end of your time you have two degrees and are ordained as a minister.

This will get you assigned to a church who will provide you with a house with white goods, pay you an annual allowance so you can buy a new car each year, pay a millage allowance and your phone bill as well as pay you a monthly salary which used to be called a stipend. You are now set for life with an income and a fairly cushy lifestyle.

On the other hand we call a pastor who does not have the same level of training a pastor, usually of Pentecostal denomination as they can get a certificate of ministry after only one year of seminary. The difference is that there is no cushy job waiting and the new pastor usually has to go off and start his own church some where, unpaid of course so he will have to work to support himself and family until he has built up his church enough to pay him a wage.

This is probably where your numbers come as they now become important. Our pastor is lucky in that his wife has a good paying government job and is prepared to support him in his full time ministry so he can concentrate on the numbers.

I know my Dad was an ordained minister but became more and more liberal as time went on so by the time he retired he was not a Christian any more.
Afaceinthematrix
nickfyoung wrote:
I know my Dad was an ordained minister but became more and more liberal as time went on so by the time he retired he was not a Christian any more.


I would like to know how becoming more liberal means that you're no longer a Christian.
SonLight
Afaceinthematrix wrote:
nickfyoung wrote:
I know my Dad was an ordained minister but became more and more liberal as time went on so by the time he retired he was not a Christian any more.


I would like to know how becoming more liberal means that you're no longer a Christian.


Perhaps it's the other way around. He ceased being a Christian (or never was), so the beliefs became less important to him in time. This assumes that "being a Christian" indicates having some sort of personal relationship.

If looking and acting like a Christian is what counts (as it is in some people's definition), then the atheist pastor may have been fine, although we still have to wonder why he would speak out about not having a belief (and presumably no relationship) while at the same time trying to motivate others to have what he lacked.
Afaceinthematrix
That isn't what he said and even if it was, that still does not answer my question. I woud like to know how liberalism implies that you're not a Christian.
Indi
SonLight wrote:
If looking and acting like a Christian is what counts (as it is in some people's definition), then the atheist pastor may have been fine, although we still have to wonder why he would speak out about not having a belief (and presumably no relationship) while at the same time trying to motivate others to have what he lacked.

If looking and acting Christian is what counts, then Christianity has no value whatsoever. I don't believe that's what Christians believe, which is why the Church's response is so baffling.

I see nothing odd in the atheist pastor wanting to continue being a pastor despite being atheist. It's a pretty sweet and cushy job, with lots of tax-free bonuses and plenty of respect from the community despite doing effectively nothing and no risk. I mean, if you're willing to shrug off the ethical dilemma of teaching something you believe is false, it's a pretty easy way to coast by. And presumably he started out being religious and only changed after many years in his career - changing careers is damn hard, especially when you have no useful skills like most pastors, so i don't see anything surprising in him wanting to keep doing his job if he can shrug off the ethical issue.
nickfyoung
Afaceinthematrix
Quote:
That isn't what he said and even if it was, that still does not answer my question. I woud like to know how liberalism implies that you're not a Christian.


I believe that to be a Christian entails some sort of belief system. One must believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus for a start. When one becomes more and more liberal one has difficulty hanging on to beliefs that entail miracles and therefore your very foundation of Christianity crumbles. If you can no longer believe that Jesus died and rose again how can you be Christian.
Afaceinthematrix
nickfyoung wrote:
I believe that to be a Christian entails some sort of belief system. One must believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus for a start. When one becomes more and more liberal one has difficulty hanging on to beliefs that entail miracles and therefore your very foundation of Christianity crumbles. If you can no longer believe that Jesus died and rose again how can you be Christian.


That has nothing to do with liberalism, though. Liberalism says nothing about religion other than the idea of freedom of religion. The definition of liberalism is vast since there are many types of liberalism but essentially, liberalism is the idea of political and social freedoms given to all citizens. What does that have to do with Jesus? Hell, the American Republicans - who are generally insanely religious - are classical liberals (although they'd never admit it).


Indi wrote:
And presumably he started out being religious and only changed after many years in his career - changing careers is damn hard, especially when you have no useful skills like most pastors


Pastors may not have any useful hard skills but they definitely have some useful soft skills such as: public speaking, coercian, fear mongering, teaching, selling (asking for church donations), etc.

If I owned a used car dealership I'd have no problem hiring an ex-pastor who wanted a career change. Actually, any non-technical sales position or non-technical public speaking position (if I owned a for-profit university, I'd have no problems hiring an ex-pastor to go to college faires at high schools and convince students to apply for my university) would fit a pastor. My grandfather is a pastor and he's picking up extra work as a car salesman at a dealership and he's doing quite well because of his people skills and general conversation skills.

Maybe if he hid his atheism (and was an American) he could work for Fox News.
SonLight
nickfyoung wrote:
Afaceinthematrix
Quote:
That isn't what he said and even if it was, that still does not answer my question. I woud like to know how liberalism implies that you're not a Christian.


I believe that to be a Christian entails some sort of belief system. One must believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus for a start. When one becomes more and more liberal one has difficulty hanging on to beliefs that entail miracles and therefore your very foundation of Christianity crumbles. If you can no longer believe that Jesus died and rose again how can you be Christian.


@Nick,

I almost agree with you here. When a person becomes a Christian, he or she may not understand much about Jesus' death and resurrection, although if they have studied any thing about Christianity first, they surely will know about it and quickly come to believe it. In the case where someone comes to Christ without much knowledge, they might not come to understand what Christ has done for them right away. As soon as they understand it though, I think it is safe to say they will believe it.

@Afaceinthematrix,

Being liberal (even if it means rejecting important doctrines of the Christian faith) would not necessarily imply losing one's relationship with Christ, but one who does lose one's relationship (if that's possible, maybe it's not) or never did really go beyond mental acceptance and never had a relationship, is quite likely to quit believing all the things she has been taught.

I do think that if someone once believed in the significance of Christ's death and resurrection and ceases to believe in it, he quite probably either has ceased to be a Christian or never really was one.
Afaceinthematrix
SonLight wrote:
@Afaceinthematrix

Being liberal (even if it means rejecting important doctrines of the Christian faith)


NO IT DOESN'T!!!!! I keep on saying that. Let me give you the definition of liberal - as given by Merriam Webster.

Quote:
1
: the quality or state of being liberal
2
a often capitalized : a movement in modern Protestantism emphasizing intellectual liberty and the spiritual and ethical content of Christianity
b : a theory in economics emphasizing individual freedom from restraint and usually based on free competition, the self-regulating market, and the gold standard
c : a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties; specifically : such a philosophy that considers government as a crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities (as those involving race, gender, or class)
d capitalized : the principles and policies of a Liberal party



Liberalism has absolutely NOTHING to do with Christianity. You can be extremely liberal and extremely Christian.

Quote:
would not necessarily imply losing one's relationship with Christ, but one who does lose one's relationship (if that's possible, maybe it's not) or never did really go beyond mental acceptance and never had a relationship, is quite likely to quit believing all the things she has been taught.

I do think that if someone once believed in the significance of Christ's death and resurrection and ceases to believe in it, he quite probably either has ceased to be a Christian or never really was one.


This has absolutely nothing to do with what we are talking about. Liberalism != Christianity. Done.
Indi
Afaceinthematrix wrote:
nickfyoung wrote:
I believe that to be a Christian entails some sort of belief system. One must believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus for a start. When one becomes more and more liberal one has difficulty hanging on to beliefs that entail miracles and therefore your very foundation of Christianity crumbles. If you can no longer believe that Jesus died and rose again how can you be Christian.


That has nothing to do with liberalism, though. Liberalism says nothing about religion other than the idea of freedom of religion. The definition of liberalism is vast since there are many types of liberalism but essentially, liberalism is the idea of political and social freedoms given to all citizens. What does that have to do with Jesus? Hell, the American Republicans - who are generally insanely religious - are classical liberals (although they'd never admit it).

This is exactly why i'm not keen on using the term "liberal" without extensive qualification. I'm even less keen on the idea of applying it to mythical figures. How do you even make sense of whether Jesus was "liberal" or not (even if were possible to figure out a coherent picture of his beliefs from the mishmash of pictures we get across the New Testament)? Was Jesus pro-free expression or not?

I suppose we know he was anti-capitalist and not particularly keen on property rights (he wanted his followers to give up everything and live like paupers - remember the camel and the eye of the needle), so nickfyoung might actually be right after all.

Afaceinthematrix wrote:
Pastors may not have any useful hard skills but they definitely have some useful soft skills such as: public speaking, coercian, fear mongering, teaching, selling (asking for church donations), etc.

Eh, i think that's stretching it a little. I would say you're mistaking superficial similarities between the skills good (or let's say "successful") pastors might have and real "soft" skills. I don't believe pastors' skills are actually generally transferable to the secular world.

Only maybe one in a thousand pastors ever actually has to "sell" their religion to anyone - pastors are not missionaries, they are literally preaching to the converted (literally literally, as in, this is where the term comes from). Most pastors spend their entire lives with the same dedicated congregation, and never once have a real opportunity to convert a nonbeliever to the faith.

Nor can you reasonably say most pastors "teach" anything - seriously, how many times has anyone gone into a sermon and learned anything (and i mean learned, not just heard a neat anecdote or clever allegory that just reinforced something they already knew/believed); i'd say maybe once or twice in a lifetime of churchgoing. I don't think coercion or fear mongering happens all that often either - most pastors play "good cop" and let their congregation handle the peer pressure - but at any rate those are not transferable skills ("Buy this car... or BURN IN HELL FOR ETERNITY!"? i think not).

I'm not even impressed with the public speaking aspect. As i mentioned, they have a captive audience who specifically came to hear a message - you could deliver it in a dry monotone and they'll still come next week (and i've seen pastors who do). They don't need to be good. Most of the ones i've seen who aren't megachurch pastors really aren't that good at all. As long as you deliver the message the congregation wants to hear, that's all it takes. They don't even need to be clever about writing the sermons - most pastors just crib sermon ideas from newsgroups and trade periodicals (or steal them from other pastors, which is apparently quite common in the trade), and regurgitate them.

But we really don't need to just rely on intuition here - there is no shortage of research into "unbelieving clergy", and the findings are universal in that area at least: the primary reason non-believing pastors stay in the biz is because they can't work in the secular world. (Secondary reasons are because their entire social circle and family are in the religion, etc.) You can see this evidence vividly in the seminal work: Dennett and LaScola's peer-reviewed study: "Preachers Who Are Not Believers".

Here's an actual quote from one of the people interviewed for the paper, who was secretly retraining for another career so he could leave the clergy:
Quote:
If somebody said, Heres $200,000, Id be turning my notice in this week, saying, A month from now is my last Sunday.

There's also The Clergy Project: a charity that gives cash handouts to preachers that have left the ministry, both for retraining and for "temporary hardship grants".

Sure, maybe there are a handful slick preachers who could turn their talents to secular purposes... but that's the 1% minority, not the average. It turns out that most pastors really can't cut it in secular life at all.

I get that - i really do; pastors are trapped in the job. Even if they stop believing and want to leave, they usually can't because they can't get another job. As many have noted, a PhD in Divinity is functionally useless, in practice. That's fine, you're trapped and can't escape - i get that and sympathize (and even offer to help, via The Clergy Project)... but what i don't get is people like Hendrikse who want to eat their cake and have it, too. If you discover you're selling snake oil, you have a moral obligation to get out of that biz as fast as damn well possible. Hendrikse has figured out he's selling snake oil, but wants to keep doing it... and wants that choice legitimized. I can't find any interpretation of that that doesn't make Hendrikse an immoral ******.
nickfyoung
Indi
[quote]Only maybe one in a thousand pastors ever actually has to "sell" their religion to anyone - pastors are not missionaries, they are literally preaching to the converted (literally literally, as in, this is where the term comes from). Most pastors spend their entire lives with the same dedicated congregation, and never once have a real opportunity to convert a nonbeliever to the faith. [/quot

I guess there are pastors and there are pastors. One where I used to go was very popular and his sermons were only 10 mins and he only preached to the unconverted with the sole aim of getting them saved and growing his church.

Needless to say his church was growing as he was averaging a dozen or so conversions a week with most of them joining his church,
Afaceinthematrix
Indi wrote:
Eh, i think that's stretching it a little. I would say you're mistaking superficial similarities between the skills good (or let's say "successful") pastors might have and real "soft" skills. I don't believe pastors' skills are actually generally transferable to the secular world.

Only maybe one in a thousand pastors ever actually has to "sell" their religion to anyone - pastors are not missionaries, they are literally preaching to the converted (literally literally, as in, this is where the term comes from). Most pastors spend their entire lives with the same dedicated congregation, and never once have a real opportunity to convert a nonbeliever to the faith.


That may be true if you're strictly considering an adult congregation. Most pastors start off in the youth ministry and so they're literally literally indoctrinating children. Those skills are probably comparable to that of an elementary school teacher.

Also, most youth pastors do get involved in other youth activities (boy scout leaders, soccer coaches, etc.).

Quote:
Nor can you reasonably say most pastors "teach" anything - seriously, how many times has anyone gone into a sermon and learned anything (and i mean learned, not just heard a neat anecdote or clever allegory that just reinforced something they already knew/believed); i'd say maybe once or twice in a lifetime of churchgoing. I don't think coercion or fear mongering happens all that often either - most pastors play "good cop" and let their congregation handle the peer pressure - but at any rate those are not transferable skills ("Buy this car... or BURN IN HELL FOR ETERNITY!"? i think not).


I'm not even impressed with the public speaking aspect. As i mentioned, they have a captive audience who specifically came to hear a message - you could deliver it in a dry monotone and they'll still come next week (and i've seen pastors who do). They don't need to be good. Most of the ones i've seen who aren't megachurch pastors really aren't that good at all. As long as you deliver the message the congregation wants to hear, that's all it takes. They don't even need to be clever about writing the sermons - most pastors just crib sermon ideas from newsgroups and trade periodicals (or steal them from other pastors, which is apparently quite common in the trade), and regurgitate them.


I think that there are two scenarios that this may play out to.

1) There is only one church in a rural area where people cannot travel too far
2) There is an abundance of churches for people to choose from

I'll consider (1). For the year and a half that I lived in West Africa, I would occasionally go to church. The reason why I went was that my best friend was the pastor and it helped me learn their language. This was the only church nearby. People would walk 5+ miles to reach there. There was no other choice. Now, quite frankly, the pastor is a great friend of mine and I still keep in touch with him but he was a terrible pastor. The reason why he was the pastor is that he was, essentially, the only one able to read well enough. His sermons were also not a creation of his. Some missionaries would come by once a year and give him a book full of 52 sermons to follow and they were lined out in such a way that an Easter sermon was given on Easter and the same for other holidays. They'll probably bring him a new book in December to follow for 2015.

He has no other transferable skills. He does teach (all of the religious classes) at the local school. But teaching Christian Religious Knowledge and Religious & Moral Education isn't too different from being a pastor.

Now I'll consider (2). In the two places that I have experience, Southern California and Oklahoma, there is an extreme competition for church members. I am related to quite a few pastors and I hear them talk about this quite a bit. They're always trying to come up with new sermons or promotional gimmicks to get new members. One way to do this is by having really good sermons. The church that I grew up going to is pastored by a man who puts in his full 40 hours a week writing sermons that are always current to politics, pop culture, etc. He'll take a new and popular movie that came out and write a sermon analyzing the actions of characters and how they follow a Biblical line or not. I remember him doing mock game shows during his sermons based on real game shows and incorporate them into sermons. I remember one week he did Family Feud and he had surveyed 100 people after church the previous week on the "Top [something related to Christianity]."

Back in Oklahoma, my grandfather pretty much follows the same line in that he tries to incorporate movies, books, or whatever else he can to keep people awake. And there is extreme competition and the churches do look at retention rates. My father was part of committee that was responsible for calling people that hadn't been seen at church for more than a month, finding out why, and if it was because they switched churches then why.

Sometimes the reasons why people switched churches had to do with services. The church I grew up in had basketball leagues, picnics, and various support groups. For instance, I remember the pastor talking about how he doesn't agree with divorce and that he had read some study showing that finances are a major reason for divorce. Therefore, he used church funds to hire some financial advisor to come and give seminars every Tuesday night for a few months so that married or engaged people can come and receive advise. That is a proactive solution to a problem.

While hiring someone to come and give a seminar doesn't give you a transferable skill in financial planning or having a basketball league doesn't make you a qualified referee, it does show facilitation skills. Running all of these committees, groups, clubs does take some sort of planning and facilitation. Plus, there's the fact that my parent's church is 30 years old, cost over $2 million (30 years ago), has had the mortgage paid off for 15 years, has a full staff, runs these costly clubs and such, yet is still financially stable. Yes, it's funded by the people that attend, but the pastor does run it without bringing the church into a deficit.

Quote:
But we really don't need to just rely on intuition here - there is no shortage of research into "unbelieving clergy", and the findings are universal in that area at least: the primary reason non-believing pastors stay in the biz is because they can't work in the secular world. (Secondary reasons are because their entire social circle and family are in the religion, etc.) You can see this evidence vividly in the seminal work: Dennett and LaScola's peer-reviewed study: "Preachers Who Are Not Believers".


It may have a little less to do with them being unable to find work in the secular world and more to do with them unable to adjust to work in the secular world. My grandfather is making a little extra money by selling cars right now and his biggest problem is dealing with all of these "young, foul mouthed people that use swear words." Also, like you said, it is a rather cushy job. Anything else that they may find work in will probably provide more stress with a lower income. Plenty of unskilled people are making a living doing unskilled labor. It's just not glamorous, easy, or well compensated. A pastor can be stocker at Walmart.


Quote:
I get that - i really do; pastors are trapped in the job. Even if they stop believing and want to leave, they usually can't because they can't get another job. As many have noted, a PhD in Divinity is functionally useless, in practice. That's fine, you're trapped and can't escape - i get that and sympathize (and even offer to help, via The Clergy Project)... but what i don't get is people like Hendrikse who want to eat their cake and have it, too. If you discover you're selling snake oil, you have a moral obligation to get out of that biz as fast as damn well possible. Hendrikse has figured out he's selling snake oil, but wants to keep doing it... and wants that choice legitimized. I can't find any interpretation of that that doesn't make Hendrikse an immoral ******.


Is it that immoral to preach something that you don't believe in? You're simply providing a service that these people want and will receive somewhere regardless. If you're not there giving it then someone else will be. What actual difference does it make? You started a topic about this one time. "The Value in Being Fake" or something... The fake pastor will have to try harder and maybe that provides some extra value. Or maybe it doesn't. Maybe it doesn't make any difference. But you still haven't convinced me that it's immoral.
Indi
Afaceinthematrix wrote:
Most pastors start off in the youth ministry and so they're literally literally indoctrinating children. Those skills are probably comparable to that of an elementary school teacher.

Except, of course, for a few key features. Namely: actually knowing an elementary school subject well enough to teach it, and actually being qualified to teach.

I'd also imagine any decent teacher would fly into a righteous rage at your implication that indoctrination = teaching. I'd have to agree with them, too - teachers give students information in order to encourage them to ask questions, and when they do, teachers work hard to help those students find the answers for themselves and true success for a teach is when a student is able to transcend the teacher's instruction and go off to learn on their own; pastors give the kids in their congregation information and discourage asking questions, and when they do, offer pat answers, dodges, and threats to get them to shut up, and true success for a pastor is when a child stops doubting and stops asking questions.

Afaceinthematrix wrote:
I think that there are two scenarios that this may play out to.

1) There is only one church in a rural area where people cannot travel too far
2) There is an abundance of churches for people to choose from

You can always pull out anecdotes of pastors that buck the trend (and i can too - i could dump out several stories of pastors who would be eminently hireable in the secular world, and also tons of stories of pastors who wouldn't stand a chance), but the plural of anecdote is not data. The data is quite clear on the matter: pastors themselves say they can't find work in the secular world, that they can't hack it when they do, and that the primary reason many of them stay in the church long after they desperately want to leave is because they can't find equivalent money to what they make as pastors (which ain't all that much, really, and that's saying something).

We could sit here and argue about soft skills and such until the sun dries up, but the facts remain. Pastors themselves have found they can't get secular work, don't handle the jobs they do get all that well, and can't make nearly the same amount of money. The problem is so real, and so bad, that former pastors have even set up charities and support groups to help other pastors make the transition. That's hardly "normal" - there are no charities or organizations to help people transition out of waitressing jobs or taxi driving jobs or anything like that.

Afaceinthematrix wrote:
Is it that immoral to preach something that you don't believe in?

"Preaching something you don't believe" is called fraud. In this case, it's also straight up lying because, let's be clear, the pastor does not start their sermons by standing up in front of the congregation and saying: "for the record, I don't believe this shit... but you should, so, here we go...". No, they pass themselves off as firm and devout believers. That's deception, plain and simple. You tell me: don't you think that's immoral?

Afaceinthematrix wrote:
You're simply providing a service that these people want and will receive somewhere regardless. If you're not there giving it then someone else will be.

The "service" you're supposed to be providing is being a spiritual leader who shows the congregation how to "live by the book", and does so by example. Pastors don't get to live how the please - depending on the religion they could be fired for marrying, for announcing they're gay, for divorcing, etc.... they are supposed to be an example of the teachings of the religion. A pastor isn't just "some dude who comes to the pulpit every Sunday and says some shit." If you're not actually that thing that a pastor is supposed to be, then the service you're providing is fraudulent.

Afaceinthematrix wrote:
What actual difference does it make?

Tell me, if there were a fraudster selling a medicine that the fraudster knows is complete bullshit yet they are able to pass it off as the real thing, what difference would that make?

Now i expect you'll object by saying a fake medicine could do real harm if people believe it's the real thing, but it doesn't matter if you sell "fake religion"... but here i have to stop and point out that your biases are showing. You clearly don't think religion is real and that the congregation will be sold bullshit anyway, so it doesn't really matter if they are being sold that bullshit by an honest sucker or a dishonest fraudster. From us, standing out the outside of it all, of course it doesn't matter. But the people on the inside want real religion - that's why they're there. They are being lied to. Don't you have any empathy for them? Do they deserve to be treated like saps? Do you think they deserve to be lied to? They are being used by a huckster who is making a living off of them; if they knew about it they would almost surely object, but so long as the fraudster can keep them in the dark they can keep milking it. You don't think that's at all wrong?

I shouldn't need to convince you that this is immoral. The plain facts are that the non-believing pastor is: telling people something that they know to be false is true; lying like that for their own gain (to keep a job); lying to their congregation, and making a living off of their ignorance at the deception. That's just what's going on - i'm not making that shit up; that's a fair description of what the fake pastor is doing. If you can't see that that's immoral, i would have to say there's a serious flaw in your moral framework, not in the way i've presented the case.

Afaceinthematrix wrote:
You started a topic about this one time. "The Value in Being Fake" or something... The fake pastor will have to try harder and maybe that provides some extra value.

The "being" in "the value in being fake" refers to actual being, not "being" in the sense of "acting", and the "value" refers to intrinsic value, not instrumental or operational value. A (convincing) fake object may have more value than the real thing because of what it is... not because of what it can do. Put another way, a really good replica of a police badge may have more value as a police badge (than a real police badge) because of what it is (which is everything that the real police badge is plus the effort at being a convincing fake)... but if you try to use it (to impersonate a police officer), you should still be arrested. Put yet another way, a good fake coin might have more intrinsic value than a real coin (which would be relevant to someone who values coins as coins - as works of art unto themselves - rather than as money), but it has no operational or instrumental value... it ain't legal tender. (Even if it's a good enough fake that it can fool people into thinking it's legal tender, it's still not.)

In this context, a (good) fake pastor might have more intrinsic value than a real pastor, because they have all the same capabilities/skills/etc. of a real pastor plus the conscious determination required to put on the act (which a real pastor neither has nor needs). But that would only matter to someone who valued pastors as pastors in and of themselves. For anyone who values pastors because of the service they provide... which, let's face it, is what everyone really values in a pastor in reality... fake pastors are as worthless as fake money. And just as fraudulent.
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