There Is No Christianity

When I was a Christian, one of the things that bothered me immensely was figuring out what the “Christian response” would be to things happening around me and in society. For example, what is the Christian response to premarital sex, or capital punishment, or the political circus going on in the country?

There would always be different points of view coming from different Christian leaders even if they are all quoting from the same Bible. Sometimes, they would differ in minor points while other times there would be irreconcilable contradictions. Boxing legend and Philippine senator Manny Pacquiao recently tried to prove the rightfulness of the death penalty by using Biblical references.

The only thing he proved was that he should have stayed in the boxing ring instead of muddling things in the political arena.

But I digress.

The point is that it was very difficult to get a Christian response to anything that all Christians would be in agreement about. There would always be someone or some group somewhere with a dissenting opinion. Even when I got out of Christianity and got into arguments and discussions with Christians, I often found out that I had to explain what “flavor” of Christianity I grew up with, and why I believed in certain things. Other Christians grew up believing other things, I found out, and so my arguments with them didn’t quite hit the mark, because they didn’t believe the things I supposed they would believe in.

I read a couple of articles discussing this very phenomenon — the first is by anthropologist Dr. David Eller, who argues that Christianity is not just a religion, not just a set of arguments and beliefs, but an entire culture. It is a “worldview, a way of life, and a learned and shared and produced and reproduced regimen of experience.”

Eller asserts that “Christians are not easily argued out of their religion because, since it is culture, they are not ordinarily argued into it in the first place.”

He also says that there is “no such thing as Christian culture but rather Christian cultures; indeed no such thing as Christianity but rather Christianities.”

Neil Carter, author of the Godless in Dixie blog, seems to agree with this as he writes “There isn’t one single, monolithic thing called ‘Christianity.’  That’s an abstraction, and history bears witness to the fragmentation and differentiation of a thousand different subcultures over the centuries laying claim to that label, each one arguing that a number of the others aren’t even legitimate, and shouldn’t use that label to describe themselves at all…Christians have never spoken with one voice about social issues like slavery, racism, or any number of other complex political problems.”

The plethora of Christianities make it almost impossible to say what Christianity is really all about. In my four decades, I have had conversations with different types of Christians with dissenting opinions on almost any topic you can think of. I have met Christians who believe in reincarnation — there was this one woman vehemently claiming that the original Christians taught it but were suppressed. I have met Christians who believe in a literal heaven and hell (as described in the Bible), while others think those are merely symbolic or metaphorical places. There are even Christians who don’t believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus but rather say that it is (again) symbolic.

And don’t get me started on their other views — political, social, cultural — as the differences become more and more divergent.

So the next time you hear a Christian say, “Oh that’s not really what Christians believe” or “That’s not really what that verse means,” remember that whatever that person says isn’t necessarily what Christians really believe or interpret that bible verse to be. The possibilities are as numerous as the Christianities that spawned them, and most of them claim to be the one, true Christianity, but we won’t be able to tell anyway unless the heavens suddenly open and a divine finger points us to the right path.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Email me at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

 

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4 thoughts on “There Is No Christianity”

  1. Things like this really annoy me. I sit here and ponder if you are serious or of you just like to whip out your big spoon and stir things up. You seem too smart to say things like this, but you do. What is your reasoning behind this? You did not define Christianity, but made assumptions about it. If I day that I am a Cadillac, does that make it so?
    They way that your article reads, it seems that every person who claims to be a Christian has to agree on any single thought that any person can come up with, never mind that are not two people in all of the history of the world have ever agreed on everything. What is your point about trying to distinguish between Christianity and Christianities? Your distinguishing between them seems to have no point. Why did you choose Christians, and not atheists, or atheists who believe in God, or Muslims, etc..?
    You still have not addressed how finite, fallible human beings can fully comprehend an infinite being such as God. Your post is like saying all scientists don’t agree on “x”, even when they are quoting the same data, and some who do not believe in the data, while some say data doesn’t exist (though they still call themselves scientists- so they must be), so there are no such things as scientists, therefore (as your article implies bit doesn’t state outright) that science doesn’t exist.
    We all have biases. Trying to see your own is a wonderful step for every human being. I often look at my own. You have pretty much admitted that you have them, especially against Christianity, yet you still refuse to discuss it. With all of the hate that you spout against it, maybe it is time for you to open up about it since it consumes so much of your thought and time anyway. Who knows? By addressing your problem head on, you just might find ” the heavens suddenly open and a divine finger points us to the right path.”

  2. Well, I think what you need to reflect on is why are you annoyed? I was perhaps as dispassionate as can be with this article, contrary to your statement that I am “spouting hate.” It’s you who are reading my articles with rose-tinted (or freethinker-rebuttal-tinted) glasses.

    I was relating a personal experience, then connecting it to some recent readings, then I made a more general statement to conclude the article.

    Where’s the hate? In your mind, perhaps.

    As for your other questions:

    1) No, I am not saying that anyone who says “I am a Christian” is necessarily one, BUT who decides who or what a Christian is? If you say, a Christian is someone who is like this or like that…well that’s according to your particular sect. Look at this particular “Christian” leader, for example, who says that Roman Catholics aren’t Christians:

    https://www.jashow.org/articles/guests-and-authors/dr-john-ankerberg/should-roman-catholicism-be-considered-a-christian-religion/

    Now, here is another article that says, they are indeed Christians:

    http://catholicbridge.com/catholic/are_catholics_christian.php

    So how do you expect me to define Christianity (what you accused me of not doing) when you guys can’t even get along on what it is in the first place?

    2) The point in distinguishing between Christianity and Christianities relates to my experience of confusion — and was clearly stated in the article — “The plethora of Christianities make it almost impossible to say what Christianity is really all about.”

    3) As to why I address Christianity only and not Muslims, etc. — as I said, I was relating a personal experience first — and that means Christianity because that’s what I experienced, not Islam or any other religion. Also, since my audience is mostly local (where the population is mostly Christian), that is what most of them can relate to as well.

    4) You also said, “You still have not addressed how finite, fallible human beings can fully comprehend an infinite being such as God.” — well simply because that is not the point of this article.

    5) And lastly, you said, “You have pretty much admitted that you have them, especially against Christianity, yet you still refuse to discuss it. With all of the hate that you spout against it, maybe it is time for you to open up about it since it consumes so much of your thought and time anyway.”

    Now this I don’t get. Writing about Christianity regularly constitutes discussing it and opening up about it. So I’m already doing what you accuse me of not doing.

    I think the bottom line is you are just not happy with what I write, and it clouds how you read it.

  3. Why am I annoyed? “Things like this really annoy me. I sit here and ponder if you are serious or of you just like to whip out your big spoon and stir things up. You seem too smart to say things like this, but you do.” I think I answered. All within the first three sentences.

    As far as spewing hate, maybe it is so commonplace for you that you don’t even recognize it. Like the people here in America who support the United Negro College Fund, or Miss Black USA. If Caucasians did that, they would be accused of racism. Those people are so full of their sowcle filled glasses that they claim that only white people can be racists.

    “And don’t get me started on…” This article, like most of your posts about Christians, try to belittle and undermine Christianity. You quote this person and that person, no matter how illogical their thoughts are, hoping people will not take the time to think about what you have written, but follow along and agree that these “problems” are because, unlike you or what your thoughts are, they are awkward minded fools. You are the real intellect. Even though you have previously admitted that your philosophy is not logical, but you embrace it anyway. Hmmm. That is your experience too.

    1) “you guys”. I think the majority of people who call themselves Christians have what is called the tenets of Christian faith. Muslims and many other groups have them too. Why does everyone who claims to be a Christian have to agree on every point? The tenets point to foundational, or primary issues. If everyonr agreed about everything, i am sure yoir retort would be that we are all mindless robots who can’t think for themselves.

    2) this doesn’t actually make it more clear. This muddied the waters. According to you, who is to say that this “Christianities” or that one is actually part of the “Christianities”?

    3) Hmmm. I thought you have studied other religions? Where are your articles discussing how wrong those are? How this confusion that you have about Christianity can be applied to so many other areas if life, like the example that I gave?

    4) per your previous postings about meaning, like the story about the person who came up with a meaning in a story that she got to address the author later on, and the author said that was not an intended meaning.
    Well, yes. Whether you meant to address it or not, you did indirectly. Even if you did not intend to, you really have been dodging that bullet for many articles and replies.

    5) Really? You don’t get it? The paragraph was about personal bias. “Writing about Christianity regularly constitutes discussing it and opening up about it. So I’m already doing what you accuse me of not doing.” No. That does not address your personal bias. Or how it came to be.

    “I think the bottom line is you are just not happy with what I write, and it clouds how you read it.” I read what is there and what is not there. What I do not like about some of your writing is that it seems like you have nothing positive to say about Christ, the Bible, or Christians. Unless you count every 10,000 words or so, you might say “I met this one guy. He said he was a Christian. I don’t agree with anything he days or believes, but I guess he is ok.” I have had many people read your articles. A lot of them do not agree with my beliefs or points of view, but we have a healthy respect for each other. Muslims, Hindus, agnostics, athiests, Jews, even a norse religion dude. None of them can figure your writing out. Are you just trying to stir up trouble? How can you claim to be a lover of logic, when most of your articles do not follow it? Why do you show so much hatred toward Christianity? Their questions go on and on.

    How about an article on specifically why you stopped being a Christian? Maybe one on why you are not Muslim? Or Hindu, or Buddhist?

  4. Sorry, but I don’t think I am spewing hate at all. Most of my articles regarding Christianity are my experiences and are usually told from that perspective. Can you point out to me any article that would constitute as “hate speech”?

    I am very careful to craft what I say or not say about Christianity because as I mentioned, I write in a local community paper — a local community that is mostly Christian. My family is Christian and a lot of my friends are Christians. And I am on good terms with them all.

    Would that be the case if I were really spewing out hatred?

    I think what you’re trying to do is to demonize me.

    And no, I have never claimed to be THE intellectual while all others are awkward-minded fools. Again, that is something you are trying to pin on me to demonize me.

    I write about my doubts and uncertainty when I can easily choose not to, because I know some of them can be turned against me, as you are doing (e.g. with the Schaeffer article). Now why would I do that if I wanted to project the image of an know-it-all?

    I have nothing positive to say about Christ, the Bible, or Christians? On the first two, I’ve spent around 3 decades of my life saying all the positive things about them, so I guess I’m entitled to a few years of saying what I don’t like about them eh?

    Nothing positive to say about Christians? You haven’t been reading very carefully then. I rarely diss Christians because I realize we are all humans in search of the truth, but I do remember a few articles where I even praised Christians.

    This one for example: http://freethinking.me/essays/adjusting-the-sails/

    You said you’ve had many people read my articles? And none of them can figure me out? I find that hard to believe…but on second thought…maybe not so hard if they are reading with the same lens you’re using.

    You want an article on why I stopped being a Christian? I wrote a couple some time ago. Here:

    http://freethinking.me/essays/unraveling-my-faith/

    http://freethinking.me/essays/the-beauty-of-doubt/

    As for why I am not a Muslim, Hindu, etc., the short answer is that I don’t find them appealing — just more made-up stories. I am interested in Buddhism, not as a religion (in terms of ceremony and tradition) but I think it has a handle on some basic life truths.

    Am I serious or just trying to stir up trouble? Well, maybe not trouble but I’m certainly trying to stir up some alternative thinking, and yes, I am serious in doing that.

    I find it funny that for someone who thinks I’m illogical, spewing hate, and so on, you keep reading what I write. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, you could always walk away, you know.

    http://freethinking.me/essays/live-and-let-live/

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