Friday, November 30, 2012


"Just as feminists wince when they hear 'he' rather than 'he or she', or 'man' rather than 'human', I want everybody to flinch whenever we hear a phrase such as 'Catholic child' or 'Muslim child'. Speak of a 'child of Catholic parents' if you like; but if you hear anybody speak of a 'Catholic child', stop them and politely point out that children are too young to know where they stand on such issues, just as they are too young to know where they stand on economics or politics."
--Richard Dawkins (author, "The God Delusion")

In high school I was very active in my church, and due to my involvement with certain prominent extracurricular activities, most of my peers knew this of me. My faith became part of my identity, at least from the perspective of others. This was mostly encouraging to me, but at times it also built a lot of pressure to be an "ambassador" (see left) for my church. If I really believed that my church had some divinely revealed truth that other churches were missing, then I had better act like it...

I some times laugh when I think about the role-reversal I have taken when compared with other people I grew up with--especially some of the more popular kids who apparently hit rock bottom (or got kind of close) and found Jesus. A few people from my graduating class are now pastors, of which only one was predictable at the time. Other kids who were not the least bit religious back then are now avid Christians of one variety or another, many of whom are quite vocal about it, as well.

It's strange, though, that those who go the other direction, such as myself, are much less likely to be vocal about their change-over. I have thought many times about confronting some of the louder religious friends of mine, in hopes of engaging in an intellectually provocative discussion. And perhaps I will some day, but in the mean time I have been examining some of their views which they present so publicly. And to be honest, I don't find what they have to say all that thought-provoking, since they tend to either preach to the choir or use old, tiresome arguments which I have already addressed on this blog many times.

One such person is Wes Dunn, who was a rather boisterous Evangelist in high school, so it is no wonder that he is now a Youth Pastor for a large church in Seattle, called City Church. In the videos below, Wes talks about a few things pertaining to his position and offers encouragement for the youth, etc. He mentions a couple of things which I want to address. As preparation for a possible upcoming confrontation (i.e. debate), I will use a standard letter format, addressed to Mr. Dunn.

Dear Mr. Wesley Dunn,

First, I find it odd and slightly menacing of you to tell sexually repressed teenagers that one of the things which helps you stay "fresh and inspired" is having sex with your wife. You say you are being "candid", and I assume you are also trying to paint an encouragable picture of a proper, traditional marriage; but if even I, an atheist, felt a bit put off by your statement, I can only imagine what it might do to a young teenage boy--filled to the brim with testosterone--who recently discovered masturbation, and even more recently discovered it is a sin... But who knows, perhaps you are part of one of those new-fangled "progressive" Christian churches which doesn't spout the usual list of damnable natural urges.

Second, you speak about morality and good versus bad reasons for doing the right thing, which in the beginning had me agreeing with you, but your final conclusion lost me entirely. As commendable as it is to do good things without the promise of a "paycheck", the very next sentence, "There is only rewards in heaven", confuses the idea of doing good things without reward. Aside from having to wait a while longer for your compensation, how is this mentality of heavenly rewards as a motivation to do good things any different than doing these things for money?

The expectation, I would argue, is even more contemptible since people who believe this kind of thing usually think of heaven as being far more grand than an earthly paycheck. In fact, I would say it is more moral to do good things for a finite paycheck, than an eternal prize after death. And along the same vein, how much more moral would a person be who knew they were going to hell and still did good things? What about a person who thinks death is the end of existence, and yet, does good things? Clearly, since they are not doing it for a prize or compensation of any kind, these people would be the most moral of all.

Lastly, you spend a great amount of time talking about "honoring" leaders and trusting God. Yet, you also qualify your advice with obviously amoral exceptions, like slavery and abuse. The interesting thing about this is that the Bible which you hold dear advocates slavery and actually tells slaves to obey their masters. It goes further by giving instructions to slave-masters as to how hard they can beat their slaves (within an inch of their life). So, you seem to be cherry-picking the moral advice you derive from the Bible.

I am curious how you differentiate between the moral and immoral parts of the Bible. If you say the "Spirit of God", then I would ask: Why does the perfect word of God require such divine inspiration to discern the morality of what is supposed to be the "Good Book" from which Christians claim to get their morals. Why all the confusion? How do you know it is actually the "Spirit of God" and not your own mind? Isn't it more likely that you are just rationalizing your own moral compass with what you read in the Bible? Furthermore, if all Christians claim to use the "Spirit of God" to properly interpret the Bible, why are there so many arguments about things like gay rights among Christians, all of which cite the same Holy Book? How do you know that you are interpreting it correctly?

I look forward to your response, but let's be honest, you are never going to read this, let alone respond to it.

Skeptically Yours,

Circle Squared

OK, here are the videos:

Part 1

Part 2

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