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Archive for September, 2007

A friend of mine who knows that I’m an atheist kept asking me what I think is the purpose of life. Because I chose to became an atheist, I must have an answer, especially since I rejected Christianity’s answer. This really frustrated me. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be seeking at our stage in life? What’s the point of being young and in college if you can’t ask questions about the meaning of life without knowing what the answer is?

He kept pressuring me: “I think you would be happier if you felt like your life had a purpose.” Whoa, there. I’m not even going to touch that. (However, this friend was “very surprised” to hear that I am happier now as an atheist than I ever have been.)

Christians are obsessed with answers. Most of the professors I’ve had seem really intent on imparting their own answers to students and not giving us the opportunity to think for ourselves. In the 4 required bible/theology classes I took, I had 4 professors who each had completely different views and tried to convince us that his was the right one. e.g., “I really believe that infant baptism is essential”; a semester later, in another class, “I really believe that only adults should be baptized”. And so on. If we say, “well, Professor X says otherwise,” Professor Y will say, “well, I think that’s wrong.” Every professor wants to be the influencing factor on their students’ views. (I don’t know what it’s generally like in other schools, but I took a few summer classes at a regular university where this was definitely not the case.) (more…)

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Yesterday’s protest didn’t make a huge splash on campus, although people are talking about it. Today the college president, who was scheduled to speak on chapel, yielded his time to archbishop Akinola. The president’s introduction of Akinola was very affectionate, which was to be expected as President Litfin is extremely conservative: he thinks Wheaton should be churning out more missionaries and does not think the church should accommodate homosexuality at all. So Litfin waxed eloquent about how we should learn from Akinola, and then Akinola waxed eloquent about what a wonderful institution Wheaton is and how lucky we are to be surrounded by Christians.

Akinola’s main message was this: “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). He had the audience recite this passage aloud several times. You don’t know what’s out there in the world, he said. “Thank God we are all Christians” here on this campus. When you leave to go into the world you will encounter “the evil, the wicked”. It will be so horrible you won’t know what to do… I can’t remember the conclusion of his message because I tuned out at this point.

What I read between the lines was Akinola trying to justify his stance on homosexuality and other issues. He would regard gays as “bad company” and say Christians shouldn’t associate with them because they will be tainted by their evilness. (This supports the report of Akinola jumping back in disgust the one time he shook a gay person’s hand.)

In a broader context, Akinola is espousing the Christian view that draws a very deep line between “Christian” and “other”.  I’d say that many people at Wheaton have been trying to get rid of that attitude, which has occasionally been comforting.  But it is a deeply held view among conservatives that Christians should not be part of secular society, and even progressive individuals here believe firmly that a Christian can’t have a deep friendship with a non-Christian, for example.  The Christian who is willing to approach non-Christians as their equal instead of as a target of evangelism is very rare indeed.

Finally, Akinola said that our task as students here is to become “deeply rooted in the love of Jesus Christ,” so that we can be equipped to deal with the evils of the world.  Such blatant hypocrisy just boggles the mind, but no doubt in Akinola’s twisted logic, refusing to engage with unbelievers and gays is showing the love of Jesus.

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the church and homosexuality

This summer, a student at my school committed suicide. He was gay, and struggling with that because the church, and our school, teaches that homosexuality is wrong.

This college has seen the homosexuality debate pretty closely; we were visited by Soulforce last spring, our psychology department does research on successful de-gayification, and there have been some well-placed pep talks by a few prominent ex-gay faculty members. Like most evangelicals, they still hold fast to the position that homosexuality is sinful; students who admit to being gay are required to have counseling.

Some evangelicals are starting to realize that homosexuality is not a sin. I really believe that the rest of them will catch on eventually and that the majority of the church will concede at some point in the future, and that thought really saddens me. It bothers me more than if I thought Christians were going to keep being stupid about homosexuality forever, because it’s one thing to be decades behind on issues likes environmentalism and global warming, but homosexuality is about people. Every year more people lose their lives because they are told that who they are is sinful.

What is going to happen when, 50 years from now, the church recognizes that they were wrong? What are they going to do about the lives they took? It’s one thing for the church to change their minds about something like environmentalism. They can start hugging trees now and nobody cares about the forests that died while they were busy scoffing at environmentalists. But what about the unnecessary deaths of gay people? Will Christians be able to accept responsibility for their lives, and tell their loved ones that they died because the church was wrong?

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Related news: tomorrow, Anglican archbishop of Nigeria Peter Akinola is speaking at Wheaton College. There are protests planned against Akinola, who is anti-gay and is leading the movement to split the worldwide Anglican church over the issue of homosexuality. According to our college newspaper:

Akinola will preach at a 10:30 a.m. worship service Sunday in Edman Chapel to members from 20 Anglican churches and will speak in chapel the following day.

And my favorite part:

Akinola was invited to speak in Edman as part of a worship service designed to celebrate global church unity.

Information on the protest is here.

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alone on a campus of 2,500

There are some times when I feel absolutely delighted to be an atheist hidden among thousands of Christians. This is not one of those times.

I walked across campus today after a conversation that signaled the end of another friendship. Thinking, this is what it feels like to be alone. It sucks.

Though I’m still in the closet, I’m no longer pretending to be a Christian. That means I don’t take part in a large percentage of what goes on on campus. I can feel people mentally shrinking away from me, even people who were perfectly fine with my questioning of Christianity a year ago.

I have nothing against Christianity and Christians. I’m not trying to deconvert people. I just don’t understand why a single atheist among Christians is so threatening to them.

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Thy will be done

I read this in an article at the Christianity Today website (which I read regularly) on praying more effectively. It’s a fantastic example of typical vacuous Christian logic:

I spent endless hours in the hospital waiting room while Mom sat on a cold metal hospital table just beyond the waiting room doors. In those hours I prayed—or at least I tried to.

I didn’t quite know what to say: “God, please take these growths away from my mother”? But what if he didn’t? Or how about, “God, please don’t let there be any cancer cells”? But what if there were? Or, “God, just let this be treatable”? But what if it wasn’t? So here’s what I prayed: “God, I don’t want to go through this. And I don’t want Mom to go through this. Yet you must have Mom and our family here for a reason. Help us depend on you during this difficult time. Now, God, I really don’t want to lose her. But since I truly want your will above my own, I leave my mother in your loving hands—as difficult as that is to do. Amen.”

One of the first answers to that prayer was a peaceful calm in myself and in both my parents. The second answer was the good report from the doctors: The growths were benign. But even if they hadn’t been, my trust in God had been challenged to mature as a result of the prayer I’d learned to pray for Mom.

The logic of that is wonderfully transparent: uh, what if God doesn’t give me what I pray for? I’d better ask for something that will have to be answered, so no matter what happens, I can say that God answered my prayer! But what use is God if you can’t petition him for anything specific? What use are specific prayers if, when your prayer is not answered, you conclude reluctantly that what you’d asked for was not God’s will? Of course there’s a psychological benefit to prayer, as there is to meditation and many types of wishful thinking. But if all prayer gives you is a sense of peace and acceptance, God isn’t even necessary.

Christians will never tire of giving God more opportunities to be right. That’s why they have to create questions with no wrong answer. That’s the beauty of “Thy will be done”. It creates a world where God can never be wrong.

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John Piper

This week John Piper, a famous pastor and author, is speaking in chapel. It has been really horrendous. Among the many outrageous claims he’s made:

  • God ordained that we should sin, but it is still completely our fault and we deserve to go to hell for sinning.
  • God designed and planned every evil thing that happens in the world in order to fulfill his purpose of being glorified. (more…)

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